Where the Romans breached Jerusalem wall — Ferrell’s Travel Blog

There is abundant evidence of the presence of the Romans in Jerusalem and the land they would later call Palestine. Now comes specific evidence of the place where Titus’ army breached the Third Wall of the city. The Israel Antiquities Authority released this information earlier today. — “ — Impressive and fascinating evidence of the […]

via Where the Romans breached Jerusalem wall — Ferrell’s Travel Blog

NT Inscriptions — Gallio Proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12)

At one time I saw an advertising slogan which, to me, seemed very effective: “The closer you look, the better we look.” This slogan invited the prospective buyer to carefully examine the product on offer  to see the manufacturer’s attention to the minute details of the item.

This same slogan may be applied to the bible. We moderns possess a staggering wealth of relevant historic sources which attest to an underlying accuracy of the biblical record.


Gallio was the proconsul of Achaia while Paul was in Corinth (Acts 18:12). Acts 18:12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.” Acts 18:14 […]

via NT Inscriptions — Gallio Proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12) — HolyLandPhotos’ Blog

New Testament Inscriptions — Erastus of Corinth (Acts 19:22; Romans 16:13; 2 Timothy 4:20) — HolyLandPhotos’ Blog

Part of a pavement found near the theater of Corinth which mentions “Erastus” who was the aedile of the city. An “aedile” was in charge of the financial matters of the city — and was very wealthy. The pavement was laid about A.D. 50. The New Testament book of Romans was written by Paul from […]

via New Testament Inscriptions — Erastus of Corinth (Acts 19:22; Romans 16:13; 2 Timothy 4:20) — HolyLandPhotos’ Blog

Gate Complex at Tel Lachish, Israel and Hezekiah’s Reforms Connected by Archeological Discovery

A truly fascinating discovery occurred recently in the field of Biblical Archaeology. The suggestion of symbolic defilement by use of representative articles at worship sites informs much to us about ancient cultic practices. Of course it validates Israel’s ancient existence (some groups deny Israel existed in antiquity) and is  consistent with the biblical record.

Haaretz; Hamevaser; The Jerusalem Post, September 29, 2016

An Israel Antiquities Authority dig has found a Baal shrine the Lachish city gate, dated to the 8th century BCE, which appears to have been broken during King Hezekiah’s reforms. The gate, which has now been uncovered in its entirety, is preserved to four meters in height (originally 24.5 m. by 24.5 m.) and contains three chambers on each side, “befitting Lachish’s status as second in importance after Jerusalem,” says Sa’ar Ganor, IAA leader of the dig. The first chamber contained benches with arms, jars, scoops for loading grain, and jar handles stamped with the name of the official or a “lamelech” [belonging to the king] impression, which may have been connected with preparations for the war against Sennacherib. The temple was found in the third chamber, and it is intriguing to note that the horns of its altar were “intentionally truncated,” with a stone next to it carved as a toilet. Although the archaeologists initially did not realize the connection, reading about Jehu’s reforms in II Kings 10:27 has led them to surmise that placing the toilet in the temple was meant to defile it. However, as no phosphate remains were found the supposition is that these were symbolic acts, after which the room was sealed. Calling the find “a discovery that deepens our connection to our ancestors who walked this land,” Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev said, “It boldly commemorates the way of our forefathers, the prophets, the kings and the judges.”

The dig at Tel Lachish was conducted by the IAA in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority, the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry, and the Environmental Protection Ministry “to further the development of the historic park.”

129. Roman Catholic Theology after Vatican II: An Interview — Vatican Files

October 1st, 2016 Excerpts of an interview published in Unio Cum Christo. International Journal of Reformed Theology and Life, Vol. 2, No. 2 (October 2016). Since Martin Luther’s reformation, three major events in the life of the Roman Catholic Church have marked its reaction not only to Protestantism but also to developments in the modern…

via 129. Roman Catholic Theology after Vatican II: An Interview — Vatican Files

Genesis 19: Has Lot Lost The Plot?

George Athas claims that Gen. 19 uses the rhetorical device of “detail omission” to tell its story and to “surprise” the reader later with additional information  with which the reader can finally make an informed decision regarding the “righteousness” of all the actors in the account. I find the argument Dr. Athas has put forward convincing and pass it along.

This view aligns very well with NT scripture which sees Lot as righteous: (2Pet. 2.8), and the admonition by the Lord to remember Lot’s wife (negatively, looking back, while Lot and the daughters are delivered from destruction).

Have you ever been shocked by Lot’s suggestion to the mob at Sodom in Genesis 19? Have you ever been puzzled by why he would ever do such a thing? Well, it’s because the narrative has s…

Source: Genesis 19: Has Lot Lost The Plot?

Crossway Overreach?

[sarcasm on] How in the world did the church ever have any insight in what God was saying in His word without an English translation? [sarcasm off]

Stanley Porter questions the publisher’s recent announcement and at the same time gives insight into why a translation cannot be absolutely definitive. https://domainthirtythree.com/2016/09/13/a-permanent-text-of-the-esv-bible-they-must-be-joking/


Crossway recently announced that, after 17 years of cumulative work in establishing a near-perfect English translation of the Bible, a final edition, or Permanent Text, of the English Standard Version was achieved in the summer of 2016. In fact, the ESV translators did not even translate most of the ESV, and hence did not even need to develop a robust translation philosophy for their translation, as the ESV is based on the RSV (Crossway apparently bought the copyright). The ESV “translators” have simply “corrected” or made the RSV to conform to their particular translational or theological agenda (is it legitimate to call a translation one’s own if over 90% of it was done by someone else, simply by buying the copyright? What if an author bought the copyright of a book by another author, changed less than 10% of it and then put his or her own name on it as author? Recent discussion over the use of other people’s material makes this an interesting question to raise).

Nevertheless, this decision to fossilize the ESV means that no future edition of the ESV will be made, much like the King James Version was solidified in 1769 (after 150 years of use and correction, not 17 years as with the ESV). Of course, we know that followers of the KJV Only movement have contributed greatly to biblical scholarship, especially in the area of textual criticism, so this must be a good idea, right? While the ESV oversight committee and the people at Crossway have the right to make any decision they so desire, there are some serious flaws and concerns that underlie such a decision.

First relates to the possibility of an “accurate” translation. The fact is that no two languages are exactly alike, so a translation is always going to miss (even if a little of) something. As the saying goes, traduttore traditore, which is Italian for “translator traitor.” But even in that statement, the pun is lost in the English translation! Anyone who is multilingual knows that there are certain sayings, even words, in one language that just do not translate perfectly into the other language; some call it the property of untranslatability. But it is apparent that “literal word for word” translators are not really aware of this fact. They seem to treat Greek like some secret code that requires translating into English. But let’s be clear, just because a translation doesn’t perfectly convey the original words of Scripture (can any translation?) does not mean it is not a good translation. It just means we should, if we want to be accurate, be realistic about the limitations of any translation.

Second, and related to the first point, this decision betrays a wrong understanding or lack of understanding of how languages work. The problem with a “literal word for word” translation (for at least the part that was done by the ESV people) is that it by necessity views all languages as working essentially the same, as if each language has the same system, just different corresponding lexical items. Such a position, then, views translation like a plug-and-play type of activity; there is a right translation and a wrong translation. Of course there are wrong translations, but there may be several ways of translating a particular phrase or clause. For example, it is typical in Korean, when eating a meal as a guest at someone’s house, to say jal muk get sum ni da, which translated (using a “literal word for word” translation approach) would be I will eat well. Say that the next time you are invited over for dinner somewhere! (You might get a weird look.) What that phrase really means is an expression of thanks for the food, which is conventional in Korean but awkward in English. Consider also the German word Ohrwurm, which literally is earworm in English. But it really refers to when you have a song stuck in your head, like a worm has wriggled itself into your brain through your ear. Try telling someone that you have an earworm in English and see if they get it. The ESV committee really needs to reconsider whether their claim to a “literal word-for-word” approach accurately reflects how languages work. We don’t think it does.

Third is an inappropriate, and even hubristic, misappropriation of 1 Tim 6:20, “guard the deposit entrusted to you.” They state that they were given the responsibility (by God) “to guard and preserve the very words of God as translated in the ESV Bible.” Wait, what? The very words of God as translated in the ESV Bible? First of all, Paul was speaking to Timothy in this passage (context anyone?). The “deposit” is not a reference to Scripture (certainly not a reference to the ESV!) but a broad and general statement for Timothy to guard whatever was given to him, such as the doctrines that Paul taught him for the development of the early church—not to the ESV people to protect their English translation (without any theological or political agenda, mind you). For the ESV committee to apply this Scripture to themselves implies that they believe God has given themthe special responsibility to “protect” and “guard” this infallible and superior translation. Sounds like KJV Only. Sounds elitist. Sounds like a power move, using God’s name to gain support of naïve and gullible people. Shame on them for using manipulative language like that. Or perhaps we should mark 2016 as the year in which God gave for a second time the inerrant English Word of God, and we have the people in the ESV oversight committee and Crossway to thank.

Finally, this whole enterprise smacks of incredible arrogance. For a committee to say that they have done the work of translation and that there is no room to improve or change their product means that they think of themselves as infallible translators, creating a “new standard” as the KJV once was. For them to say “Thus, with the work of translating the ESV Bible now completed, we would give our work back into the hands of the Lord…” is to use spiritual language to couch the fact that they think of themselves more highly than they ought to and have falsely given themselves this high honor. Perhaps there will arise a generation of ESV Only people, but in this case they will need a lesson or two on scholarship, textual criticism, translation, and humility.

