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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Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians: 1:1-10 No Other Gospel Part A—A Rough Greeting

galatians-1_1-10_image-1.jpg

Prologue

Every letter in the New Testament fits into a genre known as an epistle. Paul used letters for several reasons. First, thanks to the Pax Romana (Peace of Rome), travel between areas, cities, and territories of the Roman Empire was easy and safe. The Romans were one of the first to create, some would say engineer, roadways and then police them with their soldiers for safety. Because of this, mail carrying was easy, quick, and safe. Second, Christianity was fastly growing within the Roman Empire, especially within the cities (Carson, Moo, and Morris 1992, 231). Due to the speed of her growth, Paul needed to be able to reach his churches, with instructions, with the utmost rapidity. Second, as D. A. Carson, Douglas Moo, and Leon Morris (1992, 232) state, in their New Testament introduction, “[p]eople in Paul’s day saw the letter as a means of establishing personal presence from a distance, and this perfectly served the needs of the apostles in pastoring their flocks from a distance.” The genre of letter writing, in the Second-Temple period of Paul’s day, was pretty generic. Basically, Greco-Roman authors ranged in their styles, the number of actual letters, and words. For example, Cicero (actually pronounced Keekaro) has 776 letters averaging between 22-2,530 words, Seneca has 124 letters averaging between 149-4,134 words, were as Paul has 13 letters (that we know of, some scholars believe that he had one written to Corinth before 1 Corinthians was written) averaging about 1,300 words, where Romans bolsters a significant 7,114 words (Ibid., 232). We can see that Paul was very verbose about instructing his churches. As amazing as this is, a look at the structure of the letter genre is vitally important.

In the Greco-Roman world, letters had an address and greeting (of which were very short), a body, and a conclusion; Paul’s letters followed this, only with a few minor changes (Ibid.). As we have mentioned in the Intro to Jude, Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart (2014, 59), in their book on how to read the Bible, state that there are six features common, mostly, between the secular and the New Testament letters format:  author, recipient, greeting, prayer/thanksgiving, body, and a farewell/final greeting. Paul takes some liberties with his formatting. Paul addresses the Galatians (by the way this is what we call an occasional letter, also known as an ad hoc epistle—see Fee 2002, 17), which is the author and recipients (Gal. 1:1-5 CSB).

Galatians 1:1-10 Word Cloud
The Word Cloud is taken from the Logos 7 Passage Guide.

Then, Paul changes the greeting, to fit his own personal style. In the Greco-Roman world, the greeting was the Greek word chairein. Paul uses the word charis, “grace” (Carson, Moo, and Morris 1992, 232).  Typically, after the greeting portion, Paul would go into a prayer or thanksgiving. However, Paul is not so happy with his audience, so therefore he offers no prayer or thanksgiving. Instead of this, Paul moves right into the body of the letter (Gal. 1:11-6:10 CSB). Then, Paul ends his letter with a personal appeal, no doxology or benediction—again, Paul is not very happy with the Galatians (Gal. 6:11-18 CSB).

 

Greeting 1:1-5

 

Galatians 13–5 [widescreen]

The image is taken from Logos 7 Passage Guide.

The main point of Paul’s greeting is, a, straight out of the box defense of where he received his Gospel from.  Paul comes out swinging, right from the corner. Paul already knows that he is under attack because his message is assaulted. For Paul, this is personal and very serious. In the Churches of Galatia, there are some serious issues of how someone is saved, which means that the wrong message or view of this will send you straight to hell.

 

The Role of an Apostle

 

Apostle Word Pie

The image is taken from Logos 7 Bible Word Study.

First things first, a complete understanding of an apostle and his role in the Church. Even though the word cloud has the word “apostle” very small—meaning that it is not that important, it is significant for our understanding of who Paul claims to be. Granted, Paul only uses the word once, mainly in this passage, it’s highly influential for Paul’s authority and for his Gospel. Paul uses this word at least three times in this letter (Gal 1:1, 17, 19 CSB). This needs to be completely clear, Paul uses this word, a lot, in all of his letters. Paul is constantly defending himself as an apostle in every one of his letters. So, what is an apostle? The word, in Greek, is apostolos and loosely translates as apostle, messenger, or envoy.  At its simplest form, the word means “[s]omeone, or something, sent” (Nässelqvist 2016; Fitzmyer 2008, 231). However, there is history to the term, one that gives it its meaning. Outside of the Bible, it was used for maritime messages—Joseph Fitzmyer (2008, 231) claims it was used for naval expeditions—of certain colonies being sent, or trade-vessels, and even, as Herodotus used in his Histories “an envoy, messenger, ambassador” (History 1.21; 5.38 quoted in Fitzmyer 2008, 231; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 17.300 cited in Nässelqvist 2016). Within the Bible, it’s used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament, also known as LXX); in 1 Kgs 14:6 (NASB) the Hebrew šālûaḥ is translated into the Greek apostellein, “send” (Fitzmyer 2008, 231). Within the New Testament, the word takes on a different meaning, one that is more than a message or messenger, it becomes one with a message and authority. The best way to understand this shift in meaning for the New Testament period is in first century Judaism. Basically, the Jerusalem authorities (most likely the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin) would send out rabbis as “commissioned emissaries” with the authority of the Sanhedrin to settle matters of financial, calendar, and doctrinal issues that sprouted up within the Diaspora—disperssed Jews throughout the Roman Empire (Fitzmyer 2008, 231). Jesus stated, “that something [Himself] greater than the temple is here” (Matt 12:6 CSB). For Paul, his authority, as one sent out (an apostle), came not from men unlike those rabbis from Jerusalem and the Temple where the Sanhedrin resided, but “by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead” (Gal 1:1 CSB).

