Sunday, January 26, 2020

Did The Earliest Christians Hold To An Adoptionist Christology?

         -"Adoptionism, either of two Christian heresies: one developed in the 2nd and 3rd centuries and is also known as Dynamic Monarchianism (see Monarchianism); the other began in the 8th century in Spain and was concerned with the teaching of Elipandus, archbishop of Toledo. Wishing to distinguish in Christ the operations of each of his natures, human and divine, Elipandus referred to Christ in his humanity as “adopted son” in contradistinction to Christ in his divinity, who is the Son of God by nature. The son of Mary, assumed by the Word, thus was not the Son of God by nature but only by adoption."
         -"First, it does not adequately explain the worship of Jesus in the context of communal and corporate worship among early Jewish Christians. In an adoptionist context, the worship of Jesus would amount to the idolatrous worship of a mere man, although he may have been adopted as God’s son, he was nevertheless a man. Furthermore, it does not address the tension between the worship of Jesus within a monotheistic frame work of first century Judaism. The same categories of worship in Judaism towards God such as prayers, invocations, creedal confessions and hymns, are now being rendered to the risen Jesus by his followers. This practice is very early in the Christian movement. In order for this Jesus worship to be quickly attested in the nascent stage of the Christian movement, as dissimilar as it was, a satisfactory cause must be accounted for it. It must be a catalyst type of cause to quickly integrate such a phenomenon as the worship of Jesus. The direction again points to the resurrection of Jesus. Included in these acts of worship are also the applications of OT texts that have Yahweh or the Lord as their referent and now have Jesus as their reference point. This bespeaks a high Christology which was absent in adoptionist circles. Indeed if adoptionism was the earliest view of Jesus, this high Christology would not be prevalent at all or attested in the earliest texts of the NT. Adoptionist Christology would not necessarily be deemed incommensurate with Judaism nor provoke the Jewish sensibilities about monotheism."
  • Does Mark 1:11 Prove The Author Of That Narrative To Have Embraced An Adoptionist Christology?:
         -"The Father’s voice from heaven expressed approval of Jesus and His mission in words recalling Genesis 22:2. What the voice said identified the speaker. God’s words from heaven fused the concepts of King (Ps. 2:7) and Servant (Isa. 42:1). This combination constituted the unique sonship of Jesus. “The first clause of the [Father’s] declaration (with the verb in the present tense of the indicative mood) expresses an eternal and essential relationship. The second clause (the verb is in the aorist indicative) implies a past choice for the performance of a particular function in history.”[34] From this point on, the reader of Mark’s Gospel knows God’s authoritative evaluation of Jesus. This evaluation becomes the norm by which we judge the correctness or incorrectness of every other character’s understanding of Him. “If Mark refuses knowledge of Jesus’ identity to human characters in the beginning and middle of his story, who, then, knows of his identity? The answer is Mark himself as narrator, the reader, and such supernatural beings as God, Satan, and demons.”[35] Jesus began His official role as the Messiah at His baptism (cf. 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Ps. 89:26; Heb. 1:5). He also began His official role as the Suffering Servant of the Lord then (cf. 8:31; 9:30-31; 10:32-34, 45; 15:33-39). “Jesus’ baptism did not change His divine status. He did not become the Son of God at His baptism (or at the transfiguration, 9:7). Rather, His baptism showed the far-reaching significance of His acceptance of His messianic vocation as the suffering Servant of the Lord as well as the Davidic Messiah. Because He is the Son of God, the One approved by the Father and empowered by the Spirit, He is the Messiah (not vice versa).”[36] (Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable)
  • Does Romans 1:4 Prove That Paul Held To An Adoptionist Christology?:
         -"sn Appointed the Son-of-God-in-power. Most translations render the Greek participle ὁρισθέντος (horisthentos, from ὁρίζω, horizō) “declared” or “designated” in order to avoid the possible interpretation that Jesus was appointed the Son of God by the resurrection. However, the Greek term ὁρίζω is used eight times in the NT, and it always has the meaning “to determine, appoint.” Paul is not saying that Jesus was appointed the “Son of God by the resurrection” but “Son-of-God-in-power by the resurrection,” as indicated by the hyphenation. He was born in weakness in human flesh (with respect to the flesh, v. 3) and he was raised with power. This is similar to Matt 28:18 where Jesus told his disciples after the resurrection, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (New English Translation footnote on Romans 1:4)
         -"Bates treats τοῦ γενομένου as “who came into existence” rather than as a synonym for gennao for “I beget”. While he admits that ginomai can designate an ordinary birth, he points out the parallel language in Gal 4:4 and Phil 2:6-7 which imply a change of status from a heavenly mode of existence to an earthly one. He also treats the preposition ek in ek spermatos Dauid as indicating Mary’s instrumental role in Jesus’ birth....The phrase kata sarka is not derogatory as it implies the Son’s pre-existence and speaks to his transition to the weak and frail human state. The en dunamei modifies Huiou Theou rather than oristhentos and is best translated as “Son of God in power”. Therefore there is no adopionistic christology here since “the resurrection event was the occasion at which the Son of God, who was in fact already deemed the preexistent Son of God before the resurrection event, was appointed to a new office that was able to be described by the phrase Son-of-God-in-Power.”
  • Does Hebrews 1:5 Prove The Author Of That Epistle To Have Embraced An Adoptionist Christology?:
         -"1:5 You are my Son. The Father’s decree declaring the Messiah to be His Son is identified with Christ’s exaltation (v. 4 note; 5:5; Acts 13:32–35; Rom. 1:4). Though Jesus is the eternal and divine Son of God (Mark 1:11; John 3:16), the declaration of redemptive Sonship prophesied in Ps. 2:7 was conferred on Him in time, when He completed His messianic work. Believers cannot become divine and share in Christ’s eternal divine Sonship, but their adoption as sons of God means that they participate in Christ’s redemptive Sonship through union with the “founder of their salvation” (2:10; cf. 3:14 note; Rom. 8:29)." (Reformation Study Bible footnote on Hebrews 1:5)

