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New Testament Interpretation III

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Question #1: 

Hi Bob

I was wondering if you could comment on the incident at Bethesda (John 5:2-4). Is this mention on the angel stirring the water in the most original texts? It seems to be omitted in some translations. If it is then: Why would God allow such action from an angel? Hardly seems to be in keeping with the act of a messenger. Could it be demonic? The method of choosing a person for healing seems arbitrary. Why is it even mentioned in John?

For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
John 5:4 KJV

Response #1:  

You have a good eye, my friend, and a good sensitivity to the Spirit and the tenor of the Word. Indeed, John 5:4 is not a part of scripture. The verse is absent from the all of the oldest and best manuscripts of the New Testament (including Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Ephraemi rescriptus, the Bodmer papyri, and many other important witnesses). This is another case where the KJV, which does print the verse, suffers from not having these early witnesses available at the time it was translated (very few Greek mss. were available to the translators, and part of the Book of Revelation was based upon a "back translation" from the Latin Vulgate done by Erasmus; see the link: "Who wrote the KJV"). In fact, this is such a clear case of later interpolation that, against their normal practice, most of the modern versions do not even print the verse in their text (they have footnotes instead). In other places, even fairly honest modern versions print some passages which are clearly interpolations (where "favorite" passages are in view), and only note in the footnotes that the passage/verses are "probably" not original (please see the link: "Interpolations into the Bible"). So this then is deemed a clear case by almost everyone – let me assure you: it's not part of scripture. What it is is a "gloss": some scribe wanted to explain what the man told Jesus about "getting down into the water", and this was his explanation, no doubt written in the margin of his manuscript. When the ms. was copied later, the next scribe was not sure whether or not this was a gloss or an accidental omission hastily scribbled in the margin for a lack of space when the "mistake" was discovered; erring on the side of caution (so as not to lose scripture), he decided to include it. This sort of thing is, blessedly, not very common in biblical manuscripts, and almost always very easy to determine in our day and age with so many witnesses to the true text being presently available. I am fairly confident that the KJV translators who labored over this verse must have been more than a little suspicious – however, they were working from a critical edition of the text (the so-called "textus receptus"), so that the "rules" were that they had to translate what they were given (with the result that in this case and a number of other places they translated material which is not actual part of the inspired Word).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Thanks for the detailed answer. Since a ‘multitude’ gathered and some had waited a long time it seems likely that some type of phenomena was being ‘reported on’. Even if we have the info by way of a sort of comment or side note. Is there any other reference (extra biblical) to this sort of phenomenon in that time. Seems odd that people would have gathered for no particular reason. If the comment was added to ‘explain’ the people’s behaviour (gathering) it makes me wonder if the Jewish folks of that time held beliefs about so called ‘angelic ministry’?

Response #2: 

You are welcome, and your suspicions are correct. After all, the Book of Hebrews is largely concerned, at least the first couple of chapters are, with demonstrating that Jesus Christ is not an angel. Gnosticism was, especially in its incipient stages, mostly Jewish and mostly focused on a fascination with angelic and angel-like beings (see the link). So the Bible is just reporting, as it often does in the gospels and Acts, actual behavior which happens in this instance to have been groundlessly superstitious. In this case, the oddity was a natural place for a gloss.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hi Bob,

The following passages in the first chapter of /John/ are salient because of their alternate readings:

1. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. (Jn.1:9)

2. These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (Jn.1:28)

#1 is theologically significant because its alternate reading, 'That was the true Light which, coming into the world, gives light to every man,' has a completely different meaning than the received text in the NKJV.

#2 is also an important factual point, albeit to a lesser degree than #1, because the alternative reading replaces 'Bethabara' with 'Bethany.' Unless these two names are synonyms, the incident described couldn't have occurred at both places.

Also, I heard that the earliest manuscripts changed 'Simon Son of John' to 'Simon Son of Jonah', so as to make it agree with Matthew. Is this a problem?


Response #3:  

Good to hear from you. As to your questions:

1) Here is how I translate the verse:

The true Light which illuminates every human being was coming into the world.
John 1:9

There is no difference in text. The question is whether the participle "coming" refers to the "the light" or to "everyone"; since "light" is neuter and since "everyone", though masculine, is accusative, it so happens that the form could go with either (so it is a question of comma placement by editors; these do not exist in the mss.). The NKJV printed text is correct, as it happens, not the alternative translation they have in their footnote. This is about Christ "coming into the world" as the Light of the world.

2) "Bethany" is correct. The alternative reading gained credence because Origen liked it (as did Chrysostom), on account of a (false) etymology of the alternative place name; but all of the older mss. agree that Bethany is the correct reading.

3) The appellation at Matthew 16:17, bar-Iona (Âáńéůí ), is to found in all mss., even the TR tradition; what differs is only the transliteration into English. Bar is the Aramaic "son", and Iona or "Jonah", is an approximation of "John"; after all, "John" means "Yah is gracious", and a more complete transliteration of the Hebrew (or Aramaic) which lies behind the name would be something like: Iochanan – hard for Greek speakers (never mind English speakers) to say, hence the liberality with transliteration – in both languages. But it's no problem since it is the same person with the same name (no change).

Yours in Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi Bob,

I never saw Iona acting as a transliteration of יוֹחָנָן. Whenever I read Iona, it was always a transliteration of, well, יוֹנָה. Do you have any evidence that Iona is a valid transliteration?


Response #4: 

The transliteration of Semitic names into Greek is an art rather than a science – and a rough art at that. Please see the link on the spelling of Megiddo.

The problem is complicated for names of persons on account of the desire in many cases to Hellenize Jewish names to make them more comfortable to the ears of Greek-speaking people (analogous today to native Chinese adopting an "American name" for use by their non-Chinese speaking friends).

As to proof, Blass' Greek Grammar of the NT says about this name in particular that Iona in Greek is a shortened form of Iohanan in Hebrew; with examples and bibliography (para. 53; indent sub (2) on p.30).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Thanks again for speaking with me this morning. It was great to learn how the Lord has/is working in your life. Attached is my "pride of authorship" outline of my favorite "church functioning" passage. The second for me is 1 Cor 14 [yes, all of it!]. If the local church implemented these two passages "most" problems we now experience would decrease [but perhaps be replaced with other "problems"]. Please critique its adequacy and accuracy as an outline.

