James R Edwards answers the question: ‘Why do you think Matthew used Luke?’ James Edwards is Bruner-Welch Professor Emeritus of Theology, Whitworth University, Spokane, WA. The following is an extract from James R Edwards: The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Gospel Tradition (Eerdmans, 2009) pp.245-252Matthean Posteriority“Posteriority,” a rarely used antonym of “priority,” needs a word of interpretation. The historical-critical method…
God’s transcendence is beyond our power to imagine it. But even to make that statement we must have in our minds some idea of what the term transcendence means and how it might apply to God. Further, Scripture tells us that God is “high and lifted up.” Theologians and preachers have an obligation to expound…
[Lately, renovation and repairs are taking much of my time, so, I cannot read and post as much as I want.]
Christians, I notice, are still divided on the meaning of monogenas (only begotten). Jesus was unique, absolutely, but, that does not mean monogenas means “one of a kind,” or “unique.” Just because it fits, doesn’t mean, “it fits together.”
The kicker, for me, remains: that the church of the first few centuries knew their language (Koine Greek) better than we do today and formulated ideas found in Scripture based on that understanding. The Nicean Creed did not see a temporal aspect of begetting; instead, it referred to an eternal state (“not made”). There was never a time when The Father didn’t have The Son (or The Spirit).
Here are some quotes from Gregory Nazianzen, Athanasius, and Cyril of Jerusalem on this:
The eternal generation of the Son is “beyond the sphere of time, and above the grasp of reason” (Gregory Nazianzen, Third Theological Oration, NPNF2 7.302).
“Let every corporeal inference be banished on this subject” (Athanasius, De decretis 24, NPNF24.166).
“Whereas it is proper to men to beget in time, from the imperfection of their nature, God’s offspring is eternal, for His nature is ever perfect” (Athanasius, Against the Arians I.14, NPNF2 4.315).
“Authors of blasphemy, verily, are these foes of God! who, sooner than confess that the Son is the Father’s Image, conceive material and earthly ideas concerning the Father Himself, ascribing to Him severings and effluences and influences. If God be not a man, as He is not, we must not impute to Him the attributes of a man” (Athanasius, Against the Arians I.21, NPNF2 4.319).
Here I paraphrase Athanasius: The Arians ask “silly women” if they had a son before bearing one. And since it is obvious that women do not have sons before they bear them, they apply the same to the Son and conclude that the Son did not exist before his generation. But they might as well ask an architect whether they build without materials, and then conclude that God could not make the universe without materials. Or ask every man if he can be without place, and then conclude that God is confined in place. “… till they end in groveling with Manichees” (Athanasius, Against the Arians I.22-23, NPNF2 4.320).
“God is not a man; for men beget passibly, having a transitive nature, which waits for periods by reason of its weakness. But with God this cannot be; for He is not composed of parts, but being impassible and simple, He is impassibly and indivisibly Father of the Son … That none may think of the Offspring humanly, while signifying His essence, [Scripture] also calls Him Word, Wisdom, and Radiance, to teach us that the generation was impassible, and eternal, and worthy of God” (Athanasius, Against the Arians I.28, NPNF2 4.322-3).
“On hearing of a Son, understand it not merely in an improper sense, but as a Son in truth, a Son by nature, without beginning … a Son eternally begotten by an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation … God is a Spirit; He who is a Spirit has spiritually begotten, as being incorporeal, an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation … And whenever you hear of God begetting, sink not down in thought to bodily things, nor think of a corruptible generation, lest you be guilty of impiety. God is a Spirit, His generation is spiritual: for bodies beget bodies, and for the generation of bodies time needs must intervene; but time intervenes not in the generation of the Son from the Father” (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 11.4-7, NPNF2 7.64-6).
NPNF2 = Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, edited by Schaff and Wace.
Here is a five part series by Lee Irons defending the original understanding of this crucial term: http://upper-register.typepad.com/blog/eternal-generation-of-son/
N.T. scholar Craig Evans, in a video making the rounds on some blogs, asserts that John’s Gospel is a summation of Jesus’s Synoptic Gospels sayings put into a paraphrase-like text. While I agree with him about the need for modern readers to be open to questions of genre and be sensitive against bringing preconceived expectations while studying the text, to try to fit G-John into the Synoptic Gospels is not warranted. For one thing, John’s Gospel has too many time stamps which belie Evan’s hypothesis.
Also, I wish to counter this position by noting John’s Gospel in 20.30 speaks of many other signs given specifically to His disciples which were not recorded. Also, in 21.25, John asserts that Jesus performed so many miracles (things), that the world could not contain all the books recording those events. This last statement is undoubtedly hyperbole but shows that John and the other Gospel writers were not attempting to produce comprehensive historical documents.
Lydia McGrew also counters: http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2018/09/the_messianic_secret_argument.html
Here are some ancient keys, a door knob (center), and the remains of the mechanism (upper right) which would have probably be nailed to a large wooden door.
