Friday, July 22, 2016

Cowell's Rule


Greetings again, my friends:

Today’s post was suggested by something which happened to me this past week.  Among others I do subscribe to a periodical letter which goes out by e-mail from a certain scholar who takes a similar view as mine that we really need to understand the Bible from a Hebraic point of view instead of a Western/Greek view.  He has written a book about the Gospel of John from a Hebraic view.  I noticed, though, that he apparently accepts the common translation used for its first book as authoritative.  So I wrote the author to point out the error to him.

His answer was to send me a PDF copy of the article from a scholarly journal from 1933 where Dr. Colwell outlined what has come to be known as Colwell’s Rule, a rule of Greek grammar often pointed to by people who are not current on matters of Greek Grammar to justify a misleading translation for John 1.1c.  The purpose of this post is to try and examine the issue and where the scholarship on the matter is right now as well as other evidence.

The Background

John 1:1 is a key scripture because it is often the very first verse cited by apologist for the Trinity doctrine as proof for the trinity.  Most translations since the beginning of vernacular translations in the Protestant Era translate it almost word for word like this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

It seems straightforward enough, doesn’t it?  And this is the standard translation used by the translators of the Bible for the most part to this day.  However, as the printing press made books so much cheaper and affordable to the masses they began to acquire New Testaments in the koine Greek they were passed down in along with Greek Grammar books, lexicons, and shortly after concordances.  As that happened some problems regarding how the translators handled various texts of the bible began to emerge.  Top of the list was John 1:1. Why?

Εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον, και θεος ην ο λογος.

In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and god was the Word.

That is John 1:1 according to all the ancient Greek manuscripts I’ve been able to get pictures, facsimiles or whatever of, they all read the same.  I’ve also added a word for word translation without the benefit of English word order.  My capitalization, or lack thereof, is deliberate by reason of Greek grammar.  The first thing to note is that both the “Word” and the first occurrence of “God” are capitalized and the second occurrence of “god” is not.  There is a reason for that.

First of all, Koine Greek preserves some Hebraisms in the Greek such as an interesting device when referring to the God of the Bible in the case of a word which could be cause confusion of adding the definite article, the word the in English to the word.  So we often find sprinkled throughout the Old Testament the word god with the definite article added to it to make it clear that it is talking about the God, Jehovah of Israel.  In practice because the indefinite article would be awkward in the English we simply capitalize the word God because it serves as a proper noun, a name. 

The same construction occurs in the New Testament and the general practice in those instances is the same.  We see that in the first instance of the word God in John 1:1 and the Word on all instances, but it is lacking in the second occurrence of the word god.  If we followed general practice, we should spell the last occurrence of god with the g in lower case since it is referring to a generic god instead of the God.  The meaning of the Greek as written becomes clearer if we insert what the ancient Greek language didn’t have to indicate the indefinite or generic, the indefinite article, thus translating the final clause as “and the Word was a god.”  In order for the verse to read as most often translated the Greek definite article has to be with the second occurrence of the word god, it’s as simple as that.  Colwell’s rule is all about that problem.

Colwell’s Rule

In 1933 a Greek scholar named Ernest Cadmen Colwell published the article A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament in a journal of the time in which he outlined a rule which essentially puts the definite article into the text of John 1:1 as being understood even though it doesn’t appear there.  To quote the scholar DonaldHartley of Southeastern Bible College, who quotes Colwell himself, the rule basically says that “Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article.”  In other words, in copulative clauses the definite article can be understood in the case of predicate nouns which precede the verb.  That’s what we find in the case of John 1:1. For sixty years that rule stood as holy writ for justifying the common translation of the final clause of John 1:1 in a Trinitarian manner.

Colwell’s Rule Reexamined

In time a scholar named Phillip Harner put the rule to the test and reexamined Colwell’s methodology, which he found weak.  As a result, he published the article “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,” which found the application of Colwell’s rule to John 1:1 flawed.  In its stead he proposed that the second god in the verse should be understood as qualitative, functioning more or less as an adjective.  That would mean the clause should be translated along the lines of “and the Word was godlike.”  However, translators generally avoid that one and instead either stand by the old, or as in several cases recently, translate it as “and the Word was Divine” capitalizing the word divine to once again make an association which isn’t in the Greek.

