John Frame on Philosophy and Theology

Here is a concise and clear discussion on matters of philosophy and theology as they relate to the Christian faith. Thomas Aquinas borrowed from Greek philosophy to formulate some of the theology that still plagues Christian thought to this day. Frame references two of his own works but, in this post, distills the philosophical ideas on how they relate to the theological conception of God. I found the post helpful in better understanding the background which affects Thomistic thought.



I am in the midst of some discussions about the role of Scholastic methods in Reformed theology, centered around James Dolezal’s All That Is In God. My first response to Dolezal is available here. I continue to stand by my argument of that article.1 But the ensuing discussion has suggested to me that the discussion…

via Biblical Personalism: Further Thoughts on Scholasticism and Scripture —

Illumination of Scripture

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Eph. 1.17-19 NIV)


The Spirit of wisdom and revelation references Isaiah 11.1-3 which speaks of the seven-fold Spirit which rested on Jesus during His ministry. Since Pentecost, every Christian possesses the Spirit. Though Paul doesn’t say it explicitly, the implied thought, of how the Spirit communicates ideas is by hearing (in the Ephesian’s case) the scriptures read. The NIV rendering is probably the closest to the intent of what Paul prayed for concerning the Ephesians among whom he previously ministered. To help understand his words the context needs to be recognized by how the early church met and operated.

Paul and Jesus both utilized the synagogue and authenticated its ongoing function. Paul told his protege Timothy to practice the same three functions which characterized the synagogue: give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching (1Tim. 4.13 NET). We call Christian weekly meetings church gatherings to distinguish them from non-Christian Jewish observances but the ideas  are identical. The main purpose of this weekly meeting was schooling the community of believers. At the beginning of the Jewish nation’s institution, Levites were scattered among the tribes in part for explaining the Law and answering judicial questions (see Dt. 33.9-10, Mal. 2.4-6). The synagogue was not primarily for worship since the Tabernacle observances preserved the redemptive theme. Of course, this is not to say that learning about God and His word is not sanctifying, it is, but in a different and complimentary way. By knowing God better, worship becomes more meaningful. The Christian weekly meeting preserves the redemptive theme by observing the Lord’s Supper. Also, by The New Covenant’s provision of the Spirit, the weekly gathering is the corporate temple (see 1 Cor. 3.17 where Paul uses the plural).

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians specifically asks for three separate items:

1.“Knowing” God more comprehensively. This is never achieved apart from scripture and God’s Spirit. The Spirit was directly instrumental using holy prophets to record His words. These godly men were carried along by the Spirit to produce scripture (see 2Pet. 1.21). Additionally, the eternal Spirit gives continued insight to every subsequent generation about this revealed truth, hence illumination. Paul notes the primacy of God’s word by recounting that the Jewish people had a great heritage in receiving, collating, and preserving scripture: What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. (Rom. 3.1 NIV)

2. Realizing the “hope” of what Christ has in store for His people both now and the resultant storehouse of eternity: “…the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.” Too many Christians believe the lie of scoffers who ridicule the invisible realities. This is a subtle appeal to focus on what can be sensed with human faculties instead of operating by faith. They want us to rely on ourselves to make the world better instead of obeying Christ to transform individuals and therefore society. They want us to focus on the temporal state that is subjected to cosmic evil rulers and to forget the glorious reality of Christ’s Kingdom: Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted on the earth. (Ps. 46.10 NIV)

3. God’s “power” for life while in the body. This is specifically temporal in nature since it will be unnecessary for the Spirit to inform us of our supernatural abilities during the eternal state. Jesus tells us the resurrected redeemed will be like angels: But those who are regarded as worthy to share in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, they can no longer die, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, since they are sons of the resurrection. (Lk. 20.35-36 NET)


Augustine of Hippo: Understanding the Scriptures (De Doctrina Christiana 2.9)

