Sunday, March 29, 2020

Commentary On 1 Timothy 1:8-10

[1 Timothy] 1:8 We know, etc. Cf. Ro 7:12, 16.

[1 Timothy] 1:9-10 The list of transgressions follows the Decalogue with six instances for the first table of the Law and eight for the second table. Paul gives extreme cases of transgression (e.g., murders of fathers for the Forth Commandment) to emphasize the negative character of the Law.

Martin Franzmann and Walter H. Roehrs, Concordia Self-study Commentary [commentary on 1 Timothy], p. 219

Where The Spirit Of The Lord Is, There Is Liberty

"[2 Corinthians] 3:17 The Lord is the Spirit. Cf. 6. Since the Lord (Christ) is present among His people, known, and operative by the power of the Spirit, the two are so closely associated in God's working and in the church's experience that Paul can simply identify them in order to emphasize the fact that God's new order of things ("new," 6; "righteousness...splendor," 9; "glory," 18) is experienced by man IN CHRIST (Cf. 5:17)."

Martin Franzmann and Walter H. Roehrs, Concordia Self-study Commentary [commentary on 2 Corinthians], p. 165

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Gifts Of God

        It is a fact that we have a tendency to take for granted the graces of God. He is in control of them. It is He who provides. Even something seemingly trivial like a bottle of water or the oxygen that we inhale is a gift of God. We ought to show gratitude to Him for the people and the things that we so cherish. They are all gifts from God.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Tim Staples' Goofy Claims About 1 Corinthians 11:27-29

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to interact with a few claims that Catholic apologist Tim Staples has made regarding 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 and transubstantiation. He even says that his proof-text is perhaps the "plainest of all." Do his claims hold water? Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a rebuttal:

          "According to St. Paul, a constitutive element involved in a Christian’s preparation to receive the Eucharist is “discerning the body.” What body is St. Paul talking about that must be “discerned” you ask? It’s really not very hard to tell. He just said, in verse 27, “Whoever . . . eats . . . in an unworthy matter will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” Any questions?"

          No, rather, Paul is talking about unity amongst brethren and correcting abuses of the Lord's Supper. In 1 Corinthians 10, he uses the analogy of a body in describing what the church is supposed to be. The church at Corinth was divided amongst classes of wealth (1 Corinthians 11:20-22). This passage is not at all about the nature of the communion wafer itself.

          "St. Paul uses unequivocal language in describing the nature of the Eucharist by using the language of homicide when he describes the sin of those who do not recognize Christ’s body in this sacrament and therefore receive him unworthily. He says they are “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” According to Numbers 35:27, Deuteronomy 21:8, 22:8, Ezekiel 35:6, Rev. 18:24, 19:2, and elsewhere in Scripture, to be “guilty of blood” means you are guilty of shedding innocent blood in murder. This is not the language of pure symbolism. This is the language of real presence. Think about it: If someone were to put a bullet through a picture of a real person, I am sure the person represented in the photo would not be thrilled about it, but the perpetrator would not be “guilty of blood.” But if this same perpetrator were to put a bullet through the actual person you better believe he would be “guilty of blood.”

          Mr. Staples asserts that what the Apostle Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 "is not the language of pure symbolism." At the same time, mind you, he makes a connection in the same symbolic sense being argued against. The Corinthians who partook of communion with a guilty conscience did not literally murder Jesus Christ. The definition of "symbolic" used by Tim Staples appears to be selective and constrictive.

          "It does not come as a surprise to Catholics that St. Paul would refer to the Eucharist as “bread” and “wine.” We do it commonly in the Church. This is so for at least two key reasons. First, Jesus is “the true bread come down from heaven” and “true drink” according to John 6:32 and verse 55. It is entirely proper to refer to the Eucharist as such because the Eucharist is Jesus. Second, in human discourse we tend to refer to things as they appear. This is called “phenomenological” language. We say “the sun will rise at 5:45 am tomorrow.” Does this mean we are all geocentrists who believe the sun rotates around the earth? I hope not!"

          The utilization of language does not in of itself prove that one has properly applied it in a given context. Nowhere in Scripture does one find a hint of the communion elements being the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. Nowhere does the New Testament teach that the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Mass are inextricably united.

          The water used in baptism does not become the Holy Spirit that it illustrates. The water represents the Spirit and His regenerating work, just as the bread and wine used in the Last Supper represents the finished atonement of Jesus Christ.

          If transubstantiation took place during the Lord's Supper, then that would imply that Christ had two bodies. He would be sitting in a chair while holding Himself in the air with His own two hands.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Commentary On Genesis 2:8

2:8 The location of the Garden of Eden has never been precisely determined. Scripture locates it generally on the Tigris (designated in the KJV by its ancient name Hiddekel) and Euphrates rivers where they were joined by the rivers Pishon and Gihon. The last two have never been identified. Tradition has located Eden south of Ur, at a site known as Eridu. British archaeologists excavated the ruins of Eridu in 1918-19. On the other hand, Albright thinks that Pishon and Gihon may have been the Blue and White Nyle.

Harper Study Bible [Revised Standard Version], p. 7

Monday, March 23, 2020

Luke 1:69 And The Deity Of Jesus Christ

        "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant." (Luke 1:68-69)

        What did Zacharias mean when he called the baby in Mary's womb a horn of salvation? In order to answer that question, we must turn to the Old Testament to see how that figurative expression was utilized.

        In the Old Testament, horns in many instances carried connotations of strength and honor (Job 16:15; Psalm 75:5-6; 148:14; Lamentations 2:3). God is described as being the horn of salvation in Psalm 18:2. Hence, the psalmist calls Him the mighty savior.

        The title given to God in Psalm 18:2 is applied to Jesus Christ by Zacharias. In an indirect fashion, he is calling Christ God. He is the mighty savior of the Jewish people. He is victorious over darkness and sin. He is deserving of honor.

        The horn of salvation is associated with the lineage of King David. It also might point to in an inexplicit manner a hymnal of praise to God sung by the mother of the Prophet Samuel ("...will exalt the horn of His anointed," 1 Samuel 2:10).

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Did Mary Participate In The Atonement Of Christ?

        "...we cannot doubt that she greatly grieved in soul in the most harsh anguishes and torments of her Son. Further, that divine sacrifice had to be completed with her present and looking on, for which she had generously nourished the victim from herself. Finally this is more tearfully observed in the same mysteries: There stood by the Cross of Jesus, Mary His Mother...of her own accord she offered her Son to the divine justice, dying with Him in her heart, transfixed with the sword of sorrow." (Leo XIII, Iucunda Semper, September 8, 1884)

        First of all, Scripture states that Jesus Christ offered Himself to God as atonement for our sin (Hebrews 9:14). He laid down His own life on His own accord (John 10:17-18). Mary played no role whatsoever in this act of redemption. Mary could not have offered her son to God as a sacrifice, even if she had wanted to.

        Secondly, Mary would have been in agony and distress to see her son nailed to a crucifix. Such reactions are only natural of normal mothers when they see their children suffer. However, there is no valid reason to suggest that Mary's grief had some sort of a unique or redemptive value. She is a human being, not a goddess.

Evolution And Language Development

"Much of the resistance to Darwinism "all the way up" comes from scientists and philosophers who deny the capacity of natural selection to produce specifically human mental qualities like the capacity for language. Foremost among these is Noam Chomsky, founder of modern linguistics, who describes a complex language program seemingly "hard-wired" into the human brain, which has no real analogy in the animal world and for which there is no very plausible story of step-by-step evolution through adaptive intermediate forms. Chomsky readily accepts evolutionary naturalism in principle, but (supported by Stephen Jay Gould) he regards Darwinian selection as no more than a place holder for a true explanation of the human language capacity which has not yet been found."

Phillip E. Johnson, Objections Sustained, p. 60

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Does Easter Come From Eostre?

"The major problem with associating the origin of Easter with the pagan goddess Eastre/Eostre is that we have no hard evidence that such a goddess was ever worshiped by anyone, anywhere. The only mention of Eastre comes from a passing reference in the writings of the Venerable Bede, an eighth-century monk and historian. Bede wrote, “Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated as ‘Paschal month,’ and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate the Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance” (De Temporum Ratione). And that’s it. Eostre is not mentioned in any other ancient writing; we have found no shrines, no altars, nothing to document the worship of Eastre. It is possible that Bede simply extrapolated the name of the goddess from the name of the month.

In the nineteenth century, the German folklorist Jakob Grimm researched the origins of the German name for Easter, Ostern, which in Old High German was Ostarâ. Both words are related to the German word for “east,” ost. Grimm, while admitting that he could find no solid link between Easter and pagan celebrations, made the assumption that Ostara was probably the name of a German goddess. Like Eastre, the goddess Ostara was based entirely on supposition and conjecture; before Grimm’s Deustche Mythologie (1835), there was no mention of the goddess in any writings.

So, while the word Easter most likely comes from an old word for “east” or the name of a springtime month, we don’t have much evidence that suggests anything more. Assertions that Easter is pagan or that Christians have appropriated a goddess-holiday are untenable. Today, however, it seems that Easter might as well have pagan origins, since it has been almost completely commercialized—the world’s focus is on Easter eggs, Easter candy, and the Easter bunny."

