Seeking a Better Country

Life is one long, steady disappointment. This dawns on most people by their thirties. Childhood is all potentiality. The teenage years are all angst—but even angst betrays some hope, since it is only quiet outrage that things could be better. A person can still carry into his twenties the illusion that the world will soon…

A Theology of Disappointment — Southern Equip

Jesus Barleycorn Must Die

Most certainly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. (Jn. 12.24 WEB)

But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ’s, at his coming. (1Cor. 15.20-23 WEB)

I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Rev. 1.18 WEB)

It had taken about sixteen centuries for the concept of “John Barleycorn” to be more or less a confused drinking song, though John Burn’s rendition still retained some Christian elements. I say confused since, if he is a corn (individual grain), he cannot be cut off at the knees. The song in Burn’s version switches from the grain of barley to the straw that holds up many grains in the head of barley. Also, if the farmer doesn’t retain some grain then he will not see the sprout from the ground for the next crop. The original parable gives a clear meaning applicable and fulfilling of a prior prophetic figure.

I am not against alcohol production, of course, it is one way to preserve an annual fruit or cereal crop and has the blessing of God. One could almost say that alcohol is the drug of Jews and Christians since it is featured in some of their observances. Careful moderation is the key for enjoying many of the good fruits given by God.

All the English translations of Jn. 12.24 that I have seen render sitou (sitos) as “wheat.” However, a careful student of scripture will translate it “barley.” The Koine Greek word sitos can refer to any cereal grain. So, why should it be translated “barley” in this instance? The rationale for “barley” comes from the “First Fruits” that were waved before the Lord during Passover. The first sheaves of barley in the Land of Israel ripened, presumably, around the area of the Jewish Temple (or possibly Southern Judah where barley was typical). The ripening or readiness of the barley (the Aviv) determined the start of the Israelite calendar year. The Jewish calendar was based on a lunar cycle which needed an intercalary month every few years. If the barley was not ready by the turn of the yearly cycle, an intercalation was necessary.

The first Redemptive Feast of the Jews was Passover starting on the 14th day of the first month (hence the ripening of the barley determined when the Passover would be held). Passover consisted of a cluster of observances: The Festival of Unleavened Bread, the sacrifice of the Lamb, and the waving of First Fruits (In this case, barley. The wheat harvest occurred later in the Spring when its First Fruits would be waved during the second Redemptive Festival of Shavuot-Pentecost, 50 days later.). Therefore, Jesus’ reference to grain in Jn. 12.24 should be “barley.”

The waving of the barley sheaf (First Fruits) was on the first Sunday after Passover (the day Christ arose becomes The Lord’s Day). Paul identifies Christ as these “First Fruits” in 1Cor. 15, the great resurrection chapter of the Christian faith.

Returning to John 12. 24, Jesus states His necessary death to redeem humanity, as well as the necessity of His disciples to die to themselves for them, in turn, to be fruitful. Technically speaking, Jesus didn’t need to die after becoming flesh (Jn. 1.14) since He was “The Author of Life” (Acts 3.15) . However, this great act of love and self-sacrifice ensured His bringing many to glorification (Heb. 2.10). He was “The Living One” who died voluntarily and who now has the keys of death and Hades to give eternal life to all who believe on Him (Rev. 1.18).

The Relationship Between Faith and Works

The Christian’s authentic service to God flow from their new nature. They are children of God and resemble Him in their attitudes and actions. “We love, because He first loved us.” Here is an article which expresses the roles of faith and disciple well.

The Dark Side of Self-Discipline

Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Slavery

Here is a study of some forms of slavery and their rationale in ancient times. This study does not examine ancient Greek or Roman slavery, for which we also have abundant literature, nor the slavery occurring among the Israelites. Israelite slavery was probably adopted, in part, from the surrounding cultural milieu in which they interacted. This topic of Israelite slavery could be studied more thoroughly, it seems. Nevertheless, the geographical aspect of Israel was a land bridge, a choke point, between the two great fertile areas in the Mediterranean World. The Fertile Crescent wasn’t a crescent at all. It mostly resembled the shape of a dumbbell. God had placed Israel in the center of all the turmoil and action of the ancient world ( Ezekiel 5.5). In many ways, Israel benefitted and, to a degree, controlled the overland trading routes. The powerful and independent Kingdom of Tyre saw this lucrative opportunity when Israel fell to the Babylonians (Ezekiel 26.2). Tyre already controlled the sea routes and, with the addition of this land bridge, would have a monopoly on that region’s trade. All this historical information serves as a backdrop helping readers make sense of the message of the bible.