In all of these [canonical] books, those who fear God and are of a meek and reverent disposition seek the will of God. And in pursuing this search the first rule to be observed is, as I have said, to know these books, if not yet with the understanding, still to read them so as to commit them to memory, or at least so as not to remain wholly ignorant of them. Next, those matters that are plainly laid down in them, whether concerning rules of life or rules of faith, are to be searched into more carefully and more diligently; and the more of these a reader discovers, the more capacious will his understanding become. For among those things that are plainly laid down in Scripture can be found all matters that concern faith and lifestyle, namely, hope and love, of which I have spoken previously. After this, when we have made ourselves to a certain extent familiar with the language of Scripture, we may proceed to open up and investigate the more obscure passages, and in doing so we should draw examples from the plainer expressions to throw light on the more obscure ones, and use the evidence of passages about which there is no doubt to remove all hesitation in regard to the doubtful passages. And in this matter memory counts as a great deal; but if the memory should be defective, no rules can supply the deficiency.

John Anthony McGuckin. The Path of Christianity: The First Thousand Years (Kindle Locations 23283-23291). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Basil the Great on Materialistic Atheism (On the Hexameron 1.2)

 Genesis 1.1: In the beginning God created the heavens and earth

I stop here, struck with admiration at this thought. What shall I myself say first about it? Where shall I begin my story? Shall I demonstrate the vacuity of the pagans? Shall I exalt the truth of our faith? The philosophers of Greece have made a great fuss over explaining “nature,” but not one of their systems has remained firm and unassailed, each one being overturned by its successor. It is a waste of time to refute them; they are sufficient in themselves to destroy one another. Those who were too ignorant to rise to a knowledge of God could not allow that an intelligent cause presided at the birth of the universe. It was the primary error that involved them in lamentable consequences. Some had recourse to material principles and attributed the origin of the universe to the elements of the world. Others imagined that atoms, and indivisible bodies, molecules, and channels, combined in union so as to form the nature of the visible world. Atoms reuniting or separating produced births and deaths, and the most durable bodies only owe their consistency to the strength of their mutual adhesion. It was a veritable spider’s web woven by these writers who give to heaven, to earth and sea, so weak an origin and so minimal a consistency! And this was all because they did not know how to say “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Led astray by their inherent atheism, it appeared to them that nothing governed or ruled the universe, and instead all was random chance. But, to guard us against this error the writer on the creation, from the very first words, enlightens our understanding with the name of God: “In the beginning God created.” What a glorious order! He first establishes a beginning, so that it might not be supposed that the world never had a beginning. Then be adds created to show that which was made was a very a small part of the power of the Creator.

John Anthony McGuckin. The Path of Christianity: The First Thousand Years (Kindle Locations 23236-23249). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Gregory of Nazianzus- First Theological Oration (Oration 27.3)

It is by no means appropriate for every person to discourse about God. Indeed, it is not for everyone. The subject is not as cheap or vulgar as that! What is more, it is not proper to do so before any audience, at any time, or on every point; only on certain occasions, in the presence of select people, and within certain limits. It is not for everyone, because it is lawful only to those who have been duly tested and are past masters in meditation, who have been purified beforehand in both soul and body; or at least are in the process of being purified. It is never safe, we might safely say, for the impure to handle what is pure, no more than it is safe for weak eyes to be fixed on the Sun’s rays. So what is the permissible occasion? It is when we are free from all external defilement or agitation, and when our guiding spirit is not confused with troubling or wandering images, which would be like persons who mix up good writing with bad, or sweetly perfumed ointments with stinking filth. One needs true peace to know God and, when we can find the appropriate time, to discern the high road of the divine matters in hand. So who are the people for whom such things are permissible? They to whom the subject is of real moment, and not those who make it a subject of pleasant domestic chatter, or gossip after the races or the theatre, after concerts, or dinner parties: not to mention still lower employments.

John Anthony McGuckin. The Path of Christianity: The First Thousand Years (Kindle Locations 23220-23233). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

John Piper is Wrong

The Desiring God website and Piper like to dish it out but take no comments. Obviously, they don’t want their views scrutinized and are not willing to respond and defend their statements. Just another “steam roller preacher.” Here is a current post:

I should note I am affirm completely the ethos and moral stance on a personal level but refrain from pronouncing it as a public statement of policy. Redemption is personal and not national, a crucial distinction. Notice how his analogy is to Jesus and not Paul. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness as a Savior and King. Paul is the “instrument” Jesus personally chose to pattern the Christian life and ministry:  be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ (1Cor. 11.1 NET). Notice Paul didn’t say to examine Christ’s relation to Israel or His mode of ministry as something Christians are to emulate. Paul was directed by Christ and the Spirit to write his admonition. Jesus was the King and High Priest and dealt with His people accordingly.

