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Question #1: 

Hi Dr Luginbill,

I hope you are getting some nice summer rest! Is there any way you can tell me when they say the last apostle died, and maybe how they tell?

Thank you,

Response #1:   

Good to hear from you!

The bottom line is that, outside of James the brother of John (Acts 12:2), we don't know anything definitively about how the other apostles died. Our Lord presaged the manner of Peter's death (Jn.21:18-19), but not the time or the place. In 2nd Timothy, we certainly seem to have Paul's last words, but he was still alive, obviously, when he wrote the epistle.

What we have outside of the Bible is a variety of "church traditions", and most of them are not worth the paper they are printed on (Eusebius, e.g., wrote in the 3-4th centuries, hundreds of years after this all took place). We can only trust what we know from scripture. John wrote Revelation ca. 68 A.D., and he seems to be the last man standing, so to speak (since he is now the one writing to the churches in Asia, having taken over this role from Peter who took it over from Paul). But that is about all we know for absolute certain.

There is more at the link: "The Deaths of the 12 Disciples / Apostles of Christ".

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Bob,

I am working on a lesson explaining why Paul is the 12th apostle and not Matthias. I am about ready to record it but I am still having trouble with one verse:

1 Corinthians 15:5 (NASB) 5
and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Without all the other evidence someone could argue that this verse is a plus for the Matthias is an apostle argument. Because since Jesus did appear to Matthias it could be argued that Paul says "the twelve" assuming that Matthias is already in the college. In my opinion it makes little sense while Paul calls it "the twelve" considering that Judas was dead, Paul was not yet called to be an instrument, and only Matthias was there. It's strange given the other obvious evidence that Matthias is not included in the 12.

I've read what you said about this:

"To begin, I would have to say that the fact that Paul mentions the original twelve in 1Corinthians 15:5ff. does not at all necessarily mean that he had not by then become one of the current (and eternal) twelve any more than his mentioning of the twelve there means that Judas was still one of the twelve (remember that at that point Judas was dead and Matthias yet to be "elected", since Paul is talking about the period before Jesus' ascension). "

But it still doesn't make a whole lot of sense yet.

Response #2: 

As to "it still doesn't make a whole lot of sense yet" which part?

This paragraph you quote is shorthand, true, but it does represent what I think about this issue. "The twelve" was a "college" and the title referred to the "college" . . . originally (and ultimately too) being composed of "twelve". So there are "twelve" but not the same at all times. We know that because Judas was replaced. Question is, who replaced him?

And think about it: when this happened, namely, the appearance you ask about mentioned at 1st Corinthians 15:5, there were NOT twelve living and functioning as apostles, because Paul had not yet been called, Judas was dead, and Matthias had not yet been "elected" (false though that procedure was) that only happened after Christ's ascension. And yet Paul calls them "the twelve" even though at that point there were only eleven.

So "the twelve" at 1st Corinthians 15:5 has to be talking about the college as a college and not actually counting individuals.  But that the name itself does anticipate the eternal twelve, of which Paul is a member, NOT Matthias who was "who?" again? and did "what?" again?  I assure you that Paul's name is one of the names on the gates of New Jerusalem, not Matthias'.

See the links:

Matthias and the Numbering of the Twelve Apostles

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

Matthias

The "apostle" Matthias

This is by far NOT the most important thing that people need to know about to grow up in Christ. If you're still chewing over it, it would be better to focus on something else first (in my opinion).

Keeping you and your business and your new ministry in my daily prayers, my friend!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hey man, do you have a rebuttal for the Catholic church claiming Peter was the 1st pope? They use the verses Matthew 16:18-19 to justify it. Thanks. Its just been aggravating me.

As to "on this rock" referring to Jesus not Peter, I mentioned the petro/petra thing to them but they said Jesus spoke Aramaic and so there was no feminine & masculine version. Made no sense to me and Im assuming they mean the Greek is wrong or something? I dont know. Who was the first pope by the way and when did this whole Peter being the pope thing start? Is there something that provides accurate history on catholicism? Thanks man.