Response #5:  

I don't have a problem with your outline of Ephesians chapter four per se. My quibble, such as it is, would be with doing this sort of detailed outlining of books and chapters in the first place. Paul's prose is really paratactic rather than hypotactic – at least that is the way he thinks. That is to say, lining things up as if his epistles were a legal brief with points and subpoints may be helpful for some purposes, but it can also lead to a distorted emphasis and confusion of true relationships between ideas. There is really no substitute for a good translation when it comes to explaining complex passages such as this chapter. For example, the two last parts of verse 13 are really in apposition (rather than being subordinated one to the other), with the latter explaining the former (but putting them on parallel footing in an outline tends to obfuscate that point); also, you have the mechri clause folded into its "appropriate" sentence in the outline, but it is critical to the entire period: i.e., the whole line of thought in this extensive sentence which begins in verse eleven runs directly into mechri which is the key dividing point between spiritual immaturity and maturity, and all that follows from verse fourteen onward assumes maturity has been reached – it's hard to represent that sort of thing in an outline, rather, outlines tend to blur these important distinctions by forcing everything into their Procrustean bed. Finally, by the time we get to "II" and "III", the prose defies detailed outlining (as is often the case with scripture, and particularly in Paul's complex Greek). As an aside, I would not split II and III since verse 16b is speaking about the Church, the Body of Christ rather than Christ Himself, as the wording here suggests (i.e., soma is the subject of poieitai).

For what it is worth, here is the way I translate these verses:

(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying goal of believing what is right and of giving our complete allegiance to the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

I think you have done as good a job as possible with this. This sort of outlining is stressed and recommending in certain evangelical circles (I ran into it in seminary). As you probably know, it is a particularly important element in what is sometimes called "Biblical Theology" as opposed to "Systematic Theology" or "Historical Theology" (focusing on individual books in isolation).

I have been studying scripture and literature a long time, and I confess that the outline approach has never done much for me; on the other side of things, in my opinion it can be very misleading in that it necessarily must attempt to impose an order and a discipline on the language and the meaning which often is not actually there (or is different but not amenable to traditional outlining). I prefer to have the scripture and the Spirit do the dictating. Even when dealing with secular literature, accepting the language as language has always proved for me a more fruitful method. Apologies in advance if you don't find this approach useful. We all have our own gifts, after all. No offense meant and none taken in agreeing to disagree on this.

Good speaking with you today! I will be looking for any questions you may choose to forward my way.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Greetings, again. Outlining is how I think and that may be one of the reason I process input so slowly. May I limit this exchange to three items [and if you survive this, I will ask for more later].

My "Question behind my questions" is how should the church leadership function? Most do VERY poorly, IMHO. And the congregation has accepted that it takes professional training to do ministry. Then the leadership burns themselves out if they are concerned with building the church. Finally for this point, if the leadership slowly/gently train the people to discover their giftings/strengths and "to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" [Eph 2:10b] all people and the Lord are Happy!

Using Matt 6:9-10 as an example:

1. Our Father which art in heaven,

a. Hallowed be thy name.

b. Thy kingdom come.

c. Thy will be done

2. in earth, as it is in heaven.

How accurate am I in believing that the above three indents are equal BUT the "in earth, as it is in heaven" is an "ending for each of those three?" And if accurate, this is an example of why/where outlining is important to me. Back to my outline on Eph 4: First "detail" question:

Is "For the perfecting of the saints" (Greek pros) and "whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Greek pros) somewhat parallel in describing the major purposes of the leadership?

Thayer's Lexicon’s first definition is "to follow up or investigate by method and settled plan." Which is IMHO what leadership should do. I hope you have grace to respond to these additional items.

Thanks, again,

Response #6: 

Good to hear from you.

On the Lord's prayer, first, the adverbial phrase "on earth as it is in heaven" goes with the final sentence of the three, "thy will be done"; it describes the where: everywhere on earth just as is now the case in the third heaven. Also, I don't see the three insets as parallel. "Hallowed be thy Name" is a statement of praise that goes with the address "Our Father who art in heaven"; the next two "polite imperatives" express our confident hope and expectation for the future and our desire for it to come to pass just as soon as possible: "thy kingdom come" (would that all this were over already), "thy will be done" (then everything would be fine). So these last two go together very closely, the first leading to the second hand in glove. So I do think this is a good example regarding outlining, namely, that it creates more problems than it solves by aligning the language in an unnatural way and skewing the emphasis. Nothing beats a good translation – except perhaps a better explanation in tandem with a good translation. Please see the links for more info: "The Lord's Prayer" and "Day by day in the Lord's Prayer". Here is my own translation which may also help to illustrate this point of view:

Our Father, the One in heaven,
Let your Name be regarded as holy,
Let your Kingdom come,
Let your will be done as it is in heaven so also on earth.
Matthew 6:9-10

As to the two "pros" phrases in Ephesians chapter four, I'm not sure what you are asking, exactly, but when you say "somewhat parallel", I have to respond that if they are, they are only very loosely so. Prepositions often take objects in Greek, as in both phrases here, and the phrases themselves are essentially adverbial in function so that they must modify a verb or a verbal idea. The first one (which I translate "in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work") is acting as an equivalent to a purpose clause (hence the translation "in order to"), not an uncommon thing in Greek for this preposition. This phrase modifies "appointed" and explains the reason behind our Lord's gifting of men in the Church, namely, the eventual mutual functioning of each member according to their gifts (following the spiritual growth and progress necessary so to do, covered in the rest of the passage following). The second phrase, however, is an expansion of the negative case at the end of Paul's analysis of what happens to Christians when they are not properly prepared by those responsible for doing so. Instead of depending on the main verb, the prepositional phrase depends on the verbal idea in the noun panourgia, which I have translated "readiness to do anything"; Thayer has "cunning" and "craftiness" (among other things); that is fine, but my rendering makes the link up with the pros phrase you ask about smoother and more understandable: "in their readiness to do anything to [pros] cunningly work their deceit". Here we have purpose too (to a degree), but more loosely so since the connection is closer (almost a complement). So what these two prepositional phrases have in common is their purpose aspect (and the fact that they both begin with pros). They are each part of the contrasting methods, good and bad, but the first one is expanded by other points, whereas in the case of the negative pros it stands as the final element in the modus operandi of the false teachers – making outlining in a parallel fashion highly problematic.

