The Problem of the Apparent Nonfulfillment of the Levitical Covenant

The Problem of the Apparent Nonfulfillment of the Levitical Covenant

The Problem of the Apparent Nonfulfillment of the Levitical Covenant

It is important to recall how the Levitical covenant lasts until the destruction of the Second Temple, although the Zadokite priesthood may not have endured nearly as long. The Zadokites apparently managed to retain the high priesthood until the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes. What became of the Zadokite priesthood thereafter remains a matter of debate.136 This raises the very difficult question of the apparent nonfulfillment of the Levitical grant-type covenant of perpetual priesthood, as well as Ezekiel’s prophetic oracle regarding the Zadokites. A comprehensive treatment of such questions is well beyond the scope of this study.137 Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that there are canonical considerations that argue both for and against the permanence of the Levitical covenant. In other words, there is a tension concerning the status of the Levitical covenant/priesthood in the Bible itself.

To begin with the considerations against its permanence, these may be enumerated as follows. First, the Levitical priesthood arose as a result of Israel’s sin (Exod 32:25–28). The second consideration is closely related: the original intent of God was a royal priestly primogeniture for all Israel (Exod 4:22; 19:6).

To recapitulate what we have seen above, a natural royal priesthood of the firstborn son seems implicit in the biblical narrative from Adam through the end of the patriarchal period, that is, throughout the Genesis narrative. In Exodus, this royal priestly primogeniture was offered to Israel in both a collective and individual sense: Israel was to be God’s firstborn son with a priestly role toward the nations (Exod 4:22; 19:6) and within Israel the firstborn sons (apparently) were to serve as ministerial priests (Exod 19:22, 24:5).138 This priestly firstborn role was forfeited by Israel to the Levites after the golden calf incident (Exod 32:25–28; Num 3:40–51). Thus the Levites were appointed to assume the covenant of priestly primogeniture in Israel, but they, in turn, forfeited the fullness of their covenant, first to Phinehas and his descendants (Num 25:12–13), and then further to the Zadokites (Ezek 44:9–15).

This in itself suggests that the Levitical covenant economy was not God’s original intent for Israel, but a remedial response to their hardheartedness. It may be viewed primarily as a corrective arrangement that naturally retains something of a provisional character. Israel stood in need of some temporary Levitical remediation, during which time the Levites would instruct and guide Israel in the practice of holiness, while retaining a subordinate share and a mediatory role in the original covenant vocation that God issued to his “firstborn son” to serve as “a kingdom of priests” (Exod 4:22; 19:6). In fact, future generations of Israel’s twelve (lay) tribes are nowhere forbidden from aspiring to merit the royal priestly call their fathers forfeited at Sinai and in the wilderness. This may have been the overarching purpose behind God’s dual covenant plan with Israel.

To use an architectural metaphor, the whole Levitical economy was a scaffolding erected around the House of Israel in order to repair it. The divine architect was free to use the Levitical priesthood for as long as it took to restore the House of Israel fully to the covenant. Thus, in the eschatological age when Israel’s idolatry (e.g., the sin of the calf) would be definitively overcome and the hard-hearted sinfulness of the people completely removed (Jer 31:31–34; Ezek 36:25–27), the Levitical economy would no longer be necessary, precisely because it had served its purpose. The scaffolding could be removed since the house had been repaired: the people would be restored to their original royal priestly primogeniture promised them before they sinned with the calf (Exod 4:22; 19:6).139 The Levitical covenant may be viewed primarily as a corrective arrangement, then, in which case it naturally retains something of a provisional character.

Third, the Levitical grant-type covenant is anomalous in that it is nowhere founded on an oath. We have observed that in general, an oath by the suzerain is a formal necessity for the establishment of a covenant of grant. Nonetheless, while having all the other features of a grant-type covenant, no divine oath for the Levitical covenant can be found in the Law, the Prophets, or the Psalms. This fact may be another indication of its apparent provisional character described above; in any event, we will see in Chapter 10 that the author of Hebrews sees in it evidence for the transience of the Levitical covenant.

Fourth, certain prophetic texts more or less explicitly suggest an eschatological change of the Levitical covenant economy. We leave out of consideration for the moment certain texts that imply the inadequacy of the Levitical priesthood’s Temple (e.g., Isa 66:1–2), sacrifices (e.g., Isa 1:11; 66:3–4; Ps 50:7–15; 51:16–17), and covenant (Jer 31:31–34; Mal 2:1–9), since the interpretation of these texts is complex. A more obvious challenge to the perdurance of the Levitical priesthood is found in certain other texts of Isaiah which suggest an eschatological opening up of the priesthood to all of the Lord’s people and even foreigners:

For I know their works and their thoughts, and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues, and they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations … and they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their cereal offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. (Isa 66:18–21 RSV)

The antecedent of “them” in v. 21 is ambiguous: it could refer to “your brethren” (presumably Israelites) from v. 20 or it could be the same “them” as in v. 19, namely, “all nations and tongues.” In either case, it suggests an eschatological age in which “priests and Levites” will no longer be selected only from the descendants of Levi but either from all Israelites or from all nations.

A general priesthood of all Israelites seems suggested by Isaiah 61:5–6:

Aliens shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; but you shall be called the priests of the Lord, men shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their riches, you shall glory.

On the other hand, a priestly status even for foreigners seems suggested by Isaiah 56:6–7, which speaks of non-Israelites being able “to minister” (see Jer 33:21) to the Lord, “to be his servants” (see Num 4:28; 8:11, 15, 19, etc.), and (apparently) to offer acceptable sacrifices:

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isa 56:6–7 RSV)

Thus, we have four canonical considerations that would argue for the provisional nature of the Levitical covenant and its eventual alteration or cessation in the future age. On the other hand, certain biblical texts affirm the unbreakable perpetuity of the Levitical covenant of the priesthood. Besides Exodus 40:15 and Numbers 25:13, the most compelling prophetic texts in this regard are found (surprisingly) not in Ezekiel but Jeremiah:

For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn cereal offerings, and to make sacrifices for ever.…” Thus says the Lord: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me. (Jer 33:17–18, 20–22 RSV)

Here, in no uncertain terms, the Levitical covenant is made as permanent as the covenant with David and the covenant with all creation (cf. Sir 45:15, 24–25).

The tensions between this text and the considerations we have raised above are palpable. Is it possible that there is a biblical-theological solution to this tension which recognizes the Levitical covenant as, in some sense, both perpetual and provisional?

The status of the priesthood between the old and new covenants is addressed in the New Testament most directly by the Epistle to the Hebrews and First Epistle of Peter. Between these two epistles it is possible to construct a new covenant theology of priesthood in which the Levitical covenant is in one sense replaced, and in another sense, maintained and fulfilled.

Hebrews stresses the discontinuity between the priesthood of Christ and the Levitical priesthood. As we will see at greater length in Chapter 10, the author of Hebrews points out not only the lack of the requisite divine oath (Heb 7:20–21) but many other indications of the impermanence of the Levitical covenant economy as well. According to Hebrews, with the coming of Christ, the natural, royal priesthood of the firstborn son—lost to Israel since the golden calf—is restored (cf. Heb 1:2, 6; 7:1–28; etc). Since there is now adequate atonement, healing, and forgiveness for Israel’s sin (and that of all humanity), the Levitical economy that arose as a result of that sin is no longer necessary (Heb 10:11–18). To return to the architectural metaphor, the scaffolding of the Levitical covenant may be removed, because the purpose for which it had been constructed—the restoration of Israel’s royal priestly primogeniture—had been accomplished in Christ.

But is there any participation of the Lord’s people in this royal priesthood of Christ? The author of Hebrews suggests there is. In Hebrews 1:6, the author applies to Christ the theologically charged term ho prōtotokos, the firstborn, a status that entitles him to royal and priestly privileges (cf. Heb 7:15–17). The term is used only once more near the end of the Epistle, this time in the plural, when the author refers to his readers as the ekklēsia prōtotokōn, “the assembly [or church] of the first-born” (Heb 12:23 RSV). The faithful participate in Christ’s status as firstborn. It follows that the privileges of the firstborn, namely kingship and priesthood, accrue also in some sense to the individual believer.

This is made more explicit in 1 Peter 2:5, where the author speaks of his readers being “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Those “who believe” (v. 7) become “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (v. 9). This brief verse clearly echoes Exod 19:5–6 as the author applies the concepts of sĕgullâ (“special possession”), mamleket kōhănîm (“royal priesthood”),140 and gôy qādôš (“holy nation”) to the Christian community. The theological message is clear: for those who believe in Christ, the corporate royal priestly primogeniture promised to Israel prior to the calf incident (Exod 19:5–6) is restored. Everyone “born anew” through Jesus Christ (see 1 Pet 1:3) partakes of this priesthood, including those who were priests and Levites under the old economy. The numbers of old covenant priests who came to faith in Christ were not negligible, according to Acts 6:7. These descendants of Levi who entered into the new covenant did not cease to be priests but became priests of a different sort. In Christ, the royal priestly firstborn, they became royal priestly firstborns (Heb 12:22). Thus, the promise of the grant-type covenant to Levi is never broken. The promise of the Levitical covenant was not that every single descendant of Levi (or Phinehas or Zadok) would serve as a priest, nor that his descendants and only his descendants would be legitimate priests, but simply that he would never lack descendants who would be priests before the Lord (cf. Jer 33:18; Sir 45:7, 15, 24; Exod 40:15, Num 25:13). In the new covenant, all God’s people participate in Christ’s priesthood—thus, nothing is taken away from the Levites who enter the new covenant. However, the rest of God’s people gain what previously only the Levites enjoyed. In this way, the covenant with the Levites is not broken, even though the bicovenantal economy under which the Levitical priesthood operated is replaced. The canonical tension between the permanence and transience of the Levitical covenant is resolved.

Finally, although no definitive treatment of the subject is possible here, we may note that Luke, in his account of the presentation (2:22–38), portrays Jesus as a holy firstborn Israelite with a natural priestly status.141 Most commentators note that this Lukan narrative is quite anamolous on careful reading. Luke describes Jesus as being dedicated or presented in the Temple in fulfillment of the Law. However, the Law did not require the presentation of each firstborn. Exodus 13:13 required all firstborn males to be redeemed, like an unclean donkey. Yet Luke’s quotation concerning the firstborn (2:23) is based not on Exodus 13:13 but on Exodus 13:1–2, which speaks not of the redemption of the firstborn but of their consecration to the Lord. Furthermore, Luke records no redemption ritual being performed for Jesus.142 C. H. Talbert describes the situation succinctly:

The prescription of Exod 13:2 concerning the first-born son was literally fulfilled in the case of Jesus, the firstborn (Luke 2:7), who was not ransomed (Exod 13:13; Num 3:47; 18:16). Contrary to normal custom, Jesus was dedicated to God and remained his property.… The closest parallel to this emphasis is found in 1 Samuel 1–2, where Hannah gives Samuel, at his birth, to the Lord for as long as the child lives.… If Jesus, in a similar manner, was dedicated to God and not redeemed, he belonged to God permanently. This would explain the reason Jesus would not understand why his parents did not know where to find him in Jerusalem (2:48–49): since he was God’s he could be expected to be in his Father’s house, as in the case of Samuel. At the plot level of the narrative, Jesus had made a personal identification with the decisions his parents had made about him at his birth.143

Talbert’s findings agree with those of B. Reicke: “Thus Lk 2:22 uses παραστῆσαι τῷ κυρίῳ [parastēsai tō kuriō, to present to the Lord] in connection with the presentation of Jesus in the temple, and we best understand this in terms of the presentation of a sacral minister to his master. The author would seem to mean that like Samuel or a Nazirite Jesus is basically set in and dedicated to the service of God. In this Messianic sense the law of the consecration of the firstborn (Ex 13:2, 12–15) is here fulfilled, v. 23. The narrator is not implying, then, that this kind of presentation is normal for all Israelites.”144 Thus, Luke presents Jesus as a righteous firstborn who—unlike other Israelite males since the calf incident—is not redeemed from service to the Lord (Exod 13:13) since he is not unclean, but consecrated as a firstborn (Exod 13:1–2). As H. D. Park observes: “On the basis of the fact that Jesus is dedicated to the Lord not as a Levite or a priest but as a firstborn son in Lk 2:22–23, it seems justifiable to conclude that Jesus is consecrated to the Lord in the sense of a firstborn male and in the sense of a voluntary gift to the sanctuary.”145[1]


136 Some scholars believe that the origin of the (Essene?) community at Qumran may stem from the Zadokites losing the high priestly office. See F. M. Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1961) 127–69; idem, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 334–42. But to the contrary, see A. Schofield and J. C. Vanderkam, “Were the Hasmoneans Zadokites?” JBL 124 (2005) 73–87; and more generally, J. C. Vanderkam, From Joshua to Caiaphas: High Priests after the Exile (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2004).

137 The apparent cessation of the Davidic and Levitical covenants gave rise to messianic hopes, but the subject of “messianism” in later Judaism is fraught with complexity. Variations of Davidic and Levitical forms of “priestly messianism” emerged, like those found in the Qumran scrolls. See J. Marcus, “The Jewish War and the Sitz im Leben of Mark,” JBL 111 (1994) 441–62, who notes: “Even at Qumran, where two Messiahs are expected, a Davidic one (‘the Messiah of Israel’) and a priestly one (‘the Messiah of Aaron’), the term ‘the Messiah,’ used absolutely, refers to the Davidic figure” (457 n. 76). On the larger subject, see D. L. Olayiwola, “Messianic Metaphor in Levitical Covenant,” Bible Bhashyam 17 (1991) 221–32; Zerafa, “Priestly Messianism in the Old Testament,” 318–41; W. M. Schniedewind, “King and Priest in the Book of Chronicles and the Duality of the Qumran Messiah,” JJS 45 (1994) 71–78; G. J. Brooke, “The Messiah of Aaron in the Damascus Document,” RQ 15 (1991) 215–30.

138 See N. H. Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1991) 107, who comments on the identity of “the priests” in Exod 19:22: “According to Exodus 28 and 29, the priesthood was not established in Israel until after the Sinaitic revelation, which would make the present reference to priests, like that in verse 24, an anachronism. Many modern scholars regard these verses as reflecting a different strand of tradition about the origins of the priestly institution. Jewish commentators understood ‘priests’ here as referring to first-born males, in that the latter functioned as priests until they were replaced by the Aaronids, as recounted in Numbers 3:11–13 and 8:16–18.” See also the comments of Wenham (Numbers, 97–98), on the dedication of the Levites at Sinai on the occasion of the “second passover” in Numbers 8–9: “Thus the dedication of the Levites to take the place of the first-born is very appropriate here [Num 8], for the next chapter describes the second passover.” Wenham also states: “The Levites are being substituted for the first-born Israelites, who as a result of the passover were given to the Lord” (98).

139 Briggs (Messianic Prophecy, 103) comments: “This is the way in which the seed of Abraham is to be a blessing to the world.… Thus Israel was called to a universal priesthood. This priesthood was prior to the establishment of any priestly office in Israel.… This universality in the calling of Israel as a nation is at the basis of all the Mosaic institutions, and was not abrogated by any subsequent legislation. The selection of an order of priesthood in Israel, at a subsequent time, did not do away with the universal priesthood of the nation. The establishment of a royal dynasty did not supersede the royalty of the nation. The promise maintained its validity in all the subsequent history of Israel.… In the priesthood of the nation there is the generic priesthood which advances through the Levitical, Aaronic, and Zadokite lines, until it culminates in the Messianic priest.”

140 On the translation, “royal priesthood,” rather than “kingdom of priests,” see John A. Davies, A Royal Priesthood: Literary and Intertextual Perspectives on an Image of Israel in Exodus 19:6 (JSOTSup 395; London: T. & T. Clark, 2004).

141 Note Luke’s description of Jesus as the firstborn of Mary in Luke 2:7, and commentary by J. A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke 1–9 (AYB 28; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980; reprint, New Haven: Yale University Press) 407.

142 R. Brown comments: “It has been argued that the reason why Luke does not mention the redemption of the child Jesus through the payment of the five shekels is that he wants the reader to think that Jesus stayed in the service of the Lord” as a priest (The Birth of the Messiah [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979] 449). See discussion in P. Gadenz, “The Priest as Spiritual Father,” in Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God (ed. S. Hahn and L. Suprenant; Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 1998), 228–29.

143 C. H. Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel (New York: Crossroad, 1989) 36. See also B. Reicke, “Jesus, Simeon, and Ana (Luke 2:21–40),” in Saved by Hope: Essays in Honor of Richard C. Oudersluys (ed. J. I. Cook; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 100: “In the present case, the prescription concerning the firstborn in Exod 13:2 was fulfilled literally, so that Jesus was really given to the Lord and not ransomed like other males in accordance with the instruction about substitute offerings added in Exod 13:13.… Against normal custom the child Jesus was thus dedicated to God, and remained his property. This exceptional obedience to God’s will implied fulfilling the law on its messianic level, that is, the law understood as evidence of the Lord’s dispensations for the salvation of his people.” Jesus is much like Samuel, Hannah’s firstborn son, who was dedicated to the Lord’s service (1 Sam 1:28), served as priest (1 Sam 2:11, 18), and replaced Eli the high priest as judge of God’s people (cf. 1 Sam 2:22–33, 4:18, 6:15). This fits into a larger Samuel-Christ typology-evident in the infancy narratives: one has only to compare the Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55) with Hannah’s song (1 Sam 2:1–10) or the accounts of the growth of Samuel and Jesus in stature and favor (1 Sam 2:26; 3:19–4:1; Luke 2:40, 52). The possibility that Luke, in his description of the relationship of John to Jesus, is showing the provisional Levitical priesthood giving way to its fulfillment in a righteous firstborn Israelite who will be raised up as a faithful priest (1 Sam 2:35) and so restore the true priesthood of Israel, poses an intriguing avenue for further research.

144 B. Reicke, “παρίστημι, παριστάνω” TDNT 5:837–41, here 840–41. See also the following note.

145 H. D. Park, Finding Herem? A Study of Luke–Acts in the Light of Herem (LNTS 357; New York: T. & T. Clark, 2007), 160.

[1] Hahn, S. W. (2009). Kinship by covenant: a canonical approach to the fulfillment of God’s saving promises (pp. 166–172). New Haven;  London: Yale University Press.

Evidence for Traducianism

Evidence for Traducianism

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The Biblical Evidence for Traducianism32

First, from the beginning, male and female were considered one species, two sharing human life (Gen. 1:26).

Second, both male and female, not just male, were broadly called “Adam” (5:1–2).

Third, Eve was made from Adam, not separately (2:21–22).

Fourth, creation was complete from the beginning (2:1–3), and God has rested from creating ever since (Heb. 4:4).

Fifth, the Bible speaks of the unity of male and female (1 Cor. 11:8), one coming from the other.

Sixth, Eve is called “the mother of all the living” (Gen. 3:20), a title most appropriate if all other human life came from her.

Seventh, Adam had children in his image (5:3; cf. 1:26), which makes sense if his life was truly transmitted to them by natural generation.

Eighth, flesh (Gk: sarx) can mean “whole person with body” (John 3:6; cf. 1:14; Acts 2:17; Rom. 3:20) rather than just the transmission of a physical body (as is contended by the creationist view of the origin of the soul).

Ninth, likewise, in Romans 1:3, flesh, which comes from physical generation, refers to one’s whole humanity, not just to the body.

Tenth, Acts 17:26 kjv says that all who are God’s offspring (image) are made of “one blood,” which is accomplished by natural processes.

Eleventh, Hebrews 7:10 teaches that Levi was in Abraham’s loins and came by physical transmission from him.33

Twelfth, Psalm 139:13–16 reveals that our personal substance, which is more than physical, was made in the womb by a natural, God-ordained process.

Thirteenth, the body in the womb is referred to as a person in many passages (e.g., Job 10:10; Ps. 22:9–10; Jer. 1:5). In addition, person is more than the physical aspect of humanity.34

Fourteenth, Romans 5:12 says we all sinned “through one man” [Adam]. This implies that sin, which is possible only for a person, can be transmitted by natural processes.

Fifteenth, 1 Corinthians 15:22–27 affirms that all humans were “in Adam.”

Sixteenth, Ephesians 2:3 makes plain that we were all born with a sinful nature, and mere bodies without souls cannot sin.

Seventeenth, Psalm 51:5 declares that we were conceived in sin, something not possible unless there is a human soul at conception.

Eighteenth, and finally, Jesus is said to be from the “loins” of David (1 Kings 8:19 kjv), indicating His genetic connection through His mother.35

The Theological Evidence for Traducianism

There are several theological truths that are best explained by the traducian view of the human soul’s origin.

First, the Bible speaks of the imputation (attribution) of sins from Adam to his entire posterity (Rom. 5:13, 18). It is extremely difficult to interpret this in any actual sense of the term unless sin is transmitted through natural processes.36

Second, the fact that we are born with a natural inclination to sin (Eph. 2:3; John 3:6) favors the traducian view.

Third, the universality of sin supports traducianism, for if sin is not inherited by all at birth, then why are all people born in sin?

Fourth, and finally, the soul/body unity of human nature37 favors traducianism, since it makes sense that soul and body, together, are transmitted from parent to child.

The Scientific Evidence for Traducianism

Remembering that soul (Heb: nephesh and Gk: psuche) means “life,” and that a human life is a human soul, the scientific evidence that human life (the soul) begins at conception is strong.38

First, it is a scientific fact that individual human life (with unique DNA) is passed on by natural generation, from parents to child.

Second, cloning produces the same kind of life without a new creation. Hence, the possibility of human cloning argues in favor of traducianism.

Third, by analogy, human souls, like animal souls,39 are passed on from parents to offspring.

Fourth, and finally, because humans are a psychosomatic (soul/body) unity,40 the body is only part of, not the whole, person. Again, it makes sense that both are passed on together, from parents to child.[1]


32 Most of these arguments are also found in William G. T. Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1894), 2.19ff.

33 Abraham was Levi’s ancestor.

34 See chapter 2.

35 See appendix 4.

36 See chapters 3 and 5.

37 See chapter 3 for detailed definition, explanation, and analysis.

38 See appendix 1.

39 See chapter 2, under “The Analogy With Animals.” Recall that (above) we denied the alleged difference between “animal soul” and “rational soul.”

40 See chapter 3.

[1] Geisler, N. L. (2004). Systematic theology, volume three: sin, salvation (pp. 33–35). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.



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Three Views on the Origin of the Human Soul

Three primary views on the origin of the soul have been held by Christians. One, the preexistence view, has subsequently been declared heretical, since it contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture about the creation of human beings.15 The preexistence view has two forms: platonic (uncreated) and Christian (created). The former serves as a backdrop for understanding the latter.

Two Forms of the Preexistence View

The Uncreated-Preexistence View

According to Plato (c. 427–347 b.c.), human souls are not only intrinsically immortal but they are also eternal (see P); they were never created but are part of the eternal world that exists outside of God (the Demiurgos). Just like Plato’s proposed world of eternal Forms (Ideas), there are also eternal souls that exist by virtue of the World Soul, which animates all things. Before birth, allegedly, these souls enter a body (in a woman’s womb) and become incarnate in human flesh. Thus, human beings essentially are eternal souls in temporal bodies.

So goes the uncreated-preexistence view, and the problems with it fall into three categories: (1) It isn’t biblical, (2) it isn’t scientific, and (3) it isn’t philosophically sound.

First, the Bible clearly declares that human beings were created, body and soul.16 If they were brought into being at a point in time, then they have not existed from eternity.

Second, the scientific evidence points to individual human life beginning at conception.17

Third, an infinite number of moments is impossible, since the present moment is the end of all moments before it, and there cannot be an end of an infinite series of moments (see Craig, KCA). Thus, no human (temporal) being can be eternal.

The Created-Preexistence View

The created-preexistence view, maintained by some early Christians, borrowed heavily from Plato. Origen (c. 185–c. 254) and even Augustine (earlier in his life) believed that the soul existed before birth, but that rather than having existed without creation from eternity, it was created by God from eternity. By insisting on creation, adherents to the created-preexistence view hoped to preserve the Christian dimension of the platonic view, but it was condemned as heresy nonetheless. Augustine rightly reversed this erroneous allegiance with preincarnationism in his Retractions; the Bible declares that human beings had a beginning (cf. Gen. 1:27; Matt. 19:4).

The Creation View: The Soul Is Created Directly by God

Having addressed the two untenable forms of the preexistence view, there are still two other basic perspectives, embraced by orthodox theologians, on the origin of the human soul after the original creation. The first is creationism, examined here, and the second is traducianism, which we will address next.

The essence of creationism, in regard to the human soul, is that God directly creates a new individual soul for everyone born into this world. While the body of each new human being is generated by his or her parents through a natural process, the soul is supernaturally created by God.

Various Christian writers have placed the moment of this direct creation of the soul at different points in the development of the human body. There are several main subviews.

Creation of the Soul at Conception

Most evangelical Christians who hold the creationist view maintain that the creation of the soul by God occurs at the moment of conception. There is both biblical and scientific evidence in favor.18

The Biblical Evidence

David wrote, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5). Jesus was the God-man from the moment of conception, for the angel said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20).

The Scientific Evidence

Modern science has provided a window to the womb. As a result, the evidence is now clearer than ever that an individual human life (soul) begins at the very moment of conception (fertilization).

First, it is a genetic fact that a fertilized human ovum is 100 percent human. From that very moment, all genetic information is present, and no more is added from the point of conception until death.

Second, all physical characteristics for life are contained in the genetic code present at conception.

Third, the sex of the individual child is determined at the moment of conception.

Fourth, a female ovum has twenty-three chromosomes; a male sperm has twenty-three chromosomes; a regular human being has forty-six chromosomes. At the very moment of conception, when male sperm and female ovum unite, a new tiny forty-six-chromosome human being emerges.

Fifth, from conception until death, nothing is added except food, air, and water.

Sixth, and finally, world-famous geneticist Jerome LeJeune (b. 1925) declares:

To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence. (As cited in Geisler and Beckwith, MLD, 16)

Creation of the Soul at Implantation

Other Christian writers maintain that the soul is created at implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus. The basis for this is alleged to be in the fact that identical twinning can occur up to the embryo stage (two weeks, or fourteen days, after conception); thus, it seems implausible to speak of an individual human being where there is still the possibility of two. In such a case we would have to assume, for example, that the original individual (zygote) dies when it becomes the two twins. Further, it is argued that experiments on sheep and mice, which, like humans, have intrauterine pregnancies, show that there is not one individual being before the completion of implantation into the uterus.19

However, there are good reasons to reject this conclusion.20

For one thing, at best, this argument shows only that individual human life begins two weeks after conception, not that actual human life begins then. Indeed, it is acknowledged that there is a living human nature from the very moment of conception.

In addition, if human life begins from conception, it is moot to debate when a continuous individual (person) begins. Human life has sanctity whether or not it is yet individuated (cf. Gen. 1:27; 9:6).

Further, as even proponents of this position agree, this argument is ultimately philosophical, not factual, and, therefore, it should not be used as a basis for treating a conceptus21 with anything but full rights as a human being.

Finally, the later zygotic split (into twins) could be a nonsexual form of “parenting” akin to cloning.22 Consequently, it does not logically follow that a zygote prior to twinning is not fully human simply because identical twins result from a zygotic split.

Creation of the Soul After Implantation

Thomas Aquinas, following the lead of Aristotle (384–322 b.c.), placed the creation of the human soul well after conception. He argued that while the animal soul was generated by the parents, nonetheless, the rational soul,23 in which is found one’s humanness, was not created until forty days after conception for boys and ninety days for girls (CSPL, Dist. III, Art. II).

This view was based on an outdated aristotelian model of biology that has no basis in either science or Scripture. It is an embarrassment both to Roman Catholics and to the pro-life movement in general, since if it were true, a fertilized ovum, initially, would not be truly human, and hence subject to abortion for the first few weeks after conception. Most Catholic theologians are convinced that Aquinas would have repudiated the after-implantation view if he would have been made aware of the scientific facts available today (see Heaney, “AHC” in HLR, 63–74).

Creation of the Soul at Animation

Some theologians have speculated that God does not create a human soul until just before the baby starts moving in the mother’s womb. This, however, is based on outdated scientific theory as well as an inadequate understanding of soul. (Soul was thought to be “the principle of self-motion”; thus, when life began to move in the womb, the mother assumed that God had given a life [soul] to it.)

Creation of the Soul at Birth

Finally, some Christians have argued for the view that individual human souls are created at birth. For this they offer two main arguments.

First, human life is biblically designated from the point of birth (cf. Gen. 5:1ff.).

Second, Adam was not human until he began to breathe, as Genesis 2:7 declares: “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and [then] man became a living soul” (kjv).

Responding in reverse order, Adam was a unique case, since he was directly created by God. Therefore, the fact that he did not become human until he breathed is not decisive for determining when individual human life begins, for several reasons.

First, Adam wasn’t conceived and born like other humans; again, he was directly created.

Second, the fact that Adam was not human until he began to breathe no more proves when individual human life begins today than does the fact that he was created as an adult prove that individual human life does not begin until we are adults.

Third, breath in Genesis 2:7 (Heb: ruach) denotes the origin of “life” (cf. Job 33:4). This indicates, then, that life began when God gave human life to Adam, not simply because Adam began breathing. Human life was later given to his posterity at fertilization or conception (Gen. 4:1).

Fourth, other animals breathe but are not people (Gen. 7:21–22). Obviously, breath, in and of itself, did not make Adam human.

Fifth, medically, many who at some point in life stop breathing later revive (or, they live by the aid of a machine). The unborn human cannot be seen (without instruments) in the womb, and hence is not a part of the social scene until birth.

Sixth, if “breath” is equated with “the presence of human life,” then the loss of breath would mean the loss of humanness. However, God’s Word teaches that human beings continue to exist after they stop breathing (Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:6–8; Rev. 6:9).

Seventh, and finally, the Scriptures speak of human life in the womb long before breathing begins, namely, from the point of conception (Ps. 51:5; Matt. 1:20).

As to the other argument (that human life is designated from birth in the Bible [Gen. 5:1ff.]), it should be noted that the verses on breath do not speak of the beginning of human life but simply of the initial “coming out” event (when the human being begins to breathe). These passages speak about the beginning of observable life, not the beginning of life itself. Even in biblical times, people knew the baby was alive in the womb (cf. Luke 1:44). Birth was not seen as the beginning of human life but simply as the beginning or emergence—the human debut—of life into the naturally visible world.

The Traducian View: The Soul Is Created Indirectly Through Parents

The word traducian comes from the Latin tradux, meaning “branch of a vine.” As applied to the origin of the soul, it means that each new human being is a branch off of his or her parents; that is to say, in the traducian model both soul and body are generated by father and mother.

In response to the creation view (which says that God creates each new life directly in the womb), traducianists observe, first of all, that creation was completed on the sixth day (Gen. 2:2; Deut. 4:32; Matt. 13:35) and that God is resting and has not created since (Heb. 4:4).

Further, traducianists note that the scientific evidence for how an individual human life (soul) begins is clear: It comes from the sperm and ovum of its parents and is first conceived in the womb as a fully individual person.

Finally, traducianists point out that the creationist view does not explain the inheritance of original sin.24 Certainly a perfect God would not create a fallen soul, nor can we accept the gnostic25 idea that the contact of a pure soul with the material body (in the womb) precipitates its fall. The most reasonable explanation is that both fallen soul and body are naturally generated from one’s parent[1]


15 The others are the creation view and the traducian view, explained below.

16 See Volume 2, chapters 18–19.

17 See appendix 1.

18 ibid.

19 Again, fourteen days after conception in humans.

20 See appendix 2 for further explanation.

21 A product of conception, at any point between fertilization and birth.

22 That is, where a new individual life begins without any sexual act by parents.

23 We reject this differentiation.

24 For more on the inheritance of original sin, see chapters 3 and 5.

25 Gnosticism held the erroneous belief that all matter is inherently evil.

[1] Geisler, N. L. (2004). Systematic theology, volume three: sin, salvation (pp. 26–31). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.





The Second Edition corrected, with Notes and Additions.




THE boldest adventurers in reforming efforts were never fortified with sufficient temerity to adopt a system of religion truly rational or sublime. In all ages of the world, the mind of man has been prescribed to certain rules; a deviation from which would incur the severest penalties of persecution, and proscription. It is true, however, that new religions have been established; fresh ideas brought forward; rights, rituals, and ceremonies altered; but these were trifling improvements upon the general principles of common error; nothing having yet appeared truly rational, in the production of our most celebrated reformers.

The sect has generated sect, error producing an error, till at length Christians are divided into as many parties as the Indian tribes, and carry their superstitious scruples to such a length, as to exclude reason, as being incompatible with religion. But those who worship the Deity, contrary to the dictates of reason, must do it conformable to the rude custom of irrational, and savage barbarity, and may be compared to the men of Lystra, to whom, Paul said: “Him, therefore, ye ignorantly worship declare I unto you.”

Were our modern sectaries, who pretend to a superior refinement in the knowledge of scriptural science, permitted to control opinion, how dark and gloomy, how dull and uninteresting to a rational and intelligent being, would all religious treatises appear? And the author of the following sheets would suffer a persecution, no less rigorous than those instituted under the influence of the Popes; and receive as dreadful a sentence of proscription as those pronounced by the pious directors of the Inquisition. To such a length would Christian charity be extended by those who are intoxicated with the pernicious draughts administered by a mysterious religion to its blind votaries. But since opinion is in some measure free, nothing should deter us from propagating sentiments interesting to humans.

No sooner were the chains of monkish policy broken, and the mind of man permitted to explore the wide empire of reason, then an important truth was discovered, that an established Church, is an established tyranny; and if philosophers would pursue their speculations, they would find that all positive institutions of religion, are but a sanctified policy, which with propriety may be considered a holy deception, or a pious fraud. There is no religion extant destitute of able advocates; an Indian Fakier, or a Turkish Mufty, will defend his faith, with equal confidence, as an English bishop will support the Trinity or the divinity of Christ. Nor do I know any religion that would fall, for want of supporters, were they rewarded equally to a British prelate.

How must every human heart sympathize at the recollection of those enormities perpetrated under the specious name of religion—under the mild banner of a human God: those plots and conspiracies formed to propagate a divine system; these holy massacres instituted to establish a belief in holy writ, and those rewards given to Catholic murderers to destroy unbelieving heretics. But St. Dominic’s flaming faggots are finally consumed; the fires of Smithfield are extinguished; the dazzling sword of fanaticism is blunted; those gibbets exhibiting the carcasses of slaughtered heretics, to adorn the mother of Christianity, and of Rome, are moldered into dust, the sublime worship of saints, and the pious adoration of Idols, is left to our own discretion. Religious liberty, and the freedom of conscience is established among us on a pure and rational basis.

Let us then, in the name of GOD, remedy prevailing error, and remove stale prejudices, by contemplating boundless creation, which perpetually exhibits its captivating wonders around us, let us give free operation to the exercise of reason, and improve those moral faculties conferred on us from a source unknown; and finally, let us confide in a beneficent DEITY, to crown our labors with success.



WHEN man feels himself possessed of new ideas or embraces sentiments on celestial or terrestrial objects, uncommon among the great mass of vulgar, he also feels, by instinct a propensity to lay them before the public, for the inspection of a regenerated people, recently emerged from the shackles imposed on them by knaves and impostors. Under this impression, I embark on the arduous task of being the public oppose of popular errors; trusting at the same time, that in exposing those religious foibles, to which deluded mankind are too fondly addicted, I shall not insult the good understanding of the well informed, nor abuse that scope of reason which kind nature has conferred upon me.

Could we but glance at futurity with equal facility as we view the actions of past generations, how would our souls be exalted on contemplating posterity, at so great a remove from rude barbarity, advancing by gradual steps to a more natural image of that perfection, which brightens the features of humanity, and exalts man to those high stations in human life, allotted him by his divine Creator.

Situated as we are in the middle passage between the future and the past, we cannot but look forward with consoling avidity on the rapid progress of human perfection, for, however retarded in its progress, by a combination of kings and priests, it has nevertheless succeeded in arresting scepters from the one, and miters from the other.

The almighty host of reason and of truth strikes deep at the root of evil, while ambiguous priests and their armies of spiritual slaves, grope in the obscure cells of fable and of mystery.

When we take a prospect of the past ages of the world, and recount the numberless enormities committed under the high-sounding sanction of a revealed religion, human nature recoils, and our souls revolt against so unnatural a system.

A liberal education, aided by rational liberty, and the light of reason, emboldens men to hazard opinions, at the present day, for which, in times of yore, the inquisitorial decrees of a vicious priesthood would consign him to the dungeon, and his works to the flames. But as these obstacles to human improvements are surmounted, and the superstitious worship paid to crowns and miters, nearly abolished; let us, while we reflect on past folly, endeavor to improve on modern wisdom.

It would be the work of a voluminous history to delineate the errors of former ages, the wars, and massacres, fomented by one faction of priesthood against another, each professing divine theological inspiration; the stretch of princely power, the cruelties exercised to establish religious tenets, the shifts and stratagems resorted to, in order to establish and seal with a vine impression, the doctrine of the victorious party; and the unnatural edicts of kings and national governors, to bind men down to these tenets, under pain of confiscation and excommunication. All these being foreign to my present plan, I shall proceed briefly to state some general objections to prevailing error and leave this age of philosophy to draw its own conclusion.

Our deluded ancestors were, for the most part, incapable of discriminating between sound reason and ambiguous sophistry, nor was holy writ more revered by them, than doubtful tradition, or human invention. Stories the most idle, and doctrines the most repugnant to nature and reason, never wanted legions of advocates; and cold steel, or flaming faggots, were applied as the cure of unbelief; hence sprung fanatism and frenzy, the offspring of a systematic ignorance established duplicity, art, and imposture.

The infatuated men of old, who idolized and adored the prophetic history, firmly believed it to be the handwriting of an unerring God, and yielding an implicit obedience to the interpretation of their Priests, conceived it too bold and presumptuous to reason for themselves, till at length they insensibly sunk into a blind tho’ tyrannical system of orthodoxy; which kept the world in chains of ignorance for many centuries. No sooner did a bold adventurer rouse from the bed of theology and start objections to the corrupt doctrines of the times, but he was silenced by an imperious, self-interested, and monopolizing clergy, who had no bounds to their usurpations, and scorned to live under any rational control. All reforming efforts prove abortive, while the clergy rules the roast.

At length, some disappointed Monks, or outvoted Cardinals, fired with revenge against the seer of Rome, publicly exposed the absurdities of current orthodoxy. They set up a new traffic for themselves: and as the success of one imposture proves a stimulus to various others, we find the Christian religion divided, and subdivided, into a variety of branches. Perseverance and artifice established every sect into a kind of licensed Order. All are possessed of divine grace; none are exempt from the promises of the gospel.

Kings chuse some favorite system, as the religion of the land; not for their own good, but for that of their loving subjects. The pious clergy reforming with the times, found it their interest to crouch to the foot of monarchy; royal letters patent, by the Lord’s anointed, sealed their dogmas with a divine mission. Separate establishments ensued; one church vied with another, sect accused sect of false doctrine, heresy, and schism: The Bible was resorted to as the rallying point of all controversies: divines of all descriptions treasuring it up, as the grand magazine, which heaven reserves for their mutual purposes. Like a free port for all nations, the Bible harbors all and supplies the contending parties with the implements of war and controversy. This Bible will confute in one passage the doctrine it approves in another. Tenets however doubtful can be proved by scripture, and fancy. From hence originated theological broils, and national calamities: with a variety of evils heaped on man, by the blind leaders in religious ceremonies, which we hope modern wisdom has finally put an end to.

We have now no further need of holy wars to fight the Lord’s battle, nor religious persecutions to establish the word of God; fagots need not be lighted, nor racks, nor gibbets erected, to propagate a divine theology, which has nothing for its object, but slavery to the laity, and revenue to the clergy.

Can a rational being suppose for a moment, that a religion descended from heaven, should spread such terror and desolation wherever it makes its appearance: or that a gracious God, would speak to his peculiar people, in a language not to be understood: or transmit to posterity, a history so obscure and unintelligible, as to leave us in eternal doubts and uncertainties: a history no less difficult to reconcile in all its parts, than to bring the two polar stars into one point: nothing can be a more glaring contrast, than the different constructions each sect puts upon the words of the Bible. To believe what they all say, is impossible, and how to discriminate we know not. Shall we then renounce the fabric, with all its fiction, rhapsodies and concomitant absurdities: or shall we still keep growling in the dark and never find our way, shall we nod approbation to a system of blind mysteries, and refuse to embrace those truths conveyed to us by the light of nature and of reason? we see the Christian world convulsed and agitated, and it only requires the virtuous exertions of enlightened men to restore those captive slaves, under the bondage of Priests, to the family of freemen.

The few remaining fanatics will not fail to brand us with their usual epithets of changelings, shifted about by every wind of doctrine, a natural man, carnally minded, with other cant phrases. But may we not with equal justice retort, and accuse them of shifting their ground, changing from primitive institutions, and borrowing their maxims from the most notorious errors. What are the whole chain of reformers, but the offspring of popery, the illegitimates of superstition and idolatry? If fortunately for the good of man, we could dissipate the clouds that cover so many mysteries and remove the errors of human invention, we should be better able to confute the proud presumption of those who threaten with the vengeance of heaven, all who attempt to alter one tittle of their ritual.

Liberty of thought says the philosopher, is the first of rights, and the most respectable domain, is that of conscience: these being the gifts of nature conferred on man,” who shall say we have not the right to examine.

May we not then under the hopes of impunity examine the precepts of the Christian system, and see whether its boasted morality excess those of other nations, so much reprobated by Christians. We shall

First, with submission to the clergy of all nations, examine the holy order of those missionaries sent by Christian kings, and Roman Pontiffs, to convert infidel nations to Christianity:

Secondly, we shall notice the exemplary virtues of those patriots who graced the golden age: these we shall do by a reference to their respective histories, after which we shall proceed,

Thirdly, to analyze the venerable system of Christianity.

These three things were promised, we proceed, first, to examine the conduct of these Christian missionaries who have traveled into foreign countries to spread the light of the gospel. These, instead of convincing the natives, that they excelled in the practice of moral virtues, have given the loose to every kind of vice, and outdone in every species of plunder and debauchery, those who have lived without religion, and without laws. They had committed every enormity that could make human nature appear monstrous. Few can be ignorant of the cruelties committed by the Spanish missionaries at Mexico and Peru, where they built churches at the expense of the inhabitants, and endeavoring to explain the mysteries of their religion to the natives, in a language of which they were totally ignorant, and afterwards piously slaughtered them as heretics, for not believing what had been so clearly demonstrated to them. When these missionaries had conquered the Island of Hispaniola, they made peace with the natives upon conditions that they would cultivate all their lands for the use of the servants of Jesus, and to furnish them with a certain quantity of Gold every month. The poor wretches finding the task unsupportable, as well as impossible, took shelter in the mountains to screen themselves from their cruel oppressors, but the Spaniards in justice (as they said) to the injuries offered by the natives to God’s people, trained their dogs to hunt them, and fired with superstition, made a vow that each of them would destroy twelve Indians every day, in honor of the twelve apostles; to this might be added a brilliant history of the plunders and ravages committed by our much respected mother country, upon the plains of Hindostan, but, humanity recoils at the dismal recital.

From a view of such scenes of cruelties committed under the banner of a meek and suffering God, and by the real professors of his holy religion, what inference can we draw, but that they look upon their religion to be a mere farce, and the Bible upon which it is founded, to be all a lie.1

We now proceed to notice in the second place the exemplary virtues of our primitive patriots. Men are so infatuated even to this day, that they affect to look back with a reverential awe, and devoutly honor the past periods of the world, with the splendid title of the golden age, admiring what is past, and despising what is present, with the hardened epithet of the age of iron. They indeed affirm, without much authority, that in the patriarchal ages, the earth brought forth her abundance spontaneously, that the Lion and the Tyger were harmless as the Lamb, and that mankind free from tumultuous passions, lived in the utmost simplicity and security: but if the Bible did not confute such accounts, I should not be able to do it, under the authority of that confused and barbarous history, of which the following is a brief abridgment. Instead of all virtue then existing upon earth, the fate of the abandoned cities which were consumed with fire, said to be from heaven, is a proof to the contrary, and gives us an example of the total corruption of ancient times. The diffidence that every man entertained of his neighbor, is no weak argument in favor of their dishonesty. Abraham and Isaac both apprehended that they would be slain for the sake of their wives, and it was no uncommon thing for a man to require an oath of his neighbor that he would do him no harm.

The stories of Judah and Tamer, his daughter in law, and the rape of Dinah, gives us a just idea of the debauchery and injustice of God’s chosen people—Judah condemned Tamer for the crime he had committed with her; —The perfidious sons of Jacob slew the Shechemites after they had ratified a treaty of peace with them, in the most solemn manner;— Jacob bargained with his uncle to serve seven years for his daughter Rachel: when the time expired, Laban shamefully imposed upon him Leah, and had the effrontery to justify what he had done, and exacted another seven years for Rachel;—Jacob deceived his brother Esau;— the sons of Jacob sold their brother Joseph as a slave to the Egyptians;—Moses committed murder; David contrived to have Uriah slain, that he might enjoy his wife Rebecca;—Solomon committed boundless fornications;—and Absalom in the most shameless manner, cohabited with a multitude of women, before a numerous people.

Such, pious Christians, are the accounts of the peculiar favorites of the Deity, recorded in the divine volume, so much admired by ignorance and credulity. But, when Christianity took effect, were crimes less usual? Does history paint mankind as meliorated at so great an event? alas! the reverse is the fact. Gloomy superstition started up accompanied by persecution, which drenched the world in blood. Rome erected a spiritual authority, and indiscriminately trampled on the rights of God and Man; Christian Saints succeeded heathen Gods: witchcraft and miracles were opposed to the eternal unerring laws of nature. On looking over a vast desert of eighteen centuries, we find that Christianity has been the parent of ignorance, and the hand-maid of oppression, cruelty, and superstition. Blind mysteries and fabulous tales are the spiritual food dressed up for the faithful in Jesus Christ.

When Rome, the proud mistress of superstition, assumed a spiritual and temporal authority over all Europe, she not only fettered men’s minds to slavish doctrines but presumptuously laid an embargo on heaven. No more angels shall descend from thence to minister unto men; no more prophets shall predict the will of God; no more miracle to confound the obstinate, but such as are wrought by her own members; and those, like the miracles of Jesus, are done in secret, and seen only by the credulous ignorant. Yet these imaginary phenomenon’s have been trumpeted afar off by the oracles of deceit and were the grand instruments in duping the Christian world into a servile submission to superstitious formalities and idle ceremonies. When a few Christian States reformed from the errors of popery, and shook off the pope’s supremacy, the clergy piously preserved to themselves the means of power and monopoly. They changed indeed the name of their religion, but they firmly maintain the aggrandizing benefices. They are continually disclaiming against the damnable doctrine of the Roman church, who in her turn accuses them of heresy. Thus, an irreconcilable difference pervades the whole mass of Christian professors. The Christian saints are considered as the tutular deities, who preside over the churches dedicated to them. The Catholics have a day which they consecrate to the memory of seven thousand holy virgins, who slept three years and thought it but one night. The English have their St. George; the Scotch their St. Andrew; the Welch their St. Taffy; the Irish their St. Patrick, &c. Churches are dedicated to these imaginary saints, and days religiously observed to commemorate their virtues.

In this country we smell too strong of the old leaven, our churches are dedicated to us know not who, and though we profess to be the most liberal in our religious principles, we have not one church in this great continent dedicated to the supreme Being. Reason dictates, that when we enter a temple, consecrated to religious worship, it ought to be dedicated to the being therein worshipped. The God of nature being the grand object of all rational adoration, every house of worship should be dedicated to him alone. But the great trait in the Christian system is its pre-eminence in the science of contradiction; Christians contemn a deist for unbelief, but they cannot accuse him of idolatry.

A deist believes in a supreme being without an equal, or a troop of infernal deities, called devils or damned spirits. A deist contemplates the glory of omnipotence, in the minutest of his works, and worships God in every particle of his creation; a deist presumes not to dictate to the almighty, what blessings he shall give, or what evils to withhold; a deist is convinced by reason and experience that human petitions will never alter the will of providence; a deist endeavors to make himself happy in his present state, contemns no man for opinions; is liberal, candid, and communicative to all men. But a Christian worships three Gods in the person of one God: and in defiance to the science of numbers contends that, three times one is one, and that, once one is three; he petitions the deity in the most absolute and dictatorial manner; he is dissatisfied with what he has, and is continually coveting more; contemns those who differ from him in opinion, and is ready to persecute his brother to do his God a service. In short, a Christian, is illiberal, narrow minded, and uncharitable in the extreme. They tell us that their God is his own son; that this son is his own father, and that he was born unbegotten, being four thousand years older than his mother. Three Gods are but one God; three eternals are but one eternal, three Almighties are but one Almighty; in short, almost every tenet in the Christian system, is a complete negative to itself.

We shall now contrast a few passages of the sublime medley, called the Bible, by comparing its former with its latter parts, and shewing the difference between the old and new word of God. In the former part we are informed that Elijah never tasted death, but that he was hoisted off alive to heaven in a chariot of fire; in the latter part we are informed that it is appointed to all men once to die: and that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whether Elijah was a man or a composition of flesh and blood, I leave the Christian doctors to determine. Moses tells us to resist evil and seek restitution for injuries done unto us, even to so nice a fraction, as an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth &c. But Christ in direct opposition to him, tells us to resist not evil, and if any one shall smite us on the one cheek, turn unto him the other also. As these two divine legislators differ so materially in their preceptories functions, it is impossible to adhere to them both: and those pious Christians who believe all the Bible to be the revealed will of God, must plainly see that in these opposite precepts, God contradicts himself: which destroys the idea of his being an unchangeable God, the same today, tomorrow, and forever.

How chimerical are those notions which suppose that an infinite God, in the person of man, or angel, should in his flight thro’ immensity, perch upon this earth, and relate those contemptible stories, about Sampson and his foxes: Balaam and his ass: Jonah and his whale: Bell and his dragons, or Tobit and his dog. Two is better than one, that which is crooked cannot be made straight; that which is wanted can never be numbered: with a variety of such frivolities, as are too insignificant to amuse the feeble genius of a child. Such never can be the language of a God infinite in wisdom.

Fellow citizens, insult not the deity by attributing to him a work so barbarously written, as that book called the Bible. Let the following passages serve as a sample of the base production. “Now go and smite Amalek and destroy all that they have, and spare them not: but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass, &c. Again —Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow, let his children be continually vagabonds and beg, let them seek their bread in desolate places, let the extortioner catch all that he hath, and let the stranger spoil his labor, let there be none to extend mercy on him, neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children, let his posterity be cut off, and in the generation following, let their names be blotted out.” The first of these passages carries with it all the marks of cruelty and injustice, and urges the execution of an act shocking to humanity: while the second passage seems rather the language of an infernal demon, than that of a just and merciful God. The only apology, for this last passage, is, that it is the composition of a royal prophet. As for the Psalms of David, the Songs of Solomon, of Deborah and Baruk, they were sung in the camps of the Israelites and in the cities of Judea and Jerusalem, as Homer’s works were sung in the cities of Greece and Athens. Our Bible makers, however, took infinite pains to collect together those scattered remnants of oriental poetry, calling them the word of God: and metamorphosed David into a pious Christian.

On closely examining this holy Bible I find it to be the dregs of ancient folly and presumption. Some parts of it pretend to give an history of the antediluvian and the first ages of the past diluvian world: other parts describe God’s dealings with man, under the Jewish economy, where all nature is said to be inverted to convince those blind people of their errors: yet it appears that God’s government over them was ineffectual, and void of energy. The upholder of worlds could not keep these people in proper subjection; he was therefore, according to this Bible, obliged to resign his command, and suffer a people, for whom he had so parental an affection, to become the common vagrants of the earth. Other parts of this holy book predict what God will do in time to come: but as no specific time is affixed to any event, our zealous partisans are making daily discoveries of the fulfilments of the prophecies.

There is I think one passage of the Bible which bids fair never to be accomplished, while a Christian king is in existence, and which might be truly verified, if those devouring monsters were finally extirpated, viz. “they shall turn their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” When Saul was a peasant, he enquired of a prophet concerning his father’s asses, but when he mounted a throne, his majesty consulted a witch on the success of a battle; such is the universal piety of kings.

A wretch more infernal than either witch or Devil, would be consulted by a king with avidity, while in pursuit of conquest, fame, and ambition.

I now proceed to examine those events called miracles, recorded in the sacred history.

The famous miracle of the red sea dividing, and affording a dry passage to Moses and his followers claims the first rank. If the history of Egypt deceives me not, I find the same sea afforded a similar passage to Alexander the Great and his whole army, when they were pursuing victory, to the destruction of the Persian empire. We are as well assured that the red sea divides once a year in that particular spot, as we are of the hurricanes in the West Indies, or the monsoon in the East Indies. The second grand miracle, is that of the sun’s standing still at the command of Joshua. As this mighty miracle is fully confuted by the Newtonian system of astronomy, I shall pass it by without a single comment. If then, the two greatest miracles upon record are either accounted for, or confuted by the laws of nature, what credit ought to be given to those little tricks played off in the dark by magicians and soothsayers. That Moses was a crafty and arbitrary legislator appears evident from his own account. He took the advantage of thick hazy weather to go up to the mountain, where he affected to consult the deity, and then returned with his head full of proclamations, saying, “thus saith the Lord.” The deluded people, being duped, paid the most religious regard to all his precepts which for the most part were exceedingly stupid.2 His successors pursued the same maxims. Nothing could pass into a law, until it was sanctioned by divine approbation: this once obtained, it was proclaimed with another, “Thus saith the Lord.” Who can justify the bald prophet, in calling from the woods two she bears to devour forty and two little children: or can we suppose that the wisest man that ever lived should be the chief of adulterers and fornicators: though at a period when incapable of further excesses, he made a fortunate discovery, “that all was vanity.” But, passing over those wise men, murderers and miracle makers, I shall proceed to make some observations on the New Testament: and here I trust that every rational Christian, who seriously considers this subject, will look back with horror upon his former folly, and reflect upon himself, for being so long the dupe of faction, the sport of impostures and the victim of deceit.

The Christian system is prefaced with one of the most extravagant fables ever recorded, a fable so much dwelt upon as the source of all human miseries, as renders it impossible for me to pass it over without some animadversions. I allude to the wars in heaven, which, by the by, are only a prelude to the fall of man.

I know not the time, in which this rebellion is said to have happened, but the history of this memorable event is as follows: Satan, once the highest angel in heaven, and next in power to the Deity, stimulated by ambition, aspired to the throne, and with a vast number of his confederates conspired against the supreme power. The deity apprised of the evil imaginations of the insurgents, whose intentions were to dethrone him, immediately summoned a numerous army, at the head of which he placed Jesus Christ, then angel Gabriel, and conferred upon him the high office of commander in chief of the heavenly host. The progress of the proud conspirator was impeded, after a most desperate battle, in which the superior generalship of Jesus Christ, and the valiant powers of his royal army, proved victorious. Satan’s troop of infernals, being so completely routed, as rendered it impossible for him to rally his forces, or take the field a second time. General Jesus pursued his victory, and kept close to the rear of Satan’s retreating army, until he had finally driven the rebels beyond the boundaries of heaven.3

So wonderful was this war conducted that not one soldier was killed, wounded, or taken prisoner on either side, during the whole campaign.

We must further observe that the conduct of the Deity was widely different from that of the present rulers of the world: who immediately execute those that resist their government. The Deity pursued a different plan; he added another limb to creation by forming a place called Hell; he put a crown upon the head of Satan, and gave him the sovereign dominion over that vast empire, with full power and authority, to commit all manner of depredations upon the inhabitants of this earth, as if we had been a party concerned in the rebellion. The first shock we sustained, by this infernal Monster, was at a time when he had taking a country airing in the garden of Eden, where he assumed the form of a serpent, and by the charms of his eloquence, and the rattling of his tail, he prevailed on mother Eve to eat an apple, by which all mankind would have been eternally damned if the Deity had not ratified a treaty of amity and commerce between Satan and the clergy about 1796 years ago.

The conditions of this treaty, for inhumanity cruelty, and injustice, surpasses all rational belief. The preamble is briefly this: a virgin was overshadowed by the holy Ghost: this holy Ghost was God: the virgin conceived, and brought forth a son: this son was God also. There is something very puzzling to make it appear, that Christ is the second person in the trinity. If the holy Ghost overshadowed the virgin Mary and that she conceived by him; then the fruits of that conception must be the son of the holy Ghost: of course, he is the grandson of God, the third person in the trinity, and not the second. But my business is not to prove doctrinal points, I shall therefore leave the doctors of mysteries to manage this part of the subject.

After this God, or, son of God, had lived for thirty years in the most perfect poverty and wretchedness, he commenced the profession of an itinerant preacher; and, in consequence of his seditious tenets, he was accused before the chief judge, who sentenced him to death, which he accordingly suffered. It is said that Christ predicted all this himself, and that it was necessary he should die for the sins of the world. Yet it is remarkable, that the people who executed so necessary a work, should of all others be so much reprobated by Christians.

When Christ was expiring upon the cross he said to one of his fellow sufferers,

this day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

This was the last speech of a poor unfortunate God. But the creed makers assert that he descended into hell. Whether then to believe Christ, or creed mongers, is at the option of the reader, for my part, I believe neither. After Christ was taken down from the cross, he was packed up in a stone sepulcher, and a centurion placed at the mouth of the cave to prevent the corps from being stolen away. Christ however, found means, without breaking the seal, or alarming the sentinel, to creep out of the sepulcher, and take a journey all the way to hell: and was so expeditious, as to return in less than three days, and took his position as before. Fortunately for the Christians, but quite the reverse for the Jews, the sentinel fell fast asleep, and afforded a most special opportunity for an angel to descend from heaven,4 who rolled the stone from the mouth of the sepulcher, and let out Jesus, alive and well, safe and sound. After this, Jesus appeared to a few of his former disciples and gave them some directions concerning their future ministry, when, lo! he took wings and flew up to heaven.

Thus, ends the whimsical history of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection: on which I shall make a few remarks, by way of illustration. I have not knowledge enough in mysteries to know what Christ’s business could be in hell, unless it was to pay his court to the royal family, and, by his personal appearance, convince Prince Satan that the treaty was ratified on his part, by which we were purchased of the Devil, whose property we were before the crucifixion. A papist will inform us, the better to establish the doctrine of purgatory, that Christ did not descend into the hell of the damned, having no sin to answer for. A protestant will retort, that he did not descend into purgatory, because, having no sin, he need not go there for purification: but most Christians agree, that he descended into hell to preach the gospel to the damned, and this clenches the argument at once. I must give it as my opinion that Christ’s stay was too short in hell to deliver many sermons, and that if he was accustomed to preaching from notes, as most of our modern divines are, they were in danger of being scorched by the flames; or, perhaps the climate was too hot to agree with his constitution, and this obliged him to make so speedy a return to the more temperate regions of Asia. The vulgar are led to believe that hell is somewhat below us, or in the bowels of the earth, which notion is chimerical, nor is it possible to know what part of the creation this tremendous abyss occupies. If we may judge from the gestures of divines, in their pulpit harangues, heaven appears to be above us and hell below us, for when they mention heaven they look up, and when they mention hell they look down, it is like looking up for the sun, and down for the moon.

If Christ did really leave the sepulcher, and descend into hell, could he not with equal facility, have risen from the dead, without the assistance of an angel: and made a public appearance before that tribunal which condemned him to death. If he predicted that he would rise the third day after his crucifixion, would not those who pronounced his sentence have anxiously awaited the fulfilment of such predictions, or, if he did rise from the dead, should he not have made his resurrection of equal publicity, as his crucifixion; this he should have done unless he was afraid of being crucified a second time.

If darkness obscured the air, if the earth shook with a convulsive pang, if the vale of the temple was rent at Christ’s crucifixion, he should, at his resurrection, have dashed to atoms the sepulcher wherein he was laid, the proud temple should have been shattered into dust. The palace of Caiphus, and the hall of Pilot, should vanish like smoke, and a thousand phenomenon’s should have taken place, to convince the Jews, that the great Being, whom they crucified, was now risen from the dead, agreeable to his own prediction. But alas! Nothing like this had happened, everything was silent.

In the name of common sense, what great and mighty works did Christ perform, what godlike acts, or monuments of fame did he leave behind to establish his divinity? His greatest miracles are equaled, if not exceeded in the Old Testament. We grant that he destroyed a whole herd of swine, and a troop of devils, at one stroke, he cursed the barren fig-tree, and made a triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem, mounted upon an ass said to be stolen; with a variety of other feats, which taken in the aggregate, make rather against than for his divinity.

Had Christ left anything wonderful, for the world to behold, we would suspend all doubts respecting his mission. But doing so little we have just cause to suspect the whole system to be a fraud piously contrived by a few early impostors. Had he caused a fountain to spring from the dry land and raised its summit to the utmost ken of human sight; had he caused the cross whereon he was crucified to take root, and grow to the size of Babel’s tower, remaining an everlasting monument of his atoning merits; —these might be irresistible proofs of his divinity. But the tale is related without authority, and credited without evidence.

Having shown the feeble principles upon which the Christian system is founded, I proceed to other observations.

Christ says, “Lo I am with you even unto the end of the world.”5 If so, why such distraction among Christians; or why not make another visible appearance, and set matters right; and not give the poor clergy so much room to complain about want of faith; nor exclaim that Christianity is losing ground, and that Deism is gaining hard upon them. Do they insinuate that Satan has violated the treaty, or that he is more powerful than the Almighty; surely not. That there is a want of faith among Christians is evident, else mountains would be rolled about like pebble stones.

In short, under the most favorable circumstance in which we can view the Christian system, it has all the marks of fraud and imposition; its sole basis is founded upon fable, and its rubric more irrational than the heathen worship.

After these bold declarations, me thinks, I hear some Christian exclaim, what, are we to have but one God; Are we to have no Jesus Christ to redeem us; Are we to have no holy Ghost to sanctify us; Are we to have no infernal Demons to inflict torments? Why this would be to unhinge the whole order of our system, and place at once the righteous and the ungodly upon an equal footing. Surely Sirs, little need be said to prove that one true God, is better than a thousand false ones: as for Jesus Christ, he never redeemed you; neither has the holy Ghost sanctified you; these are but the catch words of priest-craft. Men are as independent of these step ladders, by which to climb up to heaven, as they were ten thousand years ago. If Jesus Christ has redeemed you, why terrify the vulgar with the fears of hell? (as for the learned of all nations they have no fear about it.) If the holy Ghost has sanctified you, in what manner does the sanctification appear? Are Christians more honorable or honest in their way of dealing? are they freer from debauchery and vices of every kind than other men? With sorrow I repeat it, the reverse is the melancholy truth. A little Turkish morality, annexed to the purest precepts of the Christian gospel, would constitute a better religion than any now in vogue.

It requires a round faith indeed to credit the existence of a monstrous devil, or that there is such a place as hell, I disbelieve both: yet I am far from the opinion that the righteous and the ungodly will be upon an equal footing; for the same God who reserves to himself the power to reward virtue, will also punish vice, independent to agents, demy gods, or infernal demons. As for unhinging the whole order of the Christian system, that can never be effected while the duplicity of the clergy, and the blind credulity of the laity are proof against reason and common sense, for, truly, such is the system of piety preserved by Christians, that if a man, conscious of the duty he owes his maker, undertakes to vindicate the moral character of the deity, in opposition to the corrupt passages of current orthodoxy, he is sure to be stigmatized with the most opprobrious epithets, and none more contemptible than that of a Deist. It is a truth that I am a Deist, I wish to live a Deist, and hope to die a Deist, yet I shall reproach no man for being a Christian.

The Bible on which the Christian system is founded, exhibits doctrines repugnant to each other, and inculcates principles highly injurious to the moral happiness of man, it delivers precepts of doubtful meanings, and are therefore liable to be disputed, neither do the trumpeters of the Bible’s praise, think proper to be governed by it, but follow their own course of life as heedless as if they had no such thing as a Bible to be governed by. This book is written in such figurative and ambiguous language, hyperboles, and metaphorical phrases, that it appears only calculated to puzzle creed-makers, miracle men, and soul-saviors.

When the church of Rome had the Bible under lock and key closely concealed from the people, mankind was anxious to know the contents of the sacred deposit, but the moment it was divulged its frivolity appeared, and the more this book is read, the less it is regarded. I firmly believe that if this Bible could be generally read without prejudice, there would not be a Christian in existence fifty years hence; it lays down no system of religion whatever, but is equally calculated to establish Atheism as Christianity, and is but a wanton burlesque upon God and his providence. It has done less good, and more real mischief, than any other book that ever was printed.6

If Christianity was instituted for making men better than they would otherwise be, to curb their unwieldy passions, and prevent those murders, massacres, and inhuman butcheries, so frequently committed by Christian against Christian, we find it has entirely missed its aim, and woeful experience proves how prevalent such cruelties are at this day in almost every corner of the Christian world. Not less than two million of Christians including the slaves of despots, have been murdered, massacred, and slain in battle, in the space of four years. Is not this in due conformity to Christ’s words,

Think not that I am come to bring peace upon earth,

no, but to set families and friends at variance: the true character of a Christian then, is to live in a continual state of warfare. And behold one of the most gracious kings in Europe, in justice to his profession, proclaims to the world that he is called upon by his religion, to prosecute with vigor the most infamous war, that ever degraded the page of history. If then the Christian religion is of a celestial origin, as its professors proudly boast it to be, would it, or could it, possibly admit of so many enormities. In short, view it in every direction and it appears a monster in full perfection.

Christ is represented to us as the Prince of peace, though he says himself, that he is not come to bring peace upon earth. O sublime contradiction, peace in one hand, and war in the other, welcome most noble prince to this world below.

It is not, I am persuaded the sublimity of the Christian system that invites so many to its communion, when children, our parents lead us to their respective churches, and train us up to their different ceremonies; but when we begin to think for ourselves, discovering errors not easily digested, we renounce our first rituals, and embrace another doctrine, in order, if possible to arrive at some rational certainty; instead, however, of improving here, we find other tenets equally disgusting, from this we change perhaps to a third, where similar errors still exist, at length, fatigued by making fruitless researches after rational and comprehensive doctrines, we abjure our reason, and join the common cry that “all is mystery.” This was absolutely the case with me for near forty years, till finding with all my endeavors to sift out some consistent mode of worship, I was only changing from one absurdity to another, at length I solemnly renounced them all. Is it not the same with the people of this continent, as it is with those of other countries, who take their religion by chance, not by choice.

If the grand Turk of Constantinople had established a colony in America, instead of the king of Britain, we should be all Mahometans, we should then say of Christians, as the Christians now say of the Mahometans. The reason why a child is brought to the synagogue to be circumcised is because his father was a Jew, and he becomes a Jew himself for the same reason that his father was a Jew before him.

Suppose we were in a mere state of nature, destitute of any religion whatsoever; and that all the religious extant were laid before us to choose from among them one; it is a query which we should prefer; probably that which appeared the most rational. In this case, I see nothing in the Christian religion that would give it the preference to the Pythagorean system; and it is probable Mahomet’s Quran would take the lead of the Mosaic Bible.

As for the Christian religion I know not what it is; Christ never instituted any, he only taught a few scraps of moral philosophy; the whole history of his life, and doctrines might be comprised in a six-penny pamphlet, who taught us then that this man was God? Did he ever say so himself? No. Did any of his disciples say so? certainly not. Christ has not left a single paragraph on record by which we may know his real sentiments; he had no learning in consequence of his poverty, of which he made great merit, and wished none to follow him, but those who are equally poor as himself. But we discover a striking contrast in the professors of his doctrines. He was illiterate, they are learned; he was poor, they are rich; he was humble, they are arrogant. In short, he was destitute, but they have abundance.

Having stretched this second proposition to some length I now proceed in the third place to analyze the venerable system of Christianity, and here I shall endeavor to demonstrate three propositions:

First, that the Christian religion is impracticable.

Second, that it is inconsistent with reason, and

Thirdly, that it is unnatural.

First then; that the Christian religion is impracticable, appears from the following precepts, which enjoins us to pray without ceasing, to sell all and follow Christ, to cut off our hands and pull out our eyes, in case they should offend us, to love our enemies; bless them that curse us, and pray for them that persecute and despitefully use us, &c. Great stress is laid upon the first of these precepts, but we are assured from long experience, that our prayers are ineffectual, and perhaps the reason is best assigned by the apostle, who tells us, that we receive not, because we ask in vain: What then is the use of asking? have we not innumerable instances that human petitions never altered the divine will? David was three days and nights in prayer for the recovery of his child; the answer was, thy child shall die. Are not all the kings of Europe, assisted by their clergy, almost incessantly supplicating the deity in the name of Jesus, for the success of their respective armies. But the God of battle hears them not; neither is it possible to pray without ceasing, because the time required to procure the necessaries of life, is about two thirds, and the remaining time is scarce sufficient for rest and refreshment; therefore, to suppose a man can be in prayer continually, is to suppose an impossibility.

“To sell all and follow Christ, is a precept delivered to the laity only, it does not affect the clergy, as appears by their love of riches, and in general this doctrine has had a contrary tendency, for the more pious and religious the Christian, the more greedy after gain; point out to me a devout Christian, and I will point out to you in the same person, a miserable worldly muck-worm.

“To cut off our hands, or pull out our eyes,” may be a kind of hyperbole, or figurative speech, it is therefore the province of some learned doctor of divinity to explain how far these precepts can be compiled with.

To love our enemies, bless them that curse us and pray for them that persecute and despitefully use us,

are precepts that look well on paper, though it is not the weakest part of Christian philosophy that can strengthen our resolution, or restrain our resentment of injuries done unto us; nor is it common among Christians to kneel and pray for the being who is at the same moment cursing them. “To love our enemies,” is a precept strongly urged by the pleaders of the pulpit, but the pleaders of the bar preach a different doctrine; and if the greater number of adherents amounts to a proof in favor of any precept, we must evidently declare for the latter; consequently, the preachers of the bar not those of the pulpit, are inspired by the holy Ghost.

Secondly, that the Christian religion is inconsistent to reason, will appear by the following. “If a man smites you on one cheek turn unto him the other: he who steals your coat, give him your cloak also: take no thought of to-morrow, neither seek what ye shall eat, drink, or wherewith ye shall be clothed.” All these precepts are truly Christian, and how far they can be compiled with, common experience plainly demonstrates. That they are inconsistent with moral happiness, is beyond all doubt. As for encouraging a thief, or tamely submitting to assault and battery, as applied by the two first articles, it is contrary to the principles of moral justice, or public order. The law of retaliation, as thought by Moses, is far more rational, and, I need not say, more universal. He who takes no “thought for to-morrow, nor seeks what he shall eat, drink, or wherewith he shall be clothed,” would be considered as an idle vagabond; he would be destitute of credit or respect; he would be covered with rags and poverty, and discarded from all society. Nay, where is the Christian, be he ever so pious, that is not anxious to day, for the bread he hopes to consume to-morrow. Even the clergy, the most righteous of all men, are particularly nice in their table furniture; resembling the rich man talked of in the gospel, “They are clothed in purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day.”

I shall now proceed thirdly, to shew that the Christian religion is unnatural. “When thou make a feast, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsman, nor thy rich neighbors &c. But when thou make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the halt, and the blind. Except ye eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Except ye are born again, and become as little children, ye can never enter the kingdom of heaven &c. These are the express words of Christ, consequently they are positive rules, proper to be obeyed by every professor.

The first of these precepts denies a Christian the social enjoyment, which naturally results from friendly visits, and rational entertainments; it confines a Christian to the company of poor, lame, and blind beggars. This precept is so unnatural, that those who have voluntarily chosen Christ for their head, never obey it. Even those who pretend to have obtained patents from heaven, for being ushers in Christ’s school, pay no regard to it, but run through life with as little remorse, or shame at a breach of it, as the most obstinate unbelievers. Can we suppose that a right reverend father in God, by divine providence, a true disciple of Jesus Christ, should provide a sumptuous entertainment, and sit down to glut and gormandize with his rich neighbors, to the total exclusion of the poor, the lame, the maimed, the halt, and the blind, when conscious that he is thereby violating an express command of his lord and master. Or shall we suppose that these right reverends are concealed infidels who believe nothing of the matter? The words of Christ are plain and express, they are not in a lofty stile of language, neither are they hyperboles, or figurative speeches, that mean more than is expressed; they are plain words that do not admit of double dealing. If then these rules of life, laid down by Christ himself, are improper, as well as unnatural, and professors indulge themselves in a total neglect of them, is it not the duty then of our first rate divines to unfold this riddle?

“Except ye eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” It is impossible to enumerate the volumes of controversy this text has given rise to, the contentions it has created, or the tons of human blood it has shed. To suppose that Christ offered his disciples real human flesh to eat, and natural human blood to drink, is so barbarous and inhuman as to shock our grossest feelings. This is one of the Christian mysteries never to be understood, and because of its sublimity it is construed into a sacrament, wherein bread is, by the conjuration of a priest, transubstantiated into flesh, and wine eucrastised into blood, and this bread and wine is taken and received by the faithful “as the real body and blood of Christ.” Thus, a system of cannibalism spiritualized, is the most fundamental tenet in the Christian religion.