Response #3:    

Jesus spoke Aramaic and Hebrew and Greek. He was trilingual as were many people in that time and place where Greek was the language of culture and commerce, Aramaic was the local language in the north, and Hebrew in the south, especially in Jerusalem.

As to Peter being a pope, there are no popes in the Bible (that word doesn't appear in the Greek); Leo the Great was the first bishop of Rome (another non-biblical position) to style himself "pope" (400-461). The RC church then back-dated a list of "popes" to fill things in back to Peter. That is a very typical thing to do in all mythologies.

Here is an extract from SR 5 which gives some of the other details (feel free to write back):

The Pauline epistles are sufficient evidence to prove that the use of Matthew 16:18 to support a claim of Peter as "the first pope" is an erroneous one. For the Pauline epistles by both their content and quantity clearly refute any notion of Petrine superiority. This alleged superiority Peter himself never claimed, deferring to Paul under the inspiration of the Spirit (2Pet.3:14-16). Our Lord Himself appointed Paul, not Peter, His apostle to the gentiles (Acts 9:15; cf. Gal.1:15 and 2:7), a role fulfilled admirably by Paul, the greatest of the apostles.

As to the text of Matthew 16:18, by the phrase "upon this Rock", Christ is clearly referring to Himself, not Peter, a fact which can be discerned by His use of the demonstrative pronoun houtos as a self-reference, a usage paralleled in John 2:19, where the "this" in "destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" clearly refers to Himself (specifically His body: Jn.2:21; compare "this bread" in Jn.6:50-51; 6:58), and not to Herod's temple. For more on this point, see the Peter series, lesson #2.

See also:

The Rock (in BB 4A)

Petra and Petros

Christ the Rock

Peter is NOT the Rock

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Hello Bob,

Just a very quick question. What are the apostolic decrees?

Many thanks friend and God bless!

In Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,

Response #4:     

This phrase is not in the Bible. It seems to be being employed out there in cyberspace nowadays for the letter sent by James and company to the gentile believers in Antioch telling them they didn't need to keep the Law. Mind you, the book of Acts tells us what people did during that time it doesn't tell us what WE should do today (each event has to be analyzed in its context). There's a lot about that in BB 6B; see especially "The Nature of the Book of Acts".

However, there are also a lot of nutcases out there nowadays who style themselves as "apostles", so it may be a case of one of these fringe groups expanding upon this historical event in an illegitimate way, is falsely claiming some sort of "apostolic authority". If so, please stay clear.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Bob,

Thanks for this. It was mentioned alongside a discussion against the Hebrew Roots Movement.

Bob, I'm going to stick with your ministry and Curt's alone now (link). I've also got those commentaries on the Old Testament being sent through the post to me.

When I first became a Christian, in my excitement and fervour, I signed up on many mailing lists for what I thought were legitimate establishment Christian websites. Some of them I even forgot I had signed up for but now am inundated with emails on a daily basis.

At first I thought what harm could it do? Most of them give a very basic meditation on one part of scripture.

However, and this is a big however, I am noticing a trend here. These posts or discussions will posit something with which I will agree with in the main but then sneak in something that is either confusing or misleading such as this "apostolic decrees".

Remember when I was baptised? Well I now realise that there is only one baptism that matters and all the earlier rituals were just shadows of greater things to come, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

The Church of the Nazarene where I had my baptism, the reason I was baptised there was because the pastor writes a blog and I really believed that he was one of the few people, like yourself, teaching the truth. If I was going to be baptised anywhere, it would be with his ministry. It is also conveniently relatively close to where I live, being only just over an hour on the train.

There is another however about to surface here. I have written to this pastor the odd time about things that are happening to me and he has ignored all my correspondence. The only correspondence that he responded to was my enquiry and subsequent request to be baptised.

This has hurt me a great deal, being ignored like this. I understand that he may be very busy but why have online outreach if a person never responds to any comments at all?

Should I pick him up on this? I find the disparity between his enthusiasm and easy friendship at my baptism and this aloofness now very hurtful and a bit humiliating.

