Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Why Bible Translation Is So Important

The Bible is one of the oldest and most popular books of all time. But is it just a book, or is it much more?

We believe that the Bible is God’s Word to us — something that everyone should be able to understand in a language and form that clearly speaks to their hearts. But approximately 2,000 languages* around the world are still waiting for a translation project to begin.

When people finally get Scripture in their own language, lives often change in amazing ways. People are transformed as they discover Jesus Christ and enter into a right relationship with God.

That’s why [groups such as] Wycliffe Bible Translators exists — to help speakers of these remaining languages get the Bible for themselves. And we won’t stop until all people have God’s Word in a language they understand.

The Worldwide Status of Bible Translation:

More than 1,500 languages have access to the New Testament and some portions of Scripture in their language.

More than 650 languages have the complete translated Bible.

At least 7,000 spoken or signed languages* are known to be in use today.

At least 1.5 billion people do not have the full Bible in their language — that’s more people than the entire continent of Africa!

More than 2,500 languages across 170 countries have active translation and linguistic development work happening right now.

Approximately 2,000 languages still need a Bible translation project to begin.

A Response To Catholic Nick On Justification And Imputed Righteousness

  • Discussion:
          -A blogger who goes by the name of Catholic Nick published an article where he cites a number of passages from Scripture to prove that the term justify as is used in texts relating to salvation does not have forensic connotations. Following are his remarks alongside with a critique:

          "In these Pauline passages [Acts 15:9, 11; Ephesians 2:5, 8; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 3:5, 7], Paul is describing getting justified in terms of an inner transformation in the believer: cleansed, made alive, sanctified, washing of regeneration. This is astonishing if, as Protestants teach, Justification involves no change within the individual."

          What Nick seemingly fails to grasp is that we do acknowledge that justification is never separated from the true work of the Holy Spirit to make us holy. We would only seek to maintain that specifically the declaration of us being righteous (justification) is not based on our good works. We are made alive in Christ by faith, as Ephesians 2:5 says.

          "These passages [Acts 26:18; Colossians 2:11; 1 John 1:7, 9] follow the theme of the previous set. Justification here is being described in terms of sanctification and cleansing and being made alive; all descriptions of inner transformations."

          Forgiveness is an aspect of justification. This is because justification is God reckoning or declaring a sinner to be righteous.

          Nick assumes that the texts which speak of internal transformation are about justification. That would be wrong because such an interpretation would result in a system of works righteousness, which is condemned by Scripture.

          "Lastly, consider texts speaking of righteousness, with this righteousness referring to Justification [Philippians 3:3, 9-11; 1 Peter 2:24]. These texts must be understood as speaking of something more than an external righteousness that covers us, and instead a righteousness that transforms us from within."

          If one takes the time to examine the referenced passages in the above paragraph on their own terms, then it can clearly be seen how they describe an alien righteousness being given to repentant sinners.

          Acts 15:9-11 describes believers being purified by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus Christ through faith. Texts such as Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5-7 emphatically reject the notion of man getting  right with God by good works. Acts 26:18 records Paul as fulfilling God's will by proclaiming the need for sinful man to change his standing with God and receive His forgiveness. 1 John 1:7-9 describes how Christ's atonement is applied.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Problems With Penal Substitution Or Just Another Case Of Mere Roman Catholic Sophistry?

  • Discussion:
          -A blogger who goes by the name of Catholic Nick published an article where he attempts to use Luke 2:22-24 as an argument against penal substitution. Following are his remarks alongside with a critique:

         "First, the Protestant notion of the Cross & Atonement (what they call "Penal Substitution") is that a sinner's guilt is 'imputed' to an innocent substitute, which then takes the death penalty in place of the sinner. But in this case, what was Mary's (grave) "sin" here that had the death penalty hanging over Her head, which She had to then transfer onto two turtledoves? The obvious issue here is that Mary had given birth to the Messiah, Jesus. But this certainly was not a sin in any sense. Thus, Mary's sacrifices couldn't have been about imputing the guilt onto an innocent animal substitute, much less was the animal receiving the death penalty. Thus, an animal being killed in sacrifice should not be assumed to be modeling Penal Substitution."

          Nick seems to notice something true in the text, but then he takes matters too far. Not all sacrifices in the Old Testament were for specific moral sins. Many sacrifices were for ceremonial uncleanness. This has to do with the tabernacle and God’s presence among His people. 

          Human bleeding and death are a consequence of the fall. The world has been corrupted by sin. We cannot be cleansed before a holy God without a substitutionary sacrifice. The ceremonial sacrifice is nonetheless connected to our moral disobedience, which is why it still requires death.

          "That said, a Protestant might object at say that this Mary situation doesn't affect Penal Substitution at all, since some sacrifices weren't about atoning for sin but rather simply about ritual purification. While there is truth to this claim, this Protestant "objection" actually backfires. The passage which Luke is referencing is Leviticus 12, a short chapter on childbirth ritual purification. The plain fact is, Leviticus 12:6-7 explains it as "a turtledove for a sin offering, and the priest shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood." Notice the explicit mention of "sin offering" and "make atonement". This is yuge because it means the sacrifice Mary had offered was not something distinct from the standard "sin offering" which Leviticus 4-5 tells us about. In other words, this is clear proof that "sin offering" and "making atonement" don't need to involve Penal Substitution."

