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Gospel Questions XIII

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Question #1:

Did Jesus have a beard?

"Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard."
(Leviticus 19:27)

Response #1:

I think it's likely (not that it matters). If He did not, it seems to me that this would have been a point of issue mentioned in the gospels (and it isn't). Only the Romans in that day had the cultural norm of being clean-shaven (but Hebrews, Greeks, Persians, Carthaginians, etc., generally wore beards). However, the verse quoted has to do not with being clean-shaven but pagan customs related to pagan idolatry (as the context of the preceding and following verses makes clear).

Question #2:

Hi Bob,

Yes, we must respect authority, but we cannot confuse that with meaning that we must blindly follow authority. Here is what Jesus Christ said about King Herod:

"He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'"
(Luke 13:32)

Jesus called Herod, who was king over him, a fox, and that was not meant to be a compliment or a term of respect. It would not surprise me if Evangelicals would consider such a statement to be "overly-partisan" or "political."

Response #2:

Drawing the line on this issue – of blind following versus proper respect – should be easy enough for Bible reading/believing Christians. Our Lord told us to "render unto Caesar" when it comes to paying taxes and the like (cf. Rom.13:1-7; 1Pet.2:13-21); neither that command nor the passages just cited warrant doing anything immoral or anti-God.

As to the reason for this comment by our Savior, the invoking of Herod by these Pharisees was designed to frighten our Lord from carrying out the Father's will, and He was having none of it and needed to make that clear – hence the emphatic reply. Similarly, we are within our rights to defy authority if we are told not to pray (as in Daniel's case) or speak the Word of God (as in the case of the apostles: Acts 4:19), or to think, say or do anything else that God requires us to do – or to refrain from thinking, doing or saying anything God forbids. Everything else authority requires we should comply with, even if it is sometimes noisome and noxious to us. We can't use this verse to excuse ourselves from respecting authorities we don't happen to like or agree with, for example.

It should also be pointed out that "fox" is perfectly descriptive of Herod's behavior and reproachful of his incorrect behavior (a monarch threatening a righteous person who is doing no wrong only good) without at the same time being insulting or disrespectful of his authority: there's nothing necessarily pejorative about foxes (as there is there is with other animals such as pigs and snakes), but coupled with his behavior on this occasion it exposes his wily ploy perfectly.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

While we're on the theme of fox-related Bible verses, what does this verse mean?

"Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom." (Song 2:15)

Response #3:

Foxes ruining the grape harvest is often taken to mean outside interference ruining a relationship. Since the Song of Songs is an allegory whose ultimate meaning is about the believer's relationship with the Lord, anything that sours our relationship with Him would fall into the "little foxes" category. So in the analogy we need to do whatever it takes to prevent our crop from being disturbed. Christ's analogy of the weeds in the parable of the Sower is similar. Unless we put our relationship with Him first, "other things" in this world, whether negatives to which we react ("little foxes") or the siren call of whatever myth-happiness weed is beckoning at the moment will be apt to distract us from the true purpose of our lives – which is to live for Him and Him alone.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

You wrote: "I don't remember the apostles remonstrating with the Roman authorities about . . . anything political or social whatsoever."

Response #4:

Simon the Zealot, by his name, appeared to have been very interested in contemporary politics.

Simon apparently had been given this name before responding to John's ministry and being saved. Paul of course was a "Pharisee of the Pharisees" . . . but not after accepting Christ and devoting his life to His Church.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Robert many thanks for sending me all this information and guidance, I am seeing other people's objections as being positive for me because it means I have to study to get to the truth and see their errors, but to have someone like you always there for help is a heavenly gift to me. There is another preacher who's articles I often read and he is against the RC church even though his mother is a catholic and his father is Jewish. He says this about Peter not being the rock but Jesus...

.“Kago de” – “Also I” or “And also I”…
…”soi lego” – “to thee” or “to you say”…
…”hoti sy ei Petros” – “thou art Peter” or “you are Peter”…
…”kai” – “and”…
…”epi” – “around” or “on, but in the context it would mean “on”, with that I agree…
…”taute te petra” – “on this rock”…
…”oikodomeso… (from where we get the word “oikos” – “house”) …mou” – “I will build of Me”…
…”ten ekklesian” – “the church”.

It would be built on Christ, not of Peter.