Piper is wrong in his philosophy of ministry in that he thinks that our relation to the world and society is like Jesus’ ministry to the Jewish nation in his day. This is an over broad application of the verse:  By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world (1John 4.17 NET). Piper thinks the way Jesus ministered is our pattern. It is not for the following reasons:

  1. God established Israel in the land and gave them covenantal promises and laws to observe. There was an expected and required behavior of God’s people.
  2. Paul is our pattern of ministry to a pagan world. We have to become all things to all persons. We need to respect our context as inherently foreign to godliness and preach Christ as Deliverer.
  3. Piper attempts to make the world a safe place for Christianity. Ultimately this will not happen until Christ returns. Piper is Christianizing a pagan society when he should be evangelizing it.

In Memory of Biblical Scholar Edward Fudge (1944-2017)

I have been interacting with Dr. Edward Fudge (best known for his views on hell being temporary rather than eternal) through email for a brief interview on his thoughts on hell, and he was kind enough to say “yes” to the interview. I have been waiting for his responses to four questions but was […]

via Goodbye Edward Fudge — Overthinking Christian

John Frame Takes James Dolezal to Task

John Frame is one of my theological heroes. This review is of a book that severely criticizes most current Christian theologians and illustrates why John Frame deserves plaudits for cutting through the book’s arguments. Frame incisively analyzes the issues but in a gracious manner and yet with warning. For those who are theologically minded, this review explores what scripture tells us about God and His relation to creatures in temporal relations.


James Dolezal, All That Is in God (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017). Scholasticism names a type of theology that matured in the thought of Thomas Aquinas. In the post-reformation period, both Protestant and Roman Catholic thinkers adopted many of the methods and conclusions of scholasticism, and some of these are even reflected in the…

via Scholasticism for Evangelicals: Thoughts on All That Is In God by James Dolezal —

Ritual Faithfulness in Service

Craig Keener observes the the need of keeping ritual purity in the account of The Lord seeking to kill Moses. God had just commissioned Moses but now threatens to kill him because he had failed to circumcise his son. Ritual purity is vital since it relays information about the status of a follower. It is important to observe the signs God tells us to keep. God told Abraham to observe this sign in Gen. 17.9-14. Everyone who did not keep this sign were “cut off” from God’s covenant. Craig Keener has a typo here in his post by saying that Midian was a child of Moses when in fact it was Abraham’s descendant through Keturah. Evidently the Midianites did not obey the covenant of circumcision which was given to Abraham.

The Israelites in Egypt were all circumcised (Jos. 5.5.) and Moses was supposed to act as their representative to Pharaoh and God’s leader to bring them to the promised land. How could God use Moses when he had not complied with all of God’s required covenantal observances? Later during the night of Passover when all the first born in Egypt were killed, only the circumcised could eat of the Passover lamb (Ex. 12.40-51). Therefore, Moses son would have died during that time. Moses needed confronting for not being faithful in this covenant before starting his commission.

The LXX (Greek translation of O.T.) has Zipporah falling at Moses feet and touching Moses with the bloody foreskin (possibly on Moses genitals) as substitution for him. The Rabbi Umberto Cassuto, a significant Hebrew scholar, saw this as an act of substitution. Cassuto explains the allusion to “bridegroom”: “…she was saying, ‘I have delivered you from death, and your return to life makes you my bridegroom a second time, this time my blood bridegroom, a bridegroom acquired through blood’”


In Exod 4:23, God warns that he will kill Pharaoh’s son because Pharaoh has refused to release God’s son, namely his people (4:22). Why then does the text move directly from this threat to kill Pharaoh’s firstborn (4:23) to the Lord seeking to kill Moses (4:24)? And what does the Lord’s plan to kill Moses have to do with Moses’s own son (4:25)?