Courtesy of Allard Pierson Museum
These keys are typical of ones found during the period of the Roman Empire which is the Early Christian Era. However, keys were known even earlier in the Kingdom of Judah, as reflected in Isaiah 22.22 where Eliakim son of Hilkiah is prophesied to be given the key to the House of David. This key, Isaiah tells us, gives power so that “what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” Jesus is the One whom this prophecy ultimately refers, as seen in Rev. 3.7-8 where Jesus promises the church at Philadelphia to use this key, giving them the same benefit. So some keys, in the N.T., only Jesus carries. Another key that belongs exclusively to Jesus, is the key to death and Hades. In Rev. 1.18, Jesus describes Himself as the “Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever.” He then claims to possesses “the keys to death and Hades,” which, presumably, shows the ability to grant everlasting life to humans and control of the nether regions to carry away those belonging to Him. Also, the ability to keep imprisoned those who are not His seems implicit. Unquestionably, the The Eternal Son always possessed immortality, but the incarnated Son of Man, who took upon himself our humanness, needed to be given eternal life (“I was dead”) as the second Adam. At least this is how I understand the human aspect of the second Adam. Henceforth, he is able to grant this same eternal life to His followers whom He represents.
These keys, belonging to Jesus, seem to be different from the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” given to Peter and the other disciples in Mt. 16.19 (and probably Mt. 18.18). Only in Mt. 16 are they referred to as “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” without explanation of what exactly is being bound and loosed. In Mt. 18, the retention of sins to the unrepentant in the Christian community is the thing bound. This is instruction about church discipline from Jesus. Ultimate intransigence would lead to a break in fellowship (vs. 17). An intermediate step in the process would be denial of the table of bread and wine since this occurred every Lord’s Day. It would prevent further judgement upon the offender, since, the observance carries inherent risk of punishment when partaken improperly (see 1 Cor. 11.27-32). Loosing of sins is always available to those who ask for forgiveness (vss. 21-22). based upon my understanding, the keys in Mt. 16 and 18 are identical.
Jesus seems to reiterate this teaching when He appears to His disciples on the evening of resurrection day saying they all possessed the power to either forgive or retain sins (Jn. 20.23). Here, this seems to be part of an evangelistic function when people truly accept the message of Christ. Perhaps this is part of the “all authority in heaven and on earth” spoken about in Mt. 28.18. No longer would worshippers need to formally bring a sacrifice to the priests in Jerusalem to have their sins forgiven. The High Priesthood of Jesus is inaugurated and the typological sacrifices at the central sanctuary have now been fulfilled.
This oil lamp is displayed in The Allard Pierson Museum of The University of Amsterdam. The Staurogram is similar to the Egyptian Ankh which is thought to signify life or eternity. The Staurogram offers a physical likeness of crucifixion and was used by the early church as a monogram on items, such as this oil lamp, indicating their faith.
Also, the Staurogram was used in early biblical texts as an abbreviation for the word stauros (cross). Early N.T. manuscripts such as the papyri P45, P66, and P75 use a staurogram to physically depict Jesus on the cross at relevant places where the word stauros is used. Other Nomina Sacra were also used as abbreviations in manuscripts, such as the word for Christ and God, but only the staurogram offers a likeness in form of what the word stauros means.
Larry Hurtado gives a great overview of the staurogram in this article: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/the-staurogram/
Introduction and Elaboration of New Covenant Principles
For the growing and mature Christian, the Filioque Controversy is of tremendous importance. This theological question is the most important issue in the 2000-year history of the Christian community. Here are areas which the question affects:
First, the understanding about God. This is important because the point of redemption is to reconcile us with our Creator, Redeemer, and Friend. He is the One who is from the beginning (1Jn. 2.13,14). The Ever-Existing One of all eternity. Knowing God’s nature and love toward us is what redemption is all about. Jesus prayed in His last recorded formal intercession of Jn. 17.21-23 that the disciples would be one with the Father and Himself. Just as The Father was with Jesus, so, henceforth, the disciples would have God with them internally forever. This was an aspect of the promised New Covenant that all of God’s people would know Him personally, moment by moment (See Jer. 31.33 cf. 1Jn. 2.20). It is accomplished by the formal sending of The Spirit at Pentecost (Shavuot). This was the covenanting with the House of Israel and the House of Judah fulfilling the time of this typological feast. All original Christians were Jewish and God used the Feasts as “the times of the Lord” (Lev. 23.2,44).
Most bible translations of Lev. 23. 2,44 have “feasts” instead of “times.” However, The Hebrew has “times” and these two verses form an inclusio, a type of bracketing or an envelope. This envelope contains feasts at different “times,” which speak of a greater significance than apparent. The Sabbath and other feasts and observances project an outline of redemptive prophecy and fulfillment. The Sabbath Rest (Heb. 4.9-11), Christ our Passover (1Cor. 5.7), the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2.1-4), Trumpets (1 Th. 4.16), Yom Kippur (Day of the Lord), Tabernacles (Millenium).
Samaritans and Gentiles would be included after the Spirit teaches the disciples the larger efficacy of Christ’s atonement. The 11 Disciples could not learn everything while Jesus was with them, probably because they lacked the capacity, and Christ’s message was so different from the misconceptions prevalent in their society. The fact of the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Olive Tree (Rom. 11.17) had to wait until they were taught by the Spirit. This was probably part of “the many things” they could not bear referenced in Jn. 16.12-13.