“Except ye are born again, and become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” If by being born again, signifies changing from one rule of faith to another, there are few Christians who have not been born and reborn repeatedly. Whether Christ means this kind of re-generation, I know not, it is however unnatural in the extreme, to suppose we can grow downwards, shrink into children, become as little infants, re-enter our mother’s womb, and put her to the painful operation of giving us a second birth. This is so repugnant to the course of nature, and so great an insult to reason, that I should think it a waste of time and paper to say more upon the subject.

There are a variety of other passages equally impracticable, inconsistent, and unnatural as those already quoted, but it would require a book as large as the Bible, to do them justice. I shall therefore wave all further animadversion, and proceed to some cursory observations.

There is a sect of Christians, commonly called Quakers, who profess the strictest observance to the Christian precepts, particularly these; resist not evil, swear not at all, let your charity be in secret, place no dependence in long prayer, &c.” but surely he who prescribed these rules also said, “lay not up for yourselves treasure upon earth.” The friends probably think they may safely indulge themselves in the breach of this latter precept, upon condition that they attend to the former rules. Christ, if I mistake not, cautions his disciples, against making an outward show of their profession, by any external form, or dress, yet the moment we behold a man in a drab colored coat, or an horizontal hat, we immediately think of a Quaker.7 The enlightened and well informed Methodists, are gradually declining into the same maxims, signifying their profession by outward apparel: but I will not say of them, as Christ said to the Pharisees in a parallel case, “Woe be unto you hypocrites for ye have your reward!”

After the monstrous heap of absurdities, thus briefly stated, it is to be hoped that, in future, Christians will not take the liberty to contemn Deists, in the manner they have usually done.

Were I disposed to dispute doctrinal points, my essay would be extended to an enormous size indeed, yet I would wish to know what benefit arises from the frivolous ceremony of infant baptism, or saying a few prayers over a dead person? For my part, I know of none, except good eating and drinking, in the former, and the parson’s fees in the latter, be considered as such. If sprinkling a little water upon the face of an infant, or saying a few prayers over a corps, could operate by way of a charm, these ceremonies would be of infinite utility; but as they appear to be founded in priest-craft, no good can be expected to result from them.

The clergy ‘tis true are civil enough to conduct us to the grave, and wish us a good journey to the other world, being confident that when they have deposited our remains in the silent vault, their deceptions have thus far escaped detection, and this accounts for their successful duplicity. But we will have developed the dark designs of sanctified impostors and decry the cunning artifices of fictitious theologists. In short

There appear to be so many absurd and whimsical ceremonies in the Christian institution, that I am now stimulated to ask the candid reader, (even supposing him to be a Christian,) what apology he can make for the many contradictions and inconsistencies, of which the Christian system consists? Will he answer, that he principally depends upon the faith and virtue of the good clergy, who would not preach a doctrine, knowing it to be false, and as they are a very learned body they are the best judges. That this is the plea of millions of Christian professors I verily believe, and I am no less certain, that the clergy are a very learned body, who will do anything that serves their present interest, and this is the plain reason why religion, and the Bible, are what they are. For instance, if you apply to a doctor of divinity concerning some doubtful tenet, you should first recollect that he is bound by oath of office, and interest, to support, at all events, true or false, the doctrine of that church to which he belongs, and from which he receives his revenues. A popish priest will defend the doctrines of transubstantiation, purgatory, and the works of supererogation, &c. A Presbyterian priest8 will support the doctrines of election and reprobation. An Episcopalian priest will maintain the doctrines of free grace and redemption by the blood of Christ. Each of these priests will take his oath that his doctrines are true and that all the rest are false, so that, lay piety aside, and the clergy are a very learned body indeed.

I am informed that in England when a gentleman takes up holy orders, he is qualified to keep a pack of hounds, and the business of a clergyman being but an idle calling, most of their time is occupied in hunting, shooting, or gambling, so that it is a mystery to know whether those men live to play, or play to live. The clergy of France swore by the four Evangelists that they were inspired by the Holy Ghost, and endowed with the gift of continency; but since the revolution of that country, they have discovered a propensity to women equal to other men. Thus, much for the oath and veracity of the holy order of clergymen.

I find in history that the clergy of England changed from popish to protestant in one reign, from protestant to popish in the next, and from popish to protestant in the third. Who will say that all this shifting and changing was in search of purer doctrine, and not in search of loaves and fishes? It would be a disgrace to my profession if these men were called Deists.

These people seem wonderfully affected, while deploring the sufferings of a poor unfortunate God. But can a rational being suppose for a moment, that the creator of the world should reside for three and thirty years upon this earth, in the contemptible manner ascribed to him, one part of the time necessitated to work with his father at the business of a carpenter, at another time so destitute as not to have whereon to lay his head, and at last to be put to a shameful death by a few of his own creatures? Is it not a fact, that God is as far above the power of human cruelties, as the heavens are above the earth? Can the creature have power over the Creator? Certainly not: if then it should be said in the cant way, the better to get over these difficulties, that there is nothing impossible to God: I answer in the negative, not but I acknowledge the divine will, and admit the power and attributes of the Deity in the fullest latitude, yet I am of opinion that there are many things impossible to God. He cannot create another God as old as himself—he cannot act inconsistent with himself—he cannot divide his own essence, he cannot put a period to his own existence, nor suffer it to be done by others. These plain truths, without any comments, will, I presume, convince the candid, that there are many things impossible to God.

Is it not time to abolish forever the ignominious remembrance of ancient frenzy, and renounce the dreadful custom of commemorating a torturing God. Our thinking faculties enable us to enlarge our circle, and we discover few truths but what a beneficent Deity has permitted us to see. It is therefore by communicating our sentiments through the medium of the press, that we benefit society in a thousand different forms. To exalt the mind to a true sense or omnipotent wisdom, to represent the Deity in the high plenitude of power and of goodness, and show his wondrous works in the rapid movement of blind matter, has been the work of philosophers for many ages, far from the narrow and contracted notions of crucifying to death a God who was from all eternity, far from the magic tricks of putting him in a hollow stone, sending him down to hell, bringing him back again,—and then sending him to heaven in a whirl-wind. A Deist laughs at these contemptible tales, and pities those who are dupes to fables and to mysteries, to priests and impostors.

If there is anything which can astonish the contemplative philosopher, it is the length of time which these magic deceptions are permitted to impose upon the credulity of man, and it is no less surprising that any being of ordinary capacities should abjure his reason, his liberty, and his finest faculties, to embrace ideas incompatible with nature, reason, and all human comprehension.

The word Gospel signifies truth, but why the new testament should be considered as such, is difficult to determine, since it is all fable, mystery, and metaphor. The parables said to be uttered by Christ himself are allowed by all the Christian clergy to be only figurative speeches, which represent things in a foreign sense, after the eastern stile. No such person ever existed as the prodigal son, though it is the most striking fable in the whole Bible, and fully expressive of the natural consequences of prodigality, wantonness, and dissipation. As for the fable of Dives and Lazarus, it is a most extravagant thought. I have often amused myself in the idea, what a roaring and tremendous voice Dives must have had, to be heard from the lowermost pit of hell by father Abraham, who was at the same time in heaven, dandling Lazarus in his arms, as a nurse would a child. In short, this parable is too romantic, and all the rest are too insignificant to admit of serious animadversion. If Aesop’s fables were bound up in the Bible, and called the book of parables,9 they would convey more moral instruction to man, than anything we read of in that vast volume. I shall pass by those letters written by the Saints, which we call Epistles, because they are no more to be considered holy writ than the letters written by one clergyman to another. As for Jacob’s ladder, the miraculous pillar, Peter’s vision, St. John’s dreams, his white horse, the sheet full of wild beasts, and the seven golden candlesticks, I throw them as lumber into the bargain.

Thus, the Bible running through a tedious and uninteresting narration of contradictory circumstances, empties itself in a round assertion, “Were all the works that Christ had done written in a book, the world could not contain it.” What a pitiful notion of the world the people of those days must have had, to suppose it might be covered over with a manuscript.

Citizens, rouse from your lethargy, be no longer amused with the remnants of fusty tales, or the genealogical tree of Eden, disregard at once all antiquated folly, and become the cotemporary of future ages. Contemplate that revelation, which the God of nature and reason has given us, in the bounties of his creation; there you will read a language that requires not the interpretation of theological drones, nor the comments of divine Simonites; you see that religion which has poisoned the world is founded upon a rotten basis, and it appears high time to give to morality a much better support.

Let us all seek truth as if none of us were possessed of it, the opinions which to this day have governed the earth, produced by chance, disseminated in obscurity, admitted without discussion, credited from a love of novelty and imitation, have in a manner usurped their empire. It is time if they are founded in reality to give them the solemn stamp of certainty, and to legitimate their existence.10

Oh, ye clergy! ye learned men! instigated by some untoward destiny to deceive the world, permit me to address these my last lines to you. What say you to those gospel precepts, do you really believe them to be either practicable, rational, or consistent with nature or with reason? Do you patronize after the model of him whose disciples ye profess to be? Are you like him, free from passion, anger, or despair? Have you disgraced the reformed pulpit, or profaned the Roman altar, when an unitarian lecturer exposed the folly of your dogmas? Oh, ye clergy, are you the disciples of that unreasonable man who laid down rules of life impossible to obey? Do you take thought for to-morrow, what ye shall eat, drink, or wherewith ye shall be clothed? Do you pray without ceasing? Do you do good for evil, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that persecute and despitefully use you? Do you invite the poor, the lame, the maimed, the halt, and the blind to your sumptuous tables, to the utter exclusion of your rich friends and neighbors? Do you swear not at all, and resist not evil? In a word, do you do unto all men as you wish they should do unto you? If Sirs, you do not attend to all these precepts, which are truly Christian, what pretensions have you to be the obedient servants of him, who, as your master, allotted you these several tasks and duties to perform, without exception.

He who told you to sell all and follow him, do you not rather acquire all and forsake him? did he not forewarn you against covetousness? And are you not as covetous as if you were to live a never-ending life? You who should lay no store on the good things of this world, are you not as particularly nice in your eatables and wearables, as if your bodies were formed of purer clay than those of other mortals? Do you not in direct contradiction to the precepts of your Lord, entertain your rich friends and neighbors to the total exclusion of the poor and blind, nay, have you not under the sanction of a reformation, even robbed the poor to enrich your own revenues. If then, what you tell us be true, that we shall all appear before your divine master at the last day, to receive judgment according to our works, what account can you give of yourselves, seeing that you deviate from those commandments which he set before you; must you not say that they were impracticable, inconsistent, and unnatural, or else that you did not approve of them.

Remember then the language of my fellow creature whom your stile your God: “If ye continue in my word then are ye my disciples indeed.” Divines, we see you eternally conspiring against reason, against liberty, and against the freedom of conscience, we listen to your declamations against us Deists, whom you invidiously stile the sons of infidelity, you prevail upon your flock, to believe that we wish to destroy all virtue and morality, but the reverse is the fact, we inculcate virtue and sound morality, founded upon reason and the being of a God. We Deists are not ashamed to own our profession; we will convince our Christian adversaries, by our commerce with the world, by our lives, conduct, and conversation, that we are virtuous, mild, gentle, and humane.

Clergy, we listen to your description of a terrible heterogeneous monster whom you set up as the terror of man. At one time he is fomenting sedition in heaven, at another time he is in open rebellion against the Deity, at another time he is hurled into a pit, and chained for a thousand years, at another time he is at large going about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, in short, he is but everywhere: can a reflective mind suppose for a moment that such a monster does exist, or that he has the power which divines attribute to him. It was to destroy the power of this fiend that the mighty Jesus came into the world, yet he never was more omnipotent than since the commencement of the Christian era, and divines render him almightier than the Deity himself.11

As it is with Satan, so it is with man, at one time he is the high and mighty Lord of God’s creation, the noblest of God’s creatures, the image of God himself, but one degree below the angels in heaven, having dominion over all things, &c. at another time he is but dust and ashes, a crawling worm, a filthy animal, a helpless wretch unworthy of God’s favors &c. Thus divines, do you figure to us with profound sublimity, those glaring contradictions, nay, you transmography the Deity himself in as many, and various attributes, as man and Satan. You Deify a man and call him very good, who tells you, “There is none good but one,” evidently meaning God.

To conclude. Charity will not permit a supposition that a well-informed people can yield implicit credit to a book which exhibits in almost every leaf some strange and unaccountable paradox, a book crowded with indelicate and obscene matter, unworthy a serious reading, it leads the credulous into numberless errors, and involves them in a multiplicity of incoherent doctrines. To attribute such a production to an all-wise Deity is offering the grossest insult to his omnipotent wisdom, it being a mass of iniquity, the fountain of invidious controversies which usually terminate in the effusion of human blood, whose overflowing torrents have deluged the world, as well under the Mosaic theocracy, as under the Christian dispensation: it is a volume of knavery, purposely contrived to answer the sinister views of priests and princes, who alone fatten on its impracticable precepts.

Would it not then, be a felicity to future generations, were this book and the blind tenets deduced from it, scouted from the earth, and bloated forever from the memory of man, will not an unborn posterity, at the perusal of this volume, blush at the folly and blind credulity of their ancestors. But alas we fear, while the apostles of duplicity feel an interest in supporting the pious fraud, and live in sumptuous indolence upon the bounties of a credulous laity, the world will be too long infected with a nuisance so disgusting to every enlightened mind. Christians, we Deists are not possessed of vain ostentation, and, though we act upon a different principle, and found our hopes upon a different prospect, we acknowledge you to be our brethren, we pity error, we defy envy, but we never persecute opinion.


DURING the imbecility of childhood I had not the capacity to judge, and in the juvenal days of immature manhood I thought it a crime to doubt the divinity of those preceptorial doctrines, the knowledge of which you wish to promote, but now, finding my chin graced with a grizzly beard, my head ornamented with grey locks my mind free from the shackles of ecclesiastical tyranny,—and my heart panting for the good of man, I became moved by an indescribable impulse to compare the principles of your religion with the practice of its professors. I soon discovered a contrast, which gave me a stimulus to further enquiries, the result of which proves the utter impracticability of the Christian system.

My duty as a citizen of the world, leads me to publish a few strictures on a chain of dogmas, and whimsical mysteries, so much at variance against nature, incompatible with rational consistency, irreconcilable to common sense, and dishonorable to an all-wise Deity. Motives of pity might be the basis of your institution, but your zealous efforts to promote the cause of God, and the good of man, would be less in vain, were you to abandon folly, and institute a society for the promotion of useful knowledge and science, instead of encouraging the breed of saints and fanatics.

Is it now after a religion has been in fashion near 1800 years that we are to acquire a knowledge of its ceremonious punctilios, and extract from it a little piety, what it really produces? is it now, we are to open our eyes, and gaze with astonishment on the beautiful fabric of blind mysteries, or look with a pious admiration on the divine sublimity of a system which has confounded the inquisitors of all ages. A system founded upon fable, and established upon fanaticism, and persecution: a system that never consults reason, but always opposes it: a system that approves poverty, yet commits simony and rapine to maintain its pomp: in short, —a system inconsistent with everything but contradiction. How are our thinking faculties confounded at the contemplation of such a system, strange that a society should be instituted to promote the knowledge of a religion, to the bottom of which no Christian dare venture; it is criminal for a Christian to enquire into the origin of his religion, and to doubt the truth of the Bible, is an exclusion from heaven. Does your society in the circulation of its knowledge, inform the faithful, that the book of Job, is fabulous? That the acts of the apostles are anonymous? That the gospel of St. John is spurious? That the Epistles are miscellaneous? And the Revelations an unintelligible jargon of metaphysics.12

These facts are well known to the Christian clergy of all nations, but instead of giving their flock such information, they fondly conceal the fraud, under the mask of piety: how then are we to obtain a knowledge of the Christian religion, ask one sect of Christians, “how many sacraments hath Christ ordained in his church?” You will receive for answer, seven: ask another sect, the same question, and you will be informed, two: ask a third sect, and you will be told, none: what shall we say to such glaring contradictions. Each of these profess to be of found orthodox principles, yet they differ from each other, as much as a substantive differs from a nonentity. It appears to me then, that instead of promoting Christian knowledge, your society is instituted for the promotion of Christian ignorance, by which reason is degraded; and those who are dupes to a pretended revelation, are completely hag-ridden by the magic charms of priest-craft. Thus we may discover, that while the deluded Muslims are coranized the infatuated Christians, are bibleized to a miracle, and the pious ministers of a poor unfortunate God fail not to pronounce an eternal anathema on those who do not abjure reason, and embrace dogmas repugnant to sense and nature.

Divines? You who assume such powerful dominion over the souls of men; you who can transport us either to heaven or to hell at your pleasure, why not work some mighty miracle, after the manner of your lord and master, from whom you received your divine mission, to convince us of your authority over us, but, why talk of miracles, when pious duplicity informs us that miracles have ceased; all we have to do then, is to believe, and this belief leads us to imagine, that we are dead when alive, and that we are alive when actually dead. This belief reverses the whole order of creation; this belief will save us to eternity, with all our imperfections, without which the most righteous must endure, a bitter portion of never ending miseries. Oh! horrible doctrine! established by the sword, and maintained to this day by military governments, hostile to reason and to liberty.13

Will you, Sirs, deem it criminal to expose the foibles of a system which has filled the world with blood and terror for eighteen centuries, during which period, scarce a moment’s interval of peace can be traced out by the most zealous partisan;—hostile wars,—carnage,—desolation,— famine,—and infidelity, mark the gloomy pages of the Christian history,—thus the divine precepts of a celestially begotten man, has transformed Christians into devouring monsters, who make the earth groan under the weight of superstition, bigotry, fanaticism, and persecution.

Divines, you call these enormities, only an abuse of power, flowing from the corruption of Christianity; but it is not your bountiful stock of divine grace, nor all your rhetoric, nor pulpit admonitions, that can prevent the evils, nor wipe away the odium: know you not, that you are the time servers of every nation: the engines of despotism: the tools of statesmen, and of sovereigns: even to assassinate where occasion requires, whatever is the will of your prince, you cheerfully obey, and thus you piously serve God and Mammon. You profess a dependence upon the mercies of your God, a reliance upon his providence, and a cheerful resignation to his will; but the moment an epidemic appears you abandon all your professions, desert your church, and mistrust the goodness of your God, whose mercy and providence is no longer to be depended upon. I had an opportunity of making these observations in the case of the Philadelphians in the year 1793, and of the New-Yorkers in 1795, when the most religious were the most apprehensive of danger, and the first who fled from the contagion. Family attachment had no check upon their fears, humanity yielded to selfish brutality, they no longer trusted to the mercies of a divine providence, and the God of Christians was no longer the God of hope, at that awful crisis. Christian piety discovered that the rural Gods were more propitious than the great ruler of populous cities.

Let us now listen to the language of your divine master, whatsoever ye ask the father in my name, he will give it.” Needs there any more to confute this vague assertion, than a reference to long experience, and well-known disappointments. It is fresh in the recollection of every man, that all churches and chapels of every sect through the British dominions, were for seven successive years importuning the Almighty, to turn the hearts of the rebellious subjects in America. Why where not their prayers immediately answered, after heaven and earth were so piously moved to that effect, or why are not all Christian petitions complied with, after being echoed from one nation to another, especially since they are fervently offered up in the name, and for the sake of Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior.

He again tells us that, “his yoke is easy, and his burthen is light,” and invites “those who are weary and heavy laden to come unto him, and he will give them rest.” Now, though it is the language of a humble God, to his poor distressed disciples, I challenge the assertions. His yoke, if such may be considered the obligation of performing his precepts, is slavish beyond comparison, impossible to be complied with, being repugnant to human nature, and his burthen, if such may be considered the expense of supporting his religion, is arbitrary, oppressive and tyrannical, especially in countries, where established churches, have the exclusive right to expound the word of God, and where every individual is obliged to contribute to the religion which is most fashionable at court; in such countries, the clergy resemble the imps of infernal deities, rather than the meek disciples of an humble, penitent, and suffering Savior. What rest can the weary and heavy-laden find, by subscribing to a religion, bearing no proportion to itself, a religion that confounds both sense and nature, and petrifies all human understanding, a religion that humbles a God to a man, and proudly exalts man to a God, a religion that makes the creature a creator, and the creator a mere creature.

Is it to promote the knowledge of such a system that societies are formed. Yes, you will say, it is necessary to keep up a system of religion. Granted; but is it necessary to keep up a system of fraud, would not a more rational system be equally effectual, both in its moral and political tendency. What benefit arises to man by confounding divinity with humanity, or worshipping a feeble man, who disclaimed the title of a God. Are you afraid to offend the deity; by discontinuing to honor him. You will answer perhaps, that it is no wise criminal to worship a being who had, “all power given him, in heaven, and upon earth:” but how has Christ made it appear that ever such power was delegated to him? upon what authority do you believe he possessed such power? upon the authority of a blind assertion; one man relates the story to another, and he relates it again as an ipso facto. Would such authority establish a fact now a days? certainly not. Were I to say I was born unbegotten, or begotten not made, or that I was older than the man who was at my christening, would anyone believe me.

Strange indeed that a man who had all power in heaven and upon earth, the savior of a whole world, could not save himself, and prolong a terrestrial existence, to the more solid satisfaction of future generations. Was eighteen months the only time allotted this ambassador plenipotentiary extraordinary, to ratify a treaty between the priests of this earth, and the high court of heaven. That the all-powerful God of nature could perform more in eighteen seconds, than Christ had done during his earthly residence, all reasonable men will allow, yet this man is represented to us as a God of worship and adoration, and though he was miserably wretched, we are taught to believe he possessed all power in heaven and upon earth.

Were not his distresses insupportable; did he not labor for a miserable existence like many others; was he not as destitute as the itinerant mendicant: and did he not suffer a degrading and ignominious death: but, you will say, all this was to set an example to the world, and his death was to ransom sinners from the wrath to come. Yes, he set an example which his most pious and zealous admirers studiously avoid, and his death was evidently, because he could not help it He preached up sedition, and opposed the law of Moses, he insulted the Jewish Rabies, and obstructed their tranquility, for which they accused him, and by legal prosecution sentenced him to death agreeable to the customs of their country. Would to God the Christian religion were exempt from crimes of equal abhorrence. Murder and felony were alike committed under the mask of piety; racks, gibbets, and lighted faggots were the arguments opposed to those, who attempted to obstruct the early progress of the Christian system. Even now, in the states of Italy, or in the empires of Spain and Portugal, any person attempting to reform popery, would infallibly suffer death, not as a redeemer, but as an heretic, not as a savior, but as a sinner.

Upon a clear examination, I find this savior of the world is but a partial redeemer, his atoning merits extending but to a few of the human race. The number of people inhabiting Christian nations, does not exceed 136 millions; one fourth of them are Deists, consequently they disclaim all participation in the meritorious sufferings of a savior. The remaining number will not exceed 102 millions. The whole globe has about 400 millions of inhabitants, subtract 102 millions of Christians, and there remains 366 millions of people; who know not Christ, nor choose him for their head; must all these perish eternally, must they linger in never ending torments, and wallow forever in fire, brimstone, melted lead, brandy and gun-powder, with all the combustibles a vicious priesthood can invent, because they do not believe what is not true. Who but men blindly infatuated would subscribe to such a preposterous religion.14

The capricious temper of the Deity, as recorded in scripture, is somewhat singular. At one time, to save the world and mankind, he destroyed it and them together by a mighty deluge: This not perfecting his intention to save lost man, he destroyed himself upon a gibbet. His third experiment will be to consume the whole globe and all things in it with fire from heaven; such romances pass as current among Christians. If sin is to be destroyed by barbarous and inhuman cruelties, this latter experiment will undoubtedly prove most effectual. This will be a grand burnt-offering to the Lord of Hosts. Here the gratifying flames of all things, animate and inanimate, will ascend to heaven, and the Deity will console himself with the odoriferous effluvia, this, not like the partial offerings of the ancient priests, who sacrificed bulls, and goats, and kids, and lambs &c. upon the holy alter, piously offering the fat and blood to God, but eat the flesh themselves. In this last exhibition the whole earth with all its inhabitants, both priests and laity, both savage and civil, will be consumed by celestial fire, while the almighty will delight in our torments, and like a Roman tyrant dance to the music of our shrieks and groans; well may the God of Christians be called a devouring God, a God of vengeance, who creates men only to destroy them: but, the scene is not yet closed: after the consummation of the earth, the moon shall be turned into blood, the clouds shall fall, and the stars drop from heaven. Here will be rattling works indeed; much better be a spectator than an actor in this pantomime. Perhaps this is the time, when those who have died in the faith shall rise triumphant, and

play marbles with those little stars, kick about the morn, and quench the blazing sun; then shall the celestial gods, and goddesses meet, and fumble in the dark.

Unruly man, be cautious on that great day, how you come across the virgin Mary.

Pardon me Sirs, I am more at a loss to apologize for this irony, than to expose the folly of your favorite system—but to return

The most potent evidence in favor of the Christian scheme, are those of Mary and Thomas, though it is a little remarkable that Thomas said nothing about the matter himself; other people tell the story for him. As for Mary, she gains greater credit, than would be given to a lady of more honor and veracity in those days: it is rather strange, that Mary and Thomas never favored the world with either an epistle or a gospel upon the subject. They, it seems, told the story to others; others told it again to others, till at length the tradition, like that which Moses gives us of the creation, becomes the prevailing belief. Were an old Methodist woman to assert that she saw John Westly, a certain time after his burial, that he was seen by many others of his most intimate friends, that he wrought many miracles before them, and then went up to heaven, would anyone believe her; if she had gone before a magistrate and taken her oath that it was a fact; would she gain the more credit, certainly not: neither do I chose to believe Mary, nor Thomas, nor . . ..

The primitive councils, who first founded the Christian system, took infinite pains to blend the virgin Mary with the God-head, and so make it consist of four persons instead of three; she was however, rejected by a small majority. Notwithstanding she lost her election, there are a numerous sect of Christians, who, to this day honor her with divine worship and adoration.15 If then the motion for her union with the God-head had passed in the affirmative, would not our modern Christians worship her among the catalogue of their Gods. All this proves to a demonstration, that the world is governed by fraud, and not influenced by reason. The four following remarks will bring us to a conclusion.

1st. The Lord’s prayer is confessed by all Christians to be of divine sublimity, surpassing anything of human composition, but this is far below the test of criticism. In the former part you direct the Deity to do his own will, the next sentence demands bread for the day, what most people are already possessed of. Then proceeds a request, that your trespasses might be forgiven, as you forgive those who trespass against you: But I say unto all Christians, woe be unto them, if heaven shews no more benignity on them, than they shew mercy on their offenders.

2d. If Moses and Jesus Christ spoke by divine authority, it is blowing hot and cold with the same breath, every proposition of one being palpably contradicted by the other; however, the laws of Moses, take the lead of Jesus Christ’s whose precepts have no influence upon the passions, form no part of our municipal laws, nor are they attended to by any Christian sect whatever. Whether then, your Christian religion is of divine revelation or a trick played off in the dark ages of ignorance, it is an untoward system, and deserves to be admired only for its deformity.

3d. The Christian religion was first established by the terror of authority: the insinuating arts of missionaries, persecution and proscription, &c. All these conspired to establish Christianity upon the ruins of the Mosaic system. Did you ever consult these truths, did you ever inform yourselves of the stratagems first adopted to propagate your holy religion, even in its reformed state, or, did you believe the histories which transmit to posterity these impartial facts, as implicitly as you believe the bible. It is probable your zeal would slacken, your exertions to promote Christian knowledge would be less vigorous, and—your contribution would be appropriated to a more laudable purpose.

4th. Were I to say that blind men were very keen sighted, and that deaf men are very quick of hearing, you would naturally think me a lunatic, yet such sentiments are as compatible with reason and common sense, as many precepts of the Christian system. Can you reconcile those ideas of a God in three parts?  a virgin in wedlock? a God in gibbets? Serpents and asses speaking most eloquently in human language, and those heroic flights from earth up to heaven, in whirl-winds and fiery chariots; yes, you believe all these, and a thousand other like stories, but deny an equal fact that blind men can see, or that deaf men can hear. You bow down with reverence to the fables of antiquity, and consider a modern farce as the effects of sin and levity. You reject the adoration of an indivisible God, and worship with enthusiasm, a mixture of deities, composed of many parts; You confound finite with infinity, and divinity with humanity, you humble the God of creation to a level with man, and proudly exalt man to the magnificence of a God. Believe me, sirs, that Deism is yet triumphant, where despotic laws are not enforced, to maintain that whimsical, and metaphorical system, the knowledge of which you wish to promote.

Now, 〈◊, urging the subject no further, I have only to observe, that if I have corrupted any passage, or misquoted any text, it is your duty to instruct the ignorant, to reclaim the obstinate, and direct the stranger, in the path that leads to our destined heritage.



1 I am purposely short in this first proposition the second and third being rather lengthy.

2 Perhaps of all the high finished villains that ever degraded the page of history, or the shape of humane, none ever eqalled the monster Moses in scenes of systematic plunder, murder, and debauchery. To assert that so vile a character could have access to the deity, and consult him face to face, is to assert that the deity is accessary to his crimes, crimes so complicated as to stagger all rational belief; Nay, charity obliges me to hope they are not done.

3 Here blind Milton takes his poetic flight, and sets the heavens in an uproar; he pursues with wonderful success the lofty stile of genius, and humours with vast sublimity, the fabulous dreams of theological facts; O that such talents should be lost in fable.

4 If this celestial messenger had not arrived just at the nick of time, it is a thousand to one: but he would have been shot dead by the sentinal.

5 When I read the new word of God, commonly called the gospel, and see how often Christ appears and disappears. A little while and you shall see me, and a little while and you shall not see me, and the indefatigable Mary meeting him on all occasions, it reminds me of Harlequin and Columbine; and the conspicuous, part the devil acts in the farce, is characteristic of old Pantaleon in the Pantomime.

6 Read the Bible without prejudice, and if anything is calculated to shock the human heart, or blacken the character of the Deity, the Bible seems evidently intended for that purpose. It was written with blood, and is a continued history of murders and debauchery.

7 Mr. Paine asserts that these people are Deists, but I hope he will excuse me, when I say that this is paying them too high a compliment, they are between the Deist and the Christian, which denote nothing but a Buckram pride, as rediculous, as it is singular.

8 I denominate all under the term Priests, or Drs. of duplicity.

9 Then might our pious and learned clergy say, the word of God which you will find written in the 6th chap. of Aesop’s parables, and the fox said to the grapes thou art sour.

10 See Volney, page 151.

11 Perhaps of all the scarecrow doctrines that ever afflicted an enlightened nation, this is one of the grossest impositions on the human understanding. Foolish man there is no roaring lion, the clergy who terrify you with this idea know it to be a fraud, yet they carry their deception to such a length, as to count it profane to take his sooty majesty’s name in vain.

12 Deluded Christians, what will you say of yourselves, when we tell you that this description is precisely true, as evidently proved by the ministers of your own religion.

13 Faith serves as a mask and muzzle to hood-wink and jaw-clench the deluded laity; who, by virtue of their spiritual faith, can work themselves into a belief that any thing is possible, however derogatory to the nature of things. Will my believing a fable constitute it a fact, or will my believing in a nonentity constitute it a substantive? Suppose I believe a horse is a dog, or a dog to be a pig, will this alter the nature of these animals? If I believe that one is three, or that three is one, this is repugnant to the science of numbers, or if I believe that a virgin conceived a son, and that this son was his own father, being 4000 years older than his mother, nature and reason instantly revolts and says this cannot be. It would be well then to throw aside blind faith, and believe in nothing but what can be clearly demonstrated.

14 The clergy may, For interested motives, maintain their rigid doctrines, but I have too great a sense of their learning and understanding not to allow them to be Deists. I have a knowledge of three in Philadelphia, and two in New York, who are of that persuasion and one of the five is a bishop. It is because Deists are not formed into society that they have not preceptors of the first rate talents.

15 The Roman Catholics have it thus: Mary by the rights of a Mother, command thy son to intercede for us.

◊〉 Indicates a word is illegible or missing in the manuscript.

[1] Porcupine, P., & Cobbett, W. (1796). Christianity contrasted with deism (pp. iv–83). Philadelphia.: Printed, for the booksellers.




Posttribulationists maintain that the coming of Christ for his church will not take place until the conclusion of the great tribulation. They avoid use of the term rapture because (1) it is not a biblical expression and (2) it suggests that the church will escape or be delivered from the tribulation, a notion that runs contrary to the essence of posttribulationism.

A first feature of posttribulationism is a less literal interpretation of the events of the last times than is found in pretribulationism.31 For instance, while pretribulationists take the word שָׁבוּעַ (shabua’) in Daniel 9:27 to be an indication that the great tribulation will be literally seven years in duration, most posttribulationists hold merely that the tribulation will last a substantial period of time. Similarly, pretribulationists generally have a concrete conception of the millennium; in their view, many prophecies will be literally fulfilled within the thousand-year period. Indeed, it is to be inaugurated when Christ’s feet literally stand upon the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4). The posttribulationist’s understanding of the millennium is much more generalized in nature; for example, it will not necessarily be one thousand years in length.

According to posttribulationism, the church will be present during and experience the great tribulation. The term elect in Matthew 24 (after the tribulation, the angels will gather the elect—vv. 29–31) should be understood in the light of its usage elsewhere in Scripture, where it means “believers.” Since Pentecost, the term elect has denoted the church. The Lord will preserve the church during, but not spare it from, the tribulation.

Postmillennialists draw a distinction between the wrath of God and the tribulation. The wrath (ὀργή—orgē) of God is spoken of in Scripture as coming upon the wicked—“whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36); “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Rom. 1:18; see also 2 Thess. 1:8; Rev. 6:16–17; 14:10; 16:19; 19:15). On the other hand, believers will not undergo the wrath of God—“we [shall] be saved from God’s wrath through [Christ]” (Rom. 5:9); “Jesus … rescues us from the coming wrath (1 Thess. 1:10); “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath” (1 Thess. 5:9).32 Scripture makes it clear, however, that believers will experience tribulation. The overwhelming majority of the occurrences of the noun θλίψις (thlipsis) and the corresponding verb θλίβω (thlibo) refer to tribulation saints endure. The noun is used to denote persecution of the saints in the last times (Matt. 24:9, 21, 29; Mark 13:19, 24; Rev. 7:14). This is not God’s wrath, but the wrath of Satan, Antichrist, and the wicked against God’s people.33

Tribulation has been the experience of the church throughout the ages. Jesus said, “In the world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Other significant references are Acts 14:22; Romans 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; and 2 John 7. While posttribulationists do not deny a distinction between tribulation in general and the great tribulation, they believe that the difference is one of degree only, not of kind. Since the church has experienced tribulation throughout its history, it would not be surprising if the church also experiences the great tribulation.

Posttribulationists acknowledge that Scripture speaks of believers who will escape or be kept from the impending trouble. In Luke 21:36, for example, Jesus tells his disciples, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” The word here is ἐκφεύγω (ekpheugo) which means “to escape out of the midst of.” A similar reference is found in Revelation 3:10: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.” The preposition translated “from” actually means “out from the midst of.” Posttribulationists argue, then, that the church will be kept from the midst of the tribulation, not that it will be kept away from the tribulation, which would ordinarily require the preposition ἀπό (apo).34 In this respect, we are reminded of the experience of the Israelites during the plagues on Egypt.

Of additional significance in Revelation 3:10 is the verb τηρέω (tēreō—“keep”). When a dangerous situation is in view, it means “to guard.” It appears with the preposition ἐκ in only one other place in the New Testament, John 17:15: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Here τηρέω is contrasted with αἴρω (airō), which means “to lift, raise up, or remove.” The latter verb very accurately pictures what the pretribulationist holds Jesus will do with the church at the time of the rapture. To be sure, Jesus here is talking about the situation of his followers in the period immediately following his departure from earth, not the tribulation. The point, however, is that if John had desired to teach in Revelation 3:10 that Jesus would “rapture” the church, the verb αἴρω was certainly available. The apostle apparently had in mind here what he did in the latter half of John 17:15, a guarding of believers from the present danger rather than a deliverance of them from the presence of such danger.35

The posttribulationist also has a different understanding of Paul’s reference in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to our meeting the Lord in the air. The pretribulationist maintains that this event is the rapture; Christ will come secretly for the church, catching believers up with him in the clouds and taking them to heaven until the end of the tribulation. Posttribulationists like George Ladd, however, in light of the usage of the term ἀπάντησις (apantēsis—“to meet”) elsewhere in Scripture, disagree. There are only two other undisputed occurrences of this word in the New Testament (Matt. 27:32 is textually suspect). One of these references is in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, an explicitly eschatological parable. When the bridegroom comes, the announcement is made, “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet [ἀπάντησις—apantēsis] him!” (Matt. 25:6). What does the word signify in this situation? The virgins do not go out to meet the bridegroom and then depart with him. Rather, they go out to meet him and then accompany him back to the wedding banquet. The other occurrence of the word (Acts 28:15) is in a noneschatological historical narrative. Paul and his party were coming to Rome. A group of the believers in Rome, hearing of their approach, went out to the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet (ἀπάντησις) them. This encouraged Paul, and the group then continued with him back to Rome. On the basis of these usages, Ladd argues that the word ἀπάντησις suggests a welcoming party that goes out to meet someone on the way and accompanies them back to where they came from. So our meeting the Lord in the air is not a case of being caught away, but of meeting him and then immediately coming with him to earth as part of his triumphant entourage. It is the church, not the Lord, that will turn around at the meeting.36

Posttribulationists have a less complex understanding of the last things than do their pretribulational counterparts. For example, there is in posttribulationism only one second coming. Since there is no interlude between the coming of Christ for the church and the end of the tribulation, there is no need for an additional resurrection of believers. There are only two resurrections: (1) the resurrection of believers at the end of the tribulation and the beginning of the millennium, and (2) the resurrection of the ungodly at the end of the millennium.
Posttribulationists also see the complex of events at the end as basically unitary. They believe that this complex of events is imminent, although they usually do not mean that the coming itself is imminent in the sense that it could occur at any moment. They prefer to speak of the second coming as impending.37 Their blessed hope is not an expectation that believers will be removed from the earth before the great tribulation, but rather a confidence that the Lord will protect and keep believers regardless of what may come.38”

Erickson, M. J. (1998). Christian theology. (2nd ed., pp. 1226–1230). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

The Art of War Lawful, AND Necessary for a Christian People

The Art of War Lawful, AND Necessary for a Christian People

Mr. Fish’s DISCOURSE ON the Art of War BEING Lawful and Necessary.

The Art of War Lawful, AND Necessary for a Christian People, Considered and Enforced IN A DISCOURSE, The Substance of which was delivered IN UPTON, May 26, 1773. To a Company of Youth, voluntarily engaged in acquiring the Use of Arms. By ELISHA FISH, A. M.

Also, he bade them teach the Children of Judah the Use of the Bow. King DAVID.

BOSTON, NEW-ENGLAND: Printed by THOMAS and JOHN FLEET, at the Heart and Crown in Cornhill, 1774.

THE Writer of this small artless Discourse, thinks it no more than an act of Justice to himself, to say, it now so much out of Season, and after long Delay, makes its public Appearance through the repeated Importunity of the Hearers, and is now submitted to the public Eye, with his earnest With and Prayer, that it may serve the Purpose designed, by exciting the young Men to whom it was first delivered, in their commendable Exercises, and stir up others to the like Exercises; and be also an Occasion of moving some more able Pen to spread this martial Fire through our happy Land.


The Art of War, Lawful and Necessary.


And when Abram heard that his Brother was taken captive, he armed his trained Servants, born in his own House, three Hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.

THESE Words teach us, the wise foresight of holy Abram, in training his servants to the use of arms, in a time of profound quiet, when all was peace and serene; left he and all his, should fall an easy prey to the ambition or avarice of his enterprising neighbors. Here also we perceive the alertness of Abram, when he heard that his brother was taken captive, he immediately arms his servants and takes the field with his little band; in which his pious benevolence to his oppressed kinsman shines; he does not delay or hesitate, but is alive and in action; he not only arms his servants, but pushes forward to Dan. The courage and faith of Abram is not less conspicuous, in this enterprise, when we recollect, from our context, that the army, which captivated his kinsman, was now flushed with uninterrupted success, in wasting the neighbor countries, vanquishing five kings in the vale of Siddim; this army was not only numerous, but used to battle and conquest: In this view, Abram’s courage and faith equals almost anything on sacred record, in pursuing such an army, with his three hundred and eighteen raw soldiers, however well disciplined; but moved with faith and a desire to defend the rights of human nature, he pursues them to Dan.

Still our context furnishes us with a notable stroke of Abram’s conduct, in which he shews his skill and prudence, as a general, in dividing his little band, that they might appear the more formidable, and in attacking them by night, which added surprise and concealed the smallness of his numbers; and God crowned this attempt with success, so that he smote and pursued this powerful army, and recovered the spoil and captives out of their hands.

Yet again, Abram is more illustrious in the other part of his conduct, who now being furnished with rich spoils, and revered for his glorious and surprising victory over these powerful kings, had now an opportunity to set himself up for a king, and enslave his fellow-men in that part of the world; like Nimrod, who, being a mighty hunter, takes the occasion from his skill and success in killing beasts, to set up for a king: But we behold Abram shining in his justice, generosity and mercy to the king of Sodom, in restoring to him both spoil and captives; and his humility shines also in retiring into private life, thereby manifesting his design, in training his servants, to be a defense of human rights, and not a scheme to aggrandize or enrich himself. In these parts of his conduct Abram far excels Alexander, whose glory rose from his art and success in depriving men of their natural rights: But the glory of the Patriarch Abram, as a victorious general, was his defending and restoring those rights to his fellow-men and brethren.

From this bright and striking example of the illustrious Abram, who is the father and pattern of believers, we see it is lawful and necessary for Christians to be trained in the use of arms.

  1. It appears from the pious and excellent example of this holy Patriarch Abram, as father and pattern of all believers, to the end of the world, that it is lawful for Christians, as his children, to learn the art of war and use of arms, for their defense, when the case requires it, as did Abram. Here notice, this use of arms is only lawful from Abram’s example, when, like Abram, it serves the defense of human rights, or destroys such who are unworthy to live, by reason of their conduct towards God or man; but is not lawful for the purposes of avarice and ambition, by which human rights are swallowed up. This did not Abram.
  2. The smile of Providence on this conduct of Abram, in pursuing and smiting these four kings, with his handful of trained servants, gives reason to believe, that this expedition was of God, as it is recorded in another case,

for there fell down many slain, because the war was of God.

I Chron. v. 22.

  1. The lawfulness for Christians to learn and improve the art of war, may be fairly collected from the answer of John, the forerunner of Christ, who came to prepare the way for the gospel kingdom: When

the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, and what shall we do? And he said unto them, do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages.

Luke iii. 14.

In this answer, the gospel Elias, who came to prepare the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight, does not give the least intimation that the calling of soldiers was unlawful, or that the gospel kingdom, now at hand, would render such an employment useless, or sinful; although such an intimation seems to be unavoidable (in faithfully answering the question proposed) if the art of war, and employment of soldiers under the gospel were unlawful and sinful. Here the argument is not to be suspected, on the suggestion, that John might either want courage or faithfulness in this answer: The known character of John, as resembling or being the gospel Elias, in his faithful and bold reproofs, refutes this suggestion; and this was manifest, not only in his reproving cruel Herod, but in pointing out to the soldiers the reigning vices, which seem to be entailed on standing armies, viz. violence, false accusation, and discontent with wages; the demonstration of which we have sadly experienced in this Land. Hence, from John’s answer, we may conclude the art of war or business of soldiers is lawful for Christians.

  1. The lawfulness of acquiring art in war, by a Christian people, may be strictly proved from the nature and reason of things. For if it be in the nature and reason of things lawful for Christians to enjoy their lives, liberties and property, it must be lawful, in the same nature and reason of things, to use the means necessary to defend and preserve these enjoyments; for to suppose a right to life, liberty and property, and no right to the means necessary for the defense and preservation of the same, is one of the greatest absurdities in nature. Therefore, in the proceeding view of this point, we may surely conclude, it is lawful for Christians to learn and use the art of war, for their own defense and safety, and the defense and safety of others, as the case shall require.

The second thing before us was, to point out the necessity for Christians, or a Christian people, to be trained in the use of arms.

  1. This necessity may be fairly pointed out, by considering the common share Christians have with others in human rights and privileges. It being a part of a reasonable creature, and necessarily belongs to his character as such, to preserve his life, liberty and property, by all lawful means; then all the proper and lawful means for this end, are necessary, for all who share in these common rights of human nature; for nothing is more disagreeable to common sense, then to suppose a right to anything, as belonging to human nature, or men in general, and yet to suppose it unnecessary to use the proper means to preserve this right. Hence it appears needful for Christians to use the art of war as a part of their natural, and so necessary defense; seeing they lose none of their natural rights by becoming Christians. Now, if any should allow, that it belongs to men, as men, to use all the proper and lawful means to preserve their natural rights, and as such they may use the art of war; but allow not the necessity or propriety for Christians to use this means of self-preservation; this is in effect to deny that the common rights of men are allowed and necessary for Christians; one of the most strange positions ever devised by mortals.
  2. The necessity for a Christian people to learn the art of war rises into view, when it is considered as the only sure check on designing and ambitious rulers, who are so often attempting to enslave and oppress those for whose good they are advanced to power and authority, and only can be awed by the evidence that the people are used to the art of war, and therefore have it in their power to right themselves, when the case requires it. In this light, the use of arms, kept up and understood among a Christian people is necessary and vastly important, as a restraint or check on aspiring and wicked rulers: For the best civil constitution in the world will not restrain such rulers, whilst they have nothing to fear from the power of the people: And what power is there in the people for such to fear, without skill in war? Truly none. In this view, the art of war, for a Christian people, to preserve their own natural, civil and religious rights, is most necessary and important; without which they may not reasonably expect to enjoy, or transmit to posterity, their common rights, as a free people; freedom cannot long continue where the authority of the people is lost. All nations and past ages bear witness to this truth by sad experience. Thus, if we turn our eyes to those countries where tyranny reigns, we shall see the power of the people lost, and the skill in arms confined to a few mercenaries, as tools to their princes; and by this method lordly power disposes all things according to the will of the prince; which may kind heaven forbid ever being our lamentable case!
  3. This necessity, for a Christian people being trained in the use of arms, is also pointed out by the certainty that earth and hell are combined to persecute the people of God. See the Apostle’s declaring this matter,

But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the spirit, even so it is now.

Gal. iv. 29.

And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child.

Rev. xii. 13. This rage and combination of earth and hell against God’s true people renders the art of war necessary for true Christians, as a means to preserve themselves from the persecuting fury of evil men, moved with the rage of the old dragon. It is a most apparent truth, that in all cases, the means of preservation ought in wisdom and prudence to be proportioned to the real danger a people are in. Hence, the more and stronger are their enemies, the greater is the necessity for a Christian people to be skilled in the art of defense.

  1. The absolute necessity for a Christian people to learn the art of war opens to our sight, if we only recollect, that without it, a people are in such a defenseless state, that their wealth does but expose them, by encouraging and tempting their ambitious or covetous neighbors to make them a prey; which has often been the case. And to prevent this, and other evils, no doubt Abram trained his servants to the use of arms. And besides, the experience of all nations in times of war, fully discovers, that neither numbers nor courage, without order and art, are sufficient to protect a nation or people.

This has been remarkably verified in the empire of Russia; where they neither wanted courage nor numbers, but art in war; therefore, were easily vanquished by a handful of well-disciplined Swedes, until they acquired art in war, by which they recovered themselves, and are now esteemed and revered by their neighbors, and perhaps as good soldiers as any in the world, having of late done such things in arms, against the Turks, as will make them famous in ages to come. In this light, the necessity of learning the art of war, for our own defense, strongly urges itself upon us.

  1. The sixth command of the decalogue, “Thou shalt not kill,” lays this necessity powerfully upon the people of God. For, if they may not be guilty of shedding their own blood, or the blood of others, they must use all proper means to preserve their own lives, and the lives of others, or else be accessory to their own destruction: Now then let Christians see and feel the necessity of acquiring the art of war, in obedience to God’s command, and out of regard to their natural, civil and religious rights, and for self-preservation, and for the preservation of their dearest▪ friends and most important enjoyments, on earth or in heaven; that in doing this they may have consciences void of offence toward God and man.
  2. The enemies of God’s church in the world, that surround his people, acquiring the use of arms, render it necessary for the people of God to be trained in like skill. Thus, we hear holy king David lamenting over Saul and his sons, who fell by the archers on the mountains of Gilboa, and,

He bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow.

Now then, in imitation of king David, we may say, let the children of New-England learn the use of the firelock, lest their brave commanders fall by the art of her enemies, on her pleasant mountains, in some future day; when, like David, too late to save our brave leaders, we bade teach the use of fire-arms, and art of war.

Finally, it appears as necessary for a Christian people to know and use the art of war, for their security, as it is to know and use the art of husbandry for their support in life: And it is as reasonable to expect, in ordinary cases, our provision without labor, as our protection without the art of war, or skill in arms. Because God is able to defend his people, without art in war, shall we be careless, and take no pains to learn the skill of defense? We might as well argue, because God is able to provide for his people without work, and sometimes has done it, as in the wilderness; therefore, we may be idle and commit ourselves to Providence: Such reasoning is unworthy of men, or Christians. In this short view of the necessity for a religious people to learn and improve the arts of war, for their protection; and the importance of this art increasing as a people increase in wealth and riches, in fine fields, and fair buildings, is undeniable. Otherwise, the increase or growth of a people will be but the stronger temptation, and richer prey, for some aspiring or covetous Nimrod, skilled in the art of war. And it is likely to be our case in this land, at no great distance of time, if we do not, like Abram, train our households for war, in a time of profound peace and quiet. Now we may close this discourse by a few observations.

  1. It is to be observed, although it be most evidently lawful for a Christian people to learn and use the art of war, yet it is only so with regard to lawful war, which is for the defense and recovery of human rights, or as an act of benevolence to human creatures, and in obedience to the immediate command of God, in executing his just vengeance on the wicked. The art of war, as now used, to rob and enslave nations, and deprive them of their liberty and property, in order to aggrandize others, is a most vile and sinful abuse of human skill or art, and ought to be considered, at this day, in that light, as a sore judgment and scourge on the world.
  2. Let it be observed, that the art of war is not the less lawful or necessary for the people of God, because others abuse it to deprive their fellow-creatures of their natural rights; but the more lawful and necessary for them, that they may be the more able to resist such abuse of human art, maintain or recover their own rights; for otherwise they would be, without a constant miracle, instantly devoured by those enemies of human freedom, that dwell around them. And I hope we have none, or at least but a very few, who would expect such a miraculous protection at this day. Under this observation we are naturally drawn to survey a little the sweets of life, the almost divine pleasure of freedom, the tender and dear relations of nature, the tents of Shem in which we dwell, the fruitful fields that surround us, and quiet dwellings in which we now rest, the honest earnings of our hands with the sweat of our brows, or the patrimony of our dear ancestors. And then turn our thoughts on the gloomy prospect of a bloody carnage of our dear countrymen and friends, in the high places of the field, our wives and children torn from our bosoms, our lives in jeopardy every moment, our liberty turned to slavery, our religious assemblies the glory of our land no more, our houses and fields turned to strangers! And all this loss and misery come upon us for our neglect to improve in the use of arms and art of war! With these thoughts, who would forbear to imitate Abram in training his servants, or encouraging the art of war, as necessary for a Christian people; and peculiarly so for this now flourishing country, that it’s growing wealth, in a defenseless state, tempt not it’s enemies to lay it waste?
  3. Hence it is beyond dispute, that an attempt to increase the knowledge of arms among us, at this time, is highly commendable, and may be of vast and noble consequence, if attended with prudence and care, so that no occasion may be given, justly to complain, that vice is encouraged and increased thereby.
  4. The business of this day being of this nature, and a free-will offering, is to be justly and highly commended, if soberly and wisely conducted; especially, seeing we are in danger, otherwise, to lose the use of arms, it being about eight years since the military company in this place has been regularly called upon to attend such exercises, by the proper officers; which, no doubt, is the case through this whole regiment. If this should continue and spread in other regiments all over the province, and no private care be taken, it would soon render our state defenseless, in a great measure: But to prevent this, may the laudable temper of martial exercise diffuse itself through all ranks in the province; and we become a regularly disciplined, or trained soldiery, that none may be tempted to enslave or spoil us, for a prey to themselves.
  5. The harmony and readiness of submission to those who act the part of officers on this occasion, will put an honor on your persons, recommend your business, and be one part of the beauty, as well as profit, in this attempt, to increase your acquaintance with the necessary art of war, and without such harmony your design will be frustrated in a great measure, and yourselves disgraced.
  6. The conduct in closing the day, on such occasions, will be considered, as your honor or dishonor; your honor, in seasonably and soberly returning to your respective families, as men who would prove that you had no sordid and base purposes to serve, by your meeting together; thus your design will appear honest, sincere and praise-worthy: But if, instead of this, you spend the evening following such exercises at taverns, in drinking and the like debasing and immoral practices, it will dishonor your business, and give occasion to speak evil of you and your exercises, as a source of corruption, and unworthy to be encouraged by sober men.

Finally, my young brethren, I wish you may be good soldiers in the use of arms, for your king and country; but above all, that you may be reminded, by this day’s exercise, of being good soldiers under King Jesus; fighting against all spiritual enemies, with spiritual arms, for an eternal crown.



[1] Fish, E. (1774). The art of war lawful, and necessary for a Christian people, considered and enforced (pp. 3–17). Boston, New-England: Thomas and John Fleet, at the Heart and Crown in Cornhill.




Young, W. C

“Foreordination. Activity of God by which he establishes events and outcomes before they occur. In common usage, “foreordination” and the term “predestination” are synonymous. “Predestination” or “election,” however, specifically refers to the destiny of persons.

Foreordination underlies the whole plan of God: his decision to create the universe, to care for it (providence), and to determine its destiny “according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11). The Westminster Shorter Catechism states the teaching in this way: God has decreed “his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” Foreordination, then, is at the foundation of all Christian teaching, for it concerns the history and destiny of the whole world, the universe, and all that it contains.

The apostle Paul spoke of God’s plan for the fulfillment of all creation: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8:19–21). Scripture gives only a glimpse of the redemption of the whole creation. It speaks of new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Pt 3:13). Those things that mar human existence and demonstrate human fallenness and sinfulness (i.e., depravity) will all pass away. God will make “all things new” (Rv 21:1–5). So the destiny of everything rests with God himself.

Foreordination creates problems for theology and commonsense thinking, particularly in relation to human freedom and responsibility and that aspect of foreordination concerned with salvation. How can people be held responsible for their actions and decisions if they have been predetermined? To remove that difficulty some have denied God’s foreordination as it relates to human freedom. In creating free beings, they argue, God must have limited his determination of things that “must” come to pass. Otherwise free and responsible human activity has no meaning.

Calvinism rejects such an argument, insisting that free activity is possible even though it is foreordained and foreknown. The problem remains, however, for humanly speaking there seems to be no possibility for a last minute change of mind.

On the other hand, denial of the doctrine of foreordination implies that God does not control his creation. If that were true, the existence and happenings in the universe, including human activity, would be determined either by something above or beyond God, or by occurrences whose ultimate causes are unknown. God’s providence and care revealed in the Bible and human experience make such a view untenable. Christian thought generally states that God foreordains and controls his creation and that humans are able to act freely and responsibly within that larger control. The apparent contradiction or paradox remains unresolved because there is a limit to human understanding.

Foreordination was referred to by many early church fathers and was a major emphasis in the theology of Augustine of Hippo (354–430). Augustine greatly influenced the reformers, particularly John Calvin. Reformed theologians begin the study of the doctrine of foreordination with the eternal decree of God, as indicated by creeds such as the Westminster Confession of Faith. The decree of God is one, but for purposes of discussion and explanation it is usually referred to as “the decrees of God.” Martin Luther believed in foreordination but did not stress it as much as Calvin. Luther’s theology is generally silent on foreordination, primarily discussing predestination or election. Contemporary Lutheran thought stresses conditional, rather than absolute election, that is, election or predestination based on foreseen faith.

Foreordination in Scripture. There are many references to foreordination (including predestination, or election) and the related idea of foreknowledge in the Bible. Foreordination can be thought of as logically prior to foreknowledge, but there is no actual priority since both activities are eternal in God.

Speaking of judgment to come upon Babylon, God said: “This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Is 14:26, 27). God also declared that he has determined the end from the beginning. “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (46:10). Paul stated that the purpose of God is carried out “according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11; cf. Ps. 119:89–91; Dn 4:35).

With respect to human affairs it is said that one’s life span is determined (Jb 14:5), that God’s concern extends to his creatures (Ps 104:14–30; Mt 10:29), and even the hairs on our heads are numbered (Mt 10:30). Furthermore, God’s plan extends to peoples and nations, for “he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined alloted periods and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).

God knows and even uses people’s evil acts for his own ends. For example, although Joseph’s brothers sinned by selling him into slavery, Joseph later said, “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gn 50:20). Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, but God used that sinful intent. Jesus said, “For the Son of man goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” (Lk 22:22). On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter said “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23; cf. 4:27, 28). Paul refers to God’s determining authority over pharaoh’s acts (Rom 9:17). Revelation 17:17 says, “God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose.” God, then, foreordains the events of nature and history, and even evil acts are subject to his control and are made to fulfill his purposes.

Election of sinners to salvation through Christ is also included in God’s foreordination (Rom 8:28–39; cf. Acts 13:48; Phil 2:12, 13; 1 Pt 2:9). God’s choosing or electing is not arbitrary, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). God’s plan of salvation is grounded in his eternal love and good pleasure (Eph 1:3–14; Rom 5:6–11). The Christian is the recipient of God’s grace in that the believer knows God and is known (i.e., loved) by God (Gal 4:9). Both election and believers’ faith are part of the salvation process.

Foreordination and Providence. The doctrine of foreordination is implied in the doctrine of providence or God’s care. Providence is the working out of God’s plan for the world. God’s care and control of the whole creation point to his plan of redemption for man and woman made in his image. God sovereignly controls the events that take place in the world, but God is not responsible for sin. He created human beings who may say no to God as well as yes. That does not mean that God’s plan can be thwarted; it goes on in spite of opposition. God’s ultimate plan is being realized through all the events of human history, evil and good. Yet, his sovereignty is not imposed arbitrarily. God is not a tyrant, but holy, loving, and righteous. His plan is effected according to his nature, which is expressed in care and concern for the whole creation and in steadfast love for undeserving sinners.

Natural law refers to the rules God has laid down (foreordained) to control the universe. What about destructive forces of nature, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes? Why are such apparent evils necessary in a world made and controlled by a loving God? It is no answer to suggest that God is unable to act or control nature fully. If life’s total meaning resided in the temporal, physical world, there might be reason for complaint. But considering the whole plan of God and his ultimate redemptive purpose, the answer takes on a different dimension. God’s ultimate purpose transcends the present life and centers in the fulness of the redemptive kingdom yet to be revealed (Rv 11:15; 21:1–4). The doctrine of foreordination is a great mystery, but it should be a source of joy and comfort to believers whose loving Lord has brought them to a knowledge of his great plan.”


Young, W. C. (1988). Foreordination. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, pp. 808–810). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Priesthood of All Believers

Priesthood of All Believers

“The Priesthood of All BelieversThe Priesthood of All BelieversThe doctrine of the priesthood of all believers emerged in reaction to the sacramentalism that dominated church life and work. Sacramentalism is the belief that in the observance of the sacraments of the church special grace is conveyed to the participants—even saving grace. The priest, according to sacramentalism, has precedence over the laity in exercising the office of the church and particularly in consecrating and distributing the elements in the Lord’s Supper (called the Eucharist in some churches).Luther advocated the priesthood of all believers, which forms a central doctrine of all Protestantism. Priesthood, to him, meant that we stand before God, pray for others, intercede with God, sacrifice ourselves to Him, and proclaim the Word to one another. Universal priesthood never meant “privatism” or religious individualism. Luther believed this right was given to the community of the saints, who are a priestly generation, a royal priesthood. The priesthood of all believers means that believers have the right and duty to share the gospel and teach God’s Word. He recognized no community that did not preach the Word and no community that did not witness the gospel.In his book Concerning Ministry Luther spelled out seven rights of this universal priesthood:• to preach the Word of God• to baptize• to celebrate the sacrament (the Lord’s Supper)• to minister the office of the keys (announce divine forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name)• to pray for others• to judge doctrine• to discern spirits.8Luther even went beyond these functions to urge Christians to engage in the mutual encouragement of the Word to each other in the church.In Luther’s day Thomas Münzer of Zwickau, Germany, denounced the immorality and abuse of priests. To Münzer, restoration would come from common people, whom he called “custodians of truth they cannot theologically articulate.” These people of God, he felt, should be able to elect their pastors. He also believed that the words that consecrate the elements in the Lord’s Supper should be said by the whole congregation as a royal, priestly people.The Reformation principle of sola fide (“faith alone”) also led to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Rank-and-file believers throughout Germany, Switzerland, and the Low Countries found in this doctrine new freedoms to express their faith. The Anabaptists, Martin Bucer in Strasbourg, and many others began to address ministerial (magisterial) reform. Some felt that Martin Luther had not gone far enough in his reforms.Among Radical Reformers the question arose over the legitimacy of any ordination. The nature of the apostolate—apostolic succession—was crumbling. In their yearning to avoid cheap grace and an unholy ministry, the Anabaptists sought to transform the church. They were the true evangelicals calling on a shared ministry in the Spirit of all the people of God.Their views also extended to interpreting and handling the Word of God. They appealed to the right of the whole congregation, the laity along with the divines (clergy), to judge difficult passages of the Bible together. Baptists later developed this insight into what is known as “soul liberty,” the right of individual believers to interpret the truth of the Scriptures under the Holy Spirit’s guidance. These Radical Reformers pushed the Lutheran doctrine of the priesthood of all believers in the direction of a lay apostolate.9The floodgates of the Reformation were thus opened, allowing the common people to engage in full exercise of their spiritual gifts in the church.Before we leave this doctrine, it may help to look at the importance of the biblical truth on the subject. After all, a central tenet of the Reformation was the centrality of biblical authority.As stated earlier, the New Testament does not make a distinction between clergy and laity. Both refer to the same people. The word clergy comes from the Greek word klētos, meaning “the called,” and we get our word for laity from the word laos, meaning “people.” Both words occur in some form in 1 Peter 2:9–10. Believers in general are the called of God (Rom. 8:28, 30; 1 Cor. 1:2; 24; 1 Pet. 3:9; 5:10). The terms elect, saints, disciples, and brothers all refer to the people of God who have been called by Him.The church exists in the world as a group of people who have received God’s mercy by divine grace. Believers are ordained to carry out good works, both in a personal way and in a collective way. John Wesley understood this to mean there is no such thing as private Christianity. Believers belong to a fellowship of the called.”

8 Luther’s seven rights of the universal priesthood of all believers are summarized in Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, trans. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966), 313–18.9 For a fuller investigation of the views of the Anabaptists, see George Huntston Williams, The Radical Reformation (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962); William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story, 3d ed. (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1996); and C. Arnold Snyder, Anabaptist History and Theology: An Introduction (Kitchen, Ont.: Pandora, 1995) Swindoll, C. R., & Zuck, R. B. (2003). Understanding Christian theology (pp. 1119–1121). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

“The Priesthood of Believers. This (royal) high priesthood of Jesus Christ connects to the “royal priesthood” of believers: “you are … a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9a). The obvious reference to Exodus 19:6 suggests that the church functions in this present age as God’s New Testament kingdom of priests much like the nation of Israel did in the Old Testament. As such we are responsible to carry out the ministry of proclaiming to the world “the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9b).

A closely related idea (but without the “royal” connections) is Peter’s earlier description of the church as a group of believers who are being (niv), or should allow themselves to be (nrsv), “built into a spiritual house [Jesus himself being the living and choice cornerstone, 1 Peter 2:4, 6–8] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Thus, as fellow priests with Jesus we offer up to God our sacrifices of praise (Heb. 13:15), our doing good and sharing (Heb. 13:16), and ultimately our present physical bodies in the interest of conforming to his standards (Rom. 12:1–2). It is important to observe that here the corporate priesthood of the church shades into the priesthood of the individual believer. Moreover, our ministry in the gospel can be described as an offering of our very life in priestly service to the church (Phil. 2:17), by which we can produce a harvest of sanctified people whom we present to God as an acceptable offering.

Finally, corporate Israel in the Old Testament functioned as a kingdom of priests in both its mediation between God and the other nations and in its service of worship to the Lord in the sanctuary (Exod. 19:5–6). Similarly, the priesthood of the church has mediatorial features as well as aspects that correspond to the sanctuary worship of the Old Testament, sometimes expressed separately and sometimes jointly in the various New Testament passages related to the priesthood of believers.”

niv New International Version
nrsv New Revised Standard Version
Averbeck, R. E. (1996). Priest, Priesthood. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., p. 637). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.


“Priesthood of Believers. A Protestant principle whereby each believer has immediate access to God through the one mediator, Jesus Christ. One of the great principles of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, as expounded by Martin Luther, was the priesthood of all believers. Joined with justification by faith alone and the authority of Scripture alone, it cut through the tangles of medieval Catholicism that tended to place barriers between the individual Christian and God. The implications of the principle were that no priest was necessary, no saints, no Blessed Virgin Mary, to intercede for the ordinary believer. The whole medieval system of salvation, so dependent on a strong distinction between laity and clergy and the power of the latter to administer or withhold the sacraments, was thus for Protestants abolished.

The general effects of this Protestant principle were at least threefold. First, it meant that lay-people prayed directly to God through Jesus Christ, thus increasing lay involvement in private and public worship. Second, it meant that God communicated directly to the individual Christian through his Word, the Bible, thus encouraging the production of vernacular versions of Scripture and the pursuit of lay Bible study. Third, it meant anew sense of Christian liberty for the ordinary Christian, who felt no longer bound by the authority of extrabiblical traditions or by ecclesiastical hierarchies.

Transported to the American environment, without bishoprics and generally established churches, the priesthood of all believers provided a basis for greater lay influence than had characterized European Christianity. In many instances churches could form only where ministers had sufficient powers of persuasion to gather a lay following. In Puritan settings it was not uncommon for regular “private meetings” of laypeople to have as much influence as the church services and to comprise a church within the church. In some groups, such as the Quakers and later the Plymouth Brethren, the priesthood of believers came to mean that there was no recognized clergy at all.

On the negative side, the American expression of the priesthood of believers could manifest itself in a lack of reverence and in a lack of respect for the institutional church. It has contributed also to the spawning of numerous parachurch organizations, many of which have special effectiveness but frequently lack accountability.”

Bibliography. W. S. Hudson, Religion in America (1965); L. Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were (1906); C. E. Hambrick-Stowe, The Practice of Piety: Puritan Devotional Disciplines in Seventeenth-Century New England (1982).

Reid, D. G., Linder, R. D., Shelley, B. L., & Stout, H. S. (1990). In Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


Holy War

Holy War

Holy War


The topic of Holy War is not discussed much in our churches today. Pulled up a few articles to shine some light on the subject for you bible students.

“War, Holy. Warfare as described in the Book of Deuteronomy, especially in chapter 20. Not merely a human enterprise fought by kings with trained soldiers and military equipment, it is God’s war in which he himself is involved together with his covenant people who are selected to fight in his name. The size of the army is not important; indeed, often the numbers were pared down to dramatize the fact that the victory was gained, not by military superiority, but by the action of God against his enemies. When Israel lived in obedience to God as his covenant people and went into battle under his direction, war was within the will of God, commanded by him, and accomplished through trust in him. As already observed, God was known as “a man of war,” and it is declared that “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sm 17:47; cf. 18:17; 25:28). With this faith on the part of the Jews, it is easy to see how a concept of holy war developed, especially when they had the conviction that their enemies were God’s enemies and that they were the people through whom God would effect his saving purposes for the world.

Moses believed that God declares war and sends his people into battle (Ex 17:16; Nm 31:3). On several occasions, at crucial points in warfare, the “terror of the Lord” fell upon the enemy, enabling the numerically inferior army of Israel to gain an easy victory over vastly superior forces (Jos 10:10–14; Jgs 4:12–16; 2 Sm 5:24, 25). In a time of acute military crisis Elisha is enabled to see the heavenly army of Jehovah drawn up on the hills around Samaria ready to defeat the fierce invading armies of Syria. In response to Elisha’s prayer, the Syrian soldiers are struck with blindness and rendered helpless against the Israelites (2 Kgs 6:15–23). Various means were used to determine the will of God and to assure his active participation in war. In addition to the word of the prophet (1 Kgs 22:5–23), dreams, (Jgs 7:9–14), Urim and Thummim (Ex 28:30; Lv 8:8), the ephod (1 Sm 30:7), and the ark of the covenant were employed for this purpose. The leaders of God’s troops were constantly to seek his direction for military strategy during the progress of battle, for no step was to be taken without divine approval and guidance (2 Sm 5:19–23).

Since God gave Palestine to the Jews as his own people, the land was indeed the Promised Land; it belonged by divine covenant to Israel and was in that sense “the Holy Land.” Any defense of that land against foreign invasion was a holy war. The invading enemy was trespassing upon sacred territory that belonged to God’s people by immutable decree and thus incurred the divine wrath. From this perspective the complete destruction of Israel’s enemies is necessary, particularly when the enemy was pagan and morally corrupt. A characteristic Hebrew word used for this concept, ḥērem, originally meant “devoted” and came to mean “devoted to destruction” as something hostile to the rule of God (Jos 6:17, 18). Means which may seem drastic and extreme were demanded in order to assure the success of God’s holy, saving purposes for his chosen people and ultimately for the whole world. The divine plan must not be thwarted, obstructed, or aborted by any debasing idolatry or corrupting immorality (Dt 7:1–26). Enemy cities within the boundaries of the land promised to the Jews were to be utterly destroyed, a practice known as “the ban.” Only silver, gold, and vessels of bronze and iron were to be spared. They were to be placed in the treasury of the Lord as sacred to him (Jos 6:17–21; 1 Sm 15:3). The whole city, including all life, was regarded as a sacrifice to Jehovah, emphasizing the sacrificial character of holy war. Fruitbearing trees, however, were to be spared (Dt 20:19, 20) as an example of the limitations placed upon wanton destruction of natural resources, which are God’s gifts.

When Israel departed from God and forsook his holy ways, the Lord used its enemies to chastise and discipline, to bring it back to himself, and to bring to pass his sovereign purposes. Thus God used war as a punishment against his sinning people (Is 10; Jer 25; Ez 21; Hb 1). At such a time the false prophet prophesies peace and security (Jer 28).

The fact that holy war was never engaged by means of military power and genius alone is characteristic of God’s ways with his people. The commander and often his subordinates were viewed as elected by God and endowed by the Spirit of God with a special gift for their military roles (Jgs 6:34, 35; 11:29–33). If this divine gift were lost or forfeited for any reason, the authority to lead or to command was also lost (Jgs 16:20, 21; 1 Sm 16:14). Participation in holy war required complete surrender and dedication to the service of Jehovah. There was no place for the half-hearted, the fearful, or those distracted by other involvements or obligations (Dt 20:5–9). The presence of such persons in the army would affect the unity and singlemindedness of those who were wholly committed to the cause of the Lord.

The faithful soldier who offered himself willingly in response to the divine call was considered consecrated to God’s service and was in a sense a holy servant of the Lord (Is 13:3). God is said to “walk in the midst of the camp,” and therefore the camp should be holy “that he may not see anything indecent among you, and turn away from you” (Dt 23:14). Careful regulations were observed to guarantee the ritual cleanliness of the camp: any bodily contamination required a rite of purification and excrement was buried outside the camp (vv 9–13).

Victory in holy war was completely unrelated to military superiority, either with respect to armaments or numbers of soldiers (Jgs 7; 1 Sm 14:6–23), because “he who goes over before you as a devouring fire is the Lord your God; he will destroy them and subdue them before you; so you shall drive them out, and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you” (Dt 9:3; cf. 20:4). God delivers the enemy into Israel’s hand (Jgs 3:28; 7:15). He also cautions the Israelites not to think that their righteousness brought down their enemies in defeat and won the land, but that by God’s own righteousness and judgment against the wickedness of the idolatrous nations he drove them out before the army of Israel. It was because of his faithfulness to the covenant which he swore to their fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Dt 9:4, 5). God reminds Israel of their unfaithfulness, stubbornness, and unrighteousness (vv 6–29), and exhorts them to fear the Lord their God and to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve him with all their heart, and to keep all his commandments in order that he may bless them and give them peace in the land which he promised to their fathers (10:1–22). The Jews had to be reminded that it was for their disobedience and lack of faith in not going directly into the Promised Land at Kadesh-barnea that they were punished with 40 years of wandering in the Sinai wilderness (Nm 14:1–12).

In sharp contrast to such unbelief and failure to obey the will of God is the heroic example of Jonathan in his singlehanded attack against the Philistine garrison in the pass between Michmash and Geba (1 Sm 14). Convinced that the Lord would give the Philistines into his hand, Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us; for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few” (v 6). Similarly, David’s willingness to fight unassisted against the giant Goliath shows his firm trust in God—“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (17:26).

