The Bible and Culture

The Bible and Culture


Hermeneutics– A Guide for Perplexed Bible Readers

posted by Ben Witherington

Remember Hermes? He’s the little guy you see from time to time on the logo at the florist shop, wearing a WWI trench helmet and always on the run. Actually, in Greek tradition he was the messenger of God, delivering the word of some deity to humans who badly needed to hear it. Hermes, and the concept of his role, is the basis for the Greek words hermeneutike (first found in Plato Epin. 975C) which refer to the art of interpreting. We find the word hermeneia for instance in 1 Cor. 12.10 where Paul refers to the interpretation of tongues.

In modern discourse the term hermeneutics normally refers to the art (not science) of interpreting important, often ancient or sacred, texts such as the Bible. But why would we need a guide to the perplexed in regard to the interpreting of the Bible? After all, don’t Christians have brains and the Holy Spirit to guide them? Well yes, but all modern brains are affected in the way they think by the modern cultural milieu in which they are immersed. They are affected as well by their whole educational progress (or regress) through school as well.

And frankly, ancient Biblical cultures, languages, and modes of conveying meaning are often so different from what modern ‘common sense’ may deduce that we do need some guidelines to help us interpret the Biblical texts which came out of very different cultures and circumstances from our own, ESPECIALLY if we are only trying to interpret the Bible on the basis of one or more English translations, none of which are perfect representations of the original language texts.

WORD UP— Every translation is already an interpretation of an ancient Biblical text. Once you get this fact through your brain, you realize that all modern persons need some help in interpreting the Bible. We need to give the Holy Spirit more to work with in dealing with the modern thoughts that naturally go racing through our brains when we have a close encounter with the Word of God. What I offer below is just a few of the guidelines or signposts to help prevent misreading of Biblical texts. In this posting I am offering 3 guidelines. There are many more, and sometime later I will bring them up.

1) ‘What it meant is what it means’. Meaning comes contextually not from just having words in isolation but words in conjunction with one another in a specific sentence or larger context. For example, the English word ‘row’ can be a noun or a verb, depending on the context.

It is not true that ‘in the beginning was the dictionary’. Dictionaries are compilations of information based on close studies of how words are used in various contexts. Dictionaries do not define words, they reflect the denotations and connotations they have been discovered to have in texts, conversation and the like.

When I say ‘what it meant is what it means’ in reference to any text, but especially the Bible, I mean that the meaning is encoded in the complex of words and phrases we find in the text. Meaning is not something we get to read into the text on the basis of our own opinions or ideas. Meaning is not in the eye of the beholder. Meaning is something that resides in the text, having been placed there by the inspired author and requires of us that we discover what that meaning is by the proper contextual study of the text. ‘Significance’ however is a different matter altogether. A text can have a significance or even an application for you or me, that the original author could never have imagined. But the text cannot have a meaning that the original inspired author did not place there. Meaning is one thing, significance or application another. The job of hermeneutics is to help us rightly interpret the meaning of these important Biblical texts.

Let me give you an illustration. The Book of Revelation was written probably around A.D. 90 in the first instance for the seven churches in Asia mentioned in Rev. 2-3 to strengthen them and help them get through a rough time of persecution, prosecution, and even execution in the last decade or so of the first century when the evil Emperor Domitian was persecuting Christians. The whole book was written to them in the first place, and it was all meant to have meaning for them.

None of Revelation was written in the first place for 21rst century Christians. Thus when the book talks about an evil empire, and a beastly ruler named 666, and about flying things with scorpion-like tails, it is not in the first instance referring to some modern world dominator, or the European Union, or to Blackhawk helicopters! Those first Christians in the first century could never have understood those texts to refer to such things, because of course such things did not exist in the first century A.D.

Let me insist once more—‘what the text meant for them, is still what it means today’. John was referring to the Roman Empire and Emperor and speaking hyperbolically about plagues of insects, something all too familiar to that world. Now here is what is interesting.

