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New Testament Interpretation VI

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Question #1: 

Hi Bob,

The Gospel of John is the most interesting of the gospels to read, because the author drops these small details that just leave you totally perplexed. Given the words at the end ("Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” [John 21:25]), this may have been done intentionally.

Judas was the son of Simon Iscariot. Do you know any details about the father?


Response #1:  

Nothing certain is known of him except what is found in the gospels.

Here's a link to where I discuss Judas' name, Iscariot, and its significance: "Judas as a type of antichrist".

And here are some other links:

Judas and the Betrayal of Christ

Judas as portrayed in film

Judas Iscariot

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I know you have probably been asked this question many times, but can you please answer it also for me. What day did the resurrection of Jesus take place, and what day did he die? Here is some info that I read and if you have time can you comment on it?

Nisan 14, the Day of Preparation or Passover took place on a Wednesday (April, of our calendar) in 30AD. This was the day of the Last Supper, Gethsemane, Jesus’ arrest, Judas’ suicide, the Jewish and Roman trials and the crucifixion - all taking place between 9am to 3pm, • Jesus died around 3pm on Nisan 14, 30 AD. Remember, the Jewish day was 6pm to 6pm. • The burial had to take place prior to 6PM on Nisan 14- BECAUSE THE NEXT DAY WAS A HIGH SABBATH (the first day of Unleavened Bread / Nisan 15). Nisan 15 High Sabbath Thursday Jesus’ body is in the grave Nisan 16 Friday Jesus’ body is in the grave Nisan 17 Weekly Sabbath Saturday Jesus’ body is in the grave [Mat.12:40; 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 27:6-66; John 2:19-20; Luke 24:20-21] Nisan 18 High Sabbath (First Fruits) Sunday or first day of week. Resurrection of Jesus, prior to 6AM and the post-resurrection appearances begin (Luke 24:1, 6, 13. Fifty days from Firstfruits was Pentecost (Lev.23:9-14; 15-22; Num.28:26-31; Deut.16:9-12) • The last day of Pentecost was a High Sabbath (Num.28:21) which also followed the weekly Sabbath.

Thanks so much. I just don't trust some of these articles, as there are many of them around on the internet.

May you have a blessed Resurrection Day

I am doing better because of prayer.

Your friend,

Response #2: 

Our Lord was crucified on a Friday (the eve of the Sabbath) and rose the following Sunday, the first day of the week.

The paragraph you include has it all wrong. There are some very vociferous people out there who want to make the day of crucifixion a Thursday or even a Wednesday, generally because of misunderstanding our Lord's prophecy about the sign of Jonah. I will give you some links on this, but I will also say here that I found some people who have seemingly devoted their lives to proving the wrong thing on this issue. Why it would make so much difference, I'm not sure. But it seems ever to be the case that those who are really not interested in the truth choose to "fight and die" on inconsequential issues. Here are those links:

The Three Days (in BB 4A)

The dating of Passover during Passion Week

Aspects of the Crucifixion II: Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday?

Friday versus Thursday Crucifixion.

I'm very pleased to hear your report, my friend – and plan to keep up the prayer.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

There might be only one thing I value more than knowledge, and that is mercy.

Response #3:  


We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.
1st Corinthians 8:1b

Then again, the only way we have a clear idea of what mercy is – how much it cost the Father and how much it cost the Son to grant us mercy through the cross – is through the truth; not mere knowledge, but "full knowledge" (epignosis), the truth believed and stored in our hearts through faith and the Spirit's ministry (link).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi Bob,

There’s a lot of knowledge about the world and about Jesus that we aren’t privy to.

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
(John 21:25)

How do we accept this without at the same time make our ignorance of it look “glorious”?

Response #4: 

The amount of information in the Bible is vast – and much greater than is obvious until one starts to make a systematic study of it. Also, it's more than enough – the perfect amount. But that is just as we should expect from the perfect God in the perfect plan, a glorious plan indeed, whereby we are saved by grace yet with our consent (faith) so that we do have and have exercised the image of God, all coming at the price of prices, the Gift of the Son of God Himself. It can't get any more glorious than that, and we do have the opportunity to dispel our ignorance on this most important of subjects, if we care to do so – the Lord has even given us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and help us do so.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Thank you again, Robert, for your information with this last email.

I was wondering too, how accurate are the historians who wrote about Jesus, Pliny etc it's known that some, such as Catholic church members may have played around with some of their works making it look authentic to support Christianity. Do you have any links in your site about this?

Also the other night I was reading about Jesus healing the sick in Matthew 15:31 and although it says He healed the sick it says that they praised the God of Israel, obviously because they were healed. This made me wonder if they knew Jesus was God or Jesus as the son of God; funny how I never noticed this before now. NIV

When you have the time,

Thank you

Response #5:  

You're most welcome.

As to ancient non-Christian sources and what they say about very early Christianity, there's not much at all, and what there is generally demonstrates that the world of that time knew almost nothing about the incipient Church. That is a good lesson to consider whenever one looks into the "history of Christianity": what the world has recorded is certainly different from what is in God's "book" (comparing Acts, e.g., to Pliny, Josephus, Tacitus, etc.), and it is my informed guess that the same is true when it comes to the "Church history" in the centuries that follow. I know it is also true today. The individual Christians and Christian ministries which are genuinely doing what Christ wants done are certainly not in the newspaper / on TV, etc.

Some links to a few things I say about this:

On Pliny: remarks in Peter #1; also in CT 4, "the mechanics of martyrdom"

On Tacitus:  "The name 'Christian' "

On Josephus:  see Q/A #6 in "Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations V".

As to "praising the God of Israel" in Matthew 15:31, this is what we would expect of the Jewish nation in that day whenever anything overtly miraculous occurred, but it doesn't mean that they accepted Jesus for who He was. The Sanhedrin asks the man born blind whose sight Jesus had restored what he thought about Him and he replied, "He is a prophet" (Jn.9:17) – and only later when Jesus finds him alone and explains that He is "the Son of God" does he accept Christ and worship Him (Jn.9:35-38).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Regarding "Galilee of the gentiles", I just noticed these verses and I had read them many times, but it never dawned on me what it is saying. In Matt. 4:15-16, Jesus went into Galilee apparently to preach the Gospel, or? I don't think that it was for a future time that it would be fulfilled, but for the time when Jesus was on the earth. He preached to the Gospel to the Gentiles. At least that is what I gather these verses are saying or? Am I thinking and reading these verses correctly or? Thanks for your response as always, and I would appreciate your prayers immensely.

Blessings to you always,

Your friend,

Response #6: 

The phrase "Galilee of the gentiles" is a reference to the fact that then in Isaiah's day and also even more so in our Lord's day there were many gentiles in Galilee and also in areas adjacent thereto. But it was historically a Jewish ruled area and certainly had many Jews living there – such as our Lord's family. This is the people to whom our Lord ministered, not to the gentiles; that would come later (cf. Matt.10:5 NIV: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.").