Do Facts Care about Your Feelings? — Southern Equip

“Facts don’t care about your feelings.” So says the pinned tweet on bestselling author and popular conservative podcast host Ben Shapiro’s Twitter account. Is it a fact that facts don’t care about our feelings? What are our other options? Friedrich Schleiermacher had an answer that Shapiro (and orthodox Christians) wouldn’t appreciate. The father of liberal…

Do Facts Care about Your Feelings? — Southern Equip

The Letter to the Church of Laodicea is Probably Our “Ephesians”

“To the Ephesians,” in bibles of today, is most likely a later addition inserted into the Greek texts. It can be said with certainty that copies of this letter found its way to Ephesus since Paul meant it as a circular letter. A scribe who copied the text probably felt the need to designate it, and since his copy was in Ephesus, thought the letter was addressed to this church. Every church in the region, of course, wanted to retain a copy for itself, and the route of transmission, ultimately, became obscured. Paul ministered in Ephesus for nearly three years and knew the elders of that church intimately, as Acts 20.16ff so poignantly reveals. Eph. 1.15 states that Paul only “heard about their faith,” a statement hardly comporting with Paul’s trials and ministry in that city, along with the Acts 20 episode. There is not one personal reference in the whole of “Ephesians” which diverges from his pattern of personal address in his other epistles.

Here is a very nice map and good background concerning Laodicea:

The cities of Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colosse–all of which are referenced in Colossians 4:13–were located within about 12 miles (19 km) of each other along the Lycus River in the region of Phrygia. Two main Roman roads heading east joined at Laodicea and continued on to Apamea and Iconium. Though Paul almost certainly passed through…

Cities of the Lycus Valley — Bible Mapper Blog

The Ignored Witness of Benevolence

The Gospel Sent Abroad

The Holy Spirit, presumably speaking through the Christian prophets ministering in Antioch, indicated the intent to further the message of Christ in Cyprus and Asia Minor. God commissioned Paul and Barnabas to preach the Gospel, first, to the Jews in the synagogues, and then to everyone else. They were sent by the church, which meant that the church financially supplied them the funds to travel and sustain them. It also seems clear that both the leadership of teachers and prophets, along with the church, would continue to pray for them while Barnabas and Saul (Paul) fulfilled this mission (Acts 13. 1-3). This endeavor, instituted by God, is commonly known as “Paul’s First Missionary Journey.”

After considerable success, along with miraculous signs both on Cyprus and Asia Minor, Barnabas and Paul arrived in Lystra where Paul healed a man lame from birth, who had the faith to be healed, after listening to the message of the Gospel Paul was preaching. This event sparked a misguided reaction among the Pagans of this city. They referred to the apostles as Zeus and Hermes and wanted to sacrifice animals to them thinking they were these gods come down to them. Barnabas and Paul tore their clothes, which, to moderns, probably seems strange.

Excursus on Tearing of Clothes

This “tearing of clothes” seems to be a universal sign of distress and outrage in the bible, along with indicating strong disapproval, the rationale being a ruining of a valuable commodity. Before the invention of modern weaving machines and automation associated with clothing production, all garments were made by hand and thus very costly. All the spinning of yarn, weaving, sewing and assembling the articles of dress were individually made, taking a great deal of manual and meticulous labor. Therefore, to rend one’s garments showed opprobrium in reaction to some saying or event.

The Witness

It almost seems strange after the crowd’s actions that Paul would have the presence of mind to deliver a theological summary of God’s work toward humanity before His sending of the Messiah. Paul, however, seemed to always be immersed in the scriptures, owing to his Jewish upbringing and training, along with studying his scrolls and parchments after his Christian conversion (2Tim. 4.13). Paul insisted to the crowd that he was not special in his nature or righteousness but that the Good News he was bringing had power to save:

“Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.  In past generations he allowed all the nations to follow their own ways;  yet he has not left himself without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14.15-17 NRSV).

Paul insisted that, although God left humans to follow their own imaginings, still He was kind to them. God created mankind and everything to sustain them, even filling them with joy and satisfaction from the good produce He created. Jesus also affirmed this same idea in Mt. 5.45: that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (NIV). This, of course, is an ancient truth, recognized in the Book of Job: Is there any number to his armies? Upon whom does his light not arise? (ESV). The Psalmist also states: The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made (Ps.145.9 ESV).