When time permits I would like your feedback on his translations. His name is Jacob Prasch he appeared in the documentary called The Daniel Project which is all about the prophecies which have occurred about Israel since 1948.

Warm regards

Response #5:

I certainly agree that Christ is "the Rock" and not Peter (he is "a stone", petros, not a foundation rock, petra – two different words in the Greek). But I can't seen anything in the translation you provide there which would support that true principle. Here are some links at Ichthys where this is all explained in detail:

Peter is not the Rock

Jesus not Peter is the Rock

The Pebble and the Rock (in Peter #2)

Christ the Rock

Petra versus Petros

Upon this Rock (in SR 5)

Jesus is the Rock (in BB 4A)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hi Bob,

This phrase has become so prevalent in English literature due to the cultural impact of the New Testament, but I have no idea what the actual idiom is in Greek.

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
(Luke 12:33)

What is “moth destroy” a translation of?

Response #6:

I've never heard the phrase apart from the biblical reference. In any case, a ses is a moth and diaphtheiro means to destroy, so the translations are accurate. In the economy of the ancient world, clothing was much more expensive relative to resources available than is the case today, especially fine clothing as opposed to home-spun essentials (cf. the Roman soldiers casting lots for our Lord's tunic). So while finding an old sport coat in the closet with a couple of moth holes in it may be no big deal to us, the unanticipated loss and destruction of something difficult and expensive to replace is an example that would ring true to anyone who heard it in those times.

Our Lord's point of course is that nothing we might gain or possess in this life really means much at all because of the ephemeral nature of this world and everything in it. Whatever we have can be gone in an instant. That is a truth about which the world has always been in studied denial because no one wants to face the consequences of that truth, especially not those who have decided that a few short years on this corrupt earth and the questionable pleasures thereof are more important to them than acknowledging the Son. So whatever speaks to you would be a valid application: the most expensive cars break down, get dinged, eventually are destroyed; the most carefully balanced stock portfolio may be worth nothing in the morning if the market crashes; the most elaborate home might be destroyed in a flood or an earthquake or by some other means for which one finds out after the fact that one is not insured. And in the end, death will take away absolutely everything anyone has in this world. Here is what the Lord says just before the passage you quote:

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.”
Luke 12:15-23 NIV

But the reward we are earning day by day – by growing in the truth and believing it, by applying truth to our lives and passing the tests that come, by helping others do likewise through ministering the truth of the Word – cannot be touched by moths or thieves or natural disaster or anything else, even if we lose our lives. For Jesus Christ is our true portion in this life and in the next, and He will reward each of us according to our labors. Nothing can touch that.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.
1st Peter 1:3-4 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dear Bob,

Could you explain to me your interpretation of John 15:1-8. Many commentators seem to steer clear of a straight forward interpretation of the 'dead branches' and say they represent 'professor's of the faith' intimating that they weren't really saved to begin with. But my argument is if they weren't saved to begin with then it wouldn't have been a branch of the vine. It would have been a different branch from another plant entirely? I have even heard of a pastor explain it as those who are cut off are believers who aren't fulfilling God's plan for the church (because of lack of faith or no faith) but loose rewards in heaven (for the burnt up part)?!

To me, when I read it I think the plant has many branches (believers) who belong to the root (Jesus) through 'abiding', i.e. believing in Him. When you stop believing completely the branch shrivels up and dies - and is removed and burnt (analogous to condemnation). Likewise, the 'pruning' is a requirement needed to make the believer more fruitful (either due to discipline or training purposes).

I stumble a lot over this issue because many believe once saved always saved (even if you don't believe anymore). Some say to me how can you become 'unborn' again or God's family is like biological families (no matter what you are still blood related etc). There is a tendency to think that the union is irreversible and not abiding.

Why is this so badly interpreted? I am no scholar, but what chance do believers like me have when hoards of 'theologically' trained teachers teach the opposite. I could be wrong but I need it to be sorted in my head.

Thanks in advance


Response #7:

Your reasoning is spot-on, and this just goes to show how theology without spirituality leads to confusion. The lengths people will go to in order to "demonstrate" that their hypothetical theology is correct – even when it obviously runs afoul of scripture – truly is amazing.

