Bibliology Part Two—A: The Manuscripts, Their Transmission, Translations, or What is Textual Criticism

Jefferson Bible

An image of Jefferson’s Bible. The image has been taken from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/evangelical-history/jefferson-bible-founders-deism/.

Introduction

 

In 1820, Thomas Jefferson created his Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth: Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French, and English. As the title states, Jefferson compiled some of the sayings and events in the Gospels that he believed were authentic to Jesus and threw out the “rubbish” (Pelikan 2005, 188). If this sounds familiar, it should. This notion of chopping up the Bible and finding “the authentic words of Jesus” is something the Jesus Seminar did in the 1980s.

The Five Gospels
 The image is taken from https://www.westarinstitute.org/store/the-five-gospels/.

 In their massive tome, Five Gospels: What did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus, published in 1996, the Gospels were sifted through, the sayings of Jesus were voted on, and the outcome was very bleak. William Lane Craig (Reasonable Faith), in an article he wrote for his website criticizing the Jesus Seminar, states their view of Jesus as ” a sort of itinerant, social critic, the Jewish equivalent of a Greek cynic philosopher.” Interestingly, in Jefferson’ s situation, he had Latin and Greek texts, which means he could have found variants to base is dissecting of the Gospels, however, the Jesus Seminar did not use textual criticism (the science of comparing ancient documents together to come to a conclusion of what the original may have been), they used a non-canonical gospel, one based in a heresy, to decide what the authentic words of Jesus were. Unfortunately, this is what happens daily in pop-Christian criticizing circles. They take the English rendering of the Bible and decide, both inside the faith and outside the faith, whether there are contradictions or not. I am not saying this is wrong, however, there is no looking at the Hebrew and Aramaic texts for the Old Testament and the same for the Greek of the New Testament. R. C. Sproul (2009, xii) says it best: “If the Bible is unreliable in what it teaches…[then] the church is left to speculate and has nothing of value to speak to the world.” The reliability of the manuscripts behind the English Bible gives us the trust we can have in the teachings of God’s Word, making it possible for the Church to have value in speaking to the world today.

 

What the Skeptics are Teaching

 

Before we can get into the actual understanding of the manuscripts, what they are, and how they are used in translation, we need to first look at the arguments, used by textual critics (some are not textual critics, but historians and such) who are not believers, as well as those who are so-called Christian scholars.

One of the first things most non-Christian and liberal-leaning Christian scholars state about the Bible are the various variants (differences in the texts of the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts). Sometimes, these are considered contradictions. In one of Rob Bell’s (2017, 273-277) latest books, What is the Bible?, he states that the reasons for the contradictions is with the evolution of the thinking of God that, he assumes, happened in the Jewish communities. Bell (2017, 275) says “[o]ver time, peopled evolved in their thinking about God.” In this section of his book, Bell poses questions, which then he proceeds to answer (honestly, Bell is a very confusing author; he writes with very short sentences and almost in a bloglike fashion). Bell (2017, 276) attempts to answer the question of why there are contradictions by saying that it is better to look at them as not contradictions but as an evolution in thinking. Timothy Beal (2011, 104) talks about the various variants between most of the older manuscripts, not just the Greek but those in Latin, Syriac, and Coptic. Beal (2011, 104) does state, somewhat correctly, that some of the variants are not important, simply scribal errors, but that most are extremely important, made on purpose (this is where I disagree with him, as well as scholars like Daniel B. Wallace, and we will discuss this more in a bit). We will come back to the issue of the variants later, however, let us now turn to another argument posited by the skeptics and critics of the manuscripts to the Bible–we do not have the originals of the manuscripts.

One of the major arguments, as outlined above, is that we do not have the originals of the letters penned by Paul, Peter, or James, or the Gospels written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We do not even have the originals of the Torah written by Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). Because of this, many skeptics and critics see this as a huge problem. To them, this means we cannot be sure that what we have today as the manuscripts behind the Bible are faithful in their representation of the originals (also known as autographs, which comes from the German which translates, loosely, as written by the author). Bart Ehrman (2005, 4-5), an agnostic leaning atheist, New Testament scholar (who ironically began as a conservative Christian who studied at Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, and then received his MA and PhD from Princeton), in his book Misquoting Jesus, says that his changing from an evangelical believer to an agnostic began when he learned of the dilemma of not having the originals of the New Testament and the many variants within them. Ehrman (2005, 7) says that there were two seemingly problematic questions he kept having while he learned to study the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew and Greek, mostly the Greek). These two questions were spurred by the doctrine of inerrancy and plenary inspiration, which he had presupposed while studying at Wheaton (Ibid.). His questions were: “how does it help us to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God if in fact [sic] we don’t have the words that God inerrantly inspired, but only the words copied by the scribes—sometimes correctly but sometimes (many times!) incorrectly? What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired” (Ibid.). Ehrman (2005, 7) then goes on to state “[w]e don’t have the originals! We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently, in thousands of ways ” (emphasis not mine). After Ehrman (2005, 10) reached his time in Seminary at Princeton, he realized that there were errors in the Bible, which is ok because we don’t have the originals (Ehrman 2005, 10). However, he begins to answer his own questions with one point, simply, that for most of Christian history we have not had access to the originals and therefore, we cannot say with certainty that they inspired (Ibid.). Here is what Ehrman says, and this is the crux of his argument, this is the foundation to his understanding of the Bible; here is where atheists, skeptics, critics, and now, Muslims get their information for attempting to debunk the Bible as God’s holy word. Ehrman (2005, 10) says:

…the vast majority of Christians for the entire history of the church have not had access to the originals, making their inspiration somehting of a moot point. Not only do we not have the originals, we don’t have the first copies of the originals. We don’t even have copies of the copies of the originals, or copies of the copies of the copies of the originals. What we have are copies made later—much later. In most instances, they are copies made many centuries later. And these copies all differ from one another, in many thousands of places…these copies differ from one another in so many places that we don’t even  know how many differences there are…there are more differences among our mansucripts than there are words in the New Testament.