Stubborn Moses’s encounter with the Lord here contrasts starkly with the Lord’s benevolent appearance to faithful Abraham in Gen 18. Likewise, Jacob struggled at night with the angel of the Lord and came out with a limp, but he at least persevered until he got a blessing. Moses’s confrontation with God here nearly precipitates his death. This account in Exod 4 is so concise that its meaning seems ambiguous, perhaps clearer to earlier hearers who had heard fuller versions of the story. But the connections between Pharaoh’s son and Moses’s son may suggest a meaning.

Apparently Moses’s offense is not circumcising his firstborn son (4:25); such circumcision would mark Moses’s son as a member of the covenant people that are God’s own son (4:22). God would slay Egypt’s firstborn to redeem God’s own firstborn (4:23), but Moses has not surrendered his own son to God. Moreover, Moses’s resistance is apparently because of his wife’s refusal to allow the circumcision (although she surrenders, she seems quite unhappy about the Lord’s demand in 4:25). (Even in Egypt, Israelites practiced circumcision, as Josh 5:5 testifies; Egyptians also used flint knives when they circumcised, although for them it was not a sign of the covenant. Although Gen 25:2 lists Midian as a child of Moses and Moses presumably circumcised all his children [17:12-13, 26-27], Midianites, or at least Zipporah, did not want to follow the practice.)

If Zipporah has been the one resisting circumcision, why is Moses the one to face punishment? Moses is the Israelite and the one to whom the Lord has spoken, so he is responsible to act on God’s will; the Lord is going to punish him, not his wife, if he refuses to obey. So Zipporah has to sacrifice her son’s foreskin to save Moses’s life. We don’t know the son’s age at this point, but it is not clear that he is merely a baby. He may well have been old enough to voice his own concerns. Of course, even a baby can communicate his displeasure with pain vocally even if he cannot do so verbally.

Zipporah touches the bloody foreskin to Moses’s feet, by this blood from her firstborn apparently atoning for Moses. This act may resemble the way that God later accepted the Passover lamb’s blood in the place of the death of Israel’s firstborn when God struck the firstborn of Egypt. (God later required Israel to redeem every human firstborn with the firstborn of a donkey or a lamb; Exod 13:13; 34:20.) Why she touches Moses’s feet is hard for us to understand at this remove. Perhaps it was because feet were considered one of the dirtier and more disgusting parts of the body; or because they were traveling (though it is not clear that YHWH’s attack on Moses involved this); or as a sign of submission (given the association of the soles of feet with conquest; also cf. 1 Sam 25:41); or an accusation of violence (1 Kgs 2:5); or, perhaps likelier, because of an association with marital duties (cf. Deut 25:9; Ruth 3:4, 7-8) connected with her complaint about him being a “bridegroom involving blood.”

God would defend God’s son by killing Pharaoh’s son. Moses needed to circumcise his own son, identifying fully with God’s covenant, or God could kill him as God could kill Pharaoh’s son. Whatever else this may mean, it offers us a warning. The servant of God with a mission remains responsible to obey God’s covenant at home as well as in public.

The Heresy of Orthodoxy: What Do the NT Books Tell Us About Early Christian Diversity? — Canon Fodder

Here is an important and insightful post from Dr. Michael Kruger at Canon Fodder. A crucial issue for all humans is whom they should believe, or, who or what is ultimately a valid authority, an anchor for the soul. Dr. Kruger believes it is the canonical scriptures which I heartily affirm.

Paul states that the Corinthians can be assured of the truth since Paul is a designated apostle by God as evidenced by God’s manifested works, or signs: I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles (2Cor.12.12 NIV). Even though the history of the church is marked by competing voices, we know definitively what is valid by the issues and resulting answers the apostles dealt with in the first century scriptures.

This gives readers of the scriptures confidence since they have a boundary of authority defined by the canon. Christians do not have to be tossed to and fro by the many winds of doctrine contained in later or extra biblical ideas.



