Monday, August 31, 2020

Does Hebrews 10:26-27 Teach That Apostates Cannot Be Forgiven?

        The Epistle to the Hebrews was originally addressed to Christian converts from a Jewish background. This is made evident by its preface: "...the fathers and the prophets" (Hebrews 1:1-2). 

        The overall context of Hebrews 10:26-30 regards those who were tempted to return to Judaism and thereby dismiss as inadequate the atonement of Jesus Christ for sin. That is the reason for the author exhorting his audience to keep a clean conscience and to not forsake the assemblies of God (Hebrews 10:19-25).

        The restoration of blood temple sacrifices and ordinances that were operative under the Old Covenant would entail rejecting the message of the gospel. All those things were mere pointers and found their fulfillment in Christ. 

        To reject the gospel would be the greatest act of insolence possible against God, and hence a terrifying expectation of judgement awaits those who deliberately do such a thing. That was the purpose of the author posing this vividly phrased rhetorical question:

        "Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:28-29)

        If a man does not have faith in Jesus Christ, then it goes without saying that he cannot be saved as long as he remains in that state of heart. God no longer accepts Levitical offerings. He has already made His plan of redemption fully known in Christ:

        "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." (Hebrews 1:3)

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Editors Should Pay Attention When King David Bursts Into News 3,000 Years Later

Merriam-Webster’s definition 2(b) of the term “peg,” as a noun states: “something (such as a fact or issue) used as a support, pretext, or reason,” for example “a news peg for the story.”

When it comes to media peg-manship and the Bible, it certainly appears that any old pretext will do.

Yet news pegs of any kind are remarkably absent with the most recent example of the genre, in The New Yorker dated June 29. The 8,500-worder by Israeli freelance Ruth Margalit consumes 10 pages of this elite journalistic real estate.

The cute headline announces the pitch: “Built On Sand.” Subhed: “King David’s story has been told for millennia. Archeologists are still fighting over whether it’s true.”

Was David the grand though flawed monarch the Bible depicts, or merely some boondocks bandit or sheik?

The debate affects current Israeli-vs.-Palestinian settlement politics, but in archaeology the last major news peg on David occurred 15 years ago while this pretext-free article appears in most news-crazed year imaginable.

That should tell media strategists something. Margalit’s reputation as a writer and skill at story pitches presumably helped, but the magazine’s editors knew that multitudes gobble up this stuff. The New Yorker’s long-form journalism is well suited to exploring such matters.

Pegs from the past? Any claims that David never even existed were all but eradicated by the 1993 discovery of the “House of David” inscription within a century of the king’s reign. A 1996 paper by Margalit’s central personality, Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, contended that though there was a David the Bible’s account of him is mostly exaggerated fiction. (Finkelstein later co-authored a 2006 book on this for popular audiences.)

Then in 2005, Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University made a dramatic announcement about unearthing what she believes is the foundation of David’s Jerusalem palace, indicating the grand scope of the Phoenecian building project the Bible describes. Finkelstein dissents.

Margalit is a sure-footed guide through these and other disputes among top archaeologists over the decades. She does not cite any Orthodox thinkers who accept the entirety of the Bible narrative as factual. The best scholarly book from that viewpoint is the readable “On The Reliability of the Old Testament” by British Egyptologist K. A. Kitchen of the University of Liverpool, a conservative evangelical.

Kitchen argues for the plausibility of David’s story in the context of broader Mideast history, surveys the scant material evidence, and explains why that’s so. An archaeologist’s maxim tells us “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” and Jerusalem’s many rounds of destruction reinforce the importance of the point.

Mazar depicted her find in 2006 for Biblical Archaeology Review, which followed with updates and coverage of archaeologists who doubt the claim.

Religion writers should be subscribers or at least familiar with this magazine, which is written for lay readers and blessedly free of technical jargon. It’s a prime source for keeping on top of new developments and story ideas in this field.

https://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2020/6/30/editors-should-pay-attention-when-king-david-bursts-into-mainstream-press-3000-years-laternbsp

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Proclaiming The Lord's Death And Resurrection

And so he was lifted up upon a tree and an inscription was attached indicating who was being killed. Who was it? It is a grievous thing to tell, but a most fearful thing to refrain from telling. But listen, as you tremble before him on whose account the earth trembled! He who hung the earth in place is hanged. He who fixed the heavens in place is fixed in place. He who made all things fast is made fast on a tree. The Sovereign is insulted. God is murdered. The King of Israel is destroyed by an Israelite hand. This is the One who made the heavens and the earth, and formed mankind in the beginning, The One proclaimed by the Law and the Prophets, the One enfleshed in a virgin, the One hanged on a tree, the One buried in the earth, the One raised from the dead and who went up into the heights of heaven, the One sitting at the right hand of the Father, the One having all authority to judge and save, through Whom the Father made the things which exist from the beginning of time. This One is "the Alpha and the Omega," this One is "the beginning and the end." The beginning indescribable and the end incomprehensible. This One is the Christ. This One is the King. This One is Jesus. This One is the Leader. This One is the Lord. This One is the One who rose from the dead. This One is the One sitting on the right hand of the Father. He bears the Father and is borne by the Father. "To him be the glory and the power forever. Amen.