Basically, Ehrman’s argument is this—since we don’t have the original manuscripts, we do not have the original words given by God. If we do not have these words, then God did not give them. If God did not give the words, then God did not preserve the words either. Therefore, God did not inspire the Bible (Ehrman 2005, 11). For Ehrman (2009, ix-xii), his coming to this knowledge was not about keeping to a doctrine, it was chasing the truth and for him, the truth is that God did not inspire the Bible, nor did He preserve it. Therefore, for Ehrman (2005, 12-15; 2009, ix-xii) the Bible is nothing more than another book, from history, that was written by humans, for humans, that helps to explain life (if this also sounds familiar, see anything written by Rob Bell on the Bible and the Christian faith).

 

How do we Answer the Critics and Skeptics in regards to their Arguments?

 

Honestly, it’s not easy to answer these guys. Most of them have studied, for years, in prestigious universities. To answer these arguments, we must first realize that there is nothing new under the sun. Basically, what is being lauded today as genius and, sometimes, as original, is really recycled attacks on the Bible.

celsus library virtual reconstruction 800x494
 This is an artist’s reconstruction of the Celsus Library in Ephesus. The Celsus Library was named after the second-century Greek philosopher and writer, Celsus. The image is taken from http://virtualreconstruction.com/wp/?p=579.

 In the second century, a Greek philosopher and writer, Celsus, wrote an attack on the belief of Christianity which included the Bible. He says

[i]t is clear to me that the writings of the christians [sic] are a lie, and that your fables are not well-enough constructed to conceal this monstrous fiction: I have heard that some of your interpreters…are on to the inconsistencies and, pen in hand, alter the originals writings, three, four and several more times over in order to be able to deny the contradictions in the face of criticism (Hoffman 1987, 37 quoted at  http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/celsus3.html).

In the late third century, a Roman philosopher Porphyry wrote about the Christian Bible, saying,

If ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote concerning me.” He said it, but all the same nothing which Moses wrote has been preserved. For all his writings are said to have been burnt along with the temple. All that bears the name of Moses was written 1180 years afterwards, by Ezra and those of his time. And even if one were to concede that the writing is that of Moses, it cannot be shown that Christ was anywhere called God, or God the Word, or Creator. And pray who has spoken of Christ as crucified (Macarius, Apocriticus 3.3).

If that sounds familiar, as well, then it is because modern scholastics still hold to this view today. Modern academia believes the Torah to have been either written, or finalized, in the return from Exile by Ezra or some other scholar. With the Enlightenment and its redheaded step-child Romanticism, many fanciful ideas in regards to the Bible were put forward. One of them, a child of Romanticism, Walter Bauer argued that there were many different types of Christianities during the early church, which, basically, battled over which faith was to be the correct one. Bauer believed that some of the heretical sects of Christianity were most likely earlier than those of the orthodox one (Wasserman 2012, 326-327). All of these arguments seem to actually be absurd when you look at the evidence. So, again, how do we answer their arguments? Daniel B. Wallace gives some great advice in this area.

Basically, we have more copies of the New Testament than any other material of the ancient and classical period (Wallace 2012). Wallace (2012) also states that we can answer with the relative dating of the New Testament (this just means how close we can date the earliest copies with the events they speak of or to their actual written time period). Next, Wallace (2008) also argues for the understanding of the various variants in the manuscripts. Finally, Wallace (2008) states we can know for sure what this means in regards to the manuscripts themselves and our faith.

With confidence, we can know that we have “an embarrassment of riches” (Wallace 2008). Basically, we have too many copies, which is a problem worth having. Just in the Greek, we have roughly more than 5,700 copies to compare (Ibid.). If Greek wasn’t enough, we know that the New Testament, alone, was copied (a lot), early on, into various local languages (Ibid.). To date, we have about 20,000-25,000 various copies in Latin, Coptic, Syrian, Georgian, Armenian, Arabic, and Gothic (Ibid.). Not to mention the overwhelming amount of quotes, in their entirety, of the New Testament by the early Church Fathers, that’s about a million quotes; that means we could basically reproduce the entire New Testament if we only had their quotes and no other copies (Ibid.). This is just the tip of the iceberg. We will spend the rest of the next post touching on the arguments surrounding the manuscripts and how to best answer them.

Helpful Links on the Battle over the Bible

That is a great place to start because its a discussion in regards to the canonicity of the Bible between Dr. James White and Dr. Michael Kruger.

This next video is a wonderful instruction on how the early church used and saw the Bible by Dr. Michael Kruger.

 

Next, this is a bit more popular level, making it more understandable, plus the videos are very short. Matt Whitman, the host of Ten Minute Bible Hour, has a complete series on the Bible called the Nuts and Bolts of the Bible. I linked the first video below, however, I highly suggest you watch all 22 videos (you know, when you can).

 

Lastly, this is a great video, extremely long coming in at just over three hours. This video is a debate over the original texts of the New Testament between Dr. Bart Ehrman and Dr. Daniel B. Wallace.

