Category Archives: Jesus Christ

Celebrations smother the truth of Christmas

(image courtesy paper model kiosk)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Some of these details were published in my article, Make-believe and celebrations: Christmas message ignored, (Online Opinion, 24 December 2018).

Is this the truth about the origins of Christmas? Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker wrote: ‘Christmas—whether it is observed for religious or seasonal reasons or just for the hell of it—is in its origins and in its imagination and its implications indissolubly syncretist’ (Why wage a war on Christmas? 2018).

Syncretism is ‘the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion’ (dictionary.com 2018. s.v. syncretism). So Gopnik’s view on Christmas origins is that of someone who wants to combine opposing principles or beliefs. Is that where Christmas began? Is it a mixture of beliefs of the pagan gods, Santa and his reindeer, profiteering and the baby in the manger?

It is unlikely that syncretism will get to the core of Christmas origins. It will not be joyous but toxic. O’ Come Let Us Adore Him is not likely to be a prominent theme.

In 2017, objections to Christmas came from a different quarter. The Sunshine Coast Daily in Queensland reported:

A ‘JESUS ban’ in public schools has sparked fury from [Sunshine] Coast MPs, after reports kids swapping Christmas cards, making Christmas tree decorations or bracelets could be censored.

The Australian reported an unofficial policy from the Queensland Department of Education and Training had identified junior evangelism as an issue to be stamped out, following a Departmental review into GodSpace religious instruction materials.

“The notion of trying to take pictures of Jesus out of Christmas cards is ludicrous,” Fairfax MP Ted O’Brien said, fuming at the reported edict.

“What do they think Christmas stands for? Are they going to try and take Christ out of the word Christmas next?

“I don’t think Australians should cop such political correctness. I think it’s ridiculous”….

The department [of Education] “expects schools to take appropriate action if aware that students participating in RI are evangelising to (sic) students who do not” in Queensland public schools.

“This could adversely affect the school’s ability to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive environment,” the report read.

Examples of evangelising reported as being in the review and two other previous reviews included exchanging Christmas cards referring to Jesus’s birth, making Christmas tree decorations and beaded bracelet gifts in order to share the good news about Jesus (Sawyer 2017).

Image result for image Christ in Christmas(image courtesy The Leo House)

In the profiteering and commercialism of Christmas, what is the truth that is missed?

The charade that covers up these truths

Is the biblical Christmas story wrapped in history or myth? To unwrap this, see my article, The Virgin Birth: Fact, Fiction, or Something Else?

In this season, lost is the realisation that Christmas is first of all a celebration of the birth of the Saviour. He is all but forgotten – thoughtlessly smothered in the haste, commotion, partying and flamboyant marketing of this season.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that Christmas should be only solemn, sombre, grim religious observances without any cheer. It should be a time of real joy and gladness as exemplified in the Christmas carol with words by Isaac Watts and music by George Frederick Handel:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

This is not manufactured sentiment and wild revelry that characterises the way the community celebrates Christmas.

This Christmas truth is covered up

What do Santa, reindeer, lights and Christmas trees disguise?

(1) The virgin birth, including its prophetic fulfillment

Even from within the church, former Roman Catholic priest, John Dominic Crossan objected: ‘The stories of Jesus’ birth are religious fiction, or parable, if you prefer…. This does not mean that they have no value, but … they are not to be read as literal history’ (Crossan & Watts 1999:10).

Objections are at the core of the Christmas story. Even Mary was a doubter herself about the virgin conception. The angel Gabriel appeared to a virgin in Nazareth who was pledged to marry Joseph. Gabriel’s message was that Mary was ‘highly favoured. The Lord is with you’. Those words disturbed Mary and she was ‘greatly troubled’ by what the words meant.

The angel told her that she would conceive and give birth to a son to be called Jesus. He will be ‘the Son of the Most High’, given the throne of his father David, and reign over Jacob’s descendants forever. This kingdom will never end (Luke 1).

Then Mary’s fears rose like today’s sceptics. ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:34-35).

Why is there resistance from Mary down to Dom Crossan in the late twentieth century?

(a) In a materialistic, commercial age dominated by naturalistic explanations, many find it more difficult to believe in a virgin conception than Jesus’ walking on water. Since God is so omnipotent he could speak the heavens and the earth into existence (Gen 1:1), doubt about God’s powerful actions has crept into our society through evolutionary theories. A flow on is resistance to the virgin birth.

(b) No matter one’s worldview, we live in a miraculous world where God’s providence means ‘he causes his sun to shine on evil people and good people. He sends rain on those who do right and those who don’t’ (Matt 5:45 NIRV). It would be sound thinking during this Christmas season to understand the everyday miracles we need to survive, including the air we breathe and the power of gravity. What happens when the rains are not sent by almighty God – for his reasons?

(c) Genuine Bible prophecy is held in low regard. This miraculous event was prophesied in the Old Testament (OT). The history of the Western world turns on this result, the division of BC to AD.

The Christ child’s birth in Bethlehem was prophesied in Micah 5:1-2 that he would be born in Bethlehem, 700 years before his birth. And it happened as predicted.

Yet sceptics respond with this type of question: ‘Where is the evidence that “Messianic prophecies of the OT weren’t manufactured after Jesus birth, life and death by his disciples”?

Paul Williams, British blogger and convert to Islam, posed this question:

There is evidence they [Jesus’ disciples] did [make stuff up] from time to time. Consider Matthew 2 [v.23] for example:

“There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’

There is no such prophecy anywhere in the Bible (in Jimmy Akin, Did Matthew *Invent* A Prophecy About Jesus? 2012, emphasis in original).

It’s important to note How Matt 2:23 cites the OT: ‘… what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled …’ The specific quote is not found in any OT prophet. Was Matthew wrong with this statement?

An answer is found in what Matthew stated. He did not quote a specific prophet but referred to ‘prophets’. It would be fruitless to try to find a particular prophet who stated this about Nazareth when Matthew used the general, ‘prophets’. Geisler & Howe (1992:328) provide evidence of how Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirements of the OT law, which included fulfilling the Nazarite vow.

One fact removes the possibility that Jesus’ disciples read the OT prophecy back into the NT – after the fact. This evidence is in the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran, Israel, on the west bank of the Dead Sea. In 1946-47, Bedouin shepherd boys found every book of the OT except Esther in desert caves. Here is proof that the Messianic prophecies predated the incarnation of Jesus. Copies of Isaiah, Psalm 22, Daniel 9 and other OT prophecies have been dated to 335-100 BC by paleography, scribal and carbon 14 dating – secular methods. This was a significant find because it demonstrated the fulfillment of the prophecies was not manipulated by Jesus’ disciples.

Related image(image courtesy imgurmax.pw)

Isaiah 7:14 prophesied: ‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you [plural] a sign: the virgin [or, young woman] will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel [meaning, ‘God with us’]. This was confirmed – not invented – in Matthew 1:22-23.

You couldn’t believe the academic and other theological gymnastics that surround the meaning of ‘virgin’, with some wanting to translate it as a ‘young woman’ and not inferring virginity. In Isa 7:14, the Hebrew word used is almah whose root meaning could be either ‘maiden’ (virgin) or ‘young woman’.

Here is one example of the resistance to the virgin conception from Bob Seidensticker (2013):

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (Matt. 1:23).

Matthew documents the fulfillment of a prophecy written 750 years earlier. Powerful evidence of the truth of the Bible?

Well … no. The first reason is the reason by which anyone would reject a claimed prophecy: the evidence of the fulfillment is not independent but comes only through authors (of Matthew and Luke) who one must assume had read the prophecy. They had motive and opportunity to claim a fulfillment where none existed.

But was that quote from Isaiah even a prophecy of a messiah? You’d expect something like, “The LORD God understands the burdens of His people and will send a savior. And ye shall know him by this sign: the virgin will give birth to a son” and so on.

Here’s what that chapter of Isaiah is actually talking about. In the early 700s BCE, Syria and Israel allied with nearby countries for protection against Assyria, the local bully that was vacuuming up smaller states. Judea refused to join the alliance. Syria and Israel, fearing a potential enemy at their rear, moved to conquer Judea.

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah to tell the king of Judea that, with faith, his enemies would be destroyed. Isaiah gives him a sign: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (7:14). Before the boy is old enough to understand right from wrong, Syria and Israel will be destroyed.

In speaking to this opposition to Isa 7:14 being fulfilled in Jesus, Messiah and Emmanuel, it is important to note that OT prophecies mostly have a double fulfillment:

‘Few laws are more important to observe in the interpretation of prophetic Scriptures than the law of double reference. Two events, widely separated as to the time of their fulfillment, may be brought together into the scope of prophecy’ (Pentecost 1958:56).

See the excellent article by David Jeremiah that explains this more fully: ‘The principle of double fulfillment in interpreting Scripture‘.

This is the case with Isa 7:14. The immediate relevance of this verse is spelled out in the context. It dealt with the Lord speaking to King Ahaz. The son born to the young woman,’before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right’, was a sign that the land of the two kings that Ahaz dreaded would be deserted and the Lord would bring prosperity to Ahaz and his people (Isa 7:15ff).

Was this son born to a virgin or young woman?

Old Testament scholar, Gleason Archer (1982:269), stated, ‘It is … not as precise a word for virgin as the Hebrew bethulah’ (see Gen 24:16). However, for the seven times the singular almah is used in the Hebrew OT, the word always refers to a woman who has had no sexual relations – a virgin. We know from the Isa 7:14 fulfillment in Matt 1:24 that Joseph had no sexual liaison with Mary ‘until she had given birth to a son’.

When the Hebrew OT was translated into Greek (the Septuagint) about 250 BC by seventy Jewish scholars, parthenos was used to translate almah, which can only be translated as virgin and not young woman. This also is the case in Matt 1:23 where the Greek for ‘virgin’ is parthenos. The Greeks used numphe for bride or young woman.

Why is the virgin birth important in the records of the first Christmas? Am I nit picking in emphasising Jesus’ virgin birth rather than his birth to a young woman? Not at all! There are at least five reasons why the virgin birth is important to Christianity (suggested by Don Stewart):

https://i0.wp.com/www.whytehouse.com/usa/png10/Flower18.png?w=625  Because Mary ‘was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit’ (Matt 1:18), it guaranteed his heavenly identity of being God the Son.

https://i0.wp.com/www.whytehouse.com/usa/png10/Flower18.png?w=625  Jesus lived a sinless life since there was no sexual liaison between a male and a female for his conception. With a human father, he would have inherited a sinful nature. The sin nature is passed down through the male as it was Adam who was responsible for the first sin of disobedience (Gen 3; Rom 5:12). The virgin birth guarantees that Jesus ‘appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin’ (1 John 3:5). No sinful human being could guarantee cleansing from sin.

https://i0.wp.com/www.whytehouse.com/usa/png10/Flower18.png?w=625  For the cleansing of human sin, God required a perfect sacrifice in the OT (Ex 12:5) and the sinless Jesus, with his crucifixion, was a sin offering for Christian believers (2 Cor 5:21). Hebrews 7:26 confirms that Jesus was a high priest who truly meets our need because he was the ‘one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens’. This was possible because of his virgin birth.

https://i0.wp.com/www.whytehouse.com/usa/png10/Flower18.png?w=625  Christ’s unparalleled attributes are revealed in Scripture. Don Stewart’s summary of this uniqueness is:

What the virgin birth does is show the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. No one else has ever come into the world the same way as Jesus. The unique and miraculous nature of Jesus carried on through His entire life. His birth was a miracle, His public ministry consisted of miracles, Jesus miraculously lived a sinless life, He miraculously came back from the dead, and left this world in a miraculous way. From His entrance into this world until His departure, the life of Jesus Christ was a miracle.

https://i0.wp.com/www.whytehouse.com/usa/png10/Flower18.png?w=625  The historically reliable Bible confirms Jesus’ virgin birth. See my articles: (a) Can you trust the Bible, part 1? (b) Can you trust the Bible, part 2? (c) Can you trustthe Bible, part 3? (d) Can you trust the Bible, part 4?

With commercialised Christmases, these core elements are ignored and replaced.

(2) The meaning of nativity

Nativity is a special name for a baby’s birth place. If I was born in Brisbane, you could say my nativity was in Brisbane. However, it predominately refers to Christians’ pointing to the birth place of Jesus Christ. Nativity ‘comes from the French word nativité, which also means “birth.” The Latin root word is nativus, “born or native“’.

Often Christian nativity scenes include the Christ child in the manger, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, some barn animals, three magi and angels.

Should there have been angels in the first nativity scene? Luke 2:8-9 informs us that the shepherds were out in the fields watching their flocks at night when an angel appeared to announce the Messiah’s arrival. The shepherds ‘were terrified’. So the angels should not appear in a nativity scene.

As a passing comment, to talk about angels appearing today could cause great anguish amongst many because we don’t believe in that such characters. They are made for movies!

To the contrary, the Bible teaches that ‘angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation’ (Heb 1:14). We hear about the dark side of evil angels (demons) today, but discussion of angels is far from our thinking of reality.

The late Billy Graham wrote a book on Angels: God’s Secret Agents. He said angels are real, are not the product of our imagination, and ‘if we had open spiritual eyes we would see not only a world filled with evil spirits and powers—but also powerful angels with drawn swords, set for our defense’.

Corrie ten Boom, who harboured Jews and others in her house’s basement in Holland during the Nazi Holocaust, wrote:

Are there angels here on earth? What do they look like? Do they have any influence on the history of mankind? Do they really have anything to do with the lives of human beings? The Bible writers believed in them and thought they were important because they wrote about them hundreds of times, much more than about evil spirits and Satan. So why do we hear so little about them these days? (God is Still a God of Miracles)

These dimensions of the Christmas story are ignored, by-passed or laughed at when commercialisation crushes Christmas.

(3) The star guided the magi

Image result for image star Bethlehem magi(image courtesy Crystalinks)

Often in nativity scenes, there are three wise men (magi) accompanying the manger, Jesus, Joseph and Mary. The setting is in a stable. Jesus may have been born in such a place but it is as probable that he was born in a house’s lower level where there were animals sheltering for the night.

Luke 2:7 states: ‘She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn’. It was in the kataluma (Greek word), which is best understood as ‘the guest room’. It was not a commercial lodging for which Luke had a word, pandokheion, which he didn’t use.

Which new mother with her firstborn would want to give birth in a public inn?

Even though the wise men often show up in nativity scenes for Jesus’ birth, the evidence points to the magi visiting Jesus later. It is difficult to create a time line for their visit to Jesus. We know the situation when King Herod found out about the city where the Messiah was born and sent the magi to find him:

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in that entire region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. (Matt 2:16).

This is an indicator that Jesus was a young child, under 2-years of age, when Herod realised he had been deceived by the magi and then issued this edict to kill all male children in that age group.

Can the star that guided the wise men be identified? While the regular Greek word for ‘star’ was used, the text of Matt 2:1-11 doesn’t name the star. It appeared only to the magi, so it would be reasonable to assume it was no ordinary star because of its purpose of identifying the location of the baby Messiah.

(4) Jesus born to die a sacrificial death

Every human being is born to die: ‘Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment’ (Heb 9:27). What was subdued in emphasis at that first Christmas was what the angel told Joseph, husband of Mary.

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21-22).

However, Jesus of Bethlehem was born to be Jesus, the crucified One, who ‘will save his people from their sins’. This is glossed over at Christmastime. The real meaning of Easter is like a hand in glove event with Christmas.

I met a person recently who said: You Christians always (hyperbole) talk about sin. Please quit it! The reason sin (breaking God’s law) is an issue is because it is what separates all sinners from God. We needed a sinless, perfect sacrifice to bridge the gap between a holy and just God and human beings. Jesus, the baby in the manger, grew to become that sacrifice so that all who believe (trust) in Jesus may receive forgiveness and eternal life.

These are God’s requirements and not those any human being formulated.

(5) The baby was the wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father and prince of peace (Isa 9:6).

Related image

(image courtesy flickr.com)

This prophecy from Isaiah has a question that needs answering among the Christmas glitz.

How can the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, be prophesied to be the ‘everlasting Father’? At first sight, it sounds contradictory. How can the Son be the Father?

It is doubtful ‘everlasting Father’ is the best translation of the Hebrew, abiad, which literally means ‘Father of eternity’. The first part of Isa 9:6 stresses the incarnation, ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given….’ So ‘Father of eternity’ refers to the ‘Author of eternity’, from the beginning of time/creation to the consummation of all things. ‘This title points to Christ as Creator of the world’ (Archer 1982:268) as indicated by John 1:3, ‘All things came into being through Him….’