I am also very alarmed that he is using his blog to celebrate and promote the current Pope! Even Catholics themselves are calling Francis out as a heretic. Surely a Protestant pastor cannot be this blind?

It makes me wonder if he even recognises the lateness of the hour and whether he preaches about the closeness of end times! Another pastor at my baptism was promoting the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) and I know this movement is definitely to be avoided.

I was wondering whether to warn him about the Pope but I feel as though he will ignore this just like everything else.

I remember back in the early days of our communicating that you said that although there are churches on every corner of every possible denomination but few, if any, would be teaching the truth.

I didn't want to believe you then about this but now after my own experiences I am much inclined to agree. It is also further witness to the present times we are in.

I apologise for this lengthy response to such a quick initial query but I need to tell you one more thing. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your unwavering support, generosity of time and teaching, your patience and most of all your kindness.

Thank you Bob for sticking firmly to the second greatest commandment, come what may. Many pastors and preachers have fervour for God but seem to have run out of love by the time they reach down to their brothers and sisters. You show love for your brethren in every message and post you write and it is a very commendable witness to the love, abundance and joy to be found in Jesus Christ.

1 Cor 13: 1-2 (NKJV)
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing"

Response #5:   

Thank you!

I appreciate your good words very much, my friend.

Stand fast with the truth and all will be well.

As far as sharing with others is concerned, while we are to be ready to give a defense of the truth we believe if they ask us for one, we also need to be wary of casting pearls before swine. No one needs to be trampled.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Galatians 6:12 puts me in mind of James's conduct with Paul when the latter came to Jerusalem. Is that a reasonable assessment?

Response #6:    

James did not demand circumcision of any of Paul's gentile companions on that occasion (so far as we know); however it is true that the insidious request made of Paul to sponsor some young men who had made a vow to which he wrongly acceded was legalism of this very sort. Incidentally, while Acts 21:18 says that Paul went "to James and the elders", Acts 21:21 does not specifically mention James as the one who gives makes this terrible suggestion; we only have an unidentified third person plural in the verbs going forward.

I think we can conclude from this that while James failed to assert his authority here, the impetus was not from him. In this way his conduct is parallel to Paul's, namely, giving way to legalism though not sponsoring it. If either he or Paul had objected on the basis of grace, I feel certain that the other one would have supported him.  Consider Paul's account of a prior visit to Jerusalem:

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Galatians 2:1-5 NKJV

Not yielding to legalism would have been better on this later occasion as well, as the sequel so clearly showed.

Question #7: 

The book of acts is the book of transition from the old law to living by grace. In acts this is when Jesus is crucified. Acts 1:5 says John truly baptized with water but I will baptize you with the holy Spirit not many days hence. If you keep reading they were still baptising in water untill they figured it out that the law is over. It says again John truly baptized you with water and I will baptize you with holy Spirit not many days hence. On the day of Pentecost when Peter preached the sermon it says they were all in one Accord speaking in tongues and the spirit fell upon there was no water from that point forward you will not find water mentioned in baptism in the New testament but you got to know this the word baptism in Hebrew in the old testament meant immersed in water in the New testament at the day of Pentecost in Greek the word baptism means immersed in spirit when you make the confession believe in God and believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and that he rose from the grave you shall be saved with a mouth a man confesses and with the heart man believeth unto righteousness that's how you get born again of the spirit.

Response #7:   

Dear Friend,

You wrote, "The book of acts is the book of transition from the old law to living by grace". I assure you that such is precisely what this ministry teaches (have you gotten Ichthys confused with some other website?). Please see the recent posting: BB 6B: Ecclesiology (at the link); I think you will find that we are in essential agreement on all points.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Hi Bob,

Since Acts is a historical book, not meant to be taken prescriptively -- how do you determine when to back up doctrine with verses from that book?

I have noticed that is some of your studies you do in fact take quotes from that book, and then in many cases you also point out that the apostles did something wrong. So, how do you determine when to use a verse backing up an argument, since we can never know for sure when one of the apostles was saying something 100% accurate in the power of the Spirit.

