“Pre-Existence” in Ancient Jewish Tradition and the NT — Larry Hurtado’s Blog

Larry Hurtado’s posts are succinct, incisive, clear, and filled with carefully studied positions. There is no “filler” in his writings. So, here is his latest post along with plenty of evidence to bolster his position.


One reader of my posts seems to have difficulty in grasping what scholars refer to as “pre-existence”. It’s a technical term, scholarly jargon/shorthand, to designate a motif or concept evident in a number of early Jewish and early Christian texts. In particular, a number of early Christian texts ascribe a “pre-existence” to Jesus. But there […]

via “Pre-Existence” in Ancient Jewish Tradition and the NT — Larry Hurtado’s Blog

Prooftext Contra The Filioque

Acts 2.33: Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

The “Filioque Clause,” an addition to the Nicean Creed, states that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as the Father. The Eastern Church was correct to reject this clause as the Acts passage clearly explains what occurred during the ten days between the Ascension and Pentecost. The Father has given this ministry of the Spirit in Christians to the Son to send Him (the Spirit) to us. What I mean to say is the specific New Covenant ministry of the Spirit is controlled by the Son since He sends the Spirit as does the Father. However, the Filioque Clause would have us believe that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as the same way as from the Father. Peter explains post-Pentecost what happened is the Father has given the Spirit to the Son to give Christians this new life filled with both Christ and the Spirit.

Do Not Muzzle an Ox While it is Treading Out the Grain (Dt. 25.4)

This verse is interpreted by Paul in 1Cor. 9.8-10 and yet few Christians understand it (or, possibly, I understand it wrong). I am fairly sure I grasp what Paul meant. Here is Paul’s take on this command only given once in Dt. 25.4:

Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 
For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. (1Cor. 9.8-10)
The key word in Paul’s proof that Dt. 25.4 speaks to the situation that he and the other apostles were in, I propose, is “thresh.” “Thresh” here is used metaphorically to refer to inflicting pain. Threshing is the removal of the grain from the inedible stem. It involves using an animal alone or with a weighted cart physically (and violently) to separate the wheat from the stalk. The Hebrew word for “tread” in Dt. 25.4 is only found here and means to thresh or tread.
Paul says he and the other apostles were involved in plowing and threshing (metaphorically) when they spread the gospel and so should expect to be supported financially. Focusing on “threshing,” this would have been Paul’s corrective words in his letters and rebukes in person toward other Christians to correct ungodly or errant behavior.
Returning to the context of Dt. 25.4, we see hypothetical punishment in the form of 40 lashes (usually 39) by an officer of the judge (probably Jewish High Priest). So, in Deuteronomy, we have a sanctioned judgment and punishment by the priests who didn’t really get paid for this type of service, that is, civil judgment (notice vs. 1).
Priests lived off the sacrifices (meat) of the Israelites’ offerings and tithes. Civil matters are separate from the temple sacrifices but ultimately maintains the nation’s justice and therefore appropriate for priests to preside in this type of procedure. I propose Dt. 25.4 as a sort of ‘court costs’ for sustaining the officials who serve in this judicial process as well as those who dole out the punishment. The executor of the lashes would have had to be respectful to the recipient (vs. 3) and yet impersonally punish the offender. All these arrangements suggest governmental ministers and funding for this judicial service since Moses is giving instructions not to a few people but to a nation.
What Deuteronomy seems to be saying is the one threshing (giving the blows of punishment) should share in the benefit by receiving compensation for his position. Paul recognizes the text is speaking metaphorically and not about oxen.

The Beloved Disciple

Six times in the Gospel of John (and found in no other account), the terminology of “the beloved disciple” is presented: 13.23, 25, 19.26, 20.2, 21.7, 21.20. The Apostle John, writing toward the end of his life, identified himself as author of this gospel which we know by account comparison: This is the disciple who testifies about these things and has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true (John 21.24 NET). The end note of knowing the veracity of John’s testimony is probably a reflection by his team of followers and amanuenses about his exemplary life and testimony of The Spirit.

Proverbs 13:24: The one who spares his rod hates his child, but the one who loves him is prompt in disciplining him.

Here is a proverb which explains a concern over a child’s ultimate welfare. The parent who loves a child in the best possible way gives him or her the attention required for guidance. Even though this proverb  contrasts the love of discipline exhibited by a parent with the hate of sparing the rod, hate is probably not the direct opposite of love. Ignoring the child, rather, would probably be the antithesis of love.

This illustration of love from Proverbs helps to explain the act of discipleship. To mentor someone involves attentive effort instead of self concern and/or given attention to others. Hypothetically, any would-be mentor must isolate those of his pupils who are the most interested in his teaching and who would be adept at propagating it. This explains why Jesus loved one disciple especially: John, the son of Zebedee. This was James’ younger brother who along with him and Peter formed an inner circle of special disclosure. Even though John was prominent from the beginning of the church (Acts chapters 3-4), his enduring contribution is seen through the Revelation account, Gospel, and epistles. John’s unique understanding and writings reflect the purposes of Jesus in mentoring the young disciple.

This concept of an ‘inner circle’ is seen in the lists of disciples from the Synoptic Gospels and Acts: Mt. 10.2-4, Mk. 3.16-19, Lk. 6.14-16, Acts 1.13. This ‘inner circle’ are always listed first. They were the ones that Jesus called first to follow after John the Baptist was imprisoned (Mk. 1.16-20). Andrew, however, fades into the background from this inner circle for an undisclosed reason. The ‘inner circle’ is seen by who Jesus allows to accompany during extraordinary events: The raising of Jairus daughter from the dead (Mk. 5.37), The Transfiguration of Christ (Mk. 9.2), and the Garden of Gethsemane prayer (Mk. 14.32-35). Also, to these three disciples Jesus gave new names: “Peter” to Simon bar Jonah, and Sons of Boanerges (thunder) to James and John.

John was younger than James most probably since he is listed after his brother. He may not have been out of his teens  when called by Jesus since a Hebrew boy became a man at age 12. Being called to discipleship at a younger age had the advantage of not having to relearn faulty approaches to life which were common among the other disciples. Jesus could take John and disciple him before he could form erroneous spiritual ideas such as the then current thinking of the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees.

It was the ‘inner three’ who received the bulk of the rebukes of Jesus. Often, the ‘inner three’ they put themselves forward in their misguided zeal: James and John wanting to call fire upon their adversaries (Luke 9.51-56), Peter hindering Jesus’ purpose (Mt. 16.21-23), John and James wanting to sit with Jesus in His kingdom (Mk. 10.35-45). As is the case in Proverbs, John recognized authorial instruction from a godly figure as loving.

John was very aged at the time of his recorded writings, and inevitably, the question arose: How would he refer to himself in his recounting the events in his gospel? After all, one of the purposes of his gospel was to correct a few (but important) misconceptions which were starting to form from the accounts in the Synoptic Gospels alone (John wrote an additional account and not a replacement). Any eyewitness publishing his historical account seeks to represent himself to his audience as a participant to achieve any credibility for his assertions. On the other hand, truly and ultimately (and also in the other scriptures) the author is God and John probably is sensitive to this fact (see John 14.26). After a lifetime of reflection upon the person of Jesus and all the events John experienced including the start of the Church Community, John could have happily concluded he was beloved by God, and so chose that moniker when composing The Gospel of John.