          Leviticus 12 does refer to ritual purification, but that does not mean that it is completely divorced from moral disobedience. Atonement for sin is still necessary because the ritual uncleanness comes from our own fallen disobedience. It would be quite a mistake to always link individual sins to individual sacrifices. The world is fallen in general because of our own sin.

          "Note that Leviticus 12-15 are about various types of ritual purification, not having to do with guilt for actual sins, yet all involving "sin offering" to "make atonement". Also noteworthy is that these purification chapters come, right before Leviticus 16, which is the Day of Atonement ritual (centered on purification)."

          Leviticus 16 records Moses warning his brother Aaron to not violate the code of holiness by offering strange fire, lest he undergo the same fate as his sons Nadab and Abihu. The two were struck down brutally by God (Leviticus 10). The aversion of divine wrath can clearly be seen in Leviticus 16. The prescribed rituals were indeed related to propitiation.

          The guilt which is a result of sin is transferred from the Israelites to the animals themselves. Their innocent blood was shed by priests on account of the people. Jesus Christ expiates, cleanses, and removes our sin from us. The Day of Atonement prefigured His work on the Cross.

          "This "their purification" detail is noteworthy within this discussion because some Protestants have tried to use this passage as proof that Mary was a sinner and needed cleansing. But because the term "their" is used, it then means that Jesus is now part of this sacrificial ritual, and we know that Jesus was certainly without sin. So if Jesus was undergoing it yet had no sin, then it means Mary didn't necessarily have sin just because She was also undergoing this purification. Many Catholic theologians have noted that Jesus and Mary followed the Mosaic Law even though they weren't strictly bound to certain parts (Gal 4:4-5). Catholic apologist Joe Heschmeyer speculates: "I suspect that the two spotless birds represent Jesus [sin offering] and Mary [burnt offering] – who, like the birds in Leviticus 12, are innocent, yet brought under the Law for the good of sinners."

          All this proves is that Mary and her household was faithful to the Law. If Jesus Christ was sinful, then that would mean He is not qualified to bear our sin in the first place. Christ had no biological father. The point in asking why Mary needed to offer a pair of turtledoves or young pigeons is to illustrate how she is nowhere in Scripture elevated in the manner that Roman Catholics do with her. She is just like any other woman.

           If Mary herself was undefiled by sin, then there would have been no reason for her to make any sacrifice in the first place. Her undergoing a ritual of purification would have been simply redundant and arbitrary. The idea of Mary being sinless is unscriptural and has no practical theological necessity.

          "Third, this Luke passage actually mentions two liturgical rites. Above we only looked at the cleansing after child birth ritual. The other ritual is the consecration of the first-born, which we'll look at now. I want to start by noting that the term "firstborn" is tied to the priesthood and true worship....The instructions for consecrating the first born come as part of the Passover instructions, Exodus 13:1; 13:11-15, also restated in Numbers 18:15-16. The term used for consecrating the firstborn son is "redeemed" (a term associated with sacrificing/atoning e.g. 1 Peter 1:18-19; Heb 9:11-15) by paying a small 'temple tax'. So by this, it could be said that Mary and Joseph were Jesus' redeemers. Haha!"

           Certainly, the worship of God was a part of the sacrificial system. However, atonement was front and center by the constant shedding of blood.

           The firstborns are targeted because it is a general biblical principle that you give the first fruits to God. A substitute was required because God did not want the Israelites to practice child sacrifice. It does not have anything to with penal substitution. At times, sacrifices can be expressions of worship. This provided for the priests and Levites. Paul picks up on this language in Romans 12 where he teaches that believers should offer themselves as sacrifices for worship. It is a sacrifice of worship. This not a denial of penal substitution in the Old Testament. It is just teaching that at times sacrifices were simply expressions of worship.

           The laws pertaining to the priesthood, tabernacle, sacrifice, etc., were ceremonial. The fact that Christ's parents, in fulfillment of their duties under the Law, followed the Mosaic prescriptions does not indicate that Jesus was a sinner or needed redemption in that sense. Scripture is clear that Jesus was without sin.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Early Church Evidence For The Deity Of Christ

The oldest surviving sermon of the Christian church after the New Testament opened with the words: “Brethren, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ as of God, as the judge of living and dead. And we ought not to belittle our salvation; for when we belittle him, we expect also to receive little.”

The oldest surviving account of the death of a Christian martyr contained the declaration: “It will be impossible for us to forsake Christ . . . or to worship any other. For him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs . . . we cherish.”

The oldest surviving pagan report about the church described Christians as gathering before sunrise and “singing a hymn to Christ as to [a] god.”

The oldest surviving liturgical prayer of the church was a prayer addressed to Christ: “Our Lord, come!”

Clearly it was the message of what the church believed and taught that “God” was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ.

[Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100–600) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 173; emphasis added.]

