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Old Testament Interpretation VII

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Question #1:

Hi Bob,

Did Moses use "Dan" as a place name anachronistically in Genesis 14:14?

Response #1:

The "Dan" in Genesis 14:14 is a different place from the one founded by the tribe of Dan as recounted in Judges chapter eighteen (there is a Paris in Texas too, e.g.). The root from which this name is derived is a very common one, so this situation (of names in common) is not really an oddity. Names with which we are personally not familiar from our own cultural background may seem exceptional but it can often turn out that they are very common in their own context (my last name seems unusual to most people but in and around Bern, Switzerland, it's as common as "Smith"or "Jones" in our country). Here is a link to where this is discussed where I also include Keil's well-reasoned explanation showing that these two Dans cannot actually be the same place: "Anachronism?"

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

I'm very encouraged that my close friend - has been reading both the Bible and your website more regularly. He is an open hearted person who is like a brother to me, so it brings joy. He's been going through the Old Testament (I now said to him that rather than going through the Bible from the start until the end he should read the New Testament simultaneously) and he asked me a couple of questions. I have my replies ready, but wanted to consult them with you.

1. The punishment of stoning for idolatry in Deuteronomy 13:6-11 seems harsh to him.

My reply here is based on your very helpful insight (http://ichthys.com/mail-Freedom-Responsibility.htm). Your argument goes as follows: "Israel is a theocratic state ruled by God and idolatry is a crime against God. All Israel through their birth belong to that state and so have to conform to its God-given laws." Here I would wish to add two things. Firstly, that this is the reason why believers today are not to stone idolaters - faith is everyone's free will choice and we cannot punish those who choose against God, but if one was an Israelite at that time, then he was required to conform to God's law. Secondly, I would add that people often perceive such judgments as cruel, but this is because they ignore that the lake of fire is a far more terrifying perspective for those who refuse to accept Christ's payment for their sin. It is worth remarking that treason is still sometimes punished with capital punishment in secular states.

2. The distinction between clean and unclean animals in Leviticus 11 is not clear to him.

Two things here - firstly, it is a symbolic separation, as in other parts of the law, to teach Israel to avoid what is unclean and sinful, since they are a holy nation. The purpose of this separation was twofold - for them to be holy, as their God (Leviticus 11:45) and not to follow other nations whose land they were about to enter.

In our Lord,

Response #2:

I think you are absolutely correct that if Israel had done everything that the Law required in every respect the result would have been not legalistic hypocrisy but a close walk with the Lord. But we are human, after all, and the Law never came close to being followed before the exile and was only followed in a limited and increasingly hypocritical way after the exile (culminating in Phariseeism).

In terms of the dietary code, I believe you are correct to look for symbolism as the significance. I would certainly prefer that approach to the one you found on CARM. When I was a boy, I had a Sunday school teacher who was Jewish by background and had come to the Lord through my father who was pastor of our church. This individual had a very deep understanding of the code as it was taught by the Rabbis, and he was very interested in showing us that there was a logical rationale for everything in the code. I certainly accept that, and as I say it seems to me that this has something to do with our Lord's choice of the specifics, but since most of these commands don't really matter except in the distinction they draw between historical Israel and the rest of the world's nations, it seems to me that this is the key point, and if there is any deeper point that it must rest in the symbolism that has to do with spiritual issues, most importantly the foreshadowing of Christ. As I've probably mentioned before, there are many older works which find all kinds of very particular symbolism in the Law in this regard (Christology of the Old Testament by E. W. Hengstenberg is a particularly good example of this), but I have always been a bit reluctant to take this too far. It seems to me that the most obvious examples (i.e., blood sacrifice) which are explained in the NT are the most important ones, so that finding deep meaning in eating fish without scales, e.g., might tend to distract from the larger point of the cross being foreshadowed in the entire temple rite.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Bob,

"'See!' he said to all the people. 'This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.'"
Joshua 24:27 NIV

What is going on in Joshua's mind?

Sincerely,

Response #3:

This command seems to be along the lines of many things in the Law designed to the provide the ancient Israelites, a very earthy people, some tangible means to connect up with the principles of truth they were given – in fact, that is what the whole Law is about. A good parallel (though far from the only one) is the wearing of phylacteries and tassels:

"Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God."
Numbers 15:38-40

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:

King David never celebrated the Passover. The rite was forgotten during the time of the judges and was rediscovered by Josiah, a later king of Judah. Yet David was a man after God's own heart.

Also, do you find it interesting that the Bible mentions an extinct animal (the aurochs)? Should we have expected that God would have preserved it from extinction? I mention this because Isaiah 34 talks about the future and mentions the re'em (i. e. the aurochs) but this cannot be literally fulfilled, because there is no aurochs.

Sincerely,

Response #4:

As I often point out to people, the Law was never actually kept in any sort of diligent way until after the Babylonian captivity when it quickly devolved into a legalistic system of partial adherence for show. The year of Jubilee was never kept, and that explains the 70 years of captivity so that the land could enjoy the Sabbaths it had missed (Lev.26:43). However, this passage you cite is not so simple as appears at first glance. Here is what Chronicles says about Josiah's great grandfather, Hezekiah:

Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, inviting them to come to the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel. The king and his officials and the whole assembly in Jerusalem decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month.
2nd Chronicles 30:1-2 NIV

So the adverb of qualification in the passage dealing with Josiah's Passover is critical to the interpretation:

There had not been celebrated a Passover like it (כָּמֹהוּ) in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet; nor had any of the kings of Israel celebrated such a Passover as Josiah did with the priests, the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
2nd Chronicles 35:18 NASB

As to the word re'em (רְאֵם) this is, apparently, a wild ox of some sort; however, it's not clear if some sort of large antelope is meant (eland?) or water-buffalo or feral long-horn. It's not a scientifically technical term and there is no way to delimit it to "aurochs". As to future fulfillment, the passage had a historical fulfillment in the destruction of Edom, but the future reference is to Armageddon where the animals in the passage represent human followers of antichrist with whose flesh the birds of the air will indeed glut themselves (Rev.19:17-21).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Your simple interpretation and translation of Philippians and Colossians are a work within themselves. I actually tried googling them on the internet to find out what translation they were. lol.

Well I will keep this short and simple. Since I last talked to you I have been trying to find the answers to two questions.

The first: did the children of Israel get the gold to build the Ark of the Covenant from the golden calf? I read it somewhere, sounds correct but the scripture say that Moses beat it to powder then put it in the water for the children of Israel to drink.

The second: the more commentaries I read on some of the books of the Old Testament I'm seeing mention of a lot of Oriental customs, were some of the biblical characters orientals. Or do I need to get a new bible commentary lol.

Response #5:

Good to hear from you again, my friend, and thanks much for your good words.

As to gold, yes, Moses did grind up the golden calf and make the Israelites drink of the water where he scattered the dust (Ex.32:20), but there was more gold in the congregation's possession than that. Scripture tells us that the Lord gave the Israelites great grace in the eyes of the Egyptians as they were leaving Egypt so that the effect was that they "plundered the Egyptians".

Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
Exodus 12:35-36 NKJV

As to oriental (by which is meant in most commentaries near eastern) customs, secular scholarship is always trying to re-write the Bible based upon archaeological speculation and comparison with other ancient cultures. Take it from someone who had to spend a lot of precious time on this issue in seminary, while some people may find such speculation and comparison interesting, there is little to no actual value to be found there in explaining scripture. In fact, whenever anyone uses such devices to explain scripture, the explanation is necessarily wrong. As to commentaries, 1) there are very few good ones, 2) those which have any true value are almost always 19th or early 20th century productions, and 3) even the best of the best have secular, academic, and denominational leanings which usually skew even their good observations. I get very little help from them; but blessedly all a person really needs to know can be found in the original languages of scripture, if pursued with enough hard work.

Here's a link which may be of some help (see esp. Q/A #9):

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading III

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hello Dr Luginbill, I pray you and your ministry are well.

I had a few questions I was wondering if you could help me with.

1) What exactly is an altar and what was it's purpose?

2) How was Psalms constructed, and why do they stand out so differently from the rest of scripture?

Thanks

Response #6:

Hello Friend,

Good to hear from you as always. As to your questions:

1) An altar, a biblical one, is a place where an animal sacrifice is slaughtered and burned (the Hebrew word, mizbeach, means precisely that: "place of slaughter/sacrifice"). Thus, the altar of the tabernacle/temple represents the cross, with the animal being killed and immolated representing our Lord who died spiritually on the cross in the darkness of Calvary, bearing our sins, rising in the flames of judgment to propitiate all of our sin (see the link: "The Blood of Christ").

Altars in churches of whatever sort are unauthorized throwbacks to the Jewish altar, and are part and parcel of appropriating Jewish ritual to modern usage, something which is not biblically authorized or legitimate and always results in confusion of the truth (the R.C. appropriation of the Levitical priesthood et al. being a prime example).

2) The Psalms are unique in that they are not only written in poetry as opposed to prose (much of the text in the prophetic books is also written in poetry) but also in a lyric form in particular. That is to say, the Psalms were written to be performed musically. We don't have the musical scores; we only have the lyrics – which tells us clearly that in biblical terms "the words" are much more important than the music (the opposite of what we find in modern Christian music, to judge from their words, at any rate).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

1) I saw on your site that when the authors talk about hell in Psalms, that it means the literal hell, which is confusing because he's asking for literal deliverance from his enemies, not eternal salvation. So does that mean the whole book has a double meaning?

2) Is David asking deliverance from Saul, his son, or both? That is, is the Psalms written out of order. The note of Chapter 18 says the song was sang when he was delivered from Saul

3) What does deliverance from hell and eternal salvation in Christ have to do with David's enemies trying to kill him?

4) And a separate question, why is Ch 22 written as if David was saying "why have you forsaken me?" instead of Christ? Does it have to do with the build up of 20-21 which talk about Christ?

Response #7:

Please forgive the delay in response. Difficult week here, and Saturdays are devoted to the online posting.

As to Psalms, I think it would be better to take each one and each passage individually. Every Psalm is different (and they are of course not even all by the same author). As to "hell", I don't remember saying this regarding the word "hell" as used in the Psalms in the KJV version. That is an English word, and it may represent several different Hebrew words, each of which would have to be considered in its own context. That is because "the grave" or "Sheol" is often a synonym for death in Psalms in particular, and "all die" – but not all go "to hell" in the sense of Torments / the Lake of Fire (those places are for unbelievers only). Please see the link: "Compartments of Hades".

Psalm 18, as you say, is by its own definition a song David sang after the Lord brought to an end the threat from Saul (at that point the Absalom rebellion was still distantly future).

On point #3, please see the first paragraph. God delivered David from physical death – that is what "the grave" and "Sheol" mean in such contexts. The KJV uses the Germanic word "hell" for a number of different Hebrew expressions, and that can be confusing.

Finally, as to Psalm 22, David was a "type of Christ". That is to say, he and his experiences in some ways represent / foreshadow those of his greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We learn by applying the analogy (even though we know that it is just an analogy). For more on this see the links:

Hermeneutics and Typology

Old Testament Typology of Christ

Typology and Sequence in Old Testament Prophecy

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

Was Psalm 90 really written by Moses, or is this an uninspired scribal commentary? Can you tell me more about Psalm 90 and how it relates to Moses?

Sincerely

Response #8:

This psalm was written by Moses, as it says it is. I believe the very self-effacing tone it exudes speaks to the commentary we find in Numbers about him:

(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
Numbers 12:3 NIV

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hi Bob,

When did Elijah write the letter described in 2nd Chronicles chapter 21, before or after the ascension?

Sincerely,

Response #9:

The date of Elijah's being taken to heaven is uncertain, but what is certain is that he wrote this letter before that time.

Question #10:

Hi Bob,

Beginning with Pophyry, we have skeptical scholars saying that the redactors of the Book of Daniel were writing Ch, 11 ex eventu. Let's grant them this, but how does that help their case? The person who wrote this must have had an extraordinary "in" with the upper society of either the Ptolemaic or Seleucid Empire, which is still extremely unlikely. It's still a phenomenal work for some Aramaic-speaking priest or scribe to describe the inner politics (during a time of war mind you).

Response #10:

It's a good point. However, I'm personally unwilling to grant "them" anything when it comes to the inspiration of scripture – and the book of Daniel is inspired, with all of the prophecies having been made before the fact.

Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Bob,

Was the interestestamental period a period of apostasy? Where do we classify people like Judas Maccabees, who valiantly resisted Antiochus IV, but only to return to zealous political righteousness and legalism? There's also the question of Hellenistic interaction: lots of Greeks and Jews interacted throughout this period, and not a small number of these Greeks were God fearers, even if not Jewish.

And what about the genealogy of Jesus from Zerubabel to his advent? These were all intertestamental Jews. Do you know of any books that look at the spiritual history of the Jews from Zerubabel to Christ?

Response #11:

In terms of "spiritual history", there won't be anything because this period is not covered by anything inspired. Also, those most interested in it have been either partisan Jewish nationalists and secularists or religious non-believers. Of course in every period there is a "remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom.11:5), and we do know from the gospels that our Lord's family on both sides (maternal and legal) were of such grace stock (John the baptist's family too, and people like Anna and Simeon mentioned in connection with Jesus' birth: Lk.2:25-38).

Whether or not this applied to the Maccabees is doubtful. Just like many of the "greatest generation" who liberated Europe and Asia from fascism were courageous and admirable – but not particularly spiritual or even moral – so it would seem to be from both the accounts of that period and also from the aftermath (e.g., turning the priesthood into an entirely political office).

A very good set of books on this is Schürer's History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ, which, in spite of the title, spends a good deal of time on the intertestamental period.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

You wrote: If we all actually did allow God to "show us" day by day and step by step how short the wait is until we meet with Him (Heb.10:37; cf. Ps.42:2), we would give little thought to the days of our lives as we live this brief life in the glorious light of eternity (Eccl.5:20).

Could you clarify the reference to Ecclesiastes 5:20: "They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart." (NIV)?

Response #12:

When we accept what God gives us, as in this verse, our days go by swiftly in the peace of anticipating all that is to come; when, on the other hand, we are overly concerned with our situation in the world, this trouble infects our point of view and takes away our peace.

Question #13:

Here I would have thought that the meaning of the verse is the exact opposite.

