Hi Dr. Luginbill!
I hope you had a wonderful weekend. As always, I am always thrilled to learn from your letters and greatly appreciate you and your ministry for what it has done in terms of my spiritual growth.
I recently heard a Pastor in an audio sermon saying that every time the title "angel of the LORD" was used in the Old Testament, it referred to Jesus Christ or a Theophany/Christophany because that title never appears in the New Testament after Jesus was born. I actually found the title "angel of the Lord" in the New Testament (Matt.1:20,24; 2:13; acts 5:19; 12:23). I also noticed that is uses a definite article in those verses where it's used, although there are other passages where "an" angel of the Lord is used. Are the references of "angel of the Lord" in the New Testament referring to an ordinary angel, special angel, or another type of theophany? Thank you!
And I appreciate your questions!
On this issue, as far as I am aware, the only place where the Greek text actually says "the angel of the Lord" in the New Testament is at Matthew 1:24 (i.e., before Jesus' birth). Every other place we find that translation in the versions the Greek text actually says "[an] angel of the Lord" (brackets here because there is no true indefinite article in Greek so when they mean "a/an 'whatever' ", they just say 'whatever'). I can understand why the versions put the "the" in, namely, to make it sound better in English and to make it line up with what translators see as Old Testament usage, but versions which do this are missing the important theological point that THE angel of the Lord is always a Christophany in the Old Testament. I note, for example, that the New KJV has changed KJV's "the" to "an" in the case of Matthew 1:20, for example, which brings me back to the one instance where the definite article does appear in the New Testament (four verses later). Notice that this is before the birth of Jesus Christ, so that nothing prevents this from being a Christophany. However, the fact that the angel in verse 24 is the same angel as the one in verse 20 where he was "an angel of the Lord" tells me that Matthew is only using "the" in the sense of "the one I just mentioned" and not to mean "THE" angel of the Lord, otherwise he would have used the definite article in both places. Also, since Matthew was referring back to "an angel", in Greek there is no way to say "the 'an angel' I was just talking about" (i.e., there was really no other way Matthew could say this in Greek than the way he did). So, really, the use of the definite article in Matthew 1:24 is not theologically significant – but the fact that there are no true instances of the term "the angel of the Lord" in the New Testament is highly significant for this point of Christophany being indicated by that term in the Old Testament.
Please see the links:
BB 1A: Theology: "Cases of Christophany in the Old Testament"
BB 4A: Christology: "Old Testament Appearances of Jesus Christ"
The Angel of God
Jesus Christ in the Old Testament (Christophany: Genesis 3:8)
Christophany in Exodus
Did Jacob Wrestle with God?
Keep fighting the good fight of faith!
In Jesus our dear Lord,
Hi--Sorry to bother you again so soon, but I have a Greek grammar question for you...could you please look up Rev. 13:8, where it says the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world? Is the "from the foundation of the world" an adverbial phrase modifying "slain"? I know a Messianic gentile who thinks it really means that Jesus was suffering and dying since the world began. I wrote this about her "interpretation":--"
--I think this "slain from the foundation of the world" just means that Jesus was destined to die for us, from the moment the world was created. It would happen, and since God exists outside time, it was already a "done deal", so to speak. It's like during the Last Supper and when Jesus was giving His High Priestly Prayer in John, where He mentioned that He had already accomplished what He had set out to do--and this was BEFORE He had suffered and died. He knew He would do what He had been destined to do. It would happen. So, He could say He had accomplished all and finished His course (I am paraphrasing).----
Could you give me the Greek parsing for this, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, in layman's terms? Elsewhere, the bible says that the Lamb "had been slain". Past tense. I think this lady is taking things 'way too literally.
Thanks for your help. No rush.
