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The Lives of the Apostles and the Writing of the New Testament

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Question #1:

I was impressed by some of the articles. Do you have information on the life, ministry and death of the Apostle Peter and how trustworthy is the extra biblical date contained therein?

Thank you,

Response #1:

Good to make your acquaintance – and thanks for the encouragement.

As to historical details outside of the Bible regarding Peter's life, we have two problems. First and foremost, we can only trust what the Bible has to say, and it does not directly chronicle the death of any of the apostles (outside of James the brother of John at Acts 12:2), although we do have our Lord's prediction of Peter's martyrdom (Jn.21:19). We may also surmise that Peter was still alive after Paul's death from the fact that his two epistles are encyclical and the first one encompasses Paul's former "territory" in its salutation (1Pet.1:1). John seems very clearly in the context of the book of Revelation to be the "last apostle standing" so that we may also posit Peter's death before 68 A.D. (see the link for discussion of the dating of Revelation, John's last work). Beyond this sort of deductive activity there is not much more that we can say.

The second problem is with historical traditions. When it comes to the apostles, many of these are very late and, as is common in Classical literature, the ancients did just what we would when biography was desired, namely, drew deductions from internal evidence in the works of famous authors, for example. As such stories circulated and were developed, and original guesses became established "facts", so that the historian as detective always wants to ask whether or not a particular detail in a tradition can be derived from what we also know from the sources. If it cannot, then perhaps there is something to it as an independent piece of evidence.

In the Christian tradition, the main early source for such matters is Eusebius, writing after 300 A.D. He was making use of other sources, many of them also over a century later than the events themselves. So while Eusebius does have things to say on some of these questions and does occasionally make it clear which (now not surviving) author he is quoting, it is a little bit like writing a history of the Revolutionary War today utilizing a handful of sources of uncertain provenance or reliability, most of which date back to the Civil War era. The best we can say about him, in my view, is that he quotes accurately what he quotes. So if his sources got it right, he is right. If, however, they were engaging in conjecture, elaboration, or outright fiction, we cannot trust them or him – because none of these works were inspired, and we have so little with which to compare them.

That is a long way of saying that I would take anything in church tradition with at least one large grain of salt (and in many cases with a whole cellar). If what has been handed down agrees with scripture I am far less likely to become exercised about it than if it seems to be in conflict with the Bible (e.g., anything suggesting "pope-like" status for Peter is clearly the result of self-serving embroidery).

You can find the references in Eusebius at this link: "The Manner of Peter's Death". And if you have not already done so, you might also consult the link "The Deaths of the 12 Apostles of Christ".

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:

Hi Bob!

It has been quite some time since I took a moment just to say that I hope you are well, and today finds you with the peace that is Christ. Thinking about what it must have been like to be a disciples wife. Maybe no different than a soldiers wife who stayed at home, waiting, watching. ut, there are women of mention in the Bible that were very involved. Was Peters’ wife ever mentioned as such? Is there anything about her?

As always, your brother in Christ Jesus,

Response #2:

Good to hear from you, my friend. Hope you are keeping well.

As to your question, with the exception of the healing of Peter's mother-in-law in the gospels – which tells us he most certainly did have a wife at home (it took place in Peter's house: Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:38-41) – this is the only other thing I find in scripture, namely, a comment by the apostle Paul:

Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?
1st Corinthians 9:5

There are some extra-biblical legends too but they are merely speculative (e.g., in Clement of Rome the tradition of her martyrdom). What the verse above does indicate is that Peter took his wife with him instead of leaving her in Judea (that is what "take along", Gk. periagein) strongly suggests at any rate).

And of course there were plenty of women in the early Church who did exemplary and dangerous service. I think of Lydia in Phillipi who was a pillar of the church there, and of Priscilla who was as an equal a partner with her husband Aquila in her service to the Lord as I can imagine. And of course Phoebe who brought the letter to the Romans to Rome – given the potential hostility to Christians and the dangers of travel in the ancient world a woman in this role would have had to have been both courageous and very capable (let the record show she accomplished her mission).

Yes, the apostles were all men, and pastor-teacher is likewise a gift that only falls to men. But not all men were apostles then and not all are pastor-teachers now (far from it). And every member of the Body of Christ has a gift and role to play in the service of the Church. We are all Christian soldiers, but sadly there are many of both genders "staying at home" in an AWOL status when it comes to the spiritual growth, spiritual progress, and exploitation of the opportunities for service the Lord has for each and every member of His Body. We all – men and women both – can learn a lesson from the great women of scripture who did what the Lord wanted them to do (instead of choosing their own paths on the one hand or failing to get moving for Christ at all on the other).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your website which I find extremely interesting and very helpful. I do feel, though that the section on "The Pebble and the Rock" is misleading. Of course, Jesus spoke Aramaic and, as you say, would have used the word 'Cephas', both for Peter and the word rock. You have focused on the Greek translation which introduces a complication.

The word 'Cephas' mean rock [bedrock] and the direct translation of this into the Greek is 'petra'. The problem facing Matthew is that, while Jesus called Peter, Cephas, he could not use the correct translation of petra for Peter's name because this is a feminine noun. In the 1st Century to give a man a female name would be unthinkable. The only solution would be to use the male noun petros for his name which has led people into this misinterpretation.

If Matthew's Gospel had been written in Aramaic the word Cephas would have been used for both and there would be no confusion. Indeed in later Gospels the name Cephas is used for Peter. You can, perhaps, see this most clearly in John 1:42

Yours sincerely

Response #3:

Go to make your acquaintance. I am happy to hear that the website has been of some use to you.

As to your question, I will give you a response below, but please also have a look at the following link as well where the specifics are fleshed out in more detail: "Christ the Rock (esp. Q/A #2)".