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Bad Catholic Apologetics On Isaiah 64:6 And Sola Fide

  • Discussion:
          -Quite simply, the purpose of this article is to respond to a few claims that Roman Catholic apologists have made regarding Isaiah 64:6. Following are a few excerpts from an article alongside with a critique:

          "This pertains to a particular historical situation, not to a general condition. The passage appeals to a time when Israelites once had a right relationship with God, when God helped them against their enemies because they waited on him, gladly did right, and remembered his ways."

          Several passages in Scripture have a more direct significance and application to the original audience than to readers in later generations. Prophecy has an immediate group of listeners and also a future fulfillment. There are indications which point to Isaiah 64:6 having a universal application.

          "When they sin against him and did not repent and return to their former state, he abandoned them to the will of their enemies, so that even Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed. (Isaiah speaks of this prophetically, before it happened.)"

          The sinful state described in Isaiah 64:6 is applied to the entire human race elsewhere in Scripture. In Psalm 14, David describes the pagan world as corrupt and having turned away from the living God. His description is clearly universal. Paul quotes that Psalm in describing the state of Israel (Romans 3:10-18). Every mouth will be silenced as the whole world is held accountable before God (Romans 3:19-20).

          "It was during that period of continued sin, leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., that they had “become like one who is unclean”–they hadn’t always been like that. In this state, even the nation’s acts of righteousness appeared like filthy rags to God, so he wouldn’t help them: “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!” (Is 1:15-17)."

          The onus is on the Roman Catholic apologist to demonstrate how Isaiah 64:6 cannot apply to every person. The text being discussed attests to the depths of human depravity and our utter inability to redeem ourselves. What is ironic about the Roman Catholic Church describing its position on justification as being on the basis of grace is that adherents are required to attain and maintain their justification on the basis of good works.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Interaction With The Problem Of Divine Hiddenness

        God gave the Jews plenty of signs, yet they still did not trust Him (Matthew 12:39; 16:4). Consider, for example, them making a golden calf after being miraculously rescued from Egypt. The problem is not so much evidential as it is our sinful heart.

        God has revealed Himself to us. He has given to us special revelation (Luke 16:29-31). He has revealed Himself to us through creation (Romans 1:20). He has revealed Himself to us through the Person of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3).

       He has given us sufficient evidence for His existence. God does not want to overwhelm our free will with too many miracles, which have specific purposes. This serves as a springboard for another point.

        If miracles happened frequently, then they would cease to be miracles. They could no longer be used for the specific purposes that God ordains. Miracles would be ordinary events which no longer capture our attention.

        God has not manifested Himself directly to human beings throughout most of history. So, it should not prove to be shocking or embarrassing to us that He does not right now.

        The question should not so much be why God does not reveal Himself to us in a more obvious way, but when is enough evidence enough? There are people who would not be satisfied even if God spoke audibly to them.

Jim Bakker's Fraudulent Cure For COVID-19

        Jim Bakker is one of those greedy and selfish televangelists who induce their audience on a continual basis with fantastically false statements. He is a criminal to the utmost.

        Mr. Bakker's most recent fraudulent claim for which he is being sued is that colloidal silver cures the Coronavirus. Consider these comments on the effectiveness of this metal as a medical treatment by Brent A. Bauer, M.D:

        "Colloidal silver isn't considered safe or effective for any of the health claims manufacturers make. Silver has no known purpose in the body. Nor is it an essential mineral, as some sellers of silver products claim.

        Colloidal silver products are made of tiny silver particles suspended in a liquid — the same type of precious metal used in jewelry, dental fillings, silverware and other consumer goods.

         Colloidal silver products are usually marketed as dietary supplements that are taken by mouth. Colloidal silver products also come in forms to be injected or applied to the skin.

          Manufacturers of colloidal silver products often claim that they are cure-alls, boosting your immune system, fighting bacteria and viruses, and treating cancer, HIV/AIDS, shingles, herpes, eye ailments and prostatitis.

          However, no sound scientific studies to evaluate these health claims have been published in reputable medical journals. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has taken action against some manufacturers of colloidal silver products for making unproven health claims.

          It's not clear how much colloidal silver may be harmful, but it can build up in your body's tissues over months or years. Most commonly, this results in argyria (ahr-JIR-e-uh), a blue-gray discoloration of your skin, eyes, internal organs, nails and gums. While argyria doesn't usually pose a serious health problem, it can be a cosmetic concern because it doesn't go away when you stop taking silver products.

          Rarely, excessive doses of colloidal silver can cause possibly irreversible serious health problems, including kidney damage and neurological problems such as seizures."

          One has to wonder how men such as Jim Bakker could sleep at night or whether they even have a conscience. He most probably could not care less what happens to his listeners. His only motive behind providing a fraudulent remedy is to fatten his wallet.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Commentary On 1 Corinthians 3:14-16

3.14 See also note to 2 Cor 5.10 on the judgement seat of Christ. Salvation is by grace through faith. Rewards are determined according to works performed subsequent to salvation. Scripture reveals that some will suffer loss entering heaven by the skin of their teeth and with the smell of smoke on their garments (3.15). While works constitute the basis of the reward, yet the reward is of grace and not merit since all of the believer's works are defective. God, however, judges the intent of the heart (1 Ki 8.17-19). It should be clearly understood that a self-seeking desire for heavenly rewards has no proper place in the Christian's motivation, since he lives no longer for himself, but for Him who died for him (2 Cor 5.15). But the rewards have value only as a demonstration of the grace and righteousness of God. The Christian desires them only as a display of the glory of God.

3.16 Paul uses the Temple as a figure of the believer's body. Just as the Shekinah glory of God inhabited the Holy Place in the tabernacle and the Temple, so the Holy Spirit indwells the believer whose body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit indwells the believer, the body becomes holy and care must be exercised not to defile it in an manner. Certainly the most compelling reason to live a life of holiness unto the Lord is the fact that the Holy Spirit indwells the believer.

Harper Study Bible [Revised Standard Version], p. 1703

Friday, March 13, 2020

Is Sickness Always The Result Of Personal Sin?

[John] 9.2 The disciples evidently shared the common Jewish belief that sickness was invariably a penalty for sin. But the fact that this man was blind from birth indicated that personal sin was not the cause of his affliction, and pointed out to his parents as the ones responsible. Jesus reiterated what the Book of Job had already taught: that sickness is not always the result of sin either by the individual, or as in this case, by his parents. Note that this is the only recorded case in which Jesus healed one blind from birth.

Harper Study Bible [Revised Standard Version], p. 1600

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

How Paul Uses Deuteronomy 30 In Romans 10

        In Romans 10:6-10, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Providing some background on this passage from the Old Testament makes plain the apostle's rationale for using it. In listing off to the Israelites the conditions which God required of them upon inheriting land, Moses stated his message was simple to grasp. His audience, therefore, would be without excuse. God's commandments were in their hearts and in their mouths. The blessings of the covenant were inseparable from, but not based on, the faithfulness of the Jews to God.

        In Romans, the Apostle Paul utilizes terminology from Deuteronomy and expounds in a New Testament context. He points us to Christ, who became incarnate and resurrected from the grave. These things have been brought into completion. In the Old Testament, people experienced Christ and His Gospel through faith. They awaited the coming of the Messiah. Paul speaks of the righteousness that comes by faith (Romans 10:6). It is with the heart that one believes and is justified (Romans 10:9-10). Man proclaims Christ with his mouth.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Abortion And The Incarnation

        *The New Testament clearly tells us that Jesus Christ received a human nature at the moment of His conception (Luke 1:26-37). Moreover, John the Baptist leaped with joy in the womb of his mother (Luke 1:15, 44).
        *If the pro-choice position is correct, then what was the mass of flesh in Mary's womb? When exactly did it gain the status of personhood? What was the state or condition with respect to Christ's flesh and blood prior to Him taking on these?
         *If this mass of flesh makes up a human person because of its own special qualities and not because of a connection with something else, then that would lead to Nestorianism because the person of Christ would include two distinct persons.
         *If this mass of flesh does not make up a human person in of itself but takes on personhood at a later point in time, then that would lead to to Apollinarianism because Christ's human nature would temporarily be without a human soul. In order to consistently uphold the incarnation, the pro-life stance is a requirement.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Commentary On Genesis 1:2

"...the initial creation was formless and empty, a condition soon remedied. The phrase means that at this point in God's creative activity the earth was yet unfashioned and uninhabited (note Isa 45:18 where it says, “... he created it not in vain, tohu, he formed it to be inhabited"). And darkness was upon the face of the deep. Darkness is not always a symbol of evil in the Bible. Psalm 104:19-24 makes it quite clear that physical darkness (the absence of visible light) is not to be considered inherently evil or as the result of divine judgment. It conveys the fact that God makes the darkness and the night for animals to find their prey. The deep is not a reference to the mythological Babylonian monster Tiamat, as has been alleged, but simply waters. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Recent interpreters have suggested that the verse ought to be translated, “An awesome wind sweeping over the water" (cf. Speiser, p. 3 and p. 5 note 2). But the context demands otherwise. It seems to be a reference to the third person of the Godhead (cf. Job 26:13; Ps 104:30). The Spirit is the subject of the verb, which is an active participle that means "hovering over" (cf. Deut 32:11). Thus, the Spirit of God is seen hovering over, protecting, and participating in the creation of God the Father. John 1:1-3 and Colossians 1:16 make it clear that more than one person of the Godhead was involved in creation."