 

God as the Father

 

Pater—father

Greek Word Pie is taken from Logos 7

 

Paul moves quickly from stating his role as an apostle to his main point, within the greeting—where his real authority comes from. Before we talk about the role of Christ in Paul’s theology, we must first look at his view of who God is. Paul call’s God “the Father” (Gal 1:1 CSB).  Paul uses the word Father three times in his greeting (Gal 1:1, 3, 4 CSB). This signifies how Paul sees God, just as Jesus saw God as His and our Father, so does Paul. He uses the word some forty-three times in all of his epistles. Twice he quotes Jesus, “Abba Father” (Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15 CSB). In Greek, the word is pater and is literally translated as father. For Paul, God is the only Father—God is the Father of Jesus (Gal 1:1 CSB) and He is the Father of all Christians (Gal 1:3, 4 CSB)—which is shown as God giving life to both Jesus through his resurrection and then to all Christians by way of justification (Martyn 2008, 84). Because God is Father, Jesus was raised back to life from death, redeeming all who believe in Him, of which Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6 CSB). In other words, Jesus is Paul’s way to salvation, yet it was God who was the main source (McClelland 2012, 1332).

 

Jesus’ Death and Resurrection as an Atonement

 

John Huss on Jesus' Sacrifice as an Atonement

The Image is taken from Ritzema, Elliot, and Rebecca Brant, eds. 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Medieval Church. Pastorum Series. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013.

 

To understand what Paul’s Gospel is, we need to carefully dissect Paul’s statement in verse 4: Jesus Christ “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal 1:4 CSB). First is the understanding of the word sin. Paul uses this word some sixty-four times in his letters. Paul, however, only uses this word three times in his Epistle to the Galatians. In Greek, hamartion is the plural form of hamartia, which simply means sin. It can also be used as wrongdoer and guilt. In the Old Testament, sinning was defined as missing the mark, [k]hata. This word, for the ancient Israelites, was more than an individual missing the mark or failing; to be honest, this word meant a problem for the whole of the community. In other words, sinning was not merely an individual act, its consequences covered the whole kingdom of Israel ( Henderson 2016). In the overall understanding of the Jewish view of sin, it is this, as J. Henderson (Ibid.) states in his article on sin, its a “direct violation of His [God’s] will.”

Sin Word Pie
The Word Pie is taken from Logos 7. 

 During the Greco-Roman era or the Second Temple Period, sin (hamartia) was viewed as a deviation from justice (Ibid.). For Socrates, sin, as well as guilt, was rooted in ignorance (Ibid.). Plato, modifying Socrates’ understanding, says that sin is not only just stemming from ignorance, it also comes from a conquering of reason by passion and appetite (Ibid.). Again, Henderson (Ibid.), in his article on sin, states that Aristotle (expanding on both Socrates and Plato’s understanding) viewed sin as

 

“further distinguish[ed] between the various was the rational part of the soul can know right from wrong: There is in fact a type of knowledge of right and wrong that cannot be overcome by passion or appetite, while there is a weaker type of knowledge seen in those under the influence of the passions that is similar to one who is dreaming, mad, or drunk.”

To the early Church, the Jewish notion of sin was kept, but modified around the death and resurrection of Jesus (Ibid.). Henderson (Ibid.), states in his article on sin that Jesus’ death and resurrection was seen by the early Church as an

“inaugurat[ion] [of] the new age, though they did not maintain that the old age had fully passed away. Thus, the early early Christians find themselves still living in the world surrounded by sin until the second coming of Christ and the new creation.”

Therefore, sin is not simply missing the mark, nor thinking incorrectly, it is, as Henderson (Ibid.) states, ” an internal, impersonal force within each person and within the church, closely connected with the very personal force of Satan, who seeks to turn people away from God.” Therefore, it is a complete struggle for power over people, sin is seen as a powerful force (Ibid).

 

Ther is only one thing that can save us from the struggle of sin—Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Greek word, exaireo, means rescue, deliver.

Rescue Word Pie
Rescue Word Pie image is taken from Logos 7.

It can also mean to take out, tear out, or remove. Paul’s use of this word is actually difficult, the Greek word is actually exeletai. In Greek, there is a form of language that we Americans do not have—the aorist tense. This tense is mostly past, however, it also indicates present and future at the same time. Paul uses the word rescue, which is tied to Jesus’ action of atonement, as a fixed moment in time, that was done in the past, however, continues to be used into the future (Morwood 2001, 61). This word is difficult to translate, however. The lexical form of the word is exaireo, as mentioned earlier, which means to deliver, take out, rescue. Strangely, the root of the word is aireo, which means to destroy; execute. To help matters, the word is not translated the same in all Bible versions. In the ESV, the word is “deliver.” However, in the CSB, NIV, NABRE, NET, and LEB* it’s “rescue.” The GNB has it as “set free,” and in the NJB it’s “liberate.” In all cases, what Paul is referring to is the theological understanding of the atonement.

 

Romans 323–24 [widescreen]

The image is taken from the Logos 7 Passage Guide.

