Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Comments On The Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation Rendering Of 2 Peter 1:1

        "Simon Peter, a slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have acquired a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and the Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:1, New World Translation, emphasis added)

        "Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:1, New American Standard Bible, emphasis added)

        The Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Society has rendered 2 Peter 1:1 in a way to avoid supporting the deity of Christ. Theological bias in this translation is made conspicuous as examples of the same type of Greek constructions are rendered correctly elsewhere in the same epistle:

        "In fact, in this way you will be richly granted entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:11, New World Translation, emphasis added)

        "Certainly if after escaping from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, their final state has become worse for them than the first." (2 Peter 2:20, New World Translation, emphasis added)

        "No, but go on growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." (2 Peter 3:18, New World Translation, emphasis added)

Monday, May 18, 2020

For The Beauty Of The Earth

      For the beauty of the earth, For the beauty of the skies, For the Love which from our birth Over and around us lies: Christ, our God, to Thee we raise This our Sacrifice of Praise.

      For the beauty of each hour Of the day and of the night, Hill and vale, and tree and flower, Sun and moon and stars of light: Christ, our God, to Thee we raise This our Sacrifice of Praise.

      For the joy of ear and eye, For the heart and brain's delight, For the mystic harmony Linking sense to sound and sight: Christ, our God, to Thee we raise This our Sacrifice of Praise.

      For the joy of human love, Brother, sister, parent, child, Friends on earth, and friends above; For all gentle thoughts and mild: Christ, our God, to Thee we raise This our Sacrifice of Praise.

       For each perfect Gift of Thine To our race so freely given, Graces human and Divine, Flowers of earth, and buds of Heaven: Christ, our God, to Thee we raise This our Sacrifice of Praise.

     For Thy Bride that evermore Lifteth holy hands above, Offering up on every shore This Pure Sacrifice of Love: Christ, our God, to Thee we raise This our Sacrifice of Praise.

     For Thy Martyrs' crown of light, For Thy Prophets' eagle eye, For Thy bold Confessors' might, For the lips of Infancy: Christ, our God, to Thee we raise This our Sacrifice of Praise.

     For Thy Virgins' robes of snow, For Thy Maiden Mother mild, For Thyself, with hearts aglow, Jesu, Victim undefiled, Offer we at Thine own Shrine Thyself, sweet Sacrament Divine.

Hymn published by Fol­li­ot S. Pier­point

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Jesus Christ Is The Word That Became Flesh

        "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

        The Apostle John places an emphasis on flesh as polemic against the Gnostic idea that everything pertaining to the physical or material world is inherently corrupt. Docetists maintained that the the body of Jesus Christ was not real but illusionary. According to that view, the suffering He underwent on the cross was only apparent. In contrast, John expresses the true humanity of Christ. Consider also these statements from other writings by the him:

        "By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world." (1 John 4:2-3, emphasis added)

        "For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." (2 John 7, emphasis added)

        During the Old Testament, God dwelt in the tabernacle and the temple (Exodus 25:8-9; 40:34-38; 1 Kings 8:10-11, 27). In the New Testament, this concept finds its place in Christ taking on human flesh. The glory of God fully shines through Christ.

        Just as God the Father is not a father to Christ in the same sense of a parent to child relationship, the Son is not a son of God in the same sense as we are sons of God. There exists a unique relationship between God the Father and God the Son. Our special status as sons of God is given to us by adoption. We cannot become divine.

        The phrase "full of grace and truth" should be understood in light of its Old Testament backdrop of God's relationship with Israel (Exodus 34:6-7). Christ has the same characteristics. He is loving, merciful, and just.

        Christ took on human flesh so that He can experience suffering and death. His divinity enabled Him to pay an infinite debt of sin. That is something which we could never do.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Early Church Evidence Against Transubstantiation

“Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when He said: “Eat ye my flesh, and drink my blood;” describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith and the promise, by means of which the Church, like a human being consisting of many members, is refreshed and grows, is welded together and compacted of both,-of faith, which is the body, and of hope, which is the soul; as also the Lord of flesh and blood. For in reality the blood of faith is hope, in which faith is held as by a vital principle...Thus in many ways the Word is figuratively described, as meat, and flesh, and food, and bread, and blood, and milk. The Lord is all these, to give enjoyment to us who have believed on Him. Let no one then think it strange, when we say that the Lord's blood is figuratively represented as milk. For is it not figuratively represented as wine? “Who washes,” it is said, “His garment in wine, His robe in the blood of the grape.” In His Own Spirit He says He will deck the body of the Word; as certainly by His own Spirit He will nourish those who hunger for the Word.”

Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor 1.6

Sunday, May 10, 2020

A Discourse Against The Catholic Dogma Of Purgatory

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to rebut a number of arguments made in defense of the Roman Catholic dogma of purgatory as well as attempts to answer objections to that dogma. Following are a few excerpts from Kevin Tierney along with a critique of his assertions:

          "...the sacrifice of Christ is no longer there for one "who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified"; such a one can "throw away [one's] confidence" and "shrink back" and be "destroyed" (Hebrews 10:28-39). The only thing such a sinner looks forward to is judgment, for "the Lord will judge his people" (cf. Romans 2:5-10). We are to keep faith and endure to the end to be saved, "so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised" (cf. Matthew 24:13; 2 Peter 1:10f)."