(6) The baby who started Christianity and its peaceful spread

Christianity spreads through peaceful proclamation. Any other way is an aberration, e.g. the Crusades, John Calvin’s endorsement of the death penalty for Servetus who was not a Trinitarian, and support of slavery. Christianity is not spread through force or violence.

Even an atheist/agnostic such as scientist, Richard Dawkins, inferred the benefits of Christianity. A Fox News headline was, ‘Atheist Richard Dawkins warns against celebrating the alleged demise of Christianity in Europe’. Why would Dawkins, an anti-Christian, say this?

‘Before we rejoice at the death throes of the relatively benign Christian religion, let’s not forget Hilaire Belloc’s menacing rhyme: ‘Always keep a-hold of nurse – For fear of finding something worse….

Dawkins has previously voiced concern over the decline of the Christian faith, “in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse,” which he echoed in his tweet’.

Matthew 5:9 blessed are the peacemakers(image courtesy pinterest)

The baby born to the virgin Mary at Bethlehem is the Messiah who is the ‘prince of peace’ and Christianity’s spread worldwide is based on its theology, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Matt 5:9).

Conclusion

As illustrated above, all kinds of excuses and revelry – whether deliberate or going with the flow – have made the Christmas season one of celebrations while the truth is smothered.

This truth includes the Messiah born to the virgin Mary in Bethlehem, a Saviour who was prophesied by OT prophets.

He was born to die – not a normal death – and shed his blood on a Golgotha cross to provide salvation for the world.

This same Jesus will return triumphantly: ‘For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first’ (1 Thess 4:16 NIV).

Works consulted

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When critics ask: A popular handbook on Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Pentecost, J D 1958. Things to come. Findlay, Ohio: Dunham Publishing Company.

Sawyer, S 2017. No Christ in Christmas next? School ‘Jesus ban’ sparks fury. Sunshine Coast Daily (online), 27 July. Available at: https://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/no-christ-in-christmas-next-school-jesus-ban-spark/3205543/ (Accessed 21 December 2018).

Seidensticker, B 2013. Virgin Birth of Jesus: Fact or Fiction? Patheos: Cross Examined (online), 3 December. Available at: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2013/12/virgin-birth-of-jesus-fact-or-fiction/ (Accessed 21 December 2018).

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 December 2018.

Image result for colored line dividers public domain

Commercial celebrations contaminate Christmas

Image result for Nativity scene public domain
A Child is Born, courtesy GodTube
Image result for picture Santa public domain
(courtesy Clker)

By Spencer Gear PhD

Some of these details were published in my article, Make-believe and celebrations: Christmas message ignored, (On Line Opinion, 24 December 2018).

This is a delightful season for summer fruit from the tropics and temperate climes. I purchased a pawpaw that looked just right. I struck a problem when I cut it open.

It wasn’t seen from the outside, but around the stem, there was a small bad spot that had developed mould on some of the seeds inside. Once the bad section had been removed, the remainder of the pawpaw was delicious. I would never have written off the entire pawpaw because of some contaminated seeds.

But that’s what some people want to do with Christmas. The season has been commercialised with festivities that disguise the true message of Christmas.

1.   Paddling in the Christmas shallows

Let’s clear away some debris. December 25 is not the birth date for Jesus’ birth. There is no biblical mention of the exact day of Jesus’ birth. A few hints in the text indicate it was not in the middle of the northern winter. Shepherds were in the fields overnight guarding their flock (Luke 2:8). This suggests a time of more temperate weather.

There were early discussions about the date of Jesus’ birth in early church leader in northern Africa, Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215). He wrote: ‘There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus, and in the twenty-fifth day of [the Egyptian month of] Pachon. This is 20 May according to our calendar (The Stromata 1.21).

For the first 300 years of the church’s existence, it did not celebrate Christmas. December 25 was adopted in AD 336 when Constantine was emperor. In 354 a list of Roman bishops was compiled. The words that appeared in 336 were, ’25 Dec: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae, i.e. 25 December, Christ born in Bethlehem Judea.

Around that time there were pagan festivals honouring the Roman god of agriculture, liberation and time – Saturn. Mithra (Mithras) was worshipped by the Persians (Iran, Iraq and vicinity) as the god of light. Could this have been a tactical decision by a christianised Emperor, Constantine, to encourage people to consider the new faith of Christianity?

2.  The Santa sham

I well remember the deceitful fun my parents had with us kids at Christmas with the gifts under the tree. The jolly old Santa was part of my family’s tradition. We children knew no other way to celebrate Christmas. Now we know its pretense, but who wants to spoil the fun for kids?

This legend has been traced back to the monk, St. Nicholas, born around AD 280 in Patara, modern Turkey. He was esteemed for his godliness and kindness. Many legends have sprung up around his story.

As for the name, Santa Claus, it emerged from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas. As for the chubby, bearded fellow in the red suit, those features originated in 1822 when Clement Clarke Moore, a USA Episcopal minister, wrote a lengthy poem for his three daughters, ‘An account of a visit from St. Nicholas’.

He was cautious about publishing it because of its petty subject. However, that poem seems to have been responsible for the contemporary image of Santa – the tubby old man in red who could climb up a chimney (history.com).

This year, I visited a major department store in the Brisbane region to purchase a nativity scene for my house. When I asked the person at the front door to direct me to where I might find such a scene, she naively responded: ‘What do you mean?’ She had no idea of the true meaning of Christmas and where a nativity scene fits into the picture. To her knowledge there were none in this very large store. She was correct.

However, she knew lots about Santa, tinsel, lights and Christmas trees.

3.  The contaminating myths

At this time of the year, the doubters, protagonists and atheists are out in force in the mass media. They try to show that the decline and contamination of Christmas indicate that the celebration is phoney. It demonstrates the ‘Christ-myth’ (Bruno Bauer, Arthur Drews). It’s really not a celebration of the Son of God but is a festivity for the god of sun.

Some focus on the supposed connection between the Egyptian religion and Christianity, particularly the Horus-Jesus relationship. Horus was the Sun of God.

4.  How are myths created?

Jane Yolen, in her Myth Writing Workshop defines myth as ‘a made-up story that explains the existence of a natural phenomenon – such as where thunder comes from or why snow falls from the sky. Myths – which often include gods and goddesses and other supernatural characters who have the power to make extraordinary things happen — are popular even when people know the actual reasons for natural phenomena’.

This agrees with the Collins’ Dictionary definition that a myth is ‘a story about superhuman beings of an earlier age, usually of how natural phenomena or social customs came into existence’. It is fiction, an invention and promotes historical, mystical and supernatural falsehoods – for creative reading, film and performance.

5.  Jesus’ birth as truth or fiction

How do we know Jesus birth and life are rooted in history and not fiction? His forerunner, John the Baptist, was born at the time when Herod was king of Judea (Luke 1:5-7). Herod the Great lived 73-4 BC and was appointed King of Judea by the Romans from 37-4 BC. Jesus was born ca. 6-4 BC under Herod’s late reign (see Matt 2:16).

Image result for clipart 25 December Christian Christmas(image courtesy Clipart Library)

The awful details of Herod’s death are recorded in graphic detail by the Jewish historian, Josephus (Antiquities 17.6.5). Josephus regarded this kind of death as ‘God’s judgment upon him for his sins’. He was brutal in his treatment of opponents.

6.  Is Herod’s massacre of young children a myth?

Matthew 2:16 records, ‘When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi’.

A writer on historical topics, Michael Grant, considered these details not to be historical but myth or folk-lore. The massacre of the children was invented, although he conceded it was likely related to the historical fact that Jesus probably was born in one of the last years of Herod’s reign (in Gordon Franz 2009).

In my research, I found no record of this massacre in secular literature outside the Bible. However, it is consistent with the brutality of Herod. He slaughtered friends, enemies and relatives (see Josephus Antiquities, 15:5-10). He even killed his second wife, Mariamme I, out of jealousy (Antiquities, 15.3.5). He had some of his sons killed (Josephus War 1.27.6).

Archaeology and other research have discovered much evidence to support the trustworthiness of Bible records.

‘Now for the first time, one hundred and ten 2,500 year old Babylonian tablets have been discovered in Iraq which provide a glimpse of Jewish life in Babylonian exile’. It corroborates the biblical story mentioned in Ezekiel 1:1. The Huffington Post, Australia (6 December 2017), hardly a Christian publication, concluded: ‘This discovery is a remarkable confirmation of the historical reliability of the Biblical text’.

7.  Embarrassment

Something that may have caused embarrassment or created difficulty for the early church is more likely to be authentic. Why? Because it is improbable that the writers of the Gospels would deliberately set out to write false, embarrassing or contradictory material that would weaken the position of the church.

Josephus stated: ‘But let not a single witness be credited, but three, or two at the least, and those such whose testimony is confirmed by their good lives. But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex’ (Antiquities, 4.8.15).

What happened on resurrection morning? ‘The Sabbath day was now over. It was dawn on the first day of the week. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb’ (Matt 28:1). Imagine it! Women who weren’t worthy to be witnesses in that Jewish culture were the first to the tomb to find it empty.

Image result for picture embarrassment public domain(image courtesy Medical Xpress)

This is, therefore, more likely to be a credible witness to what happened historically because of the embarrassment factor.

Similarly with Herod! It would be embarrassing for the Gospel writer to record something as history if it did not happen. That record has been here for people to consult for 2,000 years and the Christian church worldwide has grown to be the largest religious group in 2015, ‘making up nearly a third (31%) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people, according to a new Pew Research Center demographic analysis’. That’s about 2.26 billion followers. Surely a myth wouldn’t engineer such a following!

Herod was a brutal king. As indicated, one of the leading criteria ancient historians use to determine the authenticity of an historical document is embarrassment. This applies to the investigation of what happened in 1770 when Captain James Cook sailed along the eastern coast of Australia, the terrorism on September 11 2001 in New York City, or whether Herod massacred the boys under 2 years’ of age in Bethlehem and its vicinity (Matt 2:16-18).

For a further discussion of these criteria, see Robert H Stein, The “Criteria” of Authenticity.

8.  That questionable census

The incarnation at the first Christmas when the pre-existent Son of God became a human being was accompanied by historical events and a human being with attributes of a person.

Jesus’ birth was at the time when emperor Caesar Augustus issued a decree for ‘all the world’ to ‘be registered’ (Luke 2:1). This was ‘the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria’ (Luke 2:2). Augustus was the greatest Roman emperor who reigned from 27 BC until his assassination in AD 14 (Ancient History Encyclopedia). Thus, Jesus’ birth was rooted in history and not myth.

(image courtesy Wikipedia: The Virgin and Saint Joseph register for the census before Governor Quirinius. Byzantine mosaic at the Chora Church, Constantinople 1315–20).

This historical information has some protagonists up in arms:

(1) ‘There is no record of Caesar Augustus’ decree that “all the world should be enrolled” (Lk. 2:1).  The Romans kept extremely detailed records of such events’ (N F Gier 1987).

(2) No records exist that Quirinius was governor of Syria when Luke wrote his Gospel. John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar stated, ‘The journey to and from Nazareth for census and tax registration is a pure fiction, a creation of Luke’s own imagination’ (Crossan 1994:20).

Even though there are questions about the accuracy of the biblical record, observe the association of Jesus’ birth with secular rulers – Herod, Caesar Augustus, and Quirinius. God’s purposes were worked out through unbelievers.

Herod died in 4 BC and Quirinius didn’t begin to rule in Syria until AD 6. Jesus was born in 5-4 BC. Is Luke telling a whopper? How can we answer this apparent historical discrepancy (suggested by J. Hampton Keathley, III)?

Flower10  An ancient census form from an official government order in Egypt, dated to AD 104, spoke of a house-to-house census for those who returned to their own homes. Archaeologist John McRay spoke of another papyrus from AD 48 indicating ‘the entire family was involved in the census’.

Flower10 External evidence to the Bible states census registrations happened about every 14 years and that Quirinius could have been twice in charge of these registrations. Luke records in Acts 5:37 that he was aware of the later registration or census of Quirinius, the one reported by Josephus. Luke shows from Luke 2:1-2 and Acts 5:37 that there may have been two census’ registrations by Quirinius. Or, there could have been two Quiriniuses,

Flower10  A distinguished archaeologist, Jerry Vardaman, found a coin with the name of Quirinius on it in very small writing, or what we call ‘micrographic’ letters. This places him as proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC until after the death of Herod. ‘The census would have taken place under the reign of the earlier Quirinius. Given the cycle of a census every fourteen years, that would work out quite well’.

Sir William Ramsay, the late archaeologist and professor at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities gave a similar theory of one Quirinius who ruled Syria on two occasions. ‘He concluded from various inscriptions that while there was only one Quirinius, he ruled Syria on two separate occasions, which would cover the time period of the earlier census’.

9.  Manipulation of evidence

Have I stage-managed the evidence to arrive at a conclusion that conforms to Christian orthodoxy? That’s not my motivation. I want to honestly examine the evidence since Luke has a reputation of being a reliable historian. All readers of this article can choose to close down further examination of the evidence and claim that Luke got it wrong because of presuppositional resistance to the birth of Jesus happening as described in the Gospels.

The other option is to pursue the evidence where it leads. That’s what I’ve attempted to do. As a researcher of the historical Jesus, like all historical evidence (that cannot be examined in the laboratory by repeatability), the conclusions reached can be only probable and not 100% certain.

I have found reasonable answers to the Christmas questions posed about the biblical text.

10.  Conclusion

The season has become infected with profiteering and extra effects such as Santa, reindeers, tinsel, lights and Christmas trees.

Commercialisation of the Christian message or a bad experience should never testify against the real person and events surrounding Jesus’ birth.

Mouldy pawpaw seeds did not deter me from enjoying a special piece of summer fruit. Neither should a contaminated Christmas season stop us from remembering the Person who began this celebration ca. 4 BC, Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world.

The intrusion into the Christmas season of foreign symbols and signs detracts from the meaning of Christmas.

The history of the Western world turns on this event. The Christ child was prophesied in Micah 5:1-2 to be born in Bethlehem, 700 years before his birth. And it happened as predicted.

In the same era, Isaiah prophesied that he would be more than a baby in the manger. This child would be God the Son who would ultimately govern God’s kingdom. The baby of Bethlehem is the wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father and prince of peace.

He’s the One whom we celebrate every Christmas. The extravagance of the season should never blind us to the fact that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Image result for image For unto us a King is born and the government shall be on his shoulder

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 December 2018.

Christian trash burned up at Judgment Seat of Christ

 

 

Image result for clipart rip off

By Spencer D Gear PhD

We know from mass media coverage that people, especially the young, can work for low wages and encounter further rip-offs. In Australia, we’ve seen that with businesses such as 7-11, The Super Retail Group, hospitality industry, Woolworths, Coles, Hungry Jack’s and KFC.

Who has caught these employers involved in the rip-offs? The Fair Work Ombudsman has picked up some of these underpayments and some have come from complaints by former employees.

So, the concept of judgment for both achievement and condemnation applies in both secular society and the Scriptures.

1. The judge’s job

When I looked up the meaning of the noun, ‘judge’, in the Collins’ English Dictionary, I discovered two meanings:

  1. A judge in the law courts who was decides the application of the law.
  2. This is a person who decides who is the winner of a competition (Collins English Dictionary (Collins English Dictionary 2018. s.v. judge).

In NT Greek, judge is used in these two senses. The first condemns and the other rewards. There will be condemnation for unbelievers and rewards for believers.

One of the significant NT verses emphasising the judgment for believers is 2 Cor 5:10 (NIV): ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad’.

This is known as the Bema Seat Judgment because the Greek word used for judgment in this verse is bema. It will be a judgment only for true believers in Christ, born again people.

Don Stewart explained:

The bema is a tribunal for rewards. In the large Olympic arenas, there was an elevated seat on which the judge of the contest sat. After the contests were over, the successful competitors would assemble before the bema to receive their rewards or crowns. The bema was not a judicial bench where someone was condemned; it was a reward seat. Likewise, the Judgment Seat of Christ is not a judicial bench. The Christian life is a race, and the divine umpire is Jesus Christ. After the race is over for each believer, He will gather every member before the bema for the purpose of examining each one and giving the proper reward to each (Stewart 2018).

That was the question asked on a Christian forum online:

Could you please tell us who or what you believe is being burned up in the following verses: 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 (NASB)?1

2. Who is the audience in Corinth?

Who is Paul addressing in 1 Cor 3:8-15?2 At the beginning of chapter 3, he is clear that his audience consists of ‘brothers and sisters’ in Christ (3:1). So this passage is dealing with what happens to Christians when their rewards are determined by God at the end of life (v 8).

3. Paul’s use of metaphors: God tests our works

Image result for clipart metaphorPaul cannot mean literal buildings, foundation. silver and chaff when he wrote of ‘fellow workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building’ (v. 9). He is dealing with something other than the physical when he wrote of Christians (fellow workers) involved in ‘God’s service’, ‘God’s field’, and ‘God’s building’, but he used a natural analogy his audience would understand – a metaphor..

