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The Bible and the Canon: The Inspired Word of God III

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Question #1: 

Hello and thank you for your website.

I have a great interest in the Bible with relation to the Sumerian influence if you will. Although many questions persist, specifically, regarding the association or relation between the Sumerian texts and the Book of Genesis; which preceded the other; and how does one verify whether the Epic of Gilgamesh, from those texts, was plagiarized; or was it the other way around? I would appreciate your comments. I am only searching for the truth. Thank you.

Response #1:  

Dear Friend,

I will give you some links below and a short précis here. To put the matter in a nutshell, the chronology doesn't matter to the issue. Moses received his account directly from the Holy Spirit, so it is absolutely accurate and true in every respect, regardless of the time written (ca. 1400 B.C.). The Sumerian epics are earlier than the Bible, but what is their source? They are not divinely inspired; rather, they are a poetic and mythological literature which has some kernels of historical truth though modified to such a degree as to be of little historical value. In this respect they loosely resemble Homer. We can say with some degree of confidence that there was a Trojan War – but that is about all (and even here there are skeptics). The great flood happened, and just the way the book of Genesis relates it. Gilgamesh may reflect an oral tradition of the event, but it is of no particular historical use except to say that there was a great flood – and here the skeptics are even more numerous and vitriolic.

The bottom line then is that the Bible got nothing from Sumer and Sumer got nothing from the Bible; the Bible reports the truth of the flood and all of the other early events described in Genesis; the Sumerian literature may occasionally contain a snippet of oral tradition about the distant past which is not entirely incorrect – but certainly nothing to build secular history upon, how much less anything theological.

Here are those links:

Mythology and the Bible

Noah, the Flood, and the Nature of Animals

Giants and Nephilim, Sumerian Myths, and Sea Monsters

Paganism, Idolatry, Mythology and the Occult

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2: 

Thank you but is there a reason why the Holy Spirit would give Moses information that was so closely matched to something that was previously written?

Response #2: 

Dear Friend,

First, the Holy Spirit gave Moses the truth. And we should all be grateful that as a result in the book of Genesis we do have the truth of what actually happened.

Second, I have read these pagan epics and, frankly, the points of similarity with the Bible are few and far between. Not only are the events described only tangentially similar, but the entire diction is different (not to mention most of the details). It is not too much to say in terms of Gilgamesh, that there is little in common between that pagan epic and the Genesis account of the great flood besides the fact that they both speak of a flood. Not much to get excited about there.

So if I can interpret your question a bit, it seems that you are asking why a pagan document would be allowed to exist which might trip up the faithful by leading them to believe that the Bible is not legitimate because of the existence of something which predates it and is in some (small) respect similar. My answer to that would be that, of course, God could have prevented these epics from being written or could have ensured that they perished with their civilization. This He did not do. Why?

First, as I say, I don't think that any reasonable Christian can honestly conclude that "Moses got the account of the flood from the Sumerians". I know that there are "scholars" who have made just that conclusion, but they are operating on the basis of the prior assumption that there is no God and that there is no such thing as divine inspiration: "Since there is no God", they reason, "the Bible has to be secular literature, the product of human minds just like Gilgamesh is, and therefore it is reasonable to conclude that whoever wrote Genesis was just rehashing this earlier story". You and I and all other true Christians, however, know that there is a God, and that the Bible is His message to us, divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this potential stumbling block to which you allude (as I say, it's not much of a stumbling block to persons of faith), has been left in place to test the faith of the faithful. We are left here in this life following salvation, after all, for just that purpose: to see if we really do love the Lord like we say we do, and, if so, how much. Only through growing in the Word, which means not only hearing it but believing it, applying that truth we have made our own through faith to our walk with Jesus Christ, and then helping others do likewise through ministry do we show our love for Him and earn the eternal rewards that glorify Him and bless us forever.

Everyone, it seems, has something or other in the Bible they find hard to accept. Sometimes it is a matter of not understanding the point of a verse (and it may take good teaching to get to the bottom of the "problem"); sometimes it is some event or fact described in scripture (or something as in this case external to scripture which for some seems to cast doubt) which a person has a hard time believing. We are all different, and what challenges your faith may not be what challenges mine and vice versa. What we have in common is the need to trust the Lord Jesus that He will bring us to the truth if we have faith and patience and persistence in study and/or the accessing a good teaching ministry. Therefore we need to put all such "problems" aside until the time that they are answered, and not let them grow into true stumbling blocks with the potential of hindering our growth, walk and effectiveness for our Lord.

Yours in the dear Lord Jesus Christ who took on human life and died in the darkness for our sins that we might have God's righteousness and life eternal.

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Professor, have you ever heard about the "Marcion And The Piso Family" writing the New Testament? V/r

Response #3:  

Good to hear from you as always, my friend!

Marcion is purported to have "revised" the NT in the 2nd century by taking a pair of scissors to it and cutting out everything he didn't personally agree with just like many people do today – mentally, even if they don't actually use the scissors! In terms of the impact on the issue of the canon, this is one of those negative historical events that actually helps us in a round-about way: the fact that Marcion "adapted" the actual canon as we have it, proves that in his day "the canon was the canon" (even though he personally attacked it).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

So Sir, how can this be viewed as positive if he changed parts of the Canon? I don't follow...V/r

Response #4: 

It wasn't a positive thing that Marcion attacked the canon. But we have very little information about this period, so historically speaking this attack does give us some insight today. That is, we know that the canon we have today is the same as that of those early centuries because we have the record of Marcion attacking the same Bible we have today. So it's not the attack that is positive, but the information we glean about the Bible being the same then as it is now (information which in this instance we would not have had about the status of things in the 2nd century without the attack). God works things out in many wonderful ways.

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

[question about KJV-onlyist position; details withheld by request]

Response #5:  

Good to hear from you, my friend! I think your understanding of things as expressed in this email and also your point of view about what is really important are both exactly right. No English translation of the Bible is perfect, some are "better" than others (although that "better-ness" is often in the eye of the beholder), and even a superior Bible translation can be "off" on any given passage. Translators are human beings and they do the best they can with different passages based upon their skill in language but ALSO very importantly based upon their understanding of the theology behind the passages. The men who translated the KJV were linguistic experts in their day but not necessarily theological giants. And even a great believer wouldn't necessarily understand absolutely everything about every passage of scripture.

The KJV is a very good version, but it labors under two major disadvantages. First, the English language has changed significantly since it was produced. For that reason, it is often the case that it doesn't "speak" to modern ears in the way it was received and meant to be received in its day. This also means that there are misunderstandings which are arise from English words and diction being different today. The second problem is that we are in possession of many more aids to scholarship today than was the case in the early 17th century. We have more and much earlier and better manuscripts of the Greek New Testament in particular. This was a real problem for the KJV which was not based upon a particular manuscript but was instead based upon a scholarly composite text which did not actually even have the complete Greek text of some portions of Revelation to work from, for example.

So there is no reason to "canonize" the KJV. That version itself owes much to earlier version (such as Wycliffe, Tyndale and Geneva) – just as all more recent version owe much to the KJV. I have no problem whatsoever with a believer having a preferred version. Problems with that approach arise, however, when said believer begins to think of his/her English translation as essentially being "inspired" or nearly so, and that can lead to real problems of false doctrine which impede spiritual growth. The main reasons in my experience and observation for wishing to "canonize" the KJV are 1) tradition (i.e., an excuse not to have to think for oneself), and 2) to make things "simple" (i.e., an excuse not to have to do any hard work in figuring out what scripture actually means). The fact that your correspondent believes in water-baptism shows the problem on both hands: 1) water-baptism is traditional too (and wrong); 2) it seems to be supported by the KJV (since that version includes the longer ending of the gospel of Mark as if it were really part of scripture – because in the early 17th cent. the early mss. which prove it was a latter addition had not yet come to light).