J. I. Packer (1993, 134), in his Concise Theology, defines atonement as the “means [of] making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship.” To be completely clear, this entire epistle is about salvation—soteriology—or the work of the person of Christ. Though Paul does not use the word, atonement, in this letter, he does use it in thought for Jesus’ actions, ” who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age” (Gal 1:4 CSB). However, to completely understand the atonement of Christ, we need to look closer at the context of it. After God saved Israel from the Egyptians, He had to set up ways that He could commune with His people. For that to happen the people needed to be cleansed of their sins because God is holy and incorruptible. God despises sins (Jer 44:4; Hab 1:13 CSB). Because this is who God is, He must punish those who are sinful (Ps 5:4-6; Rom 1:18; 2:5-9 CSB). That being said, God had to make ways for the people to be atoned for. Leviticus tells us all about how the priests were to make atoning sacrifices for the people (Lev 17:11 CSB; Packer 1993, 134-135). By the time of the early Church, the understanding of atonement, established by the ancient Israelites, revolves around the work of Christ—Jesus’ death was a once-and-for-all, fixed moment in history, atoning event, one that surpassed what the Law required (Brockway 2016). Paul cashes in on this notion when, in Romans, he speaks of the atonement of Jesus. It’s in Romans 3:25 that Paul says, “God presented him as an atoning sacrifice in his blood, received through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed” (CSB). It’s here, in Romans, that the word hilasterion is used. This word can mean propitiation or mercy seat. Propitiation means that God demanded a righteous sacrifice to wipe away our sins, that we may be reconciled to Him(Lightner 1995, 195). As we have seen in the meaning of the use of exeletai, “rescue,” Paul was thinking of this notion, long before he wrote Romans. Paul understood the work of Christ, how his death and resurrection was done for us, to bring glory to God. This notion of salvation is all throughout the entirety of the epistle and we will look at it every time we come to it.

 

Author’s Note(s)

*These translations are: English Standard Version, Christian Standard Bible, New International Version, New American Bible Revised Edition (not to be confused with the New American Standard Bible), New English Translation, Lexham English Bible, Good News Bible, and the New Jerusalem Bible. The NABRE and NJB are two different Catholic translations, both of which are good for Protestants to use, due to seeing what Catholics view as Christianity.

Reference List

 

Brockway, D. 2016. “Atonement.” 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.

Carson, D. A., Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris. 1992. Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Fee, Gordon D. 2002. New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. 2014. How to Read the Bible for all its Worth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. 2008. Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 33. Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

Henderson, J. Jordan. 2016. “Sin.” 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.

Lightner, Robert P. 1995. Handbook of Evangelical Theology: A Historical, Biblical, and Contemporary Survey and Review. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

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

McClelland, Scott E. 2012. “Galatians.” In Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary. Edited by Gary M. Burge and Andrew E. Hill. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

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

Nässelqvist, Dan. 2016. “Apostle.” 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.

Packer, J. I. 1993. “Sacrifice: Jesus Christ Made Atonement for Sin.” In Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, Part Two: Introduction

The Importance of Galatians for Us Today

Galatians 220 [widescreen]

Galatians has had a very large impact on the Church throughout her history. Merrill C. Tenney (1973, 15-16), in his commentary on Galatians, states the letter to be the manifesto of Martin Luther in his “revolt against the Roman ritual and hierarchy.” It has been known as the “Magna Charta of spiritual emancipation,” especially with its teachings of faith and liberty for the whole Church (Tenney 1973, 16).  Almost from the beginning of the writings of Paul, Galatians has been used throughout the whole of the Church (Ibid., 19-21). It’s thought that Paul used, or even expounded upon, it when he wrote Romans (Ibid., 19). It’s believed that Polycarp alluded to Galatians twice in his Epistle to the Philippians (Ibid.). Polycarp says, “God is not mocked” (5.1 connected with Gal 6:7 CSB; Tenney 1973, 19). He also states, “”Father who raised him [Jesus Christ] from the dead” (XII. ii connected to Gal 1:1 CSB; Tenney 1973, 19). Irenaeus mentions the Epistle by name (Against Heresies 5.11.1) and Origen (ca.  AD 200) talks about it in his various commentaries, and finally, Jerome and Pelagius (fourth-century scholars) both focused on the Epistle to the Galatians in their works (Tenney 1973, 20). At the start of the Reformation, this Epistle was vastly important. Luther said, “[t]he Epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. To it [sic] I am as it were in wedlock. It is my Katherine [his actual wife]” (Luther 1535, Kindle Edition). If this letter can leave such a powerful experience on Luther, then we, who follow, should also be left with such an experience.

Why was this Letter Written?

Galatians Word Cloud

In this graph, the larger the word the more often it is used in the text. Also, Galatians appears in black because it is shown to be the portion of Scripture where these words come from for the graph. Word cloud taken from https://www.blueletterbible.org/images/wordclouds/imageDisplay/wc_48gal_b

Paul writes his epistle with a very specific tone of voice toward his various churches in Galatia (Gal 4:20 CSB). Paul has to speak, rather harshly it seems, due to a very important issue that has happened in churches. It is even noticeable that out of all of his letters, this one does not even have a thanksgiving or praise part to it, which was vitally important in this genre during Paul’s day (there are only two other letters, 2 Cor., 1 Tim., and Titus that did not have the thanksgiving portion in it). Paul uses very harsh words, things like curse and mutilation. In English, these words do not hold a very harsh or scary tone to them, but in the original Greek, they hold a very different meaning. When Paul says, twice, that anyone who teaches a different gospel is to be cursed, the Greek word is anathema, which is Paul saying that they are to be damned, to go to hell (Gal 1:8-9 CSB). Also, when Paul wishes that false teachers would be mutilated he is talking of not just circumcising themselves, he wants them to cut their whole manhood off—if you get what I mean—which is what is found in the meaning of the Greek word apokopsontai (Gal 5:12 CSB). The Greek word does mean to cut off, however, Paul means the whole thing, take it all the way he is telling his agitators. That is some harsh wording for his audience, even for his enemies. 