The idea of holy war was not exclusive to Israel. Other nations also believed that their gods fought for them in military conflicts, and usually the nation with the most powerful god won the battle. When the Philistines defeated the Israelites and captured the ark, they believed that they had won the conflict because their god Dagon was stronger than Israel’s Jehovah. The biblical writer carefully makes clear that this is not the case. He explicitly points out the dramatic incident of Dagon falling on his face and being broken into pieces before the captured ark of God. In addition to this, the people of Ashdod were so terrified and afflicted with tumors that they cried, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us; for his hand is heavy upon us and upon Dagon our god.” Their panic and affliction continued until arrangements were made to return the ark with a guilt offering to the Israelites at Beth-shemesh (1 Sm 4–6). In the days of Mesha, king of Moab, the defeat of his army at one time was attributed to the weakness of his god Chemosh (2 Kgs 3:21–26), but his victory over the Israelites at a later time was attributed by him to the power of Chemosh. Sometimes the victory was determined by the particular place of battle, because the god of that locality was a god either of the hills, the valleys, or the plain (1 Kgs 20:28; 2 Kgs 18:33–35).

The idea of holy war was probably most intense during the time of the judges. Its centrality in the thinking of the nation of Israel diminished during the time of the monarchy. The progression of spiritual decline and apostasy brought a corresponding loss of trust in and expectancy of divine initiative and involvement in warfare. Considerations of political expediency overshadowed the holy war ideology. In protesting this apostasy, the prophets viewed war as a divine judgment against the rebellious nation and also against the proud, defiant gentile powers. The tradition of holy war was preserved mostly among the ordinary, devout people rather than among the political and military leaders, and thus it survived throughout the time of the monarchy. For example, Uriah the Hittite seemed to be more faithful to the principles of holy war than King David, whose evil desires toward Bathsheba blinded him to divine regulations governing the affairs of war and even to the basic morality of the Decalogue (2 Sm 11).

There was a distinctly teleological aspect to the concept of holy war. It looked beyond the triumphs of God in specific battles to the conclusion of all hostilities and to a final time of peace which will vindicate the righteousness and sovereignty of God’s saving purposes and display his concern and goal for his own people. Holy war is the instrument of the God of the covenant who has promised deliverance and eschatological victory. The final consummation will be preceded by a massive holy war, after which the weapons of warfare will be transformed into implements of peace (Is 2:4; Mi 4:3) under the reign of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6), who will subdue all the enemies of Jehovah in a triumphant Day of the Lord (Ps 110; Dn 7; Zec 14).”

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). War, Holy. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, pp. 2130–2132). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

“WAR*, HOLY Warfare as described in the book of Deuteronomy, especially in chapter 20. Not merely a human enterprise fought by kings with trained soldiers and military equipment, it is God’s war in which he himself is involved together with his covenant people who are selected to fight in his name. The size of the army is not important; indeed, sometimes the numbers were pared down to dramatize the fact that the victory was gained, not by military superiority, but by the action of God against his enemies. When Israel lived in obedience to God as his covenant people and went into battle under his direction, war was within the will of God, commanded by him, and accomplished through trust in him. God was known as “a man of war,” and it is declared that “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sm 17:47; cf. 18:17; 25:28). With this faith on the part of the Jews, it is easy to see how a concept of holy war developed, especially when they had the conviction that their enemies were God’s enemies and that they were the people through whom God would carry out his saving purposes for the world.

Moses believed that God declared war and sent his people into battle (Ex 17:16; Nm 31:3). On several occasions, at crucial points in warfare, the “terror of the Lord” fell upon the enemy, enabling the numerically inferior army of Israel to gain an easy victory over vastly superior forces (Jos 10:10–14; Jgs 4:12–16; 2 Sm 5:24–25). In a time of acute military crisis, Elisha was enabled to see the heavenly army of Yahweh drawn up on the hills around Samaria, ready to defeat the fierce, invading armies of Syria. In response to Elisha’s prayer, the Syrian soldiers were struck with blindness and rendered helpless against the Israelites (2 Kgs 6:15–23). Various means were used to determine the will of God and to assure his active participation in war. In addition to the word of the prophet (1 Kgs 22:5–23), Urim and Thummim (Ex 28:30; Lv 8:8), the ephod (1 Sm 30:7), and the ark of the covenant were employed for this purpose. The leaders of God’s troops constantly sought his direction for military strategy during the progress of battle, for no step was to be taken without divine approval and guidance (2 Sm 5:19–23).

Since God gave Palestine to his own people, the Jews, the land was indeed the Promised Land; it belonged by divine covenant to Israel and was in that sense “the Holy Land.” Any defense of that land against foreign invasion was a holy war. The invading enemy was trespassing upon sacred territory that belonged to God’s people by immutable decree and thus incurred the divine wrath. From this perspective the complete destruction of Israel’s enemies was necessary, particularly when the enemy was pagan and morally corrupt. A characteristic Hebrew word used for this concept, herem, originally meant “devoted” and came to mean “devoted to destruction” as something hostile to the rule of God (Jos 6:17–18). The divine plan must not be thwarted, obstructed, or aborted by any debasing idolatry or corrupting immorality (Dt 7). Enemy cities within the boundaries of the land promised to the Jews were to be utterly destroyed—a practice known as “the ban.” Only silver, gold, and vessels of bronze and iron were to be spared. They were to be placed in the treasury of the Lord as sacred to him (Jos 6:17–21; 1 Sm 15:3).

There was a distinctly teleological aspect to the concept of holy war. It looked beyond the triumphs of God in specific battles to the conclusion of all hostilities and to a final time of peace that will vindicate the righteousness and sovereignty of God’s saving purposes and display his concern and goal for his own people. The final consummation will be preceded by a massive holy war, after which the weapons of warfare will be transformed into implements of peace (Is 2:4; Mi 4:3) under the reign of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6), who will subdue all God’s enemies in a triumphant Day of the Lord (Ps 110; Dn 7; Zec 14).”

Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). In Tyndale Bible dictionary (pp. 1289–1290). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

“Despite the fact that many nations have used Scripture passages out of context to promote martial ventures, the Old Testament does not glorify or even recommend warfare as a solution to problems. Quite the opposite: Violence is thoroughly condemned.

Lamech and his song of vengeance is an aberration in the history of man (Gen. 4:23–24). The famous heroes of old, men of renown, are not presented in a context of approbation (Gen. 6:4). Violence that filled the earth with pain was one of the major causes of the flood (Gen. 6:11). Nimrod, the mighty warrior and the first military aggressor (10:8–11), is not part of the redemptive line. The land of Nimrod is destined to be ruled by the sword (Mic. 5:6).
Simon and Levi lose their rights among the firstborn because their swords are weapons of violence. Although their massacre (Gen. 34) was for an allegedly moral purpose, it caused them to be scattered in Israel (49:5–7). When Moses killed an Egyptian to help an Israelite, he found that this method only delayed God’s deliverance (Exod. 2:12).

David is associated with the successful expansion of his realm by warfare. He cannot, however, build God’s temple because he has fought many wars and shed much blood in God’s sight (1 Chron. 22:8). When David sought to carry out a census with a military purpose it very nearly cost him his kingdom (2 Sam. 24).

Wars in the Bible have been discouraged or even stopped by prophets. The prophet Shemaiah would not allow Rehoboam to put down the rebellion of the northern tribes by force of arms (1 Kings 12:22–23). Micaiah refused to be swayed by the unanimous clamor of the war prophets (1 Kings 22).
Israel’s leaders are rebuked by the prophet Oded for bringing Judean prisoners of war into the country (2 Chron. 28:11). Judah’s leaders are destined for wrath because they sought to expand their borders when Israel was weakened by Assyrian aggression in the north (Hos. 5:10). Their aggression is compared to unscrupulous landowners who move the boundary stones to increase the size of the property.

When war is inevitable, it must be carried out humanely. Nations are not allowed to go beyond the use of reasonable force necessary to achieve their objectives. In the first two chapters of Amos foreign nations are designed for judgment because of their war crimes both against Israelites and against each other. Jehu was authorized by Yahweh to end Ahab’s dynasty, but his violence went far beyond his objectives. Thus the house of Jehu is to be punished for the massacre at Jezreel (Hos. 1:4).

The Torah contained rules to ensure wars would be conducted as humanely as possible. Female captives could not be violated. If a man saw a prisoner he wished to marry, her rights and feelings must be respected. She must be given time to mourn her family. If he later grew tired of her, he could not abuse her or sell her for money (Deut. 21:10–14). Before a city was attacked the law required that terms of peace be offered. If peace was accepted the city was not to be destroyed (Deut. 20:11). There were even conservation laws governing destruction of trees in a siege (Deut. 20:19–20).

In the Old Testament era wars were often made unnecessary by miraculous or unusual circumstances. Exodus 14 presents a standard paradigm of biblical deliverance. Moses proclaims to the people, “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today.” The Pharaoh’s elite chariot corps is destroyed by the waters of the sea without the use of a single human weapon.

Troops besieging Elisha’s house are smitten with blindness. The prophet leads them straight into Samaria. When their eyes are opened, the prophet will not allow the king to kill them. After they are fed, they are returned to their master (2 Kings 6:18–22). Later in 2 Kings 7:6 the Aramean armies retreat because Yahweh makes a loud noise. In Hezekiah’s time, the Assyrian siege is ended by the angel of death (2 Kings 19:35).

In Jonah 3:8 the Ninevites are not faulted for their idolatry but because of their violence. God makes it clear in Jonah 4 that it is his interest to save lives, not to take them. While it is true that Yahweh will one day punish the godless nations with a sword, it will be in his own good time. It will not be because he is overwhelmed by the anger of the moment. God is not slack concerning his promises but is willing for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). In Zechariah 1:12–13 even the angel of the Lord loses patience at this slowness and must be comforted.

The hope of the future for the people of God is not in war and conquest. It is when nations stream to the holy mountain to learn about God. It will be a time when weapons are turned into farm implements and war shall be no more (Isa. 2:1–4).”

Ferguson, P. (1996). War, Holy War. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 807–808). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

“HOLY WAR The Hebrew word for “war” occurs more than 300 times in the OT. The strategic position of Palestine between Mesopotamia and Egypt made war a harsh reality for most of its inhabitants during biblical times. Israel gained a foothold in this land by means of a war of conquest, and thereafter, by frequently defensive actions against intruders and invaders. Unfortunately, the history of war in Israel also included several civil conflicts.For most of the ancient Near East, war was considered a sacred undertaking in which the honor and power of the national God was at stake. For Israel, however, war intimately involved the transcendent power of the God who created the heavens and the earth. The biblical writers refer to the conflicts Israel faced as the “Wars of the LORD” (Num. 21:14; 1 Sam. 18:17; 25:28). God is described as a “man of war” (Exod. 15:3; Isa. 42:13) and “mighty in battle” (Ps. 24:8). He is “the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel” (1 Sam. 17:45 NASB). It is God who leads them out and fights for them (Deut. 20:4; Josh. 10:14, 42; Judg. 4:14). God set the code of conduct in war (Deut. 20:10–18), and the spoils belong to Him (Josh. 6:19).

Before the armies of Israel went out to war, they offered a sacrifice to God (1 Sam. 7:9) and sought His guidance (2 Sam. 5:23–24). The warriors who marched into battle had to be pure and consecrated to God (Josh. 3:5). The presence of God in the arena of battle was symbolized by the ark of the covenant (1 Sam. 4:5–7). After the victory, praises were offered to God in a victory celebration (Exod. 15:1–3).

As the final act of battle, Israel was sometimes required to dedicate everything in a “ban” (herem), which meant that the people and possessions of an entire city would be set apart for God and destroyed (Deut. 7:2; 20:17; Josh. 8:2; 1 Sam. 15:3). Only the metal objects were saved (Josh. 6:18–24). Those who transgressed the ban faced dire consequences (Josh. 7).

Why would a loving God order the wholesale extermination of the nations living in the promised land? There is no simple answer to this difficult question. Three points, however, need to be remembered. First, the concept of the ban is also found among the nations surrounding Israel. In war, every living being and every piece of property was to be dedicated to the deity. Second, the rules for placing the spoils of war under the ban appear to apply only to the cities of the nations within the promised land that God had designated as inheritance for Israel (Deut. 20:16–18). In this context, it should be noted that the OT reports the use of the ban primarily at Arad (Num. 21:2–3), the cities of Sihon and Og (Deut. 2:24; 3:6), Jericho (Josh. 6:21), Ai (Josh. 8:26), the cities of southern Canaan (Josh. 10:28–43) and Hazor (Josh. 11:11). Finally, it must be remembered that Israel was only allowed to drive out the nations living in the promised land because of their sinful abominations (Deut. 9:4–5; 18:9–14; 20:16–18). In this sense, Israel served as the instrument of God’s judgment against these sinful nations. In like manner, God would later allow another nation to march against Judah in judgment (Hab. 1:6–11).
Stephen J. Andrews”

Andrews, S. J. (2003). Holy War. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 774–775). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

“holy war. The Bible does not present Israel as fighting to spread or defend its religious beliefs; “holy war” in that sense of the term is absent from biblical teaching or narrative. In another sense, however, the Bible often presents war as a means through which God acts as deliverer, protector, and judge of Israel, often fighting and slaying enemies on Israel’s behalf. Up to the time of the monarchy (tenth century BCE) all wars involving the Israelites could be called “wars of the LORD” (Num. 21:14). Throughout this period, the Bible consistently presents God as fighting for Israel. For example, in the biblical narrative of the exodus, the Egyptian army pursues Israel and is destroyed by God’s action (Exod. 14). Deut. 20 deals specifically with rules for conducting holy war (see also 21:10–14, which gives the protocol for taking a female captive from among the conquered population). This concept of holy war flourished during the settlement of the land when Israel encountered repeated foreign invasions of its territory, but the concept changed considerably under the monarchy, when it was the king who instigated wars to serve national policy. The prophets often criticized such wars, because they were not in keeping with the divine will, and Israel’s losses or suffering as a result of war were frequently attributed to Israel’s failure to obey God and keep the covenant. The notion of holy war became an increasingly eschatological concept, associated with a decisive struggle between good and evil that would take place at the end of time. This concept continues to inform apocalyptic sections of the NT (e.g., Rev. 19:11–15).”

Schaub, M. M. (2011). holy war. In M. A. Powell (Ed.), The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (Third Edition, p. 387). New York: HarperCollins.

Forgiveness and Consequences

Forgiveness and Consequences

Forgiveness and the consequences of sin. Does being forgiven mean that we do not suffer the consequences?

“This means, fourth, that the real sinner is anyone who insists that sin is serious before God and must require atonement and restitution. The “spiritual” man is then the one who treats all sin as an opportunity to assure the sinner, “I forgive you,” without any of the requirements of God’s law being met.
As I write this, I am thinking of two long distance telephone calls today about an adulterous man. A young woman, a new Christian, has a husband who has been for years flagrantly adulterous. The “spiritual” counsel she has received has presupposed only one binding sentence in Scripture to govern all her problems: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). But no commandment of obedience to man is unconditional. The counsel given to this young woman consistently assumed that forgiveness of unrepented and continuing sin is required by God, which is radically false. Our forgiveness is to be like God’s (Matt. 6:12), and His is always in harmony with His law. Repentance, which involves a change of direction and action, is required (Matt. 18:15–17). No one requirement of Scripture can nullify another (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22); the penalty for adultery cannot be eliminated by our insistence on love and forgiveness. A repentant murderer can know the forgiveness of God and man, but he cannot escape God’s required penalty for murder. His forgiveness of sins alters his theological status; his civil status calls for the death penalty according to God’s word.
Forgiveness thus has two aspects, theological and social or civil. Christ’s atonement effects theological forgiveness for the redeemed; it does not alter the civil consequences of sin as required by God.
When Paul faced the problem of incest in the Corinthian Church, he knew that no death penalty existed for the act he cited (1 Cor. 5:1). Hence his counsel is to consign the guilty over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, hoping that they could be saved by God’s grace for heaven (1 Cor. 5:5). In brief, he invoked the necessary death penalty supernaturally, while hoping for the redemption of the sinner thereby. We find that the early church used this precedent to hold those guilty of capital offenses to be legally dead and hence outside of the communion table while having fellowship after repentance.
The humanistic view of forgiveness as a human, emotional act goes hand in hand with the view of the law as a humanistic fact. The law

hand in hand with the view of the law as a humanistic fact. The law being a human product can be set aside by man. Where the law is from God, there forgiveness is only on God’s terms, and in harmony with His law.”
Rushdoony, R. J. (1994). Systematic Theology in Two Volumes (Vol. 1, pp. 602–603). Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books.

“The work of Christ, regarded as an objective satisfaction to God, secures for man the forgiveness of sins. By this we mean that the consequences of sin as an offence against the law of God are remitted. The consequences of sin as transgression are guilt and punishment, and the forgiveness of sins implies remission of both. The consciousness of guilt is the feeling that offence against the moral law as the expression of the will of God has placed us in a position of hostility to God, so that our fellowship with God is broken. Wherever the distinction between God and the world is maintained, the forsaking of God for the world, on the part of man, is seen to involve guilt, which, again, is the basis for the infliction of punishment. Forgiveness of sins is not the remission of the penal consequences of sin only, but also and primarily the remission of that guilt which makes us liable to punishment. Where sin is regarded as having a physical basis, and is referred to material or sensual nature as its source, sin is conceived of not so much as guilt but rather as suffering, and consequently emphasis is laid upon the need of redemption rather than upon the need of forgiveness of sins. In the New Testament doctrine, which gives prominence to the idea of the guilt of the sinner and the need of awakening the consciousness of that guilt, similar prominence is given to the forgiveness of sins as the presupposition of all other blessings of redemption. It was in order to acquire power to forgive sins that the Son of God became the Son of Man, and during His earthly life He exercised this power, and declared that this forgiveness was a necessary condition of peace of soul and far beyond any bodily healing in difficulty and in blessedness. It was to secure the power of dispensing this blessing that the Son of Man died and rose again, and in the institution of the Supper He declares that the purpose for which He shed His blood was the remission of sins.1 Everywhere throughout the New Testament the preaching of the forgiveness of sins is the way in which the preaching of the gospel is usually described, and the obtaining of forgiveness for sinners is regarded as the immediate result and the most precious benefit of Christ’s death. In the New Testament the forgiveness of sins is not the abolition of suffering, the removal of the penal consequences of sin, but essentially the removal of sin itself. Hence it is of the very essence of the gospel of redemption. Christ promises forgiveness of sins to all who believe on Him. Faith is the only condition for the forgiveness of those who have offended against us demanded in the Lord’s Prayer, and the much love of her to whom much had been forgiven is evidently the proof of the reality, not the condition of the obtaining, of the divine forgiveness. But, as Kaftan says, even faith in the strictest sense is not a condition, though without faith forgiveness cannot be enjoyed. What is needed is acceptance of the call to enter the kingdom, which acceptance can be given only in repentance and faith, but being given, then to all entering the kingdom there is forgiveness unconditionally. Paul makes the forgiveness of sins the basis for that new relationship which we have to God in Christ, in which, when thus possessed of the righteousness of God, we have peace with God.”

1 Matt. 9:6, 9:2; Luke 7:48, 24:45; Matt. 26:28.
Macpherson, J. (1898). Christian Dogmatics (pp. 350–351). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.

“With these observations and qualifications we may assent to much that is said by Whiton, Divine Satisfaction, 64, who distinguishes between forgiveness and remission: “Forgiveness is the righting of disturbed personal relations. Remission is removal of the consequences which in the natural order of things have resulted from our fault. God forgives all that is strictly personal, but remits nothing that is strictly natural in sin. He imparts to the sinner the power to bear his burden and work off his debt of consequences. Forgiveness is not remission. It is introductory to remission, just as conversion is not salvation, but introductory to salvation. The prodigal was received by his father, but he could not recover his lost patrimony. He could, however, have been led by penitence to work so hard that he earned more than he had lost.”

Strong, A. H. (1907). Systematic theology (p. 850). Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society.

“Divine forgiveness does not momentarily and immediately remove all the consequences of sin in this present life. Forgiveness does remove sin as the major barrier between sinful humans and the holy God and offer deliverance from eternal punishment for sins. But wasted strength, maimed or abused bodies, lost time, and other results of sin may not be overcome even when forgiveness has been granted.40”
40 Conner, The Gospel of Redemption, p. 161.
Garrett, J. L., Jr. (2014). Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical (Second Edition, Vol. 2, p. 326). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.

Structure Outline 1 John

Structure Outline 1 John

A part of the process of exegesis and hermeneutics is outlining what you are reading for clarity of understanding. Concerning the 1 John there are many opinions. Here are a few noted by New American Commentary

“7. Structure and Form of 1 John52
Few issues are more difficult in Johannine studies than the structure of 1 John. There are almost as many opinions as there are commentaries on the book. The problem lies, in part, in the fact that the genre of 1 John is something of an enigma.53 Sloyan points out that “1 John seems the least letter-like in its lack of the identification of a sender or an address to any recipients except the nonspecific ‘little children.’ It appears to be more a treatise sent broadcast to some in the John tradition.”54 Approaches to determining a structure or outline to the book can be divided into three groups: (1) traditional scholars who seek to discern basic topic or subject divisions (even sources) and an overarching outline through inductive analysis; (2) discourse analysis—linguist scholars who apply principles of semantic structural studies or “discourse linguistics” to discover the semantic relations that weave the epistle together as a unified whole; (3) rhetorical criticism—students of ancient rhetoric who seek to discover what, if any, rhetorical strategies common to the author’s world were used to set forth and further his argument.55
(1) Traditional Approaches
R. Brown provides an extensive survey of other scholars who have divided 1 John into two, three, and seven parts. His own approach will be explained later.
Sample Proposed Divisions of 1 John

Division into Two Parts


Chaine, Verde, Tomoi


Feuillet, Francis

Division into Three Parts



Smit Sibinga


Hort, Hauck, Nestle,
Schneider, THLJ,
Vogel, NEB





Häring, Brooke, Jones

de Ambroggi


F.-M. Braun, de la
Potterie, Sk̭rinjar, SBJ








Division into Seven Parts


1:1–4; 1:5–2:6; 2:7–17; 2:18–3:24; 4:1–21; 5:1–12; 5:13–21


1:1–4; 1:5–2:17; 2:18–27; 2:28–3:24; 4:1–6; 4:7–5:12; 5:13–21


1:5–2:6; 2:7–17; 2:18–28; 2:29–3:10; 3:11–22; 3:23–5:4; 5:5–17


1:5–2:11; 2:12–17; 2:18–27; 2:28–3:24; 4:1–6; 4:7–21; 5:1–1256

Each of these proposals has some measure of merit, and each has gained at least a small following. Each has also been subject to criticism, usually because they, at some point, fail to account for the “flow of argument” in the epistle.
(2) Discourse Analysis
This approach is usually applied by linguists and Bible translators. Rooted in the structuralist theories of Ferdinand de Saussure, this method looks at how grammar works on both the paragraph and discourse level. Surface structure and deep structure issues are examined. Speech-act theory and rhetorical strategies are also studied, and the text, as it is, is carefully examined. K. Pike and R. Longacre are well-known representatives of this approach to the study of texts. The following are several proposals set forth by this school.
1 John (R. Longacre)
INTRODUCTION—1:1–2:29—Embedded discourse of seven paragraphs
1:5–10—Covert exhortation not to profess to be sinless but to “walk in the light,” confess our sins, and enjoy forgiveness.
2:1–6—Covert exhortation not to sin.
2:7–11—A new/old command is announced and inferentially connected with a covert command to love.
2:12–17—Ethical peak of this embedded discourse. Here the writer develops his reasons for writing the epistle and warns against loving the world.
2:18–27—Doctrinal peak. Remain in Christ and in his teaching in spite of adverse teaching and practice.
2:28–29—Closure. Echoes previous paragraph: “Hold steady; don’t get sidetracked.”
BODY—3:1–5:12—Embedded discourse containing seven paragraphs
3:1–6—Mitigated covert command to purify ourselves in v. 3.
3:7–12—Mitigated covert command not to practice sin (v. 9).
3:13–18—Mitigated command (not covert) to love by laying down our lives for the brethren (v. 16b; note use of “ought”).
3:19–24—“Hortatory essence” of book given in v. 23: “We should believe on Jesus and love one another.”
4:1–6—“Doctrinal peak” of the book; believe correctly regarding Jesus Christ.
4:7–21—“Ethical peak” of the book; composed of two paragraphs (7–10 and 11–21). No mitigation now but covert exhortation: “Let us love one another.”
5:1–12—Conclusion of this embedded discourse (body) in that v. 1 refers to those who believe and love, harking back to the two previous paragraphs.
CONCLUSION—5:13–21. Theme of book clearly stated in v. 13, “that you may know.” Purpose in writing is Assurance.57
A second discourse approach comes from a student of Longacre, Helen Miehle. She builds on his treatment but reaches different conclusions at certain points.
1 John (H. Miehle)
A. 1:1–4
B. 1:5–10
BODY 2:1–5:12
I. 2:1–3:6
II. 3:7–5:5
CLOSURE 5:13–2158
D. T.-C. Wu attempts something of an intersection between rhetorical and linguistic (discourse) approaches. Drawing upon the work of G. Guthrie and his work on Hebrews (Guthrie speaks of “rhetorico-discourse analysis”), he offers a more eclectic study.59 One will observe that his analysis is quite similar to more traditional approaches, but his method for arriving at his conclusions is not.
1 John (D. T.-C. Wu)
A. Walking in the Light (1:5–2:2)
(a) God is Light (1:5–1:7)
(b) Renouncing Sin (1:8–2:2)
B. The Command to Love (2:3–2:11)
(a) Knowledge of God and Keeping His Commandments (2:3–2:6)
(b) New Commandment (2:7–2:11)
C. A Digression about the Church (2:12–14)
D. Three Warnings (2:15–2:27)
(a) Warning against the World (2:15–2:17)
(b) Warning against the Antichrist (2:18–2:23)
(c) Warning against the Lie (2:24–2:27)
III. The Privileges and Responsibilities of God’s Children (2:28–4:6)
A. The Revelation of God’s Children (2:28–3:10)
(a) The Confidence of God’s Children (2:28–2:29)
(b) The Identity of God’s Children (3:1–2)
(c) God’s Children and the Children of the Devil (3:3–3:10)
B. The Community’s Message (3:11–3:12)
C. The Marks of God’s Children (3:13–3:24)
(a) Love in Community Life (3:13–3:18)
(b) Shoring up Christian Confidence (3:19–3:24)
D. Test the Spirits (4:1–6)
A. God’s Love Evokes Human Love (4:7–4:11)
B. Confidence in God’s Love (4:12–4:18)
C. Appealing to Love Each Other (4:19–4:21)
D. The Victory of Faith (5:1–5:5)
E. Testimony to the Son (5:6–5:12)
A. The Confidence and Certainties of Believers (5:13–5:20)
B. The Final Exhortation (5:21)
In a work prepared, in part, to assist missionaries in Bible translation, G. Sherman and J. Tuggy argue persuasively, in concert with Longacre, that 1 John “is a hortatory discourse, based on the occurrence of imperative verbs and other command forms.”60 They also point out that the surface form of 1 John is somewhat similar to modern English free poetry, making it difficult to always discern the relationship between various parts of the discourse.61 Concerning this latter observation, we would imagine all students of 1 John would heartily agree. Building on the insights of several discourse approaches to 1 John, they structure and organize the epistle as shown in the chart on p. 48.
(3) Rhetorical Criticism
The application of rhetorical criticism and strategies to the biblical material became quite popular in the latter half of the twentieth century. Although the results have been somewhat uneven, a better understanding of how biblical authors sought to persuade their audiences to see their perspective and hear their argument has certainly been enhanced.
First John has received significant attention because of both its brevity and the difficulty in deciphering its structure. As we have seen, previous approaches have failed to produce a consensus, and it is the case that this approach also fails to bring a definitive solution. A number of scholars have argued for a chiastic structure for 1 John. Note the following examples:
1 John (P. Berge)
A. The word of life 1:1–4
B. God is light 1:5–4:6
B′. God is love 4:7–5:5
A′. The witness of faith 5:6–2162
J. C. Thomas63 acknowledges the insights of Brown64 and wisely builds his proposal around “the use of similar catch words/phrases and sections which parallel one another in terms of content.” He goes on to argue that the structure of 1 John was intended to aid in its memorization.
1 John (J. C. Thomas)
A. 1:1–4—Prologue—Eternal Life
B. 1:5–2:2—Making Him a Liar (Walking)
C. 2:3–17—New Commandment
D. 2:18–27—Antichrists
E. 2:18–3:10—Confidence—Do Not Sin
F. 3:11–18—Love One Another
E′. 3:19–24—Confidence—Keep the Commands
D′. 4:1–6—Antichrists
C′. 4:7–5:5—God’s Love and Ours
B′. 5:6–12—Making Him a Liar (Testimony)
A′. 5:13–21—Conclusion—Eternal Life
In an excellent article that surveys various approaches to 1 John, P. J. Van Staden also argues “that the observance of the so-called chiastic styles presents an important key to a better understanding of the structure of 1 John.” He does not argue for an overall chiasm but believes the letter can be divided into three main sections (1:5–2:17; 2:18–3:17; 4:1–5:12), which themselves contain numerous chiastic or parallel units.65 K. Hansford argues in somewhat the same vein, stating that “the form of 1 John is a highly structural text, probably a homily or sermon, with poetic parallelisms and chiastic structures that the writer deliberately created to make his message more pleasurable and memorable for all time.”66 E. Wendland and K. Tollefson have recognized the contrastive or antithetical or dialectical strategies John employs in making his argument.67
D. Watson has attempted consistently to apply classic Greco-Roman rhetorical style and invention to 1 John. He argues:
Repetition and emphasis, so common in 1 John, is integral to the rhetor’s use of amplification techniques of Greceo-Roman rhetoric. These techniques include strong words, argumentation, comparison, accumulation, expolitio, reflexio, regressio, conduplicatio, distributio, synonymy … antithesis, personification, hyperbole, emphasis and development of commonplaces. Amplification is correctly found throughout the epistle. It must be pointed out that virtually every known rhetorical technique for amplification is utilized in the epistle.68
He identifies 1 John as primarily epideictic rhetoric (as opposed to judicial or deliberative) because its goal is to increase the readers’ commitment to values they already hold. First John was written to the faithful community as an appeal to strengthen their devotion to stay true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, a value held by both the speaker and his audience.69
Talbert believes 1 John (like 1 Peter) alternates between the twin concerns of ethics and Christology.70 Strecker focuses on the polemical nature of 1 John and outlines the book alternating Parenesis and Dogmatic Exposition.71
H. York argues that when a comparison is made between discourse analysis and rhetorical criticism, significant similarities exist and common results are gleaned. The methods can be complementary. He provides as an example a side-by-side comparison of the discourse model of Longacre and the rhetorical analysis of Klauck.
Comparative Structural Analysis of 1 John

Longacre (Mitigated Hortatory)
Klauck (Deliberativum)

I. Introduction (1:1–2:29)
Capitatio Benvolentiae






2:12–17 (ethical peak)

2:18–27 (doctrinal peak)

2:28–29 Closure

II. Body of the Book (3:1–5:12)





4:1–6 (doctrinal peak)

4:7–21 (ethical peak)


III. Closure of Epistle (5:13–21)72

York’s conclusion is basically correct. There are genuine areas of compatibility, synthesis of methodology, and agreement between the two approaches. Neither method alone or together, however, has decisively settled the issue of the structure of 1 John. Significant disagreement still exists within both disciplines, though it is clear major strides have been made in better understanding the structure, strategies, and argument of 1 John.
A Proposal: The outline we propose attempts to utilize the best insights from traditional studies, discourse analysis, and rhetorical criticism. First John does exhibit a hortatory and epideictic rhetorical strategy. We also find Brown’s proposal persuasive, which states that 1 John is modeled on the same general structure as the Fourth Gospel. Both have a fourfold division overall, with the themes of light and love developed variously in sections II and III. Note his comparison:
The Gospel of John
I. The Prologue (1:1–18)
II. The Book of Signs (1:19–12:50): “To his own he came; yet his own people did not accept him.” The public revelation of the light brought a judgment, which separated believers who came to the light from the world and “the Jews” who preferred darkness to light.
III. The Book of Glory (13:1–20:29): “But all those who did accept him he empowered to become God’s children.” The “hour” of Jesus’ glorification where he speaks and acts on behalf of a new “his own”—the believers.
CONCLUSION (20:30–31): A statement of the author’s purpose.
IV. The Epilogue (chap. 21)
I John
I. The Prologue (1:1–4)
II. Part One (1:5–3:10): The Gospel that God is light, and we must walk in the light as Jesus walked.
III. Part Two (3:11–5:12): The Gospel that we must love one another as God has loved us in Jesus Christ.
CONCLUSION (5:13–21): A statement of the author’s purpose.73
This commentary’s outline does the following:
1. It recognizes the two dominant themes of the epistle as being Light (1:5–3:10) and Love (3:11–5:12)
2. It seeks to utilize rhetorical devices such as “hinge verses” (e.g., 2:28; 5:20) and other structural markers that most scholars use to separate one subject from another.
3. The outline is itself hortatory, admonishing the reader to heed John’s expected response to his word of instruction. R. R. Reno summarizes the situation well when he writes:
The text of 1 John shimmers with what has been seen, heard and touched. The text speaks plainly, directly and clearly, and what is said is a proclamation that has the power of fellowship: our fellowship with each other, our fellowship with God and the fellowship of the Father with his Son. Like the name of God which the Psalmist invokes as the very power of salvation, a power of invocation which the author of 1 John echoes when he explains, “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13), so does the particular linguistic structure of 1 John contain the power to draw us into the fullest possible destiny in God’s love.74

52 The form and structure of 2 and 3 John are examined as part of the commentary on those letters.
53 Talbert, Reading John, 6.
54 G. S. Sloyan, Walking in the Truth (Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1995), 1.
55 Grayston notes: “Despite the common agreement that the Epistle lacks a discernible structure or logical progression of thought, even the most pessimistic critics attempt an analysis” (The Johannine Epistles, 4). He proposes a sixfold division dependent on emphasis rather than subject matter. J. Hill argues that 1 John is an example of the “community rule” or “church order” (“A Genre for 1 John,” in The Future of Early Christianity, ed. B. A. Pearson [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991], 367–77). His argument, though interesting, is not adequate.
New English Bible
Brown, Epistles of John, 764. Law, Tests of Life, 1–24; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966), 366–67; and D. Jackman, The Message of John’s Letters (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 18, are representative of those who see the letter structured in the form of a spiral, inverted pyramid or cone whereby John again and again returns to address certain themes. There is certainly some truth to this perspective. Marshall (The Epistles of John, 22–30) gives a more detailed analysis of the outlines of Law, Brooke, Dodd, Malatesta, P. R. Jones, Schnackenburg, and Feuillet. He does not find any of these approaches adequate overall. He goes on to examine the redactional theories of K. Tomoi, E. von Dobschütz, Bultmann, Windisch, Preisker, Braun, Nauck, and O’Neill. He concludes that these theories also fail to account for the structure of the letter.
57 R. E. Longacre, “Exhortation and Mitigation in First John,” in Selected Technical Articles Related to Translation 9 (1983): 3–44.
58 H. Miehle, “Theme in Greek Hortatory Discourse: Van Dijk and Beekman—Callow Approaches Applied to 1 John,” Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Arlington, 1988. Miehle obviously sees chiastic patterns in various sections. For our purposes we are more interested in simply showing her paragraph/section divisions. See G. H. Guthrie, The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis (Leiden: Brill, 1994). Guthrie’s work is warmly commended by W. L. Lane in his commentary on Hebrews in WBC (xc).
59 D. T.-C. Wu, “An Analysis of the Structure of 1 John Using Discourse Analysis,” Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1997.
60 G. Sherman and J. C. Tuggy, A Semantic and Structural Analysis of the Johannine Epistles (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1994), 6.
61 Ibid., 7.
62 P. S. Berge, “The Word and Its Witness in John and 1 John: A Literary and Rhetorical Study,” in Word and World, Supplement Series 3 (1997): 143–62. As the title suggests, Berge sees a parallel literary relationship between the Gospel of John and 1 John. He also presents internal chiasms within his four major divisions (p. 151). The argument at this latter point is not very compelling.
63 J. C. Thomas, “The Literary Structure of 1 John,” NovT XL 4 (1998): 369–81.
64 Brown, Epistles of John, 371–72.
65 P. J. Van Staden, “The Debate on the Structure of 1 John,” Hervormde Teologiese Studies 47/ 2 (1991): 494. M. Sweazey makes a similar argument, though she divides the epistle at 1:5–2:28; 2:29–4:6; 4:7–5:13. See her “Chiastic Study of the First Epistle of John,” Master’s Thesis, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1986.
66 K. L. Hansford, “The Underlying Poetic Structure of 1 John,” JTT 5 (1992): 125–74.
67 E. R. Wendland, “ ‘Dear Children’ Versus the ‘Antichrists’: The Rhetoric of Reassurance in First John,” JTT 11 (1998): 40–84; K. D. Tollefson, “Certainty within the Fellowship: Dialectical Discourse in 1 John,” BTB 29, no. 2 (1999): 79–89. His outline of 1 John (p. 84) is helpful and interesting. D. Neufeld draws somewhat similar conclusions through the use of speech act theory (Reconceiving Texts as Speech Acts: An Analysis of 1 John (Leiden: Brill, 1994). His analysis is helpful at points, but many of the positions he takes on historical issues are unnecessarily skeptical and unduly suspicious.
68 D. F. Watson, “Amplification Techniques in 1 John: The Interaction of Rhetorical Style and Invention,” JSNT 51 (1993): 117–18.
69 Ibid., 119. See also Watson, “An Epideictic Strategy for Increasing Adherence to Community Values: 1 John 1:1–2:29,” in Proceedings: Eastern Great Lakes and Midwest Biblical Societies 11 (1991), 144–52.
70 Talbert, Reading John, 7.
71 Strecker, The Johannine Letters, xliv.
H. W. York, “An Analysis and Synthesis of the Exegetical Methods of Rhetorical Criticism and Discourse Analysis as Applied to the Structure of 1 John,” Ph.D. diss., Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, 1993. The two outlines come from Longacre, “Exhortation and Mitigation in First John,” in Selected Technical Articles Related to Translation 9 (1983): 3–44 (previously noted); and H.-J. Klauck, “Zur rhetorischen Analyse der Johannesbriefe,” ZNW 81 (1990): 204–24.
73 Brown, Epistles of John, 124. A. Feuillet concurs with Brown’s assessment that 1 John is patterned after the Gospel of John, though he outlines the letter differently. See his “Structure of 1 John,” BTB, vol. III, No. 2 (1973): 194–216. Van Staden’s criticism of Brown’s proposal, in our judgment, is unconvincing (“The Debate on the Structure of 1 John,” 489–90).
74 R. R. Reno, “The Marks of the Nails: Theological Exegesis of the First Letter of John for Easter,” Pro Ecclesia, Vol. VI, No. 1 (1997): 53.

Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
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Baptism Didache

Baptism Didache

“1 And concerning baptism,15 thus baptize ye:16 Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,17 in living water.18 2 But if thou have not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, in warm. 3. But if thou have not either, pour out water thrice19 upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. 4. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whatever others can; but thou shalt order the baptized to fast one or two days before.20”

15 Verse vii. 1 is found, well-nigh entire, in Apostolic Constitutions, 22, but besides this only a few words of verses 2 and 4. The chapter has naturally called out much discussion as to the mode of baptism.
16 [Elucidation I.] 17 Matt. 28:19.
18 Probably running water.
19 The previous verses point to immersion; this permits pouring in certain cases, which indicates that this mode was not unknown. The trine application of the water, and its being poured on the head, are both significant.
20 The fasting of the baptized is enjoined in Apostolic Constitutions, but that of the baptizer (and others) is peculiar to this document.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). The Lord’s Teaching through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations. In Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 379). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

“x. Neither do we permit the laity to perform any of the offices belonging to the priesthood; as, for instance, neither the sacrifice, nor baptism, nor the laying on of hands, nor the blessing, whether the smaller or the greater: for “no one taketh this honour to himself, but he that is called of God.”7 For such sacred offices are conferred by the laying on of the hands of the bishop. But a person to whom such an office is not committed, but he seizes upon it for himself, he shall undergo the punishment of Uzziah.8”

7 Heb. 5:4.
8 2 Chron. 26.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. In J. Donaldson (Trans.), Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 429). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

“sec. ii.—on deacons and deaconesses, the rest of the clergy, and on baptism.
Let not therefore either a bishop, or a presbyter, or a deacon, or any one else of the sacerdotal catalogue, defile his tongue with calumny, lest he inherit a curse instead of a blessing; and let it also be the bishop’s business and care that no lay person utter any curse: for he ought to take care of all,—of the clergy, of the virgins, of the widows, of the laity. For which reason, O bishop, do thou ordain thy fellow-workers, the labourers for life and for righteousness, such deacons as are pleasing to God, such whom thou provest to be worthy among all the people, and such as shall be ready for the necessities of their ministration. Ordain also a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministrations towards women. For sometimes he cannot send a deacon, who is a man, to the women, on account of unbelievers. Thou shalt therefore send a woman, a deaconess, on account of the imaginations of the bad. For we stand in need of a woman, a deaconess, for many necessities; and first in the baptism of women, the deacon shall anoint only their forehead with the holy oil, and after him the deaconess shall anoint them:5 for there is no necessity that the women should be seen by the men; but only in the laying on of hands the bishop shall anoint her head, as the priests and kings were formerly anointed, not because those which are now baptized are ordained priests, but as being Christians, or anointed, from Christ the Anointed, “a royal priesthood, and an holy nation, the Church of God, the pillar and ground of the marriage-chamber,”6 who formerly were not a people, but now are beloved and chosen, upon whom is called His new name7 as Isaiah the prophet witnesses, saying: “And they shall Call the people by His new name, which the Lord shall name for them.”8

concerning the sacred initiation of holy baptism.
xvi. Thou therefore, O bishop, according to that type, shalt anoint the head of those that are to be baptized, whether they be men or women, with the holy oil, for a type of the spiritual baptism. After that, either thou, O bishop, or a presbyter that is under thee, shall in the solemn form name over them the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, and shall dip them in the water; and let a deacon receive the man, and a deaconess the woman, that so the conferring of this inviolable seal may take place with a becoming decency. And after that, let the bishop anoint those that are baptized with ointment.
what is the meaning of baptism into christ, and on what account everything is there said or done.

xvii. This baptism, therefore, is given into the death of Jesus:9 the water is instead of the burial, and the oil instead of the Holy Ghost; the seal instead of the cross; the ointment is the confirmation of the confession; the mention of the Father as of the Author and Sender; the joint mention of the Holy Ghost as of the witness; the descent into the water the dying together with Christ; the ascent out of the water the rising again with Him. The Father is the God over all; Christ is the only-begotten God, the beloved Son, the Lord of glory; the Holy Ghost is the Comforter, who is sent by Christ, land taught by Him, and proclaims Him.”

5 [Compare Jas. 5:14.] 6 1 Pet. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:15.
7 The words from “upon whom” to the end of the chapter are omitted in one V. ms.
8 Isa. 62:2.
9 Vid. Rom. 6:3.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. In J. Donaldson (Trans.), Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 431). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

“xxxix. For I Matthew, one of those twelve which speak to you in this doctrine, am an apostle, having myself been formerly a publican, but now have obtained mercy through believing, and have repented of my former practices, and have been vouchsafed the honour to be an apostle and preacher of the word. And Zacchæus, whom the Lord received upon his repentance and prayers to Him, was also himself in the same manner a publican at first. And, besides, even the soldiers and multitude of publicans, who came to hear the word of the Lord about repentance, heard this from the prophet John, after he had baptized them: “Do nothing more than that which is appointed you.”7 In like manner, life is not refused to the heathen, if they repent and cast away their unbelief. Esteem, therefore, every one that is convicted of any wicked action, and has not repented, as a publican or an heathen. But if he afterward repents, and turns from his error, then, as we receive the heathen, when they wish to repent, into the Church indeed to hear the word, but do not receive them to communion until they have received the seal of baptism, and are made complete Christians; so do we also permit such as these to enter only to hear, until they show the fruit of repentance, that by hearing the word they may not utterly and irrecoverably perish. But let them not be admitted to communion in prayer; and let them depart after the reading of the law, and the prophets, and the Gospel, that by such departure they may be made better in their course of life, by endeavouring to meet every day about the public assemblies, and to be frequent in prayer, that they also may be at length admitted, and that those who behold them may be affected, and be more secured by fearing to fall into the same condition.”

7 Luke 3:13.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. In J. Donaldson (Trans.), Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 414). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.


“The idea of baptism

This might seem a silly question: was not Jesus baptized by John the Baptist (Mark 1:9, followed by Matt. 3:13 and Luke 3:21), did he not engage with his disciples in baptizing (John 4:1–2), and did he not command his followers to make disciples from all the nations and baptize them using the very words we have in the Didache (> Matt. 28:19)? However, these Gospel passages, with the possible exception of Mark whose Gospel was being preached before AD 70, are later than the instruction in the Didache. Therefore, we have to explain both the choice of the action of baptizing and how that action was linked with the memory of Jesus in the first churches.

For Jews, the ritual that marked their boundary as a community, and as the assembly who had accepted the covenant, was circumcision. Circumcision, along with the sabbath and the regulations regarding food, was the mark of accepting God’s promises (Gen. 17:9–14). By the time of Jesus, indeed for more than a century before his time, circumcision was closely linked to Israel’s self-perception as the covenant people of God (1 Macc. 1:14–15, 60–61; 2 Macc. 6:10). It was the most important boundary marker separating Jew from gentile, those within the covenant from those outside it. So there was no need for any other fundamental boundary ritual—a boundary ritual is an action that distinguishes a group from those who are not-belonging-to-the-group, ‘the people’ as distinct from everyone else.
But there were many other traditions that marked transitions from one state of relationship with God to another for those who were within the covenant community. One such important ritual was that of a bath to cleanse away certain impurities before acts of worship. A leper, for instance, once clear of disease—after seeing a priest—could only be readmitted to the community after washing his clothes, shaving his hair and having had a bath (Lev. 14:2–8). And contacts with ‘impure’ bodily discharges which could make one unfit to perform the service of God were to be washed away by washing clothes and having a bath (e.g. Lev. 15:2–5). We know from archaeological discoveries that in Jewish towns there were pools for taking these special religious baths, while in Qumran there were numerous pools so that this community could see itself as always pure, and so always ready to offer praise to God. It was this ritual practice that was adopted by John the Baptist to mark out those who had accepted his preaching that the judgement of God was imminent. These were the people who had fled sin and repented, were washed by John in the living, that is, flowing, water of the Jordan, and now purified of sin could withstand coming judgement. John’s message was that the crunch was about to come upon a wicked generation: those who listened to him saw the need to separate themselves and be purified of their sins by a bathing. This washing which made his followers into the purified people may have been taken over from existing rites of purification, but it had the effect of making them a group within a group, a people within a people—and, as such, the purification bath became a boundary ritual. The followers of John were a distinct community because each of them had been baptized by him.
In the Gospels, the relationship between John and Jesus is presented, especially in Luke, as one of intimacy, harmony and seamless continuity: they were cousins, John announces Jesus, baptizes him, and then Jesus brings to perfection that which was inaugurated by John the Baptist:

‘ “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’
(John 1:30–34 [NRSV])

However, this is the picture looking backwards from several generations later, and, more importantly, with hindsight the evangelists saw all that happened as part of God’s providential plan. But the relationship was far more fraught. John preached that the judgement of God was coming on a sinful generation—the crunch was coming and only those who set themselves apart would be saved. Jesus seems to have had links with this movement, but broke away from it. His message about the imminent coming of the kingdom was radically different: the Day of the Lord was not a grim day of judgement, but rather the day of the Lord’s forgiveness.

In some places in our Gospels (e.g. the image of the sheep and the goats in Matt. 25) there is a sense of dread future judgement, but these instances—which exhibit the more widespread views of the early communities—have to be seen against the broad sweep of Jesus’ statements about the coming kingdom where he addresses God as ‘Father’ and such stories as that about the welcoming father in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), or his own practice in the case of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:2–11)—a story about Jesus whose ‘laxity’ with regard to judgement shocked many early communities.

His new community was to rejoice that God had shown mercy and that that mercy would extend to all (> Meier, 1994, pp. 116–30). Whether Jesus would have seen any need for a washing to remove the ‘impurities’ of people before they could see themselves as part of the kingdom is very doubtful. There are so many stories of Jesus and the disciples eating without observing the purity laws (e.g. Mark 7:3), having contact with that which would make them impure, and not worrying about it (Matt. 8:3 and 9:20), and eating with sinners (e.g. Luke 7:34) that it appears that he considered the whole notion of impurity as having been swept away by God’s forgiving love. Purity was not a matter of cups and plates, but rather rooting out greed and self-indulgence (> Matt. 23:25). So, even though Jesus had at one stage in his life been baptized, why was there any later use for a notion of the need for a bath for impurity, and why was Jesus remembered as intimately linked with John’s bath?

The answer lies in the movement of many of John’s followers to become followers of Jesus—and it would seem that with John’s death many more of his disciples became followers of Jesus. One might imagine that if someone has left John and followed Jesus, then he or she would simply have jettisoned what was linked with John and adopt what belonged to Jesus! But this is not how human beings act, especially in religious matters: people carry their histories and their precious customs with them into the new situation. Some who changed over to Jesus may have only seen what John and Jesus had in common such as that the Lord was coming among his people or that there was another special route distinct from ‘ordinary Judaism’; others may have grafted Jesus’ teaching into what they had already heard from John; many others would not have realized the extent to which John’s teaching was still influencing them even when they thought they had moved from one prophet to another. The result was that the early communities that looked to Jesus as the Anointed One actually combined many elements from John’s teaching with elements from that of Jesus. We see this legacy in Christianity to this day: there are some people who look to the Gospels and come away with a message of God’s impending judgement, and their outlook is apocalyptic; others look at the same Gospels and think that this approach is wrong-headed. The legacy of John’s notion of the Day of the Lord as crunch, while it may not sit well with that of Jesus’ kingdom of welcome, is still with us, and is a theme that Christians return to from time to time.

One of those elements of John’s teaching that was carried over was the belief that accepting that the kingdom was at hand formed them into a distinct people apart; they were in a special relationship to the covenant; and while every Jewish boy was circumcised, this group was ritually distinct in that everyone in it, man and woman, had been baptized. For John’s followers this ritual bath was an item of major importance; it was how they thought of themselves as a group and how others thought of them—hence the sobriquet given to their prophet: ‘the baptizer’—and as such it was a custom they would have held as precious. There is a funny phenomenon we see happening time and again in religion: group practices (the ritual) remain stubbornly the same, yet how they are explained (the theology) changes with circumstances. This is counter-intuitive: we might expect that people would hold onto their theories, and that practices would vary; but it is almost never like that. A group that has made the action of ‘plunging’ a key group moment is going to keep that custom when they see one leader replaced by another, and despite the fact that the way they explain the action has changed many times. No doubt when John opted for a bathing he was thinking in terms of the law in Leviticus and of purifying the people before the terrible day of judgement—we see this in references to his preaching ‘a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 3:3)—but the practice soon took on the significance of being, for those not in the group, the brand of his followers, while for those in the group it became their badge of identity: we are the community within the larger Israel that is ready for what is coming. Later, when that group came under the influence of Jesus—and now saw themselves as his followers—they continued with this badge of identity. You knew that you were part of this new People of Israel—amidst all the other Jews who were children of the covenant—because you had been through the plunging in the living water (i.e. flowing water). Baptism formed the boundary for John’s community, and it migrated to become the boundary for Jesus’ community.

However, while the action of baptism seems to have been accepted by all the followers without much difficulty—all groups seem to generate boundary rituals in one way or another—the assimilation of John’s teaching with that of Jesus would be no easy matter. In the Gospels we see stories which present the two strands living harmoniously, but the fissures that open up again and again in Christianity—as we shall see later with the practice of fasting—can often be traced to the fact of two very different visions of how God relates to us: one can be traced to John and the other to Jesus. These views were never integrated—that would have been impossible—but were shoved together as if the differences could be passed over. Every so often the glue fails and groups reject either the Jesus or the John vision of God’s love. Meanwhile most Christians, for the most part, shuffle on with the ‘lumpy mixture’ of both that we find in the early churches and their great evangelists. Baptism is a case in point: by the time of John’s death it had ceased being simply a requirement of the covenant’s law so that people could offer pure service to God and had become a mark of belonging to John’s people, then the practice continued and it came to be the mark of belonging to Jesus’ people. And as such, it became the key moment of initiation into the Way of Jesus in the Didache and has remained a key feature in Christian practice ever since—but even then, the legacy of the ‘lumpy mixture’ continued in the many divisions that have occurred in the Church over baptism. Some would argue that it was about removing sin that could lead to death (a very John-like view) and so it was very important to baptize infants—and they saw initiation as something happening afterwards; others would see baptism as fundamentally the moment of commitment to Jesus and so would argue that only adults could be baptized. Significantly, in the Didache we have the emphasis on the practice, without any attempt at ‘explaining’ its significance.”

O’Loughlin, T. (2010). The Didache: A Window on the Earliest Christians (pp. 47–53). London; Grand Rapids, MI: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; Baker Academic.

Rapture Book of Revelation

Rapture Book of Revelation

Rapture Book of Revelation

One argument that I hear from those who hold to a pretribulation rapture is that the church is not mentioned after chapter 4 of the book of Revelation.Thus the church is not here during the tribulation. According to this logic we should not call members of the church saints

Re 5:8 X And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Re 8:3 X And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,
Re 8:4 X and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
Re 11:18 X The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
Re 13:7 X Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation,
Re 13:10 X If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
Re 14:12 X Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
Re 16:6 X For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!”
Re 17:6 X And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.
Re 18:20 X Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!”
Re 18:24 X And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”
Re 19:8 X it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
Re 20:9 X And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them

Noah Son of Lamech

Bible Topic Noah 

NOAH nōʹə.
1. [Heb nō (a)ḥ; Gk Noē]; AV also NOE. The last of the antediluvian patriarchs and survivor of the Genesis Flood (Gen. 5:28–9:28).
I. Name

The etymology of nō (a)ḥ is uncertain. Many commentators relate it to Heb nwḥ, “to rest.” In Gen. 5:29 the name is mentioned in assonance with the verb nḥm (piel), “comfort” (AV and RV) or “bring relief” (RSV), but nwḥ is closer to the name Noah.
II. Genealogy and Longevity

Noah was the son of Lamech (Gen. 5:28f.; Lk. 3:36) and father of three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gen. 5:32; 6:9; 9:18f.; 10:1), who were born before the Flood. The order preserved in these verses is not chronological. Ham was the youngest (9:24) and Japheth the second of Noah’s sons.
Noah lived 950 years. Reinterpretations of the longevity of the ANTEDILUVIAN PATRIARCHS, such as appealing to the concept of family or dynasty identification rather than individual, are fraught with unresolved difficulties.
III. Noah in a World Under Judgment

As a prelude to the story of the Flood, Gen. 6:1–7, 11f paints a portrait of the wickedness of mankind (on the difficulty of identifying the “sons of God” see SONS OF GOD [OT]). The importance of this passage is its statement of the progression of evil. The Creator’s response to a “corrupt” and “violent” civilization was one of grief and anger (6:5–7, 11–13). Judgment was imminent.
In the context of an already ruined civilization, Noah emerges as a man in step with God (6:9). He was righteous (ṣaddîq; cf. AV “just”); responding to events as yet unseen, he “became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith” (He. 11:7). Noah was also blameless (tāmîm, cf. AV “perfect”) “among the people of his time” (NIV, preferable to AV “in his generations”). Tāmîm signifies perfection in the sense of completeness or wholeheartedness (see BDB, p. 1071). Later writers would recall the days of Noah (Isa. 54:9; Mt. 24:37f.; Lk. 17:26f) and would remember him as an exemplarily righteous man (Ezk. 14:14, 20; 2 Pet. 2:5).
IV. The Flood

Noah was informed of the impending destruction 120 years beforehand (Gen. 6:3, 13; cf. 1 Pet. 3:20). The agency of judgment would be a flood (Heb mabbûl, 6:17; 7:6, 7, 10, 17; see also Ps. 29:10). The LXX translates Heb mabbûl by kataklysmós, which the NT also uses to refer to the Flood (Mt. 24:38f.; Lk. 17:27; 2 Pet. 2:5). Noah, the one who “found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8), this “herald of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5), and his family would be spared. The agency of their salvation would be an ark (tēḇâ, Gen. 6:14).
Every facet of the Flood narrative has been scrutinized with a view to logical explanation, including questions for which the text speaks not a word. The Genesis Flood is but one of many biblical events whose import has been diminished, if not lost, in the need for thorough explanation and empirical verification. These lines of inquiry may be legitimate, though extravagances abound, but it is more important to seek the intended emphasis and allow the text to speak in its own terms. See also FLOOD (GENESIS); ARK OF NOAH.

A. Judgment The Flood bespeaks the certain judgment of a sovereign and righteous God on an ungodly world (see Kline, p. 89). This ordeal by water (2 Pet. 3:5f) was a mere token of judgment when compared with the greater judgment that awaits not only the earth but all creation (cf. 2 Pet. 3:7, 10). The emphasis of Jesus’ words in Mt. 24:36–41; Lk. 17:26–37, as He compared the days of Noah with those of the Son of man, was not on the sinfulness of Noah’s contemporaries, but rather on the unexpectedness of impending doom (cf. Mt. 24:44).

B. Salvation The Flood also bespeaks salvation to those who put their faith in God (He. 11:7). Although the parallel between the deliverance of Noah and his family and salvation through Christ is not precise at every point. Peter compares the waters of the Flood with those of baptism in which the water symbolizes God’s judgment on sin and deliverance into a new life (1 Pet. 3:20f.; see also BAPTISM VII.A). Peter emphasizes that the efficacy of baptism lies not in the outward symbolism of the “removal of dirt from the body” but in the inner response of faith to God.

The ark, at rest on Mt. Ararat, and the genealogical tree of Noah (see Gen. 10). From the AV (London, 1611) (Rare Books and Manuscripts Division; New York Public Library; Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations)
V. Noah’s Counterparts in Cuneiform Sources

Although archeology has not provided empirical data for the Genesis Flood, excavations have unearthed many texts and fragments which preserve the story of a great flood, widely known among the civilizations of the ancient Near East. It is mentioned in the Sumerian King List (ca 2000 B.C.;ANET, pp. 265f.; Kramer, pp. 328–331). A fragmentary Sumerian tablet from Nippur preserves the story of King Ziusudra, Noah’s counterpart, who was warned that the gods had decided to destroy mankind with a flood. A great boat would provide Ziusudra’s escape. The last extant lines of the text describe his deification (ANET, pp. 42–44).
The Epic of Atra-ḫasis (ca 17th cent. B.C. in the earliest surviving copies) describes a deluge sent by the gods to destroy mankind after earlier attempts through drought had failed to control the increasing number of people and their noise (W. G. Lambert and A. R. Millard, Atra-Ḫasīs: The Babylonian Story of the Flood [1969]). A small fragment of the Babylonian flood story referring to Atra-ḫasis was found at Râs Shamrah and dated to the 14th cent. B.C. (ibid., pp. 131–33).
Similar to the story of Atra-ḫasis is that preserved in the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic (the best English translation with discussion of the biblical parallels is that of Heidel; see also ANET, pp. 72–99; S. N. Kramer, JAOS, 64 [1944], 7ff). The story is, in part, that of Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality which leads him to the island of Utnapishtim. This “Babylonian Noah” tells Gilgamesh the story of the flood which was prompted by Enlil’s insomnia, as in the Atra-ḫasis Epic. Utnapishtim narrates how he alone was warned of the impending destruction and instructed to build a boat by which he and his family would be spared. The story leads to the granting of immortality to Utnapishtim, an event which will never recur.
The similarities between the biblical and Mesopotamian flood stories are striking, as are the differences (see FLOOD [GENESIS] VI; Heidel, pp. 224–269, esp p. 269; T. Jacobsen, pp. 215–19). Opinions differ concerning the literary relationship between the biblical and Babylonian narratives. Many scholars consider the latter to comprise the raw materials from which the former was produced. Others contend that the two revert to an unknown common source. The similarities suggest a common recollection of an actual historical event. The differences bespeak the focus of divine inspiration. Genesis records the story of Noah in historical truth and imparts the theological significance of the Flood.
VI. Noahic Covenant

Noah emerges from the ark and builds an altar of sacrifice. He offers burnt offerings, tokens of dedication and atonement, which produce a “sweet savour” to the Lord (Gen. 8:21, AV). Contrast the imagery of the Babylonian version at this point:
The gods smelled the savor
The gods smelled the sweet savor
The gods gathered like flies over the sacrifice.

What God had once commanded Adam (Gen. 1:28), He now reiterates to Noah and his sons (9:1; see Kline, p. 90). This COVENANT (Gen. 6:18; 9:8–17) is remarkable for its breadth (9:10; 12–13; 15; 17) and permanence. It is an everlasting covenant (Heb berîṯ ʿôlām, 9:16), initiated by the beneficent Creator. He promised that never again would the world be destroyed by a flood (9:15). The rainbow (Heb qešeṯ, usually denoting the weapon) was the covenant sign, a seal of the promise to mankind and a reminder to God of His commitments.

Bibliography.—A. Heidel, Gilgamesh Epic and OT Parallels (2nd ed. 1949); T. Jacobsen, Treasures of Darkness (1976), pp. 195–219; M. G. Kline, “Genesis,” NBC (3rd ed. 1970); S. N. Kramer, Sumerians (1963); M. E. L. Mallowan, Iraq, 26 (1964), 62–82; A. R. Millard, Tyndale Bulletin, 18 (1967), 3–18; A. Parrot, The Flood and Noah’s Ark (Eng. tr. 1955); G. J. Wenham, VT, 28 (1978), 336–348.

Pratico, G. (1979–1988). Noah. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 3, pp. 543–545). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

NOAH, SON OF LAMECH (נֹחַ, noach). Obeyed God’s command to build an ark to escape the great flood. A son of Lamech and father of Shem, Japheth, and Ham.

Noah, the son of Lamech, was the last of the ten antediluvian patriarchs listed in Gen 5:1–32. When God decided to destroy all people because of their corrupt nature (Gen 6:11–12), He recognized Noah’s righteousness and spared him. Under God’s supervision, Noah built an ark that allowed him and his family (including his wife and three sons, Shem, Japheth, and Ham), along with the animals, to escape the flood that possibly encompassed the entire planet and destroyed all human and animal life (Gen 6:17). Like Adam, Noah became the father of the human race. Noah lived 350 years after the flood, dying at the age of 950.

Preparation for the Flood
Noah was spared from the flood because, unlike the other wicked inhabitants of earth, he found “favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:8 NIV) and was “found righteous” by God (Gen 7:1 NIV). He is also described as being “righteous” (צַדִּיק, tsaddiq), “blameless” (תָּמִים, tamim), and one who “walked with God” (Gen 6:9 NIV) like his ancestor Enoch (Gen 5:24). Based on Genesis 6:3, Noah may have been aware of the coming flood 120 years before it occurred. In obedience to the Lord, Noah built the ark and gathered the animals and food, doing “everything just as God commanded him” (Gen 6:22).

The Flood
The flood began on the 17th day of the second month of Noah’s 600th year (Gen 7:6). After Noah and his family had been in the ark for seven days, the rains began; springs also broke open, adding to the flooding. During the 40 days and 40 nights of rain (Gen 7:12), all the people, animals, and birds on earth were destroyed. Noah and his family remained in the ark for a total of 371 days. When the land dried, the Lord commanded Noah to bring his family and all the animals out of the ark.

Events After the Flood
Upon exiting the ark, Noah built an altar and offered “burnt offerings” (עֹלָה, olah) to the Lord (Gen 8:20). The Lord then commanded Noah to “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Gen 9:1 NIV), just as He had commanded Adam and Eve (Gen 1:28). The Lord also echoed the words He had spoken to Adam and Eve in Gen 1:29–30 by telling Noah that the plants and animals were subject to him and were provided for food (Gen 9:2–3). In Genesis 9:9–17, the Lord made a covenant (בְּרִית, berith) with Noah, promising never again to destroy the earth and its inhabitants through a flood and establishing the rainbow as a sign of this covenant.
The last event recorded in the account of Noah (Gen 9:19–27) resulted in the blessing and cursing of his sons. After Noah became drunk on wine made from grapes he had planted—an action that the biblical account neither condemns nor condones—he lay naked in his tent. His son, Ham, observed Noah and then told his brothers, Shem and Japheth, of their father’s condition. Shem and Japheth entered the tent and covered their father, taking care to avoid looking at his nakedness. When Noah discovered what Ham had done, he was outraged and pronounced a curse on Ham’s descendants through Ham’s son, Canaan.
Although numerous theories exist as to the nature of Ham’s crime, it seems most likely that it was a combination of Ham’s making light of his father’s nakedness and failing to honor his father, thus breaking the fifth commandment (Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, 419–20). Noah blessed Shem and Japheth, who treated his condition respectfully.

Biblical References to Noah
Both the Old and New Testaments refer to the time of Noah, the “days of Noah,” and the person Noah. Old Testament references to Noah include the following:

• (Isa 54:9)—The Lord refers to the “days of Noah” to illustrate the certainty that He will keep His promises to the Jewish nation, just as He kept His promise never to destroy the earth by flood through His covenant with Noah.
• (Ezek 14:14, 20)—Noah is mentioned twice in Ezekiel to emphasize the gravity of God’s judgment of Israel at the hands of the Babylonians. Even a man as righteous as Noah could save only himself. He would not have been able to save even his family as he did in the ark.

There are more references to Noah in the New Testament than in the Old Testament, including these passages:

• (Matt 24:37–38; Luke 17:26–27)—Jesus compares the “days of Noah” to the coming of the Son of Man to illustrate that at the coming of the Son of Man, people will be unconcerned about spiritual matters and will be caught off guard by judgment.
• (Heb 11:7)—The writer of Hebrews identifies Noah as a man of faith, arguing that through his faith the world was condemned.
• (1 Pet 3:20)—Peter refers to the “days of Noah,” comparing the salvation that Noah and his family received from the flood to the waters of baptism that are a symbol of salvation.
• (2 Pet 2:5)—Peter mentions how God protected Noah from the flood to illustrate that God knows how to “rescue the godly and punish the righteous.”

Extrabiblical Characterizations of Noah
Flood accounts and Noah-type heroes are found in many cultures throughout the world, including those located in very remote places. Three Mesopotamian myths are particularly significant due to their geographic proximity to the land of the Bible and similarities to biblical events. In addition to containing many parallels to the biblical account, the three Mesopotamian myths are very similar to each other.

Eridu Genesis
The oldest Mesopotamian flood story is a Sumerian flood myth recorded on a tablet found in Nippur and known as the Eridu Genesis(Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic, 102). Much of the tablet is missing, and the myth was previously known only through the writing of Berossus, a Babylonian priest who lived in the third century BC and wrote a history of Babylonia. In the Eridu Genesis, the god Enki revealed to Ziusudra, a king and priest, that the gods wanted to destroy the human race through a flood. Enki instructed Ziusudra to build a boat and fill it with animals. A storm flooded the earth for seven days and nights. It appears the first thing Ziusudra did upon exiting the boat was to offer sacrifices of animals and grain products, such as barley cakes. As a reward for his behavior, Ziusudra was awarded immortality.

Epic of Atrahasis
The Babylonian Epic of Atrahasis is the most complete flood story from Mesopotamia, although portions of the text are missing from the broken tablets on which it is written. In this epic, the god Enlil decided to destroy the human race through a flood because they were making so much noise that he couldn’t sleep. Atrahasis had a dream in which Enlil told him to destroy his house and use the material to build a boat to withstand an upcoming seven-day flood. Unlike Noah in the Genesis account, Atrahasis employed a variety of workers to build the boat, including carpenters, reed-workers, and the rich (or perhaps children) and poor, although it does not appear that they joined Atrahasis on the boat during the flood. As in the Genesis account, Atrahasis offered sacrifices upon leaving the boat after the flood.

Epic of Gilgamesh
The most well-known Mesopotamian flood narrative is the Gilgamesh Epic. The flood portion of the Gilgamesh Epic, written in Akkadian cuneiform, is located on Tablet XI and is dated to the seventh century BC (although the Gilgamesh Epic dates much earlier than this). In this account, Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh (who is searching for immortality) how he was saved from a flood sent by gods. When the gods living in Shurappak decided to cause a flood, one of the gods, Ea, secretly warned Utnapishtim of the plan and advised him to tear down his house and use the material to build a boat. The epic continues by describing how Utnapishtim built the boat and survived the subsequent flood.
This flood epic holds many parallels to the Genesis account, including:

1. The boat rested on a mountain (Mount Nimush) as the flood subsided.
2. Utnapishtim released birds to determine whether the flood had subsided.
3. Utnapishtim offered a sacrifice after disembarking from the boat.

Despite the similarities, the accounts also differ. For example, the flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh lasted only six days and seven nights. Perhaps the greatest difference is that Utnapishtim and his wife were granted eternal life at the end of the story.

The name Noah may be related to the Hebrew word “to rest” (נוּחַ, nuach) or “comfort” (נָחַם, nacham). The pronunciation of “to rest” (נוּחַ, nuach) sounds more like Noah, but Noah’s father, Lamech, stated that his son would be one who “will comfort” (Gen 5:29 NIV).

Beale, G.K., and D.A. Carson, eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.
Hamilton, Victor P. The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.
Heidel, Alexander. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949.
Lambert, W.G., and A.R. Millard. Atra-ḫasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1999.
Mathews, Kenneth A. Genesis 1–11. New American Commentary 1A. Nashville: Broadman, 1996.
VanGemeren, Willem A, ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997.
Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 1–15. Word Biblical Commentary 1. Waco, Tex.: Word, 1987.


NO-AMON (נֹּא אָמוֹן, no’ amon). Also known as No (נֹא, no’). This Egyptian city is called Thebes in Greek; as such, the word נֹא (no’) is often translated as “Thebes” in English (Nah 3:8). No’s patron deity was the Egyptian god Amon. It was a city of chief importance on the Nile River and the capital of Upper Egypt in certain periods (Jer 46:25; Ezek 30:14–16). For more information, see this article: Thebes.

NOB (נֹב, nov; Νόμβα, Nomba). Levitical city in the tribal territory of Benjamin near Anathoth.

Biblical Relevance
Nob is the setting of an important story in the rise of David. After fleeing from Saul, David visits the village of Nob to gather supplies. Ahimelech the priest helps David, unaware that the king has threatened him. David takes five loaves of consecrated bread as well as Goliath’s sword (1 Sam 21:1–9). When Saul learns that Ahimelech unknowingly helped David escape, he orders his servants to kill the priests, but they refuse (1 Sam 22:9–17). However, Doeg the Edomite obeys Saul’s command, killing 85 priests and all of the inhabitants of Nob (1 Sam 22:18–19). The only survivor is Ahimelech’s son Abiathar, who reports the massacre to David (1 Sam 22:20–23). Based on this episode, it appears that the tabernacle was moved from Shiloh to Nob after Shiloh was destroyed (1 Sam 4:4–11; Jer 7:14).
The story of David taking the consecrated bread is mentioned in the New Testament, though Nob is not named (Matt 12:1–4; Mark 2:23–28; Luke 6:1–5).
Ishbibenob, the name of a giant in 2 Sam 21:16, might refer to the town of Nob.

The location of Nob remains uncertain. Because Isaiah 10:32 refers to the Assyrian king “halting at Nob and shaking his fist,” Nob is sometimes thought to be an somewhere on Mount Scopus, the first hill from which Jerusalem is visible from the north (Oswalt, Isaiah, 275). Nehemiah 11:32 lists Nob along with Anathoth as one of the towns repopulated by the tribe of Benjamin. Anathoth is usually associated with two sites about 2.8 miles northeast of Jerusalem, Anata and Ras el-Kharrubeh. Aharoni states that either location would support the village of ʿIsawiyeh on Mount Scopus as the location of Nob (Aharoni, Land, 393).
Some scholars identify a slope on Mount Scopus, Râs el-Mešârif, as Nob (Albright, “Recent,” 413; Rainey and Notley, Sacred Bridge, 235), although Quʿmeh is also a possibility (Blenkinsopp, Gibeon and Israel, 127 c. 59). Zissou recently suggested the area of the American Colony and the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah as possible locations for Nob, based on excavations at the Cave of Nahmanides (Zissou, “Excavations,” 67). None of these locations can be confirmed.

Aharoni, Y. The Land of the Bible. A Historical Geography. Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox, 1962.
Albright, W. F. “Recent Works on the Topography and Archaeology of Jerusalem.” Jewish Quarterly Review 22 (1932): 409–16.
Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Gibeon and Israel. Society for Old Testament Studies Monograph 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972.
Oswalt, John N. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.
Rainey, Anson F. and R. Steven Notley. The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World. Jerusalem: Carta, 2006.
Tsumura, David Toshio. The First Book of Samuel. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.
Zissu, Boaz. “Excavations near Nahmanides Cave in Jerusalem and the Question of the Identification of Biblical Nob”. Israel Exploration Journal 62 (2012): 54–71.