Idols of a Mother’s Heart — Reformation21

If you’re a parent and a Christian, you’ve probably read your share of parenting books. Of the making of self-help parenting books, there is seemingly no end. If, like the writer of Ecclesiastes, you’ve been wearied by such study, Christina Fox’s new book, Idols of a Mother’s Heart, will be a balm for your soul.…

via Idols of a Mother’s Heart — Reformation21

The Failed Holiday

Please don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against gaiety and fireworks, in having a good time and letting loose (all with holding on to God). I believe in enjoying alcohol without going overboard. But to focus on celebrating a purely calendar event and infusing it with mystical notions is crazy.

New Years Day makes nothing new. The same problems are still here for most humans. People make resolutions but overwhelmingly fail to keep them. They were destined to fail since decisions of the human will are ultimately impotent to change us for the better. Of course folks should be disciplined and not lazy, that’s not what I’m talking about.

Ultimately, God’s Kingdom will come into fuller expression when The King returns and makes all things new.

When Mark Goodacre asked ‘Why not Matthew’s use of Luke?’ – SBL Denver 2018 — Alan Garrow Didache – Blog

Here is Goodacre on the Synoptic Problem and a response. I agree with the response and conclusion but do not think much of the “fatigue” theory of editing.

(A review, by Robert K. MacEwen, of a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, 18 November 2018)

It was standing room only in room 302 of the Denver Convention Center when Dr. Mark Goodacre, Frances Hill Fox Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University, took his place behind the lectern. Looking around, Goodacre expressed surprise at the size of the crowd. “You do realize this is a session on the Synoptic problem, don’t you?” he asked.

Certainly, Ron Huggins and I, seated in the front row, were not there by accident. We were eager to hear what Goodacre would say in response to our view of the relationships between the Gospels. The Matthean Posteriority Hypothesis (MPH) has often been ignored by scholars, ever since it was first proposed by G. C. Storr in 1786.[1] Therefore, it is gratifying to proponents of the MPH that Goodacre is engaging with their theory. A year ago, Goodacre debated online with Alan Garrow in a “$1,000 Challenge.”[2] More recently, he gave a response to a paper by Garrow at the British New Testament Conference.[3] And now, Goodacre was taking on the MPH in a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.[4]

Goodacre is today the most prominent advocate of the Farrer Hypothesis (FH)—the view that Luke used Matthew as well as Mark as sources in composing his Gospel. In defending his preferred solution to the Synoptic problem, Goodacre has primarily engaged with scholarship’s dominant theory, the Two Source Hypothesis (2SH), which argues that Matthew and Luke independently used Mark and the hypothetical “Q” document as sources. The MPH, which is the view that Matthew came third and used Mark and Luke as his sources, is the logical third alternative to the other two hypotheses.

Goodacre’s Arguments against Matthew’s Use of Luke

Goodacre began and ended his paper by praising the MPH for its points of agreement with his own theory. He noted that the MPH correctly builds on the priority of Mark, insists on “a literary solution” to the Synoptic problem, and views Q with skepticism (1-3, 22). Naturally, the bulk of Goodacre’s paper was devoted to arguing that Luke’s use of Matthew explains the phenomena of the Gospels better than Matthew’s use of Luke.

Following his introduction, in a section titled, “First Impressions,” Goodacre set out features of Luke that he feels support dating it later than Matthew. These include Luke’s reference to earlier writings about Jesus (Luke 1:1), his use of the first person (Luke 1:1-4 and the “we” passages in Acts)—characteristic of later Gospels, and the historical references he has in common with Josephus.

The next section of Goodacre’s paper was titled, “Matthew’s Redactional Fingerprints”. Here, Goodacre presents two verses in the triple tradition containing minor agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark (Matt 14:1322:27; and parr.), arguing that these are examples in which Luke adopted Matthew’s characteristic wording. Next, he displayed the double tradition pericope John the Baptist’s Preaching (Matt 3:7-10//Luke 3:7-9) and argued that its key elements are distinctive of Matthew’s literary and theological features.

Goodacre’s next section presented his argument from “editorial fatigue” (already well-known to his readers[5]), involving passages in which “an author inadvertently betrays his use of a source by making characteristic changes at the beginning of a passage only to revert to the source’s wording later in the same passage”. Goodacre presented the Parable of the Entrusted Money (Matt 25:14-30//Luke 19:11-27) as “[o]ne of the best examples” of Luke fatiguing in his use of Matthew. He also asserts that there are “multiple examples of fatigue” in both Matthew’s and Luke’s use of Mark, “several cases” of fatigue in Luke’s use of Matthew in the double tradition, but no examples of Matthew apparently fatiguing in using Luke.[6]

The following section is on Luke’s “Knowledge of Matthew’s Literary Structures”. Here Goodacre gave the example of Luke 7:1, where Luke concludes the Sermon on the Plain with a construction similar to those used by Matthew at the end of all five of his major discourses of Jesus. Goodacre’s point being that Luke has, in this single instance, adopted a motif that is characteristic of Matthew.

After this, Goodacre discussed “Matthew’s Failure to Include Congenial Lukan Details”. Here the argument is that, since Matthew includes more information about contemporary political leaders than does Mark, it is surprising that he omits Luke’s list of seven rulers in Luke 3:1-2 (cf. Matt 3:1) if Luke were also his source.

Goodacre’s final section was titled, “What is the Appeal of Matthean Posteriority?” Here he states that MPH proponents make use of two “popular arguments for Q” that are actually invalid “old chestnuts, the argument from order, and the argument from Lucan primitivity”. Regarding Luke’s alleged primitiveness in the double tradition, Goodacre makes three substantive points in response. Regarding the argument from order, he suggests that scholars have been hoodwinked by B. H. Streeter’s “rhetoric” and, in a footnote, refers readers to his earlier discussion of this topic.

A Matthean Posteriority Response to Goodacre’s Arguments

Having outlined the contents of Goodacre’s paper, I now offer a Matthean posteriority response. Regarding a second-century date for Luke, the arguments for this are hardly conclusive. Luke’s historical references in common with Josephus do not establish that Luke depended on Josephus; such information could have been known from many sources, including hearsay, in the first century. In favor of a first-century date for Luke, it is possible that some very early Christian writings depended on Luke (cf. Luke 10:17 with 1 Tim 5:18and Luke 24:36-43 with Ign. Smyrn. 3). As for Luke’s similarities to later, non-canonical Gospels, we should not forget that Luke has even greater similarities to Mark and Matthew.

Goodacre’s argument that Luke incorporates Matthean redaction is also not conclusive for his theory; there are also many examples in which Matthew appears to be aware of Lukan redaction.[7] The fact that Matthew uses an expression such as “offspring of vipers” more often than Luke does not necessitate that Luke received it from Matthew. Otherwise, Matthew’s multiple use of Markan items such as the accusation “prince of demons” (Matt 9:3410:2512:24Mark 3:22), the proclamation “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt 3:24:17Mark 1:15), or the title “son of David” (ten times in Matthew, three times in Mark) would prove that Matthew could not have been dependent on Mark. On the contrary, on a Markan priority view, such Matthean repetitions show that Matthew had the tendency to multiply expressions from his sources that he found congenial.

Helping to confirm this Matthean tendency is an interesting feature of several of the expressions that Goodacre regards as Matthew’s characteristic expressions picked up once by Luke. In each case, it is Matthew’s first use of the expression that is parallel to Luke’s use of it: (1) “offspring of vipers”—Matt 3:7//Luke 3:7Matt 12:3423:33; (2) “weeping and gnashing of teeth”—Matt 8:12//Luke 13:28Matt 13:425022:1324:5125:30; (3) “you of little faith”—Matt 6:30//Luke 12:28Matt 8:2614:3116:8; (4) “And it happened when Jesus finished . . .”—Matt 7:28//Luke 7:1Matt 11:113:5319:126:1. This phenomenon suggests that, in each case, Matthew first encountered the usage in Luke, found it congenial, and chose to use where Luke does and again in other appropriate settings.