King James Version Bible Commentary, p. 14

Friday, March 6, 2020

A Great Question Regarding The Magisterium Defining Church Dogma

"You [John R. Waiss] say that the role of the Magisterium is to guard what has been entrusted to it. Yet Pope Pius asserted that the Magisterium can "explain what is contained in the deposit of faith only obscurely and implicitly." In defining as dogma what is only obscure in the revelation received from Christ and the apostles, is not the Magisterium claiming to be able to provide additional and new revelation from God?"

James G. McCarthy, Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical, p. 313

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Do Church Fathers Validate Doctrine?

"Even Rome acknowledges that its Church fathers are not always reliable. Pope Leo XIII wrote that they "have sometimes expressed the ideas of their own times, and thus made statements which in these days have been abandoned as incorrect." Catholic author W.A. Jurgens, whom you [John R. Waiss] have been quoting, cautions against over reliance on the Church fathers: "...we must stress that an isolated patristic text is in no instance to be regarded as a 'proof' of a particular doctrine. Dogmas are not 'proved' by patristic statements but by the infallible teaching instruments of the Church."

James G. McCarthy, Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical, p. 270

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

A Great Question Regarding Catholic Mariology

"Among the pagan gods there was generally one great god who had dominion over the lesser gods and goddesses. For the Greeks it was Zeus; for the Romans, Jupiter. They also worshiped a host of lesser gods and goddesses who were limited in their abilities and had very human weaknesses and passions. How is Catholic praise of Mary essentially any different from pagan worship of lesser gods and goddesses?"

James G. McCarthy, Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical, p. 317

Diligently Confirming Our Calling And Election

        "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall." (2 Peter 1:10)

        The Apostle Peter's words concern the application of various characteristics (2 Peter 1:5-7) amongst people who are in Christ. A productive servant of God will display these qualities. We have been called to mature in faith now that we have been renewed by the Holy Spirit. If we faithfully serve God, then that can only bolster our confidence that we are His children. Our assurance of salvation rests on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ.

        The two epistles of Peter are written on the assumption that the intended audience has already been justified before God by faith. The object of emphasis is on people who have believed on the gospel and are loved by Him (1 Peter 2:7; 2 Peter 1:1). The highlighted passage of Scripture gives us a picture of what sanctification looks like. Calling and election are gifts according to God's eternal plan (Romans 9:11-16; 2 Timothy 1:9).

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Kindness Of God

"Mercy to him who wrote, O Lord, wisdom to those who read, grace to those who hear, salvation to those who own. Amen."

A prayer attached to a copy of the Psalms by a ninth-century scribe

Monday, March 2, 2020

Early Church Evidence For The Figurative Interpretation Of The Bread Of Life Discourse

Commenting on John 6, Tertullian wrote, "The Word had become flesh, we ought therefore to desire him in order that we may have life, and to devour him with the ear, and to ruminate on him with understanding, and to digest him by faith."

James G. McCarthy, Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical, p. 269

A Weakness In The Claim Of Papal Authority

"The predecessor to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997) was the Roman Catechism (1566), also called the Catechism of the Council of Trent. There is no dogma in it related to papal infallibility, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, or the Assumption of Mary, three doctrines based largely on Tradition. How can I know what dogmas will be in the next version based on Tradition, since I can't find the complete list of dogmas in the present version?"

James G. McCarthy, Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical, p. 61

Sunday, March 1, 2020

A Great Question Regarding The Catholic Eucharist

"God says through the prophet Isaiah, "I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to graven images" (Isaiah 42:8). How do you [originally was being asked to John R. Waiss] reconcile this with the Catholic belief that every consecrated wafer has become the glory of God and is to be worshiped as divine?"

James G. McCarthy, Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical, p. 228

Saturday, February 29, 2020

What Is The Earliest Evidence For Christianity?

Let us then behold the earliest evidence for Christianity:

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures . . .
he was buried . . .
he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures . . .
he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time. . . .
Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

Listed above is what scholars argue is the actual creedal tradition(s) Paul received, without Paul’s additional words and comments. This is a new discovery. Even New Testament scholar (and atheist) Gerd Lüdemann called this discovery “one of the great achievements of recent New Testament scholarship.” The early Church Fathers, medieval theologians, and reformers all knew, quoted, and commented on 1 Corinthians 15:3–7, yet it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that anyone realized it wasn’t originally composed by Paul, but was instead a creedal tradition Paul had received more than a decade before AD 49 or 50, when he planted the Corinthian church.

The two main reasons for this are found within the biblical text itself.

First is the way Paul introduces it with the words “delivered” and “received” (1 Cor. 15:3). When Paul planted the church in Corinth, he delivered certain traditions to the Corinthians that further illumined the gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 11:2) he himself had received. These included some teachings and stories about Jesus (1 Cor. 7:10; 9:14; 11:1; 2 Cor. 10:1), the account of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:23–26), hymns (1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 8:9), and this creedal tradition on Jesus’s death, burial, resurrection, and appearances (1 Cor. 15:3–7).

The second major reason is linguistic. Paul uses words and phrases here that he uses nowhere else. Phrases such as “died for our sins,” “in accordance with the Scriptures,” “he was buried,” “he was raised,” “on the third day,” “he appeared,” and “the twelve” are either only used here, or, if used elsewhere, are likewise influenced by tradition.

These considerations have persuaded virtually all scholars that 1 Corinthians 15:3–7 is a pre-Pauline creedal tradition. It dates before Paul’s earliest letters. But how early?

When and Where Did Paul Receive This Tradition?

When you survey the literature, scholars from all different backgrounds and faiths (or no faith) are virtually unanimous that this creedal tradition dates, on average, to within five years of Jesus’s death. A few argue for around a decade after Jesus’s death, some for within even a year. For instance, New Testament scholar James Dunn argues, “This tradition, we can be entirely confident, was formulated as tradition within months of Jesus’s death.”

Scholars from all different backgrounds . . . are virtually unanimous that this creedal tradition dates, on average, to within five years of Jesus’s death.

I believe that Dunn has the best estimate, and that only “months” after Jesus’s crucifixion were new converts learning and memorizing this creedal formula, possibly during the church-planting movement of the apostles and their disciples. It may have formed the foundation of an introductory catechesis for new converts. Further, 1 Corinthians 15:3–7 is the creedal summary and foundation for sermons in Acts (see Acts 10:39–40; 13:28–31) and the Passion narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Where, when, and from whom did Paul receive this pearl of great price? Scholars contend it was either soon after his conversion in Damascus (AD 34) or three years later in Jerusalem (AD 37), when he spent two weeks with Peter (Gal. 1:18) and also met with James, Jesus’s brother (Gal. 1:19). I favor the latter option. It makes the most sense of how he received information such as “[the risen Christ] appeared to Cephas . . . [and] to James” (1 Cor. 15:5, 7). New Testament scholar and agnostic Bart Ehrman agrees: “This visit is one of the most likely places where Paul learned all the received traditions that he refers to and even the received traditions that we otherwise suspect are in his writings that he does not name as such.”

Friday, February 28, 2020

Luke 1:34 And The Perpetual Virginity Of Mary

        "In Luke 1:34, when Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that she was chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah, she asked the question, literally translated from the Greek, “How shall this be since I know not man?” This question makes no sense unless Mary had a vow of virginity. When we consider that Mary and Joseph were already “espoused,” according to verse 27 of this same chapter, we understand Mary and Joseph already have what would be akin to a ratified marriage in the New Covenant. They were married. That would mean Joseph would have had the right to the marriage bed. Normally, after the espousal the husband would go off and prepare a home for his new bride and then come and receive her into his home where the union would be consummated. This is precisely why Joseph intended to “divorce her quietly” (Mt 1:19) when he later discovered she was pregnant. This background is significant because a newly married woman would not ask the question “How shall this be?” She would know—unless, of course, that woman had taken a vow of virginity. Mary believed the message, but wanted to know how this was going to be accomplished. This indicates she was not planning on the normal course of events for her future with Joseph." (

        First of all, the fact that Mary was a virgin at the time the angel Gabriel announced to her the news of God using her as an instrument to bring about His will does not mean that she would always remain a virgin.

        Secondly, the text says nothing about Mary making some vow, either implicitly or explicitly. That is something which Catholics have read into the text. If Mary knew that she would forever remain a virgin, then she would have plainly said to the angel that she would never know a man. However, her response was that of an ordinary woman.

        Thirdly, the understanding of "betrothed" found in the quoted excerpt is quite different than how the term has normally been used. The Reformation Study Bible has this note on Luke 1:34: "More binding than a modern engagement, this is virtually a form of marriage. The couple do not live together or consummate their union, but a divorce is needed to break the relationship."

