Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Distinctness Of The Gospel Message

        Man, being fallen, has an inherent desire to act in accordance with his own desires and be independent of the God who sustains us. The unbelieving world worships creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25), which is distorted worship. Man reasons that good works must outweigh bad works in order that he be rewarded by some deity. That is the underlying reason works-based systems of salvation exist.

        Jesus Christ, in contrast, concluded one of His parables, saying, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). Thus, He plainly taught that no one should depend on his or her own righteousness to be justified by God. The Pharisee is an illustration of the ultimate failure of salvation by works: it gets to people's heads.

The Christian Idea Of God Has Improved Mankind

It was through the Christian religion that the absolute idea of God, in its true conception, attained consciousness. Here man, too, finds himself comprehended in his true nature, given in the specific conception of "the Son." Man, finite when regarded for himself, is yet at the same time the image of God and a fountain of infinity in himself. Consequently he has his true home in a super-sensuous world - an infinite subjectivity, gained only by a rupture with mere natural existence and volition. This is religious self-consciousness.

The first abstract principles are won by the instrumentality of the Christian religion for the secular state. First, under Christianity slavery is impossible; for man as man - in the abstract essence of his nature - is contemplated in God; each unit of mankind is an object of the grace of God and of the divine purpose. Utterly excluding all speciality, therefore, man, in and for himself - in his simple quality of man - has infinite value; and this infinite value abolishes, ipso facto, all particularity attaching to birth or country.

The other, the second principle, regards the subjectivity of man in its bearing on chance. Humanity has this sphere of free spirituality in and for itself, and everything else must proceed from it. The place appropriated to the abode and presence of the Divine Spirit - the sphere in question - is spiritual subjectivity, and is constituted the place in which all contingency is amenable. It follows, thence, that what we observe among the Greeks as a form of customary morality cannot maintain its position in the Christian world. For that morality is spontaneous, unreflected wont; while the Christian principle is independent subjectivity - the soil on which grows the True.

Now, an unreflected morality cannot continue to hold its ground against the principle of subjective freedom. Now the principle of absolute freedom in God makes its appearance. Man no longer sustains the relation of dependence, but of love - in the consciousness that he is a partaker in the Divine existence.

The World's Greatest Books (Philosophy and Economics), Vol. XIV, p. 5-6

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Benefits Of Justification Before God

[Romans] 4:22 therefore. Note the cause-and-effect relation between strong faith in God’s promises and His imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us.

[Romans] 5:1 peace with God. Paul opens his epistles with a salutation conveying “peace from God” (e.g., Romans 1:7), then assures them of “peace with God” (Romans 5:1), culminating in the “peace of God” (Colossians 3:15) ruling in their hearts.

[Romans] 5:3 glory in tribulations. “Glory” is the same Greek word as “rejoice” in Romans 5:2 and “joy” in Romans 5:11. It is also translated “boast” elsewhere. Christians not only can endure tribulations, but can learn to consider it a privilege to suffer for Christ’s sake (Philippians 1:29; I Peter 4:12-14). This in itself is a testimony to the reality of the Christian gospel.

[Romans] 5:9 Much more. Note the “much mores” associated with our position and life in Christ (Romans 5:9, 10, 15, 17, 20).

[Romans] 5:9 by his blood. Some theologians have argued that the shed “blood” of Christ is irrelevant in salvation and that it is merely a metaphor for His “death.” This is wrong. Had Christ died in some fashion not requiring the pouring out of his life-blood, His death in itself was not enough, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22), since “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). His blood is infinitely “precious” (I Peter 1:19). We are “justified by His blood” and saved “through faith in His blood” (Romans 3:25), having “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7). Its efficacy will never lose its power, for it is “the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Hebrews 13:20).

Excerpt taken from Henry Morris, Defender's Study Bible

Different Kinds Of False Asceticism

[1 Timothy] 4:3 Forbidding to marry. A false asceticism is promoted as more spiritual than normal Christianity. Two key heresies are emphasized, a pseudo-love and vegetarianism. The Christian doctrine of permanent monogamous marriage is replaced by various forms of erotic “love” and “loving relationships.” True marriage is considered by them as an outmoded and even repressive burden imposed by the Genesis myth of creation and its legalistic paraphernalia. The word “forbidding” can properly be translated as “discouraging” here. With the modern propaganda against the traditional family, Christian marriage may actually come to be forbidden in the foreseeable future. This latter-day trend is certainly in that direction.

[1 Timothy] 4:3 abstain from meats. Similarly, the animal veneration practiced in the eastern pantheistic religions is being vigorously promoted today among nominal Christians, in the name of animal rights, holistic health, and evolutionary kinship with our animal “brothers and sisters.” The word “commanding” here is not in the original, but has been added by the translators. Both traditional marriage and eating of meat is being widely opposed today by almost all New Age cults and movements, as supposedly based on the scientific “fact” of evolution. All this is aimed at the disintegration of true Biblical faith.

Excerpt taken from Henry Morris, Defender's Study Bible

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Does Acts 4:32 Support Socialism?

[Acts] 4:32 all things common. “Common” in the Greek means simply “ordinary.” Some believers (e.g., Barnabas—Acts 4:36-37) were well to do, but considered their possessions as just common goods which could easily be given up. This was not an early example of socialism or communism, as some teach, for it was entirely voluntary, not planned and enforced governmentally. They did not give up their possessions except as needed, but were quite willing to do so. Furthermore, this was done because of the special circumstances at the time and was not the practice among other churches. We should always be willing to share as needed, but this does not normally entail turning all possessions over to the church leaders.

Excerpt taken from Henry Morris, Defender's Study Bible

Monday, April 27, 2020

Essential And Nonessential Doctrines

        In Christianity, there are doctrines which are essential in order to be a Christian and doctrines which are nonessential. The former category denotes a set of beliefs that constitute the fundamental makeup of the Christian worldview. The latter category denotes a set of beliefs that are important, but not absolutely necessary for salvation.

        None of this means that doctrinal differences do not matter at all or should be ignored. Areas of disagreement ought to be discussed. It is just that there are theological differences which do not merit the discontinuation of fellowship. There must be a balance between unity and separation. Some teachings of Scripture are clearer than others.

        Doctrines that concern the Person and the work of Jesus Christ, for example, are what we would consider essential in nature. The nature of sin is another example of an essential doctrine. These are uncompromisable tenets. Eschatology, ecclesiology, and modes of baptism are examples of nonessential doctrine. Certain elements may even belong in the realm of mystery.

        The Apostle Paul uses meats as an illustration of how to interact with other believers on issues of secondary or tertiary importance (Romans 14:1-23). Examples of grey areas in our modern world would include whether or not one can drink wine, which college to attend, or go to a movie theater. These are matters of conscience which must be handled in a charitable fashion.

        Paul spoke of matters that are "of utmost importance" (1 Corinthians 15:3). Thus, the gospel is to be the source of unity amongst all Christians. It is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

        Moreover, having perfect doctrine cannot be a requirement for salvation because that would be a work of righteousness. That is something which the Apostle Paul would argue against (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7). A separatist and relativist approach to doctrine are both extremes that we should avoid.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Psalms Of Praise

"...Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible. Nor does it cease to be so when, through lack of skill, the forms of its expression are very uncouth or even ridiculous. Heaven knows, many poems of praise addressed to an earthly beloved are as bad as our bad hymns, and an anthology of love poems for public and perpetual use would probably be as sore a trial to literary taste as Hymns Ancient and Modern. I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed."