          The text from Hebrews addresses people who knowingly and willingly reject the atonement for sin that God has provided in Christ. It is about persevering in the faith, not purification of souls after death. The author of Hebrews addresses an audience who professes Christ, without providing specific commentary on how things work in the afterlife. The text from Matthew is descriptive, not prescriptive, in nature. The text from 2 Peter simply gives us a picture of what takes place in sanctification. It does not concern the instance of justification before God.

          "...the final step into heaven would require us to be perfectly purified and made completely holy through Christ’s grace, since the church in heaven, where "nothing unclean can enter" contains holy and perfected people (cf. Matthew 5:48; Hebrews 12:14, 23; 1 Thess 5:23; Eph 5:26f; Rev 21:27). So we DO "need to be purified" according to Scripture (cf. Mal 3:2-3; 1 Peter 1:6-9; 1 Cor 3:12-15; Hebrews 12:29), and Christ's one sacrifice is the application of that final purification and sanctification necessary for heaven -- which Catholics call "purgatory."

          Certainly, we must persevere in faith. It is true that nothing impure can enter heaven. However, the point of contention is whether good works are to be seen as meritorious. Christians are forgiven of their sins by God and covered in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He therefore already sees us as perfect in His sight. Purgatory is something created by Roman Catholicism to meet a need that does not exist. This place exists only in the minds of people who choose to believe in it.

          "There is no evidence in Scripture of the infamous mantra “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (some say it is implied in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 which actually reads: "we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord" -- RSV). There is often desire to be away from the body and be with Christ, but what believer wouldn’t desire this?"

           In context, Paul sets forth a contrast between an earthly "tent" that is subject to destruction and an eternal "tent" prepared for us by God (2 Corinthians 5:1). He is speaking in reference to our bodies. He speaks of the believer's longing to be "clothed" with a glorified body rather than being "in this house" (2 Corinthians 5:2). Paul says that we shall not be "naked," but clothed in heavenly glory (2 Corinthians 5:3). We are troubled in our mortal bodies, but will put on life and immortality at the final resurrection. This context is full of contrasts between the temporal and eternal realms. We walk by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Paul clearly sets up a twofold division between absence and presence here (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). It is, therefore, foolish to assert that this "famous mantra" has "no evidence in Scripture."

          "...If this argument is turned around on the Protestant who uses Church history, it hurts him even more. What about those prayers for the dead? Of course they are depicted as being in a place of happiness! They were going to heaven! Nowhere does the Catholic Church deny this. There is also the Latin used, which Webster says only refers to “refreshment” or to “refresh.”

          The above assertions are a red herring. The view of purgatory that has been a tradition of Roman Catholicism for centuries is that it is a place of intense suffering to satisfy divine justice. According to this view, it is anything but pleasant. In Catholic theology, purgatory exists for people to make atonement for the remaining guilt of venial sin committed during their earthly lives. Purgatory has been described as a sin purifying fire. It is from this point of view that authors like Webster critique purgatory. Catholic apologists who describe purgatory in terms of peace, bliss, and excitement are not representing historic belief. Primitive writers such as Clement of Rome and Polycarp refer to Christians as being in heaven without any mention of purgatory.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Of Inequality

Plutarch somewhere says that he finds no such great difference between beast and beast as between man and man. He speaks of the mind and internal qualities. I could find in my heart to say there is more difference between one man and another than between such a man and such a beast; and that there are as many degrees of spirits as steps between earth and heaven.

But concerning the estimation of men, it is marvellous that we ourselves are the only things not esteemed for their proper qualities. We commend a horse for his strength and speed, not for his trappings; a greyhound for his swiftness, not his collar; a hawk for her wing, not for her bells. Why do we not likewise esteem a man for that which is his own? He has a goodly train of followers, a stately palace, so much rent coming in, so much credit among men. Alas, all that is about him, not in him. If you buy a horse you see him bare of saddle and cloths. When you judge of a man, why consider his wrappings only? In a sword it is the quality of the blade, not the value of the scabbard, to which you give heed. A man should be judged by what he is himself, not by his appurtenances. 

Let him lay aside his riches and external honours and show himself in his shirt. Has he a sound body? What mind has he? Is it fair, capable, and unpolluted, and happily equipped in all its parts? Is it a mind to be settled, equable, contented, and courageous in any circumstances? Is he-

 A wise man, of himself commander high, Whom want, nor death, nor bands can terrify, Resolved t'affront desires, honours to scorn, All in himself, close, round, and neatly borne, Against whose front externals idly play, And even fortune makes a lame essay? 

Such a man is five hundred degrees beyond kingdoms and principalities; himself is a kingdom unto himself. Compare with him the vulgar troop--stupid, base, servile, warring, floating on the sea of passions, depending wholly on others. There is more difference than between heaven and earth, yet in a blindness of custom we take little or no account of it. Whereas, if we consider a cottage and a king, a noble and a workman, a rich man and a poor, we at once recognise disparity, although, as one might say, they differ in nothing but their clothes. 

An emperor, whose pomp so dazzles us in public, view him behind the curtain is but an ordinary man, and peradventure viler and sillier than the least of his subjects! Cowardice, irresolution, ambition, spite, anger, envy, move and work in him as in another man. Fear, care, and suspicion haunt him even in the midst of his armed troops. Does the ague, the headache, or the gout spare him more than us? When age seizes on his shoulders, can the tall yeoman of his guard rid him of it? His bedstead encased with gold and pearls cannot allay the pinching pangs of colic!