C. B.

The Bearded Scholar

Reference List

Beal, Timothy. 2011. Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Bell, Rob. 2017. What is the Bible?: How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything. New York: Harper One.

Craig, W. 2018. “Presuppositions and Pretensions of the Jesus Seminar.” Reasonable Faith. Reasonablefaith.org. Available at: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/jesus-of-nazareth/presuppositions-and-pretensions-of-the-jesus-seminar/ Accessed 23 Jun. 2018.

Ehrman, Bart D. 2009. Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them). New York: Harper One.

________. 2005. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. New York: Harper San Francisco.

Pelikan, Jaroslav. 2005Whose Bible is it?: A History of the Scriptures Through the Ages. New York: Vikings.

Sproul, R. C. 2009. Can I Trust the Bible? Vol. 2. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.

Wallace, Daniel B. 2012. “Bart Ehrman Blog and the Reliability of the New Testament Text.” Daniel B. Wallace, Daniel B. Wallace, May 1, 2012, https://danielbwallace.com/2012/05/01/the-bart-ehrman-blog-and-the-reliability-of-the-new-testament-text/.

________. 2008. “Reliability of the New Testament Manuscripts.” In ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Wasserman, Tommy. 2012. “Misquoting Manuscripts?: The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture Revisited.” In Making of Christianity: Conflicts, Contacts, and Constructions: Essays in Honor of Bengt Holmberg.  Edited by Magnus Zetterholm and Samuel Byrskog. 325-350. Coniectanea Biblica: New Testament Series 47; Winona Lake, Eisenbrauns.

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Bibliology Part One: History of the Bible

Versions of the Bible

The image is taken from Logos 7, Faithlife Study Bible Infographic.

Introduction

 

The Bible, as God’s inerrant, inspired, and without errors, Word has a fascinating history. Ever since the close of the first century, the Bible has been debated, used, interpreted, and misused. The battle for the Bible began, in the late second century, when early Church father’s, like, Iraeneus, Tertullian, and Origen began to compile lists of what most early Christians believed to be authoritative Holy Scripture, mainly a list of New Testament writings (Smith and Bennett 2005, 62-65). The Bible’s next major battle began in the seventeenth century with the birth of the Enlightenment. Skeptics and Critics began to question everything. This battle has been raging for centuries. It would not be till the 1970s when about 200 evangelical scholars would get together and produce the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. This battle for the Bible is still ongoing today.

 

 

In the Barna Group’s State of the Bible 2017 (2017), a controlled group of roughly 2030 people was polled in regards to their views and practices of the Bible.   The largest percentage in the group was what Barna labeled “Bible-friendly.” This group holds to the traditional Evangelical doctrine of the inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible, however, they only read the Bible four times, or less, in a week. What this tells us is that most Americans, in 2017, believe the truth of the Bible, though, they do not participate enough in reading and studying of God’s Word (only 38% of the 2030 people, that’s about 771 people). The next largest group, right under the “Bible-friendly” are the “Bible neutral.” Only 23% of the group held to the Bible being inspired as the Word of God, yet they believed there to be some historical and factual errors in it (Barna Group 2017). 20% believed the Bible to be God’s inspired Word, factual, historically accurate, and without any errors and read the Bible four or more days a week, these are the ones the Barna Group (2017) called “Bible-engaged.” Right underneath the “Bible-engaged” are who the Barna Group (2017) call the “Bible skeptics.” This group made up only 19%, with a sub-group that the Barna Group (2017) called the “Bible hostile” which were 13%. However, most skeptics tend to be more hostile toward the Bible, roughly 78% (Barna Group 2017).

Both of these groups held that the Bible is not inspired and chalk full of errors and is nothing more than just another book written by mere men (Barna Group 2017). Ironically, most of these skeptics still have at least one Bible in their house with 62% being the hostile ones and 67% of the skeptics (Ibid.). Apparently, only half of Americans, according to this statistic study and/or read, listen, or pray with their Bibles one to three times a year (Ibid.). Also, one in five “Bible-neutral,” as well as the skeptics, wished they read the Bible more often (Ibid.). This is what this series on the Bible is going to be about. Why have a high view of the Bible (ie., that the Bible is God’s literal Word, historically accurate, written by the Holy Spirit through human authors, without any errors)? What will reading, studying, and praying the Bible do for you, in your life? How you view the Bible will define how you view God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the human condition.

 

History of the Old Testament

 

The Old Testament, as we Christians call it (the Jews know it as the Tanahk), was written and covers a history of some 1500 years. It covers the beginning of time, from creation to the fall and return of the Jews. Beginning with Genesis-Deuteronomy (also known as either the Torah or the Pentateuch), Moses wrote all five books sometime in the fourteenth or thirteenth century BC. The next portion of the Old Testament is categorized as the Historical Books. Inside this collection are the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, and Esther. These books were written around the thirteenth century to around the closing of the fourth century BC. The next section of the Old Testament is known as the Wisdom Books. These books contain Job, Psalm, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs (also known as the Song of Solomon). The dating for when the Wisdom Books were written between the tenth century to around the close of the fourth century BC. Finally, there is the Prophetic Books, which can sometimes be split into the major prophets and the minor prophets. The books included in this section are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel (these are usually known as the Major Prophets). Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obediah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi (sometimes referred to as the Minor Prophets). The dates for their composition are between the sixth century and the fifth century BC. As can be seen, then, the Bible has been written by several human authors, one divine author (who is the Holy Spirit), and tells one overarching story within 1500 years. There is much more to the Old Testament than just knowing the composition of the books, though this is very helpful in attesting to its historicity.