Ecclesiastes 5:20 (NASB)
20 For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.

So the man doesn't think about his life - its transitoriness and what comes afterwards - because he is occupied with the earthly joys. Keil and Delitzsch provide a similar explanation:

Over this enjoyment he forgets the frailty and the darkened side of this life. It proves itself to be a gift of God, a gift from above: "For he doth not (then) think much of the days of his life; because God answereth the joy of his heart." Such an one, permitted by God to enjoy this happiness of life, is thereby prevented from tormenting himself by reflections regarding its transitoriness.

Response #13:

I think rather that this verse paints a picture of the humble man who is correctly attuned to his world in a godly way, one who doesn't ask too much or think too highly of himself, but who instead settles back into what God has provided. The difficulty is that Ecclesiastes, we recall, is giving the secular view of the world as commented on by God, not the way believers ought to look at things. From the divine point of view, if a person is not going to give their life to God, then the best thing one can hope for is what this man has, for all striving is vain and pointless – unless related to salvation and serving the Lord (that is the theme of Ecclesiastes).

And there is also a lesson that we can learn from this as well: we ought to react in the same way this hypothetical person does, remembering how fleeting our life is, taking joy in the day by day walk with the Lord. We, the wise in Christ, have "eyes in our heads" and wisdom is better than folly (Eccl.2:13). But it is nevertheless still a bit too easy for believers, even mature ones, to get caught up in the daily fray – and fray there will be since we are special targets of the evil one, especially those of us who are making a point of trying to have our lives count for God. The combination of "knowing" and yet "relaxing" is in may ways the pinnacle of spiritual maturity. And, after all, "knowing" . . . when coupled with believing . . . ought to result in just that sort of relaxed "faith rest" in the Lord (Hebrews chapters 3-4).

Question #14:

Ok, I think I got it. Please let me know if my understanding is correct:

1) Since Ecclesiastes depicts the unbeliever's point of view, the interpretation I mentioned to you in the previous email isn't incorrect. The verse can be said to primarily mean that an unbeliever, occupied with the earthly joy doesn't consider the transitoriness of his life. The verse says that "God keeps him occupied", but the unbeliever in his ignorance also doesn't know that what he has is from God. So it is a description of, as you wrote, a humble man attuned to this world, living in peace and not asking too much, but enjoying what he has.

2) However, what you perhaps originally meant and what I didn't understand is that despite the verse does show unbeliever's perspective, there is a lesson for believers there too - we also should be happy with God's daily provisions, and dwell in the faith rest, only we believers do know the transitoriness of this life. So the unbeliever's peace is a peace of ignorance and our peace is a peace of faith through which we are grateful to our Father for the daily sustenance without allowing the daily fray, as you wrote, to shake us.

So, taken together, point 1 is still technically correct and, in view of the whole book showing unbeliever's perspective, is the primary meaning, but it has an application to believer's life. Is that correct?

Response #14:

That is exactly it!

Question #15:

Bob,

We have been studying the Old Testament timeline. I have a couple of questions for you:

You place the 430 years of Exodus 12 beginning when Jacob goes to Egypt when he is 130 years old. This doesn't seem to line up with Galatians 3:16-18. Paul seems to indicate that the start should be when Abraham receives the "seed" covenant and God ratifies it on His own name (after the offering of Isaac). From this point to the giving of the Law at Sinai should be 430 years. This would seem to make Isaac 30 at this point and then 30 years later Jacob is born (fulfilling the 400 years sojourning and being captives). Jacob tells Pharaoh that he has sojourned 130 years since his birth.

Is there another way to take Pauls words in Galatians?

I saw you list Solomon's 4th year as 964 but many others list this at 966. Why/how do you come to this date?

Looking forward to your answers!

In Him,

Response #15:

This is what I find in the Torah:

(40) Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. (41) And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.
Exodus 12:40-41 NKJV

So the 430 years is definitely referring to the time in Egypt and we cannot start "the clock" so much earlier as suggested. As to what Paul says in Galatians, here is something from a previous posting on this question (Old Testament Interpretation VI: Q/A #11):

But does Galatians 3:17 mean what this person wants it to mean? I think not. When Paul says "the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later" (NASB), while in English it seems as if there is a necessary and very specific connection between the time of the covenant given to Abraham and the time of the giving of the Law, the Greek gives a different impression. In the Greek, the preposition meta with the time phrase is placed after the definite article and before the word for Law with its participle, saying, literally, "the-after-430-years-having-come-about-Law"; since Paul uses the entire phrase essentially as an adjective, the idea that he is intending to give specific chronological information is misguided: this is a device to emphasize that the Law is later than the promise (by at least the famous and well-known 430 years). When writing this epistle, Paul no doubt did not have a precise number in mind as to just how long the time lag was between the covenant and the Law (that was not his purpose). Indeed, since God's covenant to Abraham is first presented at Genesis 12:1-4, and later confirmed at various places: Gen.13:14-17; 15:1-7; 15:18-21; 17:1-8), one has to wonder precisely where the starting point would [then] be for the 430 years (they all represent different times). More than that, the Law was given over a period of forty years, and did not begin to be given immediately after the Exodus from Egypt. So we also have to wonder where is the stop point [in that case]? In fact, it is at Genesis 15:13, in the context of the third mention of the covenant, that the Lord tells Abraham that there will be 430 years in Egypt – in a very straightforward way at that. And notice, Abraham is already in the land at this point and has been for some time (so where is the starting point from that perspective?).

What is really going on here is that Paul does have Genesis 15 in mind when he mentions the Law and the covenant and the 430 years, and he uses that same figure – a quote from scripture – to show that the promise came well before the Law (not in order to say anything definitive about the chronology of those times). If Paul had calculated up the extra time and then placed the composite number here instead of 430, no one would have understood where he got the number without him giving a very lengthy explanation – and by then the simple point he was trying to make (i.e., that the promise predated the Law by many years) would have been lost. Still, we would be right to build something out of Paul's words if they could not be legitimately read a bit differently from what we do have in the Greek (though that would sow other instances of confusion). Blessedly, however, the right way to understand the key phrase in Galatians 3:17 is as follows: "The Law which came later [by at least] 430 years (i.e., since we know that this number is present in the passage where Abraham believes: Gen.15:6)"; the Law thus certainly can't do away with the promise which preceded it (by so much time at least and, obviously, actually more: since the passage Paul refers to says 430 years "in Egypt" and neither Isaac nor Jacob was even born yet when the Lord said these things).

Here is what Paul says in Acts, confirming that he apparently used similar figures frequently and in a general sense.

and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about (hosei) 450 years. "After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet.
Acts 13:19-20 NIV

As to Solomon's chronology, here is a footnote from the place where this is discussed in SR 5 (fn.#79 at the link):

Although the year given here for the 4th year of Solomon's reign is, admittedly derivative, based upon the supposition of a 2,000 year period for the Jewish Age (subtracting 70 years for the Babylonian captivity and adding seven for the Tribulation), it certainly falls well within the window of probability. The most commonly given conservative date for this milestone (966/967 B.C.) is also only an approximation. See Roland K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids 1969) 184-185.