Revelation 13:8 is nearly universally mistranslated. It's a good example of what happens when Bible translators do not understand theology to the extent that they should. As a result, people begin to build faulty theology on the mistranslation. Your response is as about as good as one can do otherwise, and it was my position too before I was able to figure out what was really meant from the Greek and from digging into the doctrine of the Book of Life. The phrase "from the foundation of the world" is speaking about the point of time when everyone's name was placed in the book of life and not about Jesus' spiritual death. God means all to be saved, so that all names were placed in the book "before the foundation of the world". It says a lot about salvation, God's grace, and the value of Jesus' work on the cross that a person has to refuse to believe in order to forgo eternal life, having been "in the book" originally and only "blotted out" by their own free will:
And all the inhabitants of the earth will worship [the beast], [that is, all] whose names are not [still] written in the book of life [where they were written] from the beginning of the world, [even the book] which belongs to the Lamb who was slain.
After all, the point of Revelation 13:8 is the blotting out of the names; that is the focus, not the role of Christ before creation. He is in view here because the book of life belongs to Him as the Savior whose substitutionary death made possible the inclusion of all names originally (for Christ died for all):
(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.
There is more about all this at the following links:
The Lamb "slain from the foundation of the world"?
Things to Come: the Book of Life
"I will surely not erase your name from the book of life"
The Book of Life: Revelation 13:8 (in CT 4)
The Book of Life (in CT 6)
Tithing and the Book of Life
Yours in our dear Lord who did not have to "suffer many times from the foundation of the world" (Heb.9:26; cf. Heb.10:18) but who died "once for all" (Rom.6:10; Heb.7:27), Jesus Christ our Savior.
Dear Dr. Luginbill--Thanks for your answer. That does make more sense, since Jesus hasn't been hanging on a cross since the world was created. In fact, the NASB, ASV, RSV, and NRSV translate it as you do. But what about the grammar, the part about "from the foundation of the world" being an adverbial phrase that modifies "slain"? Is that correct? Or is it hard to tell what phrase it modifies, in the Greek?
Placement of prepositional phrases in English is sometimes misleading (even though we are a word-order based language now). In Greek, with its greater flexibility, it is often left to the reader to determine to what sentence element a prepositional phrase may apply. The reason for the confusion at Revelation 13:8 is that the phrase "from-the-foundation-of-the-world" occurs immediately after the phrase "of-the-Lamb-who-was-slain". But putting the two together fails to realize that "of-the-Lamb-who-was-slain" is subordinated to the preceding "in-the-book-of-life". That is to say "in-the-book-of-life-of-the-Lamb-who-was-slain" is a unit which is modified by "from-the-foundation-of-the-world", so that the time reference goes with the book, not with the Lamb. This is a case where someone doing a thoughtful sentence diagram would be forced to see that the phrase "of-the-Lamb-who-was-slain" expresses the possessor of the book which is the real anchor for this entire set of phrases. Once that is seen, the last phrase, "from-the-foundation-of-the-world", ought by rights to apply to the anchor, not to its anchor's modifier. If it did go with the modifier, Greek has a way of indicating that (i.e., the repetition of the definite article in front of the other element). That does not occur here. Since the best way to take the grammar also gives a statement which is consistent with what the Bible elsewhere teaches about 1) the book of life and 2) the sacrifice of our Lord, it would take quite some philological gymnastics to justify taking it the other way.
Yours in our dear Lord Jesus who died for us at the right time.
Hello--Quick question...you know John 1:18, where it says "the only-begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him."? I know some manuscripts have "only-begotten Son," some have "God." Which is in the earlier texts, like the Sinaiticus? Vaticanus? I know the KJV has "Son" but it is based upon much newer Greek manuscript copies, and only 6 or 8 of them, if I remember correctly. In the Greek, I think it is "God the only-begotten." The NASB has "God" and I know it is based upon the Nestle-Aland text, which is supposed to be one of the best, though I forget which manuscripts it is based upon.
And is Bauer one of the guys who worked on the BDAG? If so, he supposedly said that "only-begotten" in this verse is related to "firstborn." I know the what both words mean and I know the latter has the figurative meaning of "ruler, first in pre-eminince." But I wonder what he meant by that, in context, since a JW wrote this to me.
Thanks for your help. No rush. Have a nice weekend.