The flatterers of Alexander the Great assured him he was the son of Jupiter, but being hurt one day, and the blood gushing from the wound, "What think you of this?" said he to them. "Is not this blood of a lively red hue, and merely human?" If a king have the ague or the gout what avail his titles of majesty? But if he be a man of worth, royalty and glorious titles will add but little to good fortune.

Truly, to see our princes all alone, sitting at their meat, though beleaguered with talkers, whisperers, and gazing beholders, I have often rather pitied than envied them. The honour we receive from those who fear and stand in awe of us is no true honour.

"Service holds few, though many hold service." Every man's manners and his mind His fortune for him frame and find.

Of the Inequality that is Between Us, Michel de Montaigne 
The World's Greatest Books (Philosophy and Economics), Vol. XIV, p. 68-70

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Superiority Of The Gift Of Love

1 Corinthians 13:1


The word rendered "charity" in the Old Version, and "love" in the Revised Version of our New Testament, is not a classical substantive. It is emphatically a Christian term. And this need not be wondered at; for as the virtue itself is one, if not created, yet developed by Christianity, it is what might have been expected to find that the thing gave rise to the name. This chapter has been called a psalm of love, and is admired both for its elevated thinking and its melodious diction, whilst to such as are imbued with the true Christian spirit it is especially congenial and delightful.


1. The use of the word "charity" is ambiguous. It is often used as equivalent to tolerance, as in the phrase, "the judgment of charity;" and often as synonymous with "almsgiving," as in the sad proverb, "Cold as charity." Neither of these uses meets the requirements of the text.

2. "Love" is also an ambiguous word, being commonly applied to the feeling of attraction and attachment between young people of opposite sexes—a usage which evidently has no applicability here.


1. It is between one human being and another. The question is not of reverent love to God, but of the mutual feelings of those endowed with the same spiritual nature.

2. It is a sentiment, and there is no love where there is simply a principle of action, cold and unimpassioned.

3. It is a sentiment which governs conduct, restraining men from injuring or slandering one another, and impelling them to mutual assistance.


1. Its true and ultimate origin is in the nature of God, who is love.

2. Its introduction among men is chiefly owing to the Lord Jesus, who was the gift of the Father's love, whose whole ministry to earth was a revelation of love, and whose benevolent conduct and sacrificial death were the fruit of love.

3. Its individual power and social efficacy are owing to the presence and operation of the Spirit of God. Not without significance is love mentioned first in the inventory of the fruits of the Spirit, which are these: love, joy, peace, etc.

IV. THE EXCELLENCY OF CHRISTIAN LOVE HAS TO BE EXHIBITED. This is done in this chapter, systematically, in several ways.

1. It is superior to the supernatural gifts generously bestowed upon the Church in the first age.

2. It is the motive to dispositions and actions of the highest degree of moral beauty.

3. It will survive all that is most prized by man as intellectually precious and desirable.

4. It is superior even to gifts, or rather graces, so lovely and admirable as are faith and hope.—T.

1 Corinthians 13:1

Love and language.

It would seem that, of all gifts, the gift of speech, and especially that variety of it known as the gift of tongues, was most prized by the Christians of Corinth. Probably for this reason the apostle puts this in the forefront, when he compares other possessions and virtues with the grace of love.


1. In the fact that the gift of tongues draws attention to the possessor himself, whilst charity goes forth from him who cultivates it to others. The gift in question was one splendid and dazzling. Whether it consisted in a power to speak intelligibly in foreign languages, or in the pouring forth of sounds—articulate, indeed, but not corresponding with any language known to the auditors—in either case it was a brilliant faculty, drawing all eyes to the speaker and all ears to his voice. On the other hand, the affectionate ministrant to the wants of his poor or afflicted neighbours would usually go his way unnoticed and unadmired. It is better that a man should be drawn out, as it were, from himself, than that his attention should be, because the attention of others is, concentrated upon himself.

2. In the fact that the grace of love is far more serviceable to the Church and to the world than the gift of tongues. There was a purpose subserved by this gift—it impressed carnal listeners, it was a proof to the Church itself of a special Divine presence. But love led men and women to sympathize with one another, to minister to the wants of the needy, to raise the fallen, to strengthen the weak, to nurse the sick, to comfort the bereaved, to rear the orphan. Thus its fruits vindicated its supremacy.

3. In the fact that the Lord Jesus loved, but never spake with tongues.

4. In the fact that the gift of tongues is but for a season, whilst love is indestructible and eternal.

II. BY WHAT COMPARISON THE SUPERIORITY OF LOVE IS ILLUSTRATED. The gift without the grace is likened to the sounding of brass, to the clashing of a cymbal of bronze. There is noise, but it is vex et proeterea nihil; there is no melody and no meaning. On the other hand, love is like a strain of exquisite music vibrating from the strings, warbling from a flute, or pealing from the pipes of an organ; or, better still, it is like the clear bell-like voice of a boy in some cathedral choir, rendering an immortal passage of sacred poetry to an air sounding like an echo from the minstrelsy of Paradise. The former arrests attention; the gong when struck produces a shock; but the latter sweetly satisfies the soul, then soothing and refreshing the spirit's longings for a heaven bern strain, and leaving behind the precious memory of a melting cadence.—T.

1 Corinthians 13:2

Love and knowledge.

