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Question #1:

Hello--I hope you have time for a quick question...in Eph. 2:8-9, where it says "by grace you are saved; through faith--and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God"--does the "gift" refer back to "faith" or "grace"? I know grace is an unearned gift, but a Mormon thinks it only refers to that and not to "faith"--that Bible Gateway is inconclusive. Can you tell from the Greek Grammar and sentence structure if the "gift" part refers to both grace and faith? And doesn't "anti" in Greek mean "in place of, substitute"?

Thanks in advance. Have a blessed Easter.

Response #1:

Taking these in reverse order, anti means both 1) against, and 2) substitute for – so in terms of anti-Christ, for example, the person is both an enemy of Christ and a forgery of Him.

On Ephesians 2:8-9, here is the NIV's excellent rendering:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

And here is my rendering to include verse ten:

(8) For you have been saved by [God's] grace through faith [in Christ]; and this (salvation) did not come from you – it is God's gift. (9) Nor did it (i.e., salvation) come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast. (10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for [the purpose of accomplishing] good works, which [very works] God has prepared ahead of time for us, that we might walk in them (i.e., live our Christian lives in the accomplishment of them).
Ephesians 2:8-10

"This" is the Greek touto, the neuter singular of the near demonstrative pronoun. So the "this" is referring to what has gone before in general, being neuter. If "faith" alone were meant, since pistis is feminine we would need the feminine new demonstrative pronoun (haute); if "grace" alone were meant, on account of the word order and the similarity of gender (also fem.), there would need to be some restructuring of the sentence to make it clear that the former and not the latter was meant. As it is, the neuter refers to everything that has gone before, "this [everything just mentioned]". In other words, the idea/fact of "salvation by grace through faith" is what is the "gift of God" – which the "this" can only refer to here. It's only in the English that things can seem ambiguous (in a careless translation). This is also confirmed by verse nine where we are told that "it" is not of works, meaning salvation is not of works (not grace or faith individually and alone – which wouldn't even make sense). Rather, works follow salvation (being prepared ahead of time for us to do them after we are saved). So this passage is all about the fact that works does not produce salvation (which is God's Gift), but are instead the product of a believers righteous walk with the Lord.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Okay, thanks. I thought "this" referred to the nearest antecedent, which, even in our Greek interlinear, is "faith." But would you say both grace and faith are gifts, since it is by these that we are saved and salvation is a gift? Mormons like to say that God gives us His grace AFTER all that we can do and ONLY if we deny ourselves of ALL ungodliness, and ONLY if we obey God. But I keep pointing out that grace is unmerited and not something we can earn. That is its meaning. I always think of grace and faith as being two sides of the same coin. And how can we deny ourselves of ungodliness and obey God without grace in Jesus Christ our Lord? I tell them we obey BECAUSE we are going to heaven, not to GET to heaven and that without faith we cannot please God, as it says in Hebrews.

Take care and a blessed Easter.

Response #2:

Greek word order is more flexible than in English because it can be (on account of accidence – different case endings which identify what goes with what in a way that English has lost), so it's not at all necessary to put pronouns right next to effective antecedents as it is in English. The "this" (touto) refers to the salvation previously referred to, that is, to the clause preceding where salvation is the main idea; "by grace through faith" explains how "this [salvation]" is accomplished but the "this" doesn't refer to these two nouns (individually or collectively).

One may think of faith as a gift or as grace as a gift, but there is no biblical language to confirm this, so it would be doubly dangerous to get into a doctrinal argument wherein someone is positing a principle based upon a definition they have invented. Jesus is "the Gift", and consequently the salvation we have from Him and through Him is a gift. We all have faith – the ability to decide in free will for or against Him; we all have grace – "life and breath and everything else" we need to decide for or against Him (Acts 17:25). That is what the plan of God and the divine decrees are all about: culling the wheat from the chaff by letting everyone decide for themselves whether to fall on the threshing floor or blow away in the wind. It is a gift to be created, without doubt, but no doubt scripture doesn't describe things in this way because only those who use God's marvelous gifts to respond to Him will have an eternity of blessing – just as He has planned it.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi--I hope you don't mind answering a question for me. It sort of relates to a question I asked you earlier, about Isaiah and who wrote all of it and such. However, this Mormon is talking about Deut. 32:8-9 and that how in the Dead Sea Scrolls it is translated like this:

When the Most High apportioned the nations,
when he divided humankind,
he fixed the boundaries of the peoples
according to the number of the gods;
9 the Lord’s (YHWH) own portion was his people,
Jacob (ISRAEL) his allotted share.

Most of the translations I have looked at have "according to the sons of Israel/sons of God/children of Israel." Is there anyway you can check the DSS for me? When I point out all of those Isaiah passages where God says that He alone is God and none came before Him and none will be formed after Him; that He knows of no other god/God, etc., this Mormons says that Isaiah wrote that for the captives in Babylon (despite the fact that the captivity came under Jeremiah, not Isaiah) to reassure the Israelites that He was still their God and had not forsaken them. (He thinks parts of Isaiah was written by another author(s) that came after Isaiah, during the captivity but were attributed to Isaiah).

Anyway, when I point out that Ps. 96 says that the gods of the nations are idols, he wrote that God would not have apportioned out the land according to idols. I agree--which is why, taking all of the scriptural witness into consideration, I think the DSS maybe got miscopied and the Masoretic translation was "children of Israel" or "sons of God", etc. I don't know what the LXX has about this, but it was contemporaneous with the DSS, wasn't it?

Also, Paul, in his sermon on Mars Hill, says that God made everyone and determined where we would all live and the boundaries of each nation, or something like that. Shouldn't that be taken into consideration, as well?

The only other explanation I have come across in my books is that the "gods" in the DSS in Deut. 32:8 might refer to angels that God graciously allowed to help Him lay out the boundaries of the nations.

I have also asked this Mormon if the gods mentioned in Deut. 32:8 in the DSS are true deities. So far, he hasn't answered me.

Thanks for your help and God bless you.

Response #3:

As verse nine should make clear even in this person's own translation, this verse is speaking about the Israelites (not angels or "gods") - - Israel is "His people", "His portion". And after all it is human kind that is divided up – which has nothing to do with angels (or gods). The LXX is wrong (not an uncommon thing), and the Qumran scroll is also wrong (not an uncommon thing – they represent an inferior text type as opposed to the Masoretic Text tradition). This alternative reading in the DSS may reflect a back-translation from the LXX, but since the Essenes were into the sort of incipient Gnosticism that the Mormons also embrace, it is no wonder that they preferred this incorrect reading. Context makes it clear that such a reading is nonsensical and impossible (the passage is all about human beings and about Israel in particular), and there is no such alternative reading in the MT tradition. So in my firm opinion it is pointless to argue about an incorrect and impossible text (though it is true that "sons of God" often does mean angels, that is not the text we have here).

Hope this helps!

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Thanks. But what makes anyone think the DSS are inferior to the Masoretic text? The DSS are much older. Isn't older usually better? Also, I do know of one other change, with the DSS, in Ps. 22, where the MT says "a lion at My hands and feet" but the DSS says "pierced hands and feet." That there was some sort of miscopying of one letter that looks similar to another in Hebrew, that changes the verb to mean "to dig or to pierce." That is usually what is in the new translations now--"they have pierced My hands and feet." Isn't that a superior translation to the MT? And it makes far more sense than "lion at My hands and feet", doesn't it? So, how does one determine a superior translation of the Deut. 32:8 text-except to say that it makes far more sense to say that the nations were divided up according to the number of the nations, or whatever the heck it was?