The better, older manuscripts (e.g., Aleph, Vaticanus, Ephraemi rescriptus, the Bodmer papyrus) have theos, (God) not huios (Son), which reading was no doubt inserted because later scribes, seeing that it referred to the Son, put the word "son" in either to clarify or to "correct" what was already correct (resulting in an incorrect reading). This is a very common sort of textual error in all types of ancient Greek. And you are correct in your understanding of the KJV's textus receptus (as it is usually called).
The "B" of BDAG is Walter Bauer – I can't vouch for the quote. However, I can say that the Greek word monogenes is frequently misunderstood and misinterpreted by those who fail to take into account that it is being used as a translation of the Hebrew word yachidh which means "one and only [child]" (the parallel is between Isaac and Jesus). That is to say, the "semantic weight" of monogenes as employed in the NT is entirely on the mono- (uniqueness), but many people focus almost entirely on the -genes ("born"). Here is something I have written about that:
John 3:16: KJV "only begotten" vs. NIV "one and only". Again, here I would have to side with the NIV. The phrase is translating the Greek word monogenes, with "mono" meaning only/unique and "gen" having to do with "being/becoming/being born". Etymologically, the KJV would seem to have a point, however the meaning of words in any language is defined by contemporary usage which may or may not be reflective of the etymology. The additional piece of information one needs to correctly translate this word is that this Greek adjective is being used to translate the Hebrew word yachidh since it is a deliberate echo of the description of Isaac as Abraham's "one and only uniquely born son" in Genesis 22:2 (who is a clear type of Christ, especially in the sacrifice on Mount Moriah in that chapter). Since yachidh really means "special" or "unique" or "one and only" in the sense of being "one's very own", renderings of this sort are more helpful than "only begotten". Indeed, "only begotten" because of the "begotten" part has been fodder for heresy throughout Church history as this particular phrase seems to suggest that Jesus "came into existence through birth" whereas in fact we understand that He has always existed as God. So the KJV usage has a negative. But it also lacks the positive of making it clear how special, how unique, how incomparable Jesus is in the Father's eyes (the real meaning behind the word monogenes, however one wishes to translate it). For more on this topic please see the link: "Monogenes").
Hope this helps. Feel free to write me back about it.
Thanks for your help. Is "God" in the Sinaiticus, or however it is spelled? I think you said it is just about the best, but I know some parts are missing, being a codex and not a scroll.
Also, one quick thing--I thought I remember reading years ago that when the one true God is meant in the OT, He is referred to as "Elohim", which is plural, but it is paired with a singular verb. When false gods are meant, the verb is plural. Is this true?
Spelling correct, and, yes, Sinaiticus has theos (or, rather, the standard abbreviation for theos, theta and sigma with bar overheard). And, actually, apart from some portions of the Septuagint, the NT of Sinaiticus is complete. In fact, it is one of the very few manuscripts of any antiquity to have the complete text of the book of Revelation.
As to Elohiym, you are also correct that when the word is referring to God the verb is usually singular but that when it refers to "gods" is it usually plural (e.g., Is.37:12). One exception is Genesis chapter one verse twenty-six: "And God (Elohiym) said, Let us make (pl.) man in our image, after our likeness". This constitutes a unique emphasis on the whole Trinity's participation in our original creation.
Yours in Jesus,
Dear Dr. Luginbill--I was wondering about the timing of Jesus' resurrection around dawn on Sunday...I looked up the words for "towards the dawn" in Matthew 28:1 and the word for "dawn" in Luke 24:1. Now, I like Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum very much and his website www.ariel.org. He is a Messianic Christian and of genuine Jewish heritage (i.e., not a Messianic wannabe). I think I mentioned him to you before. Anyway, though he believes Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, he thinks it was right after sunset, while it was still a bit light, right after the Sabbath. He wrote on his website that the Jews reckoned the start of the day as right after sunset, not sunrise. I do get that--but what about the words for "towards dawn/to grow light" and "dawn/daybreak"? Is there any Greek idiom that I am unaware of (and there are plenty!) that could make these words mean right after sunset, after the Sabbath? Could "daybreak" possibly mean "after sunset"? And what about the word for "after the Sabbath" in Mark 16:1? Any way that could be construed as meaning right before the Sabbath ended? I checked all the stuff you sent to me, and the only thing I found on this, was your opinion of what Robertson wrote in his Word Pictures of the New Testament, on "dawn" and "after," if I remember right. I didn't ask you about possible other meanings for the Greek words that all the bibles I have seen translate as "towards dawn/beginning to grow light" and "dawn."