As for the alleged Matthean character of John the Baptist’s Preaching (Matt 3:7-10//Luke 3:7-9), this could be explained by Matthew’s desire (worked out later in his Gospel) to show Jesus and John as being in agreement. Certainly, this is what Matthew does in his redaction of Mark, when he puts the initial message of Jesus on the lips of John as well (Matt 3:1-2Matt 4:17//Mark 1:15).

Goodacre’s discussion of Matt 3:7-10 and Luke 3:7-9 would have been more balanced had he mentioned the different target audiences of John’s preaching in the two Gospels. In Luke 3:7 John warns the crowds in general, while in Matt 3:7John polemicizes against the Pharisees and Sadducees. Here Luke’s usage appears to be more primitive, while Matthew’s appears redactional (Matthew is the only evangelist who groups the Pharisees and Sadducees together. See Matt 16:1611-1222:34.).

“Editorial fatigue” is an important argument for the FH, at least if Goodacre is entirely correct in his analysis of the phenomena. More work needs to be done on this issue by a variety of scholars. Questions to be answered include: (1) Is it true that there are no plausible examples of Matthew fatiguing when editing Luke? (2) Could it sometimes be editorial alertness rather than editorial fatigue? That is, could it be Gospel A removing inconcinnities in editing Gospel B rather than Gospel B creating inconcinnities in editing Gospel A?

As for Matthew’s failure to include Luke’s list of seven rulers (cf. Matt 3:1Luke 3:1-2), Goodacre’s argument here may be suggestive, but it is not strong. It is typical for Matthew to shorten his narratives by deleting material from Mark, including material with inherent interest (e.g., cf. Matt 9:1-8 with Mark 2:1-12Matt 9:18-26 with Mark 5:21-43). Matthew never mentions political leaders unless they are part of his story. He could have easily omitted Luke’s seven-name list because it had no theological or narrative significance for him.

Roasting the “Chestnuts”

Goodacre views “alternating primitivity” in the double tradition as a poor argument for Q (one of “two old chestnuts”) that MPH proponents have attempted to co-opt for their theory. I agree that Matthew and Luke’s apparent alternating primitiveness is not sufficient to establish the mutual independence of these two Gospels. Goodacre’s strongest argument here is that Luke could have sometimes replaced the wording he found in Matthew with an expression known to him from oral tradition. Of course, this argument is reversible—one could just as well say, on the MPH, that Matthew could have been influenced by oral tradition while using Luke as a source.[8]

Goodacre is on much shakier ground when it comes to his other “old chestnut,” the argument from order. In accusing MPH proponents of substituting “a repackaging of Streeter for an attempt to engage seriously with his critics” (20), he seems to be engaging in the kind of hand-waving he attributes to others. In fact, the matter of order and arrangement of the double tradition material is a serious problem for the FH, because its proponents must explain why Luke used Matthew in ways that make it look as if it was Matthew who used Luke.

Assuming Markan priority, we can see how both Matthew and Luke used their source Mark. For the most part, Luke does not change Mark’s pericope order, does not recontextualize Mark’s sayings, and does not expand Mark’s discourses. Matthew, however, frequently does all of those things in using Mark. The last four of Matthew’s five major discourses were all created around a smaller core of Markan material, expanded by additional sayings material relevant to each discourse’s theme. Since Matthew’s first major discourse, the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7), is a longer version of Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20-49), it is logical to assume that Matthew expanded this Lukan discourse just the way he did the four Markan ones.

On the other hand, if Luke used Matthew as a source, he would have picked apart Matthew’s sermon and distributed small bits of it into multiple new contexts throughout his Gospel (in Luke’s chapters 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 16). Such a procedure would have been exceedingly complex for an ancient writer. Even a writer equipped with a modern word-processor would find such an operation extremely taxing. It raises the questions, “Why would Luke have done this?” and “How could Luke have done this?” Admittedly, there is also complexity in Matthew’s composition of his discourses using multiple sources. Yet it is much easier to envision Matthew gathering material from multiple contexts in order to compose a discourse with a single large theme in mind than it is to imagine Luke breaking up a discourse with multiple small contexts in mind. To say this is not to deny that Luke was a “great literary artist”;[9] it is simply to affirm that he was a normal ancient writer.[10]

The Crucial Issue: Verbatim Agreement

My main disappointment with Goodacre’s paper is that he did not discuss the issue of verbatim agreement among the Gospels, except to affirm that the Synoptic problem is a literary problem. Here, briefly, is why MPH proponents believe that the patterns of verbatim agreement support their theory:

As anyone who has spent time coloring a Synopsis knows, there is extensive word-for-word agreement (1) between Matthew and Mark wherever they have common material and (2) between Matthew and Luke in the double tradition. There is much less verbatim agreement between Mark and Luke. So, Matthew is the common factor wherever we find the strongest verbatim agreement among the Gospels.

Research into the practices of ancient writers has shown that it was unusual for them to copy extensively from their sources at length; they preferred to show their skill and creativity by changing their sources’ wording.[11] In light of this, it is somewhat unexpected if one of the evangelists regularly copied his sources verbatim at length. And it is surprising and problematic if more than one of the evangelists did so. Yet this is what both the 2SH and the FH require. On the 2SH, Matthew was a close copier of both Mark and Q while Luke was a close copier of Q—but not of Mark. On the FH, Matthew was a close copier of Mark while Luke was a close copier of Matthew—but not of Mark. Note Luke’s inconsistency on both hypotheses.

In terms of verbatim agreement, the MPH is the simplest and most straightforward hypothesis. On the MPH, only one of the evangelists, Matthew, is required to have behaved unusually in terms of ancient conventions for using sources. Also on the MPH, neither Luke nor Matthew need be seen as behaving inconsistently in their use of sources. Luke consistently paraphrases from his one source that we know, Mark; we are free to assume that he did the same with his sources that we do not know. Matthew is consistent in closely copying from his two sources Mark and Luke.[12]


Goodacre, a noted expert on the Synoptic problem, is exceptionally qualified to identify the problems of the MPH. It is worth pausing to notice, therefore, a genuinely remarkable feature of this discussion: Goodacre’s best arguments against the MPH are either weak, readily reversible or inconclusive. And not only that, they fail to address the point that the phenomena of (1) order and arrangement of material and (2) verbatim agreement in the Gospels uphold the MPH and work against the FH. “Why not Matthew’s use of Luke?” is still a great question.

Despite my criticisms, Goodacre deserves appreciation for his paper. He has advanced the discussion of the Synoptic problem by his willingness to engage with the MPH, the often neglected third alternative to the relationship between Matthew and Luke. May the debate continue!

Robert K. MacEwen is a missionary with Cru and an adjunct faculty member at East Asia School of Theology, Singapore. He received his PhD in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.


What happened when Mark Goodacre addressed the Synoptic Gospels section at SBL Denver? Rob MacEwen (pictured) reports for the Logos Academic Blog.

via When Mark Goodacre asked ‘Why not Matthew’s use of Luke?’ – SBL Denver 2018 — Alan Garrow Didache – Blog

Julius Wellhausen Vs. Joshua Berman

Julius Wellhausen was a sensitive Protestant professor who developed The documentary hypothesis by use of source criticism. This is an Enlightenment effort, the scientific examination based upon human reasoning and standards. Joshua Berman is a Jew who seems to believe the Torah is from God as written. I hold with Joshua Berman the belief in the Old Testament pretty much as written.

