Thursday, July 19, 2018

Bibles, Preachers



Do preachers have Apostolic authority?  Is there such as thing as Apostolic succession?  Preachers everywhere complain that nobody is listening.  There is nothing new about this: for even God complains that no one is listening…
“I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts….”[i]
[ii]Isaiah complains about the same problem:
“Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”
And Jonah is most likely crushed into an irrational insanity and death wish because of this willful deafness among his audience.  In fact, this willful deafness seems to be the common experience of all the great Prophets, writing in the Old Testament.

If these Old Testament Prophets are above reproach in unquestionable possession of Divine delegated authority; and, nobody listened to them: then the fact that people don’t seem to be listening can never be a good test of Apostolic authority.  Even though His sheep hear His voice,[iii] it may very well be that there are no sheep within reach of the preacher’s voice: the preacher must not be discouraged, when he feels that no one is paying attention.

Yes, we agree that there is such a thing as Apostolic authority, and it is handed down within the Church.[iv]  That being conceded, the true test of Apostolic authority is not whether people listen; rather it is whether the preacher clings to the Spirit and faithfully presents what the Spirit teaches.  Thus, all Apostolic authority derives only from the Spirit’s power and Christ’s authority: it is what it is, because the King and Vicar say so.  The Spirit may delegate that power of Christ’s authority to the simplest uncredentialled country bumpkin, as he does with Amos[v]; yet, deny that authority to the highest prelate: the Spirit alone, has the power to decide all such matters.

The proud preacher probably has nothing useful to say: for the power of the Spirit, the authority of the Word, and the voice of Scripture combine to humble us all.  The humbled and unheard preacher must find his courage, hope, and strength in Father, Son, and Spirit: not in any silent (inattentive and unhearing?) audience.  Faithfulness to God is all that matters at the end of the day.  Ultimately, the preacher must learn to walk in Job's shoes.

[i] Isaiah 65:1-7; Malachi 1:6

[ii] Isaiah 53:1; John 12:38; Romans 10:16

[iii] John 10:27-29

[iv] 2 Timothy 2:2

[v] Amos 7:14

Monday, July 16, 2018

Bibles, Text



Which Text
Can we trust the text of our modern bibles?  Which text is that?  There are hundreds of manuscripts from which to choose.  There are several text type families, and sub families, two of them major: each requiring experts to decode.

What Language
What language do we even mean?  There is no evidence that paleo-Hebrew existed before 1000 BC.  What ever will we do with Moses (1406-1366 BC)?  Will we conclude with liberals that Moses is a fabrication and a fraud?  Or will we consider the very real probability that Moses wrote in a different language: say Akkadian, the era and location front runner.  If Moses wrote in Akkadian, a cuneiform language, then neither paleo-Hebrew, nor Hebrew are “spiritual” languages: the only languages in which Scripture can be written.  What we call Hebrew today is really block Aramaic script re-recording previous paleo-Hebrew documents after 516 BC: the Jews learned the new language while they were exiled in Babylon: by that time the Jews had left Yahweh and He had left them, except for a few notable prophets: there was no presence of Glory in the second temple until Christ came to it.  Which of these paleo-Hebrew, or Hebrew manuscripts even survives?  Precious few of them.  The Dead Sea Scrolls have a very uncertain provenance, and narrowing scope (look them up).  Which of these paleo-Hebrew, or Hebrew manuscripts is inerrant?  None of them; all of them are copies.  What language do we even mean?  Most certainly, not Hebrew.

Can we trust the voice of Judaism which has fought against Christ and Christianity from 4 BC, down through the ages?  Absolutely not!  The Apostle John, writing in 1 John 2:20-28, has already concluded that Judaism is fundamentally against Christ.  By what authority, right, or warrant do we dare to reverse John’s ruling on this matter?  We have no such authority.

The Only Authority
Or must we trust Christ, Who, by all indications placed His stamp of approval on the Greek Old Testament?  If Christ and the Spirit, coming from the Father are the One(s) we must trust, then the Septuagint is what we must trust.  So, if we’re not involved in Septuagint studies, one way or another, were not using what Christ handed on to us: there are Septuagint translations of varying quality available.  Which of these Septuagint manuscripts is inerrant?  Not one; as far as we know, all are copies: not a single original survives.