Melito of Sardis, On the Passover

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Debunking Trent Horn's Assertions About The Apocrypha And Old Testament Canon

  • Discussion:
          -This article serves as a rebuttal to a number of claims set forth by Trent Horn of Catholic Answers regarding whether the apocryphal books belong in the Old Testament canon. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "The authors of the deuterocanonical books did not believe the Hebrew canon was closed or that there was a set of books called “the Writings,” to which no more could be added. The prologue to Sirach only references “the law and the prophets and the others that followed them” and “the law itself, the prophecies, and the rest of the books.” Second Maccabees describes Judas the Maccabee encouraging his troops only with words “from the law and the prophets” (15:9)."

          This attempt at refutation by Trent Horn is ridiculous and manufactured. The quoted excerpts from the deuterocanonicals are so clear as to require no commentary. Even the Roman Catholic New American Bible Revised Edition says the following regarding 2 Maccabees 15:9 and the Prologue of Sirach:

          "15:9 The law and the prophets: the first of the three parts of the Hebrew Scriptures, called the sacred books (1 Mc 12:9; 2 Mc 2:14)."

          "Foreword The Law, the prophets, and the authors who followed them: an indication of the eventual tripartite division of the Hebrew Scriptures: Law (torah), Prophets (nebi’im), and Writings (ketubim), shortened in the acronym Tanak. Thirty-eighth…Euergetes: 132 B.C. The reference is to Ptolemy VII, Physkon Euergetes II (170–163; 145–117 B.C.)."

          The Old Testament used by Protestants is identical in substance to the Tanakh, which does not include the Roman Catholic apocrypha.

          "According to Old Testament scholar Otto Kaiser, the deuterocanonical books “presuppose the validity of the Law and the Prophets and also utilize the Ketubim, or ‘Writings’ collection, which was, at the time, still in the process of formation and not yet closed.” In fact, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which contain Jewish writings from the years 400 B.C. to A.D. 100, include copies of deuterocanonical books like Sirach, Tobit, and Baruch, which shows they were considered to be part of the Writings."

           William Webster notes, in his work titled The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, page 30, about the Essene Community:

           "...The Essenes produced a significant body of pseudepigraphal apocalyptic literature, but they did not consider these to be inspired. They were highly esteemed as authoritative interpretations of the canonical books, but were not believed to be canonical Scripture. The pseudepigraphal work, Jubilees, originated with the Essenes and cites the number of canonical books to be twenty-two, the same as that given by Josephus the Pharisee. This fact undermines the theory of a broader Essene canon and leads to the conclusion that the canon of the Essenes was the same as that of Judaism in general."

          Hundreds of manuscripts of non-biblical material have been discovered in the Qumran caves. It was comparable to a library which contains many different genres of literature. So one cannot appeal to the Dead Sea Scrolls as grounds for including the apocrypha in the Old Testament canon.

          "Hebrews 11:35 describes people in the Old Testament who “were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they may rise again to a better life.” These people are only described in 2 Maccabees 7, which describes brothers who accept torture instead of eating pork and violating Jewish law. Since the context of Hebrews 11 includes “the men of old [who] received divine approval” (v. 2), this means the books describing the Maccabean martyrs were part of the Old Testament that was used by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews."

          The author of Hebrews could have referenced the Maccabeean Revolt for the reason this rebellion took place in more recent history and not that he ascribed canonical status to 2 Maccabees. It would make sense for one to consult that work for historical purposes due to that event having a particular significance to an audience with a Jewish background. Furthermore, there could have been multiple sources or family traditions from which the author of Hebrews gathered his information.

          "The idea that the early Church viewed the deuterocanonical books as Scripture is even more evident in the writings of early Church fathers like Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Methodius, Cyprian, and Origen. Moreover, these fathers cited these books as “Scripture” or “holy Scripture,” and none of the pre-Nicene Church fathers ever declares the deuterocanonical books to be uninspired or non-canonical. St. Jerome even tells us that at the Council of Nicaea the deuterocanonical work of Judith was considered to be a part of the canon of Scriptures."