By this I mean that all the dates one finds for this first year are guesses. Most of the chronological points given in the study referenced are solid posts from which to calculate; this one can only be derived by estimation from those points. The sources you have consulted generally do so by giving weight (undue weight, in my view), to the speculation of secular historians and archaeologists. Even as in my secular work as an ancient historian, I have learned that literary texts, even non-inspired ones with all their faults and foibles, are far superior to archaeological speculations. So, as I admit, the date chosen is derivative – but so are all the others. The advantage of the one I provide is that it is based almost exclusively upon a careful consideration of scriptural evidence rather than leaning upon outside sources of dubious quality (because they are not even literary).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Dear Bob,

Once again it’s been far too long since I’ve written. I hope you’re doing all right. I noticed the addendum you added recently to the prayer request list at Ichthys. My condolences on the passing of your mother. As you said though, it is a blessing that the suffering she (and her care-givers) were experiencing toward the end (as I read in the Family Matters email posting) has ended and she’s now with the Lord.

On a related note (pun intended for levity), I would like to update you on my parents. Every weekend that I’ve been home my mom and I have been studying the Bible together. I’ve now walked her through all of the New Testament except for Revelation. It took her a while to begin telling people "I’m a believer in Jesus," instead of just "I’ve been reading the Bible and I like it." I now firmly believe (as far as I can know) that she is saved, and I thank God for it every day!!

My dad on the other hand is not doing so well. He’s been getting much weaker. I very much appreciate that my parents have been on the Ichthys prayer request list, and the prayers that you (and I’m sure others) have said on their behalf. I suppose you can update the entry now to give praise on behalf of my mom, but to continue to pray for my dad because he seems to have a long, hard way to go.

I could say much more, but I wanted to get this little missive out especially since it’s been so long. I do have one comment though, and one question:

1. As this is MLK Jr. Day weekend, I was astonished find out recently that Martin Luther King Jr. was a heretic. See this link for a short paper he wrote while he was in college: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/humanity-and-divinity-jesus . He was basically espousing Arianism. There are plenty of other writings and quotes of his out there that outline his belief that nothing in the Bible should ever be taken literally. If he died holding those belief.

2. I have a question about the translation of Exodus 15:2. I love it as I’m sure you do, but I wonder why the NIV and, taking a quick perusal of other translations on biblegateway.com , the NRSV and NIRV, have something other than "song" in the translation. The NIV has "defense" in the main text, the NRSV has "might", and NIRV "protects", and they all have "song" in a footnote. I looked at the Hebrew, and obviously zimrah means song. I went to the BHS (I have the 5th edition) to see if there’s a textual variant there and it does list one. Apparently the Septuagint has a different word in the Greek that BHS equates with sitrah in Hebrew, which would mean shelter or protection. Can you tell me what that Greek word is, and if it means shelter/protection? Also, how do the translators of the NIV make the leap from shelter/protection to "defense"? Similarly the NRSV to "might"? And it would then seem the NIRV would have the closest rendering to that particular variant reading, right?

In Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior,

Response #16:

Thanks for checking in, my friend. And thanks too for your good words of consolation. They are greatly appreciated.

I'm sorry to hear about your dad's situation but thrilled about your mother! I've updated the Ichthys prayer list as suggested and will be keeping this new situation in my own prayers as well day by day.

On your question/observation, as to MLK, what can I say about this. It would be surprising, at least to me from what I know about the issue of believers getting involved in politics, if anyone involved in a political crusade, no matter how noble or "right", could do so without seriously damaging their faith. Being a leader of such a crusade would only make me more skeptical about the individual in question's spirituality. Fixing the world is impossible. Trying to fix it is playing the devil's game. Proclaiming that fixing it is the right thing to do is singing from the devil's song-sheet.

On Exodus 15:2, the only English version I can find which deviates from "song" is the NIV – and by that I mean the "secretly new NIV": the 1984 NIV does have "song". It is true that the LXX has σκεπαστὴς which means "He who provides covering/shelter"; it is also true that this idea is not unknown to Hebrew poetry (e.g., Ps.91:1ff.). But the LXX is very often wrong. I have found it to be of very little use in textual criticism (it does have some value in vocabulary studies). Generally speaking, abandoning the MT to follow the LXX is almost always a mistake. But it is the kind of thing that "scholars" do – by which I mean "biblical scholars" who tend to be far inferior in their rigor and methodology to Classical scholars who, for all their worldliness, tend to be accurate in their judgment born out of decades of careful work. "Biblical scholarship" in the academy on the other hand is usually not even worthy of the name since it is usually not based upon deep knowledge of the languages and also tends to be given to rash judgments based more on 1) making a name, and 2) changing the Bible into something more comfortable (for these people) than it is dedicated to finding the correct answer (let alone the "truth").

Occasionally, one finds a textual suggestion that is at least paleographically reasonable; that is to say, where a scholar has seen a problem in the text (or a perceived one) and has made a suggestion which might reasonably explain an antecedent text based upon what is written now in the MT. In this case, however, the suggestion str as the correct reading for zmr is impossible to swallow in my opinion (since neither the pairs samekh and zayin, nor tav and mem are likely to be confused with each other). This is a poetic passage which occurs in a book of prose, and my guess is that the LXX translator was not familiar with the poetic word zimrah (זִמְרָה), and put in what seemed (to him) a workable contextual meaning.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hi Robert -

Greetings from Sodom or Gomorrah (Los Angeles) here. I hope you are still faring well in the land of academia. I pray for your protection there.

I have read through a majority of your writings on your website now, and my understanding of the bible is vastly enhanced above anything I would have ever picked up myself. Again, thanks so much for all your hard work.

I am reading Song of Solomon again (and again...). I am fascinated with this book. I believe it is far deeper than anyone has ever imagined or discovered. I do not believe it is simply allegorical at all. Nor do I believe it is some kind of "marriage guide". Certainly at face value it is truly a love letter to the church. But there are so many intriguing links to other things in the bible. As an example, a search of lilies, mentioned in abundance throughout Song of Songs, leads one to Luke 12, where Jesus makes his comment about lilies being better arrayed than Solomon in all his glory. It also leads to 1 Kings 7, which describes the capitals of the two columns of the temple (that Solomon built) as being lilies. Lilies are mentioned throughout Song of Songs, with one reference pertinent to the Shulamite's breasts, later described as towers (columns?) - perhaps referencing the temple? Lilies and pomegranates (temple ceiling-line decorations) are mentioned in abundance throughout Song of Songs. And there are so many other things like this. It almost seems like a code of some kind, maybe a kind of codified overview of the church only, maybe from inception until the Second Advent, or even past that. Something a bit like the book of Revelation, but only about the church.

The more I read the bible, the more I realize there is nothing random or unnecessary in there. The very strangeness of the language in the Song of Solomon (at least the wording I have access to in available translations) screams out for attention, for deeper digging. If the language I have access to is even remotely close to correct, one would have to be asleep to simply accept it as just "unusual or archaic expression". Hair as goats? Teeth as sheep? No. We are meant to dig deep here.

But I am frustrated by translational issues with this book. The disparities between versions seem wider than anywhere I have observed in the bible. Song 6:13, for example, is substantially different in many translations. Then there is the Septuagint, very different as well, although I believe your opinion of the Septuagint is somewhat dim.