Here are a few links at Ichthys which talk about aspects of this issue:

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading II.

KJV "onlyists"

KJV not "inspired"

Who wrote the King James version?

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations I

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations II

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III

King James only?

The Greek Text of the New Testament and some Issues of Textual Criticism.

Read your Bible

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hi Bob,

When does John the baptist stop talking at the end of Chapter 3? Is it verse 30 or verse 36?

Response #6: 

I am aware that some versions, the new NIV for example, want to end the quote at v.30, but that is incorrect. John continues to speak through verse 36. I can see where a person could make an argument for the other possibility, but, to me, only a weak one can be made given the content before and after the putative close of quote. Even from a purely Greek standpoint, the first verse of chapter four begins with the conjunction oun and that constitutes the strong break which ends the quotation. Chapters were not original to the NT, of course (origination in the Estienne or Stephanus edition of the Bible in the 16th century). Reading this straight through in a Greek ms., a person would probably never even consider the possibility of this incorrect alternative. I don't see anything in John's words that is inconsistent with what he says elsewhere, and when he says things like "the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth" (v.31), this sounds to me to be phrased in John the baptist's rather than John the apostle's language.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

What do you make of this?

"God himself must have either written or dictated to Adam the events of chapter 1. Adam then added chapters 2-4 to the record and passed it on to one of his descendants, presumably on clay tablets baked or dried into pottery. Noah would have carried the sacred records on the ark. Noah and his sons would have been eyewitnesses to the events in Genesis 5:11 - 10:32. Shem must have written the last part (chapters 10:1-11:10) and given the responsibility of keeping the records to his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson Terah, whom he outlived by 70 years! Evidently Moses, being raised in Egypt to be a pharaoh and having access to the best libraries and records, came into possession of the records or a copy of them, and was the inspired editor to put the records into their final form the book of Genesis." -Kent Hovind

Response #7:  

I think you can guess. Since Adam wasn't around for days of reconstruction 1-5, how did he know what to write about them? And if he knew because the Spirit told him, why does Mr. H. doubt that the Spirit could have told Moses just as well – as scripture has it.

Question #8: 

I just find it amazing that an Evangelical Christian, who believes in the inspiration of scripture, could be so ignorant so as to cast Moses as just an editor of Genesis, in direct contradiction to the words of Jesus and church history, but yet phrase it in such a way so as to come off as "old-time religion."

What does this say about ecclesia militans americae? That these fundabaptists are not much different from the mainline protestant, liberal Christianity which they so often deride. In some ways, the latter is better, since they at least are honest about their doubts, while the former is "zealous without knowledge" (Proverbs 19:2)

Response #8: 

The state of the church-visible is deplorable. But that sort of lukewarmness about the truth is the prophesied hallmark of this the last generation of the Church, the era of Laodicea (see the link) – regardless of affiliations.

Blessedly, we as individual followers of Jesus Christ are not required to sink to the level of self-absorbed detachment from truly substantive Bible study which most in our era have embraced. We have the opportunity to compete for the highest rewards daily. There is usually no reasoning with lukewarmness. But we can lead by example.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ whom we are here to serve His way.

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hello doc. Have a great day!

Just wanna ask who wrote the book of James? I see that there are varied answers within Christianity. Thanks doc. God bless you!

Response #9:  

Good to hear from you.

The author of the book of James is James the half-brother of Jesus, the same James who leads the Jerusalem council in the book of Acts (see the link Q/A #3). Alternative explanations – from those who have a high regard for scripture (and we need not give time of day to those which don't even accept the inspiration of the Bible) are usually are wrong about the date of writing (it is later than most suspect), and that throws off their appreciation of the issue. For more on that please see the link: Issues of Canonicity II.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Hi Bob,

I find it interesting that you find I John to be among the more difficult epistles to interpret. The epistles that I have found to be very clear in their train of thought are the following:

I, II, III John

Hebrews

I, II Corinthians

I, II Thessalonians

II Peter

Romans

Jude

The Pastorals and Philemon

James

The epistles that I find hard to find a clear train of thought are the following:

Philippians

Ephesians

Colossians

I Peter

Unlike the first set, every one of the epistles in the second set read like a list of theological points and admonitions, but without connection between them. At least to me. I feel as if one could distill the theological statements of the latter set, combined them into one "Miscellaneous List," attach them to the end of the NT and not lose much.

John, in my opinion and as I have said before, is the most modern of all the writers, and has such a well-developed and organized train of thought that Paul doesn't even hold a candle to him, even though Paul was so educated that Festus thought it drove him to madness! (Acts 26:24) It's proof that God's Spirit gave him such a voice.

Sincerely,

Response #10: 

John's Greek is definitely the most straightforward, and it is also the most "modern" in its parataxis and dearth of connecting conjunctions of which all other Greek is replete. The meaning of the seemingly contradictory statements in 1st John is the main thing to which I was referring (see the link). It took me many years to get to the point of understanding these things. Many people find Romans to be extremely complicated (so it's interesting that you find it simple). Personally, the arguments in 2nd Corinthians seem to me to be the most problematic of all the epistles, in terms of the flow and relationships.

Blessedly, it's all the wonderful Word of God, and the Holy Spirit is teaching us many things through His use of different personalities and styles to communicate the complete truth of scripture. One clear application from this correspondence is that no two people see/hear things exactly the same way; so the variety in the way the truth is proclaimed through scripture is a definitely a benefit (since a homogenized text would by definition speak more clearly to some than to others, and thus leave many people more in the dark than others).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hi Bob,

The Jewish age didn't stop for quite a while after Malachi. Why weren't there anymore prophecies?

Sincerely,

Response #11:  

By the time of writing of Malachi, the entire Old Covenant message was complete. That doesn't mean that there weren't any more prophets or prophesies given (although we don't have info on that one way or the other); but the canon of the OT was completed with Malachi. By this time, Israel had all they needed and then some to anticipate the Messiah and to order their lives in a good and godly way. Of course post-exile the Jews did stay away from idolatry, but instead they veered the other way off the other shoulder of the road and into the ditch of legalism. Instead of realizing what the Law was, a demonstration of mankind's helplessness apart from grace, they attempted to "keep" the law unto salvation redefining it to personal tastes). It would take the Messiah's personal appearance to disabuse them of this false notion, and even so to this very day "this generation" of hardness against the message of grace endures – and will (for the most part) until He returns again (see the link).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Hi Bob,

Source criticism says that there were two authors of Isaiah which were reacted into one edition. Does Isaiah read as if there were two authors?

Response #12: 

Not to me. N.B. there is also a trito- position on this. This false theory is "based" entirely on the subjective use of internal evidence, namely, the change of approach (to future prophecy almost exclusively) in chapter forty and following; the "proof" is that the latter part of Isaiah contains prophecies which have come true – because to the secular mind there is no God so that any prophecy before the fact which came true in too much detail to be accidental clearly had to have been written after the fact. But we know better . . . through faith.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Hello Brother. Been awhile – hope all is well. I was reading some material about overcoming indwelling sin and I saw this mentioned.