The Old Testament, though, is not just one massive book, it’s a massive multivolume text. The Old Testament is, as well as the whole of the Bible, a library. It has, according to the Protestant tradition (the Catholics believe in the same list, though they have added to it with the Apocrypha, expanding it to 57) 39 books. All of these books fit into particular genres: historical narratives; poetry; prophetic (a sub-genre of prophecy is apocalyptic); and wisdom literature. Basically, all of these genres help us to understand what the human authors intended message (also what the divine author, the Holy Spirit) is trying to teach.

The structure of the Old Testament is based on the Hebrew layout. The Jewish Scriptures are aligned differently, mostly in the grouping. The Hebrew Scripture is called the Tanahk, which is actually an anacronym for the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nebi’im), and the Writings (Ketubim). This is how each section, within the Tanahk, are structured. The Torah has five books (which are also known as the Pentateuch meaning five books/scrolls); they are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Prophets have, well, all the prophets except for Lamentations and Daniel; they also add Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel (which in their text is only Samuel), and 1-2 Kings (also only known as Kings). The Writings have the rest, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Job; however, it also adds Ruth, Ezra/Nehemiah (which I also believe is only one book in their text), 1-2 Chronicles (which is also only one book, Chronicles), Esther, Lamentations, and Daniel.

 

 

As stated before, the Old Testament is a library of books, all with their own story to tell, yet they have one overarching message. The Pentateuch begins with the beginning, tells the story of creation, the fall of humanity, the call and lives of the Patriarchs, the enslavement of the Israelites, God’s calling of them from Egypt, God’s deliverance of them from slavery, the structure of their culture and religious lives, a census, and ends with God’s promises for them as long as they follow His decrees. The Historical Books cover the conquering of Canaan, the set up of the judges (not judicial characters, these guys were more like individual heroes for Israel), the establishment of the monarchy, the division of the Northern tribes (ten total) and the Southern ones (Judah and Benjamin), the fall away from following God and his decrees, the conquering and captivity of the Northern and Southern kingdoms into Babylon, as well as their return. The Wisdom Books hold more theological statements. These books offer reflections of who God is, His role in regards to Israel, as well as how Israel should live and act. The Prophets tell what would happen to both kingdoms if they would not return to a proper relationship with God. Essentially, these books show the relationship of God to Israel (as well as humanity itself), by the creation of everything, how God covenants with us, our fall and God’s plan of redemption for us.

 

History of the New Testament

 

Composition of New Testament Books

The image is taken from the Logos 7 Faithlife Study Bible Infogr.

 

The New Testament is a collection of 27 books (a diverse eclection) that shows the climax of God’s plan for redemption. Just like the Old Testament, the New Testament is structured in a very particular way. The New Testament opens with the Gospels and Acts, written between ca. AD 50s to 90s. The Epistles of Paul, James, Jude, John, and Peter, along with an anonymous Hebrews dating from the early to mid AD 40s to 90s. The last section of the New Testament is known as the Revelation of John, or also as the Apocalypse of John, dated either around Nero’s reign, AD 60s, or Domitian’s, AD 90s. Also, just like the Old Testament, the New Testament has various genres. The Gospels and Acts are considered Historical Narratives (some scholars do believe the Gospels are a genre all their own, while other scholars tend to believe them to be historical/ancient biographies), Epistles, and Apocalyptic literature. Within the structure of the New Testament, as we just saw, are the Historical Narratives which have Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts. The Epistles which hold the thirteen letters of Paul (there are no so-called Pseudo-Pauline Epistles as some Liberal scholars believe, Paul wrote all the letters attested to him) Romans, 1- 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1- 2 Thessalonians, 1- 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, Hebrews (which some of the Church fathers believed was written by Paul), James, 1- 2 Peter, 1- 3 John, and Jude. Interestingly, The Epistles are set up in several minor structures; Within the Pauline corpus, the letters are arranged longest to smallest, with Hebrews following because the Church fathers thought it written by Paul, though they were unsure. Also, Paul’s letters are divided into his usual letters Romans through 1- 2 Thessalonians and Philemon; however, 1- 2 Timothy and Titus are sub-categorized into the Pastoral Epistles. The rest of the Epistles, the ones not written by Paul, are known as the Catholic Epistles (not because they teach Catholic doctrine, but because they have universal teachings, the word catholic actually means universal, which is why this grouping of the letters is known as catholic).

The New Testament, just like the Old Testament, is a library of books that have their own message, yet tell an overarching story. The Gospels tell us the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (all from various viewpoints, which is a historian’s dream).

Jesus on the Cross
The image is taken from https://www.blueletterbible.org/images/TheGospels/imageDisplay/tlc_392b.

 The Acts of the Apostles tells the story of how the Apostles took the Gospel message (also known as the kerygma) to various nations in the Roman Empire. The Letters or Epistles are much like the Old Testament Wisdom literature. Within the Letters are theological statements, how to live with each other in communion, how to worship God, and how to live as Christians within God’s Kingdom. The Apocalypse is the only tough one to explain, mostly because John echoes many Old Testament prophecies and apocalypses, as well as sharing what he sees of the Spirit that has to do with both his day, time, and culture, and with the future when God will complete his salvific history plan. However, as stated earlier, the major story of the New Testament is the completion of God’s salvation history, His redemption plan, for humanity. The New Testament tells of how God became a man, Jesus Christ, lived, died, and rose from the grave to give us life and to completely heal the fall that we caused. This plan ends with the glory of God in his defeat of Satan and his minions, the re-creation of humanity, earth, and heaven. Where the New Jerusalem sits on the new Earth, where God’s glory is our own light, where we live in peace forever.