As to the interpretation, I have not much to add to your very reasonable account. Clearly, it's good to be "in the vine" and terrible to be outside of the vine – for then you are burnt up. Not good to be burnt up. That takes place in the lake of fire. Believers, on the other hand, are delivered from the fire of judgment (in 1Cor.3:15, false works are burnt up but the believers themselves are saved). And if there really were any doubt, all we have to do is look at Paul's companion passage where faith versus unbelief is the distinction between being in or out of the tree:

(17) And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, (18) do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. (19) You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” (20) Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. (21) For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. (22) Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. (23) And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. (24) For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? (25) For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Romans 11:17-24 NKJV

The branches "in" the tree (cf. the vine) are saved; the ones broken off are not. They are not saved unless grafted back in, and those of us who are in-grafts need to "continue in His goodness" (i.e., continue to live in faith and stay believers, "abide" as in John's passage) "otherwise you also will be cut off". It's all about faith.

That is where hyper-Calvinism misses the boat. These types imagine (effectively) that free will is not part of the picture – which is odd because that God's whole purpose in ordaining human history. After all, there is a command on every page of the Bible. Why direct believers to do things if it doesn't matter what we do (or if we were going to do it / not do it anyway)? Of course it matters what we choose to do or not do. We are all here in this life to choose for Christ – or not. And after salvation believers are left here to demonstrate 1) that our faith is real (we don't fall away), and 2) just how much we really do love Jesus Christ (through decisions to grow, progress and produce for Him).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your reply. It's much encouragement to me. Am I correct in the understanding that the sin of 'unbelief ' is not something Jesus died for? One of my friends believes Jesus has died for her past unbelief. But I said I wasn't sure if that is true because if you believe then you are not committing the sin of unbelief. The Holy Spirit convicts a person of unbelief in Jesus - the sin bearer. If he did die for unbelief then doesn't it become universal salvation for all and the free will choice to believe or not believe becomes invalid?


Response #8:

You are absolutely right about all of this too. Nicely put!

If refusing to believe in Christ could be forgiven, then choice and faith would be effectively pointless. As it is, refusing to accept the Gift is "the unpardonable sin" (see the link). Christ did die for all of our sins that we might be saved by believing in Him; but those who refuse to do so forfeit the grace that could have been theirs (Jonah 2:8b).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hi Bob,

"One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God."
(Luke 5:1)

Luke gives the impression that Jesus called Peter, James, and John in the presence of a large throng of people, because the rest of the narrative doesn't include a comment along the lines of "...and after the people left/stopped crowding Jesus went up to Peter's boat and..." Am I reading this right?

And weren't all of the true twelve all disciples of John?

Response #9:

Luke 5:4 says that the fishing incident occurred "after He had stopped speaking". It's natural enough to suppose that after our Lord was done He dismissed the crowd. In any case, they would most likely have left after the boat put out into deeper water farther from the shore.

As to being "disciples of John", I'm not sure I've ever read this in scripture about any of the twelve. That phrase in the gospels is reserved for those who attended on John and assisted in his ministry (not for those who came to be baptized by him and listen to him). As with our Lord, no doubt there was a small inner group and larger outer group, but scripture never goes into the details on that, so we can be relatively certain it's not a terribly significant issue.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

"For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Judea that are in Christ Jesus. You suffered from your own countrymen the very things they suffered from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and drove us out as well."
(1 Thessalonians 2:14-15)

"None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
(1 Corinthians 2:8)

In 1st Thessalonians, Paul blames the Jews for killing Jesus, while in 1 Corinthians, he blames the rulers of this age (Pilate and Herod).

Response #10:

It depends on what oi Ioudaioi is taken to mean. If it means "Jewish persons", then we have a strange situation in that Jesus too is "a Jewish person" in His humanity and also the prophets were "Jewish persons" (n.b., in the first passage there is no "their own" in the Greek – the prophets are brought in as a separate category), and of course Paul too whom they drove out was "a Jewish person". But in scripture this term often means "the unbelieving people in power in Judea" (see the link and cf. Jn.1:19 et al.); and these Jewish leaders certainly were in cahoots with Pilate and Herod and do constitute part of the group "the rulers of this age". 

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11:


What do you know about this?

Response #11:

If the question is "how do we explain Herod's words" about giving "half his kingdom" to Salome's daughter and the resemblance of these words to those of Xerxes to Esther, the answer is that Herod had probably read or at least heard the story of Esther and thought of himself as being as great as Xerxes.

Question #12:

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
Luke 10:21

It is interesting when we read of how Jesus was filled with joy.