Second, authority in the Christian community. Are there ultimate human authority figures whom the Christian should obey? This is the claim that a church official can authoritatively determine doctrine or speak infallibly. As before, The New Covenant gives the answer to the question, but, in this case, comprehensively. The Spirit guides us; therefore, in an ultimate sense, we need no other teachers (see 1 Jn. 2.27). God teaches and guides us, since, ultimately, He is our Judge. Further, The New Covenant specifically delineated that the human intervening authorities would be eclipsed when this new reality was in place. Jer. 31.34 states that the friends and neighbors would no longer function as teachers and mediators. These “friends and neighbors” were the Aaronic Priests and Levites who were living among all the other 11 tribes of Israel and who taught regulations and performed the various sacrifices for the people at the central sanctuary. Being “neighbors” they could teach the Israelites aspects of God’s Law to the communities where they dwelt. The central sanctuary, where these priests offered sacrifices for sins, would no longer be needed in the High Priesthood of Jesus. Since Jesus fulfilled the Passover (the angel of death has passed over them), fellowship offerings by His followers is through prayer and trust in Him (Heb. 6.19). Both individually and collectively believers are a temple where God dwells through the Spirit.
The Filioque Clause
For the bible student, the historical details of the Filioque Controversy, hardly need to be studied to understand the concept. This is only reception history and not what God has once for all given: the text of the bible. Yes, we may learn from previous Christians; however, both in an individual and group sense, disciples do not always grasp the full extent of every teaching the first few times they hear it. We should know better today than previous generations. The scriptures contain what is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Semper Reformata.
The “filioque” clause means: “and from the Son.” This was what some in the Western Church (Roman Catholic) wanted to add to The Nicean Creed where it speaks of the Spirit proceeding from the Father. They wanted to affirm that the Spirit proceeds both from the Father and the Son. The Western Pope spoke authoritatively that the Spirit proceeded from the Son and set the stage for controversy. The Eastern Church (Orthodox) resisted this attempt and ultimately split from the Roman Church in 1054 CE.
The Procession of The Spirit
I believe the scriptures teach the Spirit only proceeds from the Father. This is the Eastern Church’s position. I do not subscribe to everything this church teaches, but, I believe, they are correct on this issue.
From a typological perspective, it was the Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and alighting on Jesus at His baptism. If the Spirit proceeds from Jesus the same as from the Father, why did the Spirit come from heaven to inaugurate Christ’s ministry? It seems best to view the Spirit’s origin as proceeding from the Father in heaven.
Of all the biblical statements, Jn. 15.26 is the most definitive in its scope: But when the Counselor arrives, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who goes forth from the Father, He will bear witness about Me. Even though Jesus sends the Spirit in His new ministry in the disciples, its crystal clear that the Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Greek text shows the the Spirit’s procession from the Father even stronger than my English translation. Para (from) is used twice while the verb ekporeuetai (goes forth, proceeds) is definitive of the Spirit’s origin. The act of sending, in itself, is not indicative of origination. An agent may function temporarily without any reference to the agent’s original source.
All other texts such as Jn. 16.13-15 show sending and not origination. The Spirit is eternal but acts in time and completes different missions which none refer to its source. Philosophical arguments claiming procession from the Son do not overcome the clear statements of Jn. 15.26.
Of course, the Father sends the Spirit also, and, in an ultimate sense, God cannot be divided. However, Jesus almost seems at pains, in Jn. 15.26, to indicate the Spirit’s source is from the Father. The whole concept of “Father” almost demands it. Just as Jesus is eternally generated from the Father, so the Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and neither concept, in scripture, is the other way around. The Father fathers the Son and Spirit eternally.
The New Covenant is poorly understood today. Part of the problem is terminology. A covenant in today’s parlance involves obligations from both parties of an agreement. The covenants spoken of in the bible are not a covenant like we think of today. It is a testament of benefits to those in Christ. Christ has died and left a will to the beneficiaries. A testament records the tangible things we have in Christ and are recorded in 27 books, which comprise Gospels, letters, and a historical narrative (Acts of the Apostles). Christians refer to these books as the New Testament. This is good terminology as long as it is understood properly. The actual New Testament is The New Covenant which was promised in Jer, 31.31 and many other places in the O.T. It is correct to say the 27 books list the benefits of Christ’s will to the beneficiaries and are The New Covenant. They are the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice for the beneficiary: the Christian. Church officers, creeds, confessions are all subject to the words of scripture finally contained in the 27 books of The New Testament.
The Old (Mosaic) Covenant was very similar to the New Covenant because the benefits were forgiveness and fellowship. When the bible speaks of The Law of Moses, for the most part, it speaks of the regulations concerning the Jewish Temple, Aaronic Priesthood, and of the sacrifices. Everyone broke the regulations of the Mosaic Law, such as the Ten Commandments and other performance rules, either internally or externally. This is why heart-circumcision was needed (see Gen. 17 where circumcision is inaugurated and described as a “sign”) and not only the external rite. The Law of Moses consisted of the prescribed means of restoring fellowship with God who would in turn bless them. It did not consist of keeping the ethical rules more perfectly as the way for acceptance. Instead, the Law of Moses presented shadows (Heb. 8.5) of Christ in the cultic aspects (Temple culture: the care in keeping the true representation) of the priesthood, the festivals and Sabbaths, and, most of all, the sacrifices.