Last week I began a new blog series (see first post here) addressing the theme of unity and diversity in early Christianity, particularly as it pertains to the well-known work of Walter Bauer. Essentially, Bauer argued there was no such thing “heresy” or “orthodoxy” during this time period. These ideas, he argues, are simply artificial…

via The Heresy of Orthodoxy: What Do the NT Books Tell Us About Early Christian Diversity? — Canon Fodder

PhD Not Required

The bible was written for adults to understand sufficiently. The recipients of O.T. Israel were not sophisticated moderns who had access to a wide array of information. The N.T. folks, likewise, in many instances, lacked developed learning. This does not mean that some brilliant folks in those eras did not interact with the bible. Neither am I saying that moderns should stay unlearned. Historical background knowledge and other studies can be readily pursued but one can still be confident of biblical truth without structured learning.

Paul, in a letter to those he formerly ministered to for several years, recites a prayer for them: …the glorious Father may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you (Eph. 1.17b-18a NIV). He did not tell the Ephesians to study Jewish learning or Greek philosophy to understand the bible reading they heard every week. They needed the illumination of God’s Spirit.

The bible is to be read or heard and meditated upon with a view to understanding and obeying God. I know more of God’s program from reading and thinking upon the English Bible than the 5 years of Greek, 2 years of Hebrew and Aramaic, and loads of theology I studied in Bible College and seminary. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you (1Jn. 2.27a NIV).

I take the incident of Joshua’s long day as apparent daylight. The sun was apparent whether brightly shining or behind clouds during the period of what would normally be the dark of night so that it was two days of light without a night. There is no need to be crassly literal thinking the normal planetary cycle was altered. God could and did, I believe, give apparent sunlight when more time was needed for the battle. Here is an article that exposes the fallacy of always needing empirical evidence to justify belief:


Some of you may have read about an article written by the British physicists Colin J. Humphreys and W. Graeme Waddington and published in the October issue of Astronomy & Geophysics. Titled “Solar Eclipse of 1207 BCE Helps to Date Pharaohs,” it’s an attempt to link the story of the sun’s miraculously standing still in the biblical book of Joshua to an ancient eclipse and to draw historical conclusions from the linkage.

I will get to the substance of Humphreys and Waddington’s thesis, which has received considerable press coverage, in a moment. First, though, I need to point to something that has gone mostly unremarked upon (an exception is a post by Professor James Davila in his blog PaleoJudaica), namely, that these researchers’ argument is practically identical to that of a much longer and more detailed paper published in January of this year, in the Hebrew journal Beyt Mikra, by three Israelis: the physicist Ḥezi Yitzḥak, the Bible scholar Daniel Weinstaub, and the archeologist Uzi Avner. Such coincidences can happen in the world of scholarship and perhaps need not be made too much of, provided that credit goes to where it is due.

In any case, my remarks in this column will refer to both articles as though they were one. The relevant verses in Joshua 10:5-14 are, in the King James Version, as follows:

Therefore the five kings of the Amorites . . . encamped before Gibeon and made war against it. And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly and save us. . . . And so Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him. . . . Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night. And the Lord discomfited [the Amorites] before Israel and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon and chased them along the way that goeth up to Beth-Horon, and smote them to Azekah. . . . And it came to pass as they fled before Israel that the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died. . . . Then spake Joshua to the Lord . . . and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ayalon. And the sun stood still and the moon stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. . . . So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down for about a whole day. And there was no day like that before or after it.

Let us summarize. Joshua comes to the Gibeonites’ rescue because there is a pact between them and the Israelites. Marching at night from Gilgal in the Jordan Valley to Gibeon, the biblical Giv’on, in the hill country north of Jerusalem, he surprises the Amorites at the break of day and drives them westward to Azekah in the Judean lowlands, killing them along the way with the assistance of a violent hailstorm. As the day is not long enough for him to finish them off—ancient armies rarely fought at night—he prays for the sun to stop in its tracks, together with the third-quarter moon that is visible in the western sky when the sun is overhead. (The Valley of Ayalon lies to Gibeon’s west.) This they do, prolonging the daylight until the last of the fleeing enemy is cut down.

Such has been the traditional—and, it must be said, the self-evident—understanding of the story. Now, though, along come two teams of Israeli and British scientists and claim that the story in the book of Joshua has been read wrong: its description, they say, is not of a sun and moon that halted in the heavens but of a solar eclipse. What, apart from the understandable but not logically compelling desire to give the biblical story a natural rather than a supernatural explanation, are their reasons?