 

C. B.

The Bearded Scholar

 

Reference List

Barna Group. “State of the Bible 2017: Top Findings.” Barna Group, Barna Group, 4 Apr. 2017, http://www.barna.com/research/state-bible-2017-top-findings/.

Beckwith, Roger T. 2008. “Canon of the Old Testament.” In ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

________. 2003. “Canon of the Old Testament.” In Origin of the Bible. Edited by Philip W. Comfort. 51-64. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale Publishing.

Smith, Charles Merrill and Jame W. Bennett. 2005. How the Bible was Built. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

 

 

Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians: 1:1-10 No Other Gospel Part B—Paul’s Defense of the Gospel

Galatians 1:1-6

 

Paul has completed his introduction. Paul has given is greetings, has even begun his argument from verse one, right out of the gate. Paul has established his authority, in case it was being questioned. Now we move from the introduction to why Paul wrote his letter. Here, we find Paul’s argument. Paul says that we should not turn from the Gospel that has been taught us. We are not to accept anything stating to be the gospel when there is no other gospel at all, and those that deliver a false gospel are to be cursed, cursed to Hell. Paul teaches us that we are to stand fast, firm, to the Gospel.

This is the portion of the letter where we get the purpose or occasion. Here, in this section of the epistle, we are introduced to the notion that there are “some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:6 CSB). Some of the Galatians are turning away from the Gospel that Paul had preached to them. The Gospel is so important that if anyone else were to teach something other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they are to be damned to Hell. One major thing, here to note, is Paul’s use of the rhetoric device of omission (Osborne 1991, 40). Paul omits his usual, and customary Greek/Jewish, thanksgiving/prayer section. This is important because his audience would have expected it, may have been excited to see what he may have been thankful for in their Churches. However, Paul is not extremely happy with the Galatians, therefore he moves right in to tell them why he is upset with them. A close reading of this section will show how serious it is as well, the reason why Paul is upset and writing to his Churches in Galatia.

Don’t Quickly Flee from the Gospel

I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel (Gal 1:6 CSB)

 

tacheos word pie

The image is taken from Logos 7 Word Study

Two key words in this section are vitally important. In most of my studies for this section, I have noticed that they are overlooked. Paul uses an adverb, followed by a verb. These words are tacheōs, the adverb meaning quickly, and metatithesthe, the verb meaning turning. Of these two, we can safely say that tacheōs is easily understood at face reading. However, metatithesthe needs to be explained more for us to understand it.

tacheos word pie
 The image is taken from Logos 7 Word Study

 In Greek, this word had a tone of revolting, in a military style, and a complete attitude change (Boice 1976, 428). The word was also used to show someone’s conversion from one school of philosophy to another (Hays 2000, 204). Since this was in the middle voice, the only persons forcing the Galatians to do this was themselves and no one else (Boice 1976, 428). To the Galatians, who heard this message in the original language, they would have heard Paul telling them that they were abandoning the Gospel on their own volition. This would have been crushing to the Galatians. That is how serious Paul sees this issue, the Galatians were revolting against God by their own doing.

 

Exodus 3319 [widescreen]

The image is taken from Logos 7 media files.

 

Not only are the Galatian’s revolting against God, they are ignoring the fact that it was He who called them. Paul uses the aorist verb, kalesantos when he speaks to the Galatians as being “called” by God. The aorist verb, as we stated last time, is something that happened in a fixed moment, however, it is something that is on-going without completion (Osborne 1991, 51). The other thing to note about the word kalesantos is that it is connected to the word Christou.

Kalesantos word pie The image is taken from Logos 7 word study.

 In Greek, much like in Latin, the verbs are connected to nouns by cases. Since this verb is in the genitive (this is sometimes the case of possession), it must match the noun of the same case. It was Christ who did the calling, not Paul, this is the main point of this statement. It must be made evident that Paul is not claiming, here, to be the one who called the Galatians. Most other scholars, linking back to John Calvin’s interpretation of this verse, believe that it is Jesus who called the Galatians (George 1994, 92). Paul’s writings use “him who called you” interchangeably with God (Gal 1:15; 5:8; Rom 4:17; 9:12; 1 Thess 2:12; 5:24 CSB; George 1994, 92). The Galatians were defecting from God, Christ, and Paul—though it is more important to note that it was God who they were deserting (George 1994, 92). Paul calls God the Father in this letter, several times (Gal 1:1, 3, 4; 4:2, 6 CSB). It was this God the Father, the One who calls, who created everything, and who raised Jesus from the dead that the Galatians were deserting (George 1994, 92).

 

This is where there are variant readings on Gal 1:6. Remember that variants are differences between the manuscripts we have on the various collections of the base texts for the Bible. Most manuscripts, all from the west (Latin side of the Roman Empire), have “by the grace of Christ.” However, there are some manuscripts (P46 c. 200 AD and the heretical Marcion Canon, mid to late second century) that have “by grace” (which is thought to be the original since it is the smallest version), some have “by the grace of Jesus Christ”, and some that have “by the grace of God.” Since the version that just has “by grace” is thought to be the original, we can make an assumption that later scribes felt the need to clarify who’s grace the Galatians were called by, hence the modern translation of the “by the grace of Christ” (textual note in the NET). It can also be argued that in the Pauline Corpus, the use of “by the grace of Christ” is used more often. Since this is also true, we can also deduce that the original statement was this one. However, most scholars see the first argument as the valid one (Ibid.). Either way, what is most important is that whichever variant someone takes, the theology is still the same—the Galatians were called by God, either through Christ as God, or just God as Himself by His grace.

