The Nature of Heaven

While the bible is scarce in the description of heaven, it reveals the character of heaven’s inhabitants which gives us the disposition of that place. It goes without saying that heaven, compared to earth, will be a place of fulfillment, blessedness, and peace. Further, without question, God and His angels are superabundantly capable. Both these points need no argumentation. God is all wise and knowing, all powerful, everywhere, loving and severe, all holy, and more. But what is God’s nature? Students of the bible, by sifting its contents, may discover what God’s realm reflects in its attitude and disposition.

God Only Employs the Meek

Generally speaking, on earth, when people are characterized by affluence and power, they develop into controlling and arrogant individuals. It’s almost unavoidable. However, this is not the case with those in heaven, just the opposite. Of course, earthly inhabitants need regeneration and adoption before their nature resembles the heavenly disposition.

Moses, after 40 years of being brought up in the Egyptian royal household, was evidently proud and self-sufficient. His act of delivering a Hebrew by murdering the Egyptian (Ex. 2.11-14) shows reliance upon worldly methods and pride. It was only after another 40 years as a shepherd in the wilderness that Moses morphed, by God’s Spirit, into the description found in Num. 12.3: Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth (NIV).

Moses was not a Warlord

God sent Moses on a rescue mission to free the oppressed Israelites. This charge to Moses did not involve any military force, but instead God’s power. By taking a nation out of probably the most advanced civilization on earth, God shows the Egyptians, and the surrounding nations, who is King and God. All these actions show the multifaceted working of God’s hand.

Moses, through Aaron, clearly was a mediator between God and the people. This shows the need for distance between the people and God. Many, if not most, Israelites, who sojourned in Egypt, were idolaters. However, they were also a cohesive people, who circumcised their males in Egypt in accordance with their ancestor Abraham; and, who hoped for deliverance and a homeland. It seems the greatest thing that this now freed nation would need to learn in their wilderness wanderings is the holiness of their God and to rely humbly upon Him like His servant Moses.

Essentially, all the rebellions and challenges against Moses’ leadership during the wilderness years can be attributed to Moses’ self-effacing style. This he learned from God. His rhetorical “who am I,” often when the Israelites leaders confronted him, was not what the people were expecting. They had never experienced such leadership. Heavenly leadership on earth looks different than typical human agitations. Moses, it would later be said, was faithful as a servant in all God’s house.

Moses was Christ Minded

Never did Moses seek a political coalition of other Israelites to lobby or contend for control. When they were really challenged, he and Aaron would fall on their face before God. He left the matter in God’s hands and waited. Through His servant Moses, God was showing Israel the need for humility.

Probably the most revealing display of Moses’ character is his reaction to God’s statement that because of Israel’s sin, God would make a nation from him. If there was ever a more selfless defense of God’s integrity, I know not any:

Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth?’ Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ (Ex. 32.12-13) NIV

In the above account, Moses had God’s reputation in mind and argued that the Egyptians would misunderstand God’s purposes if He destroyed Israel because of the Golden Calf incident. The Egyptians already knew Israel’s God was powerful since He demonstrated His power against Egypt’s gods in the 10 Plagues. Perhaps, though, the Egyptians will conclude that Israel’s God only delivered them to single them out for destruction. Moses focused on God’s plan and promise to save and bring the people into the land instead of any self-glorious aspirations. Since this self-effacing disposition is commended in Moses, readers of scripture can conclude that the same disposition will feature in heaven.

God’s Disposition is Displayed in Jesus

God is just, capable, and will judge the wicked. This was often the message and explicit focus of O.T. scripture. However, in parts and implicit, The Prophets also speak about the promise that God will redeem humanity. Matthew quotes Isaiah:

Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope. (Mt. 12.18-21) NIV

The people of 2nd Temple Israel were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd (Mt. 9.36). What they needed was someone to represent and to mediate for them before God. The Jewish Priesthood of the time was greedy and corrupt. The Romans appointed and thus controlled the High Priesthood. One reason Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan was to contrast Himself with the priesthood of His day. Notice, in the parable, the two who were not a neighbor to the injured: A priest and Levite (Lk. 10.31-32). The priests and Levites were to represent the people before God and to instruct the Law to them. They did neither well.

