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

On The Completion Of The Old Testament Canon And Apocrypha

  • 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 translator of Ecclesiasticus in no uncertain terms distinguishes "these things" (meaning the work that he is translating) from "the law and the prophets and the others that followed them." Thus, he believed that there was a threefold structured collection of sacred books that were accorded a unique status. Even the last of the three divisions of the Hebrew canon is spoken of in this passage as being "of our ancestors." Thus, this process was not going on in the days of the person translating this work or even his grandfather. This description suggests a closed canon. Another text relating to the completion of the Hebrew canon is 2 Esdras 14:45-46. It makes reference to a collection of twenty-four books which are intended to be read by all people. That number is equivalent to the number of books comprising the Jewish canon. These twenty-four writings are distinguished from a different set of seventy in that the later are meant only to be read by those who have wisdom. The seventy books are described as having been "written last" or after the writing of the first set.

          "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."

          Hundreds of manuscripts of non-biblical material have been discovered in the Qumran caves. It was comparable to a library which contains several different genres of literature. So one cannot simply appeal to the Dead Sea Scrolls as grounds for including the apocrypha in the Old Testament canon. These people were educated in the literature of their time and would have known books such as Sirach and Tobit. 

          "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."

          There were church fathers who were not familiar with the Hebrew canon and so mistakenly thought the deuterocanonicals to be inspired Scripture. 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 Protestant Reformation.

          "The prevailing custom among the Jews was the production of separate volumes for each part of the Hebrew canon…When the codex or leaf-form of book production was adopted, however, it became possible for the first time to include a great number of separate books within the same two covers…For whatever reason the change was instituted, it now became possible for canonical and Apocryphal books to be brought into close physical juxtaposition. Books which heretofore had never been regarded by the Jews as having any more than a certain edifying significance were now placed by Christian scribes in one codex side by side with the acknowledged books of the Hebrew canon. Thus it would happen that what was first a matter of convenience in making such books of secondary status available among Christians became a factor in giving the impression that all of the books within such a codex were to be regarded as authoritative. Furthermore, as the number of Gentile Christians grew, almost none of whom had exact knowledge of the extent of the original Hebrew canon, it became more and more natural for quotations to be made indiscriminately from all the books included with the one Greek codex.” (Bruce M. Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha, 177-178)

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

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.”