Friday, October 19, 2018

Book Write-Up: Daniel, by John C. Whitcomb

John C. Whitcomb. Daniel. Moody Publishers, 1985, 2018. See here to purchase the book.

John C. Whitcomb has taught theology and Old Testament at Grace Theological Seminary. This commentary on Daniel is conservative, dispensational, pre-tribulational, and pre-millennial. “Conservative” means that Whitcomb dates the Book of Daniel to the sixth century BCE rather than the second century BCE. That allows the prophecies in the Book of Daniel to be actual predictions that at least partially came to pass, rather than fake prophecies written after the “predicted” events. “Conservative” also implies that Whitcomb regards the Book of Daniel as historically authentic, as opposed to containing historical errors. And it entails that Whitcomb sees the Book of Daniel as predicting eschatological events that will actually be fulfilled in our future, not predictions about the Maccabean era that failed to materialize. “Dispensational” means that Whitcomb contends that the Book of Daniel concerns Israel, both historically and in the last days, not the church; still, the tribulational saints who believe in Jesus after the rapture of the church seem to factor into Whitcomb’s exposition of Daniel. “Pre-tribulational” indicates that Whitcomb believes in the rapture of the church prior to the Great Tribulation, and “pre-millennial” implies that Whitcomb thinks Jesus will return to earth and will then establish a literal millennial reign.

Here are some thoughts:

A. An asset to this book is its conservative arguments for the Book of Daniel’s historical authenticity and sixth century date. Whitcomb responds to the more liberal scholarly arguments that the captivity of Daniel in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign is factually inaccurate and contradicts Jeremiah 46:2; that the Greek words for musical instruments in Daniel 3 attest to a Hellenistic date; that there was no historical “Darius the Mede” who conquered Babylon; that, contrary to Daniel 5, Belshazzar was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar and was not the actual king of Babylon; and that there was no law of the Medes and the Persians stating that a king’s decree cannot be revoked. Among other things, Whitcomb appeals to the Aramaic of Daniel, a late second century fragment of Daniel at Qumran shortly after the time that liberal scholars think Daniel was written, Babylonian customs, the existence of different Israelite dating systems, and a detail provided by the ancient historian Diodorus Siculus (second century BCE) about Darius III that sounds like the irrevocable law of the Medes and the Persians. The endnotes provide more extensive scholarly discussion and documentation.

B. Was Whitcomb convincing in his conservative arguments? I would say “Perhaps, but…” to a lot of these arguments. Whitcomb appeals to Kenneth Kitchen’s 1965 article, “The Aramaic of Daniel,” which appeared in the book Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel. Kitchen indeed does argue that the Aramaic of the Book of Daniel fits the seventh-fourth centuries BCE more than the Aramaic in the late second-first centuries BCE. At the same time, Kitchen’s conclusion appears rather modest: “Some points hint at an early (especially pre-300), not late, date—-but in large part could be argued to be survivals till the second century BC…It is…obscurantist to exclude dogmatically a sixth-fifth (or fourth) century date on the one hand, or to hold such a date as mechanically proven on the other, as far as the Aramaic is concerned.” Whitcomb refers to the scholarly argument that “Darius the Mede” was the Median Gubaru, whom Cyrus made governor of Babylon, Syria, and Palestine. Why does the Book of Daniel call Gubaru “Darius the Mede,” however, as well as the son of Ahasuerus (Daniel 9:1)? Are these not names of Persian kings? Whitcomb does well to refer to a possible non-biblical reference to the unchanging law of the Medes and the Persians, while responding to scholarly arguments that it is not such. Still, a question occurs in my mind. Michael Fox argues that the proto-Alpha text of Esther came before the MT Esther, and the proto-Alpha text presents the king of Persia revoking his previous decree. Could that indicate that the concept of an unchanging law of Medes and Persians was a concept later invented (or applied) by biblical authors rather than a historical memory? While Whitcomb characterizes the liberal position as dating all of Daniel to the second century BCE, scholars such as John Collins and John Goldingay maintain that many stories in Daniel may be older than the final version of the book.