The clearest description of a covenant is Heb. 9.16-18 where a will is discussed. The word “will” is the same as “covenant” elsewhere: diatheke. It speaks of a covenant being in force only after the death of the party who made it. Both the Old and New Covenants were represented by the substitutionary death of an innocent victim. The book of Hebrews, especially ch. 9, defines a covenant. Covenant sacrifice established a relationship with God and was inaugurated immediately after the Fall in Eden. Also, Christ’s priesthood resembled Melchizedek’s who may have embodied a sacrifice (apparent deadly wounds) since he had neither beginning or end of days; therefore, he could forecast atonement by means of an indestructible life. Hence, this theopany (Melchizedek) could bring out bread and wine (like the symbols of The New Covenant) because a relationship and fellowship with Abraham was already established. Likewise, only Christians are allowed to partake in the bread and wine of The Lord’s Supper.
Peter Lorenz has another installment arguing for Mary’s genealogy in Luke’s Gospel. Utilizing primary sources Peter shows from history that the early Christians held that Luke gives Mary’s lineage.
It is likely that Jesus was known as from David’s line through Joseph because many times He was referred as “the Son of David.” Those who acclaimed Him as such probably thought Joseph was His real father. They did not necessarily need to know the complete stories of Matthew and Luke to recognize Jesus as Messiah since the signs accompanying Jesus’s ministry would have sufficed.
Contextually, Luke has been showing for most of the first two chapters the miraculous virgin conception and birth of Jesus. Jesus was not a spirit who only appeared human but was fully man as Luke gives His lineage to Adam at the onset of Christ’s ministry. The primary target audience for Luke would be Greeks (Hellenism-whether Jewish or Pagan) with their humanity-focus; and therefore Luke needs to show Christ’s connection to the first human.
The verb nomidzo (supposed) in Lk. 3.23 strongly shows His virgin birth and is parenthetical. In the modern convention of myopic, immediate reference, Luke’s phrasing sounds strange to our ears. We, today, would normally think Heli was Joseph’s father whereas Luke is relying on the reader to be more contextual with his previous material.
As preserved by Origen, Celsus is one of our earliest writers to comment on the genealogies of Jesus. Celsus’s failure to mention any conflict between the genealogies appears to support the view that no conflict was perceived in the second-century context in which he wrote. But if we follow Origen, Celsus seems to have known…
Pete Lorenz has written an excepted post of his longer essay, which deals with Luke’s genealogy in the early Uncial Manuscript “D”. Here, he notes the almost universal early acceptance of Mary’s genealogy, in Luke 3. Justin Martyr is the focus in this post. Females in first century Judea, had a genealogy, just like males since Elizabeth was “from the daughters of Aaron,” in Lk. 1.5. Her offspring would, however, follow the husband’s line. Jesus was virgin born; therefore, Luke traces Mary’s line to show fulfillment of 2 Sam. 7.11-17. This was The Davidic Covenant whose ultimate fulfillment referred to the Messiah. I plan to write another post on this topic from a theological point of view. Lorenz does a fine job tracing the history of interpretation of Luke’s genealogy in the early Christian Church:
Writing in the first half of the third century, Julius Africanus is our earliest writer to raise the two genealogies of Jesus as a potential apologetic issue.1 But before Africanus, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and apparently even Celsus all refer to the two genealogies, yet mention not a word about any conflict between them. Thus, Origen takes…
Redemption Under the Mosaic Law
Jesus was born under the Law for the purpose of redeeming those under the Law (the Jews), and adopting them as children, since they were in slavery under rules of scripture. One reason that the Mosaic Law was given was so that folks would recognize the sin principle inside them. However, the Mosaic Law provided a remedy for sin, by sacrifice, which foreshadowed Christ’s death on the cross. Sin would be confessed with the hands placed on the head of a suitable living animal. The priest would then offer the victim on the bronze altar at the Israelite Tabernacle/Temple Complex. The worshiper would partake of some of that sacrifice which meant they were now at peace with God by sharing this meal. This is how God established a relationship with people in The Mosaic Law (Ps. 50.5). Of course, God chose and knew every person who truly trusted in Him. He gave saving faith and probably regenerated them by the Spirit (but not in the same sense as today). They may have also understood the significance of the sacrifice in their heart but this point is difficult to establish from today’s perspective.
Fulfilling the Law
The Law is good in that it sets God’s holy standard. But it exposes our need since we fail to live up to it. The scriptural commandments could not save us in themselves but instead were a prison of sorts (see Gal. 3.19,22). However, Jesus kept the Law perfectly, and, through faith in Him, Christians are justified. Gentiles were never under the Mosaic Law (see Rom. 3.19). Instead, Gentiles were enslaved to false gods whose worship entailed a similar bondage of performance (Gal. 4.8-9).