Delegation of Authority
To whom did Christ delegate the authority to keep the Bible in the best possible condition down through the ages?  The Twelve Apostles, who delegated this trust to the Early Church.  For me, the best and simplest course of action is to cling as tightly as possible to what the Early Church handed down, and ask the Spirit to teach that to us.  Without this Old Testament, there can be no New Testament: for this Septuagint Old Testament was the Bible of the early New Testament Church: the New Testament was written from the foundation of this Septuagint Old Testament.  Can we trust the Septuagint?  Yes, we must trust the Septuagint: for it preserves readings that did not even exist in Hebrew prior to 1000 BC; for it is, according to all available evidence, the document which Crist endorses.

Remaining Difficulties
Does this simplify the difficulty of handling very many manuscripts, which are not all in perfect agreement?  No, it still requires dozens of experts to classify, decode, interpret, and verify these manuscripts.  Yes, these experts seem to change their opinions about the text every year.  Yes, this is still a confusing mess to clergy and laity alike: for few of us have the skills or the tools to cope with this complexity.  Nevertheless, in spite of what the experts claim, the Early New Testament Church is to be trusted as the faithful instrument of perpetuating God’s words on earth.  Therefore, the Septuagint is to be trusted because the Early New Testament Church says so.

The Only Power
If we have any doubts above and beyond this; we have direct access to the Holy Spirit: so, we should bring all of our concerns to the Spirit first, trusting that He will guide us in the right way.  Then, when the Spirit confirms what the preacher is preaching, and there is broad agreement among the people of God, we begin to have confidence that we are on the right track, in step with the heavenly Church.[i]

Do we have widespread agreement among the people of God, within the churches?  The gift of the Spirit should be the number one issue of agreement.  Close behind the Spirit, should be His teaching of the Septuagint.  In this we should place every confidence.

[i] Decisions were ratified by “The Whole Church”.  While this must mean The Whole Church gathered in Jerusalem; a body of any size statistically reduces the possibility that there will be objection to this decision anywhere: The Whole Church gathered in Jerusalem is a valid random statistical representation of The Whole Church everywhere.  A statistical risk remains; yet, it is very small; the only means to make it better is to publish it to The Whole Church at large.  Acts 15:22

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Bibles, Basic Principles


Knowing God

This brings us to that old debate about knowing God (relationship), versus knowing about God (reasoning).  There is today a myth in circulation that it is necessary to know a lot about God before we meet Him: that we get to God by reason, or how much we know, or how smart we are.  This is proved to be false from several perspectives.

The essence of God is described as infinite, not countable, not measurable, not locatable, not possible to time or date, not knowable: God is undefined and undefinable in every way.  This is why Revelation is so essential: for if God did not disclose Himself to us, we would not know Him or anything about Him at all.  All of the old scholastic arguments[i] fail because of this fact: all assume and require Revelation for their structure.  Man is simply not smart enough to reason His way to God.

The Holy Spirit was sent from the Father, at the Son’s request to teach us the Scripture.  No substantial learning takes place until we meet and are indwelled by the Spirit at Baptism by the Spirit.  Until that moment, we struggle in vain to fill our heads with facts; but, no real learning takes place, and we know nothing, understand nothing.  Knowing about God requires a gift of the Spirit, which we receive when we meet Him.[ii]

The Apostles are our example.  They knew virtually nothing about Jesus; He was just a stranger walking down the beach.  Then, one day they met Him; He said follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.[iii]  First they met God; then they followed God: in the process of following God, they learned about Him, one step at a time.  This was a fairly common method of teaching in that era: this is where knowing about God begins.

We might falsely suppose that we are somehow different: we think we can learn all about God, before meeting Him personally.  But, knowledge flows out of relationship; not the other way around.  The Great Commission is our proof for this.  The imperative of the Great Commission is “make disciples”.[iv]  The process is identical to that for the Apostles: first we meet Jesus through the power of the Spirit; then we learn about Jesus, one step at a time.  This is what discipleship means: learning by following.