Major Contributors and Editors. (2016). No-Amon. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

NOAH. The last of the ten antediluvian Patriarchs and hero of the *FLOOD. He was the son of Lamech, who was 182 (Samaritan Pentateuch, 53; LXX, 188) years old when Noah was born (Gn. 5:28–29; Lk. 3:36).
a. Name

The etymology of the name, nōaḥ, is uncertain, though many commentators connect it with the root nwḥ, ‘to rest’. In Genesis (5:29) it is associated with the verb nḥm (translated ‘comfort’ in AV and RV; ‘bring relief’ in RSV), with which it is perhaps etymologically connected; though this is not necessarily required by the text. The element nḥm occurs in Amorite personal names and in the name Nah̬mizuli which figures in a Hurrian fragment of the Gilgamesh epic found at Boǧazköy, the Hittite capital in Asia Minor. The LXX gives the name as Nōe, in which form it appears in the NT (AV).
b. Life and character

Noah was a righteous man (Gn. 6:9, ṣaddîq), having the righteousness that comes of faith (Heb. 11:7, hē kata pistin dikaiosynē, lit. ‘the according to faith righteousness’), and had close communion with God, as is indicated by the expression he ‘walked with God’ (Gn. 6:9). He is also described as without fault among his contemporaries (Gn. 6:9; AV ‘perfect in his generations’) who had all sunk to a very low moral level (Gn. 6:1–5, 11–13; Mt. 24:37–38; Lk. 17:26–27), and to them he preached righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5), though without success, as subsequent events showed. Like the other early Patriarchs, Noah was blessed with great length of years. He was 500 years old when his first son was born (Gn. 5:32), 600 when the *FLOOD came (Gn. 7:11) and died at the age of 950 (Gn. 9:28–29). According to the most likely interpretation of Gn. 6:3, together with 1 Pet. 3:20, when Noah was 480 years old God informed him that he was going to destroy man from the earth but would allow a period of grace for 120 years, during which time Noah was to build an *ARK, in which he would save his immediate family and a representative selection of animals (Gn. 6:13–22). It was probably during this period that Noah preached, but there was no repentance, and the *FLOOD came and destroyed all but Noah, his three sons and their four wives (Gn. 7:7; 1 Pet. 3:20).
After the Flood Noah, who had probably been a farmer before it, planted a vineyard (Gn. 9:20; ‘And Noah, the husbandman, began and planted a vineyard … ‘, which is to be preferred to the EVV) and, becoming drunk, behaved in an unseemly way in his tent. *HAM, seeing his father naked, informed his two brothers, who covered him, but it is probable that Canaan, Ham’s son, did something disrespectful to his grandfather, for Noah placed a curse on him when he awoke (Gn. 9:20–27).
c. God’s covenant with Noah

The covenant implied in Gn. 6:18 might be interpreted as salvation for Noah conditional upon his building and entering the ark, which obligations he fulfilled (v. 22). On the other hand, it may be that this passage simply makes reference to the covenant which God made with Noah after the Flood, and which he sealed by conferring a new significance on the rainbow (Gn. 9:9–17; cf. Is. 54:9). The main features of this covenant were that it was entirely instituted by God, that it was universal in scope, applying not only to Noah and his seed after him but to every living creature, that it was unconditional, and that it was everlasting. In it God undertook from his own free lovingkindness never again to destroy all flesh with a flood.
d. Descendants

Noah had three sons, *SHEM, *HAM and *JAPHETH (Gn. 5:32; 9:18–19; 10:1), who were born before the Flood, and accompanied him in the ark. We are told that after the Flood, from them ‘was the whole earth (’ereṣ) overspread’, or ‘the whole (population of) the earth dispersed’ (Gn. 9:19). Their descendants later spread out over a wide area, and an account is given of some of them in the Table of the *NATIONS in Gn. 10.
e. Cuneiform parallels

In the *FLOOD accounts which have been preserved in Akkadian the name of the hero is Utanapishtim, which corresponds to the name Ziusuddu in a Sumerian account of the early 2nd millennium BC, which probably lies behind the Akkadian versions. Though in the principal version of the Sumerian king list only eight rulers are named before the Flood, of whom Ziusuddu is not one, other texts list ten rulers, the tenth being Ziusuddu, who is credited with a reign of 36,000 years. The same is found in a late account in Gk. by the Babylonian priest Berossos, whose flood hero Xisouthros is the tenth of his pre-flood rulers.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. J. Murray, The Covenant of Grace, 1954, pp. 12–16; E. A. Speiser, Mesopotamian Origins, 1930, pp. 160–161; H. B. Huffmon, Amorite Personal Names in the Mari Texts, 1965, pp. 237–239; E. Laroche, Les noms des Hittites, 1966, p. 125; T. Jacobsen, The Sumerian King List, 1939, pp. 76–77 and n. 34; F. F. Bruce, NIDNTT 2, pp. 681–683.
Mitchell, T. C. (1996). Noah. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., pp. 826–827). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Noah (or Noe). A son of Lamech, and tenth in descent from *Adam. Acc. to the story in *Genesis (6–9), Noah and his family alone were saved in an ark of gopher-wood, when the rest of mankind were destroyed in the *Flood. He took with him into the ark specimens of all kinds of living creatures whereby the species were providentially preserved. From Noah, therefore, the entire surviving human race descended, through his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. To Noah is also attributed the discovery of viticulture (Gen. 9:20).
Other races have traditions of a great flood in very early times. In Babylonian mythology the figure of Utnapishtim corresponds to Noah in the biblical account, while in classical literature the story of Noah is closely paralleled by the legend of Deucalion. See also GILGAMESH, EPICS OF.

J. Fink, Noe der Gerechte in der frühchristlichen Kunst (Beihefte zum Archiv für Kulturgeschichte, 4; 1955). J. P. Lewis, A Study of the Interpretation of Noah and the Flood in Jewish and Christian Literature (Leiden, 1968), esp. pp. 3–41, 121–55. L. R. Bailey, Noah: The Person and the Story in History and Tradition (Columbia, SC [1989]). P. Lundberg, La Typologie baptismale dans l’ancienne Église (Acta Seminarii Neotestamenticii Upsaliensis, 10; Leipzig and Uppsala, 1942), pp. 73–116; J. *Daniélou, SJ, Sacramentum Futuri: Études sur les origines de la typologie biblique (Études de Théologie Historique, 1950), pp. 55–94; Eng. tr. (1960), pp. 69–112. See also comm. to GENESIS cited s.v., and bibl. to ARK and FLOOD.”
Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 1165). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.



Bible Topic Japheth 


“Japheth. One of Noah’s three sons (Gn 5:32; 7:13; 9:18, 23, 27; 10:1–5; 1 Chr 1:4–6) who, along with his wife, was among the eight human survivors of the great flood. Because Japheth and his brother Shem acted with respect and modesty in covering their father’s nakedness while he was in a drunken condition (Gn 9:20–23), they were both blessed in Noah’s prophetic pronouncement of Genesis 9:26, 27. Of Japheth, Noah said, “God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.” There are two common interpretations of the meaning of this prophecy. Some understand the “enlargement of Japheth” to be a reference to a great increase in numbers of descendants. “To dwell in the tents of Shem” is understood as Japheth’s sharing in the blessing of Shem. According to this view there is to be a time when God will work primarily with Shem (the people of Israel); but then at a later time Japheth will be brought into connection with the faith of Israel and share in its promises. In this view fulfillment is found in the opening of the gospel to the Gentiles at the inception of the NT church. Others understand the “enlargement of Japheth” to refer to territorial enlargement and the “dwelling in the tents of Shem” as the conquest of Shemite territory by Japhethites. In this view fulfillment is found in the Greek and Roman conquests of Palestine.
In the table of nations in Genesis 10, Japheth is listed as the father of Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras (vv 1–5). These are the ancestors of peoples who lived to the north and west of Israel, and who spoke what today are classified as Indo-European languages.”
Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Japheth. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, pp. 1095–1096). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

“JAPHETH (Heb. yep̱eṯ). One of the sons of Noah, usually mentioned last of the three (Gn. 5:32; 6:10; 7:13; 9:18, 23, 27; 1 Ch. 1:4), but his descendants are recorded first in Gn. 10 (and 1 Ch. 1:5–7). He was the ancestor of a number of tribes and peoples, most of whom had names which in historical times are associated with the regions to the N and W of the Middle East, especially Anatolia, and the Aegean (*NATIONS, TABLE OF). Japheth and his wife were among the eight people who escaped the Flood, and in a later incident he and Shem covered the nakedness of their father, Noah. In Noah’s prophetic declaration after this episode he prayed that God might enlarge Japheth, and that he might dwell in the tents of Shem, and have Canaan as a servant (Gn. 9:27). Many commentators take he to refer to God rather than Japheth, though either interpretation is possible.

If the latter alternative is followed the reference may be to the benefits of the gospel which, coming first to the descendants of Shem, were later extended to the N peoples. In the above verse the word used for ‘may he enlarge’ is yap̱t, but this is probably only a play on words and does not have anything else to do with the name Japheth (yep̱eṯ), which does not occur elsewhere in the Bible or in the ancient inscriptions. Some have connected Japheth, however, with the Gk. mythological figure Iapetos, a son of earth and heaven, who had many descendants. The name is not Gk., so may be a form of the biblical name.


BIBLIOGRAPHY. P. Dhorme, ‘Les Peuples issus de Japhet, d’aprés le Chapître X de la Genése’, Syria 13, 1932, pp. 28–49; D. J. Wiseman, ‘Genesis 10: Some Archaeological Considerations’, JTVI 87, 1955, pp. 14ff.; D. Neisman, ‘The Two Genealogies of Japheth’, in H. A. Hoffner (ed.), Orient & Occident, 1973, pp. 119ff.

Mitchell, T. C. (1996). Japheth. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 543). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“JAPHETH, SON OF NOAH (יֶפֶת, yepheth). One of Noah’s three sons who survived the flood of Gen 7 and helped repopulate the Earth; attributed as the ancestor of the Greeks and Persians in extrabiblical sources.


Japheth in the Old Testament
Japheth primarily appears in the flood account and subsequent events in Gen 6–10. He is listed as Noah’s third son (Gen 5:32; 1 Chr 1:4), but the exact birth order is unknown; Gen 10 lists Japheth’s genealogy first among Noah’s sons. After the flood, Japheth’s family helped populate the Earth along with Noah’s other sons, Shem and Ham. He receives God’s blessing in Gen 9:1 and Noah’s blessing in Gen 9:27, after he and Shem cover Noah’s nakedness.
Genesis 10:2–5 lists Japheth’s seven children and seven grandchildren. These descendants are seldom mentioned in the Old Testament outside of this genealogy, though there may be references to them in the books of Isaiah and Ezekiel (Isa 66:19; Ezek 27:13; 32:26; 38:2–3, 6; 39:1, 6). In contrast, Shem and Ham’s sons are mentioned numerous places in the Old Testament.


Japheth in Jewish Writings
Several works outside of the Old Testament briefly mention Japheth. While deuterocanonical literature makes genealogical references to him, the book of Jubilees gives him a more extensive treatment (particularly his land portion in Jubilees 8:25–30). Jubilees 7:15 may attribute the founding of Athens to Japheth. Additionally, Jewish tradition designates Japheth as the ancestor of the Greeks and therefore of Abraham’s wife Keturah, whose children were considered the “uncles” of Israel (Ginzburg, Legends, 154, 244n314).

Jewish legends hold that Japheth was responsible for caring for the reptiles in the ark, while Noah cared for the wild beasts, Ham the birds, and Shem the domestic animals (Ginzberg, Legends, 148n37). Jewish writings suggest that Japheth had a smaller role in covering Noah’s nakedness after the flood than Shem, assisting only after Shem had already begun covering their father. Because of this, Shem’s blessing was greater than Japheth’s, and Noah pronounced a blessing in which Japheth’s descendants would receive beautiful land but would be subjected to Shem’s descendants (Ginzberg, Legends, 154).
Jewish legend also identifies Japheth as the ancestor of the Persians. Thus Japheth’s Persian descendant Ahasuerus was worthy to marry Esther because Japheth had acted righteously toward Noah (Ginzberg, Legends, 1144n68). Furthermore, Tannaitic and Amoraitic teachers saw the rebuilding of the temple under Cyrus of Persia as the fulfillment of Noah’s pronouncement over Japheth in Gen 9:27. Other rabbinical sources, however, argue that Gen 9:27 actually refers to the law being taught in the Greek language.


Ginzberg, Louis. Legends of the Jews. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2003.
Josephus. The New Complete Works of Josephus. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1999.


Franklin, J. C. (2016). Japheth, Son of Noah. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.


“JAPHETH (PERSON) [Heb yepet (יֶפֶת)]. The name of the third son of Noah. Japheth appears in the Hebrew Bible 11 times, in the primeval history and the Chronicler’s history (Gen 5:32; 6:10; 7:13; 9:18, 23, 27; 10:1, 2, 21; 1 Chr 1:4, 5).


A. The Name
The etymological origin and meaning of the name Japheth is uncertain. Some modern interpreters, following Saadia Gaon (9th century C.E.), take it to mean “fair, beautiful,” from yph “to be fair, beautiful.” According to some earlier Talmudic sages the beauty refers to the Greek language. However, this etymology was already correctly rejected by Abraham Ibn Ezra (12th century). Others suggest that the name is related to the Egyptian Keftiu (Crete) or to the name of the Greek mythological Titan Iapetos, father of Atlas, Prometheus, and Epimetheus. A possible meaning of Japheth is hinted at in the Hebrew pun yapt ʾĕlōhı̂m lĕyepet, “May God make wide for Japheth” (Gen 9:27). Thus the name may mean “spacious,” an allusion, at least in Genesis, to an expanded inheritance of land by Japheth. This possible interpretation is based in the name’s derivation from the root pty, “to be wide, spacious.”


B. Biblical Data
Japheth is the youngest of Noah’s 3 sons, the brother of Shem and Ham (Gen 5:32; 6:10). According to the genealogical table, Japheth comes first (10:1–5). Therefore, some modern scholars (as some Talmudic sages) consider him the eldest; but this is merely conjectural. Japheth, together with his brothers Shem and Ham and their wives, joined Noah in the Ark and escaped the Flood (6:9; 7:13–15; 9:1–18). He also shares together with his brothers the divine blessing and covenant (9:1, 17). Children were born to him, as to his other brothers, after the flood (10:1). In the story of Noah’s drunkenness (Gen 9:20–27), Japheth, after receiving the report of his father’s nakedness from his brother Ham, discreetly walked backward, together with his other brother Shem, and covered his father. As a result, he became the beneficiary of his father’s blessing. See also HAM.
Japheth had 7 sons (Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras) and 7 descendants (Gen 10:2–5; 1 Chr 1:5–7). Unlike the sons and descendants of Shem and Ham, who are mentioned in numerous places throughout the Hebrew Bible, the sons and descendants of Japheth are conspicuous by their absence from most of the biblical books. Outside the genealogical tables in Genesis and Chronicles, four of Japheth’s sons—Gomer, Javan, Tubal, and Meshech—are mentioned chiefly in two books: Isa 66:19 (Javan, Tubal, and Meshech) and Ezek 27:13; 32:26; 38:2, 3, 6; 39:1, 6 (Gomer and Tubal). Of Japheth’s descendants, the best known are two of Javan’s sons: Tarshish (mentioned about 29 times in the Hebrew Bible) and Kittim (mentioned 5 times). According to ethnographic conceptions informing the primeval history, Japheth is the ancestor of the peoples who inhabit the lands N of Canaan. According to later Jewish tradition he also occupies the far east (cf. Jdt 2:25, “east of Gog”; Jub. 8:29, “east … as far as the region of the waters”; cf. 9:7–13).


C. Jewish Tradition
Hardly any references are made to Japheth in the Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha outside of the genealogical references to Noah’s family (2 En. 73:5; Apoc. Adam 4:1; T. Sim. 6:5; T. Isaac 3:15; L.A.B. 1:22; 4:1ff.). The most-extensive such reference to Japheth is in Jubilees: his birth (4:33), his role in the Noah story (7:9, 12), and his inheritance in the divine land distribution (8:10, 12, 25, 29; 9:7–13; 10:35, 36). Jubilees also gives the most detailed information about Japheth’s land portion, “The third part [of the earth] was assigned to Japheth, the land beyond the Tina river to the north of its mouth … the direction of the northeast, all the area of Gog and all the land east of it, all the way to the farthest north … towards the mountains of Qelt … towards the Ma’uk Sea … east of Gadir … west of Fereg … towards the Me’at Sea … toward Mount Rafa … five big islands and a huge land in the north …” (8:25–30). “The land given to Ham is hot, to Japheth cold, to Shem neither cold or hot” (ibid.). Josephus says that Phrygia belongs to Japheth. See Fig. GEO.05.
An interesting detail given in Jubilees about Japheth is that he became jealous of Ham and built a city named Adataneses (Athens?) after his wife (7:15). His granddaughter Melka, daughter of Madai (8:5), married Arphaxad, Shem’s son. In the quasi-Jewish Sibylline Oracles—in which the sons of Noah are given the names of Greek gods—Shem is identified with Cronos, Ham with Titan, and Japheth as Iapetus (3:110–15). Sethian Gnostic tractate Apocalypse of Adam (V,5 72:17; 73:14, 25; 74:11; 76:13–14) deals with the division of the world and empires among the sons of Noah.

Tannaitic and Amoraitic teachers considered Japheth the eldest of Noah’s sons. They held Shem to be Noah’s youngest son, and said that in the Bible he is mentioned first among the members of his family because he was the most righteous, wisest, and most-important son, not because he was the oldest (Sanh. 69b; Gen. Rab. 26:3; 37:7). Japheth assisted Shem in covering Noah’s nakedness and was blessed with a burial place for his sons Gog [Gomer?] (cf. Ezek 39:1) and Magog (Gen. Rab. 36; cf. Ezek 39:11). The sages propounded Gen 9:27 (see above) as referring to the rebuilding of the Temple by Cyrus, King of Persia, a descendant of Japheth (Yoma 10a). Another rabbi argued that Gen 9:27 refers to the teaching of the Law in the Greek language (Gen. Rab. 36: Deut. Rab. 1).


D. Christian and Islamic Literature
In the NT Japheth is mentioned, but his descendants Gog (see above) and Magog figure in the major international war of Revelation (20:8). In the early Christian literature, particularly in Irenaeus of Lyon, Lactantius, Hyppolytus of Rome, Clement, Origen, Epiphanius, and Eusebius, the sons of Noah and their generations are often alluded to but without much elaboration.
Isaac, E. (1992). Japheth (Person). In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 3, pp. 641–642). New York: Doubleday.



“JAVAN (PERSON) [Heb yāwān (יָוָן)]. One of 7 sons of Japheth and a grandson of Noah according to the Table of Nations (Gen 10:2) and the parallel genealogy in 1 Chr 1:5. The former text presents him as the ancestor of maritime peoples (“islands of the nations,” Gen 10:5). This refers to the area of the Aegean and E Mediterranean seas, as is shown by the inclusion of Elishah (Alashiya, Crete) and Kittim (Cyprus; Gen 10:4; 1 Chr 1:7) in the list. Maritime trade of Javan is highlighted in Ezek 27:13, 19, while their distance from Palestine is the point of Isa 66:19. This distance explains the severity of the wrong inflicted on the Judeans by the Tyrians and Sidonians, who sold them into captivity even as far away as Javan (Joel 4:6).
Javan is to be identified with Ionia, an area of Greek settlement in SW Asia Minor from at least the 1st millennium B.C., and possibly several centuries earlier. Cities in the area included Smyrna and Ephesus (cf. Rev 2:1–11). Contact between the Greeks and the Assyrians as early as the reign of Sargon II (8th century B.C.) is shown from Akkadian records, which call the area Jawan or Jaman (Parpola 1970: 186–87). Under Cyrus (late 6th century B.C.), this coastal area of Asia Minor became the satrapy of Ionia. Later the name was expanded to describe the entire Greek population on both sides of the Aegean—an example of the whole being identified by one of its parts, as in our use of the name Russia. Because of the territorial expansion of the Greeks under Alexander the Great (4th century B.C.), the related term Javana is known even in the Sanskrit of India.
The extended usage of the name is evident in the book of Daniel. Here the empire of the Persians will be replaced by that of Javan and its king, referring to Alexander (Dan 8:21; 10:20; 11:2). This, yet another foreign domination, will not satisfy Israel. Rather they will rise against their Greek overlords (Zech 9:13), possibly a prophetic allusion to the period of the Maccabees (mid-2d century B.C.).
A second identification of a more limited use of the name Javan associates it with Gaza (Berger). Some have proposed this based on the collocation of Javan with the Danites (Ezek 27:19), a tribe which has early S ties. The LXX and several other Greek and Persian texts also support this identification. This interpretation cannot be valid for most of the uses of Javan, however, because of its much more northerly association in most texts.

Berger, P.-R. 1982. Ellasar, Tarschisch und Jawan, Gn 14 und 10. WO 13: 68–73.
Parpola, S. 1970. Neo-Assyrian Toponyms. AOAT 6. Neukirchen-Vluyn.
Baker, D. W. (1992). Javan (Person). In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 3, p. 650). New York: Doubleday.

“JAVAN (Heb. yāwān; Gk. Iōván)
The fourth son of Noah’s son Japheth and the father of Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim according to the Table of Nations (Gen. 10:2–4) and its parallel genealogy (1 Chr. 1:5–7). The land of Javan is to be identified originally with Ionia, an area of Greek settlement in southwest Asia Minor. Later the name was expanded to describe the entire Greek population on both sides of the Aegean Sea.
Isa. 66:19 highlights Javan as one of the distant nations that would witness a future manifestation of Yahweh’s glory. In an oracle against Tyre (Ezek. 27:13) Javan is mentioned with reference to its involvement in slave traffic and other commercial activities. The Javanites are referred to in Joel 3:6 [MT 4:6) as slave traders who purchased Jewish captives from the Philistines and Phoenicians. Finally, the empire of Javan was forecast to replace that of Persia (Dan. 8:21; 10:20; 11:2).
Hostetter, E. C. (2000). Javan. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (p. 675). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.
“JAVAN. One of the sons of Japheth (Gn. 10:2; 1 Ch. 1:5) and father of a group of peoples, *ELISHAH, *TARSHISH, *KITTIM and *DODANIM (Gn. 10:4; 1 Ch. 1:7), whose associations are with the regions to the N and W of the Middle East. It is generally accepted that this name (Heb. yāwān) is to be identified with Gk. Iōnes, which occurs as Iaones, probably for Iawones, in Homer (Iliad 13. 685), and refers to the people who later gave their name to Ionia. The name also occurs in Assyr. and Achaemenian inscriptions (Iâmanu and Yauna respectively). Isaiah mentions the descendants of Javan (LXX Hellas) beside Tubal as one of the nations (gôyîm) inhabiting distant islands and coastlands (’iyyîm, Is. 66:19). In the time of Ezekiel the descendants of Javan (LXX Hellas) were known as traders in men, bronze vessels and yarn, with Tyre (Ezk. 27:13, 19; in v. 19 RSV prefers to read mēûzā, ‘from Uzal’, for meûzzāl, ‘that which is spun, yarn’). The name Javan (EVV Greece) is used in the prophecies of Daniel to refer to the kingdom of Alexander of Macedon, and in Zc. 9:13 the term (EVV Greece, LXX Hellēnes) is probably used of the Seleucid Greeks.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. P. Dhorme, Syria 13, 1932, pp. 35–36; W. Brandenstein and M. Mayrhofer, Handbuch des Altpersischen, 1964, p. 156.
Mitchell, T. C. (1996). Javan. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 544). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Javan.—Fourth son of Japhet and father of the Ionians or Greeks. He had four sons: Elisa, Tharsis, Cethim, and Dodanim or Rhodanim, who peopled Elida, Cilicia, Macedonia, and the countries of Rhodes”

Thein, J. (1900). In Ecclesiastical Dictionary: Containing, in Concise Form, Information upon Ecclesiastical, Biblical, Archæological, and Historical Subjects (p. 375). New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Benziger Brothers.

“Javan—Greece (Ionia)

Son of Japheth
Gen. 10:2, 4
Descendants of, to receive good news
Is. 66:19, 20
Trade with Tyre
Ezek. 27:13, 19
King of, in Daniel’s visions
Dan. 8:21
Conflict with
Zech. 9:13″
Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1996). Nelson’s quick reference topical Bible index (p. 333). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.



“KITTIM [Heb kittı̂m (כִּתִּים)]. In the Table of Nations, the word refers to the descendants of Javan (Gen 10:4; cf. 1 Chr 1:7), but in other passages, the word refers to a place (cf. Num 24:24; Dan 11:30; 1 Macc 1:1).
The Kittim are descendants of Javan, grandson of Noah through Japheth, according to the Table of Nations (Gen 10:4; and the parallel genealogy in 1 Chr 1:7). They are associated with peoples from the region of the Aegean and the E Mediterranean. Balaam notes this maritime link in his fourth oracle (Num 24:24), where he predicts that ships from Kittim will cause difficulties for Assur, apparently the Assyrians, and Eber, possibly ancestors of the Hebrews (see Gen 10:21–25). This likely refers to the incursion of the Sea Peoples into the Levant during the 13th century B.C. Daniel 11:30 also mentions ships of the Kittim, and Jer 2:10 and Ezek 27:6 refer to its maritime setting. In the last text, their area is a source of wood used in the construction of Phoenician ships. It is also to be the source of the news of the destruction of the main Phoenician city, Tyre, according to Isa 23:1. Its distance from Phoenicia is stressed in Isa 23:12, since even flight to that far place will not provide refuge. Distance is also stressed in Jer 2:10.
The Heb term is apparently derived from the name of the town of Kition (Phoen kt or kty; Eg ktn; cf. Josephus Ant 1.28), which is near modern Larnaca on the south-central coast of Cyprus. It was a site of major importance from at least the Bronze Age (Barnett 1975: 370, 376). Some of the OT references could refer to the city itself, but the term seems to have expanded its scope to cover the entire area (Num 24:24; Isa 23:1; Ezek 27:6).
Even further expansion of the term is evident in some of the early versions of the OT and in the Apocrypha. 1 Macc 1:1 refers to Kittim as the birthplace of Alexander the Great, who is identified in that verse as “Alexander of Macedonia.” The term has thus expanded its usage westward to signify the Greek peninsula. It is even further extended by the Targum Onkelos in its reading of Kittim in Num 24:24 as Rome. The Vulgate reads this verse as Italy, as it also does Ezek 27:6 and Dan 11:30. It seems that the term might have become proverbial, referring to a location or people far distant from Israel’s customary purview, much as Timbuktu is used in American English. This would well fit the context of Num 24:24, Isa 23:12, Jer 2:10, and Dan 11:30. The Syriac Peshitta also stressed the geographical distance of Kittim by reading it as China (Cathay).
In the ostraca from the late 7th century B.C. found at Arad in the Judean desert, mention is made of Kittim with Greek names (Aharoni 1968: 11). This could point to the existence of Greek, if not Cypriot, soldiers in the service of the Israelite king, Josiah.
The Midrash Pesher of Habakkuk reflects the historical and socioreligious context of its Essene authors during the Roman occupation of Palestine. The Pesher interprets the Chaldeans who will oppress Israel according to the canonical Habakkuk text (1:6) as the Kittim (2.12). In the Pesher, these Kittim have dominion over an Israel which is apostate in the eyes of the separatist Qumran community. These Kittim will come from far coastlands to inflict atrocities on all peoples (3.9–11), and their power will cause universal fear (3.4). Their distant maritime homeland and their apparent domination of Israel at the time of the Pesher itself support the interpretation of the Kittim as the Romans. Some propose a Syrian identification, but this locale does not appear to be sufficiently distant to fit the context (Brownlee 1979: 70).
Kittim are also mentioned in Jub 24:28–29, where they seem to be an archetypical, ultimate enemy who will confront the Philistines as the result of a curse upon them. No clear understanding of their identity, however, is possible from the context.

Aharoni, Y. 1968. Arad: Its Inscriptions and Temple. BA 31: 2–32.
Barnett, R. D. 1975. Sea Peoples. CAH2 3:359–78.
Brownlee, W. H. 1979. The Midrash Pesher of Habakkuk. Chico, CA.
Baker, D. W. (1992). Kittim. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 4, p. 93). New York: Doubleday.

“Kittim. Ancient Hebrew name for the island of Cyprus (Gn 10:4; Dn 11:30)”

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Kittim. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1291). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

KITTIM (Heb. kittɩ̂m, kittɩ̂yɩ̂m)
According to the Table of Nations (Gen. 10:1–32), a people descended from Japheth through Javan, thus the Ionians or Greeks (v. 4; cf. 1 Chr. 1:7). The name probably derived from the city the Phoenicians called Kitti (kty) and the Greeks Kition, located near modern Larnaka on the south-central coast of Cyprus. Elsewhere in the OT Kittim designated an ever-widening geographic area.
In Num. 24:24 the oracles of Balaam conclude with a reference to ships from Kittim (presumably Cyprus), which will afflict both Asshur (Assyria) and Eber (Hebrews), before coming to an end themselves. In Isa. 23:1, 12 the term refers to Cyprus as a trading partner of Tyre (cf. Ezek. 27:6), and in Jer. 2:10 its inhabitants are said to have been more faithful to their false gods than Israel has been to Yahweh. 1 Macc. 1:1; 8:5 report that Alexander the Great came from Kittim, thus identifying Greece—or at least Macedonia—with the place name Kittim. Dan. 11:30 alludes to the ships from Kittim in Num. 24:24, but applies the phrase to Roman intervention against Antiochus Epiphanes during his invasion of Egypt in 168 B.C.E. Thus Kittim came to refer to Rome too. The verse implies the further identification of the Seleucids with Asshur and Eber with the Hebrews.
In the Dead Sea Scrolls the Kittim are the eschatological foe (cf. 1QpHab). Descriptions of them often apply to either Syria or to Rome, but the commentary on Nahum (4QpNah) and the War Scroll (1QM) refer unmistakably to Rome.
Redditt, P. L. (2000). Kittim. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (pp. 776–777). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.
“Kittim (kit´im).
1 The descendant of Javan, the fourth son of Japheth who was a son of Noah, and Elishah’s brother (Gen. 10:4; 1 Chron. 1:7).
2 An island in the Mediterranean Sea, possibly Cyprus. Both Num. 24:24 and Dan. 11:30 refer to “ships from Kittim.” The first-century CE historian Josephus (Antiquities 1.28) identifies Kittim with Kition, or Kitti, a Phoenician city on the island of Cyprus, later known as Larnaka. It is possible that the biblical texts use the word for this city or for the entire island of Cyprus, or even as a generic reference to all islands of the Aegean Sea. In Jer. 2:10 and Ezek. 27:6, the NRSV simply translates Kittim as Cyprus. First Maccabees, however, says that Philip of Macedon was from Kittim (1:1), indicating the name might refer to Greece (or at least to Macedonia).
3 A people mentioned briefly in the pseudepigraphical books Testament of Simeon (6:3) and Jubilees (24:28).
4 A people who are described in the Dead Sea Scrolls as the last Gentile world power to oppress the people of God. In the Habakkuk commentary (1QpHab) the “Chaldeans,” sent by God to execute divine judgment, were understood to be the Kittim. In a fragmentary commentary on Isaiah (4Q161–165) the downfall of the Assyrians was interpreted as the war of the Kittim. The war of the Kittim is described in the War Scroll; the children of light take the field against the enemy of Israel, the Kittim, “those who deal wickedly against the covenant” (1QM 1:2; 15:2). The author of the scroll believed that Isaiah’s prophecy against Assyria (31:8) would be fulfilled after the victory over the Kittim. Many scholars identify the Kittim in these passages with the Syrians, but others associate them with the Romans.
Gitay, Y. (2011). Kittim. In M. A. Powell (Ed.), The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (Third Edition, p. 521). New York: HarperCollins.
KITTIM (Kītʹ tĭm) Tribal name for the island of Cyprus, sometimes spelled Chittim. This name was derived from Kition, a city-state on the southeastern side of the island. Long associated with maritime lore, the island was ruled first by Greece, then the Assyrians, and finally Rome. Genesis 10:4 traces the people’s roots to Noah’s son Japheth. Jeremiah and Ezekiel both mention it in their prophecies (Jer. 2:10; Ezek. 27:6; cp. Isa. 23:1, 12).
Kittim is used in intertestamental writings as denoting all of the land west of Cyprus. First Maccabees credits it as being the land of Alexander the Great (1:1; 8:5). The writer of Daniel understood it to be a part of the Roman Empire (11:30) used to threaten Antiochus Epiphanes. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain several references to Kittim, the most notable being the defeat of her people (Romans) at the hands of God’s people. See Cyprus.”
Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Kittim. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 998). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
KITTIM (כִּתִּים, kittim; כִּתִּיִּים, kittiyyim). The descendants of Javan (Gen 10:4; 1 Chr 1:7) or the land belonging to them.

The Table of Nations in Gen 10 identifies the Kittim as the descendants of Noah’s son Japheth through his son, Javan (Gen 10:4; 1 Chr 1:7). The term can also refer to the land belonging to the Kittim, which is often equated with Cyprus (Num 24:24; Isa 23:1, 12; Jer 2:10; Ezek 27:6; Dan 11:30). The name Kittim is derived from the name of a Bronze Age Phoenician town named “Kition” (kt or kty) that was located in southern Cyprus (Barnett, “Sea Peoples,” 370, 376). Second Temple Jewish texts use the term Kittim to refer to the islands and lands around the northern rim of the Mediterranean and into the Aegean.
The meaning of the term Kittim evolved over time. In early biblical texts it refers to the people who descended from Javan and settled in Kition. Later biblical texts refer to people from Cyprus, Greeks in general, and sea peoples from the Mediterranean and Aegean as the Kittim. Eventually, the term Kittim became a general title for distant enemies or eschatological enemies, including the Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, and the satanic forces of Belial.

Kittim in the Bible
In the Table of Nations in Gen 10, the Kittim are the descendants of Noah’s son Japheth through his son, Javan (Gen 10:4; 1 Chr 1:7). Most of the other references to Kittim or Cyprus are geographical references related to the region’s coasts (Jer 2:10), ships (Num 24:24; Dan 11:30), or timber (Ezek 27:6). Isaiah and Jeremiah refer to Cyprus as a land located far out at sea (Isa 23:1, 12; Jer 2:20). The Syriac Peshitta identifies it as Cathay (i.e., China). The term may have become an idiom for distant lands.
Several biblical prophecies contain references to Kittim:

• Balaam prophesied that “Ships shall come from Kittim” (Num 24:24). This likely envisions the Sea Peoples’ incursion into Canaan in the 13th century BC, which Jews of later periods linked with their own contemporary enemies (compare Num 24:24; the Vulgate uses the term Italia, and Targum Onkelos uses the term רומָאֵי, rwma’ey).
• In an oracle regarding Tyre, Isa 23 mentions Cyprus as a far-off place (Isa 23:1) and warns that people will not be able to escape judgment even if they flee there (Isa 23:12).
• Ezekiel mentions Cyprus in a lament over Tyre, listing lumber from Cyprus as an element of Tyre’s wide-ranging maritime trade (compare Vulgate, Italiae).
• Jeremiah refers to Cyprus in a criticism of Jerusalem’s apostasy: “Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see … if there has been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit” (Jer 2:10–11 ESV).
• In a description of war between two future kings (likely the Ptolemies and Seleucids), Daniel predicts, “Ships of Kittim shall come against [the northern king], and he shall be afraid and withdraw” (Dan 11:30). This description aligns with Antiochus Epiphanes second failed attempt to campaign in Egypt (168 BC). The LXX renders “Kittim” (כִּתִּים, kittim) with the Greek term for “Romans” (Ῥομαῖοι, Rhomaioi; compare Theodotion’s version of Daniel, which reads Κίτιοι, Kitioi).

Extrabiblical Texts
In the Second Temple period, Kittim seems to have become a “general epithet for western nations” or for any people who “came to Israel by boat” (Eshel, “The Kittim,” 33). For example, 1 Maccabees associates the Kittim with the Macedonians (1 Maccabees 1:1; 8:5). Jubilees refers to inhabitants of various Greek islands as Kittim (Jubilees 24:28–29; 37:10). Wise, Abegg, and Cook note that in these texts, the referent had expanded beyond mere geography to take on the sense of “archetypical bad guys” (Wise, Abegg, and Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 614).

The Arad Letters
The seventh-century BC Arad Letters speak of food supplies for “the Kittim,” who in this case seem to be mercenaries from the Aegean (Letter 1, lines 1–10; cited in Aharoni, Arad Inscriptions, 12–14). The text does not specify whether the local king of Judah (Aharoni, Arad Inscriptions, 11) or the Babylonian emperor (Aharoni et al., The Carta Bible Atlas, 265) had hired these mercenaries. It appears that the Kittim were responsible for patrolling the Babylonian Empire’s southern flank against Egyptians.

Deuterocanonical Literature
In two instances, 1 Maccabees connects the Kittim with the Macedonians:

1. First Maccabees 1:1 records that Alexander the Great defeated the Persian King Darius after he had come “from the land of Kittim (Χεττιμ, Chettim).”
2. First Maccabees 8:5 speaks of the Roman defeat of “Philip” and his son “Perseus king of the Kittim (Κιτεών, Kiteōn).”

The Qumran community identified the various Old Testament references to the Kittim with their own enemies, the forces of Belial or the Sons of Darkness, whom they expected to defeat in a final eschatological battle. Their enemies were likely either the Hellenistic kingdom of the Seleucids (and Ptolemies) or the Roman Empire (Pesher Nahum [4QpNah] 3–4.1.2–3; Pesher Habakkuk [1QpHab] 2.12, 14; 3.4, 9; 4.5, 10; 6.1, 10; 9.7; Pesher Psalms [1QpPs] 9–10.2, 3; Pesher Isaiah [4QpIsaa] 7–10.3, 7, 9, 11, 12; War Scroll [1QM] 1.2, 4, 6, 9, 12; 11.11; 15.2; 16.3, 6, 8, 9; 17.12, 14; 18.2, 4; 19.10, 13; 4QMa 10.2.2, 8, 9, 10, 12; 11.2.1, 5, 7, 8, 19, 20; 13.3, 5; 4QMb 1.9, 12; Sefer ha Milḥamah [4Q285] 5.6; [11Q14] 1.1.4, 6). For example:

• The New Jerusalem Text lists the eschatological Kittim along with Israel’s ancient foes, “Edom and Moab and the Ammonites” (4QNJa = 4Q554 3.3.14–21).
• Sefer ha-Milḣamah (4Q285) developed the idea that the Branch of David would defeat and judge the Kittim (lines 1–6).
• The War Scroll (1QM) describes a six-year war with the “Kittim of Asshur” (1QM 1.2) and the “Kittim in Egypt” (1.4). The identity of these forces is debated. Sukenik interpreted them as the two Hellenistic kingdoms of the second century BC, the Seleucids in Syria and the Ptolemies in Egypt (Sukenik, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 36n14; Rowley, “The Kittim”). Yigael Yadin interpreted these passages as referring to the Roman forces operating out of Syria and Egypt around the time that Pompey intervened to end the Jewish civil war (63 BC; Yadin, The Scroll of the War, 258).

Key Old Testament texts that contributed to this eschatological view of the Kittim are Num 24:24, Dan 11–12, and the books of Nahum and Habakkuk. Although neither Nahum nor Habakkuk uses the term Kittim, the Qumran community adapted their references to Israel’s enemies (Babylon in Habakkuk and Assyria in Nahum) for their own context. For example, the Pesher Habakkuk (1QpHab) interprets Habakkuk’s “Chaldeans” (כַּשְׂדִּים, kasdim) as the Kittim and identifies Roman imperial practices in individual texts from Habakkuk. Just as the Babylonians had been God’s agents for punishing Judah’s sins in Habakkuk’s time, the Qumran community saw the Roman invasion as punishment for the sins of the Jerusalem elite, like the “Wicked Priest” (i.e., Hyrcanus). The Pesher Nahum (4QpNah = 4Q169) also viewed the Kittim as the Romans but saw them as outright satanic agents to be defeated in final battle. Echoing this same theme, the Pesher Isaiah (4QpIsaa = 4Q161) spoke of a final battle where in the “Branch of David” would defeat “all the forces of Belial” and put to death the “king of the Kittim.”

Aharoni, Yohanan. Arad Inscriptions. Translated by Joseph Naveh Ben-Or. Revised by A. F. Rainey. Judean Desert Studies. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1981.
———. “Arad: Its Inscriptions and Its Temple.” Biblical Archaeologist 31 (1968): 2–32.
Aharoni, Yohanan, Michael Avi-Yonah, Anson F. Rainey, and Ze’ev Safrai, eds. The Carta Bible Atlas. 4th ed. Jerusalem: Carta, 2002.
Barnett, R. D. “Sea Peoples.” Pages 359–78 in vol. 3 of Cambridge Ancient History. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975.
Brooke, George J. “The Kittim in the Qumran Pesharim.” Pages 135–59 in Images of Empire. Edited by Alexander Loveday. JSOT Supplement 122. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.
Brownlee, William H. “Kittim.” Pages 45–46 in vol. 3 of International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.
———. The Midrash Pesher of Habakkuk. Missoula, Mont.: Scholars Press, 1979.
Eshel, Hanan. “The Kittim in the War Scroll and in the Pesharim.” Pages 29–34 in Historical Perspectives: From the Hasmoneans to Bar Kokhba in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature 37. Edited by David Goodblatt, Avital Pinnick, and Daniel R. Schwartz. Leiden: Brill, 1999.
Horgan, Maurya P. Pesharim: Qumran Interpretations of Biblical Books. Catholic Biblical Quarterly. Washington, D.C.: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1979.
Lim, Timothy H. Pesharim. Companion to the Qumran Scrolls. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002.
Rowley, Harold Henry. “The Kittim and the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 88, no. 2 (1956): 92–109.
Sukenik, E. L. The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Hebrew University. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1955.
VanderKam, James, and Peter Flint. The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002.
Vermes, Geza. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. 4th ed. London: Penguin, 1998.
Wise, Michael O., Martin G. Abegg, Jr., and Edward M. Cook. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005.
Yadin, Yigael. The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness. Translated by B. Rabin and C. Rabin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962.

Brueggemann, D. A. (2016). Kittim. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

“CHITTIM—or Kittim, a plural form (Gen. 10:4), the name of a branch of the descendants of Javan, the “son” of Japheth. Balaam foretold (Num. 24:24) “that ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and afflict Eber.” Daniel prophesied (11:30) that the ships of Chittim would come against the king of the north. It probably denotes Cyprus, whose ancient capital was called Kition by the Greeks.
The references elsewhere made to Chittim (Isa. 23:1, 12; Jer. 2:10; Ezek. 27:6) are to be explained on the ground that while the name originally designated the Phoenicians only, it came latterly to be used of all the islands and various settlements on the sea-coasts which they had occupied, and then of the people who succeeded them when the Phoenician power decayed. Hence it designates generally the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean and the races that inhabit them.”
Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.
Javan (Gn. 10:4 = 1 Ch. 1:7; Heb. kittîm) whose descendants settled on the island of Cyprus where their name was given to the town of Kition, modern Larnaka, which is referred to in the Phoenician inscriptions as kt or kty. They engaged in sea trade (Nu. 24:24) and the name seems to have come to apply to the whole island of Cyprus (Is. 23:1, 12), and then in a more general way to the coastlands and islands of the E Mediterranean (’iyyê kittiyyîm: Je. 2:10; Ezk. 27:6). The ostraca of c. 600 BC from Arad refer to ktym, probably mercenaries, principally perhaps Greeks, from the islands and coastlands. In Daniel’s fourth vision, which probably deals with the period from Cyrus to Antiochus Epiphanes, the latter’s failure to conquer Egypt, due to the intervention of Rome, is probably referred to in 11:30, where ‘the ships of Kittim’ must be Rome. The author probably saw in Rome’s intervention the fulfilment of Nu. 24:24, where Vulg. translates Kittim by ‘Italy’ (so also in Dn. 11:30) and the Targum of Onkelos by ‘Romans’. The name occurs in the Dead Sea Scrolls, also probably with reference to Rome, being used, for instance, in the commentary on Habakkuk as an interpretation of the ‘Chaldeans’ of that prophet (Hab. 1:6).

BIBLIOGRAPHY. A. Lemaire, Inscriptions hibraïques, 1, 1977, p. 156; Y. Yadin, The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, 1962, pp. 22–26.
Mitchell, T. C. (1996). Kittim. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 657). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“KITTIM kitʹəm, ki-tēmʹ [Heb. kittîm, kittîyîm (Gen. 10:4; Nu. 24:24; 1 Ch. 1:7; Isa. 23:12; Jer. 2:10; Ezk. 27:6; Dnl. 11:30), DSS kittîʾîm—probably refers to nationals (Kittites or Kittians) of a place Kit or Kitti]; RSV also CYPRUS (Isa. 23:1, 12; Jer. 2:10; Ezk. 27:6); AV also CHITTIM; NEB also “the west” (Dnl. 11:30). A city on Cyprus, called by the Phoenicians KTY (= Kitti). Its Greek name was Kition, the name by which the Hebrews designated the island as a whole and then the Mediterranean peoples generally or even certain nations specifically, such as Macedonia and Rome. According to Josephus (Ant. i.6.1 [128]), “the name Chethim [was] given by the Hebrews to all islands and to most maritime countries” (cf. “the isles of Kittim” [Jer. 2:10]).

In Gen. 10:4 Kittim is one of the four sons of Javan (= Ionia, or Greece), the others being Elishah, Tarshish, and Rodanim (cf. 1 Ch. 1:7); Elishah may be another city-state of Cyprus. Ezk. 27:6f also differentiates Kittim from Elishah. Josephus seems to be wrong in identifying Elishah with the Aeolians and Kittim with the whole of Cyprus. The biblical derivation of these islands from Javan is historically correct, as shown by the vast migrations from the north in the second half of the 2nd millennium B.C. In these the aborigines of Greece and Ionia were displaced southward into the islands of the Mediterranean, where they in turn both displaced and mingled with the natives. See ANET, pp. 262f
The oracles of Balaam conclude with the prophecy (Nu. 24:23f):
“Sea-peoples shall gather from the north; and ships, from the district of Kittim.
I look, and they afflict Eber; but they too shall perish forever!”
(This reading follows [in part] W. F. Albright, who has shown that a more exact form of the original text can be obtained through a knowledge of ancient orthography; cf. JB). The final phase of the migrations of sea-peoples mentioned in v 23 was the coming of the Philistines to Palestine in the 12th cent. B.C. The eponym Eber is here employed as a poetic term for the Hebrews (so the versions) in their homeland. Dramatically, Balaam did at last please Balak by predicting Philistine oppression of the Hebrews, but his last statement gives them their freedom again through the destruction of the Philistines.
Later misreading of v 24b produced the traditional text:
And they shall afflict Asshur
and they shall afflict Eber;
but they too shall come to destruction.

Cyprus never did subdue Asshur (= Assyria); instead, the Assyrian king Sargon II placed his stele at Kition in 712 B.C. His successors Sennacherib and Esarhaddon strengthened Assyrian rule there, the latter claiming tribute from all the isles from Cyprus to Tarshish (ANET, p. 290). References to Kittim in Isa. 23:1, 12 (RSV Cyprus) probably relate to the Assyrian period (despite v 13). Verse 12 refers to Luli king of Sidon, who sought refuge in Cyprus from Sennacherib but there met his doom (ANET, p. 288). Kittim as mercenary soldiers of Judah appear on the ostraca of Arad (see ARAD III).

Hebrew ostracon from Arad (ca 600 B.C.) in which Eliashib is ordered to give wine and flour to the Kittim, who were apparently mercenaries in the Judean army (Israel Museum, Jerusalem)

Lacking any literal fulfillment, the Kittian oppression of Assyria and Eber became a mysterious prophecy of the future. Some Jews may have seen in the conquest by Alexander the Great a fulfillment of this prophecy, with Kittim denoting Macedonia (as in 1 Macc. 1:8; 8:5) and Asshur denoting the Persian empire. An even more intricate interpretation is implied by Dnl. 11:30: “For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant.” The setting of this verse is Antiochus Epiphanes’ invasion of Egypt in 168 B.C. Rome intervened by sending its commissioner Gaius Popilius Laenas, who (backed by the Roman navy) successfully demanded the withdrawal of the Syrians.
Cowed but resentful, Antiochus vented his rage on the Jews in a fearsome persecution. According to H. L. Ginsberg (Studies in Daniel [1948], p. 72), Daniel interpreted Nu. 24:24b to mean: “The Kittim (= Romans) shall afflict Asshur (= Syria); and they (the Syrians) shall afflict Eber (= Hebrews).”
In the Qumrân Scrolls, the Kittim are the great eschatological foe, the last great earthly empire to precede the messianic kingdom. Since these people have already arrived on the scene of history, the messianic age is not far off. Some scholars have identified these Kittim with Seleucid Syria. This identification fits well the book of Jubilees, a work found among the Qumrân fragments but probably of pre-Qumrânian composition. Jub 24:28f predicts punishment of the Philistines by both Kittim and Jews, with probable allusion to ravages of the Palestinian coastal towns by both Seleucids and Maccabees. The mention of Kittim in 37:10 may allude to Seleucid oppression of the Jews. Though some students of the DSS have seen allusions to the Seleucids and Ptolemies in the phrases “Kittim of Assyria” and “Kittim in Egypt” in the War Scroll (1 QM 1:2, 4), these are probably only geographic, not national, distinctions.
The Kittim are generally portrayed as world conquerors and oppressors but not specifically as persecutors of the sect of the Scrolls. According to 1QpHab 9:5ff the wealth of the “last priests of Jerusalem” (the persecutors of the sect) will in the last days be given up to the army of the Kittim. QpIsaa4 3:7f, however, explains Isa. 10:34 to mean: “They are the Kittim wh[o] will f[all] by the hand of Israel, when the oppressed of [Judah subdue] all the nations.” Probably this refers to the expected eschatological war, in which the Sons of Light will defeat the Kittim and all other nations. This “war of the Kittim” (3:11) is elaborately described in 1QM (the War Scroll).
Most descriptions of the Kittim in 1QpHab are general, applying equally well to the Seleucids and the Romans, although giving the impression of a world empire like Rome. Other depictions are clearly more apt for the Romans. “From afar they will fly as an eagle” (Hab. 1:8) is amplified: “From afar they will come, from remote shores of the sea, to devour all the peoples as an eagle” (1QpHab 13:10f.). The Hebrew lacks a word for “remote,” but the idea is implicit in the appositional relationship. The reference to the eagle may allude to the worship of military standards and insignia (including the eagle emblem) mentioned in 6:4f and well attested for the Roman legions but not for the Seleucids. Paleographic study places this MS more than a century earlier than the incident mentioned by Josephus (BJ vi.6.1 [316]). The Kittim have mōšelîm (rulers, governors, and commanders), but not melāḵîm (kings); but see below. The annual succession of provincial governors, appointed by the Roman senate (“their house of guilt”), is probably referred to in 4:10–13.
The most conclusive proof for the Roman identification is 4QpNah, which after noting the failure of “[Deme]trius, king of Greece … to enter Jerusalem” states that God had never given the city “into the power of the kings of Greece from the time of Antiochus until the rulers of the Kittim arose.” The clear chronological distinction placing the rise of the “rulers of the Kittim” after the time of the “kings of Greece” (Syria) points conclusively to the Romans as the Kittim. Yet after 44 B.C., when Caesar became a virtual king, one could speak of “the king of the Kittim” (1QM 15:2).
The identification of the Kittim with the Romans in late Jewish thought is well supported by the versions: Nu. 24:24 (Onk, Vulg); Ezk. 27:6 (Tg Jonathan, Vulg); Dnl. 11:30 (LXX, Tg Jonathan, Vulg).

Bibliography.—Y. Aharoni, IEJ, 16 (1966), 1–7; W. F. Albright, JBL, 63 (1944), 207–233; G. R. Driver, The Judaean Scrolls (1965) (Zealot hypothesis, Kittim = Romans); A. Dupont-Sommer, The Jewish Sect of Qumran and the Essenes (1954), pp. 14–37 (Kittim = Romans); R. Goossens, Nouvelle Clio, 4 (1952), 137–170 (Kittim = Romans); M. P. Horgan, Pesharim: Qumran Interpretations of Biblical Books (1979); H. H. Rowley, PEQ, 88 (1956). 92–109 (Kittim = Seleucids); E. Stauffer, TLZ, 76 (1951), 667–674 (Kittim = Seleucids); G. Vermes, Discovery in the Judean Desert (1956), pp. 81–85 (Kittim = Romans); Y. Yadin, Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness (1962) (Kittim = Romans).

Brownlee, W. H. (1979–1988). Kittim. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 3, pp. 45–46). Wm. B. Eerdmans.



Bible Character Noah Quran Reflections

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“It is interesting to note the details where these two versions of the Noah story converge: there is the mention of waters gushing forth from the earth, and not simply rainfall; there is also the mention of two animals of every kind. Even in these details, however, the differences are noteworthy. Genesis actually does not say that the waters gushed up out of the earth per se as the Qur’an does but that “the fountains of the great deep burst forth.” These “fountains of the deep” bear an obvious relation to Genesis 1, which speaks of God’s breath-wind (Heb. ruach) blowing across “the face of the deep.” It is clear—as clear as chaos can be!—that “the deep” represents the dark, mysterious, and massive waters of the sea (the Mediterranean, to be precise). In Genesis 1, it is these waters of “the deep” that God divides into waters “above” (whence falls the rain) and waters “below” (whence flow the springs). These waters, situated above and below the dry land called earth, are representative in biblical cosmology of the powers of swirling chaos, tohu bohu, that continually threaten the order of creation at its edges. In the flood narrative of Genesis 7, God is portrayed as unleashing these chaotic powers of destruction upon the earth, thereby reversing the act of creation as it is described in Genesis 1: the waters above and the waters below converge upon the land. Thus in the Genesis account, we encounter an act of divine decreation, God’s undoing what was done in creation. Chaos is let loose from its boundaries above and below and gushes back in upon the dry land. The point is not that the Qur’an denies this portrayal of Noah’s flood but that it mutes, if not altogether silences, the cosmic, even universal elements of the Genesis story.

Another difference between Genesis and the Qur’an regarding the story of Noah concerns the number of animals who made it on board. In this case, the difference very likely begins with varying traditions within the Bible itself. The Qur’an’s mention of “two of every kind” echoes God’s instructions to Noah in Genesis to bring “two of every kind,” “of every living thing, of all flesh” (6:19). But Genesis includes another narrative tradition in which God commands that “seven pairs of all clean animals … and seven pairs of the birds of the air also” (7:2–3) embark on the ark. It becomes clear later that the greater number of kosher animals is necessary for the sacrifices that Noah would offer after the ark hit dry ground: “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (8:20). In other words, more than just a pair become necessary when Noah’s story is told in a culture in which sacrificial animals are important; in such a setting one would be likely to ask how Noah would be able to offer sacrifices without a surplus of kosher creatures. The Qur’an, meanwhile, would have no need to bother with this issue, given the fact that sacrificial practices and concerns are virtually absent from its pages.
But of course it is not only animals that board the ark. A remnant of the human community is also delivered. At this juncture, though, the Qur’an includes a subplot that is absent from the Bible:

Surah 11:42–43
And as it sailed along with them amid waves like mountains, Noah called out to his son, who stood apart: “My son, embark with us, and do not remain with the unbelievers.”
He said: “I will seek refuge in a mountain that will protect me from water.”
He said: “Today, there is no protector from Allah’s Decree, except for him on whom He has mercy.”
Then the waves came between them and so he was one of those who were drowned.

There is no story like this one in Genesis, nor is it easy to locate anything comparable in the history of Jewish interpretation of this passage.6 This may be entirely unique to the qur’anic revelation. In any case, it is a highly significant story line: whereas in Genesis Noah took his entire household—“you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you” (6:18)—in the Qur’an the humans who are saved are not necessarily all bound by family ties. Noah boards with family members who are believers and with others who have also believed in his proclamation. Further, one of his own sons, refusing to embark on the ark and seeking his refuge elsewhere, is drowned in the floodwaters. Robinson suggests that this fascinating detail may provide another point of identification between Noah’s story and Muhammad’s own prophetic experience, for it “probably mirrors the anguish of the Muslims who left relatives behind when they migrated [from Mecca to Medina].”7 With this new twist in Noah’s story, the Qur’an underscores the idea that Islam creates a new kind of social arrangement, a polis or social identity that is not dependent upon blood kinship but rather upon submission to Allah’s will.”

Lodahl, M. (2010). Claiming Abraham: Reading the Bible and the Qur’an Side by Side (pp. 119–121). Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.

Decree vs Knowledge

Decree vs Knowledge


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Most Calvinists place God’s decree above his foreknowledge. What that boils down to in essence is that they believe God must decree something for him to know it. Many Arminians make the same mistake but the other way around. They believe God’s decree is based on God’s knowledge. Moderate Calvinism teaches that God’s decree is in accordance with his foreknowledge. One is not based on the other. They are in accord with each other.


The Ordo Salutis

The Ordo Salutis

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“The Ordo Salutis
1. What is understood under the ordo salutis, the “order of salvation”?

The series of acts and steps in which the salvation obtained by Christ is subjectively appropriated by the elect. In Scripture σωτηρία, salus, has a double meaning, one more subjective and one more objective, according to whether it includes the act of saving or of being saved. In the first sense it naturally extends much farther than in the subjective appropriation of salvation. Christ is called σωτηρία not merely because He applies His merits but because He has likewise obtained them. His satisfaction was the principal act of salvation. In the second sense it is narrower in scope and in fact covers what one understands under the designation “soteriology.”

2. What is further contained in the term ordo salutis, “order of salvation”?

That the subjective application of the salvation obtained by Christ does not occur at once or arbitrarily. In the abstract, it would be possible for God to take hold of and relocate each one of the elect into the heaven of glory at a single point in time. He has His good reasons that He did not do this. There are a multiplicity of relationships and conditions to which all the operations of grace have a certain connection. If the change came about all at once, then not a single one of these would enter into the consciousness of the believer, but everything would be thrown together in a chaotic revolution. None of the acts or steps would throw light on the others; the base could not be distinguished from the top or the top from the base. The fullness of God’s works of grace and the rich variety of His acts of salvation would not be prized and appreciated.

The opposite of all this is true. There is order and regularity in the application of salvation as well as in every other area of creation. The acts and operations each have their own fixed place, from which they cannot be uprooted. They are connected to each other from what follows and from what precedes; they have their basis and their result. Consequently, the Scripture gives us an ordered sequence (e.g., Rom 8:28–30). At the same time, this order shows us that even in what is most subjective the purpose of God may not be limited to the satisfaction of the creature’s longing for blessedness. If this were so, then the order that is slow and in many respects tests the patience of the children of God would be lost. But here, too, God works first of all to glorify Himself according to the principles of an eternal order and an immanent propriety.

3. Does unanimity rule among the theologians in the identification of the different steps that belong to the order of salvation?

No, a great variety rules in sequence as well as in completeness. All do not enumerate the same steps. When they all have the same things, they are given in a different sequence. Different terms are used for one and the same thing.

4. Enumerate some points of difference that are important for proper differentiation.

a) An important point is the varying and unclear definition of the concept of regeneration. For many theologians the locus on regeneration is completely lacking, although many federalists are an exception here. At the same time these theologians do of course know of regeneration, and its specific character has not escaped them entirely.

1. Some identify “regeneration” (regeneratio) with “conversion” (conversio). This is quite customary with the dogmaticians of the 17th century. The Canons of Dort teach in chapters 3 and 4, article 11: “Furthermore, when God accomplishes His good pleasure in the elect or works true conversion in them … He not only powerfully illumines their mind by the Holy Spirit … but by the effective power of the same regenerating Spirit, He penetrates to the inmost parts of the man, opens the closed heart … infuses new qualities into the will, and makes the dead living … (article 12) and this is that—so often proclaimed in the Holy Scriptures—regeneration, new creation, resurrection from the dead and making alive, which God, without us, works in us.”1 Owen also expresses himself in a similar way.
Some, however, sought to avoid the lack of clarity that may originate from this usage by a more precise distinction between two kinds of conversion. So Turretin makes mention of a double conversio. The first is habitual and passive. It consists in producing a habit or disposition of the soul: “Habitual or passive conversion occurs through the infusion of supernatural habits by the Holy Spirit.” The second conversion is called active and effective conversion. It is the exercising in faith and repentance of the already implanted habitus: “Active or effective conversion occurs through the exercise of those good habits by which the acts of faith and of repentance are both given by God and elicited in man.” He then adds, however, that it is better to call the first kind of conversion “regeneration,” because it refers to the new birth by which man is renewed according to the image of his Maker, and to limit the term “conversion” to the second kind, since in it the activity of man is not excluded.

2. The majority by far summarize regeneration and conversion under the concept of internal calling. Wollebius says, “Particular calling is termed: (a) new creation, (b) regeneration, etc.” In the schools it is called (a) effectual election, (b) effectual calling, (c) internal calling. Accordingly, some speak first about calling, then about faith, then about conversion, so that calling apparently takes the place of regeneration (e.g., the Leiden Synopsis). Calling is often enough described as an implanting into Christ, a union with Christ, an indissoluble joining of the person of the elect with the person of the Mediator, all of them concepts that bring regeneration to mind clearly enough.

3. Others take the concept of regeneration in a very wide sense, as almost completely synonymous with sanctificatio, “sanctification,” and under that notion understand the entire process by which the old nature of man is transformed into a new nature resembling the image of God. Calvin says (Institutes, 3.3.9), “Therefore, in a word, I describe poenitentia [repentance] as regeneration, of which the goal is none other than that the image of God, defiled and nearly wiped out in us by the transgression of Adam, is restored in us.… And this restoration is not completed in one moment or in one day or one year; but with continual, yes, even slow steps God removes corruption from his elect.” Later we will see why this wider use of the term has a certain right.

b) Another important point that lacks clarity lies in the concept of calling. While for this concept some still have all the emphasis fall on the immediacy of the action and thus identify internal calling with regeneration, others hold to the obvious thought that calling already presupposes a life and the capacity to hear, and so must be distinguished from the initial begetting of life.

c) Also, the concept of poenitentia, “repentance,” is not always clearly distinguished. Sometimes this word is taken to mean long processes that accompany the whole of life here on earth, sometimes for instantaneous actions at a critical moment.”

As seen above, Calvin identifies poenitentia, regeneratio, sanctificatio.”
Vos, G. (2012–2016). Reformed Dogmatics. (R. B. Gaffin, Ed., A. Godbehere, R. van Ijken, D. van der Kraan, H. Boonstra, J. Pater, A. Janssen, … K. Batteau, Trans.) (Vol. 4, pp. 1–4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Practically all critical scholars agree Jesus died and rose again

Practically all critical scholars agree Jesus died and rose again

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“There are a minimum number of facts agreed upon by practically all critical scholars, whatever their school of thought. At least twelve separate facts are considered to be knowable history.

(1) Jesus died by crucifixion and (2) was buried. (3) Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope, believing that his life was ended. (4) Although not as widely accepted, many scholars hold that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered to be empty just a few days later.
Critical scholars further agree that (5) the disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus. Because of these experiences, (6) the disciples were transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of his death and resurrection. (7) This message was the center of preaching in the early church and (8) was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was buried shortly before.
As a result of this preaching, (9) the church was born and grew, (10) with Sunday as the primary day of worship. (11) James, who had been a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he also believed that he saw the resurrected Jesus. (12) A few years later, Paul was converted by an experience which he, likewise, believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.”

Habermas, G. R. (1996). The historical Jesus: ancient evidence for the life of Christ (p. 158). Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company.

Dispensations and Prophecy Damascus Document Dead Sea Scrolls

Dispensations and Prophecy Damascus Document Dead Sea Scrolls

Dispensations and Prophecy Damascus Document Dead Sea Scrolls

Excerpt from Exhortation. In this portion we see many topics. Dispensationalism, Watchers, Prophecy
“Hear now, my sons, and I will uncover your eyes that you may see and understand the works of God, that you choose that which pleases Him and reject that which He hates, that you may walk perfectly in all His ways and not follow after thoughts of the guilty inclination and after eyes of lust. For through them, great men have gone astray and mighty heroes have stumbled from former times till now. Because they walked in the stubbornness of their heart the Heavenly Watchers fell; they were caught because they did not keep the commandments of God. And their sons also fell who were tall as cedar trees and whose bodies were like mountains. All flesh on dry land perished; they were as though they had never been because they did their own will and did not keep the commandment of their Maker so that His wrath was kindled against them. III Through it, the children of Noah went astray, together with their kin, and were cut off. Abraham did not walk in it, and he was accounted a friend of God because he kept the commandments of God and did not choose his own will. And he handed them down to Isaac and Jacob, who kept them, and were recorded as friends of God and party to the Covenant for ever.

The children of Jacob strayed through them and were punished in accordance with their error. And their sons in Egypt walked in the stubbornness of their hearts, conspiring against the commandments of God and each of them doing that which seemed right in his own eyes. They ate blood, and He cut off their males in the wilderness.

And at Kadesh He said to them, Go up and possess the land (Deut. 9:23). But they chose their own will and did not heed the voice of their Maker, the commands of their Teacher, but murmured in their tents; and the anger of God was kindled against their congregation. Through it their sons perished, and through it their kings were cut off; through it their mighty heroes perished and through it their land was ravaged. Through it the first members of the Covenant sinned and were delivered up to the sword, because they forsook the Covenant of God and chose their own will and walked in the stubbornness of their hearts each of them doing his own will.

But with the remnant which held fast to the commandments of God He made His Covenant with Israel for ever, revealing to them the hidden things in which all Israel had gone astray. He unfolded before them His holy Sabbaths and his glorious feasts, the testimonies of His righteousness and the ways of His truth, and the desires of His will which a man must do in order to live. And they dug a well rich in water; and he who despises it shall not live. Yet they wallowed in the sin of man and in ways of uncleanness, and they said, ‘This is our (way).’ But God, in His wonderful mysteries, forgave them their sin and pardoned their wickedness; and He built them a sure house in Israel whose like has never existed from former times till now. Those who hold fast to it are destined to live for ever and all the glory of Adam shall be theirs. As God ordained for them by the hand of the Prophet Ezekiel, saying, The Priests, the Levites, and the sons IV of Zadok who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel strayed from me, they shall offer me fat and blood (Ezek. 44:15).

The Priests are the converts of Israel who departed from the land of Judah, and (the Levites are) those who joined them. The sons of Zadok are the elect of Israel, the men called by name who shall stand at the end of days. Behold the exact list of their names according to their generations, and the time when they lived, and the number of their trials, and the years of their sojourn, and the exact list of their deeds …
(They were the first men) of holiness whom God forgave, and who justified the righteous and condemned the wicked. And until the age is completed, according to the number of those years, all who enter after them shall do according to that interpretation of the Law in which the first were instructed. According to the Covenant which God made with the forefathers, forgiving their sins, so shall He forgive their sins also. But when the age is completed, according to the number of those years, there shall be no more joining the house of Judah, but each man shall stand on his watch-tower: The wall is built, the boundary far removed (Mic. 7:11).

During all those years Satan shall be unleashed against Israel, as He spoke by the hand of Isaiah, son of Amoz, saying, Terror and the pit and the snare are upon you, O inhabitant of the land (Isa. 24:17). Interpreted, these are the three nets of Satan with which Levi son of Jacob said that he catches Israel by setting them up as three kinds of righteousness. The first is fornication, the second is riches, and the third is profanation of the Temple. Whoever escapes the first is caught in the second, and whoever saves himself from the second is caught in the third (Isa. 24:18).”

Vermes, G. (1995). The Dead Sea scrolls in English (Revised and extended 4th ed., pp. 98–100). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Quran and Inspiration

Quran and Inspiration

Qur’an and Inspiration

“In Muslim thinking it is not Muhammad who was inspired, but the message he transmitted. Its origin is not in Muhammad, but in the Preserved Tablet kept in heaven and referred to in Sura 85:22. From this record there have been other revelations given: the Torah, the Old Testament Law, given to Moses; the Psalms, given to David; the Gospel, given to Jesus; and the Qur’an, given to Muhammad. The Torah is in Hebrew for Jews, the Gospel in Greek for Gentiles, the Qur’an in Arabic for Arabs and ultimately for all people.

The Gospel in Greek for Gentiles, the Qur’an in Arabic for Arabs and ultimately for all people.
The book itself is not seen as the product of Muhammad. It is inspired. The word used is wahy from the verb awha, used in the Qur’an more than seventy times. In Sura 16:68 the word is used of the bee. How does it know how to construct its hive and where to build it? The answer is wahy. The bee doesn’t work it out logically: it is guided by God.

According to the Islamic scriptures, Muhammad’s times of inspiration were accompanied by physical manifestations: perspiration, shaking, and even trance. An example is given by Bukhari:

The Prophet waited for a while and then the Divine Inspiration descended upon him. Umar pointed out to Ya’la, telling him to come. Ya’la came and pushed his head (underneath the screen which was covering the Prophet) and behold! The Prophet’s face was red and he kept on breathing heavily for a while, and then he was relieved.15

Muhammad’s own explanation was that the inspiration sometimes came

“… like the ringing of a bell, this form of inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes off after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me.” Aisha added: “Verily I saw the prophet on a very cold day and noticed the sweat dropping from his forehead (as the inspiration was over).”16

It was this claim to inspiration that gave authority to Muhammad’s teaching, although those who opposed him said that he was merely repeating what someone was telling him. Yet there is no denying that at least the earlier suras of the Qur’an are lively, highly imaginative, poetic, and in that sense inspired. The claim that the entire Qur’an is written in this same “inspired” form is debatable; the later suras can often seem labored (to non-Muslims, at least), giving the impression of being constructed to meet an immediate social or political need.”

Riddell, P. G., & Cotterell, P. (2003). Islam in Context: Past, Present, and Future (pp. 62–63). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.


“THE QURÁN.—The question of the inspiration will be fully discussed, and an account of the laws of the exegesis of the Qurán will be given in the next chapter. It is sufficient now to state that this book is held in the highest veneration by Muslims of every sect. When being read it is kept on a stand elevated above the floor, and no one must read or touch it without first making a legal ablution.1 It is not translated unless there is the most urgent necessity, and even then the Arabic text is printed with the translation. It is said that God chose the sacred month of Ramazán in which to give all the revelations which in the form of books have been vouchsafed to mankind. Thus on the first night of that month the books of Abraham came down from heaven; on the sixth the books of Moses; on the thirteenth the Injíl, or Gospel, and on the twenty-seventh the Qurán. On that night, the Laylut-ul-Qadr, or “night of power,” the whole Qurán is said to have descended to the lowest of the seven heavens, from whence it was brought piecemeal to Muhammad as occasion required.2 “Verily we have caused it (the Qurán) to descend on the night of power.” (Súra xcvii. 1.) That night is called the blessed night, the night better than a thousand months, the night when angels came down by the permission of their Lord, the night which bringeth peace and blessings till the rosy dawn. Twice on that night in the solitude of the cave of Hira the voice called, twice though pressed sore “as if a fearful weight had been laid upon him,” the prophet struggled against its influence. The third time he heard the words:—

“Recite thou, in the name of thy Lord who created—
Created man from clots of blood.” (Súra xcvi. 5.)

“When the voice had ceased to speak, telling how from minutest beginnings man had been called into existence, and lifted up by understanding and knowledge of the Lord, who is most beneficent, and who by the pen had revealed that which man did not know, Muhammad woke up from his trance and felt as if “a book had been written in his heart.” He was much alarmed. Tradition records that he went hastily to his wife and said—“O Khadíja! what has happened to me!” He lay down and she watched by him. When he recovered from his paroxysm, he said “O Khadíja! he of whom one would not have believed (i.e., himself) has become either a soothsayer (káhin) or mad.” She replied, “God is my protection, O Ab-ul-kásim. He will surely not let such a thing happen unto thee, for thou speakest the truth, dost not return evil for evil, keepest faith, art of a good life and art kind to thy relatives and friends, and neither art thou a talker abroad in the bazaars. What has befallen thee? Hast thou seen aught terrible?” Muhammad replied “Yes.” And he told her what he had seen. Whereupon she answered and said:—“Rejoice, O dear husband and be of good cheer. He in whose hands stands Khadíja’s life, is my witness that thou wilt be the Prophet of this people.”1 The next Súra, the 74th, was revealed at Mecca, after which there seems to have been an intermission, called the Fatrah. It was during this time that the Prophet gained some knowledge of the contents of the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures.
Gabriel is believed to have been the medium of communication. This fact, however, is only once stated in the Qurán:—“Say, whoso is the enemy of Gabriel—For he it is who by God’s leave hath caused the Qurán to descend on thy heart” (Súra ii. 91.) This Súra was revealed some years after the Prophet’s flight to Madína. The other references to the revelation of the Qurán are:—“Verily from the Lord of the worlds hath this book come down; the Faithful Spirit (Rúh-ul-Ámín) hath come down with it” (Súra xxvi. 192.) “The Qurán is no other than a revelation revealed to him, one terrible in power (Shadíd-ul-Quá) taught it him.” (Súra liii. 5.) These latter passages do not state clearly that Gabriel was the medium of communication, but the belief that he was is almost, if not entirely, universal, and the Commentators say that the terms “Rúh-ul-Ámín” and “Shadíd-ul-Quá” refer to no other angel or spirit. The use of the word “taught” in the last Súra quoted, and the following expression in Súra lxxv. 18. “When we have recited it, then follow thou the recital,” show that the Qurán is entirely an objective revelation and that Muhammad was only a passive medium of communication. The Muhammadan historian, Ibn Khaldoun, says on this point:—“Of all the divine books the Qurán is the only one of which the text, words and phrases have been communicated to a prophet by an audible voice, It is otherwise with the Pentateuch, the Gospel and the other divine books: the prophets received them under the form of ideas.”1 This expresses the universal belief on this point—a belief which reveals the essentially mechanical nature of Islám.