C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, p. 94-95

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Sweeter Than Honey

For there were other roads, which lacked " truth". The Jews had as their immediate neighbors, close to them in race as well as in position, Pagans of the worst kind, Pagans whose religion was marked by none of that beauty or (sometimes) wisdom which we can find among the Greeks. That background made the "beauty" or "sweetness" of the Law more visible; not least because these neighboring Paganisms were a constant temptation to the Jew and may in some of their externals have been not unlike his own religion. The temptation was to tum to those terrible rites in times of terror-when, for example, the Assyrians were pressing on. We who not so long ago waited daily for invasion by enemies, like the Assyrians, skilled and constant in systematic cruelty, know how they may have felt. They were tempted, since the Lord seemed deaf, to try those appalling deities who demanded so much more and might therefore perhaps give more in return. But when a Jew in some happier hour, or a better Jew even in that hour, looked at those worships-when he thought of sacred prostitution, sacred sodomy, and the babies thrown into the fire for Moloch-his own "Law" as he turned back to it must have shone with an extraordinary radiance. Sweeter than honey; or if that metaphor does not suit us who have not such a sweet tooth as all ancient peoples (partly because we have plenty of sugar), let us say like mountain water, like fresh air after a dungeon, like sanity after a nightmare. But, once again, the best image is in a Psalm, the 19th.

I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world. Most readers will remember its structure; six verses about Nature, five about the Law, and four of personal prayer. The actual words supply no logical connection between the first and second movements. In this way its technique resembles that of the most modern poetry. A modern poet would pass with similar abruptness from one theme to another and leave you to find out the connecting link for yourself. But then he would possibly be doing this quite deliberately; he might have, though he chose to conceal, a perfectly clear and conscious link in his own mind which he could express to you in logical prose if he wanted to. I doubt if the ancient poet was like that. I think he felt, effortlessly and without reflecting on it, so close a connection, indeed (for his imagination) such an identity, between his first theme and his second that he passed from the one to the other without realis­ing that he had made any transition. First he thinks of the sky; how, day after day, the pageantry we see there shows us the splendour of its Creator. Then he thinks of the sun, the bridal joyousness of its rising, the unimaginable speed of its daily voyage from east to west. Finally, of its heat; not of course the mild heats of our climate but the cloudless, blinding, tyrannous rays hammering the hills, searching every cranny. The key phrase on which the whole poem depends is "there is nothing hid from the heat thereof". It pierces everywhere with its strong, clean ardour. Then at once, in verse 7 he is talking of something else, which hardly seems to him something else because it is so like the all-piercing, all-detecting sunshine. The Law is "undefiled ", the Law gives light, it is clean and everlasting, it is "sweet". No one can improve on this and nothing can more fully admit us to the old Jewish feeling about the Law; luminous, severe, disinfectant, exultant. One hardly needs to add that this poet is wholly free from self-righteousness and the last section is concerned with his "secret faults". As he has felt the sun, perhaps in the desert, searching him out in every nook of shade where he attempted to hide from it, so he feels the Law searching out all the hiding-places of his soul.

C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, p. 62-64

Monday, April 20, 2020

Divine Justice And The Christian Worldview

"It [the Jewish point of view] supplements the Christian picture in one important way. For what alarms us in the Christian picture is the infinite purity of the standard against which our actions will be judged. But then we know that none of us will ever come up that standard. We are all in the same boat. We must all pin our hopes on the mercy of God and the work of Christ, not on our own goodness. Now the Jewish picture of civil action sharply reminds us that perhaps we are faulty not only by the Divine standard but also by a very human standard which all reasonable people admit and which we ourselves usually wish to enforce upon others. Almost certainly there are unsatisfied claims, human claims, against each one of us. For who can really believe that in all his dealings with employers and employees, with husband or wife, with parents and children, in quarrels and in collaborations, he has always attained (let alone charity or generosity) mere honesty and fairness? Of course we forget most of the injuries we have done. But the injured parties do not forget even if they forgive. And God does not forget. And even what we can remember is formidable enough."

C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, p. 13

Is The King James Version's Rendering Of "Son Of God" In Daniel 3:25 Suitable?

"sn The phrase like that of a god is in Aramaic “like that of a son of the gods.” Many patristic writers understood this phrase in a christological sense (i.e., “the Son of God”). But it should be remembered that these are words spoken by a pagan who is seeking to explain things from his own polytheistic frame of reference; for him the phrase “like a son of the gods” is equivalent to “like a divine being.” Despite the king’s description though, the fourth person probably was an angel who had come to deliver the three men, or was a theophany."

Excerpt taken from the New English Translation

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Jerusalem Council And Roman Catholic Eucharist

        If the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation was taught in the church from its inception, then how come the issue was not discussed at the Jerusalem Council where the consumption of blood was frowned upon (Acts 15:20; 29; 21:25)? If the leadership who convened had actually believed in this teaching, then would they not have clarified that the blood of Christ was of a different nature in order to prevent confusion?

A Catholic Conundrum: Is Suicide A Mortal Sin Or Not?

Following is an excerpt from the Baltimore Catechism:

Q. 1274. What sin is it to destroy one's own life, or commit suicide, as this act is called?

A. It is a mortal sin to destroy one's own life or commit suicide, as this act is called, and persons who willfully and knowingly commit such an act die in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of Christian burial.

Following is an excerpt from a modern edition of the Catechism:

2282 Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Commentary On 1 John 3:14-24

[1 John] 3:14 Cf. 5:24. Because introduces the reason why we know, not why we have passed out of death.

[1 John] 3:15 Hates...murderer. Cf. Mt 5:21-22.

[1 John] 3:19-20 By this, by loving in deed and truth (18) and so having God's love abiding in us (17), we shall know that the truth which sets men free from sin and self (cf. Jn 8:32) has sway over us and determines our actions. Then the accusation of our consciences (hearts, 19, 20) will fall silent before the mightier testimony of our deeds and, much more, before the mightier testimony of our God, whose love lives in our hearts. In that love He is mightier (greater) than our faltering human hearts; that love is the awesome love of the God who forgives (Ps. 130:4), the love of Him who says, "I will not execute my fierce anger...FOR I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst" (Hos 11:9), the love whose measure our hearts cannot take (Ro 5:6-8).

[1 John] 3:20 He knows everything. Cf. Mt 25:31-45, where the Son of Man, as divine Judge, knows and values deeds of love which those who did them would not dare to plead in their own behalf.

[1 John] 3:24 The Spirit. The mention of the Spirit serves a twofold function. It makes clear that our assured consciousness of God's love in our lives is not our own subjective mood-making but God's own work; and it provides a transition to 4:1-6, with its antithesis between "the Spirit of God and...the spirit of antichrist." (2, 3)

Martin Franzmann and Walter H. Roehrs, Concordia Self-study Commentary [commentary on 1 John], p. 275

Hearing The Voice Of The Lord

        "The Lord showed Himself to me in a dream..." There are plenty of professing Christian individuals who have accumulated audiences of several thousand members due to claims of having received dreams, visions, and miraculous healing powers from God.

        The four gospels record the Lord Jesus Christ healing the sick and casting out demons. The apostles did the same. The prophets wrote down what God had told them. Yet, these people did not gain large audiences but were usually met with brutal hostility.

        Something is wrong with this picture. One has to wonder why an increasing number of Christians are searching for more miracles and revelation from God. This scenario so clearly parallels the unbelieving Jews that Christ so criticized (Matthew 12:38-42).

        These people who claim to experience God given dreams and revelations cannot logically answer the question of how they know whether their experiences are of divine origin. Moreover, there is nothing so special about these so-called prophets that would cause God to exclusively give them revelation. That is how we know these types are full of themselves.

        The Apostle Paul would have shunned this mystic spirituality as being carnal (Colossians 2:18). Some may argue that those who are skeptical of Pentecostal claims simply lack faith in God. However, biblical faith requires a degree of skepticism. For example, we reject the existence of Zeus. Paul said to test all things and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

        If Christians want to spend time with God, then they need to start opening their Bibles and reading them. If Christians want to hear the audible voice of God, then they need to read the Bible aloud. He still speaks today. He does so through Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). These words from Scripture are very much relevant today:

        "For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord."  (Jeremiah 29:8-9)

        "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Commentary On 1 John 3:2-3

[1 John] 3:2 Shall be like him, like Christ, sons in freedom and glory (Cf. Jn 12:26; 8:18, 21, 29; Ph 3:21; Cl 3:4)

[1 John] 3:3 Hopes...purifies himself. This unbreakable connection between hope and purity of life, between the confidence in the returning Christ that looks to Him for everything and the resolute self-committal that devotes everything to Him, is the hallmark of all NT teaching on hope, from John the Baptist to John the prophet on Patmos.