Apocalyptic prophecy by its nature uses more generic universal symbols and metaphor to speak about certain historical realities. I am not at all suggesting that the text of Revelation is not referring to things happening in space and time—John IS speaking about such things. But he speaks about them in generic and highly graphic metaphorical ways. He uses phrase like ‘it will be like… it will be like’ indicating he is drawing analogies, not offering literal descriptions.

All too often modern interpreters of Revelation don’t understand this. They either assume if its figurative language it isn’t referential, or they assume you are denying the particularity of the text if you deny it refers to one particular person and set of circumstances. But that’s not how generic symbols work— Mr. 666 could just as well be Hitler or Stahlin as Nero or Domitian. It refers to any evil world dominator of a pagan or godless sort. This is precisely why Christians in any and all generations in the last 2,000 years have felt John was speaking to their situation. He WAS— but
there are wars, and rumors of wars, and plagues and cosmic signs in the heavens in every generation of church history, not just the last one.

2) ‘Context is king’. One of the great, great dangers in modern interpretation of the Bible is proof-texting. What this amounts to is the strip-mining of certain key terms and ideas, linking them together with similar or the same words in other texts and contexts, and coming up with a meaning which none of the original texts had. This is why I often offer the aphorism– a text without a context is just a pretext for whatever you want it to mean.

Let’s take a ‘perfect’ example—the word perfect in the NT. Jesus said “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ in Mt. 5.48. In 1 Cor. 13.10 Paul says that “when the perfect comes, the partial disappears.” Are they talking about the same thing just because they use the same term? Well, no. The context of Mt. 5 indicates that Jesus is referring to that sort of whole-hearted loving of others that characterizes God. ‘Be perfect’ means be loving like the Father is loving.

Paul on the other hand is talking about when the eschaton (the final perfect condition) comes, and we see Jesus face to face and understand all things perfectly and clearly. Words only have meaning in contexts, and plucking words out of contexts and linking them to other uses of the same word is often a recipe for disaster and misinterpretation. Each verse of Scripture, indeed each key term in Scripture should be interpreted in its historical, literary, religious, theological, canonical contexts, to mention but a few. This of course means that the modern interpreter of the Bible must be a student of Biblical interpretation, must study to find themselves approved. Treating the Bible like a Ouija board, and just opening it up and thinking the meaning will leap out of the verse on the page into one’s brain, especially if we keep thumbing through and looking for other examples of the same word, is simply laziness and not careful contextual study of God’s word. Read Ps. 119 and how it talks about the diligent study and meditation on God’s Word that is required.

Let me give you an illustration. I had a phone call over twenty years ago from a parishioner from one of my four N.C. Methodist Churches in the middle of the state. He wanted to know if it was o.k. to breed dogs, ’cause his fellow carpenter had told him that it said somewhere in the KJV that God’s people shouldn’t do that. I told him I would look up all the references to dog in the Bible and get to the bottom of this. There was nothing of any relevance in the NT, but then I came across this peculiar translation of an OT verse—“thou shalt not breed with the dogs’. I called my church member up and told him “I’ve got good news and bad news for you.” He asked for the good news first. I said “well you can breed as many of those furry four footed creatures as you like, nothing in the Bible against it.” He then asked what the bad news was “well” I said, “there is this verse that calls foreign women ‘dogs’ and warns the Israelites not to breed with them.” There was a pregnant silence on the other end of the line, and finally Mr. Smith said “ Well, I am feeling much relieved, my wife Betty Sue is from just down the road in Chatham county!”