The Qurán thus revealed is now looked upon as the standing miracle of Islám. Other divine books, it is admitted, were revelations received under the form of ideas, but the Qurán is far superior to them all for the actual text was revealed to the ear of the prophet. Thus we read in Súra lxxv. 16–19:—

“Move not thy tongue in haste to follow and master this revelation;
For we will see to the collecting and recital of it;
But when we have recited it, then follow thou the recital;
And verily it shall be ours to make it clear to thee.””

Sell, E. (1880). The Faith of Islám (pp. 2–5). London; Madras: Trübner & Co.; Addison & Co.

“Another feature of the revelation of this the middle Meccan, period is the constant assertion of the inspiration of the Qurán. It is called the blessed Book, the luminous Book, the honourable Qurán. It is the Book from God, the best of all recitals He hath sent—a missive from on high:

A blessed Book have we sent down to thee, that men may meditate its verses, and that those endued with understanding may bear it in mind.—Súratu Sád (38) v. 28.

Muhammad is bidden not to grieve at the hardness of heart of his hearers and is assured that his message is divine. These are the signs of the lucid Book:

Haply thou wearest thyself away with grief because they will not believe.
Were it our will we could send down to them a sign from Heaven, before which they would humbly bow.
But from each fresh warning that cometh to them from the God of mercy they have only turned aside,
And treated it as a lie.—Súratu’sh Shu‘ará (26) vv. 2–5.

In the one hundred and ninety-second and following verses of this Súra there is a very strong assertion of the fact that Gabriel brought the Book down from heaven: but, as there is a reference to the Jews, this passage is considered by Jalálu’d-dín as Syúti to belong to the Madína period and so I do not quote it here. In other parts of this Súra, five of the older prophets are represented as saying “Fear God and obey me;” and the conclusion drawn is that in like manner the Quraish should obey Muhammad, or suffer for their disobedience; and if they disobeyed him then he could, in the name of God, say,

I will not be answerable for your doings. v. 216.

In Súratu’t Túr (52) the charge of forgery is met and the supernatural nature of the Qurán is asserted:

Will they say, ‘He hath forged it himself?’ Nay, rather is it they that believe not.
Let them produce a discourse like it, if they speak the truth. vv. 33–4.
Have they such a knowledge of the secret things that they can write them down? v. 41.
Verily, there is a punishment for the evil-doers. v. 47.

Súratu’l Háqqah (69) which belongs to the first Meccan period, contains one of the strongest denials of forgery to be found in the Qurán:

It needs not that I swear by what ye see, and by what ye see not,
This verily is the word of an Apostle worthy of all honour,
And that it is not the word of a poet—1
How little do ye believe!
Neither is it the word of a soothsayer—
How little do ye receive warning!
It is a missive from the Lord of the worlds.
But if Muhammad had fabricated concerning us any sayings,
We had surely seized him by the right hand and had cut through the vein of his neck;
Nor would we have withheld any of you from him. vv. 38–47.”
Sell, E. (1905). The Historical Development of the Quran (pp. 48–51). London; New York: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; Edwin S. Gorham.

Doctrine of Election Dead Sea Scrolls Damascus Document

Doctrine of Election Dead Sea Scrolls Damascus Document

John Calvin

Doctrine of Election Dead Sea Scrolls Damascus Document

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I found this interesting when reading through my Dead Sea Scrolls documents. This is a section from the Damascus document. Specifically, it is the exhortation portion. The image at the bottom of the post is the highlight of my quote. The doctrine of election was clearly held by those in the Essene Community.


“God loves knowledge. Wisdom and understanding He has set before Him, and prudence and knowledge serve Him. Patience and much forgiveness are with Him towards those who turn from transgression; but power, might, and great flaming wrath by the hand of all the Angels of Destruction towards those who depart from the way and abhor the Precept. They shall have no remnant or survivor. For from the beginning God chose them not; He knew their deeds before ever they were created and He hated their generations, and He hid His face from the Land until they were consumed. For He knew the years of their coming and the length and exact duration of their times for all ages to come and throughout eternity. He knew the happenings of their times throughout all the everlasting years. And in all of them He raised for Himself men called by name, that a remnant might be left to the Land, and that the face of the earth might be filled with their seed. And He made known His Holy Spirit to them by the hand of His anointed ones, and He proclaimed the truth (to them). But those whom He hated He led astray.”

Vermes, G. (1995). The Dead Sea scrolls in English (Revised and extended 4th ed., p. 98). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


“The title ‘Damascus Document’ derives from the references in the Exhortation to the ‘New Covenant’ made ‘in the land of Damascus’. The significance of this phrase is discussed in Chapter II together with the chronological data included in the manuscript. They suggest that the document was written in about 100 BCE and this hypothesis is indirectly supported by the absence of any mention in the historical passages of the Kittim (Romans) whose invasion of the Orient did not take place until after 70 BCE.
The work is divided into an Exhortation and a list of Statutes. In the Exhortation, the preacher—probably a Guardian of the Community—addresses his ‘sons’ on the themes of the sect’s teaching, many of which appear also in the Community Rule. His aim is to encourage the sectaries to remain faithful, and with this end in view he sets out to demonstrate from the history of Israel and the Community that fidelity is always rewarded and apostasy chastised.

During the course of his argument, the author of the Damascus Document frequently interprets biblical passages in a most unexpected way. I have mentioned one of these commentaries on the marriage laws in Chapter III (p. 44), but there is another involved exposition of Amos 5:26–7 on p. 103 which may not be easy to understand.

In the Bible these verses convey a divine threat: the Israelites were to take themselves and their idols into exile. ‘You shall take up Sakkuth your king and Kaiwan your star-god, your images which you made for yourselves, for I will take you into exile beyond Damascus.’ But the Damascus Document transforms this threat into a promise of salvation; by changing certain words in the biblical text and omitting others its version read: ‘I will exile the tabernacle of your king and the bases of your statues from my tent to Damascus.’

In this new text, the three key phrases are interpreted symbolically as follows: ‘tabernacle’ = ‘Books of the Law’; ‘king’ = ‘congregation’; ‘bases of statues’ = ‘Books of the Prophets’. Thus: ‘The Books of the Law are the tabernacle of the king; as God said, I will raise up the tabernacle of David which is fallen (Amos 9:11). The king is the congregation; and the bases of the statues are the Books of the Prophets whose sayings Israel despised.’

The omission of any reference to the ‘star-god’ is made good by introducing a very different ‘Star’, the messianic ‘Interpreter of the Law’ with his companion the ‘Prince of the congregation’. ‘The star is the Interpreter of the Law who shall come to Damascus; as it is written, A star shall come forth out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel (Num. 24:17). The sceptre is the Prince of the whole congregation …’”

Vermes, G. (1995). The Dead Sea scrolls in English (Revised and extended 4th ed., pp. 95–96). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Critique of the Idea That the Church Began With Paul

Critique of the Idea That the Church Began With Paul

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“Critique of the Idea That the Church Began With Paul

(1) This confuses the beginning of the revelation about the church with the beginning of the church itself.
(2) It makes distinctions without real differences (e.g., gospels of circumcision [Peter] and uncircumcision [Paul]). While these are different audiences, they are not different gospels.
(3) It creates distinctions where there are none (e.g., no signs with gospel of grace).
(4) It confuses Old Testament prophecies that Gentiles would be blessed with there being no predictions as to how they would be on the same level with Jews.
(5) It manifests gnosticlike tendencies, such as (A) avoiding “earthly” elements (e.g., water baptism) and (B) special, exclusive, in-group knowledge of the mystery of Christ’s body.
(6) It unjustifiably assumes that there are two kinds of Spirit baptism.
(7) It fails to note that Gentiles were baptized into Christ in Acts 2 and 8, which defeats the argument that there was no joint-body before Paul’s ministry.
(8) It claims “that there just was no joint-body until some Gentiles as such were saved, and we know that could not have been until the salvation of Cornelius at least” (BT, 32); there were Gentiles in Acts 2 and in Acts 6, well before Paul was saved (Acts 9).
(9) Its assertion that “we must not confuse the Persons of the Trinity, and yet that is exactly what they do who make these two Spirit baptisms one and the same; for they have Christ baptizing into Christ” (BT, 32) confuses the procession in the Trinity—Christ sent the Spirit to do His work for Him (John 15:26).
(10) It claims that “if anything is evident from the pages of the epistles it is that the ritual has given place to the spiritual” (BT, 32–33), but the Lord’s Supper involves a ritual using physical elements.
(11) It leads to unorthodox (works-based) soteriological views of the Old Testament and early New Testament, claiming that Peter’s plan of salvation for Jews (Acts 2:38) is different from Paul’s message of grace (ibid., 19–20).
(12) It claims there are “different Gospels” (URC, 97), which opposes scriptural teaching (Gal. 1:8; cf. 3:8).”
Geisler, N. L. (2005). Systematic theology, volume four: church, last things (pp. 687–689). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

Quran and Crucifixion

Quran and Crucifixion

Quran and the Crucifixion

“Qur’an and Crucifixion

Most intriguing is the one verse in the Qur’an which deals with the crucifixion of Jesus. The Jews are being condemned in Sura 4:157 because

they uttered against Mary a grave false charge (and) that they said “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”—But they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them. And those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. (Sura 4:157)

The “grave charge” directed against Mary is obviously the accusation that she had been unchaste and that her pregnancy was the result. The remainder of the verse is both intriguing and perplexing: intriguing because the actual meaning of the passage is not clear; and perplexing because there appears to be one certainty at least about Jesus, that he was “crucified under Pontius Pilate.”45

The most obvious meaning is that given by the majority of Muslim scholars: Jesus was not crucified. This then gives rise to a further problem: then who was crucified? The Qur’an offers no answer to the question, simply asserting that it seemed to those responsible for the crucifixion that they had crucified Jesus. The sixteenth-century Gospel of Barnabas, written in Italian by Father Moreno, a Christian turned Muslim,46 provides a detailed explanation: it was Judas who was crucified, because God snatched Jesus away to the third heaven and made Judas resemble Jesus in appearance:

When the soldiers with Judas drew near to the place where Jesus was, Jesus heard the approach of many people, wherefore in fear he withdrew into the house. And the eleven were sleeping. Then God, seeing the danger of his servant commanded Gabriel, Michael, Rafael and Uriel, his ministers, to take Jesus out of the world.

The holy angels came and took Jesus out by the window that looketh toward the south. They bare him and placed him in the third heaven in the company of angels, blessing God for evermore.

Judas entered impetuously before all into the chamber whence Jesus had been taken up. And the disciples were sleeping. Whereupon the wonderful God acted wonderfully, insomuch that Judas was so changed in speech and in face to be like Jesus that we believed him to be Jesus. And he, having awakened us, was seeking where the master was. Whereupon we marvelled, and answered: “Thou, Lord, art our master; hast thou now forgotten us?”

And he, smiling, said: “Now are ye foolish, that know not me to be Judas Iscariot!”

And as he was saying this the soldiery entered, and laid their hands upon Judas, because he was in every way like to Jesus.…

The soldiers took Judas and bound him, not without derision. For he truthfully denied that he was Jesus.47

Certainly many Muslims find it hard to believe that a prophet like Jesus could be crucified. Muhammad himself was well aware of the fact that prophets could be rejected and even killed, but crucifixion was a death cursed in the Old Testament.48 How could a prophet die an accursed death?

Muhammad’s rejection of the crucifixion of Jesus may possibly be traced back to the Christian philosopher Basilides,49 who seems to have taught that Jesus was not crucified but someone else took his place. Perhaps this happened in the scuffle and confusion of the arrest, or perhaps at the cross things became confused and Simon of Cyrene was crucified instead of Jesus.

Since it is widely accepted on the basis of the historical record that Jesus was in fact crucified, it has been suggested that the text could be understood as meaning “they,” the Jews, did not crucify him. E. E. Elder made this suggestion, and this certainly has the advantage of leaving the question of just who crucified Jesus open. However, the Arabic text does not emphasize the pronoun “they” as might have been expected if that was the intended meaning; this interpretation is just, but only just, barely possible.50

A third option is that taught by the Ahmadis. They came into existence around the beginning of the twentieth century, led by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1839–1908), who was born in the Punjab. He claimed to have received revelations from Allah when he was forty years old. He asserted that Jesus was crucified but did not die on the cross. According to the Ahmadis, Jesus was taken down from the cross alive and was resuscitated in the tomb through the efforts of Nicodemus, who in this account becomes a skilled doctor:

Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, an expert physician, now came and took charge of the body of Jesus, brought it down from the cross, wrapped him in a linen cloth, which was impregnated with spices, and laid him in a sepulchre.… There can be no doubt that Joseph and Nicodemus must have continued to minister unto Jesus in the strong hope of reviving him.51

Jesus is said to have completely recovered and subsequently to have gone eastward in search of the lost ten tribes, eventually dying and being buried in Kashmir.52

Seyyed Hossein Nasr recognizes the importance of the Qur’an’s denial of the crucifixion: “The Qur’an does not accept that Jesus was crucified, but states that he was taken directly to heaven. This is the one irreducible ‘fact’ separating Christianity from Islam, a fact which is in reality placed there providentially to prevent a mingling of the two religions.”53 Similarly, but polemically, the Ahmadi writer Muhammad Zafrullah Khan claims: “Once it is established that Jesus did not die on the cross, there was no accursed death, no bearing of the sins of mankind, no resurrection, no ascension and no atonement. The entire structure of church theology is thereby demolished.”54

In the twenty-first century the debates between Muslims and non-Muslims focus on the Jewish people and the State of Israel, on worldwide Christianity in its various manifestations, and on the economic and political system generally designated capitalism. In the thinking of many Muslims the latter two are in good measure conflated.

Nasr (rightly) sees the inescapable logic of the incompatibility of the two religions, Islam and Christianity. Meanwhile, Zafrullah Khan sees beyond that to the “demolishing” of the religious element of the principal alternative to Islam.”

45 As Geoffrey Parrinder comments, “No serious historian doubts that Jesus was a historical figure and that he was crucified, whatever he may think of the faith in the resurrection” (Jesus in the Qur’an [London: Sheldon, 1965], 116).

46 See David Sox, The Gospel of Barnabas (London: Allen and Unwin, 1984). This is a thorough examination of the many questions raised by the so-called Gospel of Barnabas and ought to have ended the claims by Muslims, and even by Muslim scholars, that this Gospel is the one and only first-century Gospel written by a disciple of Jesus; see Muhammad ur-Rahim, Jesus: A Prophet of Islam, 2d ed. (London: MWH Publishers, 1979), 39. See also the discussion of the Gospel of Barnabas in Moucarry, Faith to Faith, 247–51. For a spirited, if forlorn, defense of the authenticity of the Gospel of Barnabas, see Yusseff, Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gospel of Barnabas, and the New Testament.

47 Aisha Bawany Wakf, ed., The Gospel of Barnabas (Karachi: Ashram Publications, 1976). This is a new edition of the translation by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg (London: Oxford University Press, 1907); see also F. P. Cotterell, “The Gospel of Barnabas,” Vox Evangelica 10 (1977): 43–17.
48 Deut. 21:23.
49 Gnosticism certainly flourished in neighboring Egypt: Hans Lietzmann, “Egypt,” chap. 13 in The Founding of the Church Universal, 3d ed. (London: Lutterworth, 1953). Basilides claimed the authority of the apostle Peter for his system.
50 See Parrinder, Jesus in the Qur’an, 120.
51 Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Deliverance from the Cross (Southfields: London Mosque, 1978),33.
52 See Khan, Deliverance from the Cross; and Kenneth Cragg, Islamic Surveys 3: Counsels in Contemporary Islam (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1965), chap. 10.
53 Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islamic Life and Thought (London: Allen and Unwin, 1981), 209.
54 Khan, Deliverance from the Cross, 89.
Riddell, P. G., & Cotterell, P. (2003). Islam in Context: Past, Present, and Future (pp. 77–80). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Evangelizing Muslims

Evangelizing Muslims

Topic: Evangelizing Muslims 

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“The most important thing we can do as followers of Jesus is to do just that. Follow him. Jesus himself is the Good News. The message that we carry is Jesus. Not church, not capitalism, not democracy, not doctrine, not the religion of Christianity, not Calvin, not Luther, not Democrat, not Republican.
If we truly wish to be able to build a relationship with a Muslim friend, the most important thing we can do is to follow Jesus’ lead. Jesus had compassion for people, and he valued the same quality in his disciples, even above personal sacrifice.

If we begin with the attitude that we are going to debunk “all of that Islamic stuff,” we’ll be done before we get a chance to introduce Jesus, because we will have turned away somebody in the process.
Some suggestions when beginning a conversation:

Don’t insult Muhammad, and don’t be flippant with religious phrases or with God or your Bible. Show respect, and you may well be respected for it.

Do everything you can to keep it from becoming a me-versus-you debate. Or a my-religion-can-beat-up-your-religion diatribe. That’s not how Jesus spoke to others, and we would do well to follow his example.

Show interest in your Muslim friend’s faith not as a means of deception, but because you are interested in them and what they think about God. In fact, keeping the conversation on common ground and about everyday spirituality will prove to be far more effective than confrontation. Many Muslims are uneducated regarding their religion, and any attempt to force a theological point will end in shared frustration.

One thing you will notice about Muslims in the Middle East, in particular, is that the Eastern perspective on logic is totally different from ours in the West. For example, when I first arrived in Beirut, I attempted to use C. S. Lewis’s tried-and-true “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” approach with my new friends. I said that because Jesus himself claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life, he was either who he said he was, or he was lying about it, or even worse, he was delusional. Those were the only options. It was either true or not.

“No,” my friends said, shaking their heads. “He was a prophet of God, and he never told lies and he certainly wasn’t crazy.”

“Don’t you see,” I would plead, “the only option left is that he is Lord.”
“No. He was something else. You need more options in your argument.”
“There aren’t any,” I said, palms sweaty. “I’m being logical, and Jesus was logical.”
That raised some eyebrows.

Only later did I realize that they had raised an interesting point: Jesus had lived in their region, spoke a similar language, and had similar ethnic qualities. And then Carl the Great White Missionary flew across the world to tell them that Jesus was logical.… That’s just like an American.

Be genuine and patient. Whatever denomination or church we come from, it is not our job to “secure converts.” In bolder terms, we are not even here to “build the kingdom” but rather to obey the king. Kings build their own kingdoms, and Jesus surely can build his. We are involved in the process because we follow him.

When speaking with a Muslim about Jesus: Use his title as a term of respect, i.e., “Jesus the Christ” (or Messiah). This is actually a term that Muslims accept, and it shows a sense of reverence.

Many Muslims are pleasantly surprised when they see someone praying, reading a Bible, or treating religious things with a sense of devotion. In the West, we are so used to the separation of church and state that in public we acclimate to the nonreligious norms within our culture. Muslims see this as a blatant disregard of devotion to God. Many of my Muslim friends are surprised when I tell them that the president or some public figure believes in God. They don’t see it in the media, where talk of God is rare, and devotion toward him seems nonexistent. Within Islamic nation-states, the opposite is true. Every Islamic state (even the secular ones) is permeated with religious devotion and/or tradition. Every public figure is a Muslim. Except for those in Lebanon, every political office carries with it some influence of Islamic law, to one degree or another.

We don’t want to wear our devotion on our sleeve, but we are free to be people who are obviously seeking to follow the ways of God and be more like Jesus. This is how we desire to live and what will pave the way for many genuine friendships.”

Medearis, C. (2008). Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships (pp. 33–36). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House.

Defining Kabbalah

Defining Kabbalah

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“KABBALAH [kə bälˊə] (Heb. qabbalâ “tradition”). † According to the Midrash, those books of the Hebrew scriptures contained in the Prophets and the Writings, as well as the corpus of oral law.
More commonly the term designates the system of Jewish theosophy and mysticism which developed after A.D. 1200, according to which God manifests himself through ten mysterious emanations. Of particular interest are aspects of creation and the visionary portions of Scripture. Abbreviations of words and the transposition of letters, with emphasis on their numerical values and symbolism, are the concern of gematria, a method of interpretation which seeks hidden meanings. In a less technical sense the Kabbalah comprises all esoteric Jewish doctrine from the beginning of the Christian era on.”
Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (pp. 616–617). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

“Kabbala (Rabbinic Heb. קַבָּלָה, qabbālāh, ‘tradition’). A system of Jewish *theosophy which, by the use of an esoteric method of interpretation of the OT, including cyphers, was believed to reveal to its initiates hidden doctrines, e.g. the creation of the world by means of emanations from the Divine Being. It was a development of tendencies akin to *Gnosticism, and reached the height of its influence in the later Middle Ages and at the Renaissance. A Christian form of it also had considerable vogue in the 15th-16th cents., its Christian exponents such as J. *Reuchlin and *Paracelsus professing to deduce by its means such doctrines as the Trinity, the Atonement, and the Divinity of Christ.

The Zohar tr. into Eng. by H. Sperling, M. Simon, and P. P. Levertoff (5 vols., 1931–4). Extensive extracts ed. F. Lachower and I. Tishby, tr. D. Goldstein, The Wisdom of the Zohar (3 vols., Oxford, 1989), with introd. by I. Tishby, 1, pp. 1–126. Shorter selection tr. by D. C. Matt (Classics of Western Spirituality, 1983). Other material tr. by R. C. Keiner, The Early Kabbalah, ed. with introd., by J. Dan (ibid. [1986]). G. G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (Jerusalem, 1941; 2nd edn., New York, 1946; 3rd edn., London, 1955); id., Zur Kabbala und ihre Symbolik (Zurich, 1960; Eng. tr., 1965); id., Ursprung und Anfänge der Kabbala (Studia Judaica, 3; 1962; Eng. tr., Princeton, NJ [1987]); id., Kabbalah (Jerusalem [1974]); M. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven, Conn., and London [1988]); S. Shokek, Kabbala and the Art of Being, ed. M. Leavitt (2001). J. L. Blau, The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (New York, 1944); F. Secret, Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (1964). G. G. Scholem, Bibliographia Kabbalistica (Berlin, 1933; additions in Kirjath Sepher, Jerusalem, 1933 ff.). Id. in Encyclopaedia Judaica, 10 (Jerusalem, 1971), cols. 489–653, s.v. ‘Kabbalah’; R. Goetschel and O. Betz in TRE 17 (1988), cols. 487–509, s.v., both with bibl.”
Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 923). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

“Cabala (reception).—The secret tradition of the Jews, the origin of which may be traced to pre-Christian times, but which grew up mainly after the beginning of the tenth century, and flourished for many generations. The Cabala was employed first in a mystic explanation of the Deity and cosmogony, and in the creation of hidden meanings for the sacred Hebrew writings, thus drawing into its province all the Hebrew law and theology. Later, Cabalists pretended to find wonderful meanings even in the letters and forms of the sacred texts, and made for themselves elaborate rules of interpretation.”

Thein, J. (1900). In Ecclesiastical Dictionary: Containing, in Concise Form, Information upon Ecclesiastical, Biblical, Archæological, and Historical Subjects (p. 127). New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Benziger Brothers.
“Kabbalah n. Hebrew (kah-bah-LAH) Literally, “to receive.” The Jewish mystical tradition. Through the ages, Kabbalah has been primarily transmitted orally from a teacher to a disciple who was over 40 and well versed in the teachings of the Torah and Talmud. Rabbis worried that the Kabbalah would be misinterpreted or used for superstitious practices if it were studied by someone unfamiliar with Jewish texts; in its early years, it was practiced in secret. Kabbalists have developed meditative practices and distinctive theories on heaven, reincarnation, the coming of the Messiah, and creation. They use a system called gematria, in which each Hebrew letter is assigned a numerical value, to uncover the secrets that they believe are hidden in the Torah.
Kabbalists believe that these teachings were revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai as a secret part of the Oral Law. In the 2nd century C.E., Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph was a leading figure in Jewish mysticism; his search for paradise is mentioned in the Talmud. The earliest known Kabbalistic text is Sefer ha-Bahir, edited in Provence in the mid-12th century. It describes the 10 sefirot, through which the hidden God is revealed. Around 1290, the Spanish mystic Moses de Leon compiled the teachings of Kabbalah in the Zohar, which remains the classic text of this tradition. He credited the Kabbalah teachings to the 2nd-century writings of the talmudic sage Shimon bar Yochai. Kabbalah was practiced by large numbers of Jews following their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in the 1490s. In Safed, in the mid-16th century, Rabbi Isaac Luria furthered Kabbalistic thought with theories about the Ein Sof, the creation of the universe, the origins of evil, and how to repair the world (tikun olam). Lurianic Kabbalah played a major role in the development of Hasidism. Today, there is revived interest in Jewish mysticism among Orthodox Jews and those in the Jewish Renewal movement; synagogues and schools offer courses on Kabbalah and other topics of Jewish mysticism”
Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 76). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“A form of Jewish mysticism known as the kabbalah arose in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Among those who contributed to the religious and intellectual style of kabbalah was Moses de Leon (1240–1305). De Leon composed the majority of the Zohar, a multivolume work that includes a commentary on the Torah. His writings develop the idea that the stories and laws found in Scripture create a map or pattern for God. De Leon believed that a holy life, marked by an accurate execution of rituals, allowed humanity to reinstate God’s perfect order. By the sixteenth century, the Zohar was read far and wide and remains at the core of kabbalah practice.”

Rusten, S. with E. Michael. (2005). The complete book of when & where in the Bible and throughout history (p. 187). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Reuchlin, De Verbo Mirifico. Basle. 1494.
——De Arte Cabbalistica. Hagenau. 1517.
Raymond Lully, De Auditu Cabbalistico. Strasb. 1651.
Kircher, Œdipus Ægyptiacus. Rome. 1635.
Jellinek, Beiträge zur Gesch. d. Kabbalah. Leipzig. 1852.
Franck, La Kabbale. Paris. 1843. Uebersetzt vom A. Jellinek. Leipzig. 1844.
Ginsburg, The Kabbalah, its Doctrines, Development, and Literature. London. 1865.
——Coheleth, London. 1861.
Munk, Mélanges de Philos. Juive et Arabe. Paris. 1859.”
Farrar, F. W. (1886). History of interpretation (p. 482). London: Macmillan and Co.

“Moses Cordovero (1522–1570)

Focusing upon Talmudic and legal commentators, we have not discussed important figures such as Moses de Leon, whose role in the production of the Zohar cannot be minimized, or Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hassidic Movement. Still, we cannot ignore the special contributions of Moses Cordovero, known as Ramac, whose role is pivotal in the history of Jewish understanding of sacred texts. Ramac was the student of Joseph Caro, the composer of the Shulhan Arukh, and of the great Kabbalist Solomon Alkabez. His students were the powers behind the school of Lurianic Kabbalah in Sefad, which wholly integrated Kabbalah into a halakhic framework. What is generally viewed as the great, new impulse of Isaac Luria—the Ari—was already expounded, without detail, by Ramac: the mystical doctrines of tzimtzum, the four levels or worlds of emanation, and the configurations of the sefirot. The Ari developed and refined these ideas and became the master teacher of the new movement in Kabbalah. Ramac’s Or Yakar is a complete commentary to the Zohar, and he wrote many other books as well, such as Or Ha-Shamayim, Sefer Shiur Ha-Koma, Tfilah le-Moshe, Or Neerav, and Tamar Devora. Sermons of his and a commentary to the Pentateuch remain in manuscript, as yet unpublished.”
Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, p. 1217). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

J. H. Laenen
Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, 292 pp.\

In the preface to his book Laenen declares that he seeks to bridge the gap between scholarly studies and popular works on Jewish mysticism. His aim is to provide a book which, while based on scholarly research, will be of use to the interested non-specialist who does not have a broad knowledge of Judaism. In the introduction he answers the question, ‘What is Jewish mysticism?’. He then proceeds to describe the emergence and history of Jewish mysticism from biblical times to the present day. He works his way from ancient Jewish mysticism, through classical, Lurianic, and Hasidic Kabbalah. An extensive chapter is devoted to the seventeenth century mystic, Sabbatai Zvi and further sections discuss language mysticism and popular literature on Kabbalism.
Laenen is at his best when he is describing and explaining the complex systems of Kabbalah, such as the ten Sefiroth which are characteristic of Lurianic thinking, and describing the importance of major writings such as the Zohar. He is also very good at biographical descriptions of the main individuals and provides interesting and clear accounts of figures such as Joseph Caro and Sabbatai Zvi (although the reader may wonder why so much space has been devoted to this ‘heretical’ character).
The most satisfying parts of the book are those which deal with specific themes, for example the chapter on language mysticism. The main problem with the book lies in its attempt to provide an introduction to Kabbalism while assuming that the reader has little knowledge of Jewish thought and history as a whole. Repeatedly we find that the basic ideas of Judaism itself have to be introduced. Kabbalah is such a complex subject in its own right, that unless the book is going to be very ‘popular’ in its target group, there needs to be some understanding of the ‘first principles’ of the Jewish religion. Thus, Laenen finds that it is necessary, in his chapter on Lurianic Kabbalah, for example, to give a short history of Messianism within Judaism. This rather confounds the chronological pattern which he has set himself to follow. Moreover, although one could see why he has opted for the chronological schema, this writer found herself wishing that he had taken more account of his own observation that the mystical tradition in Judaism did not develop in a straight line (105). The desire to avoid ‘lumping all Jewish mysticism together’ without recognising differences between movements and times is laudable, but unfortunately has sometimes resulted in a rather confusing picture. It would have been very interesting to learn more of the place of Kabbalah in present day Judaism.
Undergraduates and graduate students wishing to have a basic knowledge of the subject will find this book most useful if ‘dipped into’ rather than read through from beginning to end. In other words, the readers should use the index to guide them to themes and characters rather than pursuing the chronological method of the book. There is a good bibliography to aid further study.”
Carson, M. (2003). Review of Jewish Mysticism: An Introduction by J. H. Laenen. Themelios, 28(2), 118–119.

“Sefer Yetzirah n. Hebrew Literally, “Book of Creation.” The first classic text of Kabbalah. It is considered to be an early Babylonian or Palestinian work dating from the 2nd century C.E. The Sefer Yetzirah theorizes that the 10 sefirot and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are the building blocks of creation and the channels through which Divine consciousness flows into creation.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 142). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“Tree of Life n. English 1. One of the two trees in the Garden of Eden. Fruit from the Tree of Life gave immortality to those who tasted it. 2. An image, used in Kabbalah, to depict the sefirot. In this tree of life, the roots are in heaven and the branches extend toward earth. 3. The wooden poles to which a Torah scroll is attached. This is a metaphor, in that the teachings and laws of the Torah are a “tree of life” to those who believe and follow them. In Hebrew they are called atzei chayim. 4. A common artistic representation of a tree, used in synagogue art and Judaica. Because halakhah does not allow the use of human figures as ornamentation, trees of life, along with animals and fruit, are popular themes.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 174). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“sefirah n. Hebrew (seh-fee-RAH); pl. sefirot (seh-fee-ROTE) One of the 10 emanations, or varying aspects, of the Divine presence. This is one of the theories central to the Jewish mystical tradition, or Kabbalah. According to Kabbalistic teaching, sefirot are the 10 attributes that Ein Sof, the infinite unknowable God, created and through which He can be known to man and the universe. sefirot, sometimes called the building blocks of creation, are often depicted as spheres, pillars, or a tree of life, in which the roots are in heaven and the branches extend down toward earth. The sefirot are said to correspond with parts of the body. The 10 sefirot are keter, hokhmah, binah, chesed, gevurah, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod, and malchut. Da’at, literally “knowledge,” is sometimes used in place of keter.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 142). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“Radbaz was the Chief Rabbi of Egypt. He introduced the practice of counting years on documents from the Anno Mundi as was the custom in the West, and he reintroduced the silent recitation of prayer that Maimonides had abolished in Egypt. He left there and resettled in the Holy Land, where he had first gone after he was expelled from Spain in the great expulsion of 1492. His printed responsa number close to 2500, but there are more in manuscript. He deals with questions of every type, and his personal authority is stamped in every answer. He defended the study of philosophy and science and was an avid student of Kabbalah himself, so that his commentaries are in a Kabbalistic manner. His comments on issues in Talmudic study are cited in Shita Mekubetzet by Bezalel Ashkenazi, his student. Keter Malkhut, his work on the liturgy for Yom Kippur, remains very popular.”

Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, pp. 1216–1217). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

“Zohar n. Hebrew (ZOE-har) Literally, “radiance.” A mystical book that is the core text of Kabbalah—one of only three canonized Jewish sacred texts (the other two are the Torah and the Talmud). The Zohar, written in Aramaic, includes interpretations and commentaries that explore the secrets and symbols in the Torah. The Zohar proposes a distinct theory of Creation in which emanations from Ein Sof created a secret spark of awareness, from which emerged and radiated all light. Levels of creation, sefirot, and the worlds above and below are discussed throughout the Zohar. The Zohar holds that The Song of Songs, with its allusions of love and eroticism, contains more secrets of the universe than any other Jewish text. The Zohar was introduced into Spain around 1290 by the mystic Moses de Leon, who claimed it was the mystical 2nd-century writings of talmudic sage Shimon bar Yochai. Most scholars believe that de Leon authored the text himself.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 195). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.



Defining Citizenship

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“Citizenship. The concept of spiritual citizenship is most clearly expressed in Philippians 3:20, where Paul writes, “Our citizenship (politeuma) is in heaven.” This is the only place in Scripture where the word is used, but the idea is found in both Jewish and Christian literature. In fact, the development of the idea may be traced from the record of Abraham’s experience to the writings of the apostolic fathers.
Abraham viewed himself as a stranger (gēr) and a sojourner (māgûr) in the land of promise (Gen. 23:4). The same words are used consistently to describe the experience of the patriarchs (Gen. 17:8; 28:4; 47:9; Exod. 6:4). Even when Israel resided in Canaan, the people were to recognize that the land was God’s and that they were merely aliens (tôšābɩ̂m) in it (Lev. 25:23; 1 Chron. 29:15; Pss. 39:12; 119:19). The Rechabites chose not to build houses, sow seed, or plant vineyards; they lived in tents as a reminder of their status as sojourners (Jer. 35:6–10).
Christ’s teaching on the kingdom has a strong heavenly orientation. His followers are to seek the kingdom that the Father has chosen to give them (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:32). The kingdom, however, is not of this world (John 18:36). Believers are to lay up treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19–21). While Christ is absent, Christians are to take comfort in his promise that he is preparing a place for them in his Father’s house (John 14:1–4). Ultimately, they will inherit the kingdom he has prepared for them (Matt. 25:34).
Paul reminds Christians that it is “the Jerusalem above” to which they are related (Gal. 4:21–31) and that they are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1–4). Peter describes Christians in the same language used to describe Abraham in the Septuagint. They are elect “refugees” (parepidēmoi) whose time on earth is a “temporary stay” (paroikia) in a foreign country (1 Peter 1:1, 17). Their status as “strangers” (paroikoi) and temporary residents provides an incentive for holy living (1 Peter 2:11).
The author of Hebrews brings these various themes together in the most comprehensive way. Abraham and the other patriarchs lived as strangers and exiles on earth, seeking the city designed, built, and prepared for them by God (11:8–16). Similarly, Christians do not have a lasting city; they seek the city that is to come (13:14). That city is the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God and the capital of an unshakable kingdom (12:22–23, 28).
Harvey, J. D. (1996). Citizenship. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 99–100). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.


The privilege of belonging to a city or country. Scripture portrays believers as living in two realms, being members of both human society and of the heavenly city. In both realms there are duties as well as privileges.

Dual citizenship
Mt 22:21 pp Mk 12:17 pp Lk 20:25 See also Ezr 7:26

Earthly citizenship
Privileges and duties of citizens Ro 13:1-7 See also Ecc 8:2; Mt 17:27; Tit 3:1; 1Pe 2:13-17

Privileges and duties of Roman citizenship Ac 16:37; 22:25-29; 23:27; 25:10

Heavenly citizenship and the Christian hope
Php 3:20; Heb 13:14 See also Lk 22:29-30; Jn 14:2; 1Pe 1:4; Rev 21:2,27; 22:3-5

Gentiles are included in the citizenship of heaven Eph 2:19 See also Eph 2:12-13″
Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

“The citizenship of Abraham in the NT

Echoes of Abraham’s sojourn in Canaan may be heard in Paul’s statement that Christians are citizens of ‘the Jerusalem above’ (Gal. 4:21–31). Peter’s description of believers is reminiscent of the terms used for Abraham in Genesis. They are ‘temporary residents’ (‘refugees’, parepidēmois) whose time on earth is a brief stay among strangers (‘time of temporary residence’, paroikia, 1 Pet. 1:1, 17).
The author of the letter to the Hebrews makes more explicit references to Abraham’s experiences. In Hebrews 11:8–16, the lesson drawn from Abraham’s faith is that while he, Isaac and Jacob were living in tents in Canaan, they were actually seeking the ‘city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God’ (11:10). This reference to the semi-nomadism of the ancestral sojourn states clearly that Abraham’s faith was rewarded beyond his comprehension. The city he inherited was the ‘the heavenly Jerusalem’, the city of the living God (Heb. 12:22–23), which is the capital of an unshakeable kingdom (Heb. 12:28). He expected to inherit the cities of Canaan, which were difficult to defend and vulnerable to many aggressors, but was rewarded with a far greater city. Likewise, Christians ‘have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come’ (Heb. 13:14).
The two cities in the NT

The eschatological picture of the two cities, Jerusalem and Babylon, had significant implications in the NT and subsequent Christian theology. The clash between the city of God and the city of Satan will come to a head in the eschaton.The clearest expression of this eschatological conflict is found in the book of Revelation, where both the fall of the new Babylon and the arrival of the new Jerusalem are described. The horrors of the new Babylon are detailed in Revelation 17–18 (specifically 16:17–18:24). First-century readers would have undoubtedly understood ‘Babylon’ as a code name for Rome. As ancient Babylon had been the wicked and ruthless enemy of God’s people in OT times, so here she symbolizes the evil and violent thirst for power so typical of earthly kingdoms. But Babylon’s downfall will be swift and total (18:10, and see vv. 17 and 19).

Most of the book of Revelation is an account of persecution and death (chs. 6–20). But in chapters 21–22, the book moves from time into eternity as it foretells the glorious outcome of God’s redemptive plan. The first paragraph (21:1–8) describes the new heaven and new earth in general terms, relying largely on images from the prophecy of Isaiah (65:17; 66:22). The old creation has passed away, making room for this new creation, ‘the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God’ (Rev. 21:2). The second literary unit describes the new Jerusalem in more detail (21:9–21). The holy city of Jerusalem will be the new home for God’s people. It is described as perfectly symmetrical, and radiant like pure jewels. Finally, the book gives a glimpse of life in the eternal city (21:22–22:5). Some things necessary and taken for granted in the former city will be absent from the new Jerusalem. It has no temple, for the temple represented the presence of God in the midst of Jerusalem. Instead, God himself will be the temple in the new city (21:22). It has no sun or moon, for it will have the glory of God (21:23); no night, because the Lord God will be light for its inhabitants (21:25; 22:5). Life in the new city will surpass the experiences of the first couple in the Garden of Eden, for this city has ‘the river of the water of life’, and ‘the tree of life’ (22:1–2).

The contrast between the two cities encourages believers of every generation to have the faith of Abraham, who was a resident alien in Canaan, but whose citizenship was in heaven (Phil. 3:20). While living in tents here below, we must live a life worthy of our calling, aware that our time here is brief and that we are on a journey to that eternal city.”

Arnold, B. T. (2000). City, Citizenship. In T. D. Alexander & B. S. Rosner (Eds.), New dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 415–416). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Heavenly Citizenship.While explicit language related to heavenly citizenship is rare in Paul, the metaphor of heavenly citizenship is clearly an influential force in his theology. In both ethical injunctions and eschatological descriptions, it is clear that Paul uses this citizenship to describe the believer’s participation in the kingdom of God.

2.1. Ethical Injunctions. Paul’s idea of heavenly citizenship is communicated with full cognizance of his church members’ participation in their local societies as citizens (1 Cor 5:9–10; Rom 13:1–7). In this sense it is possible that Paul has in mind the legal status of dual citizenship (see Phil 1:27). The fact that Christians are citizens of both earth and heaven leads to Paul’s ambassadorial language in 2 Corinthians 5:18–21 and Ephesians 6:19–20. As citizens of heaven, Christians have the responsibility to think consistently with their citizenship (Col 3:1–4) and live holy lives (Rom 13:12–14). Paul’s own idea of his heavenly citizenship allowed him to live in a way that freed him to be all things to all people (1 Cor 9:19–23). Paul’s doctrine of heavenly citizenship and its implications for living are close to 1 Peter 2:11, although Paul does not use the metaphor of sojourning as strongly as Peter. Philippians 3:20 (in the light of Phil 1:27) provides the best example of heavenly citizenship terminology in Paul. This citizenship here provides the ground for Paul’s commands to avoid thinking in an earthly way (Phil 2:3–4; 3:19), and instead to follow his example (Phil 3:17) as befits one who rejoices in God’s goodness, praying and thinking in a God-centered way (Phil 4:1–9). The description of Christians’ heavenly citizenship in Philippians 3:20 also is linked to the expectation of the parousia and the physical transformation to occur at that time (Phil 3:20–21).

2.2. Eschatological Descriptions. The sense that Christians are headed for a citizenship in the next life is a powerful force in Paul’s theology. Thus we see in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:24 how an understanding of the rights and destiny of the heavenly citizen leads to a certain pattern of behavior. In Romans 8:12–30, the prospect of participation as a citizen in the new creation is inextricably linked both to one’s status as a child of God and the concomitant behavior that such future citizenship and adoption necessarily implies for the present. Paul’s eschatological understanding of heavenly citizenship includes the conviction that the Christian is not ultimately subject to death, and ought therefore to live for values that will outlast life on earth (1 Cor 15:53–58).”

Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (Eds.). (1993). In Dictionary of Paul and his letters (pp. 140–141). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.



Universalism and Particularism in the New Dispensation

Universalism and Particularism in the New Dispensation

Universalism and Particularism in the New Dispensation

“The ethnic particularism of the OT—that is, of the time between Abraham and Malachi—comes to an end as Jesus’ appearance and ministry break down the middle wall of partition (Eph 2:14). By abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and regulations Jesus destroys the barrier, “the dividing wall of hostility” between Jews and Gentiles. I believe it can be truly said that “this is an undeniable reference to Christ’s abrogation of the Mosaic law” and that therefore “the formation of a messianic Israel, made up from all believers in Christ, was Christ’s mission.”17 Paul says in Rom 10:12 that “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him” (cf. Col 3:11 and Gal 3:28).

Jesus himself takes the lead in affirming that the faith of the Roman centurion is greater than any he has found thus far, even in “Israel.” Jesus continues to speak of the many who will come to the great messianic banquet “from the east and west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 8:11–12). Jesus also says his brother, sister and mother are those who do the will of his Father who is in heaven (or who will hear the word of God and do it [Matt 12:49; cf. Luke 8:21]). In other words, Jesus prefers spiritual relations over any bond of blood or of family relationship. His very mother and brothers were to have no precedence over others, nor any distinctive position in his kingdom solely on the basis of their blood relationship to the Lord.18
It is true that upon certain occasions the NT uses language that might suggest the continuation in some form or other of the ethnic particularism of the OT. In Matt 19:28 Jesus assures his disciples that they will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 21:24 states that Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled. Still another passage often quoted in this connection is Acts 1:6, when Jesus’ disciples ask their Lord whether he at this time is going to restore the kingdom to Israel.

Two things should be kept in mind, however. The first is that already in the OT Scriptures one may find occasional beginnings of a less than literal understanding of terms such as “Zion,” “Jerusalem,” etc.19 We believe that this valuable insight may be broadened to include the total thrust of the OT dispensation. In spite of the relatively greater emphasis within the OT and the Mosaic economy upon the physical benefits of the covenant—such as land possession, abundance of crops, outward peace, and safety enjoyed under the vine and the fig tree—these outward benefits do not form the true heart and core of Israel’s relationship with its covenant God. Not only are there several passages in the OT that show us the incongruity of wickedness combined with prosperity (Psalm 73; Jer 12:1–2; Habakkuk 1) and of godliness combined with severe testing of faith (the book of Job; many of the Psalms), but the entire OT breathes a spirit that is essentially a religious and spiritual one. This is the spirit of father Jacob whose name was changed to Israel because he had clung to the God of the promise and had relinquished all earthly means of ever obtaining it.

The undeniable center of OT religion lies in the believer’s response to the words of the covenant God that he would be Abraham’s God and the God of his descendants (Gen 17:7; Exod 15:2; Ps 63:1; 89:26; Josh 24:18). It was this pervasive God-centeredness of the religious outlook of the Israelite believer that caused him to erupt in the words of fervent trust and pulsating joy as found in Ps 16:5—“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” The spirit of this Psalm is such that one would fail to understand the foregoing words completely if he saw in them no more than a reference to a bit of real estate in the land of Canaan. Even in contexts where a rather close connection is made between disobedience and material want (such as in Haggai 1), the heart and core of God’s promise is this: “I am with you” (Hag 1:13).

At the beginning of this study the observation was made that the lines which we must draw should run from the OT to the NT. We believe that when this is done properly our concern with an earthly restoration of Israel to the land of the fathers will diminish to the vanishing point. The true Jewish believers of Jesus’ own days, such as Simeon and Anna the prophetess, belonged to circles who were “waiting for the consolation of Israel” and “were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25, 38). One can be sure that they were aware that the king who was to come to Jerusalem and to Zion was to be “righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey”—an animal associated with the theocratic kingdom in its early stages (cf. Zech 9:9 with 1 Kgs 1:33). Yes, they knew of the kingdom’s glorious past and of the promises of future victory, but were they not also aware of the note which Hannah, the mother of Samuel, had struck when she sang: “it is not by strength that one prevails”? (1 Sam 2:9). Did not mother Mary use the theme of Hannah’s song and lift it to still higher levels of spiritual insight than her OT predecessor had attained to?

In light of the foregoing, is it not evident that any NT reference to the twelve apostles sitting on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel must be viewed in terms of all that the OT contains in spiritual insight? Granted, there were the Zealots of Jesus’ days. There were also Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes. Each of them had their own unique way of looking at the nation’s past and hoping for its future. One need not preclude the possibility that some of the true disciples of our Lord were influenced in one way or other by the contemporary trends of thought among which they had lived all their lives.20 But is it not clear for all to see that Jesus’ ministry and teaching did not lend themselves readily to a purely earthly restoration of a Jewish kingdom? Jesus’ refusal to be made king, his failure to lead his followers into conflict with the Roman occupation forces, and his teaching that the kingdom was already present in the world—all of these and still more are indications of the new ways in which Jesus applied the ancient eschatology of the OT Scriptures. At the same time, as Paul D. Hanson rightly observes, “the nature of Jesus and the significance of his message and life were worked out by constant reference to the ancient Scriptures.” Although viewed as a fresh chapter in God’s saving approach to humans, it was one “growing organically out of the long antecedent history recorded in the Torah and the Prophets.”21

In other words, the second thing that should be said about the so-called ‘Israel passages” cited above is that Jesus’ followers, in light both of the OT itself and of their Master’s message and ministry, did not need to be disabused of possible misunderstandings which his words could have caused.22 Though the full implications of his words may well have dawned slowly in their minds, there already was sufficient warrant to hear them in a less than literalistic fashion.

Patrick Fairbairn also points out that the references of Jesus to some sort of messianic kingdom (Matt 19:28; Luke 21:24; Acts 1:6) are lacking in this respect—that they do not give “any formal or explicit announcement of either the national restoration of Israel to Palestine, or the reestablishment there, as in a religious centre, of a Jewish polity and worship.”23 And he adds that this lack is all the more noteworthy since one might expect such an announcement to be made exactly at the point where Jesus presumably is speaking about Messiah’s kingdom.

We believe, therefore, that the emphasis upon both universalism and particularism which runs through the OT also runs through the NT. By universalism we mean that all nations regardless of ethnic background are going to be part of the Messiah’s kingdom. By particularism we mean that not all people will be saved indiscriminately. Some, in the final assize, will hear the words “Depart from me, you who are cursed” (Matt 25:41) spoken to them. The messianic community Jesus gathers around himself is called upon to eliminate stubborn sinners from its midst and to bind and loose on earth (Matt 18:15–18). The new Jerusalem will be a city into which certain people will not come (Rev 21:8; 22:15). Thus, while the ethnic particularism has had its time, that which is of permanent value in God’s dealings with Israel under the old dispensation will remain. Jesus “knows” his sheep and his sheep know him (John 10:14). This is the NT’s exclusiveness.24″

17 Cf. LaRondelle, p. 112.
18 Cf. Patrick Fairbairn, The Interpretation of Scripture (London: Banner of Truth Trust, repr. 1964, 2nd ed. 1865), p. 261.
19 This is more fully developed in Martin J. Wyngaarden, The Future of the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1955), passim. J. Walvoord (“Review of The Time is at Hand by Jay Adams”) lists Wyngaarden’s book among the ‘solid amillennial works” he is acquainted with (BSac 128 [1971]: 75).
20 For a recent overview of the outlook of the various Jewish sects during Jesus’ lifetime cf. Paul D. Hanson, The People Called (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), pp. 347–381.
21 Ibid., p. 385.
22 Those who hold to a future restoration of a literal Jewish state in fulfillment of prophecy frequently use this type of argument to defend their position. We believe the argument is not sufficiently supported by the facts.
23 Fairbairn, p. 248.
24 For a discussion of the difference between particularism and universalism as concerns Judaism and Christianity see Samuel Sandmel, We Jews and You Christians (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1967), p. 116–118. Sandmel uses the terms to designate which of the two religions is making universal claims to being a comprehensive religion for all and which one is the more parochial one. This is not how the two terms are used in the present discussion. Our terms are determined by the redemptive historical progress of biblical revelation.
Woudstra, M. H. (1988). Israel and the Church: A Case for Continuity. In J. S. Feinberg (Ed.), Continuity and discontinuity: perspectives on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments : essays in honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. (pp. 226–229). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.

Wall Of Hostility

Wall Of Hostility

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The Greek expression tó mesótoichon toú phragmoú joins two words for wall. Gk. mesótoichon, which occurs only here in the NT, refers to a partition within a house. The other word for wall, Gk. phragmós, refers to a fence for protection and is so used in Mk. 12:1; Lk. 14:23. If the phrase is not merely a pleonasm, the joining of these words achieves the sense of a wall erected for both separation and protection.

Many have identified this wall with the stone wall of the Jerusalem temple, 1.5 m (5 ft) high, beyond which no Gentile was permitted to go. Inscribed on the pillars of the wall were warnings to Gentiles that trespassing was a capital offense. The destruction of this wall would be a particularly vivid metaphor for the new unity and equality between Jew and Gentile in the Christian Church.
Others have suggested that Gk. tó mesótoichon toú phragmoú be identified as the thick curtains that separated the holiest section of the temple from the rest. Only the high priest entered this holiest section and only on the Day of Atonement, when he performed the expiation for Israel’s sins (cf. Mk. 15:38 par; He. 10:19f.).

H. Schlier (pp. 125–133) suggested that the wall is a cosmic boundary that is broken through. He presupposed a mythological background for the passage, specifically Jewish Gnosticism, which gave to the principalities and powers a mediating position between God and mankind and made the law their instrument.

M. Barth took the wall to refer to “the fence around the law” created by the rabbis. This “fence,” with its scribal interpretation, applications, and additions, protected God’s law from being broken and effectively separated Jew from Gentile. Barth’s interpretation takes “has broken down the dividing wall” as a synonymous parallel with “abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances.” Barth also appealed to Gal. 2:18f, where Paul spoke of just such laws and statutes as having been torn down.
Each of these suggestions is plausible, but the “holy temple” image, which culminates the theological argument of Eph. 2:11–21, seems to favor the first suggestion. There is sustained contrast between the temple of Jerusalem and the new “holy temple” as well as between the restrictions on “access” (v 18, Gk. prosagōgḗ; the verb proságō has cultic associations) in the old temple and the unrestricted “access in one Spirit” in the new temple. Just as the temple and cultic access are “spiritualized” (see Wenschkewitz), so are the holiness of the temple, the distinction between clean and unclean, and “the law of commandments and ordinances.” Jesus Christ has created a “holiness” unrelated to race or nation. Thus Gentiles are no longer just “strangers and sojourners” vis-à-vis the temple but “built into it [the “holy temple in the Lord”] for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (v 22). In view of this sustained contrast, the “dividing wall of hostility” seems to refer to the wall of the old temple separating Jews and Gentiles and restricting gentile access.

Bibliography.—M. Barth, Ephesians 1–3 (AB, 1974), pp. 283–87; H. Schlier, Der Brief an die Epheser (KEK, 1958), pp. 125–133; H. Wenschkewitz, Die Spiritualisierung der Kultusbegriffe, Temple, Priester und Opfer im NT (1932).”
Verhey, A. D. (1979–1988). Hostility, Dividing Wall of. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 2, p. 768). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

“MIDDLE WALL Term is found in Eph. 2:14 and variously translated: “middle wall of partition” (KJV); “dividing wall of hostility” (HCSB, NRSV, NIV); “barrier of the dividing wall” (NASB); “barrier of enmity which separated them” (REB). Investigation of the term has yielded several possible interpretations. 1. The wall that separated the inner and outer courts of the temple and prevented Jews and Gentiles from worshiping together. Inscriptions in Greek and Latin warned that Gentiles who disregarded the barrier would suffer the pain of death. 2. The curtain that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple. This curtain was rent at the death of Jesus (Mark 15:38) and is representative of the separation of all humanity from God. 3. The “fence” consisting of detailed commandments and oral interpretations erected around the law by its interpreters to ensure its faithful observation. In reality, the fenced-in law generated hostility between Jews and Gentiles and further divided them, as well as furthering the enmity between God and humanity. Destruction of the Law’s mediators opens a new and living way to God through Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:18; 3:12; Heb. 10:20). 4. The cosmic barrier that separates God and persons, persons themselves, and other powers in the universe (Eph. 1:20–21)—angels, dominions, principalities. 5. Echoing Isa. 59:2, the term refers to the separation of humanity from God as a result of sin.

No one interpretation is sufficient by itself. The writer of Ephesians stressed that every conceivable barrier that exists between persons and between God and humanity has been destroyed by God’s definitive work in Jesus Christ. See Ephesians; Gentiles; Law; Salvation; Sin; Temple.
William J. Ireland, Jr”

Ireland, W. J., Jr. (2003). Middle Wall. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1121). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

“MIDDLE WALL OF PARTITION. Acts 21:28; Eph. 2:14”

Swanson, J., & Nave, O. (1994). New Nave’s Topical Bible. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

“Hath broken down (λύσας). Lit., loosened or dissolved. Rev., giving the force of the aorist tense, brake down. The participle has an explanatory force, in that He brake down.

The middle-wall of partition (τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ). Lit., the middle wall of the fence or hedge. The wall which pertained to the fence; the fact of separation being emphasized in wall, and the instrument of separation in fence. The hedge was the whole Mosaic economy which separated Jew from Gentile. Some suppose a reference to the stone screen which bounded the court of the Gentiles in the temple.

15. Having abolished in His flesh the enmity (τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ καταργήσας). The enmity immediately follows the middle wall of partition, and should be rendered in apposition with and as defining it, and as dependent on brake down, not on abolished: the middle wall which was the enmity. Iris used abstractly, as peace in ver. 14. The enmity was the result and working of the law regarded as a separative system; as it separated Jew from Gentile, and both from God. See Rom. 3:20; 4:15; 5:20; 7:7–11. For abolished, see on cumbereth, Luke 13:7, and make without effect, Rom. 3:3.

The law of commandments contained in ordinances (τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν). The law, etc., depends in construction on having abolished, and is not in apposition with the enmity, as A. V. The middle wall of partition, the enmity, was dissolved by the abolition of the law of commandments. Construe in His flesh with having abolished. Law is general, and its contents are defined by commandments, special injunctions, which injunctions in turn were formulated in definite decrees. Render the entire passage: brake down the middle-wall of partition, even the enmity, by abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances.”

Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 3, pp. 378–379). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

“The apostle describes the position of the Gentiles as partakers in relationship to the middle wall of partition in Ephesians 2:11–16: Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye that were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.

Paul points out that God made certain covenantal promises to the Jewish people. In verse 12, the word covenants is plural because he is dealing with the four unconditional, eternal covenants God has made with the Jewish people: the Abrahamic Covenant, the Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant. God’s blessings are mediated by these four covenants. He also points out that God made a fifth covenant with the Jewish people, but unlike the other four, the Mosaic Covenant, which contains the Mosaic Law, was conditional and temporary. Among the purposes of the Mosaic Law, the purpose he deals with here was to serve as the middle wall of partition to keep Gentiles as Gentiles away from enjoying the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants. As long as the Mosaic Law was in force, if a Gentile wished to partake of the covenantal promises and blessings, he would have to undergo conversion to Mosaic Judaism, be circumcised, take upon himself the obligations of the Law, and live like a Jew had to live under the Law. So Gentiles as proselytes to Mosaic Judaism could benefit, but not Gentiles as Gentiles. Among the accomplishments of the death of the Messiah is that this middle wall of partition … the law of commandments was broken down. As Paul states it elsewhere, “the Law was rendered inoperative.”

The result of this is spelled out in Ephesians 3:5–6: which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it has now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The key word for the position of the Gentiles is the word partaker. What Paul does not say is that Gentiles have become “takers over” of the promise, as replacement theology teaches, but he does say is that they have become partakers of the promise. The word promise is singular since he is emphasizing the key spiritual promise of salvation by grace through faith in the person of the Messiah. The position of the Gentiles, then, is that of partaking of the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants. They do not partake of the physical blessings, but they do partake of the spiritual blessings.”

Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1983). The Messianic Bible Study Collection (Vol. 27, pp. 8–9). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.


Peace is the opposite of anxiety in the heart and of either discord or enmity between individuals and nations. Four aspects of peace should be considered:

1.      WITH GOD  (ROM. 5:1). That means the believer is now and forever on a peace footing in his relation to God, because he was justified. This aspect of peace is never an experience. It is wholly positional.

2.      OF GOD  (PHIL. 4:7; COL. 3:15; CF. HEB. 13:20). Referring not to position but to an experience, Christ said: “My peace I give unto you” (John 14:27). Here is inwrought peace, part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

3.      IN THE COMING KINGDOM  (ISA. 9:6–7). The two great kingdom words for Israel are righteousness and peace. Note in proof of this statement the whole Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1–7:27).

4.      IN ONE BODY.  The agelong enmity between Jew and Gentile likened to a middle wall of partition is broken down when Jews and Gentiles are joined now to each other in one Body, the Church (Eph. 2:14–18; Col. 1:20).

5.      IN GENERAL.  Observe the following points: (a) There can be no peace in this Christ-rejecting world (Isa. 57:20–21). (b) 1 Thessalonians 5:3 indicates that the nations will have reached a time of temporary truce or peace before Christ comes. (c) No strife is to characterize the coming kingdom reign of the Prince of Peace, for peacefulness shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:9). At that time a blessing is to be pronounced upon all who are peacemakers (Matt. 5:9).”

Chafer, L. S. (1993). In Systematic theology (Vol. 7, p. 249). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

“In Ephesians 2:14, Paul says that Christ broke down the “dividing wall of hostility” (ESV). Paul may be drawing on imagery from the Jerusalem temple to show that Gentiles now enjoy the same access to God as Jews (see Key Word Study: Mesotoichon, “Dividing Wall”). In the first century, Gentiles were only allowed to enter the outer parts of the Jerusalem temple. A five-foot-high wall separated the outer court known as the court of the Gentiles from the inner sanctuary. Tablets hanging on pillars warned in both Greek and Latin that no Gentile could enter in the inner courts (see Josephus, Jewish Wars 6.2.4). One such inscription declares, “No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death” (see Arnold 2002, 317).

These laws directly influenced Paul. The Jews who arrested Paul in Jerusalem falsely accused him of defiling the temple by bringing Gentiles into it (Acts 21:27–29). While the physical wall remained in place in the temple until it was destroyed in AD 70, Christ’s sacrifice removed all barriers between Gentiles and God (see Eph 2:11–13).”

Brown, D. R., Custis, M., & Whitehead, M. M. (2013). Lexham Bible Guide: Ephesians. (D. Mangum, Ed.) (Eph 2:20). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

“2:14 The middle wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles was vividly portrayed by an actual partition in the temple area, with a sign warning that any Gentile going beyond the Court of the Gentiles would receive swift and sudden death.

2:15 having abolished . . . the law: Paul was not saying that God had rejected the righteous standards of the law. Rather, in Christ the righteous standards that people could never reach have been accomplished. He is our righteousness; in Him, believers fulfill the law (see Matt. 5:17, 20; Rom. 3:21, 22, 31). The Christian church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, is described as one new man. In the earliest days of Christianity, the church was largely made up of Jews. But under the direction of God’s Spirit, the believers witnessed to Gentiles (Acts 10), who then outnumbered the Jewish members.”

Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1997). The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version (Eph 2:14–15). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

“Believers are spiritually equal in Christ, and again, the real mystery, given God’s unconditional election of Israel as His chosen nation (Gen. 12:1–3; cf. Rom. 11:29), is how Gentiles could be brought into the redemptive community on the same ground (Col. 1:27). According to Judaism, Gentiles could convert as proselytes, but they were still second-class citizens in the kingdom; for instance, the temple had a “court of the Gentiles” and a middle wall of partition they couldn’t pass. Now, “this mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:6; cf. 2:12–16).”

Geisler, N. L. (2005). Systematic theology, volume four: church, last things (p. 55). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

“Building arts.—The first part of the Apostolic Age witnessed great activity in building within Palestine, notably the completion of Herod’s ambitious projects. The Temple was finished, only to be demolished again by the Romans. The conquerors took up the like work for themselves, but along lines of there own. References to building in the Apostolic writings are, however, few. The work of the mason underlies such passages as Ro 15:20, 1 Co 3:9ff., 2 Co 5:1ff., 1 P 2:5ff., He 3:3f. Specific parts of buildings are named in the ‘middle wall of partition’ (Eph 2:14, perhaps reminiscent of the Temple), the ‘foundation’ and ‘chief corner-stone’ (Eph 2:20). The builder’s measuring-rod (reed) is mentioned in Rev 11:1. Carpentry appears only metaphorically in 1 Co 3:12, and in the figure of speech employed in Col 2:14.”

Cruickshank, W. (1916–1918). Arts. In J. Hastings (Ed.), Dictionary of the Apostolic Church (2 Vols.) (Vol. 1, p. 94). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

“Jews have God’s promise and if we Christians have it, too, then it is only as those chosen with them, as guests in their house, that we are new wood grafted onto their tree.

Karl Barth

I think myself that the shocking reply to the Syrophonician woman (it came alright in the end) is to remind all us Gentile Christians—who forget it easily enough and even flirt with anti-Semitism—that the Hebrews are spiritually senior to us, that God did entrust the descendants of Abraham with the first revelation of Himself.

C.S. Lewis

By the death of Christ, “the middle wall of partition … the law of the commandments contained in the ordinances”—which was at the same time a token of the enmity between God and sinners, and an occasion of distance and alienation between Jews and Gentiles—was abolished; and believing Jews and Gentiles were reconciled to God and united into one body.

Thomas M’Crie”

Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (p. 535). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

“Emphasizing the equal incorporation within the Christian community of Jews and Gentiles—two groups which had previously been estranged from each other—Ephesians says that Christ “has made both one and has broken down the middle wall of partition”—the breaking down of this wall being otherwise described as his removal of the hostility between the two groups, his annulling of “the law consisting of commandments, ordinances and all” (Ephesians 2:14 f.).36

It is a commonplace with British commentators on Ephesians to suppose that this “middle wall of partition” may have been suggested by the barrier which separated the inner courts of the Jerusalem temple from the court of the Gentiles, a barrier which Gentiles were forbidden to penetrate on pain of death.37 German commentators, on the other hand, are more inclined to think of the barrier which, in some gnostic texts, separates the world beneath from the upper world of light.38

Without examining the question whether this concept in its gnostic form was current as early as the first century A.D.,39 we may ask which of the two barriers provides the more apt analogy to the thought of Ephesians 2:14. The barrier in the temple was a vertical one; the “iron curtain” of the gnostic texts was horizontal. The division in view in Ephesians 2:14 is not a division between the upper and lower world; it is a division between two groups of people resident in this world, and is therefore more aptly represented by a vertical barrier than by a horizontal one—the more so as the two groups which were kept apart by this “middle wall of partition” are exactly the same two groups as were kept apart by the barrier in the Jerusalem temple.

It may indeed be asked, as it is by Martin Dibelius,40 if the readers of Ephesians 2:14 would have understood such an allusion. Perhaps not; but would they have understood a gnostic allusion any better? There is in any case no emphasis on a material barrier. But whatever the readers may or may not have understood, the writer may well have had at the back of his mind that temple barrier which played an important part in the chain of events through which Paul became (to quote Ephesians 3:1) “the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles”. For, according to Acts 21:27 ff., Paul’s arrest came about because he was charged with aiding and abetting illegal entry by a Gentile through the temple barrier. The charge could not be sustained when it came to court, as no witnesses were forthcoming, but Paul was not released; he remained in custody, first in Caesarea and then in Rome. That literal “middle wall of partition”, the outward and visible sign of the ancient cleavage between Jew and Gentile, could have come very readily to mind in this situation.

This is further suggested by the emphasis laid a few lines later on the common access to the Father which Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ now enjoy “in one Spirit”.41 The barrier which formerly kept Gentiles at a distance from the God of Israel has been abrogated, and even Jewish believers have now more unimpeded access to God in this “holy sanctuary” of living men and woman than was available to them in the earthly temple where, in accordance with their status, they had to maintain a respectful distance. For the barrier which excluded Gentiles from the inner courts was not the only barrier there. There was a further succession of barriers in the inner precincts, barring various groups of Israelites from nearer access. Beyond the court of the women Jewish women might not proceed; beyond the court of Israel Jewish laymen might not proceed. Into the court of the priests and the outer compartment of the holy house itself priests and Levites might enter in the performance of their prescribed duties, but the heavy veil which curtained off the inner compartment barred all access to the throne-room of God’s invisible presence except to the high priest when he entered it annually on the Day of Atonement with sacrificial blood. His direct access then was an occasion for soul-affliction; in the spiritual sanctuary of Ephesians 2:21 the direct access to God which all believers enjoy is an occasion for gladness and praise. This direct access is a major theme of the Epistle to the Ephesians and the Epistle to the Hebrews alike; but whereas the barrier which Hebrews uses as an illustration is the veil which hung before the holy of holies, that which is more probably envisaged in Ephesians is the one which forced Gentiles to keep their distance.

36 With this annulment of the law cf. the statement in Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law” (see pp. 190 ff.).

37 E.g. J. A. Robinson, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (London, 1904), pp. 59 f. (On the barrier see Josephus, BJ v. 194.)

38 E.g. H. Schlier, Der Brief an die Epheser, pp. 126 ff., following his treatment of “die himmlische Mauer” in Christus und die Kirche im Epheserbrief, pp. 18 ff.

39 This question is especially provoked when attempts are made to reconstruct the concept of the heavenly wall (or other gnostic concepts) on the basis of Mandaean texts which are several centuries later than the New Testament age.

40 M. Dibelius, An die Kolosser, An die Epheser, An Philemon (Tübingen, 3 1953), p. 69; cf. H. Schlier, Christus und die Kirche im Epheserbrief, p. 18. E. J. Goodspeed sees the temple barrier here, but considers that its figurative use in this context was suggested by its actual destruction in A.D. 70 (The Meaning of Ephesians, p. 37).

41 Ephesians 2:18, 21.”

 Bruce, F. F. (1977). Paul: apostle of the free spirit (pp. 434–436). Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster


Baptism New Testament

Baptism New Testament


For more discussion on the topic of baptism visit our forum

“The New Testament Development.

The Baptism of John. John preached a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 3:3). The origins of his rite are difficult to trace, for there are both parallels and differences with all three Jewish forms above. The genesis of his baptism may be found in the prophetic acted parable, which not only symbolized God’s message but also intended to bring it about. John’s practice had several theological ramifications: (1) It was intimately connected with radical repentance, not only of the Gentile but astoundingly (to his contemporaries) also of the Jew. (2) It was eschatological at the core, preparing for the Messiah, who would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Mt 3:11), and therefore looked to the final separation between God’s people and the wicked at the Eschaton (i.e., “the End,” cf. Mt 3:12). (3) It symbolized moral purification and so prepared the people for the coming kingdom (Mt 3:2; Lk 3:7–14). In spite of the obvious connection between John’s ceremony and the early church, we cannot posit absolute dependence. In fact, it disappeared from Jesus ministry. At first, Jesus allowed his disciples to continue the rite (Jn 3:22), but later he seemingly discontinued the practice (Jn 4:1–3), probably for the following reasons: (1) John’s message was functional, while Jesus’ was personal/ontological. (2) John’s was forward-looking, expecting the coming kingdom, while Jesus’ was backward-looking, celebrating that event. (3) John’s was an interim practice, while Jesus’ was sacramental. Jesus’ ministry fulfilled John’s, so he severed himself from the latter’s modus operandi.
The Baptism of Jesus. This event has its genesis in a complex interplay of motives, divine and human, within the messianic consciousness of Jesus (see Mk 1:9–11 and parallels). For John it was Jesus’ stamp of approval upon his message and ministry. Jesus was in continuity with John’s kingdom proclamation. For Jesus, it was also an anointing which signified the inauguration of his messianic ministry. As seen in God’s “heavenly voice” of Mark 1:11 and parallels, this has two aspects: (1) The voice alludes to Psalm 2:7, establishing Jesus’ unique filial sonship. (2) It alludes to Isaiah 42:1, establishing him as the messianic “servant of Yahweh.” From the standpoint of man, the event signifies Jesus’ identification with his sin and suffering. It showed his solidarity with man as sinner and thereby inaugurated the time of fulfillment, wherein God’s salvation would be accomplished by the Messiah.
Jesus’ Resurrection Command. Here we find the true basis of the church’s practice (Mt 28:19). As already stated, the disciples stopped employing it, so it is here that we see the institution reconstituted as an ordinance based on the death and resurrection of Christ. It was no longer a forward-looking phenomenon but had now become a realized activity centering on the gospel message, certified by the risen Christ who is exalted to universal lordship. It also is an essential aspect of the discipling activity, as seen in the use of the participle “baptizing” after the main verb “make disciples.” Finally we might note that the act signifies the entrance of the believer “into” union with (literally “into the name of”) the triune Godhead.

Baptism in the Early Church. Acts 2:38 shows that baptism was a sacral institution from the very beginning. This takes it back to the earliest days of the church. In the primitive church it was an important part of the salvation process (Acts 2:38, “repent and be baptized”) and was accomplished via confession and prayer “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5). Probably there was a question-and-answer period in which the believer confessed his faith and dedicated himself to Christ. The result was reception into and identification with the messianic community of the new covenant, signifying both forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18) and the reception of the Holy Spirit (Lk 3:16; Acts 2:38, 41; 9:17; 10:47, 48; 11:16, 17; 19:5–7″

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (pp. 258–259). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.


“Baptism New Testament Lexical”

“βαπτίζω (baptizō). vb. to immerse. Expresses the action of immersing something or someone into liquid (usually water).

This verb is explicitly used in reference to Jewish ritual washing (Mark 7:3–4; Luke 11:38; John 3:25–26) and the activity of John the Baptist (Matt 11:10; 3:1–10; 4:17; Mark 1:2–6, 14–15; Luke 3:1–9; 7:27; John 1:19–23). In the Gospels and Acts, the term is used primarily in reference to immersion as administered by John, the disciples (John 3:22; 4:2), and then later, believers (e.g., Acts 2:41; 8:12, 38; 9:17–18; 10:48; 18:8; compare 1 Cor 1:14). In the Great Commission (Matt 28:16–20), being baptized appears as one of the means by which a disciple of Jesus is made. The term, when used of either John’s immersion or immersion in Jesus’ name, primarily indicates moral cleansing, something ritual washing was not able to do nor intended to do.