It must be understood, the Churches themselves are not the problem and therefore Paul says, “[y]ou have not wronged me; you know that previously I preached the gospel to you because of a weakness of the flesh. You did not despise or reject me though my physical condition was a trial for you. On the contrary, you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus himself” (Gal 4:12b-14 CSB). If Paul is not blaming his churches for the problem, then what is it that he is so harshly reprimanding them for? Paul even has to ask them this: “[y]ou were running well. Who prevented you from being persuaded regarding the truth” (Gal 5:7 CSB)? What has happened, then, is something like this. Some Jewish-Christians, those who have been named Judaizers (Gal 2:14 CSB), came into Paul’s churches in Galatia and began teaching that Jesus was not the only answer to salvation, that their faith was not enough, they needed to follow the Law in order to be fully saved. Now, technically, there is no translation that uses the word Judaizer, most say “live like Jews” (Gal 2:14 CSB, ESV, NABRE, NET, and NRSV). However, the meaning is still the same, to make someone who is not Jewish, live like one who is. This is the straight problem that fills all of the epistle. 

There are many schools of thought on what this letter, then, means. The first argument comes from Gerd Theissen (2003, 63) who believes that Paul was exaggerating in his remarks of the so-called proponents in his letter. He then states the actual truth was more in the fact that the Judaizers came in to fully complete Paul’s work by introducing circumcision (Ibid.). Theissen then completes his interpretation of the so-called proponents as holding to a more Jewish understanding of conversion in a two-stage process. First the Gentiles become God-fearers by attending services at the local synagogue; second, themselves or their children become fully Jewish by becoming circumcised (Ibid.). Thus, Paul’s argument (as Theissen believes) is that circumcision is not necessary to complete their faith but that faith itself finishes this work (Ibid., 64-65). Theissen plays down the seriousness of Paul’s letter. For him, the so-called proponents are just simply misunderstood.

Conversion of St. Paul

The image is taken from blueletterbible.org

Bruce Chilton and Deirdre Good (2011, 66-69), interpret Galatians with the background of the events in Acts 15 (CSB) and James’ letter to the Gentile believers. For Chilton and Good, Paul and James do not get along, James believes that the Gentiles are nothing more than a mere support to the true Israelites and for Paul, everything in the Torah and its rituals is not spiritual but merely idol worshipping (Ibid.). Because of the issue in Antioch, with Peter and Barnabas siding with the Judaizers, switching dinner fellowship from the Gentiles to the Jews, causes Paul to be excommunicated from Antioch (Ibid.). Therefore, Paul sets up shop in Ephesus and shows his fierce anger at the Galatians when the same thing begins to happen in their churches (Ibid.). For Chilton and Good, Paul is nothing more than an excommunicated, angry, free-spirited, radical Jew who will not have anything Jewish in his churches. If Theissen sees the anger of Paul as over exaggerated, then Chilton and Good view Paul as right to be so angry, maybe not even mad enough.

There is a field of research in New Testament studies known as Social-Science Criticism. Basically, these are sociologists and social historians (historians who focus on the social aspect of history) who apply sociology and social-science methodology in their understanding of the New Testament. One group of scholars in this field, Bruce Malina and John Pilch (2006, 178-180), have written a commentary on the so-called authentic letters of Paul (most liberal scholars do not think that all thirteen letters were written by Paul). They believe that Galatians is written by Paul on the defense of Greek Jews living outside of Judea not needing to live as those in Judea (Ibid.). Basically, in Malina and Pilch’s understanding, Paul did not convert anyone outside of Judaism to Christ. What this means, in their field, is that for the Jew there were Judean Jews (Greeks thought of them as barbarians) and Greek Jews (Greeks were the civilized ones); essentially, Greek Jews did not practice all of the strict rituals that the Judeans did (Ibid.). Paul went to the Greek Jews in Galatia, taught them of Christ, saw that the Greek view of Judaism was compatible with his message of Christ and did not require them to become Judean in their practice of Judaism. This is a tough pill to swallow, mainly because Acts records that Paul went to the Jew first in the synagogues, and then when he was rejected he moved on to the Gentiles, not Jewish Greeks but Greco-Romans, pagans (Acts 18:6 CSB).

Let’s look at these arguments from a different view. First, we know that Paul and Barnabas (thanks to Luke’s account of Paul’s journeys in Acts 13-14, CSB) went throughout the southern region of Galatia preaching and teaching first in the synagogues, then when other Jews began to stir up trouble they moved to the Gentiles (Carson, Moo, and Morris 1992, 295).

Paul and Barnabas are called gods
The image is taken from blueletterbible.org

Therefore, the churches of Galatia are going to be mostly Gentile (Ibid.). Second, the local issue of the Jewish-Christians is not that they are simply Jewish, mostly because the Jews did not bother trying to correct Christian understanding, they just came against them (Ibid.). What this means, then, is that these Jewish-Christians are false teachers (Ibid.). Next, Paul’s Gospel was brought into question, which means that the true Gospel of God was under fire (Elwell and Yarbrough 1998, 298-299). Because his Gospel is called into question, Paul is thus doubted as a true apostle (Carson, Moo, and Morris 1992, 295). This is why Paul opens his letter, “an apostle—not from men or by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead” (Gal 1:1 CSB). It’s also why Paul states at the end of his letter, “let no one cause me trouble, because I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Gal 6:17 CSB; Carson, Moo, and Morris 1992, 295). The false gospel, being taught by the false teachers, was that Jesus was not the only way to be saved, you still had to follow the Law—mainly, circumcision and dietary (Gal 2:15-16; 3:10, 23; 5:2-6, 12; 6:12 CSB). Paul’s rhetoric, which is valid and strong, states that if one is to take on circumcision, then one is to practice the whole Law and therefore negating the freedom one has under Christ (Carlson, Moo, and Morris 1992, 295). What is Paul’s answer to the false teachers? It’s not a simple one, though it seems that way to others. Paul’s answer is that we are “justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law…[we] have been crucified with Christ…[we] live by faith in the Son of God [Jesus]…for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing” (Gal 2:16, 20, 21 CSB). 