Examine the metaphors that are used in this passage.

A metaphor is ‘a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable’ (Oxford Dictionaries Online 2018. s.v. metaphor). It is like a word picture using figurative language. It refers to something concrete in our experience, but uses it an an analogy to teach spiritual truth.
Here are the metaphors I observed in this passage:

v. 8, plants + waters –> own reward, which is the Christian’s labor (while on earth after salvation).

v. 9, Christians are God’s ‘fellow workers’ who are in ‘God’s field’ and are ‘God’s building’. Metaphors from agriculture and carpentry are used here to convey God’s message.

v. 10, ‘master builder’, ‘laid foundation’, ‘building’, ‘how he builds’. These are metaphors again to demonstrate what kind of foundation and building are being built into the Christian’s ‘own reward’. Seems to me that this points to James 2 in action.

v. 11, ‘lay a foundation’, ‘is laid’. This verse talks about a true foundation, which is Jesus Christ. The inference is that there are other foundations Christians can build on that will not lead to a good ‘reward’. The next verse tells us this:

v. 12, ‘builds’, ‘foundation’, ‘gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw’. All of those are metaphors but when speaking of the two types of ‘rewards’, Paul differentiates between the refined reward of ‘gold, silver, precious stones’ and what will be burnt up, ‘wood, hay, straw’ (anticipating v. 15).

v. 13, ‘man’s work’, ‘revealed with fire’, ‘fire … tests the quality’;

 

v. 14, ‘man’s [Christian person’s] work’, ‘built’, ‘reward’.

 

v. 15, How is this reward determined? Paul used the metaphor of ‘burned up’, ‘suffer loss’, ‘through fire’.

All through this passage, Paul uses metaphors of analogies known to the people of his day and ours – agriculture and particularly of carpentry.

4. It takes place at the Judgment Seat of Christ

In my understanding, Paul taught what takes place at the Judgment Seat of Christ where our works (AFTER salvation) will be tested to determine if they are trash (wood, hay, straw) or treasure (rewards of silver, gold, precious stones). Trash is burnt up; treasure is purified.

What is to be ‘revealed with fire’ is metaphorical language for when God hands out rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ and believers will know the Judge’s decision on what were trash and treasure in the believers’ works.

What will be ‘burned up’ is like saying that what Christians do that is outside of what is articulated in James 2 (NIV) and Matt 25:31-46 (NIV) will be regarded as trash to be incinerated or discarded by Christ

We see in v. 15 that Christians can be those whose lives are built on ‘wood, hay & chaff’ or ‘silver, gold and precious stones’.
Paul is not speaking of literal fire. He’s using the example of fire as a metaphor to demonstrate that junk gets God’s treatment as does treasure. This ‘fire’ is God’s way of telling what amounts to true works after salvation and false works.

5. How will you respond?

In your personal or group responses, I encourage you not to examine your lives using Christian cliches like: they are ‘dead works’; that’s coming from my sinful nature; or if Satan didn’t tempt me I’d be as pure as gold in God’s sight. Christian cliches need to be translated into practical actions.

That is the junk in your life that will be burned up?

For me, it has been the times when I didn’t think of others and work to better love my neighbour. There have been the times when I became angry with those who were close to me and with employees. My motives have not always been pure. I have hurt people, including my wife and children. It’s too late to take back the hurt but I did seek forgiveness, etc.

What is the treasure in your life that will not be destroyed at the Judgment Seat of Christ?

For me, they have been the times when I genuinely loved and served my neighbour with practical help and care. I spent 34 years as a counsellor, mostly with non-Christians. I thank God for helping me with many break-throughs. I was an instrument that God used. Today I’m helping an elderly couple and the husband is in the early stages of dementia. I’m involved in a discipling ministry and challenging secular values and consequences in my society through the mass media, etc. None of this is to brag about what I’m doing.

This is where I often fail:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30-31 NIV).?

Loving God will all my heart, soul, mind and strength is a discipline in which I fail all too regularly. Instead, I fall back on my puny self – which amounts to wood, hay and chaff that are burnt up.

Only God knows what is truly genuine or false in our works for Him, but we have enough information in the Bible to give us direction.

5.1 This message throughout the Bible

You will find this same message in both OT and NT:

  • Psalm 62:12 (NIV), ‘and with you, Lord, is unfailing love’; and, ‘You reward everyone according to what they have done’.
  • Matt 16:27 (NIV), ‘For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done’.
  • Rom 14:10 (NIV), ‘You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister?[a] Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat’.
  • Eph 6:8 (NIV), ‘because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free’.
  • 2 Tim 4:7-8 (NIV), ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing’.
  • 1 John 8 (NIV), ‘Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully’.

Image result for clipart well done good and faithful servant

6.  Works consulted

Stewart, D 2018. What Is the Judgment Seat of Christ? (The Bema) The Blue Letter Bible (online). Available at: https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_144.cfm (Accessed 25 August 2018).

7.  Notes

1christianityboard.com 2018. Who or what is the fire burning? GodsGrace#1, original post, 23 August. Available at: https://www.christianityboard.com/threads/who-or-what-is-the-fire-burning.26560/ (Accessed 25 August 2018).

2Most of what follows is in ibid., being my response to GodsGrace as OzSpen#61, 25 August 2018.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 August 2018.

Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Bodily Resurrection?

Garden Tomb

Todd Bolen, “Garden Tomb

By Spencer D Gear

The apostle Paul was awaiting execution in a Roman prison when he wrote his second and final letter to Timothy in about AD 64-68 (intro in ESV).   What do you think would be the last words from one of the greatest church leaders of all time – just before he was killed as a martyr for the faith?  Listen carefully to 2 Tim. 4:1-4:

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: 2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths (NLT).

A.    What happened in the years immediately after the death of the apostles?

Was Paul’s warning to Timothy fulfilled?   Was sound doctrine compromised?  Were there listeners with “itching ears” who “turn[ed] their ears away from the truth and turn[ed] aside to myths”?  Yes, there were and here we will describe some of the teachings.

We need to understand that these church leaders were defending the faith against one of the most destructive heresies concerning Christ that developed towards the end of the first century.  A similar kind of heresy is with us today.  Back in the first and second centuries, this false teaching was called Docetism (a form of Gnosticism).

Docetism is based on the Greek verb, dokew, which means, “I seem.”  This heresy taught that:

arrow 2 NE clip art Jesus only seemed to be human; he was not really human;
arrow 2 NE clip art His human body was a ghost;
arrow 2 NE clip art Christ’s suffering and death were only appearances of suffering & death;
arrow 2 NE clip artThey denied his humanity, so there was no bodily resurrection of Christ.  But they affirmed Christ’s deity.
arrow 2 NE clip artWe see possibly an early stage of  Docetism being addressed in I John 4:2, when John wrote, “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”  In 2 John 7, we read, “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

This is why early church theologians and writers after the death of the apostles had to preach against this heresy.  I’ll mention a few examples of this correction, particularly as it applies to the resurrection of Christ.

1. Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 35-107) [2]

He taught: “For I know and believe that [Jesus] was in the flesh even after the resurrection. And when He came to Peter and those who were with him, He said to them, ‘Take, handle me and see that I am not a spirit without body’” (written about the year AD 110) [Ignatius n.d., 6.3].

2.    Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165)

Justin wrote:

“Why did He rise in the flesh in which He suffered, unless to show the resurrection of the flesh? And wishing to confirm this, when His disciples did not know whether to believe He had truly risen in the body, and were looking upon Him and doubting, He said to them, ‘Ye have not yet faith, see that it is I;’ and He let them handle Him, and showed them the prints of the nails in His hands. And when they were by every kind of proof persuaded that it was Himself, and in the body, they asked Him to eat with them, that they might thus still more accurately ascertain that He had in verity risen bodily” (Martyr, J., n.d., ch. 9).

This letter was written about AD 110. Why did he have to teach that Jesus rose from the dead in a body of flesh? Because there was false doctrine around in the early second century. He went straight to the Bible to get the proof. We have to do the same with new challenges to Christ’s bodily resurrection.

3.    Tertullian (ca. 160-225)

Tertullian wrote a book titled, “On the Resurrection of the Flesh,” in which he asked and responded:

How then did Christ rise again? In the flesh, or not? No doubt, since you are told that He ‘died according to the Scriptures,’ and ‘that He was buried according to the Scriptures,’ no otherwise than in the flesh, you will also allow that it was in the flesh that He was raised from the dead.

For the very same body which fell in death, and which lay in the sepulchre, did also rise again (Tertullian n.d., ch. 48).

4.    Irenaeus (ca. 130-200)

Saint Irenaeus.jpg

This image courtesy of Wikipedia)

This church father wrote a book titled, Against Heresies, in which he stated:

“In the same manner, therefore, as Christ did rise in the substance of flesh, and pointed out to His disciples the mark of the nails and the opening in His side (now these are the tokens of that flesh which rose from the dead)” (Irenaeus n.d., 5.7.1).

5.  Origen (ca. 185-254)

In Contra Celsus, Origen refuted Celsus’s charge that the resurrection appearances of Jesus were those of a ghost.  He asked:

“How is it possible that a phantom which, as he describes it, flew past to deceive the beholders, could produce such effects after it had passed away, and could so turn the hearts of men as to lead them to regulate their actions according to the will of God” (Origen n.d., 7.35).

Docetism was one of the major destructive heresies of the church in the first-to-third centuries and these defenders and teachers of the faith had to teach against the false doctrine of a spiritual or phantom resurrection of Christ.  Paul warned that “destructive heresies” would come and that people would have “itching ears” to receive and promote such false teaching.

B. What do we have today?

I hope you don’t get angry with me for mentioning names of people who teach false doctrine.  I am following the example of the apostle Paul who, in Galatians 2:11ff, condemned the apostle Peter — and named him.  Peter had been eating with the Gentiles, but when certain Jews came from James, Peter drew back and separated from the Gentiles.  Paul named Peter as a hypocrite and we have had it in writing for 2000 years.  

Paul said in 2 Tim. 4:14, “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.”  We have had this also on record for 2,000 years.

When people are preaching false doctrine in the church or anywhere, when people are harming the church and God’s people, we need to name them, correct them, and proclaim the accurate biblical message.

In regard to the bodily resurrection of Christ, what false teaching do we have today?

1.    New Zealand Presbyterian minister, Sir Lloyd Geering

Lloyd Geering, 2011.jpg(Sir Lloyd Geering, image courtesy Wikipedia)

He defended what “Gregor Smith had said in [a book called] Secular Christianity … that the Christian is free to say that the bones of Jesus lie somewhere in Palestine, and until the Christian feels free to say that, he hasn’t understood what the Resurrection is about” (in Kohn 2001).

Geering continues, “The Resurrection was not a resuscitation, it was not a return to this life of a physical body. It was in fact something quite different. It was in fact the rise of Easter faith in the disciples, more or less as Bultmann had been explaining for some time” (in Kohn 2001).

In other words, the resurrection of Jesus was not a risen body in the flesh, but it was a spiritual experience for Christ’s disciples.

You possibly won’t read Lloyd Geering and some of these other false teachers today, but do you know the people who do read them?  Those in the mass media who want to create doubt or a controversial perspective, readily seek comments from these doubters.  When it comes to Easter and Christmas times, they won’t call on you and me, but these false teachings and their heretical teachers will hit the headlines.

2.    Edward Schillebeeckx

A Dutch Roman Catholic, he wrote, “Jesus’ resurrection is not a return to life as in the story of Lazarus… it is certainly not a miracle of intervention in natural laws to raise a corpse to heavenly life” (from Schillebeeckx, God Among Us, p. 134, cited in Mann 1993).

3.    The German Protestant Lutheran, Rudolph Bultmann

Bultmann wrote that “the resurrection itself is not an event of past history” (from Kerygma and Myth, p.39, cited in Mann 1993).

4.    Protestant theologian Karl Barth

“Christians do not believe in the empty tomb but in the living Christ. Is the empty tomb just a legend? What matter? It cannot but demand assent, even as legend.” (from Church Dogmatics III, 2, p.454).

5.   Former Episcopalian bishop of Newark, NJ, John Shelby Spong:

“The probable fate of the crucified Jesus was to be thrown with other victims into a common, unmarked grave. The general consensus of New Testament scholars is that whatever the Easter experience was, it dawned first in the minds of the disciples who had fled to Galilee for safety, driving us to the conclusion that the burial story in the gospels is both legendary and was developed directly from the words of II Isaiah” (Spong 2004).

6. John Dominic Crossan, a Roman Catholic, of the Jesus Seminar

Crossan speaks of “the apparitions of the risen Jesus.”  What’s an apparition?  A phantom, a ghost.  Jesus’ resurrected body was not real flesh.   He says that “the resurrection is a matter of Christian faith” (1995, p. 189).  So, for him, the resurrection of Christ is really a spiritual resurrection among believers – whatever that means.

So, what happened to the body of Jesus?  Crossan wrote: “Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical.  He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging animals” (Crossan 1994, p. 160).

Let’s come closer to my home in Queensland – in my hometown of Bundaberg, Qld., Australia.

7.    Rev. David Kidd, Bundaberg Uniting Church

At Easter time 1999, David Kidd wrote an article in The Bugle, a local freebie newspaper that was titled, “The Resurrection of Jesus” (Kidd 1999, p. 19). I lived in Bundaberg at the time.  In it, he stated: “The resurrection of Jesus.[3] It’s impossible.  Even our brain dies after a few minutes of death.  It’s just not possible.’”[4]

C. What does the Bible state?

It is very easy to show from the Scriptures that Christ rose from the dead in a physical body. Let’s look at the evidence (based on Geisler 1999, pp. 667-668).

1. People touched him with their hands.

Jesus’ challenge to Thomas in John 20:27 was: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  How did Thomas respond, “My Lord and My God” (20:28).

Jesus said to Mary as she grasped him, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.”  Matthew 28:9 tells us that the women “clasped his feet and worshiped him.”

When Jesus appeared to his disciples, what did Jesus say?  Luke 24:39, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a [spirit ] {5} does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Do we need any further evidence that Jesus had real human flesh after his resurrection?

2. Jesus’ resurrection body had real flesh and bones.

The verse that we have just looked at gives some of the most powerful evidence of his bodily resurrection: “Touch me and see; a [spirit] does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Lk. 24:39) and to prove that he really did have a real body of flesh and bones, what did he do?  According to Luke 24:41-42, Jesus “asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of broiled fish.”  Folks, spirits or spiritual bodies do not eat fish.

Third piece of evidence in support of the bodily resurrection of Christ:

3. Jesus ate real tucker (Aussie for “food”).

As we’ve just seen, they gave him “broiled fish” to eat.  He ate real food on at least 3 occasions, eating both bread and fish, (Luke 24:30, 41-43; John 21:12-13).  Acts 10:41 states that Jesus met with witnesses “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

That sounds clear to me.  Jesus ate food after his resurrection.  People in real bodies eat real food.

A fourth proof that Jesus was raised in his physical body:

4. Take a look at the wounds in his body.

This is proof beyond reasonable doubt. He still had the wounds in his body from when he was killed. John 20:27, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”

When Jesus ascended, after his resurrection, the Bible records, “This same Jesus [ie this divine-human Jesus], who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

There’s a fifth confirmation of his bodily resurrection:

5. Jesus could be seen and heard.

Yes, Jesus’ body could be touched and handled.  But there is more! 

Matthew 28:17 says that “when they saw [horaw] him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” On the road to Emmaus, of the disciples who were eating together, Luke 24:31 states, “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”  The Greek term “to recognize” [epiginoskw] means “to know, to understand, or to recognize”  These are the normal Greek words “for ‘seeing’ (horaw, theorew) and ‘recognizing’ (epiginoskw) physical objects” (Geisler 1999, pp 667-668).

Because Jesus could be seen and heard as one sees and recognises physical objects, we have further proof that Jesus rose bodily.

6. The Greek word, soma, always means physical body.

When used of an individual human being, the word body (soma) always means a physical body in the New Testament.  There are no exceptions to this usage in the New Testament.  Paul uses soma of the resurrection body of Christ [and of the resurrected bodies of people – yet to come] (I Cor. 15:42-44), thus indicating his belief that it was a physical body” (Geisler 1999, p. 668).

In that magnificent passage in I Cor. 15 about the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of people in the last days, why is Paul insisting that the soma must be a physical body?  It is because the physical body is central in Paul’s teaching on salvation (Gundry in Geisler 1999, p. 668).  We’ll get to that in a moment.