Ideally, in the Mosaic system, a human high priest could sympathize with others, since they knew of their own failures (see Heb. 5.1-3). Jesus could mediate because of His divinity. Nevertheless, what the world has always needed was love, and when Jesus arrived on the scene, He taught and healed the lost sheep from the House of Israel. This was the “Prophet like Moses”:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die. (Dt. 18.15-16)NIV

As Moses was the “meekest man on the whole earth,” the Prophet who was to come would be humble and lowly, especially in contrast to the scene at Horeb. God would reveal Himself to the people first, as a baby in a manger. Later, He would heal and teach, not strive and agitate. Jesus self-confessed His disposition, and therefore, we can know what heaven is like:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt.11.28-30) ESV

Jesus was incarnated, not as king but as priest, and eventually, a sacrifice. Yes, Jesus is the returning King, but He is more: a merciful High Priest. Therefore, in heaven, the redeemed response will be gratitude and humility.

The Firstborn Of All Creation Col. 1.15-18

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (NIV)

In several places in the bible, both O.T. and N.T., the text speaks of the Messiah, or Jesus, as being born. These usages of procreative language, when referring to the Godhead, are metaphorical constructs to express somewhat analogous concepts of which humans know some things about but not intended to totally transfer to all parts of human experience, for obvious reasons. Previously, I have also posted on the biblical term “only begotten.” https://wordpress.com/post/beliefspeak2.net/9688.

The Firstborn of All Creation

In the subtitle, I changed the NIV’s “over” to “of,” since the interpretive decision depends upon the understood flow and context of what Paul was trying to say. “Over” is not in the text; rather, “all” is used, which needs a helper word to fill in the thought. “Of” is more ambiguous for the Apostle’s purposes until he reveals his full thoughts in vs. 18.

The term “firstborn” conveys several possible ideas which need to be reigned in when relating to God. Much human communication is at least somewhat figurative, as it hints at something else. It is speaking in code. By using metaphorical language, the writer can communicate certain special aspects about a subject to inform those who are seeking understanding.

Since the Son is the image of the invisible God, He has always existed. To imply otherwise is to say that God has changed. God the Father has always been a father. God the Son has always been a son to the Father. Also, God is eternally social since that is how He created living things. God was never a lonely entity needing company. His purpose in redemption was love; that He might share His love and holiness with His creation. Even the first chapters of Genesis express a divine community of persons in that we read of God, the Spirit of God, and the Lord, who is walking in the garden. The relations have never changed or can change; there is no succession in the Godhead.

God is the invisible God but He is expressed in Jesus. Heb. 1.3 gives this same idea: The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. The glory and the radiance are distinct but one reveals the other. God the Father cannot be seen. This fact is clear from 1Tim.6.14-16: …until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. When Philip wanted Jesus to show him the Father, Jesus said: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (Jn. 14.9 NIV)

The next thing our text tells us is that this Son is a firstborn. Commentators are correct to point out that the term denotes status, privilege, and rank, instead of a first among subsequent equals. Jesus has a “double portion,” which, I think, refer to His dual nature of being fully God and man. All this is true of Jesus, but here, He is also the “firstborn of all creation.” This is another metaphorical clause whose interpretation is suspended until Paul fills in all the necessary details.

In verses 16 through vs. 18a, Paul lists comprehensively how Jesus has supremacy. This listing is parenthetical until the reiteration of the “firstborn” title along with its clarification. This list is as full as conceptually possible; it leaves nothing out. Creation was also for the Son’s purposes and through Him. Jesus is eternal and first in rank.

Also, in Him all things hold together, which, I think, refers to sustaining creation. This very concept of upholding or sustaining creation is found in John 5.17-18 and it includes a reference to Jesus, implying that He is the same kind of being as God: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

The Firstborn from Out of the Dead

Paul’s usage of “arche” (beginning) refers to Christ’s eternality. He seems to employ all his toolbox in this section to bolster the idea for his readers that Christ is divine. Also, when Jesus wanted to show His eternal nature, in Rev. 22.13, He used three inclusive clauses to explicate this: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning (arche) and the End (NIV).