Petros vs. Petra. What does Jesus say? "And I tell you that you are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church" (Matt.16:18 NIV). Not precisely my way of translating the verse, but from almost any translation it is clear that Jesus is making a distinction between these two words. After all, they are two very different words in fact (even though the spelling is similar), and there was certainly nothing preventing our Lord from saying "on this stone (petros)" instead of "on this Rock" (petra).

As to your statement, "The word 'Cephas' mean rock [bedrock] and the direct translation of this into the Greek is 'petra'", this is a very difficult position to defend. First, it is matter of mere conjecture as to which form (i.e., sing./pl., masc./fem.) of which word (ceph, cepha, etc.) in which language (Hebrew or Aramaic) Jesus was referencing with kephas in John 1:42. Second, while the word ceph occurs in Biblical Hebrew, it occurs only in the plural, so the parallel of Jeremiah 4:29 often adduced to make the connection is an apples and oranges comparison – different languages (i.e., what you are referring to in the LXX is a Greek translation of the Hebrew, and not an Aramaic word at all such as we have in the gospel), a plural versus a singular, and what would be a masculine noun in BH in any case (assuming that the Septuagint is being precise with the Hebrew vocabulary, and that would be a stretch). Job 30:6 is not a convincing parallel since the word in the LXX there may very well be petros (it is in the genitive plural in Greek so the spelling is common and the accentuation is late and conjectural, and probably based on similarities with the Jeremiah passage). Thirdly, in terms of the Aramaic word cepha, it has a wide-range of meanings, but as Jastrow's dictionary shows, mostly the noun refers to small objects: stones, hailstones, balls, gems (I don't find any reference to "bedrock"). Fourthly, what we do not know about the Aramaic of Jesus' day (assuming He was not speaking Hebrew on this occasion) is vastly greater than what we do know, rendering definitive conclusions such as the above problematic at best.

As to the "problem" you mention, I have heard this argument before (it's very similar to what Cullman has in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament), but it has always left me shaking my head. Consider: If Matthew (or our Lord Christ or anyone else) had a "problem" calling Peter by a name which was a noun with a feminine gender, then by definition Peter cannot be the Rock (petra) upon which Christ builds the Church – otherwise He should have said and Matthew should have written "and upon this stone (petros – masculine) I will build my Church" but definitely not "and upon this Rock (petra – feminine!) I will build my Church". As it is, our Lord and Matthew have just done what we are told was impossible for them to do to in the Jewish/Greek tradition, namely, refer to him with a feminine noun (if, that is, Peter is the petra).

This is also a problem for John 1:42 – if we are thinking in Aramaic, that is. After all, the -s addition to kepha is a Greek device (a Doric first declension agent-suffix often used in names), but not an Aramaic suffix. What that means is that if Jesus did address Peter in Aramaic on this occasion, He certainly called him Kepha – which is a feminine noun (cf. the HNV: "You shall be called Kefa"), because Kepha-s is not possible in Aramaic, only in Greek. It is hard for me to see how doing this would be "OK" in Aramaic/Hebrew culture but "not OK" in Greek/Roman culture. They are all equally patriarchal (and one could certainly argue that this is even more true of Aramaic/Hebrew culture). But if the conversation were in Aramaic, then Peter's Aramaic name is a feminine noun.

In any case, I find the objection very questionable. Nouns have grammatical gender in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Aramaic – which is not the same thing at all as sexuality. While my English speaking students have a very hard time with this concept, everyone who spoke these languages understood that fact very well, and would have found this false distinction quite odd. Consider: the Greek word for "father-land" is patria, a feminine noun. No record of any complaints there.

So to sum up, I appreciate your concern, but I don't feel the study you cite, Peter lesson #2, is misleading in this respect. The bottom line for me is that Jesus Himself very clearly and deliberately makes the distinction between the two words petros and petra at Matthew 16:18 and could easily have done otherwise. Having recourse to the Aramaic to overturn this otherwise lucid point necessitates that we assume that Matthew (and the Holy Spirit) "got it wrong" – which is obviously impossible. And we cannot really say with any assurance that Matthew under divine inspiration writing in Aramaic would not likewise have made a distinction in the vocabulary on this point. Indeed, I would argue that we should have to assume he would have, since he most certainly does in the Greek Bible (in fact, of course, he wrote the original in Greek; see the link: "The Gospel of Matthew").

I hope this answers your concern. I would be happy to converse with you about this further.

Yours in Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Savior, and our Rock of Ages,

Bob Luginbill

Question #4:

G'Day Brother

Hope your well!

When Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me more than these?", was he referring to the other disciplines?

Love In Christ

Response #4:

Yes, that is my understanding of this passage. The Greek here has the near demonstrative pronoun touton (τούτων), and the gender is ambiguous in this form. It could be feminine (but there is no feminine noun around to be the antecedent so that is not the case); it could be neuter: "than these things", but what would these things then be? Doubtful that Jesus is talking about fishing which, for Peter and these disciples was a "job of work" as the British say, rather than a form of recreation. More likely is "more than these other disciples do". Peter, after all, was the leader of the eleven (cf. Lk.22:32; Acts 1:15), so in my view what our Lord was saying is "Do you love me more than these others do?", meaning that Peter needed to demonstrate his "greater love" through greater service and leadership going forward in "feeding Christ's sheep" and ministering the Word to the incipient Christian community. That is the primary duty of all pastor-teachers, after all, and it is of no small moment that this is the final instruction our Lord leaves to those who will lead the Church after His departure: keep ministering the Word of God as the fundamental act of your Christian service.

In Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Just another question on John 21:15 - why does Jesus say 'do you love me more than these'?

Is the fact that Peter loved Jesus more than other disciples to do with, what you called, his natural leadership?