         The books of the apocrypha were sometimes called "Scripture," not because they were accorded canonical status, but that they were included in the Septuagint. This would be analogous to one citing a marginal note from a study Bible and saying that it is in the Bible (without meaning that it is the actual text of Scripture). Some church fathers were not familiar with the Hebrew canon and so mistakenly thought the deuterocanonicals to have been accepted as inspired Scripture by the Jews. A distinction was made between the canonical books of the Old Testament and the deuterocanonicals as early as the second century which lasted until the timing of the Council of Trent.

Did God Abandon Jesus Christ At The Cross?

"The words of Jesus at Matthew 27:46 have come in for many kinds of interpretation. Unfortunately, many of the theories have compromised the Bible's teachings on the nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son. The Father was never separated from or abandoned the Son. This truth is clear from many sources. Jesus uses the second person when speaking to the Father-"why have You forsaken Me?" rather than "why did He forsake Me?" as if the Father is no longer present. Immediately on the heels of this statement Jesus speaks to the Father ("Father, into your hands. . "), showing no sense of separation. Whatever else Jesus was saying, He was not saying that, at the very time of His ultimate obedience to the Father, the Father abandoned Him. Rather, it seems much more logical to see this as a quotation of Psalm 22 that is meant to call to mind all of that Psalm, which would include the victory of v. 19ff, as well as verse 24, which states, "For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard."

James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering The Heart Of Christian Belief, p. 215, note 1 for chapter 11

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Person And Work Of The Holy Spirit

"There is one concept used of the Spirit that is often thrown out as evidence against the His personhood. We often hear, "The Spirit cannot be a person, because we are baptized in the Spirit and hence, you can't be baptized in a person, but in a substance or a force." Yet, in reality, the Bible speaks of our being baptized into Christ Jesus in Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27, and neither passage is ever cited to make the point that Jesus is not a person. All through the New Testament we are said to be "in Christ" or "in Him," and this is never taken to mean that Jesus is not a person. Likewise, being baptized in the Holy Spirit does not deny He is a person-rather, it speaks to His omnipresence and spirituality."

James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering The Heart Of Christian Belief, p. 148

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Personality Of The Holy Spirit And Neuter Gender

"...the argument that is often heard is that the phrase "Holy Spirit" in Greek is in the neuter gender, and it is. But Greek genders do not necessarily indicate personality. Inanimate things can have masculine genders, and personal things can have the neuter gender. We cannot automatically insert the pronoun "it" when referring to every neuter noun any more than we should always insert the pronoun "she" for "love," since love in Greek is feminine. Instead, we determine whether the Holy Spirit is personal the same way we would demonstrate that the Father or the Son is a person."

James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering The Heart Of Christian Belief, p. 141

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Using The Exodus To Illustrate Imputed Righteousness

        The purpose of the Passover meal was to bring into the hearts and minds of the Jews their deliverance by God from captivity in Egypt. He was moved with compassion to redeem His people as they cried out to Him as a result of brutal enslavement by the Pharaoh (Exodus 3:9).

        Being the final part of a series of plagues, God required that the Jewish people sacrifice lambs and apply blood to their doorposts in order that He pass by those houses and leave the firstborn children unharmed (Exodus 12:7; 12-13; 21-24; 27). The Pharaoh lost his firstborn son as the Lord cast judgement on Egypt.

         This incident is illustrative of the imputation of Jesus Christ's righteousness to those who have placed their trust in Him. We have a righteous status credited to our account before God because we have been covered by the shed blood of His Son.

        We are not under divine judgement, but forgiven of our sins. Just as the blood of the lambs was applied to the doors of the houses to spare the oppressed people of judgement, so the blood of Christ is applied to us by faith to enable access to God.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

John 21:24 And John's Authorship

What I wish to show now is that John 21:24 belongs to a group of passages in the Gospel that may be termed self-disclosure texts. In several of the discourses of the Gospel, at a climactic point in the discourse, Jesus reveals that he is a person or entity that, up to that point in the conversation, had been spoken of in the third person. The Samaritan woman, for instance, after calling Jesus a prophet, refers to a third person, the Messiah who is to come. At the climax of their dialogue she states her belief that "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us" (4:25). At this point Jesus discloses, "I who speak to you am he" (4:26). On analogy with 4:26, the author of 21:24a could have written, "I who write to you am this disciple."…

But then comes the climactic Son of Man self-disclosure text in 9:37, and this one is even more like the self-disclosure in 21:24, for in it Jesus does not use "I" but maintains the use of the third person….On analogy with Jesus' self-disclosure in 9:37, the author of 21:24a would have written, "you have been reading this disciple's writing, and it is he who is bearing witness of these things to you," which is very close to what he did write…

At the end of his Gospel, by narrating a story about a character spoken of in the third person, and then at a climactic point in the narrative identifying himself as that character, the author follows the same pattern of self-disclosure that has been exemplified multiple times by the figure of Jesus in his narrative.

