Friday, March 31, 2017

When America Saved Europe From Islam

"Thomas Jefferson fought back, and ended Moslem piracy in Europe. It was the first time America saved Europe militarily, and no one seems to remember, least of all the Europeans. Although our people don’t remember, they do speak about it whenever they sing or hear the first words of the Marine Corps Anthem: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we will fight our country’s battles on the land and on the sea….” Why don’t we teach our children about the wars these words refer to?"

Patrick Michael Murphy, “How the West Was Lost,” p. 203

Sola Scriptura And Divisions

  • Defining the issues:
          -There is a great deal of controversy among the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and all Protestant churches due to the issue of "private interpretation." Private interpretation of Scripture is the concept of a person using his or her reasoning to make a judgment on a particular passage from the Bible. It is a more individualistic approach to determining what Scripture means.
          -Roman Catholic apologists insist that we absolutely must have their leaders infallibly interpret the Scriptures in order to preserve absolute truth in doctrinal matters and thus aid in the prevention of division within the entire congregational body.
          -The claim that we need an infallible interpreter of Scripture is essentially the same as saying that the Bible is too difficult for the average person to understand. In other words, both arguments use the same logic in there premises in order to reach their conclusions. If the basic message of Scripture is simple enough for us to understand, then why would we need an infallible interpreter in the first place? If Christ entrusted the preservation of His teaching to an infallible teaching office, then why do we have a Bible in the first place?
          -Consequently, the Church of Rome claims that Christians who rely on the Bible alone for testing the truthfulness of doctrine rather than the Magisterium will inevitably end up in a state of hopeless confusion. Irreconcilable doctrinal contradictions exist and thus truth cannot be known from Scripture itself but must be unpacked by an earthly organization.
  • Scripture Is A Perspicuous Guide And Is Therefore In Need Of No Infallible Interpreter:
          -Scripture repeatedly implies and assures that its readers can understand its message (Deuteronomy 29:29; 2 Kings 22:8-13; Psalm 19:7-9; 119:97-105; 130; Matthew 22:29-32; Luke 1:1-4; 10:25-28; Acts 17:11-12; Ephesians 3:3-5; 2 Corinthians 1:13; 3:15-16; Colossians 4:16; 2 Peter 1:16-21; 2 Timothy 3:15).
          -With the possible exception of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, all of the New Testament epistles were written to Christians in general: Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; Philemon 1:1-2; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; James 1:1-2; Revelation 1:3-4.
          -Calls to read and obey Scripture presupposes that we can understand it (Joshua 1:7-8; 23:6; 1 Kings 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 1 Timothy 4:13).
          -The common people understood the teachings of Jesus Christ apart from some infallible interpreter (Matthew 11:25; 13:51; Mark 12:37). In other words, there was never an infallible interpreter sitting next to Jesus when He was teaching in front of the crowds. He oftentimes attracted the poor and uneducated. Anyone with a humble and prayerful heart can understand what God desires for us, apart from a complex church hierarchy.
  • "What Use Is An Infallible Book Without An Infallible Teaching Authority?:"
          -God does not require that we understand Him infallibly. Our minds are finite. However, we can have sufficient certainty behind the meaning of Scripture. Now, this is not to suggest that we can interpret the Scriptures in any random way that we desire. We have the obligation to examine Scripture in its proper context, use our common sense, and consult commentaries.
  • "By What Authority Do You Interpret Scripture?:"
          -Interpreting Scripture is not necessarily a matter of personal authority, but rather something God expects us to do. This does not mean ministers in local congregations do not have any special authority to teach. Scripture is clear enough for readers to obtain truths related to salvation and godliness.
  • Thoughts On Religious Division:
          -While it is true that divisions within the Body of Christ over significant doctrinal issues are unfortunate and painful, there are scenarios in which such is necessary. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19). Unity in of itself does not guarantee truth or preservation of the gospel. According to Scripture, Christians are permitted to uphold their own views on doctrinal issues of secondary importance (Romans 14). Essential doctrines are clearly and repeatedly defined in Scripture. Doctrines that are of secondary importance (meaning not issues that we should break fellowship over or refuse to acknowledge another as a brother in Christ) would include women's head coverings, musical instruments in church, eschatology, modes of baptism, etc.
  • Thoughts On Roman Catholicism And Unity:
          -While the Church of Rome may appear to be fairly unified because of it is structured and organized manner under the headship of a worldly king called the pope, the unity in which Catholics appeal to is largely imaginary. It is misleading, for there are significant theological differences among the Catholic laity, priests, scholars, theologians, and bishops. There are societies, movements, and orders forming within the chambers of Roman Catholicism. There are liberal and conservative Catholics.
          -Many individual Roman Catholics are unlearned in regards to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Many flatly contradict many of the official teachings of the Catholic Church on issues such as abortion, artificial birth control, the death penalty, homosexuality, on whether priests should be married, letting females join the priesthood, stem-cell research, and much more. Roman Catholics are in a state of division over additional issues such as creation verses evolution, the material sufficiency of Scripture, charismatic occurrences, whether practicing Jews and Muslims can be saved without conversion, and whether Mary is the co-redemptrix. Catholic theologians are even divided over the interpretation of Vatican II documents. Although these divisions are hidden under the Roman Catholic hierarchy, dramatic differences still exist and are significant.
          -Roman Catholicism is a group that is lead by a single human leader and occupies the same title all throughout its domain ("Roman Catholic"), whereas Protestantism is made up of individual churches with different labels. Protestantism is not an ecclesiastical structure like Rome. So it is misleading to compare the two. The principle of Sola Scriptura was never intended to bring about an institutionalized form of unity. We have a sense of genuine love and fellowship toward each other. The two defining articles of Protestantism are Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide.
  • Refuting The 30,000 Protestant Denominations Myth:
          -The National Catholic Register did an assessment on the number of Prostestant denominations: "...There are not—repeat with me—there are not 33,000 Protes­tant denom­i­na­tions. There are not any­where close to it. It is a myth that has taken hold by force of rep­e­ti­tion, and it gets cited and recited by reflex; but it is based on a source that, even Catholics will have to con­cede, relies on too loose a def­i­n­i­tion of the word “denom­i­na­tion.”...How­ever strong the temp­ta­tion some may have to char­ac­ter­ize any­thing not Catholic or Ortho­dox as “Protes­tant,” you can’t do that. All that tells Protes­tant apol­o­gists is that you don’t know what Protes­tantism is, or what its dis­tinc­tives are—and they would be right. And why would they take any­thing you say seriously after that? If you don’t know what Protes­tantism is, who are you to be talk­ing about its errors? Not only are Mor­mons, Jehovah’s Wit­nesses, One­ness Pen­te­costals, Uni­tar­i­ans, Pros­per­ity Gospel believ­ers (included among 23,600 Inde­pen­dents and Mar­gin­als) not Protes­tant, they are not even Chris­t­ian; they adhere to a false Chris­tol­ogy. Protes­tants and Catholics are in agree­ment about who Christ is; these other groups have other ideas."

Monday, March 27, 2017

Refuting The Atheistic "God Of The Gaps" Argument

          Atheists portray belief in the existence of God as merely being an explanation for things that science has not yet answered. In other words, a common objection to theism is that it has only been assumed without proof the necessity of God's existence in all areas that science alone has not been able to explain.

           Christians are not pointing to the existence of a deity to seal up any sort of missing or incomplete scientific information. In other words, we are not simply saying, "Oh, God did it," to questions that simply do not have answers. We are not making arguments based on silence or ignorance.

           When arguments for the existence of God are made, we are making inferences from the best observations gathered by science and from the principles of elementary logic to substantiate our beliefs. In the end, all of our collected evidences point to the existence of a external, much greater reality. These logical proofs for the existence of God point beyond the scope of the natural world.

           The validity of each logical premise in these arguments is based on the validity of each scientific or logical fact. For instance, the universe does indeed have a fine tuning and a first cause. These theistic arguments do not simply appeal to God as a means to provide an explanation, but are logical deductions that are unpacked to get an intended point across.

           If the premises of such arguments are true, then their conclusions automatically follow. This is true, regardless of how people feel or react to the validity of the presented deductive arguments.

           A true scientist must be willing to admit to the possibility of many things, for they are supposed to be dedicated to seeking answers. Scientists are supposed to be about evidence. Those who reject the existence of God are indeed very biased. Science is about the study of the natural world, not searching for naturalistic explanations that rule out the supernatural.

           The fact that science has discovered answers to a number of complicated questions does not mean that it can or will uncover all or even most of the difficult questions of life.