I do know that the LXX isn't always the best translation. I remember reading that the Pentateuch is considered pretty good, but not the rest of the OT translation.

Oh, this Mormon is apparently saying that the Isaiah verses that say that God is one God, and that none came before Him and none will be formed after Him, etc. aren't repeated in the NT and therefore, the NT church supposedly believed in Jesus and His Father as two separate Gods! Can you beat that? I put down several NT verses where they say that "God is one". I also put down where Jesus in Mark repeated the Great Shema--but this guy says that it is only "hearsay" that Jesus said this! I guess Mormons believe the Bible where it suits their agenda, but don't, when it completely contradicts them.

But of course Mormons reject the Triune Godhead, in favor of there being 3 separate Gods. I think this is just to justify their polytheism. Hence, the insistence of "gods" in Deut. 32:8.

Thanks.

Response #4:

Older can be better, or not. There was an original autograph of every book of the Old Testament. Today we have manuscripts – or as in the case of Qumran texts, fragments of manuscripts. Other things, such as citations and translations are generally of less help in establishing the correct text. Throughout the history of Israel from the Exodus forward, every Jewish community strove to have their own copy of the Torah and it was preserved with great care. These synagogue copies of the holy scriptures were always of a very high quality, too expensive generally for individuals to possess (and the same remains the case even today). That is the tradition of the Masoretic Text, and of course over time systems were developed to ensure the absolute accuracy of the text (no human system is perfect but the quality of the MT as compared to that of any other ancient text one can think of is superior, the NT only being comparable, and of course it is much smaller and later).

But there was a desire to have the Bible in an understandable and personally accessible form too. That accounts for translations (most notably the Septuagint), and also for "popular Hebrew texts" which generally were produced on much cheaper papyrus rather than on velum (the process of transcribing also being cheaper, easier, quicker – and more prone to error). The Qumran community's texts survived because of their method of preservation and also because of the very dry climate (for the same reason we have a great deal of ancient papyri from Egypt but almost none from Europe). But this survival does not mean that the texts themselves are superior. They are not. A very carefully reproduced synagogue copy which is kept until it is no longer serviceable then once again very carefully reproduced in a tradition of meticulous cross-reference to assure no loss or intrusion will be superior to a more rapidly produced copy whose intent is to get the material out and distributed quickly and cheaply. It is fair to say that within the Qumran texts, small sample that they are, there is more internal variation where texts cover the same passages than within the entire MT tradition. It's not that the scrolls are useless or unimportant, and it's also not that they aren't sometimes helpful (the LXX is sometimes helpful); it's just that they are what they are and it is a mistake to see them as something they are not, and especially to see them as of greater quality than they really are.

Case in point is this question on Psalm 22. The Q reading of Deuteronomy 32:8 is wrong, clearly. And that is neither surprising nor unprecedented. The mistake would be to assume that because it came from the Dead Sea Scrolls that it has to be right (when the opposite is much more often the case when it comes to disagreement with the MT). The example you bring up, Psalm 22:16 (17 Heb.) is indeed instructive in all of this. Yes the Qumran scroll says "pierced" and that is correct. However, there are also a number of MT texts which have this reading too – which is clearly right. So even without Qumran we would understand that "pierced" is the true reading based upon principles of textual criticism and understanding the Messianic nature of this passage. The difference in Hebrew orthography is minimal (reading a waw is correct; reading a yodh is not, and the letters are often confused; for more see the link "Like a Lion?"). The reason for the majority of MT mss. having the wrong reading is also most likely not an accident. This passage is not only clearly Messianic – it also is an unmistakable reference to Christ's crucifixion. One can easily see why in the centuries after the first advent many unbelieving Jews would be willing to make such a minor change to avoid this obvious proof of our Lord's identity as the Messiah, even convincing themselves that they were correcting "an error" (there are other similar incidents in scripture as we have had occasion to discuss before; see the links: "Qumran on Isaiah 53:10"; "Qumran on Genesis 18:3"). The Qumran scroll was written before the coming of our Lord, so there was no such animus to motivate a deliberate alteration.

Hope this helps.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

How would you respond to this e-mail if you got it?

People can have dreams and visions but that does not mean that it is from God. I know that a friend of mine who had a vision told me that because of that vision she is convinced that the Mormons have the true understanding of scripture. Since then, It has been over 30 years that I have been studying the scriptures and the Lord has opened up things to me that I have pondered in my heart because I never heard of anyone that had the understanding that the Lord gave me until about 10 years ago. There are many people now that the Lord has revealed concerning the words in the scriptures. Many have written about their studies of the words in the scriptures. Over 2 hundred years and longer even. The Greek word aion which the King James translators took to mean eternal, does not mean eternal but eon, or age. The word eon came from the word aion also. The Greek words kolasis aionion literally mean: age-lasting correction. Not everlasting punishment. There are many many word like judgement, hell, fire, torment have lost their meanings. When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees about Gehenna, He was prophesying that their bodies would be thrown into the city dump which was called the Valley of Gehennom or Gehenna or Ben-Hinnom Valley. 70 years later that prophecy did come to pass. The Valley of Gehennom or Gehenna was where backslidden Judah had sacrificed their own children to Molekh and even God said: which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart. These, backslidden Children of God were not even going to go to a place called hell. Hell is not even a Greek word. The translation of the word Hadees in Greek means unseen or hidden not hell. The word Sheol being a proper name should always have been left untranslated. It has been rendered Hadees in the new Testament. Now all the materialism of the heathen mythology is suggested to the mind, and when rendered Hell, the medieval monstrosities of a Christianity corrupted by heathen adulterations is suggested. Had the word been permitted to stay untranslated, no one would give to it the meaning now so often applied to it. Neither Hadees nor Sheol is ever used in the Bible to signify punishment after death. Nor should the word Hell ever be used as the rendering of Sheol or Hadees for neither word denotes after death torment. Sheol, primarily, literally means, the grave, or death, secondarily and figuratively the political, social, moral or spiritual consequences of wickedness in the present world, is the precise force of the term, wherever found. The word hell crept into the church from heathen mythology. According to the Old Testament the words Sheol, Hadees primarily signify only the place, or state of the dead. The character of those who departed did not affect their situation in Sheol, for all went into the same state. The word cannot be translated by the term Hell, for that would make Jacob expect to go to a place of torment, and prove that the Savior of the world, David, Jonah, etc., were once sufferers in the prison-house of the damned. You can check the scriptures on all of this. I know this may rock your theology, I know it did mine, until I decided to study and allow the Holy Spirit teach me like He said He would. I found that our God is a wonderful gracious father and has made a way for all His creations to become saved by the precious blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ our Savior. Read 1 "Cor. 15 and when they say all, it means all and not some. Satan does not take the multitude of God's Creation to a mythological heathen hell. Christ wins and all shall be saved, all in due time. 1 Tim 4: 10 says, ‘...God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of believers’. This verse implies that God saves all, but saves believers in some special sense. For believers, as I see it, there is salvation from sin, sickness and many other evils in this life, and salvation from the coming judgement. For unbelievers salvation is not till a long while later. 1 Corinthians 15: 22-24 ‘For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to God the Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.’ Traditionalists tend to interpret this as ‘All who are in Christ will be made alive’; but that is not what the book says. Paul here simply states that all die in Adam, and in Christ all will be made alive, though not at the same time or all in this age. Salvation is not for all in this life, but in progressive ages and stages. Revelation 5: 13 reads, And every created thing that is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honour and glory and dominion and power for ever and ever. Every created being is heard praising God. This could hardly happen while 90 per cent of the human race was permanently lost and suffering agonizing torment! 1 Peter 3: 19-20 Christ in the spirit went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, ... 1 Peter 4:6 ‘For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to God.’ Peter is not here referring to the righteous saints of old; he is speaking of those before the flood of whom God said that: ‘every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually’ (Gen 6: 5). We see even these eventually becoming alive in the spirit. Colossians 1:16, 19, 20 ‘For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. ... For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.’ These verses clearly state that God created all things through Jesus, and reconciled all things to himself through Jesus. Rom 11: 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things Must we add to this "except 90 or maybe 99 per cent of the human race, the crown and glory of His creation, which He made in His own image to rule the universe, who are destined for perpetual torment in hell"? May God open your heart, May He open your ears to hear and eyes of your understanding to see.