Martin Franzmann and Walter H. Roehrs, Concordia Self-study Commentary [commentary on 1 John], p. 275

Commentary On Ephesians 1:13-14

[Ephesians] 1:13 Sealed, marked as God's property and assured of His protection. (Cf. 4:30; 2 Co 1:22)

[Ephesians] 1:14 Guarantee, literally "down payment," "first installment," which in ancient times was a substantial portion of the whole.

Martin Franzmann and Walter H. Roehrs, Concordia Self-study Commentary [commentary on Ephesians], p. 187

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Tim Staples' Feeble Effort To Defend Marian Devotion

        "St. Thomas Aquinas answers this question succinctly when he says the ability to perform actions that transcend nature comes from a “created light of glory received into [the] created intellect.” It would require infinite power to “create the light” or the grace given to empower men and angels to act beyond their given natures. Only God can do that. But it does not require infinite power to passively receive that light. As long as what is received is not infinite by nature or does not require infinite power to comprehend or to be able to act upon, it would not be beyond men or angel’s ability to receive. Therefore, we can conclude this “created light” given by God to empower men and angels to be able hear millions of prayers and respond to them simultaneously is reasonable as well as biblical." (https://timstaples.com/2019/how-can-mary-hear-thousands-simultaneously/)

        To preface, it should be pointed out that this approach to the question of how Mary and the saints can be the recipient of thousands of prayers at the same time is an argument from silence. This is an instance of grasping at straws to dodge the implications of prayer to Mary and saints involving them being omniscient and omnipotent.

        There is nothing in Scripture about saints in heaven being given the ability to answer multiple prayers at once. Arguments should not be theoretical but based on known facts. Just because something is possible with God, does not mean that He did in fact do something or we have been given permission to take a particular course of action.

        We should not expect Christians who have departed into heaven to be able to hear our prayer requests for the same reason that we cannot expect Christians across the globe to hear them. We do not know the thoughts of other people. We do not know the intentions of other people. We can only know things that have been revealed to us. These limitations are inherent to our being.

       In light of what has been set forth, giving attributes that clearly resemble deity to creations of God is foolish. He is provoked to wrath in the presence of idolatry. Prayer is an act of worship, which means that those who attempt to defend prayers to entities other than God are treading on thin ice. Moreover, one could speculate about a broad range of subjects and assert all sorts of conclusions that are patently absurd.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Debunking Tim Staples On Justification By Faith Alone

  • Discussion:
          -Tim Staples wrote an article where he attempts to interact with common texts cited against the Catholic view of justification such as Romans 3:28, 4:4-5, and Ephesians 2:8-9. Following are a handful of excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "...First, it is true that St. Paul does not say works of law in Romans 4:5. But the context makes it very clear that St. Paul was referring to circumcision in particular and the same “works of law” he was referring to in Romans 3:28. Romans 3:28 down to Romans 4:5 represents one continuous thought in answering the Judaizers and their insistence upon circumcision and keeping the Old Covenant in order to be saved."

          Even assuming that Paul is addressing circumcision in Romans 4:5, that would have no bearing on the argument for Sola Fide because that ritual is a good work and can still be utilized as an example of works not contributing to our justification. The apostle deals with the Jewish Law and good works as a category.

          In verse two, Paul says "justified by works." In verse four, he refers to "the one who works." In verse six, Paul says that one is justified by faith "apart from works." In this context, he even uses Abraham who was not under the Levitical system as his first example. There is no reason to believe that "works of the Law" applies only to works of the ceremonial law. Also, the New English Translation has this footnote on Romans 3:20:

          "...interpreters, like C. E. B. Cranfield (“‘The Works of the Law’ in the Epistle to the Romans,” JSNT 43 [1991]: 89–101) reject this narrow interpretation for a number of reasons, among which the most important are: (1) The second half of v. 20, “for through the law comes the knowledge of sin,” is hard to explain if the phrase “works of the law” is understood in a restricted sense; (2) the plural phrase “works of the law” would have to be understood in a different sense from the singular phrase “the work of the law” in 2:15; (3) similar phrases involving the law in Romans (2:13, 14; 2:25, 26, 27; 7:25; 8:4; and 13:8) which are naturally related to the phrase “works of the law” cannot be taken to refer to circumcision (in fact, in 2:25 circumcision is explicitly contrasted with keeping the law). Those interpreters who reject the “narrow” interpretation of “works of the law” understand the phrase to refer to obedience to the Mosaic law in general."

          If justification is "not of ourselves" and "not as a result of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9), then that means there are no good works that can save us from eternal condemnation. Paul certainly rebuffs the sacramental system of justification taught by the Church of Rome.

          "When it comes to Romans 7:6-7, we need to go a bit deeper in our response. St. Paul does use the ninth and tenth commandments as examples of “law” that cannot save us. St. Paul is using the example of the “Judaizers” to teach all of us a deeper truth about the nature of justification and works. The works that justify us (as we saw in Romans 2:6-7) are works done in Christ. When the “Judaizers” were insisting a return to the Old Covenant was necessary for salvation, they were, in essence, saying Christ and the New Covenant are not enough. And in so doing, they were ipso facto rejecting Jesus Christ and the New Covenant."

          Paul says that the Law is holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12; 16). In other words, it reflects the character of God. Thus, there exists no new law by which we can be justified. Romans 7:6-7 is a problem for Tim's position because it shows us that Paul had much more than circumcision in mind when mentioning works of the Law. He even distinguishes between circumcision and following commandments (1 Corinthians 7:19). Consequently, Paul excludes the moral aspects of the Law as grounds for justification before God. He goes as far as to say that love fulfills the Law (Galatians 5:14). There is not a single good work that does not fit into that category. The Apostle Paul does not say that we "can only perform salvific acts in Christ." It is always by faith (Galatians 3:1-3).

          "Just so no one would get the wrong idea of what St. Paul was saying, it seems, he put it plain and simple in Galatians 5:19-21 and 6:7-9. There is no way we can get “justification by faith alone” that excludes works as necessary for justification in any and every sense if we read these texts carefully. St. Paul makes clear that if Christians allow themselves to be dominated by their “flesh,” or lower nature, they will not make it to heaven."

          In Galatians 5:19-21, the Apostle Paul contrasts works of the flesh with works of the Spirit. In Galatians 6:7-9, he states that the wicked will face eternal judgement. These passages, however, are not related to the instance of justification. They are different contexts. Galatians 2:16, 3:11, and 3:22 are clear that justification is not obtained by works.

          In Romans 3:27, Paul asks a rhetorical question: "By what kind of law? Of works?" If there was some new law which we could obey to get saved from eternal condemnation, then this would have been the ideal place for him to mention it. But that does not happen. What Paul is arguing against is the law of works. He is excluding works in general.

          The Roman Catholic Church shares a glaring parallel with the Judaizers, who claimed that believers needed to revert to observing the Law in addition to faith in Christ for salvation. The Roman Catholic Church denies the sufficiency of faith as the instrument of justification by adding sacraments. Both groups mix Law with grace. Such was categorically condemned by the Apostle Paul as a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-12).

Friday, April 10, 2020

Holy, Holy, Holy

"Here we encounter the crux of Isaiah's vision. It is the song of the seraphim that reveals the awesome message of this text. "And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory'” (Isa. 6:3). The song is the repetition of a single word-holy. Three times the word is sung in succession, giving the church its most august anthem. The song is called the Trisagion, which means simply the "three times holy.”

The significance of the repetition of the word holy can be easily missed. It represents a peculiar literary device that is found in Hebrew forms of literature, especially in poetry. The repetition is a form of emphasis. When we want to emphasize the importance of something in English we have several devices to choose from. We may underline the important words or print them in italics or boldface type. We may attach an exclamation point following the words or set them off in quotation marks. These are all devices to call the reader’s attention to something that is especially important.