Again, I think it is best to modify the NIV from “among” to “out of.” On one hand, with mention of church, an interpreter could seek to connect those who Jesus redeemed, since they will subsequently be resurrected at Christ’s return. However, Paul doesn’t seem to point toward this direction; instead, he finishes his thought emphasizing Christ’s preeminence. Paul uses “ek” to show “from out of.” Thus, Paul says that Jesus conquered death as another aspect of His supremacy.

Paul is here giving the definition of “the firstborn of all creation.” By reiterating “firstborn” he is further refining what he means: Jesus was the first human to rise to immortality. Jesus raised from the dead several people during His earthly ministry, but they all had to die again just as the O.T. instances of temporal resurrection. While Jesus was not able to sin, He still earned immortality in His humanity under the Mosaic Covenant as a human and stands as the final Adam in our place.

The Spiritual Body

Jesus tells us that He is preparing a place for us to be with Him after our earthly life (Jn. 14.2-3). This, presumably, refers to the resurrected body of 1 Cor. 15:

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body (42-44).

These N.T. realities Paul obviously recognized when reading O.T. sections such as the song of Is. 26:

But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy—your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer (19-21).

Therefore, Jesus is the Firstborn from out of the dead; the goal of creation.

Rom. 2.14-15 Refers to Christians

(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) NIV

The NIV bible has the better rendering of what Paul was arguing in this passage by enclosing it in parentheses rather than the ESV which conveys the idea of a natural law. The early Protestant theologians such as Calvin thought it was speaking about the Natural Law’s effect upon Pagan behavior. Like the NIV, I prefer to see the more contextual reading of Paul saying the behavior of Gentile Christians fulfills the Law, even though they do not follow all the minutia as a contemporary Jew who strictly follows the Mosaic Law.

Evidently there were Jewish “guides” (vss. 17,19) who wanted to instruct the believers, calling them “foolish” and “children” (vs. 20). They thought the Mosaic Law was “the embodiment of knowledge and truth” (vs. 20). Since the Gentiles were not versed in the Mosaic Code, they would guide these Gentiles the correct way. The Law was holy, righteous, and good but it couldn’t ultimately make the subject righteous; it only points out faults. The person was doing wrong themselves and looking down on everyone else (vss.21-23).

Paul is speaking generally that Christians are so holy and good without the formal Mosaic Law that, in the Judgement, it will be evident that they were written in The Book of Life (Rev. 20.12-15). These Gentiles had been adopted as children and were now acting out their renewed nature. This is what the term means (phusei): from themselves as to who they are in disposition or their constitution. Therefore, Paul is saying that God wrote the Law’s requirements on these Gentile Christian hearts, since He regenerated them. This is a parenthetical clause speaking in the immediate context of what the Judgement will entail (vss, 12-16).

Is there a Natural Law? I don’t know. This passage, however, is not speaking about that concept at all.

Failure Evidence of the Willow Creek Model

For too long the evangelical church has gone soft on sound exposition of Scripture and the faithful teaching of systematic theology and replaced it with the felt needs of people and joining various social causes. Stephen Wellum

https://www.crossway.org/articles/an-open-letter-to-the-evangelical-church-on-christology/

Ephesians (Classical Theology Course) — The Scriptorium Daily

Talbot School of Theology’s Master of Arts in Classical Theology is mostly composed of three kinds of courses: Commonplaces (major doctrines); Master Practitioners (significant theologians); and Sacred Page (books of Scripture). Since the entire MA is designed to treat Scripture as “that toward which all studies in divinity move,” these Sacred Page courses are especially…

Ephesians (Classical Theology Course) — The Scriptorium Daily

Palestine under Roman Rule — Bible Mapper Blog

At the time of Jesus’ birth, the land of Israel (now called Palestine by the Romans) was ruled by the Romans, who had granted Herod the Great the title of “king” over the region. His domain included most of the land that once belonged to Israel. After his death, the Romans granted Herod’s wishes that…