Response #5:

This email is filled with misstatements, half-truths and lies – obviously. However, I don't think it would be profitable to give a point by point refutation.

Mormons are hard cases. When they are so up front about trying to convince others of their anti-God ideas as in this email there is very little point, in my experience, in trying to have an extended conversation with them. If you were to write a detailed response to every paragraph here, and that would take hours of course, I can tell you from experience that the person concerned would shoot you back another equally long and equally outrageous email very quickly without even reading your words carefully.

If you do want to engage, the best thing in my view is to challenge one of their assumptions and stick to that one point without allowing this sort of "saturation bombing" approach to distract you.

For instance, we Christians know that God is the Creator of the universe; that there is only One God; that Jesus Christ is God; that salvation comes not through works but by grace through faith in His work in dying on the cross for us; and that the Bible is the only work truly inspired by God.

These principles of truth are directly contradictory to the Mormon religion. They believe that God is more like a "god" much smaller than the universe (something like a super alien), that there are many "gods" (they aspire to become such "gods" through Mormon works), that Jesus Christ was a man who became one of these small "g" gods, and that the Book of Mormon is inspired and more important than the Bible.

So getting down in the weeds with these people on the issues of heaven, hell and the resurrection is pointless because 1) they don't really believe the Bible (they only give it lip-service), and they are not saved (they merely use the Names of God and His Son our Lord), with the result that they are not capable of understanding the truth (only believers can receive "the things God has prepared for those who love Him": 1Cor.2:9).

Even more than that, anyone who is sending out an email like this has a very hardened heart. They are not looking for the truth; rather, they are looking to convert others to their version of the lie. This is a very common phenomenon in all cults, that is, the zealotry of cult members, because there is something deeply set in the arrogance of the sin nature which assumes that "if I can convince others of this lie, then the lie will become true". This is the essence of Satan's lying, after all, and the essence of his strategy, that is, his assumption that there is "safety in numbers", that if enough buy into his lie and support him, that he and his will be safe and that God will be powerless to harm him. It hasn't worked out for the devil, and of course it won't work out for the Mormons either – except for some of those who have been tricked into or born into this cult who do manage to shake off its lies and escape to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Please see the links:

Witnessing: Cults and Christianity II

Witnessing: Cults and Christianity I

Cults and Christianity I

Cults and Christianity II

Cults and Christianity III

Cults and Christianity IV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hi Bob,

Get a load of these Book of Mormon rip offs:

"Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart." (I Nephi 2:11)

-

Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel

Rip off of Deuteronomy 9:13

for behold they did murmur in many things against their father because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem

Rip off of Exodus 16:2

leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things

Rip off of 1 Corinthians 3:12

to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart.

Rip off of Isaiah 65:2 mishmashed with Romans 1:21

Response #6:

Nice job!

[note: our friend now his own apologetics blog:

 http://godsphilosopher.blogspot.com/ ]

Question #7:

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and as I was studying the bible tonight I came across a moment where christ declares "I Am that I Am". I began to ponder its meanings with deeper thought than normal, and decided to begin to research. I found your thoughts on the exact subject and found it incredibly satisfying! I just wanted to thank you for your resource and work. :)

Response #7:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:15-17 NIV

In Jesus Christ our Savior, "my Lord and my God" (Jn.20:28).

Bob Luginbill

[please pray for our friend Brett's salvation]

Question #8:

Hello--I have a question for you; not sure if you will know, though. A Mormon is claiming on CARM that it was 10 years before the early church had missions to the Gentiles and claims that "scholars" have used Acts and determined a timeline and time frame. They came up with approximately 10 years before there was a formal, organized missionary outreach to gentiles, after Pentecost. I told him that I don't think anyone knows exactly how long it was between Pentecost and the early church's organized missions to Gentiles. He said the first Gentile converts were Cornelius and his family and friends. But I pointed out that the first recorded were the centurion whose servant Jesus healed, and the Gentile woman whose daughter Jesus healed. I also pointed out that the Ethiopian eunich Philip shared the gospel with was before Peter's vision in a sheet on the rooftop and before Cornelius, et. al. I also told him that most of the spreading of the Gospel, then as now, isn't with formal, organized missionary journeys, but one on one--one person tells another person who tells another person, and so on.

I told this guy that no one knows the exact time that elapsed between Pentecost and the formal outreach to Gentiles--it could have been 5, or 6 or 10 years, as he stated. But he is adamant that it was 10, due to clues in the Acts text.

Anyway, do you happen to have an idea how much time elapsed between Pentecost and the organized missionary journeys the early church made to the Gentiles? This Mormon even said at one time that the church was forbidden to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, until after Peter got his vision.

Thanks. God bless.

Response #8:

I think your pointing out of these inconsistencies demonstrates that there is no principle of "forbidding" any such thing. After all, this is what Jesus told the apostles after His resurrection:

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Acts 1:8 NIV

Quite apart from "forbidding" anything, the description of Peter's sharing of the gospel in Acts chapter ten shows very definitively that Peter, though he had heard the above and similar from the Lord Himself, still needed a kick in the pants – and a big one too – in order to start carrying out his fundamental responsibility in this regard. Acts describes the Church in transition, and there was plenty of reluctance on the part of almost all to start living more and more like the Church and less and less like those under the Law – Paul being the most notable exception to this rule of being slow off the mark (and even he too water-baptized for part of the first missionary journey).