I will be keeping you in my prayers as per your request, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hello Professor,

I also wanted to ask you a question on John 20:31.

John 20:31 NKJV
but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

Firstly, there is a textual issue on πιστευ[σ]ητε:

31 {C} πιστευσητε א2 A C D L N W Δ Ψ 0141 ƒ1 ƒ13 33 180 205 565 597 700 1006 1010 1071 1241 1243 1292 1342 1424 1505 Byz [E Gc (G* omit vs 31) H N] Lect Cyril // πιστευητε

I've attached a screenshot from the AGNT I'm using. Both readings have support and I am not qualified to say which should be preferred, although I can recognise that P66, the original hand in Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are very strong evidence for present subjunctive. What is your take?

I have listened to Curt's lesson on this and Metzger makes the same point in his "Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament" - that πιστευητε should be taken to mean that the gospel was written for believers (Curt renders "that you may keep believing") and that πιστευσητε would mean that it was addressed to unbelievers - for them to put their faith in Christ.

I'm just not sure if the Greek allows us to render the present subjunctive of ἵνα πιστευητε as "that you may keep believing" and hence draw a sharp distinction in the purpose of the gospel. In my reading of it (and I'm neither a textual critic, nor a Greek scholar), I would have taken πιστευητε (if it be the correct reading) as applying to both believers and unbelievers and wouldn't render it as "keep believing", but rather - "that you may believe".

It is true - if aorist is correct, then a translation "that you may come to faith - i.e., place your faith in Christ" would be warranted, but if the subjunctive is in the present, then from my understanding of subjunctive in a purpose clause such as this I would have just taken it as applying to both believers and unbelievers. Aorist would change the aspect of it and indicate a completed event and the present doesn't, but do you think that does mean that we should take it as applying only to believers?

Based on the whole gospel, we know that big portions of it are for believers, but there are also others, such as a dialogue with the Samaritan woman or with the blind man coming to faith which clearly show how unbelievers placed their faith in Christ, there is also the dialogue with Nicodemus about the new birth and many other fragments; and ultimately - if the gospel is not meant for an unbeliever, then nothing really is. That's why I find it hard to agree with this interpretation and that's why I also wanted to ask you about this present subjunctive. As I understand it, subjunctive is a "potential" mood and for me that would make it work for both believers and unbelievers. And since it's potential, it can mean that someone will believe or they won't.

Of course, with my knowledge being as limited as it is, all my conclusions could be incorrect here and what I see as the most "natural" interpretation for me may be unfounded, so I wanted to get your guidance. As things stand, I'm inclined to think that the present subjunctive could be the correct reading (it seems that adding the "s" and making it an aorist subjunctive could be a tempting emendation for a scribe for theological purposes also) and that this present subjunctive means that the gospel has been written that "you" - whoever it is that is reading it, whether a believer or an unbeliever - may believe. This means strengthening the faith of those who are already in Christ (i.e., not to be like Thomas) and coming to the faith on part of those who are not (Samaritan woman, blind man, etc.).

Even if the present subjunctive is a wrong reading here, it would be great if you could still clarify the meaning of it. I thought I would write to you first before consulting with Curt, I would like to have your input from linguistic perspective here.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #7:  

On the text issue, it's difficult to decide between the two readings – because the difference is in fact virtually insignificant in terms of the meaning. What we have here is a purpose clause, meaning that the purpose of John's gospel is faith and eternal life.

I had a look at Sinaiticus and where the sigma is added in above the line it looks to be not a later but a contemporaneous correction, possibly by the same scribe who wrote the rest of the verse.

In any case, in my opinion, as I say, it makes little difference. Greek tenses are always significant in the indicative mood only; outside of the indicative they may provide additional meaning but mostly along the lines of "seasoning" rather than "it means X and not Y". In other words, the difference outside of the indicative between the aorist and the present is aspectual only – which is to say it's very small if at all. In my experience, strong verbs tend to use the aorist; weak verbs tend to use the present stem when the choice is largely irrelevant as it is here. It is inconceivable to me that if John had meant for this verse to apply to unbelievers only or to believers only he would let that thought ride on choosing aorist over present or vice versa. The present probably is the correct reading because, as mentioned, pisteuo is a weak rather than a strong verb, and the statistical tendency is to leave these in the present and only go to the aorist for some particular reason; were this a strong verb in the present (i.e., lambanete as opposed to labete), I would wonder about it (not too hard though), but not the other way around; here too, pisteuete is what I would expect.

Bottom line: the translation is "that you may believe". If we translate this as "believe once and for all" (aorist) or "be believing", we really are over-translating the Greek. And if we draw theological conclusions on the basis of the "difference", we are misinterpreting the text.

So I agree with you. After all, how else was John supposed to say this if he meant (as surely he meant) for these words to apply to everyone who reads the gospel? Was he supposed to put it in both tenses and say it twice? This he surely could have done, but I am unaware of a single instance in all the Greek I've ever read where anyone has ever done that. Seems to me if questions like this did turn on the subjunctive tense, then someone somewhere at some time would have done that. I may have missed it, but I don't ever remember seeing it.

Read the gospel and believe it, for the first time if you are an unbeliever, and ever after if you have believed. So the real question is "who is the 'you' in 'that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name'. Who is the 'you'? You! Anyone who is reading.

I have great respect for everything Curt does. He's free to disagree with me any time without it becoming a point of contention. The way things have worked out, he teaches and I teach – and lo and behold we teach pretty much the same thing! That's a measure of the good preparation we received from our mentor, the power of the Spirit, and the oneness of the actual truth.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Hi Bob,

Acts is my favorite book in the New Testament. In contrast to Barnabas, whom the Holy Spirit called a good man (quite the honor!), here we have Herod Antipas, the murderer of James, Son of Zebbede.

"Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died."
(Acts 12:23)

Now I have a question: what is the precise meaning of "struck him down"

One fact of God I take comfort in: that there's no forgiveness for Satan or any of his flunkies. Sometimes, God's unforgiveness can be far more comforting than God's forgiveness.

Response #8: 

The verb is very generic: "smite" or "strike" or even just to "touch" – that is the meaning of the same word earlier in the chapter in verse seven when an angel is also the subject, "bumping" Peter to wake him up. Clearly, in the case of Herod, the "smiting" affected his health in an ultimately fatal way.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

What is the meaning of "lest ye be judged" part of Jesus 'judge not' statement?

Response #9:  

This is speaking of our inviting of God's scrutiny and judgment on us if we are foolish enough to set ourselves up as judges of our brothers and sisters in Christ. As Paul says, "Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls" (Rom.14:4a).

Question #10: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I hope you are doing well! How is everything going with you and your family?

Thank you for answering my questions about those verses in the Book of Daniel. I have rotated back into studying Proverbs and will be moving into the Gospel of John again this week, but will be back in Daniel soon. I will integrate your response into my notes.