The point is that these guys would rather swallow razor blades than admit that the verse isn’t the Trinitarian mainstay it is used as.  For many years mainstream theologians have condemned the Jehovah’s Witnesses for translating the clause in their New World Translation as “and the Word was a god,” thus removing any support for the Trinity doctrine in the verse.  To admit in the slightest that translation is the correct one for the clause is a career killer so they keep on seeking to justify anything but that.  So right now the current scholarly stand is that the word there is qualitative, much like the similar construction in 1 John 4:8 “God is love.” 

Conclusion

In speaking of the “last days,” Daniel the prophet was told that “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Dan. 12:4, ESV) We believe this was a prophecy of what happened starting in the 1800s, when knowledge became so widely available, cheaply available along with an education.  Back then those in the high school grades were often expected to learn at least the basics to biblical Greek as well as Latin.  That increase in knowledge led to the wonderful standard of living we enjoy today made possible by advancing technology.

That very increase in knowledge made a very big problem for nominal religious leaders in Christendom because now the masses ad access to the bible in its original languages as well as various aids which could help anyone who wanted to understand what it’s message was better.  One of those problems was the discovery that the bible didn’t really teach in John 1:1 that Jesus is God almighty in the flesh.  In 1933 Dr. Colwell published what seemed to be the perfect answer to the problem, a way to insert the definite article into the text where it didn’t appear in the first place and solve the problem by making the text say what nominal Christians leaders say it says.

However, recent scholars have reexamined the rule and have tossed it aside altogether in respects to John 1:1 as a misuse of the rule.  Instead they propose in its place to assert the passage speaks qualitatively.  Okay, as long as we keep in mind that being divine, or godlike is not the same as being God himself in a triune relationship we have no trouble with seeing it that way.  But the bottom line is to realize that even with that nuance the verse does not say what it is often alleged to say.  John consciously separated the Word, Jesus, from God as a separate being with godlike qualities.


Until next time!

Monday, July 4, 2016

430 Years Where? : The Deads Sea Scrolls and Bible Chronology.



Above is a screenshot I took of a fragment which is part of the Dead Sea Scrolls collection and to reach it I used the identifier 4qedxcex12c.  This is taken from the Dead Sea Scrolls Project online and what we learn from the identifier is that it is from a group of fragments belonging to a particular scroll covering Exodus Chapter 12.  I went looking in the Dead Sea Scrolls to find out what they might show us about Exodus 12:40-41, which records the fulfillment of an earlier prophecy given to Abraham.  The problem is that there are two different variants of this passage and those variants are often cited among Bible Students in regards to the matter of Bible Chronology, and in a wider context regarding Bible veracity.  This is what I found.

Exodus 12:40 reads:

"The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years"
(ESV)

It seems straightforward enough, doesn't it?  However, we run into several problems with that passage, which is from the Masoretic Text (MT).  The first is that it appears to conflict with the prophecy itself which we find at Genesis 15: 12-16 and is as follows:

”And He said to Abram, Knowing you must know that your seed shall be an alien in a land not theirs; and they shall serve them. And they shall afflict them four hundred years; and I also will judge that nation whom they shall serve; and afterward they shall come out with great substance. And you shall come to your fathers in peace. You shall be buried in good old age. And in the fourth generation they shall come here again; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." 
(LITV)

The first is the difference in years mentioned, and the second is the number of generations.  a quick check of the genealogical record shows that four generations does not cover four hundred years.  It just does cover the time from when Jacob enters Egypt at the invitation of his son, Joseph and the reigning Pharoah until they leave.  So what is going on here?  what appears is the case is that there is a difference in reckoning matters god has set up to confuse things a bit.  Genesis apparently does two things.  The promise counts four hundred years from when the promise was made and the generations which actually resided in Eygpt.  In Exodus Moses, under inspiration, counts the time from when Abram entered the land of Canaan after leaving Haran when his father died.  Stephen invokes Genesis in his exposition in Acts 7:2-6 and Paul invoked Exodus in his exposition to the Galatians, 3:17.  However, even with that realization we are still left with a problem because the scriptures say the sons of Israel spent 430 years in Egypt or do they?

We really have two variations witnessed to in the manuscripts.  The first is found in the Masoretic Text and is as follows:

וּמוֹשַׁב֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָשְׁב֖וּ בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם שְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה וְאַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָֽה׃ 
    
"The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt."