As to the chronology of Acts, it is problematic. Lining up the events with the epistles of Paul and attempting to pin things down to specific year-dates is a very difficult thing to do. The best effort I know of is Conybeare's The life and epistles of St. Paul (Ramsey's works are good on this too). Conybeare assigns Paul's "first missionary journey" to A.D. 45-47, which would put it up to fourteen years after Pentecost, but as you rightly note the Jewish believers in Antioch had been giving the gospel to the gentiles for many years prior to that time. Since we are not given precise year-date markers for most of Acts, there is no way to be certain. The fact that this person is certain only proves he has no idea what he is talking about.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hello--I hope you don't mind if I pick your brains about something to do with where Latin came from. I know you teach it but I don't know if you were taught where it came from. You may be familiar with the Mormon's Book of Mormon, that Joe Smith supposedly translated from golden plates, written in "reformed Egyptian." No such language has ever been found and the supposed characters of this language can be seen in the Anthon manuscript, which looks like so much doodling to me. Anyway, a Mormon on CARM made the rather outrageous claim, at least to me it seemed so, that "reformed Egyptian" is "all around us." I looked up in Wiki about Latin and its origins and it said it MIGHT have indirectly come from Phoenician and maybe Egyptian,but it was just a theory. I was wondering if you had any expertise in Latin's origins. Here is what this Mormon wrote:

"Yes, Latin is a reform of Greek and Pheonician, which are ultimately reforms of Egyptian. Its interesting as you cite Wiki on the topic, that Phoenician use to be thought of as a DIRECT connection to Egyptian, but since they haven't been able to make the DIRECT Connection, it's now been hypothesized that it's indirect connection.. Consider the following quote you cited.. "The theories of independent creation ranged from the idea of a single man conceiving it, to the Hyksos people forming it from corrupt Egyptian.[4]".. afancy that idea.. that the Hykos people formed if from Egyptian.. that would make Phoenician a "reformed Egyptian"

I pointed out again to this guy that this is only a theory not fact and he got mad at me and said it is only a theory that Jesus had actually existed, which is a sign of desperation on a Mormon's part when they start dragging in stuff like THAT.

I would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks!

Response #9:

I'm not sure what "Wiki" you looked at, but Latin has absolutely nothing to do with Egyptian, far less with Phoenician (the latter is definitely a Semitic language almost indistinguishable from Hebrew; the former is most likely at least partially Semitic). Latin, however, is a member of an entirely different group, the Indo-European language family. In its grammar and syntax (less so in its vocabulary) it is very close to ancient Greek. Most of the other languages in its subgroup (e.g., the Oscan and Umbrian tongues) have been lost, Roman political dominance led to Latin becoming the language of choice in the Italian peninsula by the first century B.C. or so.

So, no, there is absolutely no relationship whatsoever (except in the minds of those who believe in Bigfoot, Neanderthals, and space aliens).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

HI--Thanks. This is the Wiki article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Latin

History of Latin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Latin is a member of the broad family of Italic languages. Its alphabet, the Latin alphabet, emerged from the Old Italic alphabets, which in turn were derived ...

It just says it's a theory, anyway, what I quoted to you. Thanks again.

Response #10:

Thanks for this. I didn't have any problem with what you had to say; my problem was with the individual who thought the Egyptian or Phoenician languages had anything whatsoever to do with Latin. This article you link doesn't say anything at all about that (in fact, it's a pretty good article).

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi--I goofed; the bit about Phoenician coming from Egyptian is in this article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenician_alphabet

Phoenician alphabet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1200 BCE, is the oldest verified consonanta...

But again, it's only theories. Thanks for your help. God Bless!

Response #11:

This article is about the alphabet. There are plenty of theories about the alphabet. Latin and English both use the alphabet which is often traced back to the Phoenicians – but I've never heard a theory linking the Latin or English languages to Egyptian or Phoenician, and your correspondent plainly doesn't get the monumental difference between those two things. To use an analogy, English makes use of Arabic numerals; that doesn't mean that English is derived from Arabic (nor, in fact, are "Arabic numerals" originally).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi--I have a quick question--I know there are over 5,000 ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, whole or in part, but a Mormon is claiming that 99% of them are no earlier than 5th or 6th century. I don't know if this is true or not ,and was wondering if you know. I know some are in miniscules, but don't know when they started to show up, but I do know those in the uncials are oldest. Just wondering. The Book of Mormon has only one source--Joe Smith, Jr.--and my point to this Mormon is that the ancient manuscripts of the New Testament were copied by many different people. I know you have told me the Alexandrian and Byzantine ones agree 99.5% of the time, and where they differ doesn't change Christian doctrines. Here is what the Mormon has written:

And YES there are thousands of Greek Manuscripts of the NT.. 99% of those manuscripts are not any older than the 5th -6th century.. less than .1% are even small fragments from within 2nd century.. and NONE from anytime in the 1st century. Them are the facts..after the 4th century the Roman Emperor commissioned Empirical Treasure to facilitate copying.. And in additions to the Empirical government effort to make copies, the Emperor also made a decree to DESTROY any non-orthodox writings or face the penalty of death. So naturally there would result in more NT manuscripts than those of non-orthodox writings.. If there is a miracle with the manuscripts, it's not the 5th and beyond NT manuscript for which you seem so eager to celebrate, but it's that ANY non-orthodox material has survived the purge by the orthodoxy.

I think I did read that Constantine did have something to do with copying the NT, but not sure how accurate this assumption is. Dan Brown did a lot of damage with his stupid "DaVinci Code" book, since almost nothing in it is the truth about the early church.

Again I appreciate your help.

Response #12:

I wouldn't quibble with the statistics, except to say that some evidence is much more important than other evidence is. Also, it is a strange way to denigrate the Bible. Is this person saying that if we immediately and accidentally lost 4,500 Byzantine mss. that he would feel more comfortable about the text of scripture? That is the logic. The New Testament is the best documented text from the ancient world. It is so well-documented, in fact, that there are only meaningful questions about the text in far less than 1% of it. And there is so much good evidence that I have never had any serious trouble – by applying canons of textual criticism and orthodox doctrine as a litmus test – in figuring out the correct text in the small number of instances where it makes a difference. On the other hand, there is no "witness" to the text of the book of Mormon as that putative text was "translated" into English and the "original" lost (so the fairytale goes). Percent of mss. which are direct witnesses to the "original" text of the book of Mormon: 0%. Also, I thought Mormons were claiming to be Christians these days. Do they not accept the validity of the New Testament? I can certainly see how it would cause plenty of heartburn for anyone reading it with open eyes and ears and comparing it to Joseph Smith's novel.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

On Isaiah 45:3, 5, 26 and Isaiah 43:10. So, this Mormon wrote this to me in response to these verses:

"I never suggested such.. I have only suggested the historical context of the text you are reading does not conform to the way your are interpreting it. Thus if you don't interpret the text in it's historical context, you are engaging in PRESENTISM and eisegesis, reading your present ideas INTO the text. In the case of deutero-Isaiah that you cite.. (I also note you parse them out and jump back and forth to try to spin your case) The text is written to Jews.. Not Babylonians or anyone else. Jews that were captive in Babylon. The historical world view at the time was that every nation had a patron god... These were real gods in the minds of the Jews. Even if they believed their god YHWH was superior in every way. This tradition is reflected in both the Ps 82, but more importantly in Deut 32:8-9.. where it reflect a belief that in the times of old, presumably after the flood , God divided up the nations of the earth according to the number of the 'gods' or 'sons of god'.. With YHWH inheritance was Israel.. So from that view point, YHWH is one of the many sons of God (The MOST HIGH GOD) and is Sovereign over Israel. His chosen people.. . And Isaiah needs to be understood in that context.. Thus the expressions of No other god before or after is reference to the sovereignty of YHWH over Israel. There will never be another.. That may not be how we choose to BELIEVE today, but that's how the ancients would have been seeing the world."