Right now the Holy Spirit is guiding me to rotate between studying Daniel, Proverbs, the Gospel of John and Romans. I spend a week or two taking notes in each book and then I switch. I am studying using Curt Omo’s lessons on Bible Academy (link), Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament and your site as well. The time I spend in God’s Word and the nature of my Bible study is continuing to be very dynamic. The Holy Spirit has perfect timing and uses what I am learning to help me handle the hardships and challenges I experience in my day-to-day walk with Christ. As long as make time each day to study, and I am able to actually focus I am making progress. I try to get in 1 to 1.5 hours each weekday and at least 3-4 hours each Saturday and Sunday. During the week I am mainly listening, taking notes and writing down questions, then on the weekends I have time to dive deeper and assimilate what I am studying.

In addition to the Bible study, in order to prepare for my evangelism ministry the Holy Spirit is guiding me to study Pascal’s Pensées. I am also taking notes on the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors I come across in unbelievers and lukewarm Christians that I have encounters with day to day. Eventually I know I will need to have a solid/basic understanding of most world religions, political ideologies, new age beliefs and philosophies, but there are certain ones the Holy Spirit is guiding me to focus on right now and to study more in depth.

I am realizing that when it comes to evangelizing it is much more important to know God’s Word as deeply as I can than knowing the opposing religion/belief system in depth. I need to have a basic understanding of beliefs of the person I am presenting the Gospel to, but I think it is more important for me to understand how all of that false truth is affecting that person’s heart and life. The Holy Spirit is always guiding me to shut my mouth and just listen when I talk to other people whether it is a family member, friend, co-worker or stranger.

This week a have a question for you about what Scripture has to say about what it means to be judgmental. I have been struggling with this and having a better understanding will help me in my witness to others – unbelievers and believers.

The Holy Spirit is guiding me to be more bold in my speech when sharing my faith and especially when sharing the Gospel. He does not want me to be afraid to make other people “uncomfortable” at times when it comes to sharing His Truth. Also I know, that as Christians we are supposed to help our fellow Christians when they stumble and to help them avoid stumbling. I am not sure how to do this without becoming sanctimonious or self-righteous. I know you have advised other readers to be very cautious about this. I am very turned off by the idea of “discipling” that many Christians engage in. I got into a conversation with another Christian at the gym last year and he asked me if I was being “discipled” by an older Christian woman. I told him that I wasn’t, but that I engaged in Bible study on a regular basis. I have noticed, though, that God does use older and more experienced Christians to give me wisdom. I also think He guides younger or less experienced Christians into my life at times so I can share wisdom with them, but these are not ongoing relationships where we are responsible for each other. They are more like encounters. If I know that person for a longer period of time, I think God guides us to use each other as resources to strengthen our faith. We share our spiritual gifts with one another.

I think my question is, as Christians, how do we know when we are being self-righteous and sanctimonious instead of helpful? How do I know when I have crossed the line and become judgmental? I am having trouble understanding the Biblical definition of “judgmental.” I think in society people throw that word around and it can mean almost anything. I think a lot of people can be overly critical and mean-spirited when sharing their opinions, but on the other end of the spectrum, whenever anyone feels uncomfortable they can accuse you of making them feel judged. For example, I think I make my friends or co-works feel “judged” when they start gossiping and I stop talking, because sometimes they notice that I am no longer contributing to the conversation and ask me “what is wrong?” If I straight up tell them I don’t want to gossip, then have I just “judged” them for gossiping? If I tell them nothing is wrong that would be lying. Many times in a situation like that I try to steer the conversation in a different direction to bypass the gossip altogether. I want to be honest about my beliefs and opinions (if they matter). I don't want to edit my speech to the point where I am not being genuine with others or portraying myself falsely, but I don't want to sin.

I know other readers have brought up this subject before. If you just want steer me to the correct email responses that would be great. I am learning a lot by studying how you answer your readers especially the ones that like to debate you! I notice you are very good about clearly and firmly standing up for God’s Truth, teaching it to others, but also softening your language so you do not offend.

Thank you, too, for keeping me on the prayer list and praying for me, my ministry, and family.
Please let me know if there is anything more I can do for you or pray for you and your family or anyone else on the Ichthys prayer list right now.

I hope you have a good week!

In Christ’s Love,

Response #10: 

Great to her from you – and thanks so much for the update.

Things are going pretty well here in spite of a very difficult academic year. We're about to begin the last week and I hope to have all my grades in by the end of it. Then I have a week off before I start jury duty (color me upset about that, but there's no getting out of it). Lots to do this summer: plenty of yard work which hasn't even been begun, at least one article to finish (even though I am no longer getting paid for research), and I want to revamp my basic Latin and Greek classes. I hope this will not be wasted effort on the latter. I only have a few students enrolled so far for Greek next fall and early registration is over. In the past that may not have mattered, but with our current administration slashing classes left and right there's no guarantee they won't cancel my only first year Greek section [update: it "made" and was not cancelled]. That would have dire consequences on the entire way I've been running my program for 27 years – can't imagine not being allowed to teach Greek and only being able to teach Latin. It's been slow before, but this year the numbers are really down. Part of that is the university and its many current troubles. Part of that is that I was the only one teaching Latin or Greek this last semester. Firing Dr. Hardin and letting professor Duesing go and also cancelling my other Latin PTL this spring, well, let's just say that I didn't have the normal feed from all those classes that weren't. The dean's putting my minor programs into hiatus has also removed a good recruiting tool. And of course the millennials are just making their way into the system and they seem more disinterested in Classics than prior cohorts. So that's my tale of woe – but I trust that the Lord is working this all out for the good [He has!]. I sure would appreciate some prayer support on this issue though [still true]!

I'm still hobbled but continuing to walk and I've been pushing out the distance lately. I hope this summer to be able to spend more time walking now that the time pressure of the semester is over [thanks to your prayers, I'm now slowly jogging again]. And last but not least I want to be spending more time on the ministry. I'm getting very close to the end of BB 6A Peripateology (finally! [now posted at the link]); I'd like to finish and publish that in the fairly early going of the summer and also turn out the "John Questions" which has also been very slow to get done (it is fairly long, so there's that [next summer, I hope]).

I went ahead and put a prayer request on the Ichthys' list for your friend. I'm very happy to hear that your health is better and that you are making progress in all of your goals. I pray for you and your family daily.

As to being "judgmental", of course that adjective / phrase is not in the Bible, so it would very much depend upon what the person using it (as in "don't be judgmental") means by it, exactly. Here are some pertinent verses which may be applicable:

"Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
Luke 6:37 NKJV

This passage and its companion passage in Matthew don't actually require words being spoken, and in my understanding of the passage most of the time these actions prohibited and commended by our Lord would be mental one's, namely, setting oneself up as a judge of one's brother/sister in one's heart, and condemning them for certain conduct, especially anything found offensive to oneself, instead of being forgiving in attitude towards them. This doesn't mean that such attitudes might not come out in words (or even deeds) – that is the normal progression – but it starts in the heart and that is what I see as the prime point of emphasis.