3) Genre matters. Before we can interpret a particular type of literature we need to understand what literary type or kind of literature it is. Prose should be interpreted according to the kinds of information prose is meant to give, poetry should be interpreted as poetry, historical narrative as narrative, parables as the literary fictions that they are, and apocalyptic prophecy must be interpreted as the highly metaphorical literature it is, and so on. As C.S. Lewis once said, until you know the purpose and kind of a text, what it intends to say or convey, you don’t know how to read it, properly. And frankly no one should ever start reading the Bible with its last book. That’s not because its unfair to peek at the conclusions before you read all the rest. It’s because Revelation, as apocalyptic prophecy, is the most complex material in the canon, the literature most likely to be misinterpreted by modern persons. Let me give one more illustration

1967-68 was an interesting time. Neil Armstrong actually landed on the moon and hit a golf ball a mile! If only my driver would do that. But seriously folks, I was riding with a friend on the Blue Ridge Parkway when the clutch blew out of my Dad’s 1955 Chevy. As the Bible says ‘my countenance fell’. There are no gas stations, or really any kind of help of that sort to be found on that beautiful mountain parkway. Luckily my friend Doug and I got a push off the parkway into a Texaco station, and then, on that hot July day we decided to hitch hike back to High Point in the middle of the state.

Almost immediately we were picked up by a really ancient couple dressed in black driving a black 48 Plymouth. Doug, now a lawyer in Greensboro, decided to strike up a conversation and referring to the moon walk of Neil Armstrong. The elderly man driving said that was all fake—a TV hoax. Doug, not recognizing invincible ignorance when he saw it, decided to argue with the man. Meanwhile, picture me elbowing him and whispering for him to shut up, since we needed the ride.

Turns out we had been picked up by genuine Flat Landers from the N.C. mountains. Doug however persisted and asked “Why don’t you believe they went to the moon, and why don’t you believe the world is round?” The man retorted “It says in the book of Revelations that the angels will stand on the four corners of the earth. World couldn’t be round, could it, if its got four corners to stand on.” Now what was wrong with this man’s comment, other than that Revelations (plural) is not the name of the last book of the Bible! The problem was he had mistaken the genre of that book. He had assumed it was teaching him cosmology and geography, when in fact it was teaching theology and eschatology. It was saying in a metaphorical way that God’s angels will come from all points on the compass to
do his will and span the globe. If you don’t grasp the kind of literature you are reading, you aren’t going to know what kind of information it is trying to convey. Interestingly, the problem with that Flat-Lander’s interpretation is not either that he took the book of Revelation seriously, or that he thought it was referential. It is indeed referential. But the realities it is describing, it describes in metaphorical terms.

Well, I think I hear ole Hermes calling me to move on to other floral venues. So we will leave it at that for now.



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Stuart

posted August 21, 2007 at 8:01 pm


Ben,If context is king {and I think it is} and if the meaning of the textfor the original audience is still the meaning today, what happens to typology and some of the NTs rather questionable use of the OT, such as Matthew’s attempt to find a prophecy of Jesus in Isaiah’s young woman and Emmanuel?



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Gary

posted August 21, 2007 at 8:06 pm


Thanks for this, Dr. Witherington. I’ve been thinking a lot about reading lately, and after seeing this study: 1 in 4 have not read a book in the past yearI can tell that church people do need to read more, and be prepared to study. I think I’ll start by printing out your blog and sharing it with my Sunday school class. You do a good job covering the topic without going to far. (And they know your face from the Serious Answers/Hard Questions videos, which always helps.)



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Leslie

posted August 21, 2007 at 8:28 pm


Good points … hermeneutics is probably one of the main issues facing the church today. I must admit, from the skeptics viewpoint, it must seem laughable at times. All the more reason for us to work on it. I have a question though – what do we do when people who have studied a certain issue deeply come to different conclusions? It seems as though even hermeneutics is subject to, well, hermeneutics. As an example, my current internship for my graduate work involves a study of 1 and 2 Corinthians. You come to conclusion of “the perfect” being “the final perfect condition.” My personal studies have led me to conclude contrary to this. Not to make a big deal out of the disagreement, but simply to ask, what do you think Christians should do when we face situations like this?As a side note, I just moved to NC with my new wife in Jan., and we live about 20 minutes from the parkway. It’s a very beautiful area. I haven’t run into any flat-landers just yet though. :)