Notes On Colossians 1:19-23

[1:19] Fullness: in gnostic usage this term referred to a spiritual world of beings above, between God and the world; many later interpreters take it to refer to the fullness of the deity (Col 2:9); the reference could also be to the fullness of grace (cf. Jn 1:16).

[1:20] The blood of his cross: the most specific reference in the hymn to redemption through Christ’s death, a central theme in Paul; cf. Col 2:14–15; 1 Cor 1:17, 18, 23. [Through him]: the phrase, lacking in some manuscripts, seems superfluous but parallels the reference to reconciliation through Christ earlier in the verse.

[1:21–23] Paul, in applying this hymn to the Colossians, reminds them that they have experienced the reconciling effect of Christ’s death. He sees the effects of the cross in the redemption of human beings, not of cosmic powers such as those referred to in Col 1:16, 20 (all things). Paul also urges adherence to Christ in faith and begins to point to his own role as minister (Col 1:23), sufferer (Col 1:24), and proclaimer (Col 1:27–28) of this gospel.

Excerpt taken from the New American Bible Revised Edition

Thursday, February 27, 2020

A Note On Ephesians 1:1

1:1 [In Ephesus]: the phrase is lacking in important early witnesses such as P46 (3rd cent.), and Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (4th cent.), appearing in the latter two as a fifth-century addition. Basil and Origen mention its absence from manuscripts. See Introduction. Without the phrase, the Greek can be rendered, as in Col 1:2, “to the holy ones and faithful brothers in Christ.”

Excerpt taken from the New American Bible Revised Edition

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Answering The Catholic Aramaic And Greek Word Gender Argument On Matthew 16:18

        "When Matthew’s Gospel was translated from the original Aramaic to Greek, there arose a problem which did not confront the evangelist when he first composed his account of Christ’s life. In Aramaic the word kepha has the same ending whether it refers to a rock or is used as a man’s name. In Greek, though, the word for rock, petra, is feminine in gender. The translator could use it for the second appearance of kepha in the sentence, but not for the first because it would be inappropriate to give a man a feminine name. So he put a masculine ending on it, and hence Peter became Petros." (

        This argument begs the question. It is an instance of grasping at straws. Jesus Christ naming Peter the rock in being appointed to a position of supremacy and the Greek word rock being feminine are separate issues.

        If Jesus had to change the gender from feminine to masculine in order to address Peter, then all that point indicates is that (1) rock is usually feminine and (2) Peter is a male. The Greek word has a gender. It had that gender long before the authors of the New Testament associated the term with church foundations.

        The Greek New Testament does use the Aramaic Cephas in reference to Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 2:14). It is also true that if Matthew wanted to tell us that Peter is the rock upon which the church is built, he could have used petros twice in the same sentence ("you are petros and upon this petros I will build my church"). But two separate terms are used in Matthew 16:18 (petros and petra).

        In addition, the New Testament does apply the feminine petra to the man Jesus Christ (Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:8). There are no Aramaic manuscript copies of Matthew. Scripture does not use the terms petros and petra interchangeably. The church is built on the revelation that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

1 Timothy 6:13-16 And The Deity Of Jesus Christ

        "I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen." (1 Timothy 6:13-16)

        This passage clearly has Jesus Christ as its focus. He is said to be the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is said to be the blessed and only Sovereign. Christ alone possessing immortality and dwelling in unapproachable light refers to His mediating the divine glory. Paul thereby equates Jesus with God Himself. Christ is life. He furnishes us with life. Steven J. Cole gives the following commentary on 1 Timothy 6:13:

        "I charge you in the presence of God ... and of Christ Jesus” (6:13). The close association of God and Christ Jesus, plus the assumed omnipresence of Christ, point to Jesus’ deity. Paul reminds Timothy that both God the Father and Christ are listening in and watching as he gives this charge to Timothy. Keeping in mind the fact that God and Christ are always with us will motivate us to live each moment to please Him, whether or not anyone else is there."

        Interestingly enough, the Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Society agrees that 1 Timothy 6:15-16 refers to Jesus Christ:

        "Jehovah and Jesus Christ. Jehovah is “the happy God” and his Son Jesus Christ is called “the happy and only Potentate.” (1 Ti 1:11; 6:15)."

        If folks like the Jehovah's Witnesses want to admit that Christ is the object of emphasis in 1 Timothy 6:13-16, then that leaves them with the dilemma of having to explain how Jesus could be King of kings and Lord of lords. There cannot be two different figures occupying this same position of authority. The only logical and consistent explanation is that Jesus Christ is God incarnate.

Monday, February 24, 2020

A Conundrum For Catholics And Their Abstinence From Meats During Lent

        Despite Pope Paul VI permitting bishops to modify the meat abstinence policy as they see fit in their respective jurisdictions, the idea of weekly abstinence from meats each Friday is one that still exists in the Code of Canon Law (Canons 1250-1253). Violating this commandment is considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be a mortal sin. That means a Catholic who consumes meat on Friday is destined to hell unless the sin is absolved by a priest. This restriction has been limited to Ash Wednesday and Lent in the United States since 1966 (when Paul VI issued Paenitemini). Does this mean that adherents of Rome who ate meat on Friday and failed to confess their sin to a priest before that year are in hell? Did God "bend the rules" and release these souls from hell the moment Church policy changed?

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Examples Of Agreement Between Paul And The Four Gospel Narratives

        *Jesus Christ is a man (Philippians 2:6; 1 Timothy 3:16)
        *Christ is a descendant of King David (Romans 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:8)
        *Belief in virgin birth implied (Galatians 4:4-5)
        *The ordinance of the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
        *Jesus Christ died to make atonement for our sins (Romans 4:25; 5:1-11; 1 Timothy 2:5-6)
        *He was killed, buried in a tomb, resurrected from the grave, and appeared to people (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:1-6)
        *Christ testified of Himself as being the promised Jewish Messiah before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (1 Timothy 6:13-16)
        *Jesus Christ was crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-2; Galatians 3:1)
        *He ascended into heaven to be glorified (Philippians 2:6; 1 Timothy 3:16)
        *Christ is known by Paul as Lord, God, and Messiah (Romans 1:4; 10:9-10; Philippians 2:6-11)

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Did The Apostle Paul Exist?

        The available patristic testimony is unanimous on the authorship of the Pauline corpus. Even liberal scholars believe that Paul wrote at least a few of the New Testament books attributed to him. The fact that there is any discussion regarding Paul as a historical figure presupposes his existence.

        It is because of Paul that the gospel was spread to the Greeks and the Romans. Early church tradition was unanimous that he had founded churches in cities such as Corinth and Ephesus. Paul was martyred around AD 65 under the reign of Nero. Men such as Clement (Philippians 4:3), Linus (2 Timothy 4:21), and Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16) would have known him.

        We have no argument from the first century disputing Paul's existence. The church could not have reasonably fabricated such a male character out of thin air. He was known and written about by the Christians of the first and early second centuries.

Is Blessed The Same As Happy In Psalm 1?

So the word "blessed" - what does that mean? Many moderns translate it "happy." I think that's inadequate. I don't think we have a word for it.

But I point out in Hebrew that there are two different words for "bless"...So you have barak which means "to bless", and then you have this word ashrei.

The word barak means "to be filled with the potency for life". It's the ability to reproduce. So that when God blessed the creation, it was to be fruitful and multiply. Now when you carry that over to the NT, Jesus blessed the disciples. He himself never married. He's not saying to them be fruitful and multiply physically, but be fruitful and multiply spiritually. It's a different form of the kingdom. So that's the word "to bless", barak.

Now the other "to bless" is ashrei. The word used here [in Psalm 1:1]. And that word ashrei means that you have a blessed destiny. It usually refers to the future. And that future, that blessed future, is based upon your present relationship with God. The blessed person when you use ashrei may be in deep trouble at the time...This is a quote from Eliphaz in the book of Job. This would be the Greek equivalent of ashrei - makarios. He says "Blessed is the one whom God corrects". We don't think a person who is being disciplined is particularly blessed, but that's a blessed person. "Blessed is the one whom God corrects, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty, for he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal" [Job 5:17-18]. You have a blessed future. So be thankful that you're a blessed person because God is disciplining you to give you the celestial city. You see how that's different from the word "fill you with potency with life and victory"? It's a different word.

Or another illustration is from the Greek of the Beatitudes of Jesus. Who are the blessed? It's not the way we normally think of it. "Blessed - makarioi, plural - are those who mourn, for they will be comforted...Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you...Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven..." (Mt 5:4, 10-12). So the blessed person is a person who has this great reward in the future. That is not translated by "happy". It's totally inadequate for that. I agree the average person doesn't understand it always, but I think it carries more than just being happy.

Professor Bruce K. Waltke, What Do "Person" And "Blessed" Mean In Psalm 1?

Friday, February 21, 2020

Commentary On 1 John 5:20

"R. Schnackenburg,82 who has given us the best commentary on 1 John, argues strongly from the logic of the context and the flow of the argument that "This is the true God" refers to Jesus Christ. The first sentence in 5:20 ends on the note that we Christians dwell in God the Father ("Him who is true") inasmuch as we dwell in His Son Jesus Christ. Why? Because Jesus is the true God and eternal life. Schnackenburg argues that the second sentence of 5:20 has meaning only if it refers to Jesus; it would be tautological if it referred to God the Father. His reasoning is persuasive, and thus there is a certain probability that 1 Jn 5:20 calls Jesus God—a usage not unusual in Johannine literature."