In Jesus Christ our King and Savior,

Response #8:    

I have a great deal to say about this issue in the BB 6B (see the link for one place to start).

I think this is one of these issues where in theory it's a problem but in practice it's really not. There are plenty of times that we can see no contrast between words and actions described in Acts and what we know to be the truth; and there are times where the opposite is true.

For everything else, the bigger question is "is this thing we find in Acts meant to be repeatable?". That is also really not too difficult to discern when viewed from the broad perspective that, e.g., BB 6B and other Ichthys postings supply. Example: Question: "Can I pray to be flown by the Spirit from one location to another?" Answer: "Not legitimately; Philip didn't pray for that miraculous transport in any case: it just happened; so don't look for a repeat. It's never happened again as far as we know".

If you've got an actual case you're not sure about rather than a general hypothetical, I'm happy to discuss it, but I'll bet if you use the metrics above you'll have a hard time finding anything you're not relatively sure about yourself.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Could you please tell me if there are any books you would recommend that covers the Jewish people in the diaspora (when they were thrown out of the Promised Land).

Could you please tell me what books you'd recommend on the Biblical Aramaic? I just like to have the books ready.

I am making progress on The Odyssey. Homer is such a great writer.

Respectfully,

Response #9:   

I don't know of any such book but such a book would be interesting to read if good. Of course there were many dispersions over the past three centuries so that there were Jewish communities all over the Mediterranean world very early on. Since a lot of these happened long before there was any sort of written record emanating from Judaism outside of the Bible, such a book would need to be based on Greek and Roman sources (and other mid-east sources), and I can tell you already that there isn't a great deal of literary evidence to be found there. Ovid mentions a synagogue in Rome and Claudius expelled the Jews for a time, but how and when they first got there I don't believe anyone knows. Whatever happened to the majority of the Jews deported by Assyria to what is today Iran is also unknown (but there were some Jewish communities there of great antiquity before the Ayatollahs took over, at any rate). There are some wacky theories about that ("British Israelism" for instance), but nothing solid. In short, I would be skeptical of any book which claimed to offer much on this subject in an authoritative way.

As to Biblical Aramaic, I think you'd be better served by getting some Hebrew resources. The best Hebrew lexicon, Brown, Driver, Briggs (aka BDB) has an Aramaic portion which has all the words in Aramaic in the OT. Also, Biblical Aramaic primers usually assume at least a basic understanding of Biblical Hebrew. But since you ask, this is the one I recommend: Rosenthal: Grammar of Biblical Aramaic.

Glad to hear you're making progress in Greek and enjoying it too! Good for you! Wish I had a dozen students like you.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

On the date of the Apostle Johns death, in the Coming Tribulation you stated that you think that John died circa 70 AD, and that his death was part of the transition into the era of Ephesus in the Church Age. My question is how that fits into what some early church fathers have said. Since Polycarp was born in 69 AD, does that make either him or Irenaeus a liar? From what I understand Irenaeus said that he heard Polycarp speak about being instructed by the Apostle John. If John died in 70 AD that would mean one of those two was lying, right? Its also my understanding that the first time in Church History that we have a recorded instance of someone saying that they received a tradition that was passed down directly from the Apostles outside of the Bible is Irenaeus claiming that Jesus was 50 years old when he died (which he needed to be the case to support his recapitulation theory of the atonement), so its not like Im expecting Irenaeus to be right about everything. Papias would have been 10 in 70 AD, so its feasible that he could have met John as a young boy. Is it possible that John could have lived until 82 AD (i.e. the end of the era of Ephesus)? This would explain the traditions that John settled in Ephesus, which would be fitting for the name of the era in which he was the only living Apostle (as opposed to the first era without any apostles), and Polycarp would have been 13 in 82, making it more feasible that he could have been known John.