(we saw that "epithemia" was the word Jesus chose when he spoke about lust. It is translated here as evil desires and coveting. Other words in the verses above are translated as "uncleanness" and "sinful passions." Since sexual lust is such a common indwelling sin and mentioned so frequently here and throughout Paul’s writings, it could well have been the very sin that Paul struggled with during the time that he was R7 Man. Having struggled with it myself, I believe Paul’s teaching addresses it precisely).

This is paste off what I was reading. I was wondering if you could help me with verses Jesus used this word. I tried to look it up but I really didn't find much. Maybe I'm overlooking but I did find this below. Could you help with this? Thank you

Epithemia (with affinities to Taurus). To the Greeks, epithemia on an archetypal, impersonal level represented part of what we humans have in common with the other animals. Epithemia was the instinctive urge for touching and caressing. Epithemia is that physical, sensual, sexual urge expressing itself as an inner-tension in the body that needs to be relieved. According to Richard Idemon, it seems that the closest match we've got for epithemia in the English language is probably the word, "horny." It's important to note that for the Greeks there was little, if any, shame attached to these basic needs and instinctual drives of the body. They were not encumbered with 2,000 years of shame and/guilt about physical attraction. The Greeks recognized epithemia as natural needs that the body had.

Response #13:  

Good to hear from you again my friend.

As to your question, the word is epithymia (with a "y" / Greek "u", not an "e"), and it means "desire". The thymos is a synonym for the spirit, often used of the spirit in motion; i.e., not just a wind (as w/ pneuma) but a rushing wind. So the root word comes to mean passion, desire, impulse, anger. The verb derived therefrom, epithymeo and the noun you ask about which comes from the verb, epithymia, both place the preposition epi on the front to give the verbal idea a direction: "set one's passion, impulse, desire on" some object.

To make a long story short, the main idea behind epithymia is one of "desire", and that desire can be good or bad or neither. For example, our Lord tells the disciples on the night before the crucifixion that He "deeply desired" to eat that Passover with them (Lk.22:15; using both the verb and the noun together to give the idea of intensity), and that was nothing but "good".

I would be very careful, as I always caution, about building into Greek or Hebrew vocabulary special significance the words don't really have. Generally speaking, people nowadays are not interested in the original languages at all (a very bad thing since one can only get so far towards the truth using only translations), but the word-study approach has its limits and can be easily misused if a person doesn't really understand how the languages themselves work. This is one of the greatest abuses of pseudo-scholarship in the church-visible today. It's very easy for a pastor who's had just enough Greek or Hebrew to be dangerous to throw out a Greek or Hebrew term as if it has some magic power and draw whatever preconceived or erroneous conclusions he wants from his own self-constructed notions about what the words "must mean" (even out of context!), thus impressing the congregation who know even less about it than he does. The quotes contained here in your email are good examples of this sort of thing. Bottom line: there are good desires and bad desires, and it doesn't really take a Th.D. in Theology to figure out which is which, either in scripture or in life.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

Hi Bob,

Recently, I've been having difficulty emotionally connecting with the New Testament, while the Old Testament continues to move me deeply. Has this ever happened to you?

Sincerely,

Response #14: 

Translation is an art, not a science, and the nature of the NT, being quite different from the OT, means that the colorful prophecies of the OT, and the very personal and emotional appeals to the Lord found in the Psalms, e.g., lend themselves better to a translation style which seeks to capture the feel of the original. In the absence of reading these texts in the original, the best suggestions I can make are 1) try using a different translation; 2) try putting yourself in the shoes of the writer and recipients of the words when you read the NT.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hi Dr.

Can you recommend some good secular books on the biographies of the major prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.? I trust your judgment and though I can search online and go to the library, I just don't trust them to provide me accurate view that at least meshes with biblical truth.

Any suggestion's?

Thank you and God bless.

Response #15:  

I don't think you'll find any "secular" books on this topic – nothing helpful in any case. When it comes to any of these individuals, there is no reliable information whatsoever that does not come straight from the Bible itself. More can be gleaned from such internal evidence than may first meet the eye, however. The best places to look for treatments of this sort are Bible dictionaries, Bible encyclopedias, and Old Testament introductions. The last genre might be the most helpful for what you are looking for. Here is a link to where I give my "picks" for the best such: Recommended Surveys of the Old and New Testaments

You will also find this excellent resources at several places online (scanned or converted to HTML): "International Bible Encyclopedia"

Often, book specific commentaries will include the same information, but the value will likely to be consonant with the value of the commentary (and there are many more poor ones out there than good ones). Finally, whenever using any such resource, it's always good to try and find out the depth of actual belief in the truth of those who put them together (are they even believers?), and also to remember that even believers who are involved in such scholarship are often suffering from the delirium scholasticum, or "professor-fever", which may keep them from seeing things in an entirely Spirit-empowered way.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Hi Bob,

Outside of Genesis and Exodus, the Book of Daniel might be the most attacked book of the Bible. However, the fact that manuscripts were found at Qumran dating to 100 BC indicate two things.

(1) Daniel was copied at 100 BC.

(2) Daniel was considered important enough to be worth copying at 100 BC.

(3) There were already textual lineages of Daniel in existence by 100 BC.

So then, when was Daniel written? At least before 150 BC. Which means that the book contains fulfilled predictive prophecy, even if you deny that Daniel wrote it during the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

But if the book contains fulfilled predictive prophecy no matter how you date it, then why hold to a late date? You still have to account for this as a scholar, or declare the entire fields of textual criticism and archaeology to be bunk.

Also, why do people assign Daniel to be of a genre (historical novel) when people were supposedly mass illiterates and before the idea of a novel was invented during the Enlightenment in France? (In fact, the word "novel" means "a new thing," indicating that the conditions that led to novels existing and being popular simply didn't exist prior to the Enlightenment).

Sincerely,

Response #16: 

Nice job!

I'll get around to posting this next time I do something on the canon or Daniel per se.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hi Bob,

I am going to expand this letter into a full-fledged article, with historical citations, and possibly start an apologetics website, because the current ones on the Internet are of dubious quality and appear to be more like "talking points" than objective works of research.

(1) I Maccabees is not an inspired book of the Bible, but it is without a doubt one of the best written pieces of ancient history in existence, and an important book for anyone who is interested in understanding Biblical history to read. It also contains the following excrept of a speech from Mattathias in the year 166 BC: "Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael were saved from the flames because they had faith. Daniel was a man of integrity, and the Lord rescued him from the mouth of the lions." (I Maccabees 2:59-60). Therefore by the year 166 BC, it was widely known among Jews the specific events found in the Book of Daniel, which means that the Book of Daniel was well-circulated by 166 BC, which means that the prophetic sections of Daniel 11 were written well before the rise of Antiochus IV.

(2) All pseudepigraphical works are embellishments of canonical works, which usually build upon some reader's preferred interpretation of what happened in the canon. If Daniel is pseudepigraphical, it is the first and only pseudepigraphical book of the Bible that is written without reference to anything in the canon.

(3) It is virtually impossible for someone who is not a professional linguist to counterfeit an ancient and outdated dialect de novo without producing obvious giveaways in style. If you don't believe me, try to write in the style of William Shakespeare and fool a scholar of Elizabethan literature (you will fail). The Book of Daniel is written in a form of Hebrew and Aramaic which was not only not spoken by the second century, but is indistinguishable from that of what we would expect a sixth century author to have written.

Response #17:  

These are all very good points too!