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Josh

posted August 21, 2007 at 9:00 pm


Thanks for the common sense approach to hermeneutics. Learning exegesis and seeking what the text meant to the original author and recipients has made a world of difference to my studies. It has deepened my faith with a true understanding of our God and the good news. It has also help me shed some of the shoddy interpretations that one receives from popular church culture.We went through Duvall and Hays’ Grasping God’s Word last year and I recommend it to all of readers here. It’s a little expensive but worth it. Ben, did you really pastor four churches at one time? I plan on taking a charge of two when I enter seminary and I thought that would be a lot! You da man, John Wesley Jr!



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Lisa

posted August 21, 2007 at 10:12 pm


Hi Ben, I love reading your blog. I was wondering what your take was on the current Baptism/Membership debate (see http://theologica.blogspot.com/2007/08/baptizoblogodebate-roundup-with_21.html for a summary and links) especially in light of your recent book?



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Ben Witherington

posted August 21, 2007 at 10:23 pm


Hi Stuart:Typology is a historical technique of seeing precedents in earlier actual historical figures for later such figures– e.g. Melchizedek and Christ. I don’t think there is a problem with typological exegesis. The issue with Isaiah is whether the Hebrew text rules out Matthew’s interpretation, and the answer is, it does not, though early Jewish thought it referred to a woman becoming pregnant by the normal means. Thus the issue with Isaiah 7.14 is not a case of reading something into the text that is exegetically impossible. Leslie, as for people who have honest disagreements about the same text, and both have looked at things closely, then it is of course possible that one or the other or both persons have misread the context. In this particular case, I would try to convince you that you needed to see the contrast between being a child and being mature or perfect which is what telion means and then ask you the question at what point to we reach completion, full maturity, perfection in Christ– answer when we see him face to face, quite literally at the resurrection after his return. Only then are we fully conformed to Christ’s image in the flesh as well as in the spirit.And yes indeed, I did pastor 4 churches at once in Randoph and Chatham counties N.C. in 1980-83.Blessings,Ben W.



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Ben Witherington

posted August 21, 2007 at 10:39 pm


Hi Lisa:As for the baptism debate– I think that neither side understands what the NT says about baptism, and they have read their later baptistic ideas anachronistically back into the text. The NT almost exclusively talks to us about missionary baptisms, not the baptism of those already believers. Rather the baptized are in the process of becoming a believer when they get baptized! And for good measure sometimes they and their entire household, including slaves were baptized at the same time because of the ancient concerns about a household all sharing the same religion, children and slaves included. In short, such theological debates about baptism ignore the historical situation of the first century church, and ignore comments like that of Paul when he says in 1 Cor. 1– “I thank God I didn’t baptize more of you.” But he would never say– “I thank God I didn’t convert more of you.” In short, salvation, not baptism is the real issue here, and the act of water baptism saves no one. We practice the rite because of Christ’s command, and note that Mt. 28 refers to baptizing them before it mentions teaching them and these two things together is how you ‘make disciples’. In short, they need to make the main thing, the main thing. Blessings,Ben Blessings,Ben W.