There’s a 7th piece of evidence in support of bodily resurrection:

7. Jesus’ body came out from among the dead

There’s a prepositional phrase that is used in the NT to describe resurrection “from (ek) the dead” (cf. Mark 9:9; Luke 24:46; John 2:22; Acts 3:15; Rom. 4:24; I Cor. 15:12).  That sounds like a ho-hum kind of phrase in English, “from the dead.” Not so in the Greek.

This Greek preposition, ek, means Jesus was resurrected ‘out from among’ the dead bodies, that is, from the grave where corpses are buried (Acts 13:29-30).  These same words are used to describe Lazarus’s being raised ‘from the dead’ (John 12:1).  In this case there is no doubt that he came out of the grave in the same body in which he was buried.  Thus, resurrection was of a physical corpse out of a tomb or graveyard (Geisler 1999, p. 668). 

This confirms the physical nature of the resurrection body.

8. He appeared to over 500 people at the one time.

Paul to the Corinthians wrote that Christ

appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul] also, as to one abnormally born (I Cor. 15:5-8).

You could not believe the discussion and controversy one little verb has caused among Bible teachers and scholars.  Christ “appeared” to whom?  Here, Paul says, Peter, the twelve disciples, over 500 other Christians, James, all the apostles, and to Paul “as to one abnormally born.”

The main controversy has been over whether this was some supernatural revelation called an “appearance” or was it actually “seeing” his physical being?  These are the objective facts: Christ became flesh, he died in the flesh, he was raised in the flesh and he appeared to these hundreds of people in the flesh.

The resurrection of  Jesus from the dead was not a form of “spiritual” existence.  Just as he was truly dead and buried, so he was truly raised from the dead bodily and seen by a large number of witnesses on a variety of occasions (Fee 1987, p. 728).

N T Wright’s extensive research on the resurrection of Jesus concluded:

Let us be quite clear at this point: we shall see that when the early Christians said ‘resurrection’ they meant it in the sense it bore both in paganism (which denied it) and in Judaism (an influential part of which affirmed it). ’Resurrection’ did not mean that someone possessed ‘a heavenly and exalted status’; when predicated of Jesus, it did not mean his ‘perceived presence’ in the ongoing church. Nor, if we are thinking historically, could it have meant ‘the passage of the human Jesus into the power of God’. It meant bodily resurrection; and that is what the early Christians affirmed. There is nothing in the early Christian view of the promised future which corresponds to the pagan views we have studied; nothing at all which corresponds to the denials of the Sadducees; virtually no hint of the ‘disembodied bliss’ view of some Jewish sources; no Sheol, no ‘isles of the blessed’, no ‘shining like stars’, but a constant affirmation of newly embodied life. As Christopher Evans put it a generation ago, ‘there emerged in Christianity a precise, confident and articulate faith in which resurrection has moved from the circumference to the centre (Wright 2003:209; Evans 1970:20)

Therefore, it should not be surprising for this account to be recorded at the beginning of the Book of Acts: “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

D. We need to look briefly at a few objections to bodily resurrection

One of the objections sometimes raised is that Christ’s body after the resurrection had some unusual supernatural features and that this means it was not a real physical body.  One objection is that

1. Christ would just appear and disappear

Take a verse like Luke 24:34, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”  Then go to Acts 9:17, “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’”

In these two examples the word “appeared” is used.  One of Jesus and the other of Jesus appearing to Paul, many years after Christ’s ascension.  Both of these are in the passive voice (Greek) , so it means that Christ “let himself be seen. . .  Jesus took the initiative to make himself visible at his resurrection appearances” (Geisler 1999, p. 659).  “Appeared” means that “he could be seen by human eyes, the appearances were not just visions” (Rienecker in Geisler 1999, p. 659).

The NT speaks of sudden appearances by Jesus, like to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus.  It is stated: “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight” (Luke 24:31).  This could have been a miraculous act of power, a sign that he was both human and divine.  We must get this one correct, as Norman Geisler puts it:

The text nowhere states that Jesus became nonphysical when the disciples could no longer see him.  Just because he was out of their sight does not mean he was out of his physical body.  God has the power to miraculously transport persons in their pre-resurrection physical bodies from one place to another (1999, p. 659).

Remember when Philip the evangelist was with the Ethiopian eunuch, “the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).    Here was Philip, a real human being, whisked away by the Spirit of God.

So for both Jesus and Philip, the text does not say that either one became non-physical beings.

A second objection:

2.    Jesus didn’t die but swooned in the grave

H. J. Schonfield made this popular in his book, The Passover Plot (1965).  But this view is as old as Celsus in the 2nd century.  The view was that Mary Magdalene nursed Jesus back to health.  “Forty days later his wounds got the better of him, and he died and was buried secretly” (Green 1990, p. 186).

This is fairy story stuff.  There is not one bit of evidence to support it and it doesn’t understand “the brutal Roman method of execution” (Green 1990, p. 186).  I found Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” terribly brutal but it did give a realistic picture of how final Roman execution really was.

3.    The disciples stole the body

If the Jews and Romans wanted to silence the facts about the bodily resurrection of Jesus, all they would have had to do was to produce the body of Jesus.  They didn’t.

Get this.  It does not make sense to claim that the disciples stole the body of Jesus, went forth proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus, and then

They were willing to be imprisoned for this faith, torn limb from limb, thrown to the lions, or turned into human torches in the Emperor Nero’s gardens for this conviction that Jesus was alive.  Would they have endured all that for a claim they knew was [a fake] (Green 1990, p. 190)

Why did some of the Bible teachers after the death of the apostles teach Docetism,  that Jesus did not have a physical body and could not have risen with a physical body?  They could be the same reasons for such teaching today:

arrow simple red right clip art  They don’t believe the authoritative Bible is the infallible Word of God.  OR

arrow simple red right clip artThey don’t believe in the supernatural.  They are naturalists who believe that “the ‘natural’ universe, the universe of matter and energy, is all that there really is.  This rules out God, so naturalism is atheistic” (MacDonald 1984, p. 750).  This is like David Kidd, formerly of the Bundaberg Uniting Church, who said that the resurrection of Christ is “impossible.  Even our brain dies after a few minutes of death.  It’s just not possible” (Kidd 1999, p. 19).  That’s naturalism.

Naturalism is the belief that everything in nature originates from natural causes. There cannot be any supernatural or spiritual explanations. They are either excluded for relegated to some discounted position.
arrow simple red right clip artEven though deniers of Christ’s bodily resurrection may be in the church, according to Rom. 1:18, they still “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  They are rebels against God and don’t want to understand the resurrection of Jesus as God told us.  They are engaged in ungodly activities and can’t see the light of the Gospel.  In reality, they are atheistic concerning the supernatural God of the Bible.

arrow simple red right clip artPaul warned that these false teachers would attract people “to suit their own passions” (2 Tim. 4:4 ESV). 

arrow simple red right clip artSatan, the enemy of our souls, loves to dress up false doctrine to make it look like the real thing.

E. Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus important?

We must understand how serious it is to deny the resurrection. Paul told the Corinthians: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (I Cor. 15:13-14).

The updated World Christian Encyclopedia … by Oxford University Press, says that by midcentury there will be 3 billion Christians, constituting 34.3% of the world’s population, up from the current 33%.

Christians now number 2 billion and are divided into 33,820 denominations and churches, in 238 countries, and use 7,100 languages, the encyclopedia says (Zenit 2001).

If there is no bodily resurrection, we might as well announce it to the world and tell all Christians they are living a lie and ought to go practise some other religion.

British evangelist, Michael Green, summarises the main issues about the bodily resurrection of Christ:

The supreme miracle of Christianity is the resurrection. . . [In the New Testament] assurance of the resurrection shines out from every page.  It is the crux of Christianity, the heart of the matter.  If it is true, then there is a future for mankind; and death and suffering have to be viewed in a totally new light.  If it is not true, Christianity collapses into mythology.  In that case we are, as Saul of Tarsus conceded, of all men most to be pitied (Green 1990, p. 184).

The bodily resurrection is absolutely essential for these reasons:

1. Belief in the resurrection of Christ is necessary for salvation

Rom. 10:9 states: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Salvation means that you are saved from God’s wrath because of the resurrection of Christ.  You are saved from hell.

Your new birth (regeneration) is guaranteed by the resurrection.  First Peter 1:3 states that “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

The spiritual power within every Christian happens because of the resurrection.  Paul assured the Ephesians of Christ’s “incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 1:19-20).  You can’t have spiritual power in your life without the resurrected Christ.

In one passage, Paul links your justification through faith to the resurrection – he associates directly your being declared righteous, your being not guilty before God, with Christ’s resurrection.  Rom. 4:25 states that Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

Your salvation, your being born again, your justification, your having spiritual power in the Christian life depends on your faith in the raising of Jesus from the dead.  Not any old resurrection will do.  Jesus’ body after the resurrection was not a spirit or phantom.  It was a real, physical body.  If  you don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ, on the basis of this verse, you can’t be saved.

Secondly:

2. Christ’s resurrection proves that Jesus is God

From very early in his ministry, Jesus’ predicted his resurrection.  The Jews asked him for a sign.  According to John 2:19-21, “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days’ . . . But the temple he had spoken of was his body.”  Did you get that?  Jesus predicted that he, being God, would have his body destroyed and three days later, He would raise this body.

Jesus continued to predict his resurrection: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40).  See also Mark 8:31; 14:59; Matt. 27:63.

The third reason Christ’s bodily resurrection is core Christianity is:

3. Life after death is guaranteed!

Remember what Jesus taught his disciples in John 14:19, “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” If you truly have saving faith in Christ, his resurrection makes life after death a certainty.

Fourthly:

4. Christ’s bodily resurrection guarantees that believers will receive perfect resurrection bodies as well.

After you die and Christ comes again, the New Testament connects Christ’s resurrection with our final bodily resurrection.  I Cor. 6:14, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.”

In the most extensive discussion on the connection between Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, Paul states that Christ is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor. 15:20).  What are “firstfruits”?  It’s an agricultural metaphor indicating the first taste of the ripening crop, showing that the full harvest is coming.  This shows what believers’ resurrection bodies, the full harvest, will be like.

Do you see how critically important it is to have a biblical understanding of the nature of Christ’s resurrection – his bodily resurrection.

In spite of so many in the liberal church establishment denying the bodily resurrection of Christ or dismissing it totally, there are those who stand firm on the bodily resurrection.

F. Those supporting the bodily resurrection

Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and former Anglican Bishop of Durham, Dr. N. T. Wright, wrote:

I simply cannot explain why Christianity began without it [i.e. without the resurrection of Christ]…. If Jesus had died and stayed dead, [his disciples] would either have given up the movement or they would have found another messiah.  Something extraordinary happened which convinced them that Jesus was the Messiah (Jennings 2000, p. 51).

N. T. Wright has since written these 817 pages to support the bodily resurrection and refute those throughout church history, including current scholars who deny the literal resurrection of Jesus.  Wright concludes: “The proposal that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead possesses unrivalled power to explain the historical data at the heart of early Christianity” (Wright 2003, p. 718).

G. What’s the remedy for this church and every church today when the bodily resurrection of Christ is denied?

It is the same for us as Paul’s last words to Timothy: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). I have great concern that the churches in Australia today are becoming suckers to rampant false teaching.  Why?

arrow 1 right clip artWe don’t take seriously Paul’s command to “preach the Word.”  Preaching about the Word, preaching my own ideas, is NOT preaching the Word.  I do not know how to preach the Word other than to systematically preach through the Bible, or to focus on certain biblical topics as I am doing today.
arrow 1 right clip art  When should we do this?  When it’s appropriate and when it seems inappropriate.  Paul’s words were: “Be prepared in season and out of season.”

arrow 1 right clip art  This preaching of the Word must include correction, rebuking and encouragement.  My task today has been to correct false doctrine, based on the Scriptures.  I don’t believe we take seriously the command: “Preach the Word.”
arrow 1 right clip art  It is not too late to make a change.  False doctrine will increase and the need for correction, rebuking and encouragement will be urgently needed.  Paul says that we must do this “with great patience and careful instruction.”  But I’m not sure that we care about false teaching.

arrow 1 right clip art  Will this church take seriously this command from Paul, so that we will not become a victim of false teachings?  All of us must be vigilant.  We cannot know what is false without knowing the truth of the Word.  We must preach the Word.

H.  Appendix:

1.    Theologian and apologist, Norman Geisler, wrote: “Those who try to get around the resurrection walk against the gale-force winds of the full evidence.  The facts are that Jesus of Nazareth really died . . . and actually came back from the dead in the same physical body” (1999, p. 656).

2.    Wayne Grudem wrote, concerning Jesus’ resurrection body, that “the texts . . . show that Jesus clearly had a physical body with ‘flesh and bones’ (Luke 24:39), which could eat and drink, break bread, prepare breakfast and be touched. . .  These texts are not capable of an alternative explanation that denies Jesus’ physical body. . . Jesus was clearly teaching  them that his resurrection body was a physical body” (1994, p. 612).

See my other articles on the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

arrow-bold-rightJunk you hear at Easter about Jesus’ resurrection

arrow-bold-right Jesus’ resurrection appearances only to believers

arrow-bold-right Easter and the end of death

arrow-bold-right Can we prove and defend Jesus’ resurrection?

arrow-bold-right Can Jesus Christ’s resurrection be investigated as history?

arrow-bold-right What is the connection between Christ’s atonement and his resurrection?

arrow-bold-right Christ’s resurrection: Latter-day wishful thinking

arrow-bold-right The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: The Comeback to Beat Them All

arrow-bold-right Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Bodily Resurrection?

I.  Notes

1a. The original read, “Men,” but the ESV translates as “people.2
2.  Earle E. Cairns considers that his “seven letters must have been written about 110” (1981, p. 74).
3. “The Resurrection of Jesus” was the title of the article and the first sentence began with, “It’s impossible.  Even our brain dies . . . ,” so I am left to conclude that the article’s title was the introduction to the first sentence.
4. The original article had closing inverted commas here, but there were no introductory inverted commas.
5. The NIV reads, “ghost,” but the ESV translates as “spirit.”  The Greek is pneuma = spirit.

J.  References:

Cairns, E. E. 1981, Christianity through the Centuries, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Crossan, J. D. 1994, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco.

Crossan, J. D. 1995, Who Killed Jesus? HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco.

Evans, C F 1970. Resurrection and the New Testament. SCM Press, London.

Fee, G. D. 1987, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (gen. ed. F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Geisler, N. L. 1999, ‘Resurrection, Evidence for’, in Norman L. Geisler 1999, Baker Encyclopedia of  Christian Apologetics, Baker Books, Grand Rapid, Michigan.

Green, M. 1990, Evangelism through the local Church, Hodder & Stoughton, London.

Grudem, W. 1994, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.

Ignatius n.d., ‘The Epistle to the Smyrnaeans’, Early Church Writings, available from:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/srawley/smyrnaeans.html [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Irenaeus n.d., ‘Against Heresies’, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, available from:
http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-01/anf01-63.htm#P8967_2580595 [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Jennings P. 2000, ‘Peter Jennings Reporting’, ABC television (USA), aired on Monday, June 26 2000. This quote is from Christian Research Institute 2000, “Point-by-point Response to ‘Peter Jennings Reporting: The Search for Jesus,’ available from: http://www.equip.org/free/DJ036.pdf [Accessed 31 May 2005].

Kidd, D. 1999, Bundaberg Uniting Church, “The Resurrection of Jesus,” The Bugle (Bundaberg), March 19, 1999, p. 19.

Kohn, R. 2001, The Spirit of Things (radio program), ‘Tomorrow’s God, with Lloyd Geering’,  Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 4 March 2001, available from: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/relig/spirit/stories/s253975.htm [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Mann, J. 1993, ‘Justification’, available from: http://www.fountain.btinternet.co.uk/theology/justific.html [Accessed 19 July 2005].

MacDonald, M. H. 1984, ‘Naturalism’, in W. A. Elwell (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 750-751.

Martyr, J. n.d., ‘Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection’, Early Church Writings, available from:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/justinmartyr-resurrection.html [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Origen n.d., ‘Contra Celsus’, Early Christian Writings, available from: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/origen167.html [19 July 2005].

Schonfield, H. J. 1965, The Passover Plot, Bantam Books, New York.

Spong, J. S. 2004, Review, ‘The Passion of the Christ’ — Mel Gibson’s Film and Biblical Scholarship – Part 4, available from Arianna Online Forum at: http://www.ariannaonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1025 [Accessed19 July 2005].

Tertullian n.d., ‘On the Resurrection of the Flesh’, Early Church Writings, available from: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/tertullian16.html [Accessed 19 July 2005].

Wright, N. T. 2003, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Fortress Press, Minneapolis.