Romans 3:25 And Penal Substitution

To be a propitiation ἱλαστήριον hilastērion This word occurs but in one other place in the New Testament. Hebrews 9:5, “and over it (the ark) the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat. It is used here to denote the lid or cover of the ark of the covenant. It was made of gold, and over it were the cherubim. In this sense it is often used by the Septuagint Exodus 25:17, “And thou shalt make a propitiatory ἱλαστήριον hilastērionof gold,” Exodus 30:6Exodus 31:7Exodus 35:11Exodus 37:6-9Exodus 40:18Leviticus 16:2Leviticus 16:13. The Hebrew name for this was כפּרת kaphorethfrom the verb כּפר kaaphar“to cover” or “to conceal.” It was from this place that God was represented as speaking to the children of Israel. Exodus 25:22, “and I will speak to thee from above the Hilasterion, the propitiatory, the mercy-seat. Leviticus 16:2, “For I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat.” This seat, or cover, was covered with the smoke of the incense, when the high priest entered the most holy place, Leviticus 16:13.

And the blood of the bullock offered on the great day of atonement, was to be sprinkled “upon the mercy-seat,” and “before the mercy-seat,” “seven times,” Leviticus 16:14-15. This sprinkling or offering of blood was called making “an atonement for the holy place because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel,” etc. Leviticus 16:16. It was from this mercy-seat that God pronounced pardon, or expressed himself as reconciled to his people. The atonement was made, the blood was sprinkled, and the reconciliation thus effected. The name was thus given to that cover of the ark, because it was the place from which God declared himself reconciled to his people. Still the inquiry is, why is this name given to Jesus Christ? In what sense is he declared to be a propitiation? It is evident that it cannot be applied to him in any literal sense. Between the golden cover of the ark of the covenant and the Lord Jesus, the analogy must be very slight, if any such analogy can be perceived. We may observe, however,

(1) That the main idea, in regard to the cover of the ark called the mercy-seat, was that of God‘s being reconciled to his people; and that this is the main idea in regard to the Lord Jesus whom “God hath set forth.”

(2) this reconciliation was effected then by the sprinkling of blood on the mercy-seat, Leviticus 16:15-16. The same is true of the Lord Jesus - by blood.

(3) in the former case it was by the blood of atonement; the offering of the bullock on the great day of atonement, that the reconciliation was effected, Leviticus 16:17-18. In the case of the Lord Jesus it was also by blood; by the blood of atonement. But it was by his own blood. This the apostle distinctly states in this verse.

(4) in the former case there was a sacrifice, or expiatory offering; and so it is in reconciliation by the Lord Jesus. In the former, the mercy-seat was the visible, declared place where God would express his reconciliation with his people. So in the latter, the offering of the Lord Jesus is the manifest and open way by which God will be reconciled to people.

(5) in the former, there was joined the idea of a sacrifice for sin, Leviticus 17:11, “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” Hence, they were commanded not to eat blood. Genesis 9:4, “but flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.” Leviticus 19:26Deuteronomy 12:231 Samuel 14:34. This doctrine is contained uniformly in the Sacred Scriptures. And it has been also the opinion of not a few celebrated physiologists, as well in modern as in ancient times. The same was the opinion of the ancient Parsees and Hindus. Homer thus often speaks of blood as the seat of life, as in the expression πορφυρεος θανατος porphureos thanatosor “purple death.” And Virgil speaks of “purple life,”

Purpuream vomit ille animam.

AEniad, ix. 349.

Empedocles and Critias among the Greek philosophers, also embraced this opinion. Among the moderns, Harvey, to whom we are indebted for a knowledge of the circulation of the blood, fully believed it. Hoffman and Huxham believed it Dr. John Hunter has fully adopted the belief, and sustained it, as he supposed, by a great variety of considerations. See Good‘s Book of Nature, pp. 102,108, New York edition, 1828. This was undoubtedly the doctrine of the Hebrews; and hence, with them to shed the blood was a phrase signifying to kill; hence, the efficacy of their sacrifices was supposed to consist in the blood, that is, in the life of the victim. Hence, it was unlawful to eat it, as it were the life, the seat of vitality; the more immediate and direct gift of God. When, therefore, the blood of Christ is spoken of in the New Testament, it means the offering of his life as a sacrifice, or his death as an expiation. His life was given to make atonement. See the word “blood” thus used in Romans 5:9Ephesians 1:7Colossians 1:14Hebrews 9:12Hebrews 9:14Hebrews 13:12Revelation 1:51 Peter 1:191 John 1:7. By faith in his death as a sacrifice for sin; by believing that he took our sins; that he died in our place; by thus, in some sense, making his offering ours; by approving it, loving it, embracing it, trusting it, our sins become pardoned, and our souls made pure.

Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 3:25". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". 1870.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Religion Is A Product Of Evolution?

          "Dow is by no means the first scientist to take a stab at explaining how religion emerged. Theories on the evolution of religion tend toward two camps. One argues that religion is a mental artefact, co-opted from brain functions that evolved for other tasks.

          Another contends that religion benefited our ancestors. Rather than being a by-product of other brain functions, it is an adaptation in its own right. In this explanation, natural selection slowly purged human populations of the non-religious.