Response #10:    

Polycarp's letters and the letters / works which talk about Polycarp are not canonical. So we can't take anything they say as necessarily authentic. Rather than accusing these early writers of "lying", I would find these hagiographical and biographical works to be in the mainstream of the Classical tradition which culls out all manner of details from whatever remains of the author himself, posits a biography, and sets things down comprehensively as if factual, drawing any number of potentially erroneous conclusions from definitely questionable evidence.

How do we know how old Polycarp was when he died? Because some piece written about him says so? How do we know for certain that he died at the time usually stated? Because of correlation of one or two bits of data, "facts" which cannot be certified on either side of the equation (i.e., not just P's age but also the supposed anchor dates too). If any of the data points are incorrect, the problem is resolved. Even if not, how do we know that P' actually even set eyes on John (He doesn't quote from John's gospel in his letter)? Because Irenaeus supposedly says so (we need not worry about Tertullian)?

So the bottom line is that there is nothing in the extra-biblical record solid enough or sure enough to make me question the dating I have supplied based upon what we do know to be true from scripture.

Question #11: 

Why do all the early church fathers believe that sin causes a fall from grace instead of loss of faith? If you have insight on this please share thank you

120-205 AD Irenaeus "Christ will not die again on behalf of those who now commit sin because death shall no more have dominion over Him.... Therefore we should not be puffed up.... But we should beware lest somehow, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins but rather be shut out from His kingdom" (Heb. 6:4-6). (Irenaeus, pupil of Polycarp, Against Heresies bk. 4, chap. 27, sec. 2)

Response #11:   

I doubt that's what Irenaeus really means.

As to "Why do all the early church fathers believe . . ." you've read them all?! There are more church fathers than you could read if you spend fifty years doing nothing else. Abelard wrote a famous book about them, Sic et Non, in which he documented the fathers contradicting each on every major important point of theological controversy (that probably contributed to his excommunication). Another issue: Irenaeus did not write in English. He wrote in Greek.  So you are dealing with a translation. And a good deal of what he wrote in Greek only survives in a Latin translation of the Greek which is sometimes very misleading even before it is rendered into English. So even if 1) Irenaeus actually said in Greek what you report, it is very possible that he didn't mean it in the way you are taking it; and 2) it is very possible that the Latin translator misunderstood him; and 3) given the distance in time and culture, what this church  father thought and meant does not transfer so easily into the way we think about such things today. The church fathers are NOT the Bible. And we have (and believe) the Bible.

Let us assume that there is validity in your statement to some degree. Why do all the early church fathers have erroneous opinions on this issue? Well, after all, they have erroneous opinions on virtually every other doctrinal issue. That's how we ended up with the Roman Catholic church. Understanding of the truth of scripture dropped off precipitously immediately after the close of the apostolic age. Scripture says the same, telling those of the era of Ephesus (the one following the apostles directly), "You have abandoned you first love" (i.e., love of the truth of scripture: Rev.2:4).

I can tell you definitively that looking to the church fathers for answers is a fool's errand. You will not find any truth there. You will only confuse yourself and exhaust yourself.

You have the Bible. Read the Bible.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Professor, I wanted to ask whether you are familiar with these two resources:

1. Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity: https://www.olivetree.com/store/product.php?productid=25779.

2. Ancient Christian Doctrine Series: https://www.olivetree.com/store/product.php?productid=36272.

The former could potentially be of some use when researching particular subjects. The latter probably only to get a better understanding of the development of doctrine in the early church - not a subject I'm particularly interested in and Walker's "History of the Christian Church" perhaps provides enough information for my needs - but sometimes bringing historical perspective is needed when explaining a particular issue (like a false teaching, etc.), so I thought I would ask about it as well.

Response #12: 

I wasn't familiar with either of these titles. I read what I could about the first one (no previews I could find on line); the second one did have a large preview. Both of them seem to cover similar material but the second one is theme-focused. As you intuit, these are just "Church History" repackaged. Most of what is in here would also be in a good Bible Encyclopedia (such as ISBE or Interpreters).