    Sunday, March 26, 2017

    Musings On Lust And Adultery

    • General Points Of Consideration:
              -Marriage is supposed to be the life-long commitment and companionship of one to a partner of the opposite sex. Thus, adultery is wrong for obvious reasons: it is lying and unfair. The lives of people and long-term relationships have come to tragic ends because of adulterous acts. Matters like these cannot simply be downplayed.
              -If fornication and adultery are morally permissible, then why even bother with getting married in the first place?
              -Jesus Christ specifically taught that lusting is equivalent to actually committing adultery and fornication (Matthew 5:28-29). It is a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5). However, being attracted to a member of the opposite sex is not wrong in of itself. That is natural.
              -We are not to focus on finding ways to indulge our own sinful lusts (Romans 13:14). Sexual temptations are waging war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11).
              -The Apostle Paul instructed women to dress modestly (1 Timothy 2:9). Moreover, Jesus Christ warned against being a stumbling block to others (Matthew 18:6).
    • Measures That Should Be Taken In Conquering Lust (Speaking In A General Sense):
              -Eliminate the source: the best way to get rid of any temptation is to get eliminate the source; you first need to identify with certainty the source(s) of your sexual temptation(s); then, find ways to permanently remove/avoid temptations (to the best of your ability).
              -Prayer: acknowledge God's Lordship; ask for His forgiveness of sin; pray for those who are ensnared by sexual sin.
              -Study: read the Bible and meditate upon the moral principles taught within; spend some quality time reflecting on Scripture or memorizing specific verses (Psalm 119).
              -Find wholesome Christian people: though a difficult task, find a group of true Christians who can help steer out of the direction of sexual temptation; carefully examine professing Christians (rather than blindly accepting their mere profession by mouth) because Satan can also use other people as a means to deceive; might have to cut off contact with people who live immoral lifestyles (unless they are co-workers, etc.).
              -Take brakes from the television and video games (or cut them out of your life for good); spend much valuable time doing godly things.
              -We are fully capable by God's grace of being victorious over our spiritual weaknesses such as lust, just as Joseph in the Old Testament refused to sleep with his master's wife (Genesis 39:6-21). He was not even married during that time.

    Saturday, March 25, 2017

    Musings On Marriage And Divorce

            "For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man." (Romans 7:2-3)

            People committed to matrimony are, under ordinary circumstances, united until the moment of physical death. If a spouse dies, however, then the living member is free to marry again (1 Corinthians 7:39). God absolutely despises divorce (Malachi 2:16). Therefore, it is best for arguing couples to seek reconciliation. Marriage was instituted by God and so He has authority over it. 

            The best thing to do is marry another Christian, somebody who shares a similar worldview. What a person should be looking at in a potential spouse is their overall doctrine and personality. Thus, it is better to suffer from the pains of loneliness than to make the poor decision of marrying the wrong person! Even a person who claims to be a Christian may be a bad candidate for marriage (Matthew 7:21).

             Some people may have to wait a long time before finally getting married, like Isaac who was forty before he got married (Genesis 25:20). In fact, a person does not have to get married if he or she does not want to. Even Christ spoke of the celibate (Matthew 19:11-12).

    Marriage From The Christian Perspective

    • The Biblical Purposes Of Marriage:
              -For human reproduction (Genesis 1:28)
              -Love and companionship (Genesis 2:18)
    • Biblical Description of Marriage: 
              -"And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE", and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?" (Matthew 19:4-5)
    • Biblical Responsibilities Of The Husband:
              -According to the Bible, the husband is supposed to show loving leadership over his family (1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19). In other words, he is to exercise authority over his household, be responsible, and thus provide for the needs of the household. The man is meant to be the head of the household.
    • The Functions Of The Wife:
              -The wife is supposed to be the manager of the home, but under the care of the husband (lower not in essence but positionally). For example, she is supposed to care for whatever children are born in wedlock (Titus 2:4-5; 1 Timothy 2:15; 5:14). The wife is free to take on other responsibilities, as long as they do not interfere with her assigned duties and distract the husband from fulfilling his responsibilities.
    • Submission To The Husband Does Not Equal Inferiority Or Lack Of Dignity:
              -Women are not in any way intellectually subordinate in nature or worthy of less respect than men. In other words, both genders posses equal intrinsic value because they were both created in the image and likeness of God. Women are not merely slaves or indentured servants. Women have their own thoughts. They have the same inherent rights and dignity as men. Wives have been called to be voluntarily submissive to their husbands. This "obedience" actually points to the closeness of the two partners in marriage. It is the sharing of a mutual goal; a romantic partnership. It represents the different responsibilities that both leading figures of the family have.
    • The Necessity Of Compromise:
              -In order for a marriage to be successful, both partners must agree to fulfill the necessary obligations that have been assigned to them by God. There has to be necessary conditions for the husband and wife to abide by, for the household cannot stand in a state of contention. One person cannot realistically be expected to complete a job which requires working with other people. Men and women are limited by bodily design. Marriage involves personal accountability. Marriage is based on commitment of the spouses to each other. Marriage is based on self-sacrifice.

    Thursday, March 23, 2017

    Are All Sins Equal In Severity?

    • Sins Are Not Equally Severe: 
               -While it is true that all sins deserve condemnation because they are a violation of God's moral standard (Romans 6:23), some sins are indeed greater in severity than others (John 19:11; 1 John 5:15-17). Not all sins are equally bad.
              -Just as sins have differing degrees of severity (Ezekiel 8), some commandments are greater in importance than others, with the most important being love of God and love of neighbor (Matthew 22:36-39).
              -Scripture tells us that certain sins are "more tolerable" than others (Luke 10:7-12). Scripture mentions "greater condemnation" (Matthew 23:14; Luke 12:47-48). There are different levels of severity in punishment for those in hell.
    • Does James 2:10-11 Teach That All Sins Are Equal In Severity?:
              -James does not place murder in the same category of severity as adultery (or visa versa). All this passage is saying is that if one commits sins such as adultery and murder, then he or she has violated God's Law. In other words, the text is simply stating that there are multiple ways to break the commandments of God. There is more than one way to break His Moral Law, just as there are multiple ways of violating the traffic law.

    Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    Annihilation Refuted

    • Introduction:
              -Eternal Condemnation: the souls of unbelievers are sentenced to a painful eternity and separated from the presence of God.
              -Annihilationism: lost souls get destroyed or cease to exist after the moment of physical death. 
              -Defenders of the "Annihilation" doctrine would include the Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Christadelphians, and others.
    • Logically Necessary:
              -If annihilation is true, then why not also believe that our comfort and existence in heaven will last only for a short period of time?
    • A License To Sin:
              -If a person desires to continue acting in a sinful manner and dies in an unrepentant and unbelieving state, then he or she will have no worries about any sort of future punishments. After all, a non-existent being cannot face judgement for sin by God. So there will ultimately be no punishment for any sins in this theological framework.
    • Flat Contradiction To Biblical Teaching:
              -The Bible emphatically states that the wicked will endure everlasting separation from God in hell (Isaiah 66:22-24; Daniel 12:1-2; Mark 9:43-48; Matthew 25:41-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Revelation 14:9-11; 20:10).
    • The Story Of The Rich Man And Lazarus Serves As Biblical Evidence That Souls Remain Conscious After Physical Death And That Unbelievers Do Not Cease To Exist (Luke 16:19-31):
               -Even if one does not interpret this story to be literal history, plenty of details exist to indicate conscious life after death with the moral lesson that unrighteous people will face judgement by God.
    • On The Greek Term Kolasis In Matthew 25:26:
              -"κόλασις kólasis; gen. koláseōs, fem. noun from kolázō (2849), to punish. Punishment (Matt. 25:46), torment (1 John 4:18), distinguished from timōría (5098), punishment, which in Class. Gr. has the predominating thought of the vindictive character of the punishment which satisfies the inflicter’s sense of outraged justice in defending his own honor or that of the violated law. Kólasis, on the other hand, conveys the notion of punishment for the correction and bettering of the offender. It does not always, however, have this strict meaning in the NT. In Matt. 25:46, kólasis aiṓnios (166), eternal, does not refer to temporary corrective punishment and discipline, but has rather the meaning of timōría, punishment because of the violation of the eternal law of God." (Excerpt taken from Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, Greek-Hebrew Key Word Study Bible)
    • On The Greek Term Aionion:
              -Annihilationists correctly point out that the Greek word "aionion," which is translated into English as "eternal," does not always mean eternal. The word generally means an age or period of time. However, the New Testament clearly denotes the Greek term "aionion" to mean an eternal length of time. The term is also used to describe the length of God's reign (Revelation 11:15) and our salvation (John 3:16). The concept of a literal, eternal conscious torment in hell is indeed a startling truth. Attempting to deny its existence is foolish to the utmost.

    Saturday, March 18, 2017

    The Gnostic Gospels: Are They Authentic?

    In the first installment of this two-part series, I outlined the stark contrasts between the gnostic Jesus and "the Word become flesh." These respective views of Jesus are lodged within mutually exclusive world views concerning claims about God, the universe, humanity, and salvation. But our next line of inquiry is to be historical. Do we have a clue as to what Jesus, the Man from Nazareth, actually did and said as a player in space-time history? Should such gnostic documents as the _Gospel of Thomas_ capture our attention as a reliable report of the mind of Jesus, or does the Son of Man of the biblical Gospels speak with the authentic voice? Or must we remain in utter agnosticism about the historical Jesus?

    ------------------------------------------------------------------- 

    *GLOSSARY*

    *aeons:* Emanations of Being from the unknowable, ultimate metaphysical principle or pleroma (_see_ pleroma).

    *Nag Hammadi collection:* A group of ancient documents dating from approximately A.D. 350, predominantly Gnostic in character, which were discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945.