          “Sometime between 100,000 years ago to the point where writing was invented, maybe about 7000 BC, we begin to have records of people’s supernatural beliefs,” Dow says (

          First of all, the idea of religion evolving over an enormously long timespan is incompatible with the Judeo-Christian framework. According to Genesis 1-3, religion started with the worship of the true God. However, mankind rejected God and worship deteriorated into the worship of creation. God is Creator and not a product of evolution.

          Secondly, there were no psychologists alive to even observe the behaviors of any alleged hominins.

          Thirdly, nobody really seems to be discussing how atheism and naturalism evolved.

          If religion developed gradually to meet various emotional or adaptive requirements for continued survival, then what brought about that need?

          If our senses and intuition bring us into contact with reality, then would not religious belief connect us with God who actually exists?

          Even if it could be proven that a few religions were the product of evolution, that would still not prove all religions had the same origin or falsify the existence of God.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Were the Earliest Christians Only Concerned About Oral Tradition?

"First, early Christianity was not an oral religion. Sure, traditions of Jesus were transmitted orally, but this is not the same thing. We cannot confuse a medium of transmission with a mentality (or disposition) of early Christian culture. I have argued elsewhere that early Christianity was a religion of textuality, even if most its adherents were illiterate (as were most people in the ancient world). For more, see my Question of Canon, 79-118.

Second, the authors represented in the Apostolic Fathers were obviously literate. Not only were they producing written sources, but they show awareness of (and interact with) other written sources. Indeed, the letter exchanges in early Christianity were rapid and extensive (see such exchanges in Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians as one example).

So, if these authors were quite textually oriented, why should we assume they mainly drew on oral tradition? Of all the people in early Christianity likely to be influenced by written texts, it would’ve been these authors!

Third, by the time these authors wrote in the second century, earlier generations of Christians had already exhibited significant interactions with written texts. For instance, the authors of Matthew and Luke seemed to know Mark (and possibly Q) and interacted with these writings textually. John may have known the texts of the Synoptics. And all of these Gospels interacted with the text of the OT.

So, if first-century Christians interacted often with written texts, then why would we assume Christian writers in the second century only used oral tradition?

Fourth, a number of times the Apostolic Fathers actually mention that they know of written Gospels! As just one example, Papias was Bishop of Hierapolis and wrote around 125AD (see inset picture!). He tell us plainly about the written gospels of Mark and Matthew:

The Elder used to say: Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he [Peter] remembered. . . . Matthew collected the oracles in the Hebrew language, and each interpreted them as best he could.

What’s particularly noteworthy is that Papias received his information directly from “the Elder” who is no doubt “John the Elder” he mentions elsewhere as a follower and disciple of Jesus himself. Thus, although Papias is writing around 125 AD he is actually referring to a much earlier time when he received this tradition, probably around 90AD.

Here, then, is the key point: Papias attests to the fact that at the end of the first century, one of the primary ways Christians were receiving Jesus tradition was through written gospels, two of which were named Matthew and Mark (!). This fact alone should challenge the notion that only oral tradition can/should explain all citations in the Apostolic Fathers.

In sum, there’s little doubt that oral tradition still played a role in the second century and beyond. But, the evidence above suggests that there’s little reason to prefer oral tradition as the default, catch-all explanation for the Gospel tradition in the Apostolic Fathers.

On the contrary, the “bookish” nature of early Christianity, and its deep textual identity, suggests that we should be open to the idea that these authors—at least sometimes—knew and used written Gospel texts."

Friday, September 13, 2019

God Will Provide A Way

        "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

         This passage of Scripture reminds us that God will assist us during times of temptation. We are assured that He will provide a means of escape from temptations to sin. This does not mean that God will make matters easier or more bearable for us, but that He will sustain us. He will empower us to endure temptation by His all-sufficient grace.

         A noteworthy point should be extracted from this text: every potential urge to wrong God or neighbor has been experienced by mankind. We are not alone. Our times of temptation are not hopeless or unconquerable. Thus, we have reason to be encouraged. God is faithful. He is greater than all of our temptations.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A Topical Scripture Cross Reference Study On Sanctification

  • Sanctification Involves The Lord Conforming Believers To The Image Of His Son Jesus Christ:
          -"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:28)
          -"This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ephesians 3:11)
  • This Growth In Holiness Is A Consequence Of Being Filled With The Holy Spirit:
          -"to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24)
          -"...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
  • The Holy Spirit Works In Us So That We Can Please And Glorify God:
          -"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)
          -"But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth." (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
  • Believers Gradually Become More Like Christ As They Continue In Their Daily Walk With The Lord Who Consecrated Them:
          -"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:22-25)
  • God's Process Of Sanctification Involves Human Effort:
          -"Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God." (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Does Leviticus 19:20-22 Support Roman Catholic Confession To A Priest?

  • Discussion:
          -Sometimes Roman Catholic apologists will cite Leviticus 19:20-22 in an effort to give credence to their dogma of confessing sins to an ordained ministerial priest with the intention of receiving forgiveness from God. This argument is elaborated on by a Catholic source as follows:

          "Leviticus 19:20-22: A man who committed adultery had to bring a guilt offering for himself to the door of the tent of meeting (holy place where the ark of the covenant, which contained God’s true presence was kept). But then it adds “And the priest shall make atonement for him …before the Lord for his sin…and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven.” (see also Leviticus 5:5-6) The priest could not make atonement if he were not aware of the man's sin. He is acting as a mediator for the repentant sinner."