C. This is not to suggest that I find liberal arguments completely convincing. Liberal scholarship tends to interpret the second kingdom of Daniel 2 and 7 as the Medes, the third kingdom as Persia, and the fourth kingdom as Greece, culminating in Antiochus Epiphanes. That coincides with its view that Daniel is a wishful eschatological hope about the end of Antiochus’ reign. Conservative scholars, by contrast, contend that the second kingdom is Medo-Persia, the third is Greece, and the fourth is Rome. The problem with separating the Medes and the Persians is that Daniel often combines the two (Daniel 5:28; 6:8, 12, 15).

D. In his chapter on Daniel 8, Whitcomb states: “Toward the end of the times of the Gentiles…we should not be too surprised to find certain aspects of the third kingdom still existing.” Whitcomb speculates that “the eschatological extension of the third kingdom” will be Gog from Magog (Ezekiel 38-39). A liberal scholar might understandably conclude that Whitcomb is trying to force what the Book of Daniel is—-a document from and about events in the second century BCE—-into an eschatological scenario that concerns our future.

E. At the same time, Whitcomb raises some legitimate arguments that call into question whether the prophecies in Daniel culminate solely in the second century BCE. If the King of the North was only the Seleucid Empire, Whitcomb asks, why does he take such a circuitous route to get to Israel, attacking countries on the way? If his base were in Syria, all he would have to do is go straight south to Israel.

F. The book offers interesting interpretations and prophetic scenarios. For instance, Daniel 12:11-12 refers to the 1,290 days and the 1,335 days. Whitcomb argues that Christ returns 1,260 days after the Abomination of Desolation. Christ then spends thirty days cleansing the sanctuary, and the days after that consist of judgment of those who survive the Great Tribulation. Whitcomb also attempts to reconcile the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation, and to read both books in light of each other. For example, Whitcomb interprets the Beast’s deadly wound being healed in Revelation 13 in light of northern attacks on the man of sin in the Book of Daniel.

G. The book used historical arguments to illuminate the Book of Daniel, but there were also homiletical meanderings. Whitcomb at one point refers to Saul not knowing about Samuel the seer (I Samuel 9). In discussing how Darius threw the wicked men’s families to the lions in Daniel 9, Whitcomb says that the Israelite culture was much more humane than the Persian.

H. The book would have been stronger had Whitcomb explained why God in the Book of Daniel would talk both about the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and end-time events long after that. Whitcomb somewhat touched on this, but not adequately.

I. A slight pet-peeve: on page 165, Whitcomb dates Antiochus Epiphanes’ reign to 175-64 BCE. Whitcomb frequently did that with BCE dates: cut off the first digit in the terminus ad quem year. He should not do that with BCE dates because it is confusing. Antiochus IV’s reign ended in 164 BCE, not 64 BCE, as Whitcomb knows.

My critiques notwithstanding, I still give this commentary five stars. It is informative, interesting, and meaty.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Church Write-Up: Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:23-34; Ecclesiastes 5

Here are some items from this week’s LCMS Bible study:

A. Our first text was Hebrews 5:1-10.

The pastor said that one reason that the author of Hebrews was discouraging his audience to go back to Judaism, in an attempt to avoid persecution, was that they would find no assurance in Judaism. In the Old Testament, the priest went into the sanctuary on the Day of Atonement, and there as no guarantee that he would come out. Because of Jesus, however, Christians can come boldly before the throne of grace, knowing that God hears them. There may be something to that. I wonder how this view would account for passages that suggest that God will not hear certain prayers. Most of them appear to be in the Old Testament, so one can perhaps say that God operated that way in the Old Testament but now, in this age of grace, God hears the prayers of those who trust Christ’s grace for salvation, period, as flawed as they may be. Yet, there is I Peter 3:7, which warns Christians against hindering their prayers through family discord. There are also New Testament passages about God not giving people what they request (James 1:6-7; 4:3), due to certain moral or spiritual issues. But could one say that God at least hears their prayers due to God’s grace, even if God does not give them what they want?

Hebrews 5:5 states: “So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee” (KJV). The pastor said that this is quoting Psalm 2, which was a coronation Psalm. God, by begetting David, was essentially anointing David to be king. Similarly, God’s begetting of Jesus at baptism was God anointing Jesus to be priest.