Response #5:

Jesus does not actually say that Peter loves Him more but asks him whether or not that is the case. Peter, it will be recalled, pledged first and loudest that he was willing to die for the Lord rather than deny Him, though we know that he fell short (as would have as well). The day of judgment will reveal who loved Jesus most, and we should certainly make it our top priority to love Him "with all our hearts and souls and mind and might", for He is our all in all. I have no doubt that Peter loved Jesus greatly; I also think it is clear that he came to love Him even more after He had departed to heaven. I think you have hit here on a very important point that I will try to keep in mind, namely, that all effective service and genuine Christian leadership has to be motivated by a love of Jesus Christ, and the degree of that love in truth (as opposed to what is merely proclaimed) will in large part determine the success of mission. And as Jesus brought home very viscerally to Peter on this occasion, love is shown by action, not words or emotions. "If you love Me, feed my sheep".

Question #6:

Since Jesus' words in John 21:15, 'do you love more than these', refer to other apostles, should Peter be considered a leader of the apostles, loving our Lord more than other apostles?

Response #6:

Peter was definitely a leader, as Jesus' words to him when predicting his threefold betrayal show and also as his conduct in the days before Pentecost show in Acts chapter one. Our Lord here does not actually say that he loved Him "more than these", but merely asks him whether or not it is true. Peter, in appropriate humility, does not claim to have a greater love than the other apostles gathered there (they were not all present), but merely affirms his love for Jesus. We should indeed all make it our top priority to love our Lord more than anything or anyone else, "with all our heart and mind and might and strength and soul". That is the standard to which we have all been called. How much we really do love Him will be shown at the end based upon what we have done in response to what He has done for us: how well did we grow, progress, and produce for Him? In Christ's Church, true leadership is a matter of setting an example and serving others. As to whether or not Peter was the leader, I find this in scripture:

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
1st Corinthians 15:9-10 NIV

Question #7:

Could you please clarify:

John 21:19-22: So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!"

Who does Peter ask about when he says: "Lord, and what about this man"? Is this question about John? Why does the Lord answer "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?'

Response #7:

Yes, Jesus is referring to John, the author of the gospel in question. I think our Lord's words here are merely to show Peter that God has a different plan for each of us and that we shouldn't let ourselves worry that the plan for us is not the same as His plan for some other person with whom we may be comparing ourselves: we are all different and the Plan of God is employing us in different ways for the sake of Christ's Church. John would, as it turns out, live longer than Peter – and all the other apostles too.

Question #8:

Dear Professor,

I hope and pray everything is well with you. I have been going through all of our correspondence from the beginning, which started just over 2 years ago. What two years those have been - once you are born again all the life before that birth in Spirit seems meaningless. The same becomes striking with regard to how most people live their lives. I wanted to thank you for your continuous support and guidance - they are invaluable. It's also been about a year since I took up Greek and Hebrew and, despite my initial lack of faith that I had a realistic chance of attaining a level of understanding of these languages that would allow me to read the scripture as it was written and discern its meaning, God has made all the provisions for me to be able to study.

More questions:

In the Polish translation, the introduction to 2 Peter says that the authorship of the letter is still frequently questioned. What is your take on the issue, what evidence is there that it's Peter who is the author of the letter, or evidence that it's not?

Response #8:

As always, your witness to the power of God's truth is an encouraging and an inspiring one! Thank you for your prayers. I keep you in prayer too for your continued growth in the Word and for your eventually ministry on behalf of the Body of Christ. As to your new batch of questions:

The epistle states at it's beginning that it is written by "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ", and later in the letter it says "this is now my second letter to you" (2Pet.3:2). Without any serious question, therefore, this letter is either by Peter or it is a clever forgery on the part of some unknown party pretending to be Peter. Apart from the fact that there is no discernible ulterior motive obvious in the epistle which would have prompted such a forgery, I can say with complete confidence that the language is that of Peter, and, even more to the point, the content of the epistle is so clearly the Word of God that we would consider it such even if it had not come down to us with Peter's salutation (along the lines of Hebrews written by Paul but anonymously for reasons discussed elsewhere; see the link). All of the major, complete ancient manuscripts have the epistle included as scripture – and that is not true for any spurious work.

Question #9:

Who is the man from Mark 14:51-52? You write: "This is generally taken to be Mark, aka "John Mark", the writer of this gospel (and I subscribe to that view)." How do we know this?

Response #9:

That is a tradition that goes back to certain of the Greek fathers (Chrysostom et al.), and in my view not an unlikely guess since Mark is the writer of the gospel and places this detail in it without mentioning the name (as a mark of humility; otherwise, why not name the young man?). This also seems to be Mark's modus operandi. In the preceding verse 47, he does not name the disciple who struck off the ear of the temple-servant, even though we know it was Peter (Jn.18:10), and Mark certainly did too inasmuch as he was writing under Peter's apostolic authority. Mark seems to fit as the potential author in other respects as well, being someone who would have been young at the time and who was closely connected to the disciples and their ministry – as he continued to be throughout his life as far as scripture presents it.

Question #10:

Could you please explain the relationship between these two verses with regard to the name of Peter's father?

And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 16:17

He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter)
John 1:42

Is it the same name rendered differently?

Response #10:

Barjonah is "Son of Jonah" or "Son of Johannan" or "Son of John" (bar being the Aramaic form of "son"); so they are one and the same name. "John" is an Anglicized version of the Hellenized form of Yochannan, meaning, "the Lord is gracious". Just as alternative forms of transliterations from other languages are common in English, the same was true of Greek in regard to Hebrew names (which also often had an Aramaic form in that day and time).

Question #11:

Could you please clarify:

Acts 13:31: and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem

What is meant by 'those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem'?

Response #11:

This phraseology seems to indicate not only the eleven but also the larger group that moved about with Jesus and apparently was still in Jerusalem at this time (including the women who are said to have supported the ministry et al.: Lk.8:1-3).