When it comes to church "fathers" and their teachings, "Patristics" as the field is called, one could do worse than reading Calvin's "Institutes". Also, for reference, I have found "The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church" (edd. Cross and Livingston) to be excellent in giving good overviews of these issues (along with enough bibliography to go further if need be) it's also a good deal less expensive than either of these titles / series. Philip Shaff's History of the Christian Church in 8 vol. is at least just as good as the above (if Walker seems too condensed) and has the virtue of being free on line at the link.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill.

Quick question for you. Are there any good books you recommend that discuss the history of Christianity? Im really interested in learning about how the church grew from the time of Jesus until now and specifically when and how the split happened between Protestant and Catholicism. Im worried just looking for a book online might lead me to a book or author that isnt based in Christ. Any suggestions? Im currently bouncing back and forth between your Peters epistles series and your Bible basics series and Im enjoying both thoroughly. Keep up the great work and thanks for all you do that helps me grow my faith!

Response #13:    

Good to make your acquaintance and thanks much for the encouraging words!

Here's a link to where I discuss this subject which includes some bibliography (i.e., the three works I find useful: Walker, Latourette and Schaff).

Simply put, no "church history" is really "based on Christ"; the best you can hope for is some information about historical facts regarding major individuals and groups. When I say "major", moreover, I mean in the eyes of the world. Church history is not inspired. The history of the true Church is being written in heaven and you can be sure our names are therein. But many denominations, movements and individuals who make the news in this world as "Christian" are not even saved or composed of believers by and large. So "church history" as written up by human beings is of necessity going to be a sort of political history and could never be a spiritual one since only Jesus knows who is really committing themselves to following Him but we will find out ALL about that true Church history at the judgment seat of Christ. So keep fighting the good fight of faith to win a good reward!

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.
Hebrews 12:22-23 NIV

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

[omitted by request]

Response #14:     

I won't publish your part here. Any others from the past you want to opt out of?

"Church history", as I often say, is a dicey proposition. We have the Bible; we know that it is true. What others have done in responding to it in the past may or may not be known to historians. After all, I think what you are doing for the Lord is important to Him and I think that about myself and all our Ichthys group. But I guarantee you that any "Church historian" writing today would take zero notice of any of us, even if he/she were writing a voluminous compendium of "present day Christianity" and even though many groups which are not Christian at all or only marginally so would be likely to receive many pages.

It is good to know something of what may be known of the past, and some of those known events are important in terms of how present day denominations and doctrinal controversies were formed. Also, seeing the bad things and questionable things that happened in the past is salutary so as not to be deceived when history repeats (or at least "rhymes"). Someone with a good grounding in true biblical Christianity such as yourself will be able to interpret the snippets of information from the past much better than the average person and much better than the average "church historian". In reading "church history", therefore, its important to realize that the person writing it is constructing a narrative based upon his/her interpretation of the events that may be known and where less is known, the lens used and the biases possessed shout louder than otherwise would be the case.

In terms of the seven churches, there is more that may be known about the present day era of Laodicea and the previous era of Philadelphia than is the case for, e.g., the first two eras where the historical record is quite thin; the middle three will find a disproportionate amount of information about the doings of the Roman church surviving.

As to bibliography, here's a previously posted paragraph (link):

That said, three standard words for studying this issue (all of which suffer to a greater or lesser degree from the problems above) are Williston Walker's A History of the Christian Church, Kenneth Scott Latourette's A History of the Christian Church, and Philip Schaff's History of the Christian Church in eight very long and heavily footnoted scholarly volumes. The first on the list is the shortest (one volume), Latourette is two large volumes.

In Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hello--Thanks for your help. I have a quick question for you about the NT writings--were copies of the epistles and gospels widely circulated among the church during the first century, and read in the various congregations? Another Mormon is saying they were not, and that only the clergy had them. Thanks.

Response #15:   

About the only contemporary first century evidence we have comes directly from the Bible. There are the letters of Polycarp and the apostolic fathers in the next century. But all one has to do is read carefully the epistles to see that you are correct. E.g.:

After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
Colossians 4:16 NIV

Paul addresses the whole congregation throughout as is his normal practice not just pastors/elders. It was standard practice in the ancient world to copy letters and books (scrolls) that were important to you whenever you had an opportunity. As there is nothing more important than the Word, we can be sure that the congregations all did so which is really the only way to explain the vast amount of evidence for scripture compared to Classical works.