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."
Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV

In this passage, our Lord takes the matter further into the hypothetical of actually seeing something definitely wrong in a brother or sister's conduct and makes it very clear that it is hypocritical not to clean up one's own act first before attempting such a thing. But that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done or may not even be a good thing to do in the case of serious spiritual danger (cf. also Jude 1:22-23).

It seems to me that believers cannot help observing things and drawing conclusions from what they see. Inevitable conclusion: "that person clearly seems to be an unbeliever and is bound for hell absent repentance"; not necessary and dangerous conclusion: "I am better than that person because he/she is such a low-life unbeliever". Inevitable conclusion: "that person while probably a believer is not particularly spiritually mature and that explains at least in part why he/she says/does X which is not particularly becoming of a Christian"; not necessary and dangerous conclusion: "that person claims to be a Christian and does/says X! I am better than that, and I will straighten her/him out!" If we are walking in love, love will "straighten us out" in how we think and talk and act in such situations. It is inevitable and probably necessary for us to form opinions about "how things stand" with others, even when we cannot know for sure; what we need to avoid is feeling superior or getting self-righteous about it, or allowing ourselves to be tempted to intervene in an inadvisable way. For if we set ourselves up as judges of our brothers and sisters we are going to be examined by the Judge before the time – and no one is so Simon pure as to be ready for that.

I appreciate your question and deliberations on the subject of what to say and when. Proverbs has a good deal to say on the matter (and silence usually is wisdom, but not always); James tells us that controlling the tongue is one of the hardest things to do, so a person who is getting down to fine-tuning that is certainly making very good spiritual progress. There is so much that we cannot know about any given situation, about what others are really thinking and meaning, and even about what is going on in our own hearts, that I think it would be a mistake to approach this in terms of ever greater tactical dissection. You are very sensitive to the Spirit's guidance, and continuing spiritual growth will make you more so and will also give you ever greater information and insight into all things. In short, as you continue to grow you begin to see things more and more from God's point of view and that will lead to doing things (and saying things) more in keeping with what He wishes.

You are a wonderful example of doing things the right way, my friend. I know that I can say this too you without tempting you to pride. It's just a fact. Keep on this good track and these things will be made more and more clear as you move forward. There are no specific rules of the road going forward from where you are on this matter. There are general principles which you know very well, and the greatest and most applicable one is that of love. If we are really keeping the welfare of others paramount and not our own egos et al., we will be much more likely to say the right thing at the right time – and refrain when that is best to do. As we grow, these general principles become ever more meaningful as does our sensitivity to the Spirit's guidance. But this will always be a "flying the plane" situation, so to speak, rather than learning the operator's manual better: we already know how to fly, but we can get better at as we log more hours – and no manual is going to be able to anticipate the wide range of actual conditions we are going to face and have to cope with: every situation is, in fact, different.

To take the analogy one step further and close the loop on this question, new drivers tend to jerk left and right, speed up too fast, turn too sharp, brake too abruptly; but when a person has developed a feel for driving, minor almost imperceptible changes in speed and direction become what driving is all about. If we are worried about being two inches too close to the yellow line we are focusing WAY too close on our present position and not aiming high enough in our steering, e.g. In other words, keeping the big picture in mind (God, His way of thinking and His plan) and operating on an autopilot of past growth (walking in love and in the power of the Spirit), then we will be more likely to be thinking what is right more often which will lead to speaking what is just right and doing what is just right in turn. Post-mortems are good to a point, but there is a big down side to spending too much time looking backward: if we are looking back to see how we negotiated that last curve with the idea of doing it better next time, we just might run into that slowing vehicle right in front of us.

On "discipling" versus giving occasional advice when asked for or invited, those are two completely different things. Discipling is not biblical. Worse, it is an attempt to make an evil practice sound biblical so as to convince immature believers to engage in it. Discipling is handing over one's own free will to another person. That is a very dangerous thing to do, and scripture is all about us becoming personally independent in a spiritual sense, not the other way around. At best, discipling will involve the legalistic intervention of an immature believer (necessarily so because of being willing to participate in such an evil thing) suggesting we do this or that or change this or that, and will serve us right for doing things man's way instead of God's way; at worst this sort of intervention can ruin lives in very many ways.

(3) Older women likewise are to be devout in dress and demeanor, not gossips, not much enslaved to wine, but good at teaching, (4) so that they may admonish the younger women to love their husbands and their children, (5) to be prudent, undefiled, good managers of their households, [and] obeying their own husbands so the that the Word of God may not be defamed.
Titus 2:3-5

This is the closest thing to "discipling" I know of in the Bible (Matthew 28:19 is accomplished by witnessing wherein the person believes in Christ and is then "taught" in the same way we all learn through a local church / Bible ministry with nothing being said about a one-on-one all-invasive guru-guide). Regarding Titus 2:3-5, notice: 1) this is a generic command where older WOMEN (plural) teach younger WOMEN (plural) with no indication of any one-on-one dedication, let alone "personal assignment"; 2) the areas of teaching are all domestic skills wherein the older women have specific expertise and NOT "how to be a good Christian" or micro-management of other people's lives; 3) the purpose overall is so that those looking in on the Church may not see "our wives" being "less good" than pagan wives but actually better – so that the Word of God might be adorned and not defamed; *4) this situation applies to married women in the church being helped along in the difficult task of being newly married by those with "time in grade", and 5) this is not a continuing situation but one of "admonishment where admonishment is due". In other words, it is appropriate where it is appropriate and not otherwise and certainly not as an institutionalized, all-the-time practice: this is occasional, helpful and necessary intervention where it is called for only along the same lines of the sorts of things you were asking about above. Where and when and how to intervene is always a judgment call, and our Lord's comments quoted at the beginning of this email make it clear that prudence and reticence in doing so is the rule. These "older women" should be examples in all ways . . . so that they may be able to give this help and guidance when and if it is called for – in the same way that we all ought to be good witnesses in our lives to Jesus Christ in all things . . . so that we may be able to share the truth with anyone who may be willing to receive it, whether believer or unbeliever.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hello Professor,

On Matthew 16:18, I'm just re-reading Peter's Series - and it is a true blessing to have your resources available in times; there you wrote:

The Pebble and the Rock: What precisely is the Lord predicting about Peter's life by giving him the name "stone"? One common view incorrectly claims that Jesus meant Peter to be the cornerstone of the church, and its proponents usually cite Matthew 16:13-20 for support. But in that passage, Jesus tells Peter "I tell you that you are Peter (Greek petros, a small pebble or stone), and on this Rock (Greek petra, a huge rocky crag or mountain side) I will build my church." Now in the context of Matthew 16, Peter has just acknowledged that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the Living God". Jesus is thus underscoring the truth of Peter's statement. By "this Rock", Jesus refers to Himself as the cornerstone of the church (a teaching well documented in scripture: see especially Is.28:16; 1Pet.2:6; Eph.2:20), not to Peter (a false notion not supported by any other verse; cf. 1Cor.3:11). Jesus thus uses the near demonstrative pronoun houtos ("this") with Rock to refer back to Himself in the same way as in John 2:19 He prophesies the resurrection of His body ("this" temple): "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (cf. Jn.6:50).

