Some Notes on the Earliest Manuscript of Paul’s Letters

Papyri is ancient Egyptian paper that could take over a year to produce. It was cheaper than animal hides but would not generally last as long. It was exported from Egypt to lands in Europe and the MidEast. It served as media for the copied writings of Scripture in Egypt and elsewhere. The manuscripts that were stored in the desert regions of North Africa could survive thousands of years due to the dry climate.

In 1976 I was able to examine the Bodmer Papyri in Switzerland traveling to its repository while in Europe as an apprentice church worker. Textual transmission and its study has fascinated me for 40 years. Dan Wallace, a leading textual scholar, has just examined the Chester Beatty p46 manuscript and reports his findings on his blog.

Daniel B. Wallace

The publication of P46 in 1935–37––then, and now, the oldest extant manuscript of Paul’s epistles––has not ceased to pique the interest of biblical scholars. Beginning with the plates and text published by Kenyon (1936, 1937), and continuing with the virtual birth of reasoned eclecticism with Zuntz’s magisterial The Text of the Epistles: A Disquisition on the Corpus Paulinum (1953), and reconsiderations of its date (Young Kyu Kim, “Palaeographical Dating of P46 to the Later First Century,” Biblica 69 [1988] 248–57), this priceless document has made its way to the front lines of biblical scholarship for a long time. Though Kim’s suggestion that Chester Beatty Biblical Papyrus II was written before the reign of Domitian (81–96 CE) has been refuted, the consensus continues that it was produced c. 200 CE.

Where Are the Pastoral Epistles?
One curiosity of this papyrus is that, in its current state, it lacks the pastoral letters…

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Centered in God

Pr.4.27In the future when my building activities are complete (there is light at the end of the tunnel), I plan on showing from the Bible the many ways the walk with God is like a traveling on a highway.

The land of Israel is very hilly and thus difficult to traverse efficiently. Without a highway the pilgrims travelling to the three required feasts yearly would either have to travel over the hills and valleys in a straight line to Jerusalem or, conversely, follow the meanders of valleys on a relatively level area. Neither option was ideal especially when traveling with the elderly or very young along with their flocks and herds, the pack animals and wagons.

Two main highways existed in Israel from ancient times: the Via Maris that was near the coast of the Mediterranean and the Kings Highway in the TransJordan region. A feature of the ancient highways was a built up roadway with a ditch in either side for drainage of the winter rains. The Bible draws upon this imagery to teach lessons about the spiritual life: Go not to the right or the left, turn your foot from evil (Pr. 4.27).

Don Carson at the Gospel Coalition Blog has posted a devotional on Dt. 9 that shows two opposite extremes to avoid: paralyzing fear and haughty self-reliance. In this case the highway of walking with God would be humble obedience:

IF DEUTERONOMY 8 REMINDS THE Israelites that God is the One who gave them all their material blessings, not least the ability to work and produce wealth, Deuteronomy 9 insists he is also the One who will enable them to take over the Promised Land and vanquish their opponents. Before the struggle, the Israelites are still fighting their fears. God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you” (Deut. 9:3). But after the struggle, the temptation of the Israelites will be quite different. Then they will be tempted to think that, whatever their fears before the event, it was their own intrinsic superiority that enabled them to accomplish the feat. So Moses warns them:

After the Lord your God has driven them out before you do not say to yourself,
“The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my
righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the
Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteous-
ness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but
on account of the wickedness of these nations . . . to accomplish what he swore
to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not
because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good
land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people 
(Deut. 9:4-6).

And the evidence for this last point? Moses reminds them of their sorry rebellions during the wilderness years, starting from the wretched incident of the golden calf (Deut. 9:4-29).

What shall we learn? (1) Although the annihilation of the Canaanites fills us with embarrassed horror, there is a sense in which (dare I say it?) we had better get used to it. It is of a piece with the Flood, with the destruction of several empires, with hell itself. The proper response is Luke 13:1-5: unless we repent, we shall all likewise perish. (2) It may be true to say that the Israelites won because the Canaanites were so evil. It does not follow that the Canaanites lost because the Israelites were so good. God was working to improve the Israelites out of his own covenantal faithfulness. But they were extremely foolish if they thought, after the event, that they had earned their triumph. (3) Our temptations, like Israel’s vary with our circumstances: faithless fear in one circumstance, arrogant pride in another. Only the closest walk with God affords us the self-criticism that abominates both.

The Prophet

The Prophet

(I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command. 

Dt. 18.18).*

Groucho Marx quipped “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them, well, I have others.”  No human is so one-dimensional as to not have characteristics that round them into a complex whole. If God made us in His image, how much more is The Builder multi-dimensional. God has revealed to us facets of his nature in Psalm 62.11-12a that seem to counter balance each other. God has declared one principle; two principles I have heard: God is strong, and you, O Lord, demonstrate loyal love.