Different gifts have attractions for different minds. To the Corinthians the charisms of language seem to have had an especial charm and value. It might be supposed that those possessions here mentioned—prophecy, unravelling of mysteries, and knowledge, especially of spiritual things—would have a deeper interest for such a one as Paul. And that he did prize these is not to be questioned. Yet such was his appreciation of love, that in this eulogium of it he sets it above those half intellectual, half spiritual gifts.

I. THESE GIFTS ARE IN THEMSELVES VALUABLE. There is nothing here said to disparage the gifts. On the contrary, they are introduced in a way which witnesses to their excellence. Prophecy is the speaking forth of the mind of God—a function the most honourable the mind can conceive. To understand and reveal mysteries would universally be acknowledged to be a high distinction. Knowledge ranks high in connection with a religion which addresses man's intelligence. All these are, so to speak, aspects of religion peculiarly congenial to a thoughtful Christian, and peculiarly advantageous to a Christian community.

II. BUT IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THESE GIFTS MAY BE OF NO VALUE TO THE POSSESSOR. That is, in case they be unaccompanied by love. The purely intellectual character is the unlovely character. The man may be the vehicle of truth, and yet the truth may pass through him without affecting his character, his spiritual position. Who does not know such men—men of Biblical scholarship, sound theology, great teaching power, yet loveless, and because loveless unlovely? To themselves they may be great men, and in the view of the Church; but in reality, and before God, they are nothing!

III. IT IS LOVE WHICH MAKES THESE GIFTS VALUABLE TO THEIR POSSESSOR. How needful love is to impart a spiritual flavour and quality to these great endowments, is clear enough, i.e. to every enlightened mind.

1. Love infuses the spirit in which they are to be used. How differently the man of intellect or of learning uses his powers when his soul is pervaded by the spirit of brotherly love, every observer must have noticed. "Let all your things be done in charity" is an admonition appropriate to all, but especially so to the man of genius or of ability.

2. Love controls the purpose to which they are to be applied. Not for self exaltation, not for the advancement of a great cause, but for the general welfare, will love inspire the great to consecrate their talents, according to the mind and method of the great Master himself.—T.

1 Corinthians 13:2

Love and faith.

St. Paul was so emphatically the apostle of faith, that it is hard to believe that he wrote anything approaching to disparagement of that great and efficacious virtue. If he devoted a great part of his chief Epistle—that to the Romans—to an exhibition of the power of faith, it is not likely that here or anywhere he should write one word which could cast faith into the shade. And, in fact, the reference of the apostle in this passage is not to faith in Christ as a Saviour, but to that special faith m a special promise which was the means of enabling the possessor to perform great marvels—in the figurative language of Scripture, to remove mountains.

I. THIS LANGUAGE IS NOT IN DISPARAGEMENT OF THE FAITH WHICH WORKS BY LOVE. It is always taught in Scripture that faith precedes love; the heart must find Christ and rest in him and live from him, in order that it may love him. Confidence in a personal Saviour revealed in his words and life, in his sacrifice and triumph, will certainly awaken affection, more or less ardent according to the temperament and history of the individual believer. Strong faith is fitted to enkindle warm love.

II. WE ARE TAUGHT THAT "GIFTS" ARE NOT ALWAYS A SIGN OF PIETY. The faith which was so much admired and coveted in the primitive Church was confidence in a certain definite promise of the Lord of supernatural aid to those whose position rendered such aid expedient. The removal of mountains is, of course, a figure for the vanquishing of difficulties, and probably for the performance of miracles. It would seem that there were in the early Churches some who possessed this gift who had not the spiritual qualifications which were far more to be desired. And it is not to be denied that even now there are in all Christian communities men largely endowed with gifts of administration, learning, and eloquence, who yet are lacking in those first qualities of Christian character which are a sign of the Spirit's indwelling. Far more to be desired is simple faith in the Saviour than the faith which removes mountains and dazzles multitudes.

III. THESE LESSONS ARE ENFORCED BY THE CONSIDERATION THAT PAUL POSSESSED BOTH SUPERNATURAL GIFTS AND FERVENT CHARITY, AND WAS WELL ABLE TO COMPARE THE TWO. Never were wonders, miracles of moral power, wrought more manifestly, more repeatedly, than in the ministry of the great apostle of the Gentiles. If any had reason to boast, he had more. Yet to him his love to the Saviour, and his devotion to those for whom that Saviour died, were of far more consequence and value than all his supernatural gifts.

"Love is the brightest of the train,

And strengthens all the rest."


1 Corinthians 13:3

Love and almsgiving.

Of all the comparisons between love and other qualities, gifts, or practices, this is the one which sounds most strange to our ears. For in our minds charity and almsgiving are so closely associated that it scarcely seems possible that they should be placed in contrast one with the other. Yet so it is; and every observer of human nature and society can recognize both the insight and the foresight of the apostle in this striking, almost startling comparison.

I. ALMSGIVING MAY ORIGINATE IN INFERIOR AND UNWORTHY MOTIVES. The apostle supposes an extreme case, viz. that one should give away all his substance in doles to the poor; and he gives his judgment that such a course of action may be loveless, and, if loveless, then worthless. For it may proceed from:

1. Ostentation. That this is the explanation of many of the handsome and even munificent gifts of the wealthy, we are obliged to believe. A rich man sometimes likes his name to figure in a subscription list for an amount which no man of moderate means can afford. The publication of such a gift gratifies his vanity and self importance. His name may figure side by side with that of a well known millionaire.