I wanted to ask if you could briefly comment on the analysis given in Pulpit, which rejects this view (as does Meyer, who also takes both words as referring to Peter). I understand your explanation and I know that there is a transition from the person of Peter to Christ, but that seems to be the main reason why this interpretation is not accepted.

Verse 18. - And I say also (I also say) unto thee. As thou hast said unto me, "Thou art the Christ," so I say unto thee, etc. Thou art Peter (Πετρος, Petrus), and upon this rock (πετρα, petra) I will build my Church. In classical Greek, the distinction between πετρα and πετρος is well known - the former meaning "a rock," the latter "a piece of rock," or "a stone." But probably no such distinction is intended here, as there would be none in Aramaic. There is plainly a paronomasia here in the Greek; and, if our Lord spoke in Aramaic, the same play of words was exhibited in Kephasor kepha. When Jesus first called Peter to be a disciple, he imposed upon him the name Cephas, which the evangelist explains to be Peter (John 1:42). The name was bestowed in anticipation of Peter's great confession: "Thou shalt be called." This preannouncement was here fulfilled and confirmed. Upon this passage chiefly the claims of the Roman Church, which for fifteen centuries have been the subject of acrimonious controversy, are founded. It is hence assumed that the Christian Church is founded upon Peter and his successors, and that these successors are the Bishops of Rome. The latter assertion may be left to the decision of history, which fails to prove that Peter was ever at Rome, or that he transmitted his supposed supremacy to the episcopate of that city. We have in this place to deal with the former assertion. Who or what is the rock on which Christ says that he will hereafter build his Church? French Romanists consider it a providential coincidence that they can translate the passage, "Je te disque, Tu es Pierre; et sur cette pierre je batirai," etc.; but persons outside the papal communion are not satisfied to hang their faith on a play of words. The early Fathers are by no means at one in their explanations of the paragraph. Living before Rome had laid claim to the tremendous privileges which it afterwards affected, they did not regard the statement in the light of later controversies; and even those who held Peter to be the rock would have indignantly repelled the assumptions which have been built on that interpretation. The apostolic Fathers seem to have mentioned the passage in none of their writings; and they could scarcely have failed to refer to it had they been aware of the tremendous issues dependent thereon. It was embodied in no Catholic Creed, and never made an article of the Christian faith. We may remark also that of the evangelists St. Matthew alone records the promise to Peter; Mark and Luke give his confession, which was the one point which Christ desired to elicit, and omit that which is considered to concern his privileges. This looks as though, in their view, the chief aim of the passage was not Peter, but Christ; not Peter's pre-eminence, but Christ's nature and office. At the same time, to deny all allusion to Peter in the "rock" is quite contrary to the genius of the language and to New Testament usage, and would not have been so pressed in modern times except for polemical purposes. Three views have been held on the interpretation of this passage.
(1) That Christ himself is the Rock on which the Church should be built.
(2) That Peter's confession of Jesus Christ as Son of God, or God incarnate, is the Rock.
(3) That St. Peter is the rock.
(1) The first explanation is supported by passages where in Christ speaks of himself in the third person, e.g. "Destroy this temple;" "If any man eat of this bread; Whoso falleth on this stone," etc. In the same sense are cited the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 28:16), "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation." Almighty God is continually called "a Rock" in the Old Testament (see 2 Samuel 22:32; Psalm 18:31; Psalm 62:2, 6, 7, etc.), so that it might be deemed natural and intelligible for Christ to call himself "this Rock," in accordance, with the words of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 3:11), "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid (κε ται), which is Jesus Christ." But then the reference to Peter becomes unmeaning: "Thou art Peter, and upon myself I will build my Church." It is true that some few eminent authorities have taken this view. Thus St. Augustine writes, "It was not said to him, 'Thou art a rock (petra),' but, 'Thou art Peter,' and the Rock was Christ" ('Retract.,' 1:21). And commentators have imagined that Christ pointed to himself as he spoke. In such surmises there is an inherent improbability, and they do not explain the commencement of the address. In saying, "Thou art Peter," Christ, if he made any gesture at all, would have touched or turned to that apostle. Immediately after this to have directed attention to himself would have been most unnatural and contradictory. We may safely surrender the interpretation which regards Christ himself as the Rock.
(2) The explanation which finds the rock in Peter's great confession has been widely adopted by commentators ancient and modern. Thus St. Chrysostom, "Upon this rock, that is, on the faith of his confession. Hereby he signifies that many were now on the point of believing, and raises his spirit, and makes him a shepherd." To the same purport might be quoted Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory Nyss., Cyril, and others. It is remarkable that in the Collect from the Gregorian Sacramentary and in the Roman Missal on the Vigil of St. Peter and St. Paul are found the words, "Grant that thou wouldst not suffer us, whom thou hast established on the rock of the apostolic confession (quos in apostolicae confessionis petra solidasti) to be shaken by any commotions." Bishop Wordsworth, as many exegetes virtually do, combines the two interpretations, and we cite his exposition as a specimen of the view thus held: "What he says is this, 'I myself, now confessed by thee to be both God and Man, am the Rock of the Church. This is the foundation on which it is built.' And because St. Peter had confessed him as such, he says to St. Peter, 'Thou hast confessed me, and I will now confess thee; thou hast owned me, I will now own thee. Thou art Peter,' i.e. thou art a lively stone, hewn out of and built upon me, the living Rock. Thou art a genuine Petros of me, the Divine Petra. And whosoever would be a lively stone, a Peter, must imitate thee in this thy true confession of me, the living Rock; for upon this Rock, that is, on myself, believed and confessed to be both God and Man, I will build my Church." As the opinion that Christ means himself by "this rock" is untenable, so we consider that Peter's confession is equally debarred from being the foundation intended. Who does not see that the Church is to be built, not on confessions or dogmas, but on men - men inspired by God to teach the great truth? A confession implies a confessor; it was the person who made the confession that is meant, not the mere statement itself, however momentous and true. Thus elsewhere the Church is said to have been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20), "Ye," says St. Peter (1 Peter 2:5), "as living stones are built up a spiritual house." "James and Cephas who were reputed to be pillars" (Galatians 2:9). In Revelation (Revelation 21:14) the foundationstones of the heavenly temple are "the twelve apostles of the Lamb." Hence we gather that the rock is a person.
(3) So we come to the explanation of the difficulty which naturally is deduced from the language if considered without regard to prejudice or the pernicious use to which it has been put. Looking at the matter in a straightforward way, we come to the conclusion that Christ is wishing to reward Peter for his outspoken profession of faith; and his commendation is couched in a form which was usual in Oriental addresses, and intelligible to his hearers. "Thou hast said to me, 'Thou art the Son of God;' I say to thee, 'Thou art Peter,' a rock man, 'and on thee,' as a rock, 'I will build my Church.' "As he was the first to acknowledge Christ's nature and office, so he was rewarded by being appointed as the apostle who should inaugurate the Christian Church and lay its first foundation. His name and his work were to coincide. This promise was fulfilled in Peter's acts. He it was who took the lead on the Day of Pentecost, when at his preaching, to the hundred and twenty disciples there were added three thousand souls (Acts 2:41); he it was who admitted the Gentiles to the Christian community (Acts 10.); he it was who in these early days stood forth prominently as a master builder, and was the first to open the kingdom of heaven to Jews and Gentiles. It is objected that, if Peter was a builder, he could not be the rock on which the building was raised. The expression, of course, is metaphorical. Christ builds the Church by employing Peter as the foundation of the spiritual house; Peter's zeal and activity and stable faith are indeed the living rock which forms the material element, so to speak, of this erection; he, as labouring in the holy cause beyond all others, at any rate in the early days of the gospel, is regarded as that solid basis on which the Church was raised. Christ, in one sense, builds on Peter; Peter builds on Christ. The Church, in so far as it was visible, had Peter for its rocky foundation; in so far as it was spiritual, it was founded on Christ. The distinction thus accorded in the future to Peter was personal, and carried with it none of the consequences which human ambition or mistaken pursuit of unity have elicited therefrom. There was no promise of present supremacy; there was no promise of the privilege being handed down to successors. The other apostles had no conception of any superiority being now conferred on Peter. It was not long after this that there was a strife among them who should be the greatest; James and John claimed the highest places in the heavenly kingdom; Paul resisted Peter to the face "because he stood condemned" (Galatians 2:11); the president of the first council was James, the Bishop of Jerusalem. It is plain that neither Peter himself nor his fellow apostles understood or acknowledged his supremacy; and that he transmitted, or was intended to transmit, such authority to successors, is a figment unknown to primitive Christianity, and which was gradually erected, to serve ambitious designs, on forged decretals and spurious writings. This is not the place for polemics, and these few apologetic hints are introduced merely with the view of showing that no one need be afraid of the obvious and straightforward interpretation of Christ's words, or suppose that papal claims are necessarily supported thereby. I will build my Church (μου τὴν ἐκκλησ αν). My Church, not thine. Plainly, therefore, the Church was not yet builded. Christ speaks of it as a house, temple, or palace, perhaps at the moment gazing on some castle founded securely on a rock, safe from flood and storm and hostile attack. We know how commonly he took his illustrations from objects and scenes around him; and the rocky base of the great castle of Caesarea Philippi may well have supplied the material for the metaphor here introduced. The word translated "church" (ἐκκλησ α), is found here for the first time in the New Testament. It is derived from a verb meaning "to call out," and in classical Greek denotes the regular legislative assembly of a people. In the Septuagint it represents the Hebrew kahal, the congregation united into one society and forming one polity (see Trench, 'Synonyms'). The name kehila in modern times is applied to every Jewish community which has its own synagogue and ministers. From the use of the metaphor of a house, and the word employed to designate the Church, we see that it was not to be a mere loose collection of items, but an organized whole, united, officered, and permanent. Hence the word Ecclesia has been that which designated the Christian society, and has been handed down and recognized in all ages and in all countries. It may be regarded as the personal part of that kingdom of heaven which was to embrace the whole world, when "the kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15; see Introduction, § 10.).