Question #12:

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
Luke 23:55-56 (NIV1984)

Why do the women rest on the Sabbath day? Mary, who, as you describe, believed in our Lord, is among these women and, I assume, rested also - were they unaware that our Lord has not kept this one commandment?

Response #12:

As we have had occasion to see in the past, the "learning curve" even for the disciples about the changes that the cross, Christ's resurrection and the coming of the Spirit would mean was steep and difficult. In this situation, Christ had not yet been resurrected, the Spirit had not yet been given, and we can certainly understand if those outside the number of the twelve did not yet appreciate what the cross meant (it would be some time before the disciples/apostles themselves did). Also, Jesus did keep the Sabbath – according to its true purpose. He did not refrain from doing things that were necessary or good to do in order to accommodate His actions to the flawed and often highly legalistic understanding / teachings of that generation. So I don't think we can fault these Jewish women for doing on that Sabbath what they would have done in any case if the crucifixion had occurred, say, a month later.

Question #13:

About Peter you wrote: "And He is faithful to make it better in the midst even of a raging sea than it was before we stepped out of that boat in the first place."

I'm not sure I'm clear about this expression - did you not mean 'before we stepped into that boat in the first place'? Please explain.

With constant prayer for you and your ministry and in our Lord,

Response #13:

"Stepping out of the boat" is a reference to our Lord calling Peter to come to Him when walking on the water. In a spiritual sense, we are all in this "same boat", but as we grow we should find ourselves doing more "walking on the water with Jesus", rather than cowering in the boat in relative lack of faith. It takes faith to "step out" and do the things that Jesus wants us to do, and to the worlds' eyes often times we will quickly drown if we try. But all who trust the Lord with a mature faith (the way Peter did at first and should have continued to do) will find Jesus supporting us, keeping us from sinking and drowning, and bringing us safe through the storm to the farther shore in His own good time.

Apologies again for the long wait for this one.

Thanks for all your prayers and encouragement, my friend!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

You wrote: "Patience, in the italicized phrase above, is from the same Greek root as the verb Peter had used in his first epistle to indicate the patience of God during the 120 year grace period that preceded the great flood (1Pet.3:20: makrothumia vs. makrothumeo above)."

You really think Peter spoke Greek? Was literate? He was a fairly simple fisherman{?}. Or is it the translation of spoken Aramaic into Greek by a 1st century{?} writer? Which, of course, could skew the wording selected by Peter from when he actually SPOKE these thoughts.

Response #14:

I think it's mainly only in our country where the idea of being bilingual is "hard to believe" (whereas I don't think there is anyone in Switzerland who doesn't speak at least three languages, and many of them are simple farmers et al.).

Peter wrote the two epistles of Peter, and he wrote them as we have them. Except for a smattering of phrases in Aramaic, mostly in the gospels, the NT was written exclusively in Greek. E.g., we have pieces of the gospel of John, one the last books to be written, dating to within a few generations of the time of writing, and we have no Aramaic "originals" of any of the NT (because there are none). You can find out more at the following links:

What Language did Jesus Speak?

Why Was the New Testament Written in Greek?

Greek: the original language of the NT

Aramaic New Testament?

Did Matthew Write his Gospel in Hebrew?

Biblical Languages

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hello--I hope you don't mind if I ask a question of you. A Mormon told me this: "(BTW.. Acts is the most unreliable text in the NT, it's the one text with the most problems and significant variants in the earliest manuscripts)".

He claims of course that Joe Smith's testimony of seeing the risen Christ is the only first hand account we have of anyone seeing Christ after His resurrection. I pointed out that Paul had seen Jesus and so had the other disciples but he said that wasn't first hand, but through the pen of Luke. I told him to read the first 2 chapters in Galatians for a first hand account. Anyway, his tactic about Acts reminds me of Messianic Judaism people who want to believe that the old Law of Moses is still in effect will say that the book of Hebrews doesn't belong in the bible--because it roundly disproves what they want to believe.

Anyway, I would like your opinion about what he wrote. I somehow don't believe him, as I seem to remember Acts being accepted fairly early on as Scripture and that it was the antilegomena ones--Hebrews, James, 2 and 3 John, and Revelation--that the early church took some time accepting, not Acts.

Oh, he also says that Luke gave three different accounts about Paul's conversion that contradict each other, but I pointed out to him that it was Paul, so far as I know, that gave all three accounts, well, the second two anyway, and that they don't contradict each other; Paul just added details to his experience that he hadn't included before, but there was no contradiction that I am aware of.

Thanks and have a good day.

Response #15:

As usual, I agree with your assessment entirely. Your responses, and especially on the point of the three accounts of Paul's epiphany, are spot on.

It is difficult to engage with assertions that contain no proof. In my view, the proper response to such a breath-taking statement is "what is your proof of that?" I certainly have never heard such an assertion before, and small wonder since the Book of Acts is, as you rightly observe, even better attested in the ancient mss. than some of the later books. For example, the only early uncial to contain the entire text of Revelation is Sinaiticus (but they all have Acts). Blessedly, we have more than enough data to establish the correct text of the last book of the Bible with absolute confidence, but consider the faulty logic of the unsupported argument correspondent gives. Given the nature of ancient manuscripts, the more we have, the more variations we are likely to have as well, even though in scripture these tend to be of minor significance. On the other hand, there are less variations in the text of Revelation precisely because we have fewer ancient mss. In fact, though certainly possible to do (my "Coming Tribulation" series contains a complete translation of Revelation with notes where appropriate to some textual issues), the smaller number of witnesses to Revelation make the textual criticism of it more difficult, not less so.