Palestine under Roman Rule — Bible Mapper Blog

Christian Networks and the Circulation of Christian Books — The Textual Mechanic

Sailing ship, 1st cen. AD (Pompeian tomb of Naevoleia Tyche Museo Della Civiltà Romana)I recently learned of a fascinating account of Christians responding in various ways to Roman Imperial persecution in an excellent chapter by Jakob Engberg in a recent work.”Caring for African Confessors in Exile: the Ministry of Numeria and Candida during the Decian…

Christian Networks and the Circulation of Christian Books — The Textual Mechanic

The Jerusalem Temple on Mount Gerizim — Ritmeyer Archaeological Design

In the 1980’s, I used to visit Mount Gerizim as part of my work making reconstruction drawings for the Staff Officer of the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria. These drawings showed what the different buildings from the area, dating from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, would have looked like.            Archaeological remains of a Samaritan…

The Jerusalem Temple on Mount Gerizim — Ritmeyer Archaeological Design

Pie in the Sky

What does it profit to gain the whole world yet forfeit one’s soul? This present earth is filled with devils the hymn writer tells us (A Mighty Fortress is Our God). In the book of Job, Satan describes himself as traversing the earth back and forth and roaming on it (Job 1.7). Also, in Ephesians (6.12) it speaks of rulers and authorities over this dark world. Therefore, if one’s goal and focus is upon only this earthy life, they will miss the promises of the new earth and heaven where only good reigns (2Pe. 3.13).

The Seven-fold Armor of God

Eph. 6.10-18 records Paul’s admonition to deploy weapons, both defensive and offensive, in the struggle against evil. The idea of both types of weapons comes from the list itself where these descriptions denote either offensive or defensive purposes. Also, in 2Cor. 6.7, Paul instructs to use “weapons of righteousness on the right and left.” It doesn’t take much insight to see the typical soldier of that day with a shield in left hand and sword in his right – one offensive and the other protective.

Most English versions, in their formatting, do not include v. 18 in the list of armor. It should be included, however, just as militaries rely on communication in their battles, so Christians can depend on God’s provision in the struggle.

Therefore, Paul’s list divides structurally as two groups of three with Faith as the center. ‘The faith’ is what we preach (Rom. 8.10). Also, without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11.6). Faith is the center since everyone has had intimations from Him: Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them (Rom. 1.19 NIV).

Here is my translation of Eph. 6.10-18 which seeks to provide a flow for memorization:

From now on, be empowered by the Lord and His mighty strength. Put on the whole armor of God to be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavens. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God in order to withstand in the evil day, having done everything to stand. Stand therefore having gird yourselves with truth and having put on the breastplate of righteousness and the feet fitted with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Besides this, take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Put on the helmet of salvation along with the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God). With all prayer and petition, praying all times in the Spirit, with this in mind, watch and persevere in petitioning for all saints.

Paul mentions the panoply (vs.13), which refers to a complete suit of armor designed for battle. Partial armor will leave the wearer exposed in places; therefore, all of the mentioned items are vital. The foes are fallen spiritual entities over the world (cosmos). These dark forces traverse both earth and heaven, temporarily, and seem to be marshalled into various ranks against us. Therefore, Christians need to do everything to stand firm in Christ.

Truth as a belt: The Greek doesn’t mention a belt; instead, “girding truth around the waist.” The sense is a belt without explicitly saying it. The idea is to acquire the truth of scripture in a full and comprehensive way and to stand and defend when asked. There are many false and dumb ideas in society today, and for the Christian, they are to be assured in their mind of the truthfulness of scripture. This weapon seems more defensive in purpose but may also project a quiet confidence which will send a message to the opponents and other observers (see Phil. 1.28).

The breastplate of righteousness refers to love and faith, fastened around one’s neck, with these qualities written on the tablet of the heart (see Prov. 3. 3-4). Also, Paul defines what this breastplate is, in 1 Thess. 5.8: But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. This item of armor appears defensive in nature as well.

The Boots of preparation is an offensive weapon by which Christians are ready to hold forth the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for humanity’s justification. In the Greek, no shoes are mentioned, instead, feet are to be fitted. Some sort of footwear is implied however to aid the feet in the journey, and, of course, to stand. Importantly, it is not just a preprogramed scheme such as the “Roman’s Road” where the lost are guided by only a few simple truths. Instead, the Christian should be prepared to speak in bible concepts at points where the inquirer has questions. Sharing one’s faith with others should not be forced in any way. Instead, it should possess an element of spontaneity and flow naturally. Speaking about God is the most natural thing to do. This is His world, after all. On the other hand, if someone is not receptive, the Christian is not to give what is holy unto dogs, or cast their pearls before pigs.