Response #11:  

On the pebble vs. rock question, rather than go into depth on the other objections, let me note that everything besides the obvious interpretation I have advanced falls to the ground once it is accepted that the distinction actually occurs IN the Bible, the inspired Word of God, precisely as I have set it forth. If a person wanted to check all the voluminous references in ancient Greek, the conclusion that petros is a pebble or a stone, something you can hold in your hand, and that petra is a massive rock or crag, something that is larger than a man, would be borne out every time. But there is no need for that. This passage, "upon this Rock", is in the gospel of Matthew; here are two other passages from Matthew that make it very clear that our Lord's use of petra in Matthew 16:18 was deliberate and that the contrast was thus deliberate as well:

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks (petra pl.) rent;
Matthew 27:51 NKJV

And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock (petra): and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.
Matthew 27:60 NKJV

So the sources you quote (and all other skeptics) would first have to explain how it is that Matthew makes just this distinction elsewhere very clearly but somehow does not mean it to be seen in Matthew 16:18. When we add to that standard Greek usage bearing this out, we see that the skeptics are either RC pope-authority defenders or else hostile to the truth generally. 

Here's another link on this which leads to more:  Peter is not "the Rock"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

What is the meaning of this verse?

"For now we see through a glass, darkly"
(1 Corinthians 13:12)

Response #12: 

This is Paul's way of contrasting the complete knowledge and unrestricted view of the glory of God and all things to come that we will have on the other side in resurrection, with our present limited knowledge and understanding, inasmuch as these things are largely veiled from us now (for a lot of good reasons, we will surely find out; cf. 2Cor.12:4).

Question #13: 

Hey Dr Bob,

Hope this note finds you well and in good spirits. I have been reading a book and the author brought up the term "meek". He went on to discuss the meaning today versus its original meaning. He contends that in the original Biblical transcripts (I hope I'm asking this correctly) meek did not correspond directly to weak. I tend to agree that I have always associated the two but not understanding them to be equivalent. This author purports that meek originally meant that "those who have swords and know how to use them but keep them sheathed shall inherit the earth."

Would you elaborate on this please? I do not believe our coming Savior to be weak in any way. However, I can translate some Latin which helps me understand some words and phrases in all but the Asian languages. I have no knowledge of Hebrew or Greek and certainly not Aramaic.

This professor doesn't ring false to me. He also speaks of the word "sin" as missing the target or mark you were aiming for. This seems to me to be quite Pauline as he wrote in Hebrews. He was much more cerebral and not as plain spoken, if you will, as in his other writings.

What are your thoughts on these two terms? He does not send up red flags for me as he is a scholar, not associated with the clergy in any way.

I look forward to your interpretation, my friend and teacher.

In Christ's Love,

Response #13:  

Good to hear from you, my friend.

The Greek word group most often used for "meek" in the Bible (as in "the meek shall inherit the earth") is the root praus and it translates the Hebrew word group 'anvah. That is precisely what we find, for example in our Lord's translation in Matthew 5:5 of Psalm 37:11. The Hebrew word, and the Greek word in the NT, mean something more like "humble" and "having humility"; that is, the opposite of being proud, arrogant, self-serving, self-seeking. The idea is of internal godly respect more than putting on any outward show of "meekness" or weakness. Your example is a good one.

Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.
Numbers 12:3 NKJV

The word "humble" could well be translated "meek" (that is how the ESV, RSV and ASV do translate it, e.g.). But we know that Moses was certainly NOT weak, not in any way. He had great strength of character and stood up to Pharaoh and to the entire nation of Israel on many occasions. So strong was he that on one occasion he let his temper get the better of him, striking instead of speaking to the rock at Meribah, and that cost him his entrance into the land of promise.