At Sinai, God revealed his power but it terrified the people so another side of His nature would be needed to communicate with them.  The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you—from your fellow Israelites;  you must listen to him. This accords with what happened at Horeb in the day of the assembly. You asked the Lord your God: “Please do not make us hear the voice of the Lord our God any more or see this great fire any more lest we die.” The Lord then said to me, “What they have said is good. I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command.  Dt. 18.15-18.

The question is: “In what aspect will this Prophet be like Moses?” A cursory web search of similarities between Moses and Jesus leaves out the need alluded to in the text of the softer side (if you will) of God’s nature: “what they have said is good. I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites.” In my search of how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of another like Moses, many websites had lists of up to 50 different ways that compared Jesus to Moses but no site (in my search) listed the meekness or humility that characterized both leaders which the text almost demands: “what they have said is good. I will raise up a prophet like you.”

Numbers 12.3 describes Moses’ character: Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth. God’s powerful majesty was revealed by the sounds and events at Sinai, and the people were rightly terrified. God would raise up a meek messenger who would demonstrate sacrificial love. Isaiah 42.1-9 portrays this “servant”:

Here is my servant whom I support, my chosen one in whom I take pleasure.

I have placed my spirit on him; he will make just decrees for the nations. 

He will not cry out or shout; he will not publicize himself in the streets.

A crushed reed he will not break, a dim wick he will not extinguish;

he will faithfully make just decrees. 

He will not grow dim or be crushed before establishing justice on the earth;

the coastlands will wait in anticipation for his decrees. 

This is what the true God, the Lord, says— the one who created the sky and stretched it out, the one who fashioned the earth and everything that lives on it, the one who gives breath to the people on it, and life to those who live on it: “I, the Lord, officially commission you; I take hold of your hand. I protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people, and a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to release prisoners from dungeons, those who live in darkness from prisons. 

I am the Lord! That is my name!

I will not share my glory with anyone else, or the praise due me with idols.

Look, my earlier predictive oracles have come to pass; now I announce new events. Before they begin to occur, I reveal them to you.


It is significant in the first sentence a clear reference to the Trinitarian unity is mentioned in regards to this “servant.”

Additionally, this “servant” will be “a covenant mediator.” Israel already had a covenant in the Law of Moses: “Keep my statutes and my ordinances, which a person is to obey in order to live in them. I am the LORD.” (Le.18.5). A New Covenant, however, was promised, which would usher in a more personal relationship with God (see Je. 31.31, Mt.26.28, IICor.3.6, He. 8.6, 9.15, et al.).

A question might arise as to the timing of this covenant with Israel and Judah. In my mind the covenant was instituted at Pesach (Passover) when Jesus died and inaugurated at Shavuot (Pentecost) when the “promise” was given (see Ac.1.4: the Father’s promise is the New Covenant’s presence of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers- the “other comforter”). All male Israelites were to appear before the Lord at the three principal feasts. So, particularly at Shavuot when the crowd heard the many native languages from their homelands, these dispersed Jews who came to observe the feast probably constituted all the tribes of Israel. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with His disciples to commemorate the blood of the Eternal Covenant which He was soon to spill but The Father and Jesus sent the Other Comforter at Shavuot as the promised relationship of The New Covenant.

* All Scripture from the NET Bible.

Jews and Christians: Coming to faith

Good thoughts and refutations by Bography. The comparison between Moses and Paul in their callings is spot on.

OneDaring Jew

On the RoshPinaProject Messianic Jewish site appears a report on Eddie Beckford, a Christian missionary in Israel, who was found guilty of attacking a group of (Jewish) anti-missionaries. The Messianic Jews (followers of Jesus/Yeshua) defended Beckford while the Jewish camp said he’d got his just desserts. Nothing – predictably – was resolved. Most people, naturally (because that is human nature), have fixed views, where no argument, no matter how clear, is going to persuade. I said most people; there are, though, a minority who – upon hearing a different view, even an opposing view – change. There’s also no lack of pride and prejudice in the human soul.

Although I hadn’t read anything on the Beckworth affair, I added – as is my wont – my titbit to the conversation, because like Lady Catherine de Burgh in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, “I must have my share.”

I quoted Stuart…

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Signs, Shadows, and Symbols

From the Gospel Coalition blog of Don Carson. Much of the Bible is in the form of parables that invite further examination of underlying concepts that point to a truth only found by careful digging. As Proverbs urges: if you look for her (wisdom) as for silver, then you will find the knowledge of God. Dr. Carson is right: “reflect long and often on the connections.”