It’s a disgrace to use God’s name and his honor to promote this translation as a final word. God is not honored by that “gift.” We can only wait to see if the ESV establishes itself as the literary and cultural icon that the KJV became and is—but we strongly doubt it.

— Stanley E. Porter and David I. Yoon

House of Cards?

By Michael Patton (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) http://credohouse.org/blog/christianity-falling-down

One of the first things that I have to teach my students this: The Christian faith is not a house of cards.

Most assuredly, there are foundational issues of the faith that, if taken away, will destroy Christianity. Issues like the existence of God (there is no such thing as a “Christian atheist”), the resurrection of Christ, the reality of God’s judgment and grace through Jesus Christ, and Christ’s atoning death on the cross. However, there are many details of the Christian faith that can suffer adjustments without destroying the entire faith. Christianity is not like a house of cards where you can take any one card away and the rest fall.

I have seen many people leave the faith and the catalyst of their departure was a rejection of inerrancy (the belief that the Bible does not have any errors, historic, theological, or scientific). I have seen others leave because they felt they had to adjust their view of the early chapters of Genesis, creation and the flood. I have seen others who thought that if there was any redacting (editing by the authors) of the Gospel narratives, their faith was destroyed. Still, I have actually been in contact with one who was shaken to the point of petrification because he was starting to consider the multiple author theory for Isaiah. These are issues to be sure. But they are not issues which can cause any harm to the essence of Christianity in any way.

It is normally those who are brought up in rigidity who are susceptible building this house of cards theology and to letting non-cardinal issues crash their faith. This is why you see so many who are “former fundamentalists.” Fundamentalism feeds on unnecessary rigidity and therefore, unfortunately, is quite a seedbed for graveyards of Christians. As well, this type of thinking makes education—true education—virtually impossible.

While I believe strongly in many issues that are of non-cardinal value, I don’t hold on to these too tightly. This is a fundamental philosophical precursor to dealing with so many theological problems today. The inability to identify, isolate, and distinguish between essentials and non-essentials often causes the entire house of cards to fall.


Bible Texts Written Earlier — Streams in the Negev

From tests done on archeological finds near Arad in the Negev, scientists are reconsidering the literacy skills of the Jewish people with respect to dating the writing of historical writings in the Bible: http://www.timesofisrael.com/new-look-at-ancient-shards-suggests-bible-even-older-than-thought/

via Bible Texts Written Earlier — Streams in the Negev




Read Books of the Bible in One Sitting — Andy Naselli

Here’s my latest ally for why you should read books of the Bible in one sitting: Glenn R. Paauw. Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016. (See my DG article “Three Tips for Better Bible Reading” and my follow-up post that supplements it.) I…

via Read Books of the Bible in One Sitting — Andy Naselli

Aspects of Textual Transmission

Here is an interview with textual scholar Alan Millard concerning how the bible was produced.

Often, today, there is an almost clamor to fix (or unfix) the historicity of Jesus by means of the evidence from the period. This interview succinctly explains why that task is so difficult. Though the topic of transmission has been an area of study for me, I picked up new information from this interview.

Did Christ leave a Paper Trail?

An interview with Alan Millard, author of Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus.

For Christians and non-Christians alike, one of the mysteries of Christianity is the lack of proof that Jesus ever existed. Most of what we rely on is found in the New Testament, none of which was penned during Christ’s lifetime. Paul’s letters to various Christian groups around the Middle East were written about twenty years after Christ’s death – and Paul never met Christ while He was alive. The four Gospels all appear to date to after 70 A.D., and none of them were written by writers who ever met Jesus. So all of our main writings about Jesus even in the bible are second hand accounts.

This begs the question of why Jesus’ followers weren’t furiously taking notes while He was alive.  Had Jesus arrived today, he would have easily entered people’s diaries, emails, newspaper articles, magazine profiles, police crime reports, probably even some television broadcasts. In short, anyone who was making this much of an impact on even a small number of people would have created a paper trail. Indeed, in Brooklyn right now, a Jewish sect called the Lubavitchers are furiously debating whether their latest rebbe, who died in 1994, is really a Messiah who will return from the dead. That debate is creating a big paper trail. Was life so different in Jesus’ time that no one took notes? Were diaries unknown? Why didn’t the Romans, a bureaucratic state with a paper obsession, at least record some details of Jesus’ death? Or is this one of those faith tests – is Jesus deliberately invisible as a test of our will to believe?

To help solve some of these riddles, The Turning spoke to Alan Millard, who has recently written a book entitled, Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus.

THE TURNING: How soon after Christ’s death do scholars think the four Gospels were written?

MILLARD:  They generally assume that the four Gospels were not written until about A.D. 70.  Some people think that Mark’s Gospel may have been written a little before that.  But it’s thought that the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in A.D. 70 was a catalyst.  The dispersion of Christians from Jerusalem is thought to have led people to suppose that the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry would quickly disappear and it was necessary to make records of what he had said and done.

THE TURNING: Is there any evidence that the people who wrote the Gospels actually knew Christ first hand during his lifetime?

MILLARD:  Well, the tradition is that Matthew wrote one Gospel and he was Levi, the tax collector, who had been one of the disciples.  John wrote the fourth Gospel and again he is thought as being the one described in that Gospel as the beloved disciple.  Mark also was a follower of Jesus, according to the Gospel.  Luke was not and would have gained his information from presumably eyewitnesses and other people.  In the prologue to his Gospel, he says that he took great care to do his research properly and to get reliable information he could use in writing his Gospel.  It is assumed that there was relatively little writing going on in the first century  Palestine and people simply wouldn’t have been interested in writing down the records of the doings and sayings of Jesus.

THE TURNING:  Now, you were saying that traditionally people believe that these are the identities of the Gospel writers.  Are twenty-first century scholars accepting tradition or do they question it?

MILLARD:  Most 21st century scholars would follow that line and some take a very skeptical view and argue that very little in the Gospels is actually reliable information about what Jesus did or said.  They suppose that most of what we read in the Gospels was invented by the Church, in the decades after the crucification and resurrection and words were put into Jesus’ mouth to give them authority.

THE TURNING:  And what’s your view on this?

MILLARD:  Tradition with perhaps a certain amount written down, but not a Gospel as we know it. Since the nineteenth century, there’s been a general view among New Testament scholars that much of the Gospels come from the early Church, rather than from what the disciples heard Jesus say.

THE TURNING:  Now, I guess one of the things, which we’ve all heard, is the reason they didn’t copy it down was because basically the Jews of that time were essentially an oral culture and they didn’t have much literacy anyway.  But that’s not a conclusion I drew from your book.  You seem to find quite a bit of evidence that the Jews of that time of Galilee and Judea would have been reading and writing, at least some of them.

MILLARD:  Yes, I was studying some inscriptions found at Masada near the Dead Sea, written by Jewish refugees who were holding out against the Romans there from 70 to 73 (A.D.) . And I was struck by the amount of writing. Not formal monumental writing, but writing of everyday affairs scribbled on bits of broken pottery, which was the ancient scrap paper, indicating that people there in that situation were doing quite a lot of writing in their daily life.  And that led me to investigate the use of writing in Palestine in that period and it seemed to me that in the 1st century (A.D.), there was much more reading and writing going on then people had previously assumed.

What I had discovered was that no one had collected the information together.  The writings of the Jewish Rabbis from the 3rd century give the impression there was very little writing, that pupils were not supposed to put their master’s teachings into a book, probably in case it was confused with scripture. And so it was generally deduced that it was an oral culture. But, what I discovered, not only those scribblings from Masada but other graffiti and inscribed potsherds, and writings of different sorts on nonperishable materials, showed that there was quite a lot of writing going on for ephemeral day to day purposes .

And then the Dead Sea scrolls showed a library, I think we can call it a library, of books that had belonged to a group of Jews that lived near the Northwest corner of the Dead Sea in the 1stcentury BC and 3rd century AD. They had copies of the book, of the Hebrew bible, in some cases they had multiple copies, and they had other books, books they had written themselves, and other books that came from elsewhere.

And not far from where they lived, further down the shore of the Dead Sea, were some more caves, which had been occupied by Jewish rebels who tried to shake off Roman rule between 132 and 135, called the 2nd Revolt or the Bar Kochba Revolt.  Refugees from the Romans had hidden in the caves by the Dead Sea at that time.  They died there with their possessions and when archaeologists discovered these caves, they found quite a number of documents written mostly on papyrus , which had survived because they were dehydrated.  A lot of them are in Greek, some of them are in Napatian, language of the kingdom East of the Dead Sea at the same time.  These are legal deeds, deeds of loan, wills, divorce and marriage documents, letters from the early 2ndcentury and some of them date back into the 1st century.  There’s one that dates as early as 66, I think, which show the sort of legal documents that were current in the 1st century as well as in the 2nd century.  And Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that when the rebellion broke out against the Romans in AD66, one of the first things the rebels did in Jerusalem was to burn the archive building, which held all the death notes and other documents which could be used against them.

THE TURNING:  So, let’s imagine if we had a time machine, and we could go back to the time of Christ.  If someone were taking notes about Christ after they met him, what form would those take?