How did the majority of humans respond to this kindness? Were they kind in return to their fellows and not go to war against them? Did they quit their foolish superstitions and seek the truth? Did they stop relying upon their own devices in their daily lives? Were they forgiving toward others and not exact revenge?

There were some, however, who intersected with the Israelites and turned to God. Judah took Tamar, a Canaanite, and fathered Perez whose line God used to bring Jesus (Mt. 1.3). Possibly, some of the “mixed multitude” who came out of Egypt under Moses converted to the Lord. They were obviously impressed with the one sent to rescue the Israelites from Pharaoh’s power (Ex.11.2). Rahab the harlot hid the Israelite spies and also became an ancestor of the Messiah (Mt.1.5). During the time of David, Uriah the Hittite proved more righteous than David in the instance of Bathsheba (Mt.1.6). Also, David’s guard, the Cherithites and Pelathites were Philistines who possibly converted and intermarried with the Hebrews (1Chron. 18.17). Some of David’s “mighty men” were Gittites, Philistines from Gath, who probably converted to the God of Israel.

Is there an application to Christians today from these accounts of contact with outsiders who turned to the Lord? I believe there definitely is, especially during the era of David who was zealously dedicated to the Lord. God will use those who love Him to touch other needy souls when they see the Lord and His glory displayed in a Christian’s life. As Christians, we need to be faithful and trust Him to touch those with whom we are integrated in our daily lives.

Paul Message to the Athenian Philosophers

During the so-called “Second Missionary Journey of Paul,” he went to the Synagogue and marketplace of Athens and reasoned with whomever would listen. Previously, Paul was distressed because of all the idolatry in this city. It seems that the Athenians’ response to God giving them their very life’s breath did not bear any fruit:

So Paul stood before the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone. From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move about and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ So since we are God’s offspring, we should not think the deity is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by human skill and imagination. Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17. 22-31 NET)

The Athenians’ reaction to Paul’s speech was mixed. Some scoffed, while others wanted to hear about the Message further, and several believed. Therefore, it can be observed that natural revelation, often termed “Common Grace” is not salvific in itself despite the normal expected response. Both in the Lystra incident and at Athens, people remained idolaters, despite God’s goodness toward them. This Common Grace really acted as a confirmation of sinfulness much as good works confirms the filial nature of Christians. It was only after Paul’s faithful preaching that the Spirit worked in some to receive the truth.

Where is the Kingdom of God Presently?

The Kingdom in Heaven

The Kingdom of God is now both in heaven and on earth. However, they are in different guises. Christians are citizens of the New Jerusalem (Gal. 4.26, Phil. 3.20) and are now ambassadors on earth (2Cor. 5.20). Clearly, an ambassador is an alien in the country where they serve; they represent a foreign entity. This is what Abraham was as he stood alone in his relationships with the Egyptians and Philistines, among whom he lived: For he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11.10 NIV). Also, the other heroes of faith that are referenced by the preacher of the sermon that comprises the book of Hebrews: All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (Heb.11.13 NIV).

The Kingdom on Earth

The Kingdom of God on earth is in a compromised condition since it has been infiltrated by the sons of the evil one. Just as in the O.T., there are false prophets and evil people among the saints (2Pet. 2.1, Acts 20.30). Jesus gave three parables in Mt. 13 to describe the Kingdom on earth in the interim of His two appearances. In the parable of the “weeds-zizania” (wheat and tares in some versions), found in vss. 24-30, Jesus indicates that the devil is responsible for this infiltration. Also, these evil people are not to be rooted out by the holy angels until the final disposition (vs.30). These “weeds” (zizania) are characterized as looking like the wheat in its early stages of growth, but, ultimately, they were weeds that were often infected by a fungus, which was a poison that could kill its eaters. This is an apt picture, since those who follow these “weeds” will not be nourished, but, instead, be led astray.

In Vss. 31-32 of Mt. 13 is the “parable of the mustard seed,” which starts out as a small seed, yet grows to the largest garden plant that was typical in that locale. Today, Christianity accounts for 31% of the globe’s demographic and is the largest religion of the world. A feature of this “large tree,” however, is the “birds of the heaven” would find a place to perch in it. This is a reference to evil spirits (who inhabit humans) that still have access to heaven and have not yet received their sentence (see Eph.6.12: “spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies,” among other verses). Earlier in this same chapter, Matthew records Jesus using this same term for the birds who snatched up the seed on the path, in vs.4, and are equated with the devil’s legions (vs. 19).