Numbers 11; Psalm 48; Isaiah 1; Hebrews 9

Numbers 11Psalm 48Isaiah 1Hebrews 9

ONE OF THE WAYS GOD TALKS ABOUT THE FUTURE IS . . . well, by simply talking about the future. There are places in the Bible where God predicts, in words, what will happen: he talks about the future. But he also provides pictures, patterns, types, and models. In these cases he establishes an institution, or a rite, or a pattern of relationships. Then he drops hints, pretty soon a cascade of hints, that these pictures or patterns or types or models are not ends in themselves, but are ways of anticipating something even better. In these cases, then, God talks about the future in pictures.

Christians who read their Bibles a lot ponder the connections between the Davidic kingship and Jesus’ kingship, between the Passover lamb and Jesus as “Passover Lamb,” between Melchizedek and Jesus, between the Sabbath rest and the rest Jesus gives, between the high priest’s role and Jesus’ priestly role, between the temple the old covenant priest entered and the heavenly “holy of holies” that Jesus entered, and much more. Of course, for those who lived under the old covenant stipulations, covenantal fidelity meant adherence to the institutions and rites God laid down, even while those same institutions and rites, on the broader canonical scale, looked forward to something even better. Through these pictures, God talked about the future. Once a Christian grasps this point, parts of the Bible come alive in fresh ways.

One of these picture-models is Jerusalem itself, sometimes referred to as Zion (the historic stronghold). Jerusalem was bound up not only with the fact that from David on, it was the capital city (even after the division into Israel and Judah, it was the capital of the southern kingdom), but also with the fact that from Solomon on it was the site of the temple, and therefore of the focus of God’s self-disclosure.

So for the psalmist, “the city of our God, his holy mountain” is not only “beautiful” but “the joy of the whole earth” (Ps. 48:1-2). It is not only the center of armed security (48:4-8), but the locus where God’s people meditate on his unfailing love (48:9), the center of praise (48:10). Yet the psalmist looks beyond the city to God himself: he is the one who “makes her secure forever” (48:8), whose praise reaches to the end of the earth, for ever and ever (48:10, 14).

As rooted as they are in historic Jerusalem, the writers of the new covenant look to a “Jerusalem that is above” (Gal. 4:26), to “Mount Zion,” to “the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22), to the “new Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2). Reflect long and often on the connections.


Sola Gratia


All Is Grace

Brennan Manning died Friday night.

Long before the recent resurgence of interest in “gospel-centrality”, Brennan was a voice calling out in the wilderness–a voice reminding us that we are great sinners but God is a greater Savior. Theologically quirky and personally idiosyncratic, he was nevertheless a broken man on a passionate mission to remind Christians of the truth that while our sin reaches far, God’s grace reaches farther. He desperately wanted bedraggled, beat-up, and burned-out Christians (like himself) to recover a sense of God’s “furious love” for them.

A lifelong alcoholic who spent his entire life ferociously battling the demon of addiction, he was uncomfortably transparent about his weaknesses and failures which made him a prime candidate to teach us something of God’s scandalous grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). Every addict I’ve ever known–every person who has crashed and burned and, as a result, come to terms with their own powerlessness–has taught me something about God’s grace that I would’ve never known otherwise.

Brennan’s life (tragic and sad as it was, according to him) was a living testimony that horizontal consequences for sin (they led to untold miseries in Brennan’s life) cannot forfeit the “no condemnation” that is ours in Christ Jesus. This was his hope. His lifeline. Unable to bank anything on himself, he banked everything on Jesus. In this sense, his well-documented weaknesses were a gift to him. And to us.

I never had the chance to meet Brennan, but I know many who knew him well…and their lives were never the same. He knew Jesus, loved Jesus, and is now with Jesus…finally enjoying the full measure of the freedom he longed to experience.

The night after he died, I sat in bed and read (once again) these amazing words from his bestselling book The Ragamuffin Gospel–a man after my own heart:

Put bluntly, the American church today accepts grace in theory but denies it in practice. We say we believe that the fundamental structure of reality is grace, not works–but our lives refute our faith. By and large, the gospel of grace is neither proclaimed, understood, nor lived. Too many Christians are living in a house of fear and not in the house of love.

Our culture has made the word grace impossible to understand. We resonate with slogans such as:

“There’s no free lunch.”

“You get what you deserve.”

“You want love? Earn it.”

“You want mercy? Show that you deserve it.

“Do unto others before they do unto you.”

“By all means, give others what they deserve but not one penny more.”

A friend told me she overheard a pastor say to a child, “God loves good little boys.” As I listen to sermons with their pointed emphasis on personal effort–no pain, no gain–I get the impression that a do-it-yourself spirituality is the American fashion.