Christians are enabled by the Spirit to fulfill the Law’s requirements: Loving God and our fellow humans. This summary was already delineated in the Mosaic Law and therefore is not a reductionist idea. A special love is also commanded for those in the New Covenant Community which involves helping poor and suffering Christians to some degree today. Some want to extend this care as God’s service to all the poor in the world since salvation is open to all. Of course, Christians should be kind to everyone but the special love as service is only for the family of faith. This idea corresponds to the principle of care of others in O.T. Israel and Jesus’s day. To some degree, this care showed evidence of regeneration. Jesus’s commandment to Christians is still that they love one another (see 1 John 4.19-5.1).
The Promised Seed
The original promise of this seed, who was to finally crush the serpent’s head, was cryptically given as a parable in the sentence upon the spiritual entity behind the serpent who deceived Eve. Gen. 3.15 tells us that this seed would also have his heel pierced which was a death blow from the viper. Rom. 9.5 gives the general reason why God chose Abraham: the physical conduit to bring the Messiah. Through the Messiah all humanity would be blessed.
Earlier in Galatians (3.15-17) Paul tells us that the Mosaic Law could not add a condition to the promise given to Abraham. It was a fixed blessing to Abraham and his seed (Christ). Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Therefore, those of faith in Christ are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
The First and Second Adam
How this blessing came about is explicitly explained in Galatians along with the backdrop of divine revelation. Adam had failed one command and so plunged humanity into sin and death since death was the stated consequence. There were no recorded transgressions by Adam’s subsequent descendants, in a technical sense, before the Mosaic Law was given, yet, everyone died since they derived from, or were in Adam (see Rom. 5.13-14). This is what some refer to as original sin which is acceptable terminology if understood correctly. Jesus was the second Adam and so needed to prove His fitness in keeping a perfect standard. This was one of the functions of the Mosaic Law and provided a promise of (eternal) life, if kept flawlessly (see Gal. 3.12 and Lev. 18.5). Also, Jesus specifically answers the lawyer’s question of obtaining eternal life in Lk. 10.25 cf. v.28).
The Tree of Life
The presence of the Tree of Life in the Edenic Garden constituted the promise of eternal life for humanity but it was withdrawn after the Fall. Though Adam and Eve were redeemed, their descendants would be born separated from God, and, hence, spiritually dead. Each person needs individual redemption. The removal of the Tree of Life was an act of mercy so not to fix them in eternal conscious separation from God. Adam was created mortal; hence, the Tree of Life was in the garden to, presumably, give him immortality upon passing the obedience test. Now, through Christ, who obeyed Moses’s Law, the curse is lifted, since He became a curse for us (Gal. 3.13) and access granted to this Tree of Life along with removal of the curse (Rev. 22.2-3).
An official from Capernaum had a son who was near death. He had heard that Jesus had returned to Galilee from Judea since Jesus always attended each of the three annually required feasts of the Jews.
This official traveled 15 miles one-way to Cana from Capernaum since this seemed to be a regular place where Jesus met. Cana was near Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, and home of Nathaniel. He also was invited to a wedding feast in this town and performed the notable miracle of turning water to wine. Jesus may have had relatives in Cana since he had four brothers and at least two sisters. It is quite possible the celebration was for one of Jesus’s siblings since His mother directed the servant to ask Jesus about the lack of wine for the occasion.
Now, the official asks Jesus to heal his son, but Jesus addresses the crowd since the referent “you” is plural (twice). Perhaps Jesus wanted to test the sincerity of the request instead of going to heal the son. The official asked again, probably earnestly since he believed Jesus when He told him to return and that his son would recover, and when servants met him, they confirmed the time of healing as being the time of his interview with Jesus.
The general rebuke of “unless you see signs and miracles, you will never believe” characterized many insincere followers since they had seen the signs but had not taken them to heart to recognize the significance (see John 6.26). In fact, Jesus had been performing signs everywhere He went. His initial function was to witness to Jewish society the power of God authenticating both His person and mission. This is why he traveled to different towns so more would see His arrival as the time of God revisiting Israel fulfilling the promises. Even John the Baptist was puzzled by the first phase of Jesus’s ministry since, as part of the family of priests, John recognized the role of the Messiah as being a sin offering (probably also as supplanting the first priesthood with the superior Melchizedekian of Ps. 110). John’s first two descriptions of Jesus was: “the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” (see John 1.29, 36). So, when John the Baptist heard of signs such as Jesus raising the widow’s son from the dead in the town of Nain, he sent inquiring whether or not He was the Messiah. Though some have interpreted this incident differently, the evidence points to John’s unfulfilled expectation of Jesus’s self sacrifice. However, The Messiah’s Advent was not uni-dimensional but multifaceted since Jesus had to accomplish many things before returning to His Father.
The Pharisees wanted to test Jesus by have Him perform a sign on demand. This is what Jesus was decrying: a self referential type of proof by their own standards. This is what many atheists today want: a sort of testing by the senses of sight, hearing, or otherwise. This is self-referential, an acting like a god, such as if they cannot register the data by their own standards, they reject the presentation. However, would the Pharisees of Jesus’s day or the atheists today be satisfied by a sign on demand? Of course not! They would want more signs and testing ad infinitum. These individuals will pass away, of course, while Christ rules forever.