Question #18: 

Hi Bob,

Hipster scholars who think the gospels are so passé and prefer to read Q (it's not a mainstream document, so you never heard of it) while drinking their lattés like to say that the Book of Esther is entirely non-theological because it doesn't contain the name of God. However, is it true that there is no theology in the Book of Esther?

Perhaps one of the most interesting theological themes in the book is that God is sovereign but uses people's free will for their glory, best indicated in this quote: "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)

Response #18: 

Good observations. 

My comments on Esther may be found at the link:

http://ichthys.com/mail-Culture-and-ChristianityVII.htm *(see Q/A #13)

Question #19: 

Thank you sir.

I still regularly check your website to do studying. I do find it difficult at times because I'm really into the studying aspect of the bible, so much so that at times I substitute reading the bible to the actual website. I know that there could be a danger to this because reading the word for myself holds benefits that studying can't produce. Do you have suggestions on this, I'm sure other believers may fall in the same cycle.

2nd Tim 3:7.

Response #19:  

It is very important for Christians to continue reading their Bibles on their own, even when they have found a good, solid, orthodox teaching ministry. While neglecting the Bible itself to focus on a teaching ministry (even a good one) can be a problem, the more common problem is the neglect of accessing solid Bible teaching and trying to do it entirely on one's own – as if there were no Church of Christ and no persons gifted and prepared to teach (there are of course at present all too few of the latter, but to everyone who knocks it will be opened).

If you haven't already done so, please have a look at the following study: "Read your Bible!" (at the link). Therein I address both the importance of reading scripture and also various methods of approaching the task of so doing. Please do also feel free to write me back about this.

Thanks for your attention to this ministry! I'll try to continue to be worthy of it.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

From Ken Collins,

"The English Standard Version uses archaic constructions to produce a text that sounds more literal than it really is. For example, Hosea 9:1 in the English Standard Version reads, "Rejoice not, O Israel" where the equally conservative Holman Christian Standard Bible reads, "Israel, do not rejoice." The translations are equally literal. Perhaps I should say, "Write not archaic language, O translators!" So this translation only makes it halfway into modern English. Genesis 12:1 reads, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house," which seems more literal that the same passage in the New International Version, which says, "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household"; however in this case, the NIV is actually more literal, because no one seems to have "kindred" these days, and in modern usage, "leaving your father’s house" implies that you are living in your father’s spare bedroom or basement, which is not what the ancient text means. Most Bible translations cannot resist finding their viewpoints on contemporary social issues in the ancient text. The ESV is not an exception. It is just as circumspect of conservative sensitivities as the New Revised Standard Version is of feminist concerns. In other words, I find as much to dislike in the ESV as in the NRSV, but for opposite reasons."

Translations are subject just as much to marketing as everything else in modern life.

Source: http://www.kencollins.com/bible/bible-t2.htm#esv

Response #20: 

Thanks. Where it is not just following the AV tradition, I have found places where the ESV has actually hit the nail on the head. In other words, there are criticisms which can be leveled at any translation and no translation is perfect. But we are not limited to using just one. This does demonstrate why access to the original languages is critical to gain depth of understanding in any biblical question – and as a result why accessing a good teaching ministry as the sine qua non of a person's spiritual growth is equally critical.

Question #21: 

http://www.vincentcheung.com/2012/06/07/transported-by-the-spirit/

But theologians still refuse to accept the word of God, and they insist that being converted to Christ and being filled with the Spirit should be identical and simultaneous. Holding this assumption constant against all contradictory evidence, the two-stage experience of the Samaritans must have occurred because God wanted to show them that they were formally accepted into the church by sending the apostles and by delaying the filling of the Spirit. They are blinded to another possibility. Perhaps God sent the apostles and delayed the Spirit to make a point of showing future generations and these theologians that these are indeed two distinct blessings.

The text itself suggests that it is a separate ability or ministry to lay hands on people for the reception of the Holy Spirit, so that Simon tried to purchase it (Acts 8:19). "If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be" (1 Corinthians 12:17-18). So Philip preached to the people, and then Peter and John laid hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit.

Response #21:  

In the history of the Church, probably more Christians have led themselves and others astray by misinterpreting the book of Acts than anything else. The book of Acts is a historical treatment of what actually happened during the time of transition from Israel to the Church. As such, there are many things therein which, while they did happen, does not mean that we can conclude that such things will always happen that way – or should. In my experience, only believers who are open to the truth have the patience and open-mindedness in the Spirit to put up with and understand some of these intricate points. Since Mr. C. does not seem to fall into that category, the following verse applies:

Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.
Proverbs 23:9 1985NIV

If compelled to give a response, I suppose I would ask him whether or not, based upon Acts chapter one, we should throw dice to determine whether he or I (or you) are an apostle.

On the particular point, Samaritans were neither "fish nor foul", neither Jews nor gentiles (cf. Matt.10:5 where our Lord treats them as a separate category). Today all receive the Spirit at the point of faith – so there is no such thing as a believer without the Holy Spirit (as, e.g., Romans 8:9b makes clear). But in the early apostolic period God granted for the apostles to be the ones to mediate the gift of the Spirit (not the sealing of the Spirit which has been universal after Pentecost: at the link in BB 5, this distinction is explained as the difference between baptism "with" the Spirit [poured out] and "by" the Spirit [entering believers into Christ]). No doubt Mr. C. believes he is capable of mediating the Spirit to poor Christians without Him (but this is a null set). So I suppose he must be an apostle and must facilitate speaking in tongues. However, as that gift is not being given in fact at present, what are these people really doing, and who is really empowering it?

Here are a couple of links:

Apostolic learning curve

Historical and Transitional Nature of Acts

Peter's "Learning Curve" in the Time of Transition

More on the Transitions in Acts
 
Spiritual Gifts (in BB 5)

Tongues

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22: 

If the "laying of the hands" was only an apostolic power, then why does Ananias (who was not an apostle) lay his hands over Paul?

Response #22: 

For every office there is also a gift, and the two are not always coincident. So for example, writing scripture is also the province of apostles (in the NT), but Luke, Mark, James and Jude were also gifted to do this, even though they personally did not have the office or gift of apostle. What all these special gifts and empowerments have in common is that they all occur under the general auspices of the apostles and all operate only within the limited time frame of the apostolic era (with much more of this sort of thing taking place in the early days even of that period as we can see the diminishment of occurrence of them all even before the end of Acts).

Question #23: 

I know you often remind people arguing for water baptism that Acts is a historical account, and does not give commentary on the correctness of the things being done. How do you know what books (or what parts of books) are to be taken in a historical light, and what parts are to be taken as didactic? Both can be valid at the same time too, right?

Response #23:  

This is another great question. When our Lord is speaking, everything He says is true and useful "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2Tim.3:16). And we know that everything He did was right. When David is speaking as a prophet (in any of the Psalms), we know that all He says is proscriptive; his actions as recorded in the books of Samuel, however, are not necessarily right. They may be right, they may be wrong, or they may be of no probative or exemplary value at all. Interpretation is required to make the right decision on these things whenever the Bible is describing what people did or said in a historical situation. The same goes, as you rightly state, with the book of Acts. The apostles were specially gifted men (as David was), but that doesn't mean that all they did was right (any more than all that David, who also had the Spirit, never erred). Their actions may have been wrong (there are some examples of this) or may have no probative or exemplary value – and since Acts represents a transitional era between Israel and the Law and the Church and the completed New Testament, many thing that happen (such as the functioning of special gifts to aid the transition) are not meant to be repeated even if correct at the time. There many more examples of things from which cannot draw universal principles than the opposite (though we can learn and be inspired from the experiences recorded).