βάπτισμα (baptisma). n. neut. immersion. Refers to the act of being immersed in liquid, usually water.
This term is only found in Christian literature. In the NT, it is often found in the fixed expressions βάπτισμα Ἰωάννου (baptisma Iōannou, “immersion of John”; e.g., Luke 7:29; 20:4; Acts 18:25) or βάπτισμα μετανοίας (baptisma metanoias, “immersion of repentance”; e.g., Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; 19:4). In Romans 6:4 baptisma is mentioned as the event at which incorporation into Christ (“in Christ”) occurs (compare Col 2:12).

βαπτισμός (baptismos). n. masc. purification, immersion. Refers to the act of ritual purification or immersion.

In Mark 7:3–4 baptismos refers to Jewish ritual washing of utensils, dishes, and more in connection with eating. In Colossians 2:12 it refers to the event at which incorporation into Christ (“in Christ”) occurred (compare Rom 6:4). In Hebrews 6:2, the reference is with regard to “teachings about purifications.” The plural use could infer that this was teaching related to the difference between immersion in Jesus name and Jewish ritual washing in general. However, in light of Heb 9:10, where the reference is clearly in relation to Jewish ritual washing, it may simply refer only to ritual washing in Heb 6:2 as well.

βαπτιστής (baptistēs). n. masc. immerser, one who immerses. Always used as a title for John, the forerunner of Jesus.

The term occurs 12 times and always in the fixed phrase Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς (Iōannēs ho baptistēs; Matt 3:1; 11:11–12; 14:2, 8; 16:14; 17:13; Mark 6:25; 8:28; Luke 7:20, 33; 9:19). Jewish ritual washing was self-administered, and this title was applied by others to John because he played an intermediary role in the act. Despite the fact that the disciples and other believers immersed new believers, only John is called “the immerser.”

λούω (louō). vb. to wash, cleanse, purify. Refers generally to the act of washing but may be used for washing the body for purification, whether moral or ritual.

This general word for washing only relates to the concept of baptism in Heb 10:22. The text in Heb 10:22, where the OT sacrificial system is interpreted in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection, has in view the purification of the body through immersion in Jesus’ name.

λουτρόν (loutron). n. neut. bath, washing. Refers to the act of washing to metaphorically describe moral cleansing.

In nonbiblical literature this term refers to the place where one bathes. This word occurs twice in the NT and seems to use the imagery of baptism to describe moral cleansing (Eph 5:26; Titus 3:5).

ἀπολούω (apolouō). vb. to cleanse from sin at immersion. The verb is used in reference to the cleansing of sin at Christian immersion.

The verb is a compound of λούω (louō) with the preposition ἀπό (apo) and only appears twice in the NT. In Acts 22:16, Paul is commanded by Ananias to “be baptized (baptizō), wash away (apolouō) your sins.” In 1 Corinthians 6:11, Paul also uses the term to refer to Christian immersion.

καθαρισμός (katharismos). n. masc. cleansing. Describes the concept of ritual or moral cleansing.
The term appears seven times in the NT. In the Gospels it refers exclusively to ritual purity, including general washing (John 2:6), immersion (John 3:25), cleansing from leprosy (Mark 1:44; Luke 5:14), and cleansing following childbirth (Luke 2:22). In the General Letters it refers to Jesus’ blood as purifying from sin (Heb 1:3; 2 Pet 1:9).”


Snyder, B. J. (2014). Baptism. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.


“The apostle Paul could presuppose that the addressees of his letters had received baptism: in Romans 6 he showed the absurdity of their continuing in sin since it contradicted their having died to sin when they had been baptized into Christ’s death; in 1 Corinthians 12:12–13 it was their baptism by the one Spirit into the one body of Christ which meant that the various gifts of the Corinthians were to serve the common good; in Galatians 3:27–28 baptism into Christ is seen as effecting a unity that overrides differences between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female (see DPL, Baptism). Matthew records the command of the risen Lord to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19; see DJG, Baptism). Here, then, are indications from the Epistles and the Gospels that baptism was from a very early date the universal rite of admission to the church.

The Acts of the Apostles relate that practice episodically in narrative form. Elsewhere in the later writings of the NT there are a few clear references to baptism and several more possible allusions to it. The detection of the latter can be controversial among scholars, since it involves hints toward rites surrounding the water bath that find their first direct attestation only in the second or third centuries.
The early postscriptural writings add some details to our knowledge about baptismal understanding and practice in their day, but it is not until Justin Martyr, in the middle of the second century, that we find a relatively full ritual description of baptismal practice, and not until the late second century that we find sustained theological reflection in Tertullian’s treatise De Baptismo. The early patristic evidence concerning Christian initiation is completed by the ancient church order which most twentieth-century scholarship has identified with The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. Tertullian and Hippolytus also provide the first uncontested evidence of the baptism of young children.

Confronted with the fragmentary and allusive material in the NT concerning baptism (in the Gospels and in the Pauline letters as well as in other writings), the historian and exegete has to make decisions concerning its relation to understandings and practices attested only in (say) Justin, Tertullian and Hippolytus. Do these latter illuminate directly what was believed, said and done concerning baptism in NT times? Or do the patristic texts rather represent additions or alterations to the apostolic rites and doctrines? Or is it possible (in something like a middle way) that the second century witnessed liturgical developments that elaborated what was embryonically present in the first century, or brought to concrete expression what existed at the level of theological statement in the apostolic writings? Any serious treatment of baptism according to the NT has to remain aware of such issues.

1. Water and the Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles
2. The Non-Pauline Epistles and Revelation
3. The Early Postapostolic Period
4. The Later Second Century
5. The Baptism of Young Children”

Martin, R. P., & Davids, P. H. (Eds.). (1997). In Dictionary of the later New Testament and its developments (electronic ed., pp. 112–113). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

The Nativity Scene Comparing Bible and Quran

The Nativity Scene Comparing Bible and Quran

The Nativity Scene Comparing Bible and Quran

The Nativity Scene Comparing Bible and Quran. For discussion visit the forum

“There are some hints of similarity between the Qur’an and the Bible and significant differences concerning the annunciation, conception, birth, and infancy of Jesus.

In the Qur’anic version of the annunciation, Jesus is called the “son of Mary.” In the Bible, Jesus is miraculously born of Mary but called “the Son of the Most High.” The Qur’an designates Jesus as the “Messiah” but does not say that he will be given the “throne of his father David” and will “reign over the house of Jacob forever.”

In the Qur’an, the conception is by Allah’s decree. In the Bible, the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and “overshadows” her, even as “the cloud” of the glory of the presence of the Lord God “covered” the tabernacle. The biblical account of the conception conveys an immanence that the Islamic faith would find inconsistent with Allah’s transcendence.

While the Qur’an designates Jesus as “of the righteous,” in the Bible, in the words of the angel Gabriel, Jesus is the “Son of the Most High,” the “holy one,” and “the Son of God.”

In the Qur’an, the birth of Jesus takes place under a palm tree that provides sustenance for Mary. In the Bible, Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the city of David. To bring this about, the Lord God moves the Roman emperor to decree a census requiring Joseph and his betrothed to go to Bethlehem. The birth of the Messiah must take place in “the town of David,” as the prophet foretold. The Bible provides both a historical and a universal dimension in the account of the birth of Jesus.

In the Bible, the Messiah humbles himself and is born in a stable and laid in a manger. The angel announces to lowly shepherds the good news of a Savior for all people. Jesus is not just another prophet, as in the Qur’an. He is the Son of God coming as Savior to the whole world. This is “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Jesus is the gracious gift of the Lord God to Jews, Arabs, and all people. It is a message to be “spread” immediately. It is a life-changing message that moves the heart to praise and glorify the Lord God with the shepherds in one’s everyday life.”

Richter, R. (2011). Comparing the Qur’an and the Bible: What They Really Say about Jesus, Jihad, and More (p. 63). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Comparing the Bible and the Quran Person of Jesus

Comparing the Bible and the Quran Person of Jesus

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“While the Qur’an states that Jesus is the Messiah, it repeatedly denies that Jesus is the son of Allah. Jesus cannot be Allah’s son, since Allah has no wife. The Qur’an teaches that Jesus is as sinless as Adam in his creation, however, and a great messenger, word, slave, mercy, and prophet of Allah.
The Bible states emphatically many times that Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Messiah. All things were made through him. Through him God reconciled all things unto himself (Col. 1:20). Jesus is the incarnate Word. He is God’s very life and light and love come into this world, become flesh. He is the embodiment of God’s grace and truth for the salvation of humankind. He is the Son of God, our Savior and the Savior of the world.
The Qur’an’s strong rejection of Jesus as the Son of God is a great chasm between Islam and Christianity. Islam answers the basic question “What do you think of Christ—whose son is he?” with a distressing denial of Jesus as the Son of God.”
Richter, R. (2011). Comparing the Qur’an and the Bible: What They Really Say about Jesus, Jihad, and More (p. 58). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Reformed Theology Dispensational Reflections

Reformed Theology Dispensational Reflections


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“The vitality of Reformed Theology lies in its Reformation roots. Reformed Theology is an expression of a continuity system. The diversity of Scripture has its internal unity in the Triune God: the Father’s plan of redemption, the obedience of the Son and his present rule, and the continuous work of the Spirit of restoration. All three persons of the Trinity work together in bringing about the fullness of redemption. This position places together the united witness of Scripture (OT and NT) to the acts of God in time and to the final acts of God in Christ. Old and new stand together and not over against each other (tota Scriptura).

Moreover, the old is not to be relegated to being secondary, material, and inferior. It is the word of God in which God still speaks through his servants, the prophets. Moreover, redemption is always to be correlated with creation. The Scriptures reveal the fidelity of God, who promises and keeps covenant. Though God’s covenants with creation, Abraham, Moses, Phinehas (priesthood), and David are temporal expressions, and though they be renewed from time to time, their focus lies in Jesus Christ. He is the covenant mediator, in whom all the promises of God and the fulfillment of all the covenants are true (2 Cor 1:20).

The corollaries for Reformed Theology as a continuity system are: Trinity and eschatology, creation and redemption, and old and new. This means that the genius of Reformed Theology lies in the willingness to live with tensions inherent in the system and that the distinctiveness of any one Reformed theologian lies in how he tries to resolve these tensions. The focus of Reformed Theology is trinitarian and eschatological. Reformed Theology further affirms that this world of creation is also the world of redemption. Before the consummation, the material and the spiritual, the temporal and the eschatological (eternal), law and gospel, token and reality, promise and fulfillment, OT and NT, Israel and the church, this world and the world to come exist side by side.

The Christian lives between the two horizons of creation and the new creation. Hence, any eschatological discussion presupposes the Creator-creature distinction, as God is God and his revelation to man of himself and of the eschaton is in the form of accommodation, permitting us to see through a glass darkly. We stand in the presence of God with awe, as he is sovereign and free. In his sovereignty and freedom he has revealed aspects of his eternal plan in time, in the language of man, and in metaphors. Therefore, it is impossible to bind God to any eschatological (millennial) system. This issue was pointedly raised in a recent report of Christianity Today Institute as reported in an article in Christianity Today entitled “Our Future Hope: Eschatology and Its Role in the Church.”162 The moderator, Kenneth Kantzer, concludes that we must recognize “legitimate differences,” continue our work as students of the word, and remain in dialogue together.”

162 February 6, 1987.
VanGemeren, W. (1988). Systems of Continuity. In J. S. Feinberg (Ed.), Continuity and discontinuity: perspectives on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments : essays in honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. (pp. 61–62). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.


Hebrew Idioms

Hebrew Idioms


Antiphrasis is a forme of speech which by a word exprest doth signifie the contrary: as when the speaker sayth, wisely, or wittily, understanding the contrary. Also to say You are alwayes my friend, meaning, mine enemie. You are a man of great judgement, signfying unapt and unable to judge.
Peachum, H. (1977). The Garden of Eloquence (1593): Tropes. Medford, MA: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints, Inc.

“antiphrasis. n. The use of a word in a sense opposite to its normal meaning (ἀντιφράζειν, “to express by the opposite”). E.g., 1 Corinthians 4:8, 10. See also irony”.

DeMoss, M. S. (2001). In Pocket dictionary for the study of New Testament Greek (p. 19). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“To nullify threats, oaths or self-imprecations, and blasphemy various alterations and substitutions were made in wording. For example, in Num 16:14 Dathan and Abiram defy Moses’ order, “Should you gouge out the eyes of these men (to avoid saying “our eyes”), we will not go up.” David’s self-curses in 1 Sam 20:15f. and 25:22 are redirected to David’s enemies. Similarly, in Nathan’s rebuke of David for scorning the Lord (2 Sam 12:14) the text was altered to read “enemies of the Lord” to avoid directly accusing David of blasphemy. Naboth was charged with “blessing” (i.e., cursing) God and king (1 Kgs 21:10, 13), and the antiphrasis “bless” for “curse” is similarly used in Job 1:5, 11 and 2:5, 9. This usage survives in contemporary speech:in “Bible Belt” parlance, “he blessed me out” means “he cursed me,” while “bad” means “good” in colloquial Afro-American English. A common device to eliminate blasphemy was to turn the derogation back on the speaker. Eli’s sons’ vilification of God (1 Sam 3:13) was turned back on them by omitting the first letter of the word for God, ʾlhm, to make it mean “to them””

Pope, M. H. (1992). Bible, Euphemism and Dysphemism in the. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 1, p. 724). New York: Doubleday.


“1. As elsewhere in antiquity, so too in Israel the curse and its opposite (→ Blessing) were understood primarily as words of power that were thought to take effect magically. The curse was a materialized, harmful force that flew across the earth, overtook the one against whom it was uttered, and brought about his or her destruction (Zech. 5:1–4). To avert it, there was need of a countercurse (Gen. 27:29; Num. 24:9; Ps. 140:9–11) or of an opposing blessing (Judg. 17:2; 1 Kgs. 2:44–45). Fear of the automatic operation of a curse led to the use of “bless” as a euphemism for “curse” (Job 1:5; 2:9) or to the omission of selfcursing in an oath.”
Schottroff, W. (1999–2003). Curse. In The encyclopedia of Christianity (Vol. 1, p. 758). Grand Rapids, MI; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill.

“Other expressions also seem to be fixed idioms, although they are not limited to formation with ʾelōhîm: “fearful of God” (Gen 22:12; Exod 18:21; Job 1:1; Eccl 7:18; etc.), “to fear God” (Exod 1:17, 21; Job 1:9; etc.), “to curse God” (or, euphemistically, “to bless God”) (1 Sam 3:13 txt em; Job 1:5; 2:9; cf. Deut 21:23 “curse of God”), “to ask God” (Judg 18:5; 20:18; 1 Sam 14:36f.), “word of God” (Judg 3:20; 1 Sam 9:27; 2 Sam 16:23; cf. 1 Kgs 12:22; Mic 3:7), or “

“In the chapter on the scope and limitations of textual criticism the author lists virtually all of the elements necessary to a proper critical study of the OT text. These include Mas-soretic notations, discrepant readings in duplicate passages, the versions, variant Hebrew manuscripts such as those of Qumran, etc. His suggestion that an example of Massoretic tiqqûnê sôpᵉrîm (“scribal emendations”) that went unnoticed or unlisted by the rabbis is that of bārēk (“bless”) for qallēl (“curse”) in Job 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9 may be questionable, how-
JETS 25:3 (September 1982) p. 366
ever. “Bless” for “curse” is clearly a euphemism, especially when God is the object, but it is gratuitous to assume that a pious scribe altered the text to make it less offensive when such euphemisms could well be expected on the lips of the original speakers (writers).”
(1982). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 25(3), 365–366.

of God” (Hos 4:1; 6:6; Prov 2:5). Such phrases sometimes refer intentionally to the “deity” (cf. also the denial of God, IV/5).”

Jenni, E., & Westermann, C. (1997). Theological lexicon of the Old Testament (p. 121). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

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Comparing the Bible and the Quran Rebirth

Comparing the Bible and the Quran Rebirth

“In the Qur’an, Allah remains transcendent. He cares for his people, but he does not give “rebirth.” Rebirth is not necessary, in fact, since human beings are not basically sinful. Allah’s followers are not referred to as his “children,” nor does he dwell in their hearts by faith. It is by submission to Allah, beginning with the Shahada and the keeping of the Five Pillars, thus tipping the scales of judgment in one’s favor, that one enters Paradise.

In the Christian faith, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The heart of God yearns for us to come to him and for us to have an intimate friendship and fellowship with him (Luke 15). This love of God reaches out to us in the person of his Son. The sacrificial love of Jesus as the Lamb of God acts as a magnet, drawing us to himself as our personal Savior (John 12:32), saving us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13). Thus, by God’s grace, as we hear the good news of God’s grace in Jesus, we are “called” to a personal faith in him as our Savior (Gal. 1:1, 15).

It is by the “rebirth of the Spirit” that the Father’s love reaches its destination in our hearts, moving us to repentance, cleansing us from sin, bringing us into a faith fellowship with him through Jesus, and making us his children and heirs of eternal life. This new faith relationship with Christ becomes visible in a new life. The love of God in Christ becomes “complete” when through us it touches the lives of others (1 John 4:12). The Lord God is a very personal and intimate God, pursuing that kind of close friendship with each of us.”1

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1Richter, R. (2011). Comparing the Qur’an and the Bible: What They Really Say about Jesus, Jihad, and More (p. 81). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Dispensation and dispensationalism

Dispensation and dispensationalism

This is a proper definition of dispensation and dispensationalism. However, we must also think how the ultra-dispensationalists understand the similarities. Many hyper-dispensationalists accept all scripture was given by God but only accept Paul for themselves. If ultra-dispensationalists reject the rest of scripture for as something applicable for themselves (Baptism-Lords Supper). What about the similarities how can they not also be for us? If it was always by faith then all the scriptures apply to us. We must accept all dispensations as one the bible as one. We must not only take the bible literally. We must also see the bible spiritually and accept the spiritual non-literal interpretations.

The Necessity of Proper Definition

“The usually quoted definition of a dispensation is the one that appears in the notes of the Scofield Reference Bible: “A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect to obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God” (p. 5). The usual criticism leveled against this definition is that it is not true to the meaning of oikonomia since it says nothing about a stewardship and emphasizes the period of time aspect. The criticism may be somewhat valid, for a dispensation is primarily a stewardship, administration, or arrangement and not a period of time. Age and dispensation are not synonymous in meaning even though they may exactly coincide in history. A dispensation is basically the arrangement involved, not the time involved; therefore, a proper definition must emphasize this.

In addition, it is obvious that dispensationalists teach that at least certain features of certain dispensations overlap. Perhaps that idea would more accurately be expressed by saying that each dispensation builds on the preceding ones. Obviously, that means that similar or even the same principles which obtained during former ones are sometimes included in the succeeding one. If a dispensation is an arrangement or economy, then some details of the various arrangements will be the same. Thus, dispensations supersede each other in the sense of building on each other in line with the idea of progress of revelation and the philosophy of history which climaxes in an ultimate goal in time. Therefore, the ideas of dispensations ending, superseding, building, progressing, and having similar and different features must also be included in the definition.“”1

Here is a “proper definition” laid out by true dispensationalism. Hyper-dispensationalists reject this because. If they do not then they would partake in the Lords Supper and be Baptized.

“In the light of the foregoing discussion, is it possible to formulate a proper definition of a dispensation? We suggest this one. A dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose. If one were describing a dispensation, he would include other things such as the ideas of testing, failure, and judgment, but we are seeking a definition, not a description. The definition proposed, though brief and perhaps open to the criticism of oversimplification, seems sufficiently inclusive. In this theological use of the word economy the emphasis is put on the Biblical meaning of the word. Economy also suggests the fact that certain features of some dispensations may be similar. Although socialistic and capitalistic economies are quite different in their basic concepts, nevertheless similar functions of the economy are performed in both systems. Likewise, in the different economies of God’s running of the affairs of this world certain features will be similar. However, the word distinguishable in the definition points out the fact that there are some features which pertain particularly to each dispensation and which mark it off as a different economy. The particular features will distinguish, though the distinguishable dispensation will not be dissimilar in all its particulars. Finally, the phrase the outworking of God’s purpose in the definition reminds us that the viewpoint in dispensationalism is God’s. These are economies instituted and brought to their purposeful conclusion by God. The distinguishable feature is put there by God, and the purpose is God’s.”2

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1Ryrie, C. C. (2010). Dr. Ryrie’s Articles (pp. 34–35). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

2Ryrie, C. C. (2010). Dr. Ryrie’s Articles (pp. 34–35). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Burden of proof

Burden of proof

“burden of proof. Legal term that indicates which party in a controversy has the responsibility of offering support for its position. Thus, in a U.S. criminal trial, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution; the defendant is presumed innocent unless the prosecution can establish guilt. In philosophy, the question of which party has the burden of proof is often disputed. Thus some nonbelievers assert “the presumption of atheism,” claiming that if we do not have a proof of God’s existence, then atheism is the rational position. Philosophers in the Reformed Epistemology camp, on the other hand, argue that belief in God can be perfectly rational even without proof or any arguments at all, so long as there are no sound arguments against God’s existence. A middle position holds that neither side has any special burden of proof; the most reasonable view is simply the one that makes the most sense in light of all that is known.”

Evans, C. S. (2002). In Pocket dictionary of apologetics & philosophy of religion (p. 19). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“BURDEN OF PROOF: In law, the obligation resting upon one or other of the parties to a suit to bring proof of a fact when the opposite party alleges the contrary. The Talmudic phrase is “‘alaw ha-rayah” (on him is the proof). Of course, the plaintiff who seeks to make out a case for relief states his side first; and whatever the defendant admits need not be proved. But in the jurisprudence of the Talmud there is a broad exception; for everything in the nature of a penalty (“ḳenas”)—e.g., the twofold, fourfold, and fivefold compensation in case of theft—can only be adjudged upon the testimony of witnesses. An acknowledgment by the defendant may be of no use, or may even result in averting the penalty. In an ordinary suit for debt, the plaintiff would first prove by witnesses, or by the production of a bond, that the defendant owes him a given sum for a loan or on a credit-sale; and the defendant would then have to produce his acquittance in writing (“shober”), or the witnesses in whose presence either the debt was repaid or the creditor acknowledged its discharge.

So far there is no difliculty. But some cases are more complex; and to these two maxims are applied: (1) “hammoẓi me-ḥabero ‘alaw ha-rayah” (he who takes away from his neighbor [that is, who asks a judgment for money or property], on him is the proof), and (2) “nekasim be-ḥezḳatan” (property [abides] in its status); that is, no change in rights is presumed unless proved.
The first maxim is illustrated in a case where two of the defendant’s oxen, one “forewarned” and the other “innocent,” have pursued the plaintiff’s ox, and one of them has killed the latter, but the witnesses can not say which of the two caused the death. It will be presumed that the “innocent” ox did it; and the plaintiff will recover only half-damages. As half-damages are paid only out of the price of the injuring animal, if both the defendant’s oxen were “innocent,” it will be presumed that the injury was committed by the less valuable of the two (B. Ḳ. iii. 11, where other instances of the same rule are also found).

The other maxim is illustrated where a man and his father are killed by one and the same accident, and it can not be shown who died first. The father’s heirs say the son died first; the son’s creditors say the father died first. According to the opinion of the school of Hillel, which prevails, the property goes to the heirs upon the ground that “property abides in its status”; though here the other maxim would lead to the like result. If a man and his wife die together, the maxim of the abiding status gives the property brought into the marriage by the wife, not assumed by the husband at a fixed value and which is still on hand, to the wife’s heirs, but frees the husband’s heirs from paying her jointure (B. B. ix. 8, 9).

In cases of doubt which can not be solved by these rules—for instance, where husband and wife die together, as to the disposal of the “iron flock property” (that is, such part of the dowry as the husband has converted to his own use and is personally bound for)—the only rule is, divide into halves. In such a case the husband’s heirs would take one-half, and the wife’s heirs one-half (see Gemara on last-cited section, 158b et seq.).
It will be seen that no allowance is made for circumstances that would raise a greater likelihood on behalf of one of the alternatives—e.g., that the “forewarned” ox rather than the “innocent” one had done the mischief, the larger ox rather than the smaller one. And where two persons die through one and the same accident, no presumption is indulged, as in the Roman law, that the one who by age or sex had the greater power of resistance lived the longer.

Another maxim may be mentioned here. When A has no proof but B’s admission for one fact, he must give B credit for such other fact as the latter chooses to couple with it. For instance (Ket. ii. 2), B says to A, “This field in my possession belonged to your father, but I bought it from him.” If A has no other proof of his father’s title, he must admit the purchase; for “the mouth which bound is the mouth that loosed.” But if A has witnesses of his father’s title, then B must bring proof of his purchase.”

Singer, I. (Ed.). (1901–1906). In The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (Vol. 3, pp. 428–429). New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls.

““The Burden of Proof is on the Claimant”

The Talmud states:19

R. Samuel b. Naḥmani said: “How do we know that the burden of proof is on the claimant? Scripture states: ‘Let anyone who has a legal matter approach (yiggash) them’—i.e., let him bring (yaggish) proof to them.”20
R. Ashi objected: “Why do we need Scripture [to tell us this]? It is common sense that if a man has a pain, he goes to a physician.”

Why, R. Ashi asked, is there need to search for Biblical support for the principle that the burden of proof is on the claimant, when this principle can be deduced through logical reasoning? A person in pain goes to a doctor and tells the doctor his symptoms; the doctor does not run about looking for sick people. So, too, a person who has a claim against another must prove his claim, and the defendant need not prove nonliability.

R. Ashi thus based the principle that the burden of proof is on the claimant solely on logic and reasoning, and he saw no need to support this principle with a Biblical verse. Apparently, R. Samuel b. Naḥmani also believed that the source of the principle was logic, and his purpose in seeking to connect it with a Biblical verse was merely to give it additional support, by way of integrative, as distinguished from creative, interpretation.21”

19 TB Bava Kamma 46b.
R. Rabbi, Rav, or Rabban, used in the present work for the Talmudic Sages
b. ben, bar, “son of”—as in Simeon b. Gamaliel
20 Exodus 24:12–13 relates how Moses ascended the Mountain of the Lord in order to receive the tablets of stone, the Torah, and the commandments from God. Verse 14 states that before ascending the mountain Moses said to the elders: “Wait here for us until we return to you. You have Aaron and Hur with you; let anyone who has a legal matter approach them.” Moses thus established that any legal matters that might arise while he was away should be brought before Aaron and Hur. R. Samuel b. Naḥmani interpreted this verse to support the principle that the claimant, who must “approach” the judges, Aaron and Hur, with his claim, must present proof of his claim to them.
R. Rabbi, Rav, or Rabban, used in the present work for the Talmudic Sages
b. ben, bar, “son of”—as in Simeon b. Gamaliel
21 As to creative and integrative interpretation, see supra pp. 283–286. See also supra pp. 384–387, noting the decline in the use of midrash—even of the integrative kind—in the amoraic period.

Elon, M. (1994). Jewish law: history, sources, principles = Ha-mishpat ha-Ivri (A Philip and Muriel Berman ed., pp. 992–993). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.


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Is there found in the Qur’an, as in the Bible, a ransom and sacrifice for sin?

Is there found in the Qur’an, as in the Bible, a ransom and sacrifice for sin?

“The Qur’an holds that it is impossible for one person to ransom another. While this is true for two sinful human beings, the Bible declares that the sinless Christ offered his life as a ransom “to free” human beings from the guilt and power of sin.

It is significant that the Qur’an makes no mention of sacrifice for sin from the Torah, the Psalms, and the Prophets. While Islam accepts these Jewish scriptures as being revelation from God (with inaccuracies), it passes over the large portions that speak of the need for sacrifice and provision for sacrifices. The Qur’an holds that the revelation given to Muhammad reaches back to the faith of Abraham, who was willing to “offer his son” as a sacrifice—but it does not address the necessity of atonement in satisfying the justice of God.

Rather, it states that no person can ransom another. As to the question of divine justice, Allah qualifies his demands by saying, “We tax not any soul beyond its scope” (Surah 7:42). Thus the strict demands of divine justice are accommodated to human ability. For whatever shortcoming, Allah is ever forgiving and merciful (Surah 4:110). The denial of ransom and sacrifice is so complete that in the Qur’an there are only nine plagues by which Allah shows his power to free the Hebrew people. The Bible lists ten plagues; deliverance from the tenth plague came through the blood of a Passover lamb.
The Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament clearly set forth the necessity of sacrifice and point toward the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah. The justice of the Lord God cannot be pushed aside or diminished. It must be taken seriously. Sin must be atoned for. To say that it can simply be forgiven does not reckon with the seriousness of sin or the holiness and justice of the Lord God. The demands of the Lord God’s holy law are not adjusted down to human limitations. Jesus did not say, “Try your best to love your enemies.” As the Son of God he presented God’s immutable law in all of its righteousness and holiness in perfect love toward the Lord God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:37, 39). Sinful human beings cannot meet such demands for perfection. Humankind is helpless to fulfill the standard of perfect love toward God and fellow human beings.

The Lord God, with a love that cannot bear to see the sinner condemned, finds a way to deal seriously with sin and meet his own just demands. He does it by sending his Son to be an “atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Thus sin is not just overlooked; it is dealt with. Sin is not softened. The Lord God’s condemnation of sin is not dampened. Sin is paid for. The sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient “once for all” when he willingly offered up himself as the Lamb of God for the sins of the whole world (Heb. 7:27). This is the Lord God’s great act of grace. By the atoning sacrifice of his Son, the Lord God restores friendship and fellowship with human beings whom he loves.”

For further discussion on this topic visit our forum

Richter, R. (2011). Comparing the Qur’an and the Bible: What They Really Say about Jesus, Jihad, and More (pp. 73–74). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.


Quran and Bible was Jesus crucified?

Quran and Bible was Jesus crucified?

“Jesus was undeniably crucified. On the third day afterward, the risen Lord “showed them his hands and feet,” which still bore nail marks (Luke 24:40). This demonstrates irrefutably that the One crucified for our sins had triumphed over death. His atoning sacrifice is acceptable and sufficient for all humankind.
Where Islamic scholars believe it would have been a travesty for the Messiah to be crucified and also proof of weakness, we can see that Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, and his son’s willingness to be sacrificed, was no evidence of weakness but of obedience, strength, and love. The resurrection likewise certifies that Jesus’s crucifixion was a demonstration not of weakness but of great strength, obedience, and love.
The crucifixion of Jesus is central and crucial. If there is no crucifixion, then there is no atonement for sin, and if there is no atonement for sin, either humankind is condemned or human beings are not by nature sinful and need no atonement.` However, the Bible teaches that salvation is not by works but a gift by grace through faith to sinful human beings “through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
Secular Corroborating Testimony to the Crucifixion
Along with the eyewitness accounts in the Bible, the record of history confirms the literal crucifixion of Jesus, as a number of modern apologists point out.
Lee Strobel cites Josephus, the Jewish historian, in the Testimonium Flavianum, in words he considers to be genuine: “About this time there lived Jesus.… When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him [Jesus] to be crucified …” a Paul L. Maier affirms that the fact of the crucifixion of Jesus is substantiated by the recent discovery of an Arabic manuscript of Josephus’s Antiquities: “Pilate condemned him to be crucified.… His disciples … reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion.”b
Strobel appeals to Tacitus, the Roman historian of the first century, who writes: “Christus, from whom the name [Christian] had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hand of one of our Procurators, Pontius Pilate.…”c
Crucifixion was “the extreme penalty” of the time. Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb give evidence: “According to Julius Africanus (c. A.D. 221), the first-century historian, Thallus (c. A.D. 52),’ when discussing the darkness which fell upon the land during the crucifixion of Christ,’ spoke of it as an eclipse.d The second-century Greek writer, Lucian, speaks of Christ as ‘the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced a new cult into the world.’ ”e


3. Summary

The difference between the Qur’an and the Bible is most stark when the Qur’an denies the actual crucifixion of Jesus and his death. Islam rejects the crucifixion of Jesus so completely that its tradition states that when Jesus returns he will destroy all crosses. The Bible unequivocally states that Jesus was crucified, that he died, and that he was buried. His willingness to die as an atoning sacrifice on the despised cross shows the depth of his love. His resolve to endure this most humiliating of all deaths demonstrates his yearning for all human beings to be saved. Jesus predicted his crucifixion again and again. He was resolute and unwavering in his mission to go to the cross. The clear witness of the Bible to the crucifixion of Jesus is attested to by the testimony of secular historians.
The crucifixion of Jesus is central to the Christian belief in his atoning sacrifice as the Lamb of God offered for the sins of the world, as we shall see. The Qur’an holds, however, that human beings are born without sin and that one is able to pass the test of life and the final judgment on the basis of one’s belief in Allah and one’s good works, “As for those who believe and do good works, We shall make them enter Gardens underneath which rivers flow to dwell therein for ever” (Surah 4:57). Hence in Islam there is no need for sacrifice. However, according to the Qur’an, Allah saw the need to ransom Ishmael: “Then We [Allah] ransomed him [Ishmael] with a tremendous victim [Dawood: a noble sacrifice]” (Surah 37:107; see “E. Ransom and Sacrifice for Sin,” below).
If there is no crucifixion, there is no atoning sacrifice. If Jesus was crucified, an atoning sacrifice has been made. The fact of Jesus’s crucifixion is irrefutable, given the eyewitness accounts in the Bible and the testimony of secular history.”1

For further discussion on this topic visit our forum 
1Richter, R. (2011). Comparing the Qur’an and the Bible: What They Really Say about Jesus, Jihad, and More (pp. 68–70). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Do you believe in this Jesus or another?

Do you believe in this Jesus or another? The scriptures say eternal life is knowing God and the only begotten, Jesus.
“A. The promises by God made in the Old Testament have now been fulfilled with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2:30; 3:19, 24; 10:43; 26:6–7, 22; Rom. 1:2–4; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:1–2; 1 Peter 1:10–12; 2 Peter 1:18–19).
B. Jesus was anointed as Messiah by God at His baptism (Acts 10:38).
C. Jesus began His ministry in Galilee after His baptism (Acts 10:37).
D. His ministry was characterized by doing good and performing mighty works by means of the power of God (Mark 10:45; Acts 2:22; 10:38).
E. The Messiah was crucified according to the purpose of God (Mark 10:45; John 3:16; Acts 2:23; 3:13–15, 18; 4:11; 10:39; 26:23; Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 1:17–18; 15:3; Gal. 1:4; Heb. 1:3; 1 Peter 1:2, 19; 3:18; 1 John 4:10).
F. He was raised from the dead and appeared to His disciples (Acts 2:24, 31–32; 3:15, 26; 10:40–41; 17:31; 26:23; Rom. 8:34; 10:9; 1 Cor. 15:4–7, 12ff; 1 Thess. 1:10; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Peter 1:2; 3:18, 21).
G. Jesus was exalted by God and given the name “Lord” (Acts 2:25–29, 33–36; 3:13; 10:36; Rom. 8:34; 10:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:3; 1 Peter 3:22).
H. He gave the Holy Spirit to form the new community of God (Acts 1:8; 2:14–18, 38–39; 10:44–47; 1 Peter 1:12).
I. He will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20–21; 10:42; 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:20–28; 1 Thess. 1:10).
J. All who hear the message should repent and be baptized (Acts 2:21, 38; 3:19; 10:43, 47–48; 17:30; 26:20; Rom. 1:17; 10:9; 1 Peter 3:21).”

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Utley, R. J. (2004). The Gospel according to Luke (Vol. Volume 3A, Lk 24:27). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

Plural Elohim

The name of God Elohim is plural
“The word for “God” most commonly used in Hebrew Scripture is Elohim. It is generally agreed that Elohim is a plural noun having the masculine plural ending “im.” The very word Elohim, used of the one true God in Genesis 1:1, is also used of false gods in Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 13:2.

Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NASB)

Exo 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. (NASB)

Deu 13:2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ (NASB)

While the use of the plural Elohim does not prove a triunity, it certainly opens the door to a doctrine of plurality in the Godhead since it is the same word that is used for the one true God as for the many false gods. This causes something of a problem for rabbis. In the siddur, the Sabbath prayer book compiled by Rabbi Hertz, it says concerning Genesis 1:1, “The plural is to denote the plentitude of might; God comprehends and unifies all the ends of eternity and infinity.” The fact remains, however, that although the word does not of itself prove a plurality within the Godhead, it certainly does open the door to it.
It is sometimes said that this one word had to be used in both contexts since there is no alternative in Hebrew. This is not true however; the singular form of Elohim is Eloah and is used in passages such as Deuteronomy 32:15–17 and Habbakuk 3:3.

Deu 32:15 “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—You are grown fat, thick, and sleek—Then he forsook God who made him, And scorned the Rock of his salvation. 16 “They made Him jealous with strange gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. 17 “They sacrificed to demons who were not God, To gods whom they have not known, New gods who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread. (NASB)

Hab 3:3 God comes from Teman, And the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His splendor covers the heavens, And the earth is full of His praise. (NASB)

This singular form could have been used consistently, but it is found in only 250 places, as compared to the 2,500 instances of the plural form. The far greater use of the plural form tends to turn the argument in favor of plurality in the Godhead rather than against it.”
Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1998). Messianic Christology: a study of Old Testament prophecy concerning the first coming of the Messiah (p. 103). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

The Messiah will be a prophet

Deut 18:15-19 The messiah will be a prophet

“DEUTERONOMY 18:18 contains a promise given by God to Moses. God promises Moses that He will raise up a prophet “like you.” Why does God specify a prophet like Moses? What was different about Moses compared with other men called by God to be prophets? The unique status of Moses among the other prophets is explained in Numbers 12:5–8:

12:5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, 6 He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. 7 “Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, Even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant, against Moses?”


In this passage, Aaron and Miriam are railing against their brother Moses because they do not approve of the woman he has married. God himself intervenes on Moses’ behalf, declaring Moses’ unique standing before him.
Even with great men like Elijah and Isaiah, God did not reveal Himself directly but used dreams, visions, and other methods. Moses is the only man who received direct revelation from God. It is on this basis that Judaism developed its three-tier view of Scriptural inspiration (see Introduction).
Previously we were told that Messiah would be a king. Now we are told that He will be a prophet too, and not an ordinary prophet, but One who will speak “mouth to mouth” with God and Who will see the very form of Jehovah.
Many writers have sought to draw up lists of similarities between Moses and Jesus, the “prophet like unto Moses.” Many of these parallels are rather contrived and somewhat fanciful. We can, however, point out four clear similarities between the ministries of Moses and Messiah:

1. A Prophet (Numbers 12:6–8)
As explained above.

2. A Redeemer (Exodus 3:10)
In Exodus 3:1–10, God sees the suffering of the people of Israel and declares His intention to redeem them out of the land of Egypt. Moses is the man chosen by God to lead the people out of their captivity. (Note that the Angel of Jehovah mentioned in verse 2 is further discussed in the fourth part of this study, “Other Lines of Evidence.”) As has already been seen, Messiah too will be a redeemer.

3. A Mediator (Exodus 20:18–21)
To begin with God spoke directly to the people of Israel (Exodus 19:16–25). The sound of God’s voice was so overwhelming that the people asked Moses to mediate for them so that they would not hear God’s voice, but only God’s words repeated to them by Moses.

4. An Intercessor (Exodus 32:7–35)
Often, during their long exodus from Egypt, it was only because of Moses’ intercession on their behalf that Israel escaped the judgment of God and survived. This is particularly clear in Exodus 32:30–32.

Messiah will fit the Mosaic mold in each of these four areas: He will be a prophet, a redeemer, a mediator and an intercessor.”1

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1Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1998). Messianic Christology: a study of Old Testament prophecy concerning the first coming of the Messiah (pp. 28–29). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

Psalms 16:1-11 the Messiah

Psalms 16:1-11

“The emphasis of Psalm 16:1–2 is that Messiah’s refuge is in God, and in verse 3 that His delight is with the saints, the believing Remnant, echoing the sentiments of Zechariah 11. In verses 4–9, the psalmist says that God the Father will be the Messiah’s total trust in life, even to the point of death (verses 10–11). Even in death Messiah still trusts in God. The point of the song is that even though God allows Messiah to die, yet “Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt thou allow thy Holy One to undergo decay.” Messiah will be resurrected back to life.”1

For more discussion on this topic visit our forum 

1Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1998). Messianic Christology: a study of Old Testament prophecy concerning the first coming of the Messiah (p. 82). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

Muslim misunderstanding of the crucifixion

Muslim misunderstanding of the crucifixion is represented in the statement of Ibn Taymiyya, that “not a single one of the Christians was a witness with them [the Jews]. Rather the apostles kept a distance through fear, and not one of them witnessed the crucifixion.”7 This, of course, is both false and misleading. It is false because the Gospel record states that the apostle John was standing right there by the cross during the crucifixion (John 19:26; cf. 20:20–25). And Peter may have been there at a distance (see Mark 14:54). Furthermore, in addition there were other followers of Christ at the cross, including Mary the mother of Jesus (John 20:25–26) and other women (Luke 23:27; John 19:25). It is misleading because it implies that one cannot be sure that Jesus died on the cross unless his apostles were there. The Roman soldiers charged under the penalty of death to faithfully execute their duty were sufficient witnesses to the death of Christ. They were professional executioners and were accustomed to putting people to death. Furthermore, there were other people present, including the two thieves on adjacent crosses (Matt. 27:38), the crowd (Matt. 27:39) called “a great multitude” (Luke 23:27), and the Jewish leaders (Matt. 27:41), who because of their hatred of him had every motivation to assure that Jesus was put to death there. Even if none of Jesus’ followers were there—and several were—the many other witnesses of the crucifixion would have been more than enough to establish the fact of his death.
The evidence that Jesus actually died physically on the cross is overwhelming. For one, the Old Testament predicted it (Isa. 53:5–10; Ps. 22:16; Dan. 9:26; Zech. 12:10), and Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah (Matt. 4:14; 5:17–18; 8:17; John 4:25–26; 5:39). Furthermore, Jesus announced it in advance over and over again (Matt. 12:40; 17:22–23; 20:18; Mark 10:45; John 2:19–20; John 10:10–11). Also, all the predictions of his resurrection (Ps. 16:10; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2; John 2:19–21; Matt. 12:40; 17:22–23) are based on the fact that he would die. Only a dead body can be resurrected. What is more, the nature and extent of Jesus’ injuries indicate that he must have died, the very process of crucifixion assuring his death. Likewise, the piercing of Jesus’ side with the spear, from which came “blood and water” (John 19:34), is medical proof that he had physically died. Also, Jesus declared his own death at its very moment, saying, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46; cf. John 19:30). And Jesus’ death cry was heard by those who stood by (John 19:47–49). Furthermore, the Roman soldiers, accustomed to crucifixion and death, pronounced Jesus dead (John 19:33). On top of all this, Pilate double-checked to make sure Jesus was dead before he gave the corpse to Joseph to be buried (Mark 15:44–45). In addition, Jesus was wrapped in about seventy-five pounds of cloth and spices and placed in a sealed tomb for three days (John 19:39–40; Matt. 27:60). If he was not dead by then, which he clearly was, he would have died from lack of food, water, and medical treatment. Finally, medical authorities who have carefully examined the evidence have concluded that he actually died on the cross, insisting that “the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted.… Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”8
Muslim ambiguity about the death of Christ has led to a rather confusing state of affairs that can be clarified as follows:

1. All Muslims agree that Jesus did not die on the cross for our sins.
2. Almost all Muslims believe that Jesus did not die on the cross at all but that someone else was crucified in his place, such as Judas (see Appenix 2) or Simon who carried Jesus’ cross.
3. Almost all Muslims hold that Jesus did not die at all before he ascended into heaven but that he will die after his second coming and will be raised later with others in the general resurrection of the last days.

Mufassir summarized the heart of the Islamic view well when he said, “Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified. It was the intention of his enemies to put him to death on the cross, but God saved him from their plot.”9 Several passages in the Qur’an are the basis for Muslim agreement that Jesus was not crucified on the cross for our sins; 4:157–58 is a key text. At face value it seems to say that Jesus did not die at all. It certainly denies that he died by crucifixion. It reads:

That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of God”;—But they killed him not, Nor crucified him, But so it was made to appear to them, And those who differ therein are full of doubts, With no (certain) knowledge, But only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:—Nay, God raised him up Unto Himself; and God Is exalted in power, wise.

The reason for Islamic disbelief in the crucifixion of Jesus centers on two theological concepts: sovereignty and depravity. More precisely, it is based on the unique Islamic concept of sovereignty of God and their rejection of the Christian belief in the depravity of man.
Geisler, N. L., & Saleeb, A. (2002). Answering Islam: the crescent in light of the cross (2nd ed., pp. 280–282). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Trinity for Muslims

“It Is Possible to Have More Than One Person in One Essence
In order to complete what is understood by the Trinity, it remains only to show that there is no contradiction in having three persons in one essence. This is demonstrated by pointing out that the law of noncontradiction mandates that for two propositions to be contradictory, they must both affirm and deny something of

(1) the same thing;
(2) at the same time; and
(3) in the same sense (in the same relationship).

Clearly this is not the case in affirming,

(1) God is one and only one in relation to His essence;
(2) God is more than one (viz., three) in relation to His persons. These are two different senses or relations. Therefore, the Trinity is not contradictory.

Of course, this response depends on the words person and essence being defined in different ways. By person is meant who it is, and by nature is meant what it is. A person is a subject, while a nature is an object. Person is an I, and an essence is an it. So a person is a subjective center of intentionality and volitionality, and a nature is an objective center of essential properties.”

Geisler, N. L. (2003). Systematic theology, volume two: God, creation (pp. 292–293). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

The Bible is not corrupt

The Bible is not corrupt

Muslim try to say the Bible is corrupted. Well, the Quran confirms the Bible. So if the Bible is corrupted so is the Quran.

Quran 5:48 tells us to judge between the two. Judging between to two is suppose to prove that the Quran confirms the previous book.

Many Muslims respond:

The Quran confirms the original scriptures.
Response: that is not what the passage says. Literally, in the Arabic, it says previous book.

What was the previous book that was with the people of the book? The Bible of course.

They respond no the Quran confirms the Torah, psalms, and gospel, not the Bible

Again that is not what the passage says. Literally, in the Arabic, we read previous book, not books. Our one book contains all the books of the prophets.

Therefore if the Bible is corrupted so is the Quran. No Muslim can refute their own Quran. Hence the Bible is not corrupted. Therefore, Jesus did die as Jesus prophesied he would in mark 9:30-32

God speak directly to His prophets

The Quran is in error concerning Muhammad. If Muhammad was like all prophets before than God would have spoken directly to him as he did the other prophets. The message Muhammad received was not directly from God but directly through an angel. This should throw up a red flag for anyone

Galatians 1:18
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!

Why have you forsaken me?

““On the cross, Jesus cried, ‘My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ This proves He was a fake. God forsook Him.”

Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 were the fulfillment of David’s prophecy in Psalm 22:1. Verse 3 of this psalm then gives us insight into why God forsook Jesus on the cross: “But You are holy …” A holy Creator cannot have fellowship with sin. When Jesus was on the cross, the sin of the entire world was laid upon Him (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21), but Scripture says God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13).”

Cameron, K., & Comfort, R. (2004). The school of biblical evangelism: 101 lessons: how to share your faith simply, effectively, biblically—the way Jesus did (p. 378). Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

Messiah’s Birth

“Messiah’s Birth

Isaiah predicted that one called Immanuel (“God with us”) would be born of a virgin: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (7:14). This prediction was made over 700 years in advance.
The New Testament affirms that Jesus fulfilled this prediction, saying, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us’ ” (Matthew 1:22, 23).
Micah made the unambiguous prophecy, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). Even the unbelieving Jewish scribes identified this as a prediction of the Messiah and directed the inquiring magi to Bethlehem:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel’ ” (Matthew 2:1–6).”

Cameron, K., & Comfort, R. (2004). The school of biblical evangelism: 101 lessons: how to share your faith simply, effectively, biblically—the way Jesus did (pp. 379–380). Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

Messiah’s Ancestry

“Messiah’s Ancestry

God declared in Genesis that the messianic blessing for all the world would come from the offspring of Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2, 3; cf. 22:18).
Jesus Christ was indeed the seed of Abraham. Matthew’s Gospel begins, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). Paul adds, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).
The Redeemer would come through the tribe of Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” (Genesis 49:10).
According to the New Testament genealogies, this was Jesus’ ancestry:

Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli … the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham (Luke 3:23, 33, 34; cf. Matthew 1:1–3).

For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah (Hebrews 7:14).
The books of Samuel record the prediction that the Messiah would be of the house of David. God said to David: “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son” (2 Samuel 7:13, 14).
The New Testament repeatedly affirms that Jesus Christ was “the son of David” (Matthew 1:1). Jesus Himself claimed to be “the son of David” (Matthew 22:42–45). The Palm Sunday crowd also hailed Jesus as “the son of David” (Matthew 21:9). Luke 1:32, 33 says of Jesus: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.””

Cameron, K., & Comfort, R. (2004). The school of biblical evangelism: 101 lessons: how to share your faith simply, effectively, biblically—the way Jesus did (pp. 380–381). Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

The Father vindicated Jesus

For more discussion concerning this topic visit our forum

The Father vindicated Jesus

“God did vindicate Jesus—but not in the way that men would have wanted or expected. If Jesus had been miraculously delivered from death on the cross, the spectacle would no doubt have made many believe in him. But God’s way of thinking demanded that before being vindicated, Jesus must be identified with men right up to the very end—even in death: ‘It was only right that God should make Jesus perfect through suffering, in order to bring many sons to share his glory.… Since the children, as he calls them, are people of flesh and blood, Jesus himself became like them and shared their human nature. He did this so that through his death he might destroy the Devil, who has the power over death, and in this way set free those who were slaves all their lives because of their fear of death’ (Heb. 2:10–14, 15).

The Muslim cannot deny that many of the Jews wanted and intended to have Jesus crucified, or that Jesus himself was willing to be crucified. The difference lies in our thinking about the way in which God would be expected to act on behalf of his servant and prophet. The Muslim says that God must vindicate Jesus by saving him from this ultimate humiliation; the Christian says that God must allow Jesus to suffer the worst that men can do to him, and vindicate him only on the other side of death.”

Chapman, C. J. (1978). Thinking biblically about Islam. Themelios, 3(3), 74

Jesus Christ represents the culmination of religious truth

Jesus Christ represents the culmination of religious truth

“Three points of even a more fundamental theological nature might be noted in conclusion. First, the interrelationship of the Testaments points to progress in revelation. Jesus Christ represents the culmination of religious truth (Heb 1:1–3). He is the means to oneness with God. As God, he is also our end. However, whether previous revelation is best understood as a line of development or a collection of anticipatory moments prior to the finality of revelation in Jesus Christ is a matter of continuing debate. Secondly, current eschatological perspectives are derivative of how this question is approached. In the history of the church one might say that there have been two ways to God. One accents horizontal movement through time. The further along we are in history, the nearer we are in some sense to God. The other accents vertical movement. Anybody at any point in history is equally close to God through mystical or spiritual vision. These two movements do not need to be mutually exclusive.”1

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:1–14)

1Petersen, R. (1988). Continuity and Discontinuity: The Debate Throughout Church History. In J. S. Feinberg (Ed.), Continuity and discontinuity: perspectives on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments : essays in honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. (p. 34). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.

The Logic of Regeneration and Faith

The Logic of Regeneration and Faith

When discussing the logical priority of regeneration and faith it is very helpful to keep in mind why we need to be regenerated in the first place. It is because of sin that we are fallen, creatures. It is because of sin that we are dead. The scriptures say that we are dead in our trespasses and sin. In justification, we are forgiven of our sin. Because sin was the cause of our spiritual death that must first be removed before we gain spiritual life. The logical of this argument is that regeneration cannot precede faith because justification must precede regeneration. We must first be forgiven before we gain the life we lost. Since most Calvinists agree that faith precedes justification. They must also agree that faith precedes regeneration since justification logically comes before regeneration.

Regeneration and Salvation

Regeneration and Salvation

One thing that seems abundantly clear is salvation comes through regeneration. To say it another way those who have been regenerated are saved (Titus 3:5). This is important when discussing Calvinism and the ordo salutis. Calvinists argue that regeneration precedes faith. If that is true then why believe because we are already saved? They put the cart before the horse. This is an attempt to prove their version of total depravity. However, it is illogical based on this passage from Titus. Larson Knute writes

“Jesus, in these actual events, gained salvation for all people who believe. Rescuing us from the grip of corruption, he saved us.
The work of salvation comes solely from God’s mercy, not because of righteous things we had done. As Isaiah 64:6 states, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” We can contrive no goodness by which to attain the favor or forgiveness of God. Salvation comes independent of human effort or desire. God initiates, acts, and pursues because of his mercy.
Salvation comes through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. These terms explain, in part, the complex activities which faith in Christ generates. The washing of rebirth refers to the cleansing from sin which results from trust in Jesus Christ. This purification of the sound spirit brings life. No longer living on a purely natural or physical level, believers are transformed from spirit-death to spirit-life. They count themselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). Renewal carries the same idea, that a person has come into a new existence, both in this life and for eternity. The Holy Spirit participates in Salvador, establishing his presence in the soul and enabling each person to act in true righteousness”l.

Robert B. Hughes and J. Carl Laney write

“Paul reminded the believers on Crete of their sinful past (3:3) to inspire them to show kindness and consideration toward others. Paul cautioned them not to become spiritual snobs who were insensitive to their continuing need for God’s grace. This was foundational for Paul’s discussion of God’s act of kindness toward the world (3:5–7). Paul set forth a capsule summary of the doctrine of salvation and expounded on several of the provisions of the new covenant (Ezek. 36:25–28). Salvation is not merited by any righteous works, but wholly determined by God’s mercy. “Washed” (3:5) speaks of the spiritual cleansing experienced in the new birth (cf. Ezek. 36:25; Acts 22:16). “New life” (3:5; “regeneration,” NASB and KJV) is the supernatural imparting of spiritual life to believers in Christ (John 3:7). The “new life through the Holy Spirit” (3:5) refers to the Spirit’s regenerating and indwelling ministry (cf. Ezek. 36:27). God’s rich outpouring is to be mirrored in the believers’ rich outpouring of kindness to others. To be “not guilty” (3:7) means to be declared righteous (Rom. 5:1).”m.

Evangelical Commentary on the Bible notes

“The basis for the Christian’s attitude (3:3–8). The usual objection to such courtesy to non-Christians and such subjection to civil authorities is the terrible sinfulness of such people. It is then argued that a Christian cannot act that way to such repulsive and malicious people. Paul’s rejoinder is to remind Christians of their own pre-Christian condition (v. 3, which was of the same character), and of God’s attitude (v. 4, “kindness,” “love”; v. 5, “mercy”) to them at that time and the result (v. 5, “he saved us”). God’s attitude to us prior to conversion must now be our attitude toward non-Christians who are now like we were. We are not saved because of anything we have or are now doing (“not because of righteous things we had done,” v. 5). God effected our salvation by changing our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit (v. 5), whom Jesus Christ “poured out on us” (v. 6). Our lives were changed when we were turned into new creatures both by the new birth (“washing of rebirth”) and also by the new life (“renewal”) that the Holy Spirit brought and continues to bring. So by the gracious accounting of Christ’s righteousness to us (“by his grace”) God declares us here and now righteous (“justified”) in his sight and declares us “heirs” who look forward to “eternal life” (v. 7). “This is a trustworthy saying” (v. 8; see 1 Tim. 1:15). Since we “have trusted in God” his attitude and action toward us should be the basis for our “doing what is good” (v. 8). Good works are never the basis for our salvation (v. 5) but they must always be done by those who are saved (v. 8; see Eph. 2:8–10)”n.

l.Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, pp. 382–383). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

m.Hughes, R. B., & Laney, J. C. (2001). Tyndale concise Bible commentary (pp. 653–654). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

n.Elwell, W. A. (1995). Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, Tt 3:3). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.



Regeneration through the word

Regeneration through the word

(1 Peter 1:23) Peter tells us that we are born again through the word of God. Karen H. Jobes notes

“The command to love earnestly is further qualified by a second causal participle, ἀναγεγεννημένοι (anagegennēmenoi, having been reborn, 1:23), which unites the thought of this verse with 1:3, where the verb first occurred. A crucial question arises: How does having been reborn from imperishable seed imply the command to love one another? What is the logic of this claim? The new birth generates spiritual life from imperishable seed (1:23), the word of God.1 This is contrasted with the quality of life that comes from perishable seed (human procreation), whose glory at its best is like the fragile and temporary flowers of the field. The life of the believer has been generated by the imperishable (ἀφθάρτου, aphthartou) divine seed of God’s living and enduring word (the inheritance is similarly incorruptible, ἄφθαρτον, aphtharton, 1:4) in contrast to the perishable seed of all flesh. The love commanded in 1:22 is the result of obeying the truth—responding positively to the gospel—and is made possible by the spiritual energy of the new life God has generated by his eternal word. The Christian’s decision to obey the truth by coming to faith in Christ is the manifestation of one’s rebirth as a child of God (1:3). Peter instructs that love between Christians involves a moral transformation following from the spiritual reality that those reborn from God’s seed will have God’s character. The exhortations that follow throughout 1 Peter flesh out what Christian love looks like as a defining quality of one’s new, eternal life.”h.

Simon J. Kistemaker also notes

“Why should we love one another? Says Peter, “Because you have been born again.” Note that in the process of rebirth, the believers are passive. That is, God brings them through spiritual birth into this world. Once they are born again, the believers are active in the process of purifying themselves (v. 22).
When Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old?” (John 3:4), Jesus teaches him about spiritual birth. In the first chapter of his epistle, Peter mentions spiritual birth twice (vv. 3, 23). The verb born again means that God has given us spiritual life that is new. Without this new life, we are unable to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). We demonstrate that we possess this new life through faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:36; 1 John 5:11). Moreover, the Greek text indicates that our spiritual rebirth occurred in the past and has lasting significance for the present and the future.”i.

Thomas R. Schreiner also notes

“The means by which God begets his people is the seed of God’s word, the preaching of the gospel. Peter’s theology matches Paul’s here, for the latter teaches that “faith comes from hearing the message” (Rom 10:17). Similarly, in Galatians 3 the reception of the Spirit is mediated through believing the preached message (Gal 3:2, 5). Perhaps Peter used the word “living” because the word produces life, and he used the word “enduring” because the life once activated will never cease.”j.

We are surely born again through the word through the gospel. Calvinism teaches we must be born again to even understand the gospel. The most quoted passage is (1 Corinthians 2:14). They claim that man cannot understand the word, therefore he must be born again first. 

“It is only the Holy Spirit who can enable a person truly to understand and to know the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why we should never be surprised that very able, intelligent people do not believe the gospel. They cannot. ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God … neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor 2:14). We need the ‘mind of Christ’, and in the regeneration, we have the mind of Christ.”k.

This, of course, contradicts what we reading here in Peter. We are born again through the word of God. We are not born again before we are given the word of God. The word of God is the means in which we are born again.


h.Jobes, K. H. (2005). 1 Peter (pp. 124–125). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

i.Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, p. 72). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

j.Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 95). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

k.Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (2000). The assurance of our salvation: exploring the depth of Jesus’ prayer for His own: studies in John 17 (p. 477). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Regeneration and Union with Christ

Regeneration and Union with Christ

3. Regeneration does not happen apart from our actual union with Christ in time. Regeneration is a result of union with Him. Therefore regeneration cannot precede faith. We are united to Christ by grace through faith.

Augustus Hopkins Strong said

“Under this head, we treat of Union with Christ, Regeneration, Conversion (embracing Repentance and Faith), and Justification. Much confusion and error have arisen from conceiving these as occurring in chronological order. The order is logical, not chronological As it is only “in Christ” that man is “a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17) or is “justified” (Acts 13:39), union with Christ logically precedes both regeneration and justification; and yet, chronologically, the moment of our union with Christ is also the moment when we are regenerated and justified. So, too, regeneration and conversion are but the divine and human sides or aspects of the same fact, although regeneration has logical precedence, and man turns only as God turns him.”g.

Modern reformed theology rarely teaches the doctrine of union with Christ. I have seen it first hand when discussing these issues with modern Calvinists. I bring up the doctrine of union with Christ to show how regeneration does not take place apart from our actual union with them, and more times than not they say I have to look into the doctrine. When studying soteriology union with Christ should be at the forefront of discussion. The scriptures say every spiritual blessing is found in Him Ephesians 1:3. Regeneration is a spiritual blessing, therefore regeneration is found in Him not apart from our actual union with Him. To say that regeneration precedes faith is to say that it happens apart from our actual union in time. Hence, we receive the spiritual blessing of regeneration apart from him. Grace through faith is the entrance in which we receive Jesus and are therefore united to Him Eph. 3:16-17. Hence if regeneration is a spiritual blessing and it happens in Christ then faith logically precedes regeneration because it precedes union.

g.Strong, A. H. (1907). Systematic theology (p. 793). Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society.

Drawing or Regeneration?

Drawing or Regeneration?

It is not regeneration that prevents us coming from God it is the drawing of God.

Dr. Wayne Grudem said “Scripture indicates that regeneration must come before we can respond to effective calling with saving faith.”e.

The logic of this is astounding when we look at the scriptures. What he means the drawing is not effective though he does not say it. It is not regeneration that is preventing us from coming to God it is God granting and drawing us that is preventing us from coming to God.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)

“And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”” (John 6:65)

The logic here is that if we are granted and drawn we can come to God. Therefore Regeneration is not what is needed but the drawing and granting.

Many reformed people subscribe to the Westminster Confession which states

“All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, (Rom. 8:30, Rom. 11:7, Eph. 1:10–11) by His word and Spirit, (2 Thess. 2:13–14, 2 Cor. 3:3,6) out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; (Rom. 8:2, Eph. 2:1–5, 2 Tim. 1:9–10) enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, (Acts 26:18, 1 Cor. 2:10,12, Eph. 1:17–18) taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; (Ezek. 36:26) renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, (Ezek. 11:19, Phil. 2:13, Deut. 30:6, Ezek. 36:27) and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: (Eph. 1:19, John 6:44–45) yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. (Cant. 1:4, Ps. 110:3, John 6:37, Rom. 6:16–18)”f.

Here we see how one easily confuses the two being the same. Namely that regeneration is drawing. Not all Calvinists make this mistake but many do. The word drawing is not the same word as regeneration nor is it a synonym of the word.

So the question arises can man come to God if it has been granted and he has been drawn? According to the scriptures, yes, but that means that regeneration is not necessary before faith. Therefore Calvinism is refuted on that point.

e.Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 700). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

f.The Westminster confession of faith. (1996). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Regeneration cannot precede faith based on old testament prophecy

Regeneration cannot precede faith based on old testament prophecy

Regeneration receiving a new heart was prophesied and not actualized in the old testament. Starting in Deut 30:6 we see the prophecy of reconciliation through christ in the new covenant. John Calvin himself in his commentary on (Deut 30:6) said

“And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart. This promise far surpasses all the others, and properly refers to the new Covenant, for thus it is interpreted by Jeremiah, who introduces God thus speaking,—“Behold, the days come that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, … which covenant they brake, … but … I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.” (Jer. 31:31–33.)”a.

In the Reformation Study Bible, we read concerning (Deu 30:10)

“The blessings of the renewed covenant will be inseparable from, but not based on, the obedience of the restored remnant of the people to their Lord’s commandments (cf., e.g., Matt. 7:21). The obedience of Christ, which is the victory over sin in which the remnant by faith will share, is the only meritorious basis of such blessings.”b.

As we walk through the scriptures we see the promise again and again (Jeremiah 31:31–33) (Ezekiel 36:26) Dr. Wayne Grudem said

“This sovereign work of God in regeneration was also predicted in the prophecy of Ezekiel. Through him God promised a time in the future when he would give new spiritual life to his people”(Ezekiel 36:26-37)c.

God circumcising the heart is different than men circumcising their own hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16). We see a similar reading in (Ezekiel 18:30–32). God calls on man to change their heart and change their spirit. Jeremiah repeats this in (Jeremiah 4:4). This all points to the work of Christ. For what man could not do on their own Christ did for us through His work on the cross (Colossians 2:11).

In short Hebrews 11 is clear old testament saints believed. But what was also clear is they had not received the new covenant and therefore were not regenerated in the same way that we are today. Regeneration is found in Christ alone. A denial of this is really a denial of Solus Christus, through Christ alone. For the scriptures say it is in Him that we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) Jesus himself said the new covenant was made with his blood (Matthew 26:28) An extension of this same error comes when we read “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

The logical conclusion here is that if old testament saints were born again they could see the kingdom of God and Jesus did not need to die. This is a grave error. Luke 16 speaks about Abraham’s Bosom. In regards to this discussion, it is very important to ask why they went to Abraham’s Bosom rather than heaven itself? That is because true regeneration comes through what Jesus did on the cross. No one is granted heaven apart from his actual atonement. Let the scriptures be true and every man a liar no one can see heaven unless he has been born again (John 3:3)

Regeneration receiving a new heart was prophesied and not actualized in the old testament. To deny the actual fulfillment in Christ is deny the protestant principle of Christ alone. Clearly, people believed in God without first being regenerated. So to argue that regeneration must precede faith goes against the scriptures. Much of what took place in the Old Testament was a shadow of things to come. The Spirit came upon people for various purposes and reasons. We see that the Spirit came upon people and also left (Judges 13:25; 16:20) (1 Sam. 10:10; 16:14)

The Spirit has a more fulfilling role after Jesus died and rose again. “He convicts unbelievers of sin (Gen. 6:3; John 16:8); He regenerates those dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1); He seals believers till the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30); He baptizes all believers into the spiritual body of Christ at the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 12:13), assuring us of salvation (Rom. 8:16); He performed miracles to confirm the truth of Christianity (Gal. 3:2–5; Heb. 2:4); He bestowed spiritual gifts on believers (Acts 2:4; 1 Cor. 12:11). He reveals (1 Cor. 2:10) and teaches (Luke 12:12). He inspired the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20–21), and He is also enlightening believers to God’s truth (Eph. 1:17–18) and witnessing to God’s Word (1 John 5:9–10). He anoints believers for service (1 John 2:20) and fills those who yield to Him (Eph. 5:18). Of course, the Holy Spirit indwells all believers forever (John 14:16–17).d.

There are people that have tried to assert that Old Testament saints must have been regenerated by assuming regeneration precedes faith and not actually proving it.

“If faith is produced by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, then this must be the case for Old Testament saints who looked ahead to the cross, believing that what God had promised in regard to their redemption would come to pass.” –Got Questions

Here I must again point to the fact that it was prophecy, therefore it was not actualized.Secondly, life is found in Christ, and we are in Christ by grace through faith. Jesus had to actually die on the cross. If Old Testament saints were regenerated then they could see the kingdom of God (John 3:3) and Jesus did not need to die. Yet Got Questions does not say they seen heaven but went a place known as paradise “The Old Testament believers went to a place of comfort and rest called “paradise” when they died”-Got Questions . Hence there is some inconsistency there.

John Hendryx tries to respond in a similar fashion and quotes (Chronicles 30:11-12) as proof of Old Testament regeneration.Yet if you follow his conclusion it agrees with the actualization principle

“While the work of the Spirit was active in the OT what we have is founded of better promises for everything which the OT pointed to has been fulfilled”- Hendyrx

There may have been forms of the indwelling Spirit or Regeneration but the true regeneration that we are talking about was promised and only found in Christ.Hence Old Testament saints believed without having the true form of regeneration.

Hamilton at gospel coalition responds in a similar way by when he stated

“There is oblique evidence in the Old Testament for the idea that members of the faithful remnant had circumcised hearts. Consider (Jeremiah 9:24)” –gospel coalition.

The text quoted here does not say the God circumcised their hearts. It can be reasonably assumed by this and every other passage quoted that they circumcised their own hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16). Which as was stated above is different than God circumcising their hearts which is what the prophecy is about (Deut 30:6). This shows the consistency of what was prophesied as opposed to the shadow of the prophecy that was actualized in the old testament. As was stated above if they were regenerated Christ did not need to die. (John 3:3) tells that those who have been born again can see the kingdom. Hence there is nothing stopping them from entering into heaven.

For further arguments concerning faith, preceding regeneration see drawing or regeneration, regeneration, and union with Christ


a.Calvin, J., & Bingham, C. W. (2010). Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony (Vol. 3, p. 284). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

b.Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 286). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

c.Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 699). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

d.Geisler, N. L. (2003). Systematic theology, volume two: God, creation (p. 677). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

Union with Christ John Owen

Union with Christ John Owen

“3. Union with Christ and the Ordo Salutis

Grasping Owen’s doctrine of the pactum is cardinal in understanding how he prioritizes the forensic element in redemption. But we must first understand what Owen believes about union with Christ before we can proceed. Owen, like most Reformed theologians, holds to the doctrine of union with Christ.22 Owen believes that all of the benefits of redemption flow from the believer’s union with Christ.23 Union with Christ, writes Owen, “is the cause of all other graces that we are made partakers of; they are all communicated to us by virtue of our union with Christ. Hence is our adoption, our justification, our sanctification, our fruitfulness, our perseverance, our resurrection, our glory.”24 Union with Christ, therefore, is the all-encompassing doctrinal rubric that embraces all of the elements of redemption.

But this is not to imply that for Owen union is merely an intellectual concept. Rather, union with Christ is a spiritual conjugal bond effected by the Holy Spirit, the goal of which was love: “There is love in the person of the Father peculiarly held out unto the saints, as wherein he will and does hold communion with them.”25 But Owen’s doctrine of union does not preclude him from distinguishing the different elements comprehended by union (justification, sanctification, adoption, etc.).

Owen sees no problem with affirming both union with Christ and articulating an ordo salutis. Owen explains that Paul never speaks about the necessity of sanctification, regeneration, or renovation by the work of the Spirit antecedently to the believer’s justification. Owen is careful to preclude including the believer’s good works from any role in regeneration, renovation, and justification. Owen declares that Paul does not intimate

any order of precedency or connection between the things that he mentions, but only between justification and adoption, justification having the priority in order of nature: “That, being justified by his grace, we should be heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” All the things he mentions are inseparable. No man is regenerate or renewed by the Holy Ghost, but withal he is justified;—no man is justified, but withal he is renewed by the Holy Ghost.26

Owen carefully safeguards the doctrine of justification because Paul states that God justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5), which means that the believer’s justification has to be antecedent to his sanctification. Owen explains, “It is necessary that we should be sanctified, that we may be justified before God, who justifies the ungodly, the apostle says not in this place, nor any thing to that purpose.”27 Sinclair Ferguson summarizes, “For Owen, then, such order as there is in the ordo salutis would seem to be: Effectual Calling; Regeneration, Faith; Repentance; Justification; Adoption; and Sanctification.”28 Ferguson goes on to comment that for Owen, divine election finds its outworking in the ordo salutis, which all coalesces in the believer’s union with Christ.29

4. Justification and Sanctification

As we look more intently into Owen’s doctrine of justification, other reasons surface as to why he gives priority to it. The priority of justification is especially evident when it is compared and contrasted with the doctrine of sanctification. Owen believes that the doctrine of justification is of the greatest importance, even siding with Martin Luther (1483–1546), who writes, “Amisso articulo justificationis, simul amissa est tota doctrina Christiana [If the article of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost].” Owen then comments, “And I wish he had not been a true prophet, when he foretold that in the following ages the doctrine hereof would be again obscured.”30 By the time Owen wrote his treatise on justification (1677), there was a confessional corpus of definitions that had codified the doctrine, whether in the Gallican Confession (1559), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Thirty-Nine Articles (1563), the Irish Articles (1615), or the Westminster Confession (1647).

One of the key elements of the Savoy Declaration that Owen saw to was explicitly referring to the imputation of the active and passive obedience of Christ:

Those whom God effectually calls, he also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believer, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ’s active obedience to the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God (emphasis).31

Owen holds that justification is by faith alone, includes the forgiveness of sins, includes the imputed active and passive obedience of Christ, and is a once-for-all definitive act.32 Beyond these basic points, how does the priority of justification emerge in comparison with sanctification in Owen’s theology?