2. Custom. A commentator has illustrated this passage by reference to the crowds of beggars who gather in the court of a great bishop's palace in Spain or Sicily, to each of whom a coin is given, in so-called charity. Such pernicious and indiscriminate almsgiving is expected of those in a high position in the Church, and they give from custom. The same principle explains probably much of our eleemosynary bestowment.

3. Love of power. As in the feudal days a great lord had his retinue and his retainers, multitudes depending upon his bounty, so there can be no question that individuals and Churches often give generously for the sake of the hold they thus gain upon the dependent, who become in turn in many ways their adherents and supporters.


1. To the recipient. The wretch who lives in idleness on rich men's doles is degraded in the process, and becomes lost to all self respect, and habituated to an ignominious and base contentedness with his position.

2. To society generally. When it is known that the man who begs is as well supported as the man who works, how can it be otherwise than that demoralization should ensue? The system of indiscriminate almsgiving is a wrong to the industrious poor.

3. To the giver. For such gifts as are supposed, instead of calling forth the finer qualities of the nature, awaken in the breast of the bestower a cynical contempt of mankind.

III. NEVERTHELESS, TRUE CHARITY MAY EXPRESS ITSELF IN GIFTS. The man who doles away his substance in almsgiving, and has all the while no charity, is nothing; but if there be love, that love sanctifieth both the giver and the gift. For he who loves and gives resembles that Divine Being whose heart is ever filled with love, whose hands are ever filled with gifts.—T.

1 Corinthians 13:3

Love and self immolation.

It would seem that Paul had some anticipation of the approaching developments of Christian society. There is no ground for believing that, at the time when he wrote, any member of the Church of Christ had suffered at the stake for fidelity to principle and to faith. Such martyrdoms had occurred in Palestine, when the enemies of Jehovah had been triumphant and had wreaked their vengeance upon the faithful Jews. And even before Paul's decease, in Rome itself, Christians came to be the victims of the infamous Nero's brutality, and perished in the flames. Stronger language could not be used to set forth the superiority of love to zeal, fidelity, and devotion than this of St. Paul: "Though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing!"

I. THE READINESS TO DIE, AT THE STAKE OR OTHERWISE, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, IS GOOD. As the three Hebrew children were content to be cast into the burning, fiery furnace, as the faithful Jews died at the stake under the persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes, as Polycarp at over four score years of age gave his body to be burned, as the holy Perpetua suffered this martyrdom with willing mind, as in our own country at the Reformation many suffered in the fires of Oxford and Smithfield, so have multitudes counted their lives as not dear to them for the blessed Saviour's sake. It cannot but be that such sacrifice of self, such holy martyrdom, ever has been and is acceptable to Christ, who gave himself for us. For he himself has said, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

II. THE ABSENCE OF LOVE TAKES AWAY EVEN FROM THE VIRTUE OF MARTYRDOM. There is a story of a Christian of Antioch who, on his way to martyrdom, refused to forgive and be reconciled to a brother Christian. Such a case is an exact example of the zeal without love which the apostle here pronounces worthless. If Christian charity be absent where zeal is present, there seems reason to fear that the motives which induce to self immolation are pride, self glorification, and an inflexible obstinacy. If there be not love to Christ's people, there is no real love to Christ: "He that loveth God loves his brother also." It is strange to think that self delusion may go so far that men may suffer martyrdom without being truly Christ's. Yet so it is. And we may be reminded, from the possibility of this extreme case, how readily men deceive themselves and suppose that they are influenced by truly religious and distinctly Christian motives, when all the while self is the pivot upon which their whole conduct revolves. And it may be suggested to us how inexpressibly essential, in the judgment of our Lord and his Spirit, is that grace of love, the absence of which cannot be atoned for even by a passage through the fiery flames of martyrdom.—T.

1 Corinthians 13:4, 1 Corinthians 13:5

Love and our fellow men.

In this panegyric of charity, we find,

I. LOVE IS LONG SUFFERING AS OPPOSED TO IMPATIENCE. There is no possibility of mixing with human society without encountering many occasions of irritation. Human nature is such that conflicts of disposition and of habits will and must occur. It is so in the family, in civil life, and even in the Church. Hence impatience and irritability are among the most common of infirmities. And there is no more sure sign of a disciplined and morally cultured mind than a habit of forbearance, tolerance, and patience. But Christianity supplies a motive and power of long suffering which can act in the case of persons of every variety of temperament and of every position of life. "Love suffereth long."

II. LOVE IS GRACIOUS AND KIND AS OPPOSED TO MALICE AND ILL WILL. There is no disposition known to human nature which is a more awful proof of the enormity of sin than malevolence. And the religion of the Lord Christ in nothing more signally proves its divinity than in its power to expel this demoniacal spirit from the breast of humanity. In fact, benevolence is the admitted "note" of this religion. The sterner virtues, as fortitude and justice, were admired and practised among the heathen, and celebrated by the moralists of antiquity. These and others were assumed by Christianity, which added to them the softer grace of love—love which justifies itself in deeds of benignity and loving kindness.

III. LOVE IS OPPOSED TO ENVY AID JEALOUSY. These are vices which arise from discontent with one's own condition as compared with that of others, and are justly deemed among the meanest and basest of which man is capable. Christianity proves its power of spiritual transformation by suppressing, and indeed in many cases by extirpating, these evil passions from the heart, and by teaching and enabling men to rejoice in their neighbours' prosperity.