Could you tell me, in your opinion, which is the best (most accurate to the original Hebrew) of the versions to read and study?

By the way, who do you think the two women with wings of an unclean bird are in Zechariah 5:9? Could they be Oholah & Oholibah from Ezekiel 23? Transporting "Wickedness" to set her on her new base when the time is right... maybe America? Could this be a possibility?

Response #17:

Wonderful to hear from you – I've been keeping you in prayer. Thanks ever so much for your kind and encouraging words! Let me also say before I forget to mention it that these are excellent observations on your part which bespeak a growing facility with the scriptures in spiritual as well as verbal respects.

'Song' is written as poetry, and ancient poetry is always more difficult to understand (and hence to translate) than prose. One reason for this this that not only is the diction different but the vocabulary is as well, and since we have only the Bible in terms of ancient Hebrew (with a very small spattering of inscriptions), we find ourselves in books such as 'Song' having to glean the meaning of particular words from the one context only (or almost only). 'Song' is more problematic than other poetic books such as Psalms because it also has a unique structure – written more like a play with a unified theme than a series of individual poems. When we add to that the fact that there is (in my opinion and your investigation) much within it that is meant to be taken with deeper significance, translating and interpreting become more problematic than usual. Even in "straightforward" prose letters such as the epistles of Paul, there are definite problems with many of the versions because the meaning was not properly understood. How much more so is that not the case in 'Song' where we are all a bit challenged when it comes to pinning down a precise theme (beyond the analogy of God's love for us and our response to Him or lack thereof) and how best to take the individual metaphors, both the direct interpretation thereof, and also in applying them to the true theme. One thing all can agree on, I think, is that it is a very beautiful book, and that beauty comes out even more distinctly in the Hebrew.

All that said, I have not exhaustively compared the various versions with the text verse by verse to be able to say which is better or worse. I would imagine that since almost every verse demands some judgment call or other in translation that his will in fact be a "verse by verse" thing with one being better here, one there. If you have specific questions, I would probably be able to help. The NASB tends to be fairly close to the text most places in the OT (but it's not perfect). The LXX was done by individuals who do not seem to have had any special insight into the meaning of difficult words stemming from an era some half a millennium earlier; it can be a guide to the text (not a great one), but is rarely of much use to me in determining the meaning of poorly documented words (context and similar roots are of much more value).

On Zechariah 5:9, even though there are symbolic parts to this passage, I see the women represented as taking wickedness away as being female angels. I do believe you are correct about the place: during the Tribulation, Babylon has been "prepared" for this reception of wickedness, but this will not happen until the removal of Holy Spirit restraint.

I want to congratulate you for your continuing perseverance in Bible study and spiritual growth! And also for your efforts to minister the Word. I look forward to seeing you highly rewarded on that great day to come!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

"As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste."
Song 2:3

Apples are native to central Asia. It wasn't until the time of Alexander the Great that apples made their way to the Mediterranean. So isn't that evidence that the Song of Solomon must have been written during the Hellenistic era?

Sincerely,

Response #18:

It wouldn't be convincing evidence to me. The root of this word, naphach, refers to the exhaling of fragrance, so that this word refers to a fruit tree with fragrant blossoms. Could that be an apple tree? I don't see why not – but it might be some other sort of fruit tree (even though in Modern Hebrew it is "apple").

I would also question the proposition that no such fruit trees existed in Palestine before Alexander. It's pretty hard to prove a negative such as that with any surety – though people ("scholars") love to pronounce them, especially if they seem to show problems with the Bible.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Could you clarify your rendering of the third verse of Psalm 19:

(1) The heavens recount the glory of God, and the firmament tells of the work of His hands. (2) One day after another pours forth [His] words, and one night after another declares [His] knowledge. (3) There is no tongue or culture that cannot understand their voice (i.e., of the heavens/firmament).
Psalm 19:1-3

NASB says of verse 3, "There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard", but you render "There is no tongue or culture that cannot understand their voice (i.e., of the heavens/firmament)."

Response #19:

Starting with the second part of verse three above, the Hebrew makes a clear connection between the second half of the verse and the first, and in fact the second half makes no sense if it is divorced from the first (as is clear from NASB's pathetic rendering). KJV and NKJV do essentially what I do in connecting the two halves. As the meaning of 'omer and dhebhariym, NASB is possible, but not thought out. The difference between "speech" and "tongue" is not great, but "tongue" or "language" is a better translation in the context of the world of mankind; it also helps to guide the translator/reader into a correct assessment of the next word. "Words" is not a bad translation but in the context of "languages", "things" having to do with the places / peoples / nations where the languages are spoke can only be "customs" or "culture". The translator of NASB here has chosen to understand this verse in exactly the opposite way it was intended, namely, the heavens don't actually speak. But in fact the point is that they do speak to the entire world, each in his own language/culture: natural revelation brings home the truth of God and His existence to every place and people on earth.

Question #20:

I wanted to ask another question about your rendering of Psalm 19:3. You translate "There is no tongue or culture that cannot understand their voice", whereas the NASB (many other translations are similar):

Psalm 19:3(NASB)
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.

I'm still foggy on the difference.

Response #20:

The difference comes in the interpretation of what 'omer and debhariym mean respectively in the context here. The first, coming from 'amar ("to speak") clearly has to do with language; so "tongue" in my version or "language" is fairly straightforward I would think. I note that many version say "speech and language", which essentially equates these two things as if they were not really any different. They are similar, but debhariym is plural here, and even the singular, dahbhar, is much more general in its application than merely "word"; it is the most common Hebrew word for "thing". Since this is a verbal context, and since the intent it seems to me is to expand on "language", the spoken word, the most natural next development for "things" having to do with human beings in a language context is "culture". That is to say, the Psalmist uses this combination of terms to make it clear that the natural revelation of the creation speaks in a way which everyone can understand, regardless of language or cultural differences (language and culture being always very closely related in fact). The combination of the two removes all excuses for not "getting" what the creation speaks.

Question #21:

I understand how debhariym can be interpreted as culture, but the difference between your rendering and most others is that you finish the verse with "there is no culture that doesn't understand their voice" rather than "their voice is not heard". I don't know how the byli should be translated and this is what distinguishes different renderings.

Response #21:

I render this phrase "understand their voice" to bring out the Psalmist's metaphor: the heavens "speak" and everyone in the world over not only "hears" but actually "understands" what is being said (universal God-consciousness). If you are asking specifically about beliy, this is a poetic negative: "without [it] being heard".

Question #22:

In a previous answer you wrote:

The translator of NASB here has chosen to understand this verse in exactly the opposite way it was intended, namely, the heavens don't actually speak. But in fact the point is that they do speak to the entire world, each in his own language/culture: natural revelation brings home the truth of God and His existence to every place and people on earth.

I understand this also, but could it not be that the meaning here is that there is no speech and words and their voice is not heard, because it's not literal voice that speaks?

Response #22:

The point is that their voice (i.e., the heavens) and their meaning is heard and understood by all. I think that is the gist conveyed by every translation I've ever seen of this verse (LXX also).