Zenit 2001. World Christianity on the rise in 21st century (online. Available at: https://zenit.org/articles/christianity-on-the-rise-in-21st-century/ Accessed 29 March 2016.)

 

Copyright © 2007 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:11 July 2018

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Should God heal all Christians who pray for healing?

 

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By Spencer D Gear

Is it the will of God to always heal people when we pray for them?

A Christian friend wrote to me asking for recommendations concerning  a situation in which he was asked to pray for healing for a sick person. My friend was impressed in his heart that instead of praying for healing, that he should trust the Lord for what God was doing through the sickness. When this information was revealed to the person who asked for prayer for healing, my friend was accused of this giving an ‘almost heretical response’. Why? It was because my friend had an inner impression that God had a bigger issue in the sick person’s life than physical healing.

There are dangers with ‘impressions’ because they are subjective and I find it difficult to discern if my friend is hearing from God or if this is a personal view. We know that God gives the gifts of the Spirit that require ‘some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching’ (1 Cor. 14:6 ESV). The safety of the church gathering that enables discernment of the manifestation of gifts is much more suitable than to receive a private impression. However, we do read in passages such as First Chronicles 14:10, 14 where ‘David inquired of God’ (ESV) and received the answer that he should go against the Philistines and God would give them into his hands. On another occasion (1 Chron. 14:14), God’s answer from David’s inquiry was that he was not to attack the Philistines.

Does the Bible teach that during the ministry of Jesus there was no person who wasn’t healed by Jesus? Let’s examine the Scriptures with a few examples, but they are enough to cause us to question the ‘almost heretical’ statement that a person does not believe that God always heals.

A few fundamentals are happening with the ‘almost heretical’ statement that are very different from when Jesus walked this earth and contrary to what we should expect from God when we ask for physical healing.

  • The Scriptures do say on occasions that Jesus did heal all who came to him in verses such as Matt. 8:16; 12:15; and Luke 6:19. But there’s another dimension.
  • On other occasions Jesus healed, not all, but “many” who came to him. See Mark 1:34; 3:10; 6:13.
  • BUT, there were circumstances in which Jesus did not heal people. I’m thinking of Mark 6:4-6:

‘Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith’ (NIV).

  • What about the events like that at the Pool of Bethesda according to John 5:1-9? Verse 3 says that at that pool ‘lay a multitude of invalids-blind, lame and paralyzed’ (ESV) but only one invalid who had been at that Pool for 38 year was healed. The facts are that Jesus did not heal all who were sick in Israel at the time of his life and he didn’t even heal all invalids at the Pool of Bethesda. It is false information to say that Jesus healed all. He clearly didn’t.

People may ask why Jesus didn’t heal all. My understanding is that healings are pointers/signs to God’s greater healing of the human soul through salvation and God’s ultimate healing of the universe that will happen with a new heaven and a new earth at the end of time.

However, I do need to say that I accept the gifts of the Spirit are available for today’s Christians and one of the gifts is the gift of healing (1 Cor. 12:28-29).  We must not overlook the biblical fact that God’s gifts to Christians function according to the “measure of faith” that God has given to believers:

‘For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you’ (Rom. 12:3 NIV).

According to James 5:14-15, the ministry of healing is available through the local church (and it is sadly neglected in most churches) in the anointing of oil by the elders of the church:

‘Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven’ (NIV).

Again, the emphasis is on “the prayer offered in faith” will cause the sick person to be raised up by the Lord.

I do not find any indications that Jesus healed all people. Nor do I find examples in the New Testament where all people were healed whenever there was a prayer for healing. I do find this in James 4:2b-3:

‘You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures’ (NIV).

There are many reasons why we do not receive physical healing when we pray and when others pray for us. The major reason is that God is sovereign and we are puny, fallible human beings who can have the wrong motives.

There is also the further biblical truth that most Christians find hard to bear as stated in James 1:2-4:

‘Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing’ (NASB).

God has a greater plan for our lives than physical healing. The trials of our lives are meant to be considered with an attitude of ‘all joy’ by the Christian because God knows what trials are instrumental in achieving. Difficulties in our lives are are designed for the testing of faith to produce endurance of the faith so that we will be “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” when we face Jesus. This is a hard dose to take for many Christians.

May I say personally that I would not have reached this point of growth in my Christian life if it were not for the many trials of sickness that God has put me through. This has included 3 bouts of rheumatic fever when I was a child, aged 6, 10 and 12, that left me with a leaking mitral valve in the heart. This has resulted in 4 open heart surgeries in my adulthood to replace (3 times) the valve with 3 mechanical ones and one surgery was for a repair around the valve.

As an adult, I have prayed on all four occasions for healing so that I would avoid the surgeries, but God has not chosen to heal me. God has a greater purpose in my life and that is Christian maturity and endurance in my faith.

It is not biblical to demand that God heal others or oneself when you and others pray. Jesus did not do it and there is ample evidence for God’s greater plan of development in Christian maturity.

The demand for God to heal all people can come with a diminished view of what life in the presence of God is all about. For believers, to have a desire to continue to live in this present evil world has some irony about it. Why is not living in the presence of God at death, and living for Him through trials in this life, not the way God plans for all believers?

As I update this article on Saturday, 16 June 2018, I share that on Thursday night last week after I came home from a Bible study, in the semi-darkness I tripped and fell on my side on the concrete floor of the garage. I was so stunned I didn’t know what to do. My medialert did not trigger an SOS as it should do. I eventually pulled myself up and closed the garage door and then it was off to bed.

About 1.30am on Friday morning, I was woken by extreme pain in my left leg. It was so bad I couldn’t stand to walk to the mobile phone to contact our emergency services on 000. I cried out to the Lord for healing of the pain and that no damage was done to my leg.

The pain stopped immediately, for which I praised the Lord with jubilation.

When I visited my Dr this week for an assessment of my leg, all he could say was that it was all clear and I was ‘lucky’ I didn’t have a break or hairline fracture as I also have osteoporosis (brittle bones).

See these related articles:

snowflake-red-smallWere miracles meant to be temporary?” (Jack Deere)

snowflake-red-small St. Augustine: The man who dared to change his mind about divine healing (Spencer Gear)

snowflake-red-small Are there apostles in the 21st century? (Spencer Gear)

snowflake-red-small Are miracles valuable? (Spencer Gear)

’Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer’ (Romans 12:12 NIV).

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:16 June 2018.

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Cynicism about Jesus as an Easter ‘treat’

 
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By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article is published in On Line Opinion, ‘Cynicism about Jesus as an Easter “treat”’, 4 April 2018.

Please note in the ‘Comments’ section at the end of the article the number of posters who don’t deal with the content of the article. Instead, they pour out their vitriol against Christianity with a string of logical fallacies.

I responded as OzSpen. However, when people are engaged in the use of erroneous reasoning, it’s impossible to have a logical conversation with them.

What are logical fallacies?

Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim. Avoid these common fallacies in your own arguments and watch for them in the arguments of others (Purdue Online Writing Lab: Logical Fallacies, 1996-2018).

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 May 2018.

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Can Christians become absolutely sinless?

Comments Off on Can Christians become absolutely sinless?

April 9th, 2018 Salvation, Sanctification, Sin

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

How would you, as a Christian,[1] respond to this provocative question?

Why did God / Christ call us to be Holy and Perfect when he knew we are sinners? What was He exhorting us to do / be?[2]

The Scriptures used for support were:

  • 1 Peter 1:16, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’, and
  • Matt 5:48, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’.

Be perfect

This article will pursue the meaning of ‘perfect’ (Matt 5:48).

  • The KJV states, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’’
  • The NRSV translation, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’.
  • International Standard Version (ISV): ‘So be perfect [or mature],[3]as your heavenly Father is perfect [or mature]’[4].
  • Revised English Bible (REB):[5] ‘There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds’.

These four translations demonstrate how ‘perfect’ as an English meaning may not be the best understanding of the koine Greek for that word. Let’s seek some further information.

If not perfection, what is it?

The problem we have[6] is with the English meaning of ‘perfect’ that communicates the idea of complete or absolute sinlessness. Even with Jesus living in me, I’m incapable of that standard – because I have a sinful nature that God does not have.

What are the alternatives?

(1) Either God is requiring something I cannot attain (perfection) – which makes God a liar (which He is not – Heb 6:18), or

(2) In the original languages, ‘perfection’ has a meaning that is different from our English understanding.

Teleios exposes the meaning

Related imageThe word for ‘perfect’ in Matt 5:48 is teleios. It refers to a goal and I don’t know one single word in English to convey its meaning. It doesn’t mean absolute sinlessness, just like God cannot sin, because if we go back to Matt 5:6, the disciples are blessed if they ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’. Verse 7 states, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy’ (NIV). They are not yet completely merciful but will be shown mercy by God if they engage in merciful acts.

Therefore, I conclude that ‘perfect’ is not the meaning of teleios. In fact, it’s a misleading interpretation of the original. The statement of Matt 5:48 comes from Deut 18:13, ‘Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God’ (KJV), which modern translations render as, ‘You shall be blameless before the Lord your God’ (NKJV). Here, ‘perfect’ is the Hebrew, tham, which means ‘complete’, like a whole number (Lenski).

Westminster vs Wesley

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 35, asked: What is sanctification? ‘Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man, after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness’.

By contrast, John Wesley in ‘A Plain Account of Christian Perfection’ wrote:

“To explain myself a little farther on this head: (1.) Not only sin, properly so called, (that is, a voluntary transgression of a known law,) but sin, improperly so called, (that is, an involuntary transgression of a divine law, known or unknown,) needs the atoning blood. (2.) I believe there is no such perfection in this life as excludes these involuntary transgressions which I apprehend to be naturally consequent on the ignorance and mistakes inseparable from mortality. (3.) Therefore sinless perfection is a phrase I never use, lest I should seem to contradict myself. (4.) I believe, a person filled with the love of God is still liable to these involuntary transgressions. (5.) Such transgressions you may call sins, if you please: I do not, for the reasons above-mentioned”.

So the Westminster Calvinistic divines maintained that the Christian is renewed in the whole person and is enabled to die to sin and live for righteousness – which is progressive sanctification.

By contrast, Wesley considered that when a person voluntarily committed sins, it was possible to stop these as the person grew to Christian maturity.

However, the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia, as an example of a Wesleyan approach to sanctification, states that ‘our mission’ is to …

spread scriptural holiness throughout every land…. [This involves] guiding believers to experience entire sanctification so that they are enabled to live whole and holy lives (Wesleyan Methodist Church Australia, Our Mission).

The Church of the Nazarene adopts a similar perspective on entire sanctification.

Conclusion

We are called to reach the goal of maturity in Christ, to become blameless, complete, and people of integrity in his sight.

There is a divergence of interpretation among certain denominations on this topic. Some believe in progressive sanctification / holiness while others pursue cessation of deliberate voluntary sin, calling the effect entire sanctification.

Notes

[1] When I refer to a Christian, I mean an evangelical Christian who believes and proclaims the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone (Acts 4:12).

[2] Christian Forums.net 2018. ‘Are Christians called to be holy and perfect?’ Rajesh Sahu#1, 6 April. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/are-christians-called-to-be-holy-and-perfect.75394/ (Accessed 8 April 2018).

[3] This was given as a footnote in the ISV text.

[4] Ibid. CFnet.

[5] This is a revised edition of The New English Bible.

[6] The following is my response as OzSpen#18 on CFnet.

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 May 2018

Consequences of screwing up meanings of New Testament Greek tenses

Image result for Greek alphabet public domain

(courtesy Clker)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Christian forums (online)[1] have an abundance of people who promote or oppose once-saved-always-saved (OSAS). Here is one example:

Those who have believed. They are the one (sic) who receive eternal life. Jesus said so in John 5:24 – “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
Notice the present tense “HAS” regarding eternal life….

This indicates an acknowledgement that the Bible DOES teach eternal security.[2]

‘Has’ with a Greek emphasis

I couldn’t let him get away with his statement, ‘Notice the present tense “HAS” regarding eternal life’, and so I responded:[3]

What does tense mean for the NT Greek verbs? What does the present tense ‘has’ mean?
Also, what are the meanings of the tenses in these two verses?

‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand’ (John 10:27-28 NIV)?

The Greek tenses have different emphases to the English tenses.

Nonsense that Greek and English tenses are equivalent!

Image result for clipart NonsenseHe came back with these kinds of emphases:

It means “currently” from the perspective of the writer.
Surely you’re familiar with the English tenses, right? The present tense in the English is equivalent to the present tense in the Greek.
So, John 5:24 means that when one believes, they (sic) possess (have) eternal life. That’s when it is received….

This link will answer your questions:
http://www.ntgreek.org/learn_nt_greek/inter-tense.htm

The present tenses are equivalent in Greek and English.[4]

That link provides information about Greek tenses that contradicts his statement that English and Greek present tenses are equivalent. This article states:

In English, and in most other languages, the tense of the verb mainly refers to the ‘time’ of the action of the verb (present, past, or future time). In Greek, however, although time does bear upon the meaning of tense, the primary consideration of the tense of the verb is not time, but rather the ‘kind of action’ that the verb portrays. The most important element in Greek tense is kind of action; time is regarded as a secondary element….

The kind of action (aktionsart) of a Greek verb will generally fall into one of three categories:
1) Continuous (or ‘Progressive’) kind of action.
2) Completed (or ‘Accomplished’) kind of action, with continuing results.
3) Simple occurrence, (or ‘Summary occurrence’) without reference to the question of progress. (This is sometimes referred to as ‘Punctiliar’ kind of action , but it is a misnomer to thus imply that, in every instance, the action only happened at one point of time. This can be true, but it is often dependent on other factors such as the meaning of the verb, other words in the context, etc.) (source).

This person who referred me to the link on ‘Greek verb tenses (Intermediate discussion)’ obviously doesn’t understand the emphases in NT Greek tenses so I provided this analysis.

I teach NT Greek and some of what you have stated here is incorrect.[5] In English, the tenses primarily relate to the time of action (past, present & future). We add extra words to indicate kind of action. We could say, ‘I go’, but to indicate progressive action, we say, ‘I am going’.

In Greek (except for the future tense), the tenses refer primarily to the kind of action (continuous, completed with continuing results, and simple occurrence). Therefore, the present tense in Greek is not equivalent to the present tense in English. The Greek present tense refers to continual / continuous action. The time factor is of minor importance.

NT Greek grammarians, Dana & Mantey, stated this important difference when compared with English tenses:

The distinctive function of the verb is to express action. Action as presented in the expression of a verbal idea involves two elements, time of action and kind of action. That is, the action may be described as occurring at a certain time, and must be described, if intelligible, as performed in a certain manner. Tense deals with these two aspects of verbal expression, kind of action being the chief idea involved, for time is but a minor consideration in the Greek tenses…. The important element of tense in Greek is kind of action (Dana & Mantey 1955:177, 178 emphasis in original).?

What is the meaning of the present tense in Greek? The aorist tense may be represented by a dot (•). It happened. The present tense by a line (_______________), and the perfect tense by a combination of the two (•_______________) [Dana & Mantey 1955:179].

The fundamental significance of the present tense is the idea of progress. It is the linear tense. This is not, however, its exclusive significance. It is a mistake to suppose “that the durative meaning monopolises the present stem” (M. 119). Since there is no aorist tense for present time, the present tense, as used in the indicative [mood], must do service for both linear and punctiliar action. But it is to be borne in mind that the idea of present time is secondary in force of the tense. The time element belongs to the indicative [mood], where the present tense is really the “imperfect of present time,” while what we know as the imperfect tense is the “imperfect of past time.” The progressive [i.e. continual/repeated action] force of the present tense should always be considered as primary, especially with reference to the potential moods, which in the nature of the case do not need any “present punctiliar” tense (Dana & Mantey 1955:181, emphasis in original).?

We can apply this understanding of the Greek present tense to John 5:24 (ESV): ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears [present tense] my word and believes [present tense] him who sent me has [present tense] eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life’.
Therefore the verse means that those who hear Jesus’ word and continue to believe him continue to have eternal life. The verse does not teach that a person who once believed and no longer believes has eternal life. Eternal life is for those who continue to believe. That’s what the Greek teaches because the Greek present tense is not equivalent to the English present tense.

Image result for clipart end of race public domainJohn 5:24 is in harmony with Matthew 24:9-14 (ESV),

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (emphasis added).

Conclusion

I urge every Christian who reads English, NOT to make the English verb tenses in an English translation of the Bible to have the same meaning as the Greek verb tenses. English verbs generally indicate time of action while the Greek verbs the kind of action, such as: continual action; action now with continuing results, point action, etc.

So when it comes to examining the verses mentioned above relating to once-saved-always-saved, the continuous action (unbroken action) of believing indicates one has continuous salvation as long as one continues to believe (Greek present tense). It does not teach that if one believes once only (aorist tense) and does not continue to believe, that one continues to have eternal life.