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Ryan

posted August 22, 2007 at 2:21 am


Ben said…”“The issue with Isaiah is whether the Hebrew text rules out Matthew’s interpretation, and the answer is, it does not, though early Jewish thought it referred to a woman becoming pregnant by the normal means.“Ben, what early Jewish people are you referring to? In the Septuagint (LXX), a Greek translation of the Hebrew OT by 70 Jewish scholars between the 3rd and 1st centuries B.C., the Greek word parthénos is used, which is identical to Matt 1:23, meaning virgin.But by applying your principles of hermeneutics, we can see that it must not be referring to a natural birth, but birth through a virgin. So here’s the context:- Jerusalem is under seige by two kings (of Aram and Samaria). Ahaz’ time to live is limited to maybe 2 to 3 years.- God calls Isaiah to comfort King Ahaz, and specifically tells him to bring his son (whose name means “remnant shall return”)- Through Isaiah, God tells Ahaz to ask for a “God-sized” sign (as deep as Sheol or as high as Heaven)- Ahaz refuses, so God Himself gives a sign. Remember it has to be God-sized.So does verse 14 say, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a young woman will give birth (by normal means) to a son, and will call His name Immanuel”? Though the literal translation of the Hebrew means “young woman” and does not necessarily refer to a virgin, the context demonstrates that it was intended to mean virgin (there is, by the way, no other word that could have been used to more clearly indicate this meaning in Hebrew). First, if it was a normal birth King Ahaz would not see this as a sign at all. It would be at least 9 months before the baby would come, and what would Ahaz do with a baby?? He needs something NOW… or he will be dead in 2 to 3 years (especially if he has to wait until the child knows between good and evil, which is not a 2 year old). This is a prophecy the Lord Himself will fulfill, but since it is 800 years away, Ahaz also needs an immediate sign so he knows he can trust in the 800 year prophecy as well.Enter verse 16… Isaiah places his hand on his son’s head (who the Lord said to bring with him) and says, “For before the boy (the son Isaiah brought with him) will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken. The son of Isaiah mentioned in Isaiah 8:3 cannot be the one prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 because a) it is not a God-sized sign, and b) he is not named Immanuel, but Maher-shalal-hash-baz (ie. Make Haste to Plunder).



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Ben Witherington

posted August 22, 2007 at 7:28 am


Hi Ryan: Indeed, the context of Isaiah suggests, indeed that whole shame culture suggests a virgin is meant in a Hebrew text. But even that does not settle the issue. The text was read by Jewish interpreters to mean “a virgin will conceive by normal means and bear a child named Immanuel”. They did not think this referring to a miraculous virginal conception, but rather to a ‘just in the nick of time birth of the best possible Israelite King, who is conceived of a godly woman who is a virgin (and just married) by normal means’. To them the miracle had nothing to do with her remaining a virgin after conception. It had to do with God’s timing and provision when needed. Kapish? Now it is perfectly true that one COULD interpret this verse in the Hebrew that way. But one could also interpret it the way Matthew does without twisting the text at all. One of the clearest evidences that the text was not read that way by either Mary or Joseph is that neither one of them was anticipating a pre-nuptial agreement with an angel to bring forth a virginally conceived child!!I would add that the LXX, which does indeed say parthenos, virgin, places a clearer emphasis on the virginity of the woman that the Hebrews almah, but even it was not understood to refer to a virginal conception by someone not having intercourse and not yet fully married.Blessings,Ben



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Ben Witherington

posted August 22, 2007 at 7:34 am


P.S. to Ryan. It was the actual historical virginal conception in the life of Mary which led to the reinterpretation of that text in Isaiah 7.14 by early Christians. They would hardly have made up the idea of the heretofore unheard of idea of a virginal conception, because of course the skeptical would and did say that this was just a cover for Mary getting pregnant illicitly out of wedlock, by means of another man. This suggestion we actually find hinted at in the 4th Gospel where the taunt in thrown at Jesus ‘at least we are not born of fornication (and know who our Father is) but we dont know where you came from’, and equally in Mk. 6 where Jesus is called ‘the son of Mary’ by the home town folks. This you never do in that patriarchal culture— never never, even after the father is dead, unless of course you want to call the man an S.O. you know what.Ben



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jabre

posted August 22, 2007 at 1:01 pm


Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth was my intro to hermeneutics in college–and in its latest edition still gives guidance on the issues you have raised.



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Ben Witherington

posted August 22, 2007 at 1:49 pm


Indeed, and I heard it from the horses’ mouths, since Fee and Stuart were both my teachers… :)



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Brianmpei

posted August 22, 2007 at 3:04 pm


I was taught these same principles in hermeneutics class and then went next door to 1 Corinthians and learned that “the perfect” was the New Testament.Go figure.