Thanks. Take care.
This is not an issue of how time was reckoned but of what the Greek text actually says. Matthew 28:1 should be translated "after the Sabbath" [i.e., was over] (opse de sabbaton), "at the dawning of the first day of the week" (tei epiphoskousei eis mian sabbaton). This very clearly refers to Sunday, the day after the Saturday Sabbath, and early in the morning on that resurrection Sunday at that. There is no way to make the verb epiphosko (ἐπιφωσκω) have to do with fading light. The verb consists of a directional prefix (epi) which indicates here entrance into a state. The root is the Greek word for "light" (phos, photos; combining stem photo-, cf. "photograph, photosynthesis, etc). And the -sk- suffix is inceptive in Greek. That is to say, it means "becoming ____", filling in the blank with whatever is in the root. So this verb cannot really mean anything but "to become light"; it certainly cannot mean "become dark". This is also demonstrable from its usage throughout Greek literature (as any good lexicon will show - and this meaning of "becoming light" is also what we find in all the different compound forms of this verb and its simplex as well). Other pertinent links for more about this are:
The Greek Text of the New Testament: Some Issues of Textual Criticism
The Three Days (in BB 4A: Christology)
Thursday versus Friday Crucifixion
Wednesday versus Friday (in Christology Questions)
Wednesday or Thursday versus Friday (in Some Jewish Issues)
As to Mark 16:1, the verb of the genitive absolute is in the aorist which normally in Classical Greek and almost without exception in biblical Greek refers to something that happened before the main verb. That is certain in this case because the verb diagignomai cannot be translated as suggested. Its actual meaning, "to conclude, pass, come to an end", is completely at odds with the suggestion "before coming to an end". No gymnastics with the Greek moods and tenses can achieve this essential reversal of core meaning. Translate: "After the Sabbath was concluded, [the women] bought spices". In any case, this must refer to daylight on Sunday, because there were no "24/7 spice stores" around in those days – all such purchases would have to wait until daybreak on the first day of the week at the earliest. In this way the verse is completely consistent with Matthew 28:1: both stress that the Sabbath had concluded when these actions took place.
Yours in Jesus our Lord,
Can you expound on why Jesus was baptized?
Good to make your acquaintance. Here is what I have written about this at the link: BB 4A: Christology: John's Baptism of Jesus:
The purpose of John's ministry as seen very clearly from the passage above [Luke 1:13-17] was to prepare the hearts of His countrymen for the Messiah's imminent return (cf. Mal.3:1; Lk.1:76-77). John is the King's herald; Jesus is the King Himself. Without any question, therefore, the purpose for Jesus' baptism was entirely different from that of the baptism of those in Israel who chose to repent at John's proclamation of the Kingdom. They were sinners; Jesus is sinless. They were waiting for the King; Jesus is the King. They were helpless without Him; He was their help – and is ours today as well. Thus we can well understand John's reluctance to baptize Jesus (Matt.3:14), while our Lord's response "Allow [this] now. For it is appropriate for us [to act] in this way in order to fulfill all righteousness" calls for some comment. As John correctly discerned, Jesus did not have to be baptized, for there was certainly no need for Him to indicate any repentance, since He was sinless. Jesus' baptism is unique and demonstrates His acceptance of the cross. For after others had gone down into the water to symbolically wash away their sins, our Lord went down into the same water to symbolically die for those sins, so that His baptism represents His satisfying of the Father's righteous requirements of salvation = "fulfilling all [God the Father's] righteousness" (i.e., His righteous requirements that had to be met in order for salvation to be made available to mankind, namely, the propitiation of all of our sins by the blood of Christ, His work on the cross in dying [spiritually] in our place). Jesus' coming up out of the water (a picture of His resurrection just as going under is a picture of His spiritual death on our behalf) is accompanied by the visible coming of the Holy Spirit as an indication both of the fact that He is the Messiah (and indwelt with the Spirit from birth as we have seen), but also as a picture of the gift of the Spirit which He would be given to give in turn to us after His glorification (Jn.7:39).