    *pleroma:* The Greek word for "fulness" used by the Gnostics to mean the highest principle of Being where dwells the unknown and unknowable God. Used in the New Testament to refer to "fullness _in Christ_" (Col. 2:10) who is the _known_ revelation of God in the flesh.

    *pseudepigrapha:* Ancient documents which falsely claim authorship by noteworthy individuals for the sake of credibility; for instance, the _Gospel of Thomas._

    *syncretism:* The teaching that various religious truth-claims can be synthesized into one basic, underlying unity.

    *Valentinus:* Influential early Gnostic of the Second Century A.D. who may have authorized the Nag Hammadi document, the _Gospel of Truth._

     -------------------------------------------------------------------

    Unless we are content to chronicle a cacophony of conflicting views of Jesus based on pure speculation or passionate whimsy, historical investigation is non-negotiable. Christianity has always been a historical religion and any serious challenge to its legitimacy must attend to that fact. Its central claims are rooted in events, not just ideas; in people, not just principles; in revelation, not speculation; in incarnation, not abstraction. Renowned historian Herbert Butterfield speaks of Christianity as a religion in which "certain historical events are held to be part of the religion itself" and are "considered to...represent the divine breaking into history."[1]

    Historical accuracy was certainly no incidental item to Luke in the writing of his Gospel: "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught" (Luke 1:1-4, NIV). The text affirms that Luke was after nothing less than historical certainty, presented in orderly fashion and based on firsthand testimony.

    If Christianity centers on Jesus, the Christ, the promised Messiah who inaugurates the kingdom of God with power, the objective facticity of this Jesus is preeminent. Likewise, if purportedly historical documents, like the gospels of Nag Hammadi, challenge the biblical understanding of Jesus, they too must be brought before historical scrutiny. Part Two of this series will therefore inspect the historical standing of the Gnostic writings in terms of their historical integrity, authenticity, and veracity.

    *LOST BOOKS OF THE BIBLE?*

    Although much excitement has been generated by the Nag Hammadi discoveries, not a little misunderstanding has been mixed with the enthusiasm. The overriding assumption of many is that the treatises unearthed in upper Egypt contained "lost books of the Bible" -- of historical stature equal to or greater than the New Testament books. Much of this has been fueled by the titles of some of the documents themselves, particularly the so-called "Gnostic gospels": the _Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Mary, Gospel of the Egyptians,_ and the _Gospel of Truth._ The connotation of a "gospel" is that it presents the life of Jesus as a teacher, preacher, and healer -- similar in style, if not content, to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

    Yet, a reading of these "gospels" reveals an entirely different genre of material. For example, the introduction to the _Gospel of Truth_ in _The Nag Hammadi Library_ reads, "Despite its title, this work is not the sort found in the New Testament, since it does not offer a continuous narration of the deeds, teachings, passion, and resurrection of Jesus."[2] The introduction to the _Gospel of Philip_ in the same volume says that although it has some similarities to a New Testament Gospel, it "is not a gospel like one of the New Testament gospels. . . . [The] few sayings and stories about Jesus...are not set in any kind of narrative framework like one of the New Testament gospels."[3] Biblical scholar Joseph A. Fitzmyer criticized the title of Pagels's _The Gnostic Gospels_ because it insinuates that the heart of the book concerns lost gospels that have come to light when in fact the majority of Pagels's references are from early church fathers' sources or nongospel material.[4]

    In terms of scholarly and popular attention, the "superstar" of the Nag Hammadi collection is the _Gospel of Thomas._ Yet, _Thomas_ also falls outside the genre of the New Testament Gospels despite the fact that many of its 114 sayings are directly or indirectly related to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. _Thomas_ has almost no narration and its structure consists of discrete sayings. Unlike the canonical Gospels, which provide a social context and narrative for Jesus' words, _Thomas_ is more like various beads almost haphazardly strung on a necklace. This in itself makes proper interpretation difficult. F. F. Bruce observes that "the sayings of Jesus are best to be understood in the light of the historical circumstances in which they were spoken. Only when we have understood them thus can we safely endeavor to recognize the permanent truth which they convey. When they are detached from their original historical setting and arranged in an anthology, their interpretation is more precarious."[5]

    Without undue appeal to the subjective, it can be safely said that the Gnostic material on Jesus has a decidedly different "feel" than the biblical Gospels. There, Jesus' teaching emerges naturally from the overall contour of His life. In the Gnostic materials Jesus seems, in many cases, more of a lecturer on metaphysics than a Jewish prophet. In the _Letter of Peter to Philip,_ the apostles ask the resurrected Jesus, "Lord, we would like to know the deficiency of the aeons and of their pleroma."[6] Such philosophical abstractions were never on the lips of the disciples -- the fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots -- of the biblical accounts. Jesus then discourses on the precosmic fall of "the mother" who acted in opposition to "the Father" and so produced ailing aeons.[7]

    Whatever is made of the historical "feel" of these documents, their actual status as historical records should be brought into closer scrutiny to assess their factual reliability.

    *THE RELIABILITY OF THE GNOSTIC DOCUMENTS*

    Historicity is related to trustworthiness. If a document is historically reliable, it is trustworthy as objectively true; there is good reason to believe that what it affirms essentially fits what is the case. It is faithful to fact. Historical reliability can be divided into three basic categories: integrity, authenticity, and veracity.

    _Integrity_ concerns the preservation of the writing through history. Do we have reason to believe the text as it now reads is essentially the same as when it was first written? Or has substantial corruption taken place through distortion, additions, or subtractions? The New Testament has been preserved in thousands of diverse and ancient manuscripts which enable us to reconstruct the original documents with a high degree of certainty. But what of Nag Hammadi?

    Before the discovery at Nag Hammadi, Gnostic documents not inferred from references in the church fathers were few and far between. Since 1945, however, there are many primary documents. Scholars date the extant manuscripts from A.D. 350-400. The original writing of the various documents, of course, took place sometime before A.D. 350-400, but not, according to most scholars, before the second century.

    The actual condition of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts varies considerably. James Robinson, editor of _The Nag Hammadi Library,_ notes that "there is the physical deterioration of the books themselves, which began no doubt before they were buried around 400 C.E. [then] advanced steadily while they remained buried, and unfortunately was not completely halted in the period between their discovery in 1945 and their final conservation thirty years later."[8]

    Reading through _The Nag Hammadi Library,_ one often finds notations such as ellipses, parentheses, and brackets, indicating spotty marks in the texts. Often the translator has to venture tentative reconstructions of the writings because of textual damage. The situation may be likened to putting together a jigsaw puzzle with numerous pieces missing; one is forced to recreate the pieces by using whatever context is available. Robinson adds that "when only a few letters are missing, they can be often filled in adequately, but larger holes must simply remain a blank."[9]

    Concerning translation, Robinson relates that "the texts were translated one by one from Greek to Coptic, and not always by translators capable of grasping the profundity or sublimity of what they sought to translate."[10] Robinson notes, however, that most of the texts are adequately translated, and that when there is more than one version of a particular text, the better translation is clearly discernible. Nevertheless, he is "led to wonder about the bulk of the texts that exist only in a single version,"[11] because these texts cannot be compared with other translations for accuracy.

    Robinson comments further on the integrity of the texts: "There is the same kind of hazard in the transmission of the texts by a series of scribes who copied them, generation after generation, from increasingly corrupt copies, first in Greek and then in Coptic. The number of unintentional errors is hard to estimate, since such a thing as a clean control copy does not exist; _nor does one have, as in the case of the Bible, a quantity of manuscripts of the same text that tend to correct each other when compared_ (emphasis added)."[12]

     _Authenticity_ concerns the authorship of a given writing. Do we know who the author was? Or must we deal with an anonymous one? A writing is considered authentic if it can be shown to have been written by its stated or implied author. There is solid evidence that the New Testament Gospels were written by their namesakes: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But what of Nag Hammadi? The

    _Letter of Peter to Philip_ is dated at the end of the second century or even into the third. This rules out a literal letter from the apostle to Philip. The genre of this text is known as pseudepigrapha -- writings falsely ascribed to noteworthy individuals to lend credibility to the material. Although interesting in explaining the development of Gnostic thought and its relationship to biblical writings, this letter shouldn't be overtaxed as delivering reliable history of the events it purports to record.

    There are few if any cases of known authorship with the Nag Hammadi and other Gnostic texts. Scholars speculate as to authorship, but do not take pseudepigraphic literature as authentically apostolic. Even the _Gospel of Thomas,_ probably the document closest in time to the New Testament events, is virtually never considered to be written by the apostle Thomas himself.[13] The marks of authenticity in this material are, then, spotty at best.

    _Veracity_ concerns the truthfulness of the author of the text. Was the author adequately in a position to relate what is reported, in terms of both chronological closeness to the events and observational savvy? Did he or she have sufficient credentials to relay historical truth?