The second is witnessed to by the LXX, the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Bohairic Coptic:

Η δε κατοικησις των υιων Ισραελ ην κατωκησαν εν γη Αιγυπτω και εν γη Χανααν ετν τετρακοσια τριακοντα

And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Chanaan, was four hundred and thirty years.
(Brenton's English Septuagint)

So which is it?  Were they in Egypt the entire 430 years or not.  This is where the fragment above comes in as it is the oldest witness to the text of interest here and Bible Students generally prefer the older witness.  In the catalog of Dead Sea Scrolls, the fragment is listed as following the Masoretic text.  However, as we looked closer we saw reason to question that view.  Here is a close up of the portion of the fragment containing the passage of interest:


What we see here are verses 39 & 40.  Those who can read Hebrew have no problem seeing that verse 39 is completed while verse 40 appears to start on the next line at "land of Egypt..." and this is apparently the basis for the judgment on the part of the cataloger.  Obviously, something is missing here, the portion of the text from the beginning of verse forty to the word "land."  We have no way of knowing the quality of the photo the cataloger had to work with or if he was working with the manuscript itself.  This photo is from the newer enhanced digital photographs now available online for scholars and others with an interest in the Scrolls to consult and of better quality than the other two.  And that's where things get interesting.


Now look at what we circled in red.  That is where the line ends and is a clue to what is missing from the text.  We see a break in the material but right after that is the letter "נ" or "n."  That letter is easily missed even in this image if one isn't careful.  In earlier images, it probably is even harder to spot.  Here is the text again of verse forty with the missing portion in red:

וּמוֹשַׁב֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָשְׁב֖וּ בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם שְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה וְאַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָֽה׃

And here is what is there with the "נ" and another word, the Hebrew "ארץ" in the text in red, which shouldn't be there if it follows the MT:

  ן ארץ בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם שְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה וְאַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָֽה׃ 

However, it makes all the difference in the world.  That is because the only way the letter and word would be there at all in that spot would be if the text originally read "The time that the sons of Israel lived in the land of Canaan and the land of Egypt was four hundred ad thirty years."  Add to that the space of the missing text is more consistent with that that than the shorter Masoretic text.  So instead of following the Masoretic reading, as the catalog states, the fragment instead follows the alternate text preserved in the LXX.

We know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that there were a number of different versions of the OT text found in the caves of Qumran, all of them dating anywhere from the second-century bc to the first-century ad.  The Masoretic and the LXX represent the two most witnessed to with the Masoretic first followed by the Hebrew-LXX.  Since we don't know the methodology in making that determination we are not going to give the exact percentages here since there are parts of the OT where there is more agreement between the two than differences and the Pentateuch is one of those parts.

But the important point here for us is that the oldest witness to a key Hebrew passage in the Exodus clarifies a problem the Masoretic Text actually makes and resolves an apparent contradiction for us.  God apparently included the land of Canaan in the four hundred years of prophecy probably because it was under Egyptian domination for much of that history and not fully independent.  But it also gives us a starting point marked in the bible beginning when Abram left Canaan which is prophetically important since Paul invoked it in Galatians.

We are living in an exciting time, my brothers and sisters.  We now have the Dead Sea Scroll witness because God broke the small cartel of scholars who kept it under lock and key away from the rest of us.  Many other manuscripts have come to life.  and thanks to the efforts of such men as Dr. Daniel Wallace even more and even in some cases, older manuscripts of the NT in Greek are coming to light.  We have much more in the way of ancient material to work with than Brother Russell had and some of that increases the light thrown on the languages themselves.  And I am sure there will be much more to come in the time left as God makes preparation for the kingdom to come. 

Let's enjoy these times and make the most of them as we complete our course.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Gog of Magog.


Hello, again my friends and readers!

I would like to take a moment of your time to revisit Ezekiel Chapter 38 in light of recent developments.  Although this article is entitled Gog of Magog there isn't really much which can be said about him or her which can be clearly seen at the moment.  However, we are of the view that the land of Magog may be identifiable and doing and looking at recent developments there may aid us as far as understanding the prophecy and anticipating events which may not be so far off.  So let's take a look at the first three verses of the prophecy:

Eze 38:1-3  And the word of Jehovah was to me, saying,  (2)  Son of man, set your face against Gog, the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him.  (3)  And say, So says the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.
(Green's Literal Translation, to be used unless otherwise specified)

Jay Green has translated the verse literally here while most translations tweak it based on their views.  I can verify the Hebrew reads "set your face against Gog, the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him."  So what if we are dealing with a land,or country instead of an individual as most anticipate?  That would certainly change our understanding of what's ahead a bit.  However, we're not sure just how much that would be.