MILLARD:  I think probably they would have written the notes on little wooden tablets coated with wax, which were the common notebooks of the time, often small enough to hold in the palm of one hand.  You scratch the writing on with a pointed stylus and either transfer it to a leather or papyrus roll or if you don’t want it, simply smooth over the wax and use it again.   I can envisage people taking notes like that.  Some of them might have been priestly people, religious people, who sent their information to Jerusalem to priests there who were opposed to Jesus.  Others might have been people like the soldiers whose son or slave Jesus healed and he might have sent a letter to his brother serving in the army in another part of the world, telling him what had happened.  I think too, that the people who heard and saw the remarkable things that went on made notes for their own benefit or for their family’s benefit and some notes could have formed the basis for some of the Gospel writer’s works.
THE TURNING:  I guess for most of us, we assume that the book, that thing with pages that you open up, that’s got a cover on each side is something that’s been around forever. But in the 1st century, are we really talking about a book as we know it?

MILLARD:  No, no, we’re talking about a leather or papyrus roll or scroll.  The Dead Sea scrolls, for example, are simply long rolls of leather.  The most complete one is the copy of the Book of Isaiah from the Hebrew Bible and it’s about twenty-four feet long, eight meters long.  So, to read the book, you have to unscroll the leather with one hand and roll it up with the other and a long book, like Isaiah was a long roll, the average roll would only be twelve to fifteen feet long.  The Isaiah roll is about eleven inches high.  We shouldn’t imagine these ancient rolls were as big as the scrolls you see in a modern synagogue for example.  Some of them were much smaller, only five or six inches high and you could quite easily put one in the fold of a coat, cloak and carry it along with you.

THE TURNING:  So, if there were scrolls in the synagogues, which obviously were rather official kind of documents-

MILLARD:  That’s right, yes.  Synagogue scrolls today are ornamental and official as you say for public reading.

THE TURNING:  But  if the some Jews bumped into Christ and were impressed by what they were hearing, they would be scribbling it down on those wax and wooden tablets, so why not scribble it down on a scroll?  Was there something about who was doing the scribbling that determined how they were writing it down?

MILLARD:  The scroll was a bit more expensive as the writing material, the papyrus had to be imported from Egypt.  It was a manufactured paper and the leather scroll again had to be prepared so it was more likely that they would have written on wax tablets.

THE TURNING:  And one of the points you make in your book is that some people ask, ‘well why don’t we have some original documents from the 1st century that show Jesus was alive? But how much original material do we have at all from that period, including Roman records and that kind of thing?

MILLARD:  Well, the Dead Sea scrolls are an unusual and unexpected find because in most parts of the Roman world, the soil is damp and if you have leather or papyrus documents in a ruined building that’s buried, they’ll rot away quite quickly just as a newspaper would if you buried it in your garden.  But the area around the Dead Sea is extremely dry and these documents are simply dehydrated.  The same happens in Egypt, the Egyptian papyri that we see and the thousands of Greek papyri from Egypt survived because they were either buried in tombs in the desert or they were in rubbish dumps of Roman villages, which were abandoned when the water supplies dried up and so the rubbish dumps were dehydrated and in the 19th and 20thcenturies, people recovered the waste paper in effect from them.

THE TURNING:  So it sounds like the stuff which survives is actually in some ways exceptional rather than the run of the mill sort of things, which the Romans and the Jews would have been dealing with in the 1st century.

MILLARD:  That’s very true.  One of the things I’ve pointed out in my book is that we have no administrative archives from the city of Rome and throughout the Roman Empire, there is nothing.  We know where the archive building was.  The archives have all disappeared and they’ve been burnt when Rome was sacked or they simply rotted away or people have used them as waste paper and simply discarded them.  It’s only in unusual circumstances that theses documents do survive and so we’re very, very fortunate to have things like the Dead Sea scrolls.

THE TURNING:  So I guess if the Romans had say criminal records of this fellow Jesus, who had been brought in after having made a ruckus in the temple, that stuff could have well existed, but could it have survived do you think?

MILLARD:  It could have existed, but I don’t think it could of survived because records that were kept in Jerusalem were probably destroyed in revolt in the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans.  There is a Christian writer in the end of the 2nd century who assumes in one of his writings that you could go to Rome and find records of the trial of Jesus under Pontius Pilot in the imperial archives there.  But we don’t have those archives to be able to check.

THE TURNING:  I guess the next question is then, if lots of people could have been taking notes, and those notes were destroyed, why is it that we have the Gospels at all?  Why did they end up getting written if everything else was sort of getting thrown into the dustbin of history?

MILLARD:  Well, the Gospels were written and like many other ancient Greek and Roman books, they’ve been preserved because people were interested in them, went on copying them all over the Roman world and some of those copies were handed down, recopied and handed on and recopied until it survives until today.  One of the remarkable things of the New Testament books is that we have copies found dehydrated in Egypt. Many of them, many of them not complete, which go back to the year 200 or even before.  Whereas for most of the famous Roman’s books like Caesar’s Gallic Wars or Cicero’s speeches, we have to rely on copies made in the early middle ages.

THE TURNING:  So in some ways, it was the dedication of the early Christians in terms of-

MILLARD:  That’s right.  They believed that this was inspired scripture.  It contained the words of the Saviour.  They copied them and disseminated them quite widely which is why I think there are many copies.

THE TURNING:  Now, we talked about earlier that people were writing things down on waxen tablets as well as if something really mattered, they put it down on scrolls, but of course the Christian tradition has Bibles.  It has books.  How did that transition happen?  Why didn’t we have a bunch of scrolls?

MILLARD:  It seems the book with pages was beginning to be used in the 1st century.  There’s a Roman writer called Marshall, who says to his friends, this idea of having books written on pages rather than scrolls is very convenient if you’re traveling; it’s easier to use such a book.  It’s also more economical because scrolls were usually only written on one side whereas with a book, you use both sides of the page.  This sort of book seems to been used for possibly technical handbooks in the 1st century.  And in the 2nd century, there are just a few examples from Egypt of Greek literature written in this form and they are mostly legal texts and things like that.  It’s possible that it is a form of book that’s more common in Rome than in Egypt in the 1st and 2ndcenturies, but we simply don’t have any examples from Rome.  The ones found in Egypt might be written outside the country.  It’s impossible to tell and I think the Christians thought this was a very convenient, economical form of book.  They may also thought that it was less likely to draw attention to itself than a scroll in situations where Christianity, being the illegal religion, owners of Christian books might well be persecuted.

THE TURNING:  So it’s sort of the original pocketbook, in a sense?


THE TURNING:  Now is there any sense of when the 1st book, Christian book, may have been put together?

MILLARD:  The oldest pieces we have probably date from 150.  The dating is only done on the basis of the form of handwriting and comparing the form of handwriting in these manuscripts we’ve dated legal deeds and letters.  So the dating is not very precise.  But there’s a fragment in the University library of Manchester from a page from the Gospel of John.  It’s certainly a page, it has writing on both sides, which says this type of book was already in use by the Christians in Egypt and not in Alexandria, the capital, but someway up the Nile by 150.  So I think it would been in use in a more sophisticated center like Alexandria earlier than that.

THE TURNING:  So do we thank the Christians for having promoted the idea of the book or would the Romans have got there on their own?

MILLARD:  I think they helped to popularize it certainly, yes. And when in the 4th century, the Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity a legal religion, it then became easier for Christians to have quite large books and put all the books of the Bible into one or two volumes.  Previously, they may have had the four Gospels together, Epistles together as single volumes, but we don’t have any evidence for a complete New Testament and certainly not for a complete Old Testament before the 4thcentury.

THE TURNING:  Now as scholars go through the Gospels and the rest of the writings in the New Testament, are there any hints from there of possibly preexisting texts that they were referring to that we just don’t have anymore?  You’d said that people could easily written down more than we’d got because things perish so easily.

MILLARD:  In the opening verses of Luke’s Gospel, he refers to the research he’s done.  He doesn’t refer specifically to books, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he had access to the notes that people had made during Jesus’ lifetime.  He says many took to draw on account of things being fulfilled among us just as they were handed down to us by those who were eyewitnesses.  So it suggests that before Luke’s time, there were people writing from a sort of Gospel.

THE TURNING:  Do you think there’s any chance we’ll ever come across one of those notebooks, say in an archaeological dig or something?

MILLARD:  Well, one of the attractions of archaeology is you never know what you’re going to find next.  It’s possible.  It’s very unlikely because as I’ve said it’s only in extremely unusual circumstances that such documents can survive.

THE TURNING:  I just wanted to ask you, has this research changed your perspective on Christianity or your faith in anyway?

MILLARD:  It’s what shall  I say a support.  I don’t think my faith depends on this sort of discovery, but it helped by such information and I think that scholars who’ve argued at a lot of what we read in the Gospels, invented after the death and resurrection of Jesus, have argued partly in a vaccum because they thought that there was no original material and so at early times as the lifetime of Jesus.  My argument is that there could well have been, and  once material written down.  It’s much harder to alter.  Of course, it can be changed, but it’s that much harder to alter.  And so I think we can argue that this sort of research leads to a greater reliability in the Gospel text.

THE TURNING:  I guess one argument people could make is that the way a text survives is through recopying,  then that means every copy is an opportunity to change the text.  But is that the way Jews would say, the 1st century, were dealing with their own sacred texts?