Owen believes that nothing less than perfect righteousness can withstand the scrutiny of God’s judgment before the divine bar. Reflecting upon Ps 130:3 (“If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”), Owen is convinced that the believer’s inherent righteousness (read sanctification) cannot withstand the demands of God’s justice required for justification: “If no man can stand a trial before God upon his own obedience, so as to be justified before him, because of his own personal iniquities; and if our only plea in that case be the righteousness of God, the righteousness of God only, and not our own; then is there no personal, inherent righteousness in any believers whereon they may be justified.”33

Owen gives three reasons that inherent righteousness is imperfect and therefore unsuitable for a believer’s justification. First, there is a contrary principle of habitual sin that abides within the believer so long as they dwell in this world. Owen explains, based upon Gal 5:17, that none of the faculties of the soul are perfectly renewed as long as a person lives in the world. Second, inherent righteousness is defective because sin clings to every act and duty, whether internal or external. The believer’s good works are but “filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). Third, inherent righteousness is lacking because of actual sins (in contrast to original sin).34

For these three reasons, Owen gives priority to justification over sanctification. Owen establishes the bedrock of salvation, therefore, upon the imputed righteousness of Christ:
If it be a perfect righteousness that is imputed unto us, so it is esteemed and judged to be; and accordingly are we to be dealt withal, even as those who have a perfect righteousness: and if that which is imputed as righteousness unto us be imperfect, or imperfectly so, then as such must it be judged when it is imputed; and we must be dealt withal as those which have such an imperfect righteousness, and no otherwise. And therefore, whereas our inherent righteousness is imperfect (they are to be pitied or despised, not to be contended withal, that are otherwise minded), if that be imputed unto us, we cannot be accepted on the account thereof as perfectly righteous without an error in judgment.35

So for Owen, the imputed perfect righteousness of Christ is the ground of the believer’s justification and salvation because imputation, not inherent righteousness, gives right and title unto eternal life.36 Owen’s position contrasts with Baxter, who argues that the believer’s final justification at the consummation is based upon their good works.37

The priority of justification prominently emerges when Owen explains the relationship between justification and the final judgment: “Some affirm that the apostle excludes all works from our first justification, but not from the second; or, as some speak, the continuation of our justification.”38 Though Owen does not name names here, he has the views of the Roman Catholic Church, Jacob Arminius (1560–1609), and Baxter in mind. Rome, Arminius, and Baxter all hold that justification is an ongoing process where the believer’s sanctification plays a role in their final justification.39

Elsewhere, Owen acknowledges that the Roman Catholic Church holds to a double justification, a first and second. The first justification infuses a habit of grace or charity in baptism, and the second is consequent of the first and based upon the good works that proceed from this infused habitual grace. Owen mentions the Council of Trent (1546) by name.40 He objects to such a formulation because it turns sanctification into justification: “The whole nature of evangelical justification, consisting in the gratuitous pardon of sin and the imputation of righteousness, as the apostle expressly affirms, and the declaration of a believing sinner to be righteous thereon, as the word alone signifies, is utterly defeated by it.”41

If Owen rejects double justification, how does he explain the relationship of justification to the final judgment? Owen distinguishes between the nature and essence of justification and the manifestation or declaration of it. The former occurs in this life, the latter on the day of judgment. In this life when a person is justified, they know of it in their heart, but there is no formal external evidence of it before the church and the world. At the final judgment, the believer’s justification will be publicly declared and made manifest before the church and world. But Owen is careful to stipulate, “Yet is it not a second justification: for it depends wholly on the visible effects of that faith whereby we are justified, as the apostle James instructs us; yet is it only one single justification before God, evidenced and declared, unto his glory, the benefit of others, and increase of our own reward.”42 For Owen, there is only one justification grounded upon the imputed perfect righteousness of Christ. To introduce a second or final justification, in his mind, introduces the believer’s sanctification (hence confusing them); the believer’s good works are always ill suited for the scrutiny of judgment before the divine bar.43″

22 For a brief survey of Owen’s doctrine of union, see Ferguson, Christian Life, 32–36. For contemporary treatments of union with Christ from a Reformed perspective, see Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 447–53; Michael Horton, The Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 587–619; John Murray, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 161–74.
23 Owen, Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, 2:8–9, 16.
24 Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 21:149–50.
25 Owen, Communion, 22, 54.
26 Owen, The Doctrine of Justification, 5:133.
27 Ibid.
28 Ferguson, Christian Life, 35.
29 Ibid., 36.
30 Owen, Justification, 5:67.
31 Savoy Declaration, 11:1, in Creeds, 3:115; also Trueman, John Owen, 105–6.
32 Cf. Owen, Justification, 5:87, 89, 96, 110, 217, 219.
33 Ibid., 5:225.
34 Ibid., 5:234–35.
35 Ibid., 5:172–73.
36 Ibid., 5:173, 267.
37 Baxter, Justifying Righteousness, 7; idem, Confession of Faith, 296; cf. Boersma, Hot Pepper Corn, 273–327, esp. 290–99, 315–16; J. I. Packer, The Redemption and Restoration of Man in the Thought of Richard Baxter (Vancouver: Regent College, 2003), 241–65, esp. 252–53, 257–63.
38 Owen, Justification, 5.284–85.
39 Council of Trent, Session 3 (13 Jan 1547), in Creeds, 2.826–39; Baxter, Justifying Righteousness, 7; idem, Confession of Faith, 296; Jacob Arminius, The Works of James Arminius (ed. James Nichols and William Nichols; 3 vols.; 1825–75; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 2:407. One should note, however, that despite the similarities between Trent, Baxter, and Arminius, there are dissimilarities among these three, especially between Trent and the two Protestants, Baxter and Arminius. Baxter and Arminius, e.g., disagreed with the idea that baptism was the instrument of justification. Both Baxter and Arminius believed their own positions were different from the Roman Catholic doctrine (see, e.g., Arminius, Works, Disputation 19.11, 1:600–601).
40 Owen, Justification, 5:137–38.
41 Ibid., 5:138.
42 Ibid., 5:139.
43 Ibid., 5:140.
Fesko, J. V. (2012). John Owen on Union with Christ and Justification. Themelios, 37(1), 11–15.

Union with Christ Reformed Theology

Union with Christ Reformed Theology

“Reformed theologians who adhere to the system of covenant theology generally interpret union with Christ not as a discrete step in the ordo salutis but as a comprehensive concept that embraces the whole scope of salvation from eternity past to eternity future. Covenant theologians hold that all people are united with Adam in the old humanity by virtue of his federal headship under the covenant of works. Analogously, the elect are united with Christ, the second Adam, by virtue of his federal headship under the covenant of grace. This latter union of the saints with Christ comprehends every aspect of salvation from their election to their glorification. Advocates thus aver that Scripture describes the saints as predestined in Christ (Eph 1:4–5), called in Christ (2 Tim 1:9), regenerated in Christ (Eph 2:10), justified in Christ (Rom 8:1), sanctified in Christ (1 Cor 1:4–5), and glorified in Christ (Rom 8:17). Proponents designate the “in Christ” relation a “mystical” union because it transcends all earthly analogies and all human understanding. They claim that (1) formally the federal union of Christ and the elect was established in eternity past in the Covenant of Redemption (Eph 1:4). (2) Objectively it was brought about by the Incarnation and atoning work of Christ. And (3) subjectively believers experience identification with Christ personally by operation of the Holy Spirit. Kevan expressed the comprehensive scope of union with Christ thusly: “It begins in the eternal thoughts of God and comes to subjective realization in human experience by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the very beginning of salvation to a sinner, and it is the guarantee of its final consummation.”31 As to its nature, union with Christ is legal or forensic, in that it determines the believer’s standing with God, together with all the privileges associated therewith. In the words of Kuiper, union “is both the fountain and guarantee of every Christian virtue and of every Christian exercise.”32 The union is also experiential, involving Christ’s indwelling the life through his Spirit, transforming personal character and relationships. Berkhof (d. 1957) addressed this latter aspect when he wrote that union with Christ is “that intimate, vital, and spiritual union between Christ and his people, in virtue of which He is the source of their life and strength, of their blessedness and salvation.”33
John Murray (d. 1975) viewed union with Christ as the central truth of the doctrine of salvation. It is a broad category that brings together every aspect of the plan of salvation, past, present, and future. Wrote Murray, “Union with Christ is a very inclusive subject. It embraces the wide span of salvation from the ultimate source in the eternal election of God to its final fruition in the glorification of the elect.”34 With regard to (1) the inception of salvation, union with Christ involves the election of all believers in Christ (Eph 1:3–4). “There was no election of the Father in eternity apart from Christ. And that means that those who will be saved were not even contemplated by the Father in the ultimate counsel of his predestinating love apart from union with Christ—they were chosen in Christ.”35 Concerning (2) the continuation of salvation, union involves establishment of fellowship with the risen Christ. By an actual partaking of Christ, the saving grace, life, and power of the Savior become operative in the believer (Rom 6:4, 11). This present aspect of union involves effectual calling, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, and perseverance. Finally, with respect to (3) the consummation of salvation, union involves the believer’s bodily resurrection (1 Cor 15:22–23) and glorification (Rom 8:17b) with Christ.
Anthony A. Hoekema (d. 1988) agreed with Murray that union with Christ is not merely one phase of the temporal application of redemption; rather it is a comprehensive concept that undergirds the whole of redemption from eternity past to eternity future. Without explicitly relating the concept to the system of covenant theology, he argued that union with Christ has its roots in divine election, its basis in Christ’s redemptive work, its establishment with believers in time, and its consummation in heaven.
Expanding on this summary, Hoekema affirmed that (1) union with Christ began with God’s elective decision, made before the creation of the world, to save his people in and through Jesus Christ (Eph 1:3–4). Thus, “Union with Christ is not something ‘tacked on’ to our salvation; it is there from the outset, even in the plan of God.”36 (2) Union with Christ is grounded in the Savior’s redemptive work on the cross in history. Christ performed his saving work, Hoekema insisted, not on behalf of the world as a whole but for a distinct group of people, i.e., those in union with him (Eph 5:25; Tit 2:14). (3) Union with Christ is actually established with the elect after they are born and throughout the course of their lives. Hoekema added that the elect (a) are initially united with Christ in regeneration (Eph 2:4–5, 10), (b) live out this union by faith (Gal 2:20; Eph 3:16–17), (c) attain righteousness or justification through this union (2 Cor 5:21), (d) experience sanctification of life through union with Christ (John 15:4–5; Rom 6:4, 11), and (e) persevere to the end in union with him (Rom 8:38–39). Finally, (4) union with Christ is consummated following death in the life to come. Thus at the Parousia believers (a) will be raised with Christ (1 Cor 15:22–23; 1 Thess 4:16) and (b) will be glorified with him forever (1 Thess 4:17). In sum, “Union with Christ was planned from eternity, and is destined to continue eternally.”37”

31 Ernest F. Kevan, Salvation (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1963), p. 46.
32 Herman Kuiper, By Grace Alone (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1955), p. 39.
33 L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1941), p. 449.
34 John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1955), p. 165.
35 Ibid., p. 162.
36 Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1989), p. 57.
37 Ibid., p. 64.
Demarest, B. A. (1997). The cross and salvation: the doctrine of salvation (pp. 319–321). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Union with Christ

Union with Christ

“According to the New Testament, the religious experience of the earliest Christians was derived from and dependent upon Christ. Christian experience is more than an imitation of the life and teaching of Jesus. It is the present experience of the risen Christ indwelling the believer’s heart by the Spirit. Both Johannine and Pauline literature refer to this reality by emphasizing the inclusive and corporate personality of Christ.
Usage. Paul more often than any other New Testament author combines the preposition “in” (en) with some designation for Christ. The phrase and its cognates occur some two hundred times in Pauline literature. The apostle uses the term in more than one sense, and scholars have attempted to interpret the concept in a variety of ways (e.g., mystical, existential, sacramental, local, eschatological, and ecclesiastical). In places, the words “in Christ” can be understood as just another way of designating a Christian (Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 4:16). The idea of instrumentality or causality is an alternate usage of the phrase (Rom. 14:14; 2 Cor. 3:14; Gal. 2:17; Phil. 4:13). It is clear, however, that the words “in Christ” also have soteriological meaning for Paul (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 1:20). Being “in Christ” is presented as the only basis for justification and glorification (Col. 1:27). This is not a mysticism of absorption, the losing of human identity in the divine, but rather an intimate communion with God through Christ.
Paul expresses the personal appropriation of the work of Christ by the term “in Christ.” It is the apostle’s favorite term to describe the personal and dynamic relation of the believer to Christ, and appears in a variety of contexts. The phrase is found eight times in Galatians, thirty-four times in Ephesians, and eighteen times in Colossians. A number of these occurrences have nothing to do with the concept of incorporation, but rather, are instrumental. In Ephesians, for example, the phrase “in Christ” is predominantly used in the instrumental sense, signifying Christ as the channel through whom God works his will, elects, redeems, forgives, blesses, imparts new life, and builds up the church. The formula, however, is sometimes descriptive in character (Rom. 9:1; 1 Cor. 3:1). As such it has the meaning of “being a Christian” (Rom. 16:11; 1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 12:2; Phil 1:1; Philem. 16), and denotes certain identifiable characteristics that define a Christian. The formula is also applied to relations of those who are in the church (Rom. 16:12; Gal. 3:28; Col. 4:7; 1 Thess. 1:1). Thus, “in Christ” serves as the bond of unity within the fellowship of believers.
There are some occurrences, however, that use the formula “in Christ” in a locative sense, denoting the idea of incorporation (Rom. 8:1; 16:7; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:17; Phil. 3:8–9). In this sense, Christ is depicted as the locus of the believer’s life. If the preposition (en) is interpreted in a local, spatial sense, and Christos is understood mystically as the Spirit of the glorified Lord, then close union of Christ and the Christian is meant (2 Cor. 5:17). “In Christ” is an expression of intimate interrelatedness, analogous to the air that is breathed: it is in the person, yet at the same time, the person is in it. Thus, Paul’s use of the phrase is similar to his concept of being baptized “into Christ” (Gal. 3:27), with connotations of intimate spiritual communion with Christ. Those who have been baptized into Christ are “in him.” There are, however, eschatological dimensions of the phrase that indicate a dynamic influence of Christ on the Christian who is incorporated into him.
Union with Christ is the result of an act of divine grace, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Baptized into Christ, the believer is incorporated into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). This new position, “in Christ,” is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to his disciples: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20). The phrase “in Christ,” thus, has a corporate meaning as well: “those in the community of Christ.” Communion with Christ necessarily involves a social dimension, experiencing the shared life of his body. This community is defined by its relation to its representative head. Being “in Christ” is thus new life shared in community with those who are related to Christ.
The heart of Pauline theology is union with Christ (Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 6:17; Gal. 2:20). Although often overlooked in favor of an emphasis on justification by faith, Paul’s treatment of the spiritual life in Christ is central to the apostle’s understanding of religious experience. Communion with Christ is presented as synonymous with salvation, achieved by faith and consummated in love. Christ “for us” must be kept together with Christ “in us.” Union with Christ is organically related to both justification and sanctification (Rom. 5:8–10), and as such, life “in Christ” is the essence of Paul’s proclamation and experience. The concept, however, is also found in the teaching of Jesus: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20); “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4). Thus, the concept is not unique to Paul, but is implicit in the Gospel sayings of Jesus that stress his solidarity with God’s people (Matt. 18:20; Mark 8:38; John 15:1–11).
Paul gives particular emphasis to the “in Christ” theme in his epistle to the Ephesians. This is especially evident in 1:3–14, where the phrase (or a variant) occurs some eleven times. The majority of references in Ephesians posit God as the one acting “in Christ.” Those “in Christ” are in the thought and eternal purpose of God (1:3, 4, 9, 11; 2:6, 10; 3:9–11). Saints are elect “in Christ” (1:3–14). Christ is not only the means of election (1:5), but is depicted as the first elect (1:9). Election is made “in Christ,” denoting the execution of God’s purposes in and through his Son. Inclusion in Christ is to be united to his body. Those “in Christ” become part of God’s family (1:5; 2:18). Given the corporate nature of Paul’s “in Christ” formula, election “in Christ” entails God’s gracious choice of a people, a corporate election relative to the election of the Son. The blessings of redemption are stored by God “in Christ” (1:3, 6, 7, 13). Ephesians also utilizes the phrase to depict the sphere of the Christian’s daily life and experience (1:1, 3), and to describe the focal point of God’s plan to unite all things (1:10, 2:21)—a unification now in progress for those who are “in Christ” (2:13, 15, 21; 3:6).
Elsewhere, Paul uses the phrase to describe a mode of existence in which the believer identifies with the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:11); shares in his wisdom and holiness (1 Cor. 1:30); and receives a new life or existence (2 Cor. 5:17). This is expressed in the epistle to the Colossians by relating the theme of Christ’s “fullness” to the believer’s position “in him” (2:8–15). In Christ, who is the “fullness of the Deity” (v. 9), believers “have been given fullness” (v. 10). They have been circumcised by the “circumcision done by Christ” (v. 11), “buried with him in baptism,” and “raised with him through … faith” (v. 12). Faith-union with Christ, therefore, makes possible incorporation into a new sphere of existence marked by “fullness,” covenant relation, and resurrection life.
For the apostle, to be “in Christ” is the same as having “Christ in me” (Gal. 2:19–20). In fact, the message of “Christ in you” is the revelation of God’s “mystery” and the “hope of glory” for believers (Col. 1:27). Through faith and love the believer is united with his Lord. Present by his Spirit, Christ indwells believers and makes possible their adoption as sons and daughters of God (Rom. 8:14–16; Gal. 4:6). The Spirit of Jesus is given the believer and conforms the individual to the image of Christ. Thus, the clue to understanding the concept of fellowship with Christ is found in the phrase “in the Spirit.” The New Testament teaches that the Spirit mediates Christ’s presence to the believer. Paul develops this connection and identifies being “in Christ” with being “in the Spirit” (Rom. 8:9). The apostle perceives the Christian as existing in the Spirit and having the Spirit within. By making Christ real to the Christian, the Spirit provides the environment within which the believer lives “in Christ.”
Union with Christ is the result of an act of divine grace, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27), the believer is incorporated into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). A variety of biblical metaphors describe this union: vine and branches (John 15:1–6); head and body (Eph. 1:22–23; 4:15–16; 5:23); marital relation of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:23–32). The result of identification with Christ is organic union and spiritual life. Although Johannine literature depicts this incorporation as mutual and symmetrically reciprocal, Paul emphasizes the relationship of believers “in Christ” more than the indwelling of Christ in believers. The reverse, however, is the case with Paul’s treatment of the Spirit. There is more emphasis on the Christian being indwelt by the Spirit than on the believer in the Spirit. Thus, for Paul, the major agent of indwelling is the Spirit.
Incorporation and the Second Adam. “In Christ” denotes a profound personal identification with Christ that serves as the basis of salvation and new life. This is closely associated with the notion of sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:1–11; 8:17; Gal. 2:20; Col. 2:12; 3:1). Underlying these meanings is the concept of corporate personality. By faith believers are incorporated into the representative head of the new humanity, the Second Adam. For Paul, union with Christ results in the personal appropriation of the effects of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and glorification. By sharing in these events, the believer experiences them as living realities. In this way, Christ comes to live in and through a person.
Rather than interpreting this phrase as an isolated mystical experience, it is more appropriate to view it as describing a spiritual reality that interpenetrates all of life and finds corporate expression in the body of Christ. Thus, “dying and rising with Christ” is to be understood objectively as a participation in the historical death and resurrection of Jesus. This reality is expressed by Paul in the parallel drawn between Adam and Christ (Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:21–22). As representatives of old and new humanity, the actions and futures of these “corporate personalities” are paradigmatic for all those who belong to them.
Christ has accomplished his redemptive work “for us” through his suffering, death, and resurrection (Rom. 5:6–8; Gal. 1:4; 3:13). What took place “in Christ” makes possible the relationship of being “in him” (2 Cor. 5:17). The application of both past and future dimensions of his redemptive work to the believer is characterized by the phrase “with Christ.” Christians are identified as those who have died and been resurrected with Christ (Rom. 6:5; Col. 2:12–13, 20; 3:1, 3), who sit with him in heaven (Eph. 2:6), and who will appear with him in glory (Col. 3:4). The relation of Christians to Christ is one of faith, not mystical absorption. When the apostles John and Paul speak of being “in Christ,” they are referring to solidarity with a corporate personality. Just as humankind is “in Adam,” and Israel is God’s son (or the Servant of Yahweh), so the New Israel is “in Christ.” Those who believe in Christ and are baptized into him are a part of the new humanity; they are incorporated into the corporate personality of Christ. The biblical doctrine of representative humanity is also the basis for understanding the expressions “Christ in you” (Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:27), Christ dwelling in his disciples (Eph. 3:17), and being in or abiding in them (John 14:20; 15:4, 7; 17:23, 26; 1 John 3:24).
Through identification with the crucified and resurrected Savior, the believer dies to the old humanity and is incorporated into the new humanity made possible by the Second Adam. “In Christ” there is a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), the believer having entered an entirely new sphere of existence. Union with Christ thus means to be enlivened by the power of his resurrection, to live in the realm of the Spirit. Christ’s presence is directly connected to the eschatological gift of the Spirit. In Christ, the Spirit is at work carrying out God’s redemptive purposes. These purposes are summed up by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14–21. God has reconciled the world to himself through Christ. Not only through him, but “in him” there is redemption and reconciliation. It is through solidarity with Christ as the Second Adam that humanity has the possibility of a new course (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:21–22, 45; Col. 1:18). Paul identifies this new mode of existence with being indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus. The glorified Christ lives in his followers by his Spirit (Rom. 8:9–11; Gal. 4:6). In him, who is the Head of the new humanity, there is life eternal.
In close connection with the Adam-Christ parallel are Paul’s references to the “old” and “new” nature (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22–24; Col. 3:9–10). These are terms that not only represent the status of an individual before and after conversion, but also signify the change that has already taken effect in Christ’s death (Rom. 6:6—“we know that our old self was crucified with him”). On the cross, the old nature was judged, condemned, and put to death (Rom. 8:3). In identifying with this death, believers have died to the old nature (Rom. 6:2; Col. 3:3), and have been freed from the tyranny of sin. “In Christ,” they have been transferred to a new order of existence, that of the “new nature.” Thus, “old” and “new” signify more than personal and ethical change, but are also to be understood as terms referring to old and new humanity in the scope of salvation history.
Incorporated into Christ’s death, believers have “put off the old nature.” Through identification with Christ’s resurrection, they have likewise “put on the new nature.” Being in solidarity with Christ makes possible the new creation, renewal in the image of the Creator (Col. 3:10). “In Adam,” old humanity experiences solidarity with him in sin and death. “In Christ,” however, the creation of a new humanity is made possible, which experiences solidarity with him in righteousness and life (Rom. 5:18–21). Thus, just as humankind bears the image of the first Adam by virtue of corporate identification, those who have become incorporated into Christ are recreated in the image of the Second Adam (Eph. 2:10). The corporate nature of this identification is emphasized by Paul in his treatment of the new creation, referring to the whole body of Christ as “the one new man” (Eph. 2:15).
Being “in Christ” is not only the basis of Christian individual and corporate identity, but also serves as the basis of transformed relationships (Gal. 3:26–29). Those “in Christ” are not only Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise (v. 29), they also are meant to manifest a oneness that knows no barriers, whether racial, social, or sexual (v. 28). The concept of being “in Christ” refers not only to the believer’s vertical relationships (“sons of God” who “put on Christ,” vv. 26–27), but also to the horizontal relationships of daily living (“neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female,” v. 28). “All” who respond to Christ “through faith” (v. 26) and are “baptized into Christ” (v. 27) are “one” (v. 28). Incorporation into Christ by identification with his death and resurrection means to become part of a body. To be joined to the corporate Christ is to become part of an organic whole, under his headship (1 Cor. 6:15; 12:12–13; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 1:22–23; 2:14–16; 3:6; 4:4, 12–16; 5:23, 30; Col. 1:18; 2:19; 3:15). The principle of incorporation is also highlighted in Paul’s use of the temple metaphor. Christ is the foundation and cornerstone of the temple, while believers are the stones built together into a corporate whole and indwelt by God (1 Cor. 3:16–17, 19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:20–22).
Thus, the nature of the Christian is described by Paul with the formula “in Christ.” This meant for the apostle that those who put their faith in Christ identified with him as the head of a new humanity. The phrase is a social concept; to become incorporated into this new humanity is represented as belonging to the church as the true community of God. At the same time, however, Paul’s understanding of being “in Christ” involved a personal and intimate relationship with Christ. Although the corporate meaning of the formula is important, this does not preclude the apostle’s emphasis on personal faith-union and fellowship with Christ. The theme of incorporation is found outside the Pauline corpus, especially in the Johannine writings (John 14:10–11; 15:4–5, 7; 17:21–23; 1 John 2:5–6, 24, 27; 3:6, 24; 4:4, 12–13, 15; 5:20). These passages speak of a variety of relationships that are represented in terms of a reciprocal indwelling.
Christ-Mysticism and Union with God. Paul’s teaching on union with Christ has often been labeled as Christian “mysticism.” This is an appropriate term if understood in a qualified sense. Paul viewed communion with God as an act of divine grace, coming not by any spiritual exercises, but by God’s self-revelation (Gal. 1:16). Thus, union with Christ is something to accept by faith, not something to achieve by human effort. Neither does being “in Christ” involve the loss of individuality, nor the absorption of the individual into the divine Spirit (Rom. 8:14, 16; Gal. 2:20), but the heightening of individual qualities and characteristics. In addition, being “in Christ” is more than mystical union; it involves a moral union that provides the ethical dynamic for Christian living. This is more than a gospel of ethical example (an impossible ideal), but the indwelling of Christ who provides the motive power to live in obedience to God.
For Paul to be “in Christ” was to be “in the Spirit.” Paul distinguishes between Christ and the Spirit, but views the function of the latter as mediating the former to believers. As the operative agent of God in the Christian’s life, the Spirit never acts apart from Christ. Thus, although distinct entities, Christ and the Spirit are experienced together, and are the means by which persons come into relation with God. Pauline mysticism, however, is a communal or corporate mysticism. “In Christ” is used in a way that is similar to Paul’s understanding of Christians being fellow members of the body of Christ. Incorporation into this body is by faith in Jesus Christ. Having identified with the death and resurrection of Christ, the body is empowered by his Spirit to manifest his presence to the world. The Christian lives in vital union with Christ, expressing corporately the love of Christ personally appropriated by faith.
Union with Christ is union with God. Although Christocentric, Paul’s theology is grounded on the premise that “God was in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:19). Fellowship with Christ is fellowship with God (Rom. 8:11; cf. 1 John 1:3). Although union with God is dependent on God’s gracious initiative, it also requires a human response (Eph. 2:8). Central to Paul’s notion of being “in Christ” is the fact of faith. It is the indispensable condition for salvation, a placing of one’s trust in the God revealed in Jesus Christ. This faith is the basis for intimate union with Christ, since it is the self-abandonment of the redeemed to the Redeemer. Faith-union thus finds its focal point in the death and resurrection of Christ. At the same time, being “in Christ” also has eschatological implications. Union with him involves looking beyond the present to the future. Even though the believer experiences communion with Christ, there is a yearning for more intimate knowledge and relationship (Phil. 1:23; 3:10). Present union with Christ is still “absence from the Lord,” and hence seeks fulfillment in his future advent or “presence” (parousia).
Conclusion. The notion of union with Christ is multidimensional in theological significance. “In Christ,” believers identify with his death (Rom. 6:3, 5–11), his burial (Rom. 6:4), his resurrection (Col. 3:1), his ascension (Eph. 2:6), his lordship (2 Tim. 2:12), and his glory (Rom. 8:17). As a result, certain characteristics of Christ’s person and work are attributed to those in communion with him. The “in Christ” formula is thus a comprehensive term, tying together soteriological, pneumatological, and ecclesiological dimensions of Christian experience. At the same time, it is a mystical concept, in that union with Christ is experienced “in the Spirit.” The phrase also has an ethical dimension, as reflected in the idea of a new humanity made possible in solidarity with the Second Adam. Last but not least, “in Christ” has eschatological significance, in describing the status of the believer, whose life has been transformed by the presence of the kingdom of God experienced in Christ

Rightmire, R. D. (1996). Union with Christ. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 789–792). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

More Information  (Union with Christ Reformed Theology)

Ladd responding to dispensational pre tribulation rapture

Ladd responding to dispensational pre tribulation rapture

“This pretribulation coming of Christ to raise the dead saints and to rapture the living church has become the most characteristic doctrine of Dispensationalists. We must examine the language used in the New Testament to see if it supports this idea of a coming of Christ before the Great Tribulation.

Three words are employed in the New Testament to describe the second advent. The first is “parousia,” which means “coming,” “arrival,” or “presence.” This is the word most frequently used of our Lord’s return, and it is used in connection with the Rapture of the church.

We that are alive, that are left unto the parousia of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:15–17)

It is very difficult to find a secret coming of Christ in these verses. His coming will be attended with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the heavenly trumpet. Someone has said that the shout and the trumpet sound will be loud enough to wake the dead!

Furthermore, the parousia of Christ will occur not only to rapture the church and to raise the righteous dead but also to destroy the Man of Lawlessness, the Antichrist. “And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to naught by the manifestation of his parousia” (2 Thess. 2:8). This is obviously no secret event, for the parousia of Christ will be an outshining, a manifestation. Furthermore, this verse locates the parousia at the end of the Tribulation. One would naturally conclude by comparing the verses just cited that the Rapture of the living saints, the resurrection of those who have died, and the judgment upon the Antichrist will all take place at the same time, namely, at the parousia of Jesus at the end of Tribulation.

Furthermore, it is at his parousia that Jesus will be accompanied by all his saints. Paul prays that God may establish the Thessalonians in holiness “at the parousia of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thess. 3:13). At his parousia the Lord will come to bring his saints with him, to raise the righteous dead, to rapture the living believers, and to destroy Antichrist.
The parousia will be a glorious event. Christ will destroy the Man of Lawlessness by the breath of his mouth and “by the manifestation [literally, “epiphany” or “outshining”] of his parousia” (2 Thess. 2:8). The rendition of the King James Version is not wrong: “by the brightness of his coming.” This epiphany will be a glorious event, for Paul speaks of “the epiphany of the glory of our great God and our Saviour” (Titus 2:13).

We find the same teaching of a glorious visible parousia in Jesus’ words. “For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the parousia of the Son of man” (Matt. 24:27). It will be like a bolt of lightning, glorious, visible, evident to all.

The usual answer given to these facts by those who separate the coming of Christ into two parts is that parousia means “presence” and therefore covers the entire period of time which is introduced by the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation. Thus, we are told, parousia can refer either to the coming of Christ at the Rapture or to his Revelation at the end of the Tribulation.

It is true that sometimes parousia does mean “presence.” Paul contrasts his presence (parousia) with the Philippians with his absence (apousia) from them (Phil. 2:12). The Corinthians accused Paul of inconsistency, because “his letters … are strong, but his bodily presence is weak” (2 Cor. 10:10). However, the word does not always mean “presence”; more often it means “arrival.” When Paul in Ephesus received envoys from Corinth, he rejoiced at their parousia, that is, their coming or arrival (1 Cor. 16:17). When Paul was concerned about the condition of things at Corinth, he was comforted by the arrival (parousia) of Titus (2 Cor. 7:6). It was not the presence of Titus but his arrival with good news from Corinth that provided the comfort. To translate parousia by “presence” would empty it of its particular point. This is illustrated in the following instances: “Be patient, brethren, until the parousia of the Lord.… Be ye also patient; establish your hearts; for the parousia of the Lord is at hand” (Jas. 5:7–8). “Where is the promise of his parousia?” (2 Pet. 3:4). In these verses it is the coming, the return, the advent of the Lord which is called for; “presence” does not suit the context.

It is not the presence so much as the coming of Christ which is required in the verses we have just discussed. It is at the coming, the advent of Christ, that the dead will be raised and the living caught up; “presence” does not fit. It is at his coming, his advent, not his presence, that he will be accompanied by his saints. His coming, his advent, will be like a bolt of lightning. The parousia of Christ is his second coming, and it will bring both salvation and judgment: salvation of the saints, and judgment of the world.

A second word used of our Lord’s return is apokalypsis, which means “revelation.” The apocalypse or Revelation of Christ is distinguished by pretribulationists from the Rapture of the church and is placed at the end of the Tribulation when Christ comes in glory to bring judgment upon the world. If this view is correct, then the apocalypse of Christ is not primarily the blessed hope of the Christian. When the Revelation occurs, the saints will have been raptured and will have received from the hand of Christ their rewards for the things done in the body. They will already have entered into the full enjoyment of life and fellowship with Christ. The apocalypse of Christ is for judgment of the wicked, not for the salvation of the church. According to pretribulationism, the Rapture at the secret coming of Christ is our blessed hope and the object of our fond expectation, not the Revelation.

This, however, is not what we find in the Scripture. We are “waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7). According to pretribulationism we are not waiting for the Revelation but for the Rapture. The church is to suffer affliction until the time of the apocalypse of Christ. Paul says that “it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, and to you that are afflicted, rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven, with the angels of his power in flaming fire” (2 Thess. 1:6–7). According to pretribulationism this rest from persecution has already been experienced at the Rapture; it does not await the Revelation of Jesus Christ. But the Word of God says it is received at the Revelation.”

Ladd, G. E. (1978). The last things: an eschatology for Laymen (pp. 50–53). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lord’s Supper

Lord’s Supper

“An English-born preacher8 taught this writer years ago that to be a valid ordinance of the Christian church, an observance had to be three things:

1. Instituted by Christ Himself (Three of the four Gospels record His instituting this rite.)
2. Practiced in the Acts of the Apostles. (There are several references to the Supper in Acts.)
3. Explained in the Epistles of the NT. (The fullest account is in 1 Corinthians 11, though there are other briefer references.)

Only two ordinances meet these three criteria: baptism9 and the Lord’s Supper.

Although I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the meetings of the early Christians10 and read countless tomes and articles on early Christianity, I never found anything to shake my acceptance of this three-fold test.

If one believes in the “development” theory of the Church, namely, that ecclesiastical officials can add to, delete, or change Christ’s teachings—this little test will seem naive in the extreme. But I expect most Bible Christians11 will appreciate its simple truth.

In the earliest days of the Church, when believers were all together in Jerusalem, the disciples apparently broke bread every day (although some of these events may have been ordinary meals).

By the time the Church had progressed in its spread across the Roman Empire to many Gentile areas, the frequency of celebration would seem to have become weekly: “the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread” (Acts 20:6).

Perhaps in reaction to the high-church notion that communion can help save one’s soul, Protestants have generally cut down on the weekly (or daily communion) to a monthly, or even a quarterly communion (a few just yearly). Many ultra-dispensationalists, as we have seen, totally reject the Supper for this age, along with most Quakers and the Salvation Army.
Several devout church leaders, such as John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, George Mueller, and Charles H. Spurgeon,12 have encouraged weekly communion, and several groups in Christendom who hold biblical views on the ordinance follow the practice of the early Church in this.

The practice of the NT Church shows that the Christians gathered around the table of the Lord to worship the Lord by reading the Scriptures, praying, singing hymns, sharing, preaching, and taking part in the elements of Christ’s passion. First Corinthians 16:1–2 also shows that at least on occasion a collection was taken.”

8 The preacher was Edwin Fesche, now of Baltimore, who preached the sermon that led this editor to believe the Gospel.
9 See JOTGES, Spring 1990, for a discussion of this doctrine.
10 Arthur L. Farstad, “Historical and Exegetical Consideration of New Testament Church Meetings,” unpublished doctoral dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1972. 397 pp.
11 A Roman Catholic priest on a nationwide TV program referred to our type of believers as “Bible Christians.” It is a good term for those whose whole faith and practice are built on God’s Word.
12 Müller and Spurgeon both practiced weekly communion, the former at Bethesda Chapel, Bristol (Brethren), and the latter at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London (Baptist).
Farstad, A. L. (1991). We Believe In: The Lord’s Supper. Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society Volume 4, 4(1), 7–8.

That The Great Commission Of Matthew 28 Is Not For This Age Of Grace

That The Great Commission Of Matthew 28 Is Not For This Age Of Grace

“That The Great Commission Of Matthew 28 Is Not For This Age Of Grace

At this point there is often an effort to identify their position with the teaching of well-known dispensationalists such as A. C. Gaebelein, J. N. Darby, and William Pettingill. These men, however, did not arrive at the same conclusions at all as do the ultradispensationalists.

Essentially the claim is made: (1) that the commission of Matthew 28 (and the other gospels) is merely an expansion of the one recorded in Matthew 10 and is therefore limited to Israel, (2) that since miraculous powers accompanied the commission it was therefore related to the Jewish church and not to the church which is His body, and (3) that since Peter offered the kingdom to Israel after Pentecost (Acts 3) he was still operating in obedience to the Great Commission of Matthew 28, confining his ministry to Israel and yet in ignorance of the higher program °f God as represented in the Body of Christ. In commenting on the Great Commission Stam writes:

To assume that our Lord now sends these apostles to proclaim ‘the gospel of the grace of God’ is wholly unwarranted. In fact, ‘the gospel of the grace of God’ is not preached nor even mentioned until Paul is railed up and sent forth to declare it. .. (Cornelius Stam, Things That Differ,, p 181).

To use their own language, the propagators of this view have assumed that the presence of accompanying miracles in the early stages of apostolic obedience to the Great Commission confines the ministry of the apostles to Israel. However, miracles were even worked by Paul, the exponent of so-called “body truth” (cf. 2 Cor. 12:12). The miracles simply validated the preaching of the apostles. Nor does the “legalism” of Matthew 28:19–20 (whatever that may mean) and the baptismal regeneration supposedly found in Mark’s account detract one iota from the force of this last command of Christ. The details of the gospel of grace are not found in the Great Commission for it was not a theological treatise but a stirring call to action. This does not mean, however, that it was a call to minister something other than the gospel of grace. The apostles understood grace more fully following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but the basic elements of the church’s task are found in Christ’s command tc evangelize (“make disciples”), and instruct (“baptizing. .. teaching”). That this commission was to be obeyed throughout the church age seems evident from the promise of the Lord that He would support them in the ministry, “even unto (he end of the age.” To suggest, furthermore, that salvation in any dispensation was ever dependent upon water baptism (as do ultradispensationalists) is to undermine the doctrine of salvation by. grace, yet Stam writes, “It cannot be denied that from John the Baptist right through Pentecost water baptism was stated to be a requirement for salvation” (C. R. Stam, “The Lord’s Supper,” p. 13). God has always saved men by grace through faith in every dispensation though their understanding of the gospel has not been the same in every dispensation.

The passage in Mark 16:16 makes the crux of salvation personal faith in the Saviour, but such saving faith is outwardly evidenced in obedience to Christ, the first step of which is immersion in water according to His command. The difficulty in the Acts 2:38 reference (declared by ultradispensationalists to teach baptismal regeneration and therefore to apply to the Jewish and not the Pauline church) can be resolved by attending carefuljy to the possibilities of translation which would make it read, “… be baptized on account of the remission of sins,….” They were to be baptized, not to take away their sins, but because their sins had been taken away.

It may be concluded, therefore, that the Great Commission cannot and should not be laid aside by the followers of Jesus Christ, but constitutes the will of God for believers today.”

(1961). Central C. B. Quarterly, 4(4), 40–41.



“Terms In the NT the concept of holiness is presented primarily by the adjective Gk. hágios, “holy”; by the three related nouns indicating holiness, hagiasmós, hagiótēs, and hagiōsýnē; and by the verb, hagiázō, “make holy or sanctify.” Of the three nouns only hagiasmós can be rendered as indicating the process of making holy, i.e., sanctification or consecration. Hagiótēs indicates personal holiness whereas hagiōsýnē is a term for holiness generally or abstractly considered. The meaning of these words for “holy” is clarified somewhat by noting the other Greek adjectives used in the NT that can have the implication of “holy”: hierós, hósios, and hagnós. Hierós indicates something sacred but usually only in the outward sense of a rite. Hósios, “reverent” or “pious,” does not connote a purity so separated from the world as to belong only to God and to those who are His—and thus is not closely associated with the divine as is hágios. Hagnós, “pure,” “chaste,” or “undefiled,” stands in close etymological relationship to hágios, and is occasionally used in the NT to indicate the moral purity that is characteristic of God (1 Jn. 3:3) and of believers (cf. Tit. 2:5). Hagnós lacks the breadth of meaning of hágios and does not have a related noun indicative of the process of sanctification, but only the rarely used noun hagnótēs, meaning “purity” or “sincerity.”

Thus hágios is the adjective applied to God, to the Spirit, and to Christ. In His intercessory prayer Jesus Christ called God “Holy Father” (Jn. 17:11), and in Rev. 4:8 is called thrice holy. Throughout the NT, hágios is the adjective in the name “Holy Spirit,” and Christ Himself is called “the Holy One of God” (Mk. 1:24; Lk. 4:34). Persons who have been chosen by God for Himself and thereby set apart from the world are also holy. Christ is called God’s “holy servant” (Acts 4:30) and believers are elect or called “saints” (hágioi, 1 Cor. 1:2). Because of their divine origin and purpose, Christian calling (2 Tim. 1:9) and the OT Scriptures (Rom. 1:2) are called holy.

B. The Ethical Emphasis of the Gospels Although all of the above uses of hágios draw in some measure on the originally religious concept found at the root of OT usage, i.e., the concept of separation from the profane and of being set apart for the divine, the NT emphasis is clearly upon the ethical dimension of the holy. The nouns indicating holiness, particularly hagiasmós, “sanctification,” make this apparent. Sanctification is the result of God making someone holy (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2) and is viewed ethically in relation to faith and love (1 Tim. 2:15). Similarly, throughout the Pauline epistles, sanctity is contrasted not with the profane or the worldly in general but with lust and moral impurity (Rom. 6:19–22; 1 Thess. 3:13; 4:3–5, 7), and is paired with “righteousness” (Rom. 6:19; Eph. 4:24). Hagiótēs, personal holiness, likewise indicates purity or ethical uprightness and, indeed, the divine purity to which believers will ultimately be conformed (He. 12:10).

Thus Jesus’ preaching issues a clear call to a decision for God, for the kingdom and against the world, that marks the basic fact of the separation of all those who belong to God from the profane, the sinful, and the demonic. The rich young man (Mt. 19:16–22 par) is told to sell all he has and to follow Christ; the disciples are admonished that those who give up house, family, and lands for His sake will be rewarded in heaven (Mt. 19:29). To belong both to the kingdom and to the world is an impossibility, for no one can serve God and mammon (Mt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13). The character of those so separated from the world is godliness and perfection like that of the heavenly Father (Mt. 5:43–48). Thus the separation of Christians from the world is identified primarily in terms of righteousness attained through repentance and divine forgiveness, i.e., it is an ethical separation, a sanctification in the fullest sense.

Jesus’ call to repentance and to new, inward obedience in the kingdom is specifically linked by Paul to the identity of believers as “saints” or “holy ones” (hágioi) who are called to be ethically set apart to God (1 Cor. 1:2). Paul’s conception of the life of those “called to be saints” rests on his theology of grace. The saints are called in the present life to be conformed to Christ by the work of the Spirit, and are, indeed, “predestined” by God “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). On this foundation of grace and divine calling, Christians are exhorted to an active life of Christ-like conduct (cf. Gal. 5:6; Phil. 2:5; Col. 3:1–4; 1 Thess. 5:10). Nonetheless, in every aspect of their ethical holiness or newfound righteousness Christians are to recognize that not they themselves, certainly not their own work or their own will, but God working in them is the source of their holiness or righteousness (Phil. 2:13).

are called to be ethically set apart to God (1 Cor. 1:2). Paul’s conception of the life of those “called to be saints” rests on his theology of grace. The saints are called in the present life to be conformed to Christ by the work of the Spirit, and are, indeed, “predestined” by God “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). On this foundation of grace and divine calling, Christians are exhorted to an active life of Christ-like conduct (cf. Gal. 5:6; Phil. 2:5; Col. 3:1–4; 1 Thess. 5:10). Nonetheless, in every aspect of their ethical holiness or newfound righteousness Christians are to recognize that not they themselves, certainly not their own work or their own will, but God working in them is the source of their holiness or righteousness (Phil. 2:13).

C. The Language of Progress in Sanctity Paul also joins the NT language of sanctification to a concept of progress or perfection in holiness. The initial renewal or hallowing of the individual in Christ, by the Spirit, which takes place following forgiveness of sins and justification sets believers apart even though sin and the struggle with sin continue to be a part of their lives. Thus Paul exhorts the Philippians to work out their own salvation (Phil. 2:12), and to move forward in holiness, upon the ground established for them in the grace of Christ, toward the goal of being utterly refashioned according to Christ’s image (Rom. 8:29). Paul seems to associate the passing away of imperfection with the final vision of God (1 Cor. 13:10–12) and to view the perfect conformity of believers to Christ as an eschatological event (15:42–50). In addition, when Paul speaks of becoming “perfect” (Gk. téleios), he most certainly does not mean an absolute perfection, like the divine perfection, but rather a maturity in faith (Phil. 3:15), which he himself has not yet attained (3:12). The word téleios itself indicates an orientation toward a goal. Christ’s own mandate to perfection, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48), echoes the future orientation of its OT analogues, Dt. 18:13 and Lev. 19:2.
Nonetheless, Paul did not intend by this language a progress of believers from unholiness to holiness. The imperfection of believers is an incompleteness of those who have already been set apart by grace through faith and who are regenerate. Their progress is, therefore, a progress in holiness: God has willed their sanctification and has “called” them “not … for uncleanness, but in holiness” (1 Thess. 4:3, 7). Indeed, God will sanctify them “wholly” and keep them “blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:23f) by increasing their love to one another and to all mankind (3:12f.). Paul also described the process of attainment of this holiness as a work both of the Spirit and of the individual believer. Sanctification occurs “in the Spirit” and as “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22–25), but it is also a self-cleansing and a self-consecration (cf. Rom. 12:1f.; 2 Cor. 7:1). Thus sanctification rests both upon the grace of God that begins and continues to work the good in the hearts of believers, and upon human purpose, in the Spirit, to continued exhortation to holiness. The progress of this work of the Spirit and of the human response points directly toward the consummation of God’s purpose in “the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10f.).

Whereas the Pauline language of sanctity and perfection points away from earthly expectation of perfect holiness, the Johannine language seems to insist upon it. Believers are children of God, separated from the world and its lack of knowledge of God, destined to be like God in the eschaton. This hope is intimately related to the purification of believers who progress in this life toward the purity of the God in whom they hope (1 Jn. 3:2f.). The Son of God, in whom this redemption and purification is made possible, “appeared to take away sins” and is personally sinless (3:5). “No one,” therefore, “who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him” (3:6). The basis of this sinlessness is the new birth that overcomes the world (5:4f, 18). John makes it clear that this victory is not a human work, but a divine work. Human beings are deceived if they deny their own sinfulness—but if they confess their sinfulness they will be forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Christ (1:7–9).

A somewhat different perspective on sanctification can be drawn from 1 Peter and Hebrews. These writings emphasized the objective establishment of believers in holiness rather than the subjective form of the sanctified life. Peter views sanctification as a primary and immediate characteristic of the life into which Christians are drawn by the Spirit. This sanctity is profoundly related to the covenant sacrifice of Christ, specifically, the sprinkling of His blood (1 Pet. 1:2, 18f.). Believers are “sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1:2). Thus Peter views sanctification as the basis upon which believers move forth in obedience and receive forgiveness through Christ’s blood. Hebrews even more forcefully binds sanctification to the language of sacrifice and covenant. It presents sanctification as the objective consecration of believers effected in and through Christ’s sacrifice: “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (He. 10:10; cf. 9:13f.). Not only have believers been made holy by this sacrifice, they have also been “perfected for all time” (10:14).

The seeming tension between the ideas of progress in holiness and attainment of sinlessness found in Paul and John on the one side, and the teaching of an already accomplished sanctification found in 1 Peter and Hebrews on the other, finds theological resolution in the essentially gracious character of the work of salvation and in the eschatological character of the NT preaching. The objective fact of the separation of believers from the world on the basis of an inward, spiritual regeneration is the gracious gift of God in the work of salvation. In the “now” of the kingdom, the transformation of human nature has been accomplished from the divine side. Thus Paul can declare “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11), placing sanctification in the same context of baptismal worship as regeneration and justification by faith. Here the meaning of sanctity is surely a combination of the original, religious or pre-ethical concept and its ethical result, inasmuch as believers are both consecrated to God in the moment of regeneration and justification without being made perfectly righteous, and also inwardly transformed so that righteousness and holiness may be perfected in them (cf. Rom. 6:19). This fundamental sanctity of believers can be traced back to its foundation in the eternal plan of God (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2).

In the eschatological “not yet” of the kingdom, however, the fact of the consecration of believers now points, through progress in holiness, toward the consummation of their transformation in Christ. The same Corinthians that Paul called “sanctified” (1 Cor. 6:11) he also encouraged to cleanse themselves “from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). It is in this eschatological and teleological sense of sanctification as progress toward perfection that the ethical dimension of the concept is clearest. In one sense believers are consecrated to God and blameless before Him because of the work of Christ, but in another sense they must still be perfected in the day of Christ. Nonetheless the NT also has a strong sense of the eschatological character of the “now” of the kingdom, of the proleptic presence of the goal of history in the work of Christ on earth—with the result that the goal of our present exercise of holiness and righteousness must also somehow be fulfilled in us insofar as we are in Christ. This aspect of the “now” of the kingdom may account for John’s pointed declaration of the sinlessness of believers in Christ.”

Muller, R. A. (1979–1988). Sanctification. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 4, pp. 322–324). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

“ἅγιος (hagios). adj. dedicated to God, holy, pure, sacred, consecrated, reverent. Set apart for God’s purposes.

This is the basic Greek word for “holy.” The Septuagint regularly uses it to translate both קָדֹשׁ (qādōš, “holy”) and קֹדֶשׁ (qōdeš, “holiness”). It is by far the most common word in the NT to describe something as holy or set apart to God. It is used to describe objects, animals, humans, places, and the Spirit of God, i.e., the Holy (hagios) Spirit (e.g., Mark 3:29). That which is holy is reserved for God and for God’s service or purposes. Jerusalem is the “holy (hagios) city” (Matt 4:5; Rev 11:2). As the Mosaic law declares, the first-born male is holy (hagios) to the Lord (Luke 2:23). Paul metaphorically calls the Jews who believed in Christ “the dough offered as firstfruits,” which is holy (hagios) and thus sanctifies the whole lump (i.e., the whole Church, including Gentile Christians). Being holy can also have a moral connotation, as when Mark 6:20 uses “righteous (δίκαιος, dikaios)” and “holy (hagios)” in parallel. This is even clearer in Peter’s citation of Lev 19:2: “As the one who called you is holy (hagios), you yourselves also be holy (hagios) in your behavior” (1 Pet 1:15).

In the NT, the plural of hagios is often used for “holy people” or “saints.” Paul writes to “the saints (hagios) who are in Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph 1:1). Even the believers at Corinth, with all their moral problems, are referred to by Paul as “those who are sanctified (hagiazō) in Christ Jesus, called [as] saints (hagios; 1 Cor 1:2).” Hence, being in Christ makes one holy and set apart for the Lord’s purposes.

ἁγιάζω (hagiazō). vb. to set apart, sanctify, consecrate, dedicate. To make something holy.

This verb is related to ἅγιος (hagios, “holy”) and refers to making something hagios; it is the usual translation in the Septuagint of קָדַשׁ (qādaš, “to sanctify”). The gold of the temple is holy, for it is sanctified (hagiazō) by being part of or used in the temple in Jerusalem (Matt 23:17). This is the same idea as in the Old Testament; by coming into contact with that which is holy, someone or something becomes holy. Either God or people may do the sanctifying, and people, objects, and places may be sanctified. In his high-priestly prayer, Jesus says, “I sanctify (hagiazō) myself, in order that [the disciples] themselves may be sanctified (hagiazō) in truth” (John 17:19). In Matt 6:9, Jesus instructs his followers to pray to the Father that he will make his name sanctified (hagiazō). The Father sanctified (hagiazō) the Son and sent him into the world (John 10:36). Paul desires that the offering of the Gentiles may be well-pleasing, being sanctified (hagiazō) in the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16).

ἁγιασμός (hagiasmos). n. masc. sanctification, consecration, holiness. The state or process of being set apart for the purposes of God.

This is an abstract noun derived from the verb ἁγιάζω (hagiazō, “to set apart, sanctify”) and refers to the process or result of being sanctified (hagiazō). Paul states that believers are saved “by the sanctification (hagiasmos) of the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thess 2:13). Jesus has become wisdom, righteousness, sanctification (hagiasmos), and redemption for all who are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:30). God has called believers to live a sanctified lifestyle, which is God’s will. Paul delineates this specifically as being a matter of sexual purity (1 Thess 4:3, 4, 7). Paul exhorts the believers in Rome to give or present their members (i.e., body parts) to God in sanctification (hagiasmos), and he states that doing so will bring fruit that leads to sanctification, which has the end result of eternal life (Rom 6:19–22).

ἁγιωσύνη (hagiōsynē). n. fem. holiness. The state of being holy.

In 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to cleanse themselves of all defilement, thus fulfilling holiness (hagiōsynē), i.e., becoming fully holy. Paul offers a prayer or “benediction” for the Thessalonian Christians, that God will cause them to abound with love in order that their hearts may be established blameless in holiness (hagiōsynē; 1 Thess 3:13). In Rom 1:4 Paul writes that Jesus was declared the Son of God according to the Spirit of Holiness (hagiōsynē), i.e., the Holy Spirit.

ἁγιότης (hagiotēs). n. fem. holiness. The state of being holy.

In the NT, this word appears only in Heb 12:10. The author states that God disciplines believers in order that they may share in his holiness (hagiotēs). As holiness is a core aspect of who God is, when he makes people or things his own, they share in his holiness.

ἱερός (hieros). adj. holy. Pertaining to what is in the state of transcendent purity, or being part of the temple service.

The word hieros is much less frequent in the NT than ἅγιος (hagios). It is used to describe something that is holy in the sense of being fit for or dedicated to worship in the temple. In 1 Corinthians 9:13, hieros refers to the sacred duties performed by temple personnel. It also appears in the phrase “holy (hieros) Scriptures” (2 Tim 3:15). The word is used in the short ending of the Gospel of Mark (see Mark 16:8 in LEB).

ὅσιος (hosios). adj. pious, devout, holy, pleasing to God. Without fault in relation to the deity.

In Acts 2:27 Peter quotes Psa 16:10 and applies the phrase “your Holy One (hosios)” to Jesus; hosios here translates the Hebrew חָסִיד (ḥāsîd, “pious one”); it is also the usual Septuagint equivalent of ḥāsîd. Hebrews 7:26 describes Jesus as a holy (hosios) high priest. In Rev 15:4, the saints praise God, saying “you alone are holy (hosios).” Acts 13:34–35 offers a special case. Paul quotes Isa 55:3 to argue that Psa 16:10 could not apply to David. His quote from Isaiah includes the phrase, “the holy (hosios) and sure things of David,” which Paul interprets to mean “promises.” The subsequent quote says that “You will not let your Holy One (hosios) see corruption,” (ESV) and he interprets the Holy One to be Jesus. Titus 1:8 says that an overseer of the church must be holy (hosios).

The related adverb ὁσίως (hosiōs, “devoutly”), pertaining to being pleasing to God, is used in 1 Thess 2:10.”

Litwak, K. D. (2014). Sanctification. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

“Fundamental to all NT theology is the shift in eschatological perspective brought about by the coming of Jesus Messiah, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. God has come amongst his people to reconcile them to himself and the future has already been set in motion, although the end has only just begun. Sanctification cannot be understood outside this framework.

The terminology of sanctification is rare in the gospels. In John, sanctification concerns relationship with the triune God on the one hand and mission on the other. Jesus is the one sanctified by the Father and sent into the world (10:36). If the disciples are to continue that mission, they too must be sanctified, i.e. brought into that intimate fellowship enjoyed by Father and Son (20:20–23). Jesus prays that the Father would sanctify the disciples in the truth (17:17). In order that they may be filled with God’s being and power, Jesus sanctifies himself (17:19) through his death, then sends the disciples into the world just as the Father had sent him (20:21–22), imparting to them the Holy Spirit.

The presence of the Holy Spirit is the key to Paul’s view of sanctification. Paul holds that sanctification is based on the historical reality of the atoning death of Christ which is brought to experiential reality by the Spirit (Gal. 3:2–5; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 1:13–14; Tit. 3:4–7). It partakes fully of the eschatological tension of salvation: ‘already’/‘not yet’.

Paul’s main emphasis is ethical rather than cultic. He echoes Jesus’ own summation of God’s ethical requirements for the new people as given in the great commandments (Gal. 5:14; Rom. 13:8–10) and models them before his converts (1 Thes. 2:10; 3:12). He urges them to continue to work out these principles of wholehearted devotion to God and love of neighbour in the context of everyday existence (1 Thes. 4:9–10). In 1 Thes. 3:10–13 and 5:23, Paul prays that his readers will be established in holiness and that God will sanctify them wholly. They are ever to be what they are now, i.e. a people called to be holy.

But these are also wish-prayers which means that the ‘not yet’ is equally important here. Paul has the Parousia, which perhaps he expected before his death (1 Thes. 4:17; 5:6), firmly in his view. He prays that these Christians will be found blameless (note, not faultless) in holiness on that soon-to-arrive day, with lives that reflect their anticipation of it.

The ethical thrust of sanctification continues in Rom. 6, where Paul uses the term hagiasmos twice. In 6:19, he urges his readers to yield their members to righteousness for sanctification, clearly focusing on the ethical living expected of those who have been freed from the dominion of sin. Since in and with Christ they have died to the lordship of sin (6:6), they are now to live lives which reflect their new relationship to God as sharers in Christ’s risen life (6:13–14). In no sense, however, is Paul stating that holiness is achieved by personal striving (see Wynkoop, 326).

Paul uses the terms ‘righteousness’ and ‘sanctification’ here in a way which shows their inseparability. Paul could not conceive of a person brought into a right relationship with God whose life would not issue in sanctification (6:22), i.e. in a life of holiness. Debate about whether Paul has in mind a state or a process of sanctification is beside the point. Paul intends both.
That Paul can speak of both aspects of sanctification is confirmed in 2 Cor. 7:1. Here, in language reminiscent of the OT cultic context of purity and holiness, he urges his alienated readers to ‘cleanse [y]ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect.’ His Christian readers are to purge themselves in every part, inwardly and outwardly (see Ps. 24:2–3, ‘clean hands and pure heart’), and live out the implications of their grace-given relationship to the holy God.

Were it not for the indwelling presence of the Spirit, all of this might seem to be mere wishful thinking. But Paul considers the sanctified life to be possible because of the indwelling presence of God’s empowering Spirit (2 Thes. 2:13). Indeed, he says, anyone who rejects this way of living, rejects God who gives his Holy Spirit to you (1 Thes. 4:8). It is the presence of the Spirit which enables the believer to live a life which is not according to the flesh (Gal. 5:16, 24; Rom. 8:5) although life is still lived in the flesh (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 8:11, 23). To be sure, the Spirit has not brought the fulness of the end but only its beginning, so the Spirit’s presence does not confer final perfection in the present age but rather leads to growing maturity in Christ, whereby Christians are ripened for their final transformation. ‘We are both already and not yet’ (Fee, p. 826).

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews is in conscious dialogue with Judaism. For this writer, sanctification is the work of Christ, the eternal high priest (5:8–10; 7:23–25) and the sanctifier (2:11; 13:12) who, as the enthroned Lord, now exercises all the prerogatives of God (ch. 1). The means of sanctification is through the death of Christ, who through the shedding of his blood, established the new and better covenant relationship between God and humans (10:10, 14). This new sacrifice is efficacious because, in contrast to sacrifices under the old covenant which could purify the flesh and restore a defiled Israelite to the community (Nu. 19:9), the blood of Christ is able to deal with the inner condition of sinful people (9:13f.; 10:22).

The heart of the matter in Hebrews, therefore, is the new covenant relationship promised in the OT (Je. 31:31–34; Ezk. 36:25–27). The verb hagiadzein is used ‘with reference to the establishment of New Covenant relations between God and man’ (D.F.Peterson, Hebrews and Perfection, SNTSMS 47, 1982, p. 72). The notion of the perfecting of believers (7:11, 19; 10:14), relates primarily to their covenantal acceptance by God (Peterson, p. 136).

Hebrews is the most explicit of the epistles on the present reality and enjoyment of the sanctified life. A crucial verse in this regard is Heb. 10:14 which emphasizes the single offering for sanctification made by Christ on the one hand and the experiential realization of the new relationship between God and humanity on the other. The new covenant relationship has already been established in Christ’s death and exaltation; Christians are consciously to embrace in their ongoing experience what has already been accomplished for them. ‘The terminology of perfection is used by our writer here to stress the realized aspect of Christian salvation’ (Peterson, p. 153).
But Hebrews also applies the ‘already’/‘not yet’ tension to sanctification. For while it is the present experience of believers, it is neither static nor final (12:10, 14, 22–24). This relationship is the earnest of that ultimate goal of sanctification which ‘is to share Christ’s glory (2:10), to enter God’s rest (4:11 ff.), to see the Lord (12:14), and to inhabit the heavenly Jerusalem (12:22; 13:14)’ (Peterson, p. 129).

In some ways, 1 Pet. provides a summary of the NT view of sanctification: it has to do with God’s choice (1:2; 2:9), the work of the Spirit in applying the benefits of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection (1:2–3), and lives lived in obedience to God’s call to holiness (1:14–15; 2:5) and love (1:22; 4:8). Sanctification, in sum, is essentially a relational reality, completed in Christ’s death on the cross, experienced through the indwelling Holy Spirit and brought to its final goal when we see God (Heb. 12:14; 1 Jn. 3:2–3).”

Brower, K. E. (1996). Sanctification, Sanctify. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., pp. 1058–1059). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.



“Justification, the exculpation of guilt or the demonstration of the correctness of an act or statement. ‘Justification’ and its related terms ‘just,’ ‘justly,’ ‘justify’ help to render the Hebrew ṣdq and the Greek dikaioō (altogether the two words occur in the Bible about seven hundred and fifty times). These concepts are more frequently expressed in English Bibles by the term ‘righteousness’ and its related forms. Translation by means of the English word ‘justification’ comes through the Vulgate’s justitia. The Latin verb justificare added the sense of ‘make just,’ though the Hebrew regularly meant ‘declare just.’ The two concepts relate, as at Rom. 3:26 where Christ’s death demonstrates that God ‘is righteous and that he justifies’ one who believes in Jesus.

OT uses reflect the human desire to justify oneself (Job 32:2; 33:32; Isa. 43:9) or show one is ‘in the right.’ When applied to God (Job 32:2; Ps. 51:4), they raise the question of theodicy or justifying the ways of God to human beings. The OT insists God ‘is just in all his ways’ (Ps. 145:17) and asks, ‘How can a person be just before God?’ (Job 9:2). It knows the complaint that ‘the way of the Lord is not just’ (Ezek. 18:25, 29) but replies God will judge nonetheless (33:17, 20). The eventual answer is not that love or mercy triumphs over righteousness but that righteousness is seen as having a saving dimension (Isa. 51:1, 5, 6, 8, RSV: ‘deliverance’). God who saves is the one who justifies (Rom. 8:33; cf. Isa. 50:8, ‘vindicates’).

Early Jewish Christians confessed that Jesus was put to death ‘for our trespasses’ and raised ‘for our justification’ (Rom. 4:25) and that we are ‘justified…in Christ Jesus…by his blood’ (Rom. 3:24-25). They further confessed that when ‘the Son was made sin’ (perhaps a ‘sin offering,’ 2 Cor. 5:21) it demonstrated God’s righteousness while at the same time showing that sinners are justified by faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).

Paul deepened this idea of justification through faith ‘apart from works of the law’ (Rom. 3:28) and applied it to non-Jews (Gal. 3:8) as well as Jews (Rom. 3:30), on the basis of Abraham’s experience (Rom. 4). The universality of justification is shown by comparing Christ with Adam: Adam’s trespass brought condemnation for all, whereas Christ’s act of ‘righteousness’ brings justification or acquittal and life to all. Thus sinners are ‘made [declared, established as] righteous’ (Rom. 5:16-21). God ‘justifies the ungodly’ who trust him (Rom. 4:5); they receive peace and life in the Spirit (Rom. 5:1; 8:4). The ethical aspects of justification emphasize ‘whatever is just’ (Phil. 4:8).
James speaks of justification (2:24-25), not in opposition to Paul but against people who fail to understand that faith includes obedience (Rom. 1:5) to God beyond creedal assent.”

Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 520). San Francisco: Harper & Row.

“English Bibles render Heb. ṣdq and Gk. dikaioún as both “just, justice, justify” and “right, righteous (ness), rightwise.” Righteousness/justification language occurs more than 800 times in the OT and NT.

Both the Hebrew and Greek can denote self-justification, seeking to put oneself “in the right.” Job “justified himself rather than God” (Job 32:2; cf. 33:32; 9:2). The setting of such attempts may be a lawsuit, involving God and the nations (Isa. 43:9) or Israel (43:26); then it will be shown that God is righteous (45:21, 24). The lawyer in Luke 10:29 wanted “to justify himself” by asking Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Money-loving Pharisees are said to try to justify themselves in the sight of other people (Luke 16:15).

A further application is the justification of God. In the Lord’s speech to Job from the whirlwind the issue is theodicy or defense of God’s ways to mortals (Job 40:8; cf. Gen. 18:25; Ps. 37:5–6, 28–34; Jer. 12:1; Ezek. 18, esp. vv. 25–29). In the NT wisdom is justified by her deeds (Matt. 11:19) or children (Luke 7:35; Rev. 15:3–4; 16:5–7; 19:2). Paul frequently defends God’s judgments (2 Thess. 1:5; cf. Rom. 2:5–11; 9:19–24) and ways of salvation (Rom. 3:4–6). Indeed, Romans contains a vindication of how, given God’s plan with Israel, salvation has come to the Gentiles (3:28–30; 9:24, 30; 15:8–12) and a rebuke against Gentile Christian presumptuousness which counts Israel out (11:11–24).

Paul’s justification of God is inseparably related to his major theme, especially in Romans, of the justification of the ungodly, to whom faith is reckoned as righteousness (Rom. 4:5).
Specific references to justification reflect pre-Pauline confessional slogans about Jesus’ death and resurrection resulting in “our justification” (Rom. 4:25), brought home to believers as sanctification-justification via baptism, into Christ, with the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11). Paul’s was an apostolic “ministry of justification” (2 Cor. 3:9), for Jew and Gentile both, i.e., all the world (Rom. 1:16; 2:9–10; 9:24; 10:12; 1 Cor. 12:13). From his own experience and study of Scripture (esp. Gen. 15:6; Ps. 143:2; Hab. 2:4), the principle emerged that “no one is justified before God by the law” but rather by faith (Gal. 3:6–14; cf. Rom. 3:20, 28) and that God’s blessing, spoken to Abraham, comes to Gentiles without their being circumcised or performing other “works of the law” (Rom. 4) that were part of Israel’s identity markers for remaining in the Sinai covenant. Paul’s opposition to such “covenantal nomism” or focus on the Law brought him into conflict with Cephas and “people from James” in Antioch and then into a struggle with such views in Galatia (Gal. 2:15–21; cf. 5:4–5).

In Romans Paul unfolded the gospel for a community he had not founded, precisely in terms of this biblical master theme, the righteousness (dikaiosýnē) of God (Rom. 1:16–17). Only after presenting Gentiles and Jews alike under God’s judgment (Rom. 1:18–3:20) and a reference to “the justice of God” (3:5, God as Judge), does Paul in 3:22, 24–26 set forth our being justified by God’s grace through faith in Jesus. The sacrificial death of Christ explains how God remains just while expiating sins. Justification is not merely an initial step toward salvation, in the believer’s past, but also involves future vindication and living out the experience in the present (Rom. 5:1; cf. 2:13; 3:20, 24). Justification is the foundation for carrying out God’s will in daily life by service to others, in church and world (Rom. 12:1–2), including “whatever is just” (Phil. 4:8).

For Paul, justification is the prime effect of the Christ event, a metaphor of salvation along with “participation ‘in Christ’ ” and the gift of the Spirit. This theme must be considered along with the related word fields of “grace” and “faith” as well as, in English, “righteousness.” Jas. 2:14–26 suggests how prominent justification was in the NT period and how Paul’s view could be misunderstood, even by his followers. James follows contemporary Jewish exegesis of Gen. 15:6 by combining it with Gen. 22 (the sacrifice of Isaac), an effort by a later (Jewish) Christian to correct a view of justification that lacks the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5) expressed in help for others (as Paul insisted in Gal. 5:6; Rom. 13:8–10).

OT and NT understandings of justification stand often in close connection with “judgment.” Indeed, “righteousness” (ṣĕḏāqâ) and “justice” (mišpāṭ) can be used in synonymous parallelism (Amos 5:24; Isa. 11:4). The connection between justification and justice has been made in liberation theology.”

Reumann, J. (2000). Justification. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (pp. 757–758). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

Justification Before God
1. Promised in Christ. Isa 45:25; 53:11.
2. Is the act of God. Isa 50:8; Ro 8:33.
3. Under law
a. Requires perfect obedience. Le 18:5; Ro 10:5; 2:13; Jas 2:10.
b. Man cannot attain to. Job 9:2, 3, 20; 25:4; Ps 130:3; 143:2; Ro 3:20; 9:31, 32.
4. Under the gospel
a. Is not of works. Ac 13:39; Ro 8:3; Ga 2:16; 3:11.
b. Is not of faith and works united. Ac 15:1–29; Ro 3:28; 11:6; Ga 2:14–21; 5:4.
c. Is by faith alone. Joh 5:24; Ac 13:39; Ro 3:30; 5:1; Ga 2:16.
d. Is of grace. Ro 3:24; 4:16; 5:17–21.
e. In the name of Christ. 1 Co 6:11.
f. By imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Isa 61:10; Jer 23:6; Ro 3:22; 5:18; 1 Co 1:30; 2 Co 5:21.
g. By the blood of Christ. Ro 5:9.
h. By the resurrection of Christ. Ro 4:25; 1 Co 15:17.
i. Blessedness of. Ps 32:1, 2; Ro 4:6–8.
j. Frees from condemnation. Isa 50:8, 9; 54:17; Ro 8:33, 34.
k. Entitles to an inheritance. Tit 3:7.
l. Ensures glorification. Ro 8:30.
5. The wicked shall not attain to. Ex 23:7.
6. By faith
a. Revealed under the Old Testament age. Hab 2:4; Ro 1:17.
b. Excludes boasting. Ro 3:27; 4:2; 1 Co 1:29, 31.
c. Does not make void the law. Ro 3:30, 31; 1 Co 9:21.
7. Typified. Zec 3:4, 5.
8. Illustrated. Lu 18:14.
9. Exemplified
a. Abraham. Ge 15:6.
b. Paul. Php 3:8, 9.”
Torrey, R. A. (2001). The new topical text book: A scriptural text book for the use of ministers, teachers, and all Christian workers. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Adoption in the New Testament

Adoption in the New Testament

Adoption in the New Testament

“A few New Testament instances allude to the Old Testament view of adoption, perhaps even indicating the legal kind (e.g., John 19:26–27; Jas 1:27, which is about caring for orphans). But adoption is most often used in a theological sense.

Paul uses adoption in Romans to describe the relationship between God and the followers of Jesus (Rom 8:15, 23; 9:4; compare Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5). He uses one Greek term for adoption: υἱοθεσία (huiothesia). The term υἱοθεσία (huiothesia) is rarely found in literary sources, but is prevalent in inscriptions and documentary papyri. Still, Paul had other options of words meaning adoption that were more explicitly tied to religious concepts (Scott, Adoption as Sons, 27, 45, 55). So, why did Paul use υἱοθεσία (huiothesia)? It may be significant that he chose a word that contains the word (υἱὸς, huios), which means “son.” His use of a term that invokes adopted sonship may have linked the term with other masculine terms in Romans, such as “seed” and “circumcision.” He may also have been challenging the authority of the emperor over the sons of Rome.

Paul’s use of terms such as brothers and sisters, father, and adoption allows him to construct a family of people who are not biologically related—the community of believers (Rom 8:15–21; Gal 4:4–6). “Christ has enabled Jews and Gentiles to become related to each other as children of Abraham, but they do not cease to be Jews and Gentiles” (Eisenbaum, “Is Paul,” 521). In the Abrahamic line, the distinction is maintained biologically, but the family is created through adoption.

At the time Paul was writing, a series of laws referred to as the Lex Iulia et Papia Poppaea required Roman citizens to bear children to build up the Roman population. Paul’s use of adoption as the means to grow God’s family stands in direct opposition to these laws. Paul’s theology not only made the family of God more open than the family of the Roman state, it also created a community that valued those who could not produce biological heirs. The family of God, created through adoption, is open to anyone who wants to be a part of it.”

Morris, M. J. (2016). Adoption. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

“Adoption in the NT has as its background not Roman law, in which its chief aim was to continue the adoptive parent’s line, but Jewish custom, which conferred the benefits of the family on the adoptee. It occurs only in Paul, and is a relationship conferred by God’s act of free grace which redeems those under the law (Gal. 4:5). Its intention and result is a change of status, planned from eternity and mediated by Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:5), from slavery to sonship (Gal. 4:1ff.). The cry ‘Abba! Father!’ (Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6; in the context of adoption) may perhaps be the traditional cry of the adopted slave. The adopted son of God possesses all family rights, including access to the Father (Rom. 8:15) and sharing with Christ in the divine inheritance (Rom. 8:17). The presence of the Spirit of God is both the instrument (Rom. 8:14) and the consequence (Gal. 4:6) of this sonship. However complete in status this adoption may be, it has yet to be finally made real in the deliverance of the creation itself from bondage (Rom. 8:21ff.).

Adoption is implicit as a relationship of grace in John’s teaching about ‘becoming a son’ (Jn. 1:12; 1 Jn. 3:1–2), in the prodigal’s acceptance into full family rights (Lk. 15:19ff.) and in Jesus’ oft-repeated title of God as Father (Mt. 5:16; 6:9; Lk. 12:32).”