The Old Testament Jew also had different techniques to indicate emphasis. One such device was the method of repetition. We see Jesus’ use of repetition with the words, “Truly, truly, I say unto you.…” Here the double use of truly was a sign that what He was about to say was of crucial importance. The word translated “truly” is the ancient word amen. We normally think of the word amen as something people say at the end of a sermon or of a prayer. It means simply, “It is true.” Jesus used it as a preface instead of a response.

A humorous use of the repetition device may be seen in Genesis 14. The story of the battle of the kings in the Valley of Siddim mentions men who fell in the great tar pits of the region. Some translators call them asphalt pits, or bitumen pits, or simply great pits. Why the confusion in translation? Exactly what kind of pits were they? The Hebrew is unclear. The original text gives the Hebrew word for pit and then simply repeats it. The story speaks literally of pit pits. The Jew was saying that there are pits and there are pits. Some pits are pittier than other pits. These pits—the pit pits—were the pittiest pits of all. It is one thing to fall into a pit. But if you fall into a pit pit you are in deep trouble.

On a handful of occasions the Bible repeats something to the third degree. To mention something three times in succession is to elevate it to the superlative degree, to attach to it emphasis of super importance. For example, the dreadful judgment of God is declared in the book of Revelation by the eagle in midair who cried with a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth.…” Or we hear it in the mocking sarcasm of Jeremiah’s temple speech when he chided the people for their hypocrisy, by which they called out, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”

Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that he is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory."

R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, p. 24-26

Mosaic Authorship Of The Pentateuch

Pentateuch, the. The Greek name given to the five books commonly called the Five Books of Moses. The present Jews usually call the whole by the name of Torak, i.e. "the LAW," or Torath Moshek, " the Law of Moses." The rabbinical title is "the five-fifths of the Law." The division of the whole work into five parts has by some writers been supposed to be original. Others, with more probability, think that the division was made by the Greek translators; for the titles of the several books are not of Hebrew but of Greek origin. The Hebrew names are merely taken from the first words of each book, and in the first instance only designated particular sections, and not whole books. The MSS. of the Pentateuch form a single roll or volume, and are divided, not into books, but into the larger and smaller sections called Parshiyath and Sedarim. For the several names and contents of the Five Books, we refer to the articles on each book, where questions affecting their integrity and genuineness are also discussed. The unity of the work in its existing form is now generally recognized. It is not a mere collection of loose fragments carelessly put together at different times, but bears evident traces of design and purpose in its composition. The question has been raised, whether the Book of Joshua does not, properly speaking, constitute an integral portion of this work. All that seems probable is, that the Book of Joshua received a final revision at the hands of Ezra, or some earlier prophet, at the same time with the books of the Law. At different times, suspicions have been entertained that the Pentateuch as we now have it is not the Pentateuch of the earliest age, and that the work must have undergone various modifications and additions before it assumed its present shape. So early as the second century, we find the author of the Clementine Homilies calling in question the authenticity of the Mosaic writings. Jerome, there can be little doubt, had seen the difficulty of supposing the Pentateuch to be altogether, in its present forms, the work of Moses. Aben Ezra (1167), in his Com. on Deut. i. 1, threw out some doubts as to the Mosaic authorship of certain passages, such as Gen. xii. 6, Deut. iii. 10, 11, xxxi. 9. For centuries, however, the Pentateuch was generally received in the Church without question as written by Moses. The Age of criticism had not yet come. The first signs of its approach were seen in the 17th century. Spinoza (Tract. Theol.-Palit. c. 8, 9, published in 1679) set himself boldly to controvert the received authorship of the Pentateuch. But it was not till the middle of the last century that the question as to the authorship of the Pentateuch was handled with anything like a discerning criticism. In the year 1753 there appeared at Brussels a work entitled "Conjectures sur les Mémoires originaux, dont il paroit que Moyse s'est servi pour composer le Livre de Genèse." It was written in his in his 69th year by Astruc, Doctor and Professor of Medicine in the Royal College at Paris, and Court Physician to Louis XIV. His critical eye had observed that throughout the Book of Genesis, and as far as the 6th chapter of Exodus, traces were to be found of two original documents, each characterized by a distinct use of the names of God; the one by the name Elohim, and the other by the name Jehovah. Besides these two principal documents, he supposed Moses to have made use of ten others in the composition of the earlier part of his work. But this documentary hypothesis," as it is called, was too conservative and too rational for some critics. Vater And A. T. Hartmann maintained that the Pentateuch consisted merely of a number of fragments loosely strung together without order or design. This has been called the "fragmentary hypothesis." Both of these have now been superseded by the supplementary hypothesis, which has been adopted with various modifications by De Wette, Bleek, Stahelin, Tuch, Lengerke, Hupfeld, Knobel, Bunsen, Kurta, Delitzsch, Schultz, Vaihinger, and others. They all alike recognize two documents in the Pentateuch. "They suppose the narrative of the Elohist, the more ancient writer, to have been the foundation of the work, and that the Jehovist, or later writer making use of this document, added to and commented upon it, sometimes transcribing portions of it intact, and sometimes incorporating the substance of it into his own work But though thus arriving in the main, they differ widely in the application of the theory. Thus, for instance, De Wette distinguishes between the Elohist and the Jehovist to the first four books, and attributes Deuteronomy to a differ ent writer altogether. S helin, on the other hand, declares for the identity of the Deuteronomist and the Jehovist and supposes the last to have written in the reign of Saul, and the Elohist in the time of the Judges. Hopfeld finds, in general at least, traces of three authors, an earlier and later Elohist, as well as the Jehovist. Delitesch agrees with the authors above mentioned in recognizing two distinct documents as the basis of the Pentateuch, especially in its earlier portions, but he entirely severs himself from them in maintaining that Deuteronomy is the work of Moses. Ewald distinguishes seven different authors in the great book of Origines or l'rimitive History (comprising the Pentateuch and Joshua). On the other side, however, stands an array of names scarcely less distinguished for learning, who maintain not only that there is unity of design in the Pentateuch which is granted by many of those before mentioned but who contend that this unity of design can only be explained on the supposition of . single author, and that this author could have been none other than Moses. This is the ground taken by Hengstenberg, Havernick, Drechsler, Ranke, Welte, and Keil. II. We ask in the next place, What is the testimony of the Pentateuch itself with regard to is authorship? 1. We find on reference to Ex. xxiv. 3, 4, that "Moses came and told the people all the words of Jehovah and all the judgments, and that he subsequently wrote down all the words of Jehovah. These were written on a roll called the book of the covenant, the ten commandments. Leaving Deuteronomy aside for the present, there are only two other passages in which mention is made of the writing of any part of the Law and those are Ex. xvii. 14, where Moss is commanded to write the defeat of Amalek in book (or rather in the book, one already in use for the purpose and Num. xxxiii. 1, where we are informed that Moss wrote the journeyings of the children of Israel in the desert, and the various stations at which they cramped. It obviously does not follow from the statements that Moses wrote all the rest of the first four books which bear his name. Nor on the other hand does this specific testimony with regard to certain portions justify us in coming to an opposite conclusion. So far, nothing can be determined positively one way or the other. But it may be said that we have an express testimony to the Mosaic authorship of the Law in Deut. xxxi. 9-12, where we are told that " Moses wrote this Law," and delivered it to the custody of the priests, with a command that it should be read before all the people at the end of every seven years, on the Feast of Tabernacles. In ver. 24 it is further said, that when he "had made an end of writing the words of this Law in a book till they were finished," he delivered it to the Levites to be placed in the side of the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, that it might be preserved as a witness against the people. Such a statement is no doubt decisive; but the question is, how far does it extend? Do the words  'this Law ' comprise all the Mosaic legislation as contained in the last four books of the Pentateuch, or must they be confined only to Deuteronomy 1? The last is apparently the only tenable view. So far, the direct evidence from the Pentateuch itself is not sufficient to establish the Mosaic authorship of every portion of Five Books. Certain parts of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and the whole of Deuteronomy to the end of chap, xxx., are all that are expressly said to have been written by Moses. Two questions are yet to be answered. Is there evidence that parts of the work were not written by Moses? Is there evidence that parts of the work are later than his time? 2. The next question we ask is this : Is there any evidence to show that he did not write portions of the work which goes by his name? We have already referred to the last chapter of Deuteronomy, which gives an account of his death. Is it probable that Moses wrote the words in Ex. xi. 3, or those in Num. xii. 3? On the other hand, are not such words of praise just what we might expect from the friend and disciple who pronounced his eulogium after his death? (Deut. xxxiv. 10.) 3. But there is other evidence, to a critical eye not a whit less convincing, which points in the same direction. If, without any theory casting its shadow upon us, and without any fear of consequences before our eyes, we read thoughtfully only the Book of Genesis, we can hardly escape the conviction that it partakes of the nature of a compilation. It has indeed a unity of plan, a coherence of parts, a shapeliness and an order, which satisfy us that as it stands it is the creation of a single mind. But it bears also manifest traces of having been based upon an earlier work  and that earlier work itself seems to have had cm- bedded in it fragments of still more ancient documents. Before proceeding to prove this, it may not be unnecessary to state, in order to avoid misconstruction, that such a theory docs not in the least militate against the divine authority of the book. The history contained in Genesis could not have been narrated by Moses from personal knowledge; but whether he was taught it by immediate divine suggestion, or was directed by the Holy Spirit to the use of earlier documents, is immaterial in reference to the inspiration of the work. The question may therefore be safely discussed on critical grounds alone. The language of chapter i. I-ii. 3 is totally unlike that of the section which follows, ii. 4- iii. 23. This last is not only distinguished by a peculiar use of the Divine Names — for here and nowhere else in the whole Pentateuch, except Ex. ix. 30, have we the combination of the two, Jehovah Elohim — but also by a mode of expression peculiar to itself. It is also remarkable for preserving an account of the Creation distinct from that contained in the first chapter. It may be said, indeed, that this account does not contradict the former, and knight therefore have proceeded from the same pen. But, fully admitting that there is no contradiction, the representation is so different, that it is far more natural to conclude that it was derived from some other, though not antagonistic source. To take another instance. Chapter xiv. is, beyond all doubt, an ancient monument, — papyrus-roll it may have been, or inscription on stone, — which has been copied and transplanted in its original form into our present Book of Genesis. Archaic it is in its whole character; distinct too, again, from the rest of the book in its use of the name of God. We believe, then, that at least these two portions of Genesis — chap. ii. 4-iii. 24, and chap, xiv. — are original documents, preserved, it may have been, like the genealogies, which are also a very prominent feature of the book, in the tents of the patriarchs, and made use of either by the Elohist or the Jehovist for his history. We come now to a more ample examination of the question as to the distinctive use of the Divine Names. Is it the fact, as Astruc was the first to surmise, that this early portion of the Pentateuch, extending from Gen. l. to Ex. vi., does contain two original documents characterized by their separate use of the Divine Names and by other peculiarities of style? Of this there can be no reasonable doubt. We do find, not only scattered verses, but whole sections, thus characterized. Through out this portion of the Pentateuch, the name Jehovah prevails in some sections, and Elohim in others. There are a few sections where both are employed indifferently ; and there are, finally, sections of some length in which neither the one nor the other occurs. And we find moreover that in connection with this use of the Divine Names there is also a distinctive and characteristic phraseology. The style and idiom of the Jehovah sections is not the same as the style and idiom of the Elohim sections. After Ex. vi. 2-vii. 7, the name Elohim almost ceases to be characteristic of whole sections; the only exceptions to this rule being Ex. xiii. 17-19 and chap, xviii. Such a phenomenon as this cannot be without significance. If, as Hengstenberg and those who agree with him would persuade us, the use of the Divine Names is to be accounted for throughout by a reference to their etymology — if the author uses the one when his design is to speak of God as the Creator and the Judge, and the other when his object is to set forth God as the Redeemer — then it still cannot but appear remarkable that only up to a particular point do these names stamp separate sections of the narrative, where as afterwards all such distinctive criterion fails. Still this phenomenon of the distinct use of the Divine Names would scarcely of itself prove the point, that there are two documents which form the groundwork of the existing Pentateuch. But there is other evidence pointing the same way. We find, for instance, the same story told by the two writers, and their two accounts manifestly interwoven; and we find also certain favorite words and phrases which distinguish the one writer from the other. (1.) In proof of the first, it is sufficient to read the history of Noah. In order to make this more clear, we will separate the two documents, and arrange them in parallel columns : —