In order to understand the prophecy, we must first find out who the players are.  To do that let's go back to Genesis, where Magog is first mentioned:

Gen 10:1-5  And these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood.  (2)  The sons of Japheth: Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.  (3)  And Gomer's sons were Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah.  (4)  And Javan's sons were Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.  (5)  The coasts of the nations were divided by these in their lands each by his tongue, by their families, in their nations.

There we have it, that is what we know of Magog according to the Bible.  He appears in 1 Chronicles chapter one but as part of a genealogical list.  In Hebrews chapter 39 Magog is also linked to the people dwelling in the island, likely the islands of the Aegean Sea and Cyprus.  This, of course, is in keeping with Genesis.  Scholars tend to place the Descendants of Magog in the Cappodicean and Anatolian regions of modern Turkey, where some references in documents from the Persian period seem to place them as the Persians had to deal with attacks from there attributed to a people with a name similar to Magog.  The picture above places them in Anatolia.

However, we think this might be a mistake.  As time went by people moved when they were displaced by more aggressive peoples.  In the region of Anatolia, the peoples of the Steppes of Asia are famous for their invasions, often forcing others, as some of the Magogans, to move further West.  We think understanding where some of the Children of Magog went may well be the key to understanding the prophecy.  As part of our participation in a Bible Study we attend, we were asked to research the people named in Genesis ten and try to glean information on not only where those people settled according to that chapter of the bible but also where they might be now.  We were astounded when we came to Magog and dug deeper.  Here is a passage from Wikipedia from my notes which was most interesting"

Jordanes' Getica (551) mentions Magog as ancestor of the Goths, as does the Historia Brittonum, but Isidore of Seville (c. 635) asserts that this identification was popular "because of the similarity of the last syllable" (Etymologiae, IX, 89). Johannes Magnus (1488–1544) stated that Magog migrated to Scandinavia (via Finland) 88 years after the flood, and that his five sons were Suenno (ancestor of the Swedes), Gethar (or Gog, ancestor of the Goths), Ubbo (who later ruled the Swedes and built Old Uppsala), Thor, and German.[4] Magnus' accounts became accepted at the Swedish court for a long time, and even caused the dynastic numerals of the Swedish monarchs to be renumbered accordingly. Queen Christina of Sweden reckoned herself as number 249 in a list of kings going back to Magog. Magnus also influenced several later historians such as Daniel Juslenius (1676–1752), who derived the roots of the Finns from Magog.


In ancient times a Greek historian and several others identified the tribe of Magog with the Scythians, who were basically from the Anatolian region.  But by 551 a.d. we see them identified with the Goths as well and the residing first in Scandanavia before migrating back towards the Black Sea area before running up against a wall, so to speak.  That pretty much comports with the record modern scholars favor of the Goths originating in Scandanavia and moving Southeast as far as the Black Sea before being forced to move Westward.  Of course, we also don't want to forget the Magog had other descendants who scattered in other directions as well.

The Wikipedia entry also mentions medieval stories of the Irish descending from Magog as well.  According to History the Goths, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths all invade the European continent and dominated for a period before being assimilated into the populace.  Some royal families descended from gothic kings, etc.  Given the Irish, some of the last of the Celts claim an origin with Japheth's son, a picture emerges of the descendants of Magog primarily inhabiting modern Europe from very ancient times.  This would also not be inconsistent with other views of Magog, which primarily focus on only one branch of a wider family.

So, now, let's go back to the prophecy and look again:


Eze 38:1-3  And the word of Jehovah was to me, saying,  (2)  Son of man, set your face against Gog, the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him.  (3)  And say, So says the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.

Most eschatologists, or students of end times prophecies, identify the land of Gog with Russia and see a revived Russian Empire invading Israel from the North in cooperation with the Arab world, though they prefer not to use that word for them and that's fine as far as it goes.  The Russians as a race are European with some descending from the Goths and others descending from other peoples of European origin.  It is just in the far-flung parts of Russia where we find Russians descended from Asia and middle eastern races.  However, recent developments might indicate that the land of Gog is Europe proper in modern times and they may lead the charge.