I thought the exile of Judah happened AFTER Isaiah under Jeremiah. I asked him if Isaiah has nothing to say to anyone but the Jews and if indeed, the entire OT is ONLY for Jews. The idea of God dividing the nations according to the number of "gods" comes from Deuteronomy 32:8.

Response #13:

When I hear "These were real gods in the minds of the Jews", that is patent nonsense. Anyone who has read the Bible understands that the believers in Israel recognized that there was only One God. Unbelievers are unbelievers, Jew or gentile, and wheat has nothing to do with straw.

I have limited patience in dealing with those who do not accept the authority of the Bible. For everything I teach and therefore could say or argue is based on the Bible. If someone says "I don't believe the Bible", then there is little point to quoting scripture to such a person. Said person is probably an unbeliever. They cannot even understand the scriptures without the Spirit. What they need is the gospel. So when I hear "deutero-Isaiah" and the like, it is clear that we are dealing with someone who has a very low opinion of scripture. Perhaps the person is a Mormon. Okay. I guess there are liberal Mormons too who don't believe the Bible. That makes apologetics in their case a very dicey business if you ask me. When this person talks of "context", what he means is that in his opinion Isaiah and the Bible in general are merely humanly produced texts which are like all secular literature a reflection of their times and cultures – in other words, injecting a spiritual dimension or assuming that there is a godly message here for us all is to engage in infantile self-deception. That is a typical scholarly point of view. It's not, however, a spiritual one by any means. You are correct about Isaiah's time of writing – but this person "believes" in the two or three Isaiah theory which places portions of the book much later than the historical anchors before chapter 40.

Best wishes on this one!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi--I have a fairly quick question for you...a Mormon on CARM has claimed that that there have been over 100,000 changes in the Bible. I told him I didn't know if that were true or not, but some changes are due to the differences in manuscripts. I told him that they still agree with each other 99.5% of the time as you told me, and the other .5% where they don't doesn't change the meaning. Also, some changes in wording were due to hand copying, before typesetting the Bible came along. But even there I think you told me that a good scholar can spot them. And they still don't usually change the meaning.

Just wondering. Does anyone know how many changes have been made in the Bible? Thanks. I know you are probably busy now with finals, so no hurry. God bless!

Response #14:

Good to hear from you. I have a fairly quick answer. The number of changes in the Bible? The number is zero. In the original autograph, the Bible is the precisely inspired Word of God, every jot and tittle, every letter of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic.

Of course, the mss. have been copied and the copies have differences, mistakes, interpolations. It is the responsibility of those who teach to know about these matters and to sort things out to come up with the correct original text. Given the plethora of mss. evidence we have (unique to the Bible; in other ancient texts, only Homer even comes close), this is not an impossible task by any means – but it does take not only deep philological preparation but also deep theological literacy to be able to do a creditable job.

Translation is another thing. No translation can be anything other than a translation – and that is always something very different from the original, regardless of what is being translated. Some translations of the Bible into English are very good; others less so; none is the Word but rather a translation of some text of the Word (established by some person or group as a good text upon which to base said translation). God has provided a perfect situation for us in fact: we have the ability as a Church to know all the truth; no one individual can figure it out independently of the Body.

What percentage of the book of Mormon has been changed? Another simple answer: 100%. That is because the book of Mormon is (purportedly) a translation from an original which is no longer available for even 1% of the translation. One can argue about whether or not the translation is good or "perfect" (a silly argument given that we know it never existed except in the English text), but even taking Joseph Smith at his word the translation is by definition a 100% change (since it is not the original in any respect whatsoever), with absolutely no way to independently verify how accurate this complete change may be.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – Him who is the perfect, living Word of God.

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hello--I quoted on CARM what you told me about Biblical manuscripts. He wrote this to me:

You misrepresent Dr. Luginbills credentials just as you misrepresent LDS beliefs... He is not an EXPERT in Biblical Greek and Hebrew.. but an expert in Classical Greek literature. Biblical studies are more his HOBBY.. not what he is an accredited expert in, and with his HOBBY, he has a parochial biased agenda.. case point the very first sentence proves my point. If he was an "Expert" in Biblical material he wouldn't just "Think" and not remember the date of such significant material. So the fact is the so called Expert in Biblical literature you turn to is not much of an expert, but just someone with a little bit more education than you who agrees with you.

I see your CV on your website, but not where it says you studied Greek for 11 years and Hebrew and Latin and still teach Biblical Greek, unless you have given that up. I know he is totally wrong about you, but your website used to have a more complete CV, that showed how long and where you studied Greek and Hebrew, etc. Do you have a more complete CV somewhere? I did tell him you studied biblical Greek for many years and still teach it, so far as I know.

I don't know why he is complaining about your not remembering exact dates, but no one can remember all the dates of everything, without actually checking first.

Thanks. Yours in Christ Jesus

Response #15:

I'm not sure what "dates" this person is referring to. I often do give approximations for ranges of dates when there is not a definitively known date, and when we are talking about things like manuscripts, no one knows for certain except with several centuries at the most precise. To give a precise date would be disingenuous.

My CV has looked pretty much the same since I started Ichthys in 1997 (see the link). I studied Hebrew during my second B.A. for three years, then focused on Hebrew and Aramaic during my years in seminary earning an MABS with a Hebrew thesis. It is true that my Ph.D. is in Classics, but the idea of some significant difference between "Classical Greek" and something called "Biblical Greek" is a canard which no one who knows the language would accept. In short, I'm not sure what further qualifications beyond the five degrees I have earned – backed up by a lifetime of daily study of Greek and Hebrew – would pass muster with this person. And frankly, I'm not much concerned about it. Any reasonable person looking at my CV will understand that I have spent many years in formal preparation precisely because I wanted to get the training necessary to do this type of ministry. I do still have a Classics "day job", and that is because I also don't want to be in a position to have charge anyone or accept donations to keep this ministry going. No, Ichthys is not "a hobby". It is the culmination of my life's work for the Lord and the reason why I am here. A Th.D. from a seminary would not have prepared me for it as well as the track I took did, and I am grateful to the Lord for leading me in that direction. I guess my final "shot" would be that I would be very happy to compare my qualifications and experience to those of you correspondent.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi--Okay, try not to groan, but I just cannot find it in the old letters from you I have saved, using my yahoo search engine. But could you please, for this Mormon who still thinks you aren't qualified to give textual criticism about the Greek NT, please affirm that you told me that you studied Biblical/Classical Greek for 11 years and that it was your specialty and that you teach it? I remember you writing all of that to me, but it was years ago. I did find some older letter where you explained about how you learned to do textual criticisms as part of your studies, so I don't need that again. And also didn't you write to me once that you studied Biblical Hebrew for 2 years and modern Hebrew for 1 years, so you could compare the two? And that you used to teach Hebrew but do not anymore? Is all of this correct? Or is my memory playing tricks on me?

Oh, and this Mormon doesn't know what you mean about the Greek NT hasn't been changed, or about corrupted texts. I think I do, but I told him if he was dying to know, to write to you on your website, so if you get a rather snotty Mormon asking you questions, you can blame me. *:) happy I have been writing to you off and on for over 11 years and know more about you than HE does!