Here is an exchange between Dr. Berman and a questioner:

Dear Dr. Berman,

Traditionally, Jews have read the Torah as a unified whole — essentially, as one book. Source criticism, which your book challenges, maintains that the Torah cannot be read as a unified whole, but only as documents woven together. What role, if any, did the traditional way of understanding the unity of the Torah have in your motivation for this project?

Thanks once again for participating in this exchange.



Dear Shmuel,

I studied in a yeshiva for eight years before I began academic Bible study, and the impact of the rabbinic tradition on my scholarly work has been enormous. Obviously, in the academic world you can’t say the text makes sense because Rashi said so, or because God gave the text and so it must make sense. But my extensive yeshiva background has allowed me to come to my academic work with a sense of intellectual humility: things that look obvious to us might be so only because of where we are standing. Let me give an example.

Think of the word religion. That word does not exist in either biblical or rabbinic Hebrew. In fact, no pre-modern culture has a word that parallels our word, religion. But how could that be? Judaism and Christianity have been around for thousands of years; what did people call these, if they didn’t have the word religion?

The answer is that the word religion reflects a very modern concept; it came about because of a secular worldview, one which wanted to limit the role that faith played in public affairs. Religion is what you do in the private sphere; it’s what you believe, the rituals you practice, the prayers you pray. It’s a small corner of your life, and, above all, it’s the realm of the private individual — it cannot be allowed to spill out into the public space. By contrast, classical Judaism, Christianity, Islam and all other ancient “religions” rejected that notion. They were complete systems for understanding all of life, the private and public spheres together. These were systems that encompassed everything, and so it would have been absurd to speak of any of them as belonging to a special category of one small part of life — religions. The greatest joy in my scholarship is when I discover something that is so clear and obvious to us — like the concept of religions — and then discover that those that lived before us often thought about things very differently.

And this brings me to my book. Modern Bible scholars see lots of contradictions in the text of the Torah. And the classic academic way of understanding these contradictions is that they are the result of multiple authors. Now, when I look at traditional views of the text of the Torah, I see that, in fact, the rabbis themselves were troubled by many of these tensions in the text and resolved them with recourse to Midrashsh. But what has always puzzled me is the degree to which traditional rabbinic approaches to the text didn’t seem bothered by many of these contradictions in the first place. And it seemed to me that this was a “religions” moment: just as the absence of the term religions in these texts demonstrates to us that people used to think about things very differently from how we do today, so, too, the fact that the rabbis weren’t bothered by many of the “contradictions” in the text of the Torah might also be because we don’t have a monopoly on understanding what is a unified text and what is a contradictory text.

In fact, scholars have been learning the hard way that their innate sense of contradiction might be failing them. A foundational staple of early Pentateuchal criticism maintained that the disparity of divine names found in the Torah was itself proof positive of composite authorship and a key to determining and delimiting its sources. This axiom had to be walked back in light of evidence showing that the ancients were quite comfortable referring to the same deity by multiple names, even within a single passage. In like fashion, in many texts, God addresses Israel but alternates between addressing Israel as “you” in the singular and “you” in the plural. This was thought to designate various sources or strata in the biblical text. However, the phenomenon is also found in ancient Aramaic treaties, where a king commands his subordinate to hand over fugitives, addressing him, seemingly in random fashion, sometimes in the singular, and sometimes in the plural.

As another example, consider historical inscriptions left to us by Ramesses the Great, who ruled Egypt in the 13th century BCE. To commemorate his greatest achievement, a victory over his arch-enemies the Hittite Empire at the battle of Kadesh in 1274 BCE, Ramesses inscribed three mutually exclusive and contradictory reports, one right next to the other, each serving a distinct rhetorical purpose, on monumental sites all across Egypt. Not only that, but the longest of these compositions is full of what we would deem internal contradictions as well. These practices are wholly foreign to modern writers, and far from intuitive. If Ramesses could do this, perhaps the Torah could as well. There are two accounts of creation in Genesis 1-2. And, just like the Ramesses inscriptions, they are contradictory, use different vocabulary, and different names for God. Perhaps these, too, are complementary ways in which the Torah introduces the complexity of the human condition.

These examples serve as a warning flag for scholars looking to parse the text on the basis of their own notions of literary unity. The ancient text is a minefield of literary phenomena that are culturally dependent. Of course, the fact that Ramesses composed multiple conflicting accounts of his conquest does not prove that the Hebrew Bible must be read this way as well. But it should, at the very least, place a check on the confidence that a modern scholar can have when approaching the biblical text and encountering literary phenomena that seem inconsistent.


Deliberate Gospel Contradictions

Pete Williams notes the reality of formal contradictions in literature (and, if we think about it, formal contradiction features in everyday speech), yet some are put off studying the bible when they encounter such devices. Its almost if some folks want a tidier communication from God. However, God’s word is perfectly designed to communicate the things His people should know.


Dibon and the Moabite (or Mesha) Stone — Ferrell’s Travel Blog

Here is another great installment from Farrell’s Travel Blog:

Dibon is mentioned in the account of the defeat of King Sihon (Numbers 21:30), and was later built by the sons of Gad (Numbers 32:34). It is located in the “plain of Medeba [Madaba]” (Joshua 13:9), and is associated with Heshbon (Joshua 13:17). Upon the return from Babylon some of the sons of Judah lived […]

via Dibon and the Moabite (or Mesha) Stone — Ferrell’s Travel Blog

Kh. Qeiyafa and Kh. al–Ra’i — Yosef Garfinkel Lecture — HolyLandPhotos’ Blog

IMHO — this is not to be missed! See the following. The Lanier Theological Library has posted a 72-minute video of an illustrated lecture by Yosef Garfinkel entitled “Searching for the Historical King David: Khirbet Qeiyafa and Khirbet al–Ra’i. Qeiyafa, in the Judean lowlands (=Shephelah), was excavated by him from 2007 through 2013 and is […]

via Kh. Qeiyafa and Kh. al–Ra’i — Yosef Garfinkel Lecture — HolyLandPhotos’ Blog

Seven Lessons for Evangelical Scholars in the Secular Academy — Canon Fodder

Over the last couple of weeks, many evangelical scholars (including myself) attended the annual conferences of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature (not to mention, the Institute for Biblical Research). Many good papers were delivered (and heard), old friendships were rekindled, and everyone was asked the same question over and over:…

via Seven Lessons for Evangelical Scholars in the Secular Academy — Canon Fodder

Here is a comment by Tom Oden:

I suggest another point

Lesson 3.5: In research, a bad solution is sometimes “better” than a good solution.

A bad solution to a problem always needs more study, more qualifications, more money for research. A good solution solves the problem and the researchers have to find something else to do. So beware of the latest 1000-page tome. Maybe the subject is that complicated. Or maybe everyone is lost in the weeds.

Ossuary from Second Temple Israel


Here is a ‘bone box’ (ossuary) displayed at The Allard Pierson Museum (Amsterdam). The burial practices during the time of Jesus seemed generally to place the deceased body on a ledge in a cave for a year until only the bones remained. These bones were then deposited in a box like the one pictured as the final resting place of the physical remains of the individual.