Someone in the class asked about Melchizedek. The pastor said that the rabbis had a tradition that Melchizedek was an eternal priest and showed up when Abraham needed him. I checked the Jewish Encyclopedia, the Anchor Bible Dictionary, and the Lexham Bible Dictionary. My impression from the last two is that Qumran interpreted Melchizedek to be a heavenly eternal priest, but later rabbinic literature largely repudiated that idea and was responding to the Epistle to the Hebrews by contending that Melchizedek was Shem, son of Noah, not a supernatural figure.

The pastor tossed in the historical detail that, by Jesus’ day, the high priest was elected for a year or so. The Sanhedrin elected him, and Pilate had to approve.

The pastor drew contrasts between Lutheran/Protestant views of the priesthood and Roman Catholic views. Lutherans see Jesus as the high priest, whereas Catholics believe that priests somehow continue the Aaronic priesthood by conveying God’s forgiveness to people. The pastor said that he does something different from that when he pronounces the church people as forgiven every Sunday, for he speaks forgiveness under the authority of Christ. The pastor also said that Catholics see the mass as a nonbloody sacrifice for sin, whereas the pastor consecrates the Eucharist rather than treating it as a nonbloody sacrifice.

B. The second text was Mark 10:23-34, the story of the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler thought that he was blessed of God due to his many possessions, and that he was righteous because he had kept the commandments. He thought that, naturally, he would be a good follower of Jesus. He was too full of himself to be full of God. Jesus said it was easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to inherit the Kingdom of God. The pastor rejected the idea that the eye of a needle was a narrow gate in Jerusalem, saying there is no archeological evidence for this. But the pastor had a spiritual problem with this view as well. Seeing the eye of a needle as a mere gate implies that a camel can get through with enough effort. Similarly, we might think that we can get into the Kingdom of God by being humble enough. But that is impossible, for we can never be humble enough. That is why salvation is about what God does. The pastor said that the saying about the eye of a needle may be based on a Persian saying about an elephant being unable to fit through the eye of a needle; the Hebrews adapted that saying to an animal in their own setting, the camel.

Peter told Jesus that he and the disciples left everything to follow him. On first sight, the pastor said, one might think that Peter was making salvation about himself and what he did rather than what God does. Alternatively, though, Peter may have been shedding light on the practices of the early Christian community. Jesus said that those who leave family and lands for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel will gain family and lands, along with persecution, in this life, as well as eternal life. When one becomes a Christian, one enters a new family. Christians back then shared their possessions, pooling them together and using them for the needs of people in the community (Acts 5). In that sense, Christians gained lands. Someone in the class drew a parallel between that and today’s Christian health insurance plans. Jesus mentions persecution, the pastor said, to bring Christians down to earth so that they do not get caught up in earthly possessions. Christians may have earthly possessions, but they view them from the perspective of their life in Christ. I thought of I Timothy 6:17-18, which exhorts rich Christians not to be highminded but to do good and to be rich in good works.

C. The third text was Ecclesiastes 5:18-20. The pastor commented, though, on Ecclesiastes 5 as a whole. Ecclesiastes 5 opens by telling people to hear from God rather than making vows. They are trying to make a deal with God, to impress God with their vows; that differs from what Hebrews has, namely, being confident on account of what Christ has done and is doing. Ecclesiastes is also about the futility of wealth. One may work hard all his life and leave his wealth to a foolish son. Or one may work hard and at the end of the day be tired, as his employer gets most of the profit. You can’t take it with you. What is the source of happiness? Seeing God as one’s provider. At the beginning of the class, a lady read a note about how the life of faith includes being so full of joy that one is preoccupied with that and not one’s problems.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Church Write-Up: Finishing I John Class

For my Church Write-Up today, I will post items from the LCMS Sunday School class. The pastor was completing his series on I John.

A. I John 5:16 states: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it” (KJV).

There is a sin not unto death, and a sin unto death. The pastor said that the sin unto death was rejecting the faith. The reason that this sin is unforgivable is that faith is the means to receive forgiveness from God, so, if a person refuses that, he or she is shutting himself or herself off from forgiveness. We cannot judge who has committed this sin, though, because only God knows the heart. Even someone who appears to have rejected the faith may have some flicker of faith that the Holy Spirit can fan.