Commentary On Revelation 3:15

The deeds of the Laodicean Christians manifested their heart attitude. They were neither cold nor hot in their love for God, just lukewarm. Beverages are better either cold or hot. Similarly the Lord would rather that His people be cold or hot in their love for Him, not apathetic. The Laodiceans knew how the Lord felt because their city drinking water came from a spring six miles to the south over an aqueduct, and it arrived disgustingly lukewarm. [Note: Beasley-Murray, p105.]

"Neighboring Hierapolis had hot, spring water, valuable for its medicinal effects. In its journey to Laodicea it lost some of this heat and consequently medicinal value by the time it arrived either overland or by aqueduct in Laodicea. Nearby Colosse had cool, life-giving water that was refreshing as a beverage (Hemer)." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 1-7 , p307. Cf. M. J. S. Rudwick and E. M. B. Green, "The Laodicean Lukewarmness," Expository Times69 (1957-8):176-78; and Hemer, pp432-40.]

The Lord's spitting (lit. vomiting) His people out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16) does not mean they would lose their salvation...This anthropomorphism simply indicates His intense disgust. He did not mean that He would rather we be spiritually cold than that we be spiritually lukewarm either. He did mean that He would rather we be spiritually refreshing or healthful, as cold or hot water, rather than that we be spiritually bland, as lukewarm water. This explanation seems more likely than the one that identifies the Laodiceans as unbelievers.

The Laodiceans enjoyed material prosperity ( Revelation 3:17) that led them to a false sense of security and independence. The expression "I am rich, and have become wealthy" is a literary device that inverts the natural sequence for emphasis (cf. Revelation 3:19; Revelation 5:2; Revelation 5:5; Revelation 10:4; Revelation 10:9; Revelation 12:10; Revelation 19:13). Here it stresses that the wealth attained came though self-exertion. Spiritually they had great needs (cf. Romans 7:24). This self-sufficient attitude is a constant danger when Christians live lives of ease and enjoy plenty.

Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Should Churches Use Wine Or Grape Juice In Communion?

        -Churches in New Testament times undoubtedly used wine for communion in observing the ordinance of the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20-22).
        -Either wine or grape juice is acceptable for use in communion, since both are derived from the same source: grapes (Matthew 26:26-29).
        -The juice extracted from the grapes is a part of God's creation. So is the fermentation process of that juice. All things created by God are to be received with thanksgiving because they are good (Genesis 1:31; 1 Timothy 4:4).
        -The ultimate question that needs to be answered is not whether the contents of the communion cup are grape juice or wine, but rather are we as individuals partaking of that cup in a worthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)?