Essentially, stripped of supporting considerations, those reasons boil down to a new look at two Hebrew verbs, damam and amad, that occupy the center of the biblical narrative. Damam occurs in it twice, once in its imperative form of dom in the phrase shemesh b’Giv’on dom, “Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon,” and once in its past-tense form of vayidom in vayidom ha-shemesh, “And the sun stood still.” Amad also occurs twice, the first time in v’yare’aḥ amad, “and the moon stayed,” and the second time in vaya’amod ha-shemesh b’ḥatsi ha-shamayim, “So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven.” The King James translation is consistent with the use of these verbs elsewhere in the Bible, in which amad generally means “stand,” with the secondary meanings of “halt” or “cease,” and damam means “fall silent,” though it can also can mean “stay in one place” or “perish.”

And yet, our two articles contend, this is not their meaning in the book of Joshua. Why? Because in the astronomical terminology of Akkadian, the ancient and long extinct Semitic language of Babylonia, da’amu refers to the darkness of an annular eclipse, in which the screened sun is encircled by a narrow ring of light, while emedu signifies the conjunction of two heavenly bodies, as when the path of the moon intersects that of the sun and blocks our vision of it.

Since mathematical calculations show that a rare annular eclipse took place in the skies of central Palestine, where Gibeon and the Ayalon valley are located, on October 30, 1207 BCE, Joshua’s prayer, assuming that da’amu and emedu influenced Hebrew damam and amad, must thus be understood to have been, “Sun, be thou eclipsed upon Gibeon and thou Moon, in the valley of Ayalon”—following which, we are told by the Bible, “the sun was eclipsed and the moon stood in conjunction [with it].” Although this eclipse lasted barely an hour-and-a-half from beginning to end, the Bible tells us that the sun “hasted not to go down for about a whole day”—because, write Humphreys and Waddington, “to the awe-inspired Israelites, the amazing spectacle in the sky would have appeared to be long and drawn out; the reaction to such events tends to be exaggerated, particularly with regard to perceived duration.”

This explanation of the story in Joshua, our scholars argue, has great historical significance. In the first place, by corroborating (while reinterpreting) the Bible’s account, it strengthens the case for the veracity of other biblical stories that are commonly considered legends or myths, including that of the Israelite conquest of Canaan in Joshua’s time. Secondly, it enables us to date when this conquest took place—i.e., toward the end of the 13th century BCE, exactly where biblical chronology places it. And thirdly, it establishes a terminus a quo for the Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription known (after the pharaoh Merneptah) as the Merneptah stele; inasmuch as a people called Israel is mentioned there as being in Canaan in Merneptah’s time, which it could not have been prior to the age of Joshua, the solar eclipse of 1207 contributes to a more precise dating of events in ancient Egypt as well.

I confess to beingskeptical about all this. Not that it is totally implausible. Akkadian, the language of a Middle Eastern colonial power in the biblical period, did influence other Semitic languages, Hebrew among them, and a knowledge of it can sometimes help in understanding biblical words that are unclear.

An example of this is the kikayon plant in the book of Jonah, whose rapid growth, the Bible relates, shaded Jonah from the torrid sun while he waited outside the city of Nineveh to see what would happen to it. Biblical commentators had no idea what plant this was until modern times, when Assyriologists (a term that includes scholars of Akkadian) unearthed cuneiform tablets in which the word kukkanitu, from which kikayon undoubtedly derives, denotes the castor-oil plant. It is thus possible that Babylonian astronomical terms like da’amu and emedu entered biblical Hebrew, too, especially since the Babylonians were acknowledged by their neighbors to be unequalled as astronomers.

But it is one thing to invoke the aid of Akkadian in explaining a biblical word or passage whose meaning we do not know, and quite another to do so with a passage, like the one in Joshua, that is self-explanatory and needs no outside assistance to be understood. The only reason to read an eclipse into it, as I have said, is wanting to make a biblical account scientifically credible; but to believe that something is true because we want it to be true is hardly scientific.