The obvious point is that 21:24ab is not a source-disclosure - the author disclosing that the principle source for the material in his book was the disciple who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper - but a self-disclosure, revealing that the author is that favored disciple….This is the most natural way to read the text grammatically, it is the way most suited to the Johannine literary tendencies, and it is the way early readers instinctively understood it. That some other party, an editor/redactor, could be thought to have slipped in between the beloved disciple and the author, at this point speaks only to the power of a pre-imposed theory about the composition of the Gospel….

If [the Beloved Disciple] had died, and the rumor [in John 21:23] had been allowed to circulate uncensored, then surely the focus would no longer be on the disciple and his death but on the Lord and his failure to return. This would seem especially so if, as many interpreters say, the disciple had been "long since dead." For in this case the community obviously would have somehow found a way to function successfully for a "long" period of time, despite the non-return of the Lord. And in that case, there surely would have been no need to reintroduce the potentially damaging rumor, and indeed there would have been an unnecessary risk in doing so. Verse 23 makes good sense, on the other hand, if the disciple was fully alive, and more especially so if he was quite old at the time when the book was released. For it was when he was no longer a young man, no longer middle-aged, but actually old and seemingly not far away from natural death, that such a rumor would be most capable of arousing the greatest interest….

The Gospel author's reticence about using the first person singular, but instead shifting to the plural when his authority comes into view [the "we" in John 21:24], is of a piece with his decision not to name himself explicitly in his Gospel. Compare Paul's "modest" uses of the epistolary plural in Rom 1:5…2 Cor 10:13…how Josephus switches from singular to plural when speaking of his intention to author a new book on matters relating to mutual relations between Jews [Antiquities Of The Jews, 4:198]…the plural here is simply a substitution for the singular, perhaps because it sounded a bit less pretentious….

From the aggregate of these passages [in the fourth gospel and the Johannine letters], at least two conclusions ought to be drawn. The first is that the verification in 21:24c, "we know that his testimony is true," is utterly domestic in John; it is not an oddity requiring a complex compositional theory to explain its existence. This eliminates the need for supposing that we might have here an intrusion of an outside third party before the Gospel was finished, or a later interpolation. Confessional verifications are a feature of the Johannine literature and in no other instance is the confessional verification given by an otherwise unknown, third party….

Second, and contrary to what is commonly held to be an indubitable fact, no matter how we understand the "we" in 21:24c, the verification here does not arise from a necessity to find a plurality of witnesses to legitimize or legalize the witness of the beloved disciple, least of all does it arise from some "extreme need to support the trustworthiness of the Johannine tradition." In two of the texts cited above (John 5:32; 12:50) it is Jesus who verifies that the Father's testimony is true, or that the Father's commandment is eternal life. In John, the Father is hardly someone who suffers an "extreme need" for external verification….

The author's use of the third person singular to refer to himself, both in the earlier narratives of the Gospel and here in 21:24 ("This is the disciple…his testimony is true"), was a common practice among ancient historical writers, it is a convention modeled by Jesus himself repeatedly in this Gospel, and it was easily recognized and understood as such by early readers of this Gospel….

The final two verses of the book, then, function as an "authentication" of the whole, by revealing that the author, as a participant in the narrative, is abundantly qualified to give his witness, and then by solemnly confessing his knowledge that the witness is true….

What this means is that those who seek support for the idea of a Johannine school of writers responsible for the writing of the Fourth Gospel ought to look for another "classic proof text for the School's existence." If there are any good reasons to posit an extensive redaction of this Gospel sometime after the death of the beloved disciple, they do not arise from John 21:24.

Charles Hill wrote a chapter about John 21:24 in Lois K. Fuller Dow, et al., edd., The Language And Literature Of The New Testament, p. 403-404, 406-408, n. 81 on 422-23, 431, 433-34, above excerpts originally cited by Jason Engwer

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Purpose And Scope Of The Johannine Epistles

"In the writings of Paul the doctrine of justification is prominent; in those of John, the doctrine of regeneration. Paul conceives of the natural man as out of favor with God; John, as outside the family of God. But though there is this difference of emphasis in the two Apostles, neither of them limits himself to the one doctrine: Paul also believes in the doctrine of regeneration and John, in that of justification. Ironside says: "The writings of the Apostle John have always had a peculiar charm or the people of the Lord, and I suppose, if for no other reason, for this, that they are particularly addressed to the family of God as such." Although the First Epistle is chiefly didactic and controversial, the personal note is not entirely absent. Yet there are no proper names (except that of our Lord), nor historical or geographical allusions in it. The writer deals with the errors which he combats from the high standpoint of a personal relationship and fellowship with God, and not from that of a theoretical polemicist."

Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 306

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Does Christ Offer Himself As A Sacrifice For Our Sins Every Day?

        “Christ daily offers himself upon our altars for our redemption...[and] wishes that there should be a continuation of the sacrifice.” (Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 73 & 79)

        The Scriptures are emphatic that Jesus Christ does not offer Himself daily. His sacrifice is not continuing:

        "who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself." (Hebrews 7:27)

        "nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." (Hebrews 9:25-26)

        The work of Christ accomplished on the cross at Calvary is sufficient to satisfy our debt of sin:

        "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace." (Ephesians 1:7)

        Roman Catholic apologists are adamant that Christ does not get put to death at each Mass. But how can there be no death of a victim who is offered up in a sacrifice? This no doubt constitutes a dilemma for the Roman Catholic position:

        "and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades." (Revelation 1:18)

        It is an insult for us to present on a continual basis Christ who has forever conquered death as being in that same state of humiliation on the cross.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Examining Catholic Redemptive Suffering In Light Of Scripture

        This source explains the Roman Catholic idea of redemptive suffering as follows:

        "The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in paragraph 1502 teaches that all pain, toil and sorrow united to Christ's passion "can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others." In paragraph 1505 the CCC explains, "Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: ... By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion." Paragraph 1521 likewise states that suffering in "union with the passion of Christ ... acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus."

        Scripture, on the other hand, affirms that it is Jesus Christ Himself who atones for sin and not our suffering in addition to what He has done on our behalf. His work on the cross has ensured that we obtain redemption and the forgiveness of sin:

        "he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:12)

        Scripture does not bring together our pain and suffering with the shed blood of Christ in the manner of making atonement:

        "So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood." (Hebrews 13:12)

        "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

        "And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." (Revelation 5:9)

        Christ's one offering put away sin and thus any other atoning work is rendered unnecessary:

        "for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:26-28)

        Roman Catholic apologists sometimes appeal to texts such as 2 Corinthians 1:5-7, Colossians 1:24, and Galatians 2:20 in order to substantiate the idea that our suffering can cancel out punishment for sins committed by ourselves and for other people when offered together with the sacrifice of Christ.

        Regarding the text from 2 Corinthians, hardship for preaching the gospel resulted in it being shared and exemplified to the Christians dwelling at Corinth. Suffering can produce comfort and hope in God which can be shared with other people. In addition, the term "salvation" encompasses both the instance of "justification" and the ongoing process of "sanctification."

        Regarding the text from Colossians, one commentator explains, "That which is behind of the sufferings of Christ — That which remains to be suffered by his members. These are termed the sufferings of Christ, 1. Because the suffering of any member is the suffering of the whole; and of the head especially, which supplies strength, spirits, sense, and motion to all 2. Because they are for his sake, for the testimony of his truth. And these also are necessary for the church; not to reconcile it to God, or satisfy for sin, (for that Christ did perfectly,) but for example to others, perfecting of the saints, and increasing their reward."

        Regarding the text from Galatians, Thomas Constable says, "When a person trusts Christ, God identifies him or her with Christ not only in the present and future but also in the past. The believer did what Christ did. When Christ died, I died. When Christ arose from the grave, I arose to newness of life. My old self-centered life died when I died with Christ. His Spirit-directed life began in me when I arose with Christ. Therefore in this sense the Christian’s life is really the life of Christ. We can also live by faith daily just as we became Christians by faith (v. 16). Faith in both cases means trust in Christ. We can trust Him because He loved us and gave Himself up as a sacrifice for us. In this verse Paul’s use of “crucified” instead of “put to death” or “died” stresses our sinfulness. Only the worst criminals suffered crucifixion in Paul’s day. His reference to “the flesh” here is literal. It means our physical bodies. We can see Paul’s great appreciation of God’s love for him. He said Christ loved “me” and gave Himself for “me.” “The whole of Christian life is a response to the love exhibited in the death of the Son of God for men.”

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Are We Physically Healed By Jesus' Stripes?

So what does Isaiah 53:5 promise Christians if it’s not an offer of immediate, unblemished health for all Christians? John MacArthur sheds clear light on the matter in his commentary on 1 Peter 2:24 (which, noted earlier, quotes from Isaiah 53:5):

Christ died for believers to separate them from sin’s penalty, so it can never condemn them. The record of their sins, the indictment of guilt that had them headed for hell, was “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:12–14). Jesus paid their debt to God in full. In that sense, all Christians are freed from sin’s penalty. They are also delivered from its dominating power and made able to live to righteousness (cf. Romans 6:16–22).