Feel free to write any time.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

 Greetings, again. I do wish to continue with your educating me on a better study/understanding of the NT Greek Text. I have read and re-read your two responses below several times. I AM NOT a linguist. While I’ve had two years each of Latin and French in high school and then my "minor" 2 ˝ years of Greek in college, I could never speak any of them nor even think in any of them. And even my knowledge of Greek, thru non consistent use, is probably only 5-10% of what it was 45 years ago. So the old adage is probably true of me that "I know enough Greek to be dangerous!" But with that having been stated, I still feel that ALL translations from one language to another is subject to the prejudices and suppositions of the person doing the translation. So as I read your comments I am "confused" as to what of your responses are a statement of absolutely established fact from a more full knowledge of the koine Greek, vs. a statement of personal opinion, even if deeply held. As an example, from your email, first paragraph is: "also, you have the mechri clause folded into its "appropriate" sentence in the outline, but it is critical to the period" My reading/interpretation of your comment is that "mechri" is a connector of the preceding with the following. But as I review the 17 uses of "mechri" in the Greek lexicon, all 17 are a conclusion of the preceding phrase in the KJV EXCEPT Eph 4:13. WHY? Or what I’m I reading wrong?

In Christ,

Response #7:  

Good to hear back from you. As to your general comment on translation, it is certainly true that all translation is interpretation – but inasmuch as most people do not have access to Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, it is a necessity if we are not to leave reading the Bible to the select few. As I tell my students, there are hundreds and possibly even thousands of possible translations for a given passage of literature which may be essentially correct – just please steer clear of the millions and billions which are not. Here are some links on this subject which may prove helpful:

How to use the Bible translations at Ichthys

Ichthys translations

Bible translation and John 8:58

New Bible Translations:  Part of a Conspiracy?

Tools and Techniques for Bible Translation

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations II

I'm not saying that mechri does not introduce a conclusion. Far from it – but it is more important than the outline you give indicates. That is because mechri introduces the ultimate conclusion of all that precedes; and it divides the period up after that conclusion, then looks forward to what follows once this conclusion has been attained. KJV, which takes pains to be neutral in all things interpretive, does recognize that this is the pivot point of the syntax: it uses colons both at the end of verse 12 and the end of verse 13. That is pretty much what I do with this period as well. So verse 13 is the capstone (and the use of mechri is the signal in the Greek, along with the meaning).

Best wishes for your studies – feel free to write me back any time.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Regarding Revelation 22:11 you wrote: The time is short so that all should confirm themselves in their present status. Of course, the last thing any unbeliever should do is to abide in unbelief, but scripture puts things in this absolute way to show that the degree of division which is prophesied to take place (and indeed is already trending toward taking place) between the two "sides". Although, some explain this passage as relating to our state in eternity - so that once the condemnation of unbelievers and glorification of believers has taken place - 'unbeliever should abide in unbelief' and 'righteous continue to produce righteousness' (this might impact on the validity of such an interpretation - will the righteousness still be 'produced' in eternity?).

What is your take on such an interpretation?

Response #8: 

It's incorrect, because the mood here of the verbs here are jussive, not future. If we had the future, this verse would be describing the future state. But the "let" mood indicates that the "cake isn't baked" quite yet and acts as an encouragement for those who are righteous to stay so and those who are not to reconsider lest this description be true of them for all eternity. The fact that the passage is difficult to interpret inevitably leads to wrong interpretations as is often the case; what I find disheartening is the advancing of clearly problematic views just to have something to say. I suppose we are all guilty of that to some degree in this profession (I am sure I am not without blame on this score), and suppose it is at least better to advance the best view one can than to take the position that it is impossible to say anything for sure (no one ever got anywhere spiritually that way – those afflicted by overwhelming doubt should not even consider the ministry).

Question #9: 

You wrote: "But the "let" mood indicates that the "cake isn't baked" quite yet and acts as an encouragement for those who are righteous to stay so and those who are not to reconsider lest this description be true of them for all eternity."

My question relates to the 'let' - is it an encouragement then more than allowance?

Response #9:  

It may be either. The point in interpreting Revelation 22:11 is that the third person imperative is often less restrictive or obligatory in nature than the direct second person imperative. The precise meaning has to be interpreted from the context. If I am king and say "let them take off his head", that would no doubt be taken as an absolute command. If I am just anyone and say "let them do as they please", it would just be taken as an expression of my disinterest in what "they" do – but the grammar is identical.

Question #10: 

You wrote: For believers in Jesus, everything is new (Rev.21:5). The old things have passed away in principle (cf. Rev.21:4).

I thought that these verses were referring to the end times? Do they then also have application to believer's life?

Response #10: 

You are certainly correct about these two verses but I have included them here to focus the reader's attention of the result of that "newness" we have in Christ (see ), namely, the eternity for which we long. We are founded on the Rock of Christ the moment we believe and the eternity with Him which results is the absolute result of the faith (for all who stay faithful during this oh-so-short life). Part of Christian maturity is compressing the short in-between down to nothing in our thoughts so that there is only yesterday when we were saved and tomorrow when we realize all the benefits and blessings of our salvation to the full. When we begin to think like that, "today" is really only this day on which the Father has already provided our "daily bread" and becomes in our hearts what it ought to be: an opportunity to serve Christ and add to our rewards – with little thought (beyond what is necessary) of any "earthly tomorrow" beyond the task we have today.

Question #11: 

You wrote: We are founded on the Rock of Christ the moment we believe and the eternity with Him which results is the absolute result of the faith (for all who stay faithful during this oh-so-short life). Part of Christian maturity is compressing the short in-between down to nothing in our thoughts so that there is only yesterday when we were saved and tomorrow when we realize all the benefits and blessings of our salvation to the full.

Could you clarify what you mean by 'compressing the short in-between down to nothing in our thoughts so that there is only yesterday when we were saved and tomorrow when we realize all the benefits and blessings of our salvation to the full'? Since it is today that we are supposed to grow and produce, I thought I'd ask why in your view we should 'compress it to nothing'.

Response #11:  

Yes, we are still here in the world to live for Jesus. But we need always to keep in mind how short the time is (e.g., Ps.39:4-5; Heb.10:36-37). For when we are under pressure we need to remember that it really is a small thing for a very little time: our salvation in principle is secure and leads directly to our salvation in experience when this life ends or at our Lord's return: whichever comes first, it won't be long. That is the life, our eternal life, on which we should focus, not certainly to the exclusion of doing our duty now, but recognizing deeply that this life is very short and only has any true consequence in terms of doing that duty – "one day at a time" – in the hopes of pleasing the Lord who has purchased the eternal life we long for through His blood.