You might also see the following links:
Jesus' anointing with the Spirit occurred at birth not baptism.
The Purpose of Jesus being baptized with water.
Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Greetings Dr. Robert Dean Luginbill,
I was surfing the web and came across your Ichthys Web site regarding Christ's three days in the grave. If you would be interested, I would love to share an understanding that I received from God in 1992 regarding the Holy Week chronology. I have written a treatise entitled, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lamb of God", and have it in safe Adobe pdf files. If you are interested, I will send them to you. In the understanding, many more prophesies can be seen as being fulfilled, as well as the cause of the three hour period of darkness on the day of Jesus' Crucifixion.
In Christ's Service,
Sola Gloria Dei!
Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your email and your interest in Ichthys.
There is quite a lot of information at Ichthys on the topics you list here, particularly on the three hour period of darkness and our Lord's "descent into hell" (please see the link: in Bible Basics 4A: Christology).
For a variety of reasons, it is my policy not to make a habit of reviewing other people's work. However, I am happy to answer specific questions and also to address specific criticisms and concerns about my own. I invite you to read over the link above (which contains the largest part of the material on the topic you are working on), and get back to me if you have such questions, criticisms or concerns.
In the meantime, I well understand the challenges and sacrifices involved in pursuing such ministry while involved in a demanding, full-time career. Best wishes for your continued and continuing service to our Lord in this regard.
In Jesus Christ our Savior,
Dear Bob Luginbill,
It is nice to meet you as well. Thank you for your reply. I understand your policy, and that is quite alright. I will abide by it. I have no specific questions at this time. I will note that I saw a lot of "ology's" on your site, but not one on "chronology". I did notice how you believe that the darkness on the day of the Crucifixion was a supernatural darkness. I agree with you completely. The cause of the supernatural darkness is explained in the understanding that I was given. Just FYI, no need to review, here is a quick summary.
This is the scenario that I would like to have simulated on a computer. The simulation would either confirm my hypothesis or nullify it. The Creator always has control over His Creation.
Hypothesis: Given that the movement of our Sun in the solar system is abruptly and completely stopped, and suspended in space, the resulting movement of the Earth would break free from the ecliptic and continue in its upward path and natural rotation. This resulting movement of the Earth would agree with Newton’s laws of motion, and with the natural law of conservation of angular momentum.
I believe that God has left us with a natural (scientific) proof of the supernatural cause of the three hour period of darkness, which occurred when Jesus was crucified. It is not a natural cause, since a solar eclipse is naturally impossible during the full moon of Passover. Given that the scenario mentioned above began at noon Jerusalem time while Jesus was still on the cross, it is my belief that an eclipse would have occurred within several minutes, when the Earth’s Southern Hemisphere would have blocked the Sun’s light headed for the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. It is my further belief that many countries within the Mediterranean area would have experienced this darkness.
Furthermore, I believe that the relative position of the Sun from Jerusalem’s vantage point at the time of the eclipse would have been around the ninth hour (around 3 pm. position in the sky), with a defection of the sun’s usual path as well. In other words, it appeared as though three hours had elapsed (time perceived by Sun’s position in the sky) in a period of only several minutes (time perceived by the actual rotation of the Earth).
In Christ's Service,
Sola Gloria Dei!
Thank's for being understanding. This is a very interesting hypothesis you include here. I have no expertise in physics so am unable to comment on it. I only know that nothing is impossible for God. But I thank you for this.