IV. LOVE, AS OPPOSED TO ANGER, IS NOT PROVOKED WITH THE CONDUCT OF OTHERS. This must not be pressed too far, as though anger in itself were an evil, as though there were no such thing as righteous indignation. Christ himself was angry with hypocrites and deceivers; his indignation and wrath were aroused again and again. But the moral distinction lies here: to be provoked with those who injure us or pass a slight upon our dignity and self importance, is unchristian, but it is not so to cherish indignation with the conduct of God's wilful enemies.

V. LOVE KEEPS NO ACCOUNT OF EVIL RENDERED. This trait in the character of the Christian is very beautiful. It is customary with sinful men to cherish the memory of wrongs done to them, against a day of retribution. Love wipes out the record of wrong doing from the memory, and knows nothing of vindictiveness or ill will.—T.

1 Corinthians 13:4, 1 Corinthians 13:5

Love and self abnegation.

Where there is sincere Christian love, that grace will not only affect for good the intercourse of human society, it will exercise a most powerful and beneficial influence over the nature of which it takes possession; changing pride into humility, and selfishness into self denial. And this is not to be wondered at by him who considers that for the Christian the spiritual centre of gravity is changed—is no longer self, but Christ.

I. LOVE DESTROYS BOASTFULNESS. It "vaunteth not itself." In some characters more than in others there is observable a disposition towards display. There may be real ability, and yet there may be the vanity which obtrudes the proofs of that ability; or there may, on the other hand, be an absence of ability, and yet the fool may not be able to conceal his folly, but must needs make himself the laughing stock of all. Love delights not in the display of real power or the assumption of what does not exist. How can it? When love seeks the good of others, how can it seek their admiration?

II. LOVE IS OPPOSED TO PRIDE. It "is not puffed up." The expression is a strong one; it has been rendered, "does not swell and swagger," "is not inflated with vanity." The explanation of this is clear enough. The pretentious and arrogant man has a mind full of himself, of thoughts of his own greatness and importance, Now, love is the outflowing of the heart's affection in kindliness and benevolence towards others. He who is always thinking of the welfare of his fellow men has no time and no inclination for thoughts of self exaltation, aggrandizement, and ambition. It is plain, then, how wholesome, purifying, and sweetening an influence Christianity introduces into human society; and how much it tends to the happiness of individuals, cooling the fever of restless rivalry and ambition.

III. LOVE IS INCONSISTENT WITH ALL UNSEEMLINESS OF DEPORTMENT. There is an indefiniteness about the language: "Doth not behave itself unseemly." Possibly there is a special reference to the discreditable scenes which were to be witnessed in the Corinthian congregation, in consequence of their party spirit, rivalry, and discord. But there is always in every community room for the inculcation of considerateness, courtesy, self restraint, and dignity. And the apostle points out, with evident justice, that what no rules or custom can produce is the spontaneous and natural result of the operation of Christian love.

IV. LOVE IS, IN A WORD, UNSELFISH; i.e. "seeketh not her own." Here is the broadest basis of the new life of humanity. Love gives, and does not grasp; has an eye for others' wants and sorrows, but turns not her glance towards herself; moves among men with gracious mien and open hands.—T.

1 Corinthians 13:6

The joy of love.

There is, perhaps, no test of character more decisive than this: in what is the chief pleasure of life placed? Where is satisfaction of the soul? Whence does joy proceed? If Christianity is indeed a revolutionary religion, it will effect a change here—in this vital respect. Even in St. Paul's time, it appeared that with Christianity a new force—the force of love—had been introduced into humanity, a force able to direct human delight into another and purer and nobler channel than that in which it had been wont to flow.

I. JOY NO LONGER FLOWS FROM THE PRESENCE AND PREVALENCE OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS. It seems to attribute a fiendish spirit to human beings to suppose that they can anywhere and at any time be found to rejoice in wrong doing and unrighteousness. Yet it is, alas! possible for sinful men to take a malignant pleasure in the prevalence of sin; for it is the proof of the power of the moral forces with which they have allied themselves, of the victory of their own party. The iniquity of others serves to support and justify their own iniquity. And it must be borne in mind that there are cases in which designing men profit by deeds of unrighteousness, take the very wages of iniquity. Against such dispositions Christian love must needs set itself; for when iniquities prevail, happiness and hope take wings and fly away.

II. JOY FLOWS TO THE CHRISTIAN HEART FROM THE PROGRESS OF TRUTH AND RIGHTEOUSNESS. Truth is the intellectual side of righteousness, and righteousness the moral side of truth. There is, accordingly, a real antithesis between the two clauses of the text.

1. This joy is akin to the joy of God. The Father rejoices over the repenting and recovered child, the Shepherd over the restored, once wandering, sheep. "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." And they who themselves are enjoying peace and fellowship with a reconciled God cannot but participate in the satisfaction with which that holy Being views the progress of truth and religion among men.

2. It is sympathetic with the gladness of the Saviour in the accomplishment of his gracious purposes. As Christ sees of the travail of his soul, he is satisfied; for the joy set before him, i.e. in the salvation of men, he endured the cross. And all who owe salvation to what Jesus did and suffered for man must needs experience a thrill of gratification when a rebel is changed into a subject by the grace of God.

3. It springs from the triumph of that cause which of all on earth is the greatest and most glorious. Every noble soul finds satisfaction in witnessing the advance of truth from the dim dawn towards the full meridian day for which he, in common with all God's people in every age, is ever toiling, hoping, and praying.—T.