One of the critical things to take into account in Acts are the circumstances. Peter addressing a crowd of Jews who are not believers, who knew about and even saw Christ but still did not respond to Him in faith, on the day of witnessing a marvelous miracle never repeated before or since Pentecost, when the temple was still standing and before anyone, even the apostles, really yet understood the mystery that the new era of the Church would see the gospel given far and wide to the gentiles, and that ritualistic Judaism would soon come to an end (when the temple was destroyed), constitutes a different set of circumstances than, say, a pastor today standing in the pulpit of a local church. These differences may or may not be significant (I believe all of them definitely are), so proper interpretation has to look and see what the Bible has to say about all aspects of the doctrinal question at issue in such cases; that is to say, since this is a historical action being described, it is inappropriate to apply it as pre or proscriptive for all time automatically. Failing to take into account the circumstances of Peter's speech guarantees misunderstanding and misapplying his words in regard to how things stand today. So drawing the conclusion that water-baptism is good (or necessary) for the Church today based on Peter's words here misunderstands that we are not unbelieving Jews who saw and rejected Christ standing in the shadow of the temple and having also not responded to or engaged in John's water-baptism which foreshadowed the Messiah and prepared the way for Him. We know that Jesus came into the world, and the cross is now a reality. The only water-baptism is John's and it is not appropriate today – though it did have value for a brief time for Jews of that day who had seen John and Jesus and had so far rejected them, allowing them to "catch up" so to speak with their believing Jewish peers in responding to the Messiah – but for the gentiles the gospel is all new (and water-baptism looks backward to a Messiah about to come rather than forward to the resurrection based on the Messiah already having come and already having died for our sins).

Question #24: 

Thanks for the previous response. Another thought I was wondering was, who exactly chose the original Church Fathers and how can we be certain that these choices were in guided by the holy Spirit? (i.e The selection of Mathias)

Response #24: 

Hello Friend,

In the standard terminology, the apostles are the eleven plus Paul; the apostolic fathers are the generation which followed (including the likes of Polycarp and Clement of Rome); the church fathers are those scholars who wrote in Greek and later Latin on theological subjects down through the centuries which followed (e.g., Eusebius, Irenaeus, Jerome, Augustine – there are hundreds if not thousands of these individuals, depending upon where one wants to stop).

Jesus Christ chose the twelve. No one chose either the apostolic fathers or the church fathers, and none of what these later groupings wrote is inspired by God the Holy Spirit. To my mind, it is also true that little of what they wrote is particularly informative for Christians today in terms of guidance toward the truth. That is because there was a devastatingly dramatic drop-off in terms of spiritual I.Q. immediately on the passing of the apostles (see the link: Ephesus), and the church visible has been trying ever since (at least some small part of it has been trying) to get back to where Peter and Paul were. In fact, if one gives too much attention to the fathers, it will only end up being a distraction with nothing much to sink one's teeth in to because 1) they do not in fact understand things as well as the apostles or even most of the Protestant theologians of the Reformation (there are some exceptions in terms of both personalities and individual doctrines here); 2) they do not agree with each other (cf. Abelard's thought provoking book which demonstrated that point: Sic et Non); and 3) the way they thought about these things and phrased them makes it a dead certainty that without years of training the average person is not going to understand their unique ways of expressing themselves on these matters – they're speaking "a different language" both literally and figuratively (so that what a casual reader may think they mean may well not be at all what they mean – especially in translations done by people who didn't understand either what they really meant or what the Bible really teaches about the subjects they discussed). I think all one has to do is consider how much trouble Augustine has caused (and is still causing) even in Protestant circles to see that this is true. For example, his misguided understanding of what has come to be called "the imputation of Adam's sin" is still exercising Protestant theologians and clergymen, when in fact it is based upon a mistranslation of a single Bible verse (see the link: "The so-called imputation of Adam's sin"), and that is just touching the surface of his overall pernicious influence, doctrinally speaking.

Your mention of Matthias is a wonderful case in point. This "election by lot" was clearly at odds with how our Lord Himself chose the original disciples/apostles – through prayerful consideration and personal choice. And indeed the replacement for Judas was His choice to make. How nice that the eleven gave our Lord two individuals to pick from (!), but He chose Paul by personally appearing to Him and commissioning him. No one chose Matthias, and he is never heard of again after this farce. It is a common misconception that one can take things that happen in historical books like Acts and use them for building doctrine. Historical books recount through the Spirit what actually happened, but we have to get from the context whether or not the people speaking and acting were doing so entirely within the will of God. It was not so in this case, and the later selection of Paul by Christ demonstrates the fallacy of men selecting an apostle (or later, popes, who claim to be apostles). Here are some links on both of these subjects which should be helpful:

Matthias and the Numbering of the Twelve Apostles

The Apostles, the Jerusalem Council, and Legalism then and now

The transition from Law to Church Age as treated in Acts

Historical and Transitional Nature of Acts

Peter's "Learning Curve" in the Time of Transition

More on the Transitions in Acts

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

I was recently talking to some people about allegory/symbolism vs. literalism in the Bible, specifically how one knows when it is the one or the other. We had our go with numerology, and I got around to convincing them that "important" numbers (7= created completeness/perfection, 3= natural perfection, 4/12= symmetry/organization of creation, 40= sufficiency of time, etc.) are really only important some of the time (i.e. every time you see a seven you don't immediately jump to conclusions). Then we shifted over into more theological topics, like which books are allegorical, how literally we should take Revelation, and the like. I was of the opinion that "the Bible says what it says," while they tended toward a little bit more liberal interpretation. I pointed out how it is a very blurred line: when do Adam and Eve become allegorical? When does Jesus' crucifixion and Resurrection become allegorical? I left the discussion feeling a little bit confused because I've always kind of thought the Bible is literally literal, minus very obvious imagery parts. For example, I see the description Jesus in Revelation as being literal (as do you), the Beast as being literal, etc. How do you know when something is literal and when something is meant to be taken allegorically? Must one have extensive background before the distinction is clear?

Response #25:  

This is an involved question but in general terms your simple answer is precisely correct: the Bible "says what it means and means what it says"; only when it is clearly being symbolic should it be taken as primarily symbolic, even in the book of Revelation. E.g., when we are told that "A great sign appeared in heaven . . ." (Rev.12:1), then we can say we have to do with a "sign" representing a literal event rather than a literal event itself. Without such biblically provided indications, taking something as "merely allegorical or symbolic" should be done only with case. There are such things, as in "the blood of Christ" – but here, for example, we have very obvious guidelines: Jesus is not actually a lamb – though He is called by John "the Lamb of God" and appears (symbolically) as such in Revelation; lambs are literally slaughtered on the altar, but Jesus was crucified and bore our sins while yet physically alive (1Pet.2:24), His blood still being in His body after death (as the piercing of His side by the Roman soldier after He had already breathed out His spirit shows conclusively). It is a mark of the lukewarm time we are in that people want to take things in the Bible which are in fact symbolic – such as the blood of Christ – as literal, and things which are actually literal as symbolic – such as most of the book of Revelation.

I talk about the hermeneutics of interpreting prophecy at the link (see also: "Biblical Metaphors and Symoblism").