Question #23:

Thank you for your patience with this verse. It's becoming clearer and I feel I have made some progress with it. I want to ask you just a couple more questions about it, as it's not only one of the key verses in the context of natural revelation, and so one I would definitely like to use in my future study, but also one of the most beautiful parts of the scripture. Of course, they are all beautiful and all serve their purpose, but this really is something that should enter the heart of all believers and unbelievers alike.

1) As for the rendering "There is no speech, nor are there words, their voice is not heard" - although it does make a point of the speech of the heavens not being literal speech, I found one observation by Keil and Delitzsch particularly helpful here:

If Psalm 19:4 were to be rendered "there is no speech and there are no words, their voice is inaudible," i.e., they are silent, speechless witnesses, uttering no sound, but yet speaking aloud (Hengst.), only inwardly audible but yet intelligible everywhere (Then.): then, Psalm 19:5 ought at least to begin with a Waw adversativum, and, moreover, the poet would then needlessly check his fervour, producing a tame thought and one that interrupts the flow of the hymn.

It seems a valid point that rendering this verse the way NASB does would make it a stop in a progressing thought, which slows down only to pick up again in the following verse. Although my knowledge of the Hebrew is not sufficient to make such calls with confidence, it also appears to make sense that if we accept the NASB rendering, then the Waw disjunctive could be considered a logical start of the following verse - but it's not there. Based on all the above, I am more inclined to exclude this reading now.

2) Now there are three renderings that I would want to ask you about.

a) Luther's rendering is better: There is no language nor speech, where their voice is not heard, i.e., as Calvin also renders it, the testimony of the heavens to God is understood by the peoples of every language and tongue.

This is also almost identical with your take on the verse (although you prefer to use "culture"), but Keil and Delitzsch make the point that perhaps a different word would be used to express the "language" here:

b) Thus, therefore, the only rendering that remains is that of the lxx., Vitringa, and Hitzig: There is no language and no words, whose voice is unheard, i.e., inaudible. The discourse of the heavens and the firmament, of the day (of the sky by day) and of the night (of the sky by night), is not a discourse uttered in a corner, it is a discourse in speech that is everywhere audible, and in words that are understood by all, Romans 1:19.

Could you clarify this rendering and explain how it differs from yours and Luther's? "There is no language and no words whose voice is unheard" doesn't sound clear to me, it seems like quite a generic statement inserted in the middle of the discourse.

c) Finally, perhaps the least likely one, but one I haven't come across before (Gill's):

the meaning of which some take to be this; either that though they have no proper speech nor language, yet there is a voice in them which is heard, declaring the glory of God and his handiworks; and the words may very well be rendered, "they have no speech nor words, without these their voice is heard"

So it starts like the NASB, but finishes but emphasising that their voice is actually heard - what do you think?

Response #23:

a) The NASB has got the Hebrew wrong. The Lockman Foundation deliberately has refused to release the names of the translators – renderings like this make that a justifiable decision. NASB misunderstands what the word beliy means, essentially "without" in this context. It can't be a simple negative starting off a new sentence, and the natural reading of the Hebrew argues against that vehemently. In short, this is the type of translation a person who really doesn't have a "finger-tip-feel" for the language but only a scholastic grammatical, computer-like sausage-machine talent might produce. Or to put it more pithily, the translation is wrong. We don't need K&D for that. Their points are good, but a gilding of the lily.

b) I don't like these either. What's going on grammatically is that the participle is acting circumstantially with the adverb beliy generating an exception; basic translation "without [it] being heard". As in Greek, when we have a construction of this sort, expanding the circumstantial idea into a clause equivalent must be taken from the context. Since the context is one of places / areas / linguistic regions, it is clear that a local clause must be supplied: "where their voice is not heard"; that syncs with a non-expanded translation "no place with their voice not being heard", but it is clearer and more harmonious in English. To posit a relative clause as the proper expansion is to misunderstand the grammar and the context.

c) The last one is essentially what I have said in terms of the base, non-expanded translation, but the translators clearly misunderstand the force of the passage which is all about place / area / nations "where". The best that can be said about such a rendering is that it is at least "creatively ambiguous", so that any reader might not make the same mistake the translator's interpretation of his own words does – but why not just do it right in the first place?

Question #24:

Ok, that's much clearer now. But could you just briefly comment the first one? This does look like the best way to translate this verse, although Keil and Delitzsch write that for the rendering proposed by Luther et al. to be correct, different word would have to be used for "language"? And this is also partially relevant to your rendering, which is close to Luther's and Calvin's, only you use "culture".

Response #24:

On your question. First, I was responding to KD on the point about the waw being likely if the alternative (incorrect) set of renderings were to be correct when I said "we don't need KD for that" – meaning that the point is somewhere along the lines of the 15th argument I would use against the wrong view in a debate, and not the most convincing. I think D's point (Delitzsch actually did the volume on Psalms) is the result of looking at this language as if it were prose and failing to appreciate the poetic diction here; that is exactly the problem with his analysis on the other point about using more literally correct vocabulary. That may be true in prose, but in poetry, it is part of the pleasure and the art to phrase and frame things differently. D' seems never to have heard of "poetic license". It is odd. I've noticed that KD tends to be overly pedantic on many points of interpretation and then to lack grammatical discipline on others. It's a good commentary, but all commentaries are flawed and of minimal utility for those who actually are believers, know the languages, and have devoted the time to these matters that we have. Still, a commentary that is sometimes useful is so rare as to be a valuable treasure (but we still have to appreciate its limitations).

Once again, my translation of the context:

(1) The heavens recount the glory of God, and the firmament tells of the work of His hands. (2) One day after another pours forth [His] words, and one night after another declares [His] knowledge. (3) There is no tongue or culture that cannot understand their voice (i.e., of the heavens/firmament). (4) Their design has gone out into (i.e., "is visible throughout") the entire earth, and their words to the end of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4a

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Hi Dr.

I am reading a New Testament Survey by Merrill Tenney and I am on the section where they discuss Paul's missionary trip to Antioch of Pisidia. One thing stood out at me from this verses of Acts 13:38-39, which they provided an analysis:

" 38Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." KJV

This is their analysis of this passage verbatim:

" Although Peter had proclaimed the resurrection and the forgiveness of sins through Christ (Act 2:32, 36,38,3:15, 19, 5:30-31, 10:40, 43), not until this time had anyone preached so explicitly that men could be justified individually before God solely on the ground of faith. It was a new bold and advance in the truth concerning Christ."

Is this correct? Was Paul the seminal teacher of justification by faith? I know we see that through his Roman, Galatians and other epistles but I thought this was a theological thought preached prior to Paul become a believer.

What was the basis of the apostles prior to Paul's arrival, theology? Is it forgiveness of sin because of Christ's death but no justification apart from the law? Or is it as simple as forgiveness of sin with baptism and works as requirement of salvation?

I would appreciate your insight into this. I thought the theological track were similar for the apostles apart from the issue of gentiles being grafted, circumcised and dietary requirements.

Thank you once again Dr and I hope you have a great weekend.

God bless In Christ our Lord.

Response #25:

No, I don't agree. In my opinion the way that even evangelical scholars have thought about the Old Testament generally suffers from looking at things through a warped, medieval lens to some degree (blame the R.C. church, Augustine in particular, and nineteenth century "scholarship"). All the Old Testament saints are part of the Church.