SBL/AARdvent Calendar: Day 11 — Alan Garrow Didache – Blog

The “Problem Page” on Alan Garrow’s Blog relates to the “Synoptic Problem” which involves questions on the priority of accounts between the Synoptic Gospels and the organization of their material. What seems to throw researchers off is Luke’s statement that “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us. (Luke 1.1)” Therefore students almost seem to assume these accounts to be Mark and Matthew. Perhaps one account was Mark; but probably not Matthew. Luke interviewed “eyewitnesses” (Luke 1.2) so it had to be early while they were still alive. In my thinking most of these interviews had to happen while Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea for two years. This time frame provides the most obvious opportunity affording Luke to connect with surviving early eyewitnesses including Mary the mother of Jesus, the source, I believe, of the infancy and pre-birth narratives of John The Baptist and Jesus.

Here Vicar Garrow sites Ronald V. Huggins on the Matthean posteriority:

Ronald V Huggins answers the question: ‘What made you first consider the possibility that Matthew used Luke?’ Ron Huggins taught at Moody Bible Institute—Spokane, Salt Lake Theological Seminary, and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a former Editor of The Midwestern Journal of Theology.His “Matthean Posteriority: A Preliminary Proposal.” Novum Testamentum 34 (1992): 1-22, has had a pivotal role in…

via SBL/AARdvent Calendar: Day 11 — Alan Garrow Didache – Blog

SBL/AARdvent Calendar: Day 10 — Alan Garrow Didache – Blog

James R Edwards answers the question: ‘Why do you think Matthew used Luke?’ James Edwards is Bruner-Welch Professor Emeritus of Theology, Whitworth University, Spokane, WA. The following is an extract from James R Edwards: The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Gospel Tradition (Eerdmans, 2009) pp.245-252Matthean Posteriority“Posteriority,” a rarely used antonym of “priority,” needs a word of interpretation. The historical-critical method…

via SBL/AARdvent Calendar: Day 10 — Alan Garrow Didache – Blog

Two Models of Divine Transcendence: Pure Being vs. Divine Lordship — Frame-Poythress.org

God’s transcendence is beyond our power to imagine it. But even to make that statement we must have in our minds some idea of what the term transcendence means and how it might apply to God. Further, Scripture tells us that God is “high and lifted up.” Theologians and preachers have an obligation to expound…

via Two Models of Divine Transcendence: Pure Being vs. Divine Lordship — Frame-Poythress.org

“Begotten, Not Made” Nicene Creed

[Lately, renovation and repairs are taking much of my time, so, I cannot read and post as much as I want.]

Christians, I notice, are still divided on the meaning of monogenas (only begotten). Jesus was unique, absolutely, but, that does not mean monogenas means “one of a kind,” or “unique.” Just because it fits, doesn’t mean, “it fits together.”

The kicker, for me, remains: that the church of the first few centuries knew their language (Koine Greek) better than we do today and formulated ideas found in Scripture based on that understanding. The Nicean Creed did not see a temporal aspect of begetting; instead, it referred to an eternal state (“not made”). There was never a time when The Father didn’t have The Son (or The Spirit).

Here are some quotes from Gregory Nazianzen, Athanasius, and Cyril of Jerusalem on this:

The eternal generation of the Son is “beyond the sphere of time, and above the grasp of reason” (Gregory Nazianzen, Third Theological Oration, NPNF2 7.302).

“Let every corporeal inference be banished on this subject” (Athanasius, De decretis 24, NPNF24.166).

“Whereas it is proper to men to beget in time, from the imperfection of their nature, God’s offspring is eternal, for His nature is ever perfect” (Athanasius, Against the Arians I.14, NPNF2 4.315).

“Authors of blasphemy, verily, are these foes of God! who, sooner than confess that the Son is the Father’s Image, conceive material and earthly ideas concerning the Father Himself, ascribing to Him severings and effluences and influences. If God be not a man, as He is not, we must not impute to Him the attributes of a man” (Athanasius, Against the Arians I.21, NPNF2 4.319).

Here I paraphrase Athanasius: The Arians ask “silly women” if they had a son before bearing one. And since it is obvious that women do not have sons before they bear them, they apply the same to the Son and conclude that the Son did not exist before his generation. But they might as well ask an architect whether they build without materials, and then conclude that God could not make the universe without materials. Or ask every man if he can be without place, and then conclude that God is confined in place. “… till they end in groveling with Manichees” (Athanasius, Against the Arians I.22-23, NPNF2 4.320).

“God is not a man; for men beget passibly, having a transitive nature, which waits for periods by reason of its weakness. But with God this cannot be; for He is not composed of parts, but being impassible and simple, He is impassibly and indivisibly Father of the Son … That none may think of the Offspring humanly, while signifying His essence, [Scripture] also calls Him Word, Wisdom, and Radiance, to teach us that the generation was impassible, and eternal, and worthy of God” (Athanasius, Against the Arians I.28, NPNF2 4.322-3).

“On hearing of a Son, understand it not merely in an improper sense, but as a Son in truth, a Son by nature, without beginning … a Son eternally begotten by an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation … God is a Spirit; He who is a Spirit has spiritually begotten, as being incorporeal, an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation … And whenever you hear of God begetting, sink not down in thought to bodily things, nor think of a corruptible generation, lest you be guilty of impiety. God is a Spirit, His generation is spiritual: for bodies beget bodies, and for the generation of bodies time needs must intervene; but time intervenes not in the generation of the Son from the Father” (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 11.4-7, NPNF2 7.64-6).

NPNF2 = Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, edited by Schaff and Wace.

Here is a five part series by Lee Irons defending the original understanding of this crucial term: http://upper-register.typepad.com/blog/eternal-generation-of-son/

John’s Gospel-A Paraphrase?

N.T. scholar Craig Evans, in a video making the rounds on some blogs, asserts that John’s Gospel is a summation of Jesus’s Synoptic Gospels sayings put into a paraphrase-like text. While I agree with him about the need for modern readers to be open to questions of genre and be sensitive against bringing preconceived expectations while studying the text, to try to fit G-John into the Synoptic Gospels is not warranted. For one thing, John’s Gospel has too many time stamps which belie Evan’s hypothesis.

Also, I wish to counter this position by noting John’s Gospel in 20.30 speaks of many other signs given specifically to His disciples which were not recorded. Also, in 21.25, John asserts that Jesus performed so many miracles (things), that the world could not contain all the books recording those events. This last statement is undoubtedly hyperbole but shows that John and the other Gospel writers were not attempting to produce comprehensive historical documents.

Lydia McGrew also counters:  http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2018/09/the_messianic_secret_argument.html

Keys in the New Testament

Here are some ancient keys, a door knob (center), and the remains of the mechanism (upper right) which would have probably be nailed to a large wooden door.


Courtesy of Allard Pierson Museum

These keys are typical of ones found during the period of the Roman Empire which is the Early Christian Era. However, keys were known even earlier in the Kingdom of Judah, as reflected in Isaiah 22.22 where Eliakim son of Hilkiah is prophesied to be given the key to the House of David. This key, Isaiah tells us, gives power so that “what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” Jesus is the One whom this prophecy ultimately refers, as seen in Rev. 3.7-8 where Jesus promises the church at Philadelphia to use this key, giving them the same benefit. So some keys, in the N.T., only Jesus carries. Another key that belongs exclusively to Jesus, is the key to death and Hades. In Rev. 1.18, Jesus describes Himself as the “Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever.” He then claims to possesses “the keys to death and Hades,” which, presumably, shows the ability to grant everlasting life to humans and control of the nether regions to carry away those belonging to Him. Also, the ability to keep imprisoned those who are not His seems implicit. Unquestionably, the The Eternal Son always possessed immortality, but the incarnated Son of Man, who took upon himself our humanness, needed to be given eternal life (“I was dead”) as the second Adam. At least this is how I understand the human aspect of the second Adam. Henceforth, he is able to grant this same eternal life to His followers whom He represents.