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us.
3rd John 1:9

In this situation the man who has usurped authority opposes standard practice, namely, a letter written to the whole church which, if it were inspired, would have been copied and distributed. The fact that this person prevents standard practice shows what standard practice was.

You'll find more on this at the link: in BB 7: "The Present Form of the Bible".

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Hello Bob,

Is it known what grain was grown in Israel and Egypt that was translated as "corn" in the KJV? (The only concordance I have.) Khorasan seems likely for Egypt and maybe Israel, too.

I was thinking about what corn to plant next spring and even though I mill khorasan for pastas, mostly, I realized I had no clue to what Joseph actually stored up for seven years. Since corn/maize is a new world grain, I doubt the "corn" as translated has anything to with what we know today as corn. While I realize the Lord may have preserved and enhanced the stores, I can't ignore the fact that whatever that "corn" was, it must have had exceptional nutritional characteristics.

Also, I'm growing a Traviso type radicchio which is perennial, some of which is bolting now. I save the seeds in the hopes I get a radicchio uniquely adapted to my conditions. (Though it seems to adapt to any environment.) Radicchio, (a chicory/bitter herb) I read, goes back to ancient Rome and was a major ingredient as was Garum. (Delightful stuff! "Red Boat Fish Sauce" is the closest to what the Romans used from what I can tell.) Curiously, no mention of anything like either in scripture except perhaps "bitter herbs." Do we know what those bitter herbs were besides wormwood? (Great for expelling worms worms but not good as a culinary herb.)

It turns out that bitter herbs are exceptionally good for digestive issues which may have had something to do with the survival of Joseph's family and the Israelites during the seven years of a largely grain diet. (Lacking B12 -- or so it does today.)

For that matter, were beans considered a grain?

Thanks

In Jesus,

Response #16:    

KJV uses "corn" in the same way they do in Europe, meaning "cereal grains". The one thing it doesn't mean, of course, is maize (since that is a New World plant). There are a lot of Hebrew words which the KJV's "corn" translates, but rather than referring to different types of cereal grain, they mostly refer to such grains generically, depending upon their state, as in stored, cleaned (of chaff), green, parched, standing (grain), ground up, in the shock/sheaf (different Hebrew words for each).

It seems clear that "wheat" and/or wheat-like cereals are meant by all of these Hebrew words, the most common of which are bar and daghan (which are essentially generic names for cereal grains).

There is a separate word for barley and the KJV translates as "barley" when that word occurs.

Hebrew does have words for specific cereal grains besides barley (e.g., wheat [Gen.30:14], millet [Ezek.4:9], and spelt? [Ex.9:23]), but the generic terms are far more common.

Beans are a separate category: pul, but that word only occurs twice (2Sam.17:28; Ezek.4:9).

The bitter herbs of Passover are mentioned only twice (Ex.12:8; Num.9:11), and the word meror is found only there and is from the root meaning "bitter"; it does occur once also in Lamentations 3:15 where it is the food couplet to the drink of wormwood, but these are not wormwood. As to what these herbs might be, my only feeling would be that it is left generic so that any "bitter herbs" would suffice rather than having to have specific types. Later tradition has lettuce and endives, etc. (in the Mishnah), but that is merely rabbinic tradition.

Thanks for your prayers too, my friend!

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Just curious, I have read and studied this Creed, and was wondering if you could give me your thoughts on it. I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Before I sent you the previous email about my questions, I had a thought cross my mind that I should look at your study about Pneumatology. Amazing how God works because that is exactly what you told me to do.

God is always in control.

Blessings and Grace to you and yours, and Joyous Resurrection day.

Your friend,

Response #17:   

That's very encouraging, my friend thanks for that!

Happy Easter to you and yours, my friend!