Though the Scriptures insist on God’s initiative in the work of salvation–that by grace we are saved, that the Tremendous Lover has taken to the chase–our spirituality often starts with self, not God…We sweat through various spiritual exercises as if they were designed to produce a Christian Charles Atlas. Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if only personal discipline and self-denial will mold the perfect me. The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God is doing. In this curious process God is a benign old spectator in the bleachers who cheers when I show up for morning quiet time. Our eyes are not on God. At heart we are practicing Pelagians. We believe that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps–indeed, we can do it ourselves.

Sooner or later we are confronted with the painful truth of our inadequacy and insufficiency. Our security is shattered and our bootstraps are cut. Once the fervor has passed, weakness and infidelity appear. We discover our inability to add even a single inch to our spiritual stature. Life takes on a joyless, empty quality. We begin to resemble the leading character in Eugene O’Neill’s play The Great God Brown: “Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter? Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and the beauty of flesh and the living colors of the earth and sky and sea? Why am I afraid to love, I who love love?”

Something is radically wrong.

Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat out denial of the gospel of grace.

With Brennan, I concur that it is high time for the church to honor its Founder by embracing sola gratia anew, to reignite the beacon of hope for the hopeless and point all of us bedraggled performancists back to the freedom and rest of the Cross. To leave our “if’s” “and’s” or “but’s” behind and get back to proclaiming the only message that matters—and the only message we have—the Word about God’s one-way love for sinners. It is time for us to abandon once and for all our play-it-safe religion, and, as Robert Farrar Capon so memorably put it, to get drunk on grace. Two hundred-proof, unflinching grace. That’s the kind of drunkenness Brennan would endorse–especially from where he is now. The radicality of grace is shocking and scary, unnatural and undomesticated…but it is also the only thing that can set us free and light the church, and the world, on fire.

Brennan “got” that. He “gets it” even better now.

See you on the other side, brother!

Inscribed Columns in Temples

Illuminating Revelation 3.11-13. This is a great find and helps readers fit the message of Christ’s letter historically to the understanding of the local recipients. A common fallacy of my Christians today is allocating the message of the Bible in an anachronistic manner. We should always seek to understand the text in the historical setting and apply it carefully.

HolyLandPhotos' Blog

In the first three chapters of the New Testament book of Revelation the author addresses seven churches in the Roman Province of Asia (=modern western Turkey).  In doing this he often makes allusions to cultural items that were especially meaningful to his first century hearers.

For example, in the name of Jesus he writes to the Church at Philadelphia:

I am coming soon … the one who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my GodI will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. Rev 3:11–13 (NIV)

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Crucified skeleton found near Jerusalem

Often what Christians need to explain is “significance” or “Biblical relevance.” This is particularly true about artifact discoveries. By the example of Paul (and it is imperative to follow his example for all Christians [this too needs explaining definitively but this is not the subject of this post]), he was ready always to give a defense and rationale of the Christian faith. Peter also says: “be ready always to give a reason for the hope (here “hope” means-confident expectation) that is in you.”

To show this artifact’s relevance we must look for how it relates to the accuracy of the Biblical text. As I have commented previously about Gen. 3.15, from the beginning, when humanity fell in Adam, the “curse on the serpent” provided the promise of deliverance through “The Seed of the woman” who would crush the enemy’s head and for the sake of humanity would have His heel pierced.

Here is evidence of the Roman crucifixion practice of piercing the heel unlike what is often displayed by later artists’ depiction of nails through the instep of the feet of Christ. So this artifact is strong proof of the accuracy of the redemptive promise set forth from the foundation of the world.

Ferrell's Travel Blog

The Romans were adept at crucifixion, according to many historical sources. The first archaeological evidence of crucifixion was uncovered in 1978 [1968; see comments] when an ossuary (bone box, or receptacle) was found north of Jerusalem containing the bones of a man who had been crucified. His name was “Yehohanan, the son of Hagakol.” He is thought to have been between 24 and 28 years of age, and was about 5 feet 6 inches in height.

Both the ossuary and a replica of the heel bone are displayed in the Israel Museum. When Yehohanan was removed from the cross the nail pulled away from the wood.

On Pentecost, Peter proclaimed the truth about Jesus. He said,

This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. (Acts 2:23 NIV)

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Woodstock, the song: getting back to the garden

The last refrain of Joni Mitchell’s song reverberates to desire for transformation out of “the devil’s bargain”:

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden

I grew up singing along with the sentiments expressed in this iconic song — getting back to Eden and somehow righting all the wrongs of the devil’s bargain. Alas, living simply, advocating harmony and peace did not get me, or anyone I knew back to undo the wrong.