Peter describes this death to sin and becoming alive to righteousness as a healing: by His wounds you were healed. This too is borrowed from the Old Testament prophet when he wrote “by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Wounds is a better usage than “scourging” since the latter may give the impression that the beating of Jesus produced salvation. Both Isaiah and Peter meant the wounds of Jesus that were part of the execution process. Wounds is a general reference—a synonym for all the suffering that brought Him to death. And the healing here is spiritual, not physical. Neither Isaiah nor Peter intended physical healing as the result in these references to Christ’s sufferings. Physical healing for all who believe does result from Christ’s atoning work, but such healing awaits a future realization in the perfections of heaven. In resurrection glory, believers will experience no sickness, pain, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:1–4; 22:1–3). [4]

To be fair, Matthew’s gospel does seem to make a connection between Isaiah 53:5 and physical healings that occurred during Christ’s earthly ministry:

They brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16–17)

But was Christ’s healing ministry His end game, or did it point to an eternal cure? After all, the people he healed still died. Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he still eventually died again. People were healed but the curse wasn’t reversed. Jesus died for the sins of men, but men still continued to sin. He defeated death but His followers continued to die. There is an ultimate fulfillment of Christ’s atoning work that will not be realized this side of eternity (Romans 8:22–25). That’s why John MacArthur rightly observes:

Those who claim that Christians should never be sick because there is healing in the atonement should also claim that Christians should never die, because Jesus also conquered death in the atonement. The central message of the gospel is deliverance from sin. It is the good news about forgiveness, not health. Christ was made sin, not disease, and He died on the cross for our sin, not our sickness. As Peter makes clear, Christ’s wounds heal us from sin, not from disease. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). [5]

There is healing in Christ’s atonement but it’s obviously not fully realized in the present. Christians and non-Christians alike still feel the effects of the curse, and will ultimately die. Our ultimate perfect healing is certain, but it awaits us in the same way that we still await our resurrection bodies. And that shouldn’t bring disappointment to this present life. Rather, it is a glorious future reality for us to anticipate with great joy.

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B160817

Thursday, August 6, 2020

2 Thessalonians 2:2 And The Reliability Of New Testament Texts

        "that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come." (2 Thessalonians 2:2)

       The above reference shows us that even the earliest Christians were aware of the possibility of pseudonymous letters, which bolsters our confidence in having the full New Testament canon.

        It is also worth noting that Paul wrote his signature at the end of each epistle circulated by him (1 Corinthians 16:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; Colossians 4:18; Galatians 6:11; Philemon 19).

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Story Of The Woman Caught In Adultery

"The section about the adulterous (7:53-8-11) is, no doubt, a true story from the life of Jesus; but it is poorly supported by documentary evidence. It is not found in Aleph A B C L T W X Delta and at least seventy cursives and numerous Evangelistaria (Gospel Lectionaries). It is also wanting in the Old Syriac, the Peshitta, the Harkloan, in some copies of the Old Latin, and in several of the minor versions. Really, it appears in no Greek manuscript earlier than the eighth century, save in Codex Beza (5"cent.), which has many textual peculiarities. It is not quoted as by John until late in the fourth century, at which time Augustine says that some have removed it from their copies, fearing, he supposes, that its presence might give their wives undue license Jerome says that in his day it was contained in many Greek and Latin MSS." Plummer reminds us, however, that most of the worst corruptions of the text were already in existence in Jerome's time." Practically all scholars today accept it as a true incident in the life of Jesus, but not as a genuine part of John's Gospel. This includes conservative scholars as Warfield and A. T. Robertson. Yet there we have the statements of Jerome and Augustine!"

Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 176

Monday, August 3, 2020

Debunking Trent Horn's Claims About The Existence Of The Papacy In The Early Church

  • Discussion:
           -This article serves as a rebuttal to the claims of Trent Horn at Catholic Answers in regards to the question of whether the office of pope is historical. Following are a few excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

           "But didn’t Peter refer to himself as a “fellow elder” and not as “pope” in 1 Peter 5:1? Yes, but in this passage Peter is demonstrating humility that he is encouraging other priests to practice. He wrote, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another” (5:5), so exalting his status would have contradicted his message. Besides, St. Paul often referred to himself as a mere deacon (see 1 Cor. 3:5, 2 Cor. 11:23) and even said he was “the very least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8)—but that did not take away from his authority as an apostle. Likewise, Peter’s description of himself as an elder does not take away from his authority as being “first” among the apostles (Matt 10:2)."