These keys, belonging to Jesus, seem to be different from the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” given to Peter and the other disciples in Mt. 16.19 (and probably Mt. 18.18). Only in Mt. 16 are they referred to as “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” without explanation of what exactly is being bound and loosed. In Mt. 18, the retention of sins to the unrepentant in the Christian community is the thing bound. This is instruction about church discipline from Jesus. Ultimate intransigence would lead to a break in fellowship (vs. 17). An intermediate step in the process would be denial of the table of bread and wine since this occurred every Lord’s Day. It would prevent further judgement upon the offender, since, the observance carries inherent risk of punishment when partaken improperly (see 1 Cor. 11.27-32). Loosing of sins is always available to those who ask for forgiveness (vss. 21-22). based upon my understanding, the keys in Mt. 16 and 18 are identical.

Jesus seems to reiterate this teaching when He appears to His disciples on the evening of  resurrection day saying they all possessed the power to either forgive or retain sins (Jn. 20.23). Here, this seems to be part of an evangelistic function when people truly accept the message of Christ. Perhaps this is part of the “all authority in heaven and on earth” spoken about in Mt. 28.18. No longer would worshippers need to formally bring a sacrifice to the priests in Jerusalem to have their sins forgiven. The High Priesthood of Jesus is inaugurated and the typological sacrifices at the central sanctuary have now been fulfilled.

Staurogram Oil Lamp and Description


This oil lamp is displayed in The Allard Pierson Museum of The University of Amsterdam. The Staurogram is similar to the Egyptian Ankh which is thought to signify life or eternity. The Staurogram offers a physical likeness of crucifixion and was used by the early church as a monogram on items, such as this oil lamp, indicating their faith.

Also, the Staurogram was used in early biblical texts as an abbreviation for the word stauros (cross). Early N.T. manuscripts such as the papyri P45, P66, and P75 use a staurogram to physically depict Jesus on the cross at relevant places where the word stauros is used. Other Nomina Sacra were also used as abbreviations in manuscripts, such as the word for Christ and God, but only the staurogram offers a likeness in form of what the word stauros means.

Larry Hurtado gives a great overview of the staurogram in this article: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/the-staurogram/

The Filioque Controversy

Introduction and Elaboration of New Covenant Principles

For the growing and mature Christian, the Filioque Controversy is of tremendous importance. This theological question is the most important issue in the 2000-year history of the Christian community. Here are areas which the question affects:

First, the understanding about God. This is important because the point of redemption is to reconcile us with our Creator, Redeemer, and Friend. He is the One who is from the beginning (1Jn. 2.13,14). The Ever-Existing One of all eternity. Knowing God’s nature and love toward us is what redemption is all about. Jesus prayed in His last recorded formal intercession of Jn. 17.21-23 that the disciples would be one with the Father and Himself. Just as The Father was with Jesus, so, henceforth, the disciples would have God with them internally forever. This was an aspect of the promised New Covenant that all of God’s people would know Him personally, moment by moment (See Jer. 31.33 cf. 1Jn. 2.20). It is accomplished by the formal sending of The Spirit at Pentecost (Shavuot). This was the covenanting with the House of Israel and the House of Judah fulfilling the time of this typological feast. All original Christians were Jewish and God used the Feasts as “the times of the Lord” (Lev. 23.2,44).

Most bible translations of Lev. 23. 2,44 have “feasts” instead of “times.” However, The Hebrew has “times” and these two verses form an inclusio, a type of bracketing or an envelope. This envelope contains feasts at different “times,” which speak of a greater significance than apparent. The Sabbath and other feasts and observances project an outline of redemptive prophecy and fulfillment. The Sabbath Rest (Heb. 4.9-11), Christ our Passover (1Cor. 5.7), the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2.1-4), Trumpets (1 Th. 4.16), Yom Kippur (Day of the Lord), Tabernacles (Millenium).

Samaritans and Gentiles would be included after the Spirit teaches the disciples the larger efficacy of Christ’s atonement. The 11 Disciples could not learn everything while Jesus was with them, probably because they lacked the capacity, and Christ’s message was so different from the misconceptions prevalent in their society. The fact of the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Olive Tree (Rom. 11.17) had to wait until they were taught by the Spirit. This was probably part of “the many things” they could not bear referenced in Jn. 16.12-13.

Second, authority in the Christian community. Are there ultimate human authority figures whom the Christian should obey? This is the claim that a church official can authoritatively determine doctrine or speak infallibly. As before, The New Covenant gives the answer to the question, but, in this case, comprehensively. The Spirit guides us; therefore, in an ultimate sense, we need no other teachers (see 1 Jn. 2.27). God teaches and guides us, since, ultimately, He is our Judge. Further, The New Covenant specifically delineated that the human intervening authorities would be eclipsed when this new reality was in place. Jer. 31.34 states that the friends and neighbors would no longer function as teachers and mediators. These “friends and neighbors” were the Aaronic Priests and Levites who were living among all the other 11 tribes of Israel and who taught regulations and performed the various sacrifices for the people at the central sanctuary. Being “neighbors” they could teach the Israelites aspects of God’s Law to the communities where they dwelt. The central sanctuary, where these priests offered sacrifices for sins, would no longer be needed in the High Priesthood of Jesus. Since Jesus fulfilled the Passover (the angel of death has passed over them), fellowship offerings by His followers is through prayer and trust in Him (Heb. 6.19). Both individually and collectively believers are a temple where God dwells through the Spirit.

The Filioque Clause

For the bible student, the historical details of the Filioque Controversy, hardly need to be studied to understand the concept. This is only reception history and not what God has once for all given: the text of the bible. Yes, we may learn from previous Christians; however, both in an individual and group sense, disciples do not always grasp the full extent of every teaching the first few times they hear it. We should know better today than previous generations. The scriptures contain what is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Semper Reformata.

The “filioque” clause means: “and from the Son.” This was what some in the Western Church (Roman Catholic) wanted to add to The Nicean Creed where it speaks of the Spirit proceeding from the Father. They wanted to affirm that the Spirit proceeds both from the Father and the Son. The Western Pope spoke authoritatively that the Spirit proceeded from the Son and set the stage for controversy.  The Eastern Church (Orthodox) resisted this attempt and ultimately split from the Roman Church in 1054 CE.

The Procession of The Spirit

I believe the scriptures teach the Spirit only proceeds from the Father. This is the Eastern Church’s position. I do not subscribe to everything this church teaches, but, I believe, they are correct on this issue.

From a typological perspective, it was the Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and alighting on Jesus at His baptism. If the Spirit proceeds from Jesus the same as from the Father, why did the Spirit come from heaven to inaugurate Christ’s ministry? It seems best to view the Spirit’s origin as proceeding from the Father in heaven.

Of all the biblical statements, Jn. 15.26 is the most definitive in its scope: But when the Counselor arrives, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who goes forth from the Father, He will bear witness about Me. Even though Jesus sends the Spirit in His new ministry in the disciples, its crystal clear that the Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Greek text shows the the Spirit’s procession from the Father even stronger than my English translation. Para (from) is used twice while the verb ekporeuetai (goes forth, proceeds) is definitive of the Spirit’s origin. The act of sending, in itself, is not indicative of origination. An agent may function temporarily without any reference to the agent’s original source.