Raymond E. Brown, Does the New Testament Call Jesus God?, p. 558

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Dilemma For Strictly Materialistic Views Of Biology

"Nothing in nature will ever simultaneously go to both low entropy and high energy at the same time. It’s a physical impossibility. Yet life had to do that. Life had to take simple chemicals and go to a state of high energy and of low entropy. That’s a physical impossibility."

Physicist Brian Miller, Conundrums for Strictly Materialist Views of Biology

Debunking The Mormon Teaching Of Human Souls Being Preexistent

       In Genesis 2:7, we are told that God created Adam from the dust of the earth. He was not a pre-existing soul, but had life breathed into him. That is when Adam's life began.

       In 1 Corinthians 15:46-47, the Apostle Paul states that our physical birth takes place prior to our spiritual birth. This is contrary to the idea of our souls being pre-existent.

       Jesus Christ as God existed eternally with the Father. He took on flesh to make atonement for our sins. If our souls are pre-existent, then that would compromise the uniqueness of Christ. There would be no basis for Him to appeal to His pre-existence as a special qualification (John 8:56-58). The response to Christ's claims of being God points to a general absence of belief in all human souls being pre-existent amongst Jews of His day (John 8:59).

       Blake T. Ostler says the following regarding the absence of belief in the preexistence of human souls amongst the earliest followers of Mormonism:

       "The earliest Mormon publications defined God—in terms borrowed from contemporary orthodox Christianity—as the sole and necessary basis of all existence.2 [See, for example, Apostle Parley P. Pratt’s statement that at death the human spirit “return[s] to the fountain and become[s] part of the great all from which [it] emanated,” in Parker Pratt Robinson, Writings of Parley P. Pratt (Salt Lake City: Robinson, 1952), 216.] The concept of a preexistence either in the sense of eternal, uncreated spirits co-existing with God or as spirit offspring of God did not exist in early Mormon thought. The Book of Mormon assumed that human existence depended entirely upon God (see, for example, Mos. 2:20-21). When the premortal Lord revealed his finger to the brother of Jared, he explained that humans were created “in the beginning after mine own image … after the body of my spirit” (Eth. 3:15-16), implying that human, physical bodies resemble God’s spiritual body. In contrast, orthodox Christianity interpreted “image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26) [p.128]to mean humankind’s moral capacities, not its physical attributes. The seeds, at least, of anthropomorphism and of co-existence of humans with God were thus planted in Mormon thought in the Book of Mormon notion of creation after the image of God’s spiritual body.

       Some Mormons have understood Alma 13 to teach the preexistence of humans because it refers to an ordination “prepared before the foundation of the world” (v. 3).5 However, a close reading suggests that the ordination was not based on actions made prior to mortality but according to the foreknowledge of God (vv. 3, 7). This notion is identical to the Arminian doctrine that God ordains people to salvation based on their good works foreseen by God and not because of preexistence. That early Mormons did not see an idea of preexistence explicitly taught in the Book of Mormon, and that the earliest Mormon converts were unaware of the doctrine, is apparent from Mormon apostle Orson Pratt’s comment: “This same doctrine [of premortal existence] is inculcated in some small degree in the Book of Mormon. However, I do not think that I should have ever discerned it in that book had it not been for the new translation of [the Bible by Joseph Smith].”6

       The classical gulf between God and his mortal creations entailed in the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was accepted without revision in the official Mormon publication The Evening and the Morning Star in October 1832: “The Creator, who having created our souls at first by an act of his will can either eternally preserve them or absolutely annihilate them” (p. 77). Humans were thus contingent beings who did not exist prior to their creation by God—either as body or as spirit—and could lapse into non-being if God willed it. A letter in the May 1835 Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate echoed a similar belief: “Man is dependent on the great first cause and is constantly upheld by Him, therefore justly amenable to him” (p. 113)."

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Refuting The Mormon Belief That God The Father And Jesus Christ Are Two Separate Gods

        The Mormons reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Instead, they believe that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct gods. God the Father is called Elohim (Hebrew word for God). Jesus Christ is recognized as Jehovah (the term Lord capitalized as LORD), which can be legitimate in certain cases because He is the second person of the Trinity.

        But how can a Mormon make sense of a text such as Psalm 110:1-2? It was quoted by Jesus Christ in Matthew 22:41-45. According to Mormon logic, He would be telling Himself to sit at His own right hand! The Trinitarian perspective properly interprets this text, as it is God the Father addressing God the Son. If Jehovah refers to Jesus as a separate god, then would that also mean He is exalted above God the Father (Psalm 97:9)?

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Error Of Turn Or Burn Evangelism

"It's not enough to run from something. Salvation is about running toward something-indeed someone. It is not enough to build your life on hating or being afraid of an idea, a place, or a consequence (hell) and loving its opposite (heaven). Fear doesn't create true obedience, only outward compliance, and only for a season. Fear was what motivated the rich man in Jesus' parable who wanted to save his family. "I beg you, father [Abraham]," he said, "send [Lazarus] to my father's house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:27-28). "Send someone from the dead," he is saying, "to scare my brothers into not coming here. Go, and tell them about hell and my anguish." His logic seems sound. "If someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent" (v. 30). This has been the strategy of many who have claimed to represent Jesus over the centuries. Just give them the flames. "Turn or burn," "fire and brimstone," and they will convert. But what is Abraham's response? No, they won't, he says.

"They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them hear them...If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead" (vv. 29, 31, emphasis added). Why? Because you can't just tell people what they should run from. You have to explain what they're running to. At the end of Luke's Gospel, Jesus makes it clear what Moses and the Prophets were really all about: himself (24:44). The end of the law is not about following the rules—it's about God becoming human, dying for sin, and rising again to redeem sinners from death and punishment, including the punishment of hell itself. Jesus saves us by dislodging our addiction to the things we love that land us in hell. But he doesn't use fear to do this. His love for us leads us to love something or rather, Someone more than those things. It's a positive affection that changes us, not a negative one."

Mark Clark, The Problem of God, p. 148-149

A Note On The Song Of Solomon

"The role of the woman throughout the Song of Solomon is truly astounding, especially in light of its ancient origins. It is the woman, not the man, who is the dominant voice throughout the poems that make up the Song. She is the one who seeks, pursues, initiates. She boldly exclaims her physical attraction...Most English translations hesitate in this verse [Song 5:10-16]. The Hebrew is quite erotic, and most translators cannot bring themselves to bring out the obvious meaning...This again is a prelude to their lovemaking. There is no shy, shamed, mechanical movement under the sheets. Rather, the two stand before each other, aroused, feeling no shame, but only joy in each other’s sexuality."

Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III, cited by Mark Clark, The Problem of God, p. 162-163

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Genesis Flood Narrative As A Prototype Of The Final Judgement

        "and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly." (2 Peter 2:5)

        What caused God to send a flood upon this earth, resulting in the death of mankind and countless animals? It had to do with the wickedness of man (Genesis 6:5-8). He had forgotten the ways of his Creator. People became overly comfortable with temporal blessings and so had removed the things of God from their minds. They behaved as though He was nonexistent, caring only about the things of this earthly realm (Matthew 24:38; Luke 17:27).

        Noah warned his generation of how God would judge the world through a flood. He was the recipient of mocking and scoffing as he prepared an ark for his family. The people were preoccupied with the things of this life: eating, drinking, and marriage. They were not concerned with the things of God. That is why the flood which Noah had spoken of beforehand was unexpected (2 Peter 3:3-6).

        Just as God cast judgement on sinful mankind through a flood, so He will judge the unrepentant and unbelieving world again. The imagery of fire is utilized as He refines creation and permanently does away with evil (2 Peter 3:7; 10-13). Both scenarios point us to the beginning of a new creation. Those who are righteous by faith will be delivered from the wrath of God (Hebrews 11:7).

        Just as faithful Noah was dismissed when he preached repentance, so there are plenty in this fallen world who mock the gospel message proclaimed by God's church. Indeed, He has been rather patient and merciful with all these people (2 Peter 3:8-9). Another point meriting consideration here is that Jesus and the New Testament authors treated the Genesis flood as if it were literal history.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

God Shows Mercy To Those Who Love And Serve Him

       "you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." (Exodus 20:5-6)

       The Israelites were a cherished treasure before God. If His chosen people remained loyal to Him, then that would ensure their continual protection and support. He would regularly bless Israel. God unambiguously condemned the worship of heathen deities. He required that His people serve Him in ways that He ordains. God would punish descendants who followed in their parent's idolatrous footsteps.

       The love and mercy of God is extended to all who love Him. These things will be manifested for eternity. God is devoted to those who love and serve Him. These people have found favor in His sight. His love for sinners is infinitely wide. If we truly love God, then we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).