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Falantedios

posted August 22, 2007 at 4:15 pm


I would suggest that a helpful note to understanding and properly using typological exegesis is that the early Christian writers weren’t looking in the OT to find Jesus. They already HAD Jesus, and they were SEEING things in the OT in a new way BECAUSE of Jesus.They aren’t writing apologetic essays trying to convince unbelievers, but faith-supporting narratives bolstering the hope and steadfastness of believers.in HIS love,Nick



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Ben Witherington

posted August 22, 2007 at 4:21 pm


Excellent comment Nick–first rate. Brian the idea that ‘the perfect’ refers to the NT is an old suggestion, but without merit. The Corinthians could never have understand that to be Paul’s meaning because there was no NT yet, and of course all of 1 Cor. is written to the Corinthians in the early 50s A.D. for their edification in the first place.Ben W.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 22, 2007 at 6:53 pm


Ben,You said: “It was the actual historical virginal conception in the life of Mary which led to the reinterpretation of that text in Isaiah 7.14 by early Christians.” How is it possible for the early Christians to reinterpret the text of Isaiah 7:14 when the term for “virgin” was already in the LXX a couple hundred years before there were Christians? Isn’t it true, rather that the Jews themselves understood that the sign would be a virgin and used the Greek word to bring out that thought in the LXX? I have never before heard anyone deny that God prophesied the virgin birth but that Christians forced it into the text.



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Ben Witherington

posted August 22, 2007 at 7:05 pm


Hi Cheryl:You are misunderstanding, so three points to help: 1) as I explained to Ryan the prophecy can be interpreted in at least two ways, even in the Greek translation of the LXX. Early Jewish exegesis understood the verse to mean “a young woman who is a virgin will conceive by normal means and give birth to a royal figure called by the figurative title Emanuel. 2) They did not understand this verse, either in the Hebrew or the Greek to refer to a virginal conception, and they TURNED OUT TO BE WRONG because 3) the virginal conception happened, and early Christian interpreters then went back to the OT and discovered that that is what Isaiah had prophesied in the first place. Kapish???Blessings,Ben W.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 22, 2007 at 8:12 pm


Hi Ben,I don’t think I am misunderstanding. The LXX says (in the English) 14 “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and you shall call His name Emmanuel.” http://www.apostlesbible.com/books/i23isaiah/ones/i23c07.pdfAny normal conception is “in the womb”. “In the womb” is not referencing copulation but the fact that his birth is like ours while his conception is from a virgin. Where on earth do you get the interpretation that the normal means of “in the womb” means to them that she isn’t a virgin at conception? I heard a Jewish preacher give a wonderful sermon on the LXX in that even the Jews who translated the Bible admitted that God predicted a virgin would conceive. When I was taught in school about the facts of life, the conception came hours or days after intercourse. A virgin then cannot “conceive in the womb” if she has had intercourse because then we wouldn’t be a virgin at the time of conception. Right? No, I think the wording makes it clear they knew the prophesy was not about a young virgin having intercourse and getting pregnant but a virgin conceiving.If there is something I have missed, please do inform me. If not, then I think the LXX in English makes a great point about God’s wonderful prophecy. A virgin would miraculously conceive.