Response #12:

Our Lord is a genuine human being – and that is the amazing thing which demonstrates how important we are to Him – He relegated Himself to put up with "all this" for our sake – and endured the cross to save us.

Question #13:

Hi Bob,

Because Luke appears to be more chronological than the other gospels, I find it interesting that the parable of the fig tree in the vineyard has the following two features:

1. It is preceded by a section warning about how the inhabitants of Jerusalem were no more righteous than the victims of the falling tower in Siloam.

2. It concludes with “if it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”

Does this imply that at the time Jesus spoke this parable, there was one year before his crucifixion?

Response #13:

Luke sometimes flips events for thematic reasons more than, say, Matthew (cf. the transposition of the temptations of our Lord). Another point I often make is that our Lord ministered intensely for three and a half years, but we have only a minuscule part of that in the gospels – nothing like a transcript. We know from numerous examples that He told parables et al. on more than one occasion, so it would not be beyond the realm of possibility that He told some of them hundreds of times, varying them for effect. For that reason I don't think we can use the observation you mention as a chronological anchor in most cases.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Timing of some events in the gospels

You wrote (https://ichthys.com/mail-jewish-issues.htm): "Nothing changed after the crucifixion except that Judas felt sorry for his betrayal."

Wait. Judas hanged himself after the crucifixion? I always imagined that he hung himself after the betrayal but prior to the crucifixion.

Response #14:

This event is described in Matthew 27:3-10. Judas' return of the money happens after the trial before the Sanhedrin (the third trial) and after Christ had been sent to be judged by Pilate. A number of events are listed in this passage, all of which took time, and none of which is nailed down as to length, only sequence. After meeting with the high priests and elders and being rebuffed, Judas went to the temple and cast the money therein. Then we are told he went off and hanged himself. But we are also told that the high priests and elders took counsel about what to do with the money and bought a field for the burial of foreigners with it. All of these events are listed sequentially in Matthew's narrative with no indication of the amount of time passed. Since it seems fairly clear that the field was not bought "within the hour" – the money cast into the temple would have to have been noticed, retrieved, considered, someone detailed to buy a/the field, and whether or not that could have been done on this Passover eve (in Jerusalem) is questionable – it is also certainly possible that Judas' suicide was not as immediate as the narrative might suggest on a casual reading. This pericope sums up the whole subset of events which in their entirety stretch beyond the day at hand no doubt. But whether Judas lived long enough to witness the crucifixion – and even if he did commit suicide afterwards rather than before there is nothing to suggest he did so – is moot to the point made. He knew the Lord was going to be executed (although as the vilest of unbelievers he had no idea what it all meant), and that was his motivation to kill himself regardless of the exact time of day when he died. But an unbeliever's regret is not the same thing as putting one's faith in the Lord – just ask Esau (Heb.12:16-17)

Yours in the Lord who died that we might have life eternal in Him.

Bob L.

Question #15:

Good day Bob

What about Judas, for he repented at last confirming that Jesus is innocent but again it is said he was doomed.

Thank you kindly

Response #15:

As to Judas, declaring our Lord innocent has nothing to do with salvation. That is just a recognition of a fact which everyone knew, even His most vehement accusers. Pilate certainly knew it since he said so and attempted to get our Lord off – but Pilate had no appreciation for the truth (Jn.18:38). There is a big difference between the intellectual appreciation of a fact being a fact on the one hand and a life-changing commitment of faith and belief on the other (cf. the non-saving knowledge the demons have about God: Jas.2:19). Judas had the former – and he regretted his action in betraying Christ – but he was not nor had he ever been a believer; he was never born again by grace through faith. See the link:  Judas and the Betrayal of Christ

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hello Robert,

I hope you are well. My question is why did Jesus tell Mary Magdalen not to touch Him before He ascended to the Father: was it because he had a newly risen body or did He want her to leave and tell the others that He had risen from the dead?

I also found two other verses in scripture that support that Jesus and God are one and the same:

Everything in the heavens and on the earth was created by Him (Jesus Christ), things invisible as well as those visible – whether thrones, authorities, rulers or powers, everything was created through Him and for Him.
Colossians 1:16

Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power: for thou didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were created.
Revelation 4:11

Thanks so much

Response #16:

Great verses! Here's a couple of links to where I have collected some others:

Where does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?

Jesus is God.