What is the Doctrine of Justification and Why is it so Important?

Galatians' Word Cloud from Logos

The word cloud is taken from Logos 7 Passage Guide

When you read the epistle of Galatians, certain things begin to pop out at you. One of the first things to be seen is best illustrated with the two word clouds on the whole of the Epistle to the Galatians, the first one taken from Blue Letter Bible (BLB) and the one, directly above, is from Logos 7.  You can see that one of the major words in the cloud is “justify” and one other word, that stems from the same Greek word, which is slightly smaller in the Logos 7 word cloud is “righteous.” When we look at the key verse for this in Galatians (2:15-21 CSB), we can see that the word justified is even bigger, while righteousness is smaller.

Galatians 2:15-21 Word Cloud
The word cloud is taken from Logos 7 Passage Guide

Next, we can see that there are several large words, other than justified, within this word cloud. First, it must be noted that the word sinners is fairly large, as well as Christ and died. What is happening in this portion of the text is something crazy, which gets carried out throughout the whole portion of the letter—the dualism between sinners (under the Law) and those who are justified (the ones that have faith in Christ). To understand this, we need to grasp the word dikaioutai, which the lexical form dikaioo, in English, means to justify, vindicate, or be free. The word pie below, taken from Logos 7 Bible Word Study Guide, shows that the lexical form of dikaioo, justify, has its root in the word dike, which means punishment; or penalty; or justice. Basically, this is a legal term, which shows that justified means that we are made right with God, through our faith in the sacrificial act of Jesus on the cross.

Justified Greek Word Pie
The Word Pie, on the Greek word for Justified, taken from Logos 7 Bible Word Study Guide

The Council of Trent (1531) states “[f]or faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body.” What this means, is that for modern Roman Catholics, one is only justified if they meet it with charity—fides caritate formata (Dulles 2011, 98).  However, this was not how the reformers saw it. According to scripture (Galatians, Romans, 1 Corinthians, etc.), we are justified by faith alone (sola fide). R. C. Sproul (2014, 233), states “justification is a legal pronouncement made by God. In other words, justification can occur only when God, who is Himself just, becomes the Justifier by decreeing someone to be just in His sight.” This is why the words justified and sinner are bigger words in the word cloud than any other. As sinners, we deserve the full wrath and judgment of God, however, Jesus Christ came, as a human, lived righteously, because we could not. When He was placed on the cross, he took our sins, in exchange we received His righteousness upon His resurrection from the dead. This is how our faith, in Christ, makes us right with God. Thus, this is the message of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Reference List

Carson, D. A., Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris. 1992. Introduction to the New Testament. 289-303. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Chilton, Bruce and Deirdre Good. 2011. Studying the New Testament: A Fortress Introduction. 66-69. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Dulles, Avery. “Faith and Revelation.” In Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives. Edited by Francis Schüssler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin. 79-108. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Elwell, Walter and Robert W. Yarbrough. 1998. Encountering the New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey. 296-303. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Luther, Martin. Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535). Translated by Theodore Graebner. Kindle edition.

Malina, Bruce J. and John J. Pilch. 2006. Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul. 177-218. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Sproul, R. C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. 233-236. Orlando: Reformation Trust.

Tenney, Merrill C.  1973. Galatians: The Charter of Christian Liberty. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Theissen, Gerd. 2003. Fortress Introduction to the New Testament. Translated by John Bowden. 62-66. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

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Epistle of Jude 17-25: Keep Yourself in the Love of God, Contending for the Faith

jude17-25_image(2) - Edited

Prologue

Jude has brought us along on a short, but powerful journey. Sharing with his audience, as well as us, what following Christ really is like. We are not just someone in an audience, listening to a pastor on a Sunday morning. We are being called to “save others by snatching them from the fire” and to show mercy to them, all while keeping ourselves in the love of Christ (Jude 23 CSB). This is the powerful, yet short message of Jude’s epistle. Join me as we look at the end of Jude’s epistle together.

Jude 17-23

Warning and an Exhortation

Jude’s last portion of his letter is structured as so—he calls for his audience to contend for the faith just as he requested them to in his opening. There are three sections—there is the call to remember the teaching of the Apostles regarding the eschaton (a fancy word for the end time), that there would be those who would live ungodly lives. Then, Jude breaks out his exhortation with verses 21-23. Jude then ends with his benediction.

jude17-19_imageWith this section, the words hymeis de (But you) begins both the sentences in verse 17 and 20. What is most interesting about this section is that Jude makes mention that his audience had heard what the Apostles said, which leads to the notion that either Jude is reminding his audience of what the Apostles said, of which he himself quoted, or, and more probable, is that Jude’s audience actually heard the literal words of all 11 of the Apostles, which would make this letter earlier than believed (Faithlife Study Bible note). As well, we have access to this teaching, in Mark 13:22; Acts 20:30; 1 Tim 4:1-3; 2 Pet 3:3 (CSB). This has to do with eschatology (the study of the end times). During the time period of Jude’s letter, the notion of the end time was that it began with Jesus’ resurrection and would come to fruition upon His second coming (Brooks 2016). Jude uses the word elegon which in the Greek is parsed as a third person plural verb in the imperfect active indicative. I know that is a long phrase to say “they said.” What it means, though, is that the wording connotes that the Apostles continuously predicted of these false teachers (NIV Study Bible). Jude calls these false teachers, empaiktai, scoffers. Jude, again, tells his audience that these men are out for nothing except what fulfills their desires. He tells us that we can know who they are because they “create divisions and are worldly, not having the Spirit” (Jude 19 CSB).