Thanks. Once you answer these questions, I won't need to bug you anymore. But this Mormon doesn't see anything in your CV that qualifies to give criticisms about early Greek manuscripts and Hebrew grammar and the OT, ,etc., except your Masters in OT studies. He wasn't impressed with that. I told him it was way more than what he and I have! I just have a BA in Journalism.

Thank you and God bless you for your patience.

Response #16:

To answer your questions:

1) I have a Ph.D, an M.A., an M.A.B.S., a B.A. in Classics (Greek and Latin), and a B.A. in History. I think I've done enough to "kill myself by degrees" regardless of correspondent's opinion.

2) The last four degrees (i.e., everything but the History B.A.) involved Greek (eleven years), and I have five years of formal academic study in Hebrew (one was Modern), including my thesis work at Talbot.

3) If a person wants to know about ancient Greek in a serious way, he/she will take a Classics degree, the Ph.D. being the highest achievement. "Biblical Greek" is ancient Greek (it's the same language from Homer to Byzantium).

4) Academic study is wonderful. When it comes to language, however, degrees only get you started. I'm proud of my academic laurels, but the twenty-five years I've spent daily working on Greek and Hebrew afterwards – coming from a base of supreme preparation – are worth a lot more than the preparation to begin that study (even if correspondent doesn't "get it).

5) The word "Mormo" is the "bogeyman" in ancient Greece. The stem of that 3rd declension noun is Mormon-. As far as I know, there is no other root in any actual language more likely to be the source of the word "Mormon" (pace, "Moroni") than this.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Good explanation, some loose ends in my understanding may return to it later. I was reading your seven days of human history this sounds similar to what the latter-day saints have recorded in their additional 'holy' books added by Smith doesn't that give you concern that what you are saying is like their false scriptures?

You seem also to say that the tribulation will start in 2026 in Acts 1 Jesus when asked by the disciples whether he would restore ? Israel at that time said it wasn't for them to know, so isn't there a danger of time setting? He said no one knows the day or the hour of the coming of the Son of Man. So according to your time table the tribulation begins in roughly 11 years time?

The recent blood moons are they significant, if so what do they mean?

Thanks,

Response #17:

Good to hear back from you. As to your next round of questions:

1) The Roman Catholic church teaches the existence of the Trinity. That does not mean that the Trinity is an incorrect doctrine just because they teach it, any more than their teaching of one correct doctrine makes them a legitimate Christian church. If we were to throw out prima facie every teaching that was embraced by a false church or cult, we would have very few teachings left. The devil has always wrapped his lies in an outer crust of truth – so as to have the unwitting consumer gobble down the one with the other (just as in the example of his deception of Eve; see the and also "Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith"). I assume that when you say "books" you are talking about the Book of Mormon? I've never read it, don't intend to read it, and can assure you that it has nothing whatsoever to do with absolutely anything you will find at Ichthys. That said, the seven millennial days interpretation has a long history – and in my considered opinion it is the biblical position and obvious to any serious Bible student who takes the Millennium literally: the implication of a seventh day that lasts a thousand years invites us to posit six prior millennia (even a rudimentary calculation of the chronological information in the Old Testament will point to four thousand years of history before Christ's birth). However, I've never hear this interpretation ascribed to the Mormons before. Theirs is an eclectic "faith", having cobbled together "doctrine" from a variety of sources, including the actual Bible. If I am not mistaken they also venerate Jesus (even though in my view anyone who takes their teachings to heart cannot be a believer in Christ) – but I would not for that reason have any qualms about loving and following the Lord (i.e., just because Mormons may also claim to do so). Just as their "understanding" of who Christ is and what He did for us is actually different from the orthodox position, so I would guess any similarity in end times teachings would also be accidental, whether actual or only apparent. I am happy to consider this question with you further if you want to provide some specifics. The bottom line for me is that the teachings presented at Ichthys are not theoretical musings, but actual Bible teaching, derived from scripture entirely, in order to further the spiritual growth of the Church of Jesus Christ. I am not saying that I am infallible (!), but I am saying that I only teach what I believe in my heart, based upon thorough exegesis of scripture, is actually God's truth, and verifiably so.

2) On Acts 1:7, if this verse actually meant "you are not to know anything about the end times", it is powerfully strange that our Lord spent so much time immediately before His crucifixion dealing with precisely that subject and in great detail, that is, in the so-called "Olivet Discourse" (Mark 13; Matthew 24; Luke 21). In fact, this verse is mistranslated in terms of the verb "know": what Jesus was counseling the disciples against here was their desire and anticipation for the end times to begin immediately, but Jesus was letting them know in this passage that such was not God the Father's will, His will being for the Church to be called out first. This was therefore "not your decision but the Father's decision"; hence my translation of this key verse as follows:

(7) And He said to them, "It is not for you to decide the times and occasions which the Father has ordained on His own authority (i.e., the Second Advent et al. will happen on His time-table, not yours). (8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth".
Acts 1:7-8

I hope you will be able to see from the emphasized words above that the whole thrust of our Lord's statement in verse seven is to emphasize the Father's will as opposed to what the disciples were desiring; then in verse eight our Lord moves on to explain what they, the disciples, needed to be doing instead of immediately entering the kingdom, namely, spreading the gospel. Here is a footnote to one of my studies where I explain the specifics from the Greek (footnote #60 of SR 5):

60. The "unknown day and hour" of Matt.24:36 and Mark 13:32 merely indicates that we may know an event is imminent without knowing the precise day of the year and hour of the day in which it will occur. After all, this comment occurs immediately following the parable of the fig tree where we are told by our Lord in no uncertain terms precisely to pay attention to scripturally significant events and not to ignore what the Bible has to say on these matters (cf. Matt.24:32-35; Mk.13:28-31). Acts 1:7 is often mistranslated "It is not for you to know", but should be rendered "It is not for you to decide the times and the seasons". The Greek verb gignosko commonly has this meaning of "decide" especially when it is in the aorist as it is here. The context strongly supports this revised translation since our Lord immediately adds "which the Father has ordained by His authority". That is to say, Jesus' point is that it is the Father who has decided these matters; they are not to be decided by your wishes. For our Lord's disciples had just very clearly expressed the wish through their question in the preceding verse six for Him to establish the Kingdom immediately. Therefore our Lord's reproof in verse seven is not a commendation of complete ignorance about the Father's timetable, but rather a reminder to them that it is His will in these matters that counts, not theirs; they would have to remain patient, even though from their perspective the time seemed ripe for the commencement of the Messiah's kingdom. We must also take into consideration the fact that this statement was given to the apostles prior to the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit is the agent of inspiration, chronology included, who, as Jesus had already made clear, would be the One to relate to them "the things to come" (Jn.16:13; cf. 2Pet.1:16-21). Since they will later come to understand the "things to come", verse seven must also be understood in conjunction with verse eight: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you . . .", a statement that clearly includes the previously promised further revelation of the Spirit (not excluding information about the end times). This is why, a few short years later, Paul can tell the Thessalonians the exact opposite of Acts 1:7 (that is, as it is generally misconstrued): "concerning the times and the seasons, you have no need that anyone write you, for you know very well . . ." (1Thes.5:1-2).