I asked the pastor to explain the part about praying and not praying for people who sin. Christians are encouraged to pray for those who have committed non-mortal sins, but John denies saying that Christians should pray for those who have committed the sin unto death. The pastor offered two explanations. First, Christians can pray that God might forgive those who have committed non-mortal sins, but they are offering a futile prayer if they pray that God might forgive those who commit the sin unto death. Why? Because as long as those who commit the sin unto death shut themselves off from faith, they cut themselves off from the possibility of forgiveness.

Second, the pastor suggested that John may have had a pastoral concern here. The church had suffered a huge split, as numerous followers of the Docetists left the church and rejected the Gospel that Christ came in the flesh and died for people’s sins. The church was trying to move on from that. John was recommending that they focus their prayers on those who sin yet stay in the faith, for it is too painful for them to pray for those who left the faith.

B. The pastor shared some illustrations. First, as he did before, he illustrated the church split in John’s day with the split that occurred in the Lutheran church in which he grew up. A charismatic movement split the church, resulting in the loss of half of the deacons and half of the children’s Sunday school class. That does sound rather jarring. Second, the pastor talked about an LCMS pastor who left the pastorate and his family to live with a man and was assuming the role of a Messiah to the gay community. I don’t know what the full story is there, but, after that pastor left, an elder told the church that the church is not its pastor, for the gifts and the forgiveness that they have are from God. John is making a similar point after his own church had undergone a traumatic split.

C. The pastor talked about the Johannine Comma, which appears in I John 5:7: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (KJV). The KJV has this verse, but most other modern language versions lack it, and the pastor explained why. I was familiar with the Johannine Comma, since I grew up in a non-Trinitarian church, and it said that the passage was inauthentic and was lacking in the earliest manuscripts. But I had not studied the details about this. The pastor said that the Comma was in Greek and Latin manuscripts produced later than the fourth century CE, and that it was probably added in response to an anti-Trinitarian heresy known as Priscillianism. After the eighteenth century, however, scholars had access to even earlier manuscripts, dating to the late third-early fourth century. One was a Greek New Testament in the Sinai monastery, one was in Alexandria, and one was in a Russian library. They lack the Comma.

Carroll D. Osburn’s article on the “Johannine Comma” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary goes into where the Comma appears and where it is missing. It was controversial before the eighteenth century, for it was lacking in many Greek manuscripts and Greek fathers, those one would expect to appeal to it if it was authentic. Priscillian is mentioned in the article: “The earliest uncontested use of the Comma is the Liber Apologeticus (1.4) of Priscillian, a 4th century bishop in Spain.” I will not do a research project about this right now, but I do wonder why Priscillian quoted it. What point was he trying to make? This and this source both state that Priscillianism was accused of being non-Trinitarian.

D. I John 5:8 states: “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” (KJV). How do these three things bear witness on earth? The pastor offered two interpretations. First, the passage may be about the death of Christ. Jesus gave up the spirit at death (John 19:30), and, on the cross, water and blood came from his side (John 19:34). John 19:35 affirms the testimony of the person who saw this. Jesus’ death was significant in I John because John was combating the Docetists, who denied that Jesus was a flesh and blood human being who literally died. Second, the pastor said that the Spirit, water, and blood are witnesses on earth in a saving sense: they relate to the believer’s burial and resurrection with Jesus, as well as the reception of the Holy Spirit, at baptism.

E. John concludes his letter by saying: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (I John 5:21). Why? The pastor said it was a summary of John’s overall message: if John’s church is to take away anything from the letter, make sure it is this. Worship the true Jesus, not the false, idol Jesus of the Docetists.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Current Events Write-Up: Mental Health Facilities; Military Transgender Policies; Brazil Presidential Election

Time for this week’s Current Events Write-Up.

National Review: “To Help Fix American Mental-Health Care, Reform Certificate-of-Need Laws,” by Mark Flatten.

The simplest way to eliminate the nation’s dire shortage of inpatient mental-health beds is to remove the chief obstacle to new facilities’ construction.”  Another example of corporatism driving up the cost of health care.

The Federalist: “Stop Lying: The Trump Administration Has Not Banned Transgender Americans From Military Service,” by Chad Felix Greene.