Here, the Greek verbals help to clarify that once-saved-always-saved is not a biblical way of looking at salvation, but perseverance of the saints is biblical teaching on salvation: ‘But the one who endures to the end will be saved’ (Matt 24:13 ESV).

Works consulted

Dana, H E & Mantey, J R 1927/1955, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Toronto, Canada: The Macmillan Company.

Notes


[1] I visit https://www.christianityboard.com/, https://christianforums.net/ and https://www.christianforums.com/ as OzSpen.

[2] Christian Forums.net 2017. Iron clad example proving OSAS from John 10:28. FreeGrace#3. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/iron-clad-example-proving-osas-from-john-10-28.68442/ (Accessed 15 February 2017).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#30.

[4] Ibid., FreeGrace#33.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#67.

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 February 2018.

Perpetual virginity of Mary promoted by false document

File:Blessed Virgin Mary.jpg

(Blessed Virgin Mary, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Did Mary, the mother of Jesus, remain a virgin all of her life?[1] That’s the meaning of the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary as promoted by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches today, some early church fathers, and some Protestants in the early Reformation period.

A Roman Catholic explanation is:

When Catholics call Mary the “Blessed Virgin,” they mean she remained a virgin throughout her life. When Protestants refer to Mary as “virgin,” they mean she was a virgin only until Jesus’ birth. They believe that she and Joseph later had children whom Scripture refers to as “the brethren of the Lord.” The disagreement arises over biblical verses that use the terms “brethren,” “brother,” and “sister.”
There are about ten instances in the New Testament where “brothers” and “sisters” of the Lord are mentioned (Matt. 12:46; Matt. 13:55; Mark 3:31–34; Mark 6:3; Luke 8:19–20; John 2:12, 7:3, 5, 10; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5).[2]

Here is how some Roman Catholics argue:

1. Roman Catholic support for The Protoevangelium of James

A person online wrote:

Are we to ignore The Protoevangelium of James written in 150 AD? I know you will because it doesn’t fit your theory 1900 years later. The Origin of Alexandria’s commentary on Matthew 10:17 written in 249 AD? He is wrong because______________????? I could go on and on throughout history and quote some of the greatest Christian theologians/teachers of the Christian Church to rebut your theory but you have decided you are right and everyone else is wrong.

So, once again, what makes your interpretation right(?) and the historical writings and interpretations of The Protoevangelium of James, Origin of Alexandria, Wycliffe and Calvin (who you love to quote on your website when they agree with your personal doctrine) wrong??[3]

The Protoevangelium of James (The Infancy Gospel of James) is a fake that is in the Pseudepigrapha/Apocrypha. It is a false document attributed to Jesus’ brother, James. Early writers used this tactic to try to gain credibility for what they wrote. And Tom used it to support his unbiblical view of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Tom has created a straw man argument of my view. I do not support the use of a false document to augment the case for Mary’s perpetual virginity.

2. Some of the early reformers supported perpetual virginity of Mary

Surely it’s a killer blow for the Protestant rejection of the perpetual virginity of Mary for a RC person to isolate the Reformers and their support of the perpetual virginity. This is how one of them did it:

The Reformers on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary:[4]

Martin Luther

It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin. … Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact. (Weimer’s The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 11, pp. 319-320; v. 6. p. 510.)

John Calvin

(On the Heretic Helvidius) Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s “brothers” are sometimes mentioned. (Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke, sec. 39 [Geneva, 1562], vol. 2 / From Calvin’s Commentaries, translated by William Pringle, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55)

[On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called “first-born”; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 107)

Under the word “brethren” the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 283 / Commentary on John, [7:3])

John Wesley

‘I believe that He [Jesus] was made man, joining the human nature with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin’ (‘Letter to a Roman Catholic’, The Works of Rev. John Wesley, vol 10, p. 81).

3. Was it plagiarised information about the Protestant details?

I asked:[5] Did you obtain your information here from https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/maryc2.htm? You seem to have done that. Why don’t you acknowledge your sources?  If you have not read these actual documents to get these quotes and have obtained them from another source you have not acknowledged, then you have plagiarised from that source. If you obtained your citations from this website, it is a global RC television network. It comes with a decided agenda to promote RC theology.

See the article on ‘Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ and the assessment of statements by Luther, Martin. The article begins: ‘Luther’s opinions on Our Lady are not wholly consistent, not altogether free from tension. They are abundant and it would be possible to select a series of extracts that would make him look like a Catholic’.

Of course you can find statements from Luther that would make him look like a RCC adherent. After all, that was the system he had left and his theology was in transition. There will be examples of contradiction in this process at various stages of his movement away from the RCC. I know that when I moved from being a cessationist to being a supporter of the charismatic gifts, there were (and could still be) contradictions in my statements. That’s called growth and change.

Pulling out some pro-RCC statements from Luther is a questionable tactic when he was a man in process of transitioning from one theological system to another.

As for John Calvin and John Wycliffe, they should have known better because of the biblical evidence that contradicts their positions. Scripture states that Jesus had siblings. Matt 13:55-56 (NLT) states, ‘Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.  All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?”’

The perpetual virginity of Mary is a misnomer perpetrated by the RCC.

She was a privileged lady but not in such a prominent position that causes schools in my electorate to be named in this kind of way to exalt her: Our Lady of the Way Catholic Primary School, Petrie, Qld, Australia.

The exalted Mary, mother of Jesus, cannot show the way to eternal life. That’s for Jesus alone (John 3:16 NLT; Acts 4:11 NLT). The Scriptures describe Mary: ‘Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”’ (Luke 1:28 NLT)

4. Logical fallacies and promotion of perpetual virginity

(The Vladimir Eleusa icon of the Ever Virgin Mary. The Aeiparthenos (Ever Virgin) title is widely used in Eastern Orthodox liturgy. Courtesy Wikipedia)

 

Example 1

I wrote: Some of the RCC doctrines that are contrary to biblical Christianity have been exposed over and over. See: https://www.gotquestions.org/Catholic-Biblical.html.[6]

This was one person’s RC reply:[7]

Gotquestions.org is a website run by Protestant,  evangelical, fundamental, and non-denominational people. Of course they are going to be anti-Catholic. It comes with a decided agenda to refute RC theology!!

Why aren’t Protestant beliefs or your beliefs that you promote on your website contrary to biblical Christianity that have been exposed over and over?

Here Tom55 has committed a genetic logical fallacy.[8] His genetic fallacy, a fallacy of reasoning, is based on what Tom sees as a defect in the origin of a claim, i.e. GotQuestions.org is a Protestant, evangelical, fundamental, non-denominational website. What he did in perpetrating this fallacy is:

  1. The origin of a claim about the perpetual virginity of Mary is from a Protestant, evangelical source;
  2. The claim is wrong because of that source.

This sort of reasoning is erroneous because blaming the source does not deal with the evidence for the issue. In the link I gave above it gave the example of, ‘Bill claims that 1+1=2. However, my parents brought me up to believe that 1+1=254, so Bill must be wrong’.

Of course there are examples where the origin of a claim is more relevant to its being true or false when, for example, a reliable expert in a field is more likely to be correct than a person with little expertise. I have had 5 open heart (valve replacement) surgeries. I would trust my cardiac surgeon’s knowledge on the need for a valve replacement than the knowledge of a lay person because of his expertise in these matters.

However, to claim that denial of the perpetual virginity of Mary is wrong because it comes from a Protestant, evangelical site, avoids the issue of the evidence. Tom committed a genetic logical fallacy. We cannot have a rational conversation when Tom does this.

Example 2

It was stated, ‘PS – when a poster starts complaining about the formatting style of his opponent, it usually means that his argument has run OUT of steam’.[9]

My response was: [10] When I complain about your shouting on an internet forum, it has zero to do with conceding defeat but bringing to your attention the need for etiquette when we speak to one another online. This was a red herring logical fallacy that did not deal with the fact that he was using capital letters, bold and enlarged font. He would not agree that he was wrong with his etiquette on a forum.

Example 3

Can you show me one single verse of Scripture that states that Scripture is our final authority??
I can show you verses that make this claim about the Church – but not about Scripture . . .

Matt 16:18-19 – Jesus told Peter that WHATEVER he ordained on earth would also be ordained in Heaven.

Matt. 18:15-18 – Jesus told Apostles that WHATEVER he ordained on earth would also be ordained in Heaven.

2 Thess 2:15 – Paul tells his readers to stand firm in the TRADITIONS they taught – WHETHER by oral statement OR by letter.

Luke 10:16 – Jesus tells hid disciples that whoever listens to THEM or rejects THEM – listens to HIM or rejects HIM and the ONE who sent Him.

Eph. 1:22-23 – Paul refers to the Church the FULLNESS of Christ.

Scripture is the written Word of God and is Authoritative – but NOWHERE does it claim to be our SOLE Authority.[11]

Notice what he continues to do! He screams at me with capitals, bold font and underlining.

Now to his rejection of the sole biblical authority.

Are you so blind[12] that you cannot see that ‘all Scripture’ that comes with the authority of being breathed out by the perfect Lord God who has absolute, sovereign authority of the universe has less authority than the early church fathers and popes?

N T Wright wrote an article, How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?[13] In his conclusion, Wright wrote an excellent summary of scriptural authority:

I have argued that the notion of the ‘authority of scripture’ is a shorthand expression for God’s authority, exercised somehow through scripture; that scripture must be allowed to be itself in exercising its authority, and not be turned into something else which might fit better into what the church, or the world, might have thought its ‘authority’ should look like; that it is therefore the meaning of ‘authority’ itself, not that of scripture, that is the unknown in the equation, and that when this unknown is discovered it challenges head on the various notions and practices of authority endemic in the world and, alas, in the church also.

Seems to me that your push for the authority of the church violates God’s authority that is exercised through Scripture.

See the article, ‘What is sola scriptura?

Example 4

Tom55 wrote on the forum: ‘Once again. You love to quote the Church Fathers on your website when they agree with you but avoid them when they prove you wrong…. How dishonest and sad’.[14]

I couldn’t let him get away with that one:[15] You have responded with a straw man fallacy. It is erroneous reasoning that falsely presents my view!

I use the church fathers when they agree with the Bible. When they invent something opposed to the Bible, as with the Evangelium of James (pseudepigrapha – fake stuff), I expose it. That’s what any sound exegete of Scripture should do. Seems as though you don’t want to venture into that realm of where the church fathers promote doctrines contrary to Scripture, but you reject the church fathers’ views in favour of the RCC’s position…. I have a brain that I use in reasoning. You are misrepresenting me with your erroneous reasoning.

5. What is the origin of perpetual virginity?

First page of the Gospel of Judas (Page 33 of Codex Tchacos)(copy of Apocrypha, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

It is understood[16] that the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary originated with The Protoevangelium of James (dated about AD 150) which also is known as The Infancy Gospel of James. What is the nature of this writing? Is it from the pen of James?

Gregory Elder’s assessment of this document is:

It was almost certainly not written by the James, the “brother” or “kinsman” of Jesus mentioned in the Bible. The earliest reference to the book appears in a third-century document and it was probably written in the middle of the second century A.D.

No Christian church today regards it as scriptural, and it is agreed to be apocryphal. That said, it is relatively early as Christian documents go, and it has some very interesting stuff in it.

The relatively short document is written in Greek, and it apparently was quite interesting to the early church communities, as more than 130 copies of it have survived, suggesting a wide readership for a day when handwriting was the only way to disseminate texts (Professing Faith: The Protoevangelium is noncanonical but influenced Christian beliefs 2014).

Here is a table of some contradictions between The Protoevangelium of James and the Bible (from, Is the Perpetual Virginity of Mary a Biblical View?)

 

Protoevangelium of James The Bible
1 Gabriel is called an archangel (Chapter 9:22), which was a common designation for Gabriel in apocryphal literature written after the first century. (For example, see Revelation of Paul, The Book of John Concerning the Falling Asleep of Mary, and The Apocalypse of the Holy Mother of God.) The Bible never identifies Gabriel as an archangel, but Michael is described as an archangel in Jude 1:9. The idea of Gabriel as an archangel seems to be a misconception that began in the second century.
2 Mary’s response to the angel is different than what is recorded in Scripture. “What! Shall I conceive by the living God, and bring forth as all other women do?” (Chapter 9:12). Luke 1:34 states, “Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’”
3 Elizabeth fled the Bethlehem region with her son John (the Baptist) to the mountains because of Herod’s wrath when he decided to kill all the baby boys around and in Bethlehem (Chapter 16:3). Concerning John the Baptist, Luke 1:80 states, “So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.” It was Joseph, Mary, and Jesus who fled from Bethlehem because of Herod (Matthew 2:13–15).
4 Jesus was born in a cave outside the city of Bethlehem (Chapters 12:11–14:31). Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the town of David, according to Luke 2:4, 11 and Matthew 2:1.
5 The angel of the Lord, when speaking to Joseph in a dream, said to take Mary but does not mention having her as a wife. The priest chastised Joseph and accused him for taking Mary as a wife secretly by the priest. Joseph takes her home but is reluctant to call her his wife when they go to Bethlehem (Chapters 10:17–18, 11:14, 12:2–3). Matthew 1:19 reveals that Joseph was already Mary’s husband (they were betrothed) before the angel visited him in a dream. Matthew 1:24 points out that after the angel visited Joseph, he kept her as his wife.
6 Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths and hid him in a manger at the inn to keep him from the massacre by Herod’s men (Chapter 16:2). Mary and Joseph were warned of Herod’s plot by an angel, and they fled to Egypt (Matthew 2:13–14).
7 Wise men came to Bethlehem and inquired of Herod where the Child was born (Chapter 21:1–2). Wise men came to Jerusalem to inquire where the child king was (Matthew 2:1).

 

This comparison should lay to rest any support of the pseudo ‘Infancy Gospel’ of James as a genuine document to be followed in its support of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

The Protoevangelium of James (The Infancy Gospel of James) is a fake that is in the Pseudepigrapha. It is a false document attributed to Jesus’ brother, James. And this RC promoter dares to use it to support his unbiblical view of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

6. Evidence for Jesus’ brothers and sisters

Matthew 13:55-56 (ESV) states,[17] ‘Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’

Here is the scriptural support for the other children, brothers and sisters, of Jesus. The brothers (adelphoi) are named as James, Joseph, Simon and Judas, but the sisters (adelphe) are not named. The origin of his brothers (whether by Joseph and Mary after Jesus’ birth; step brothers of Jesus, etc), in my view, has not been determined in any definitive way.

Some commentators consider them to be sons and daughters to Joseph and Mary, born later than Jesus’ birth. Others think of these brothers and sisters as from a previous marriage by Joseph. We know from a verse such as Mark 6:3 (ESV) that Jesus is called ‘the son of Mary’, but this verse again states that Jesus is the ‘brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon’.

Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe summarised the biblical evidence in a more than adequate way when they examined MATTHEW 13:55-56. Was Mary a perpetual virgin, or did she have other children after Jesus’ virgin birth?

PROBLEM: Roman Catholicism teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin, that is, that she never had sexual intercourse, even after Jesus was virgin born. Is it true that when the Bible refers to Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” (Matt. 13:56) it means cousins or close relatives?

SOLUTION: It is true that the words for brother and sister can mean close relative. This must be determined by the context and from other Scriptures. And in the case of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, the context indicates they were his real half brothers and sisters.

First, nowhere does the Bible affirm the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. Like the Roman Catholic doctrine of Mary’s sinlessness (see comments on Luke 1:46), there is no statement anywhere in the Bible that supports this teaching.

Second, when “brothers and sisters” are used in connection with father or mother, then it does not mean cousins, but actual blood brothers and sisters (cf. Luke 14:26). Such is the case with Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Matthew 13:55 says, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?” (cf. Mark 6:3)

Third, there are other references in the Bible to Jesus’ “brothers.” John informs us that “even His brothers did not believe in Him” (John 7:5). And Paul speaks of “James, the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19). On another occasion Mark refers to “His [Jesus’] brothers and His mother” (Mark 3:31). John spoke of “His mother, His brothers, and His disciples” (John 2:12). Luke mentions “Mary the mother of Jesus, with His brothers” being in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14) [Geisler & Howe 1992:346].

I find nothing in Scripture to confirm the perpetual virginity of Mary.

When examining this issue, we need to deal with biblical evidence and not tradition, whether RC or Protestant.

7. Roman Catholic and other commentaries affirming perpetual virginity

One RC person online wrote:

Mary’s perpetual virginity bears witness to the uniqueness and Christ and to the divinity of Christ.