To sin, etymologically, is derived (in Greek and apparently also in Hebrew) from the idea of missing a target; but etymologies only take a person so far. We know what "sin" means in the Bible, and it is more than a "mistake". Even if ignorant, it is a bad choice, and a sign of spiritual death, leading to physical death, and without a Redeemer would lead to the second death. Blessedly, our sins have all been forgiven in Jesus Christ when we put our trust in Him for life eternal . . . and that is no mistake indeed.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dr Bob,

Thank you for your excellent explanation. I can always count on you to patiently explain things so I can understand them and apply them to my life.

I can never fully express to you how grateful I am to have found you. Your work is vital to helping me grow spiritually so that I am found worthy on the coming day when Our Lord returns to claim His own.

You are a wonderful resource for those of trying to learn and apply Our Lord's teachings.

In Christ's Love,

Response #14: 

You are most welcome.

Thanks for all your kind words.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

The New Testament screen plays the Lamb as slain 'from' the foundation of the world (4x), before time began (2x) and 'before' the foundation of the world (2x). Faith in His act of love is life! God's first act which also completes the end; for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son! Amen.

Response #15:  

As to "slain from the foundation of the world", this is an English translation mistake in Revelation 13:8 which is responsible for a good deal of doctrinal confusion; the reference in bold italics is actually to the book of life, not the Lamb. Here is my corrected version (see also the link: "the Lamb slain"):

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.
Revelation 13:8

Question #16: 

Christ slain: The wrong notion that the purposed sacrifice of the Lamb before the foundation of the world would nullify the incarnation and death of Christ on the cross ('to be' in relation to 'before') is erroneous. I believe that when God purposes something or anything that would be as if is done (past, present or future). "For with God nothing will be impossible." (Luke 1:37). The 'before' in my believe system materializes the actual "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us .." (John 1:14a) incarnation as if, but yet to be! Without Jesus would be a denial!!!!

Response #16: 

On "the Lamb slain", if this verse meant what it said as wrongly translated in many versions it would not add a single important thing to the gospel, but it would be very potentially misleading and require gymnastic work-arounds to cram into the overall sense of scripture (i.e., it only "means" this if we understand it in the sense of the divine decrees); but the decrees lay out what would happen and, again, wrongly translated, this verse would place the "slain" part "before the creation of the world". That is clearly impossible – Christ could not be incarnated before there was even a world for Him to come in to (and scripture is very clear about when the virgin birth took place). Happily, this is not what the verse says in the Greek, even though many have misunderstood it.

The phrase "before the creation of the world" has to do with the book of life, not with the Lamb. The book of life was written before the world was made because the divine decrees anticipated the payment for sin by the Lamb (n.b., NASB has the correct translation too: "everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain"). So this is not a problem requiring theological discernment (although that certainly should lead a person to looking for problems with the translation); rather, this is a strict translation problem which not every version has solved (for reasons that the incorrect phrasing is "near and dear" to some – i.e., for political reasons).

Finally, if there were any question whatsoever about the fact that "before creation" should go with the book of life and not with the Lamb, the parallel passage later in Revelation removes all doubt:

The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.
Revelation 17:8 NASB

Question #17: 

In reverse order to our previous discussion. Firstly, "the Lamb slain" in context of my perception, is also based on "... , but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began," (2 Tim.1:9) and "... God, who cannot lie, promised before time began," (Tit.1:2). My stance is not to exert the physical sacrifice as materialized before time began, but to have faith in it as if it had happened. I do agree with your clarification regarding the Revelation scripture on "before creation" to go with the book of life.

Response #17:  

I have no problem with seeing the cross as part of the decree. Indeed, I often make the point that God's initiation of creation made the cross necessary and committed our Lord to dying for the sins of the world given what was going to happen in angelic and human history – so the blood of Christ is the foundation of all things (and greater than all things to an infinite degree).

Question #18: 

Bob, I have a question regarding a specific Bible verse, Mark 13:30. Jesus says: Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. I know I don't need to put it in context for you but it would appear he's referring to the tribulation or end times. I'm not sure what generation he's referring to or perhaps the word itself had a different meaning in those days.

Hope you are well, things are tough here but I am remembering my many blessings as well

In Jesus

Response #18: 

Good to hear from you, my friend. I hope that things have settled out and settled down between you and your siblings. I'm continuing to keep you in prayer on this.

As to your question, you are absolutely on the right track. The "generation" to which our Lord refers is not a 20-30 year chronological generation in our sense of that English word. Rather it is a "type" of people who were prophesied to characterize Israel until our Lord's second advent. While there is always a remnant of believers, Paul refers to this as "hardness in part" which will be the rule among the Jewish people until Christ returns (Rom.11:25). That's it in a nutshell, but I have written more extensively about this elsewhere and so will give you a link which also collects all the other important links on this topic: The "this generation" issue.

Keep fighting the good fight for our Lord, my friend. Things will be a whole lot better on the other side – especially if we do keep up the fight.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

In Matthew 26:6, is this a Simon that we should know?

Response #19:  

He is part of Mary Magdalene's family (Lk.7:36ff.); see link for discussion:  "The two anointings"

Question #20: 

Dear Teacher

Thank you so much for your explanations. I revel in them especially because they are almost always nothing I expected. I have plenty to learn. Very plenty indeed.

What puzzles me right now is that a leper could be a Pharisee. I thought the Pharisees would never allow such a thing. Why was it different for Simon? Is it possible that he was just known as a leper because some time in his past he had been one?

I am fine, sir. How are you, sir?

Yours in our priceless Lord Jesus Christ

Response #20: 

I'm certainly praying for you on the job front. I worked in a factory for a time when I was in college. It is not an experience I would wish to repeat. I was very young and in good shape, but it still made me very tired. At that time, I was not inclined to do anything serious in my off time except enjoy myself – but I don't think I would have had the energy to do so if I had been. I'm not going to give you advice on this point. I do pray for a livelihood for you commensurate with your obvious intellect and talents – and the purpose the Lord has for you.

On Simon, this may be one of the reasons that commentators are reluctant to connect the two; they are also reluctant connect Mary to all of these anointing events (see the prior link). But when a person accepts the obvious, the pieces fall into place.

Priests could not approach the altar if they were unclean, so a leprous member of a priestly family or a Levite would have restrictions placed upon him by the Law. We can see from the gospels that the Old Testament provisions regarding leprosy are not actually followed (indeed, the Law was never followed either in spirit or in letter, except on a pick and choose and falsely apply basis). The priesthood in particular had become a political office from the time of the Maccabees, so that the priesthood we find in the New Testament bears little resemblance for the most part to what we find in the Old Testament (Zechariah, John's father, being a noted exception). Those who were politically active tended to view the spiritual aspects of the Bible as nonsense and merely went through the motions for personal advantage and out of tradition (comparable to many in the R.C. church today). These people tended to be Sadducees, not Pharisees (although there must have been some overlap).