          First of all, it should be noted that this text says nothing regarding auricular confession or priestly absolution. Rather, sinners were simply to bring their guilt offerings (which were temporary coverings for sin) for the priest to make atonement. The priests managed the particulars of the Mosaic system. They supervised faithfulness to the Law. The priests presented gifts and animal sacrifices according to God's commandments.

          In offering up sacrifices for the sins of people, priests were to announce the means by which God chose for forgiveness. They were only doing as God instructed them. This is similar to how Christians under the New Covenant clearly communicate the gospel and proclaim the way that God has chosen to offer forgiveness for our sins (1 Peter 2:5-9). The sacrificial system of the Old Covenant pointed to the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Besides, it is not as though Roman Catholics bring bloody animal sacrifices each time that they go to the confessional.

          Even if the Jews were supposed to confess sins to their priests (something that is not indicated by this text, nor the rest of the Old Testament), the point remains that Christ abrogated the Levitical priesthood. His sacrifice has done away with the Law. We have direct access to God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19-22). An ordained ministerial priesthood has been cancelled out by His everlasting High Priesthood. We must place our trust in His work alone for salvation. While the confession of sin is very much a biblical concept, there is no basis for receiving the forgiveness of God by confessing sins to a mortal man.

Hebrews 1:3 And The Deity Of Jesus Christ

"[Hebrews] 1:3 radiance=effulgence or flood of resplendent light. The word means "an outstanding," not a reflection. the exact representation of God's essence or nature. These expressions in verse 3 are strong assertions of the deity of Christ. sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. The picture of Christ being seated indicates the finished character of His once-for-all sacrifice for sin (10:10, 12), and the right hand indicates the place of honor that He occupies."

The Ryrie Study Bible [New American Standard Bible], p. 1516

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Revelation 2:23 And The Deity Of Jesus Christ

        "And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds." (Revelation 2:23)

        It can readily be deduced from this text that Jesus Christ is a divine self. He is the One who rewards people according to their deeds. He is our Judge. We are accountable to God because He is our Creator.

        Furthermore, Christ's right and authority to judge us is rooted in His omniscience. He is divine in the same sense as the Father and Holy Spirit are divine. He is God incarnate. The Lord has fully comprehensive knowledge of everything.

        Jesus Christ searches the hearts and minds of people. He knows everything about us all. Another point which has significance here is that Christ in this passage quotes Jeremiah 17:10. God Himself in the verse from the Book of Jeremiah is speaking. Nonetheless, Christ makes a formal application of those exact attributes to Himself.

        Thus, we see that from Revelation 2:23 that Jesus Christ is God. He is not a created being. Noteworthy cross references for this passage would include 1 Chronicles 28:9 and Matthew 9:4.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Against Claims Of The Four Canonical Gospels Having Anonymous Authorship

        One claim raised to undermine the credibility of the four canonical gospels is that they were not written by the traditionally ascribed authors. Rather, unknown people during the end of the first to early second centuries created embellished records of Jesus Christ ministering and performing miracles. However, there are no good reasons for us to dismiss the four gospel narratives as being circulated legends or myths.

        First of all, any and all available manuscripts of the four gospels have the same titles designating their respective authors. All copies of Matthew have the same name. All copies of Mark have the same name. All copies of Luke have the same name. All copies of John have the same name. The titles of the traditionally attributed authors are present on all of the manuscript copies of the gospel narratives.

        Secondly, we have no early Christian rejection of the traditional authorship of the four gospels. A few examples of patristic support would include Irenaeus, Papias, Tertullian, and the church historian Eusebius. There exists no other tradition which conflicts with conventional claims of authorship.

        Thirdly, the four gospels are named after relatively unimpressive individuals. Matthew was a tax collector. Luke was not even an apostle. If the four canonical gospel narratives were forgeries, then it would have been far more probable that the authors used names of better known people such as Peter or Thomas. After all, that is the pattern we observe amongst heretics who produced their spurious works during the second and third centuries.

        Fourthly, the liberties provided through the gospel give credence to the traditional authorship of the four gospels. If they were forgeries, then how come the authors did not simply make up an easier path to worship God? Why would the early Christians follow a way of life that would result in them being persecuted? Even the Jews allowed sacrifices to be offered to the Roman Emperor.

        How come the four gospel narratives contain embarrassing details regarding the twelve apostles? For instance, Peter denied Jesus Christ three times in a row (Luke 22:54-62). Matthew records Christ calling Peter Satan and a stumbling block (Matthew 16:23). Judas betraying Him to the chief priests and students of the Law also serves as a perfect example of embarrassing details. Paul prior to his conversion persecuted Christians. If the four gospel narratives were forgeries, then we should not expect their authors to incorporate such shameful and humiliating details regarding these people.