Denying the perpetual virginity of Mary subtly denies the divinity of Christ in the womb.[18]

There is not a word in Scripture that supports such a view. It’s a doctrine invented and perpetrated by the RCC. Even Roman Catholic priest, Fr Angelo Mary Geiger, associates the perpetual virginity of Mary with Jesus’ divinity in this statement:

The essential truth of the Virgin Birth, as taught continually by the Fathers and defined by the Church, does not concern the presence or absence of pain during Jesus’ birth. The central truth of the Virgin Birth is that Christ was born of Mary miraculously, as a sign and confirmation of His divinity (Geiger 2007).

Johannes Quasten wrote: ‘The principal aim of the whole writing [Protoevangelium of James] is to prove the perpetual and inviolate virginity of Mary before, in, and after the birth of Christ’ (Patrology 1:120–121, cited in ‘Mary: Ever Virgin’, Catholic Answers 1996-2017).[19]

St Augustine wrote of Mary: ‘A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?’ (Sermon 186.1).[20]

See the interaction on Catholic Answers, ‘Was Mary a perpetual virgin?’ (February 24, 2016).

Mark Lambert (2012) concluded that

from a modern perspective this doctrine [of Mary’s perpetual virginity] may to many seem fantastic. Without the theology it may seem unnecessary, with an anachronistic perspective it may seem misogynist, with a scientific perspective it might seem impossible. Yet with the information handed down to us from the early Church, we have to ask ourselves why would they make it up? If it wasn’t true, isn’t it just too complicated to make up? And for what purpose? Would it really bother anyone if it wasn’t the case? Logically, it seems that once one can accept the possibility of the virgin birth of Jesus of Nazareth and the necessity of that fact for the reality of the Incarnation, the historical evidence to support the claim is more than adequate (Lambert 2012).

The idea that because early church fathers affirmed Mary’s perpetual virginity, this means that it is true, commits the appeal to tradition logical fallacy.

8. Assessment by a few Protestant commentators

How do these Protestant commentators conclude with the evidence for Jesus’ brothers and sisters? Are they siblings, half-brothers and sisters, cousins, or in some other relation to Mary and Jesus?

8.1   William Hendriksen

He wrote of Matt 1:24-25 about ‘the case against Mary’s perpetual virginity ’ and stated that

a. According to both the Old and the New Testament sexual intercourse for married couples is divinely approved (Gen. 1:28; 9:1; 24:60; Prov. 5:18; Ps. 127:3; 1 Cor. 7:5, 9). Of course, even there, as in all things, self-control should be exercised. Incontinence is definitely condemned (1 Cor. 7:5; Gal. 5:22, 23). But no special sanctity attaches to total abstention or celibacy. b. We are definitely told that Jesus had brothers and sisters, evidently together with him members of one family (Matt. 12:46, 47; Mark 3:31, 32; 6:3; Luke 8:19, 20; John 2:12; 7:2, 5, 10; Acts 1:14). c. Luke 2:7 informs us that Jesus was Mary’s “firstborn” (Hendriksen 1973:144).

Taken together, these three arguments provide ‘the evidence [that] becomes conclusive. The burden of proof rests entirely on those who deny that after Christ’s birth Joseph and Mary entered into all the relationships commonly associated with marriage’ (Hendriksen 1973:145).

An RC response by Fr. Geiger is:

The virginity of Our Lady after the birth of Jesus concerns the fact that Mary never had marital relations with St. Joseph and therefore, of course, conceived no other children. Her whole life was that of consecrated virginity. Most Protestants do not hold this position. They argue that the brethren of the Lord referred to in the Gospel are the other children of Mary. The short answer to this problem is that the brethren in these passages refer to relatives such as cousins, and not siblings born from the same mother (Geiger 2007).

8.2   R C H Lenski

In his commentary on Matthew 12:46, he wrote:

Who “his brothers” are, in the writer’s opinion has not been determined. Modern commentators answer: the sons of Joseph and Mary who were born later than Jesus. But here and elsewhere they act as though they were older than he. Others think of sons of Joseph by a former marriage. In Mark 6:3 Jesus is called “the son of Mary” in a marked way (compare John 19:26) and is kept distinct from the brothers and the sisters. In Acts 1:14 Luke writes: “Mary, the mother of Jesus and his brothers” – not “her sons.” Still others, for instance, the Latin Church since Jerome and older Protestant theologians and some interpreters of our day, think of the sons of Clopas, a brother or a brother-in-law of Joseph. Thus these brothers would be first cousins of Jesus (Lenski 1943/1961:502).

8.3   D A Carson

Commenting on Matthew 12:46-47, he wrote:

The most natural way to understand “brothers” (v. 46) is that the term refers to sons of Mary and Joseph and thus to brothers of Jesus on his mother’s side. To support the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity, a notion foreign to the NT and to the earliest church fathers. Roman Catholic scholars have suggested that “brothers” refers either to Joseph’s sons by an earlier marriage or to sons of Mary’s sister, who had the same name…. Certainly “brothers” can have a wider meaning than male relatives (Acts 22;1). Yet it is very doubtful whether such a meaning is valid here for it raises insuperable problems. For instance, if “brothers” refers to Joseph’s sons by an earlier marriage, not Jesus but Joseph’s firstborn would have been legal heir to David’s throne. The second theory – that “brothers” refers to sons of a sister of Mary also named “Mary” – faces the unlikelihood of two sisters having the same name. All things considered, the attempts to extend the meaning of “brothers” in this pericope, despite McHugh’s best efforts, are nothing less than farfetched exegesis in support of a dogma that originated much later than the NT (Carson 1984:299).

While Lenski doesn’t know who the brothers and sisters of Jesus have as parents, Hendriksen and Carson acknowledge them as children of the one family of Joseph and Mary.

None of these commentators supports the perpetual virginity of Mary. The RC opposition would say: Of course you would expect that. They are Protestants who do not respect the tradition of the universal church from the time of Jesus. My response is: Each of these commentators and Geisler and Howe examine the exegetical evidence in Scripture to arrive at their decisions. If the evidence led to perpetual virginity, they would, in all honesty, accept such a view. However, Hendriksen’s statement reaches a profound conclusion that is substantiated by the evidence:

9. There is no perpetual virginity of Mary

Image result for image perpetual virginity public domain(courtesy Creed 101)

 

‘The evidence becomes conclusive. The burden of proof rests entirely on those who deny that after Christ’s birth Joseph and Mary entered into all the relationships commonly associated with marriage’ (Hendriksen 1973:145).

The RCC has not demonstrated that Joseph and Mary did not enter into the marriage relationship and have children after the birth of Jesus.

Mary’s virginity at the time of Jesus’ conception assures us that Jesus was not infected by sin and is uniquely God’s Son. However, it is not related to Mary’s perpetual virginity.

It is a straw man fallacy that the denial of Mary’s perpetual virginity denies Christ’s divinity in the womb. Christ’s divinity is guaranteed by the divine manifestation and confirmation by God himself that Jesus is the unique Son and Messiah. This happened at Jesus’ baptism: ‘Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”’ (Luke 3:21-22 ESV).

This is God from heaven proclaiming Jesus as his Son and with Jesus, God is ‘well pleased’. Do you remember who declared Jesus’ divinity? It was not linked to Mary’s perpetual virginity.

According to Luke 3:21-22, it is God, out of heaven proclaiming Jesus as His Son, the Son of the Most High God, as Gabriel had said He was, Immanuel, God with us.  And the Father is also proclaiming His perfection saying He is well pleased with everything about Him.

Concerning the birth of Jesus, Matthew 1:22-23 (ESV) states,

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).

This is a quotation from the prophet Isaiah 7:14 and is fulfilled in Jesus’ virgin birth where he was called Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us’. Thus, Jesus’ divinity is not related to any perpetual virginity of Mary but to a declaration by God Himself and biblical teaching that Jesus is eternally the Son.

See my articles in defence of the virgin conception and birth:

Flower16 The virgin birth of Christ

Flower16 The Virgin Birth: Fact, Fiction, or Something Else?

Was Jesus God prior to his virgin birth? See the content of the article,

Flower16What is the doctrine of eternal Sonship and is it biblical?’ (Got Questions Ministries).

Flower16 I commend to you the excellent summary of the biblical material in context that does not support Mary’s perpetual virginity, ‘Did Jesus have brothers and sisters (siblings)?’ [Compelling Truth]

10. Works consulted

Carson, D A 1984. Matthew, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol 8, 3-500. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House).

Geiger, F M 2007. The Virgin Birth of Jesus is a dogma of faith, in Michael: A journal of Catholic patriots for the Social Credit monetary reform (online), 01 January. Available at: http://www.michaeljournal.org/articles/roman-catholic-church/item/the-virgin-birth-of-jesus-is-a-dogma-of-faith (Accessed 24 April 2017).

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When critics ask: A popular handbook on Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Hendriksen, W 1973. New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lambert, M 2012. The perpetual virginity of Mary. De Omnibus Debitandum Est (blog). Available at: http://marklambert.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/the-perpetual-virginity-of-mary.html (Accessed 27 February 2017).

Lenski, R C H 1943/1961. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Minneapolis MN: The Wartburg Press/Augsburg Publishing House (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. edn.).


Notes

[1] Much of the information in this article is based on my interaction on the Christian forum, Christianity Board 2016-2017. ‘When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal?’ (online). Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/23002-when-did-the-universal-church-first-mentioned-in-110ad-stop-being-universal/page-24 (Accessed 3 February 2017).

[2] ‘Brethren of the Lord’ 1996-2017. Catholic Answers (online). Available at: https://www.catholic.com/tract/brethren-of-the-lord (Accessed 9 April 2017).

[3] ChristianityBoard.com, ‘When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal?’ (online), Tom55#726.

[4] Ibid., BreadOfLife#707.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#711.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#692.

[7] Ibid., tom55#715.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#722.

[9] Ibid., BreadOfLife#729.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#730.

[11] Ibid., BreadOfLife#731.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#733.

[13] NTWrightPage 1991. How can the Bible be authoritative? Vox Evangelica, 21, 7-32. Available at: http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/how-can-the-bible-be-authoritative/ (Accessed 3 February 2017).

[14] ‘When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal?’ (online), tom55#744.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#745, #746.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#742.

[17] Ibid., OzSpen#724.

[18] Christianity Board 2017. ‘It’s not in the bible … sola scriptura’ (online), Mungo#6. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/23615-it-is-not-in-the-biblesola-scripture/ (Accessed 24 April 2017).

[19] Available at: https://www.catholic.com/tract/mary-ever-virgin (Accessed 27 February 2017).

[20] See also: http://www.churchfathers.org/category/mary-and-the-saints/mary-ever-virgin/ (Accessed 27 February 2017).

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 April 2017.

Growing weary of constantly correcting false teaching

 Headstone free tombstone clipart clipart image

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What should I say to a person who claimed this?

“Hades” which is the Greek term used to translate the Hebrew term Sheol, basically refers to the grave or the abode of the dead and clearly the parable of the rich man and Lazarus describes this intermediate state as being a place of consciousness. But sheol during the Old Testament period also describes a place devoid of consciousness, for example Ecclesiastes 9:5, Ecclesiastes 9:10; Psalms 88:12 (NIV). In other words the intermediate state proceeding (sic)[1] the resurrection has more than one meaning.[2]

1. Hades, the place of departed souls

Those who know Hebrew and Greek disagree with him. [3]

According to OT Hebrew commentators, Keil & Delitzsch, ‘Sheol denotes the place where departed souls are gathered after death’ (n d:338). As a general description, this is not referring to the grave.

Image result for hell clipart public domain One of the leading exegetical Greek word studies edited by Colin Brown states:

In the LXX [Septuagint] hades occurs more than 100 times, in the majority of instances to translate Heb sheol, the underworld which receives all the dead. It is a land of darkness, in which God is not remembered (Job 10:21f; 26:5; Ps. 6:5; 30:9 [LXX 29:9]; 115:17 [LXX 113:25]; Prov. 1:12; 27:20; Isa. 5:14) (Brown 1976:206).

So in the Septuagint (OT Greek), hades is a Greek translation of the Hebrew, sheol.

There are further explanations of hades and sheol in my articles,

On this Christian forum (online), the regular rejection of the orthodox doctrine of life-after-death and the immortality of the soul has become such a drone that a person expressed dismay over what was happening. I understand and sympathise with his perspective.

However, a biblical response is needed to this disillusionment.

2. Growing weary of correction

Jim Parker wrote:

There is truly nothing new under the sun.
Here, we seem to be on a wheel which periodically brings around OSAS,[4] faith alone without works, no eternal punishment in hell, baptism’s just for show, and a few other favorites which don’t come to mind at the moment.

I have attempted to show where people’s comments have been illogical or taken totally out of context only to find that logic and context are concepts with which many, not only do not know anything about the subject, but, often, don’t even suspect there is something to be known. I have attempted, in response to “proof-texts” to show the rest of the story (as Paul Harvey used to say) only to have them either dismissed out of hand or completely ignored and then be assailed with another barrage of “proof-texts.”
I grow weary.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in its petty pace from day to day and all our yesterdays light fools the way to dusty death.

or

Proof-text after proof-text after proof-text drip like a leaky faucet from day to day and all the light of logic and learning offered is snuffed out by fools in darkness on their way to the next pop-theology Bible study.[5]

I encouraged him not to become weary in doing good through correcting those who proof-text out of context to modify or change what the Bible says about life-after-death issues.

3. Do good to everyone – correct false teaching in the family of faith

Doing good to everyone sounds more like good works in the community (food hampers, meeting human need) and to believers at church. However, could it have a broader application?

Let’s look at a few verses in context:

Image result for false doctrine clipart public domain6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal 6:6-10 ESV).?

We will use this section of Gal 6 to apply to the title of this thread, ‘Contradictions and the soul of man’,[6]

  • Those taught the word (about the immortal soul) should teach this good word (immortal soul) to the teacher.
  • It is possible to be deceived in this teaching – hence the term ‘contradictions’;
  • God is not mocked because what is sown in eisegesis will reap its reward (loss, penalty or punishment) in confusion over the nature of what happens at death for believers and unbelievers.
  • The one who sows to his own fleshly understanding of what happens at death – no hell for unbelievers and no soul/spirit to enter the Intermediate State for believers – will reap corruption. In this post title, this is called ‘contradiction’.
  • The one sowing to the Spirit by obedience to Scripture regarding eternal damnation and eternal salvation will not reap corruption of understanding but will be enlightened by the Spirit’s understanding.
  • Refuting and challenging such fleshly understanding can cause some to grow weary in the good action of challenging incorrect exegesis. Those who remain true to Scripture will reap truth if they don’t give up.
  • On this Christian forum, we have the opportunity to do good to everyone by agreeing, challenging, correcting and defending the truth of what the Scriptures say about the immortal soul. There are no contradictions in Scripture, only ‘apparent human contradictions in understanding’. Instead of promoting feel-good Christianity (no eternal damnation), we have the opportunity of doing good by correction. It doesn’t feel good at the time of giving correction over and over as it can become wearying. But it is important to continue to be faithful exegetes and not base our responses on being politically correct and following Rob Bell’s view of no eternal punishment in hell.
  • Let us continue to do good on this forum and in other situations (whether in a church setting or the general community) by challenging and correcting views that are contrary to Scripture in regard to eternal life and eternal damnation (Matt 25:46 ESV).

Yes, it can be wearying but we are exhorted by Paul to the Galatians to ‘not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up’ (Gal 6:9 ESV).

Jim’s response was: ‘It still feels like trying to teach a pig to sing. All it does is annoy the pig’.[7]

I understand that it is tough going on many occasions, even on this forum. However, this is our biblical responsibility before God (see 1 John 4:1-3 ESV).[8]

The challenge to Bible teachers is that they will endure a ‘stricter judgment’ (James 3:1-2 ESV) because of the requirements placed on God’s teachers of testing the spirits to discern false prophets (and false profits) and those who do not confess Jesus as being from God. This means weeding out those who proclaim a human Jesus without the deity of Christ or a divine Jesus without the humanity of Christ (the latter being a form of Docetic Gnosticism). It applies to all other departures from biblically orthodox doctrines.

3.1 Docetic Gnosticism explained

One error that invaded the church in its first few centuries was Docetic Gnosticism. What is it? Church Historian, Earl Cairns, explained the Docetic Gnosticism threat:

Image result for clipart gnosticismGnosticism, the greatest of the philosophical threats, was at its peak of power about 150. Its roots reached back into the New Testament times. Paul seemed to have been fighting an incipient form of Gnosticism in his letter to the Colossians. Christian tradition related the origin of Gnosticism to Simon Magus [Acts 8:9-24], whom Peter had to rebuke so severely. Gnosticism sprang from the natural human desire to create a theodicy, an explanation to the origin of evil. The Gnostics, because they associated matter with evil, sought a way to create a philosophical system in which God as spirit could be freed from association with evil and in which man could be related on the spiritual side of his nature to Deity….