In recent times we've been witness to an invasion of massive proportions through immigration by an aggressive people very hostile to other cultures who also believe their purpose is to bring those cultures down and replace them with their religious/political ideology and culture.  At first, they came quietly and settled into neighborhoods all over Europe while keeping a lower profile.  But as their numbers grew they took those neighborhoods together and started excluding others, even the police.  Then within those neighborhoods, they imposed their own culture, law, etc. proclaiming the neighborhoods as islands of their one lands in the midst of the countries they settled in.

As their numbers grew they expanded those neighborhoods and started demanding the host culture start accommodating theirs instead of assimilating into the larger host.  And more and more invade these immigrants are roaming the streets intimidating their hosts into submission to their will through rape, beat downs, destruction of property, and other violent means.  But there is something else very interesting about these invaders.

They are Muslims, the peoples from the very nations the bible informs us will ally with the land of Gog in that day and invade Israel.  Although they are still a relatively small minority the Europeans are having a hard time handling, the invasion continues and they grow bolder every day.  that doesn't bode well for those in Europe who've become rather timid through the last half of the 20th-century from indoctrination with so called "progressive" views, the legacy of the Jacobins of the French Revolution.

Added to that those neo-Jacobins have managed to impose a unitarian government on the nations of Europe, the European Union which the Brexit vote in the United Kingdon just called for the country to exit.  The political leaders are already trying to find a way to keep that country in despite the vote and EU bureaucrats are already proposing in the wake of it an immediate surrender of autonomy and sovereignty of member nations to the EU to prevent any further countries from following suit.  We think they may succeed on both counts, though an EU without the United Kingdom will still work where prophecy is concerned.

As more and more Muslims enter Europe under the open border policies of the European Elite leaders their own leaders will begin to exert more and more influence on governmental policies, especially if the European Union remains in essentially the same form it has.  So it is easy to see where the mover and shaker for the invasion of Israel may well come from that quarter in fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy.  Europe is running out of resources.  Their Green policies aren't working out very well, so they are going back to fossil fuels for the energy they need.  If the people of the UK succeed in leaving the European Union a very much needed resource, the oil fields of the North Sea will mostly be denied them.

And to their South?  They'll see the land of Israel with all the resources being discovered there in the way of oil and natural gas.  As the hatred of Israel and the Jewish people grow in the minds of Europeans due to the efforts of both the intelligentsia and Muslim leaders it will be only natural to see Israel as an answer by both groups for two very different reasons.  At that point, it won't be hard at all for God to give them the final nudge into disaster.

We think the Muslim invasion is the "hooks" God is even now putting into Gog's mouth to lead them to ruin in the great day of his wrath.  




Monday, September 28, 2015

Blood Moons


Hello again friends!

We’ve waited until they passed to comment, but the last of the blood moons of this tetrad is history, last night in fact.  So we decided it was time to join those posting on the phenomena and write something about it, and the hysteria which surrounded them to an extent.

As Christians it is our responsibility to examine teachings which come along with a critical eye, as Paul told the Thessalonian to do, and hold on to what is fine (1 Th. 5:21).  That way we don’t become credulous and find ourselves cast about like a wave in the ocean for our lack of faith (James 1:1-8).  That also helps us to keep our peace in times of trouble like this.

So what was all this business about the blood moons and tetrad all ab out and why did it catch peoples imagination the point some were preparing for a desperate situation, and even the end, according to various news reports?  The subject caught my imagination not long before the tetrad began, so we researched it so I could be ready if the subject came up in any of the classes we are a part of, it did.

Basically a blood moon is a red moon, a rare event caused by the angle of the atmosphere the moon is at.  A lower angle filters out all but the red light in the reflection back to earth, though it isn’t a really deep red, it is a red shade all the same.  This is a relatively rear phenomena, though I don’t have the statistics on it at hand.  A tetrad happens when four of them fall on Jewish holidays, another rare event which can be centuries apart.  One of the things which excited people is that we had two in the last century, 1949-50, 1967 and I’m not sure of the last year of it.  Note the years, the first one was a year after the creation of the state of Israel, what the Arabs call the Naqba, or disaster and the second the year of the 1967 six-day war when Jerusalem ended up completely in Israel’s hand, another disaster for the Arabs.  In fact, every blood moon tetrad has either followed or been a harbinger for some sort of important event for the Jews, there was one a few years after the Jews were expelled from Spain, in 1692.  That’s part of what caught people’s attention.

We credit Pastor Hagee with starting this tetrad’s circus.  Somebody, I don’t know who, brought it to his attention and after his study of it he concluded that it would be very significant.  So he put together a program on it for his church, the program also made it onto YouTube, where we watched it in our own research.  It was certainly impressive.  Now, do we blame somebody for popularizing their conclusions on something?  Not at all for sincerely held views.