        Even if it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the original canonical gospels were anonymous, that point by itself would still not rule out traditional authorship attribution. Professor Michael J. Kruger provides these insightful comments:

        "For one, this did happen from time to time with Greco-Roman biographies. We do have examples of formally anonymous biographies, so this would not have been unheard of (e.g., Lucian’s Life of Demonax, Secundus the Silent Philosopher, Lives of the Prophets, Arrian’s Anabasis, and Sulpicious Severus’ Life of St. Martin ). But, Armin Baum has suggested another, and even more fundamental reason. Baum has argued that the Gospels were intentionally written as anonymous works in order to reflect the practice of the Old Testament historical books which were themselves anonymous (as opposed to other Old Testament writings, like the prophets, which included the identity of the author). Such a stylistic device allowed the authors of the gospels “to disappear” and to give “highest priority to their subject matter.” Thus, the anonymity of the Gospels, far from diminishing their scriptural authority, actually served to increase it by consciously placing the Gospels “in the tradition of Old Testament historiography.”

Thursday, September 5, 2019


Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men. All (including Bruce Jenner) become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they “identify.” In that lies their problematic future.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A Review Of Candida Moss' The Myth of Persecution

"First, although a strawman is attacked, it's a strawman that's also hoisted by some popular Christian leaders and commentators. The "myth" of the title is that of "unrelenting persecution" in the earliest years of the church. [21] In contrast, my view has been stated before as follows:

This is a standard argument, but in need of some fine-tuning. The most important martyrs are those of the time of Jesus and shortly thereafter.

Admittedly there are few examples of this sort of martyrdom that we may point to -- records of church tradition are our only source for the martyrdoms of many of the Apostles; our best witness is actually Paul himself, who testifies that he persecuted the church with "zeal" -- using a word used to describe the actions of the Maccabbeans who killed when needed to clean things up.

But in fact we can broaden this argument further: persecution did not automatically equal martyrdom, and this is yet another reason why Christianity should not have thrived and survived. As Robin Lane Fox writes, "By reducing the history of Christian persecution to a history of legal hearings, we miss a large part of the victimization." [Fox.PagChr, 424] Beyond action by authorities, Christians could expect social ostracization if they stuck by their faith, and that is where much of the persecution Fox refers to came from - rejection by family and society, relegation to outcast status.

It didn't need to be martyrdom -- it was enough that you would suffer socially and otherwise, even if still alive. DeSilva notes that those who violated the current social values (as Christians indeed did) would find themselves subject to measures designed to shame them back into compliance -- insult, reproach, physical abuse, whipping, confiscation of property, and of course disgrace -- much more important in an honor-and-shame society than to us. And the NT offers ample record of such things happening [Heb. 10:32-4; 1 Pet. 2;12, 3;16, 4:12-16; Phil. 1:27-30; 1 Thess. 1:6, 2:13-14; 2 Thess. 1:4-5; Rev. 2:9-10, 13].

Candida Moss is a New Testament scholar, but like so many of even those, she has not yet caught up to the data when it comes to the dealings with a deviant movement in an agonistic society. Nearly after the thinking of a fundamentalist, The Myth of Persecution (hereafter MP) consistently presents the matter as though death and martydom were the only forms of persecution to be concerned with. More nuanced scholars, and better practiced Christian apologists, do not engage in this strawman. Moss and the Christians she addresses do. (We'll see why she bothers, at the end of this review.) Thus for example, she says:

"Scholars of early Christianity agree that there is very little evidence for the persecution of Christians. Although there are references to the deaths of Christians in the writings of the early church, these are vague and often exaggerated." [16]

Are they? Perhaps they are; I've not looked into the issue much, having had no need, but if they are, Moss' arguments aren't the ones that will compel the conclusion. Beyond that, as can be seen, the equation made here is clearly, "persecution = deaths," which is, as noted above, an extremely simplistic understanding of the matter. (Less often, Moss' words imply that only the state can persecute; but most of what would have been experienced by the Christians as social deviants would have been from their immediate social ingroups.)

One thing Moss does get right is that certain types of death were considered honorable, which does substantially affect the argument re, "why would they die for a lie"? [17] That's one reason I adopted a more nuanced form of the argument some years ago.

Another semi-strawman addressed by Moss is that Christian martyrdom was somehow "unique" and that Christians invented the concept. I have to admit that I have never heard this one before myself, and though it was apparently a view held by an authority no less stellar than the historian Glen Bowersock [24], it seems to rest on a matter of semantics and a reputed degree of expression, combined with a new use of the word "martyr" by Christians. Whatever the virtues of those arguments may be, it is certainly not an argument we would have used here.

With that, we can briefly discuss now Moss' case for mimesis, and it is a rather poorer one than we have seen from others of the same school. It should be noted to start that Moss admits that the concept of dealing with death with nobility, honor, and dignity reflected the common mores of the social world of the Bible. [41] But Moss forgets this lesson almost immediately, saying only a few pages later that "early Christians borrowed or adapted ideas about noble death..." [56] Later she refers to such elements in the death of Polycarp. [65]

Huh? If dying nobly was a commonplace virtue of their world, then why do we need to theorize "borrowing" or "adapting"? Wouldn't real life, historic Christians strive for the same virtues? And wouldn't real accounts of them doing so be the ones most likely to be featured for the purpose of exhortation? So it is, for example, in her analysis of the martydom of Polycarp [63f], Moss manages to claim as parallels things that would be perfect commonplaces in an agonistic setting, and the rest of the parallels aren't much better, as she argues it was all put together to imitate Jesus.