       The Mosaic Law made known the way in which God's redeemed people were to live before Him. This is evident in the preface to the Ten Commandments: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, therefore..." First, God redeemed Israel. And secondly, He gave instructions as to how His redeemed people would walk before Him. Consequently, the Mosaic Covenant could not have been a system of works righteousness. We recognize the same pattern found in the New Testament: justification followed by sanctification.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

On The Meaning Of Faith Without Works Is Dead

In refuting the objection he has cited, James selects the most prestigious name in Jewish history, the patriarch Abraham. He selects also his most honored act of obedience to God, the offering of his own son Isaac. Since in Christian circles it was well known that Abraham was justified by faith, James now adds a highly original touch. He was also justified by works!

James writes:

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God (Jam. 2:20-23).

Earlier in this discussion we said that we can best understand James’s point of view by recognizing his harmony with Paul. That is extremely relevant here. James does not wish to deny that Abraham, or anyone else, could be justified by faith alone. He merely wishes to insist that there is also another justification, and it is by works.

Of course there is no such thing as a single justification by faith plus works. Nothing James says suggests that idea. Rather, there are two kinds of justification.

This point is confirmed by a careful reading of the Greek text of verse 24. When he returns to his readers generally, James says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not only [justified] by faith.” The key to this understanding is the Greek adverb “only,” which does not simply qualify the word “faith” but the whole idea of the second clause. James is saying: Justification by faith is not the only kind of justification there is. There is also the kind which is by works.12

Somewhat surprisingly, to most people, the Apostle Paul agrees with this. Writing at what was no doubt a later time than James, Paul states in Romans 4:2, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something of which to boast, but not before God.” The form of this statement does not deny the truth of the point under consideration. The phrase, “but not before God,” strongly suggests that the Apostle can conceive of a sense in which men are justified by works. But, he insists, that is not the way men are justified before God. That is, it does not establish their legal standing before Him.13

In responding, therefore, to the kind of person who tried to divorce faith and works in Christian experience, James takes a skillful approach. “Wait a moment, you foolish man,” he is saying, “you make much of justification by faith, but can’t you see how Abraham was also justified by works when he offered his son Isaac to God?” (2:21). “Is it not obvious how his faith was cooperating with his works and, in fact, by works his faith was made mature?” (2:22). “In this way, too, the full significance of the Scripture about his justification by faith was brought to light, for now he could be called the friend of God” (2:23).

The content of this passage is rich indeed. It is a pity that it has been so widely misunderstood. The faith which justifies – James never denies that it does justify! – can have an active and vital role in the life of the obedient believer. As with Abraham, it can be the dynamic for great acts of obedience. In the process, faith itself can be “perfected.” The Greek word suggests development and maturation. Faith is thus nourished and strengthened by works.14

It would hardly be possible to find a better illustration of James’s point anywhere in the Bible. The faith by which Abraham was justified was basically faith in a God of resurrection. Referring to the occasion when that faith was first exercised, Paul wrote:

And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform (Rom. 4:19-21).

Abraham had confidence that the God he believed in could overcome the “deadness” of his own body and of Sarah’s womb. But it was only through the testing with Isaac that this faith becomes a specific conviction that God could literally raise a person from the dead to fulfill His oath. Accordingly, the author of Hebrews declares:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense (Heb. 11:17-19).

Thus the faith of Abraham was strengthened and matured by works! From a conviction that God could overcome a “deadness” in his own body (=inability to beget children), he moved to the assurance that God could actually resurrect his son’s body from literal, physical death. In the process of carrying out the divine command to sacrifice his beloved boy, his faith grew and reached new heights of confidence in God.

In this way, too, the Scripture that spoke of his original justification “was fulfilled.” That statement (Gen. 15:6) was not a prophecy, of course. But its implications were richly developed and exposed by the subsequent record of Abraham’s obedience. Abraham’s works “filled it full” of meaning, so to speak, by showing the extent to which that faith could develop and undergird a life of obedience. Simple and uncomplicated though it was at first, Abraham’s justifying faith had potential ramifications which only his works, built on it, could disclose.15

And now he could be called the “friend of God,” not only by God Himself, but also by men (cf. Isa. 41:8; 2 Chr. 20:7). This is in fact the name by which Abraham has been known down through the centuries in many lands and by at least three religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam). Had Abraham not obeyed God in the greatest test of his life, he would still have been justified by the faith he exercised in Genesis 15:6. But by allowing that faith to be alive in his works, he attained an enviable title among men. In this way he was also justified by works!

When a man is justified by faith he finds an unqualified acceptance before God. As Paul puts it, such a man is one “to whom God imputes righteousness without works” (Rom. 4:6). But only God can see this spiritual transaction. When, however, a man is justified by works he achieves an intimacy with God that is manifest to men. He can then be called “the friend of God,” even as Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14).16

Zane Hodges' commentary on James 2:20-24

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A Catholic Marian Proof Text Bites The Dust

"The Fathers of the Church and early Christian writers did not so interpret the words of the dying Christ [John 19:25-27]. Development of the idea of Mary's spiritual motherhood was slow and did not enter the consciousnesses of the Church until medieval times. During those early centuries, the sacred text did not immediately convey the notion. Lengthy reflection was needed to reach it."

Michael O'Carroll, cited in Cult of the Virgin: Catholic Mariology and the Apparitions of Mary, Elliot Miller and Kenneth R. Samples, p. 44

Monday, February 10, 2020

How The Book Of Hebrews Refutes Catholic Mariology

        -Only Jesus Christ, being sinless and perfect, is fit to make atonement for our sins (Hebrews 9:13-14; 10:1-10). Christ, our High Priest, offered Himself as a sacrifice before God the Father (Hebrews 9:24-28; Hebrews 10:10-12).
        -Christ fully paid the debt of our sin and is now sitting at the right hand of God. He can relate to us in our sinful condition because He took on human flesh. He identified Himself with us. Christ forever makes intercession on our behalf before the Father (Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:23-28).
        -His Mediatorship is superior to that of the Old Testament. It is eternal. It is permanent. His role is a replacement of the Old Testament priesthood. We can approach God with confidence through Christ's body and shed blood (Hebrews 10:19-23). We obtain grace and mercy in times of need.
        -If Jesus Christ is the one and only qualified Mediator because of His sacrificial work on the Cross, then any potential mediatorial position of Mary would be redundant. The position of mediator and intercessor is exclusive to Him. He is sufficient to bring about all things pertaining to our redemption.

An Early Date For The Gospel According To John


There are a number of data which strongly suggest a date in the 60s, chief among them are the following.

(1) The destruction of Jerusalem is not mentioned. This fits extremely well with a date before 66 CE.

(2) The topographical accuracy of pre-70 Palestine argues that at least some of the material embedded in the gospel comes from before the Jewish War.

(3) There is much primitive terminology used in this gospel. E.g., Jesus’ followers are called “disciples” in John, not apostles.

(4) The conceptual and verbal parallels with Qumran argue strongly for an overtly Jewish document which fits well within the first century milieu.

(5) The date of P52 at c. 100-150, coupled with the date of Papyrus Egerton 2 at about the same time—a document which employed both John and the synoptics—is almost inconceivable if John is to be dated in the 90s.34

(6) John’s literary independence from and apparent lack of awareness of the synoptic gospels argue quite strongly for an early date. Indeed, this independence/ignorance argues that all the gospels were written within a relatively short period of time, with Matthew and Luke having the good fortune of seeing and using Mark in their composition.

(7) Finally, there is a strong piece of internal evidence for an early date. In John 5:2 the author says that “there is in Jerusalem, by the sheep-gate, a pool (the one called Bethesda in Hebrew) which has five porticoes.” Without discussing all the interpretations possible for this verse suffice it to say that (a) the verb “is” (ἐστιν) cannot be a historical present, and (b) the pool was destroyed in 70 CE.35 By far the most plausible conclusion is that this gospel was written before 70 CE.

In sum, we believe that a pre-70 date for the Fourth Gospel is the most probable one. Further, we believe that this gospel should be dated late in 65 or even in 66, for the following two reasons: (a) it is doubtful that it should be dated after 66, because otherwise the lack of an Olivet Discourse in which many of the prophecies were at that time coming true, is inexplicable; (b) the gospel should perhaps be dated after Peter’s death, as we shall see when we examine the purpose.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Belief In The Preexistence Of The Messiah Amongst The Scribes And Pharisees

The Messiah was pre-existent. Tanchuma, Nasso II reads: "Before God created the world he created in order the thora, the throne of holiness, the sanctuary, the patriarchs, Israel, the Messiah, and repentance." In the Book of Enoch' we read: "And before the sun and the signs were created, before the stars of heaven were made, his name was named before the Lord of Spirits. .... And for this reason has he been chosen and hidden before Him before the creation of the world and forevermore."

 There has been considerable discussion as to whether the scribes of the time of Christ taught the actual or the ideal pre-existence of the Messiah. Weber says that by it an ideal pre-existence was meant, and illustrates his point by a reference to Ps. 72:17, "Thy name is eternal." He says:2 "The sense is that it was God's will from eternity to create the Messiah and send him into the world; just as those also who were named with him as pre-existent, the fathers, the people of Israel, and the sanctuary, were not actual but present in God's eternal counsel of salvation." But Weber does not carry his citation far enough; for Yalk 1":23, in the haggada upon this very passage, uses words that seem to preclude the possibility of the reference being only to an ideal pre-existence. After stating his view, as given above, he adds: "According to another view only the thora and the throne of glory were [actually] created; as to the other [five] things, the inten- tion was formed to create them."'3

So far as the Book of Enoch goes the evidence is clear; it is the actual pre-existence that is taught.