Finally, the message of Christ is a stumbling block to Jews in Paul’s day as during the time of Christ only a few years earlier. In 1Cor. 1.22, the unbelieving Jews are still demanding a sign, such as their wishful preconception of a Messiah who will conquer for them. In their minds, it’s all about themselves. However, historically, only a remnant of Jews were saved in each era as the O.T. accounts relate. So also today a remnant exists from the Jewish people, those who regard the so-called weakness of Christ in crucifixion as stronger than human strengths (1Cor. 1.25). The Gentiles too only have a remnant since most of them generally think it absurd for God to self sacrifice Himself for humans (notice how many people seek to do or be something as merit), and so too, only a few of them truly accept Christ.
Again, Steve Hays does a good job illustrating vicarious atonement. He also relates substitution to the principle of asymmetrical agency:
Romans chapter 5 notes the similarities and contrasts regarding aspects of Headship. “Headship” is the theological concept of how humans are both condemned in Adam and justified in Christ. I once had the whole of Romans 5 memorized but now can only recite the first 8 verses. I am working slowly to regain the whole again or at least through verse 11 since its a good exhortation for daily life.
Romans 5 presents the big picture in Paul’s theological treatise to the Christians at Rome. I’ve written before about the Split Headship view which is self evident by merely reading this chapter. Humans have a natural connection to Adam but are represented by Christ in His substitutionary death for us. I want to touch on a connected topic of Headship found in Romans 5: Adam the “type.”
The second and last Adam (Jesus) is, of course, the antitype or fulfillment of the purpose of human creation. Heb. 2.7 tells us that humans were only temporarily created to be lower than the angels. So, how will humans to achieve this higher status? The answer is eternal union with Christ through redemption. Christ’s death was planned before the foundation of the world at probably the first day when, in a metaphorical sense, light was separated from darkness (but possibly before). It seems because the non-elect angels’ positions were forfeited, Christ is now filling those positions with replacements intimately connected with Him. Therefore, job openings are available, so run the race with endurance to claim the prize.
Steve Hays has written a good defense on absolute predestination. His dialogue partner is Leighton Flowers who is a freewill theist. I think its a good apology for what the bible teaches about the ultimate power and sovereignty of God. God’s greatness no one can fathom the bible tells us. Also, David tells us in the Psalms that all his days were determined before David came to be.
Besides God’s greatness He is also absolutely good to His creatures even those who hate Him by their words and deeds. God still causes the sun to shine on the just and unjust alike and also sending the blessings of rain on both of their crops. God will however punish the unredeemed eternally by wiping them out forever. Eternal punishment does not necessarily mean eternal torment, it could just mean ultimate destruction. Jesus speaks to the conditions of Gehenna when saying: “their worm does not die or the fire quenched.” He doesn’t say that those whose end is punishment never cease to exist. In Josephus’ day most religious Jews believed in eternal torment of the wicked after death, he tells us, but this is hardly any proof for the doctrine since Jesus had to correct the generally erroneous teaching of that day. For Christians immediately after the era of the Apostles, several church fathers seemed to believe in the annihilation of the wicked including Irenaeus and Ignatius. Here is a post in which I deal with the final disposition of the wicked:
The concepts of meticulous providence and annihilation of the wicked align well together since if God is teaching His people and preparing them for glory, then it makes sense, in God’s goodness, to destroy the wicked after they are punished for their evil since their purpose has been fulfilled: What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— (Rom. 9.22-23)
August 1st, 2018 Proselytism has become a bad word. Like fundamentalism or exclusivism, in today’s religious language, only the negative overtones of the term are retained and are used to convey a derogatory understanding of its meaning. In its original Greek context, the word simply meant “coming closer” to something. In the New Testament, a…
Cessationism in Christian theology is the belief that the sign gifts, such as speaking in tongues, have ceased. I offer two main arguments:
I have spoken in tongues once but it was not the biblical gift described in scripture. I was by myself and in an emotional frenzy as a naive and eager new Christian. This happened over 45 years ago and was influenced by supposedly Christian leaders who taught this doctrine of “tongue speaking.” Therefore, I am not in the dark about the phenomenon. This false event can be produced by any emotionally worked up individual it seems and has been reported among many non-Christians. Therefore, it is hardly the N.T. gift where someone speaks an intelligible language they have never learned.
Secondly, Paul gives the purpose for this specific sign in 1Cor. 14.21-25 (The whole chapter should be read to avoid abuses-it is clear that today’s practitioners do not adhere to Paul’s directions). The specific purpose of tongues (real languages) is for a certain class of unbelievers (Jewish unbelievers). This is clear since Paul quotes a section of the O.T. which is specific to the people of Israel and uses the Hebrew “ammim” which is the designation for them, “the people.” The Jews were the people of God and all others were the Goyim, “the nations.”
Paul quotes Is. 28.11-12 to say that tongues fulfills this prophecy in a general sense. Yes, 3000 were added to the church at Pentecost and for sure many elsewhere. However, the nation as a whole did not accept this miracle of the ability to speak an unlearned language as the sign of God’s working by sending the Paraclete.