We’ve already explained what a blood moon is.  But why so important.  Well, first of all our lord spoke of celestial events occurring in the heavens during the final days of this present evil world (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-25; Lk. 22:25).  With those words is it any wonder the tetrad caught folks attention and imagination?  In this tetrad a solar eclipse hit Jerusalem, right on the day they celebrated the Passover.  And this blood moon was not only a supermoon, but an eclipse as well.  Since all of this can be predicted with modern science and calculus, there was plenty of time for people to find out about it and speculate.

So, what happened?  Well, given history the Jews may not be totally out of the woods yet.  However, I submit that some very important things did happen for all I don’t really think Jesus’ words were in anticipation of that, but more in a moment on why.  Three interrelated things did occur which do not bode well for the Jews this tetrad.  The so called Palestinians were given observer status at the UN.  This appears to be in anticipation of declaring them a country and giving them full membership status.  Second, President moved the US away from its traditional relationship with Israel and rumor is may not interfere with statehood for the Arabs in the conquered lands.  Third, the US/Iranian agreement will no doubt accelerate rather than delay Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.  Iran is government by Shia Islamic fanatics who promote terrorism around the world, at times with very deadly consequences.  Given their hatred for Israel and the Jews, that is not a reassuring development.

We would like to point something else out, though.  Jesus’ prophecy has many levels to it, some signs given were common to both the last days of the Jewish polity, and the greater last days.  Wars and rumors of wars would be an instance.  The Jewish rebels of the 60s a.d. thought to take advantage of Rome’s problems with the Germans to the North to free Israel from Rome, it didn’t work.  Look at all the wars we’ve had since the beginning of WWI in 1914.  There hasn’t really been a year since then where somebody wasn’t at war with somebody else, or getting ready for it.

There were signs in the heavens in the first century, witness the sun going dark on Passover 33 a.d. when Jesus died, a similar event to this year’s total eclipse on the Passover.  However, we understand Jesus’ words as coded references as well, signifying conditions which would be present.  One reason for this is that Jesus did introduce a symbolic element when he told his listeners to “watch the fig tree,” a reference to Israel’s future creation in our century.  Given the prophecies of signs in the heaven, and the turbulence of the sea follow right on that one, doesn’t it make sense that it may well be the same sort of prophecy?  Well, Luke was the one who recorded him speaking of the storminess of the sea (22:25).

The bible tells us how to interpret such symbolic language if we are open to it.  In a number of passages we find mankind personified as the sea.  Isaiah presents the sea as telling Zidon that it has not brought forth children, young men or virgins (23:4).  Jeremiah 51:42 likens the armies of the Medes and Persians to a sea as it prophesies Babylon’s conquest by them.  And, finally, Isaiah 57:20 likens the wicked to a stormy sea, something Jesus seems to evoke with his words.  Thus we feel confident in believing that the sea in symbolism is the great mass of mankind.  Think about that for a moment because that view makes for a better understanding of some of the passages in Daniel and Revelation, where we see beasts arising from the sea.  So we see the sea mentioned by Jesus as the stormy masses of mankind.


Even though things of significance, both good and bad, seem to happen to the Jews within a few years, there really is no biblical basis for looking to the blood moons in our estimation.  Given the record, one again, the two of the 20th century happened in proximity to good events, and the one near 1492 a bad one, nobody really has a basis for concluding either way what is likely to happen if God uses the tetrads as signs.  So while they may be items of interest, the next one is in 2033, they are not predictive of the future, as in good or bad, so Christians have no reason to anticipate, or fear them.  We look to trends to determine where we stand, not dates.  That is the best way for use to let our hearts not be troubled in this day of uncertainty.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Christian Love In This Modern World

My dear friends:

In view of a number of recent happenings I am reminded of a scripture I make a point of looking at often, it is 1 Corinthians 13 1-3:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.


What this reminds me is that no what I may do, or how much, or how powerful my works, presentation, or whatever, if I do it out of any other motive than love, then my works and actions are worthless, of no account. God hold us to no less a standard than this, we are to follow the Royal Law of Love (James 2:8). So what does that mean for us as Christians? Let's look at the topic some.