On chronology, that is a subject which covers quite a bit of disparate ground and for that reason is not usually included in systematic theological treatments. For example, at the links I do have an overview "Chronological order of the books of the Bible", and a "comparative chronology of the ministries of John and Jesus", with the former eventually to be placed in "Bibliology" and the latter already in the Satanic Rebellion series (and commented on in "Christology", which study does have "Life of Christ" in chronological order). There is also a good deal on the site which is keyed to understanding the plan of God for human history in working its way out in seven millennium-long days (which parallel the seven Genesis days of re-creation; see the link: "Specific Chronology of the Seven Days of Human History"). Finally, the Coming Tribulation series is very much involved in charting the events of the end times in a chronological sequence. I suppose what I am saying here is that chronology is involved in the majority of the work I do (and does not for this reason lend itself to a focused work).
Thanks again for your interest in Ichthys.
In Jesus our dear Lord,
As always, thank you for your helpful response. I agree with you that apologetics is often not profitable and can be exact opposite. It has not been my focus recently, but for a number of reasons it was in the past. I mentioned to you that a family member converted to Islam (which is one of the 'fruits' of catholicism in my family, other are sad too), I also had a long dialogue with a Muslim that had me look for answers to many attacks (I finally ceased that dialogue, as continuing it would not only be a waste of time, but considering what Jesus tells the apostles in Matthew 10:14, would not even be biblical; this passage was, among others, which you helped me understand, also one of the reasons I finally decided to leave RC Church some time ago). Now, mainly through your helpful guidance (and I thank God for crossing my path with yours, as your ministry changed my life and has been contributing to my spiritual growth by giving it a direction, and that direction is to know God's word), my understanding of the Truth has been improving, but the more I understand, the more I struggle to understand how that truth can be rejected.
Defending one's faith can also become important when living in a multi-cultural society, like the one I live in now. Since I moved to England from Poland, where majority of people are catholics, I found myself being a Christian among believers in other religions, and my faith has even been attacked. I did not recognize it in the past, but now Satan's work and control over this world is plain to see. Satan is exerting great control over people here, to the extent of leaving a believer in Jesus astonished in what people can do and think. One of the ways in which Satan entraps people here is by convincing that there is no universal truth - whatever you believe is your own choice and is fine (at university chaplaincy choosing one's faith has been likened to choosing an ice cream flavour - you go for what you like and suits you (!), yet another way of making people think that They are all important, They choose what is the truth).
The same occurs in education - teachers are so preoccupied in making every student feel great about themselves (ego again), that very often before even asking the question they will emphasise that 'there is no right or wrong answer', which is one of the reasons I want to flee from the college where I teach as soon as possible, and I'm doing less work there now. In any domain, and certainly when it comes to faith, there IS a truth and there are no four, five or one hundred 'truths', but there IS ONE truth - Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
These issues aside (very frustrating and saddening issues, frustrating and saddening to the extent of not wanting to have anything to do with this world), I'm writing with another set of questions.
Could you please explain the meaning of Matthew 11:12?
As always, thank you so much for your kind words. I realize I am not really worthy of them, but I will continue to persevere to be at least of some use to you and our brothers and sisters who love our dear Lord Jesus "with love incorruptible".
Like you, when I first began to get my life in order and became tremendously interested in and eager for the Word of God, I had the impression that if only others could see what now I finally saw that "the light would go on" for them as well. In other words, out of joy and out of optimism, I failed to take into account that it is all a matter of choice – and choice is why we are here (if you have not had a chance to do so, please see the link BB 4B: Soteriology which details all the various aspects of this question from both the believer and unbeliever point of view). To boil down a rather complex issue, most people are protective of their will to the point that they are unwilling to subordinate it to God in any way, even when all He requires is accepting Jesus as a Substitute in order to be saved from eternal judgment. Since this is insane, God also allows people the god-like ability to choose for themselves whether to believe what is unquestionably true . . . or not. Once people have decided that they would rather "rule in hell than serve in heaven", then putting the truth to death in their hearts is something that usually happens as a matter of course (as I say, this summary conflates many different points of doctrine covered in the link above). And once truth is rejected, all manner of lies are readily accepted.