Jehovah.
Elohim.
Gen. vi. 5. And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented Jehovah &c.
Gen. vi. 12. And Elohim saw the earth, and behold it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
 7. And Jehovah said, I will blot out man whom I have created from on the face of the ground.
13. And Elohim said to Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold I will destroy them with the earth.
vii. 1. And Jehovah said to Noah ... Thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. vi. 9. Noah a righteous man was perfect in his generation. With Elohim did Noah walk.
vii. 2. Of all cattle which is clean thou shalt take to thee by sevens, male and his female; and of all cattle which is not clean, two, male and his female. vi. 19. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of all shalt thou bring into the ark to preserve alive with thee: male and female shall they be.
3. Also of fowl of the air by sevens, male and female, to preserve seed alive on the face of all the earth. 20. Of fowl after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every thing that creepeth on the ground after his kind, two of all shall come unto thee that thou mayest preserve (them) alive.
vii. 4. For in yet seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will blot out all the substance which I have made from or the face of the ground. vi. 17. And I, behold I do bring the flood, waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven: all that is in the earth shall perish.
vii. 5. And Noah did according to all that Jehovah commanded him. vi. 22. And Noah did according to all that Elohim commanded him; so did he.

Without carrying this parallelism farther at length, we will merely indicate by references the traces of the two documents in the rest of the narrative of the Flood : — vii. 1,6, on the Jehovah side, answer to vi. 18, vii. 11, on the Elohim side; vii. 7, 8, 9, 17, 23, to vii. 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 21, 22; viii. 21, 22, to ix. 8, 9, 10, 1 1. (2.) But again we find that these duplicate narratives are characterized by peculiar modes of expression; and that, generally, the Elolistic and Jehovistic sections have their own distinct and individual coloring. There is therefore, it seems, good ground for concluding that, besides some smaller independent documents, traces may be discovered of two original historical works, which form the basis of the present Book of Genesis and of the earlier chapters of Exodus. Of these there can be no doubt that the Elohistic is the earlier. The passage in Ex. vi. establishes this, as well as the matter and style of the document itself. Whether Moses himself was the author of either of these works is a different question. Both are probably in the main as old as his time; the Elohistic certainly is, and perhaps older. 4. But we may now advance a step farther. There are certain references of time and place which clearly prove that the work, in its present form, is later than the time of Moses. When, for instance, it is said (Gen. xii. 6, comp. xiii. 7), "And the Canaanitc was then in the land," toe obvious meaning of such a remark seems to be that the state of things was different in the time of the writer; and the conclusion is, that the words must have been written after the occupation of the land by the Israelites. The principal notices of time and place which have been alleged as bespeaking for the Pentateuch a later date are the following : — (a.) References of time. Ex. vi. 26, 27, need not be regarded as a later addition, for it obviously sums up the genealogical register given just before, and refers back to ver. 13. But it is more naturally reconcilable with some other authorship than that of Moses. Again, Ex. xvi. 33-36, though it must have been introduced after the rest of the look was written, may have been added by Moses himself, supposing him to have composed the rest of the book. Moses there directs him to have composed the rest of the book. Moses there directs Aaron to lay up the manna before Jehovah, and then we read : "As Jehovah commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony " (i.e. the Ark) "to be kept. And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited ; they did eat manna until they come unto the borders of the land of Canaan." Then follows the remark, "Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah." It is clear then that this passage was written not only after the Ark was made, but after the Israelites had entered the Promised Land. The difficulty is greater with a passage in the Book of Genesis. The genealogical table of Esau's family (chap, xxxvi.) can scarcely be regarded as a later interpolation. It docs not interrupt the order and connection of the book; on the contrary, it is a most es sential part of its structure; it is one of the ten "generations" or genealogical registers which form, so to speak, the backbone of the whole. Here we find the remark (ver. 31), "And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel." No unprejudiced person can read the words, " before there reigned any king over the children of Israel," with out feeling that, when they were written, kings had already begun to reign over Israel. Either then we must admit that the Book of Genesis did not exist as a whole till the times of David and Solomon, or we must regard this particular verse as the interpolation of a later editor. Similar remarks may perhaps apply to Lev. xviii. 28. This undoubtedly assumes the occupation of the Land of Canaan by the Israelites. The great difficulty connected with this pas sage, however, is that it is not a supplementary remark of the writer's, but that the words arc the words of God directing Moses what he is to say to the children of Israel (ver. 1 ). (4.) In several instances, older names of places give place to those which came later into use in Canaan. In Gen. xiv. 14 and in Deut. xxxiv. I, occurs the name of the well-known city of Dan. In Genesis, we can only fairly account for its appearance by supposing that the old name Laish originally stood in the MS., and that Dan was substituted for it on some later revision. In Josh. xiv. 15 (comp. xv. 13, 54) and Judg: i. 10, we are told that the original name of Hebron before the conquest of Canaan was Kirjath-Arba. In Gen. xxiii. 2, the older name occurs, and the explanation is added evidently by some one who wrote later than the occupation of Canaan), " the same is Hebron." Another instance of a similar kind is the occurrence of Hormah in Num. xiv. 45, xxi. 1-3, compared with Judg. i. 17. So far, then, judging the work simply by what we find in it, there is abundant evidence to show that, though the main bulk of it is Mosaic, certain detached portions of it are of later growth. We are not obliged, because of the late date of these portions, to bring down the rest of the book to later times. III. We are now to consider the evidence lying outside of the Pentateuch itself, which bears upon its authorship and the probable date of its composition. This evidence is of three kinds : first, direct mention of the work as already existing in the later books of the Bible; secondly, the existence of a book substantially the same as the present Pentateuch amongst the Samaritans ; and, lastly, allusions less direct, such as historical references, quotations, and the like, which presuppose its existence. 1. We have direct evidence for the authorship of the Law in Josh i. 7, 8, and viii. 31, 34, xxiii. 6, xxiv. 26, in all which places Moses is said to have written it. The Book of Judges does not speak of the Book of the Law. No direct mention of it occurs in the Books of Samuel. The first mention of the Law of Moses after the establishment of the monarchy is in David's charge to his son Solomon, on his deathbed (1 K. ii. 3). The allusion seems to be to parts of Deuteronomy, and therefore favors the Mosaic authorship of that book (comp. viii. 9, 53). In 2 K. xi. 12, "the testimony is put into the hands of Joash at his coronation. This must have been a book containing either the whole of the Mosaic law, or at least the Book of Deuteronomy. Ir. the Books of Chronicles, far more frequent mention is made of " the Law of Jehovah," or " the book of the Law of Moses " — a fact which may be accounted for partly by the priestly character of those books (comp. 1 Chr. xvi. 40, xxii. 12, 13; 2 Chr. xii. 1, xiv. 4, xv. 3, xvii. 9, xxv. 4, xxxi. 3, 4, 21, xxxiii. 8, xxxiv. 14, xxxv. 26). In Ezra and Nehemiah, we have mention several times made of the Law of Moses, and here there can be no doubt that our present Pentateuch is meant; for we have no reason to suppose that any later revision of it took place. At this time, then, the existing Pentateuch was regarded as the work of Moses. The Books of Chronicles, though undoubtedly based upon ancient records, are probably in their present form as late as the time of Ezra. Hence it might be supposed that if the reference is to the present Pentateuch in Ezra, the present Pentateuch must also be referred to in Chronicles. But this does not follow. The Book of Ezra speaks of the Law as it existed in the time of the writer; the Books of Chronicles speak of it as it existed long before. Hence the author of the latter (who may have been Ezra), in making mention of the Law of Moses, refers of course to that recension of it which existed at the particular periods over which his history travels. In Dan. ix. 11, 13, the Law of Moses is mentioned; and here again a book differing in nothing from our f resent Pentateuch is probably meant. In the Prophets and in the Psalms, though there are many allusions to the Law, evidently as a written document, there are none as to its authorship. 2. Conclusive proof of the early composition of the Pentateuch, it has been argued, exists in the fact that the Samaritans had their own copies of it, not differing very materially from those possessed by the Jews, except in a few passages which had probably been purposely tampered with and altered: such for instance as Ex. xii. 40; Deut. xxvii. 