“The administration has merely required that transgender individuals meet the same requirements as all other Americans who apply for military service.”  Detailed examination of the pre-Obama policy, the Obama policy, and the Trump policy, with the rationales and the challenges.

Opposing Viewpoints: “Future of Western Democracy Is Being Played Out in Brazil,” by Pepe Escobar (Consortium) vs. “Jair Bolsonaro’s Campaign to Save Brazil From Corruption And Crime,” by Brian Darling (Townhall).

Two opposite perspectives on the left vs. right political battle in Brazil’s Presidential election.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Book Write-Up: Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism, by George Hawley

George Hawley.  Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism.  University Press of Kansas, 2016.  See here to purchase the book.

George Hawley teaches political science at the University of Alabama.  This book, Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism, is about right-wing movements that are outside of mainstream American conservatism.  They include:

—localists, who believe that people should be rooted and grounded in a local community rather than having mobility; they are critical of big government and big business;

—conservatives who are atheists;

—libertarians, both mainstream and radical;

—paleoconservatives, who are non-interventionist on American foreign policy, are critical of immigration, and are culturally conservative;

—the “New Right” in Europe, which supports racial and ethnic homogeneity, yet some of its adherents are willing to form alliances with Islam to resist Western cultural influence; it is critical of capitalism and of American interventionism;

—the radical right, specifically white nationalists.

Hawley provides historical background about conservatism in general and American conservatism in particular.  He seeks to arrive at a definition of conservatism, finding many of the proposed definitions to be problematic.  The definition on which he settles distinguishes conservatism from liberalism by saying that liberalism prioritizes equality, whereas conservatism has other priorities.  These priorities differ, depending on the conservative.  Some stress the free market, and some prioritize culture, community, tradition, or ethnic homogeneity.

Throughout the book, Hawley profiles the ideas, figures, and success (or lack thereof) of these conservative movements.  The paleoconservatives, for example, have a lot of Ph.Ds, but they lack numbers and funding.  They have also lost historic battles with neoconservatives for influence within the conservative movement.  Pat Buchanan was a significant paleoconservative figure, and his candidacies had the potential to unite paleoconservatives with paleolibertarians; instead, he alienated the libertarians by emphasizing his support for trade protectionism.

The white nationalist movement is gaining more influence through the Internet, yet the KKK has very few members.

At the end of the book, Hawley offers a thoughtful discussion about the future of American conservatism.  On the one hand, he sees indications that its influence will dwindle.  America is becoming more racially diverse, and conservatism, overall, has not appealed to racial and ethnic minorities.  Marriage and religion are declining, and those who marry or who are religious tend to be conservatives.  Popular conservative books are more numerous than conservative intellectual books, so Hawley concludes that modern conservatism lacks intellectual heft.  At the same time, Hawley does not pronounce conservatism dead.  People have pronounced conservatism dead in the past, yet it keeps on existing.  The concentration of liberals in the cities and the presence of conservatives in the numerous rural areas will ensure that conservatives receive a sizeable representation in government.  There is also a possibility that conservatism will appeal to racial and ethnic minorities.  Hawley mentions conservatives who have embraced criminal justice reform, but another factor is that, as ethnic minorities become more prosperous, they may become more conservative.