Jesus Christ is truly divine (in BB 4A)

As to our Lord's words to Mary Magdalene, my interpretation of this is that He was not wishing to send her the wrong message. Mary was one of (if not the only) one who "got" before the fact that Jesus was about to die for us (that is why her story is an essential part of the gospel: Matt.26:13). But she can't have been expected to know that after resurrection our Lord would only remain on earth for a very short time (forty days: Acts 1:3), and that even then would be accessible only on rare occasions to a few people (mainly the apostles: cf. 1Cor.15:5-8; see also the link: "The Chronology of the Resurrection" in BB 4A).   Failing to point this out would have been emotionally worse for Mary than not doing so. For that reason our Lord tells her not to "keep clinging" to Him (that is what hapto in the middle voice, pres. impv. really means here). She has seen Him resurrected according to His word, and was the first to do so because of her faith. But the Millennium did not begin at that point (in which case renewal of the old fellowship would have no doubt been appropriate). Our Lord would depart for heaven very shortly, and the commencement of the Church Age would mean "hard times" for her and for all believers – just as it still means hard times for all believers – until our Lord's return.

Here is a link to where I discuss this event: "The False 'Two Ascension' Theory".  You might also want to read the link:  "Mary Magdalene" in BB 4A.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

One more question came up as I was reading about Christus Victor, this was posted on CARM, which I look up sometimes, as it is normally within the bounds of sound teaching. What do you think of this interpretation of our Lord's usage of Τετελεσται:

Paul tells us that we had a "sentence of death." This sentence is due to our breaking the law of God. Therefore, we were legally guilty before God because we broke his law. Furthermore, when Jesus was on the cross, he said "It is finished!" (John 19:30). In Greek it is, "tetelistai," and it was a legal term.

"The sixth word or saying that Jesus spoke from the cross was the single Greek work tetelestai which means 'It is finished.' Papyri receipts for taxes have been recovered with the word tetelestai written across them, meaning "paid in full." This word on Jesus’ lips was significant. When He said, "It is finished" (not "I am finished"), He meant His redemptive work was completed. He had been made sin for people (2 Cor. 5:21) and had suffered the penalty of God’s justice which sin deserved."2

Jesus knew the culture, and he specifically used that word "tetelestai," which was used in legal statements in ancient Israel when a legal debt had been fully paid. Why was this necessary legally? Because sin only has power because of the law (legality) of God. The law has a punishment, and the punishment is death.

1 Cor. 15:56, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law."
Rom. 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The whole atoning work of Christ was a legal action where Jesus substituted himself for sinners and paid the legal requirement of the punishment of sin--death. This is what the scriptures teach, and this is the position of CARM.

In our Lord,

Response #17:

On your question, the explanation at CARM is different from that of the quote within it and which is used to support it. It is certainly true that tetelestai is referring to Christ's work in dying for the sins of the world – being judged for them all in the three hours of darkness that preceded this statement. I don't get from either the quote or the quote within the quote that this has been fully "processed", but I do take heart in Walvoord's apparent understanding that salvation precedes Christ's physical death (which is a point not generally understood). The exterior quote seems to think that because the word tetelestai is used sometimes in some papyri to mean "paid in full" (an excellent illustration), that therefore in this use in the Bible it must be a legal term (?), and that because of this status as "legal term" it must then refer to payment for violations of the Law (??).

There is a lot of sloppiness here and logical jumps which are not justified. We know that Christ had to die for all sin, whether or not these occurred before the Law or after the Law was fulfilled and made invalid for Christians or even if the sin was not technically in violation of the Mosaic Law. All sin had to be "paid in full" for anyone to be saved. Also, while "paid in full" is as I say a helpful illustration, the verb here is singular, so the verb is referring to the entire "it" of Jesus suffering on the cross in spiritual death and our Lord's salvation of all of humanity therewith (effective for all willing to be saved and receive it). So the translation I use, "it has been accomplished", brings out the entirety of what He did better that "paid in full" which would focus exclusively on the remission of sins rather than also on His suffering for them – and in any case the limited way of looking at it would require a plural verb.

This is the kind of thing one finds all too often in evangelicaldom where a (good) passing comment by someone who knows something is misunderstood and expanded into a "doctrine" which is then considered absolute even though it has inherent errors. Making "the whole atoning work of Christ" a "legal action" underestimates and in great part misunderstands His spiritual death (not to mention skewing focus towards "the Law").