Edward A. Wicher, Ancient Jewish Views of the Messiah, p. 319

Friday, February 7, 2020

In The Beginning Was The Word Which Is God

1:1 the Word. The term “Word” (Greek logos) designates God the Son with respect to His deity; “Jesus” and “Christ” refer to His incarnation and saving work. During the first three centuries, doctrines of the Person of Christ focused intensely on His position as the Logos. In Greek philosophy, the Logos was “reason” or “logic” as an abstract force that brought order and harmony to the universe. But in John’s writings such qualities of the Logos are gathered in the Person of Christ. In Neo-Platonic philosophy and the Gnostic heresy (second and third centuries a.d.), the Logos was seen as one of many intermediate powers between God and the world. Such notions are far removed from the simplicity of John’s Gospel.

In this verse the Word is expressly affirmed to be God. The Word existed already “in the beginning” (a clear reference to the opening words of the Bible), which is a way of denoting the eternity that is unique to God. John states clearly, “the Word was God.” Some have observed that the word translated “God” here has no definite article, and argued on this basis that it means “a god” rather than “God.” This is a misunderstanding; the article is omitted because of the word order in the Greek sentence (the predicate “God” has been placed first for emphasis). The New Testament never endorses the idea of “a god,” an expression that implies polytheism and is in sharp conflict with the consistent monotheism of the Bible. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “God” occurs often without the definite article, depending on the requirements of Greek grammar.

That “the Word was with God,” indicates a distinction of Persons within the unity of the Godhead. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not successive forms of appearance of one Person, but are eternal Persons present from “the beginning” (v. 2). “With” suggests a relationship of close personal intimacy.

Reformation Study Bible footnote on John 1:1

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Is The Old Testament Derogatory Towards Women?

  • Discussion:
          -There is a certain atheist fellow who calls himself "The Pixie" and enjoys regularly exchanging ideas with Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) at the Christian Cadre. This article serves as interaction with some of his claims regarding so-called incidents of female suppression during the Old Testament in a comments thread of another post:

          "Women were regarded as little more than property. We know that because the Bible has rules on how to sell your daughter (Exodus 21:7). There is no such rule for selling sons, because men are important!"

          This law concerning slaves ensured release upon six years of voluntary service. The individual could choose to become a permanent slave. This was not an act of coercion but of love (Exodus 21:5-6). Permanent and forced servitude of Jewish slaves to Jewish masters was foreign to that culture (Leviticus 25:39-55). Conditions were set forth to make certain that female slaves were not abused and neglected. They were not to be mistreated by their masters. The Reformation Study Bible has this note:

          "The Lord sets forth the ordinances of His covenant in this section. Civil and penal laws are presented at 21:1–22:15; laws controlling morality at 22:16–27; 23:1–9; laws of worship at 20:22–26; 22:28–30; 23:10–19. Through 22:17 the statutes are in the form of case law (“If . . . then,” with appropriate penalties); afterwards laws of the unconditionally imperative type (“you shall not”) predominate. The purpose of these social codes was to regulate Israelite life in the Promised Land."

          "Leviticus 21:9 says unchaste daughters of priests are to be put to death. Not the sons of course. The law about adultery is all about the other man adulterating your property; it is comparable to the prohibition against theft."

         The context of this passage centers on the administration of the priestly law code. The daughters of the priests who committed adultery were put to death, not because they were personal property, but that she put the office of her father to an open shame. The Law frowned upon licentiousness and thievery. Both are violations of God's Law.

          "Deuteronomy 22:13-22 is all about virginity. A man wants to ensure his property has not been handled previously by another man. Obviously it is fine for the man to sleep around all he like, before or after marriage."

          This passage does not say that it is permissible for a man to "sleep around all he likes." That is an assertion devoid of contextual support. Indeed, elsewhere if a man has relations with a betrothed or married woman, he is prescribed the death penalty. The above verses are addressing a man who defames a woman and the punishment that he has to undergo.

          "Perhaps the worst of this is Deuteronomy 22:28-29, which demands that a rapist marry his victim. Shameful in our culture, but if you consider women as property, this is like a shop saying "You broke it, you pay for it." The woman is damaged property, so the rapist has to pay the full price for her."

          "The verb used to explain what happened to the woman is תָּפַשׂ (tāpas). Tāpas means to “lay hold [of],”[2] or “wield.”[3] Like חָזַק (ḥāzaq, the word for “force) used in vv. 25-27, tāpas can also be translated as “seize.”[4] Unlike ḥāzaq, however, tāpas does not carry the same connotation of force. As one Hebrew scholar explains, tāpas does not, in and of itself, infer assault; it means she was “held,” but not necessarily “attacked.’[5] There’s a delicate difference between these two verbs, but it makes all the difference. Tāpas is often used to describe a capture.[6] Tāpas also appears in Genesis 39:12; when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, she seized (tāpas) him to wear down his resolve. This is distinct from ḥāzaq, which describes a forcible overpowering. Daniel Block notes that, unlike the law in verses 25-27, this law has neither a cry for help, nor an account of male violence.[7] It’s likely that the woman in verses 28-29 experienced overwhelming persuasion, perhaps an erosion of her resolve, but not necessarily a sexual assault. This does not mitigate the seriousness of the act. This woman was indeed violated; she was dishonored and humiliated.[8] However, verses 28-29 do not necessarily indicate she was raped. Had the author of Deuteronomy, Moses, (and the Holy Spirit who inspired him)[9] intended to depict this as a sexual assault, it seems unlikely that he would have chosen tāpas instead of ḥāzaq – the verb used just before it. Given the lexical differences between ḥāzaq and tāpas, and how closely they appear in these two consecutive laws, it seems more likely that these two distinct verbs are meant to convey two distinct scenarios. Further, tāpas does not appear in either of biblical stories describing sexual assault that were written after the Law.[10] When later biblical authors depicted a rape, they used the ḥāzaq (which appeared vv. 25-27) rather than tāpas. We can reasonably conclude that the biblical narrators (and again, the Holy Spirit) knew the difference in meaning between ḥāzaq and tāpas within the context of sexual violence, and they used these verbs with their meanings in mind.[11]" (

          "In Numbers 1:2 a census is taken of the men. Women do not count."

           "That women, children, and the elderly were not included in the census its purpose as a military tool in preparation for the conquest of the promised land." (Women's Evangelical Commentary: Old Testament, p. 239)

           "Leviticus 12:2, 5 explain how a woman is unclean longer after giving birth to a girl. Here we get very a clear statement that women are worth less - and exactly how much less (Leviticus 27:3-7)."

           The Law is talking about ritual impurity, not moral impurity or women being inferior to men. As for the latter passage, the valuation is not conditioned on women being less made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). That factor in of itself gives human life objective value. The estimation is based on the effectiveness of productive effort. In the Ancient Near East, men were responsible for more and were potentially able to do more vocationally and militarily. 

What Happens To The Catholic Eucharist After It Has Been Consumed?

        If the Roman Catholic priest has been bestowed the power to transform the communion elements into the body and blood of Jesus Christ to be consumed by the parishioners, then would that not mean His body travels through the digestive tract to be expelled as feces and flushed through the sewer system?

        This is admittedly not a pleasant question to bring up, but it does go a long way in illustrating the graphic consequences of the dogma of transubstantiation. The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church says that the wafer is Jesus "as long as the Eucharistic species subsist" (CCC # 1377). The duration usually given for this is fifteen minutes. But this dodge, as convenient it may seem, is not a satisfactory explanation.

        How come the Eucharistic species cannot subsist for thirty minutes or an hour? Who gets to make a decisive ruling on this matter? What would this process of the deconversion of digested communion elements even be called?

        The biblical view of communion is a remembrance of the work of Christ on the Cross at Calvary (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). We do not need to resort to philosophical speculation in order to avoid the logical absurdities of transubstantiation.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Early Formation Of The New Testament Canon

"There was no early conciliar action that determined which books should be recognized and which not; the acceptance and selection of the books was a spontaneous process that went on throughout the the close of the second century the New Testament contained essentially the same books which we now receive and they were regarded with the same respect that Christians have for them today."

Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 26

A Lack Of Evidence For The Papacy In Rome During The First Century

"It seems as if at the time of the Epistle [to the Romans] there was no centralized organization, but rather as if there were various small groups of believers. Five such groups seem discernible in the chapter (vss. 5, 10, 11, 14, 15). Note that Paul does not address the Epistle to "the Church at Rome" (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1), but simply to "all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints" (1:7). The apparent ignorance regarding the Christian movement on the part of the delegates who called on Paul at Rome may be due to the fact that the believers in that city had not yet come into definite conflict with the synagogue (Acts 28:22). At any rate, we believe that the origin of Christianity in Rome must be sought primarily in the work of the converts that came to the city from various parts of the empire."

Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 223

The Gospel And Old Testament

"Peter preached Christ on the basis of the Old Testament (Acts 2, 3, 10); Stephen reviewed the Old Testament history of Israel in his great sermon (ch.7); Philip preached Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch from Isa. 53 (ch. 8); and wherever Paul went, as seen in the Book of Acts, he preached from the Old Testament. Even the Gentiles, when they accepted the Gospel, accepted the Old Testament as their first Bible. The Jewish Christians recognized both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Septuagint, as is evident from the many quotations in the New Testament from both; the Gentiles, who could neither read nor understand Hebrew, accepted the Septuagint only. The Levitical system was regarded as a symbol and a type of the Christian economy, fulfilled in the life, death, resurrection, and present ministry of Christ (cf. Hebrews); and the predictions of the Messiah in the Old Testament were applied to Christ and His ministry."

Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 4-5

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Not By Works Of Righteousness But By His Grace

        "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:4-5)

        Why has God chosen to save us? This text provides three foundational reasons for Him doing so: love, mercy, and kindness. These three attributes of God are showcased as good works are excluded from us being justified in His sight.

        The washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit refers to spiritually dead people being made alive in Christ. We are given new hearts and set apart to grow in holiness. This is all a work of the Spirit of God.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Confession And The Forgiveness Of Sin

        "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

        If we confess our sins before God, then He will offer complete forgiveness at that very instant. His forgiveness comes with the purification of our souls. We simply need to accept that proposition as true. That is how we secure an objective basis for our assurance of salvation.

        If we can place enough trust in a park bench to support our body weight every time that we sit on one, then how much more are we able to place our trust in God and His work for forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation? God is our Infallible Support. In Him exists no deceit.

        The Apostle John describes in succinct terms how the atonement of Jesus Christ is applied to those who believe on His name for eternal life. It is applied to us on a day by day basis.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Why Is The Charismatic Movement Thriving In Africa?

The African spiritual worldview consists of four tiers.

1. God
2. Angels and demons
3. Ancestral spirits
4. Human beings

It is because of this reality that Africans do not question the existence of God, as is the case with many people in the Western world. To an African, God is there. He is the Creator and ultimate Governor and Benefactor of the whole universe.

Rather, in our spiritual worldview, although God is there he is very far away. Between him and us as human beings lie two layers in the spirit world. One is that of angels and demons (i.e. bad angels) and the other—which is even closer to us—is that of the spirits of the departed.

So, although God is a benevolent, loving, and caring Being, unless the beings that dwell in these two layers that lie between him and us are appeased, his blessings cannot reach us. It is, therefore, important to appease the ancestral spirits and defeat the demons. Only after that will God’s blessings come upon us.

This is where in African traditional religions witchdoctors come in. They are the people with the mysterious power to break through these two layers. They tell us what we must do in order to appease the spirits of our forefathers. They also engage the demons for us through their midnight trances, dances, and incense.

So, a person who is beset with perennial illnesses, failing to get a job, failing to find a spouse or to have children, whose business is failing to thrive, etc., simply goes to the witchdoctor who alone has the key to look into the spirit world. He is told that it is either a deceased person or an evil spirit who is frustrating him.

Sometimes the enemy is a person who is alive. However, the reason why this living individual seems to have a mysterious hold over your life is because he has plugged into those two layers (of either dead ancestors or evil spirits) and you have not. With the help of a powerful witchdoctor you can outsmart him in those two layers, and the blessings of God can once again begin to flow into your life.

Whichever way, the power of the witchdoctor is not in explaining truth but in mindless frenzy. His grip upon the popular mind is his eerie mysteriousness and his capacity to knock you out of your senses and then pronounce you delivered. Of course, this is never done by benevolence. You pay for his services.

The Charismatic Movement’s Rendition

I do not mean to be unkind, but what the modern Charismatic movement in Africa has done is to simply take this entire erroneous superstructure of African religious worldview and baptise it with wrongly applied Bible verses and Christian language. The only difference is that the layer of dead ancestors and evil spirits is now one hotchpotch of confusion. This is why the nonsense of demons becoming spirit husbands and wives, and wrecking havoc in marriages, is taken for granted! This is also why the heresy of generation curses has become so popular. In our minds, bad luck can be passed on from that layer of dead ancestors.

In the African Charismatic circles, the “man of God” has replaced the witchdoctor. He is the one who oozes with mysterious power that enables him to break through those two impregnable layers, which us lesser mortals cannot penetrate. So, when blessings are not flowing our way despite our prayers, we make a beeline to his quarters or his church for help. This explains the throngs in these circles. The crowds are not looking for someone to explain to them the way to find pardon with God. No! They want the “man of God” to pray for them.

This also explains the stranglehold that “men of God” have on the minds of their devotees in these circles. In the Evangelicalism of a former generation “men of God” were primarily preachers of the word of God, but in the new setup they are primarily priests who enter the inner sanctuaries to bring down blessings to us.

This also explains why the answer to almost any problem that you take to these “men of God” is “deliverance” and “breakthrough”. God wants to bless you, but you need to break through these impregnable layers before those blessings can reach you. The prayers of the “man of God” will bring deliverance because at the overnight prayer meeting or on the hill he will bring about a breakthrough. Who can doubt that these two phrases have become the key words of this movement?

This also explains why prayer in the modern Charismatic movement in Africa is literally a fight. In fact, the people praying are called “prayer warriors”. Although they begin by addressing God, within the first few seconds they divert from God and begin to fight the spirits in these impregnable layers with their bare knuckles. The language is almost always, “We bind every unclean spirit in Jesus' name! We loose the Spirit that breaks the yoke in Jesus' name!”

The “prayer warriors” scream at the top of their voices and chant the name of Jesus. They sweat as they put up a gallant fight with these spirits, straining every muscle of their beings until they prevail (so they think). That is when they reach through to God and his blessings begin to flow. This is nothing more than the African traditional religious worldview sprinkled with a thin layer of Christianity.

Notice also how teaching is not the strength of the modern Charismatic movement in Africa. Its chief proponents survive on a few, well-worn, tortured verses: “By his stripes we are healed,” “We are not the tail but the head,” etc. There is absolutely no effort to properly exegete Scripture. Rather, by chanting phrases and making people drop under some trance, in witchdoctor fashion, they are holding sway over the popular mind. The people love it and are paying for it! The “men of God” are becoming stinking rich as the crowds just keep on coming.

Friday, January 31, 2020

The New Perspective On Paul, Works Of The Law, And The Old Testament

In order to understand the NT phrase "works of the law" best, the exegete must first examine its usage in Judaism, especially in the OT and the intertestamental period. OT texts like Lev 18:3-4 speak of "works," but do not qualify the term with the phrase "of the law." However, as Ringgren points out, the contextual reference and contrast are significant: "When ma'aseh refers to deeds or actions, the reference is occasionally to conduct as such and its manner. For example, Israel is warned not to do as the Egyptians and Canaanites do and follow their huqqôt (Lev. 18:3)."S Therefore, such works have a connotation of being in accord with certain standards, customs (huqqôt), and regulations, be they social or legal. In some contexts the phrase "do/perform the law" (O ND NVY, 'aśâh hattôrâh) refers to specific regulations. For example, in Num 6:21 the phrase is employed with reference to the Nazirite regulations. Thus, the Nazirite performs a work of the law in keeping his vows.

In passages like Deut 28:58 (cf. 29:29 [Heb 29:28]; 31:12; 32:46), Josh 1:7 (cf. 22:5; 23:6) and Neh 9:34 (cf. 2 Chr 14:3; 33:8), "do/perform the law" has reference to the entire law, not to one particular ordinance. These same passages call for the implementation of covenant curses for disobedience to the law. By context these texts do not refer to ethnic or social markers identifying Israel. Instead, they refer to the entire Mosaic legislation including every facet of that law. The point is that such references to works of the law are virtually identical with Paul's use of "works of the law” in both Galatians and Romans.

In the intertestamental period, sectarian authors at Qumran spoke of the members of their community as "doers/workers of the law" (ośê hattorāh, 1QpHab 7:11; 8:1; 12:4). They did not indicate that "the law” in such cases was limited to circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, or dietary regulations. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, one of the world's leading authorities on Qumran, Aramaic, and the intertestamental period, concludes that Qumran materials (especially 4QMMT 3.29) rule out the suggestion of both Dunn, about a restricted sense of erga nomou, ..., and Gaston, that the gen. nomou is a subjective gen[itive]."' Fitzmyer goes on to declare that

The Qumran usage makes it clear that "deeds of the law” refers, indeed, to things prescribed or required by the Mosaic law. To the extent that a "works righteousness" would be indicated by the phrase in question, this reading reveals that Paul knew whereof he was speaking when he took issue with contemporary Judaism and its attitude to legal regulations. In 4QMMT the phrase is used precisely in a context mentioning sdgh, "uprightness," and employs the very words of Gen 15:6 that Paul quotes about Abraham in 4:2c.

He is clearly at odds with the NPP’s limitation of the works to circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and dietary regulations in a context dealing with righteousness or justification.

William D. Barrick, The New Perspective and "Works of the Law" (Gal. 2:16 and Rom. 3:20), p. 278-279