 

John 116 [widescreen]

The image is taken from Logos 7 media files.

 

chariti word pie

The image is taken from Logos 7 word study.

The word grace is very important, especially to those of us practicing orthodox Protestant Christianity. In the Greek, this one-word chariti is where the action is taking place. This word is stating that grace is what the Galatians (as well as us) receive. What is grace? A. Boyd Luter (2016), in his article on grace in the Lexham Bible Dictionary (LBD), defines grace, simply, as “a more powerful person toward another.” It is also demonstrated by God towards His people (Luter 2016). Contextually, here, Paul is using the word “grace” as being distributed divinely. There are plenty of texts in the Old Testament (OT) that shows God’s grace (sometimes favor) toward Israel. Noah found favor in God (Gen 6:8 CSB); Moses was also able to find favor in God in Exod 33, 34 (CSB). God is expressed as being “compassionate and gracious.” Israel worshipped God as being gracious, mostly throughout the Psalms (Ps 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 116:5; 145:8 CSB; Luter 2016). Even the Prophets spoke of God’s graciousness (Jer 31:2; Zech 12:10 CSB; Luter 2016). Titus 211 [widescreen]By the time of Paul, the early Christians had expanded upon the notion of God’s grace, as being fulfilled in Christ Jesus. The early Church saw grace as being connected to salvation, Spiritual gifts, and was used in some of the epistles as greetings and farewells (Luter 2016). It is here, though, where we need to understand what Paul means when he uses the word chariti. From beginning to end, Paul soaks this letter in the notion of charis—grace (Gal 1:3, 15; 2:9, 21; 3:18; 5:4; 6:18 CSB; George 1994, 92). The word grace, here, is meant to be taken as absolute. Timothy George (1994, 92), in his commentary on Galatians, states that grace “show[s] that this is the only basis on which we can relate to God in any sense.”

 

A Different Gospel that is not Another Gospel

Not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Gal 1:7 CSB)

 

 

The end of verse six and the beginning of verse seven are connected together with the notion of a different gospel, which Paul states is no other gospel at all. The words heteros (different) and allos (another), as J. Louis Martyn (2008, 110) in his commentary on Galatians states, “are virtual synonyms in Paul’s vocabulary.” In ancient Greek, these words were not differentiated from each other, however, Paul, here, makes that happen (Martin and Wu 2002, 106). A distinction between the two words, heteros and allos, needs to be drawn. Heteros was a word that differentiated something different from the statement or thing already mentioned, where allos expresses another of the same thing (George 1994, 93). Basically, then, what Paul is stating is that the Galatians have embraced something completely different than the Gospel, yet there is no other similar or same version of the Gospel. Timothy George (1994, 93), in his commentary on Galatians, says it best—”[the Galatians] had embraced a heteros gospel, one drastically different in kind from that they had received from him, for there is, in fact, no other (allos) genuine gospel to be placed alongside the real thing.”

 

1 Corinthians 118 [widescreen]

The image is taken from Logos 7 media file.

The true Gospel that Paul distinguishes in this letter is that of Christ crucified and resurrected—that we are saved by the grace of Christ and justified by our faith in that grace. Euangelion throughout the New Testament, basically, means a message of good news, or the process of delivering it (Seal 2016). First, an understanding more broad than Paul, the early Christians, and the other New Testament authors needs to be sought—context is everything. To really understand this, we need to look at the Greek translation of the Old Testament—the Septuagint (LXX) which was, for the most part, the translation the early Church used. The Septuagint uses the term “good news” as verbal form and once in the noun form (Smith 2016). In the Greek translation of Isaiah (Esaias) Jesus quotes, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor” (Esaias 61:1a; CSB translation is “The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor). Isaiah also said of God speaking of Himself “as a season of beauty upon the mountains, as the feet of one preaching glad tidings of peace, as one preaching good news: for I will publish thy salvation, saying, O Sion, thy God shall reign” (Esaias 52:7, LXX—”How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isa 52:7 CSB).The Romans had their own understanding of “good news.” On an inscription from Priene (a Roman city on the western portion of Turkey) that states the divine Roma (a believed goddess who personified the divinity of the city of Rome) had made Augustus bring an end to all wars (there had been three separate civil wars in roughly twenty years over the single control of Rome) and usher in peace, a saviour of the Roman people, as prophesied of—possibly a nod to the Aeneid—denoting the “good news” of his victories (Crossan and Reed 2004, 239). After this inscription (ca. 9 BC) the Romans began using “good news” for the imperial cult, for military victories and honors for an emperor (Hays 2000, 205; Martyn 2008, 127-128). However, by the time of Paul’s writing, anyone who was a Christian euangelion came to mean something completely different in Jesus the Christ.

 

1 Thessalonians 24 [widescreen].png

 

Paul’s Gospel, in a nutshell, was the centrality of Jesus—the climax of the salvation history was on the death and resurrection of Christ, not the Torah (Schreiner 2001, 22-25). In 1 Corinthians 15:3b (CSB), Paul says “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Again, in Acts 13:37-39 (CSB), Paul gives his message of the Gospel to Pisidian Antioch in Galatia. There he tells them that God raised Jesus from the dead, unlike David, to justify those that could not be justified under Moses. This was Paul’s Gospel.