What I didn’t realize was that I needed to get to another garden: the one that held an empty tomb — the resurrection garden.

God came into the original garden when we sinned along with our father Adam (Sin came into the world because of what one man did, and with sin came death. This is why everyone must die—because everyone sinned. [Romans 5.12 NCV]). God immediately set to remedy this situation by promising One from the seed of the woman who would crush the one who turned humans away from their Creator. Yes, He would have His heel bruised at the cross paying the penalty that humanity deserved but He had the power both to lay down His life and take it up again; this authority came from the Father (Jn. 10.18).

Those who trusted in God prior to Jesus covenanted with God by offering a sacrifice which pictured the greater or ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. Today, Christians display Christ’s sacrifice in both baptism (immersion which shows death, burial, and resurrection) and The Lord’s Supper with the elements of broken bread as Christ’s body, the wine His blood. Christians, by believing in the resurrection, have gone to the garden where Adam’s sin was declared forgiven by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dust Storms in Israel (Hamsin, Sirocco, Sharav)

Here are some pictures which show climate transitions in Israel and describe the yearly cycles typical of Palestine.

HolyLandPhotos' Blog

For a 44 second video from the Mount of Olives check this out—I cannot see the Dome of the Rock!

Recently Israel 21c has published the following NASA photo of the current massive sandstorm in the Middle East.

NASASandStorm-1168x657See below how a typical sand storm affects Israel.

In the lands the southeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea the period from early–May to mid–June is a transitional season from the wet winter months to the dry summer ones. At times the wind blows in from the desert (from the east), and not from the Mediterranean Sea (from the west—which is normal). At those times the humidity drops drastically and a fine dust that permeates everything fills the air. These dry dusty events are called a hamsin, a sirocco, or a sharav.

Jerusalem — Hamsin/Dust Storm — 10:30 AM 11 May 2007

Under these conditions the green grass rapidly turns brown and…

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Daniel Wallace again gives good insight into the issues of historicity, orthodoxy, and the canon. A quote from him on the uniqueness of the Bible is worth repeating: “the Bible is not just talking heads, devoid of historical facts, places, and people. It is a book that presents itself as historical, and speaks about God’s great acts in history, intersecting with humanity in verifiable ways.”

Daniel B. Wallace

Just released from the giant publishing firm, Houghton Miflin Harcourt: A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts, edited by Hal Taussig.

The advertisement from HMH distributed widely via email last week was not shy in its claims for the 600-page volume. The subject line read, “It is time for a new New Testament.” In the email blast are strong endorsements by Marcus Borg, Karen King, and Barbara Brown Taylor. Borg and King, like Taussig, were members of the Jesus Seminar (a group headed up by the late Robert W. Funk, which determined which words and deeds of Jesus recorded in the Gospels were authentic). King and Taylor are on the Council for A New New Testament. All of them share a viewpoint which seems to be decidedly outside that of the historic Christian faith, regardless of whether it is…

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The theater at Beth-shean — a show of history

Here is a picture of ruins from one of the cities of Decapolis mentioned in the New Testament. Since these ruins are from the Roman period, they are contemporary with Jesus.

Of course Jesus was hardly impressed with the pompous works of mankind unlike His disciples who marveled at the large stones of Herod’s additions to the Second Temple. “All these things will be thrown down” was His verdict of the splendid yet Godless Jewish religion.

He did however call some to Him and began to build His church, the one body that is visible only to Himself, starting at Jerusalem. Later Gentiles would be included since He cleansed their heart through faith in Him.

Ferrell's Travel Blog

Beth-shean is mentioned only a few times in the Old Testament. The English Standard Version uses both Beth-shan and Beth-shean for this town. Other English versions use a variety of spellings including Bethshan.

During one of my recent trips to Beth-shean I sat in the Roman theater and thought about the show of history that passed before my eyes. In the distance was the ancient tell, called Tell el-Husn or Tel Beth She’an, from which one has an impressive view of the area. Occupational levels date back at least to 3000 B.C. Artifacts from Canaan, Egypt, Anatolia, north Syria, and Mesopotamia have been uncovered from the mound.

For many Bible students the first event that comes to mind is the defeat of King Saul at the hands of the Philistines. After his death on nearby Mount Gilboa, Saul’s body was taken to Beth-shean and fastened to the wall of the…

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Exodus 11:1 – 12:20; Luke 14; Job 29; 1 Corinthians 15

Don Carson’s devotional blog is based on two volumes of daily Bible readings he previously published. As with most of Carson’s work, the insights he brings is both straight forward, and yet profound. This insight comes mainly from the English text and, really, is available to all who will read their Bible regularly, prayerfully, with a view to also obey it, and on a sustained basis.