(1) Therefore since you have been resurrected [positionally] with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (2) Think on the things above, and not the things on the earth. (3) For you are already [positionally] dead [to all that], and your [true] life has been hidden away with Christ in God. (4) When Christ – your [true] life – is revealed [at the 2nd Advent], then you too will be revealed in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4

Question #12: 

The format of Philippians 2:6-8 is slightly different than of the other verses, a little similar to the Old Testament citations - are these words Paul's, or are they a citation?

Response #12: 

I don't have that in my versions, but it may be that the one you are looking at is interpreting this as a hymn as in the example of 2nd Timothy 2:11-13. However, there is no "this is a faithful saying" here (or anything similar), so that such would be a conjecture (one with which I would strenuously disagree).

Question #13: 

Could you explain:

John 12:32: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."

Why does Jesus say 'if'?

Response #13:  

Perhaps because He still actually had to go through with the cross, the most difficult thing in the history of the world to a degree we cannot yet fully understand – all history is based on the cross and the cross if bigger than all history and this world to infinite degree. In Greek, ean plus subjunctive ("if ever") is very close in meaning to hotan plus subjunctive ("whenever"), so that some versions translate "when" rather than "if": in both instances it is a case of something not yet fulfilled. But the difference is in important as you rightly recognize.

Question #14:

What does Paul mean in Romans 4:18 by "In hope against hope he believed"?

Response #14: 

That is the NASB's rendering of Romans 4:18 – not a bad one (at least for native English speakers), but a bit idiomatic. The Greek actually says "against hope [yet] in hope he believed". This is Paul's way of saying "even though there was no rational basis for him to have hope from the worldly point of view, yet he had hope anyway and put his faith [in God's promise] to the effect that he would become . . .". That is the definition of strong faith: to believe what we know is true to be true even when our eyes and ears (and especially our feelings) are telling us something else entirely.

Question #15: 

I'm lost in Paul's syntax of Romans 5:12-13:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

If the sentence starts 'Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world', you expect a second part to come, something in the shape of 'so in a similar manner....'. But the latter doesn't seem to come in here. Could you explain Paul's syntax and choice of words?

Response #15:  

Romans 5:12 is what is technically called an "anacolouthen" (aka a grammatical non sequitur). Paul does not finish the thought because it is unnecessary to do so once he gets to the point at the end of the verse where he breaks off the incipient construction and moves on to explain the next point. That said, because of not only the grammatical difficulties here but also the theological difficulties this verse is often translated in an unfortunate manner. Here is how I render it:

So just as through one man sin came into the world and, through sin, death, and thus (i.e., Adam physically passing on his sin nature resulting in universal spiritual death) death spread to all mankind – for [obviously] everyone sins . . .
Romans 5:12

The comparison is never finished, but the thought is that sin entered the world through Adam's sin and spread to everyone of Adam's offspring of whom we all are; as a result, death (physical, spiritual and, in the absence of salvation, the second death) spread to all mankind; that may be taken as a given, "for" we can plainly see that everyone sins – and that is the proof of the sin nature within which produces the three-fold death that is the common heritage of all who are descended from Adam through the male line (Jesus therefore being exempt from acquiring a sin nature through His virgin conception).

Question #16: 

You wrote: The specific name under consideration here, "The Son of Man", marks out Christ as the Seed and the unique "Son" (as opposed to all other human beings).

Could you explain how does the name 'The Son of Man' 'marks out Christ as the Seed and the unique "Son"'? Also, Ezekiel seems to use this term towards himself quite frequently as well?

Response #16: 

The difference is the definite article ("the") which sets Christ apart as the only "one" to whom this title uniquely applies as the archetypical human being who saves the rest of us from our sins.

(21) For since death [came] through a man, resurrection of the dead also [had to come] through a man. (22) For just as in Adam, all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
1st Corinthians 15:21-22

Just as "Adam" (the Hebrew word for "Man") was unique, so Christ is the only one referred to as the Son of man. There are many "sons of man/men", but only one unique Son of man (as the definite article makes clear). Compare Paul's differentiation between "seeds" and "one Seed", which, as he says, means "one person, who is Christ" (Gal.3:16).

Question #17: 

Does the title used to describe our Lord in Revelation 3:14: 'the Beginning of the creation of God' refers to the fact that the creation was created through our Lord?

Response #17:  

Yes. I translate "the origin of God's creation". The Greek word here, arche can refer to beginnings or rulership (cf. archeology and oligarch) because it means "the primary thing". Christ is both the beginning and the ruler of creation, so I believe "origin" conveys the former without completely relinquishing the latter – and avoids the mistaken idea that He who made it is somehow subordinate to it.

Question #18: 

You wrote: Only through Him, and in Him, and by following Him where He has gone (Heb.6:19-20; cf. Heb.2:10 [Greek]; 12:2).

Why did you add [Greek] after Heb.2:10?

Response #18: 

Because without looking at the Greek it is unlikely that anyone is going to realize that it is Christ who is the one who is "bringing many sons to glory".

Question #19: 

Could you please explain . . .

Hebrews 11:4: "By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead"

What is mean by 'Abel still speaks, even though he is dead'?

Response #19:  

Merely that the story of his proper sacrifice in pleasing God is still a witness to us today, even though he was the first person to die. Following God in a righteous way is the only way to please Him and will be remembered and rewarded; doing it your own way (like Cain) and trying to justify your selfish choices before God will have (what should be) predictable results.

Question #20: 

You wrote: the tree of life in the Garden is a picture of our Lord who died on Calvary's tree to give us life (cf. Rom.11:11-24).

I assume then, that even though it's not explicitly mentioned, the olive tree from Romans is a symbol of the tree of life, both symbols referring to our Lord?

Response #20: 

I would not rule it out, but the main application of the tree in Romans eleven is to the family of God or the Church which is predominantly Jewish but to which we believing gentiles have been grafted in.

Question #21: 

Regarding Luke 2:35 you wrote: I think this refers to the sorrow and suffering Mary would experience at witnessing Jesus condemnation and crucifixion.

Am I then correct to think that the part 'and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed' refers to 'and for a sign to be opposed'?

Response #21:  

Yes, if Jesus had had no opposition, there would have been little for Mary to be distressed about.