I have been working with Acts in the Greek for over thirty years, and I have never had this experience correspondent relates. The text is marvelously well attested, and, given the fact that it is historical rather than theological, has occasioned somewhat less serious textual questions than other equally well attested books – precisely because it is all that much more easy for anyone, even without an deep understanding of theology, to follow what Luke is saying.

I wonder if correspondent can give a single example of where a textual issue in Acts seriously affects any doctrinal point along the lines of what he is on about. More likely, it is just that the book calls certain doctrines of his group into question. It's far from unusual for groups that put their own doctrines in front of scripture to want to diminish scriptures and even excise whole books which contradict them – and not unusual to add "other writings" that support their beliefs (e.g., the RC addition of the Apocrypha).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hello Bob and thank you again.

It is much clearer now although as I have grown old(er) it is more difficult to grasp things as quickly as I used to do. While I was wrestling with this I asked myself on more than one occasion "why do you need to know?" Apart from the fact that I am completing an assignment, I am intrigued by this subject and wonder why it took me so long to study it! I was reading Acts and wondering why Ananias and Sapphira were killed on the spot for lying to the Holy Spirit. Is it possible that they were not really believers (it never says they were) and that they were giving to the church with ulterior motives? Just a thought.

Kind regards,

PS: I promise to pray for you and your ministry!

Response #16:

You are very welcome. I think when I was younger I grasped things quicker but also they didn't "fit in" as well or "sink deep" as quickly as they do now – so we have to take the good with the bad.

As to your question, it's possible, but I'm not sure what advantage anyone at that time would hope to receive by allying him/herself to a group that was being systematically persecuted. Also, giving "half" (or whatever percentage they gave) was still a sacrifice with no apparent profit to this couple beyond the thanks of the incipient church. Granted they lied about it to make their effort seem greater than it was, and that is not stellar behavior by any means, but I don't see them benefitting in a way substantial enough to explain why an unbeliever would associate with these pariahs (aka Christians) in the first place, or give them anything significant in the second, especially a large amount when there was no hope of any earthly reward from doing so.

As to the harshness of the judgment, here is a two-part Q & A on precisely this question posted to Ichthys:

Q1: Ananias and Sapphira, the couple in Acts 5. I understand they lied, but were the believers or not? Why did God kill them, or why did they fall over dead? They lied, but (human perspective) isn't it a bit, I dunno, harsh? I mean, the Lord is the Lord, and I know I'm not one to question his methods, but don't really know the reasons is all. Were they just unbelievers masquerading as those of faith, or.. what happened there?

A1: Acts presents us with some unique circumstances and equally unique and never-again-repeated events. This was the time of the transition from Israel to the Church at large, and the apostles were the ones responsible for managing the transition. One of the ways this was accomplished by the Lord was by giving the apostles exceptional gifts and by working exceptional miracles at their hands. For example, when the Samaritans believed, it was given to the apostles to mediate the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of their hands. Today, of course, all believers have the Spirit, being baptized by Him at the moment of their new birth (e.g., Rom.8:9). Part of the issue here with Ananias and Sapphira is that this deception of theirs challenged the authority of the apostles and thereby the entire underpinning of the incipient Church. If the apostles could be lied to and their authority ignored, there was no way that the Church could ever rise out of that difficult contemporary situation and become what the Lord intended it to become. This miracle, therefore, was an important example of apostolic authority that marks the end of the "honeymoon" period and the beginning of the "real life" which would be necessary for the new believers to endure. Believers can be sinful, and believers can be rebellious, and not everyone has the same commitment to the Lord and to the Word of truth. In my view this wayward couple did believe. Otherwise, why even bother to associate with the other believers? After all, there was no benefit to being a Christian in human terms; indeed, it was a terrible disadvantage. And why bother to sell their land and give it any of it to the Church? No, I think they were believers, and even if what they did at that time seems to be (and may well have been) far less than many believers do today without suffering anything so dramatic as this, their deception and therefore their potential eroding of apostolic authority at this critical juncture was the reason for the example the Lord made of them.

Q2: Back in the old testament, Leviticus 10, God killed Aaron's sons for writing the wrong kind of flame on their incense burners. Again, I do feel bad for questioning but.. why? I mean, human perspective here, but it doesn't seem like a big deal, though they did break the bonds of the Covenant I think.

A2: This question on Leviticus chapter 10 is related to the one above. As one of my seminary professors observed many years ago, there does seem to be some inaugural "example making" by the Lord at such times in order to teach us all about the need to sanctify the Lord in our hearts and in all we say and do. He was speaking about the similarity between the death of Ananias and Sapphira on the one hand and of the son of the man who gathered wood on the Sabbath and was stoned for it on the other (Num.15:32-36; although this is an inaugural event for the next generation), and I would put the stoning of the man who blasphemed the Lord into the same category (Lev.24:11-23). But your example is really a better parallel to Acts 5:1ff. because it is the Lord who carries out the sentence. The authority of the leader of the people and of the high priest (both of which offices represent Christ and both of which offices are combined in Christ) needed to be maintained and protected, and this act of rebellion and blasphemy, while perhaps seeming of not such great significance, represented, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, a direct challenge to the Word of God and His divinely constituted authority. For that reason, it had to be dealt with most severely lest many others follow this route with an ever growing severity to their negative acts.

Thanks so much for your prayers! They are greatly appreciated.

Bob L.

Question #17:

Good afternoon Bob. What can you tell me about the doubt of some disciples in the end of the book of Matthew. Am I correct in assuming that they doubted themselves?