 

Jude 20–21 [widescreen]

 

Now we turn to Jude’s exhortation. Again, Jude begins his sentence with the words, hymeis de (But you). Jude uses several words, which all tie into the theme of contending for the faith. jude20-23_imageFirst, Jude tells his audience that they need to “pray in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20 CSB).  Followed by waiting on the eternal life in the mercy of Jesus Christ (Jude 21 CSB). After this, Jude wants us to “[h]ave mercy on those who waver” (Jude 22 CSB); save others from hell, show mercy without fear, and to hate corruption (Jude 23 CSB). This second to the last paragraph in Jude’s letter is loaded with such wonderful and, yet, powerful words.

 

Jude20_image

Jude begins this exhortation with the desire for his audience to pray in the Spirit. Jude believes that praying in the Spirit will build up the members of the Church. The word for build up in Greek is epoikodomountes. This word is a long Greek word for “up” in English. The word build is connoted with it or joined with it through context. Here, Jude uses the word proseuchomenoi which is translated as praying. The lexical, or root word, for this, is proseuchomai which means to pray. It is the most common, or general, Greek word used for the actual act of conversing with God. Prayer was a very important part of the early Church, one that flowed over from Judaism (Hardin 2016). Early Judaism, of which the early Church came from, had several types of prayers—eg., liturgical, personal, and spontaneous ones (Ibid.). However, the early Christians did have their own take on the prayers, of which are—Abba Father, Thanksgiving, In Jesus Name, and Intercessions in the Spirit (Ibid.). Jude, here, is requesting his audience to pray in the power and spontaneousness of the Spirit (NIV Study Bible, Keener and Walton 2016; MacArthur 2017). Jude believes, that by praying in the Spirit, his audience will be able to keep themselves in the love of God. We can identify this by the simple fact that Jude’s only command is the word keep, in Greek is tērēsate. Helm (2008) in his commentary of Jude says,

It is a matter of Greek grammar. In the list of things Jude calls us to do in verses 20, 21, the word “keep” is the only one that appears as an imperative. In other words, it is Jude’s only command. The other items in Jude’s how-to list are what are called participles, which means that grammatically speaking they are dependent on the phrase “keep yourselves.” In essence, Jude’s call in verse 21 to keep ourselves is the center of gravity for everything else being said.

What Jude is getting at here, with verses 20 and 21 is that the good Christ followers will pray in the Spirit, unlike those false teachers who will be worldly, seeking any ways possible to fulfill their own desires.

Between verses 22 and 23, Jude uses the word mercy twice. The Greek word, eleate, translated as mercy is used by Mounce (2006) and he defines the root word, eleeō, as an “emotional response and resulting action after encountering the suffering or affliction of another.” Basically, Jude uses this word here, as well as in 23, in a way that is to have pity on those who are suffering. Jude then makes a strange request in verse 23, he seeks us to snatch people from Hell! The Greek word, harpazontes, means snatching. Once again, Mounce (2008) describes the lexical form of the word, harpazō, as a violent or forceful grasp. Mounce (2008) believes that Jude uses this word to teach “the forceful proclamation of sound doctrine.” In verse 22, again, who are those who waver? Jude chose the Greek word diakrinomenous, which translates as waver in the CSB, NAB, and the NLT, and the ESV, LEB, and the NIV translate the word as doubt. I believe that Jude is seeking for his audience to show pity on those who were affected by the false teachers and having doubt in the correct doctrinal teachings of the Church.

In verse 23, Jude then exhorts his audience to “save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (CSB). Jude uses the Greek word, sozete, which means to save. Since Jude’s audience was mostly Jewish, one can understand the meaning of this word in its Jewish context. The translators of the LXX (Septuigent—Greek version of the Old Testament) used sozo, the lexical form of sozete, roughly 15 times and mostly for the Hebrew verb yāša’ which means “to deliver and save;” as well as for mālaṭ meaning “to slip away, escape, or (piel) to deliver, save” (Verbrugge 2000). There were two main meanings of this word in the LXX for sozo which were by human deliverance, meaning from a king to “the poor, needy, and oppressed within the nation”; while the other meaning comes from God (Ibid.). Many Old Testament warnings were in regards to not being sucked into a false notion of salvation from things not of God (Ibid.). Jude, being the good Jew that he was trained up to be, uses these many warnings (as we have seen in his letter so far) to say to his audience that they are to be part of the deliverance of God to those who are led astray.

Jude uses the weirdest statement in his whole letter when he exhorts his audience to “show mercy with fear” (Jude 23 CSB). What does he mean by fear? The word in Greek is phobo. Jude’s use of the word phobo is nothing short of simply being mindful. What that means, in a way, has to be seen with the rest of the sentence of which this statement comes from “hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (Jude 23 CSB). What does Jude mean, though, in regards to “the garment?” Jude uses the Greek word chitona which is translated as either garment or tunic. The tunic, as used in this verse, was the garment worn under the outer one, or as William Mounce, in his New Testament Dictionary, states, “the article of clothing worn next to the skin by both men and women” (Mounce 2006). What needs to be understood here, then, is that what is the closest to the person is easily corruptible. In other words, as the translators of the NET state, “the things close to the sinners are contaminated by them, presumably during the process of sinning” (Harris 2017). All of verse 23 is taken from Zechariah 3:1-5 (CSB). God rebukes Satan for accusing the high priest Joshua in front of the Lord. God asks Satan, “[i]sn’t this man [high priest Joshua] a burning stick snatched from the fire?” After this, God takes Joshua’s clothes, which were filthy, and replaces them with clean ones (Zech 3:4-5 CSB). Jude wants his audience, who would have had this verse from Zechariah in their thoughts, to see that this was how God wants them (as well as us) to treat those who have strayed.