Question #22: 

1 Corinthians 10:13: and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Since Paul says 'but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also', does it mean that God provides the temptation as well?

Response #22: 

God doesn't tempt us (Jas.1:13) – but He does test and try us – that is a key component of spiritual growth. The Greek words (from the root peir-) here can also be translated as "test". But whether it is a case of temptation or testing (and the Greek words can go either way), God does limit what happens to us (to what we can actually stand), and also does provide the timely escape from all such things.

Question #23: 

You wrote: God doesn't tempt us (Jas.1:13) -- but He does test and try us. The Greek words (from the root peir) here can also be translated as "test". But whether it is a case of temptation or testing (and the Greek words can go either way), God does limit what happens to us (to what we can actually stand), and also does provide the timely escape from all such things.

1) How would you define the difference between a temptation and a test?

2) Also, in light of what you wrote, how would you explain the meaning of 1 Corinthians 10:13?

3) Finally, if God doesn't tempt us, but allows Satan to tempt us, isn't this the same thing from spiritual point of view?

Response #23:  

They are the same Greek word, but the idea of temptation is an active attempt to get the person to indulge in sin. God never does that. God does test us to see (actually, to demonstrate) what is in our hearts. So from the standpoint of the one doing the testing or tempting, the question is one of motivation: God's are always good, while Satan's are always evil. From the standpoint of the person receiving the testing/temptation, both things are part of the plan and both things are tests of a sort, albeit there is a quite a difference in the circumstances. The more a person matures spiritually, it is fair to say that the larger and tougher the tests coming from the Lord become (but in some respect that is true of the temptations as well). I think that covers 1-3, but feel free to write back about this one.

Question #24:

Regarding testing and tempting you said: They are the same Greek word, but the idea of temptation is an active attempt to get the person to indulge in sin. God never does that. God does test us to see (actually, to demonstrate) what is in our hearts. So from the standpoint of the Tester/tempter, the question is one of motivation: God's are always good, while Satan's are always evil. From the standpoint of the person receiving the testing/temptation, both things are part of the plan and both things are tests of a sort, albeit there is a quite a difference in the circumstances. The more a person matures spiritually, it is fair to say that the larger and tougher the tests coming from the Lord become (but in some respect that is true of the temptations as well). I think that covers 1-3, but feel free to write back about this one.

This is very helpful, but I would still want to ask about the following:

1) What is the purpose of testing? You write that it is for God to see, or to demonstrate what is in our hearts. But God knows anyway, so in this regard doesn't need it anyway, is it then for us to see 'what we are really made of'?

2) As you said, God's reasons are always good, and Satan's - always evil. But I take it that both with regard to a test coming from God and a temptation coming from Satan, it is evil that is 'on the other side', against which we are both tested and tempted?

3) How would you in the light of the above classify the situation of census, whereby God allowed Satan to tempt David? God did it because He knew they would fall, so in this regard exposed them to evil - which seems like an indirect temptation?

4) In 1 Corinthians 10:13 is temptation or test meant by Paul? Since the passage says God will not allow you to be tested/tempted (as opposed to saying God will not test you or tempt you), either could fit (or so it seems to me)?

Response #24: 

1) It is true that God knows all things. Yet here is what the Lord says when Abraham passed what had to have been one of the most difficult tests any believer ever had to face, the sacrifice of the one and only son he loved so much:

"Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."
Genesis 22:12 NIV

It is not just a matter of divine knowledge, but also a matter of us actually having to choose what to do and to follow through on those choices. If it were not necessary for us to actually choose and to actually do, it seems to me that God could have avoided this entire process called history and just have put us in heaven with whatever status and rewards we were due – or in hell. Something tells me that this would have been fundamentally unfair, and I am sure that those relegated to hell under those circumstances would have vociferously complained. There is no small moment to the fact that we are made in the image of God, given a free will that parallels God's divine will and meant, ideally, to respond to that WILL with our will. But it is the very fact that we are not compelled to respond that makes our response (or lack of it) so important.

2) Not necessarily – as in the case of Abraham above. The Lord makes use of anything and everything in the world for His own purposes, and that may or may not include the devil and his minions (see the link: "God's employment of evil spirits"). What we can say for certain is that even when we find ourselves under severe satanic attack, it is not happening without God's knowledge or without His will, and we can be confident that He will deliver us in His own good way and in His own good time. Our job is to remain faithful and to continue to trust Him come what may. The Lord always "works everything out together for good . . . for those who love Him" (Rom.8:28).

3) I think the key element here is intent. God wants us to grow, to make the right choices and the right decisions, to succeed and not to fail; God also knows what we can and cannot handle (as well as what we will choose to and choose not to handle); also, and importantly, God is absolutely fair and loving in His dealings with us – like the perfect Father He is. You might push one of your soccer players very hard in order to get the best out of him and to have him develop in the right way – he might not appreciate it at the time. God is the perfect "coach" and is helping us to grow just as much and just as far as we are willing to do so. On the other hand, Satan's knowledge is limited and his motivations are to no good purpose ever. So if the devil does something to tempt us, it is only allowed by God in the big picture of things in order to train us and to test us – and to allow us genuine free will. We cannot grow up by knowledge alone – we have to believe it; and we cannot grow up through study alone – we have to put the truth into practice in our daily lives. Blessedly, there are many opportunities to do so, and the testing the Lord directs and/or allows, regardless of the source, is always perfectly designed to get the best out of us – in the manner of a perfect, omniscient "coach" who knows us far better than we know ourselves. That is why we need to "take pains to be joyful" when we are "beset by all manner of trails", as James says (Jas.1:2-4), because "this testing of your faith develops [your] perseverance", so that when we have grown and learned to respond effectively to these tests and trials we "may become fully mature and entitled to a full reward".

4) Since God is the subject, I would prefer "test", but since this verse encompasses all sorts of possibilities including attacks from without by the evil one which hypothetically we would otherwise not be able bear up under without the Lord's protection, you are correct that in explaining this verse it would be a good idea to cover the whole range of possibilities: God is faithful to protect us from what we cannot bear and will not allow to come upon us anything we cannot bear (regardless of whether or not we feel abused and inclined complain).

Question #25: 

Could you please explain how the words of James' epistle:

Jas.4:7: Therefore subordinate yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Does this relate to the fact that the believers are Satan's target?