And, by the way, good job in deflecting the numerology nonsense. That is another area of false doctrine which is all the rage of late. Bible codes and the like are currently undermining the faith of many and leading many down entirely false paths. There's nothing whatsoever to such false teachings, but for some reason I don't personally get (not being a math person), some people find this sort of Kaballah silliness fascinating – but it is very dangerous (see the link).

Question #26: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

How are you my dear brother? I hope you and your family are continuing to grow in the wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and insight of the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. If you have some time to spare may I ask you to take a look at a short video clip regarding the last 12 verses of the Gospel of Mark? The man in the video is Dr. Chuck Missler. While I don't personally agree with all of Dr. Missler's theology, still, I do think, as Christians, we owe it to our brothers and sisters in the Lord to at least hear them out. I trust that you know me well enough to know that I am not one to just take someone's word for something. You know that I do all I can to accurately study Scripture, as well as any of the history, science, or literature that will help to cast better light on the Scriptures. The reason I say this is because I'd like to ask you to watch this short video and then, if you don't mind, share you honest opinion of Dr. Missler's conclusion. I trust that you already know that I do value your input, and that I'm not trying to be difficult at all. That said, I want to be a person who has an open mind and spirit, who does not reject something simply because it's not "mainstream." As I stated above, I think we owe it to others to at least hear them out on a matter, and then examine the data to see it fits the mold, so to speak. Again, I hope and trust that you will see that I written with a completely sincere motive, and will gladly be open to hearing your thoughts.

The last 12 verses of the Gospel of Mark by Chuck Missler - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aye8q9tIrws

Love and blessings to you and your, through King Jesus - The Living Word!!!

Response #26: 

I do have to quibble with your statement "I do think, as Christians, we owe it to our brothers and sisters in the Lord to at least hear them out". That is a recipe for never growing spiritually. On the one hand, if we have "tasted and tested" and the fruit is not good, there is nothing worse I can think of than poisoning ourselves further with such bad fruit after we have figured out that it is a problem. On the other hand, if we have "tasted and tested" and the fruit is good, I can thing of nothing better than partaking of as much as possible so as to grow as much as possible. But if we bypass good fruit trees to partake of bad ones, there is no profit in that. It is, as I say, a recipe for not growing . . . or even worse. Individual believers are not put here on earth to be judges of every ministry around and referees of everything taught – beyond finding the right place for them personally. Everyone is given at least one spiritual gift. But if a person is not gifted to be a pastor-teacher – and even if so until such time as he is capable through growth and academic preparation to be able to feed himself and others – then the first objective after salvation is to find a place where one can be fed so as to grow. There aren't that many good trees around. If we find one, we should rejoice over it and stick to it. If we find a tree that is bad in our searching for a good one, we should move on to the next one. If we find a tree we think at first is good but it turns out not to be (or perhaps it just has very little fruit at all), we will have to move on until we find the right one for us. But if we do find the right one for us, there is every benefit in sticking with it, and only loss in indulging ourselves in a "Smorgasbord" of fruit trees, most of which will have fruit which is bad or not nourishing (because of the times we live in). In fact, things are even worse than this. Because even if we find two fairly good trees (almost unheard of), and decide to pick and choose which fruit is good and bad from one and the other if there happen to be serious substantive differences between the two, what often happens is that the believer in question is very likely to make the wrong choice, and the combination of disparate fruit will give us spiritual indigestion when one is right and the other wrong on some substantive point. There is "working together for the truth" in the true Church, but when it is a case of serious, substantive differences between two teaching ministries, combining the two is almost always the worst course. Choosing the lesser of the two might even be better than trying to embrace both, provided that both are at least genuine Christian Bible ministries – because only actual truth actually believed constitutes epignosis in the heart usable by the Holy Spirit; if you are "halting between two opinions" on any important point of doctrine, by definition you have not digested either one by believing it without reservation.

It's not for me to say what your best or "right" fruit tree is. But it is my responsibility to point out that you will never get very far spiritually by going from tree to tree. One reason for that is that with such an approach a person never knows what exactly to believe. Or else he/she will decide for him/herself what to believe, and in doing so will inevitably pick and choose poorly – because of not being a prepared pastor-teacher (that is, not being capable of making such "referee calls" because that is not how the Spirit works).

Now I do understand that you may well have the gift yourself and that you are in the process of preparing. I will allow that for those men who are in the process of preparing it is in fact a good thing to examine many trees – but always from the strong base of having one particular tree to fall back on which feeds them until such time as they are able to feed themselves and others.

As to the substance, whenever I have had questions about this individual you ask about, it is always a case of some false doctrine or incorrect interpretation or misleading and misguided point of view being promoted. In other words, my experience with Mr. M. is that the fruit is consistently and universally bad. That being the case, what are the odds that this particular piece of fruit is good? And why would I waste my time – and suffer the risk of serious spiritual food poisoning – by chomping into another piece of what is almost certainly "bad fruit"? It's not wise. And it is certainly not a Christian duty.

On the substance, there are in fact numerous longer endings to the book of Mark . . . which all share in common the fact that they are not the Word of God. Period. This part of the gospel was added later by a person or persons who 1) did not like the fact that in their opinion the true ending was abrupt (but God has a purpose in everything He does); and 2) decided to use this "opportunity" to plug into scripture some things they wanted to see in there – like water-baptism being a legitimate ritual for the Church since the end of the apostolic era (it is not) . . . and even necessary for salvation! If that were true, then the rest of the New Testament is mistaken. God forbid! I have spent much time looking into these issues and have seen the false position defended very cleverly – but it is still false. That is easily seen by any Christian with a lick of spiritual common sense just by reading the "verses". All of which begs the question of why individuals such as Mr. M are so het up to defend this bad cause? In my opinion it has to do with power and guilt. If a person can make someone else feel guilty and afraid enough, then the individual who has been terrified can be manipulated and controlled. So to build a (cult) following, to get people to follow and give money and do whatever the controller may wish, guilt is necessary. Need I point out that this contrary to its core to grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ?

One final observation. Any time a "Bible teacher" starts laying out numerology after the mystical manner of Mr. M., it is time to run for your life. This stuff is the sheerest nonsense, but it has a sort of deadly appeal to some people (we all have sin natures and all have our own weaknesses, after all). There is a whole system of this numerology balderdash in Judaism called Kabbalah. But whether it is a Jewish version or a Greek version or some modern version (as with Mr. M.), it is more than just a waste of time – it is the spider's web.

Here are some links on all this:

Bible "codes"

Numbers, Letters, and the Mark of the Beast.

Gospel Questions VI: the Long Ending of Mark et al.