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hello Professor,

Thank you for this response. As always, it helped and I can see how the legal interpretation of Τετελεσται limits our Lord's work to a legal action determined only by the Law - which is not true. And you are right that there are some logical jumps made there which are not justified, I can see it now. I made a similar point in the response on Christus Victor, as some tend to understand our Lord's sacrifice as a trivial transaction.

As for translations, I'm not sure that should be my role to fulfill, but I hope and pray that someone suitable does appear on the horizon.

In our Lord,

Response #18:

You're very welcome, my friend!

Sometimes the "creative" ways people express things, whether in outright theology or hymns or conversation, are only subtly problematic, but these seemingly small discrepancies with the truth can lead to bigger issues down the road.

Hope things are going well with you.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hello Professor,

Yes, I can see that. This is also I was firm in my response on Christus Victor. To appreciate Christ's victory is a good thing - but to emphasise the victory so as to set aside the issue of sin and the need for it to be redeemed is wrong. And it seemed that this was the motivation here. I wrote a long message to Matt apart from this reply, as despite his great intellect and potential for him to serve the Lord, he has been prone to accept one false teaching after another. Sometimes going for unbiblical ideas which people read into certain passages (e.g., that Ghandi's non-violent resistance is somehow present in Matthew 5:39 and that it doesn't teach not to resist evil, but rather not to resist it violently), sometimes accepting a "softer" gospel which is easier on the ear - as with Christus Victor. After these few years of study I have been recognising with greater quality how Satan tries to twist every piece of truth there is in the scripture and with people not really striving for truth - he has had great success.

In our Lord

Response #19:

I think that such subtle untruths are going to be more and more a part of things as we draw ever nearer to the end. All the more reason not to be willing to allow ourselves or our standards to be subtly undermined. There is a great novella by Theodor Storm called Der Schimmelreiter wherein the hero, a conscientious and hardworking man who rises to prominence by his extraordinary work ethic, in the end allows a small breach in his standards – which result in a breach in the dike for which he was responsible and this brings about the destruction of his family. God is merciful and good, and He protects us; He does not punish us as our sins deserve (Ps.103:10), but forgives our transgressions whenever we confess them. Still, when it comes to standing up for the truth, a small breach has a way of letting in a huge flood.

Thanks for our prayers, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hello Professor,

I agree. When it comes to the church visible, the remnant of true and faithful believers seems so small now that almost nothing is left. I suppose there have never been many people pursuing the truth throughout the ages, but the hardness towards it and acceptance of falsehood among the most of world's population seem to be reaching their peak, while those who proclaim to be Christians are either no Christians at all or marginal believers. Since I was saved I've met literally a handful of fellow believers.

But the danger of small breach in the standards, as you say, has an application in our life too. That's what I have seen - some major failures and defeats have started in a very insidious and seemingly innocuous manner. And in all this I recognise Satan as the master of deception. This is why I appreciate your every prayer. The battles and tests are different than they were when I first believed. Some of those I had the past that have been hard have been overcome, but new ones appeared. Spiritual vigilance is so important every day.

In our Lord,

Response #20:

Good words. I have had pretty much the same experience. Still, there must be many who are like dormant seeds just waiting for the sun to shine – or in this case for the cold winds to blow. The Tribulation will force all those who are marginal off the fence one way or another, I think there will probably be much work to do for those ready to do it to help pick up the spiritual pieces.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hello Bob,

Well I have a question, or two, for you. Surprise right? Haha. Okay here we go...

Jesus' Crucifixion as the point of reference for the rest of human history: It is your belief that Jesus' passion is best ascribed to the year 33 AD. And I have been on board with this assessment, as many others, have for longer than I can remember. Recently I began to 'verify' my understanding of this and ran into a claim I couldn't dismiss or prove wrong (or right for that matter) as I have limited knowledge of the subject from a historical POV: Jesus' Passion is potentially in the year of 30 AD.

I'm hoping you can help by providing insight, perhaps a rebuttal, or maybe even a consideration (if it comes out that way)...here is what I understand:

John the Baptist began his ministry in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.

Jesus began his ministry after John the baptist

Jesus was approx 30 years old when he began his ministry

Jesus' ministry was around 3 years in length

First Counter Claim: Luke was citing the 15 year reign time in terms of 'functional' reign and not merely 'lawful' reign. This is partly based on the idea that Luke had already showed a precedent for citing ruling authorities based on their functional roles and not merely their lawful roles - as in the case of annas and caiaphas. It is also based on the fact that Tiberius was equal with Augustus and ruling with him for all intents and purposes by 12 AD.