MILLARD:  Oh, they were extremely careful to be accurate.  We find in the Dead Sea scrolls that they did make mistakes.  We find they read through the texts and corrected a lot of the mistakes.  Some still crept through.  Anyone who tries to copy out the Book of Isaiah, all sixty-six chapters, I think will soon find that they’re making mistakes.  But when we compare different copies of the same book, it’s easy enough to see mistakes.  Often they are quite elementary mistakes described, I may jump from the first word of one line to the first word of the next line, which happens to be identical and you miss out on words in between.  But wherever we can check, the Jewish scribes seem to be very careful and certainly at a later date in the early middle ages, they had a lot of regulations to help them to absolute accuracy in their copying and I think we can see these regulations have much older roots.

127. Is the Ecumenical Martin Luther the Real Luther? — Vatican Files

August 1st, 2016 As the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is approaching, it is no surprise to find books wanting to offer fresh accounts of Martin Luther’s theology and legacy. Who was this man? What was his message then and how do we understand it five centuries after? Walter Kasper’s recent volume on Luther…

via 127. Is the Ecumenical Martin Luther the Real Luther? — Vatican Files

Bible Word Studies (Greek)

In a post reviewing an intermediate grammar the reviewer notes the authors’ guidance towards the exercise:

  1. Prioritize Synchrony over Diachrony – here the importance of contemporary meaning and semantic shift is highlighted, along with the dangers of the etymological fallacy (i.e., thinking the history of a word’s meaning has any necessary link to the word’s current meaning – it doesn’t).
  2. Do Not Confuse Words and Concepts – the danger here is that not every instance of a word refers to the same concept (e.g. “bank” meaning side of a river vs. “bank” meaning financial institution), and not every instance of a given concept is prompted by the same word (e.g. “speech” and “oration” both refer to one concept of public speaking).
  3. Do Not View Word Study Tools as Inerrant – Jackpot! I loved to see this. Lexicons are not infallible.

Furthermore, the reviewer himself recognizes the treacherous path of simplistic lexical reports:

  1. Usually scholarly word studies are terrible, woefully incomplete or flawed and thus entirely unhelpful.
  2. Pastors tend to do them, usually very poorly, and often draw far-flung and erroneous conclusions.

Call me a skeptic. I call myself a lexicologist. Now, lexical semantics can get pretty complicated and abstract in a hurry. There is a swathe of approaches, each with its own range of terms. That said, it is important to have conceptual clarity and precision when talking about word meaning precisely because it is a slippery thing.

For the full review and source: https://williamaross.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/review-going-deeper-with-new-testament-greek/

Delilah, the Israelite

George Athas is Dean of Research at Moore Theological College, Sydney. Here is a post of his where he analyzes this account in the Book of Judges. I believe his post highlights how sometimes readers of the text (me included) take certain things for granted. I, along with most readers assume too much from a story we think we know without taking the time to carefully consider the text. The bible tells us to meditate upon God’s word and to search it out for our benefit. I believe Dr. Athas’ article is very reasonable and ‘rings true.’ It is easily understood and well argued.

via Samson and Delilah (the Israelite Woman) — With Meagre Powers

samsonIn the book of Judges, we encounter the mighty Israelite judge, Samson. He is perhaps best known for his herculean strength. Yet, he is also known for his weakness for women—especially Philistine women. His relationship with Delilah, often portrayed as a sneaky seductress, was his undoing. She coaxed him into divulging the secret of his strength: his long braids of hair. Though they were the symbol of his devotion to God, they were also his “Achilles’ heel.”

But was Delilah a Philistine?


Throughout the ages, she has been portrayed as a Philistine. Indeed, she takes her place alongside the other Philistine women in Samson’s life. His wife (for all of a week) was a Philistine girl from the town of Timnah (Judges 14.1–2). Samson also visited a prostitute in Gaza, which was one of the five towns of the Philistine ‘Pentapolis’ (Judges 16:1). But was Delilah actually a Philistine too?

Let’s look at the evidence.

First, unlike the other two women in Samson’s life, the biblical text never identifies Delilah as a Philistine. All it says is that she was “in the Valley of Sorek” (Judges 16:4). Where was this valley? Was it in Philistine territory? Well, not quite. The Valley of Sorek begins in the highlands, a few miles from Jerusalem. It twists and turns westwards, descending down into the foothills (the “Shephelah”). At this point, the valley formed the border between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. It keeps descending until it eventually hits the Coastal Plain, which is where the Philistines lived. At that point the land flattens out—it is a plain after all. The seasonal stream that runs through the valley continues across the Coastal Plain and eventually hits the Mediterranean. If the biblical text is referring to this seasonal stream, then Delilah could have lived anywhere along its course—from the highlands of Judah to the Mediterranean coast.


But the biblical text makes a particular statement that means Delilah could not have lived by the Sorek stream on the Coastal Plain. Judges 16:5 tells us that the Philistine leaders “went up” (Heb: ויעלו) to Delilah and paid her to trick Samson into revealing the secret of his strength. That is, they ascended into the hills in order to reach her. This means she was most likely not in Philistine territory. If she was, she was at best on the very edge of it.

Yet, if Delilah was a Philistine, why do the Philistine leaders not simply command her to trick Samson? Why do they each pay her 1100 pieces of silver to do the deed? Since there were five Philistine rulers from the five Philistine centres (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Gath), that’s probably 5500 pieces of silver! Would not the threat of death by a direct authority be enough? Why are they so willing to empty their coffers for her, but never once empty their scabbards?

samson-et-dalila-1949-05-gSome modern depictions of Delilah portray her as the opportunist seductress, who uses her wiles and lack of scruples to make a quick buck. Some view her as a prostitute making a bit of extra cash while tricking her trick. Of course the Philistine leaders would pay for her services! Why, perhaps she even once serviced them? But Delilah was not the prostitute whom Samson visited in Gaza along the coast. Delilah didn’t live in Gaza! She lived up in the hills in the Valley of Sorek. And the biblical text never so much as implies that she was a prostitute. It seems that, as with Mary Magdalene, Delilah has been mistakenly thought of as a hustler when she wasn’t!

So if Delilah wasn’t a wily seductress or an opportunist prostitute, how did she come to have a dalliance with Samson? The biblical text simply states that she was a woman in the Valley of Sorek with whom Samson fell in love (Judges 16:4). This was Samson’s own home territory. He grew up in Zorah, Eshtaol, and Mahaneh Dan (Judges 13:2, 25)—all sites on the northern side of the Valley of Sorek. Samson simply fell for a local girl. Perhaps she was a Danite woman, since this territory was associated with Dan for a time. Or perhaps she was an Ephraimite woman, since the area was also associated with Ephraim.

Moreover, Delilah didn’t hatch the scheme to trap Samson. She did not approach the Philistine leaders, like Judas did with the Jewish leaders when he agreed to betray Jesus. She was not agreeing to trap the nemesis of her own people. Rather, the Philistine leaders “went up” to her and enticed her with a princely sum—1100 pieces of silver from each of them—to put theirnemesis in chains. The exorbitant amount they paid her makes sense if they were asking her to betray one of her own—a leader of her own people, no less!

Samson unwittingly foiled the whole scheme to capture him three times. Rather than being tricked, he himself tricked Delilah (and the Philistines sponsoring her). On each occasion, the Philistines waited to pounce on him. And just when Delilah thought that Samson’s strength had left him, she called out, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” (Judges 16:9, 12, 14). This doesn’t sound like the cry of a Philistine woman in Philistine territory referring to her own countrymen. Perhaps if she referred to “guards” or “soldiers” or even “men,” we might suspect that Delilah was herself a Philistine. But to Delilah, the would-be captors of Samson were “Philistines”. They were other—people to be referred to by their ethnicity as different to “us.”

Evidently Samson didn’t make the connection between leading Delilah on and the sudden appearance of pouncing Philistines. So on the fourth occasion, Samson finally revealed the secret of his strength to Delilah. We’re told that it was because she harangued him constantly until he told her (Judges 16:16–17). If Delilah was a Philistine, perhaps Samson would have seen through the whole situation. Telling her the truth of his strength would have seriously endangered him. But he seems to trust her, albeit after considerable nagging, probably figuring that there can be no harm in revealing the secret to a fellow Israelite. Once he does, though, Delilah the Israelite betrays him. She summons the leaders of the Philistines to “come up” once more into the hills (Judges 16:18). They capture him and then “bring him down” to Gaza.

There is one further tantalising possibility that may suggest Delilah was an Israelite. We meet Delilah in Judges 16 when the Philistine rulers each agree to pay her 1100 pieces of silver for Samson. After Samson’s death, in the very next chapter, we are introduced to an Ephraimite (and therefore Israelite) man named Micah who steals 1100 pieces of silver from his unnamed mother (Judges 17:1–2). The correspondence with the sum paid to Delilah is uncanny. And coming immediately after the Samson and Delilah narrative, we are led to wonder whether this unnamed woman is, in fact, Delilah. The unnamed woman’s husband is never mentioned. Is it because he is dead? Is it because the woman was never married and had a son out of wedlock? Is Micah the son of Samson born to Delilah the Ephraimite after Samson’s death? Interestingly, this Micah narrative dovetails with the story of the migration of the Danite tribe (to which Samson belonged) from its land around the Valley of Sorek to land in the far north near Laish/Dan. It is, therefore, a fitting epilogue to the narrative of Samson the Danite. The fact that the woman with 1100 pieces of silver is not named means we cannot be sure that this is Delilah. Perhaps the 1100 pieces of silver are simply a thematic association that helps explain the placement of the two chapters (16 and 17) within the book of Judges. But the placement and narrative contexts are very suggestive.

mhicid5aktakjow6j_jivtaIn any case, it seems we have been treating Delilah as a Philistine, when she is actually an Israelite. She is not a conniving professional seductress, but a local girl who betrays a leader (albeit a very flawed one) of her own people. She was more traitor than temptress. In that way, she is perhaps the antithesis of Jael, wife of Heber, who causes the downfall of Sisera in Judges 4. This would be in keeping with the upending of Israel’s fortunes throughout the book of Judges and the portrayal of Israel’s descent into chaos. Delilah is still a sinister figure, but for perhaps slightly different reasons to what we previously thought.