1 Corinthians 13:7

Love and the conduct of life.

We are born into, and we live in the midst of, a system, vast and incomprehensible. Man is related to a thousand circumstances, and his moral life depends upon the principles which govern these relationships. It is by a sublime and spiritual intuition, itself an evidence of a Divine commission and apostolate, that St. Paul discerns the truth that love, when it takes possession of the Christian's nature, relates him anew and aright to "all things," i.e. to the whole system in which he finds himself, and of which indeed he forms a part.

I. Love "CONCEALETH ALL THINGS." The word is one which, perhaps, cannot be confidently interpreted. But it may and probably does mean "conceal "or "cover." And so rendered, how appropriate is it in this place! What so characteristic of true charity as the habit of covering up and concealing the faults and infirmities of our brethren? It is a difficult exercise, especially to an acute and candid mind; but because we see an error it is not necessary to publish it. There may be good done and harm avoided by hiding good men's infirmities and the human defects which are to be found even in an excellent cause.

II. Love "BELIEVETH ALL THINGS." There is no point at which the wisdom of this world and the wisdom which is of God come more violently into conflict than here. To worldly men it seems the height of folly to proceed in human life upon the principle of believing all things. This is, in their view, credulity which will make a man the prey of knaves and impostors. Now, the words of the text must not be taken literally. They commend a disposition opposed to suspicion. A suspicious man is wretched himself, and he is universally distrusted and disliked. Where there is reason to distrust a person, even charity will distrust. But, on the other hand, charity cultivates that strain of nobleness in character which prefers to think well of others, and to give credit rather than to question and disbelieve.

III. LOVE "HOPETH ALL THINGS." Here again we have portrayed a feature of Christian character which it needs some spiritual discipline and culture to appreciate. A sanguine disposition is often distrusted, and not unjustly. But we may understand that temper of mind which leads us to hope good things of our fellow men, and to view with confident expectation the progress of the truth over their nature.

IV. LOVE "ENDURETH ALL THINGS." This is to most men the hardest lesson of all. Many will cheerfully work from love, who find it no easy matter to suffer calumny, coldness, hatred, persecution, in a loving spirit and for Christ's sake. But we need the spirit of Divine charity to overlook all the assaults of men, and to pray for those who despitefully use us. This can and may be done when the whole nature is inspired with love to God and love to man.—T.

Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:4". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Easter And The King James Version

        "And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people." (Acts 12:4)

        The Passover, rendered as "Easter" in Acts 12:4 of the King James Version, was designated for the Jewish people to bring into mind and regard as sacred the time God had rescued them from Egypt by parting the Red Sea. It was during this festival that Herod had ordered the execution of James and the arrest of Peter for preaching the gospel.

        Easter is a Germanic word for "resurrection," which was in common use in the era that this translation of the Bible was brought into completion. That is why the translators of the Authorized Version used it, most likely viewing the Passover as a Jewish observance whereas the resurrection of Christ was celebrated by Christians.

        The Greek Pascha is a transliteration of the Hebrew Pesach. Interestingly, this term is translated as "Passover" every other instance that it occurs in the King James Version. Easter is a later tradition taken up by Christians. Consequently, "Passover" is a better choice of words than is "Easter" in Acts 12:4.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Joshua's Conquest Of Canaan And Evidence

“(1) Usually less than about 5 or 10 percent of any given mound is ever dug down to Late Bronze (or any other) levels; hence between 85 to 95 percent of our potential source of evidence is never seen.(2)The principal Hebrew policy under Joshua was to kill leaders and inhabitants, not to destroy the cities, but eventually to occupy them (cf. Deut 6:10-11), destroying only the alien cult places (Deut 12:2-3). (3) Conquests, even historically well-known examples, often do not leave behind the sorts of traces that modern scholars overconfidently expect...” (p. 189-190)

“See B.S. J. Isserlin…quoting the Norman Conquest, the Anglo-Saxon settlement in England, and the Muslim Arab invasion of Syria-Palestine. One may also cite the innumerable campaigns of Egyptian, Hittite, Assyrian, and Neo-Babylonian armies in the Levant, of whose encampments and battlefields almost no traces are ever found...” (p. 545, note 84)

“No total conquest and occupation. The book of Joshua does not describe a total Hebrew conquest and occupation of Canaan, real or imaginary. Read straight, its narratives describe an entry (from over the Jordan), full destruction of two minor centers (Jericho, Ai; burned), then defeat of local kings and raids through south Canaan. Towns are attacked, taken, and damaged (“destroyed”), kings and subjects killed and then left behind, not held on to. The same in north Canaan; strategic Hazor is fully destroyed (burned), but no others. The rest are treated like the southern towns, and again left, not held...” (p. 234-235)

“...external data for Joshua and Numbers. We have no direct exter nal textual references to the Israelite entry or raids or initial settlement from Gilgal to Shechem. In the later thirteenth century, Mesopotamia - in the guise of Assyria - never penetrated beyond the Euphrates into Syria proper; Hittite power at Carchemish stood against them. So no data can come on south Palestinian events (especially in the inner highlands) from that quarter. Egypt officially was overlord of Canaan, but her main interest was in the productive coastal plains, lowland hills, and Jezreel, not in the economically poorer highland, and in keeping hold on the main routes north into Phoenicia (to Tyre, Sidon, Babylos, &c) and to Damascus in Upe...” (p. 235)

Excerpts taken from K.A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Exodus And Evidence

The setting presented in Exod. 1-14 is indubitably that of Egypt’s East Delta, whence the Hebrews are shown going directly into the Sinai Peninsula first of all. Background data may well be drawn from Egypt overall, but for locating the biblical Hebrews and their movements “on the ground” in Egypt we are restricted to the East Delta zone geographically.