Response #25:  

Well, if we are told to resist the devil, it seems we must be incurring some sort of attack and opposition from him which we are instructed to resist. Of course, this does not mean that Satan is wasting his time on you or me individually, but that his minions are ever looking for targets and opposing believers, especially those who are responding to God, is certainly clear from scripture. And of course a large part of that opposition is indirect, coming through those who are in league with the devil and the system of fear and religion (in particular) which he has put into place to manipulate the human race.

Question #26: 

Colossians 2:15 (NASB):
15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.


Colossians 2:15 Or divested Himself of

Colossians 2:15 Or it; i.e. the cross

The footnote for the verse says that 'through Him' at the end of the passage refers to the cross. This makes sense, but why, if it refers to the cross, is it written in a capital?

Response #26: 

This is a matter of interpretation. The Greek has en autoi, which could be "in Him" or "in it", since the dative is not distinguishable between masculine or neuter. If we take it as masculine (as I certainly do), then "in Him", referring to Christ's victory on the cross, is correct. If we were to take it as neuter, then "by it", meaning the cross, is preferable. NIV actually says "by the cross" (even though the word "cross" is nowhere in the text). The point of grammar no doubt found to be persuasive by those who favor the latter is that we have here a construction that begs for an instrument or an agent (i.e., "triumphed" how? by what? or through whom?), and while en plus the dative is a late Greek way of expressing instrumentality, agency is expressed in an entirely different way. Personally, I do not find the idea that en autoi might be expressing the means of the triumph as grammatically or stylistically likely. Theologically it is also suspect, because this is the sort of thinking that is much more prevalent in theologians of later generations. In New Testament times the focus was more often direct, that is, Christ won the victory, Christ paid the penalty, Christ died for us. So while it is true that the cross may sum all this up in our thinking (and occasionally also in scriptural usage as well), I think going that route here is a bit anachronistic – giving us therefore a number of reasons to prefer "in Him".

Question #27:  

Regarding Colossians 2:15 you wrote: The point of grammar no doubt found to be persuasive by those who favor the latter is that we have here a construction that begs for an instrument or an agent (i.e., "triumphed" how? by what? or through whom?), and while en plus the dative is a late Greek way of expressing instrumentality, agency is expressed in an entirely different way. Personally, I do not find the idea that en autoi might be expressing the means of the triumph as grammatically or stylistically likely. Theologically it is also suspect, because this is the sort of thinking that is much more prevalent in theologians of later generations.

That's what I thought 'in Him' was expressing - agency or instrument. Since you say that it isn't, what does the 'in Him' mean then? If it means Christ, doesn't the passage sound somewhat strange:

15 When He (Christ) had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He (Christ) made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him (Christ).

So Christ makes a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Christ (if I correctly understand what you wrote).

Response #27:  

Here is how I translate the verse:

[For by means of the cross, God] has stripped [demon] rulers and authorities [of their power] and subjected them to public humiliation, having triumphed over them in [Christ].
Colossians 2:15

The question at issue is whether or not en autoi means "by the cross" or "in [the Person of] Christ". My point was that the latter is consistent with the grammar while the former is not, and also that the latter matches my understanding of what is being said here better than the former. Clearly, the cross is where Jesus won the victory (so I expand the translation above to indicate as much to pick up the word "cross" from verse 14). However, Jesus is always the focus whenever the cross is mentioned, whereas latter theologians have made the cross into something important almost without Jesus. I know that is an exaggeration, but it is always dangerous to express things in non-biblical ways, and then when people have done this for some time and have become comfortable with the invented terminology, the next step is to build a slightly (or greatly) askew theology on these self-invented principles. I think the "magic properties" that crosses and crucifixes have come to be assigned in cultural Christianity makes this point. I doubt that most people, even most Christians, automatically think of Jesus when they see a cross or crucifix – and I am sure that most people, even many Christians, do not really understand what it means in terms of what our Lord had to do on that cross in order to redeem us from our sins (see the link: "The Spiritual Death of Christ"). Paul certainly understood, so his bringing the Lord back into the idea at the end of this paragraph ("in Him") as the true point in even mentioning the cross was not, I think, an accident, nor something we want to allow to go by the boards through an infelicitous translation.

Question #28: 

Regarding Hebrews 2:10 you wrote: Because without looking at the Greek it is unlikely that anyone is going to realize that it is Christ who is "bringing many sons to glory".

10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.

I am at the moment not clear on this. If it is our Lord who is 'bringing many sons to glory', then the passage seems to go like this:

For it was fitting for Jesus, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect Jesus - the author of their salvation through sufferings.

Could you please clarify this?

Response #28: 

On the theory that "one translation is worth a thousand prose explanations", here is the way I translate the verse:

For it was fitting for [the Father] to make complete through sufferings Him on whose account all things exist and through whom all things exist, namely, the Captain of their salvation, even Him who has led many sons to glory, [our Lord Jesus Christ].
Hebrews 2:10

Feel free to write back about this (the confusion even in reading the verse in Greek) stems from the overload of pronouns and accusatives which are all masculine singular and so a bit difficult to disentangle correctly, especially if Paul's argument and/or the theology here is misconstrued (as they often are).

Question #29: 

What does our Lord mean in Luke 9:54: "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of . . ."

Response #29:  

This is a very late addition and not part of scripture. It does not even occur in most of the versions. NIV has for this entire two verse portion:

When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them.

Question #30: 

Could you clarify what Paul means by the "two unchangeable things" in Hebrews 6:18 (NASB):

13 For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, "I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you." 15 And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. 16 For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with the man oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. 17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Response #30: 

They are 1) the promise (and of course God's promise cannot be broken) and 2) the oath, the declaration that He would not fail to carry out the promise. As Paul suggests, the latter was unnecessary given the character of God, but was done for our benefit to give us even more confidence of the immutability of the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Question #31: 

Could you please clarify:

Luke 20:37: 37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB.

Why is this passage used to explain that the dead are raised? Is it because Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all raised?

Response #31:  

It is because the three patriarchs are described here as still being alive: "I am the God of" rather than "I was the God of".

Question #32: 

On Romans chapter seven, you wrote: Moreover, when we reach chapter eight, the Greek is a bit more helpful than the English versions, for the connection between chapters seven and eight is much tighter in Greek than in English. Chapter eight begins with ara nun ["so now on the one hand"], whereas the beginning of the last sentence in chapter seven begins with ara oun ["so then on the other hand"]. These two combinations of particles are very striking in Greek (not to mention unusual) and there can be no doubt that they are meant to be correlative, that is, paralleling and playing off each other.