As this note also points out, the other passage you cite, "no one knows the day or the hour" (Matt.24:36), occurs in the context of our Lord telling the disciples that they are to pay attention very carefully, just as to the fig tree about to blossom, just as the head of a household who needs to stay alert. And to that end in this "synoptic apocalypse" Jesus gives many details whereby we may correctly navigate the times to come. In fact, of course, the "day and the hour" are the "day and the hour" of the second advent – so that this verse is certainly not discouraging us from gleaning what we can from scripture about the time of the beginning of the Tribulation (the second advent marks its end).

It seems clear enough to me that the information in the Bible is put there for us to consider and learn, much more so than any "signs" we may think we see in the world around us. For while our own eyes and ears may deceive us, we know that the scriptures are true; our job is to understand them properly through proper, diligent, loving treatment. My biggest problem with the view that Matthew 24:36 and Acts 1:7 are discouraging such activity is that I find any suggestion to deliberately ignore what the Bible has to say most ill-conceived. It's not for us to "decide" when these things will happen (like wanting to be resurrected before the Tribulation as in the false doctrine of the pre-Tribulation "rapture), but it is our job to consider everything we can legitimately find in the Bible inasmuch as this information has been placed there by the Spirit for precisely that purpose. No one "knows the day or the hour", but that does not mean that we are not to take the very specific temporal information in scripture, for example, the repeatedly mentioned three and half years duration of the Great Tribulation, very seriously indeed. We are just not to read any more into these things than scripture allows us to do – or any less. We Christians are required to learn and believe and espouse the truth, regardless of any perceived "dangers".

3) As to the start of the Tribulation, I do not have a "time-table". What I do have and what I do share is an interpretation based upon scripture. Anyone's interpretation can be wrong (I have no information available to me independent of the Bible), but this one has been carefully researched and considered, and its suppositions laid bare for all to see. Consider, if human kind has been given seven thousand years, and if the last "day" of that time period, the "Day of the Lord", is a thousand years, then on that basis alone we should consider the possibility that there are six prior such "days", inasmuch as the world was reestablished specifically for mankind's habitation in seven literal days, the seventh being an analogous and corresponding "day of rest" (as the Millennium will be). And it turns out that almost 2,000 years have elapsed since the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. And it turns out that the call of Abraham occurred approximately 2,000 year before the birth of Christ. And it turns out that there are approximately 2,000 years of history recorded in scripture prior to that call. Putting these things together doesn't require a Ph.D. in mathematics. When it comes to the precise date, here are the caveats I always include with this interpretation – with the removal or alteration of any one of them causing the whole structure to fall:

* The seven millennial day interpretation is taught in scripture and meant to be understood and applied.

* The Church Age will last for two millennial days or 2000 years.

* The Church Age commenced following the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

* These events took place in 33 A.D.

* The Tribulation belongs to both the Church and Jewish Ages and is therefore to be subtracted from the 2000 year total when calculating the start of the Tribulation.

* The half hour of silence in heaven at the breaking of the seventh seal (Rev.8:1) signifies a half year grace period that shifts the start point from spring to fall.

* Scripture gives no indication of either shortening or lengthening of this time-line, and therefore no such change of schedule is anticipated.

The above points are all presented here as true, and the analysis upon which they are based is set forth below. Clearly, deviation from any of the above will alter the entire scheme. It is also true, as we have already said, that alteration of the schema presented below is certainly within the power and authority of the Almighty. The very end of the Tribulation, for example, will be shortened by some undisclosed amount of time (Mk.13:20). Rather than undermining the theory advanced in this study, however, Mark 13:20 in actuality supports the importance of paying heed to the Bible's chronological information. For if "the days are shortened", then surely this means that there was a definite heavenly timetable in the first place. Secondly, Mark 13:20 indicates that the shortening mentioned is a matter of days, weeks at the most (i.e., not enough to change the general time-line given below). This is certainly in line with the very specific tally of days and months given in Daniel and Revelation (Dan.7:25; 8:14; 12:7; 12:11-12; Rev.11:2-3; 12:6; 12:14; 13:5).

Here are some further links:

Eschatology Issues V

The Seven Days of Human History

4) Blood Moons. See the link for something I've already written about this. Suffice it to say here that the passage in Joel (Joel 2:31; Acts 2:20) is speaking about the second advent, not the commencement of the Tribulation – which has in fact not yet begun. It is a sign of the times that while many Christians want to ignore what scripture actually says about these things, they are all too willing to look to celestial phenomena or other putative worldly "signs" for guidance. But in truth there are no prophecies yet to be fulfilled before the Tribulation actually begins. The Church Age was the mystery age veiled from the eyes of Old Testament believers; and while there is much in the OT which is informative about our times (the predictions about the flooding of the gentiles into the family of God, for example, as James saw in Acts 15:13ff.), there are no specific chronological events predicted to occur to which we may look for guidance or to get our temporal bearings – not until that final seven year period actually begins, "and then the lawless one will be revealed" (2Thes.2:8) – and all of the other predicted events will happen just as the Lord has told us. All the more reason to get the seven millennial days right, since that is our one piece of scriptural guidance as to precisely when these things will take place.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

The latter-day saint scriptures which teach the 7 days as you do is I believe either the Doctrine and Covenants or the Pearl of Great Price. You mention three heavens 1) God's presence 2) You mention a number of Edens (not sure what you mean by that I only know of one Garden of Eden) 3) and some other realm you mention. That sounds like the latter-day saint teaching of the three degrees of glory. May be I have misunderstood what you mean by three heavens. What are they?

Thanks,

Response #18:

1) On the three heavens, consider:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven.
2nd Corinthians 12:2 NKJV

So there is definitely a biblical third heaven, and from Paul's description in the context this clearly must be the throne room of God, "heaven" as we should say. Between that sublime place and the earth we see what in Hebrew is called shamayim, or "the heavens". That word is dual (i.e., there are two of these entities), and refers to the sky or atmosphere directly around the earth and also to the universe at large ("space") – these are the two other "heavens". Here is a link to where this is discussed: "The Three Heavens" in SR 1. And here is a link to a chart that represents the spatial relationships: "The Waters Above"

2) On the seven Edens, Eden means "place of delight" and is a Hebrew word represented by the parallel Greek word "paradise". That there is more than one is clear from multiple scripture references, e.g.:

And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."
Luke 23:43 NKJV

Clearly, when our Lord was crucified the paradise of Eden had been gone for some 4,000 years already. This paradise/Eden was the one below the earth where believers went after death before Christ's ascension (also known as "Abraham's Bosom" from Lk.16:23). For the rest of the details, please see the link: "The Seven Edens".

3) I am becoming quite confused about your references to Mormonism. Let me assure you in the strongest possible terms that said cult has absolutely nothing to do this ministry. When you say "the latter-day saint scriptures . . . teach the 7 days as you do", I would beg to differ, even though I have never ever studied their teachings. First, the Mormon cult was invented in the 18th century, but Irenaeus taught the seven days in 2nd century (see the link). Second, the doctrine is true, so I would hope everyone would teach it. But possibly most importantly, when you say, "as you do", I am willing to bet "dollars to donuts" that there is in truth very little consonance between the truth taught at Ichthys and any accidental similarities in the Mormon playbook. Please provide some quotes from their teachings and mine which you see as similar and I will be happy to address it.