Palmer, F. H. (1996). In the New Testament. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 16). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“The New Testament cultural environment was much different from that of the Old since elaborate laws and ceremonies for adoption were part of both Greek and Roman society. To people with this background, the adoption metaphor in the New Testament was particularly meaningful.

The Greek word for adoption (huiothesia) means to “place as a son” and is used only by Paul in the New Testament. Each of the five occurrences in his letters is to readers of a decidedly Roman background. In one instance Paul refers to the Old Testament idea of Israel’s special position as the children of God—“Theirs is the adoption as sons” (Rom. 9:4). The remaining four references describe how New Testament believers become children of God through his gracious choice. The full scope of God’s work of salvation—past, present, and future—is seen in adoption.

The believer’s adoption as a child of God was determined by God from eternity: God “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:5). This adoption is not the result of any merit on the part of the believer, but solely the outworking of God’s love and grace (Eph. 1:5, 7).
The present reality of the believer’s adoption into the family of God is release from the slavery of sin and the law and a new position as a free heir of God. Entering into salvation brings the rights and privileges of free sonship: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’ ” (Rom. 8:15). Paul tells the Galatians that Christians were redeemed from the law so that they might receive adoption as sons. As a result the Holy Spirit comes into the believer’s heart crying, “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:5). The intimacy of a relationship with God the Father in contrast to the ownership of slavery is a remarkable feature of salvation.

Like many aspects of salvation, there is an eschatological component of adoption. Believers “wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). The full revelation of the believer’s adoption is freedom from the corruption present in the world. Being a member of God’s family includes the ultimate privilege of being like him (1 John 3:2) and being conformed to the glorious body of Christ (Phil. 3:21). This is part of the promised inheritance for all God’s children (Rom. 8:16–17).”

Brown, W. E. (1996). Adoption. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 11–12). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Ordo Salutis

Ordo Salutis

The Ordo Salutis is not a chronological order in soteriology but it is a logical order. Over the ages, theologians have placed their emphasis in a variety of places. My personal belief is that salvation is focused on Christ, and so should anyone’s order of salvation. As for John Calvin and myself, I see salvation summed up in the doctrine of union with Christ. Hence my order is in clear view of our union with Him.

When speaking of salvation and the ordo salutis it is important to distinguish between the external and the internal work. In the garden death was the result of sin. For the soteriology I lay out it therefore, deals with the forgiveness of sin before it deals the consequences of sin. Justification logically must precede the inward work which is regeneration. It seems logical to place all the outward declarations before inward work. Romans 4:5 tells us that the ungodly are justified not the godly. Regeneration is the work that makes us Godly. Of course, we are not godly in our own right, but Christ himself who we are united to is Godly. All this stuff happens in an instance but it is helpful to distinguish the word of God to glorify Him in every aspect.

Another part of the legal declaration is the doctrine of adoption. This also is not an inward work but an outward declaration. We are not born children of God but we are given the right to become children of God by faith (John 1:12). We are by nature children of wrath separated from God and the promises (Ephesians 2:3). Before we become a child of God we are actually considered children of the devil (Jn 8:42, 44; 1 Jn 3:10)

From the legal aspects of our union with Christ, it is then proper to look at the inward work that is possible because the legal ramifications have been forgiven. We are made partakers of the divine nature (2Peter 1:3-4). We become a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17) and are born again (John 1:13). This is the inward change that we receive by Christ being in us.

This regeneration that takes place leads to the continual work of sanctification. We are conformed into the image of Christ  (2 Cor 3:18). We are sanctified and considered holy or godly  (Rom 1:7; Eph 1:1). As noted before this process continues.

Calvinism in an attempt to prove the doctrine of total depravity place regeneration before faith. By doing this they essentially reject the scriptures that say Christ is our life and we are created new in him. Faith precedes our union with Christ, and regeneration is a benefit of those that have been united to him. Logically faith must precede regeneration because faith precedes union with Christ.



PESHAṬ: “Term denoting simple Scriptural exegesis, and derived from the verb “pashaṭ.” “Pashaṭ” in late Biblical Hebrew, as well as in the Mishnah, means “to spread,” “to stretch out,” and is figuratively used, therefore, in the sense of giving a full and detailed explanation, since through such elucidations the contents of a given Scriptural passage are extended and amplified. In the Mishnah and in the Tosefta “pashaṭ” is used but once in its figurative meaning (Mishnah Suk. iii. 11; Tosef., Pes. x. 9); and that this is the correct interpretation of “li-peshoṭ and “posheṭ” in both these passages, and not, as Maimonides’ commentary on the Mishnah declares, “to recite once,” is shown by the parallel passages in Pes. 119b and Suk. 39a, where the passage in the Tosefta reads: “R. Eliezer mosif bah debarim” (he added words), implying that R. Eliezer added his explanations and interpretations to the text (Abaye’s explanation of this passage can not be reconciled with the wording of the Tosefta, which has “posheṭ and not “mosif”).
“Pashaṭ” originally had, therefore, the same meaning as “darash.” A distinction between “peshaṭ” as the literal sense of Scripture and “derash” as the interpretation and derivation from Scripture could not have been made in antiquity for the simple reason that the Tannaim believed that their Midrash was the true interpretation and that their “derash” was the actual sense of Scripture, and therefore “peshaṭ” (see Midrash Halakah). Only later, in the period of the Amoraim, when on account of the development of hermeneutic principles the interpretations of the Midrash often seemed forced and artificial, did scholars come to the conclusion that the natural and simple sense of Scripture was different from that given in the Midrash; and a distinction was, accordingly, made between the simple literal sense, called “peshaṭ,” and the interpretation, called “derash.”
It is frequently the case, therefore, that, after a passage of Scripture has been interpreted, the question arises as to its literal meaning “peshaṭeh di-ḳera” (Ḥul. 6a; ‘Er. 23b). A rule, which was not, however, universally known (comp. Shab. 63a), was laid down that the literal sense must not be completely changed by the interpretation of the derash (Yeb. 24a; comp. Tos. Yom-Ṭob with Yeb. ii. 8), although it is noteworthy that this restriction of the meaning of “peshaṭ” as contrasted with “derash” is accurately observed only in the Babylonian Talmud. In the Palestinian Talmud “peshaṭ” has kept its original meaning, and is synonymous with “derash,” so that in the Palestinian Talmud (Shab. xvi. 15c and B. M. ii. 8d) the verb “pashaṭ” occurs in the same sense as “darash.” In like manner, in the midrashim (e.g., Gen. R. xvii. 3; Ex. R. 67:8), “peshaṭ” denotes the explanation of Scripture in general, and not merely its literal meaning. In cabalistic literature “peshaṭ,” as the simple literal meaning, is distinguished from “remez” (mere inference), from “derush” (interpretation), and from “sod” (the esoteric force contained in the Scriptures). All four methods of hermeneutics are comprised under the name “pardes,” formed by the initials of “peshaṭ,” “remez,” “derush,” and “sod.” In relation to the study of the Talmud, “peshaṭ” means a simple rational interpretation of that work in contrast to the subtle methods of Pilpul. The expression “pashuṭ gemara” is used also for the study of the Talmud with the commentary of Solomon Yiẓḥaḳi (Rashi) only, without the Tosafot or any later commentaries. The word “pesheṭel,” which is derived from “peshaṭ,” denotes the exact opposite of the latter, so that it is used like “ḥilluḳ,” to signify the subtle treatment of a Talmudic-rabbinic theme.”

Pes. Pesaḥim (Talmud)
Pes. Pesaḥim (Talmud)
Suk. Sukkah (Talmud)
Ḥul Ḥullin (Talmud)
. Ḥullin (Talmud)
‘Er. ‘Erubin (Talmud)
comp. compare
Shab. Shabbat (Talmud)
Yeb. Yebamot (Talmud)
comp. compare
Tos. Tosafot
Yeb. Yebamot (Talmud)
Shab. Shabbat (Talmud)
B. M. Baba Meẓi‘a (Talmud)
Ex. R. Exodus Rabbah
Singer, I. (Ed.). (1901–1906). In The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (Vol. 9, pp. 652–653). New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls.

Paradoxical dialogues in midrashic interpretation

Paradoxical dialogues in midrashic interpretation

Paradoxical dialogues in midrashic interpretation
“Contrary to this apologetic trend, in which Jewish psychologists bracket their Jewish commitments and attempt to prove that the Jewish heritage illustrates Freudian ideas, it is possible to trace to the Rabbinic system of midrashic exegesis the roots of the contrary, pluralistic-democratic idea of freedom to choose one’s own interpretation of life and worldly events. A definitive account of how this psycho-philosophical principle of dialogic co-existence derives from the midrashic system of hermeneutic pluralism is in order.
Diverse hermeneutic systems take different stands on the ability of a single datum to support more than one meaning. Some psychological hermeneutics adhere to a dialectic either/or principle, which finds it necessary to replace a false interpretation that is eliminated with the one true explanation that has been identified. In dialogic systems, by contrast, two interpretations may co-exist. The first, Aristotelian either/or system is embedded in the idea of conflict; the hyphen in the dialogic principle of paradox, on the other hand, is rooted in the Platonic or Buberian I-thou idea, according to which truth stands between two co-existing, alternating or even opposing positions.
Interestingly, this principle of paradoxical interpretations stands at the foundation of many ideas central to Judaism. These ideas include the notions, for instance, that God’s midat hadin (quality of rigorous sternness) and midat harachamim (quality of merciful compassion) co-exist. At the very heart of Rabbinic Judaism, indeed, stands the concept of the written and oral Torahs, both revealed by God even though, prima facie, their texts seem sometimes to contradict each other. In interpreting canonical documents, the principle of paradoxical interpretations is further invoked, for instance, to explain the fact that, while the written Torah often specifies the death penalty, the oral Torah condemns as murderous any Jewish court that carries out this penalty even once in seventy years (B. Mak. 7a).
Even as it was used to comprehend contradictions between the oral and written Torahs, so the principle of paradoxical interpretations applied in the resolution of apparent contradictions within the written Torah itself. A classic example is the verse, “And the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a help against him” (Gen. 2:18). Gen. Rab. 17:3 explains the two seemingly contradictory concepts, “help” and “against,” by applying a hermeneutic principle that reads them independently of each other. The woman will become man’s right-hand “help” if he deserves it; but if he does not deserve it, she will turn “against” him. A similar interpretation makes Israel’s deservingness of future redemption dependent on the freedom of choice to do good or evil. Here the two contradicting words beita achishena (Is. 60:22), which mean literally “I shall hasten it” (achishena) and “in its due time” (beita), were also read independently (Song Rab. 8:12) to mean: redemption will occur in due time if Israel does not deserve it (beita); but if they deserve salvation, I will hasten it (achishena).
This principle of paradoxical interpretations stands in opposition to “double bind” theories,4 which postulate that socialization via “double messages” may lead to psychotic breakdowns. By contrast, we refer to the Midrashic principle of “Al-tikrei,” which means literally “don’t read,” and is a catch-phrase for the full sentence, “Don’t read (the biblical text) as it is written, but, by switching or changing the letters, read it in a different way to reveal an alternate meaning.” The relevance of this paradoxical principle in the present context is that it entails the possibility of retaining two contradictory interpretations of a textual passage. This hermeneutic, which has extensive psychological implications, appears about 180 times in the Rabbinic literature,5 and some of its occurrences, in prayers and/or turned into popular slogans, remarkably affected socialization of Jews throughout the ages.
One of the most famous uses of the al-tikrei passages, recited by traditional Jews daily in the morning prayers, refers to Is. 54:13: “All your sons shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your sons.” Concerning this verse, B. Ber. 64 says, “Do not read ‘your sons’ (banayich) but ‘your builders’ (bonayich).” Thus, while Isaiah states that peace shall be brought upon the Israelites’ children (“sons”) in general, the Talmud rereads his words to refer to “your builders” in particular, thus establishing a distinct ethical imperative to participate in the rebuilding of the Jewish nation.
In our current discussion, at issue is whether this mode of interpretation intends completely to replace and erase the original textual reading or only to add to it another level of meaning. Judah Eisenstein, editor of the Otzar Yisrael encyclopedia, answers this question by noting that both Maimonides and Nachmanides stressed that such formulations add an alternative interpretation to the biblical text but do not negate the original reading. Indeed, Nachmanides held that the hermeneutic idea inherent in the “al-tikrei” form allows even two contradictory interpretations both to be true. This is possible insofar as the biblical text is sufficiently powerful to endure both meanings. It is, accordingly, exactly the possibility of such an alternative that creates what I have termed a dialogic, or alternating, hermeneutic system. The reading “your builders” does not replace dialectically the original words, “your children.” The new reading, rather, facilitates the dialogic possibility of accumulative progress, according to which “your children” become “your progressing developers.”
Having posited that this ancient midrashic system of hermeneutic pluralism possibly comprised the bedrock of the democratic notion of dialogic co-existence, we may proceed now to introduce four different psychological dimensions, the first two entailing a time element and the subsequent two relating to space. The four subtitles, formulated in a comparative style, are articulated as four systems of psychological dialogues that people usually maintain on various levels with their surrounding environment:
1. The intergenerational psychology of Abraham’s binding of his son, Isaac (“Aqeda”): Here the possibility of maintaining a total personal identity by rearranging the intergenerational continuity between the “Abrahams” and “Isaacs” will be compared to the Oedipal psychology of intergenerational conflict.
2. The intrapersonal psychology of return to Judaism (“Teshuva”): In this section the possibility of recomposing one’s failing past according to the idea of repentance will be compared to the deterministic linear time conception of one’s past that follows from the concept of “original sin.”
3. The interpersonal psychology of bondsmanship (“Arevim”): In this section the communal idea of self-actualization via helping the other (alter-centrism) will be discussed by comparing it to the ego-centered actualization psychology of Darwinian Survival of the Fittest.
4. The superpersonal psychology of “PaRDeS”: This section discusses two dialogical levels: a) the hermeneutic notion of PaRDeS which provides a dialogical bridge between the rational-physical world and one’s irrational-mystical world, and b) the dialogical system of sexuality, which provides a bridge for regulating the flow of energy between the yetzer (carnal desire) and the yetzira (spiritual creativity).”

4 See G. Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, New York, 1972.
5 M. Zipor, “Al gilguleyhen shel derashat ˓Al-tikrei,” in Y. Refael, ed., Yovel Sinai (Jerusalem, 1987).
Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, pp. 1092–1094). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

Israel and the Church

Israel and the Church

“On the basis of the biblical description of “Israel” as “people of God” involving a national identity and the church as similarly “people of God,” but formed from all nations, we have sought to show that these entities are not totally continuous. Rather, the Scriptures indicate that both have a place in God’s program of salvation. The failure to recognize this discontinuity, especially in the assumption of Israel’s promises by the church, has had and continues to have significant implications both practically and theologically. We can only suggest some of the more important of these in conclusion.
First, any conversation by the church with present Israel is vitally affected by the attitude one takes toward the biblical statements dealing with Israel.64 The Apostle Paul understood his ministry in the church, which was primarily among the Gentiles, as in the service of God for the salvation of Israel (Rom 11:13–14). But a theology which says that “… the Church, as the new Israel, is the heir to all the promises made of old to Israel after the flesh. This is now the only true Israel, and there is none other,”65 is unlikely to be influential in this apostolic mission. Some would even suggest that this understanding has contributed to the anti-Semitism which has plagued even the nations influenced by Christianity.66 An interpretation which views the church as entering into the first stage of the promised salvation, but at the same time proclaims to Israel the validity of their promises (cf. Rom 9:3–5) would appear to be more effective in this ministry.
Second, the perplexing question of the relation of church and state—or as it is frequently stated, the church and politics—can be related to one’s understanding of the promises to Israel. A theology which sees the church fulfilling the OT kingdom promises of Israel continually raises the question of how much the church should invade the realm of Caesar’s government. According to Parkes, the church has been unable to consistently live out a theology in which it makes claim to Israel’s position. “Every time she makes the distinction between ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ she repudiates the Old Testament. Every time she condemns ‘religion mixing in politics’ she emphasizes that she does not accept the values of Judaism.”67 A discontinuity which sees the fulfillment of the theocratic promises in the future provides a better perspective for the ministry of the church in distinction to that of human government in the present age before the establishment of the kingdom at the return of Christ.
Finally, it must be noted that any interpretation which suggests that the promises to the nation of Israel have been assigned to the church because of the failure of that nation raises the question of the security involved in all of God’s elective purposes. According to Munck, Paul recognizes this connection in his epistle to the Romans; and thus, after affirming the security of the elect in Christ in chapter 8, he is forced to deal in chapters 9–11 with the future of Israel in the light of their apparent fall. Munck rightly argues: “If God has not fulfilled his promises made to Israel, then what basis has the Jewish-Gentile church for believing that the promises will be fulfilled for them?”68 If God’s original election of Israel was as a “nation,” and that appears to be the teaching of the OT, then a theology affirming the fulfillment of that elective purpose in the nation of Israel seems most supportive of our own election as his people in the church.
The apostle suggests that God’s dealings with Israel and all peoples are marvelously rich (cf. Rom 11:33–36). It is no doubt impossible to detail all of his purposes and plans. But the broad outline portrayed in Scripture suggests that there is no basis for a reductionist interpretation which levels Israel and the church in a total continuity. Rather, the picture is one of the basic unity of the people of God, yet with functional distinction in the historical outworking of the salvation of God’s kingdom.”

64 Walther Zimmerli, “Promise and Fulfillment,” Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics, Claus Westermann, ed. (Richmond: John Knox, 1963), pp. 121–122.
65 Although not his own position, Stephen Neill sees this as the dominant theology throughout much of church history. Christian Faith and Other Faiths (London: Oxford, 1961), p. 23.
66 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, II (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1957), pp. 2, 290; Martin Buber, Israel and the World, pp. 189–193; Franklin Littell, “Christendom, Holocaust and Israel: The Importance for Christians of Recent Major Events in Jewish History,” JES 10, No. 3 (Summer 1973): 490ff.
67 James W. Parkes, The Foundations of Judaism and Christianity (London: Vallentine, Mitchell & Co., 1960), pp. 325–326.
68 Munck, p. 35; see also John Piper, The Justification of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), pp. 4, 209, n. 205–6.
Saucy, R. L. (1988). Israel and the Church: A Case for Discontinuity. In J. S. Feinberg (Ed.), Continuity and discontinuity: perspectives on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments : essays in honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. (pp. 258–259). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.

Principles for Interpreting Narratives

Principles for Interpreting Narratives

Principles for Interpreting Narratives

“We conclude this chapter by isolating ten summarizing principles for interpreting Old Testament narratives that should also help you avoid certain pitfalls as you read.

1. An Old Testament narrative usually does not directly teach a doctrine.
2. An Old Testament narrative usually illustrates a doctrine or doctrines taught propositionally elsewhere.
3. Narratives record what happened—not necessarily what should have happened or what ought to happen every time. Therefore, not every narrative has an individual identifiable moral application.
4. What people do in narratives is not necessarily a good example for us. Frequently, it is just the opposite.
5. Most of the characters in Old Testament narratives are far from perfect—as are their actions as well.
6. We are not always told at the end of a narrative whether what happened was good or bad. We are expected to be able to judge this on the basis of what God has taught us directly and categorically elsewhere in Scripture.
7. All narratives are selective and incomplete. Not all the relevant details are always given (cf. John 21:25). What does appear in the narrative is everything that the inspired author thought important for us to know.
8. Narratives are not written to answer all our theological questions. They have particular, specific, limited purposes and deal with certain issues, leaving others to be dealt with elsewhere in other ways.
9. Narratives may teach either explicitly (by clearly stating something) or implicitly (by clearly implying something without actually stating it).
10. In the final analysis, God is the hero of all biblical narratives.”
Fee, G. D., & Stuart, D. K. (1993). How to read the Bible for all its worth (3rd ed., p. 106). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Old Testament Interpretation

Old Testament Interpretation

“It is our conviction that the primary reason Christians have often read the Old Testament narratives so poorly, finding things that are not really there, is the one we mentioned at the outset of this book: the tendency to “flatten” everything because they assume that everything God has said in his Word is thereby a direct word to them. Thus they wrongly expect that everything in the Bible applies directly as instruction for their own individual lives. The Bible is a great resource. It contains all that a Christian really needs in terms of guidance from God for living. And we have assumed throughout that the Old Testament narratives are indeed a rich source for our hearing from God. But this does not mean that each individual narrative is somehow to be understood as a direct word from God for each of us separately or as teaching us moral lessons by examples.
So that you might avoid this tendency, we list here several of the most common errors of interpretation that people commit when reading the biblical narratives, although many of these errors are not limited to narratives.
Allegorizing. Instead of concentrating on the clear meaning of the narrative, people relegate the text to merely reflecting another meaning beyond the text. There are allegorical portions of Scripture (e.g., Ezek 23 and parts of Revelation), but no historical narrative is at the same time an allegory.
Decontextualizing. Ignoring the full historical and literary contexts, and often the individual narrative, people concentrate on small units only and thus miss interpretational clues. If you take things out of context enough, you can make almost any part of Scripture say anything you want it to.
Selectivity. This is similar to decontextualizing. It involves picking and choosing specific words and phrases to concentrate on while ignoring the others and ignoring the overall sweep of the narrative being studied. Instead of listening to the whole to see how God was working in Israel’s history, it ignores some of the parts and the whole entirely.
Moralizing. This is the assumption that principles for living can be derived from all passages. The moralizing reader, in effect, asks the question, “What is the moral of this story?” at the end of every individual narrative. An example would be, “What can we learn about handling adversity from how the Israelites endured their years as slaves in Egypt?” The fallacy of this approach is that it ignores the fact that the narratives were written to show the progress of God’s history of redemption, not to illustrate principles. They are historical narratives, not illustrative narratives.
Personalizing. Also known as individualizing, this refers to reading Scripture in the way suggested above, supposing that any or all parts apply to you or your group in a way that they do not apply to everyone else. This is, in fact, a self-centered reading of the Bible. Examples of personalizing would be, “The story of Balaam’s talking donkey reminds me that I talk too much.” Or, “The story of the building of the temple is God’s way of telling us that we have to construct a new church building.”
Misappropriation. This is closely related to personalizing. It is to appropriate the text for purposes that are quite foreign to the biblical narrative. This is what is happening when, on the basis of Judges 6:36–40, people “fleece” God as a way of finding God’s will! This, of course, is both misappropriation and decontextualizing, since the narrator is pointing out that God saved Israel through Gideon despite his lack of trust in God’s word.
False appropriation. This is another form of decontextualizing. It is to read into a biblical narrative suggestions or ideas that come from contemporary culture that are simultaneously foreign to the narrator’s purpose and contradictory to his point of view. A prime example is to find the “hint” of a homosexual relationship between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20 because of verse 17 (“[Jonathan] loved him as he loved himself”) and verse 41 (“they kissed each other”—which of course in that culture was not on the lips!). But such a “hint” not only is not in the text, it stands completely outside the narrator’s point of view: Their “love” is covenantal and is likened to God’s love (vv. 14 and 42), he is narrating the story of Israel’s greatest king, and he presupposes Israel’s law, which forbids such behavior.
False combination. This approach combines elements from here and there in a passage and makes a point out of their combination, even though the elements themselves are not directly connected in the passage itself. An example of this all too common interpretational error is the conclusion that the account of David’s capturing Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 5:6–7 must have been a recapturing of that city, since Judges 1:8, an earlier part of the same grand narrative that runs all the way from Joshua through 2 Kings, says that the Israelites had already captured it. What you need to know (i.e., what the narrator and his original audience knew) is that there were two Jerusalems—a “greater” Jerusalem and, within it, the walled city of Jerusalem (also known as Zion). Judges 1:8 refers to the capture of the former; David captured the latter, finally completing the conquest hundreds of years after it started and then faltered, finally fulfilling promises going all the way back to Abraham (Gen 15:18–21).
Redefinition. When the plain meaning of the text leaves people cold, producing no immediate spiritual delight or saying something other than what they wish it said, they are often tempted to redefine it to mean something else. An example is the use often made of God’s promise to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14–15. The context clearly relates the promise to “this place” (the temple in Jerusalem) and “their land” (Israel, the land of Solomon and the Israelites). Yet because modern Christians yearn for it to be true of their land—wherever they live in the modern world—they tend to ignore the fact that God’s promise that he “will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” was about the only earthly land God’s people could ever claim as “theirs,” the Old Testament land of Israel. In the new covenant, God’s people have no earthly country that is “their land.” The country they belong to is a heavenly one (Heb 11:16).


Perhaps the single most useful bit of caution we can give you about reading and learning from narratives is this: Do not be a monkey-see-monkey-do reader of the Bible. No Bible narrative was written specifically about you. The Joseph narrative is about Joseph, and specifically about how God did things through him—it is not a narrative directly about you. The Ruth narrative glorifies God’s protection of and benefit for Ruth and the Bethlehemites—not you. You can always learn a great deal from these narratives, and from all the Bible’s narratives, but you can never assume that God expects you to do exactly the same thing that Bible characters did or to have the same things happen to you that happened to them. For further discussion on this point, see chapter 6.
Bible characters are sometimes good and sometimes evil, sometimes wise and sometimes foolish. They are sometimes punished and sometimes shown mercy, sometimes well-off and sometimes miserable. Your task is to learn God’s word from the narratives about them, not to try to do everything that was done in the Bible. Just because someone in a Bible story did something, it does not mean you have either permission or obligation to do it, too.
What you can and should do is to obey what God in Scripture actually commands Christian believers to do. Narratives are precious to us because they so vividly demonstrate God’s involvement in the world and illustrate his principles and calling. They thus teach us a lot—but what they directly teach us does not systematically include personal ethics. For this area of life, we must turn elsewhere in the Scriptures—to the various places where personal ethics are actually taught categorically and explicitly. The richness and variety of the Scriptures must be understood as our ally—a welcome resource, and never a complicated burden.”
Fee, G. D., & Stuart, D. K. (1993). How to read the Bible for all its worth (3rd ed., pp. 102–106). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

What are the Principles for Interpreting Narratives?



Some Basic Hermeneutics Rules

Some Basic Hermeneutics Rules

The Basic Rule

“You will recall from chapter 1 that we set out as a basic rule the premise that a text cannot mean what it never could have meant to its author or his or her readers. This is why exegesis must always come first. It is especially important that we repeat this premise here, for this at least establishes some parameters of meaning. This rule does not always help one find out what a text means, but it does help to set limits as to what it cannot mean.

For example, the most frequent justification for disregarding the imperatives about seeking spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 14 is a particular interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:10, which states that “when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away” (NASU). We are told that the perfect has come, in the form of the New Testament, and therefore the imperfect (prophecy and tongues) have ceased to function in the church. But this is one thing the text cannot mean because good exegesis quite disallows it. There is no way Paul could have meant this; after all, the Corinthians did not know there was going to be a New Testament, and the Holy Spirit would not likely have inspired Paul to write something to them that would be totally incomprehensible.
The Second Rule

The second basic rule is actually a different way of expressing our common hermeneutics. It says this: Whenever we share comparable particulars (i.e., similar specific life situations) with the first-century hearers, God’s Word to us is the same as his Word to them. It is this rule that causes most of the theological texts and the community-directed ethical imperatives in the Epistles to give modern-day Christians a sense of immediacy with the first century. It is still true that “all have sinned” (Rom 3:23) and that “by grace [we] have been saved, through faith” (Eph 2:8). Clothing ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col 3:12) is still God’s Word to those who are believers.

The two longer texts we worked through in the preceding chapter (1 Cor 1–4; Phil 1:27–2:18) seem to be of this kind. Once we have done our exegesis and have discovered God’s Word to them, we have immediately brought ourselves under that same Word. We still have local churches, which still have leaders who need to hear the Word and take care how they build the church. It appears that the church has too often been built with wood, hay, and straw rather than with gold, silver, and costly stones, and such work when tried by fire has been found wanting. We would argue that 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 is still God’s address to us as to our responsibilities to the local church. It must be a place where God’s Spirit is known to dwell, and which therefore stands as God’s alternative to the sin and alienation of worldly society.

The great caution here is that we do our exegesis well so that we have confidence that our situations and particulars are genuinely comparable to theirs. This is why the careful reconstruction of their problem is so important. For example, it is significant for our hermeneutics to note that the lawsuit in 1 Corinthians 6:1–11 was between two Christian brothers before a pagan judge out in the open marketplace in Corinth. We would argue that the point of the text does not change if the judge happens to be a Christian or because the trial takes place in a courthouse. The wrong is for two brothers to go to law outside the church, as verses 6–11 make perfectly clear. On the other hand, one could rightly ask whether this would still apply to a Christian suing a corporation in modern-day America, for in this case not all the particulars would remain the same—although one’s decision should surely take Paul’s appeal to the nonretaliation ethic of Jesus (v. 7) into account.”

Fee, G. D., & Stuart, D. K. (1993). How to read the Bible for all its worth (3rd ed., pp. 74–76). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Our Common Hermeneutics

Our Common Hermeneutics

Our Common Hermeneutics, Gordon Fee

“Even if you are among those who have asked, “Herman who?” when confronted with the word “hermeneutics,” you are in fact involved in hermeneutics all the time. What is it that all of us do as we read an epistle? Very simply, we bring our enlightened common sense to the text and apply what we can to our own situation. What does not seem to apply is simply left in the first century.
None of us, for example, have ever felt called by the Holy Spirit to take a pilgrimage to Troas in order to carry Paul’s cloak from Carpus’s house to his Roman prison (2 Tim 4:13), even though the passage is clearly a command to do that. Yet from that same letter most Christians believe that God tells them in times of stress that they are to “join … in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2:3), another word to Timothy that does seem applicable to themselves. None of us would ever think to question what has been done with either of these passages—although many of us may have moments of struggle in graciously obeying the latter.
Let it be emphasized here that most of the matters in the Epistles fit very nicely into this commonsense hermeneutics. For most texts it is not a matter of whether one should or not; it is more a matter of “to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Pet 1:13 NASU).
Our problems—and differences—are generated by those texts that lie somewhere in between these two, where some of us think we should obey exactly what is stated and others of us are not so sure. Our hermeneutical difficulties here are several, but they are all related to one thing—our lack of consistency. This is the great flaw in our common hermeneutics. Without necessarily intending to, we bring our theological heritage, our church traditions, our cultural norms, or our existential concerns to the epistles as we read them. And this results in all kinds of selectivity or “getting around” certain texts.
It is interesting to note, for example, that almost everyone in American evangelicalism or fundamentalism would agree with our common stance on 2 Timothy 2:3 and 4:13. However, the cultural milieu of most of the same Christians causes them to argue against obedience to 1 Timothy 5:23: “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” That had only to do with Timothy, not with us, we are told, because water was unsafe to drink back then. Or else, it is even argued that “wine” really meant “grape juice”—although one wonders how that could have happened when Welch’s processing and refrigeration were not available! But why is this personal word limited to Timothy, while the exhortation to continue in the Word (2 Tim 3:14–16), which is also an imperative addressed only to Timothy, becomes an imperative for all people at all times? Mind you, one may well be right in bypassing 1 Timothy 5:23 as not having present personal application, but on what hermeneutical grounds?
Or take the problems that many traditional churchgoers had with the “Jesus people” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Long hair on boys had already become the symbol of a new era in the hippie culture of the 1960s. For Christians to wear this symbol, especially in light of 1 Corinthians 11:14, “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him?” (RSV), seemed like an open defiance of God himself. Yet most who quoted this text against the youth culture allowed for Christian women to cut their hair short (despite v. 15), did not insist on women’s heads being covered in worship, and never considered that “nature” came about by a very unnatural means—a haircut.
These two examples simply illustrate how our own culture dictates what is common sense for each one of us. But other things also dictate common sense—ecclesiastical traditions, for example. How is it that in many evangelical churches women are forbidden to speak in church on the basis of 1 Corinthians 14:34–35, yet in many of the same churches everything else in chapter 14 is argued against as not belonging to the twenty-first century? How is it that verses 34–35 belong to all times and cultures, while verses 1–5, 26–33, and 39–40, which give regulations for prophesying and speaking in tongues, belong only to the first-century church?
Notice further how easy it is for twenty-first-century Christians to read their own tradition of church order into 1 Timothy and Titus. Yet very few churches have the plural leadership that seems clearly to be in view there (1 Tim 5:17; Titus 1:5 [Timothy was not the pastor; he was Paul’s temporary delegate to set things in order and to correct abuses]). And still fewer churches actually “enroll widows” under the guidelines of 1 Timothy 5:3–15.
And have you noticed how our prior theological commitments cause many of us to read such commitments into some texts while we read around others? It comes as a total surprise to some Christians when they find out that other Christians find support for infant baptism in such texts as 1 Corinthians 1:16; 7:14; or Colossians 2:11–12, or that others find evidence for a two-stage second coming in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, or that still others find evidence for sanctification as a second work of grace in Titus 3:5. For many in the Arminian tradition, who emphasize the believer’s free will and responsibility, texts like Romans 8:30; 9:18–24; Galatians 1:15; and Ephesians 1:4–5 are something of an embarrassment. Likewise many Calvinists have their own ways of getting around 1 Corinthians 10:1–13; 2 Peter 2:20–22; and Hebrews 6:4–6. Indeed our experience as teachers is that students from these traditions seldom ask what these texts mean; they want to know “how to get around” these texts!
After the last few paragraphs, we may well have lost a lot of friends, but we are trying to illustrate how thoroughgoing the problem is and how Christians need to talk to one another in this crucial area. What kinds of guidelines, then, are needed in order to establish more consistent hermeneutics for the Epistles?”
Fee, G. D., & Stuart, D. K. (1993). How to read the Bible for all its worth (3rd ed., pp. 72–74). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Looking for the answer to the question asked? 

Islam and Abrogation

Islam and Abrogation

“In Sura 2:100 and 16:103 Muhammad says this, “Whatever verses we cancel, or cause thee to forget, we bring one better or like it.” First, what’s amazing is, in an earlier verse (v. 20), he challenges people to “produce an sura like it.” And here he is canceling them. Looks like God was violating his own law. But why would God have Muhammad cancel verses and bring other ones just like it or better? Isn’t God’s revelation good enough for all races and for all times, and to give it to us just once? Can’t he produce a verse that’s perfect one time? The Bible says, “The word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25). In the Quran, this is not the case! In the Bible there is not one case where a prophet cancelled any verses.
Secondly, notice in this verse that Muhammad “forgot” something God told him. So now we have some of God’s message lost because Muhammad had a bad memory.
Let’s go through some of the verses that Muhammad cancelled to illustrate the change in the Quranic text.
Let’s start with the Satanic verses. According to one version of these verses, Muhammad had an early revelation in Mecca, which allowed the intercession of idols:

“Do you consider Allat and Al-Uzza and Al-Manat, the third the other? Those are swans exalted; Their intercession is expected …”

Some time after, Muhammad received another revelation canceling the last three lines and substituting them with what we find now in Sura 53:21–23, which omits the part about the pagan gods interceding. According to Watt, both versions had been recited publicly. Muhammad’s explanation was that Satan had deceived him and inserted the false verses without him knowing it! (see Watt, pp. 60–61). Problem is, if Satan deceived him in this part of the Quran without him knowing it, how do we know that Satan did not deceive him in another place in the Quran without him knowing, and that verse is still in the Quran today?
The command to stone adulterers was changed to 100 stripes (Sura 24:2).
The “sword” verse (Sura 9:5) supposedly annuls the 124th verse that originally encouraged tolerance (cf. 2:256), yet in other places it urges Muslims to “fight those who believe not” (9:29) and fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them (9:5). Of course, here’s a contradiction!
A contradiction can be found in the fact that the Quran claims that there can be “no changes to the word of God” (10:65). For there is none that can alter or change the words of God (6:34). But here Muhammad is canceling verses (Sura 2:100). Geisler writes that most of the time you see the corrected verses near the ones being corrected. The reason for the abrogation of verses is quite clear. There are many contradictions in the Quran, and Muhammad said you can’t find any or else its not God’s word:

“Can they not consider the Quran? Were it from any other that God, they would surely have found in it many contradictions” (Sura 4:84).

The Quran claims that humans are responsible for their own choices (18:28), yet it also claims that God has sealed the fate of all in advance (17:14; 10:99–100).”
Salemi, P. (2001). The Origins of Islam. Journal of Biblical Apologetics, 5, 29–30.



“The movement of faithful Bible students who push the dispensational approach beyond the point where most other dispensationalists would stop is generally called ultradispensationalism.17 The distinctive feature of ultradispensationalism is its view concerning the beginning of the church. In contrast to mainstream dispensationalism, which holds that the church began at Pentecost in Acts 2, ultradispensationalism believes the church began later—the moderate group suggesting Acts 9 or 13 and the more extreme group, Acts 28.
The extreme group follows E. W. Bullinger (1837–1913), a scholar of some renown; earlier dispensationalism, in fact, was sometimes called Bullingerism. Others in this group include Charles H. Welch of London, successor to E. W. Bullinger; A. E. Knoch; Vladimir M. Gelesnoff; and Otis Q. Sellers of Grand Rapids. Bullinger taught that the gospels and Acts were under the dispensation of law, with the church actually beginning at Paul’s ministry after Acts 28:28. The New Testament books that set forth the revelation concerning this concept of the church are Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Bullinger identified three periods in the New Testament: (1) the time of the gospels when the gospel was preached to the Jews only and authenticated by water baptism; (2) the transitional period in Acts and the corresponding earlier New Testament epistles when the offer still went to the Jews, offering them participation in the “bride church” and authenticated by two baptisms, water and Spirit; (3) the period of Jew and Gentile as one body in Christ and authenticated by Spirit baptism alone. Because the Gentile church is related to Christ through the Spirit, baptism and the Lord’s Supper have no significance for the church. Those rites relate to the flesh, according to Bullinger.
The moderate group, holding that the church began in Acts 9 or Acts 13, is identified by J. C. O’Hair, Cornelius R. Stam, and Charles F. Baker, author of A Dispensational Theology. Grace Bible College of Grand Rapids is the ultradispensational school leading to ministries with Grace Gospel Fellowship and Worldwide Grace Testimony.
Stam taught that the church began in Acts 9, with the conversion of Paul. The “Body Church” could only begin with the beginning of Paul’s ministry because Paul was the minister to the Gentiles. Because after that time there was no further offer of the kingdom to Israel, J. C. O’Hair taught that the church began in Acts 13:46 with the statement: “We are turning to the Gentiles.” Because O’Hair’s followers begin the church within the time frame of Acts, they observe the Lord’s Supper but not water baptism.”

17 Ibid., pp. 192–205; and G. R. Lewis, “Ultradispensationalism,” in Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), pp. 1120–21.
Enns, P. P. (1989). The Moody handbook of theology (pp. 523–524). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

The Two Mysteries

The Two Mysteries

The Two Mysteries – Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones

“‘If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be follow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.’
Ephesians 3:2–7
As we continue our study of this sentence that runs from verse 2 to verse 7 we remind ourselves that we are interested in its statements not simply because they are part of the exposition of this great Epistle, but because they have a very important practical relevance for us. We are living in a world in which many Christian people are suffering acutely because they are Christians. The faith of some of them may be shaken, and our faith may be shaken because of what they are having to endure. Indeed a day may come when we Christians may have to endure similar trials in this land. The Apostle teaches us how to be prepared for such an eventuality. But even apart from that, what can be more profitable than that we should contemplate the greatness of this plan of salvation? It is only as we grasp this that we shall praise God as we ought, and worship Him as we were meant to do.
The Apostle is reminding these Ephesian Christians of the extraodinary way in which God had contrived to bring the gospel to them. He reminds them that he, of all men, had been granted the great privilege of preaching the gospel to them in Ephesus; he, an apostle of equal rank and standing with the other apostles, though he was never with the Lord in the days of His flesh as they had been, and though he had not received his commission from the Lord while He was yet on earth as had the other apostles. But that special revelation had been made to him on the road to Damascus, and so he is an apostle of equal rank with the others, and he glories in it.
We now turn to the question as to the nature of this mystery that had been revealed to him. In this long sentence the Apostle uses the word ‘mystery’ twice, in verses 3 and 4, first, ‘how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery’—then in the Authorized Version there is a statement in brackets. Unfortunately the Revised Version and the Revised Standard Version and others do not use these brackets, and that confuses the issue. The Authorized Version very rightly starts with a parenthesis in brackets (‘as I wrote afore in few words, whereby’—that is to say, ‘when you look back at that’—‘when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ’). Then, after the closing of the brackets, it continues: ‘Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men’. It is clear that the statement within the brackets is very definitely a parenthesis. The main statement is: ‘How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body’. The words in the brackets are a subsidiary statement (‘as I wrote afore in few words …’). Paul is referring there, not to some other supposed Epistle, but to what he has already said in chapters 1 and 2. Today we would express this by the words, ‘As I said above, if you will read it again’. The Apostle reminds them that he has already indicated to them something of his ‘knowledge in the mystery of Christ’.
It is quite clear that the Apostle is using the word mystery about two different things. We have already defined ‘mystery’ as meaning something that the human mind cannot attain unto by its own unaided effort, and which must be revealed by the Holy Spirit. It does not mean something which is misty or uncertain and about which you can never be clear in your minds; but something which without the enlightenment and revelation of the Holy Spirit we can never grasp. He uses this term in two senses. The mystery to which he refers in the parenthesis, in verse 4, is ‘the mystery of Christ’. We may call that the general mystery. But what he is really concerned to elaborate is another mystery, the mystery he describes in verses 5 and 6. This is a mystery which ‘in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs’. That is the particular mystery.
This clarification is essential, for if we are not aware of the distinction we shall probably be muddled and confused about the entire statement. Once more it is interesting to observe, not only the working of the mind of this great Apostle, but also his spirit. It seems as if there are certain things which the Apostle cannot refrain from doing. Though it plays havoc with his literary style (as we have seen previously), he seems to be quite incapable of controlling himself. So while he is primarily concerned to expound the particular mystery he cannot refrain from saying just a word about the general mystery.
We start therefore with the general mystery, the mystery to which he refers in verse 4 and which he describes as the ‘mystery of Christ’. Here he is referring to what he has already been expounding to these Ephesians. You need be in no uncertainty, he seems to say, as to my knowledge of this message that has been committed to me; I have said enough, I have written enough already for you to be sure of it. The ‘mystery of Christ’ is just another way of referring to the whole message of the gospel, or to the whole truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; for He in reality is the gospel. It is all ‘in Him’. In other words, the Apostle is referring to the message committed to him, the message he had already preached by word of mouth to these people. And that message is Christ, the mystery of Christ. No one can read Paul’s writings without seeing that this is always his great theme and consuming passion. Read through the epistles of Paul and note down on paper every reference he makes to Christ, to the Lord Jesus Christ, to Christ Jesus my Lord, and so on. It is quite astounding and amazing. As someone once put it, he was a ‘Christ-intoxicated’ man. It is not surprising that he says, ‘To me to live is Christ’ —Christ the beginning, end, centre, soul, everything! His central message was that everything that God has for man is in Christ, and nowhere else. So we find him writing in his Epistle to the Colossians these words: ‘In whom (Christ) are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (2:3). It is all in Christ; and it is nowhere else. So Paul cannot pass on to deal with the particular mystery without saying a word about this great general mystery.
The same link is found in the Apostle’s First Epistle to Timothy, which is very particularly a practical and pastoral Epistle in which he instructs Timothy about ordaining presbyters and deacons, and similar matters. The third chapter is one of the most practical passages in all his writings; but here again he is carried away by his controlling theme. He is concerned that Timothy should know how to behave himself in ‘the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth’. Then suddenly, ‘And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory’ (3:16). ‘Great is the mystery of godliness!’
Paul cannot refrain from making this statement because the coming of Christ into the world is the most thrilling, the most exciting, the greatest and most glorious thing that has ever happened in history. The mystery is the amazing way in which God has sent salvation to men; it is the way in which He has done it; it is all that has happened in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. What a mystery! Who would ever have had a glimpse of it, who would ever have known it, were it not for the illumination, the revelation that the Holy Ghost alone can give.
Let us look at it again. A Babe is born in Bethlehem and put in a manger. That must have happened frequently. A babe born! Thousands of babies are born daily. But the Babe of Bethlehem is the greatest mystery the world has ever known because that child, that babe is the eternal Son of God. The mystery is that of ‘two natures in one person!’ He is God, He is man. He is truly God, without any limitation. He is also truly man. Those two natures are in Him, and yet He is not two persons, He is one Person. ‘I do not understand that’, says someone. Of course you don’t, you are not meant to do so! If you think that your mind is big enough to grasp and to span such a concept you had better think again. This is ‘the mystery of godliness’. This man, the Apostle Paul, who probably had a deeper insight into it than anyone who has ever lived, simply stands back and says, ‘Great is the mystery of godliness’. It has been revealed to him, so he knows that there are the two natures in the one person. He knows now who that is; not by any mental process of his own, but, as he tells us, by the revelation which came through the Holy Spirit. Indeed the Son Himself had said to him, when on the road to Damascus he asked, ‘Who art thou, Lord?’, ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest’. That is the mystery of Christ! This is God’s way of salvation. God is the Almighty, the eternal and everlasting God, to whom ‘the nations are but as the small dust of the balance’, vanity, less than and lighter than vanity. It is He who made everything out of nothing and said ‘Let there be light, and there was light’. So we would have thought that, when He desired to save man and to save the world, He would again have uttered some great word which would cause the whole universe to shake and quake. We would have expected some dramatic exhibition of power by which God would save men and would destroy evil. But God did not act in that manner. His way of salvation is found in this mystery of Christ, in a helpless babe. Nothing can be weaker or more helpless; nothing smaller, nothing more defenceless. That is God’s way!
Then consider everything that happened to Him and in Him. Try to contemplate the whole process of the Incarnation. Consider how He divested Himself of the insignia of His eternal glory in order to be born a babe. Then go on to think of His humiliation and of all that He endured and suffered; then the death, the burial, the resurrection and ascension. That is God’s way of salvation! That is God’s way of dealing with the human predicament, the human problem! That is God’s way of reconciling men unto Himself and of ultimately producing order and glory out of the chaos of things as they are now! That is the mystery to which Paul is referring! That is the mystery, the insight which he had been given into the mystery of Christ!
Let me now ask a question: Is the ‘mystery of Christ’ the most absorbing interest in your life? Is the ‘mystery of Christ’ to you the most thrilling thing in the world? Is this at the centre of your life, the thing that is uppermost in your heart, the core of your meditation? In the Scriptures Christ is there always in that central position. The greatest of our hymns look at Him and contemplate Him and, with Paul, express amazement at the mystery. The mystery of Christ! It meant nothing to the Jews or the Gentiles. It is the last thing that Saul of Tarsus ever thought of, or ever even imagined. But it is fact, it is gospel. It is what Christ Himself had made known to Paul on the road to Damascus and had commissioned him to preach to the Jews and the Gentiles, telling them that in Him alone is remission of sins to be obtained, and eternal life, and the hope of everlasting glory.
I trust that we are now not quite as surprised as we may have been as to why Paul introduced the brackets and threw in his parenthesis, ignoring style. I have often felt that much of the explanation of the tragic state of the modern church lies in the fact that we no longer have parentheses! We are too perfect, our literary form is much too fine; the essay may be beautiful, but they are lifeless and achieve nothing. We are too much self-controlled; and it is because we have not seen ‘the mystery of Christ’. Thank God for the brackets and the parentheses which remind us of ‘the mystery of Christ’!

*     *     *
We must now turn to the particular mystery. The particular mystery to which the Apostle began to refer in verse 3 he now takes up again in verse 5: ‘how that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel’. This refers to the particular matter of the relation of the Jew and the Gentile in the Christian Church. The Apostle tells us elsewhere that he glories in the fact that he is in particular ‘the apostle to the Gentiles’, and he glories in that office. He refers to it at this point because he is writing to Ephesian Christians who had been Gentiles and pagans, and his object, as I have said, is to enable them to realize the marvel and the wonder of their salvation.
But we have our own reason for paying careful attention to this particular statement. I say quite frankly that I would prefer not to have to deal with this subject, but the business of preaching is not only to exhort and to comfort, but also to instruct; and it is only as we grasp the doctrines with our minds that we can truly live the Christian life and enjoy it as we are meant to do. I am aware that there are those who use certain ‘Bibles’ in which are contained ‘notes’ which lay much stress on this particular statement, and out of it construct a whole outlook and scheme of teaching. I am referring to the teaching which is commonly known by the name of Dispensationalism, and I know that there is always a danger, when you find notes in a Bible, of believing, unconsciously that the notes are as inspired as the text. We tend to swallow it all and to take it as authentic. We are driven therefore to glance at this statement from that particular standpoint.
The Dispensational teaching asserts that all the promises which you find in the Old Testament were made to the Jews and apply only to the Jews; that is to say, they do not apply to the Church; it is asserted that the Christian Church is something which has ‘come in’ —such is their term —as a kind of ‘parenthesis’. Dispensationalists maintain that when the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world He came to offer the kingdom of heaven to the Jews, and it was only because the Jews refused it that the idea of the Church was introduced. If the Jews had accepted the kingdom, they say, there would never have been a Christian Church at all. But, the Jews having rejected the kingdom, the Church has come in as a new dispensation, as a kind of parenthesis. The Church will come to an end, and then once more there will be a restoration of the Jews as a nation and Christ will set up His kingdom among them. They draw a sharp line of division between the Church and the kingdom. They say that the Jews are still a separate and a special people, and that the Old Testament prophecies only apply to them.
The relevance of this to our position today is that those who believe the Dispensationalists’ teaching are very busy preaching sermons and delivering addresses about Egypt and about what is happening in Palestine and in the Near East. Some even claim that they can foretell exactly what is going to happen, and when. They find it all, they say, in the Scriptures. For this reason they make great use of the particular statement we are now examining. They emphasize that the Apostle says, ‘how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men’, and there they stop. Then they proceed to argue that these words make it perfectly clear that the ‘mystery’ pertaining to the Church was not known under the old dispensation; indeed, until it was revealed to the Apostle Paul. Some, indeed, even venture to say that the Old Testament nowhere teaches that Gentiles would be saved.
There is only one answer to give to such teaching. If its exponents would read the Old Testament without prejudice they would find many references to the matter in dispute between us. The promise was made to Abraham, as Paul reminds us in the third chapter of Galatians: ‘In the shall all nations be blessed’ (3:8). In Isaiah there are reference to ‘the isles’ and the ‘Gentiles’ and so on. That is the simple answer. But there are other answers and these are most important by way of reply to those who say that the Church as such was not known under the old dispensation. Here is a quotation from the Notes of a well-known ‘Bible’: ‘The Church corporately is not in the vision of the Old Testament prophets’, and then, in brackets to prove that contention, ‘(Ephesians 3:1–6)’. Ephesians 3:1–6, according to that statement, indicates that the Church corporately is not in the vision of the Old Testament prophet. That quotation is found in the introduction to the prophetic books of the Old Testament in those particular Notes. I perhaps might add, in order to make my statement complete, that there is a system of Ultra-Dispensationalism associated with the name of Dr Bullinger which goes so far as to say that it is only in the Epistles that we really have the New Testament Gospel which applies to us. Dr Bullinger taught that the gospels have nothing to do with us, that they were for the Jews only; it is here in Ephesians chapter 3 that we have the message for this age for Jews and Gentiles in the Church.
What is the answer to this teaching? Surely the doctrine concerning the Church was clearly taught by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Himself. Consider what transpired at Caesarea Philippi when the Lord said to Peter, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church’. The famous Notes have to admit that He did so speak but they say that He did not elaborate it. But the fact is that He did say it: so this truth concerning the Church is not only revealed to Paul, it had been revealed before. Our Lord Himself taught it. Furthermore Peter preaching on the Day of Pentecost said, ‘Repent, and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to as many as are afar off’. That clearly is a reference to the Gentiles. In the same way Peter and John obviously understood this principle when they recognized that the Samaritans, who were not Jews, had also received the benefits of salvation, and so laid their hands upon them that they might receive the Holy Ghost. Again Peter in the dramatic event that took place before he went to the house of Cornelius was brought to see the same truth. It took a vision from heaven to make Peter see it. As a Jew he could not understand this. In spite of the fact that he was a saved man and had passed through the experience of Pentecost the idea that the Gentiles should become joint-heirs with Jews was, in his view, impossible. But having seen the vision and witnessed the falling of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his household, he saw this truth once and for ever, and so admitted the Gentiles into the Church. He was attacked for doing so and defended himself as we are told in chapters 11 and 15 of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. So it is clear that before Paul had become the apostle to the Gentiles this truth had already been preached.
But in fact this truth is found in the Old Testament. There are clear passages, such as Ezekiel 36 and elsewhere, which show this picture of the Church. And as Paul argues in the third chapter of Galatians, in the promise to Abraham it is clearly implicit. How important it is that we should realize the danger of starting with a theory and imposing it upon the Scriptures! What the Apostle actually says is, ‘Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men’—then comes not a full stop but a comma—‘as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit’. The Apostle is not saying that it had never been revealed before. What he is saying is that it was not revealed before ‘as’, ‘to the extent that’, it is now revealed. It was there in embryo; it is now in full bloom and development. It was there in shadow as a suggestion; it is now fully revealed. The expression is, ‘As it is now revealed …’ How extraordinary are the subtleties of the human mind, even when it is Christian, and when it has received the Holy Spirit! It is not a matter of dishonesty. I am but indicating that our human minds are fallible, and that therefore we have to be careful as we study the Scripture lest we elaborate a whole system of teaching upon one text or the misunderstanding of a text.
The mystery that has now been made plain and clear is not simply the fact that the Gentiles are to be saved, but that Gentile and Jew are to be together in the Christian Church—in close relationship one to the other. Paul is not saying that the Gentiles are now to be allowed to become Jewish proselytes. That is what the Jews already believed; indeed they had practised proselytism. Many a Gentile had come to see the truth of God in the Old Testament Scriptures, and the Jews instructed him, and circumcised him, and so he became a Jewish proselyte. The Gentile was allowed to come in, but only as a proselyte; he was still not a complete Jew. But the mystery which had been made plain to Paul and the other apostles was that the Gentile had now come in, not as an addition, not as a proselyte, but into the new thing, the Church, in exactly the same way as the Jew had come in. He is asserting that the Church is now the Kingdom, that what the Jewish nation was in the Old Testament the Church is now; and that there is no longer that old distinction. In other words he is saying that our Lord’s recorded prophecy in Matthew 21:43 has been fulfilled: ‘Therefore say I unto you (the Jews), The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof’. The Apostle Peter repeats this in his own way by applying to the Church, consisting of Jew and Gentile, the very words that God used through Moses about the nation of Israel in Exodus 19, ‘Ye are a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people’. The Church is the present form of the Kingdom.
The Apostle’s point is that the old distinction between the Jew and the Gentile is abolished once and for ever. He has already shown that in the second chapter, stating that ‘the middle wall of partition’ has gone, that Christ has demolished it, and has made ‘one new man, so making peace’. The old distinction has gone. The particular manner in which the Apostle states it is most interesting. He expresses it by using the word ‘fellow’ three times (3–6). Unfortunately the Authorized version misses this and says ‘fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise’. But Paul actually said, ‘fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, fellow-partakers of the promise’.
The Gentiles, he says, are to be fellow-heirs with the Jews, which means that all the promise God had made to the Jewish people in the Old Testament are now open to the Gentiles. The Jew is an equal sharer with the Gentile, and the Gentile with the Jew. There is no difference. They are both fellow-heirs, they have the same place, as it were, in God’s will; they are to receive the same benefits. This refers to the new covenant that God had promised. He had said that He was going to make a new covenant, not like the one that He had made when He brought them out of Egypt. It is, ‘Your sins and your iniquities will I remember no more’, ‘I will be to you a God, and you shall be to me a people’. But this is no longer for the Jews only, but for Gentiles also; it is for you and for me. We are in God’s will, we are heirs together with the Jews, the old nation, the ancient people of God, in this amazing promise of the benefits of the new covenant.
The second term is ‘Fellow-members of the body’. We might have thought that ‘fellow-heirs’ tells us everything, and that nothing can go beyond it. This addition can be best explained perhaps by an illustration. Think of a man who has an only son, but also a family servant who has been with him perhaps for forty years and whom he has come to regard almost as a son. So when he makes his will he says that all his property is to be divided between his son and his faithful servant. A servant can be made a fellow-heir with a son, but he is still a servant. But it does not make him a member of the family; it does not mean he has the same blood in him; it does not mean that he has changed the essential relationship. So the Apostle adds to ‘fellow-heirs’ ‘fellow-members of the body’. This is what demolishes all attempts to perpetuate a distinction between the Jew and the Gentile. It is not, says Paul, that the Gentiles are simply added on somewhat loosely; they are compacted together as joints in the same body, and no one joint is more ‘in the body’ than any other joint. We are jointed together, impacted as joints together in this one body. There is no distinction any longer; there is no superiority and no inferiority. The system of dispensationalism maintains that there is, that there is a ‘heavenly people’ and an ‘earthly people’, and that the Jews will be brought back and be given a very special place again at some future time. Such teaching is a denial of what we are told here, that all that is finished for ever, that there is one body, and that Jew and Gentile are equally joints impacted together in the one body.
The Apostle goes even a step further, and says that we are ‘fellow-partakers together of the promise’. In the Light of other Scriptures this means two things. In Galatians 3:14 we read: ‘That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith’. This is also called ‘the promise of the Father’, and that runs as a golden thread through the Old Testament. It is what happened on the Day of Pentecost which Peter explained thus: ‘This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel’. The Promise of the Father is the shedding forth of the Spirit, and all the results that flow from it. You are fellow-partakers of the promise, says Paul to the Ephesians, you have received the fulness of the Spirit exactly as the Jew has done. But I believe that the words have a further meaning. Another great promise was the promise of the resurrection and of the glorious kingdom of the Son of God. Paul states this very clearly in Acts 26, verses 6–8, while making his defence before King Agrippa and Festus. ‘And now’, he says, ‘I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing, incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?’ The promise is that a Messiah would come who would even conquer death and the grave and bring life and immortality to light. It is the promise of resurrection, the final resurrection, and the coming of the glorious Kingdom, ‘the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness’. That was something which the Jew prized above everything else. He had to suffer much in his life in this world, but he looked beyond it all, as we are told in Hebrews 11—he looked for the fulfilment of that great promise, the resurrection and the life of glory. That promise was at first confined to the Jew; the Gentile was without hope, without God in the world, as Paul has already said in chapter 2, verse 12; but now he says that Gentiles are fellow-partakers of God’s promise in Christ by the gospel’.
To us it means that we can look forward to the resurrection of the body, to a glorified body. We can look forward to dwelling on a new earth under new heavens, wherein dwelleth righteousness; fellow-partakers of the promise, ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’.
Those are the two mysteries which the Apostle tells us he has been given to preach; the general mystery, the mystery of Christ, and the particular mystery that God’s purpose is now manifest and in operation in the Church; and that the Church is the final form of this purpose until it is completed. Jew and Gentile are in Christ together, are sharing God’s blessings now, and shall share the benefits of the everlasting and eternal glory. They shall wonder and be amazed to all eternity at the grace of God that ever made it possible, that ever brought us in, and that made us and the Jews together fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of such a blessed hope.”
Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1972). The Unsearchable Riches of Christ: An Exposition of Ephesians 3 (pp. 39–51). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

The Bible’s Purpose

The Bible’s Purpose

Outline by Dr. Bob Utely. Answering misconceptions of the bible. I would also like to note that the bible is a product of the church.The bible itself is a compilation of manuscripts that the church has collected over the years. The old and new testament both are written of Jesus. Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus said “no one takes my life from me, but I lay it down willingly”. Jesus claimed he came to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus prophesied that he would die and be resurrected. This took place, Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, he was punished for our sins. This message is found in the bible, but it has also been taught by oral tradition through discipleship for thousands of years.

III. The Bible’s Purpose

A. Not a Rule Book
Much of our misunderstanding concerning Scripture begins in our mistaken notions concerning its purposes. One way to establish what a thing is is to state what it is not. The fallen human tendency toward legalism, so evident among the Pharisees, is alive and well and lives in your home church. This tendency turns the Bible into an extensive set of rules. Modern believers have almost turned the Scriptures into a legalistic rule book, a kind of “Christian Talmud.” It must be stated forcibly that the Scriptures’ primary focus is redemptive. It is meant to confront, convince, and turn wayward mankind back to God (McQuilkin 183, 49). The primary focus is salvation (II Tim. 3:15), which issues in Christlikeness (II Tim. 3:17). This Christlikeness is also a major goal (Romans 8:28-29; II Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:4; I Thess. 3:13; 4:3; I Pet. 1:15), but it is a result of the first goal. At least one possibility for the structure and nature of the Bible is its redemptive purpose and not a systematized rule book or doctrine book (i.e., not a Christian Talmud). The Bible does not address all of our intellectual questions. Many issues are addressed in ambiguous or incomplete ways. The Bible was not designed primarily as a systematic theology book, but as a selective history of God’s dealing with His rebellious creation. Its purpose is not merely rules, but relationship. It leaves areas uncovered so that we are forced to walk in love (I Corinthians 13), not rules (Col. 2:16-23). We must see the priority of people made in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), not rules. It is not a set of rules, but a new character, a new focus, a new life that is presented.

This is not to imply that the Bible does not contain rules, because it does, but they do not cover every area. Often rules become barriers instead of bridges in mankind’s search for God. The Bible provides us with enough information to live a God-pleasing life; it also provides us some guidelines or boundaries. Its primary gift, however, is the “Guide,” not the guidelines. Knowing and following the Guide until you become like Him is the second goal of Scripture.

B. Not a Science Book

Another example of modern mankind’s attempt to ask questions of Scripture which it is not designed to answer is in the area of modern scientific inquiry. Many want to force the Scriptures onto the philosophical grid of natural law, particularly in relation to the “scientific method” of inductive reasoning. The Bible is not a divine textbook on natural law. It is not anti-scientific; it is pre-scientific! Its primary purpose is not in this area. Although the Bible is not speaking directly to these questions it does speak about physical reality, however, it does so in the language of description (i.e., phenomenological language), not science. It describes reality in terms of its own day. It presents a “world view” more than a “world picture.” This means that it focuses more on “the who” than on “the how.” Things are described as how they appear (i.e., the five senses) to the common person. Some examples are

1. Do the dead really live in the ground? The Hebrew culture, like our own, buries their dead. Therefore, in the language of description, they were in the earth (Sheol or Hades).
2. Does the land really float on water? This is often connected to the three-storied universe model. The ancients knew that water was present underground (i.e., oasis). Their conclusion was expressed in poetic language.
3. Even we, in our day, speak in these categories.
a. “the sun rises”
b. “dew falls”

Some books which have really helped me in this area are

1) Religion and the Rise of Modern Science by R. Hooykaas
2) The Scientific Enterprise and the Christian Faith by Malcolm A. Jeeves
3) The Christian View of Science and Scripture by Bernard Ramm
4) Science and Hermeneutics by Vern S. Poythress
5) Darwinism on Trial by Phillip Johnson
6) Several good books by Hugh Ross, Pensacola Bible Church, Pensacola, FL
7) Science and Faith: An Evangelical Dialogue by Henry Poe and Jimmy Davis
8) The Battle of Beginnings by Del Ratzsch
9) Coming to Peace with Science by Daniel Falk
10) Mere Christianity: Science and Intelligent Design by William Demoski

C. Not a Magic Book

Not only is the Bible not a rule book or a science book, but it is not a magic book either. Our love for the Bible has caused us to handle it in some very strange ways. Have you ever sought God’s will by praying and then letting your Bible fall open to a page and then put your finger on a verse? This common practice treats the Bible as if it were a crystal ball or divine “Ouija board.” The Bible is a message, not a modern Urim and Thummim (Exod. 28:30). Its value is in its message, not in its physical presence. As Christians, we take our Bible into the hospital with us, not so we can read it, because we are too sick. We do so because it represents God’s presence to us. For many modern Christians the Bible has become a physical idol. Its physical presence is not its power, but its message about God in Christ. Placing your Bible on your surgical incision will not help it heal faster. We do not only need the Bible beside our bed; we need its message in our hearts.

I have even heard people get upset if someone drops a Bible or if someone writes in it. The Bible is nothing more than cow skin (if you have an expensive one), tree pulp, and ink. It is only holy in its connection to God. The Bible is useless unless it is read and followed. Our culture is reverent toward the Bible and rebellious toward God. Earlier in our court system one had to swear to tell the truth while holding his hand on the Bible. If one is a believer he would not lie anyway. If one is swearing on an ancient book in which he did not believe and whose content he did not know, what makes us think that he would not lie?

The Bible is not a magical charm. It is not a detailed, complete, unabridged textbook on natural phenomena and it is not “Hoyle’s” rule book on the game of life with detailed instructions in every area. It is a message from the God who acts within human history. It points toward His Son and it points its finger at our rebellion.

IV. Author’s Presuppositions About the Bible

Even though the Bible has been abused by mankind’s expectations and usages, it is still our only guide for faith and practice. I would like to state my presuppositions about the Bible.
I believe the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the only clear self-revelation of God. The New Testament is the perfect fulfillment and interpreter of the Old Testament (we must view the OT through the new revelations of Jesus and the NT, which radically universalize the promises to Israel). I believe the one and only Eternal, Creator, Redeemer God initiated the writing of our canonical Scriptures by inspiring certain chosen persons to record and explain His acts in the lives of individuals and nations. The Bible is our only clear source of information about God and His purposes (I know about Jesus only from the pages of the NT). Natural revelation (cf. Job 38-39; Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:19-20; 2:14-15) is valid, but not complete. Jesus Christ is the capstone of God’s revelation about Himself (cf. John 1:18; Col. 1:14-16; Heb. 1:2-3). The Bible must be illuminated by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:23; 16:20-21; I Cor. 2:6-16) in order to be correctly understood (in its spiritual dimension). Its message is authoritative, adequate, eternal, infallible, and trustworthy for all believers. The exact mode of its inspiration has not been revealed to us, but it is obvious to believers that the Bible is a supernatural book, written by natural people under special leadership.

V. Evidence for a Supernaturally Inspired and Authoritative Bible

Although the above statement is presuppositional, as is all human knowledge, it does not mean that there is no credible supportive evidence. At this point let us examine some of this evidence.

A. The Bible contains very precise predictions (historical, not typological [Hosea 11:1] or apocalyptic [Zechariah 9]) about future events, not in vague formulations, but in specific and often shocking preciseness. Two good examples follow.

1. The area of Jesus’ ministry was predicted to be in Galilee, Isa. 9:1. This was very unexpected by Judean Jewry because Galilee was not considered to be quite Kosher because of its physical distance from the Temple. Yet, the majority of Jesus’ ministry was spent in this geographical area.

2. The place of Jesus’ birth is specifically recorded in Micah 5:2. Bethlehem was a very small village whose only claim to fame was that the family of Jesse lived there. Yet, 750 years before the birth of Jesus the Bible specifically pinpoints this as the birthplace of the Messiah. Even the rabbinical scholars of Herod’s court knew this (Matt. 2:4-6). Some may doubt the 8th century B.C. date for both Isaiah and Micah, however, because of the Septuagint (which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scripture, which was begun about 250-200 B.C.), even at the very minimum these prophecies were made over 200 years before their fulfillment.

B. Another evidence relates to the modern scientific discipline of archaeology. The last few decades have seen a tremendous amount of archaeological discovery. To my knowledge there have not been any finds that have repudiated the Bible’s historical accuracies (Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, p. 31, “No archaeological discovery has ever been made that contradicts or controverts historical statements of Scripture”), quite the contrary. Archaeology has facilitated confidence in the historicity of the Bible over and over again.

1. One example is the use of Mesopotamian names in the Nuzi and Mari Tablets of the second millennium B.C., which also occur in Genesis. Now these are not the same people, but the same names. Names are characteristic of a particular time and place. The names “Terah” and “Nahor” are common to the biblical record and in these ancient tablets.

2. The existence of a Hittite civilization in Asia Minor is another example. For many years (19th century) secular history had no references to the stable, highly developed culture known by this name (Archer 1982, 96-98, 210). However, Genesis 10 and the historical books of the Bible mention them many times (II Kings 7:6,7; II Chr. 1:17). Archaeology has since confirmed, not only their existence, but their longevity and power (i.e., 1950 archeologists found royal library of 2,000 cuneiform tablets where the nation was called both Anatolia and Hittite).

3. The existence of Belshazzar, the last Babylonian king (Daniel 5), has often been denied. There are ten lists of Babylonian kings in secular history taken from Babylonian documents, but none contain Belshazzar’s name. With further archaeological finds it became obvious that Belshazzar was co-regent and the official in charge during that period of time. His father, Nabonidus, whose mother was the high priestess of the moon goddess, Zin, had become so involved in the worship of Zin (Nana) that he had moved to Tema (Arabia), her holy city, while on a ten-year military campaign against Egypt. He left his son, Belshazzar, to reign in the city of Babylon in his absence.

C. A further evidence for a supernatural Bible is the consistency of its message. This is not to say that the Bible does not contain some paradoxical material, but it also does not contradict itself. This is amazing when one considers that it was written over a 1600/1400 year period (depending on the date of the Exodus, i.e., 1495, 1290 B.C.) by authors of radically different educational and cultural backgrounds from Mesopotamia to Egypt. It is composed of various literary genres and is written in three separate languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek). Yet, even with all of this variety, a unified message (i.e., plot line) is presented.

D. Finally, one of the most marvelous evidences for the Bible’s unique inspiration is the permanently morally changed lives of men and women from different cultures, different educational levels, and different socio-economic levels through history. Wherever the Bible has simply been read, radical, permanent lifestyle changes have occurred. The Bible is its own best apologist.” Dr. Bob Utley

An Evangelical Response to Catholic Arguments for Salvation by Merit

An Evangelical Response to Catholic Arguments for Salvation by Merit

An Evangelical Response
to Catholic Arguments for Salvation by Merit

“We have already noted that the Council of Trent declared that no works prior to justification are meritorious.42 Nonetheless, several significant differences between the official Roman Catholic and orthodox Protestant views on salvation remain. Before stating the basis for the Protestant position, a response to the Catholic arguments in favor of merit is in order.

A Critique of the Roman Catholic
View of Justification

With all due recognition to the common Augustinian core of salvation by grace (see chap. 5), there are some important differences between the Roman Catholic and evangelical views of justification. Unfortunately the noble but unsuccessful recent statement by “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” lacked precision in this very area, speaking of a common belief that “we are justified by grace through faith.”43 What it failed to note, however, is what the Reformation was fought over, namely, that Scripture teaches, as Protestants affirm, that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. As we will see, there is a common belief in salvation by grace, but Roman Catholics hold that justification takes place at baptism of infants, which is long before they can believe in any conscious sense. Further, as the Catholic doctrine of merit reveals, they do not believe that salvation is by grace alone (sola gratia), since meritorious works are also necessary, at least for those that live beyond infancy. Further, for evangelicals, salvation is not simply “through faith” but “by faith alone” (sola fide). Since this was at the very heart of the Reformation, many evangelicals refuse to sign the statement since they believe it would betray the Reformation. Indeed, their protest led to a follow-up statement which strikes a more distinctively Protestant note: “We understand the statement that ‘we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ,’ in terms of the substitutionary atonement and imputed righteousness of Christ, leading to full assurance of eternal salvation; we seek to testify in all circumstances and contexts to this, the historic Protestant understanding of salvation by faith alone (sola fide).”

Many criticisms of the Catholic view of justification revolve around the concept of merit that was made into infallible dogma of the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent. The Catholic doctrine of meritorious works has been a target of Protestants since the Reformation. For Luther and his followers, it is “misleading to speak of any rewards as ‘merited.’ ”44 Indeed, the Reformers believed that at Trent the Roman Catholic Church apostatized and denied the true gospel. “For I thoroughly believe, more firmly than I believe in God, that they are acquainted with more human doctrine, and also with more villainy, because they are proving it before my very eyes by the things they are doing, and so they are apostles, evangelists, and prophets just as little as they are the church; that is to say, they are the devil’s apostles, evangelists, and prophets. The true apostles, evangelists, and prophets preach God’s word, not against God’s word.”45

It confuses reward and merit. While Catholics wish to remind us that the whole doctrine of merit should be viewed in the context of grace,46 they overlook the fact that Scripture teaches that grace and meritorious works are mutually exclusive. Part of the reason for the difficulty is that the Catholic use of the word “reward” has an equivocal sense that leads to a confusion between a reward based on grace and one based on merit (i.e., on works), albeit prompted by grace. Often the problem seems to stem from a fallacious inference that simply because something is prompted by grace it is not obtained by merit. Just because the previous graciousness of a friend may prompt one to do a job for him that one would not otherwise have accepted does not mean that the wages earned from it were not at least partly merited, even if they were higher wages than one deserved. Thus, neither merit in the strict sense of what is justly earned nor merit which is based in part on what is earned but goes beyond that by God’s goodness is compatible with grace.

Catholic theology rightly points out that the Bible sometimes speaks of eternal life as a reward (e.g., Gal. 6:8) that one can “inherit” (Luke 18:18).47 In this sense, however, works are not a condition of salvation;48 salvation is a gift of grace received by f