All other texts such as Jn. 16.13-15 show sending and not origination. The Spirit is eternal but acts in time and completes different missions which none refer to its source. Philosophical arguments claiming procession from the Son do not overcome the clear statements of Jn. 15.26.

Of course, the Father sends the Spirit also, and, in an ultimate sense, God cannot be divided. However, Jesus almost seems at pains, in Jn. 15.26, to indicate the Spirit’s source is from the Father. The whole concept of “Father” almost demands it. Just as Jesus is eternally generated from the Father, so the Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and neither concept, in scripture, is the other way around. The Father fathers the Son and Spirit eternally.

The New Covenant: A Definition

The New Covenant is poorly understood today. Part of the problem is terminology. A covenant in today’s parlance involves obligations from both parties of an agreement. The covenants spoken of in the bible are not a covenant like we think of today. It is a testament of benefits to those in Christ. Christ has died and left a will to the beneficiaries. A testament records the tangible things we have in Christ and are recorded in 27 books, which comprise Gospels, letters, and a historical narrative (Acts of the Apostles). Christians refer to these books as the New Testament. This is good terminology as long as it is understood properly. The actual New Testament is The New Covenant which was promised in Jer, 31.31 and many other places in the O.T. It is correct to say the 27 books list the benefits of Christ’s will to the beneficiaries and are The New Covenant. They are the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice for the beneficiary: the Christian. Church officers, creeds, confessions are all subject to the words of scripture finally contained in the 27 books of The New Testament.

The Old (Mosaic) Covenant was very similar to the New Covenant because the benefits were forgiveness and fellowship. When the bible speaks of The Law of Moses, for the most part, it speaks of the regulations concerning the Jewish Temple, Aaronic Priesthood, and of the sacrifices. Everyone broke the regulations of the Mosaic Law, such as the Ten Commandments and other performance rules, either internally or externally. This is why heart-circumcision was needed (see Gen. 17 where circumcision is inaugurated and described as a “sign”) and not only the external rite. The Law of Moses consisted of the prescribed means of restoring fellowship with God who would in turn bless them. It did not consist of keeping the ethical rules more perfectly as the way for acceptance. Instead, the Law of Moses presented shadows (Heb. 8.5) of Christ in the cultic aspects (Temple culture: the care in keeping the true representation) of the priesthood, the festivals and Sabbaths, and, most of all, the sacrifices.

The clearest description of a covenant is Heb. 9.16-18 where a will is discussed. The word “will” is the same as “covenant” elsewhere: diatheke. It speaks of a covenant being in force only after the death of the party who made it. Both the Old and New Covenants were represented by the substitutionary death of an innocent victim. The book of Hebrews, especially ch. 9, defines a covenant. Covenant sacrifice established a relationship with God and was inaugurated immediately after the Fall in Eden. Also, Christ’s priesthood resembled Melchizedek’s who may have embodied a sacrifice (apparent deadly wounds) since he had neither beginning or end of days; therefore, he could forecast atonement by means of an indestructible life. Hence, this theopany (Melchizedek) could bring out bread and wine (like the symbols of The New Covenant) because a relationship and fellowship with Abraham was already established. Likewise, only Christians are allowed to partake in the bread and wine of The Lord’s Supper.

Celsus, Panthera, and the Genealogy of Mary — Peter Lorenz’s Blog

Peter Lorenz has another installment arguing for Mary’s genealogy in Luke’s Gospel. Utilizing primary sources Peter shows from history that the early Christians held that Luke gives Mary’s lineage.

It is likely that Jesus was known as from David’s line through Joseph because many times He was referred as “the Son of David.” Those who acclaimed Him as such probably thought Joseph was His real father. They did not necessarily need to know the complete stories of Matthew and Luke to recognize Jesus as Messiah since the signs accompanying Jesus’s ministry would have sufficed.

Contextually, Luke has been showing for most of the first two chapters the miraculous virgin conception and birth of Jesus. Jesus was not a spirit who only appeared human but was fully man as Luke gives His lineage to Adam at the onset of Christ’s ministry. The primary target audience for Luke would be Greeks (Hellenism-whether Jewish or Pagan) with their humanity-focus; and therefore Luke needs to show Christ’s connection to the first human.

The verb nomidzo (supposed) in Lk. 3.23 strongly shows His virgin birth and is parenthetical. In the modern convention of myopic, immediate reference, Luke’s phrasing sounds strange to our ears. We, today, would normally think Heli was Joseph’s father whereas Luke is relying on the reader to be more contextual with his previous material.


As preserved by Origen, Celsus is one of our earliest writers to comment on the genealogies of Jesus. Celsus’s failure to mention any conflict between the genealogies appears to support the view that no conflict was perceived in the second-century context in which he wrote. But if we follow Origen, Celsus seems to have known…

via Celsus, Panthera, and the Genealogy of Mary — Peter Lorenz’s Blog

Justin Martyr and the Genealogy of Mary — Peter Lorenz’s Blog

Pete Lorenz has written an excepted post of his longer essay, which deals with Luke’s genealogy in the early Uncial Manuscript “D”. Here, he notes the almost universal early acceptance of Mary’s genealogy, in Luke 3. Justin Martyr is the focus in this post. Females in first century Judea, had a genealogy, just like males since Elizabeth was “from the daughters of Aaron,” in Lk. 1.5. Her offspring would, however, follow the husband’s line. Jesus was virgin born; therefore, Luke traces Mary’s line to show fulfillment of 2 Sam. 7.11-17. This was The Davidic Covenant whose ultimate fulfillment referred to the Messiah. I plan to write another post on this topic from a theological point of view. Lorenz does a fine job tracing the history of interpretation of Luke’s genealogy in the early Christian Church:

Writing in the first half of the third century, Julius Africanus is our earliest writer to raise the two genealogies of Jesus as a potential apologetic issue.1 But before Africanus, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and apparently even Celsus all refer to the two genealogies, yet mention not a word about any conflict between them. Thus, Origen takes…

via Justin Martyr and the Genealogy of Mary — Peter Lorenz’s Blog


Galatians 4.4: Born Under the Law

Redemption Under the Mosaic Law

Jesus was born under the Law for the purpose of redeeming those under the Law (the Jews), and adopting them as children, since they were in slavery under rules of scripture. One reason that the Mosaic Law was given was so that folks would recognize the sin principle inside them. However, the Mosaic Law provided a remedy for sin, by sacrifice, which foreshadowed Christ’s death on the cross. Sin would be confessed with the hands placed on the head of a suitable living animal. The priest would then offer the victim on the bronze altar at the Israelite Tabernacle/Temple Complex. The worshiper would partake of some of that sacrifice which meant they were now at peace with God by sharing this meal. This is how God established a relationship with people in The Mosaic Law (Ps. 50.5). Of course, God chose and knew every person who truly trusted in Him. He gave saving faith and probably regenerated them by the Spirit (but not in the same sense as today). They may have also understood the significance of the sacrifice in their heart but this point is difficult to establish from today’s perspective.

Fulfilling the Law

The Law is good in that it sets God’s holy standard. But it exposes our need since we fail to live up to it. The scriptural commandments could not save us in themselves but instead were a prison of sorts (see Gal. 3.19,22). However, Jesus kept the Law perfectly, and, through faith in Him, Christians are justified. Gentiles were never under the Mosaic Law (see Rom. 3.19). Instead, Gentiles were enslaved to false gods whose worship entailed a similar bondage of performance (Gal. 4.8-9).