Christians are not under the Law of Moses, let's get that out of the way before we go any further. James, in the verse I cited pointed out that love is the Law's fulfillment, we are called to fulfill the law, not follow it. To that end Jesus left us to “commands,” taken from the law, but applied in a new way. We find that when Jesus was asked what the most important law was. His reply was:


But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
(Mat 22:34-40)

The first is from the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and is just that, the first and most important law for us to follow. The second is found in Leviticus 19:18, which shows both the breadth and depth of Jesus knowledge and understating of the law, that he could take two laws from different books of the law and rate them so well. Jesus would add another “command,” or Law of Love, so named because all of them require love instead of obedience, but that one isn't really relevant to this post.

I'm going to take the second one first here for reasons which will be seen later. So, what does it mean to love our neighbors I've already blogged on the subject of love in the Bible here (http://stanley-loper.blogspot.com/2011/10/love.html), it might be a good idea for you to take a moment and read through that post. However, the word Paul and Jesus used was αγαπη and it's verb form αγαπαω, which in short, is pure and unselfish love which asks nothing back from the one loved.

That kind of love tries to avoid real harm to ones neighbor. So one who loves their neighbor in that way won't steal or cheat from them, won't hold them up for ridicule, will always be ready to help them if they need it and won't retaliate against neighbors who hate or harm them beyond minimal self defense if there is no other choice. They will go so far as to take an insulting slap, as Jesus told us to. They will provide a good example of what it means to be a true follower of Christ for their neighbor to see and show them the way.

Sadly, the belief has arisen in this culture is that it is wrong to “hurt” others feelings by refusing to endorse a lifestyle a Christian sees as headed down the “wrong path,” one of the meanings inherent in the Hebrew word for “unrighteous.” Think about it, real love instead requires one to tactfully point out a wrong course of another instead of refraining from any sort of criticism, or condoning a harmful course. We all point pout the dangers of smoking to friends we love, don't we?

Which also leads us now to the “first command.” We are to love God with all our heart and being, as Jesus stated above. That means we are to put him first in our lives and live them in such a way as to please him. I won't get into everything that means, that's because doing so requires an accurate knowledge of the God who has been misrepresented by a church system which departed from God's truth to meet the requirements of a state religion. But the fact is that God requires something of those who would follow him through his son, Jesus Christ. That is that they live their lives a certain way. That way is laid out for us at Acts the fifteenth chapter:

For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.” (Act 15:28-29)

So Christians are abjured from eating certain things, and from fornication, the point which is filling so many columns and blogs these days. The Greek word for fornication is πορνεια and covers a wide range of activities, including homosexual activities. Now, note, this is what called Christians do, they are to “abstain” from these things, not force others to. A stronger form of the same Greek verb “abstain” is found at 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and can be translated in that instance as “Avoid every appearance of evil.” Many Christians take this to mean that they are to avoid any activity which can be seen as endorsing a course of sin. Jehovah's Witnesses, for instance, have refused blood transfusions based on their understanding of these passages since the end of WWII. Many others try to avoid meat product which use blood in their diet, we are among those. To this day there are innkeepers who will refuse a room to couples they believe aren't married. And others have concluded they cannot serve celebrations of gay marriage, a form of πορνεια. That, they conclude, is a part of showing their love for both God and neighbor by avoiding “every appearance of evil.”

I can go into detail about the way fornication harms people, with unstable relationships, unwanted pregnancy and children, and a much higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases, some deadly, and here in America one in particularly still raging through the male homosexual community at a much higher rate than the rest of the population. Love for you, my neighbor moves me to point those things out. And love for God means we will never, ever accept the pursuit of πορνεια as something right, much less equivalent to following the Bible's commands, as we have all of our life as we understood them.

It is our firm belief that even for those not called to the Christian hope and race, following the plainly laid out moral course in the New Testament is the best course for anyone who wants to avoid some of the heartbreak in this world. And we appeal to anyone reading who isn't already in the race to look at the Gospel, the essential doctrine of the Christ and seek to join it. And if not, to consider the Bible's wisdom, which can help one live a life free from many of the worries of this world.

Thank you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Essential Doctrine of the Christ




“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
(Rom 3:23; ESV)

What is the essential doctrine of the Christian faith?  We get different answers to that question depending on who we talk to.  However we propose to use the Bible to demonstrate to our readers’ satisfaction that the Ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus and the companion teaching of the Restitution of mankind to its lost estate are the essential and central teaching of God’s word and the Gospel.  This is what was foremost in the minds of the Apostles and others as they wrote the books of the New Testament as we will see as we progress in this short consideration of this very important subject.  We will by no means treat this subject comprehensively as there are too many verses and passages to include in the short amount of space we have.  However, I will mention a book which does at the end.