Jewish Rabbis and Gen. 3.15

Here is an illuminating study highlighting some history of how Rabbis approached Gen. 3.15 and Gen. 4.1. I knew that Gen. 4.1 was a reference back to the Promise in 3.15 but didn’t know all the issues of the grammar. HaDavar Ministries has a good discussion as to her statement: “I have gotten a manchild, The Lord” in 4.1: http://www.hadavar.org/critical-issues/messianic-prophecy/the-torah/genesis-3-the-seed-of-the-woman/rabbinic-support/

A “Targum” was an explanation of the scriptures by the Rabbis much as a commentary is to a written Christian work. Also, when this article mentions “accusative” it refers to the *case* of word-form languages. As far as I know, most languages are word-form in their logic as opposed to English, which has as its logic: word-order. So, in English: Jack kissed Jill, we know who the subject and direct object are by the order the words appear relative to each other. Whereas, in a word-form language, the order of the words have much less relevance. Instead, the word-form language will change the form (spelling), add a suffix or prefix, or in certain ways denote to the reader (or hearer) what place the word has in the sentence. So, the accusative case of the word denotes the direct object (the direction of the verb).


Genesis 3:15 is taken as Messianic by these rabbinic authorities.

  • Rabbi David Kimchi:

As Thou wentest forth for the salvation of Thy people by the hand of The Messiah the Son of David, who shall wound Satan, the head, the king and prince of the house of the wicked.[1]

  • Midrash Rabbah(23):

Rabbi Tanchuma said in the name of Rabbi Samuel, Eve has respect to that Seed which is coming from another place. And who is this? This is the Messiah, the King.[2]

Dr. Alfred Edersheim in his classic work, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (appendix 9), mentions additional rabbinic opinions supporting the understanding that Genesis 3:15 refers to the Messiah.

This well-known passage is paraphrased, with express reference to the Messiah, in the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and the so-called Jerusalem Targum. Schottgen conjectures that the Talmudic designation of “heels of the Messiah” in reference to the near Advent of the Messiah in the description of the troubles of those days may have been chosen partly with a view to this passage.[3]

Dr. Edersheim’s remark is confirmed by Franz Delitzsch in his work, Messianic Prophecies in Historical Succession, with the addition of a Messianic link to one of the midrashim.

The Palestinian Targum testifies that in Gen. iii.15 there is promised a healing of the bite in the heel from the serpent, which is to take place “at the end of the days, in the days of the King Messiah.” In the Palestinian Midrash to Genesis (Bereshith Rabba xii) we read: “The things which God created perfect since man sinned have become corrupt and do not return to their proper condition until the son of Perez (i.e. according to Gen. xxxviii. 29, Ruth iv. 18 ff. the Messiah out of the tribe of Judah) comes.”[4]

Additional Messianic links are revealed by Joseph Samuel C.F. Frey in his two volume work, Joseph and Benjamin.

Our ancient Rabbis, as with one voice, have declared that by the seed of the woman, who was to bruise the head of the serpent is meant the Messiah. You know as well as I, their common saying, “that before the serpent had wounded our first parents, God had prepared a plaster for their healing; and as soon as sin had made its entrance into our world, the Messiah had made his appearance.” Hence both the Targums, that of Onkelos, and that of Jonathan, say “that the voice which our first parents heard walking in the garden, was the Memra Jehovah, ie. the word of the Lord, or the Messiah, who is always meant by this expression;… In the Targum of Jonathan, and that of Jerusalem, it is said, “the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent, and they shall obtain healing, or a plaster for the heel, (the hurt received by the Serpent,) in the days of Messiah the King.”[5]

It is self-evident from these references that our understanding of Genesis 3:15 as a prophecy of the Messiah falls within the Jewish frame of reference. It is not a position dreamed up by some non-Jewish missionary intent on deceiving gullible Jews into forsaking their people and their religion. The Messianic impact of this prophecy is very clearly seen by the rabbis.

However, there is more significance lurking in Genesis 3:15. Eve’s understanding of Genesis 3:15 is revealed in her remarks found in Genesis 4:1 regarding the birth of her first son.Genesis 4:1 reads, (literally), “I have brought forth a man – Jehovah.” Most versions do not translate Genesis 4:1 in this manner.

The translation issue circles around the little Hebrew word “et.” this little word can be either an accusative particle indicating the definite direct object or it can be a preposition. Prepositions are placed before certain words to form a phrase that indicates a relationship such as in, on, by, etc. Most translators evaluate the word as a preposition and therefore translate the verse, “and she said,’I have gotten a manchild with the help of (et) the LORD.’”[6] This translation decision, or very similar renderings, are found in the New American Standard Bible (NASB), New Living Translation (NLT), New International Version (NIV), Revised Standard Version (RSV), English Standard Version (ESV), King James Version (KJV), American Standard Version (ASV), New King James Version (NKJV) and Tanakh versions.

Two Aramaic paraphrases of Genesis 3:15 make this decision as well.

And Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, “I have acquired the man from before the Lord.”

And Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, “I have acquired the man from before the Lord.”

In spite of the translation decision of these standard translations and two Targumims, we believe evaluating “et” as an accusative particle is the better position. Why would such a minority position be a better position to take? There are a number of reasons


The first reason is found in the context in which the word is found. The accusative particle is used five times in verses one and two of Chapter 4. It is not seen in the English translation because its function is to identify the direct object of the sentence. It is not a translatable word. A literal rendering of verses 1 and 2 into English will enable the non-Hebrew reader to understand the context.

Now the man knew (et) Eve his wife, and she conceived and gave birth to (et)Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild (et) Yahweh.” Again, she gave birth to his (et) brother (et) Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

Genesis 3: Rabbinic Support

When we look at the context, we see that the name Yahweh falls right in the middle of consistent constructions. The four proper nouns Eve, Cain, Yahweh, and Abel along with the common noun brother are all preceded by et. In four of the constructions, et is properly rendered as a particle indicating the direct object of the verb. Only in the case of the proper noun, Yahweh, have the translators chosen to render et as a preposition. Consistency in translation would dictate a consistent usage of the word et. It is better to take the word consistently as an accusative particle and translate the verse, “I have gotten a man – the Lord” because this rendering does not violate the pattern of the context.

Rabbinic Agreement

Another support for this position is found in of the Targumim, Targum Jonathan. Targum Jonathan to Genesis 4:1 reads:

And Adam knew his wife which desired the Angel, and she conceived and bare Cain, and said, ‘I have obtained THE MAN, the Angel of Jehovah.’[8]

In this rendering, the translator rendered the proper noun Yahweh with the substitute phrase “The Angel of the Jehovah.” In addition, no preposition such as “with the help of” is utilized. Et is rendered as an accusative particle indicating that the direct object of the verb is “The Angel of the Lord.”

In addition, supporting insight is found in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

The evidence from the versions (LXX, dia tou theou; Vul., per deum) suggests that the accusative sense of “I have brought forth a man, the Lord,” was not acceptable to the early translators, and they avoided that sense by means of a free translation. The modern translation “with the help of the Lord” (NIV)… is not attested elsewhere in Scripture.[9]

The comment that evaluating et as a direct object indicator was not acceptable to early translators is substantiated by rabbinic comments in Bereshith Rabbah xxii. 2.

WITH THE HELP OF (ETH) THE LORD. R. Ishmael asked R. Akiba: ‘Since you have served Nahum of Gimzo for twenty-two years, [and he taught], Every ak and rak is a limitation, while every eth and gam is an extension, tell me what is the purpose of the eth written here?’ ‘If it said, “I have gotten a man the Lord,’” he, replied,’ it would have been difficult [to interpret]; hence ETH [WITH THE HELP OF] THE LORD is required.’[10]

The point of the exchange between Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Akiba is the evaluation of et (spelled ETH in the Soncino Midrash Rabbah). Rabbi Ishmael clearly understands the implication if et is evaluated as a direct object indicator. If et is a direct object indicator, then Eve is stating that she believes she has given birth to God or a God/man. Concerned about this implication, he asks the advice of Rabbi Akiba. Rabbi Akiba clearly understands the implications as well and acknowledges this by replying that if et is evaluated as a direct object indicator, “it would have been difficult [to interpret].” In other words, that sense would not be acceptable to rabbinic theology and therefore et must be evaluated as a preposition. As a result, the free translation [WITH THE HELP OF] THE LORD is the required translation.

The little particle et is significant enough in Genesis 4:1 to cause a bit of controversy. The context favors evaluating it as a direct object indicator. However, those who cannot accept the implications of the context and that evaluation are forced to evaluate the particle differently even though the outcome is a free translation rather than a literal translation.

Dr. David L. Cooper summarizes the issue.