The earthly Kingdom of God can also be compared to leaven (yeast), which puffs up the wheat dough, in that it appears larger than it really is. In reality, only a few will be saved relative to those who claim Christ. Paul tells the Corinthians to whom he ministered that they were an unleavened loaf, one of substance, like the Passover bread eaten during that festival (1Cor. 5. 6-8). Here, Paul reproves this church for being proud (boasting), which resembles the action of leaven. He tells them to rid themselves of things which pertained to their former life before they came to know the Lord: “malice and wickedness.” It’s not that they were not saved, but that the evil impulse needs to be countered and suppressed in the same way as he would later encourage them in this letter (1Cor.9.24-27).

I realize that, historically, most Christian thinkers have not brought out the negative aspects of the two later parables. Nevertheless, I am not the only one who sees the references to evil contained in these parables.

Characteristics of the Citizens of the Kingdom

Matthew gives two parables of Jesus, in 13.44-46 (“Treasure in the Field” and “Pearl of Great Price”), to show aspects of those who turn to Christ on earth, the real citizens of the Kingdom. These two parables describe the dedication of those, who on earth, have finally found the treasure of Christ after a prolonged search. These parables speak of the characteristic of total surrender of the seekers who found the treasure they were looking for: the truth of the King and His salvation.

The Kingdom’s Net

The Kingdom of God will have many adherents is what the “Parable of the Net” is about, as spoken of in Mt.13. 47-50. This is obviously not about those who claim Christ and those who don’t, since Jesus is speaking about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like (or the Kingdom of God, a synonym). Here, Jesus indicates a division and separation of the righteous and wicked in His Kingdom at the judgment. This net description is like the parable of the weeds since the wicked will be removed first from among the righteous who remain.

Top Ten Discoveries Related to Moses and the Exodus — Bible Archaeology Report

The account of God raising up Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt is one of the most important biblical events. In fact it is the most frequently mentioned event in the entire Old Testament, referred to over 120 times in subsequent stories, laws, poems, Psalms, historical writings and prophecies.1 […]

Top Ten Discoveries Related to Moses and the Exodus — Bible Archaeology Report

Delusional Christians

Its not good enough to only want to be a Christian or claim to be a Christian and not believe the truth. Nearly 70% of U.S. adults claim Christianity but are ignorant of the basics of faith. A Christian is one who knows God intimately by the Spirit of God, a personal being, whom the Son and Father co-indwell as stated in John 17.20-23: My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (NIV).

Those who don’t have the Spirit are not true Christians: You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Rom. 8.9 NIV). Of course it is entirely possible to Have the Spirit but be ignorant about Him or His indwelling. If so, it is an unnecessary and pathetic existence, your choice. The Corinthian Church may have had the same problem, and, if so, were told to test themselves if they were in the faith: Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2Cor. 13.5 NIV).

Also, The Apostle Peter uses words with possibly the strongest admonition (all effort): Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe. 1.10-11 NIV).

Here are the statistics, read it and weep:

The Potter’s Eye

LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps. (Jeremiah 10.23 NIV)

God’s Scrutiny of His Creatures

Here is a brief bible study to trace the revelation of heart’s transparency to God. Perhaps, prior to Samuel, it was not readily recognized from what perspective God tested humans. The book of Hebrews repeats what is revealed both explicitly and implicitly in the Old Testament: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (4.13 NIV). This transparency to God is also recognized by every person who has ever lived (though it is often suppressed): “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” (Ro. 1.19 NIV).

The Era of Samuel the Prophet

The Prophet Samuel, when he went to anoint a replacement for King Saul, thought that David’s oldest brother was the Lord’s choice but God taught him differently: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sa. 16.7 ESV). As far as I can tell from the scriptures, this new explicit truth was revealed first to Samuel, a Levite and prophet, specifically born and chosen to transition Israel from the relative darkness of the era of the Judges to King David who received the Covenant that Messiah would be born of his lineage.

Samuel was a Levite and so could minister in the tabernacle wearing an ephod before the negligent High Priest Eli (1Chron. 6.27-28, 1 Sam. 2.11, 18). The birth of Samuel was auspicious after Hannah’s suffering abuse from her rival (see 1Sam. 1). Hannah’s song and prayer in 1 Sam. 2.1-10 reflect important truths concerning God and His future king. Her song is prophetic in itself noting a coming judgment and king (vs. 10).