To be a Pharisee, a person merely need to commit himself to this philosophy (for want of a better word). Being a leper would, I suppose, place a number of obstacles in the way of being a successful Pharisee, that is, one who managed to make a living at it. But someone like Simon who seems to be rich already may have used his wealth to further his religious studies and affiliations. We do know that the family was well-connected in spite of his disease (though you may be correct in regard to your speculation about the title too), because important people from all around came to Lazarus' funeral.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Well, I started the letter to the Hebrews in Greek now and I incidentally (or not?) read both Psalm 97 in my Hebrew Old Testament reading to day - and Hebrews 1:6. Since the question about the verse quoted in the Hebrews qualified as "burning", I thought I would attach it to this message.

Hebrews 1:6 (NASB)
6 And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”

Psalm 97:7 (NASB)
7 Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images,
Who boast themselves of idols;
Worship Him, all you gods.

I) At first I struggled to understand why the author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 97:7 here, as I assumed that our Lord’s incarnation is in view here, to which the Psalm does not refer. Now it is true that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the authors of the New Testament books can take the Old Testament scriptures and apply them in new contexts, but I must say that Meyer’s view has struck me as potentially providing a very good solution to this problem. He proposes that the author of the Hebrews does not refer to the incarnation, but “to the coming again of Christ to judgment, and the accomplishment of the Messianic kingdom” which would also perfectly harmonise this quotation with the original context of Psalm 97:7, which can be applied eschatologically to Christ's second advent. It would seem that the subjunctive in “ὅταν δὲ παλιν εἰσαγαγῃ τὸν πρωτοτοκον εἰς τὴν οἰκουμενην” could also point in this direction. Meyer takes this subjunctive as an equivalent of a future tense and “παλιν” as not referring to another quotation being cited here, but to God brining His Firstborn again – an interpretation he defends based on the order of the Greek words. I know that there are errors in this commentary and some of them serious – but this particular interpretation really seemed convincing to me. What do you think?

II) Some commentators interpret that the quotation comes from the Septuagint text of Deuteronomy 32:43 (καὶ προσκυνησατωσαν αὐτω παντες υἱοὶ θεου ) rather than Psalm 97:7, but it’s hard for me to see how a part of the verse that’s not in the original would be quoted, as the quoted LXX portion of the verse is not in the Masoretic text. NIV SB also takes the quotation as coming from Deuteronomy.

III) Some good points made also by Expositor here with regard to our Lord coming to take His inheritance:

This throws light not only on εἰσαγ. but also on πρωτότοκον and οἰκουμένην, and confirms the interpretation of the clause as referring to the induction of the first-born into His inheritance, the world of men. πρωτότ. is used of Christ (1) in relation to the other children of Mary (Luke 2:7; Matthew 1:25); (2) in relation to other men (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18); (3) in relation to creation (Colossians 1:15). Nowhere else in N.T. is it used absolutely; but cf. Psalm 89:27. “I will make him first-born,” i.e., superior in dignity and closer in intimacy. λέγει, the present is used because the words recorded in Scripture and still unfulfilled are meant.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #21:  

I) On the Hebrews passage, the Greek adverb palin, "again", makes it clear that Paul is speaking of the second rather that the first advent (to mean "next point" it would have to be in a different place in terms of word order, preceding the explanation and probably with kai as in the previous verse).

II) The quote is from Psalm 97:7 (not Deut.32:43 where the LXX is very confused), and that Psalm is a second advent psalm as is clear from the very first verse. The fact that Paul quotes the LXX exactly makes this all very clear. As to NIV SB, that is a verse reference they give for the quote, but I see that in the notes (done by either Philip E. Hughes or Donald W. Burdick), it says "possibly quoted from Psalm 97:7, but see NIV text note". Reading between the lines, the SB people did not wish to forcefully contradict the NIV text (the Study Bible "received" the NIV with its notes just as the translators of the KJV "received" the textus receptus, and were not authorized to change it), even though they didn't agree.

III) I don't see how Pulpit can think to try to make such a point (in light of Col.1:15; 1:18; Rev.1:5), but the verse most definitely demonstrates Christ's superiority to angels, and so linking "first born" to it makes the title clear as to its implications of Him, THE Son of Man / THE Son of God, being supreme within the creation He created at the Father's will and died for on Calvary (just as in Col.1:15; 1:18; Rev.1:5).

Question #22: 

"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."
(Matthew 5:22)

I don't understand the meaning of this verse, because many godly Christians say that the Holy Spirit has placed an obligation to call other people fools. I think it means that we aren't supposed to call those of our own kind (i.e. fellow Christians) fools.

Response #22: 

This is one of many places where the Lord makes it very clear that sin is much more subtle and ubiquitous than most people assume. To an audience that had been taught that it was possible to be perfect and not sin by following the Law (a dumbed-down and highly skewed version of the Law, that is), this is a revelation (along the lines of learning that even looking on a woman with lust is equivalent to adultery). After all, there is no one who has never said a cross word to someone else in anger in their lives. So hearing this statement of our Lord and REALLY listening to it makes it clear that completely avoiding sin is impossible and therefore there is no righteousness through the Law: so we all need a Savior.

As to "many Godly Christians say that the Holy Spirit has placed an obligation to call other people fools", not only have I never heard that horribly wrong and beyond nutty application before, I couldn't call anyone "godly" who did it or said it, because godliness is essentially seeing things as God sees them, something only the spiritually mature can do – and no one who says / teaches / does something like this and thinks it's OK or "mandated by God" to call other people hurtful names can be anywhere near spiritually mature.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

In the Gospels, the sparrow is used in Jesus' message to his disciples, "are not two sparrows sold for a penny."

However, what if Jesus intended a symbolic meaning by the usage of this species of bird? In the ancient world, the sparrow was a symbol of lust and commonness, and Jesus was cryptically saying that even the most lustful and common of sinners are provided for by God's overarching providence.

Response #23:  

In the LXX, "sparrow", strouthion, is the normal translation for tsipor, "bird" (and there is a generic Greek word for bird: ornis < ornithology). If this does reflect a true connection (between the Hebrew word and the Greek one), believers are indeed compared to them in scripture elsewhere (cf. also Ps.102:7):

Even the sparrow (tsipor) has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young—
Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God.
Psalm 84:3 NKJV

I think it is clear that our Lord uses the small bird as a way of showing God's concern for the least of us. The part about lust is not in the Bible though, so to have validity we'd have to have some evidence that this characterization you report of how sparrows were viewed really was widespread. I'm aware of the Roman poet Catullus' poems about Lesbia's sparrow, but the lust there all belongs to Catullus, not the sparrow.

If you share your source and I'll have a deeper look, but I'd have to see some parallel on this assertion to be convinced (as this is the sort of nonsense opinion commentaries often print as if it were fact based on the prior speculation of others).

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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