    Some, in their enthusiasm over Nag Hammadi, have lassoed texts into the historical corral that date several hundred years after the life of Jesus. For instance, in a review of the movie _The Last Temptation of Christ,_ Michael Grosso speaks of hints of Jesus' sexual life "right at the start of the Christian tradition." He then quotes from the _Gospel of Philip_ to the effect that Jesus often kissed Mary Magdalene on the mouth.[14] The problem is that the text is quite far from "the start of the Christian tradition," being written, according to one scholar, "perhaps as late as the second half of the third century."[15]

    Craig Blomberg states that "most of the Nag Hammadi documents, predominantly Gnostic in nature, make no pretense of overlapping with the gospel traditions of Jesus' earthly life."[16] He observes that "a number claim to record conversations of the resurrected Jesus with various disciples, but this setting is usually little more than an artificial framework for imparting Gnostic doctrine."[17]

    What, then, of the veracity of the documents? We do not know who wrote most of them and their historical veracity concerning Jesus seems slim. Yet some scholars advance a few candidates as providing historically reliable facts concerning Jesus. In the case of the _Gospel of Truth,_ some scholars see Valentinus as the author, or at least as authoring an earlier version.[18] Yet Valentinus dates into the second century (d. A.D. 175) and was thus not a contemporary of Jesus. Attridge and MacRae date the document between A.D. 140 and 180.[19] Layton recognizes that "the work is a sermon and has nothing to do with the Christian genre properly called 'gospel.'"[20]

    The text differs from many in Nag Hammadi because of its recurring references to New Testament passages. Beatley Layton notes that "it paraphrases, and so interprets, some thirty to sixty scriptural passages almost all from the New Testament books."[21] He goes on to note that Valentinus shaped these allusions to fit his own Gnostic theology.[22] In discussing the use of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) in the _Gospel of Truth,_ C. M. Tuckett concludes that "there is no evidence for the use of sources other than the canonical gospels for synoptic material."[23] This would mean that the _Gospel of Truth_ gives no independent historical insight about Jesus, but rather reinterprets previous material.

    The _Gospel of Philip_ is thick with Gnostic theology and contains several references to Jesus. However, it does not claim to be a revelation from Jesus: it is more of a Gnostic manual of theology.[24] According to Tuckett's analysis, all the references to Gospel material seem to stem from Matthew and not from any other canonical Gospel or other source independent of Matthew. Andrew Hembold has also pointed out that both the _Gospel of Truth_ and the _Gospel of Philip_ show signs of "mimicking" the New Testament; they both "know and recognize the greater part of the New Testament as authoritative."[25] This would make them derivative, not original, documents.

    Tuckett has also argued that the _Gospel of Mary_ and the _Book of Thomas the Contender_ are dependent on synoptic materials, and that "there is virtually no evidence for the use of pre-synoptic sources by these writers. These texts are all 'post-synoptic,' not only with regard to their dates, but also with regard to the form of the synoptic tradition they presuppose."[26] In other words, these writings are simply drawing on preexistent Gospel material and rearranging it to conform to their Gnostic world view. They do not contribute historically authentic, new material.

    The _Apocryphon of James_ claims to be a secret revelation of the risen Jesus to James His brother. It is less obviously Gnostic than some Nag Hammadi texts and contains some more orthodox-sounding phrases such as, "Verily I say unto you none will be saved unless they believe in my cross."[27] It also affirms the unorthodox, such as when Jesus says, "Become better than I; make yourselves like the son of the Holy Spirit."[28] While one scholar dates this text sometime before A.D. 150,[29] Blomberg believes it gives indications of being "at least in part later than and dependent upon the canonical gospels."[30] Its esotericism certainly puts it at odds with the canonical Gospels, which are better attested historically.

    *THOMAS ON TRIAL*

    The Nag Hammadi text that has provoked the most historical scrutiny is the _Gospel of Thomas._ Because of its reputation as the lost "fifth Gospel" and its frequently esoteric and mystical cast, it is frequently quoted in New Age circles. A recent book by Robert Winterhalter is entitled, _The Fifth Gospel: A Verse-by-Verse New Age Commentary on the Gospel of Thomas._ He claims Thomas knows "the Christ both as the Self, and the foundation of individual life."[31] Some sayings in _Thomas_ do seem to teach this. But is this what the historical Jesus taught?

    The scholarly literature on _Thomas_ is vast and controversial. Nevertheless, a few important considerations arise in assessing its veracity as history.

    Because it is more of an anthology of mostly unrelated sayings than an ongoing story about Jesus' words and deeds, _Thomas_ is outside the genre of "Gospel" in the New Testament. Yet, some of the 114 sayings closely parallel or roughly resemble statements in the Synoptics, either by adding to them, deleting from them, combining several references into one, or by changing the sense of a saying entirely.

    This explanation uses the Synoptics as a reference point for comparison. But is it likely that _Thomas_ is independent of these sources and gives authentic although "unorthodox" material about Jesus? To answer this, we must consider a diverse range of factors.

    There certainly are sayings that harmonize with biblical material, and direct or indirect relationships can be found to all four canonical Gospels. In this sense, _Thomas_ contains both orthodox and unorthodox material, if we use orthodox to mean the material in the extant New Testament. For instance, the Trinity and unforgivable sin are referred to in the context of blasphemy: "Jesus said, 'Whoever blasphemes against the father will be forgiven, and whoever blasphemes against the son will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit will not be forgiven either on earth or in heaven.'"[32]

    In another saying Jesus speaks of the "evil man" who "brings forth evil things from his evil storehouse, which is in his heart, and says evil things"[33] (see Luke 6:43-46). This can be read to harmonize with the New Testament Gospels' emphasis on human sin, not just ignorance of the divine spark within.

    Although it is not directly related to a canonical Gospel text, the following statement seems to state the biblical theme of the urgency of finding Jesus while one can: "Jesus said, 'Take heed of the living one while you are alive, lest you die and seek to see him and be unable to do so'" (compare John 7:34; 13:33).[34]

    At the same time we find texts of a clearly Gnostic slant, as noted earlier. How can we account for this?

    The original writing of _Thomas_ has been dated variously between A.D. 50 and 150 or even later, with most scholars opting for a second century date.[35] Of course, an earlier date would lend more credibility to it, although its lack of narrative framework still makes it more difficult to understand than the canonical Gospels. While some argue that _Thomas_ uses historical sources independent of those used by the New Testament, this is not a uniformly held view, and arguments are easily found which marshall evidence for _Thomas's_ dependence (either partial or total) on the canonical Gospels.[36]

    Blomberg claims that "where _Thomas_ parallels the four gospels it is unlikely that any of the distinctive elements in _Thomas_ predate the canonical versions."[37] When _Thomas_ gives a parable found in the four Gospels and adds details not found there, "they can almost always be explained as conscious, Gnostic redaction [editorial adaptation]."[38]

    James Dunn elaborates on this theme by comparing _Thomas_ with what is believed to be an earlier and partial version of the document found in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, near the turn of the century.[39] He notes that the Oxyrhynchus "papyri date from the end of the second or the first half of the third century, while the _Gospel of Thomas_...was probably written no earlier than the fourth century."[40]

    Dunn then compares similar statements from Matthew, the Oxyrhynchus papyri, and the Nag Hammadi text version of _Thomas:_

    Matthew 7:7-8 and 11:28 -- "...Seek and you will find;...he who seeks finds...Come to me...and I will give you rest."
           Pap. Ox. 654.5-9 -- (Jesus says:)
    'Let him who see(ks) not cease (seeking until) he finds; and when he find (he will) be astonished, and having (astoun)ded, he will reign; an(d reigning), he will (re)st' (Clement of Alexandria also knows the saying in this form.)
            Gospel of Thomas 2 -- 'Jesus said: He who seeks should not stop seeking until he finds; and when he finds, he will be bewildered (beside himself);
    and when he is bewildered he will marvel, and will reign over the All.'[41]

    Dunn notes that the term "the All" (which the _Gospel of Thomas_ adds to the earlier document) is "a regular Gnostic concept," and that "as the above comparisons suggest, the most obvious explanation is that it was one of the last elements to be added to the saying."[42] Dunn further comments that the Nag Hammadi version of _Thomas_ shows a definite "gnostic colouring" and gives no evidence of "the thesis of a form of Gnostic Christianity already existing in the first century." He continues: "Rather it confirms the counter thesis that the Gnostic element in Gnostic Christianity is a second century syncretistic outgrowth on the stock of the earlier Christianity. What we can see clearly in the case of this one saying is probably representative of the lengthy process of development and elaboration which resulted in the form of the _Gospel of Thomas_ found at Nag Hammadi."[43]

    Other authorities substantiate the notion that whatever authentic material _Thomas_ may convey concerning Jesus, the text shows signs of Gnostic tampering. Marvin W. Meyer judges that _Thomas_ "shows the hand of a gnosticizing editor."[44] Winterhalter, who reveres _Thomas_ enough to write a devotional guide on it, nevertheless says of it that "some sayings are spurious or greatly altered, but this is the work of a later Egyptian editor."[45] He thinks, though, that the wheat can be successfully separated from the chaff.