Is it intentional then that 'on the one hand', instead of appearing first (end of chapter 7), appears at the start of chapter 8? Normally it's 'one the one hand' that comes first and then 'on the other'?

Response #32:  

The Greek "one hand/other hand" formula is men-de, so that is not technically what we have here. I'm not aware of any version starting chapter eight that way. My point is that the two chapters are conjoined in the Greek much more tightly that is obvious to the reader of a modern Bible where we take the chapter divisions as something authoritative (when in fact they are late and artificial, even if very helpful and generally well-considered).

Question #33: 

Regarding Thomas' words you wrote: Thomas is expressing a lack of faith. Not the last time he would do so.

Does it mean that Thomas is being ironic here when he says "Let us also go, that we may die with him"?

Response #33:  

Yes, I would say so – especially inasmuch as I think the "him" he is speaking about is Lazarus, not our Lord.

Question #34: 

You wrote: John chapter 11 details the relationship of our Lord to the family of Mary and Martha, an apparently well-to-do family in Bethany, indicative of a stream of support from that quarter.

How do we know that this family was doing well in financial terms?

Response #34:  

They were part of a small group who supported the 12 and our Lord for roughly three and a half years (Lk.8:2-3). Also, Mary was the one who poured the perfume upon Him in anticipation of His burial, and according to Mark 14:5 it was worth more than "300 denarii". While exchange values are always difficult to compute, Roman legionaries earned only about two thirds of this amount for an entire year's service. So I would put the value of the perfume at somewhere approaching $100,000. Even at half the amount, this was not something a person who did not have resources could ever hope to do, even if they had a heart to do it. Also, Mary's easy entrance into Simon's house indicates that they are part of the same extended family in Bethany. Finally, the fact that so many people came to comfort Mary and Martha – and most of them not believers – indicates clearly that the family was well-connected (something unlikely if not also well-to-do, then as now).

Question #35: 

You wrote: He offered neither economic nor political nor social solutions or relief (Lk.19:11; Jn.6:26).

Wouldn't the fact that Jesus told the young man to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor count as an economic relief?

Response #35:  

I don't think that the distribution of the assets of a single person's household would amount to more than a "drop in the ocean" when compared to the entire country at that time. Our Lord's whole point in giving this order, moreover, is not to benefit the poor but to benefit this young man: he was relying on his wealth, but without relying on Jesus through faith he could not be saved. Better to be poor in this life and follow the Lord unto salvation than be rich as Croesus and land in hell.

Question #36: 

Luke 21:37-38:
37 Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, 38 and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.

Could the 37th verse be used as an argument that temples should be built? Did the apostles raise any? Similarly: Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46.

Response #36:  

Jesus operated within the Jewish framework of the time. However, there is only one temple and only one place for the temple: Jerusalem (1Ki.5:5). The apostles didn't even build churches. As far as we know from scripture, "churches" or "assemblies" met in private homes or public places. The development of dedicated buildings, a natural one I suppose, has done infinitesimally more harm than good over the centuries.

Question #37: 

Luke 11:28: But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."

The beginning of this sentence in my language is rendered, 'Yes, but blessed...', acknowledging the words of the woman, but according to NASB, and some others, He doesn't. Please clarify.

Response #37:  

The particle in question is the Greek combination menoun and it most normally represents either a strong affirmation or a pointed correction (not both). Since our Lord is correcting the record more than anything else, the latter is to be preferred here. In English, "yea but rather" can be just that. This is clearly our Lord taking exception to the woman's conclusions: instead, it is giving our attention to the Word which is blessed, those "that hear the word of God, and keep it".

Question #38: 

You wrote: It should be noted that John was put to death by Herod just before that penultimate Passover (Jn.11:55ff.).

Could you please explain how we can draw this conclusion? John is not mentioned in John 11, do other gospels allow to place these events in this chronological order?

Response #38:  

The reference is to the "the final Passover". I have the comparative chronology of John's and Jesus' ministries with notes and a chart at the link.

Question #39: 

Question and answer regarding the penultimate Passover and the death of John:

You wrote: It should be noted that John was put to death by Herod just before that penultimate Passover (Jn.11:55ff.)

I understand the point you make here about John being put to death just before the penultimate Passover, what I would like to know is how can we surmise it from the scripture. John the Baptist is not mentioned in John 11 (or in John 6) and I am not clear how we can link John 11:55 and passages that follow with the date of his death.

Response #39:  

Matthew 14:13ff., Mark 6:32ff., and Luke 9:10ff. establish that our Lord received the news of John's execution just before the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. This miracle occurs in John chapter 6 which, as John 6:4 indicates, is just before the third or penultimate Passover (see the link for the chart which has the references in John which show this to be the case). Ergo John must have been beheaded just before the commencement of the final year of our Lord's ministry.

Question #40: 

You wrote: For during his lifetime, even while in prison for its final two years), John's "celebrity" served to run a sort of "interference" on behalf of our Lord (Matt.11:10; Mk.1:2-3; Lk.7:27), giving Jesus a freedom of action he would not have had otherwise (since, without the "cover" John provided, He and His ministry would have been the sole focus of the ire of the religious establishment toward the spiritual revival then underway).

Are there any specific instances in the scripture where our Lord benefitted from this cover, or is it more of a general conclusion?

And: It is no accident that the bulk of the content of the gospels deals with this final year (i.e., roughly speaking, everything from Matthew 10, Mark 5, Luke 9 and John 6 forward).

I know that this is probably a question desiring a longer answer, so please direct me to appropriate resources, I just wanted to know how can we establish this chronology and how do we know that the events from the chapters that you listed take place at a similar time?

And: Moreover, the amazing events of that final year brought home vividly the truth of Jesus' proclamation that "the Kingdom of God is near!"

I know this is a rather general question, but could you explain why specifically we link the events of our Lord's final year of ministry with the fact that 'the Kingdom of God is near'?

Response #40:  

It is a general conclusion based upon the negative facts of the celebrity factor we do see at work as recorded in scripture (cf. Mk.1:45), and also upon the prominence John had even at the very end of our Lord's ministry (e.g., Matt.21:25). The last year of our Lord's ministry is often characterized as "the year of opposition" since the gospels record the majority of the attempts by the ruling class to discredit, oppose and even kill Him to this final twelve month period – and this year begins directly after John's execution (Jn.6:4 compared with Jn.11:55). As to the coming of the Kingdom, this could not happen without the cross, so the approach of the time of the cross and our Lord's victory which makes the coming of the Kingdom possible is the operative event.