           The above argument rests on a few questionable presuppositions: 1.) Peter described himself in the humblest of terms in order that he set a good moral example and not that he knew nothing in regards to having been bestowed papal authority, and 2.) Peter was addressing members of an ordained ministerial priesthood. There is no evidence for either claim. 1 Peter 5:1 weakens the Roman Catholic case for Peter being first pope because it indicates that he put himself on par with other elders in the church. He never indicates being in a supreme position of authority.

          "In regard to the authority of the Bishop of Rome as Peter’s successor, in the first century Clement of Rome (the fourth pope) intervened in a dispute in the Church of Corinth. He warned those who disobeyed him that they would “involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger,” thus demonstrating his authority over non-Roman Christians."

          Consider this excerpt from the New World Encyclopedia on the nature of the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians:

           "The First Epistle of Clement does not claim internally to be written by Clement, but by an anonymous person acting on behalf of the Roman church to the church at Corinth. Its purpose is to object to the removal of certain presbyters (elders) of Corinth, an action it considers unjustified. Whether there was only a single bishop at Rome at this time is debated. It may be that the writer is himself a presbyter or one of several bishops (overseers) who also acted as the church's secretary. If he were the reigning bishop, it seems likely that he would refer to himself as such or signed the letter by name."

          "St. Ignatius of Antioch referred to the Roman Church as the one that teaches other churches and “presides in love” over them. In fact, the writings of Pope Clement (A.D. 92-99) and Pope Soter (A.D. 167-174) were so popular that they were read in the Church alongside Scripture (Eusebius, Church History 4:23:9)."

           The above presented information shows us, not that Rome held a position of primacy, but it was honored amongst other churches. Eastern Orthodox commentator Andrew Stephen Damick notes the following regarding the use of Ignatius to support papal authority:

           "…the modern Roman Catholic vision of Church unity being defined by subjection to a worldwide bishop in Rome is not found in Ignatius’s writings. We saw how he described his friend Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna as “one who has God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as his bishop” (To Polycarp, Salutation). He does not say that Polycarp has the bishop of Rome for his bishop nor even a regional Asian primate (i.e., a senior bishop in his area). Being a bishop, Polycarp’s bishop is God. With all that Ignatius has to say about the episcopacy and especially about unity, he had the perfect opportunity to insist on a worldwide pontificate for Rome’s bishop. Rome was certainly on his mind, since he was traveling there to be martyred as Peter and Paul had been before him. Yet in his six letters addressed to churches, it is only his letter to Rome in which he does not even mention their bishop (who was probably either St. Evaristus or St. Alexander I). In the other five letters to churches, the bishop is mentioned, and in three of them, the bishop is mentioned by name. When writing to the Roman Christians, he does mention Peter, but equally with Paul as both are apostles who could give them “orders,” while Ignatius himself would never presume to do that (Romans 4:3). In Ignatius’s writings, there is never any special role given to the Roman bishop or the Roman church, nor even to the Apostle Peter. And when he writes to Rome, he does not ask the Roman bishop to send a bishop to Antioch to replace him. Rather, he makes that request of Polycarp and his church in Smyrna (To Polycarp 7:2)."

           "In A.D. 190, Pope St. Victor I excommunicated an entire region of churches for refusing to celebrate Easter on its proper date. While St. Irenaeus thought this was not prudent, neither he nor anyone else denied that Victor had the authority to do this. Indeed, Irenaeus said, “it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [Rome] on account of its preeminent authority” (Against Heresies, 3.3.2)."

           The West and certain Eastern churches claimed to have the correct date of Easter that was delivered from the apostles. This episode of contradictory church tradition only proves it to be unreliable as a source of dogma. What we are left with is Scripture as our guide.

           Irenaeus did not say that churches should submit to the church at Rome due to being higher in authority, but come together as that church was located in the capital of the Roman Empire and also reputed for being doctrinally orthodox.

           Consider this introductory excerpt from Philip Schaaf on the translation of Irenaeus's Against Heresies:

           "After the text has been settled, according to the best judgment which can be formed, the work of translation remains; and that is, in this case, a matter of no small difficulty. Irenæus, even in the original Greek, is often a very obscure writer. At times he expresses himself with remarkable clearness and terseness; but, upon the whole, his style is very involved and prolix. And the Latin version adds to these difficulties of the original, by being itself of the most barbarous character. In fact, it is often necessary to make a conjectural re-translation of it into Greek, in order to obtain some inkling of what the author wrote. Dodwell supposes this Latin version to have been made about the end of the fourth century; but as Tertullian seems to have used it, we must rather place it in the beginning of the third. Its author is unknown, but he was certainly little qualified for his task. We have endeavoured to give as close and accurate a translation of the work as possible, but there are not a few passages in which a guess can only be made as to the probable meaning."