The ancient Israelites (circa 1406 BC), were little different: God saved them at Passover; He met with them at Sinai; He walked with them in the desert for forty years.  The main difference is that few of them had any gift from the Spirit.  Many turned away from God: from all earthly appearances, it would seem that they lost their salvation.

If we are not yet convinced that we must know God before we can begin to learn about Him, consider this:

“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching[v] to save them that believe.” — 1 Corinthians 1:21[vi]

This is why John begins this passage with the words, “You have Anointing from the Holy”: for, this is the precedent to all knowledge about God.  We cannot find God simply by being smart.  God finds us, and after we have met Him, if we walk with Him, we begin to learn about Him.[vii]  Knowing about God starts with knowing Him.


John’s language may seem harsh to the modern reader; but, we don’t think John intended this.  The terms liar and antichrist are strong pejorative terms today; yet, we doubt that these terms were understood that way in the first century.[viii]

“You have Anointing from the Holy.[ix]  You also know all.[x]  I did not write to you, because you do not know the truth; but, because you know her; and because any lie[xi] is not of the truth.  Who is the one lying[xii], if not the denier[xiii] [who claims] that Jesus is not[xiv] the Christ?  This is the one against Christ[xv], the denier of the Father and the Son.  Any denier of the Son, neither has[xvi] he the Father.[xvii]  You, therefore, let[xviii] what you heard from the beginning dwell in you; if what you heard from the beginning would dwell in you; you will also dwell in the Son and in the Father. [xix]  This is the promise which He promised us, the life eternal.  I wrote these to you about your [would be] deceivers.[xx]  The Anointing[xxi] which you received from Him, dwells in you;[xxii] so, you do not have need that anyone would teach you: but, as the same Anointing[xxiii] teaches you about all; is true; is not a lie; and just as He taught[xxiv] you, dwell[xxv] in Him.  Now, Dear Children,[xxvi] dwell in Him; so, whenever He should be revealed we would have confidence and might not be ashamed before Him in His Presence.[xxvii]” — 1 John 2:20-28

We commonly hear the argument concerning henotheistic or monotheistic religions that, they’re all the same God.  Philosophically, this might appear to be true.  After all, if there is only One God, it would seem to be a logical contradiction to claim that there is any essential difference between them: only the names differ from language to language: it is falsely claimed that the God of Christians, Ein Sof, and Allah are all the same.  There is some credence to this: how else would we say God of Christians in some languages if we were not permitted to say Allah of Christians.  Or is it not philosophically true that the God of Christians is Ein Sof of Christians, The One of Christians.

Mirrors and Smoke
But, these philosophical smoke screens beg the question by twisting its nature.  When we speak of the God of Christians, we do not speak of a philosophical concept, we speak theologically of Three Persons, Who desire to establish a relationship with every member of the human race; and Who have gone to inconceivable lengths to create such a relationship.  So, when we speak of the God of Christians, we are talking about the Trinity, One in Essence and Undivided… Father, Son, and Spirit.  These Three are our nearest and dearest friends throughout life and beyond.

The person who claims that these deities are all the same has committed a philosophical blunder, a falsehood, a lie: it’s not pejorative or personal, it’s just a fact.  Such a person is, logically, against Christ: which is simply the correct title for the situation.
Nominal Christians often make such statements; possibly, casually, without realizing that they have believed or stated a lie… without realizing that they themselves are antichrists.  Depending on how seriously or deeply such people hold to such false beliefs, they may not be Christians at all: even though they cling to the name, Christian.

The Focus
John is not being harsh.  He is simply being honest and accurate; which is how we also should approach these verses.

We also hear a lot about the Judeo-Christian ethic.  There is no such Judeo-Christian ethic.  Jesus Christ expelled Judaism from His Church in 33 AD.  Individual Jews became Christians the same way individual Gentiles became Christians: by repentance and faith.  Individual Jews heard the glorious message of the Gospel of Christ with the Father and the Spirit and willingly, gladly left Judaism.  Judaism, itself, is a lie, antichrist.  Individual Gentiles happily abandoned their vain Greek philosophies, often burning their books filled with false reasoning.  Most of ancient Greek philosophy is a lie, antichrist.  Much of modern philosophy, psychology, science so-called, is also a lie, antichrist.  Christianity stands alone as a bright light shining in a very dark world.