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 4:25 NIV

And they all believed in the Lord, trusted Him for deliverance from sin and death just like we do (even if they didn't see Christ and the cross as clearly as we do).

(10) Even as they foretold this salvation that was to come to you, the prophets of old diligently investigated and inquired about this [gift] of grace, (11) being eager to discover the precise time the Spirit of Christ within them was signifying as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories [of salvation, among other things] that would follow [the cross]. (12) For it was revealed to them that in prophesying these things, they were not so much serving themselves as they were you – and these same things have now been proclaimed to you through those who gave you the gospel through the Holy Spirit, sent from heaven – even angels want to look into these things.
1st Peter 1:10-12

The Old Testament believers did not fully understand the incarnation or the cross since it was veiled in the shadows of the Law – or better, albeit not as much as we possess today, the Law gave them all the information they needed to understand that God would solve the problems of sin and death if they but trusted Him to provide a Substitute offering.

Now [Abraham] trusted in the Lord, and [the Lord] considered him righteous because of it.
Genesis 15:6

Salvation has always been the same; we today have the benefit of seeing the truth unveiled in the face of Jesus Christ and are given the Holy Spirit upon being born again as well – but we are not so much different from those who have gone before as some theologians apparently imagine. The really sad thing is that with so much truth now available to us, I dare say most believers today know far less about the cross and what the Lord did for us than they should (see the link: "The Blood of Christ"), and are far less in tune with and in touch with Him – even with the Spirit – than most of the great believers of the Old Testament who had far less to work with than we do today in terms of revealed truth (just think of Abraham, Jacob, David, etc.). It's all about what we choose day by day for the Lord or not.

Here are a few links:

What is the Eternal Future of those who Lived before Christ?

Pre-cross salvation

The Gospel before the Cross (in BB 4B)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #26:

Hi Dr. Since they are obviously wrong in their analysis, would you recommend continue reading since they might be correct in other parts of the survey?

Thank you once again.

Response #26:

As a prospective Bible teacher and pastor, it's not a bad idea to continue to engage in studying these resources, both for the good they can present, but also for just this sort of encounter, to test your own grounding in certain issues when measured against the way in which scholarly treatments analyze biblical material. I have to say that your "vision" in these things seems to me to be sharpening. I would advise you to continue to sharpen it. After all, if the criterion is to avoid anything that has "very little which is obviously wrong", that will leave out all such scholarly resources.

Keep on fighting the fight for Jesus Christ, my friend!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #27:

Dear Robert,

With your consent, I would like to ask questions to better my own understanding (perhaps subjective, though I would love to be objective) of certain subjects. My next question is on the matter of the Gospel as in a 'dichotomous Gospel', as we would understand the hypostatic union of Christ. The substance of both is Christ and the full spectrum of salvation. Perhaps the methodology is different i.e. 1) 'the gospel of the kingdom of God' (Matthew 3:2 & 9:35) requires the Jew/Israel to belief, repent and be baptized and still awaiting the establishment of a literal kingdom where they will be the head nation. Along with the perception of acknowledging Jesus as both their Messiah and Son of God; 2) 'the gospel of the grace of God' for the Gentile the belief (faith) in the Cross (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 & Acts 20:24) as the only requirement for salvation (peripateology inclusive).

Grace be with you,

Response #27:

I'm happy to hear from you. As to your question, there is and has only ever been "one gospel":

And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.
Genesis 4:26 NKJV (*cf. Rom.10:13)

What does the scripture say? "Abraham trusted in God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
Romans 4:3

But what does it say? "The word is near you: [it is] in your mouth and in your heart." That is the word of faith that we proclaim.
Romans 10:8

The entire reason every human being is created and given time on earth is to decide their eternal future. We all see that there is a God (from what He has made: Rom.1:18-22; cf. Ps.19:1-6); we all can see that even the rich and powerful die (Ps.49:10); and we all know that there is none who is righteous (1Ki.8:46). So in our hopeless, helpless situation, doomed to die, doomed to be judged by a righteous God to whom we have nothing to offer and no answer to give, we are disposed by every circumstance of life to gratefully and humbly accept the grace of deliverance from Him when He offers it – and He has always offered it to all who were willing to accept it "first to the Jew, but also to the gentile" (Rom.1:16; cf. Rom.2:10).

(23) For all sin and fall short of God's glory, (24) [but we are all] justified without cost by His grace through the redemption (lit., "ransoming" from sin) which is in Christ Jesus. (25) God made Him a means of atonement [achieved] by His blood [and claimed] through faith, to give proof of His justice in leaving unpunished in divine forbearance [all] previously committed sins, (26) so as to prove His justice at this present time, namely, so that He would be [shown to be] just [in this] and [justified] in justifying the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:23-26

As the passage above makes clear, Old Testament believers were saved "on credit", so to speak. They trusted God as being the only One who could deliver them from death and relieve them of their sins, but those sins had not at the time before the cross yet been propitiated. Blessedly, God's "credit" is good, and indeed the ineffably gracious and incomprehensibly wonderful sacrifice of our Lord on the cross was no reaction to events but the bedrock of the entire plan of God decreed from eternity past.

(1) God, from antiquity having communicated to our fathers in the prophets at many times and in many ways, (2) has in these last days communicated to us in a Son, [the One] whom He has appointed heir of all things, [the One] through whom He created the universe. (3) He is the shining forth of [the Father's] glory, the precise image of His essence, the One who sustains the universe by His mighty Word. When He had accomplished the cleansing of [our] sins, He took His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Hebrews 1:1-3

Of course, as these verses show, the exact nature of the One who would be the ultimate object of our faith, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, was not clearly known before His first advent. There were some things that would have to await His actual coming to earth and the actual fulfilling of the sacrifice for all sins before they could be fully known and appreciated:

(10) Even as they foretold this salvation that was to come to you, the prophets of old diligently investigated and inquired about this [gift] of grace, (11) being eager to discover the precise time the Spirit of Christ within them was signifying as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories [of salvation, among other things] that would follow [the cross]. (12) For it was revealed to them that in prophesying these things, they were not so much serving themselves as they were you – and these same things have now been proclaimed to you through those who gave you the gospel through the Holy Spirit, sent from heaven – even angels want to look into these things.
1st Peter 1:10-12

The prophets of old knew about the gift of grace – salvation through faith in God and in His substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf (as all blood sacrifice teaches by analogy, the Messiah "had to suffer": e.g., Ps.22:6-21; Is.53:1-12; cf. Lk.24:27 Matt.16:21); they just didn't have all the details we blessedly have today. But the issue was the same, faith in the Lord; therefore the good news was the same: deliverance from sin and death by the grace of God for all who trust in Him for the provision of His Substitute to be sacrificed on our behalf (represented in OT times by animal sacrifice).

"Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come—that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."
Acts 26:22-23 NKJV

This is the light of the gospel which has always been close, "in your mouth and in your heart", for anyone willing to turn to the light and be illuminated by the Spirit so as to trust in the Light of the world, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Israel's situation and relationship with the Lord is unique and often misunderstood. She was a nation which was expected to be entirely composed of believers living in a sanctified way – to which observance of the Law would give testimony. So when John's baptism of repentance was proclaimed, it symbolized the restoration of a wayward nation of believers, not the initial salvation of those who had never known the Lord. On an individual basis of course, this never was close to being the case, and on that individual level, we are all saved the same way and always have been.