4. If this point could be satisfactorily established, we should have a limit of time in one direction for the composition of the Pentateuch. It could not have been later than the times of the earliest kings. It must have been earlier than the reign of Solomon, and indeed than that of Saul. History leaves us altogether in doubt as to the time at which the Pentateuch was received by the Samaritans. Copies of it might have been left in the northern kingdom after Shalmaneser's invasion, though this is hardly probable; or they might have been introduced thither daring the religious reforms of Hezekiah or Josiah. But the actual condition of the Samaritan Pentateuch is against any such supposition. It agrees so remarkably with the existing Hebrew Pentateuch, and that too in those passages which are manifestly interpolations and corrections as late as the time of Ezra, that we must look for some other period to which to refer the adoption of the Books of Moses by the Samaritans. This we find after the Babylonish exile, at the time of the institution of the rival worship on Gerizim. Till the return from Babylon, there is no evidence that the Samaritans regarded the Jews with any extraordinary dislike or hostility. But the manifest distrust and suspicion with which Nehemiah met their advances when he was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem provoked their wrath. From this time forward, they were declared and open enemies. A full discussion of this question would be out of place here. We incline to the view of Prideaux, that the Samaritan Pentateuch was in fact a transcript of Ezra's revised copy. The saint view is virtually adopted by Gesenius. 3. We are now to consider evidence of a more indirect kind, which bears not so much on the Mosaic authorship as on the early existence of the work as a whole. This last circumstance, however, if satisfactorily made out, is, indirectly at least, an argument that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Hengstenberg has tried to show that all the later books, by their allusions and quotations, presuppose the existence of the Books of the Law. He traces, moreover, the influence of the Law upon the whole life, civil and religious, of the nation after their settlement in the land of Canaan. Now, beyond all doubt, there are numerous most striking references, both in the Prophets and in the Books of Kings, to passages which are found in our present Pentateuch. It is established in the most convincing manner that the legal portions of the Pentateuch already existed in writing before the separation of the two kingdoms. Even as regards the historical portions, there are often in the later books almost verbal coincidences of expression, which render it more than probable that these also existed in writing. But now if, as appears from the examination of all the extant Jewish literature, the Pentateuch existed as a canonical book; if, moreover, it was a book so well known that its words had become household words among the people; and if the prophets could appeal to it as a recognized and well-known document, — how comes it to pass that in the reign of Josiah, one of the latest kings, its existence as a canonical book seems to have been almost forgotten? Yet such was evidently the fact. How are we to explain this surprise and alarm in the mind of Josiah, betraying as it does such utter ignorance of the Book of the Law, and of the severity of its threatening, except on the supposition that, as a written document, it had well-nigh perished? This must have been the case, and it is not so extraordinary a fact perhaps as it appears at first sight. It is quite true that, in the reign of Ahaz, the prophet Isaiah directed the people to turn "to the Law and to the Testimony;" and Hezekiah, who succeeded Ahaz, had no doubt reigned in the spirit of the prophet's advice. But the next monarch was guilty of outrageous wickedness, and filled Jerusalem with idols. How great a desolation might one wicked prince effect, especially during a lengthened reign! To this we must add, that at no time, in all probability, were there many copies of the Law existing in writing. It was probably then the custom, as it still is in the East, to trust largely to the memory for its transmission. The ritual would easily be perpetuated by the mere force of observance, though much of it doubtless became perverted, and some part of it perhaps obsolete, through the neglect of the priests. The command of Moses, which laid upon the king the obligation of making a copy of the Law for himself, had of course long been disregarded. Here and there perhaps only some prophet or righteous man possessed a copy of the sacred book. The bulk of the nation were without it. The oral transmission of the Law and the living witness of the prophets had superseded the written document, till at last it had become so scarce as to be almost unknown. On carefully weighing all the evidence hither to adduced, we can hardly question, without a literary skepticism which would be most unreasonable, that the Pentateuch is to a very considerable extent as early as the time of Moses, though it may have undergone many later revisions and corrections, the last of these being certainly as late as the time of Ezra. But as regards any direct and unimpeachable testimony to the composition of the whole work by Moses, we have it not. Only one book out of the five — that of Deuteronomy — claims in express terms to be from his hand. And yet, strange to say, this is the very book in which modern criticism refuses most peremptorily to admit the claim. It is of importance therefore to consider this question separately. All allow that the Book of the Covenant id Exodus, perhaps a great part of Leviticus and some part of Numbers, were written by Israel's greatest leader and prophet. But Deuteronomy, it is alleged, is in style and purpose so utterly unlike the genuine writings of Moses, that it is quite impossible to believe that he is the author. But how then set aside the express testimony of the book itself? How explain the fact that Moses is there said to have written all the words of this law, to have consigned it to the custody of the priests, and to have charged the Levites sedulously to preserve it by the side of the ark? Only by the bold assertion that the fiction was invented by a later writer, who chose to personate the great Lawgiver in order to give the more color of consistency to His work! But, besides the fact that Deuteronomy claims to have been written by Moses there is other evidence which establishes the great antiquity of the book. 1. It is remarkable for its allusions to Egypt, which ore just what would be expected sup posing Moses to have been the author. In xi. 10, there is an allusion to the Egyptian mode of irrigation; in xx. 5, to Egyptian regulations in time of war; in xxv. 2, to the Egyptian bastinado. Again, among the curses threatened are the sicknesses of Egypt, xxviii. 60 (comp. vii. 15). According to xxviii. 68, Egypt is the type of all the oppressors of Israel. Lastly, references to the sojourning in Egypt are numerous (vi. 21-23 ; see also vii. 8, 18, xi. 3). The phraseology of the book, and the archaisms found in it, stamp it as of the same age with the rest of the Pentateuch. 2. A fondness for the use of figures is another peculiarity of Deuteronomy. See i. 31, 44, viii. 5, xxviii. 13, 29, 44, 49, xxxix. 17, 18. The results are most surprising when we compare Deuteronomy with the Book of the Covenant (Ex. xix.-xxiv.) on the one hand, and with Ps. xc. (which is said to be Mosaic) on the other. In addition to all these peculiarities which are arguments for the Mosaic authorship of the book, we have here, too, the evidence strong and clear, of post-Mosaic times and writings. The attempt by a wrong interpretation of 2 K. xxii. and 2 Chr. xxxiv. to bring down Deuteronomy as low as the time of Manasseh fails utterly. A century earlier, the Jewish prophets borrow their words and their thoughts from Deuteronomy. Since, then, not only Jeremiah and Ezekiel, but Amos and Hosea, Isaiah and Micah, speak in the words of Deuteronomy, as well as in words borrowed from other portions of the Pentateuch, we see at once how untenable is the theory of those who, like Ewald, maintain that Deuteronomy was composed during the reign of Manasseh, or, as Vaihinger does, during that of Hezekiah. But, in truth, the book speaks for itself. No imitator could have written in such a strain. We scarcely need the express testimony of the work to its own authorship. But, having it, we find all the internal evidence conspiring to show that it came from Moses. We therefore declare unhesitatingly for the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy. Briefly, then, to sum up the results of our inquiry. 1. The Book of Genesis rests chiefly on documents much earlier than the time of Moses, though it was probably brought to very nearly its present shape either by Moses himself, or by one of the elders who acted under him. 2. The Books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, are to a great extent Mosaic. Besides those portions which are expressly declared to have been written by him, other portions, and especially the legal sections, were, if not actually written, in all probability dictated by him. 3. Deuteronomy, excepting the concluding part, is entirely the work of Moses, as it professes to be. 4. It is not probable that this was written before the three preceding books, because the legislation in Exodus and Leviticus as being the more formal is manifestly the earlier, whilst Deuteronomy is the spiritual interpretation and application of the Law. But the letter is always before the spirit; the thing before its interpretation. 5. The first composition of the Pentateuch as a whole could not have taken place till after the Israelites entered Canaan. It is probable that Joshua, and the elders who were associated with him, would provide for its formal arrangement, custody, and transmission. 6. The whole work did not finally assume its present shape till its revision was undertaken by Ezra after the return from the Babylonish Captivity.

