Thursday, July 29, 2021

On The Meaning Of The Word Psalms

The English word “psalms” is a transliteration of the Greek title of the book. That is, this is the Greek word simply spelled in English or Roman letters. The Greek word psalmoi was first translated into Latin as Psalmi, and then into English as “Psalms.” The Greek word originally meant a striking or twitching of the fingers on a string. The related verb was used by classical writers for the “pulling of a bowstring.” From that came the idea of “pulling or playing a stringed musical instrument.” When the word took ons the extended meaning of a song, there was always the latent background of the stringed instrumental accompaniment tied to the singing. So the meaning of the Greek title of the book is “sacred songs sung to musical accompaniment.
 
Ronald B. Allen, And I Will Praise Him: A Guide to Worship in the Psalms, p. 21

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Trent Horn's Failed Defense Of The Apocrypha Against Charges Of Historical And Theological Errors

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to rebut a handful of claims made by Roman Catholic apologist Trent Horn in defense of the apocrypha against charges of it being historically and theologically unsound. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "Protestant apologist James McCarthy says the claim that these books are inspired must be rejected because “the author of 2 Maccabees says that his work is the abridgement of another man’s work (2 Macc. 2:23). He concludes the book by saying, ‘If it is well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that is the best I could do’ (2 Macc. 15:38, NAB).”- But by McCarthy’s standard the Gospel of Luke would not be inspired, because it admits to being an adaptation of earlier sources (Lk 1:1-3). First Corinthians would likewise be uninspired, because Paul says he can’t remember whom he baptized (1:15). These passages only demonstrate the humility of the Bible’s human authors—not any lack of divine inspiration in their writings."

          Nowhere do the authors of the biblical books write concerning the quality of their writing, "I have done my best in writing this and hope you do not find it to be lacking." That language is not the product of somebody being moved by the Holy Spirit and cannot simply be explained away as "human characteristics" of Scripture. Furthermore, the words in the Book of Maccabees can readily be contrasted with passages of Scripture that pertain to divine inspiration of revelation (Matthew 10:19-20; 1 Corinthians 2:1; 12-13; 14:37).

          "Moreover, the alleged errors in the deuterocanonical books, such as Judith identifying Nebuchadnezzar as the king of Assyria instead of as the king of Babylon (Jud 1:1), Tobit being described as having lived for more than 150 years (Tob 14:11), can be explained. Specifically, these statements are only errors if the author was asserting a literal description of history, but even Protestant scholars agree that the authors of Judith and Tobit were not writing in the genre of literal history."

          The problem with this argument is that the church fathers considered these kind of writings to not be mythical but historical.

          "Claims that the deuterocanonical books contradict theological truths in the protocanonical books also fall flat. One example is the claim that the teaching that honoring one’s father and almsgiving can atone for sin (Sir 3:3; Tob 4:11) contradicts the New Testament’s teaching that only Christ can atone for our sins. But the book of Proverbs teaches that “by loyalty and faithfulness [or what many Protestants would call ‘works’] iniquity is atoned for” (16:6). First Peter says that “love covers a multitude of sin” (4:8), and Acts records an angel saying to the Gentile Cornelius, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (10:4)."

          The text from Proverbs speaks of us being merciful to others and faithfully serving God. The text from Acts speaks of God not passing over Cornelius because of his charity and prayer. He was searching for God with an earnest heart. The text from 1 Peter speaks of love covering sins in the sense of not holding wrongdoings against other people. We ought to forgive because we have been forgiven by God. These passages of Scripture have nothing to do with people performing good deeds in order that atonement be made for their own sins.

          "Other claims of theological contradiction are circular, such as the claim that Second Maccabees is not inspired because it records the “unbiblical practice” of praying for the dead. But Protestants only say the practice is “unbiblical” because they do not regard Second Maccabees as part of the Bible. If Second Maccabees is inspired, however, then praying for the dead is a biblical practice even if it is only described in one book of the Bible. To make a comparison, the Gospel of Matthew is the only book in the Bible that records a Trinitarian baptismal command (28:19), but that doesn’t make such a command unbiblical."

          The accusation is not circular reasoning if it can be shown that the practice of praying to the dead is inconsistent with biblical witness on the matter. One cannot help but wonder whether the primary reason that the Roman Catholic Church clings to 2 Maccabees is to justify its tradition. 2 Esdras 7:105 is an apocryphal text that expressly contradicts the idea of prayers for the dead. Why did that reference not end up being included in the Roman Catholic Bible?

          "Finally, some Protestant apologists say the deuterocanonical books are not inspired because they are inferior in style to the protocanonical books of Scripture. Raymond Surburg writes, “When a comparison is instituted of the style of the Apocrypha with the style of the Biblical Hebrew Old Testament writings, there is a considerable inferiority, shown by the stiffness, lack of originality and artificiality of expression characterizing the apocryphal books.”— But this is a wholly subjective criterion that, if taken seriously, would put Shakespeare in the Bible and take books like Numbers or Philemon out of it."

          Do we need some infallible earthly organization in order to recognize that the Quran, publications of the Watchtower Society, and Book of Mormon are not inspired by God? Trent Horn's position collapses on itself because the responsibility of interpretation is always going to land ultimately on the individual. In other words, a man cannot come to conclusions about anything without subjectively using his powers of reason to weigh evidence in ruling out various possibilities.

          If one takes time to examine different spheres of life, then it will readily be noticed that no infallible arbiters exist to dictate what must be done. We can look at fields of academia and ancient civilizations only to find no infallible human authority. But the world keeps on turning. We do not naturally seek after some infallible interpreter if we fail to grasp something that we are told in conversation. Thus, the thinking of Roman Catholic apologists that there must be a final arbitrator to infallibly settle disputes is not true to the real world.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Are Christians To Be Giving Tithes?

        Many pastors, one of which is Charles Stanley, believe that Christians are supposed to be giving weekly tithes to their churches. Some, including the aforementioned individual, go as far as to claim that believers ought to give ten percent of their income and that God will bless people who obey. However, there is rationale against Christians tithing, namely, that it was an aspect of the Mosaic Law which does not have pertinence under the New Covenant. It does not apply to us for the same reason that Sabbath observance does not apply to us. Such things have been rendered obsolete at the Cross and so will fade away (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 8:13).

        Why did the Jewish people provide tithes? It was dedicated to the care of Levitical priests as they performed animal sacrifices in the presence of God (Numbers 18:21-26). They were used for feasts and also given to assist the poor. People made pilgrimages to Jerusalem every couple of years to honor those tithes. The Jews gave crops and livestock for tithes (Leviticus 27:30; 2 Chronicles 31:5). It is ironic that we do not really see pastors imposing these kinds of requirements on their audiences. If these people are going to be consistent, then they might as well throw away the New Testament and convert to Judaism.

        What are Christians supposed to give? The Apostle Paul answered that question in terms of "according to the desire of their hearts" and "not under compulsion" (2 Corinthians 9:7). He makes no mention of a fixed amount of a person's income. The rest of the New Testament epistles are silent concerning tithing. God loves a cheerful giver because he or she is giving from the heart. That kind of giving finds its root in love. 

         One must act in a manner that is financially responsible when it comes to making these kinds of sacrifices. For example, a man may have a family that he is obligated to provide for. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." It would be arrogant of us to presume that God would "catch" us every time we make foolish choices. If a pastor says to tithe, then do not listen. He is guided, not by Scripture itself, but by church tradition which distorts the meaning of Scripture. The tithe was something specifically tied in with the land of Israel.