Christians are enabled by the Spirit to fulfill the Law’s requirements: Loving God and our fellow humans. This summary  was already delineated in the Mosaic Law and therefore is not a reductionist idea. A special love is also commanded for those in the New Covenant Community which involves helping poor and suffering Christians to some degree today. Some want to extend this care as God’s service to all the poor in the world since salvation is open to all. Of course, Christians should be kind to everyone but the special love as service is only for the family of faith. This idea corresponds to the principle of care of others in O.T. Israel and Jesus’s day. To some degree, this care showed evidence of regeneration. Jesus’s commandment to Christians is still that they love one another (see 1 John 4.19-5.1).

The Promised Seed

The original promise of this seed, who was to finally crush the serpent’s head, was cryptically given as a parable in the sentence upon the spiritual entity behind the serpent who deceived Eve. Gen. 3.15 tells us that this seed would also have his heel pierced which was a death blow from the viper. Rom. 9.5 gives the general reason why God chose Abraham: the physical conduit to bring the Messiah. Through the Messiah all humanity would be blessed.

Earlier in Galatians (3.15-17) Paul tells us that the Mosaic Law could not add a condition to the promise given to Abraham. It was a fixed blessing to Abraham and his seed (Christ). Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Therefore, those of faith in Christ are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

The First and Second Adam

How this blessing came about is explicitly explained in Galatians along with the backdrop of divine revelation. Adam had failed one command and so plunged humanity into sin and death since death was the stated consequence. There were no recorded transgressions by Adam’s subsequent descendants, in a technical sense, before the Mosaic Law was given, yet, everyone died since they derived from, or were in Adam (see Rom. 5.13-14). This is what some refer to as original sin which is acceptable terminology if understood correctly. Jesus was the second Adam and so needed to prove His fitness in keeping a perfect standard. This was one of the functions of the Mosaic Law and provided a promise of (eternal) life, if kept flawlessly (see Gal. 3.12 and Lev. 18.5). Also, Jesus specifically answers the lawyer’s question of obtaining eternal life in Lk. 10.25 cf. v.28).

The Tree of Life

The presence of the Tree of Life in the Edenic Garden constituted the promise of eternal life for humanity but it was withdrawn after the Fall. Though Adam and Eve were redeemed, their descendants would be born separated from God, and, hence, spiritually dead. Each person needs individual redemption. The removal of the Tree of Life was an act of mercy so not to fix them in eternal conscious separation from God. Adam was created mortal; hence, the Tree of Life was in the garden to, presumably, give him immortality upon passing the obedience test. Now, through Christ, who obeyed Moses’s Law, the curse is lifted, since He became a curse for us (Gal. 3.13) and access granted to this Tree of Life along with removal of the curse (Rev. 22.2-3).

John 4.48: Seeing Signs and Miracles

An official from Capernaum had a son who was near death. He had heard that Jesus had returned to Galilee from Judea since Jesus always attended each of the three annually required feasts of the Jews.

This official traveled 15 miles one-way to Cana from Capernaum since this seemed to be a regular place where Jesus met. Cana was near Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, and home of Nathaniel. He also was invited to a wedding feast in this town and performed the notable miracle of turning water to wine. Jesus may have had relatives in Cana since he had four brothers and at least two sisters. It is quite possible the celebration was for one of Jesus’s siblings since His mother directed the servant to ask Jesus about the lack of wine for the occasion.

Now, the official asks Jesus to heal his son, but Jesus addresses the crowd since the referent “you” is plural (twice). Perhaps Jesus wanted to test the sincerity of the request instead of going to heal the son. The official asked again, probably earnestly since he believed Jesus when He told him to return and that his son would recover, and when servants met him, they confirmed the time of healing as being the time of his interview with Jesus.

The general rebuke of “unless you see signs and miracles, you will never believe” characterized many insincere followers since they had seen the signs but had not taken them to heart to recognize the significance (see John 6.26). In fact, Jesus had been performing signs everywhere He went. His initial function was to witness to Jewish society the power of God authenticating both His person and mission. This is why he traveled to different towns so more would see His arrival as the time of God revisiting Israel fulfilling the promises. Even John the Baptist was puzzled by the first phase of Jesus’s ministry since, as part of the family of priests, John recognized the role of the Messiah as being a sin offering (probably also as supplanting the first priesthood with the superior Melchizedekian of Ps. 110). John’s first two descriptions of Jesus was: “the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” (see John 1.29, 36). So, when John the Baptist heard of signs such as Jesus raising the widow’s son from the dead in the town of Nain, he sent inquiring whether or not He was the Messiah. Though some have interpreted this incident differently, the evidence points to John’s unfulfilled expectation of Jesus’s self sacrifice. However, The Messiah’s Advent was not uni-dimensional but multifaceted since Jesus had to accomplish many things before returning to His Father.

The Pharisees wanted to test Jesus by have Him perform a sign on demand. This is what Jesus was decrying: a self referential type of proof by their own standards. This is what many atheists today want: a sort of testing by the senses of sight, hearing, or otherwise. This is self-referential, an acting like a god, such as if they cannot register the data by their own standards, they reject the presentation. However, would the Pharisees of Jesus’s day or the atheists today be satisfied by a sign on demand? Of course not! They would want more signs and testing ad infinitum. These individuals will pass away, of course, while Christ rules forever.

Finally, the message of Christ is a stumbling block to Jews in Paul’s day as during the time of Christ only a few years earlier. In 1Cor. 1.22, the unbelieving Jews are still demanding a sign, such as their wishful preconception of a Messiah who will conquer for them. In their minds, it’s all about themselves. However, historically, only a remnant of Jews were saved in each era as the O.T. accounts relate. So also today a remnant exists from the Jewish people, those who regard the so-called weakness of Christ in crucifixion as stronger than human strengths (1Cor. 1.25). The Gentiles too only have a remnant since most of them generally think it absurd for God to self sacrifice Himself for humans (notice how many people seek to do or be something as merit), and so too, only a few of them truly accept Christ.


Job Posting Announcement

Again, Steve Hays does a good job illustrating vicarious atonement. He also relates substitution to the principle of asymmetrical agency:


Romans chapter 5 notes the similarities and contrasts regarding aspects of Headship. “Headship” is the theological concept of how humans are both condemned in Adam and justified in Christ. I once had the whole of Romans 5 memorized but now can only recite the first 8 verses. I am working slowly to regain the whole again or at least through verse 11 since its a good exhortation for daily life.

Romans 5 presents the big picture in Paul’s theological treatise to the Christians at Rome. I’ve written before about the Split Headship view which is self evident by merely reading this chapter. Humans have a natural connection to Adam but are represented by Christ in His substitutionary death for us. I want to touch on a connected topic of Headship found in Romans 5: Adam the “type.”

The second and last Adam (Jesus) is, of course, the antitype or fulfillment of the purpose of human creation. Heb. 2.7 tells us that humans were only temporarily created to be lower than the angels. So, how will humans to achieve this higher status? The answer is eternal union with Christ through redemption. Christ’s death was planned before the foundation of the world at probably the first day when, in a metaphorical sense, light was separated from darkness (but possibly before). It seems because the non-elect angels’ positions were forfeited, Christ is now filling those positions with replacements intimately connected with Him. Therefore, job openings are available, so run the race with endurance to claim the prize.