The shield of faith is primarily defensive and resembles the breastplate which has as one of its elements faith or faithfulness. The difference seems to be that the breastplate is more intimately attached to the vital parts of one’s constitution whereas the “shield of faith” is held more at a distance to stop general types of attacks.

The helmet of salvation refers to the assurance one has as they walk with the Lord. As mentioned in 1 Thess. 5.8, it is “the hope of salvation.” Hope here means something substantive, a confidence that the believer will experience the joy of the Lord after passing this veil of tears. This assurance will need to be constantly bolstered as the Christian does what is right in every circumstance: The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever (Is. 32.17 NET). This item, by its nature, protects and is, therefore, generally defensive.

The sword of the Spirit is defined for us in the text and is no mystery what it accomplishes: a thrust of truth. This must be wielded in love, however, since: but, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects to Him who is the Head-Christ (Eph. 4.15).

Prayer in the Spirit is accomplished when Christians, who have the Spirit, are no longer relying on themselves for wisdom. Prov. 3.5 is instructive: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. It is a choice for Christians to walk in the Spirit or be led by their old selves. Prayer in the Spirit is more typical after God has crushed all our idols. Those Christians determined to follow God will know how to pray to Him. This prayer is not only self-focused, or humanity-focused, but looks after the needs of other Christians. We need to persevere in prayer for the needs of all Christians.

Understanding the Olivet Discourse Mt. 24-25, Lk. 21

Some folks wonder whether this teaching of Jesus refers to the end of days or whether it was fulfilled in 70 C.E. when Jerusalem and its Temple was destroyed. Jesus speaks to both times in His discourse but Matthew’s account only deals with the end times and he constructs the account for this purpose. Luke, on the other hand, records both events in 21. 5-36. Luke does focus primarily on the end times also but inserts a section that covers the Jerusalem’s Temple destruction in 70 C.E. (vss.20-24).

The key to this understanding is to see the clause: “pregnant women and nursing mothers” referring to different sets of women, one in 70 C.E. and the other during the end.

The Easiest Bible Reading Plan

If the goal is to read through the bible in a year (a good and commendable goal), then one only needs to read three chapters, more or less, each day starting with Genesis. Here is a schedule to roughly track one’s progress:

Click to access straightthrough.pdf

As a young Christian I read through the New Testament in a month and recall the adoption of favorite passages and books which I would return to as a means of comfort or encouragement. It was good that I was studying the texts more and with progressively better tools to extract fuller meaning, a problem soon arose however. My biblical viewpoint was becoming skewed since I did not allow texts from other parts of the bible to inform my understanding of all that God had disclosed. I remember a message from chapel at bible college which had 2Tim. 3.16-17 as its text which challenged me to draw upon the whole bible for my personal discipleship: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God  may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (NIV). This method of attending to “all” of scripture balanced my understanding and helped me better grasp the totality of what God revealed to us.

The Church Telling the Pastor What to Do

“Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord'” (Col. 4.17)

Colossians was written to the church whom Paul previously ministered to and no pastors are mentioned. If the Colossians did have a pastor, it was probably Archippus who was located in Laodicea, it seems. The churches of Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea were located relatively close to each other with the Colossian Epaphras probably being sent to Paul on all their behalf to support him while in prison.

Epaphras was also interceding to God for the churches and Paul writes to commend his ministry and assure the Colossians of his benefit to Paul (see Col. 4.12-13). It also seems that Epaphras was somehow also imprisoned at the time of writing and Paul wanted to vouch for him that he was not misbehaving on his mission (Philemon 23). Perhaps Paul was anticipating his release, as well as his own, when he wrote the wealthy and devout Philemon to prepare a guest room for him (Philemon 22).

Archippus is called a “fellow soldier” in Philemon 2 and is probably the designated pastor of the three churches in that area. This would involve a circuit ministry where each church would, in turn, be served by him. This may have worn on Archippus, as can be imagined, and, therefore, Paul tells the Colossians to encourage him to fulfill his ministry in Col. 4.17.