Jude 24-25

Benediction

 

Jude 24–25 [widescreen]

 

Now we come to the portion of the letter known as the doxology or the benediction. This is Jude’s final closing to his audience. Most Jewish services would end on a praise through a doxology (Keener 2014, 722). Jude is now going to tie everything back to his theme of salvation that he briefly spoke of at the beginning of his letter (Jude 1-3 CSB; MacArthur 2017, 1988n). Jude is able to do this with his song of praise to God.

Jude opens is doxology expressing one of the most important truths in all of the Bible—”to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy” (Jude 24 CBS). To begin, Jude uses the Greek word phylaxai which comes from the lexical form phylassō which can mean to guard, preserve, and/or keep. The Greeks had a form of this word for a guard or sentry (phylax). In Jude’s use, it can be translated as protect. Only the CSB states this word as protect in English where the ESV, GNB, NJB, NIV, and NLT all interpret it as keep. For Jude, protect or keep can mean the same thing, which in theology is known as the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints.” It is best explained in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647, 17.1) as ” [t]hey, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” The notion is that if we are truly regenerated, saved, by the work of Jesus, then we will never fall away. There is also an understanding, here, that in verse 21 Jude tells us to keep in the love of Christ, which now he tells us that it is in God that we are kept. In other words, God’s grace keeps us, which causes us to stay in Christ’s love. By doing this, it brings glory to God.

Application

Jude’s Epistle was written to show his audience, as well as us, to stay holy, persevering in the love of Christ. Jude 25 [widescreen]We are to contend for the faith, saving those along the way who have lost their way. We are only able to do this through the perseverance of God. It was God who created this world and everything in it, calling it good. From the beginning, God made a covenant with Adam, that was to be carried along by the rest of humanity, to expand His kingdom (the Garden of Eden). However, it was man who broke that covenant. Then, God made more covenants (eg., Noah, Abraham, Jacob, the people of Israel) knowing full well that we would never be able to uphold our end of the contract. Therefore, God had to do what we could not, he made a covenant with Himself through the person of Jesus the Christ, for us. Through that covenant, God was able to keep/protect us, which in turn allows us to stay in the love of Christ. This is the message of Jude, in a nutshell. “Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25 CSB)!

Reference List

Brooks, Page. 2016. “Eschatology.” In Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Hardin, Leslie T. 2016. “Prayer.” In Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Harris, W. Hall III ed. 2017. New English Translation. Biblical Studies Press, LLC.

Helm, David R. 1-2 Peter and Jude. Preaching the Word Commentary Series. Edited by R. Kent Hughes. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Keener, Craig S. 2014. IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Keener, Craig S. and John H. Walton. 2016. Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MacArthur, John. 2017. MacArthur Study Bible: Aniversary Edition. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Mounce, William D. 2008. “(Have) Mercy.” In Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Verbrugge, Verlyn ed. “G5392 σῴζω.” In New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 

 

Epistle of Jude 12-19: Dead Fruitless Trees

jude12-16_image

Prologue

Sometimes you go to a church where things act, look, and sound Christian (especially orthodox). However, you find out that the pastor has just been accused of having an affair with his secretary or stealing money from the offering. When your church needed a new roof or some work done in the basement, yet, somehow the pastor has just gotten a new car or house, you begin to wonder what is really going on. In the early middle ages (ca. AD 500-1000), the office of the priesthood was held by, mostly, the children of a current churches priest. Basically, until the 11th century, the Medieval Church allowed their priests to marry, giving their offspring the ability to inherit the parish and take over as its new priest. This was good, until the time of the Viking invasions, which left the churches in the hands of ungodly, false teachers, men who did not care how the church flourished spiritually, only that they got their women and money. After this, the priesthood moved to more of the nobility. During the High Middle Ages (ca. AD 1000-1250), if a noble had three sons, one took on the family industry of the nobility, the second would become a lawyer, and the third would become a member of the clergy. This tradition continued on till the modern period of the French Revolution (1789). Interestingly, the desire to hold a pastorate or church for sex, power, and/or wealth, has been common, even in today’s society. This is what Jude calls us to look out for. We must judge these so-called rulers by the type of fruit they produce.

Jude has just finished exegeting (fancy word for pulling out of the text, an important form of interpretation) and is now going to move along to applying his findings to his audience (Helm 2015). Those who proclaim to be teachers of the Word, yet live a life contrary to it, as Jude will tell us, are nothing more than dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, and fruitless trees (Jude 12 CSB). Jude tells us that these false teachers are the ones “whom the blackness of darkness is reserved forever” (Jude 13 CSB). 

Jude 12-13

Jude begins his application by describing what type of people these so-called leaders actually are. He uses the word, in Greek, spilades, which can be translated, as in most cases, hidden reefs. This is a very interesting term to use when speaking of eating at a feast. In the translations of Mounce’s Reverse-Interlinear New Testament, NIV, and the NAB (New American Bible Revised), it is translated as blemish. According to the NET (New English Translation),  the translating of spilades as blemish is incorrect. The Greek word for blemish would be spiloi. They’re similar, even in the root of the words, spilas and spilos. Basically, the ESV, CSB (Christian Standard Bible, a revision of the HCSB), NET, and NLT have it translated, correctly, hidden/dangerous reef. Making the concept of the false teachers as ones who being so-called rocks of their community are nothing more than hidden reefs, causing a shipwreck (Harris 2017).