    Robert M. Grant has noted that "the religious realities which the Church proclaimed were ultimately perverted by the _Gospel of Thomas._ For this reason _Thomas,_ along with other documents which purported to contain secret sayings of Jesus, was rejected by the Church."[46]

    Here we find ourselves agreeing with the early Christian defenders of the faith who maintained that Gnosticism in the church was a corruption of original truth and not an independently legitimate source of information on Jesus or the rest of reality. Fitzmyer drives this home in criticizing Pagels's view that the Gnostics have an equal claim on Christian authenticity: "Throughout the book [Pagels] gives the unwary reader the impression that the difference between 'orthodox Christians' and 'gnostic Christians' was one related to the 'origins of Christianity'. Time and time again, she is blind to the fact that she is ignoring a good century of Christian existence in which those 'gnostic Christians' were simply not around."[47]

    In this connection it is also telling that outside of the _Gospel of Thomas,_ which doesn't overtly mention the Resurrection, other Gnostic documents claiming to impart new information about Jesus do so through spiritual, post-resurrection dialogues -- often in the form of visions -- which are not subject to the same historical rigor as claims made about the earthly life of Jesus. This leads Dunn to comment that "Christian Gnosticism usually attributed its secret [and unorthodox] teaching of Jesus to discourses delivered by him, so they maintained, in a lengthy ministry after his resurrection (as in _Thomas the Contender_ and _Pistis Sophia_). The _Gospel of Thomas_ is unusual therefore in attempting to use the Jesus-tradition as the vehicle for its teaching. . . . Perhaps Gnosticism abandoned the _Gospel of Thomas_ format because it was to some extent subject to check and rebuttal from Jesus-tradition preserved elsewhere."[48]

    Dunn thinks that the more thoroughly the Gnostics challenged the already established orthodox accounts of Jesus' earthly life, the less credible they became; but with post-resurrection accounts, no checks were forthcoming. They were claiming additional information vouchsafed only to the elite. He concludes that Gnosticism "was able to present its message in a sustained way as the teaching of Jesus only by separating the risen Christ from the earthly Jesus and by abandoning the attempts to show a continuity between the Jesus of the Jesus-tradition and the heavenly Christ of their faith."[49]

    What is seen by some as a Gnostic challenge to historic, orthodox views of the life, teaching, and work of Jesus was actually in many cases a retreat from historical considerations entirely. Only so could the Gnostic documents attempt to establish their credibility.

    *GNOSTIC UNDERDOGS?*

    Although Pagels and others have provoked sympathy, if not enthusiasm, for the Gnostics as the underdogs who just happened to lose out to orthodoxy, the Gnostics' historical credentials concerning Jesus are less than compelling. It may be romantic to "root for the underdog," but the Gnostic underdogs show every sign of being heretical hangers-on who tried to harness Christian language for conceptions antithetical to early Christian teaching.

    Many sympathetic with Gnosticism make much of the notion that the Gnostic writings were suppressed by the early Christian church. But this assertion does not, in itself, provide support one way or the other for the truth or falsity of Gnostic doctrine. If truth is not a matter of _majority_ vote, neither is it a matter of _minority_ dissent. It may be true, as Pagels says, that "the winners write history," but that doesn't necessarily make them bad or dishonest historians. If so, we should hunt down Nazi historians to give us the real picture of Hitler's Germany and relegate all opposing views to that of dogmatic apologists who just happened to be on the winning side.

    In _Against Heresies,_ Irenaeus went to great lengths to present the theologies of the various Gnostic schools in order to refute them biblically and logically. If suppression had been his concern, the book never would have been written as it was. Further, to argue cogently against the Gnostics, Irenaeus and the other anti-Gnostic apologists would presumably have had to be diligent to correctly represent their foes in order to avoid ridicule for misunderstanding them. Patrick Henry highlights this in reference to Nag Hammadi: "While the Nag Hammadi materials have made some corrections to the portrayal of Gnosticism in the anti-Gnostic writings of the church fathers, it is increasingly evident that the fathers did not fabricate their opponents' views; what distortion there is comes from selection, not from invention. It is still legitimate to use materials from the writings of the fathers to characterize Gnosticism."[50]

    It is highly improbable that all of the Gnostic materials could have been systematically confiscated or destroyed by the early church. Dunn finds it unlikely that the reason we have no unambiguously first century documents from Christian Gnostics is because the early church eradicated them. He believes it more likely that we have none because there were none.[51] But by archaeological virtue of Nag Hammadi, we now do have many primary source Gnostic documents available for detailed inspection. Yet they do not receive superior marks as historical documents about Jesus. In a review of _The Gnostic Gospels,_ noted biblical scholar Raymond Brown affirmed that from the Nag Hammadi "works we learn not a single verifiable new fact about the historical Jesus' ministry, and only a few new sayings that might possibly have been his."[52]

    Another factor foreign to the interests of Gnostic apologists is the proposition that Gnosticism expired largely because it lacked life from the beginning. F. F. Bruce notes that "Gnosticism was too much bound up with a popular but passing phase of thought to have the survival power of apostolic Christianity."[53]

    Exactly why did apostolic Christianity survive and thrive? Robert Speer pulls no theological punches when he proclaims that "Christianity lived because it was true to the truth. Through all the centuries it has never been able to live otherwise. It can not live otherwise today."[54]

    *NOTES*

    1 Herbert Butterfield, _Christianity and History_ (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1950), 119.
    2 Harold W. Attridge and George W. MacRae, "Introduction: The Gospel of Truth," in James M. Robinson, ed., _The Nag Hammadi Library_ (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 38.
    3 Wesley W. Isenberg, "Introduction: The Gospel of Philip," _Ibid.,_ 139.
    4 Joseph Fitzmyer, "The Gnostic Gospels According to Pagels," _America,_ 16 Feb. 1980, 123.
    5 F. F. Bruce, _Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament_ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 154.
    6 Robinson, 434.
    7 _Ibid.,_ 435.
    8 Robinson, "Introduction," 2.
    9 _Ibid.,_ 3.
    10 _Ibid.,_ 2.
    11 _Ibid._
    12 _Ibid._
    13 _See_ Ray Summers, _The Secret Sayings of the Living Jesus_ (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1968), 14.
    14 Michael Grosso, "Testing the Images of God," _Gnosis,_ Winter 1989, 43.
    15 Wesley W. Isenberg, "Introduction: The Gospel of Philip," in Robinson, 141.
    16 Craig Blomberg, _The Historical Reliability of the Gospels_ (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 208.
    17 _Ibid._
    18 _See_ Stephan Hoeller, "Valentinus: A Gnostic for All Seasons," _Gnosis,_ Fall/Winter 1985, 25.
    19 _Ibid.,_ 38.
    20 Bentley Layton, _The Gnostic Scriptures_ (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1987), 251.
    21 _Ibid._
    22 _Ibid._
    23 C. M. Tuckett, "Synoptic Tradition in the Gospel of Truth and the Testimony of Truth," _Journal of Theological Studies_ 35 (1984):145.
    24 Blomberg, 213-14.
    25 Andrew K. Hembold, _The Nag Hammadi Texts and the Bible_ (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967), 88-89.
    26 Christopher Tuckett, "Synoptic Tradition in Some Nag Hammadi and Related Texts," _Vigiliae Christiane_ 36 (July 1982):184.
    27 Robinson, 32.
    28 _Ibid._
    29 Francis E. Williams, "Introduction: The Apocryphon of James," in Robinson, 30.
     30 Blomberg, 213.
    31 Robert Winterhalter, _The Fifth Gospel_ (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 13.
    32 Robinson, 131; _See_ Bruce, _Jesus and Christian Origins,_ 130-31.
    33 Robinson, 131.
    34 _Ibid.,_ 132.
    35 Layton, 377.
    36 _See_ Craig L. Blomberg, "Tradition and Redaction in the Parables of the Gospel of Thomas," _Gospel Perspectives_ 5: 177-205.
    37 Blomberg, _Historical Reliability,_ 211.
    38 _Ibid.,_ 212.
    39 _See_ Joseph A. Fitzmyer, "The Oxyrhynchus Logoie of Jesus and the Coptic Gospel According to Thomas," in Joseph Fitzmyer, _Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament_ (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1974), 355-433.
    40 James D. G. Dunn, _The Evidence for Jesus_ (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1985), 101. 41 _Ibid._
    42 _Ibid.,_ 102.
    43 _Ibid._
    44 Marvin W. Meyer, "Jesus in the Nag Hammadi Library," _Reformed Journal_ (June 1979):15.
    45 Winterhalter, 4.
    46 Robert M. Grant with David Noel Freedman, _The Secret Sayings of Jesus_ (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1960), 115.
    47 Fitzmyer, "The Gnostic Gospels According to Pagels," 123.
    48 James Dunn, _Unity and Diversity in the New Testament_ (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), 287-88.
    49 _Ibid.,_ 288; _see_ also Blomberg, _Historical Reliability,_ 219.
    50 Patrick Henry, _New Directions_ (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), 282.
    51 Dunn, _The Evidence,_ 97-98.
    52 Raymond E. Brown, "The Gnostic Gospels," _The New York Times Book Review,_ 20 Jan. 1980, 3.
    53 F. F. Bruce, _The Canon of Scripture_ (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 278.
    54 Robert E. Speer, _The Finality of Jesus Christ_ (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1933), 108.

    -------------

    End of document, CRJ0088A.TXT (original CRI file name), "The Gnostic Gospels: Are They Authentic?" release A, April 30, 1994 R. Poll, CRI

    (A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.)

    Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute

    Beliefs Are Not Time-Bound

    "An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays. You might as well say of a view of the cosmos that it was suitable to half-past three, but not suitable for half-past four. What a man can believe depends upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or the century."

    G.K. Chesterton, cited by George Grant, "Grand Illusions: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood," p. 227

    Thursday, March 16, 2017

    Luke 1:28 And Roman Catholic Mariology

    • Introduction:
              -"The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" should herself be "full of grace." She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the "Daughter of Zion": "Rejoice." It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son." (CCC # 722).
    • Presenting Luke 1:28 In Its Context:
              -The best description that we get about Mary from the pages of the Bible is that she is "the Lord's servant" (Luke 1:38). No other biblical descriptions of her character exist. It is therefore an untenable position to go from describing Mary as being an instrument by God to accomplish His purpose to being a woman who was conceived without sin, ascended into heaven without physical death, and being exalted as queen of heaven. Moreover, Luke 1:28 nowhere sanctions the use of random titles to exalt Mary, permits us to offer prayers to her or build statues of saints to bow before, and fails to mention anything about future apparitions.
              -The context reveals important sayings of Elizabeth, Mary, and the Angel Gabriel. However, nothing is said about Mary's alleged "sinlessness." Furthermore, we need to ask why Gabriel would announce the important message of Mary's birth so many years after the occasion took place (when she was a fully grown woman)? Both the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and John the Baptist were proclaimed before their birth dates. It would be very strange to make a prophecy of an event after the fact that it has already happened. The context of Luke chapter one is all about the conception of Jesus. In other words, all characters mentioned in this context point to the coming of Jesus, not to Mary His mother. To read the idea of Mary's alleged immaculate conception into this passage is contextually invalid.
    • Not Found In The Original Greek Manuscripts: 
              -The phrase "full of grace" is derived from a faulty translation of Jerome in his fourth century Latin Vulgate. Also, the New Testament was originally written in Greek. Thus, the Roman Catholic Church has derived its doctrine from a corrupted Latin translation (not the Greek original). Interestingly, most modern-day Catholic Bibles do not have the rendering "full of grace". Examples of reputable translations ignoring the term would include the New American Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible.
    • Admissions From The New Catholic Encyclopedia On The Greek Term Kecharitomene:
              -"But the term kecharitomene (full of grace) serves only as an illustration, not as a proof of the dogma." (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, under “Immaculate Conception”)
              -"The words of Gabriel, “Hail, full of grace” (Lk. 1.28), have also been appealed to as a revelation of the Immaculate Conception, on the grounds that to be truly full of grace, Mary must have had it always. This interpretation, however, overlooks the fact that the Greek term κεχαριτωμένη [kecharitomene] is not nearly so explicit as the translation “full of grace” might suggest. It implies only that God’s favor has been lavished on Mary, without defining the degree of grace." (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII, Page 378) 

    Tuesday, March 14, 2017

    Examining The Catholic Rosary In Light Of Scripture

           One Roman Catholic legend is that Mary showed up before St. Dominic in 1208 at the church of Prouille and revealed the Rosary beads to him. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, condemned praying repetitive prayer:

            "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words."  (Matthew 6:6-7)

            Without a doubt, the Rosary consists of heaping up words and phrases in an attempt to make prayers more efficacious or more heard. Furthermore, we never see anybody in the New Testament using pre-fabricated, mechanical prayers with a continuous, repetitious nature. Scripture does not affirm any kind of icon or relic that aids in prayer.

            More prayers are dedicated to Mary in the Rosary than to God Himself in the process of it being cited. Thus, one can see how such a prayer can diminish one's attention to God. Contrast Roman Catholic devotion to Mary with words from the Psalms:

            "My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken." (Psalm 62:5-6)

            "Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth." (Psalm 73:25)

            What is the importance of knowing how many times a prayer is said? Why is there such a major emphasis on the number of repetitions in citing the Rosary? What are the consequences of saying too many or too little of a specific prayer? Is it some sort of magical formula or spell? Does the Rosary involve some sort of self-hypnosis technique? What is the significance of even using this relic if the repetition serves no purpose?

            The concept of praying with beads was used by pagans long before Christianity even began. An example would include the Hindus. In fact, the Rosary is connected with a prayer "rhythm," is described as being repetitious, and is linked with a rhythm of breathing. These concepts are associated with the practices of occult religions such as Wicca. Former Pope John Paul II offered this description of the Rosary in his apostolic litter called "Rosarium Virginis Mariae."

            Roman Catholic apologists sometimes try to justify the practice of the Rosary by pointing to Psalm 136, which alternates the same phrase 26 times with 26 different things that God gives us. The first problem with this argument is that a psalm is a song, not a prayer. Secondly, this text does not repeat itself 26 times in a row, as the Rosary does. And lastly, the psalm is directed to God alone.

            Matthew 26:44 and Mark 14:39 are also pointed to by proponents of the Rosary. However, praying a non-repetitive prayer three separate times is not the same as praying an individual prayer with a repetitive nature. There were no prayer beads involved. Moreover, the prayers of Jesus were directed to God the Father, not Mary herself.

            Jesus Christ emphatically condemned pre-packaged, mechanical, continuous types of prayer by calling them "vain." Those are done by pagans and legalists. God already knows everything that we are going to ask Him, even before we plead for His divine assistance (Matthew 6:7). He knows everything that we need, even better than what we know of ourselves.

    Sunday, March 12, 2017

    Is The Perpetual Virginity Of Mary Biblical?

    • Introduction:
              -Roman Catholics believe that the virgin Mary never had sexual intercourse after Jesus was born. It is therefore held that He had no blood brothers or sisters.
    • Jesus Christ had literal brothers and sisters from the womb of Mary (Matthew 13:55-57; Mark 6:3-4):
              -The context of these passages shows that the meaning of the "brothers and sisters" to be natural family.
              -In Matthew 13:55-57 and Mark 6:3-4, the Greek word for sisters is "adelphe" and is also used in 1 Timothy 5:1-2 to mean natural sister born as to the same mother.
              -If this was a reference to more distinct relatives, then why did the writer not use the Greek word "suggenes" (Luke 1:36; Luke 1:58)?
    • Matthew 1:24-25:
              -"He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus." (Matthew 1:25, New American Bible)
              -The term "knew" was a modest way of describing sexual relations and is found throughout Scripture (Genesis 4:1; 17; 25).
              -Other verses that use the word until (or till) to mean a change in condition would be Matthew 24:34, Acts 20:11, Acts 23:12, and Revelation 7:3. Context determines the meaning behind words.
              -Jesus distinguished between blood brothers verses brothers of faith (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21; John 2:12).
    • Matthew 1:18:
              -"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:18)
    • John's gospel records a fulfilled prophecy (John 2:15-17) from the Book of Psalms (Psalm 69:8-9). It strongly implies that Christ had literal brothers and sisters.
    • Jesus was Mary's firstborn, not only born (Luke 2:7):
              -The New Testament makes a distinction between firstborn and only born (Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38).
    • Answering The "Brother Should Be Translated As Cousin" Argument:
              -Defenders of the alleged perpetual virginity of Mary always claim that the word "brother" should be translated as "cousin." However, Koine Greek is an extremely precise language. This argument is refuted because the New Testament occupies a separate Greek word for cousin, which is "anepsios" (Colossians 4:10). The New Testament never denotes the term "brother" to mean anything other than a literal brother in the context of family relations. God created sex, and everything that He creates is good (Genesis 1:31). The act when done within the confines of marriage does not spiritually defile a person.

    Saturday, March 11, 2017

    Refuting The Immaculate Conception Of Mary

    • The Immaculate Conception Of Mary:
              -According to the Roman Catholic Church, Mary was conceived without the stains of original sin and she therefore led a sinless life. It is claimed that God had to work things out in this fashion so that Jesus could be immaculately conceived.
              -As is usual with distinctively Roman Catholic dogmas, there is no unanimous consensus among the church fathers as to whether or not the immaculate conception is biblical. Dr. Ron Rhodes notes the following, "...it is a historical fact that a number of the early church fathers such as Origen, Basil, Hillary, John Chrysostom, and Cyril of Alexandria believed that Mary had engaged in sins (such as vanity and ambition) in her life." (Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics, p. 296) The Roman Catholic television network called EWTN said, "During the middle ages, authors such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Thomas Aquinas denied the doctrine."
    • A Few Questions:
              -If sinlessness is claimed for Mary so that she could be pure enough to bear Jesus Christ, then such should also be claimed for Mary's mother so that she could be pure enough to bear Mary. This process would have to continue until it reaches its starting point (Eve?).
              -Why not simply have Mary and Jesus born in a sinless environment?
    • Not Ritually Clean, According To The Old Testament Levitical Law Which Was Still In Effect When Jesus Christ Was Still A Baby:
              -If Mary was sinless, then why was she unclean and had to offer a sacrifice for sin (Luke 2:16; 21-24)? According to the Old Testament, the mother needed purifying after a birth because of the issue of blood (Leviticus 12:1-8). Mary was ritually unclean.
    • All Have Sinned And Fallen Short Of The Glory Of God:
              -All have fallen short of God's perfect standard of morality (Romans 3:10-12; 23; 5:12) and are therefore in need of a perfect atonement sacrifice, which is Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:2; 1 John 3:5). "All" includes Mary. There has been only one Person tempted by the devil and successfully resisted sin throughout His entire life, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). For this reason, people such as Adam and Eve, babies, and the mentally handicapped are not true exceptions to the rule "all have sinned." While the Scriptures explicitly teach the sinless nature of Jesus Christ, they are unforthcoming when it comes to Mary being immaculately conceived. Only Jesus was conceived without sin and led a sinless life.