Dilution is no Solution
Yet, more and more, Christianity is being diluted, filled, watered down with false Jewish superstitions and Pagan philosophies, lies, antichrists; until it can no longer be called Christianity.  Many churches have already succumbed to a peripheral necrosis.  The blood of Christ[xxviii] no longer flows unimpeded through the spiritual arteries; because, they are clogged with lies, antichrists.

False Emphasis
We need not be concerned with the great Antichrist, out there, lurking somewhere, who will finally overthrow the world with his lawlessness.  We need to be concerned with the antichrists lurking in our own hearts, diluting our faith, clogging our spiritual arteries; until, at last, the whole Christian Church on earth has slowly atrophied away, one soul at a time.

This is what it means to watch and pray, lest we succumb to temptation.  Sleeping, spiritually, is not the failure to stay awake all night in prayer, although that is a great delight; it is failure to identify the lies, the antichrists, and remove them from the heart; it is letting the unspiritual plaque buildup until the blood of Christ ceases to flow freely with in us and among us.  The atrophied limbs become withered, neurosis sets in, becoming fully necrotic they die; the Vine Dresser has no choice: He must cut them off and burn them before they poison the whole vine.  That which is now gangrenous, must be excised, by Him; not by us.[xxix]

What shall we do with these, our adversaries and enemies.  We shall love them forthrightly by telling the truth in love[xxx], and with gentleness and respect[xxxi].

[i] These arguments are instructive, even though seriously flawed.  Ultimately, they make assumptions that don’t square with Revelation.  The question is unresolved: do we learn about God in Revelation, or do we meet Him there?  Anthropological, Cosmological, Ontological, Teleological arguments, and much, much more.

[ii] Luke 11:13; John 7:38-39; 14:16-17; 20:22; Acts 1:8; 2:33, 38; 5:15, 17; and more

[iii] Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21, 28; Mark 1:17, 20; 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Luke 5:27; 9:23, 59, 61; 14:27; 18:22; John 1:37-39; 43; 8:12; 10:27; 12:26; 21:19, 22

[iv] Matthew 28:19

[v] The foolishness of the message proclaimed; proclamation is necessary, on the part of the ambassadors, in order that the audience might meet God through them, as they were baptized following the proclamation.  Then their learning could begin.

[vi] also 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

[vii] John 16:13; Psalm 25:5; 43:3

[viii] We partially break this pejorative tone by employing a different translation to destroy the buzzword mentality and pattern so common among some; liar becomes the one lying; antichrist transitions to against Christ: thereby, completely removing the false antichrist concept from Scripture.  This is much closer to John’s tone of address.  If you are embarrassed by this, don’t feel too bad; it has taken me since 1968, fifty years, half a century of Bible study to arrive at this conviction.

[ix] Perhaps, “You have a Holy Anointing,” would be smoother in English idiom, if somewhat less true to Greek idiom.  John writes of the Holy Spirit who is the sole giver of all knowledge.  Knowledge in the Bible is more relational; less an assembly of perfect lemmas; less argumentative.

[x] Not everything; yet, they know all the essential fundamentals of the Faith.  This is not flattery: these things are known because the Spirit indwells them and the Church is blessed with lesser faithful teachers.  Most importantly, they know Father, Son, and Spirit relationally: this is all knowledge.

[xi] ψεῦδος: the neuter noun may mean deception; yet, here it clearly emphasizes falsehood, or falseness in contrast with the truth.  John is arguing logically, philosophically, or theologically here.  He applies the law of contradiction or non-contradiction.  In logic, no contradiction can ever be allowed to stand.

[xii] ψεύστης: the masculine noun of the same word has almost a participial feel to it: the one lying, the one committing the philosophical error of falsehood by contradiction, the one who has erred logically.  The Greek seems to have a Hebrew flavor in that the adjectives and nouns derive from the verb: which is quite common in Hebrew.  If any doubts remain concerning the participial feel of this word; note the parallelism with the true participle denier, the one denying: the parallelism argues for similar construction and interpretation.