Samuel was a pivotal figure raised up to Judge Israel at a critical time in that nation’s history. Samuel’s calling by God in 1Sam. 3 reflects the judgment of Eli the High Priest and his line. God would guide the nation through Samuel until the choice of David the man after God’s own heart. Samuel functioned as Israel’s prophetic leader much the same way as Moses served as a conduit for the Lord’s word during the Egyptian Exodus and subsequent wilderness wanderings. This functional leadership is referenced in Jer. 15.1: Then the LORD said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go! (NIV). Also, in the the book of Acts after Peter healed a man lame from birth preached to the people noting the foundational place Samuel ministry functioned in the prophecy of Messiah’s coming and work of redemption: Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days (Acts 3.24 NIV).

Explicit References After Samuel to God’s Vantage

Again, David (who evidently was taught by Samuel) in Ps. 7.9 affirms this truth: “Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous— you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God!” (ESV). In the book of Proverbs, Solomon reveals the same concept: “Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man!” (15.11 ESV). He (Solomon) also concludes the book of Ecclesiastes after surveying everything under the sun: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (12.14 ESV). All these truths, it seems, were handed down to him by his father David: “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” (1 Chron. 28.9). This Solomon, the wisest man on earth, would later pray at the First Temple’s completion in Jerusalem, the place where God revealed to David that He would place His name forever: “then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind” (2Chron. 6.30 ESV).

Also in the Biblical Prophets God gives Jeremiah this same truth to reiterate to His people: “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (17.10 ESV).

In the New Testament, not only do we have the Book Hebrews affirming heart transparency to God, Paul says the same thing in 1 Cor. 4.5: “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (ESV).

Practical Implications

When talking to others or writing, we do not need to first establish a case for God’s existence or exclusivity. When we set forth Christ, we should just give the word as we know it and testify what Jesus has done for us. All Christians should be ready to give an answer for the hope they have (1Pe. 3.15). Also, the commission Christ gave to His disciples applies to us if we are His disciples (Mt. 28.19-20). Finally, we will only be strong in the Lord and victorious spiritually if we prepare ourselves to speak the gospel to others whenever the Spirit opens the door to hold forth the power of Christ’s redemption (Eph. 6.15).

Book(s) Review and Personal Update

This post is an expansion and replacement of an earlier one. Most of my summer has been sort of hectic and intense in moving house, though some down times, such as plane travel and several times waiting for car fixes, have enabled me to catch up in reading downloaded books. I have read several of Larry Hurtado’s books which cover similar, if not identical ground.

Larry Hurtado’s main works refuted German theologian Wilhelm Bousset who wrote around the turn of the 19th Century. Bousset contended that Christians were influenced by the Greek ideology of many gods, and thus resulted in the inclusion of the worship of Jesus alongside the Father by the church. Bousset’s idea dominated scholarly circles and formed a Religionesgeschichteschule. Hurtado skillfully countered this thought with careful examination of the historical sources and the New Testament itself.

Hurtado’s study traced the worship of Christians instead of merely using Christology, the setting forth beliefs about Jesus from the text. By seeing the devotional practices, rather than what the text affirms, Hurtado thinks new information can be gleaned to help understand how a Monotheistic faith can have the worship of two persons. Hurtado contends that Christians are still Monotheistic along with Jews, with which I agree.

However, if we note in the scriptures how, for example, Moses and Joshua were commanded to take off their footwear in the presence of The Angel of The Lord, then, when recognizing that the Word became flesh, we see a natural progression in the worship of Jesus alongside God. In other words, it’s more of a recognition than innovation that believers now worship Jesus and God. The scriptures indicate from the beginning when the Lord God created mankind in His image, Adam and Eve communed with the Lord in their innocence face to face. This was the eternal Son, The Lord, who was fully God. Also, in the judgment scene after the fall of Adam (Eve was the first sinner but humanity sinned in Adam and not Eve), the man, woman, and serpent had no choice but to appear before the visible Lord. Conversely, God the Father dwells in unapproachable light and cannot be seen by humans. (1Tim. 6.16).