Here are some items:
  1. The book sensitized me to how serious expulsion from the mainstream conservative movement could be prior to the advent of the Internet. William F. Buckley had the primary influential conservative publication, National Review. If conservatives could not write for that, their influence declined dramatically.  They may have had their own small publications, but it is costly to produce a publication and to circulate it.  Nowadays, the situation is different.  One reason is the Internet: marginal conservatives can create websites that look just as polished as mainstream sites.  Another consideration is that, with the death of Buckley, there is no uniting, overarching leader of the conservative movement.  As Hawley notes, Ann Coulter was banned from National Review, yet that has not hurt her writing and speaking career.
  2. A recurring question that I had in reading this book was “What about Trump?” This book was obviously written before Trump became an electoral phenomenon.  Hawley even raises the possibility that Rand Paul might win primaries in the 2016 Presidential election, and we know that didn’t happen!  Hawley mentions the possibility of writing an update to this book, and, if that happens, I am sure that it will talk about Trump.  What is ironic is that Trump won as he embraced paleoconservative positions (i.e., anti-immigration, anti-war, perhaps protectionism), even though paleoconservatism is the most marginal conservative movement, in Hawley’s telling.
  3. Hawley raises interesting points as he tells the stories of conservative thinkers. He says that many conservatives today look back at the 1950’s as the ideal time, but then he refers to a conservative thinker who saw medieval times as the ideal!  While there are libertarians who support open borders, there are also libertarians who advocate the opposite of open borders: if people have property, and there are not many publicly funded roads, that clamps down on the ability of immigrants to come here and settle!  Although Murray Rothbard eventually became more of a white nationalist, there was a time when he was reaching out to the anti-war and the Black Power movements, thinking he could find common conservative ground with them.  Hawley quotes someone who states that, on race, the way to determine someone’s virtue is by looking at his or her stances when they are unpopular.  Is a person for equality when racial equality is unpopular (i.e., the Jim Crow south)?  That person, not the person who gives expected PC answers, is the virtuous one.  Is a person a racist when racial equality is the mainstream position?  That person has moral problems.  Hawley refers to a thinker who thought that capitalism was inconsistent with cultural conservatism.  I thought of a biography of Jerry Falwell that I read (Michael Sean Winters’ God’s Right Hand Man: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right), which noted the irony that Falwell was a strong advocate of free market capitalism, even though the things that he criticized, such as pornography, are the products and beneficiaries of capitalism.
I checked this book out from the library.  My review is honest!

Book Write-Up: The Mystery of the Trinity Revealed, by T.R. Bosse

T.R. Bosse.  The Mystery of the Trinity Revealed.  Dove & Word, 2017.  See here to buy the book.

T.R. Bosse has studied the Bible for over forty years.  This book actually addresses a number of subjects.  On the subject that is in the title, the Trinity, Bosse is unclear.  More than once, he refers to the Trinity coming into being.  Coming into being?  Has not the Trinity always existed?  Or is Bosse implying that the economic Trinity (which concerns how the persons of the Trinity relate to the world) came into being?

In terms of prose, the book could have been better written.  The reason that this book deserves at least four stars, though, is its fresh and interesting look at biblical topics.

Some items:

A.  Bosse offers a picture of biblical anthropology and soteriology that tries to take into account the disparate biblical claims about the spirit of human beings, the soul of human beings, the Spirit of God, and the life-giving blood of humans, while merging biblical anatomy with modern scientific understandings of anatomy.  No small order!

B.  Bosse also shows from the Bible that God has a soul and a Spirit.  A number of Christians would not take those passages literally and may say that Bosse’s claim violates the idea of divine simplicity.  Bosse maintains a very literal approach to the Bible throughout this book.

C.  Another interesting discussion was when Bosse argued that Jesus was God’s Word from the heart (or bosom, John 1:18) of the Father.  Words, in Scripture, come from the heart, and Jesus comes from the Father’s heart.  For Bosse, this explains how Jesus could claim to be in heaven (John 3:13, at least in the Byzantine texts), even while he was on earth talking with Nicodemus.

D.  Bosse says that one reason the Trinity is not explicit in the Old Testament is that God did not want Satan to know about his plan of salvation.  I Corinthians 2:8 is one text that Bosse cites to support this, and he interprets the rulers who crucified Christ out of ignorance as demonic entities.  Did Satan in Old Testament times know about God’s plan of salvation through Jesus?  From both the Bible and the church fathers, one can make a case either way.  Some Christians argue that, in the Old Testament, Satan assaults the seed that would become Christ, explaining, for example, Athaliah’s slaughter of the Davidic line when Joash was a child (II Kings 11).  In the New Testament, Satan attempts to instigate Jesus’ death (Luke 22:3), even as he tries to discourage Jesus from the cross (Mark 8:33).  Justin Martyr thought that Satan was aware of the coming Christ, for he attributed the parallels to Christianity in pagan religions to Satan aping the true religion.  Yet, the ransom theory of the atonement seems to depict Satan as clueless about Christ’s identity when he puts Christ to death.  Bosse does not cover all of this territory, but the issue that he raises is profound.

E.  Proverbs 20:7 states: “The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly” (KJV).  Bosse interprets that to mean that God searches the human heart to see if there are any signs that it is receptive to salvation.  Bosse appears to lean towards the synergistic model of regeneration, though he also seems to imply that humans can come to God from their own volition.