A Baptismal Regeneration Proof Text Bites The Dust

"Early in church history when the Greek New Testament was being translated into Latin, the Latin word renatus (“born again”) was incorrectly used to translate the Greek word gennēthē (“born”) in John 3:5, rather than the correct Latin word natus (“born”). The incorrect reading of renatus soon prevailed among the majority of Latin manuscripts, so that it became the standard reading of the Latin Vulgate. A textual basis for the doctrine of baptismal regeneration quickly became ensconced in western Christendom."

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Papal Proof Texts Bite The Dust

"The earlier exegetical history of Matt. 16:18-19, Luke 22:32, and John 21:15-17 was largely out of step with the primatial (papal) interpretation of these passages...The mainstream of exegesis followed an agenda set forth by patristic precedent, especially Augustine, but also other Western fathers...The understanding of these Petrine texts by biblical exegetes in the mainstream of the tradition was universally non-primatial before Innocent III. It was the innovative exegetical argumentation of this imposing pope which began to change the picture."

Karlfried Froehlich, cited by William Webster, Roman Catholic Tradition: Claims and Contradictions, p. 32-33

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Spurious Nature Of Mary's Bodily Assumption

Thus, the Transitus literature is the real source of the teaching of the assumption of Mary and Roman Catholic authorities admit this.59 It was partially through these writings that teachers in the East and West began to embrace and promote the teaching. But it still took several centuries for it to become generally accepted. The earliest extant discourse on the feast of the Dormition affirms that the assumption of Mary comes from the East at the end of the seventh and beginning of the eighth century. The Transitus literature is highly significant as the origin of the assumption teaching and it is important that we understand the nature of these writings. The Roman Catholic Church would have us believe that this apocryphal work expressed an existing, common belief among the faithful with respect to Mary and that the Holy Spirit used it to bring more generally to the Church’s awareness the truth of Mary’s assumption. The historical evidence would suggest otherwise. The truth is that, as with the teaching of the immaculate conception, the Roman Church has embraced and is responsible for promoting teachings which originated, not with the faithful, but with heretical writings which were officially condemned by the early Church. History proves that when the Transitus teaching originated the Church regarded it as heresy. In 494 to 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius issued a decree entitled Decretum de Libris Canonicis Ecclesiasticis et Apocryphis. This decree officially set forth the writings which were considered to be canonical and those which were apocryphal and were to be rejected. He gives a list of apocryphal writings and makes the following statement regarding them:

The remaining writings which have been compiled or been recognised by heretics or schismatics the Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church does not in any way receive; of these we have thought it right to cite below some which have been handed down and which are to be avoided by catholics.60

In the list of apocryphal writings which are to be rejected Gelasius signifies the following work: Liber qui apellatur Transitus, id est Assumptio Sanctae Mariae, Apocryphus (Pope Gelasius 1, Epistle 42, Migne Series, M.P.L. vol. 59, Col. 162). This specifically means the Transitus writing of the assumption of Mary. At the end of the decree he states that this and all the other listed literature is heretical and that their authors and teachings and all who adhere to them are condemned and placed under eternal anathema which is indissoluble. And he places the Transitus literature in the same category as the heretics and writings of Arius, Simon Magus, Marcion, Apollinaris, Valentinus and Pelagius.62

Pope Gelasius explicitly condemns the authors as well as their writings and the teachings which they promote and all who follow them. And significantly, this entire decree and its condemnation was reaffirmed by Pope Hormisdas in the sixth century around A.D. 520.63 These facts prove that the early Church viewed the assumption teaching, not as a legitimate expression of the pious belief of the faithful but as a heresy worthy of condemnation. There are those who question the authority of the so-called Gelasian decree on historical grounds saying that it is spuriously attributed to Gelasius. However, the Roman Catholic authorities Denzinger, Charles Joseph Hefele, W. A. Jurgens and the New Catholic Encyclopedia64 all affirm that the decree derives from Pope Gelasius, and Pope Nicholas I in a letter to the bishops of Gaul (c. 865 A.D.) officially quotes from this decree and attributes its authorship to Gelasius. While the Gelasian decree may be questioned by some, the decree of Pope Hormisdas reaffirming the Gelasian decree in the early sixth century has not been questioned.