The Spirit of God, the bible contends, is a separate person from God the Father, but one in purpose like an extension (procession – Jn.15.26), if you will. This is seen in the first two verses of Genesis. Likewise, the Lord is the visible representation of the Father. No one but the Son and (presumably) the Spirit has seen the Father: “not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father” (Jn. 6.46).

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus quoted the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Mark 12.29). Paul also affirmed only one God: “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1Cor. 8.6 ESV).

The Son and Spirit are a unity in God and inseparable, since the term “echad” in Dt. 6.4 doesn’t speak of singularity but unity.

Hurtado terms the new worship of Jesus alongside the Father as a “mutation” and an “innovation,” seeing this new cultus as a result of revelations and experiences from God to the early church. My contention is that the cultic worship is a fulfillment, a perfect completion of what has always been the worship of Israel.

The “times of The Lord” are referenced in Lev. 23.1-2: “The Lord spoke to Moses: Speak to the Israelites and tell them, These are the Lord’s appointed times which you must proclaim as holy assemblies – my appointed times” (NET). These assemblies were the redemptive feasts when every Israelite male was required to “appear before The Lord.” They (the feasts) spoke or represented future activities performed by the Son and Spirit. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to be baptized he said “behold, the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.” Christ was crucified at Pesach and has become the Christians’ passover (1Cor. 5.7). Pentecost (Shavuot) was when the Spirit was sent (at 9am during the morning sacrifice) to the nascent church. It is thought by some that Yom Teruah will be the last trumpet (1Cor. 15.52, 1Th. 4.16). Therefore, the feasts of the Jewish people which were part of their cultic worship have been fulfilled in part by Jesus and the Spirit.

Further, one need only read the book of Hebrews to see how Christ was both the true High Priest and sacrifice. The cultic worship of the Jews in the Old Covenant were through the mediation of the priesthood and temple to God. Jesus was the fulfillment of this worship, the greater temple. Therefore, the early Church did not have a mutated worship in their inclusion of Christ in their address and prayer to the Father. Instead, Christ was God’s mystery: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2.2-3 NIV).

Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in the Hellenistic period

The four centuries between the Old Testament (Tanakh) and the Gospels are sometimes called the “Silent Years”. This time period is also known as the …

Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in the Hellenistic period

How Christians Can “Say Something About Jesus”

When this pestilence is abated, bible believing churches should reinstitute weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, if they haven’t done so already. I know many pastors and congregations, recently (in the past 10 years or so), have started to reincorporate this remembrance on a weekly basis. This observance seemed to be established, historically, in observance very early in the Apostolic Era. Acts 20.7: On the first day of the week we came together to break bread (NIV). Here is Paul, Luke, Sopater, Aristarcus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus, Trophimus, with the church at Troas, observing this remembrance and proclamation of Jesus’ death for our redemption.

Initially, the Lord’s people in Roman Judea seemed to recognize the rite as a daily necessity: They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2.46 NIV). Perhaps the early believers saw Christ’s sacrifice fulfilling the 2nd Temple daily sacrifice at 9am and 3pm: Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins (Heb.10.11). The Jewish Temple sacrifices were gracious. Supplicants didn’t have to personally pay for their sins, instead, an innocent victim stood in their place symbolically. In this way (and other ways also), the Jewish scriptures reflect Christ’s work of redemption: Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’ ” (Heb. 10.7 see also Ps.40.7 NIV).

When Christians observe the Lord’s Supper, they are saying something: For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1Cor. 11.26 NIV). Also, if Christians are reluctant to say this among the brethren, how will they ever witness to others? Further, to be prepared to speak the gospel is a vital part of God’s armor to thwart the schemes of the devil; and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. (Eph. 6.15 NIV). This is speaking of being prepared when the Spirit gives opportunity to tell others the gospel.

King Jehoash: An Archaeological Biography — Bible Archaeology Report

Jehoash was the second of four kings who descended from Jehu to reign as king of Israel (Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, and Zechariah); he ruled from ca. 798-782 BC.1 The Bible summarizes his reign this way: In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz began to reign over Israel […]

King Jehoash: An Archaeological Biography — Bible Archaeology Report

Ancient Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals

Gen. 3.15 Cylinder Seal?

Above I have posted a seal impression from the British Museum which seems to be no longer accessible. The pixel count of the above image is much less than the original displayed content. If I am correct on my take of the scene, it refers to the judicial promise/curse of Gen.3.15. Notice the woman picking the fruit while the kingly Messiah tramples the serpent leading humanity to victory.