To find out why mankind ended up in the fix it is in we have to go back to the beginning, to the first book in the bible, Genesis.  In the first chapters we are told That God created the heavens and the earth; and then we are told how God spent seven “days,” or more precisely “eras,” preparing the earth for human habitation (Gen. 1).  Towards the end of chapter one and through chapter two of Genesis we are told that to people were created, married, and placed in a garden which provided for all of their needs.  But in chapter three, something happens.  First the woman, Eve, then her husband, Adam, are tempted and break the only law given them by God, the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So, as Paul explained to the Roman Christians:  “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom 5:12).  That, in a nutshell, is why we are in the sorry condition we’re in with sin and death.

The essential doctrine of Christianity is that God didn’t leave us in that condition and did something about it. Paul carried the thought forward for us, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Rom 5:18-19).  So the answer was to provide a ransom for mankind, because of one man’s disobedience and sin we all die, but God reversed the situation through the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ (vs. 17).

To understand how that works it is important to understand a very important principle of God’s justice, and it is why Paul emphasized the thought of one man bringing in death and the other life.  That principle is exact equivalency of the punishment fitting the crime.  According to the law:

And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death. And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast. And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again. And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.
(Lev 24:17-21)

This is the famous “an eye for an eye” law.  And the principle here stated is that exactly what was done must be recompensed exactly.  That was why Paul stated in the earlier cited passage from Romans, “For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).  So what was lost had to be provided for a ransom.

So what was lost?  What was lost was the perfect life of the first man.  He was created perfect and had the prospect of eternal life before him and every human who has ever lived came from him, including Eve, who was made from his rib.   All of us, with the exception of Jesus, received life from him through all the males who preceded us.  That is how life is passed on, from the male to the female.  So, from God’s standpoint all of us were still in Adam’s loins when he sinned, so all of us received the sentence which was pronounced on him before the conception of his first child.  Jesus gave up his perfect life in order to ransom mankind back from death.  That fact is directly stated in three places, twice by Jesus and once by Paul, though the same thing is presented elsewhere in other terms in God’s word:

Mat_20:28  Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Mar_10:45  For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
1Ti_2:6  Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

That is why a Trinitarian god-man couldn’t provide the ransom necessary.  What was required was a perfect man, a man who existed on the same level of existence as Adam, and we in him, did before his act of disobedience changed everything for us.

But did Jesus live and die to give said ransom?  That is a legitimate question since scholars, some of them nominally Christian and teaching in seminaries, don’t believe it happened, that it was all a myth.  But Paul expounded on the fact of Jesus’ sacrifice and that message to the Corinthians reassures us of the fact of the Christian message.  So, with what we’ve written so far in mind, let’s go through his message:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; (1Co 15:1)

So Paul state’s right up front that he is about to declare the Gospel, the essential doctrine of Christianity:
By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (1Co 15:2-4)

So he states plainly that Jesus died according to the scripture, that is what I wrote about from the law, which is only part, and he rose on the third day after his death, which was also prophesied in scripture (Matt. 12:38-40, where Jesus predicts this using Jonah).  Then Paul goes on to prove what he says:

And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1Co 15:5-9)

That is quite a list of people who saw the resurrected Jesus and includes one which is only alluded to in the Gospels without giving any details (Lk. 24:34).  Paul then spends two verses on a personal side note before giving one of the most profound refutations for the notions that Jesus was not resurrected and why it was necessary that he was:

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. (1Co 15:12-23)

So there it is, the Essential Doctrine of Christianity.  In a nutshell it is that Adam sinned and was condemned and all of us along with him by virtue of our being in him.  And Jesus was born as a perfect human to provide a ransom for all by ransoming Adam, along with all of his offspring by virtue of the same reasons as the fall, by giving up that life on behalf of us all.  That he did so, along with his resurrection, which was witnessed to by upwards of over five hundred people.  Thus we have a guarantee that he not only was successful, but that all the dead will be resurrected and all given the opportunity of eternal life, each in his own place.

The book I mentioned which does comprehensively treat the subject is The At-One-Ment Between God and Man, and can be purchased here.

By way of disclosure I'm just a Brother in Christ to the folks I linked to and know some of them.  That is the site where I purchase most of my personal literature.