In Genesis 4:1 – the statement of Eve when Cain, her first son, was born, “I have gotten a man even Jehovah.” She correctly understood this primitive prediction but misapplied it in her interpreting it as being fulfilled in Cain, her son. It is clear that Eve believed that the child of promise would be Jehovah Himself. Some old Jewish commentators used to interpolate the word “angel” in this passage and say that Eve claimed that her son was “the angel of Jehovah.”[11]

The significance of this exercise lies in the fact that Eve thought she gave birth to a supernatural deliverer, a Divine Messiah, a God/man. This insight is the significant fact lurking in the background of Genesis 3:15. In Genesis 3:15, God is promising that a supernatural deliverer will and devastate Satan. Eve understood the prediction in precisely those terms. Her mistake was in thinking that her son, Cain, was that supernatural savior.

In approximately 700 BC, Isaiah would predict the coming of the supernatural deliverer when he was given the revelation of the virgin birth. The supernatural deliverer would be Emmanuel – God with us. This prediction was realized in the actual birth of the supernatural deliverer, the God/man, Yeshua HaMashiach. With that comment, we move into the next segment of our study, the fulfillment in Yeshua.

  1. ^ “How to Recognise the Messiah,” Good News Society, p. 5
  2. ^ Ibid.
  3. ^ Edersheim, A. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (electronic ed.), p.689
  4. ^ Delitzsch, Franz., Messianic Prophecies in Historical Succession, (Eugene, Wipf, and Stock Publishers, 1997), p. 39
  5. ^ Frey, Joseph Samuel, C.F., Joseph and Benjamin, (Jerusalem: Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 2002), p. 154-155
  6. ^ The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1977).
  7. ^ Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, (Deutsche Bibelgessellschaft Stuttgart) 1990.
  8. ^ “How to Recognise the Messiah,” p. 5
  9. ^ Gaebelein, F.E. Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p. 63
  10. ^ Soncino Classics Collection: The Soncino Midrash Rabbah, (Chicago: Davka Corp.)
  11. ^ McDowell, Josh., Evidence that Demands a Verdict, (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1972), p. 145

Hurtado Engages Wright

I’ve now uploaded the pre-publication form of my essay in a recent volume engaging N.T. Wright’s massive two-volume work on the theology of Paul, my essay focusing on Wright’s claim that the theme of “YHWH’s return to Zion” functions as “the catalyst” for Christology in the New Testament. The upload is available here. I’ve mentioned […]

via YHWH’s “return to Zion” — Larry Hurtado’s Blog

A fascinating discussion covering christology (be sure to click the first link)

Karl Barth vs. T.F. Torrance: Subordination Within the Godhead

One of the things I’ve picked up on in reading Barth and Torrance is that some of the most interesting aspects of their work lies in the areas where they parted ways. Perhaps the place where …

Source: Karl Barth vs. T.F. Torrance: Subordination Within the Godhead

Another Allusion to Gen. 3.15

Gen. 3.15 can be seen as the theme verse for all of redemptive history contained in the bible. The sacred material which precedes God’s judgment upon the “serpent” functions as a prologue while the description of the eternal state (after Rev. 20 where the “old serpent” is dispatched) is an epilogue of the redemptive record.

So when another allusion to Gen. 3.15 is rediscovered, it is hardly surprising. Dr. Ibex shares with us his analysis of Ps. 110.6:


“head” or “heads” in psalm 110

Most evangelicals view Psalm 110 as Messianic. This is hard to deny in light of the extensive use of the psalm in the NT (it is the most often cited OT passage). Ps 110:1 (LORD, Lord) is the key to the argument of Jesus in Matthew 22 and Ps 110:4 (Melchizedek) is the lynchpin text in the argument of Hebrews 7.

But how about the rest of Psalm 110? I suggest that Messiah’s role of judgment in 110:5-7 has been blunted by a wrong translation of verse 6. A literal rendering of Psalm 110:6 is: “He shall crush the head (rosh) over the broad earth.” However, most English versions, along with the LXX, translate rosh as plural (“heads” or “chief men”/κεφαλὰς). And yet not all ancients thought it was plural. The Vulgate, for example, translates the verb and complement as percutiet caput (“he shall crush the head”). The Aramaic Targum also translates it as rishi, the singular for “head.” Luther rendered it by the singular Haupt. I have consulted over 30 English versions and the only major English versions that translate it as “head” are the Geneva Bible, the English Revised Version (1881), and the American Standard Version (1901). Minor versions that have the singular are Youngs Literal Translation, Jewish Publication Society (1917), Darby, and Bible in Basic English.

One contextual argument for translating רֹ֜֗אשׁ in v 6 as singular is the rhetorical contrast with the Messiah’s role in v. 7: “He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.” The last word is the singular רֹ֜֗אשׁ.

Romans 16:20 states that Satan will be crushed under our feet someday. This “corporate solidarity” so that the prophecy of Gen 3:15 is fulfilled both by the singular Messiah and His collective people is consistent with Psalm 2:9 being fulfilled both by Jesus (Rev 19:15) and by His people (2:27).

If Ps 110:6 is to be understood as singular, who is it referencing? I suggest that it is the beast/Antichrist of the Apocalypse (Rev 13, 19) who as the “head” of Satan’s forces will be judged at the Second Coming.

Culpability, Calvinism, and Classification


Here is a post by Steve Hays which reflects some of my thoughts, but, as usual, he says it better.


Denying Christ

I. 4-point Calvinists raise a stock objection to limited atonement: How can they be blameworthy for refusing to believe in Jesus if Jesus never died for them or made atonement for them?
I. One way 5-point Calvinists respond is to note that disbelief in Jesus is not a necessary condition of condemnation. God can justly condemn you for your sins, quite apart from disbelief in Jesus.
However, 4-point Calvinists may counter that while that’s true, the NT says it’s culpable to disbelieve in Jesus. For instance:

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (Jn 3:18).

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (Jn 3:36).

But if limited atonement is true, how can the reprobate be blameworthy for refusing to believe in something they were never party to? How can they be obliged to believe in Jesus if he is not their Redeemer? How can they believe in him unless redemption was made on their behalf? How can they reject something that was never for them in the first place?
That’s a fair question. But in my experience, 4-point Calvinists fail to study how the NT actually defines culpable disbelief in Jesus. They just take for granted that unlimited atonement must be a necessary condition. But is that how the NT frames the indictment?
From my reading, the NT author who accentuates culpability for refusal to believe Jesus is John. This is a recurring theme in the Johannine writings. But from John’s perspective, what does it mean to deny Christ or disbelieve in Jesus? John unpacks that concept in two overlapping categories:
1. Heretical Christology
According to John, one way of refusing to believe in Jesus is to deny certain truths about Jesus. For instance:

22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son (1 Jn 2:22).

every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God (1 Jn 4:2-3).

7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh (2 Jn 7).

6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth (1 Jn 5:6).

11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son (1 Jn 5:11).
Refusal to believe in Jesus means refusing to credit certain theological propositions about Jesus regarding his person and mission.
2. Testimony
To believe in Jesus is to believe in testimonial evidence about Jesus. To disbelieve in Jesus, or deny Jesus, is to disbelieve testimonial evidence about Jesus. In the Johannine writings, there are various lines of testimonial evidence that attest or bear witness to Jesus:
i) The Father’s testimony to the Son
ii) The Spirit’s testimony to the Son
iii) John the Baptist’s testimony to the Jesus
iii) OT testimony to Jesus
iv) Miraculous testimony to Jesus
v) Apostolic testimony to Jesus
For instance:

the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us (1 Jn 1:2).

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14).

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning (Jn 15:26-27).

the Father who sent me bears witness about me. (Jn 8:18).

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me (Jn 10:25).

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him…29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (Jn 1:6-7,29-34).

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (Jn 5:30-46).

Notice that denying Jesus, whether that involves denying testimony about Jesus or theological propositions about Jesus, isn’t defined in terms of denying an individual relationship between Jesus and the unbeliever. Rather, it involves denying general truths about the person of Jesus and his divine mission. Denying that Jesus is the Son of God. Denying the Incarnation. Denying that salvation is only available in Christ.
II. A 4-point Calvinist might object that my quotes omit to mention the universal scope of the atonement in the Johannine corpus (e.g. Jn 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:14). Therefore, disbelief in Jesus would disavowal what Jesus has already done for the individual.
But one basic problem with such a response is that the culpability argument which the 4-point Calvinist deploys is supposed to be independent of prooftexts for unlimited atonement. It’s a common ground argument. It begins with something both 4-point and 5-point Calvinists affirm: refusal to believe in Jesus is blameworthy. It then tries to use that as a wedge to prove unlimited atonement.
If 5-point Calvinists agreed with 4-point Calvinists on prooftexts for unlimited atonement, the culpability argument would be unnecessary. The rationale of the culpability argument is for 4-point Calvinists to start with something 5-point Calvinists concede–disbelief in Jesus is blameworthy–then use that to establish unlimited atonement. If, however, 4-point Calvinists must shore up the argument by appeal to prooftexts for unlimited atonement, then the culpability argument is a failure.
But, of course, 5-point Calvinists reject that interpretation. They don’t think prooftexts for unlimited atonement succeed. So that’s no different than the Calvinist/Arminian debate. To quote two commentators:

Some argue that the term “world” here [Jn 3:16] simply has neutral connotations—the created human world. But the characteristic use of “the world” (ho kosmos) elsewhere in the narrative is with negative overtones—the world in its alienation from and hostility to its creator’s purposes. It makes better sense in a soteriological context to see the latter notion as in view. God loves that which has become hostile to God. The force is not, then, that the world is so vast that it takes a great deal of love to embrace it, but rather that the world has become so alienated from God that it takes an exceedingly great kind of love to love it at all. A. Lincoln, The Gospel According to St. John(Henrickson 2005), 154.