For the Christian the New Testament is replete with commands (imperatives in the original Greek) to read and study the Scriptures which was the Old Testament in that day. The O.T. is still relevant in many ways and both the Old and New Testaments will benefit us. In this Age of the Spirit (The “Comforter” who Jesus sent to be with us forever), we should read what the Spirit wrote for believers through the holy prophets and apostles. The Spirit will be our teacher if we know Him and read His truth (But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. I Jn. 2.27 ESV).

Exodus 11:1 – 12:20; Luke 14; Job 29; 1 Corinthians 15.

Belovedness Engenders Love

Belovedness Engenders Love.

In his book 2000 Years of Amazing Grace: The Story and Meaning of the Christian Faith, Paul Zahl autobiographically recounts what happened to him many years ago when he discovered the indispensability of grace to produce the good works toward our neighbor outlined in the Bible:

My doing of the good deeds [Jesus] taught actually hinged on Him saving me-I, who had found myself paralyzed and blocked from doing those good deeds.When I felt myself loved in my chains, in my paralyses, that feeling of being loved seemed to trigger the very motivation and strength that had failed me before. Being treated forgivingly in my faults and fears freed me up. The faults themselves lost some of their binding strength. The confining fears ceased to restrict so tightly. There was an empowering connection between Jesus’ saving me (who he was for me) and the fuel to do what he said I should do (what he taught).

I take this connection between saving and the response to being saved that results in morally good actions (loving service to our neighbor), to be the heart of Christianity. It is the relation of being loved to loving. Being loved creates an environment inside a person by which the works of love begin to take place naturally. Loving is born from being loved…”Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovelier be” is a seventeenth-century way of saying it.

As I’ve said on numerous occasions here, the motivation and fuel to do good (which the Bible always describes horizontally in terms of loving service to others) comes from being moved by the completed work of Jesus for us. The impulsion to “do” comes only out of this undomesticated declaration that everything has already been done. Those who obey more are those who increasingly “get” that their standing with God is not based on their imperfect obedience to Jesus, but Jesus’ perfect obedience for them. The secret of grace is that we actually perform better as we grow to understand that God’s love for us is based on Christ’s performance, not our performance.

Another way to put this is to affirm that grace, not law, produces love-the love for God and neighbor that Jesus teaches (Luke 10:27). His love for us begets love from us.


To Bible readers the Kishon Stream stirs heroic images as the article mentions. During Old Testament times this stream would swell with melt waters in the springtime and become a raging river while in summer months it might have been completely devoid of any flow. Here the Kishon is set in modern times.

HolyLandPhotos' Blog

The Kishon River is well-known to readers of the Bible in conjunction with the stories of the prophets Deborah (Judges 5:21) and Elijah (1 Kings 18:40).


Due to pollution that began during the British Mandate and continued up until recent times, the Kishon River became so polluted that it was declared “dead.”  Israel 21c has an interesting article (“Kishon River: From poison to pristine“) on how the river is already making a “come back” and that more restoration is in store for the future.

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HolyLandPhotos' Blog

One of the least visited places in Jerusalem is the portion of the village of Silwan that is located on the lower western slope of the Mount of Olives—opposite the “City of David.”

The village itself is built over 50 tombs from the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. This necropolis – “city of the dead”  – was investigated by David Ussishkin and Gabriel Barkay between 1968 and 1971. Travel to this area is very difficult (= impossible) for the inhabitants of Silwan are normally very hostile to outsiders.

The two most famous tombs from this necropolis are “the Tomb of Pharaoh’s Daughter” and the “Tomb of the Royal Steward.”

Unfortunately the second most important tomb from the First Temple Period is located in this village.  This tomb was discovered by Clermont-Ganneau in 1870. It had two Hebrew inscriptions – one above the door and the other to…

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Daniel B. Wallace

On February 22 and 23, I will be conducting a “Snoopy Seminar” at the Hope Center in Plano, Texas (2001 W. Plano Parkway). This seminar is a fun, interactive, and challenging exercise about textual criticism. Enrollment is limited to 60 people. Intended audience: motivated laypeople, though we are not limiting it to them (seminary students may also come, for example).

Here’s the basic idea: On Friday night I will teach some of the basics of New Testament textual criticism. Then, I ask for 22 people to volunteer to be scribes. They go into a separate room and copy out a short text (in English), each with specific instructions designed to increase errors in the copying process and corrupt the text. The text goes through six generations of copying. Meanwhile, the rest of the people (the “textual critics”) are trying to reconstruct the genealogy of the transmission of the…

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Ferrell's Travel Blog

There are two references in the Bible to the pool of Gibeon. The first is in the account of a conflict between Abner and those aligned with King Saul, and Joab and the servants of David (2 Samuel).

Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon.  And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. And they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool.  (2 Samuel 2:12-13 ESV)

Arnold’s entry in The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary says,

This “pool” undoubtedly refers to the impressive water system uncovered at el-Jib during recent archaeological excavations” [by Pritchard in the 1950s].

The pool had been constructed in the late 12th or early 13th century B.C…

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Five More Myths about Bible Translations and the Transmission of the Text

Rebloged from Daniel Wallace’s site. Many of these issues are very important to English readers of the Bible especially. It is vital to know *the how and why and to what extent* for laymen and not only pastors and theologians. I am not sure I fully agree with all that Dr. Wallace holds to in these matters but will need to study the issues before concluding. One issue that I am in full agreement is the acceptance of all the manuscripts for consideration as contra the “Received Text Only” position.

Daniel B. Wallace

There’s an old Italian proverb that warns translators about jumping in to the task: “Traduttori? Traditori!” Translation: “Translators? Traitors!” The English proverb, “Something’s always lost in the translation,” is clearly illustrated in this instance. In Italian the two words are virtually identical, both in spelling and pronunciation. They thus involve a play on words. But when translated into other languages, the word-play vanishes. The meaning, on one level, is the same, but on another level it is quite different. Precisely because it is no longer a word-play, the translation doesn’t linger in the mind as much as it does in Italian. There’s always something lost in translation. It’s like saying in French, “don’t eat the fish; it’s poison.” The word ‘fish’ in French is poisson, while the word ‘poison’ is, well, poison. There’s always something lost in translation.

But how much is lost? Here I want to explore…

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The Cyrus Cylinder

This is probably the most famous cylinder seal and it is scheduled to tour the US in 2013.

(courtesy Artdaily)

I tried to re-blog Ferrell Jenkins’ post about the US tour but could not. Jenkins posted this news at the end of Nov. 2012, here is the link:


I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; 

He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

This verse is a curse on the serpent for deceiving the woman into eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thereby causing her to become a sinner. Many theologians think that when Adam took the fruit from Eve and also ate it that they died spiritually. Initially the first pair were innocent but without eternal life which presumably would have been theirs had they passed this test. Now however, their sin nature was evident since they hid from God when He visited them in the evening.

All Adam’s and Eve’s offspring also subsequently share their progenitors’ fallen nature: 

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Eph. 2.1-3 TNIV)

God in His grace clothed Adam’s and Eve’s nakedness and cursed the serpent (not snakes per se but the entity behind this particular serpent: the devil). The curse formula is given in somewhat cryptic terms but Satan was aware that his head would someday be crushed by a human supernaturally born of a woman. Satan, it is thought, searched out aspects of this divine human in the scriptures so to thwart the Messiah in some way. during Christ’s temptation, the devil quoted from Psalm 91:  Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. (Mt.4.6 NIV)
This quotation is from Psalm 91.12. The very next verse is the promised Seed’s retribution on the devil: “You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” (vs.13)
The promise of this divine man is all of mankind’s hope and is reflected clearly, I believe, in some cylinder seals from Mesopotamia in the Fertile Crescent just north of the Promised Land. Abraham was called from Mesopotamia and given the promise that: “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen.12.3b NIV).

Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals

(Courtesy British Museum)

Here is a seal (on the right) with the impression in clay. This one features Adam, Eve, the tree of forbidden fruit, and the serpent.

It is significant to note that all these cylinder seals were produced by Gentiles and appropriate also since the Gentiles share in the promise of the deliverer who would crush the serpent’s head given in Gen.3.15. This impression in clay seems to portray the serpent coiled somewhat under Adam’s chair. Notice Adam reaching his hand in a receptive manner.

Cylinder Seal Article (courtesy British Museum)

Mesopotamian cylinder seals are small cylinders, generally made of stone and pierced through from end to end so that they could be worn on a string or pin. The surface of the cylinder was carved in intaglio (cut into the stone) with a design, so that when rolled on clay the cylinder would leave a continuous impression of the design, reversed and in relief. Cylinder seals were invented around 3500 BC in southern Mesopotamia (now Iraq) or south-western Iran, and were used as an administrative tool, as jewellery and as magical amulets until around 300 BC. Cylinder seals were linked to the invention of cuneiform writing on clay, and when this spread to other areas of the Near East, the use of cylinder seals spread too.

The shape and size of cylinders seals, the type of material used and the designs carved into the surface varied according to period and area. Many ancient clay seal impressions have survived on tablets, envelopes and sealings: small pieces of clay applied to doors and containers, including jars, baskets, sacks, leather bags and wooden boxes. However, these are often incomplete. The designs on the many thousands of surviving cylinder seals are best studied from modern impressions or rollings of the seals on clay or some other soft material. It is these modern impressions which are here shown alongside the ancient cylinder seals.