Notice also that Paul’s hypothetical of vss. 23-25 would fail his initial argument if taken at face value. The unbelievers responded to prophecy not tongues. Paul here is speaking of Gentile unbelievers observing a Christian gathering. No practicing Jew would ever engage in seeking out what they would regard a Pagan assembly. No, Paul went to the Jewish synagogues first to try to reach them and later established churches of both former Jews and Gentiles. Jews always kept separate as a rule from non-Jewish religion during this time frame after the Babylonian Captivity. It was a pedantic type of observance though without any deep analysis of the truth of the gospel.
Therefore, for these reasons, tongues have ceased since roughly the end of the first century when the greater bulk of The Diaspora would have been told of Christ and known about the new reality of the church which overturned society in a way never experienced: the indwelling of Christ in believers through the Spirit.
As a final sub point, church history is eerily silent for tongues after the Apostles’ passing. Therefore, the modern phenomenon, which was so popular in the recent century, was not the biblical sign spoken of in Acts and 1 Corinthians.
It’s been a while since I’ve read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis but the message is clear and needs hearing more today than ever. Whatever one may think of C.S. Lewis, his satire was incisive. This sequel from Desiring God site is timely and gives a glimpse of Lewis’ original genius.
This probable depiction of Caesar is relatively unknown in popular media:
(Allard Pierson Museum)
This depiction of the Ptolemaic Egyptian monarch is regarded as generally accurate by many:
(Allard Pierson Museum)
Here is a representation with some colored highlights of what some regard as genuine to his costume:
(Allard Pierson Museum)
Here is a representation of Alexander which is regarded as exceptionally faithful of the Greek conqueror:
(Allard Pierson Museum)
In five instances the writers of the New Testament refer to John the Baptist’s statement that he was unfit to loose the sandal from the Messiah’s foot. Matthew’s account uses the term “carry” (3.11) which action logically occurs after untying them for the purpose of storage. The other references are found in Mk. 1.7, Luke 3.16, John 1.27, and Acts 13.25.
While observant Jews in Palestine would not participate in the practices of the Roman forces stationed among them, the current foot technology probably was adopted for practical reasons. No biblical prohibition existed dealing with such a mundane need as good footwear. So it seems natural to expect that Israelites would utilize the same approximate technology. Please notice the bucket of scrolls in the last picture which may have been the typical method of storage for written documents.
Most Christian readers of the bible are familiar with the discouragement of excessive hair ornamentation from the Apostle Peter. He wanted women in the Christian community rather to display the inward character of meekness and being quiet in spirit. Generally speaking, godly men and women, are to be meek and quiet (contrary to the brazen woman of Prov. 7.11). Men however are called to action at times and so their behavior will be more overt generally.
I recently saw some ancient Roman figurines in a museum which reminded me of Peter’s admonition. These artifacts from Etruria (modern Tuscany and vicinity) show highly coiffured hair from roughly the same period in the Roman Empire.
Professor Schiffman comments on the Scrolls tremendous advances in understanding Late Second Temple Judaism along with providing the backdrop for Christianity.
He also identifies the Qumran Community as Sadducees (from Zadok Priesthood) rather than Essene which is convincing given that the priests were the primary scribes of scripture and dissemination of biblical teaching to the people. They protested the Maccabean takeover of the Temple when the Hasmonean dynasty was established in 152 B.C.E.
All these advances were impossible before the Israeli Antiquities Authority reorganization and appointment of Emmanuel Tov leading an international and inter-confessional team to begin publishing the bulk of the discovery.
[Leon notes the “retiring ministry of Jesus” a very good point which helps explain a certain phase of Christ’s overall activity]
I’m currently presenting a visualized survey of the Bible, with tonight’s lesson dealing with the Life of Christ. Following Jesus’ Galilean Ministry, He pursued a plan to invest more time alone with the Apostles, preparing them for the great work they were to do. This period is known as the Retirement Ministry, “retiring” from the […]
This is a good post by Shem Tov Sasson.
A week after the two-day trip to the Carmel region, I went on yet another field trip offered by my department at Bar Ilan University. Led by Dr Shawn Zelig-Aster, a Biblical scholar, we were taken to a series of historical and archaeological sites around the Lower Galilee, all having a shared theme: the campaign […]
Vern Poythress is a math whiz. He received his PhD in math from Harvard. Later, he also earned another doctorate in theology from a university in South Africa. Thankfully, he does not use “clean and scientific” methods to interpret the bible and points to limitations of the empirical approach. The Age of Enlightenment (so-called) features empiricism as its sole governing compass. It is the measure of man. It involves only what a person’s senses register. However, God ordained the laws of the universe as they are. Yes, these laws are stable, at least to the end of the age. God promises it. Therefore, scientific knowledge and the laws of nature do not change (for now). If man believes only what registers in his senses (or other sensors remotely situated), then man is the measure of himself. He is his own god. He is acting autonomously as a god. However, man did not create himself nor does man sustain the created world. This is my Father’s world.