But now to a more serious point. I have noted that all mimetic theorists have to engage in some level of dishonesty to make their case. We saw this with Thomas Brodie in the last review, and we actually find worse from Moss, in the form of outright misinformation. For example, she reports on the story of Polycarp's martyrdom:

"Before his arrest, hearing rumors of persecution, Polycarp goes outside the city."

Um, yes. Just assuming for the sake of argument that this was the full story (it isn't), let's think about that. If Polycarp were a Christian, and he wanted to imitate Jesus, going outside the city would have been a way for him, as a historical person, to honor Jesus by way of imitation. Moss apparently hasn't figured out that what she thinks an author can invent, a real person like Polycarp can actually DO, and for the same reason.

But like I said, that's assuming for the sake of argument. I might point out, though, that there's more to the story than Moss tells the reader, which shows that her claim of a parallel is more reliant on her own description than on the story itself:

But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard [that he was sought for], was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few [friends], engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom.

In other words, this isn't at all like what happened to Jesus. Jesus was led out of the city to be executed, for the dual purpose of having his execution beside a public road AND to avoid the ritual pollution of a death by crucifixion within the city's precincts. Polycarp, who wanted to stay in the city, had to be persuaded to leave, apparently for the purpose of taking him out of harm's way -- as shown by the fact that he gets off to another home when he hears he's on the verge of being caught. For Moss to claim this as a parallel, while also NOT relating the whole text, is the height of dishonesty.

Just as dishonest is this claim by Moss: "[Polycarp] is betrayed by someone close to him..." We're supposed to think Judas mimesis, right? Not so:

And when those who sought for him were at hand, he departed to another dwelling, whither his pursuers immediately came after him. And when they found him not, they seized upon two youths [that were there], one of whom, being subjected to torture, confessed. It was thus impossible that he should continue hid, since those that betrayed him were of his own household.

So in other words, this wasn't a "betrayal" in the Judas sense -- a disloyal follower turning the leader in for a reward. This was another victim, one who "betrayed" only in the sense of, "gave him away" -- and that under torture. Does Moss tell her readers any of this? No, she does not, and one is compelled to ask why.

The one decent parallel Moss offers is that in which Polycarp, like Jesus, rides into town on a donkey. But this of all things is exactly the sort of intentionality Polycarp would want to engage -- showing that he was a man of peace, and a follower of Jesus in that.

It's also worth noting some examples of how Moss engages in what I call Kummel Karps, after the Biblical scholar Werner Kummel, whose main standard for making an objection to the historicity of the text was that he was capable of thinking it up, in some cases after apparently having ingested non-culinary mushrooms. Moss follows this tradition well, as for example she argues that Luke's version of Jesus in his Passion has him looking more noble, while Mark's version has Jesus looking "desperate and in need of comfort." [59]

Um, no. For one thing, in the social world of the Bible, proper emotional display was part and parcel of expressing yourself honorably, even if you didn't happen to feel that way. In other words, just because Jesus SOUNDS "desperate and in need of comfort" doesn't mean he actually was. For another, Moss relies on some rather poor and outdated scholarship to arrive at her conclusion about Mark's Jesus; apparently no one told her that Jeremias' "abba = childlike" thesis has been thoroughly debunked. For another, the cry of "dereliction" at the cross, quoting as it does Ps. 22, is actually an allusion to that Psalm's triumphant end, in essence, Jesus doing a Schwarzenegger "I'll be back" impersonation. Beyond that, Moss detects the wrong reason for Luke to have a more businesslike tone (Jesus "knelt down, and prayed") versus Mark's more dramatic approach (Jesus "threw himself on the ground and prayed"). Luke is writing to Theophilus, who is most likely a Roman magistrate who'd ask Luke to save the drama for his mama, whereas Mark reflects an oral performance by Peter, done honorably (see Whitney Shiner on this). Moss' supposition of an "editorial program" is right, but for the wrong reasons. Beyond that, her claim that "Luke's changes to Mark's Gospel revolutionize our picture of Jesus" is more than a little silly, since it doesn't make Mark's account go poof and vanish.

More examples of Kummel Karps can be found in Moss' take on Polycarp's martyrdom. One section of the analysis consists of a series of inane questions such as, "Does it seem plausible that the Jewish members of the audience squeezed past the other members of the crowd and jumped the barrier [at an arena] in order to collect firewood from nearby businesses?" [98] Um -- yes. Perhaps Moss could stand to watch a few soccer riots and get an education; one tends to get jaded living in academic ivory towers and all.

But then again, she also reports the story incorrectly anyway, even as she this time actually quotes it: "This, then, was carried into effect with greater speed than it was spoken, the multitudes immediately gathering together wood and fagots out of the shops and baths; the Jews especially, according to custom, eagerly assisting them in it." Note: Moss incorrectly indicates that Jews alone went to gather wood, when it is actually said that Jews especially did so, which eliminates the Karp about Jewish members particularly "squeezing past". There is also nothing to suggest they needed to jump a barrier. (I also wonder whether the Jews were actually shop owners who were happy to contribute wood, rather than people in the arena, which would also render Moss' Kummel Karp moot.)