William Smith, A Dictionary Of the Bible Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, p. 715-721

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Prophetical Character Of The Psalms

"The moral struggle between godliness and ungodliness, so vividly depicted in the Psalms, culminates in Holy Scripture, in the life of the Incarnate Son of God upon earth. It only remains to show that the Psalms themselves definitely anticipated this culmination. Now there are in the Psalter at least three psalms of which the interest evidently centers in a person distinct from the speaker, and which, since they cannot without violence to the language be interpreted of any but the Messiah, may be termed directly and exclusively Messianic. We refer to Ps. ii., xlv., cx.; to which may perhaps be added, Ps. lxxii. It would be strange if these few psalms stood, in their prophetical significance absolutely alone among the rest. And hence the impossibility of viewing the psalms generally, notwithstanding the drapery in which they are outwardly clothed, as simply the past devotions of the historical David or the historical Israel. The national hymns of Israel are indeed also prospective; but in general they anticipate rather the struggles and the triumphs of the Christian Church than those of Christ himself."

William Smith, A Dictionary Of the Bible Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, p. 776

Monday, April 6, 2020

Moral Characteristics Of The Psalms

"Foremost among these meets us, undoubtedly, the universal recourse to communion with God. Connected with this is the faith by which the Psalmist everywhere lives in God rather than in himself. It is of the essence of such faith that his view of the perfections of God should be true and vivid. The Psalter describes God as He is: it glows with testimonies to His power and providence, His love and faithfulness, His holiness and righteousness. The Psalms not only set forth the perfections of God, they proclaim also the duty of worshiping Him by the acknowledgment and adoration of His perfections. They encourage all outward rites and means of worship. Among these they recognize the ordinance of sacrifice as an expression of the worshiper's consecration of himself to God's service. But not the less do they repudiate the outward rite when separated from that which it was designed to express. Similar depth is observable in the view taken, by the psalmists, of human sin. In regard to the law, the psalmist, while warmly acknowledging its excellence, feels yet that it cannot so effectually guide his own unassisted exertions as to preserve him from error (Ps. xix.). The Psalms bear repeated testimony to the duty of instructing others in the ways of holiness (Ps. xxxii., xxxiv., li.). This brings us to notice, lastly, the faith of the psalmists in righteous recompense to all men according to their deeds (Ps. xxxvii., &c.)."