As to your specific questions:
Better translation: Matthew 11:12: "Since the days of John the baptist until this present time, the Kingdom of God has been under violent attack, and violent men are laying hands upon it." Jesus is explaining the defensive nature of the struggle encompassed in God's plan before the cross; after the cross the Church is "on the offensive" in the sense of greatly expanding the family of God to the point that Satan and his angels are being rapidly replaced (cf. Matt.16:18), and only managing an unsuccessful holding action (even though it may feel much different on personal basis when experience counterattacks individually). This statement also makes it clear that John's coming, while very significant, was not the dividing point in human history: that dividing point is the cross.
I start to understand Matthew 11:12, but why does the passage talk about violent people instead of speaking directly about Satan, who was doing his best to prevent the Messiah from fulfilling his mission (and tempted Him, etc.)?
It's a good question. The best I can do is to recall that the context is one of Jesus reassuring John through his emissaries that He was in fact the Christ. John had been imprisoned for several years at this point, and it no doubt seemed strange to him that he would be in jail and for so long IF Jesus were truly the Messiah. So I believe our Lord is referring here to the devil and all of his subordinates, human beings included, because Herod is the one who is causing the problem about which John is preeminently concerned. He is the "violent one" who has imprisoned John and will soon execute him (and as such is paradigmatic of all who oppose the household of faith).
Which prophecy is fulfilled when Matthew (2:23) says that 'that he would be called a Nazarene'? The footnote in my translation gives a few possible explanations.
The fact that He grew up in Nazareth. Here is what I have written about this in BB 4A: Christology:
Nazareth thus becomes the place where Jesus grows up (cf. Jn.2:1). And herein we also see the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah about light coming out of the darkness (i.e., the secular north country: Is.9:1-2 – completed with the beginning and the end of Jesus' earthly ministry: cf. Matt.4:14-16; 28:7), as well as the prophecy of Jesus being a "Nazarene" (Matt.2:23).
The people who were walking in darkness have seen a Great Light. [And for] those dwelling in a land of the shadow of death, a Light has shone upon them.
Why does Jesus pray in John 17:14-16? Why is the prayer needed if He is one with the Father?
Very important. God also knows we are going to believe – yet we still must be created at birth, we still must come to actually believe, and we still must live out our lives on this earth. God knew all things, but He only decreed what actually happened in His plan. But the decreeing of the Plan necessitates the actual carrying through of the Plan. God knows what we need too, but we still have to pray. All things that must be done must be done for our free will to be genuine, and for the choices we were foreknown to make to be validated we still actually have to make them. If our Lord had to come into the world and actually grow up like the human being He was, if He, in the case you mention (there are countless others) actually had to pray this prayer in reality in spite of the fact that the Father always knew of it (not to mention the Son in His divinity), then it certainly shows just how terribly important everything we actually choose is as well (on all this please see the link in the new BB 4B: God's Plan to Save You). Foreknowledge and action go hand in hand: God only foreknew what we actually choose.
In Matt 9:1-7, I am unsure about the question Jesus asks in the 5th passage: Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?
Saying "your sins are forgiven" is only possible if they have been actually propitiated and cleansed away in the righteous judgment of God. The only way Jesus could say this was through His pledge and determination to go to the cross and die for them. He could heal the man without dying for him; He couldn't forgive him without suffering spiritual death for his sins (see the link).
Why does Jesus ask God for 'this cup to be taken away' from Him?
Matthew 26:39 (NIV): Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
Similar question could be asked about Jesus' words from 27:46. Could all these also be explained by the Hypostatic Union and Kenosis (even considering these, words 'Why have you forsaken me' are hard to understand, considering the unity of the Father and Son)?