Perhaps the most laughable portion of MP is Moss' treatment of Tacitus' account of the fire of 64 AD, and the resulting blame assigned to Christians. Moss begins by taking the tack of the Christ myther, pretending that there must be some problem because Tacitus is writing about an event that happened 50 years earlier. Then she raises a Kummel Karp that the use of "Christians" of people in 64 AD is anachronistic -- which is based not on evidence, but on Moss' presupposition that it just can't be that way. Finally, she all but accuses Tacitus of simply making the blame up as it "reflects his own situation around 115." [139] This is imagination, empty accusation, and wishful thinking at work -- not careful consideration or respectful treatment of the evidence.

I couldn't finish without this howler from Moss, which I collected from another reviewer of MP: "The canonical Acts of the Apostles ends before Paul even gets to Rome...” [77]

Really? Is Moss' Bible missing Acts 28?"

Monday, September 2, 2019

Ignatius Of Loyola And Submission To The Roman Catholic Church

          "To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls. Because by the same Spirit and our Lord Who gave the ten Commandments, our holy Mother the Church is directed and governed." (Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, Thirteenth Rule)

          Irrespective of whether or not we interpret Ignatius as using hyperbole, it stands to reason from the above excerpt that he taught unconditional surrender of the intellect and will to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. It is the Magisterium that pronounces the allegedly infallible dogmas we are to embrace unquestioningly; dissenters are to be anathematized. This excerpt from Lumen Gentium provides us with additional commentary:

          "...the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated."

          Yes, Scripture does tell us to submit to figures of authority. God has ordained the existence of various authoritative offices for our own good. We should obey our leaders to the extent that their decisions are sound and godly. However, the Roman Catholic Church requires a level of allegiance that simply cannot be substantiated on scriptural grounds. The pope requires the submission of both intellect and will in all situations. It is not good enough to simply obey. Hence, we see that the Roman Catholic Church actually wields a significant amount of power over its adherents.

          The Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Society is known for thought control. Members are forbidden from attaining a college education. The Jehovah's Witnesses are also forbidden by their church government to obtain blood transfusions and have regulations as to what they can even look up on the internet. Mormonism is another perfect example of a sect whose government has established all sorts of legalistic rules and regulations. For example, Mormons are forbidden to drink coffee and tea. In the same vein, the Church of Rome has dietary regulations on various holidays as a requirement for salvation. What all three groups have in common is that adherents are made to obey an authoritarian leader. The hierarchies of these three sects claim to play an indispensable role to the salvation of their followers. All sorts of harsh and arbitrary rules are imposed on these deceived people.

          These are drastic and unfortunate consequences of submitting to a church hierarchy that requires unconditional submission. That way of thinking is cultic. It simply does not pan out well. Church authority clearly has its limits. The New Testament gives us the liberty to individually choose whatever days to observe and foods to eat in thanksgiving and glory to God. No self-proclaimed pastor has the right to dogmatically impose rules that can be found nowhere in God's Word. The Apostle Paul called out Peter for potentially splitting the Christian church as he ceased eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-16). Even the most godly ministers and theologians can make serious blunders in matters related to faith and morals. If we uphold the principle of Sola Scriptura, then it follows that we have an objective standard (Scripture) by which leaders are held accountable for their actions (Acts 17:10-11; 2 Timothy 3:16). God is the only One who we owe unconditional submission of the intellect and will (Acts 4:19-20; 5:29; James 4:7). It is to Him alone that all will give an account for their deeds performed in the body on Judgement Day.

Is Earth Just A Pale Blue Dot In A Huge And Hostile Universe?

"Response #1: “I agree that the universe is hostile to life. But how does that make the case against God? Doesn’t the existence of a planet like Earth, that overcomes the statistically impossible odds of existing in such an unfavorable universe – especially given the level of fine-tuning that is required for a planet to support life – demonstrate the need for Divine intervention? The odds of a planet like Earth, supporting the life that it supports, is more than just statistically improbable. It’s miraculous. Why wouldn’t the existence of a planet like ours demonstrate the existence of a Divine Creator?”

Response #2: “OK, imagine finding yourself in a vast desert stretching for hundreds of miles in every direction. As you walk in this huge wasteland, you discover a stone. Examining it closely, you find that something has been written on it. The words appear to be freshly scribed in dried blood: “Help! I have been kidnapped, and I am being held hostage a mile from here in a small red shack. Please contact authorities!” Should we ignore the stone and toss it back to the ground along with all the millions of other stones in this huge desert? Why should we consider this stone to be anything special? After all, this is just another stone among millions. They’ve been here a long time. Can you see why it doesn’t really matter how big the desert is, how many stones there are, how long the stones have been out here, or how old the desert is? This stone is special. It bears the hallmark of design and intelligence. It begs us to investigate further and to find the author. In a similar way, it doesn’t really matter how big the universe is, how many planets there are, how long the planets have been out here, or how old the universe is. Our little pale blue dot is special. It bears the hallmark of design and intelligence. Can you see why it begs us to investigate further and to find the author of life?”