[xiii] Subjective use of the participle, the one contradicting, declining, denouncing, denying, disclaiming, disowning, refusing, renouncing.  John may have in mind an act of public voting that required voters to acknowledge Caesar as God; or a court legal action that required witnesses to swear.  In any case the hypothetical denier would be publicly and readily identifiable.

[xiv] The second negative, in Greek idiom makes the negation emphatic: μὴ in the world of forms is the perfect conceptual denial; οὐκ in the physical word is the true outward act of denial.  This suggests that denial is something demonic that becomes exposed by physical speech or other actions.

[xv] John is the exclusive user of this word, by which he describes broad movements, never individuals.  He is not attacking other people, he is putting a logically derived name on a dangerous error: namely, all opposition to Christ in any form (1 John 2:18 (2x), 22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7).  Nor is there justification for associating any of John’s verses with 2 Thessalonians 2:1–4, where the word antichrist is not used; the focus is on an individual, the lawless one.  So, John focuses on movements, not a specific individual; John’s concern is the essence of Christ and of God, not on lawless behavior.  If we are carried away by a false eschatology, we will miss John’s main point: the principal antichrists of John’s day were Judaism and the vain philosophies of the Greeks: this is still the foundation of the case today, yet, many new twists have been added to the mix.  John is developing a high Christology, and a high Pneumatology: that is where we need to keep our focus.  The denial of the Holy Trinity is still widespread today.

[xvi] This play on have and have not, has and has not, is about the Holy Anointing, which is the Baptism of the Spirit (Matthew 28:19); which, everywhere, shows forth the Trinity: more specifically, here, the denial that Jesus is God, One in essence with the Father.

[xvii] There is little manuscript support for the phrase, “the confessor of the Son also has the Father”: אBAC; אBAC are usually considered Alexandrian text, especially outside of the Gospels.  However, this support is from among stronger manuscripts.  The phrase has every evidence of being an added theological clarification: usually we would expect to see such additions in the Byzantine text, but not in the Alexandrian text.  This reverses our usual expectation.

[xviii] third person imperative

[xix] Note John’s emphasis on relationship; this knowledge is indwelling, alive inside the believer: it is not merely a rational grasp of a few basic facts.

[xx] It seems to us that John deals more with the prevention of a potential danger, than with the correction of a present fault; heretics are seeking to deceive: John does not say that these have had success: yet, John may be dealing gently and tenderly with a harsh reality.

[xxi] The Holy Spirit is the Anointing.

[xxii] This completes the Trinitarian indwelling relationship, which works both ways: God in us; we in God.

[xxiii] The Holy Spirit is the Anointing.

[xxiv] As far as mankind is concerned, this appears to be the principal work of the Spirit: namely, teaching Christians about the Father and the Son.

[xxv] μένετε: second person plural, present active imperative: a straightforward command in either English or Greek.

[xxvi] John may be addressing the newly baptized.  The term used here is one of endearment, not necessarily that of age: John, their spiritual father, counts them as his spiritual children.

[xxvii] We do not automatically have assurance as many suggest.  Assurance is the outcome of years of working at our part of the indwelling relationship: this builds confidence in God.  Dwell is a command: it is something God bids us to do.  The outcome is not a sure thing; we still face judgement in His Presence: being ashamed is a true possibility.  We must watch and pray lest we enter into temptation (Matthew 26:41).  We must pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  These are not options.  Lord have mercy.

[xxviii] John 15; Matthew 13:1-9, 13-15, 18-23, 24-30

[xxix] Yes, Gertrude, the Church on earth is slowly dying.  Many Christians are so lulled to sleep by lies and antichrists, they don’t even realize that the Church on earth is dying, slowly, almost imperceptibly.  We have drunk a deadly poison and we need the antidote, which is “Christ in Us the Hope of Glory” (Cindy Berry’s hymn title; more especially, John 6:30-71; 15).

[xxx] Ephesians 4:15

[xxxi] 1 Peter 3:15