Conclusion: If Luke meant to establish functional reign then the 15th year of Tiberius would be earlier than the 28/29 AD.

Second Counter Claim: The early church father Tertullian claims Jesus was revealed in the 12th year of Tiberius' reign. This is not at odds with Luke, but rather a difference of Tiberius' technical reign and functional reign such that these dates are aligned.

Conclusion: Luke and Tertullian point to an earlier beginning of John the Baptist's ministry and subsequently an earlier beginning of Jesus' ministry, culminating in Jesus' passion in the year 30 AD.

There are many more details than this but these are the general claims and the general idea...have you heard of this? I don't want to dismiss this idea simply because I have a preconceived notion of a different date and this would of course have far reaching implications for us here at this time.

Here are some sources for these ideas (they are not academic):


Was Luke mistaken about the year in which John the Baptist's preaching began?

Luke goes into detail concerning the beginning of Christ’s ministry. To quote: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being

Foundations: Studies in Bible Theology
Luke 3:1, the fifteenth year of Tiberius. There are several views on the date that was the 15 th of Tiberius. Pentecost discusses FIVE views in his masterful work ...

I would appreciate your thoughts on this.

Thank you Bob!

Response #21:

The exact date of the crucifixion is a knotty historical problem. I cover the details of my analysis of this issue in SR 5 as you know (link). Most of the treatments I have read about alternative dates approach things from a positive point of view, however. That is to say, they are honestly attempting to establish the correct date based upon their evaluation and analysis of the evidence (such as back-interpretation of the dating of Passovers – a method with which I don't agree but at least find logical if in error). However, attempting to rebut another theory strikes me as an odd approach. Even if 33 A.D. were wrong (it's not), that wouldn't mean that another date was right. As you no doubt also know, there are a lot of moving parts here, not just the two that you include. But you do a very good job in ferreting out the crux of this particular attack on the correct date.

My secular research has mainly had to do with ancient history and historiography (also literature). Knowing something about the early empire as I do, I'm a little surprised that anyone would want to try and distinguish between a "functional reign" and an "actual reign". The Romans knew nothing about such things. They were a very down-to-earth and practical people, not given to intellectual flights of fancy as the Greeks were. As we say in Classics, we prize "the Greek for their brains, the Romans for their drains"; as I tell my students, we admire intellectual inquiry but we also appreciate indoor plumbing – and it's great that we don't have to choose between the two. So it would be very odd if the average Roman (or Greek in the empire) would have had this notion of two start points floating around in his/her head.

Simply put, Tiberius began to reign when he began to reign. In fact, it is not all that clear that Augustus had resolutely bought into the idea of Tiberius as his successor by the time he died (Tiberius was definitely not the first pick, but his main rivals had died). Livia, Augustus' wife and Tiberius' mother, didn't allow the news of her husband's death out into public until the two had their ducks in a row: the loyalty of the Praetorians was secured and a cover story about Augustus' death and his pick of her son (his stepson) as the new emperor/princeps were solidified first.

It's not that the alternative theory is devoid of all basis – Tiberius according to Suetonius did become Augustus' official heir in 12 B.C. – but an heir is only an heir until the death of the one with the legacy to give, and Tiberius was not emperor in any sense at all until Augustus died, nor, more importantly, would anyone at the time (or afterwards) have thought so. Not to put too fine a point on it, but anyone writing a history at that time and trying to make a date understandable for a reader would not choose for no apparent reason a far less significant date than the one everyone would naturally assume was meant – not without at least providing an explanation.

Every contemporary reader of the New Testament would understand by Luke 3:1 the year we now call 28/29 A.D., that is, the 15th year of Tiberius' actual, sole reign as ruler of the Roman empire. Luke says "rulership" (hegemonia), and it would have to be shown how this might even possibly mean something like "secondary position following Augustus as his heir which led to commencement of his legal reign only later". I also want to quibble with the term "functional reign": Augustus was the one calling the shots right up until his death; any "rulership" that Tiberius might have had before that would have been only titular – in name only – the very opposite of "functional".