If here [1 Jn 2:2] it is a reference to the whole planet, consideration of the historical context in which John wrote makes a more likely interpretation to be the universal scope of Christ’s sacrifice in the sense that no one’s race, nationality, or any other trait will keep that person from receiving the full benefit of Christ’s sacrifice if and when they come to faith.

In the ancient world, the gods were parochial and had geographically limited jurisdictions. In the mountains, one sought the favor of the mountain gods; on the sea, of the sea gods. Ancient warfare was waged in the belief that the gods of the opposing nations were fighting as well, and the outcome would be determined by whose god was strongest. Against that kind of pagan mentality, John asserts the efficacy of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is valid everywhere, for people everywhere, that is “the whole world.”

But “world” in John’s writings is often used to refer not to the planet or all its inhabitants, but to the system of fallen human culture, with its values, morals, and ethics as a whole. Lieu explains it as that which  is totally opposed to God and all the belongs to him. It is almost always associated with the side of darkness in the Johannine duality, and people are characterized in John’s writings as being either “of God” or “of the world” (Jn 8:23; 15:19; 176,14,16; 18:36; 1 Jn 2:16; 4:5). Those who have been born of God are taken out of that spiritual sphere, though not out of the geographical place or physical population that is concurrent with it (Jn 13:1; 17:15: see “In Depth: The “world” in John’s Letters” at 2:16).

Rather than teaching universalism, John here instead announces the exclusivity of the Christian gospel. Since Christ’s atonement is efficacious for the “whole world,” there is no other form of atonement available to other peoples, cultures, and religions apart from Jesus Christ. K. Jobes, 1, 2, & 3 John (Zondervan 2014), 80.

III. In addition, 4-point Calvinists draw attention to the fact that according to the NT, apostates incur aggravated guilt (e.g. Heb 10:28-29; 2 Pet 2:20-21). But how can they be more culpable than unbelievers in general if they were excluded from the atonement all along?
That’s a fair question. I’d say a couple of things:
i) Keep in mind that 4-point Calvinists affirm limited election. So salvation was never available to them. In consistency, 4-point Calvinists need to explain how their objection is applicable to limited atonement, but inapplicable to limited election.
ii) Often the Bible divvies up the human race between believers and unbelievers, but sometimes it subdivides the human race in a three-way classification. Take OT Jews. On the one hand, God did something for them that God didn’t do for most pagans. On the other hand, God did something for some Jews that he didn’t do for other Jews. God elected some Jews to salvation, but reprobated others. God regenerated some Jews, but hardened others.
Yet even reprobate Jews enjoyed certain benefits and privileges denied the average pagan. The OT makes that clear. So there can be a third category between believers and unbelievers. You can have a subclass of nominal believers or apostates who benefit from their association with the people of God.

Oxyrhynchus: City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish

[adapted from “Oxyrhynchus” http://www.csad.ox.ac.uk/POxy/mainmenu.htm ]


Once it had walls three miles round, with five or more gates; colonnaded streets, each a mile long, crossing in a central square; a theater with seating for eleven thousand people; a grand temple of Serapis. On the east were quays; on the west, the road led up to the desert and the camel-routes to the Oases and to Libya. All around lay small farms and orchards, irrigated by the annual flood — and between country and town, a circle of dumps where the rubbish piled up.

The citizens of this county town, five days journey by road (ten by water) south of Memphis, called it Oxyrhynchus, or Oxyrhynchon polis, ‘City of the Sharp-nosed Fish’.

[bronze statuette of fish] [steatite amulet of fish]
bronze statuette: Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin steatite amulet: image © 1997 Fragments of Time

The fish was sacred: the Greek settlers after Alexander’s conquest adopted Egypt’s sacred animals alongside their own gods. The descendants of these settlers ran Egypt for a thousand years, right down to the Arab conquest. In their towns they spoke, wrote and read Greek; worshipped their fish and learned their Homer.

Even the ruins have perished. When Egyptologist Flinders Petrie went to Oxyrhynchus in 1922, he found remains of the colonnades and theatre. Now a single column meets the eye: everything else has gone, building material for modern houses.

Yet we know far more about Oxyrhynchus as a functioning town, and about its people as living individuals, than we do about many more glamorous ruins.

We know where Thonis the fisherman lived, and Aphynchis the embroiderer, and Anicetus the dyer, and Philammon the greengrocer. We know how much farmers had to pay when they brought in dates and olives and pumpkins to market. We know that on 2 November, AD 182, the slave Epaphroditus, eight years old, leaned out of a bedroom window to watch the castanet-players in the street below, and slipped and fell and was killed. We meet Juda, who fell off his horse and needs two nurses to turn him over; Sabina, who hit Syra with her key and put her in bed for four days (ancient keys are good solid objects); Apollonius and Sarapias, who send a thousand roses and four thousand narcissuses for the wedding of a friend’s son.

The reason we know so much, and in such detail, is rubbish.

The town dumps of ancient Oxyrhynchus remained intact right up to the late nineteenth century. They didn’t look exciting, just a series of mounds covered with drifting sand. But they offered ideal conditions for preservation. In this part of Egypt it never rains; perishables which are above the reach of ground water will survive. In the dumps was something which the famous sites of classical Greece and Italy could not preserve: papyrus, the ancient equivalent of paper.

[outlying rubbish tips]The rubbish mounds of Oxyrhynchus


Papyrus meant two things: documents and books. On both scores, these Greeks on the Egyptian fringe could fill blanks in the record.

The traditional classical world leaves us only the grand official documents it inscribed on stone. Oxyrhynchus yielded a huge random mass of everyday papers — private letters and shopping lists, tax returns and government circulars…maybe 50,000 in all.

The traditional classical world leaves us no actual books: the great Library of Alexandria, the twenty-eight public libraries of imperial Rome have disappeared without trace. We are left with copies of copies, chance survivals through the Empire and Middle Ages. We have ideas of what’s missing, but these losses seemed final.

The finds were collected in baskets, then boxed and shipped back to Oxford. The papyri offered quite new problems: strange fragmentary poets, whom no one in the West had read for fifteen centuries; documents in late technical Greek from this unknown outpost of Hellenic civilization.

Sixteen substantial volumes appeared, published jointly: each editor revised what the other wrote. It was an ideal partnership: Grenfell impetuous and extrovert, Hunt shy and cautious; one contributing ideas and intuitions, the other control and critical judgement.

It was not to end happily. In 1920 a third nervous breakdown ended Grenfell’s working life; Hunt went on until 1934, his last years clouded by the early death of his only son. But their partnership had achieved extraordinary things. They had brought back to life both the people of Oxyrhynchus and the books they read.


I Apologize

When we hear the word “apology” today it is always tied to the idea of conceding fault, at least in American vernacular. However, in New Testament times, the word from which we derive “apology” meant virtually the opposite it does today.

In Acts 22.1, Paul uses apologia when giving his defense before the king. He is not apologizing in the modern American sense of the word but explaining and giving sound reasons for his faith and subsequent actions.

1Peter 3.15 exhorts all Christians to “set apart Christ as Lord in their heart and be ready always to give an answer (apologian) to anyone who asks you of the hope you possess.”

Reasoning (Apologetics) doesn’t have to be just facts and information the Christian stores up at the ready, as the verse says, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart.” There is a vertical dimension that must first be established and the relationship thriving as the apostle indicates prior to commanding them to be ready to give an answer. Likewise, Peter says the horizontal relationship toward the inquirer must be with respect and in gentleness. So defending  and contending for the faith is accomplished by God’s ability and with the utmost respect. Have you apologized to anyone today?


Poignancy Illustrated

Sheila Walsh (The Stream) captures the essence of the Christian walk in the last sentence of her description of orphaned lambs. What a person really believes works its way out in their conduct, it manifests itself. The orphaned lambs knew the shepherd’s care by previous association, they trusted him and so were the first to run to him.

We often fail, but Jesus never fails so lets fix our eyes on Jesus so we may run with endurance the race set out for us (Heb. 12.1-2).


I am very fond of sheep. I grew up on the west coast of Scotland with sheep all around me, field after field of white wool and incessant crying when things seemed a little off.

[…]Of all the lessons I have learned from these defenseless, gentle animals, the most profound is the most painful. Every now and then, a ewe will give birth to a lamb and immediately reject it. Sometimes the lamb is rejected because they are one of twins and the mother doesn’t have enough milk or she is old and frankly quite tired of the whole business. They call those lambs, bummer lambs.

Unless the shepherd intervenes, that lamb will die. So the shepherd will take that little lost one into his home and hand feed it from a bottle and keep it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up warm and hold it close enough to hear a heartbeat. When the lamb is strong the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock.

“Off you go now, you can do this, I’m right here.”

The most beautiful sight to see is when the shepherd approaches his flock in the morning and calls them out, “Sheep, sheep, sheep!”

The first to run to him are the bummer lambs because they know his voice. It’s not that they are more loved — it’s just that they believe it.