Response #17:

As to your question (and response) about the "doubt" expressed by the disciples at Matthew 28:17, your conclusion may very well be part of it. However, given the sluggishness to believe that the resurrection would happen (evidenced by the two on the Road to Emmaus: Luke 24:25), and Thomas' famous statement "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (Jn.20:25, NIV), the context suggests that the doubt centers on the resurrection – even though they had seen it, by seeing Him, with their own eyes. It is frequent enough, given the hardness of the human heart, that people are not impressed even by what they have personally seen. Few of His contemporaries put their faith in our Lord, even though they had seen amazing miracles that only God can accomplish; few of the Exodus generation kept faith with the Lord, even though they had seen and experienced things beyond human ken. Ultimately, it is God's truth, witnessed to and made real by the Spirit, which we must believe, and that is a matter of faith, not empiricism (as Peter says, the Word was more sure and certain to him than was seeing the transfiguration of Jesus with his own eyes: 2Pet.1:16-21).

The Greek word here is distazo, and means, etymologically, to have a "double" mind about something (from dis, "twice"), and so to hesitate, whether to do something or to believe something. The only other place this particular verb for "doubt" occurs in scripture is at Matthew 14:31 where our Lord says to Peter on the occasion of his getting out of the boat to walk with Jesus on the water, then beginning to sink when his faith wavered, "O you of little faith! Why did you doubt?". This is instructive for our purposes inasmuch as Peter had seen Jesus not sinking and had himself begun to walk on the water without sinking himself, yet even so was not solid enough in his faith not to "doubt", not to have "two minds" about this miracle he both saw and was experiencing, not to "hesitate" to believe his own eyes and his own experience completely. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, however, we who have believed do have the potential to put all such human doubts to rest and trust the Lord with absolute integrity, if we will only keep our eyes on Him, and not the storm raging around us. For even if we do start to sink, we know of a surety that He will reach out His hand and keep us from going under.

Here is the applicable part of what I have written about this verse in BB 4A: Christology, under "The Life of Christ":

(17) And when they saw Him, they worshiped [Him], but some [of them still] had doubts. (18)Then Jesus came over and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, (19) so go and make all nations my followers by baptizing them into the Person (lit., "Name") of the Father and [into the Person] of the Son and [into the Person] of the Holy Spirit, (20) [and] by teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age."
Matthew 28:17-20

While our Lord taught the disciples something at each appearance, as Galilee, and particularly the prearranged rendezvous on the mountain, had been the place He had purposed for this, it is no surprise that in this passage we see what is perhaps the most detailed example of His post-resurrection teaching (albeit given to us here in very brief synopsis; cf. Jn.20:30; 21:35; Acts 1:3). It is instructive to note that although by this time all of the disciples had seen our Lord at least twice (i.e., all but Thomas were present at the first appearance, all eleven at the second, and Thomas was among those listed in the John chapter twenty one appearance), yet we are told that even so some of them "had doubts", so difficult was the concept and idea of resurrection for this first group of believers, even though they were blessed to be first-hand witnesses to it. Even today, of course, with the detailed testimony of the Bible and the universal indwelling of the Spirit, it is this author's observation that the literal, bodily resurrection remains a stumbling block for many Christians – and that is tragic thing. For the resurrection is our hope, the hope of eternal life which cannot be separated from Jesus' resurrection and our own (1Cor.15:12-17). This is the point of "primary importance" which has been "entrusted to us" as Christians (1Cor.15:1). For if our hope in Christ extends only to this life, then we are indeed "to be pitied above all others" (1Cor.15:19). The hope of the resurrection is found in nearly every chapter in the New Testament (e.g., Rom.5:2; 8:25; 1Cor.13:13; Gal.5:5; Eph.1:18; Col.1:23; 1:27; 1Thes.1:3; 5:8; 2Thess.2:16; 1Tim.1:1; 4:10; Tit.1:2; 2:13; Heb.3:6; 6:18; 7:19; 11:1; 1Pet.1:3; 1:13; 3:15; 1Jn.3:3), and it is not too much to say that this hope is the proper, primary focus of the Christian life. Therefore we are truly blessed to possess so many proofs our Lord's rising from the dead in definite, bodily form, with a body no longer subject to death, but fit for eternal life.

The doubts expressed by some disciples on this occasion form a counterpoint to the coming of the Holy Spirit after which all of the disciples/apostles would display a zeal, courage and unbending faith that is remarkable to anyone who compares their behavior in the gospels to their deeds in "The Acts of the Apostles". Therefore it is entirely understandable in this synopsis we are given by Matthew of the content of Jesus' teaching at this time that the ministry of the Spirit figures large, even if that fact is often misunderstood. Three main points of our Lord's teaching are recorded here. First, that the message of salvation, the gospel or "good news" about our Lord Jesus' conquest of death (whereby He has won "all authority") and the resurrection which is now available to all who put their faith in Him and follow Him, is now to be carried beyond Israel and made available to "all nations". Secondly, Jesus relates the means by which these "marching orders" (often called "The Great Commission") are to be accomplished. And thirdly, an important reassurance aimed not only at the doubters among the apostles but given also for the benefit of all who might have similar doubts in the future: we may not be able to see our Lord at present, but if we take Him at His Word given to us here, He is indeed "with us", and more than that, "in us" to the end, even if we abide until the day of His return, the Second Advent "at the end of the age", when all believers who remain alive will be "caught up together to meet the Lord in the air" (1Thes.4:17) in a living resurrection wherein our present bodies will be instantly swallowed up in eternal life.

On that day [of the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn.14:15-19)] you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.
John 14:23 (cf. Rom.8:10; 2Cor.13:5; Eph.3:17; Col.1:27)

Yours in the One in whom we are kept safe unto that day by grace through faith, Jesus Christ our resurrected Lord.

Bob L.

Question #18:

I know you have a Peter series but will you do one on Paul the apostle as well?

Thank you for you time

God Bless You

Response #18:

Hello Friend,

Good to make your acquaintance.