I contend this biblical promise is referenced in Gen. 4.1 when Eve mistakenly thought she gave birth to the Messiah. Also, I contend Gen. 3.15 is the redemptive origin of the blood sacrifice, the eternal covenant fulfilled by Christ who had His heal pierced by the deadly viper at the crucifixion. The symbolism of blood sacrifice also frames the story of Cain and Abel. It seems that Cain had a first-born animal he was unwilling to sacrifice and brought fruits of the ground instead.

Also, it seems the chaos of God’s original creation brought on by dark forces (Gen. 1.2) was not chargeable since no overt command was broken. Gen. 3.15 provides the judicial sentence upon the serpent since the human couple had died to God (Jn. 5.24, 1 Jn. 3.14, Eph. 2.1, Col.2.13, et al). In Jn. 8.44 Jesus tells us that the devil was a murderer and liar from the beginning giving the rationale for the judicial sentence in Gen. 3.15.

Here is a story from Aramco World featuring The Morgan Library & Museum holder of the world’s largest collection of ancient cylinder seals. The article is very fascinating as is the video which can be found by clicking the “video tab” in the top register.

What Should We Make of Unanswered Prayers? — Southern Equip

Need encouragement to pray? John Calvin once said that “Nothing is better adapted to excite us to prayer than a full conviction that we shall be heard.” That’s why Jesus said things like: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For…

What Should We Make of Unanswered Prayers? — Southern Equip

Top Ten Discoveries Related to Abraham — Bible Archaeology Report

Abraham was the first and greatest of the Hebrew patriarchs; his story unfolds over 15 chapters in the book of Genesis (from Gen. 11:26-Gen. 25:8).  The Lord called him out of his own country to a new land and promised to bless the earth through him (Gen. 12:1-3). In our next top ten list, we’ll […]

Top Ten Discoveries Related to Abraham — Bible Archaeology Report

J. I. Packer on John Owen

If you read nothing else, read J. I. Packer’s introduction to John Owen’s work: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. If a person is struggling in their walk with Christ, the contents of Packer’s essay will save this person much time to find the glorious truth of Christ’s power. As a testimonial, I spent too many years wandering in the wilderness not clear on the nature of the gospel. Perhaps, the best remedy is to read and study the whole bible, prayerfully and consistently. The Spirit will teach His saints the truth from its pages.

The issue at hand is whether Christ merely died for all and that man chooses Him verses that Christ, in magnificent power, brings the sinner to Himself. Packer also gives some guidelines on how to read Owen. It is a relatively long essay, by today’s standard, but profitable as it is long. Packer uses no extraneous words.

I have written contra Owen in a post about understanding what exactly a covenant is. I stand by what I wrote. One can be in agreement in parts with other Christians since no Christian is infallible.

Accuracy in a Complex World

Admittedly, I copied this paragraph from another site’s post who added nothing else except its attribution. The paragraph notes the complexities in ancient 2nd Temple Israel. Our own world is likewise complex. Let us not think earlier times and lives were somehow simply cut and dried and that the bible is elementary; it is not. Yet, accuracy can be achieved despite the complexity and is able to instruct us to the degree that we understand it. Though basic truths lie at the surface and are able to save us through the Spirit’s workings; A fuller and richer understanding awaits those who seek to know God and His dealings in life. This takes effort and rewards its seekers with a sharper focus on what is really important. Salvation is by grace and free which is effortless; but as a baby is born not by itself, yet, in order to grow up it needs directed effort.

The Hebrew and Christian bible is rooted in history attested by texts and other archeological data. This fact is incontrovertible despite the attacks of evil. The bible speaks to our situation to the degree we understand it accurately. It is God’s preserved word. Though this world is evil, He will rule in the midst of His enemies one way or another (Ps. 110.2). The following quote is by George Rawlinson:

The political condition of Palestine at the time to which the New Testament narrative properly belongs, was one curiously complicated and anomalous; it underwent frequent changes, but retained through all of them certain peculiarities, which made the position of the country unique among the dependencies of Rome. Not having been conquered in the ordinary way, but having passed under the Roman dominion with the consent and by the assistance of a large party among the inhabitants, it was allowed to maintain for a while a species of semi-independence, not unlike that of various native states in India which are really British dependencies. A mixture, and to some extent an alternation, of Roman with native power resulted from this arrangement, and a consequent complication in the political status, which must have made it very difficult to be thoroughly understood by any one who was not a native and a contemporary. The chief representative of the Roman power in the East—the President of Syria, the local governor, whether a Herod or a Roman Procurator, and the High Priest, had each and all certain rights and a certain authority in the country. A double system of taxation, a double administration of justice, and even in some degree a double military command, were the natural consequence; while Jewish and Roman customs, Jewish and Roman words, were simultaneously in use, and a condition of things existed full of harsh contrasts, strange mixtures, and abrupt transitions. Within the space of fifty years Palestine was a single united kingdom under a native ruler, a set of principalities under native ethnarchs and tetrarchs, a country in part containing such principalities, in part reduced to the condition of a Roman province, a kingdom reunited once more under a native sovereign, and a country reduced wholly under Rome and governed by procurators dependent on the president of Syria, but still subject in certain respects to the Jewish monarch of a neighboring territory. These facts we know from Josephus and other writers, who, though less accurate, on the whole confirm his statements; they render the civil history of Judaea during the period one very difficult to master and remember; the frequent changes, supervening upon the original complication, are a fertile source of confusion, and seem to have bewildered even the sagacious and painstaking Tacitus. The New Testament narrative, however, falls into no error in treating of the period; it marks, incidentally and without effort or pretension, the various changes in the civil government—the sole kingdom of Herod the Great,—the partition of his dominions among his sons,—the reduction of Judaea to the condition of a Roman province, while Galilee, Ituraea, and Trachonitis continued under native princes,—the restoration of the old kingdom of Palestine in the person of Agrippa the First, and the final reduction of the whole under Roman rule, and reestablishment of Procurators as the civil heads, while a species of ecclesiastical superintendence was exercised by Agrippa the Second. Again, the New Testament narrative exhibits in the most remarkable way the mixture in the government—the occasional power of the president of Syria, as shown in Cyrenius’s “taxing”; the ordinary division of authority between the High Priest and the Procurator; the existence of two separate taxation—the civil and the ecclesiastical, the “census” and the “didrachm;” of two tribunals, two modes of capital punishment, two military forces, two methods of marking time; at every turn it shows, even in such little measures as verbal expressions, the coexistence of Jewish with Roman ideas and practices in the country—a coexistence which (it must be remembered) came to an end within forty years of our Lord’s crucifixion.

Separating the Wheat From the Chaff

Labeling people with generalist classifications often leads to pigeonholing them wrongly. For instance, Jesus was thought to be closely aligned with the Pharisees early in His ministry. He held Pharisaical positions such as the resurrection from the dead and acceptance of the Prophets and Writings along with the Pentateuch. The other major 2nd Temple Jewish Sect, the Sadducees, believed only in earthly life and its consequences without any kind of afterlife.

Jesus, however, had to differentiate Himself from the Pharisees as a group since they were not correct in all of the beliefs or practices. When the disciples informed Him that the Pharisees were offended in a particular point of His teaching about defilement, He called them blind guides and that the twelve should have no dealings with them (Mt. 15. 1-13). Later, in Mt. 23 Jesus condemned their hypocrisy. Yet, after the ascension, when Jesus chose someone to be an instrument to proclaim His name to the Gentiles, kings, and the people of Israel (Acts 9. 15), He chose Saul (Paul) the Pharisee and transformed him. Later, Paul did not see any contradiction in being a Pharisee and a Christian (Acts 23.6). Paul took the good out of the bad and still clung to the basic doctrinal positions of resurrection and belief of all of the scriptures.

May we today not lump together disparate people and label folks because they espouse certain things that generally heretical groups believe when those positions are correct. The chaff will retain some wheat just as the wheat will retain some chaff.

The Mechanisms of Establishing the Old Testament Text

Peter J. Gentry has an article dealing with how and why the present shape of the Old Testament exists. The article is fairly comprehensive and technical but very readable for any layperson familiar with the bible. One does not need to analyze all his technical charts he presents, from himself or others, to fully grasp the points he is making. He writes in a very straightforward manner. I believe the article has great explanatory power and have benefitted from it probably more than any other work on this topic either in writing or speech. He says just enough in 20 pages along with about 7 pages of footnotes.

The Accurate Transmission of the New Testament

Timothy N. Mitchell explains some of the issues of how the authorial text was preserved. This is a great read. I have been following his own blog for the last several years and am very sympathetic to his thesis in this article. Enjoy!