William Webster, Roman Catholic Tradition: Claims and Contradictions, p. 42-44

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Receiving The Holy Spirit By Faith

        In Galatians 3:2, Paul is referring to the moment when the Christians at Galatia were first converted. They believed in their hearts as a result of hearing the gospel message that the apostle had delivered. Human efforts are not to be added to faith as a means of justification afterwards (Galatians 3:3).

        If people want to receive the gospel by some means other than "by hearing with faith," then that would constitute a rejection of faith as sufficient to bring about our justification before God. Paul uses Abraham as an example of someone who was justified by faith apart from meritorious works (Galatians 3:6).

        There exists no type of good works that can enable us to obtain salvation from our sins (Galatians 3:21-25). The Apostle Paul's focus (in combating the Judaizers) extends beyond the Mosaic Law or any particular system of good works ("For if a law had been given which was able to impart life..."). He is arguing for justification by faith alone.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Moloch At The Colosseum

If you visit the Colosseum in Rome, where thousands of Christians were martyred, you will pass at the entrance an enormous image of Moloch, the gruesome Canaanite deity that demanded the sacrifice of infants and small children.

The idol, modeled after a depiction in the classic silent film Cabiria, is part of an exhibit on ancient Carthage, where Moloch was worshiped. Many conservative Catholics and Christians in general are unnerved by the presence of the idol on what they consider sacred ground. The Colosseum, the stadium where Rome staged its gladiator fights and other entertainments (including the torture of Christians) is owned and operated by the Vatican, which must have given permission for the exhibit and the installation.

The controversy over the Moloch image has become tied to another controversy over the use of an Amazonian fertility idol to the goddess Pachamama in a series of ceremonies, including one at the Vatican gardens at which the Pope was present. The events, honoring the Amazonian Synod that was considering ordaining female priests, included indigenous worshippers prostrating themselves before the idol and a liturgical prayer to the goddess. Some conservative Catholics later stole the idols and threw them into the Tiber river. They were recovered and the Pope apologized.

Defenders of the statue say that it’s simply a part of a historical, cultural exhibit about Rome’s ancient rival and that no religious significance was intended. Fine. But why wasn’t the figure relegated to the context of the other exhibits inside, rather than “welcoming” (the word used in the press release) visitors at the entrance of the Colosseum itself? True, statues of other pagan gods, such as Jupiter and Mercury, can be found everywhere in Rome. But Moloch is particularly problematic.

So what’s the issue with Moloch? This is no ordinary animistic image. Even the Greek and Roman pagans were horrified by Moloch and how he was worshiped. The classical writers associated Moloch with Cronus, whom the Romans called Saturn, one of the old gods who devoured his own children until he was overthrown by his child Zeus.

Plutarch is especially descriptive: “… but with full knowledge and understanding they themselves offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds; meanwhile the mother stood by without a tear or moan; but should she utter a single moan or let fall a single tear, she had to forfeit the money, and her child was sacrificed nevertheless; and the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.”

Carthage was an outpost of the Canaanite civilization that was in conflict with that of the children of Israel. And the Bible expressly and explicitly addresses Moloch and his worship by child sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21; 20:1-5; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35).

The Myth Of Matthew 16:18 As The End-All, Be-All For Roman Catholicism

It's not unusual for Catholics who want to express disagreement with something I've written to play the Matthew 16:18 trump card.

That's where -- unlike in the same story told in Mark and Luke -- Jesus says, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." One Catholic reading is that Jesus meant to break away from Judaism, start a new religion and name Peter the first pope.

Many other Catholics and Protestants, including me, conclude that Jesus, always a Jew, was much more interested in announcing the in-breaking reign of God (which is what Jesus meant by the Gospel) and was not focused on creating a hierarchical and institutionalized structure. Indeed, it's hard to find a biblical scholar these days who would agree that Jesus' purpose was to start a new religion.

Still, I've never quite known how to respond to insistent Catholics who haul out Matthew 16:18 and assume that's a full answer that confirms Petrine primacy and, by extension, the assertion that anyone outside the Catholic church is apostate.