 

Author’s Notes

This seems like a good spot to wrap-up our study in Galatians this week. I apologize for the long wait on this passage. Galatians, it would seem, has become a very difficult book to study. As you can, hopefully, see in this post. Next week we will finish this portion of the text by looking at who the troublemakers are in the churches of Galatia. Till next time, please subscribe, like, comment, and share.

C. B.

The Bearded Scholar

 

 

Reference List

Boice, James Montgomery. 1976. “Galatians.” In Expositor’s Bible Commentary With the New International Version: Romans through Galatians. Vol. 10. 407-508. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelien. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Crossan, John Dominic and Jonathan L. Reed. 2004. In Search of Paul: How Jesus’s Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom, a New Vision of Paul’s Words and World. New York: Harper San Francisco.

George, Timothy. 1994. Galatians. Vol. 30. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Hays, Richard B. 2000. “Letter to the Galatians.” In The New Interpreter’s Bible: General Articles and Introduction, Commentary, Reflections for each Book of the Bible Including the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical Books in Twelve Volumes. Vol 11. Edited by Leander E. Keck. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Luter, A. Boyd. 2016. “Grace.” In  Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry, David Bomar, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, Douglas Mangum, Carrie Sinclair Wolcott, Lazarus Wentz, Elliot Ritzema, and Wendy Widder. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Martin, Ralph P. and Julie WU. 2002. “Galatians.” In Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Romans, Galatians. 100-134. Edited by Clinton E. Arnold. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Martyn, J. Louis. 2008. Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 33A. Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

Morwood, James. 2001. Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek. New York: Oxford University Press.

Osborne, Grant R. 1991. Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 2001. Paul Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristy Press.

Seal, David. 2016. “Euangelion.” In Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Smith, Zachary G. 2016. “Gospel Genre.” Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry, David Bomar, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, Douglas Mangum, Carrie Sinclair Wolcott, Lazarus Wentz, Elliot Ritzema, and Wendy Widder. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

 

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The Power of Vision by George Barna

George Barna was the founder of the Barna Group. Barna had founded his think tank in 1983 and sold it in 2009. While he owned it they began their marketing talents for Disney, this was long before they took off on researching for evangelicals, the church, and culture. Barna has written several books. Of which, I have now read two authored by him (Revolution and The Power of Vision) and a third one he co-wrote with Frank Viola (Pagan Christianity). Barna is a rather interesting author, with some interesting thoughts about the church. In Revolution, Barna discovered, long before the Doners even became a thing, that the churched were massively leaving the Church in an exodus. In this book, Barna seems to be ok with them leaving, almost stating that they should. In Pagan Christianity, Barna did most of the research (to which I have a lot of complaints about, having a history degree). Viola and Barna attempt to state, incorrectly, that the problem with the modern Church stems back to the practices brought in by pagan converts to Christianity, who then took on leadership roles within the church. Now, in Power of Vision, which is in its third edition, Barna gives church leaders, pastors, and individuals a way to grow their churches.

Do not get me wrong, this book, as it stands, is very well written. I also find myself very torn as I write this review. I do like a lot of what Barna offers in this book, however, I have to rely more on what the Bible teaches about growing a church.

Barna’s argument is that in order for any church to grow and thrive, it must have a vision. This vision cannot be any vision, however, it must be one that is God-given. Barna, then, begins his book by explaining how there are examples of biblical and non-biblical, modern visionaries. Barna’s examples are Paul, David, Nehemiah, and Moses. He then moves to the modern ones: Mother Teresa, Marin Luther King Jr., Donald McGavran, Bill Hybels, and Supreme Justice Antonin Scalia. Barna defines vision as “a clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God to His chosen servants to advance His kingdom and is based on an accurate understanding of God, self, and circumstances” (Barna 20018, 28). Barna then explains that most churches tend to confuse a mission statement with a vision. He follows that up with 20 different myths (along with their realities). Barna spends the next eight chapters of the book describing how a church can find God’s vision for themselves and grow their congregations. Barna’s final chapter is spent showing how the individual Christian can take the same method and use it for their own personal lives.

First, Barna is correct, one needs a vision and a mission statement. Neither one is synonymous, but you can not have one without the other. However, the Bible does not actually teach this. When Paul went around, preaching the Gospel, he was not spending time in board meetings trying to decide what each churches mission and vision statement was going to be. Jesus did not come to give his disciples a mission statement and a vision. No, Jesus came to die for our sins, taken on God’s wrath that was due us, and give us his righteousness upon his resurrection. Paul was concerned with only one thing, to preach the true Gospel of God—Jesus crucified and resurrected. David was chosen—his vision was not an answer to him being predestined by God to be king, nor was it his choice. David’s actions were the consequences of being chosen by God.