More than that: the Humphrey-Waddington-Yitzḥak-Weintraub-Avner thesis needs to be taken with a tablespoon of salt not only because it isn’t needed to make sense of the biblical account but because it makes nonsense of that account. Although Joshua, let us recall, prays for a miracle that will prolong the hours of light until his forces have completed their mission, a solar eclipse would only have lessened these hours, and at a time of year—the end of October—when the days were already short. Asking God for it would have made Joshua one bumbler of a general.

This is something that our British and Israeli scholars do not appear to have thought of. It’s not enough, in interpreting the Bible, to know Akkadian and astronomy. You also have to know how to read a simple story.

The Lord’s Prayer

So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we ourselves have forgiven our trespassers. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Mt. 6.9-13 literal translation).

Perhaps a quibble about the label “The Lord’s Prayer.” The text doesn’t give this prayer a title or label. Many have noted that, if any prayer were to be labeled “The Lord’s Prayer,” it would be Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, recorded in John 17. Here, in Matthew, it is the prayer the Lord taught the disciples.

Not all Christians take this “Lord’s Prayer” as merely petition. It seems to start out as praise and affirmation: Hallowed be your name is the confident expectation of the time when God will rule on earth as in heaven with His name praised by the redeemed. Though there may be a yearning aspect, and hard distinctions may not be necessary, it is probably best to view this clause as praise instead of a plea. I understand the Greek construction (aorist imperative) to be a confident expectation. My view recognizes that, elsewhere in the bible, God’s Kingdom manifested on earth is a surety. In God’s due time, He will bring about His earthly rule. The prayer starts out in praise, aligning the disciple to God’s program of eventual triumph over iniquity and the reconciling of creation to Himself.

The words and pattern here is nearly identical to the Kaddish (Qaddish), which is a hymn of praise to God that magnifies and sanctifies God’s name in affirmation. Ezek. 38.23 is thought to be the model for the Kaddish: Thus will I magnify Myself, and sanctify Myself, and I will make Myself known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am the LORD. “Saying Kaddish” in Judaism is in context of mourning at the passing of a loved one. Despite the loss, it is a confident praise of God. The Jewish Virtual Library identifies it as a “sanctification” and therefore “praise”:

The Kaddish is a prayer that praises God and expresses a yearning for the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. The emotional reactions inspired by the Kaddish come from the circumstances in which it is said: it is recited at funerals and by mourners, and sons are required to say Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a parent. The word Kaddish means sanctification, and the prayer is a sanctification of God’s name.

This “disciple’s prayer” also teaches 3 things in the asking part (petition): daily bread as a qualification of sustenance. This encourages a constant dependence, a personal continual learning of how God is able to meet needs. This shows His capacity and greatness in the most minute matters.

Forgive us qualified by the disciple forgiving others as themselves were freely forgiven. Many translations render this as “debts.” This is a very pedantic translation of the Greek term and requires explanation: it is the debt of guilt incurred from failure to perform correctly or failure of wrong action as prescribed previously in the bible. We are able to love others because He first loved us. In verses 14-15 Jesus explains the rationale of forgiving others: For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins. This is not the “eye for an eye” stark justice of the Mosaic Code but reflects the obligation of the gift given in The New Covenant. It is the evidence of the new birth’s transformation. If a person is vindictive and revengeful  it would indicate they were not forgiven.

Lead us during the evil days of this temporal journey. Another related admonition to disciples: Therefore be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Eph. 5.15-16 NET). The New Testament reflects the Prophet Amos’ observation and admonition: Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil (5.13 NIV). While Amos seems to emphasize keeping quiet so as not to cast pearls before swine, Ephesians instructs making good use of the opportunity (redeeming the time). This may mean studying to know God and being ready to present the gospel. Later, Paul says part of the Christian armor against evil entities involves fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace  (Eph. 6.15 NET). The wise or redeemed person will be sensitive in how to respond to others. The disciple sometimes will be able to storm Hell’s gates to rescue some from captivity. The final clause then, in the “disciple’s prayer,” seems to teach watchfulness and close fellowship with the Lord. It speaks of a very personal dependence and deliverance.