    General Comments On Roman Catholic Mariology

    • What Is Mariology?:
              -The study or doctrine relating to Mary, the mother of Jesus (upheld by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches).
    • Catholic Mariology Presents A Distorted View Of Mary:
              -The New Testament epistles were written to give spiritual guidance and instruction to the Christian churches. They have a great deal to say about constructing the appropriate doctrines that develop a foundational understanding for worship. However, Mary is completely absent from the New Testament letters (with the exception being Acts 1:14 and Galatians 4:4).
              -Even in the four gospels, her alleged "spiritual power and authority" seems as if it does not exist. Jesus and the apostles never gave Mary any place of authority or devotion that the Roman Catholic Church has given to her.
              -Why did Jesus address another woman by the same name, "woman," as He called His mother Mary (Matthew 15:28; John 2:4)?
    • John The Baptist:
              -Jesus Christ said that the greatest human ever born was John the Baptist and that he was the LEAST in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 11:11-13). Even the "least" in the kingdom of God is "greater" than John the Baptist. So Mary is no better than anyone else, either in heaven or earth.
    • Contradicts Biblical Teaching:
              -Jesus publicly refuted a woman who attempted to exalt Mary on the basis that she gave birth to Him (Luke 11:27-28). Instead, He placed an emphasis on hearing and obeying the Word of God.
              -Jesus stated that all of His disciples are His mother and family (Matthew 12:46-50). In other words, He elevated all of His disciples to the same level as His earthly mother and family. The emphasis is on faithfulness to God's will, rather than ancestral lineage.
    • God Uses Everyone And Everything For A Purpose That Brings Him Glory:
              -God did not have to use Mary as the means of bringing His Son into the world so that He could make atonement on our behalf. The Lord could have found favor with another virgin woman who was just as faithful to His will, if He so chose. In fact, He did not have to save us (but He did as a result of His love and mercy). It is not as if Mary was the only option available or that God owed her something.
    • Delusions Of Grandeur:
              -One can find numerous statements exalting Mary in writings by Roman Catholic "saints" and church officials that far exceed the teachings of Scripture. Consider this example: "Let us in all confidence choose as advocate before God the Immaculate and Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary. She has destroyed all the heresies of the world...In heaven as Queen at the right hand of her only Son, clothed in golden raiment and all manner of jewels, there is nothing that she cannot obtain from him" (Pope Pius IX, Quanta cura, December 8, 1864). 
              -If Mary had really accomplished what the pope claimed regarding the abolishment of all heresy, then why are we still encountering atheists, other world religions, and pseudo-Christian cults? The constant theme of the New Testament is centered on Jesus Christ and His merits alone. To illustrate the point, consider how John the Baptist had stated that 'Christ must increase' and he himself 'must decrease' (John 3:30).

    Arguments For The Existence Of God

    • The Argument From First Cause:
              -How did everything existing in the universe come into being? If the answer is gasses or atoms or celestial bodies or whatever else scientists want us to believe, then where did all of these things come from? It is logically impossible for something to originate from nothing. We need to keep going back in time until we get to a beginning. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the first cause of everything must be a God who has existed for all eternity. God has no beginning or end. He is eternal. That is His very nature. Thus, He is the first cause of all things. We know beyond any shadow of a doubt that something cannot create itself from nothing. It is impossible for nothing to create something. What about the idea of an eternal universe? Can matter, time, and space be infinite? It is impossible to have an infinite number of finite things. The universe cannot be in itself eternal because it consists of finite particles. Hence, there must be an infinite outside Source which brought it into existence.
    • The Argument From Intelligent Design (Teleological Argument):
              -The fine tuning of the universe is worth our consideration. Notice how everything in the solar system orbits around the sun, how the planets rotate (with moons even rotating around them), and how everything stays in perfect order. The planet Earth, which is about 93 million miles away from the sun and is third in the sequence of planets as to their distance away from the central star that provides us with light, is the only known environment that is able to sustain life. Furthermore, life on this planet functions in a very sophisticated and orderly manner. Disturbing the natural order of the environment causes it to become unbalanced and thus opens the door to the danger of environmental catastrophes. Overall life function on earth fits together like pieces fitting together to form a whole puzzle. Examine how the components of the human body have to work together. It seems as if everything existing today was created as a result of an Intelligent Designer. If the universe simply originated out of merely "nothing," then how come life is not disorganized and chaotic? An intelligent design cannot exist without an intelligent designer, anymore than a portrait can exist apart from an artist.
    • The Moral Argument:
              -How life should work is dictated by universal moral principles. In other words, every decision that we plan to execute should be made on the basis of an objective standard of good. The fact that we appeal to a moral standard in our daily argumentation, expect everyone to behave in morally good manner, make apologies, and try to make excuses to justify our wrongdoings proves that there must be an ultimate, unchangeable standard of morality. Mentally deranged people have a perception of good, even if their view of goodness is extremely twisted. In fact, the heart of the ancient civilizations had a sense of good, though their practices or customs may have been radically different and even repulsive to our sight. This innate sense of good and evil cannot be mere instinct because it is based upon our free will, which operates on the basis of human reason. The difference between a mere animal instinct and this transcendent moral code is that the first one is automatic and unable to be resisted, whereas the second concept can indeed be resisted. We either choose to act in accordance with or contrary to this objective moral standard. An objective moral law cannot exist without a supreme Law Giver.
    • The Argument From Contingency (Cosmological Argument):
              -In order for the universe to come into existence, an outside entity that exceeds the boundaries of space, matter, and time must also exist. Nothing material can exist on its own behalf or whim. The existence of the universe is dependent on an outside source, just as fire needs oxygen to burn or trees need water to grow. What is needed for the universe to exist exists independently of whether other beings exist or not. This mysterious being exists in itself, that is, an eternal source. This divine Giver is completely different than the created, finite particles of matter. He is infinite, unchangeable, and immaterial. He transcends space and time. In contrast, the universe is finite and changeable.
    • The Argument From Efficient Cause:
              -There is no such thing as infinite regress, that is, a never ending sequence of causes. Every chain of events must have an absolute beginning, including the formation of the universe. It is logically impossible for something to exist prior to its existence. So every material object must have a beginning. An effect cannot occur without a cause. We must conclude that a supernatural Creator set the universe into the orderly fashion that it is today.
    • The Argument From Degrees Of Perfection:
              -We tend to classify personal preferences, chains of events, lifetime experiences, and various decisions from least to greatest. In other words, one of the processes on which our judgment operates is ranking things according to being better or worse or by being more or less extreme in nature. A few examples of this sort of activity will be provided to illustrate the point that degrees of perfection do exist and how they relate to the existence of God. For example, we classify being a genius as better than having an average intelligence; an average intelligence as better than being unintelligent. We classify not touching a hot stove as being better than actually touching a hot stove. Being is better than not being at all. Our way of being is much better and more complete than that of animals or inanimate objects. If these degrees of perfection are pertinent to being, which does exist in finite creatures, then there must be a Best Degree or Ultimate Standard to recognize. One exists who has all of the good qualities that we posses as beings, but to an infinitely perfect and full extent. He is absolutely perfect. God has the highest degree of perfection and being. 
    • The Argument Of The Unmoved Mover:
              -Everything that is placed into motion has a mover. In other words, things cannot merely set themselves into motion without a being applying the force to put that object into a state of movement. All moving things have a mover. Therefore, the universe could not have began and thus put everything into motion by itself. There is an Unmoved Mover from Whom all motion proceeds. God is the One who set the order of everything into motion.

    Thursday, March 9, 2017

    Why Are There So Many Different Versions Of The Bible?