Early Christians celebrated the Eucharist as a love feast. Though we do know that Christ used bread and wine to form His new community; Jesus and His disciples feasted on a bigger meal, the Passover Feast, which consisted of lamb, bread, wine, and various other dishes. Craig S. Keener (2016), in his comment on Jude 12 in his Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, states that communal meals were part of the Mediterranean value system, where it created an obligatory friendship bond. The idea behind these feasts, tais agapais in Greek, was for the community to gather together to celebrate their love of Christ and each other. It’s in this feast that these false teachers are corrupting and shipwrecking the flock.

Jude now begins to tear these heretics apart, using some very descriptive words in regards to what kind of people they are, within his church. Jude begins with calling them “shepherds who only look after themselves” (Jude 12 CSB). In other words, what Jude is telling his audience is that these men care only about themselves. These men seek only gain, no matter what the cost. Jude continues to explain that these so-called shepherds are completely useless, devoid of any value. This is why he likens them to waterless clouds, dead, uprooted (twice over) fruitless trees (Jude 12 CSB). This last statement is important. Jude calls these men, dead trees, that are fruitless, and uprooted. It is vitally important for us to catch what Jude is saying here, these men are incapable of producing anything of value because they are dead and uprooted. They cannot, and will not, be able to be fruitful. 

Next, Jude moves to an even deeper expounding of their persons and reservations. Jude says that “[t]hey are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameful deeds” (Jude 13 CSB). The Jews had a way with words. In Jewish writings, it was not uncommon to use the symbolism of waves for wickedness (Keener and Walton 2016). The Greeks had a way with language as well; here, for instance, is the single word epaphrizonta which literally translates into casting up the foam. It was sometimes associated with “babbling or exposing secrets” (Keener and Walton 2016). Next Jude tells his audience that these false prophets are “wandering stars for whom the blackness of darkness is reserved forever” (Jude 13 CSB). Wandering stars were seen as actually planets, which in some cases they actually are (Keener and Walton 2016). What Jude is saying here, which aligns with his culture and time, is that these false teachers are nothing more than the erratic planets circling around the earth–which we know today is not correct, however, the argument is still valid (Ibid.). Again, Jude alludes to 1 Enoch, with this statement about the false prophets being wandering stars (Ibid.). It is in 1 Enoch “that God imprisoned hostile star-angels [and that their] judgment [was] as “darkness … forever” (Ibid.). 

Jude 14-16

It’s time again that we focused on Jude’s use of extrabiblical sources for his message in his letter. First, Jude was not incorrect in his use of extrabiblical sources, mainly because, even, Jesus did not stick strictly to the Old Testament (see Matt 23 CSB; Archer 1982). What we need to look at, quickly, is who Enoch was. The only source, in the Bible, for Enoch comes from the Torah, or Pentateuch (Gen 5:18-24 NKJV). What we can deduce, here from Jude, as well as Genesis, is that Enoch was the seventh generation after Adam and that he was thought to have prophesied the verse in 1 Enoch 1:9 (Jude 14-15 CSB). 1 Enoch is what scholars like to call, apocalyptic literature. Basically, apocalyptic literature is a Biblical genre that uses symbols and imagery to portray God’s future judgment (Neal 2016). 1 Enoch does resemble much of the Old Testament and may have influenced some of the New Testament writers, using common terms as Son of Man and shared notions of angels (Hiehle and Whitcomb 2016). First off, 1 Enoch was written ca. 200 BC (Ibid.). That is a long time after the actual life of Enoch, as well as about few hundred years before Jude even thought about writing his letter. Essentially, 1 Enoch is a book all about the coming judgment, end times narrative much like Revelation, of God, especially upon the ungodly (Ibid.). Though 1 Enoch is not canonical, Jude still used it to show his audience the seriousness of God’s coming judgment on false teachers (Helm 2015). To end this portion of Jude’s letter, these false teachers are nothing more than loudmouths who long to glorify themselves and gain as much sensuality, power, and wealth as they can (Jude 16 CSB).

Conclusion

We, in the Church of America, are continuously under attack by Satan and his army of false teachers. It seems that there is always someone taking advantage of another. Let us think like Jude, be on our guard of these dead and fruitless heretics. Jesus is our only Lord and God and we need to be wary of anyone preaching another gospel unlike some of those in Paul’s churches (Gal 1:6; 2 Cor 11:4 CSB). There are those who do not preach God’s wrath, Jesus’ substitutionary atonement, or Christ’s actual divinity. Instead, they water down the Gospel, teaching a Jesus who led a revolution and died because of injustice. This is the Church in America that is falling prey to these attacks, and it is time that we listen to Jude, as well as the other New Testament authors, and wake up take back our Church. Oh little ones, be careful of the false teachers. Let us stay faithful to Christ, His teachings, and the Word of God.

Reference List

Archer, Gleason L. 1982. “Did Jude err when he cited nonbiblical sources?” In New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Harris, W. Hall III. 2017. New English Translation. Biblical Studies Press, LLC.

Helm, David R. 2015. 1-2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Suffering. Preaching the Word Commentary Series. Edited by R. Kent Hughes. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Hiehle, Jonathan Alan and Kelly A. Whitcomb. 2016. “First Book of Enoch.” In Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Keener, Craig S. and John H. Walton. 2016. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Neal, D. A. 2016. “Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature.” In Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.