Here are a few links which may be helpful on this score:

"The Gospel before the Cross" (in BB 4B)

What is the Eternal Future of those who Lived before Christ?

Pre-cross Salvation

God's dealing with Israel as a corporate whole

Israel as a model

"Israel: God's Perfect Standard" (in SR 5).

God's corporate dealing with Israel

How does the Lord deal with Israel?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Bob,

I wrote you about the gospel witness, and I apologize for the length (about 4 pages). I have attached it as a Word to make it easier to read and comment on.

Keeping you and your ministry in my prayers,

Response #28:

Good to hear from you my friend!

I read your piece – very well-considered and well-done. Good for you!

I think you have a valid point about how some fellow in the jungle three thousand years ago who had no contact whatsoever with the Bible or any believer might have been saved. I wouldn't want to say definitively it wasn't possible then (nothing is impossible for God) – and I also wouldn't want to say it's not possible now (nothing is impossible for God). You do a good job of explaining just how it could be possible according to scripture.

However, the "gospel" is an English word, translating the Greek euangelion which means, as I'm sure you know, "good news". The "good news" is that Christ has died for our sins. So we are not going to be judged for them or come under condemnation for them. That is the case for unbelievers too who will be judged "according to their deeds" – which means to demonstrate by their actions that they have done nothing worthy of salvation and so will be condemned for rejecting / not accepting Christ since they have chosen to stand on their own works and reject Him and His work on the cross. Knowledge of God is not the same thing as the "good news" that God has opened a door to save us from sin, death, and condemnation. That is why, in my opinion, Paul says "how can they hear without a preacher?" (Rom.10:14 KJV); that is, they have to hear the good news to be able to be saved.

Your point about Psalm 19:1ff. introduced thereafter is well-taken, so I don't wish to argue about this possibility for someone who would certainly accept Christ if he knew about Him. But God has a lot of other ways to solve the "man in the jungle" problem. I can think of three: 1) not having him born there in the first place; 2) bringing him home before the age of accountability; 3) sending someone to him (even an angel) or having him brought somewhere where he could hear – that's three with multiple variations possible, and I'm not very imaginative (trust me).

Perhaps the two biggest reasons why I would not teach this doctrine this way are 1) I don't find this jumping out at me from scripture as something needing to be taught, even if it were exactly as you have described it; and 2) that being the case, I worry about how it would be received. I think a person would have to be very careful about this not to give some people the wrong ideas about what the gospel means and is, about how we are saved today, and about who might be now or have been in the past saved and how. I wouldn't want to give any support to an idea that taking Christ out of the equation is or ever was an option. It is not. For those saved in the past, they looked to God to solve their sin/death/condemnation problem through a Substitute – that's what even all the pre-Law blood sacrifices teach. It will be alright if we just trust God . . . that He would and now that He has produced a Substitute to die in our place to take away our sins, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

In Him.

Bob L.

Question #29:

An interesting view developed by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing is presented by Walker on page 625 of his history:

Just as the individual passes through the successive stages of childhood, youth, and manhood, so does the race. The Scriptures have been given by God to meet these needs. Childhood is moved by immediate rewards and punishments. For men in that condition, the Old Testament is a divine book of training, with its promises of long life and temporal blessings for obedience. Youth is ready to sacrifice present ease and lesser goods for future success and happiness. For it, or for men in that state, the New Testament with its present self-surrender and eternal rewards is a fitting guide. But manhood is ruled by duty, without hope of reward or fear of punishment as its motives.

Of course much can be debated here, but I wanted to ask you about this because some time ago similar thought occurred to me regarding God's progressive revelation. God perhaps "needed" to show people that He is the one and only Lord of creation and establish Himself and did so by providing more short-term "gratifications" for the faith of those who believed - material blessings, enlarged families, etc. This is not quite so in the New Testament. Similarly, I remember your reply on vows, for which there was room in the Old Testament time (e.g., Jacob's vow), but now, when God has proved His faithfulness so many times, there is no need for it.

Response #29:

It's an interesting quote. One thing with which I would take great exception is the idea that duty has replaced reward as a motivation. That is contrary to scripture since we are all to be seeking eternal rewards (e.g., Heb.10:34; 11:6; 13:14). And that was true in the Old Testament as well, even before the Law:

And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.
Hebrews 10:39-40

Question #30:

Understood - and agreed. The duty without the hope of reward is not a biblical stance, but when one looks at how God's revelation progresses, that pattern seems to be visible, of course bearing in mind that most principles hold for both Testaments. We live in a time when so God has been proved Himself faithful to us so many times and so many prophecies have been fulfilled that we can be expected not to set our hearts on an immediate repayment, vindication or fulfilment of any of God's promises, as it was perhaps permissible with some of the very first believers.

Response #30:

There is progressive revelation in the Bible, but not in the way Lessing saw it; so for example with rewards, Heb.11:26 shows that reward motivation was always present (e.g., for Moses): it has always been a doctrinal constant, but we know more about that doctrine now than was known then (e.g., Moses did not have the same info on the New Jerusalem as we do). The truth doesn't change; the illumination of it and details we are given of it has expanded over time (best example, that of the nature of the first advent and the Person of Christ):

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-things which angels desire to look into.
1st Peter 1:10-12 NKJV

Question #31:

Hello Robert,

Your answer in regards to one's apologetics (Hebrew 6:2) resonates in my heart.

The gospel was preached to them and us, even as from the foundation of the world the works were finished; as a paraphrase of Hebrews 4:1-3 KJV. The 'grace gospel' is the true reformation as both 'magnum opus and magnum verbis' as completed by Christ: "It is finished!" John 19:30 KJV.

My question then: This would certainly supercede the Law and the gospel of the kingdom of God (to the Jew) because 'sola fides' in the grace gospel suffices for everyone since Adam to last person to be saved? I do not disregard the substance of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms and the gospel of the kingdom of God as pointers to Christ Jesus and all obedience that goes with it. But since the mystery of the grace gospel has been revealed to Paul and later understood by the 'gospel of the kingdom of God-disciples' those called to the circumcised. Yet, I believe that they received the command to spread the grace gospel of God from the risen Christ and missed the opportunity to minister to Gentiles. This Gospel of grace embraced by faith by the believer (born again) qualifies us (less works) to receive eternal life!

I hope my explanation carries with it the means to enable you to respond.

The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,

Response #31:

Good to hear from you [n.b., the quote is not from me],

I am sure that God has never allowed anyone who yearned for salvation to die without the truth so as to be saved. He is faithful, and cannot be otherwise. Moreover, in my view of things, there is only "one gospel". The difference in the covenants has to do with the nature of its presentation – which was necessarily different before Christ came in the flesh and died for our sins. The Law's purpose is to condemn us of sin – so that we may be open to grace. And grace has always been the principle by which people are saved from sin and death, looking forward through shadows before the cross, and having the clear picture of the cross before us after our Lord's death for us. Here are a couple of links which I hope will explain this in a bit more detail (and please do feel free to write back about this):

The Content of the Gospel (in BB 4B)

What is a biblical covenant?

Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church I

Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church II

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

 

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