I understand this statement to be given entirely for our benefit. It is very clear from everything our Lord said in His prior earthly ministry that He fully understood the entire realm of divinely revealed truth in a perfect way, having learned it thoroughly from a very early age (He amazed all the teachers in the temple at the age of 12), having perfected His application of it in the eighteen years or so which followed, living in obscurity, and having it taught it daily to all and sundry for the better part of His three year pre-cross ministry. When Jesus says this in Gethsemane, we may be sure that no one else has ever known better that He did at that moment how necessary His death on the cross was: the entire creation of the world at His divine hand was predicated on His coming sacrifice. This statement is given for us, His people, to help us to realize that what He did for us was no small thing. Jesus is God, but He had to suffer and die in His human nature, bearing every single one of our sins and purging them out in His human body for us to be saved. No other human being before or since could have endured the fire of judgment necessary to atone for the smallest of sins, nor would anyone else be qualified in God's eyes to do so even if he could – but Jesus died for the sins of the entire world. The other side of this coin of the magnitude of our Lord's gift to us in His death on our behalf in standing judgment for our sins is the absolute necessity of the sacrifice. Clearly, the Father to whom our Lord is currently praying, being loving and merciful beyond understanding, would certainly answer this prayer on behalf of His one and only beloved Son . . . if there were any other way. This prayer confirms for us that the cross was always the only way human beings, once created, could ever have been saved, and that it was a necessity for God to become a man in the person of Jesus Christ and die in our place if we were to have the opportunity for eternal life. As Jesus said, well before the cross:
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up (i.e., on the cross), that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."
John 3:14-15 NIV
There is more on the topic of Jesus' early life and ministry in BB 4A: Christology
What is meant by Jesus being subject to God?
1 Corinthians 15:28 (NIV): When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
I'm not generally an NLT fan (from what I have seen, the "New Living" version is more of an interpretation than a translation), but I think what they say for this verse gets it exactly right and is somewhat helpful in answering your question:
Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will
put himself under God's authority, so that God, who gave his Son
authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over
1st Corinthians 15:28 NLT
This verse is speaking of the end of human history according to the Plan of God and the entrance into the eternal kingdom where the Father returns to the New Earth to rule with His Son by His side for all eternity. In His deity, Jesus, like the Father and the Spirit, has always existed irrespective of the creation of time and space. Within time and space, even in eternity, Jesus is now the God-Man, and, as such, has accepted the role of the Servant-King who obediently suffers for all humanity with whom He has graciously cast His lot to the end that He will rule with us in His kingdom for 1,000 years and then in the kingdom of the Father evermore after history has run its 7,000 year predetermined course. So the subjection is only true of His humanity, but, after all, Paul is talking in these verses about the resurrection, and he is using the resurrection of the Son – Jesus in His humanity – as the paradigm for our own resurrection to come. It is in this now eternal divine-and-human resurrected state that the Son is "subject" to the Father. This is a long way of saying that the passage does not give support to those who wish either to deny Jesus' deity or to claim that His is somehow less or naturally subordinate to the Father's.
Why does Jesus tells the healed man to spread the word about him in Mark 5:19, when he often did the opposite (Mark 1:43, Matt 17:9)?
The Gadarene demoniac was probably a gentile, but in any case had his home in a gentile area far removed from the circuit of Jesus' ministry to the people of Israel (the Decapolis which roughly represents northern Jordan and southern Syria. It certainly makes sense for our Lord to want us all to tell about the truth of the good news and about what He has done: the reason He often told others not to do so in the days of His earthly ministry was to preserve His own freedom of movement. Fame has its disadvantages, and Jesus was not interested in fame but only in accomplishing His mission. For example, when some did not abide by His wishes in this respect, "Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places" (Mk.1:45 NIV).
Is my understanding of Matthew 17:24-27 correct: Because Jesus is the Son of God, he should not be paying the temple tax, as it should only be collected from 'others', but pays it not to cause offence?
I'm aware that not only do I ask a lot of questions, but I also do it frequently. As always professor, I ask you to answer these whenever is convenient for you, I don't want to bother you and the frequency of my letter certainly can be bothering. Reading your studies helps me understand more and more, but many questions still occur to me and continuing the study is much easier if everything is clear and understood.
In Our Lord Jesus, and with prayer,
Yes indeed. That is my take on the verse as well. Just as the king's son did not pay the king's tax, so the Son of the King was not obligated to pay for the support of the temple which spoke of Him and His coming sacrifice. But Jesus allowed Peter to pay (and saw to it that he had the means to do so) in order not to give offense on an otherwise unimportant point (unimportant, that is, for all who truly understand that He is the Son of God).
Thanks for your good words! Hope this is helpful. I am remembering your family member in my prayers.