I am sure that you will be able to find many Mormons willing to say "Jesus is the Christ" – I'm certainly not going to disagree with that statement just because a Mormon may have said it. So too, I'm not going to disavow any true doctrine merely because Mormonism has seemingly adopted it, at least in terms of lip-service, as part of their cult (remember: Satan wraps lies in the truth). But I don't accept your premise: I don't accept that what I am teaching is "the same", not without some proof. After all, also in this email you find a similarity between the three heavens (shown in point one above to be absolutely biblical) and some Mormon teaching about "three degrees of glory" or something or other (!?). Just on the face of it, it is obvious that these two things don't have anything to do with each other besides the number "three" – and there are plenty of things in the Bible, not to mention the world, that come in threes. So I'm happy to answer your questions, but lets please just drop this whole Mormon thing – unless you have some specific question (or accusation).

Yours in Jesus Christ the Savior of the world,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hello--I have a quick question for you--A Mormon on CARM has said that most of the ancient Greek NT manuscripts we have date back to 5th or 6th century or later--like 99.9%. I don't know the actual percentage--do you happen to have an idea of the percentage? 99.9% sounds too high. I know that complete NT are rare, like the Sinaiticus. I think even the Vaticanus (sp?) isn't complete, is it? So, do you know the approximate percentage of the manuscripts and fragments are 5th century or later?

Thanks.

Response #19:

This is a deceptively spurious argument. Think about it. Let's say that it was the case that "only 10% percent of the manuscript evidence" dated back to the 5th or 6th century or earlier" (and that would be my "ballpark" figure without doing a laborious and time-consuming calculation). Now lets say that tomorrow a treasure trove of manuscripts is found on Mount Athos, thousands of them, dating to between the 8th and 14th centuries. Statistically, that will make "the number of manuscripts dating back to the 5th or 6th centuries" now much less, only maybe 1% of the total. So by the logic of this fellow's argument, the discovery of thousands of additional manuscripts (which do not affect the others in any material way) has reduced the importance of the early manuscripts tenfold! That is of course ridiculous, and it shows how ridiculous this line of argument is.

Whatever is the "percentage" of later evidence – and it always is the case and certainly stands to reason that there will be more later and less earlier evidence – the real question in textual criticism is "what reliable evidence do we have of the text (of whatever author we are dealing with)?" In the case of the New Testament, we have so much first class early evidence that the text is essentially not in doubt. There are always small questions with any ancient text, but as I often have occasion to estimate, there is a good deal less than one percent of the NT text which can even be debated, and probably only about 1% of that where it would make any serious theological difference. To this observation I also always add the point that with skill, training and experience in textual criticism – and with a deep understanding of the doctrinal background of the NT – all of these putative "problems" are resolvable in a satisfactory way. Or to put it more succinctly, "we have the complete New Testament for anyone who cares to read it".

There is no serious doubt about the New Testament, merely non-serious persons who wish to sow doubt in the pursuit of some agenda or other. Cults invariably try to diminish the authority of the Bible. That is because if their members ever started reading it and paying attention to what it said they would soon depart.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hello--Thanks for your help in this matter. I have another question. A Christian on CARM said there are about 184,000 words in the NT. I don't know if that is true or not, but whatever...a Mormon says that hundreds of thousands of changes have been made in the NT alone, more than there are words. And that thousands of differences between the manuscripts exist. Is either of these things true? I remember you telling me that the Alexandrian and Byzantine manuscripts of the NT agree in 99.5% of the time, and in the .5% where they don't, is minor and doesn't change the meaning or doctrines. So, is this guy correct? He didn't say where he got this info from and I will ask him, but first I wanted to check with you.

Also, this Mormon says that there are thousands of differences between the Dead Sea Scrolls of the OT than what is in the Masoretic text--do you know anything about that? I do know of one fairly major difference, like in Ps. 22:16, where the KJV has "lion at hands and feet" and the newer translations like my NASB has "they have pierced My hands and feet". I remember hearing that that was because a single letter was miscopied--two letters in Hebrew that look similar, but I don't remember which letters.

So, HAVE there been more changes to the NT than it has words? I know that there are different manuscripts, but the only changes I know of were not really changes but just differences in the manuscripts. Sometimes words are added in English to make for better English grammar and reading, to make more sense. After all, the whole idea behind translating from Hebrew or Greek is to translate into good, vernacular, correct, understandable English.

Thanks for any help you can give me, as always.

Response #20:

An argument similarly specious resembling the last one. There have never been any "changes" to the Bible. There have never been any "changes" to the text of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War. What there have been are some corruptions, by accident or on purpose, to the manuscript tradition, and it is the job of text-criticism to sort these out and establish the original text. If a given verse is clearly established in all of its "words" based upon ancient evidence – as is the case with the vast majority of passages in the NT – then the fact that one finds some mistakes or variations in some later manuscripts does not in any way constitute a "change in the Bible" which can then be totted up and counted against its veracity (the same for Thucydides or any ancient author). To use an analogy, if a teacher reads out a text to a class of 100 students to copy out, and 50 of them mistake "our clock" as "hour clock", when we gather up the assignments we don't have "fifty changes to the text". What we do have is fifty mistakes which probably would be easily corrected from the context by any third party. And if we have the teacher's original, and if we understand that it is of more value in determining "the text" than these later copies, we are in no doubt about the matter – and we certainly wouldn't then have "a hundred changes". A little common sense would be nice in these matters. But I suppose it is part and parcel of the highly partisan nature of the world we live in that truth is the first casualty in all such argumentation.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Thanks. That is what I thought. However, your analogy with the teacher having the original won't work with the NT, since we don't have the original manuscripts. But I get your point. Don't know if the Mormons will--or would want to.

By the way, how many ancient copies of the OT are there out there? I know we have the Dead Sea Scrolls and Masoretic text, but how many old ones are there out there? And aren't the Masoretic texts from before the 10th century AD?

Thanks again.

Response #21:

You're very welcome. The teacher analogy will work fine if we posit that the piece of paper he/she is reading is a careful standardized copy which from comes from some central committee which has disseminated the text in writing (for standard testing), and is thus greatly concerned for its accuracy.

On the OT, there are plenty of mss. of the MT, though you are correct that these do not go back much beyond the 10th cent. as you notice (the Leningrad and Aleppo codices being among the two best and most famous of these). The Qumran texts are much older. No one is really sure how old, but they belong generally to the post-exilic period before our Lord's birth. Compared to the velum manuscripts maintained by the larger synagogues, however, these are inferior texts (pulp paperbacks as opposed to acid-free library quality hardbacks, to use a publishing analogy). The main value in my opinion of the Qumran biblical texts is to demonstrate that 1) there were such popular texts in circulation throughout the post-exilic period, a fact which shows the wide familiarity with the Bible in those days, and 2) they also back up the MT, demonstrating that it is a wonderfully accurate text. After all, a secular non-believer would, if these scrolls were just coming to light, be tempted to imagine vast differences between 10th cent. A.D. mss. and 3-5 cent. B.C. scrolls and fragments. In fact, they have the same text. There are some minor differences (that is true of every ms. tradition), but these are remarkable for their rarity instead of for offering a wide-ranging set of alternatives. The upshot of this is to realize that if the text didn't change for fourteen hundred years (because of the care taken with this recognized most holy of documents), it is reasonable to suppose that in the two to twelve centuries before Qumran (depending on the book in question) the same was the case.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

 

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