This fact imposes further severe limitations upon all inquiry into the subject. The Delta is an alluvial fan of mud deposited through many millenia by the annual flooding of the Nile; it has no source of stone within it. Mud, mud and wattle, and mud-brick structures were of limited duration and use, and were repeatedly leveled and replaced, and very largely merged once more with the mud of the fields. So those who squawk intermittently, “No trace of the Hebrews has ever been found” (so, of course, no exodus!), are wasting their breath. The mud hovels of brickfield slaves and humble cultivators have long since gone back to their mud origins, never to be seen again. Even stone structures (such as temples) hardly survive, in striking contrast to sites in the cliff-enclosed valley of Upper Egypt to the south. All stone was anciently shipped in from the south, and repeatedly recycled from one period to another. Thus Eighteenth Dynasty blocks were reused in Ramesside temples; Ramesside temples were replaced under later dynasties largely by reuse of existing stones again; and periods through Saite, Ptolemaic, Romano-Byzantine, and Islamic times repeated the process. In more recent centuries, limestone has been largely burned for lime, and harder stones often reused for millstones or whatever.

Scarce wonder that practically no written records of any extent have been retrieved from Delta sites reduced to brick mounds (whose very bricks are despoiled for fertilizer, sebakh), with even great temples reduced to heaps of tumbled stones. And in the mud, 99 percent of discarded papyri have perished forever; a tiny fraction (of late date) have been found carbonized (burned) — like some at Pompeii — but can only be opened or read with immense difficulty. A tiny fraction of reports from the East Delta occur in papyri recovered from the desert near Memphis. Otherwise, the entirety of Egypt’s administrative records at all periods in the Delta is lost (fig. 32B); and monumental texts are also nearly nil. And, as pharaohs never monumentalize defeats on temple walls, no record of the successful exit of a large bunch of foreign slaves (with loss of a full chariot squadron) would ever have been memorialized by any king, in temples in the Delta or anywhere else. On these matters, once and for all, biblicists must shed their naive attitudes and cease demanding “evidence” that cannot exist. Only radically different approaches can yield anything whatsoever. “Archaeology” that limits its blinkered evidence solely to what comes out of modest holes dug in the ground can have no final say in the matter.

K.A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, p. 245-246

Friday, May 1, 2020

The Transfiguration Of Jesus Christ

       The Transfiguration directs our attention to the suffering that Jesus Christ underwent on the Cross (Luke 9:31). He communicated with Moses who had already been dead for thousands of years (Deuteronomy 34:5-7). He also spoke with Elijah who was long before translated into heaven (2 Kings 2:11). The New English Translation has this footnote:

        "sn In 1st century Judaism and in the NT, it was believed that the righteous would be given new, glorified bodies in order to enter heaven (cf. 1 Cor 15:42-49; 2 Cor 5:1-10). This transformation meant that the righteous will share the glory of God. The account of Jesus’ transfiguration here recalls the way Moses shared the Lord’s glory after his visit to the mountain in Exod 34:28-35. So the disciples saw Jesus transfigured, and they were getting a private preview of the great glory that Jesus would have following his exaltation."

        But how could Peter, James, and John recognize Moses when they never encountered him previously? How did they know that the two mysterious figures were actually Moses and Elijah? They could have appeared with Christ in a manner that the disciples could identify. Scripture does not supply us with a tome of information concerning the "mechanics" of the soul. 

        The implication of Luke 16:19-31 is that our souls remain conscious after physical death and are recognizable to each other. If God has not definitively revealed something to us, then we ought not be dogmatic on the matter (Deuteronomy 29:29). The point of the Transfiguration is to demonstrate the preeminence of Jesus Christ. He is not controlled or influenced by created beings. Christ addressed Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration in His glory. The appearance of these two men signifies Him being the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets.

        God announced His approval of Jesus Christ from heaven (Matthew 17:5-6). He is the perfect and acceptable sacrifice for sin. Christ will restore peace and reign for eternity as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Stephen N. Williams gives the following commentary on the Transfiguration:

        "There may be reminders or echoes of the scene of transfiguration elsewhere in the NT, of course; the stories of Paul’s own conversion, in the Book of Acts that combine Jesus, light and a voice from heaven; the very rare (NT) word ‘transfigure’ is the one used by Paul when he tells the Corinthians that we ‘are being transformed [‘transfigured’] into his likeness with ever-increasing glory’ (2 Cor. 3:18); the first chapter of Revelation, with its dramatic portrayal of Jesus, has resonances. John’s Gospel is intriguing on this score. It contains no reference to the transfiguration, but it is a Gospel all about ‘glory’ and a voice from heaven thunders that God has glorified his name ‘and will glorify it again’ (12:28). The question about why John does not specifically mention transfiguration belongs to the wider discussion of its relationship to the Synoptics. We must bear in mind that John does not refer directly to the Last Supper either or directly report the actual baptism of Jesus, where the Synoptics do. John can be concerned with the surrounding interpretation of events that he does not report as do the Synoptists."