As to Creeds, I don't think much of them at all, to be honest (see the link). We have the Bible; we believe the Bible. Want to know what the Bible means? Consult a good Bible teaching ministry. But to try and distill the truth of scripture into a few statements while I understand why this was done historically and why groups still do it today is very problematic from my point of view.

First, a statement no matter how well considered is NOT scripture and so not inspired and therefore liable to express things and/or be interpreted in a way contrary to the truth.

Second, no creed could be long enough to incorporate all the truth of scripture, so having a creed says, in effect, "these truths" (really, mere representation of truths) "are important but everything else is not".

Third, creeds lead to religions, by which I mean the substitution of rite and ritual for substantive Bible teaching; for it is possible to memorize and recite creeds or prayers and feel "holy" in doing so while not understanding or believing whatever truth they might contain.

If you want to discuss specific statements in this particular creed, I'd be happy to do so, however.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Dr. Luginbill,

We have emailed in the recent past about the 3 False Doctrines and specifically the error of OSAS and pretribulation rapture teachings. Our local church elder body is trying to revise our bylaws to reflect our common position on these specific areas, however when the bylaws were instituted initially they were written from the extreme Calvinist position. Would you be able to direct me to some examples of statements of faith or points of doctrine that handle this diplomatically or more sensitively than I am inclined to present? I am too blunt at times which can be hurtful. I guess what I am asking is how can we present truth as scripture confirms and do it to build up and not tear down?

Blessings and thank you so much for your ministry of Biblical teaching!!!

Response #18:    

Good to hear from you.

To be honest, I'm not a fan of creeds or statements of faith. They tend to have a sclerotic effect, even if they are well-thought out (i.e., "now that that's over, we're done having to learn anything").

Also, while creeds and statements of faith are not the Bible, the nature of them tends to make people think of them as somehow superior to the Bible ("THIS is what we believe").

What is my statement of faith? The Bible. Want to know more? There's plenty of teaching on the website to explain what I mean by that. But here is what I have posted at Ichthys:

"Ichthys is an independently owned and operated, non-profit, personal ministry. All materials posted to this site are the sole property and responsibility of myself, its webmaster, Dr. Robert D. Luginbill. Although the Bible study materials found here are in the Protestant, Evangelical tradition, this site has no denominational affiliation the Bible studies at Ichthys are intended to speak for themselves. It is my profound hope that these lessons will contribute to the spiritual growth and progress in the Christian life of those who make use of them."

So my suggestions would be that "less is more", and that time and effort would be better spent in organizing the church for teaching the truth, more and more of it. If that happens, then everyone who listens and learns will know very well and very soon where your church stands and what your church stands for for the truth taught in depth I would hope.

Here's one other link on this: Statements of faith?

Do feel free to write me back, however.

In Jesus our dear Savior.

Bob L.

Question #19: 

You too, sir!

Well I used to always be in a Great Depression mindset. My grandmother said there were sayings like "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

In all the Scriptures the angels are wearing robes aren't they? (And the Lord?) I wonder if there is something about robes specifically.

Anyway, take care,

Response #19:   

That's a good mindset to have, especially with the Tribulation closing in!

The Bible was written in the ancient Mediterranean world, and in that world no civilized person wore pants that was a sign of being a barbarian, and a northern one at that (Scythian, German, Gaul).

So a robe means something different in our society. It is true that the stole (Rev.6:11; 7:9, etc.; cf. Roman stola) is more formal outer garment than the everyday himation, but the point is that essentially men and women both had that basic under garment (the chiton; cf. Hebrew chetōneth / chutōneth) which was essentially a long t-shirt, and supplemented this with a "robe" or over-garment in colder weather. Tailoring of the sort we do today to make pants and shirts and suit coats was not non-existent but it wasn't the main cultural practice except for the very rich.

So what I take from "robes" (stolai) in the NT is that the Lord and the departed and the angels are fully dressed, and very nicely so. We don't have to worry about that in our eternal future. In fact, we don't have to worry about that at all (or anything else, for that matter), since Jesus Christ takes care of us.

"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?"
Luke 12:27-28 NKJV

In Jesus,

Bob L.

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