No Music in Either Synagogue or Early Church

Is it important what we do and how we do it when thinking about church services? I think its vitally important or we will slip into either mysticism or hypocrisy. The Jerusalem Temple had music to accompany its mysterious symbolism and redemptive themes expressed in shadows but not the synagogue. Both the synagogue and early church service were devoid of congregational singing and musical instrumentation. Some, no doubt, will see in the N.T. reference to “songs” and “melodies” but these are different than most Christians’ current practice. The reference in 1 Cor. 14.26 is to a Psalm as recitation not to a musical song. Also, in Eph. 5.19 it is unclear whether the singing is from the heart or in the heart. What is clear is that Paul is not speaking of doing the singing in assembly. No evidence has been found of a music component in the early church service. Instead, discipleship in the form of reading, teaching, and applying the message to others was the pattern laid down by Paul in 1 Tim. 4.13.

Apart from the first century Synagogue of Capernaum, the only other known synagogues from this period were found at Masada, Herodium, Gamla and Magdala. In Jerusalem, the  Theodotus Synagogue inscription, dating from the same time, was found, but no remains of the actual synagogue have been found.  The inscription reads: “Theodotos son of Vettenus, priest and head of the synagogue…

The Synagogue of Capernaum — Ritmeyer Archaeological Design

Moses Marries a Cushite

The whole chapter of Numbers 12 deals with the incident where Aaron and Miriam speak against Moses because of his Cushite wife. She was a black woman who had presumably attached herself (or her family attached themselves) to the Israelites after witnessing the contest between the Lord and the Egyptians.

Here is a study of the biblical Cushites: http://www.asor.org/anetoday/2020/12/cushites-hebrew-bible

Miriam was struck with a condition which made her skin a sickly white. Why Aaron was not struck with this malady may have been due to his position as Israel’s High Priest. Alternately, it may have been that Miriam, the oldest sibling, was the instigator. Regardless, Moses prays for his sister to be healed and she is restored immediately. We know the healing is instantaneous since the quarantine requirement of seven days is after a person is symptom free (see Lev. 13. 1-5).

Discussions with the Diggers: Dr. Leen Ritmeyer — Bible Archaeology Report

One of the things I love about Discussions with the Diggers, is learning from experts about different biblical sites. My next guest is the world’s leading authority on the Temple Mount. Dr. Leen Ritmeyer is an archaeological architect who has been involved in all of Jerusalem’s major excavations. He was chief architect of the Temple […]

Discussions with the Diggers: Dr. Leen Ritmeyer — Bible Archaeology Report

Not Knowing Anyone According to the Flesh

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. (2Cor. 5.16)

https://www.goodnewsarticles.com/Sep06-3.htm

Excerpt:

So, “to know someone according to the flesh,” really means to know them from the perspective of my natural thinking – which would be to view them from the perspective of myself as the center of my universe. It would also mean that I know them based on their natural traits, personality, and fleshly characteristics. In other words, Paul is talking about relationships that exist fully in the NATURAL realm, rather than ones that are based on the new creation in Christ.

But Paul tells us that all of that is wrong – it is a wrong way of looking at things because of Jesus Christ. We are not the center of the universe. Christ is. And the REAL person we are, and the REAL person that someone else is, is NOT the natural man that we see, or think we see. No. The REAL person is found only in Christ Jesus.

Were Early Christian Scribes Untrained Amateurs? — Canon Fodder

In the ongoing debates about the reliability of early Christian manuscripts, and whether they have been transmitted with fidelity, it is often claimed that early Christian scribes were amateurs, unprofessional, and some probably couldn’t even read. In Michael Satlow’s book, How the Bible Became Holy (Yale, 2014), this same sort of argument appears (for my…

Were Early Christian Scribes Untrained Amateurs? — Canon Fodder

182. The Dogma of the Bodily Assumption of Mary, 70 Years After — Vatican Files

The 70th anniversary of the day that the dogma of the bodily assumption of Mary was promulgated passed almost unnoticed. It was November 1, 1950 that Pius XII, with the apostolic constitution Munificentissum Deus, solemnly pronounced the latest Marian dogma, which is also the last dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. In it, Roman Catholicism…