The "longer" ending of Mark II

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27: 

Thanks for the reply. As for the material in question, I forgot to make mention of the fact that the original data was collected by Mr. Ivan Panin, not Mr. Chuck Missler. Mr. Ivan Panin was a Mathematician who graduated from Harvard University, studied Hebrew, Greek, and received his M.A. in Literary Criticism. As for the question of which Greek text Mr. Panin used, it was his own edition of the Greek text which was made from Wesctcott & Hort's text with the textual variants in their text. If you want one I can send you a copy. As for my comment about "hearing out" other opinions. I did not mean to imply that we should listen to somebody just because they say that they have something worth listening too. What I was trying to point out was the fact that if someone brings to the plate a possible explanation, for a long standing question, then why would we automatically assume that such can't be true, and that we [scholarship in general] cannot be improved upon? As for the question of the ending of Mark, to automatically assume that we will never find any reason to think those verses were part of Mark seems to be a jumping to conclusions. First, we do have several 2nd and 3rd century Church Fathers who appear to quote those verses in their sermons. Secondly, even the scholarly team who put together the ESV Study Bible, as well as some who were on the NIV committee, have pointed out in their articles that the evidence for those verses can go a few different ways for different reasons, such as the one in the previous sentence. Finally, modern scholarship acknowledges that most of their conclusions as to which verses are genuine or not are based on Codex Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and the limited papyri of Mark that we have. Yet it is also a fact that those two texts differ from one another in several thousand places. Now, I am not trying to say that we should automatically assume they are wrong in all places, but I am saying that we should not automatically assume that they are right in all places either. For example, one of those texts has a text column in it where Mark 16:8 ends, which seem to point to the fact that the copyist is aware that there are other endings floating around. Finally, to make my point, I bring up the fact that for years and years and years scholarship vehemently denied the existence of King Sargon II [mentioned in the OT] because they said, "there is not evidence for him." Yet, since then, we now have discovered two several ton monuments to him and his kingdom, and today scholarship would ridicule anyone who denied his existence. What's my point, your response seemed to assume that just because the evidence on the ending of Mark is divided that therefore it is nonsense to hold to the opinion that they were part of the original text. Yet that does not seem any stranger than the fact that modern scholarship puts so much weight on the two ancient texts, simply because they are older, and well copied, while seemingly throwing out the other evidence to contradicts it. It seems to me that this is another example of the King Sargon II scenario. In closing, I trust you will perceive that I offer these comments in humility, and sincerity, and am not trying to be difficult at all. I know that you are a diligent student of the Word and seek to do right in the eyes on God, so do I my brother so do I.

P.s These websites give the data on Dr. Panin and his work. http://www.ubm1.org/?page=science

http://www.totta-on.fi/ivan-panin-e.html

Love and blessings to you and yours, through King Jesus - the Living Word!!!

Response #27:  

As to the text, it doesn't matter whose edition we're talking about; this addition to Mark is not part of the original gospel which Mark himself penned. It was added later by persons unknown for reasons unknown – although I've already given you my suspicions. If you would have a look at the links provided you would see, for example, what can easily be deduced in any case from a quick perusal of the spurious addition, namely, that this counterfeit paragraph manages to pack more false doctrines into fewer words than any cult document I've ever seen. If we were to believe the "longer ending of Mark" (and as mentioned there are multiple additional endings in various mss., all of which are spurious), we would have to accept that water-baptism is essential for salvation (when it is not even appropriate today), that we all have the ability to exorcize demons (a very dangerous lie), that we can all speak in tongues (that gift, which was never given to all believers, has now lapsed entirely), that we can safely handle poisonous snakes (!), that we can drink poison without being harmed (!), that we have the power to heal others by touch (that gift, which was never given to all believers, has now lapsed entirely), that the ascension followed immediately after the resurrection (when we know for certain there was a forty day period when our Lord was on earth after the resurrection), and that the eleven immediately went out and proclaimed the gospel "everywhere" (when we know from Acts that the gentiles were not evangelized at all until Paul and Barnabas began to do so). Now I am well aware that there are all manner of groups out there who are misinformed about these things (to put the most charitable spin on it) and so do such things and teach such things – but any actual Christian with even a rudimentary understanding of the rest of scripture will understand that such teachings are fundamentally in conflict with what all of the rest of the New Testament has to say (rightly understood). So before we even get to talking about the textual issues, it needs to be understood that from the content alone we ought to realize that something is wrong with understanding this section of "Mark" as actually having been written by Mark (it was not). No time to go into this now (see the links and further links in those links), but the language of this supposed conclusion to Mark is very non-Marcan; that is to say, for anyone who reads Greek, it sounds (from vocabulary and phraseology) as if it has been written by a different author (which is in fact the case).

Along with the other most ancient witnesses, Sinaiticus, the oldest and best Greek ms. doesn't have this ending. Why not? There can only be two possible reasons: 1) it is not part of the gospel; 2) there was a conspiracy as early as the late second century or early third century when this ms. was produced to "hide" this part of scripture from everyone. Since the first seven verses of this addition (so-called 16:9-15) are not obviously inconsistent doctrinally with anything else in scripture (they do contain problems for the true chronology and there are serious inconsistencies, but nothing that would be obvious to the average reader at first glance), why did Sinaiticus delete that part – if it was a case of deletion? Based upon the nature of the theological controversies going on at the time of the production of the ms., there was also no reason for anyone to be particularly upset with the false doctrines in the second half of the addition – the level of understanding of doctrine at this time was low, having fallen off dramatically with the passing of the apostles two centuries before – so that I'm not sure that many would have understood the point about water-baptism being wrong and certainly not connected to salvation. In other words, not only is positing such a conspiracy implausible, especially given that there was no centralized Christianity at that time in the way there would be when Rome and Byzantium began to dominate the east and west of the empire respectively in later centuries, but there is also no obvious reason or motivation for it. So while we can explain easily enough why this false passage was added, there is no good reason for why it would have been deleted at that time, were it really genuine and original.

I hope you can see from the above (and please look at the previously supplied links) that I am not "automatically assuming" anything. I have been working on this and similar issues in the NT for decades (nothing "automatic" about it). There is no "solution" necessary when it comes to any attempt to import false doctrine or spurious non-genuine material into the New Testament. Rather, that is the place to draw a firm line. I'm also not going to "hear out" anyone who wants to tell me that Jesus is not God or that Jesus is not truly human or that I'm saved by works not grace or any other false position that has been roundly refuted by scripture and that can only wreck havoc on the spirituality of any "listener" who has the bad sense to give it any credence in the first place. That is the case with this "issue" – because the false doctrines in this passage are absolutely toxic. It is also the case with anything numerological – because the Bible is written in words to be understood, not in numbers or symbols whose mysteries only the "wise" can unlock; and because all such "Bible codes" interpretations are vacuous at best and deadly dangerous at worst, they ought to be avoided, not "given a hearing". There is nothing to them (words are NOT numbers and have no relationship to numbers unless directly connected by words in scripture to a number), so that the only thing that such interpretations can do is to come up with something false for incorrect reasons . . . as in supporting the false ending of Mark.

Because modern secular scholars have doubts about this very clear issue is no reason for believers to do so. I believe the Bible (the Sargon example), regardless of what scholars say – so this example of yours actually cuts exactly the other way. The Bible very clearly refutes this late addition which is not in the earliest Bibles – so we should believe the Bible rather than putative "scholars" such as Messrs. M. and P.

You are free to pick and choose what you believe. But there is no avenue to true spiritual growth in that course.

Likewise written in the love of Jesus Christ with hope for your growth, progress and production for Him.

Bob L.

Question #28: 

Missler quotes Rabbi Moses Cordevaro who said: "The secrets of the Torah are revealed… in the skipping of the letters." Do think there is any chance this could be true? For example, he looks at some equidistant letter sequences in one of his lectures and in one of such sequences - between Genesis 1:29 and 2:9, there are apparently encrypted the names of 25 trees (you can watch it at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zxZ8Bi-liU, this particular part comes 1: 12:48). He suggests there is far more design below the first meaning of the text. I think it's quite obvious that understanding such additional layers is not necessary for salvation, but would you be willing to take it, as Missler calls it, for the signature of the Holy Spirit.

Response #28: 

I think that this is not only nonsense but very dangerous nonsense. The Bible is given to us to understand; it is not supposed to be a closed text which only a few mystics can discern through mysterious processes. There are many such weird things swirling about the internet these days; Christians give serious attention to them at their great spiritual peril. E.g., the man is a Rabbi? If he's not even saved, and doesn't have the Holy Spirit, how can he know even the most basic things?

Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?"

John 3:10-12 NKJV

Please see the links:

The direct object marker in Hebrew is NOT some sort of "code"

The so-called "Chronicles project"

Question #29: 

You wrote: The only reason this debate ever came up was that some of these writings came to be attached to some of the early codices - not systematically but occasionally. They were included by well-meaning people who felt that, for example, the books of the Maccabees might provide valuable historical information for the time between the Testaments. I am confident in asserting that the people who attached these works did not do so with the idea that they were scripture or with any expectation that some in later generations would assume that they were. To use a modern example, this would be like a large study Bible including a number of appendices with, say, some excerpts from Flavius Josephus or Maimonides, then, centuries after the fact, someone finding this study Bible and assuming that the illustrative appendices were part of scripture.

Were the books added in this procedure marked as not being scripture and only providing historical information for example, or were these attachment added without being distinguished in any way? In http://ichthys.com/mail-Bible-and-Canon.htm.

Response #29:  

It's a good question. No. They are just there. For example, after the Song of Solomon codex Sinaiticus includes the non-canonical "Wisdom of Solomon" and only has the title; the same thing happens with the "Epistle of Barnabas" which follows Revelation. However, we should note that 1) even these titles for the books is an invention – they are probably not original; 2) in both cases Sinaiticus places the non-canonical works after the close of its list of canonical books (however, there are non-canonical works interspersed in the OT, no doubt for chronological and genre reasons). This seems not to have been the issue when the codex was produced that it became later on, it being left to the reader to understand from the title that what he/she was reading was or was not part of the canon – analogous today to study Bible editors feeling no need to point out that the introduction to an given book is not to be considered inspired because it should be obvious to the reader – but that might not be the case if it were to be dug up ten thousand years from now by non-English speakers (blessedly, that won't happen because the clock is ticking).

Question #30: 

I have been doing a Bible Study out of a book by William Barclay (the New Daily Study Bible) but after reading a little about him I am wondering, was he a Christian? Thanks

Response #30: 

He was a Presbyterian Scot, and his commentaries were much beloved in the last (pre/post WWII) generation. Personally, I've never gotten much out of what I have seen of his work (the commentaries are devotional in nature rather than strictly exegetical). I'm not aware, however, of anything therein which is un-Christian, but I certainly couldn't vouch for the commentaries. If you have come across anything about which you have questions, I would be happy to have a look.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #31: 

Hello Professor,

Could you just let me know which book you'd recommend regarding the canon?

In our Lord,

Response #31:  

At some point in the future – should I live long enough and the Tribulation not intervene – I hope to complete section 7 of Bible Basics which will deal with this subject in detail. As to books to recommend which treat this subject, it is important to note that this is really a twofold issue. First, there is the question of "what is the evidence for the books of the New Testament and their texts". There are books that do address that issue, and Metzger's Text of the NT is one of the best available. The second question, "what NT books rightly belong to the Word of God" is a bit more complicated when it comes to published books. That is because it obviously involves a particular theological stance. Indeed, most secular books would never accept the premises behind that question, namely, that there is an inspired Word of God, and that it does have very particular limits of inclusion and exclusion which were determined by God Himself. That being the case, no book which does not accept these premises is ever going to be a satisfactory treatment of "the canon" from a true believer's point of view. Most secular treatments of this issue view "the canon" as a man-made and somewhat arbitrary collection of books – on top of contesting the divinely inspired nature of the books within the collection (even, for example, Schaff's otherwise excellent eight volume History of the Christian Church).

So most secular treatments, even if they do not devote much time and effort to "exploding" those premises (which they consider false), will nonetheless proceed with the discussion as if they were false. Therefore most secular discussions of the canon will be concerned with where the books and their texts came from on the one hand, and "how" the "church" decided to "make" them "special" in its appreciation of the matter. This is a very pernicious view of things, it doesn't need to be said, for anyone who knows the truth. Only those like yourself who have progressed both in the faith and in their preparation for personal ministry, possessing the gift of teaching, can entertain the ideas put forward in such works without sustaining any particular spiritual damage. A secular work on the canon, therefore, is going to be very much like Williston Walker's secular view of the history of the church in his History – only worse. In that case, the church was in great degree secular, but we understand that the true Church is mostly invisible to human ken, composed of all who genuinely believe regardless of worldly affiliation or lack thereof, but also that the political "church visible" and its career sometimes has intersected and affected the true Church, and so its history is worth studying. Studying why and how the political church visible "decided" on the canon, however, is a lot like studying works on "the history of doctrine" which, for example, consider the Trinity to have been an "invention" of the early church scholars. Mature believers understand how ridiculous such things are, and those with training and experience who are advanced in their studies like yourself can parse out the difference between political Christianity recognizing something true as true for whatever political purpose on the one hand, and the inherent and timeless truth that underlies a political event on the other. The same is true of the canon, so that the "value" of secular works which treat this issue lies mainly in their explanation of the political developments which resulted in the church visible recognizing that "an apple" was "an apple", that is, recognizing the canon for the canon it always was (and the trials and tribulations along with occasional missteps in so doing). This is a long explanation of why I would not recommend the Metzger book to most people (or even to you as a first step): the book is a good secular product from a good secular press (Oxford), and will of necessity have to treat the whole subject as if there were no God superintending the writing and assembling of the Bible (even if Metzger actually believes and understands that in his heart of hearts).

So what I would recommend (after gleaning everything you can from the various postings on the subject at Ichthys) would be first to read over the Study Bible introductions to all of the books of the NT; second, to access and spend some time with a book or two which covers this subject from a correct, theological viewpoint. Two books I would recommend:

Thiessen's Introduction to the New Testament, and Guthrie's New Testament Introduction. Both books cover more than the canon, but both books cover the canon in a doctrinally correct way, defending the idea of a God-given canon and also the inclusion of the books which are in it. As I say, the textual support for the books themselves is best found elsewhere (as in Metzger's other book on NT text). Third, once this has been accomplished, it would not be out of place to spend some time in the secular view of these things, and, from what I can see from a brief perusal of what I find on the internet, Metzger's book on canon would be one of the better works to read (after having been well-fortified with the truth); he will give a lot of specific background on the issues from his deep knowledge of the issues.

Hope this answers the question!

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #32: 

One of the issues which I was hoping Thiessen would clarify in his book – the canonicity of New Testament books – is not given a detailed discussion. Would you be able to direct me to a good resource on this? Does any of the titles you recommended, which I intend to read after Thiessen, provide more information (Charles Hodge Systematic Theology (multiple volumes), L.S. Chafer and J.F. Walvoord Major Bible Themes, (and as a supplement) August H. Strong Systematic Theology).

Response #32: 

I fear that you will find all of the above somewhat sparse in that respect. I’ve never found anything completely satisfactory. I suppose when I get to BB 7, I’ll have my work more than cut out for me. Most treatments (e.g., Hodge who has less than two pages!) take it for granted that the Bible is the Bible; that is fine, as far as it goes. Others who have wound their way deep down into the scholarly rabbit hole seem to always obliterate even the line between what is inspired and what is not (for example, The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority by Lee Martin McDonald [2006] – haven’t read this but the preface and excerpts I've seen seem to make that issue clear enough). What is needed is a good survey of the evidence that starts and ends with the truth that this was God’s doing entirely and that the books in the Bible are His "canon".

 

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