           Consider translator footnote 3313 from that same version of Irenaeus's Against Heresies:

           "The Latin text of this difficult but important clause is, “Ad hanc enim ecclesiam propter potiorem principalitatem necesse est omnem convenire ecclesiam.” Both the text and meaning have here given rise to much discussion. It is impossible to say with certainty of what words in the Greek original “potiorem principalitatem” may be the translation. We are far from sure that the rendering given above is correct, but we have been unable to think of anything better. [A most extraordinary confession. It would be hard to find a worse; but take the following from a candid Roman Catholic, which is better and more literal: “For to this Church, on account of more potent principality, it is necessary that every Church (that is, those who are on every side faithful) resort; in which Church ever, by those who are on every side, has been preserved that tradition which is from the apostles.” (Berington and Kirk, vol. i. p. 252.) Here it is obvious that the faith was kept at Rome, by those who resort there from all quarters. She was a mirror of the Catholic World, owing here orthodoxy to them; not the Sun, dispensing her own light to others, but the glass bringing their rays into a focus. See note at end of book iii.] A discussion of the subject may be in chap. xii. of Dr. Wordsworth’s St. Hippolytus and the Church of Rome."

           Consider footnote 3796 from “a more potent principle” on Against Heresies 3:3:2:

           "Bishop Wordsworth inclines to the idea that the original Greek was ἱκανωτέραν ἀρχαιότητα, thus conceding that Irenæus was speaking of the greater antiquity of Rome as compared with other (Western) Churches. Even so, he shows that the argument of Irenæus is fatal to Roman pretensions, which admit of no such ideas as he advances, and no such freedom as that of his dealings with Rome."

           "Some people object that if Peter and his successors had special authority, why didn’t Christ say so when the apostles argued about “who was the greatest” (Luke 22:24)? The reason is that Christ did not want to contribute to their misunderstanding that one of them would be a privileged king. Jesus did say, however, that among the apostles there would be a “greatest” who would rule as a humble servant (Luke 22:26). That’s why since the sixth century popes have called themselves servus servorum Dei, or “servant of the servants of God.”

           The most important determining factor in responding to this argument involves noting the phrase "in the sixth century." The Papacy did not exist in the first century, but was instead a gradual development. If Peter had an exalted position over the other apostles, then why did Christ did not point to him? That is a fair question to ask. The pope with his kingly attire and large crowds who bow down before him in adoration is not by any means a "humble servant."

           "Pope Gregory I used the title in his dispute with the Patriarch of Constantinople John the Faster, who called himself the “Universal Bishop.” Gregory didn’t deny that one bishop had primacy over all the others, since in his twelfth epistle Gregory explcitly says Constaninople was subject to the authority of the pope. Instead, he denied that the pope was the bishop of every individual territory, since this would rob his brother bishops of their legitimate authority, even though they were still subject to him as Peter’s successor."

           In responding to the above claims, one could say that Gregory emphatically denounced the title of universal bishop and thought that such should be reserved for no one. The following excerpt has been taken from the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:

           "a proud and profane title ... I have however taken care to admonish earnestly the same my brother and fellow-bishop that, if he desires to have peace and concord with all, he must refrain from the appellation of a foolish title. ... the appellation of a frivolous name. But I beseech your imperial Piety to consider that some frivolous things are very harmless, and others exceedingly harmful. Is it not the case that, when Antichrist comes and calls himself God, it will be very frivolous, and yet exceedingly pernicious? If we regard the quantity of the language used, there are but a few syllables; but if the weight of the wrong, there is universal disaster. Now I confidently say that whosoever calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, is in his elation the precursor of Antichrist, because he proudly puts himself above all others." (Gregory the Great, Book VII, Epistle XXXIII)

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Does The Bible Support The Institution Of Slavery?

        "As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you." (Leviticus 25:44)

        It should be pointed out that the fact the Old Testament records historical atrocities, does not mean those events are endorsed by the God who inspired the prophets to write them. The biblical text simply describes how culture was.

        In the Old Testament, people could voluntarily become servants to pay off debts. Others made reparations for stolen items (Exodus 22:3). Slaves were set free after six years of servitude (Exodus 21:2). These people were not to be abused or mistreated.

        God forbade the Jews from kidnapping people and selling them into slavery (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7). The Apostle Paul also condemned the idea of capturing people with the intent of selling them as he described people who do such as ungodly and sinful (1 Timothy 1:9-11).

        This picture of slavery is far removed from what took place in America or the African slave trade. It was not a matter of skin color. God uses all things in this world to bring about His glory.

        Paul exhorted slaves to obey their masters, not because he approved the institution of slavery, but that it was a means of serving God. Christianity is not a political movement designated to defeat government, but addresses the sinful condition of the human heart.