I've just received considerable help with this matter from a Capuchin Franciscan, Michael H. Crosby, in his book Repair My House.

Crosby takes a careful look at Matthew 16, comparing it to the Mark 8 and Luke 9 versions of the same story, versions that omit Jesus saying anything to Peter about being the rock (a play on his name) on which he will build a church.

To use the Matthew 16:18 passage as the be-all of Catholic reliance on Scripture and tradition, he writes, is to lean on "a selective and fundamentalist interpretation of this one text." Doing that, he says, "represents both intellectual dishonesty and scriptural errancy."

A more balanced and satisfying way of understanding the role of the church and its leadership, Crosby writes, is to balance Matthew 16 with Matthew 18. In the latter chapter, we find a broader notion of authority among the followers of Jesus, disciples who eventually would separate from Judaism and become Christianity.

In Matthew 18, Jesus gives authority and responsibility not to a single person but to the whole church (ekklesia, in Greek, which means literally the community that has been called out). Verse 17 says that a member of the ekklesia is to report to the ekklesia if someone who has sinned against him or her will not repent.

Thus, Crosby notes, Jesus assigns to the local church in 18:18 the power to bind and loose that is given to Peter in 16:19, and "both texts must be considered as equal in their power to bind and loose." The difference is that Peter gets the "keys to the kingdom" in 16 while the community in 18 "receives the promise of Christ's abiding presence in their binding and loosing in a way that is not given to Peter."

Friday, January 17, 2020

Commentary On Isaiah 9:6-7

[Isaiah 9] 6-7 The Gift-Child in this passage is certainly to be understood as the same person as the Immanuel who appeared earlier. The Child is certainly none other than the virgin's son. Contrasted with the Syrian-Ephraimitic coalition, this Child brings deliverance to the people of God. Again, using the prophetic perfect, the prophet speaks of Him as though He were already born! Even the text of the Targum supports a messianic interpretation of this passage. The concept of a Messiah who is both the Son of David and the Son of God is also stated in Psalm 2:7. Notice also the play-on-words between child is born (Heb yalad, to be delivered, as in birth) and a son is given (Heb natan). Some have suggested that there is a distinction between the human birth of the Child and the divine gift of the Son. While the usage of the verbs is not conclusive, it is interesting to note that the same idea appears in Isaiah 42:1 where God gives His Spirit to His Servant. The real significance of this unique Child comes in His foretold name. Wonderful, Counselor (pele' yo'ets) is actually one title in the Hebrew (based upon the Masoretic accentuation). "Wonder," from pele', is indicative of that which is miraculously accomplished by God Himself (see Harris, Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, II, p. 723). The two words of this title are actually an appositional genitive and may be rendered "a wonder of a counselor," or "a wonderful counselor." The term "counselor" is often used in parallel with king (e.g., Mic 4:9), so that the emphasis here implies that of God-like counsel of a God-like King. The mighty God (Heb 'el gibbor), This is the strongest of titles in reference to deity. In the book of Isaiah 'el is always used of God and never used of man (e.g., 10:21). Gibbor means "hero." Whether it is used as an appositional genitive or adjectivally, in either case it is an epithet that indicates deity. There is, therefore, every indication that the Child is The mighty God Himself. Obviously, such a revelation explains how the Child in 7:14 could be born miraculously of a virgin and how He could symbolically be Immaneul (God with Us). The everlasting Father (Heb 'abiy 'ad) is a peculiar expression literally meaning Father of Eternity. He is the Lord of eternity, as well as the author of eternal life. He is, "of old, from everlasting," (Mic 5:2). Here we clearly see how the throne of David, which is to be forever, is to be preserved. It will seat a ruler Himself who is Eternal! The Prince of Peace (Heb shar-shalom). Rather than a warring monarch, He who is the Mighty God will be a benevolent Father, bringing a peace that will be eternally established in His kingdom. His reign shall be characterized by a reign of peace on earth because He is the very embodiment of peace itself. Thus, the obscure figure of Immanuel in 7:14 is now brought to clear light. We know of His kingdom, throne, world rule, peaceful reign, and eternal kingdom, as well as His virgin birth. More than this, we know who He is-God Himself incarnate!

King James Version Bible Commentary, p. 784