Question #41: 

Could you please clarify Matthew 21:44: And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust."

Response #41:  

In my view, the former represents those who stumble over the Rock, Jesus Christ, and are ruined for failing to accept Him (true of most of His contemporaries who were unwilling to accept that the Messiah was not a conquering general); the latter represents the destruction of those who oppose Him at His return. So this verse sums up spiritual and military opposition which correspond to the first and second advents respectively.

Question #42: 

Could you please explain John 11:1-16:

"Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?" 9 Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him."

Response #42:  

I think this means that we have to make the most of our opportunities to serve the Lord even when circumstances seem not to be favorable (cf. Eccl.11:4; 2Tim.4:2).

Question #43: 

Could you please explain Mark 10:32:

They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful.

What was the cause of this amazement and fear mentioned here?

Response #43:  

That Jesus would boldly go to Jerusalem even though the elite were seeking to take His life.

Question #44: 

John 12:19: So the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him."

Who do the Pharisees say this sentence to?

Response #44:  

To one another.

Question #45: 

Who is the man from Mark 14:51-52?

Response #45:  

This is generally taken to be Mark, aka "John Mark", the writer of this gospel (and I subscribe to that view).

Question #46: 

I wanted to ask about the passages regarding the transfiguration. Mark 9:1-2 says:

And Jesus was saying to them, "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power." 2 Six days later, Jesus *took with Him Peter and James and John, and *brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them;

Whereas Luke 9:27-29 says:

27 But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."

The Transfiguration

28 Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming.

So both passages seem to take the same sentence said by our Lord as a temporal point of reference (about those standing in His presence not tasting death until they see the kingdom of God), and yet Mark says 'six days later' and Luke 'some eight days after these sayings' - could you clarify why the accounts present things differently in this regard?

Response #46:  

This passage has generally not exercised commentators too much, probably because Luke adds hosei "approximately", and "eight days" can be an approximation of six days however considered, I suppose. However, Luke uses this adverb of close approximation (as in Lk.3:23 where Jesus being "about thirty" meant within a few months of becoming thirty so as to be thirty for all practical purposes). The solution to the apparent discrepancy has to do with inclusive counting. Luke, it will be remembered, addresses his gospel to Theophilus, who, from the salutation appears to be a Roman nobleman of some status, and the Romans were well known for their inclusive counting. For example, in the Roman calendar "the third day before the Kalends of January (i.e., the 1st)" is December 30th, not December 29th, because the Romans count both book-end days: 30th, 31st, 1st = three days, not two, in this way of looking at things. Mark, on the other hand, is writing to a Roman audience of the lower classes which is composed of many Jews and Greeks as well no doubt as a mixed gentile crowd of various nationalities who lived in the capital and had become Christians (Matthew, who also has "six", is likewise writing a mixed group, probably in Judea). So Mark (along with Matthew) counts only the "full days" between the statements of our Lord and their fulfillment. If Jesus had said these things on a Sunday, the day of the resurrection (and likely also of the second advent), then Luke will be counting both Sundays and the days in between, but Mark (and Matthew) will be counting only the days in between and leaving the Sundays out, possibly because our Lord made the statements in the evening but took the three disciples up the mountain in the morning so that only the six days in between were full days and the actual tally of 24 hr. time was less than seven days in that case as well – but that is still "eight days" by Roman reckoning. Luke's use of hosei allows for the different times of day between the statement and the event.

Question #47: 

Thanks to your response I understand the meaning of 2 Timothy 2:13. I would like to ask about Paul's choice of the words. Saying that 'He remains faithful' might to some readers seem as suggesting the meaning exactly the opposite to the actual - as if our Lord was faithful to us in a sense of 'coming after us', which He cannot do. Why is such an expression used here?

Also, what does Paul mean by our Lord not being able to 'disown' Himself? Why is the word 'disown' used there?

Response #47:  

The Greek word pistos means here "reliable" or "worthy of placing one's faith in". That is also true of the English word "faithful"; that is, it may be objective or subjective in its application. However, inasmuch as most English-speakers today know nothing whatsoever of grammar (not having had to take Latin), it might be better to translate "reliable". In company with others, I have retained "faithful" since that preserves 1) the root meaning of this important set of words having to do with faith/belief, and 2) the important interplay between "faithless" and "faithful". On "disown", the other common translation is "deny". The meaning has to do with rejection. For Christ to accept those who rejected Him would be, in effect, to reject Himself and the value of His work – not to mention that it would negate our salvation without assuring theirs. This is a hymn, not written by Paul, but included here by him as support for the point at hand, and while the Spirit has chosen to include it and it is now part of scripture, I think you can see the point about this poetic/musical diction being more problematic in communicating the point than simple prose of Paul's own making would have been. It takes rather more explanation to assure that people don't misunderstand. That said, it is, as I say, holy scripture, and it is true, and it is understandable, even if it takes a bit more effort to understand.

Question #48: 

Could you please explain how Matthew 5:33-37 relates to Deuteronomy 6:13?

Matthew 5:34 (NASB) But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,

Deuteronomy 6:13 (NASB) You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall [worship Him and swear by His name.

Our Lord says that we shouldn't take oaths at all, but Deuteronomy 6:13 seems to say that we can take oath by God's name? I understand your point about the lack of humility that was the problem when oaths were being made lightly, yet I am still unclear about the relationship between our Lord's teaching on this matter and the Law.

Response #48:  

For me this is very similar to many other places where our Lord brings out the fundamental principle of truth that lies behind a particular stricture of the Law, as, for example, when He heals on the Sabbath and tells everyone that no one would fail to rescue an animal from a pit just because it was the Sabbath (even though the letter of the Law seems to preclude it), or also in the case of divorce where the Law says to "write a certificate of divorce", but Jesus tells everyone that marriage should be forever in God's eyes and that divorce for ulterior motives is no different from adultery. If a person were going to swear an oath, the limitations and restrictive guidance of Deuteronomy 6:13 would apply: "If you have to swear, if you are determined to do so, make sure you do it this way"; but as our Lord Jesus tells us, better not to swear at all, if a person is really understanding the principle. The injunction in the Law prevents someone from swearing to a pagan god; if one must swear, it had better be to the Lord; better not to swear at all since God is the One who plans everything and in whose hands we all already are.

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