On Tertullian, he wrote ca. 200 years after these events took place, not from Rome but from North Africa. I know a little bit about the War of 1812, but I would not style myself as a "source" for what happened in the Canadian campaign – whatever I know (or think I know) is only as good as the sources I have read (or actually the sources of the people who have written about it whose histories I have read). And in terms of someone you would like to be able to trust, Tertullian is not that person. He has the "name Christian" controversy dead wrong (see the link), he seems to think that the longer ending of Mark is valid (dead wrong), he has a cause-effect appreciation of the plan of God, seeing the martyrs of the early church as a reason for its growth (that is human viewpoint), he thinks that the two witnesses of the Tribulation will be Enoch and Elijah (it's Moses and Elijah), misunderstands water-baptism, and was a proponent of Traducianism (wrong and dangerously so; see the link). This is not to say that he was not / is not a brother in Christ, nor that he did not have a positive impact for the Church of Jesus Christ (we shall all have to wait until the judgment seat of Christ to find out how any of us did: 1Cor.4:5), but these things are clear indications that someone writing long after the fact who was known to get other things wrong should not be seen as an impeccable source. Finally on this one, here is the Latin text of the passage cited:

At nunc quale est ut dominus anno XV Tiberii Caesaris revelatus sit, substantia vero anno xv iam
Severi imperatoris nulla omnino comperta sit?
Tert. C. Marc. 1.15

Yet how is it that their owner (Christ, the "possessor" of the world) has been in evidence since the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, but of his possessions right down to this fifteenth year of the emperor Severus there is no indication whatsoever?

It is true that there is a textual issue here with one of the major mss. reading XII instead of XV, and that some editors have preferred to read XII – not because of any known "functional reign" date but because since XV occurs later it is assumed by some that a copiest accidentally assimilated the two. That is a valid argument but only one; it is also possible that XII is a mistake (many reasons could be adduced). The point is that even here we have no certain peg to hang this argument upon because the text is in doubt – at least. Since this uncertain reading seems to be the main justification for back-arguing against Luke's patently obvious meaning, the whole theory collapses at this point. In fact, as some (Siebeck) have pointed out, the "15 years" is significant (and in my view thus must be correct) because it is a coincidence (i.e., 15 of Tiberius and 15 of Severus) deliberately highlighted by Tertullian and the reason for mentioning that date here in the first place, desiring to make a parallel between the earlier and contemporary emperors

These are somewhat complicated issues, but I don't find anything here to cause a reevaluation of the prior conclusions.

Do feel free to write me back about any of this!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst."

But don't other verses imply that the advent of the Kingdom of God will be well-known and public to all?

Response #22:

The point here at Luke 17:20 is that the Pharisees did have the Messiah, the Ruler of the Kingdom, right there "in their midst", and that the coming of the Son the first time was not something that could be recognized physically but only spiritually, through faith. We too have the kingdom and are in the kingdom, positionally – as were all who put their trust in Jesus at that time. And for those who did not / do not do so, even the coming of the kingdom, the actual kingdom, will not be what they think or expect (because "it" and those who belong to it are of Christ):

Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light.
Amos 5:18 NIV

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.
Revelation 1:7 NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hi Bob,

Separate the goats from the sheep?

Why do unbelievers receive the designation of "goat"? What's so nasty about goats?

On the other hand, if the metaphor were "separate the moths from the butterflies," I would understand exactly which one was which. ;)

Response #23:

The sheep (believers) actually get top billing (and are evaluated first).

But I think the point rather is that sheep and goats – if we are talking about the long-eared Mediterranean / middle-eastern sheep of that era (and even today in places), they are actually not that easy to tell apart and are often pastured together. Analogously, only God can tell the difference ultimately between a believer and an unbeliever and sort them out properly – which He will do for all the millennial sheep and all the goats of all time at the Last Judgment.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:

In SR Part 4, under 4. Demon possession, you wrote: "The spiritual gifts and abilities given to the 72 apostles of the kingdom and the spiritual gifts and abilities given to the 12 apostles of the Church were extensive and unique, wholly in keeping with the unique ministries they were to discharge." Q: Who were the 72 apostles of the kingdom? Were these the 72 disciples?

Response #24:

On the 72, yes, these are the 72 evangelists our Lord sends out (Lk.10:1; 10:17) – many versions wrongly have "70" instead of 72 (see the link: Response #14 in "Satan's fall from grace"); they correspond to the 144K (who will be sent out in 72,000 pairs).


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