    • Defining The Issues: 
              -Several translations of the Bible have been produced and thus distributed throughout the church. Christians tend to prefer specific versions such as the King James Version, New International Version or the New American Standard Bible over others. Church groups even recommend certain Bible translations which are used in the preaching pulpits of their congregations. In fact, many people mistakenly make the extrapolation that the existence of multiple Bible versions is the primary cause of division throughout the church and somehow proves that the manuscripts used for finding English equivalents for the words of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic languages are hopelessly tainted by human bias. To make a long story short, people are worried or confused about the fact that there are several translations of the Bible which contain deviations in spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and even differences in chapter verses. On the other hand, having many different translations of the Bible can prove to be beneficial in study. It is not a bad thing in of itself.
    • Bible Translation Or Version? 
              -First of all, it should be noted that the word "version" is not always the best way to describe a translation of a religious text. It misrepresents the nature of the painstaking research conducted by scholars who worked diligently to give us the most accurate as possible presentation of what the original authors of the biblical narratives wanted to relay to future generations. The science of "translation" works to find equivalents in one language so that different languages are able to maintain communication. The word "version" can give the misleading implication of intentional alteration or perversion with malicious motives. Translating works to make deciphering a message in a foreign language possible, whereas creating a version means carving out wanted portions of any given context to fit one's faulty bias. Translating ancient manuscripts from different languages is no different than translating the words of a speaker from another country such as a foreign diplomat giving a news conference. So describing the Bible as merely being a "version" can be misleading.
    • Why There Are Many Different Bible Translations:
              -Quite simply, different translations of the Bible exist because different groups of scholars knowledgeable in languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic have collaborated at different periods of time to develop them. Words have a semantic range or a variety of meanings in a group of words that are appropriate to use depending on the context of a given passage. For example, the word "angry" has other words with similar connotations like mad, upset, irate, vehement, furious, and enraged. Those terms differ in degrees of forcefulness and may thus not fully convey what a person intends to say. Some places in Hebrew and Greek are even ambiguous. There have also been discoveries of manuscripts which provide further data to use in updating translations. Although the phraseology of different Bible translations may have noticeably different wording in certain places, phrases, or even different sentence structures, the meaning of the text in the vast majority of instances is the same. There is therefore still one Bible.
              -The science of translation involves explanation or interpretation, since it is a process of making something known to you that could not otherwise have been known to you. Shades of the Hebrew and Greek are inevitably lost to a degree in translation, which is a good reason to have access to more than one Bible translation (even though one cannot have perfect knowledge about such unless he or she knows the original languages). In addition, words have changed in their meaning since four hundred years ago when Elizabethan English was spoken. A notorious example of this would be the word "gay" which is used in the King James Version of the Bible and how that same word is used today. The meaning of a word is determined by its usage in context. The three types of translations available are word for word, thought for thought, and paraphrase (not that all translations of the Bible are good or equally good). How could Christians be required to agree on only one edition of the Bible when it also needs to be translated into different languages?
    • So Which Bible Translation Is The Best One To Read From?:
              -No infallible, God-breathed version of the Holy Scriptures are available to us today. All Bible translations existing today contain their own set of weaknesses and imperfections because they were all translated by fallible men who did not have an inerrant set of manuscripts given to them. But each version of the Bible has its own unique set of strengths. In fact, many translations that we can purchase are very reliable in general. They accurately convey what the authors of the biblical text said. The answer to the question of which Bible translation is the best would be the one that an individual chooses to read. Having different translations of the Bible can help serious students gain a much deeper insight behind the meaning of Scripture and can make the Bible a much more available book to the world.

    Wednesday, March 8, 2017

    The Roman Catholic Church And Apostolic Tradition

    • Preliminary Points:
              -The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Scripture alone is an insufficient guide for Christian doctrine and that Jesus Christ gave the twelve apostles infallible oral tradition to pass on to future generations through the Magisterium. It is claimed that we need to submit to an infallible interpreter of Scripture in order to properly understand its message.
              -Apologists for these groups have attempted to construct a biblical case for their their church's claims by citing various Scripture passages such as 2 Thessalonians 2:15, John 20:30, 2 John 12, 3 John 13, John 21:25, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, and 1 Corinthians 11:2.
              -It is true that the Bible never presents itself as the only authority for the church. However, Sola Scriptura means that Scripture is the final court of authority in all religious matters. Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith for the church to use. Therefore, people who object to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura by using a faulty definition (that the Bible is the only authority) are attacking a strawman. Quoting Scripture passages that affirm the existence of other authoritative sources does not refute Sola Scriptura. Scripture is our final standard of authority, not only source of authority.
              -It is self-contradictory to appeal to the Bible as the ultimate standard of authority to prove that it is not the ultimate standard of authority for the church to heed to. It is a hypocritical double standard for Roman Catholics and the Orthodox to use Scripture as a means to justify their doctrines, but disapproving of Protestants acting in the same manner. These points are some of the fallacies committed by Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologists when they argue against Sola Scriptura by appealing to Scripture passages such as 2 Thessalonians 2:15.
    • Clarifying That Sola Scriptura Is Not Opposed To All Forms Of Tradition: 
              -It needs to be understood that Protestantism is not opposed to "traditions," as long as they are consistent with the principles of Scripture.
              -If the "traditions" mentioned in the above references are grounded on Scripture, then the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not at all in jeopardy. But if this can be shown to not be the case, then this teaching would be soundly refuted because the Bible itself would be admitting to the charge that we need an infallible interpreter and extra-biblical tradition. Remember also that Scripture is written tradition.
    • Do 2 Thessalonians 2:15 And 2 Thessalonians 3:6 Prove The Necessity Of Roman Catholic Oral Tradition?:
              -The previous context of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (v. 1-14) reveals that the Apostle Paul is speaking of traditions pertaining to the second coming of Christ which should be measured against apostates who pervert the truths concerning that doctrine, eternal salvation, and the gospel. These topics are addressed in great depth throughout both Testaments (Daniel 7:13-14; Zechariah 14:1-9; Matthew 24:5-27; Psalm 22-23; Isaiah 53; John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; etc.). Hence, there is no need to depend on extra-biblical oral traditions.
              -2 Thessalonians 3:6 refers to teaching regarding working and not being idle. Consider texts such as Psalm 128:2, Proverbs 21:25, and 2 Thessalonians 3:10. The Apostle Paul was not trying to establish a distinction in content between the oral and written revelation, but rather demonstrates the unity of his message when communicated in both forms.
    • Does 1 Corinthians 11:2 Prove The Necessity Of Roman Catholic Oral Tradition?: 
              -The immediate context is about the purposes of men and women in worship and in terms authority (v, 3-16). Then, the Apostle Paul goes on to talk about the correct observance and practice pertaining to the Lord's Supper (v. 17-31). Later on, he goes on to identify traditions, which he himself previously received, as the basic message of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). None of these oral traditions are mysterious in nature or foreign to scriptural instruction.
    • Do John 20:30, John 21:25, 2 John 12, and 3 John 13 Prove The Necessity Of Roman Catholic Oral Tradition?: 
              -The passages from John do not say that not all the teachings of Jesus were written in Scripture, but rather all the miracles he performed were not recorded. Scripture tells us everything that we need to know concerning salvation (John 20:31).
              -The logic employed by our critics here is self-defeating because Roman Catholic tradition does not furnish us with all the details of Jesus' life.
              -Anybody (including Mormons) can abuse Scripture passages like these by claiming that we need the doctrines of his or her religion. They can be misused to open up doors to just about any heretical doctrine. We need to know exactly what John is talking about in the above passages. In other words, it is wrong to make assertions that are devoid of evidence.
              -Why just assume that 2 John 12 and 3 John 13 are about infallible oral revelation that gets passed on to posterity, when none of them indicate specifically what the contents are? In light of this, it is equally possible for the "unknown materials" to be from other parts of the New Testament, a public rebuke of sin or heresy, or even personal details about his life or close companions such as his fellow ministers, the apostles.
              -2 John 12 and 3 John 13 simply indicate that the Apostle John decided not to write down every single detail of what he intended on saying in his epistles. He wanted to speak directly to his audience for the sake of his audience's comfort, joy, and edification. How do we know that what John spoke of would have been different in substance than what is found in written revelation?
    • Conditions That Need To Be Met: 
              -If it is going to be claimed that the apostles spoke of infallible tradition as being something different from Scripture, then:
              1.) The exact traditions need to be identified (not specified by the quoted verses above).
              2.) It needs to be proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that the word "tradition" mentioned within the specific texts of Scripture are different in substance from what is contained in the Bible (not specified by the quoted passages, either).
              3.) Conclusive evidence needs to be provided in order for any random tradition to be considered apostolic and infallible.
              -Although Roman Catholics claim that we need their oral tradition, they cannot produce any sayings of Jesus Christ or the apostles that are absent from Scripture.
    • Are The Traditions Of The Roman Catholic Church Equal To Or Superior To The Bible In Terms Of Authority?:
              -The Lord Jesus Christ rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for placing their own traditions on the same level of authority as the written Word of God (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13). This scenario is a mirror reflection to the modern day Roman Catholic Churche because it places an unscriptural body of oral traditions on par with Scripture. The Roman Catholic Church, like the Scribes and Pharisees of the Law, maintains that its tradition is of divine origin. Any and all tradition must be evaluated in accordance with Scripture.
    • Historical Evidence Of Failure:
              -History has proven that when anything has been given the same authority as Scripture, that object of devotion always ends up superseding its authority and consequently produces dangerously false doctrines. For instance, the Mormons accept other writings as inspired by God. The Jehovah's Witnesses accept the Watchtower Society and its magazine publications as divinely inspired by God. Other Pseudo-Christian groups who make absolute claims to authority in doctrinal matters (and other aspects of life) would include (but are by no means limited to) Scientology and the Unification Church. The Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church has fallen into the same grievous error for its inflated perspective of "oral tradition" and its claims to perpetual infallibility, just as the Scribes and Pharisees were in error for upholding the same views regarding their man-made traditions. The underlying issue is pride amongst religious leaders.