Gen.3.15 cylinder seal II

Gen.3.15 cylinder seal II

(courtesy of The British Museum)

This impression has all the elements of the Genesis story: A king treading a horned dragon with limbs, a woman picking fruit from a tree, an additional lesser figure who may depict Adam.

This seal is truly amazing and undoubtedly refers to the Promised Seed of the woman from Gen.3.15.

Living by Degrees

Much Christian advice either instructs us to “not” do certain things such as “don’t steal” or “don’t covet (lust after something).” Other instructions tell us to practice certain things such as “taking our cross daily and following me (Christ).” Most things in our daily life (our “walk” in the Bible) though needs to be lived out by degrees.

Reading in Ecclesiastes 9 we find this section that tells us to enjoy life:

So go eat your food and enjoy it;
drink your wine and be happy,
because that is what God wants you to do.
Put on nice clothes and make yourself look good.
Enjoy life with the wife you love. Enjoy all the useless days of this useless life God has given you here on earth, because it is all you have. So enjoy the work you do here on earth. Whatever work you do, do your best, because you are going to the grave, where there is no working, no planning, no knowledge, and no wisdom. (NCV)
This part of the Bible tells us we should enjoy our life because we have only this one shot to determine our eternal rewards. We are able to enjoy life if we live it for God and keep Him in view. Notice it doesn’t say overeat or get drunk as if life is about much eating or desensitizing our mind by drugs. It speaks about a balance since later Solomon mentions one’s vocational life.
God doesn’t want us to suffer meritoriously as if this would please Him. Yes, there is a place for fasting too but it is clear God doesn’t need anything from us since He gives everything to humans:
“The God who made the whole world and everything in it is the Lord of the land and the sky. He does not live in temples built by human hands. This God is the One who gives life, breath, and everything else to people. He does not need any help from them; he has everything he needs. God began by making one person, and from him came all the different people who live everywhere in the world. God decided exactly when and where they must live. God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him, though he is not far from any of us: ‘By his power we live and move and exist.’ Some of your own poets have said: ‘For we are his children.’ Since we are God’s children, you must not think that God is like something that people imagine or make from gold, silver, or rock. In the past, people did not understand God, and he ignored this. But now, God tells all people in the world to change their hearts and lives. God has set a day that he will judge all the world with fairness, by the man he chose long ago. And God has proved this to everyone by raising that man from the dead!” Acts 17:24-31 (NCV)


January 2013 Preview

Here the sun illumines the tops of some hills above Hau’ula. Winter in Hawaii often features rainy or overcast skies, not the best for lighting purposes when highlighting landscapes. This picture though presents a nice scene I think.

We are still getting settled into our new place and won’t be fully functioning until summer 2013 I feel. Being the cabinet tinkerer that I am, buying furniture is not an option. Our last place had all our study nooks, shelving, bird spaces, built for the unit’s layout. This new residence requires purpose-built bookcases and desks and other constructions in order to maximize the usable space it contains. The new place needs many other improvements and modifications to suit our living requirements. Also, we had to rent storage space to put all our accumulated stuff until the new place is ready to receive it.

So during construction I am not able to hike and photograph as much as I want. Life goes on too. One good thing is that I am closer to different trails that I am unfamiliar with and now are easier for me to explore and find interesting vistas to photograph. As stated in my “about page”, the photoblog’s purpose is to present natural scenes of God’s handiwork. Eventually I would like to organize my blog differently as a daily devotional corresponding to the days of the month. For now though I will put more pictures up and organize them later.

Romans 9.1 and Asyndeton

Here is some in-depth teaching from Daniel B. Wallace. This type of study I really enjoy since the teacher takes time to build the analysis through careful reading of the text using syntax. The resulting application and understanding is very solid because it is derived clearly from exegesis.

Daniel B. Wallace

As I was reading Romans 9 recently I noticed that the chapter begins asyndetically—that is, without a conjunction or other marker to connect it with the preceding. This is fairly rare in Greek and, apart from its use in staccato-like commands and aphorisms, almost always means one of two things: either a total disconnect from the preceding or a connection so strong that it would be superfluous to add the conjunction.

Paul uses asyndeton at the beginning of a major paragraph nine times in Romans. In 2.17, 10.1, 11.33, and 13.8 it is obvious that the same topic is in view. (On a smaller scale, see 2 Tim 3.16—which obviously connects to the previous verse; cf. also Phil 4.4b.) In Rom 12.9, 13.8, 16.3, and 16.21 the connection is not as clear, though it is probably there in most of these instances. Romans 13.1 offers the most obvious break without…

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