To explain Christ, they adopted a doctrine known as Docetism. Because matter was evil, Christ could not be associated with a human body despite the Bible’s teaching to the contrary. Christ as absolute spiritual good could not unite with matter. Either the man Jesus was a phantom with the seeming appearance of a material body (Docetism), or Christ came upon the human body of Jesus only for a short time between the baptism of the man Jesus and the beginning of His suffering on the cross. Then Christ left the man Jesus to die on the cross. It was the task of Christ to teach a special gnosis or knowledge that would help man save himself by an intellectual process (Cairns 1981:98-99)

With the advent of the Internet there are more opportunities to sow seeds of false doctrine and water the seed into full-blown false teaching. This is happening in droves on Christian forums.

Keep watch, brother in Christ. Don’t grow weary in doing good in correcting false doctrine and proclaiming orthodox teaching.

3.2 Correctly explaining Scripture

Is it doing good to correct false teaching? In the context of exhorting Timothy to be a worker approved by God (2 Tim 2:14-26 ESV), Paul wrote, ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth’ (2 Tim 2:15 ESV). The New Living Translation translates this as, ‘Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth’ (emphasis added).

What is the danger of false teaching, whether it be on life-after-death theology or any other teaching? Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is clear that he, the pastor, should be one who is ‘rightly handling the word of truth’. What is the meaning of ‘rightly handling’?

‘Rightly handling’ is the Greek, orthotomounia, present tense, active voice, infinitive. Being present tense, it refers to continual action by pastor-teachers to correctly explain God’s word of truth (the Scripture). Explaining truth means the teachers also correct errors. The Greek is a late and rare compound word (orthos and themnw) that means ‘cutting straight’ and is the only time it is used in the NT. The LXX uses it in Prov. 3:6 and 11:5 for constructing straight paths. There is a parallel verse in Heb 12:13 (ESV), ‘Make straight paths for your feet’ (Robertson 1931:619).

Theodoret explains it to mean ploughing a straight furrow. Parry argues that the metaphor is the stone mason cutting the stones straight since themnw and orthos are so used. Since Paul was a tent-maker and knew how to cut straight the rough camel-hair cloth, why not let that be the metaphor? Certainly plenty of exegesis is crooked enough (crazy-quilt patterns) to call for careful cutting to set it straight (Robertson 1931:619-620).

In dealing with the false teaching of soul sleep, annihilation of the wicked at death, and no eternal punishment for unbelievers, there is need for correctly explaining the word of truth. This involves constructing straight paths of the true meaning of Scripture. To do this, often one has to cut out foreign, false teaching and provide correct exegesis by cutting straight to the heart of the text. This involves historical, grammatical, contextual understanding of all sentences in Scripture.

4. Be warned: True prophets acknowledge the truth about Jesus

John warned us in 1 John 4:1-3 (NLT):

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

While this addresses a threat in the early church of Gnosticism, it has broader application. Gnostics did not and do not believe Jesus had a real body of flesh. Second John 1:7 (NLT) addresses the same issue: ‘I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist’. Today there is similar opposition from people who do not believe that Jesus is God (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, Oneness Pentecostals, Christian Science, Armstrongism,[9] etc).

The anti-Christian website of Religious Tolerance (Ontario, Canada) claimed this as a Gnostic belief about Christ: ‘Some Gnostic groups promoted Docetism, the belief that Christ was pure spirit and only had a phantom body; Jesus just appeared to be human to his followers. They reasoned that a true emissary from the Supreme God could not have been overcome by the evil of the world, and to have suffered and died’ (Robinson 1996-2007).

4.1 Application of 1 John 4:1-3

Visit Christian forums such as Christian forums.net, Christianity Board, and Christian forums.com and you’ll get some views of how people allegedly listen to the voice of God for preaching, teaching and direction in their lives.

They will claim to speak by the Holy Spirit. John warns us that:

  • We must test what these people say to discern if it comes from God. Here you need the Scriptures and spiritual insight by the Spirit to bring discernment.
  • You know they speak by the Spirit if the following happens:

clip_image002 (a) They acknowledge that Jesus had a real human body while on earth. That demonstrates the person has the Spirit of God.

clip_image002[1] (b) If they don’t acknowledge the truth about Jesus (from Scripture), they are not from God. Therefore, a person who does not view Jesus as God cannot be a true prophet or teacher of God.

clip_image002[2] (c) That person has the spirit of Antichrist, which means he/she is proclaiming teaching that is anti-Christian.

clip_image002[3] (d) Antichrist is coming into the world and already is here.

This is a serious biblical exhortation to determine how to discern false teaching in the body of Christ. Pastors and teachers in the Christian churches must not be slack with these responsibilities. I note in passing that Bible teaching has a low level of priority in the seeker-sensitive model that dominates the contemporary church.

4.1.1 Pop-psychologizing church

Dorothy Greco addressed some of this problem in her article for Christianity Today, How the seeker-sensitive, consumer Church is failing a generation (Greco 2016). Greco makes this pointed analysis:

Many churches gradually, and perhaps unwittingly, transitioned from being appropriately sensitive to the needs of their congregants to becoming – if you’ll permit some pop-psychologizing – co-dependent with them.

What does co-dependence look like within a church? Avoiding sections of Scripture out of fear that certain power pockets will be offended. Believing that repeat attendance depends primarily upon the staff’s seamless execution of Sunday morning – rather than the manifest presence of God. Eliminating doleful songs from the worship repertoire because they might contradict the through line that “following Jesus is all gain.”

Jesus was neither a co-dependent nor a businessman. He unashamedly loved those on the margins and revealed himself to all who were searching. He seemed quite indifferent about whether or not he disappointed the power brokers. Additionally, Jesus understood that the irreducible gospel message—that we are all sinners in need of being saved—was, and always will be, offensive. No brilliant marketing campaign could ever repackage it.

4.1.2 Bill Hybels’ shocking confession

Related image

Bill Hybels

In 2007, Bob Burney provided this assessment of the seeker-sensitive movement, with quotes from Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Church’s research:

Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study’s findings are in a new book titled Reveal: Where Are You? co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels himself called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking” and “mind blowing.” And no wonder: it seems that the “experts” were wrong.

The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

If you simply want a crowd, the “seeker sensitive” model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s a bust. In a shocking confession, Hybels states:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth (Burney 2007).

What a shocker of a confession that they ‘made a mistake’, got it wrong and invested millions of dollars into promoting something worldwide that does not make disciples of Christ but promotes a way to get crowds into the church.

4.1.3 Promoting nonsense, the work of Satan and of pure evil

This is the kind of response that could lead Jim Parker (cited above) to despair over what is taught on this Christian forum and want to give up participating there:

You are free to believe what you want to believe.
If a man can believe that all men were born with immortal souls and that our … senses and our awareness and our ability to reason and perceive will live forever, and at the same time also believes 1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NIV) tells us God alone is immortal, then the question I have to ask myself is what other nonsense does he believe in?
He can philosophise all he wants to reconcile these differing views to his concept of reality so that he can continue promoting and maintaining the grotesque and vile idea that God will condemn the least knowledgeable and least offensive of souls who die without Christ to be tortured, screaming in agony forever, but in the end he will see what he believes is in fact nothing other than the work of Satan… or to put it another way, it is a work of pure evil.[10]

I couldn’t let him get away with this kind of assault on orthodox Christian belief of eternal damnation.

(a) Believe whatever you want

Am I free to believe what I want to believe about what happens at death for believers and unbelievers?

No I’m not![11]clip_image003

I’m only free to believe the truth about Jesus and the whole of revealed truth. 1 John 4:1-3 (NLT) provides my teaching responsibility of testing the spirits:

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

(b) Supporters of torment in hell: The work of Satan and of pure evil

This was the accusation promoted on this Christian forum that those who philosophise and promote the grotesque and vile idea of God’s condemning ‘the least knowledgeable and least offensive of souls who die without Christ to be tortured, screaming in agony forever’, are promoting ‘the work of Satan’ and ‘it is a work of pure evil’.

I responded:[12]

Are you accusing others on this forum and me who believe in eternal life and eternal damnation that we are promoting ‘the work of Satan’ and that what we teach ‘is a work of pure evil’?

Is that what you are declaring on this forum about these people and their teaching?

He came back with a copy and paste of his post to which I had responded.[13]

I pressed him further: ‘So is what I write on this forum in support of eternal damnation for unbelievers “a work of pure evil”?’[14]

Image result for justice emblem australia public domain

5. God alone is immortal

In spite of this person’s opposition to the immortal soul, he does raise a good point. First Timothy 6:15b-16 (NIV) states: ‘God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen’. This also is affirmed in 1 Tim 1:17 (ESV) where God is described as ‘the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God’.

Since God alone is immortal, how can we speak of immortal souls of human beings? Although 2 Timothy 1:10 speaks of another dimension of immortality besides that of God, here’s the context:

8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News (2 Tim 1:8-10 NLT).

God’s plan was to show us his grace through Jesus Christ and an important dimension of that grace is that the power of death has been broken and the way of life, which brings immortality to human beings, has been illuminated through the Gospel.

What does this ‘immortality’ mean in v. 10? It comes through the Gospel, so applies to Christian believers.

It transcends by far mere endless existence or even endless conscious existence. The gospel of our Savior Christ Jesus is far better than anything Plato ever excogitated.[15]

It is clear … that though even here and now the believer receives this great blessing in principle, and in heaven in further development, he does not fully receive it until the day of Christ’s re-appearance. Until that day arrives, the bodies of all believers will still be subject to the laws of decay and death. Incorruptible life, imperishable salvation, in the full sense, belongs to the new heaven and earth. It is an inheritance stored away for us (Hendriksen 1957:234)

Jim Parker stated it well on the Christian forum:

When scripture speaks of God as immortal, (1 Tim 6) the meaning is that God has no beginning or end. That is the more precise meaning of the word “immortal” in Christian theology.

When scripture speaks of man as immortal, (1 Cor 15) the meaning is that man, as a created being, does have a beginning but that, after the resurrection, he will have no end. So, in Christian theology, the word “immortal” when applied to man, is not the same as when referring to God.

That’s why 1 Co 15:53 (RSV) says: For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.

Our nature, as created by God and damaged by sin, is now perishable and mortal. At the resurrection, our nature will “put on”, as something unnatural to it, imperishability and immortality. It will put on those attributes because Jesus, by His death and resurrection, has destroyed death and perishability.[16]

The dynamic equivalence of the New Living Translation translates 1 Cor 15:53 (NLT) as, ‘For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies‘. So, Christian believers will receive their immortal bodies at the resurrection according to 1 Corinthians 15:53.

This principle should not be difficult to understand. God alone is the only one with immortality, which means he has no beginning or end. For human beings, it is a derived immortality through the Gospel. Human beings had a beginning but their eternal life will never end, thus meaning it is immortal.

Therefore, there is another meaning of immortal. Our immortality of the soul is in a derived sense and applies to all people, believers and unbelievers. Second Timothy 1:10 (ESV) speaks of God’s purpose and grace ‘which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’.

5.1 Secular immortality through biology

The scientific community and secular media enjoy speaking of immortality on earth. Here is but one example from the Daily Mail,

‘Scientists say humans really could become IMMORTAL like the characters in new film Self/Less, but only if they’re wealthy’,

While the technology remains in the realm of science fiction, experts have claimed that the ability to create immortal humans may not be all that far-fetched.

I would see immortality coming from the biological sector,’ said University of Arizona researcher Wolfgang Fink, during a recent panel discussion in California.

‘If you manage somehow to prevent cell death from happening or if you extend the life span of cells beyond their natural life span’ (Zolfagharifard 2015).

5.2 What a shock is coming!

What astonishment they have coming! The Scriptures as the God-breathed word of God could not be clearer: ‘Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment’ (Heb 9:27 NIV). There is not a chance of immortality on this earth. ALL will die or face the Lord alive if they are alive on earth when he returns to the earth.

This is what happened 2,000 years ago with Jesus:

After saying this, he [Jesus] was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:9-11 NLT).

6. Conclusion

There is a torrent of false teaching surrounding life-after-death issues, particularly from those who oppose eternal torment for unbelievers. Correcting this false theology often becomes laborious for the astute Bible teacher. This issue of growing weary from false teaching was raised by an orthodox Bible teacher on a Christian forum.

An examination of sheol in the OT and its translation as hades in the LXX and the NT, denotes the place where departed souls of all people are gathered after death.

I suggested that doing good to everyone (Gal 6:6-10) included correcting false doctrine. One example that caused the early church a lot of strife was Docetic Gnosticism – Jesus only seemed to have a physical body but it was not so. Orthodoxy promotes that Jesus is God but at his incarnation he became a fleshly human being. True prophets acknowledge the truth about Jesus – he has always been God but at the first Christmas he became a human being of flesh (but did not cease to be God).

First John 4:1-3 demonstrates the responsibility of the church in correcting false prophets. Seeker-sensitive Christianity is not creating disciples according to a survey conducted at Willow Creek Community Church, the creator of seeker-sensitive services. Instead, it is generating a pop-psychologised church for the contemporary marketing generation.

A person chimed in with the statement that I can believe whatever I want to regarding life after death. No I can’t! I must conform to what the Scriptures state. This person claimed that those who promoted eternal damnation for the wicked were doing the work of Satan and my belief about damnation of the wicked is a work of pure evil.

This article affirms that what the Bible teaches is that God alone is immortal – having no beginning or end – and that human beings have a derived immortality. This means that they have a beginning at conception but have an existence that is eternal – eternal life or eternal damnation.

The secular community wants to invent immortality through biology. What a shock they have coming. Immortality is God’s provision for the damned and the saved: ‘Just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment’ (Heb 9:27 NLT).

To my dying day, I will engage in the task of correcting false doctrine in the church and on the streets and Internet. I ask the same of godly teachers who check my teaching and the teaching of others (whether in a formal church setting or on the Internet) by comparing what is taught with Scripture. We need to become and function as ‘Bereans’ (see Acts 17:11).

What will you do about false teaching in the church, even YOUR church?
‘Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true’ (Acts 17:11 NIV).7.

7.  Works consulted

Brown, C (ed) 1976. The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 2. Exeter: The Paternoster Press.

Burney, B 2007. A shocking “confession” from Willow Creek Community Church. Townhall.com, (online) 30 October. Available at: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/BobBurney/2007/10/30/a_shocking_%e2%80%9cconfession%e2%80%9d_from_willow_creek_community_church?page=full&comments=true (Accessed 2 November 2007). This is no longer available at Townhall, but I located it at Crosswalk. Available at: http://www.crosswalk.com/news/a-shocking-confession-from-willow-creek-community-church-11558438.html (Accessed 29 October 2016).

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church, rev & enl ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Greco, D 2016. How the seeker-sensitive, consumer Church is failing a generation. Christianity Today (online). Available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/august/how-seeker-sensitive-consumer-church-is-failing-generation.html (Accessed 29 October 2016).

Hendriksen, W 1957.[17] New Testament commentary: Exposition of Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.
Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d. Tr by J Martin (from the German). Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Robertson, A T 1931. Word pictures in the New Testament: The epistles of Paul, vol 4. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Robinson, B A 1996-2007. Gnosticism: Beliefs and practices (beliefs and practices). Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (online). Available at: http://www.religioustolerance.org/gnostic2.htm (Accessed 29 October 2016).

Zolfagharifard, E 2015. Scientists say humans really could become IMMORTAL like the characters in new film Self/Less, but only if they’re wealthy. Daily Mail (online), 23 July. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3171283/Could-Self-reality-Scientists-say-humans-someday-IMMORTAL-wealthy.html (Accessed 22 December 2016).

8.  Notes


[1] I think he means ‘preceding’.

[2] Christian Forums.net 2016. Contradictions and the soul of man (online), freewill#57. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/contradictions-and-the-soul-of-man.66925/page-4#post-1258832 (Accessed 29 October 2016).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#64.

[4] OSAS = Once-saved-always-saved.

[5] Contradictions and the soul of man, Jim Parker#68.

[6] This is my response in ibid., OzSpen#71.

[7] Ibid., Jim Parker#72.

[8] This is my post at ibid., OzSpen#74.

[9] This was when this cult was led by Herbert W Armstrong.

[10] Ibid., freewill#75.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#76.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#77.

[13] Ibid., freewill#75. The copy & paste is at freewill#78.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#79. At this point I reported him to the moderators for his flaming and goading.

[15] Oxford dictionaries online (2016. s v excogitate) gives the meaning of excogitate as to ‘think out, plan, or devise’.

[16] Ibid., Jim Parker#97.

[17] Hendriksen previously published The Pastorals as a single volume. It is now incorporated in this combined volume.

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 June 2018.