Second, every Christian, pastor, and church, aside from what Barna believes, should have one vision and it should be the same—to preach the true Gospel of God, Jesus crucified and resurrected. What Barna states is not really wrong, or bad, it’s just that we don’t need different, individualized vision statements for seeking God, knowing ourselves, and to spread the message of God’s kingdom. As Christians, we should be doing this daily, along with our churches throughout the week. Unfortunately, this, in my honest opinion, is what is wrong with the Church in America. Pastors are brought up to believe that they need to treat their churches as an individual, personal businesses.  They are taught that, in order to grow, they need marketing, mission, and vision statements. Sadly, what works in the secular business world, should and, does not work in Christ’s church. The early church did not spend time in board meetings, devising statements, and coming up with grand plans to grow their churches. No, the apostles were directed by the Holy Spirit. All of the Apostles had one thing in common—to preach Christ crucified and resurrected and nothing else. As I have said before, Barna makes several good statements in this book and I do agree with several of them, however, as a Christian, I cannot promote this book to any pastor who is having problems and troubles in their church.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers http://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Quit Church by Chris Sonksen

 

Barna Infographic

The image is taken from https://www.barna.com/research/meet-love-jesus-not-church/. This image shows how some American’s are leaving the Church and what generational subgroup they belong to. Most interesting is that most of this, roughly, ten percent group are from the South (33% of those assessed in this infographic).

Today there is a startling problem within the Church of America. About 10% of the American population are leaving the church, yet staying faithfully orthodox in their beliefs within Christianity. However, Chris Sonksen’s book Quit Church is not actually about that. Instead, Sonksen decided to use the term “quit church” in a bit of an oxymoronic form. Basically, what Sonksen is doing with this book is telling pastors, as well as their congregants, how to actually fill their pews with more people. In this post, I will be reviewing Chris Sonksen’s book—thanks to the guys at Baker Books—I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers http://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.htm.

Chris Sonksen is the pastor and co-founder of South Hills Church based out of California. Sonksen’s church is not just a church, it’s multiple churches. South Hills Church is in several cities, states, and a few territories of the US. Sonksen has written several books and started the Church BOOM ministry (an online program designed to help pastors grow their churches and ministries).

In Quit Church Sonksen begins with an analogy, one that I actually liked. Sonksen travels a lot, by a lot I mean A LOT. Sonksen explains that there is this organization within airport terminals known as the Admirals Club Lounge. When Sonksen was laid over he ran into a friend who was taking the same flight. Sonksen’s friend saw him sitting in an uncomfortable chair out in the terminal. He invited Sonksen to the Admirals Club Lounge, which Sonksen thought was for pilots. Upon his entrance into the Club, Sonksen found out that it was for those who fly several more times than the usual airport visitor. Sonksen also found out that he had been a member of the Club for years, unbeknownst to him. Once he checked into the Club, he was met with wonderous comfort. Sonksen quickly explains this is how many Christians live their lives within Christianity, they just tough it out in the uncomfy seats when there is something better for them in the Club.

Unfortunately, this is where I began to lose interest in his book. The something better Sonksen promises are not the Gospel or sanctification, it is God’s blessings. Sonksen’s argument throughout the whole book is that if you want God’s blessings for your life, then you must quit church (Sonksen 2018, 24-25). By quitting church, as in stop being religious, you begin to receive God’s blessings. The very first chapter, however, is not about gaining God’s blessing. Sonksen changes gears immediately. He labels the first chapter “Quit Expecting to Wake Up in Heaven.” Sonksen immediately begins to tell another anecdote, this time it’s about a cranky man who does nothing but complain, which caused everyone around him discomfort and fear. Sonksen then links this with the people in our current culture, in America, who complain about anything and everything in the Church—these people then leave the church for the next one down the street, in some cases right next door (Ibid., 29-34). Sonksen spends the rest of this chapter telling his people that Church is not heaven and to stop expecting it to be. Sonksen also argues for people to stay in their churches, love their church families, and support their pastors and leaders (Ibid., 29-43).

Unfortunately, Sonksen commits one of the more basic fallacies in Christianity. Throughout Sonksen’s book, the argument given is in the fallacy of negating the antecedent. This fallacy looks like this: If P, then Q. Therefore not P, then not Q. Also, If not P, then not Q. Therefore, If P, then Q. To put Sonksen’s words to it, then it would like this:

If you do not want to be blessed by God then stop going to your church, tithing, volunteering, witnessing, attending every service, and definitely do not develop a community.

Therefore, if you want to be blessed by God, then stay loyal to your church, tithe, volunteer, witness, attend every service there is, and develop a community within the church.

Or—If you don’t want God to bless you, then continue doing Church your way.

Therefore, if you want God to bless you, then quit Church.

 

This is not the only fallacy Sonksen commits. Throughout his conclusion, in order to drive his point home, he commits the fallacy of oversimplification, appealing to emotion, along with complex questions. In short, Sonksen’s view of Christianity, put through in this book, seems to be a superficial one. Behind all of Sonksen’s complex questions is how to make your Church bigger. In our Church culture, along with the unchurched culture and those leaving the Church altogether, this is not the correct question, it needs to be—How will Christ change and deliver you from addictions, alcohol/drug abuse, porn, sexual affairs, and spousal/family abuse?  However, none of these are even discussed in Sonksen’s book. Inside this book, sadly, is the preaching of the Prosperity Gospel (only it is repackaged and made to sound better than what is currently taught by the likes of Osteen). The true message of the Gospel, which is not delivered in this book, is that Jesus came to save us from our sins—the very ones which placed us under God’s wrath. Jesus did not come to give us health, wealth, and a prosperous church. In my honest review, I would not recommend this book to anyone. Baker Books has been one of the leaders in Evangelical resources. It is a shame to me that they allowed this book to be published under their name. However, I still trust Baker Books to continue to give Gospel-centered material.

 

C. B.

The Bearded Scholar

Reference List

Sonksen, Chris. 2018. Quit Church: Because Your Life Would be Better if You did. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.