I am currently in the process of trying to complete the "Basics" series (which admittedly is anything but "basic"), and it will be several years at least before I am done. After that, I am contemplating doing something on Paul, but not an exegetical study of all his epistles (I seriously doubt that I will live that long); perhaps the book of Hebrews. In the meantime, most of the doctrines embedded in his epistles are covered at Ichthys in one place or another, as well as translations of many verses (please see the "Subject Index" and "Translation Index" respectively at the links). Also, as always I stand ready to answer any questions you may have. Here are a few links regarding Paul to materials available at Ichthys:

Paul the Apostle: Aspects of his Life and Ministry

Paul: the twelfth apostle of Christ

Paul: the author of Hebrews

Paul and the Law

Matching Paul's epistles to his life in scripture

Paul's Jerusalem Error

Christ's appearance to Paul

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #19:

Hello--I hope you are well. I have a couple of questions for you about manuscript evidence. Have you ever heard of this stuff?

"You are referring to 1 Cor 14:34 but that is in direct contradiction in the same letter with 11:5 which allows women to prophesy in church, the highest form of preaching. 14:34 was added by a copiest. Timothy and Titus were not written by Paul but perhaps by a disciple of his. This is the opinion of most scholars."

I have heard of someone saying on CARM that Paul didn't write 2 Timothy, but never that he wrote neither Timothy, or Titus, or that 1 Cor. 14:34 was "added" by a copiest. Could you please comment on this? It is about whether or not women can be full-fledged ministers in church (I say no, though this in no way implies inferiority of women to men, just that God has ordained a different role for women in church).

I am really just interested in the idea that the one verse was supposedly added by a copiest and that most scholars supposedly are of the opinion that Paul didn't write both Timothys and Titus.

Thanks once again for your patience.

Response #19:

Good to hear from you. I'm not aware of any serious mainstream scholars or books which advocate for seeing 1st Timothy and Titus as not Pauline (clearly that was not the view of the early church or the church fathers; but see the link: "the false two Timothys two Pauls theory"). "Scholarship" being what it is, I have no doubt that some professor trying to get tenure at some time questioned the authorship of one or both epistles, but that doesn't mean anything (especially since of necessity it would have to be speculative rather than an evidentiary one). If a reference is provided, I will see what I can do to review it.

As to the "copyist addition", the inclusion of verses 34-35 in chapter 14 is universally present in all of the manuscript traditions. There are a handful of later Byzantine mss. (a small minority of the whole) which transpose the verses to after verse 40, but they are still there even in that outlier sub-family. All that shows is that in one small sub-branch someone made an accidental omission but caught it almost immediately thereafter and then replaced the verses when he did (and that disordering of the verses was duplicated in a few derivative mss.).

Hope this helps!

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hello--I hope you are feeling better. You remember how I asked you about Paul supposedly not writing 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus? You said you would look at some arguments against his authorship. I did find one such in this website; could you please read it when you have time--no rush--and give me your opinion on it? Esp. the supposed "linguistic" elements? I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks and once again, I hope you are feeling much better.

http://bible.org/seriespage/1-timothy-introduction-argument-outline

Response #20:

It looks like I may survive after all – thanks for your good words.

I see that this article you link is written by your old friend Daniel B. Wallace. It's a fair review of the scholarship, but meant for those who have some background in these things and are capable of weighing the evidence in a way that does not undermine faith (i.e., not for new Christians).

1) External evidence. This is the "canon" evidence, and there is certainly more reason to throw out 2nd Peter and Jude than there is the pastoral epistles. Those of us who feel very strongly that the canon is the canon are not going to be impressed by Marcion's omission. Wallace concedes that the evidence for the pastorals being scripture here is strong (end of story, in my view).

2) Internal evidence. Here we are dealing with great subjectivity.

a) Historical: The fact that it is difficult to reconcile the events and apparent chronology of Acts with the pastorals doesn't prove these are not legitimate inasmuch as the same can be said of all of the epistles. The fact is, reconstructing the history of the early Church from the Bible is such a difficult task that few have attempted as Goodwin did in his "harmony" of the life of Paul. There are many pieces to the puzzle we do not possess and arranging what we do have to fit a perfect picture has eluded even conservative scholars. The pieces do fit, I am convinced, but the problem has not yet been entirely solved. That is no evidence at all against authenticity for any of the epistles, pastoral included. I have made some small progress on some of the apparent "discrepancies" myself, and it always comes down to the fact that the evidence, either in Acts or the epistles, on points in question has not been understood entirely correctly in the traditional readings of it.

b) Theological: As you are well aware from your work at CARM, positions on theology are all over the map. For any argument that makes use of "Paul's theology" in the pastorals as opposed to elsewhere as a touchstone of genuineness to be valid, the person making it would have to genuinely understand what that theology really is. Wallace does a good job of pointing out just why these issues might "seem different" in epistles with the particular purpose the pastorals have. I would add that I have never found anything in them that seems to me to conflict with "Pauline theology" (i.e., with the Bible) in any way.

c) Linguistic: This is the most subjective criterion of all. As I say, I read through these epistles all the time and they strike me as being particularly Pauline in their vocabulary, syntax and style. That is Wallace's bottom line as well. I do have a copy of Guthrie's Introduction to the New Testament and could not locate on the cited page for the quote "For most scholars it is the objection based on language which has tended to tip the balance against the Pauline authorship of the pastorals". Perhaps this comes from a newer edition (the work is not cited here beyond Guthrie's name), but the quote seems to me to be a mis-quote of some sort or at least taken out of context. From what I know of Guthrie's work, by "For most scholars . . ." he doubtless means, "those secular scholars who doubt the authenticity of the pastorals". That is to say, in his section on these books it is very clear that he does not doubt they are scripture nor is he meaning to represent the majority opinion as contrary to that traditional view.