F.  Where Bosse was slightly unconvincing was in his arguments about Jesus’ blood.  According to Bosse, blood is what passes down original sin.  Jesus got his pure blood, not from Mary, but from God.  The risen Jesus forbade Mary Magdalene to touch him because he needed to ascend to heaven to place the pure blood on the altar; otherwise, Mary Magdalene might defile him.  The risen Jesus lacked blood, since he referred only to his flesh and bones (Luke 24:39).  As far as I can recall, Bosse did not offer rigorous evidence from the Bible that original sin is passed through blood.  Still, the speculation that he based upon that premise was rather interesting.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author through Bookcrash.  My review is honest!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Church Write-Up: Temptation, Pointing the Wounded to Christ, Love Manifest, God’s Joy and the Fat

Here are some items on last Sunday’s church services that I attended.  Bible study is not meeting this coming Wednesday, so there will be no write-up on that this week.

A.  The youth pastor at the LCMS church talked about temptation.  He played the devil, and a rope represented temptation.  He and a boy did a tug of war, and the devil won that.  When the boy got the pastor to help him, however, the devil lost.  The point is that Jesus helps us against temptation.

B.  The sermon at the LCMS church was about the Epistle to the Hebrews.  The pastor opened with an anecdote about a woman who had undergone a horrible church experience, and she was reluctant to join another church body.  She said that churches contain the walking wounded.  The pastor said that many of us are walking wounded and we pretend that everything is all right, refusing to let others in.  The Epistle to the Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were experiencing persecution (albeit not to the point of death) on account of their Christianity.  They saw that the Romans left the Jews alone, so they were contemplating going back to Judaism.  The author of the epistle did not beat them over the head with law, telling them to get their act together, but rather the author pointed them to Jesus.

C.  The LCMS Sunday school class continued its way through I John.  The topic was love.  Points that were made: God manifestly demonstrated love through Jesus.  Love from God pours into Christians and manifestly goes out to others in the body of Christ.  What does love look like?  It can entail praying for someone we do not like, without telling that person we are praying for him or her, as that can be offensive.  It can mean introducing ourselves to others by name, sharing our stories, and hearing their stories.  It may involve service projects, especially when we do not feel like doing them or are too busy, or giving money to someone in need rather than spending it on ourselves.  We need not fear losing out, for God provides for us, now and in eternity.  Love is not quid pro-quo.  We give love, and it is up to the recipient of that love how he or she responds.  Love is difficult, as there are different personalities, so we are fortunate that love does not begin with us: it begins with God.  We can become exhausted in our attempts to love, but God continually renews us.  As we receive love from God, and that love flows out to others, our hearts do not condemn us: we are assured of salvation.

D.  The “Word of Faith” church introduced the sermon with a brief video.  This series has been playing these videos.  Someone from the church talks about his or her strengths and weaknesses, then we hear from others in the church positive things about that person.  I identified with the person speaking today.  He said that he may come across as rude because he often does not know what to say, so he is quiet.  Others in the church then said that he is eager to do service projects, and they appreciate that.

The pastor’s sermon was about the joy of the Lord.  He referred to passages about God rejoicing over God’s people, and he said that, when God sees us, he wants to give us a high five.  God’s holiness is too overwhelming to us, not because we are sinful worms and God is too pure and wrathful, but because God is so joyful that we could not contain such joy.

The pastor referred to Nehemiah 8:10, in which Nehemiah tells the Jews: “Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (KJV).  The pastor observed that Nehemiah was telling the Jews to eat fat, which Leviticus forbids the Israelites to eat, since the fat belonged to God (Leviticus 3:16-17; 7:23-25).  Nehemiah was telling the Israelites to eat from God’s very portion.  That probably deserves more study.  Perusing my commentaries, not many deal with it.  The Word Biblical Commentary simply denies that the fat in Nehemiah 8:10 is the same as the fat that the Israelites are prohibited to eat.  Rashi says nothing about the fat in commenting on the passage, and certainly one would expect him to see the Book of Nehemiah as consistent with the Torah.

I’ll leave the comments open, in case anyone wants to weigh in on that part about the fat.

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