William Smith, A Dictionary Of the Bible Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, p. 776

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Notes On The Authorship Of Hebrews

Hebrews, Epistle to the.-I Canonical authority. Was it received and transmitted as canonical by the immediate successors of the apostles? The most important witness among these, Clement (A.D. 70 or 95), refers to this Epistle in the same way as, and more frequently than, to any other canonical book. Little stress can be laid upon the few possible allusions to it in Barnabas, Hermas, Polycarp, and Ignatius. It is received as canonical by Justin Martyr, and by the compilers of the Peshito version of the New Testament. Basilides and Marcion are recorded as distinctly rejecting the Epistle. But at the close of that period, in the North African church, where first the Gospel found utterance in the Latin tongue, orthodox Christianity first doubted the canonical authority of the Epistle to the Hebrews. To the old Latin version of the Scriptures, which was completed probably about A.D. 173, this Epistle seems to have been added as a composition of Barnabas, and as destitute of canonical authority. During the next two centuries, the extant fathers of the Roman and North African churches regard the Epistle as a book of no canonical authority; but in the fourth century its authority began to revive. At the end of the fourth century, Jerome, the most learned and critical of the Latin fathers, reviewed the conflicting opinions as to the authority of this Epistle. He considered that the prevailing, though not universal view of the Latin churches was of less weight than the view, not only of ancient writers, but also of all the Greek and all the Eastern churches, where the Epistle was received as canonical, and read daily and he pronounced a decided opinion in favor of its authority. The great contemporary light of North Africa, St. Augustine," held a similar opinion. The 3rd Council of Carthage, A.D. 397, and a Decretal of Pope Innocent, A.D. 416, gave a final confirmation to their decision. But such doubts were confined to the Latin churches from the middle of the second to the close of the fourth century. All the rest of orthodox Christendom from the beginning was agreed upon the canonical authority of this Epistle. Cardinal Cajetan, the opponent of Luther, was the first to disturb the tradition of a thousand years, and to deny its authority. Erasmus, Calvin, and Beza questioned only its Authorship. Luther, when he printed his version of the Bible, separated this book from St. Paul's Epistles, and placed it with the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, next before the Revelation; indicating by this change of order his opinion that the four relegated books are of less importance and less authority than the rest of the New Testament.-II. Who was the author of the Epistle? - The superscription, the ordinary source of information, is wanting; but there is no reason to doubt that at first, everywhere, except in North Africa, St. Paul was regarded as the author. Clement ascribed to St. Luke the translation of the Epistle into Greek from a Hebrew original of St. Paul. Origen believed that the thoughts were St. Paul's, the language and composition of St. Lake's or Clement's of Rome. Tertullian names Barnabas as the reputed author according to the North African tradition. The view of the Alexandrian fathers, a middle point between the Eastern and Western traditions, won its way in the Church. Luther's conjecture that Apollos was the author has been widely adopted; Luke by Grotius; Silas by others. Neander attributes it to some apostolic man of the Pauline school, whose training and method of stating doctrinal truth differed from St. Paul's. The distinguished name of Ewald has been given recently to the hypothesis that it was written by some Jewish teacher residing at Jerusalem to a church in some important Italian town, which is supposed to have sent deputation to Palestine. If it be asked to what extent, and by whom, was St. Paul assisted in the composition of this Epistle, the reply must be in the words of Origen, "Who wrote [i.e. as in Rom. xvi. 22, wrote from the author's dictation] this Epistle, only God knows." The similarity in phraseology which exists between the acknowledged writings of St. Luke and this Epistle, his constant companionship with St. Paul, and his habit of listening to and recording the Apostle's arguments, form a strong presumption in his favor. III. To whom was the Epistle sent? - Some critics have maintained that this Epistle was addressed directly to Jewish believers everywhere others have restricted it to those who dwelt in Asia and Greece. This question was agitated as early as the time of Chrysostom, who replies, to the Jews in Jerusalem and Palestine. The argument of the Epistle is such as could be used with most effect to # church consisting exclusively of Jews by birth, personally familiar with and attached to the Temple-service. Ebrard limits the primary circle of readers even to a section of the church at Jerusalem.-IV. Where and when was written -Eastern traditions of the fourth century, in connection with the opinion that St. Paul is the writer, name Italy and Rome, or Athens, as the place from whence the Epistle was written. Either place would agree with, perhaps was suggested by, the mention of Timothy in the last chapter. The Epistle was evidently written before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The whole argument, and specially the passages viii. 4 and sq., ix. 6 and sq., and xiii. 10 and sq., imply that the Temple was standing, and that its usual course of Divine service was carried on without interruption. The date which best agrees with the traditionary account of the authorship and destination of the Epistle is A.D. 63, about the end of St. Paul's imprisonment at Rome, or year after Albinus succeeded Festus as Procurator. - V. In what language was it written? Like St. Matthew's Gospel, the Epistle to the Hebrews has afforded ground for much unimportant controversy respecting the language in which it was originally written. The earliest statement is that of Clement of Alexandria, to the effect that it was written by St. Paul in Hebrew, and translated by St. Luke into Greek. But nothing is said to lead us to regard it as a tradition, rather than a conjecture suggested by the style of the Epistle. Bleek argues, in support of a Greek original, on the grounds of (1.) the purity and casy flow of the Greek; (2.) the use of Greek words which could not be adequately expressed in Hebrew without long peraphrase ; (3.) the use of paronomasia; and (4.) the use of the Septuagint in quotations and references. - VI. Condition of the Hebrews, and scope of the Epistle. --The numerous Christian churches scattered throughout Judea (Acts ix. 31; Gal. i. 22) were continually exposed to persecution from the Jews (1 Thess. ii. 14); but in Jerusalem there was one additional weapon in the hands of the predominant oppressors of the Christians. The magnificent national Temple might be shut against the Hebrew Christian; and even if this affliction were not often laid upon him, yet there was a secret burden which he bore within him, the knowledge that the end of all the beauty and awfulness of Zion was rapidly approaching. What could take the place of the Temple, and that which was behind the veil, and the Levitical sacrifices, and the Holy City, when they should cease to exist? What compensation could Christianity offer him for the loss which was pressing the Hebrew Christian more and more? The writer of this Epistle meets the Hebrew Christians on their own ground. His answer is-"Your new faith gives you Christ, and, in Christ, all you seek, all your fathers sought. In Christ, the Son of God, you have an all-sufficient Mediator, nearer than angels to the Father, eminent above Moses as a benefactor, more sympathizing and more prevailing than the high-priest as an intercessor: His sabbath awaits you in heaven; to His covenant the old was intended to be subservient; His atonement is the eternal reality of which sacrifices are but the passing shadow; His city heavenly, not made with hands. Having Him, believe in Him with all your heart, with a faith in the unseen future, strong as that of the saints of old, patient under present, and prepared for coming woe, full of energy, and hope, and holiness, and love." Such was the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

William Smith, A Dictionary Of the Bible Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, p. 317-318

Friday, April 3, 2020

What Transubstantiation And Transgender Ideology Have In Common

        Though transubstantiation and transgenderism are radically different issues, both share a remarkable parallel in logic. They are similar in that things are not as they appear. Transubstantiation and transgenderism violate what we observe in the natural world. The nature of the communion elements and the nature of a person's gender are given a description that they do not really have. The nature of the objects in both scenarios are considered something other than what they are.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

A Dilemma For The Catholic Unity Argument

        In arguing against Sola Scriptura, Roman Catholic apologists assert that Protestantism is broken up into thousands of denominations over scriptural interpretation. They propose the pope and Magisterium as the solution to the divisions that exist within Christianity. Even assuming that Catholics are correct in their argumentation (which they are not), there is the question of how absolute unity in the church can be obtained?

        In a society where freedom of speech and freedom of conscience exists, there will inevitably be diversity in beliefs. That is simply a logical consequence of such a society. In order to obtain the institutionalized unity that Rome requires, there would have to be coercion involved. Otherwise, it is not humanly possible to get.

        There is no denying that Jesus Christ desires unity in the church. He despises factions amongst His people, as such is an indicator of carnality. Truth is of utmost importance. It ought to be sought after at all costs. But we are imperfect beings. Divisions have existed in the church since the time Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians.

        Ironically, Paul never mentioned the pope and Magisterium of the Catholic Church as being the means of preserving ecclesiastical unity in passages relating to that very topic (Ephesians 4:4-7; Philippians 4:2-3). Jesus Christ does not refer to a Papacy in His prayer to God for unity amongst brethren (John 17). That should make one doubt whether the papal office existed in the first century.