Exegesis is nothing more than bringing out the meaning from a host text to the target language. In the PDF below, Vern Poythress discusses linguistic features which are easy to understand. He illustrates the work of Kenneth Pike and his use of structures which govern linguistics. Pike taught bible translators at Wycliffe. The ultimate meaning of God’s word is not found through mysticism but is anchored in the words written as illumined by the Spirit. This does not involve private interpretations since there is one Spirit given to all believers. There is only one truth. This does not mean unanimity of understanding on all the fine points of the faith. It does mean agreement on the foundational matters. Neither does it imply that all bible mysteries will become transparent to the student. Some end-times mysteries, I believe, will only be known by the generation affected by those events.
This is an easy to grasp essay for an informed layperson. The issues are plain and Poythress writes very clearly.
Vern S. Poythress, “A Trinitarian Basis for Reforming Our Approach to Meaning in Greek Exegesis, Illustrated by John 17:3” (PDF), Originally published in McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry 18 (2016–2017) 142–59. Used with permission. The article is also available at the MJTM site.
It is heartbreaking to see the daily destruction happening here in Hawaii. As I write this, three families in my congregation have homes in Kapoho, where the lava is flowing today. They stand to lose six properties total — godly, generous, and sacrificial saints.
Two of my employees at the bakery have been held up at gunpoint. Another man (and customer of mine) hanged himself at the evacuee shelter a few days ago. Just before writing this article, I had to rush outside to break up a fight at my bakery, where our church also meets for worship. One man was holding a chair over his head to smash another man on the ground, a demon-oppressed man I have known for a while. He has strange writing on his face, and is known for starting fights.
While fear, crime, and loss spread, we also have seen much potential for spiritual revival. The churches here have a remarkable spirit of unity, generosity, and partnership. Our political leaders also are eager to work with churches, even allowing prayer tents and more at the county shelters. There has been an uncovering of longtime sins and abuses in the hyper-sexual and drug-infused communities this year, even prior to this event. Our area has a number of hedonistic retreats and “spiritual” centers, along with cults with sordid histories of abuse, which have been decimated by the lava flow. As we hope for the recovery and renewal of all that has been lost, may the Lord grant that the hidden strongholds of abuse do not return again, but are replaced with centers of worship.
Our Promise for the Crisis
We planted Grassroots Church in 2006. Since then, we have faced open demonic activity, as well as the more “normal” spiritual warfare (under the surface of what we can see). We just lost our place of worship to fire in 2017. The spiritual atmosphere here is filled with paganism and new-age spirituality.
The word of God has prepared us for this kind of disaster. The faith of our members is not faltering as the lava spreads — thank God! We are preaching through the Gospel of John and clinging together to the promise Jesus makes to those who abide in him: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
We now have major opportunities to serve in the area of housing and job creation, and that leads to how you can pray for us here on the slopes of Kīlauea.
1. Pray for boldness to witness to the hurting.
We have been given many new opportunities to serve in different roles (government, business, and ministry). Pray for us that we put our greatest commission first. Pray that we love one another well through the crisis, and that we are faithful witnesses by the Holy Spirit to others around us. We are having a number of significant conversations about Jesus because of the devastation here. We are receiving this opportunity as God’s will and praying that we will be ready to share boldly and joyfully about the hope that is in us (John 15:26–27).
2. Pray for strength to persevere in ministry.
This is a time for prayerful and painstaking perseverance. The enemy would love to destroy the church by siege and attrition. We are losing members and losing employees (from my bakery), and so I and others are carrying greater responsibility, through greater adversity. We have reached out for help to “hold up our hands” during this time. Please pray for perseverance and rest through all of this, especially for local church and ministry leaders.
3. Pray for provision and wisdom to move forward.
An amazing amount of people are willing to donate to this emergency, or even to come and help. My hopes are to be of service in the housing and job-creation part of this recovery, which will be an immediate and long-term project. We praise God for his provision so far, and need wisdom to direct funds and labor into the most spiritually fruitful areas and to delegate work well. When the news cameras are gone and the politicians are back in their offices, may God’s people still be serving and speaking of their Savior.
Mahalo for Your Prayers
Our district of Puna is the site of an incredible nineteenth-century revival, as told by congregationalist missionary Titus Coan and others. He also was a witness to volcanic eruptions on our eastern rift, like the one we are experiencing. In Coan’s day, the Hawaiian people eagerly set aside their lesser “gods” at the preaching of the gospel of grace and the effective call of his Spirit. The power of Pele, the volcano goddess, was nothing to Chiefess Kapi‘olani, a Christian convert from the Hawaiian nobility who publicly defied the goddess in the boiling caldera. “Pele is naught,” she said in 1825, as she ascended the crater.
May God again be pleased to sweep this island with gospel awakening, calling his own out of the world to true joy through Christ. May he unite his church in proclaiming the gospel of grace, rescuing many from the lie that we must provide sacrifices for a hungry goddess, to the good news that he has provided the one and final sacrifice for mankind in his Son, Jesus Christ.
Titus Coan said in 1837, “Only let us preach the gospel in living faith, and under the awful pressure of the world to come, and I defy this people . . . to sleep. Why they might as well sleep under a cataract of fire.” We share his burden for the lost people in Hawaii today.
Mahalo — thank you — for your prayers for God’s church and his purposes here.