Hope this helps!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi--Glad you are feeling better. I didn't realize that Wallace had written that treatise, but I thought it was well-balanced, considering....as for the difference in style, I have read all of Paul's letters many times and all of them, the Timothies and Titus included, SCREAM Paul. I mean, it's his style all over the place! I don't see how some can say that the style is different. They would have to have deliberately blinded themselves to his style, to say that, in my opinion.

As for when the Timothies and Titus happened, they could have happened after Acts was written. I have heard of a theory that there was a second Acts, now lost, that may have recorded what happened to Paul, but it's just a theory. Maybe that is where the Timothies and Titus epistles happened.

I think people who want to justify women being ministers, which my Missouri Lutheran Synod church is against, want to throw out the Timothies to justify making women full-fledged ministers. I don't know how you feel about that, but I am against it. No, I am not against my own gender, as I know women are quite capable of being ministers, but God has ordained a different role for women in the church than men. It's just as vital and necessary as a minister's, but it's different. In our church, women can be anything, including being on the board or president of the congregation, so long as it doesn't encroach on the unique position of a Minister/pastor of a church. They can't be elders, either, since they sometimes have to fill in for the pastor when he is gone or sick. Neither the board nor the congregational presidency is a position of authority over the pastor or the men; they are positions of servanthood, not authority.

Thanks for your comments. Take care.

Response #21:

Thanks,

I agree with you entirely. And as to gifts, well, it's all about whom the Spirit gifts. Even if I want to be an apostle I do not have that gift. And most men are not gifted by the Spirit to be pastors and teachers. For a man without the gift to presume to the role of pastor and teacher is equally contrary to the will of God. I don't see it as a gender issue at all.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Dr. Luginbill,

Do you have a personal view concerning the date of writing the letter to the Galatians? It seems like 48/49 A.D. to me.

Thanks in advance-

Response #22:

Good to hear from you again. That's about the time frame I would suggest (I have it in the 50-55 A.D. window which is essentially the same thing; see the link). Figuring out the dates of the epistles of Paul is tricky because that really can't be divorced from a chronology of his life and ministry (and getting to the bottom of all the issues there would be a life-long undertaking) Here are a couple of links where I talk about related issues:

The Chronology of the Books of the Bible

The Chronology of the Books of the Bible II

"The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy": Explaining James 4:5

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hi Bob,

If, by archaeological discovery, the lost "Epistle to the Laodiceans" is discovered and authenticated to be written by Paul, do we have to put it into the canon?

Sincerely,

Response #23:

That's a whole lot of "ifs"! I believe that God has given us His full and completed canon, and that the Church has possessed it intact and in full since the late first century. I also believe that He would never allow such an oversight to take place. Classicists and those interested in the New Testament have been scouring the Mediterranean world for manuscripts since at least the Renaissance, with a particularly intensive push for such things taking place in the 19th century. The reason so few "new" things have come to light since the First World War is not due to a lack of effort or interest but rather to a lack of things which have survived and remain as yet undiscovered (akin to large gold discoveries in the U.S. petering out by the end of the nineteenth century). It is very unlikely that anything which survived in a protected tradition (library, monastery, or the like) would not have become known by now, and only desert areas where such materials are not exposed to water remain potential places for other such discoveries. We do find new papyri in Egypt but these come from well-worked "quarries". The only major troves discovered since WWII were the caves at Qumran.

But in fact I believe we do have "the letter to the Laodiceans", aka "Ephesians". Paul, like John and Peter and James after him, was in the habit of writing encyclicals, that is, letters designed to follow a "distribution list", making the rounds of various churches in a geographic area, Asia Minor in this case. The "letter to the Ephesians" is a traditional name but "in Ephesus" does not occur in the original hand of the best manuscripts. Laodicea lies at the head of the valley of the river Maeander, only a few miles away from Colossae. A letter to Ephesus earmarked to go inland would naturally go next to Miletus and then up the valley first to Laodicea and then to Colossae. Paul actually says at Colossians 4:16: "After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the one [coming] from Laodicea". He doesn't actually give the other letter this other name. And compare what he says in Colossians:

I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.
Colossians 2:1 NIV

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Would it be possible for you to give your explanation for placing the different books of John in the 60 to 68AD time period? I realize there is a great deal of demand for your time, but if you could share your thinking I would certainly appreciate it.

Yours in Christ,

Response #24:

Good to make your acquaintance (and apologies for the delay – the end of the week and the weekends are sometimes very busy).

The terminus ante quem I use for Revelation, the last of John's works, is the death of Nero. Here is something I have written about that (in CT 1; see the link):

Contrary to the opinio communis, Revelation was written toward the end of the emperor Nero's reign. Nero is the sixth king who "now is" at John's time of writing (Rev.17:10), the last of the Julio-Claudian emperors to be followed in the far future by the "seventh king" (antichrist).

Since Nero "now is", the book had to be written before 69 A.D. when Nero was assassinated. You can find the interpretation of that passage, Revelation 17:10, at the following link: "Nero and the Seven Kings" (in CT 3B).

The terminus post quem I use is the completion of the other gospels, Mark being the last of the synoptics to be written, and done under Peter's apostolic authority, probably from Rome. If these hypotheses be accepted, they will argue for Mark postdating the prison epistles of Paul and coincide with Peter's taking up of residence there, most likely in the late 50's. Since John's gospel appears to be the first of his works and is written with the other gospels in mind, 60 A.D. seems reasonable as an approximate terminus post quem.

Hope this was helpful.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #25:

Thank you very much for your explanation. It certainly gives me a reason to rethink what I have always accepted as to the dating of the writing of the Book of Revelation.

Let me also say that I really enjoy all of your writings. They are obviously very well researched and encourages me to continue my Bible study.

Yours in Christ,

Response #25:

You are most welcome,

And thank so much for your kind comments about this ministry.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.
 

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