Temporal Distortions: Rome


Leonardo De Chirico has revised and re-posted an article of his that demonstrates how the Roman Catholic distortion of time plays a major role in its current ecclesiology (which is, as I’ve mentioned, its major selling point in the post Vatican II era). He focuses on two words, two biblical measures of time, “hapax” (“once for all”) and“mallon” (“for evermore”)

As Protestants, we believe the following:

1. The incarnation of Christ was “once for all”
2. Christ’s death and resurrection and our redemption were “once for all”
3. “Revelation” was “once for all delivered to the saints”.

Roman Catholicism flips these precisely on their head:

1. The Roman Catholic Church is the “ongoing incarnation of Christ” (“for evermore”)
2. “The Eucharist” (“the sacrifice of the Mass”) is a “re-presentation” of the one sacrifice of Christ, providing redemption on an ongoing basis (“for evermore”) throughout time.
3. The “once for all” sense of biblical revelation is opened up to being integrated with “living Tradition” that is mediated by the Magisterium, creating a dialectic between the biblical message and the process of tradition.

De Chirico’s original Themelios (2004) article is here.

In it, he suggests “Roman Catholicism is not intentionally driven by the desire to confuse the time periods of God. It would be uncharitable and prejudiced to think so,” he says.

However, Roman Catholicism IS driven to exalt itself: “Rome IS all about aggrandizing Rome”. And if it means distorting the Biblical message about God’s work in time, it has no hesitation to do so. This is not at all “uncharitable and prejudiced to think so”, because it is true.

Noun or Adjective?

Mark Oppenheimer distinguishes the level of commitment by whether one uses an adjective or noun as a descriptor: 

With Christians, the answer will vary depending on the kind of Christian you’re talking to. Liberal Protestants may say, “I’m Christian,” using the adjective, but many evangelicals, born-again Christians, and other passionate believers will say, “I’m a Christian.” It sounds a little jarring to more secular or liberal types, but not in a bad way. It just sounds hard-core, like the person is planting a flag and standing by it.

For Christians, the difference between “Christian” the adjective and “Christian” the noun is one of both degree and kind. We are all described by many adjectives, but we select very few nouns to sum up who we are. The nouns require a bit more commitment. It’s the difference between “I’m liberal” and “I’m a liberal”—the man or woman willing to own the noun is more committed, for sure. The adjective is what you are like; the noun is who you are.

Not Jew-ish but a Jew

The week leading to the crucifixion & resurrection

If we consider the Gospel of John a sort of “Day Planner” for Jesus, we have nearly complete activity recorded for two weeks of the earthly ministry of Jesus. The first is in John 1:19—2:11 where a…

Source: The week leading to the crucifixion & resurrection

Worship (illicit) at the City Gate | HolyLandPhotos’ Blog

One of the not–to–frequently mentioned actions that the ancients practiced at city gates was  worship ([always?] illicit). 2 Kings 23:8     Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah an…

Source: Worship (illicit) at the City Gate | HolyLandPhotos’ Blog

The Mikveh in Modern Israel

This article is from The Times of Israel and I offer it with only a brief comment. A mikveh is a Jewish immersion bath somewhat like a baptistery in a Baptist church but smaller since the usual method is self immersion. I am only somewhat familiar with mikvehs and anticipate researching them further as time allows and resources are found that illuminate this biblical and Jewish practice. Of course Jesus was announced by the forerunner and Aaronic Priest John the Baptizer and the early Church instituted the Rite of Baptism as a confessional stand by the worshiper. After baptism a person was added to the local assembly.

The use of the mikveh seems somewhat shrouded in mystery to non-Jews although it is amply described in the bible. Since the Land of Israel has been repopulated by more religious Jews the practice is becoming more widely known outside of Jewish circles. While attending bible college over 40 years ago I remember a professor saying that John the Baptist’s ministry was something completely new (his call for being baptized for the remission of sins). We know now that this was certainly not the case. The article mentions that they are used for “conversion” today (and presumably were used in this way in ancient times) in addition to the usual biblical prescribed uses.


A religious married woman stands, unclothed, in front of a ritual bath attendant. She is circled and inspected for errant strands of hair, earrings or nail polish.

In every other forum in her life, she is dressed modestly — often from head to toe. Here at the ritual bath, a place religiously observant women must visit every month seven days after the end of menstruation, she is questioned on matters of excruciating intimacy.
Several Supreme Court cases, both active and resolved, and even a set of 10 protocols released in 2014 by the Ministry of Religious Affairs under then deputy minister Eli Ben Dahan (Jewish Home), have fought for a woman’s right for privacy at the mivkeh. A new law proposed by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) that would place the ritual baths under the authority of the Israeli chief rabbinate threatens to unravel these women’s privacy protections.

Gafni began collecting signatures from fellow MKs for his proposed law after the Supreme Court ruled that the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel may use the state ritual baths for their conversions.

Head of the Israeli Reform Movement Gilad Kariv told The Times of Israel in a recent interview that his movement performs some 500 conversions a year. Kariv added that many of the children adopted abroad, and presumably those born by surrogates abroad, convert their babies through a Reform conversion. (Since a 2002 Supreme Court decision, those converted in Israel through the Reform and Conservative movement may register with the Interior Ministry as Jewish.)

In Israel, public ritual baths are currently run under the auspices of local municipalities, all of which have religious life committees that in many cases also include women. Last week’s Supreme Court ruling established that since the baths are publicly funded, there must be an evenhanded approach regarding those who are allowed to use them.

For Gafni, moving oversight of the ritual baths to the chief rabbinate is a twofold victory: In making them a religious matter — like marriage or divorce, which are legally unavailable for the Reform and Conservative movements — the chief rabbinate would have the ability to block the use of the baths by the Liberal Jewish movements. At the same time, the switch of authority would also fundamentally alter the way the majority of the ritual baths’ customers — Modern Orthodox women — use them. By putting the baths under the chief rabbinate’s auspices, they would be forced to follow the institution’s overwhelmingly ultra-Orthodox approach.

According to a list found on the website of the Eden Center, whose mission is to train bath attendants to be more compassionate and calls itself “a mikveh education center,” some 10,000 secular women have their first, and in many cases, only experience with the ritual bath ahead of marriage. However, some 750,000 observant women, the overwhelming majority of which are in the spectrum of Modern Orthodox to Religious Zionists — make regular use of the mikveh.

It is therefore counterintuitive to see signatories on Gafni’s bill from Education and Diaspora Minister Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party, whose constituents are largely Modern Orthodox.

In 2014, while minister of Religious Affairs, Bennett’s deputy minister Ben Dahan released a 10-point set of protocols for privacy in the ritual bath. Among the points was the right of a woman to decline help from bath attendants.
“If the woman who is preparing to immerse in the ritual bath is not interested in receiving the services of the bath attendant, including inspection, the attendant must not delay her immersion and shall not ask her any questions… One must emphasize the need for total privacy in the ritual bath, and thus the attendant must not ask questions that may infract on the woman’s privacy,” read the protocols.

In a long letter sent to several Jewish Home MKs ahead of a party meeting on Monday, Rabbi Seth Farber, the head of Itim, asks the signatories to rethink their support. Itim, an NGO which helps Israelis, including new immigrants, navigate Israel’s religious bureaucracy, is also involved in a Supreme Court case petitioning on behalf of 13 women for their freedom of autonomy in the ritual bath.

Putting the ritual baths under the chief rabbinate’s authority, Farber told The Times of Israel on Sunday, essentially asserts a new monopoly for the rabbinate and “emasculates women from any authority in the mikveh.”

With Jewish Home support behind Gafni’s proposal, he said, “they’re disenfranchising not just the Reform and Conservative movements, but the ‘bread and butter’ of their community — the Religious Zionists.”


Blind Dogma

Tim Keller exposes the postmodernist myth that everyone’s philosophical view is just as valid as anyone’s else’s philosophical stance for determining truth or belief. Pluralism is really a dogma but they (the pluralists) believe they are the only objective one in the philosophical arena. The pluralists actually believe they have cornered the truth. Since they believe this blindly (without demonstrable evidence), therefore, they are the ultimate dogmatists.

Here is Tim Keller:

About every other week, I confront popular pluralist notions that have become a large part of the way Americans think. For example, pluralists contend that no one religion can know the fullness of spiritual truth, therefore all religions are valid. But while it is good to acknowledge our limitations, this statement is itself a strong assertion about the nature of spiritual truth. A common analogy is often cited to get the point across which I am sure you have heard — several blind men trying to describe an elephant. One feels the tail and reports that an elephant is thin like a snake. Another feels a leg and claims it is thick like a tree. Another touches its side and reports the elephant is a wall. This is supposed to represent how the various religions only understand part of God, while no one can truly see the whole picture. To claim full knowledge of God, pluralists contend, is arrogance. When I occasionally describe this parable, and I can almost see the people nodding their heads in agreement.

But then I remind the hearers that the only way this parable makes any sense, however, is if the person telling the story has seen the whole elephant. Therefore, the minute one says, ‘All religions only see part of the truth,’ you are claiming the very knowledge you say no one else has. And they are demonstrating the same spiritual arrogance they so often accuse Christians of.  In other words, to say all is relative, is itself a truth statement but dangerous because it uses smoke and mirrors to make itself sound more tolerant than the rest.  Most folks who hold this view think they are more enlightened than those who hold to absolutes when in fact they are really just as strong in their belief system as everyone else.  I do not think most of these folks are purposefully using trickery or bad motives.  This is because they seem to have even convinced themselves of the “truth” of their position, even though they claim “truth” does not exist or at least can’t be known.  Ironic isn’t it?  The position is intellectually inconsistent.