182. The Dogma of the Bodily Assumption of Mary, 70 Years After — Vatican Files

Seneca: The Fate of an Unused Bookroll — The Textual Mechanic

There has been a lot of talk in recent years on the length of time an ancient book, or even “autograph” may have been in use. I briefly addressed this topic in “Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism,” Chapter two “Myths About Autographs.” In that chapter I cite a comment from the second…

Seneca: The Fate of an Unused Bookroll — The Textual Mechanic

Hating Vain Thoughts — The Scriptorium Daily

Just a quick note here on the blog, to hold a link to a helpful sermon from Richard Chenevix Trench, “On the Duty of Hating Vain Thoughts.” It’s from an 1886 collection of sermons freely available at various places online, but I excerpted the sermon itself and am sharing it (along with my own highlighting)…

Hating Vain Thoughts — The Scriptorium Daily

Atonement in Heaven

This article argues effectively that Christ presented Himself in heaven for the forgiveness of humanity’s sins. The only quibble I have is that no ancient Jewish or early Christian source labels the high priest’s inner-sanctum blood manipulation an “offering.” 

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/our-welcome-to-heaven

Lev. 6.30 explains: But any sin offering whose blood is brought into the tent of meeting to make atonement in the Holy Place must not be eaten; it must be burned up. Here is mention of the sin offering’s blood to be brought into the Holy Place for atonement of sins.

Lev. 10.18 also notes aspects of the different sacrifices and instructs that the animal’s blood that is presented in the Holy Place makes atonement: “Since its blood was not taken into the Holy Place, you should have eaten the goat in the sanctuary area, as I commanded.”

Finally, Lev. 16.11-17 gives the mechanics where first Aaron (or his sons) makes propitiation for their own sins and then the animal’s blood for the congregation’s sins are brought into the inner sanctuary for sprinkling upon the atonement cover of the ark:

“Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering. He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the Lord and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. He is to put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die. He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.

“He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.

All the bolded quotes are from the NIV. Perhaps the Hebrew does not mention an “offering” but I am at a loss for what else they could be if they were not some kind of presentation or offering. This is nevertheless a good article which explains the scene as described in the book of Hebrews.

Salt Losing Its Savor (Part 2)

Here is Part 1: https://beliefspeak2.net/2014/09/22/salt-losing-its-savor-luke-14-34-35-matthew-513/

The first post was produced nearly 6 years ago and additional thoughts about the reference to “salt” in the scriptures have occurred to me while studying the bible as a whole.

Probably the greatest impediment to find meaning in the text is to treat it atomistically, that is to divide or view parts of the bible as unconnected fragments. Instead, the reader should meditate upon what the text is saying, as Psalm 1 instructs. This helps the reader to find concepts in scripture and not just focus on the words by themselves. Salt, in the New Testament, for instance, has the same conceptual range in all its usages.

Salt is Figurative in the New Testament

The term “salt” (halas) is used 8 times by the N.T. writers to convey the same idea each time. Only 4 verses contain its usage. Mk. 9.50 has 3 instances of the term “salt” spoken by The Master which cover the way “salt” is used in all the other places in scripture:

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another (ESV)

Here, Mark employs a different term than Matthew or Luke for the idea “lost its saltiness.” (Analon), which means “unsalted,” or “lacking salt.” In my first post, I discussed how Luke and Matthew should be literally translated, “become foolish” (morantha), since that is what the term means. It is employed to show the contrast to the Holy Spirit’s fruits of meekness, peace and love in Matthew 5.13. Luke 14.34-35, on the other hand, uses the term in context of counting the cost of discipleship, continually turning from foolishness.

Having “salt,” in the New Testament, means having a Godly goodness which reflects and comes from God. This goodness is expressed to other Christians as well as spiritual outsiders. Conversely, if someone or some action is unsalted, then it probably will be without goodness. If the person becomes foolish (morantha), then Godly goodness will be absent as well. Perhaps The Master defined “salt” when He said it was “good” in Mk. 9.50 and Lk. 14.34.