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Ben Witherington

posted August 22, 2007 at 9:01 pm


Dear Cheryl: I’m afraid you have been misled by the overly literal translation of the LXX you are following. And yes there are several things you are missing.Early Jews believed that conception always happened in the womb in every case, as you suggest. In their view the woman was like a giant cistern or well into which the male planted his seed. There was no distinction between vagina and womb in that culture, it was all seen as one apparatus and more importantly they believed conception happened at once if at all, not with a time lapse. Therefore, the phrase ‘conceive in the womb’ does not have the special sense you are reading into it, and more importantly no Jewish interpreter we know of ever read anything special into that phrase. Your rabbi is simply reflecting the long history of debate, dispute and interaction of the last 2,00 years between Jews and Christians on this subject, and he was being gracious. Good for him.In addition, neither the Greek nor the Hebrew text suggests this woman remained a virgin ‘after’ the conception in question, and again it was not understood to say that by early Jews anyway. When they heard the phrase ‘a virgin shall conceive in her womb’, they automatically took this to mean that a woman who was a virgin up to this point in time conceived by the normal means and a child was the result, gestating in her womb.Nothing was said about her virginity post partum, in their view.One more thing. Jews renounced the LXX in the second century when it became the OT of choice for the Greek speaking church. One of our problems in dealing with the LXX is that it was edited, and altered by Christian scribes in various ways in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. to highlight its Christological potential. I am sorry to report this unscruplous noodling with the text, but it is true. Since the Hebrew text reads actually rather differently than the Greek of the LXX of this verse in several respects, it is very possible this verse, a veritable battlefield, was messed with in the Christian LXX.One last thing the Jews decided to abandon the LXX and did their own further Greek translation– you might want to read about the Greek OT of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodition.Blessings,Ben W.



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Stuart

posted August 22, 2007 at 9:33 pm


Hi Ben,I am having some computer trouble and already tried to post this, so I am sorry if the post is duplicated.I think I didn’t make myself clear. My problem is not parthenos vs. almah, or whether the young woman wasa virgin or not.My issue is that when read in context,. there is no way Isaiah could be speaking of Jesus of Nazareth. The sigbn of Emmanuel was clearly a sign for King Ahaz in the face of the Syro-Ephraimite War. A birth 800 or so years later would not be a sign to Ahaz at all. It is plainly a sign that Ahaz himself would be able to see, something contemporary with himself.Now if the meaning of a text is the samemeaning it hadfor the original audience, then wehave to conclude that Matthew broke this rule,and took Isaiah out of context.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 23, 2007 at 12:04 am


Dear Ben,You said: “I am sorry to report this unscruplous noodling with the text, but it is true. Since the Hebrew text reads actually rather differently than the Greek of the LXX of this verse in several respects, it is very possible this verse, a veritable battlefield, was messed with in the Christian LXX.”That is a serious charge. FF Bruce states that the controversy was over the apocrypha. Also the other Greek translations I am not familiar with but if they had some tampering it wouldn’t translate into tampering with the LXX any more than the tampering of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on their New World Translation would mean that the the NASB had been tampered with.Since I noticed that you said “it is very possible”, it appears to me that you are guessing and do not have the information on the Apostle’s Bible. I think that the charge of tampering is way too strong a charge to lay through a possibility. In checking the Hebrew, the inspired words are clear that it is a conception by a virgin since anything else would not be any kind of a sign. Surely every day former virgins became pregnant. What kind of a sign was that? While other Jewish exegists may not have understood what the passage meant, surely we cannot go back into the minds of the translators of the LXX and say that they didn’t know what they were translating when they translated the term as virgin. Who were these 70 translators and which one reported that the word only meant that she was a virgin until she had intercourse? That is pretty far-fetched to me. Is it perfectly fine with you to accept the scripture as a God-given sign of a virginal conception? After all since Adam brought sin into the world, the virgin birth was absolutely necessary and not an option. God’s sign could not fail and to doubt the LXX translators at this point just seems extremely weak to me.



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Percival

posted August 23, 2007 at 12:54 am


I find this whole discussion that Stuart brought up in the first comment very key to how we understand prophecy. Here’s a possible new slant on the whole question of the NT “questionable use of the OT.” Perhaps we moderns are looking at prophecy in a more restrictive way than the ancients. We usually look at it as if it has the purpose of a divine horoscope about details that will occur in the future. Perhaps prophecy is sometimes not predictive, but rather descriptive. Like “this is like what the prophet was talking about when he said …” or “This should remind us of when …” or “This is similar to the way God worked before when he did …”Ben, what do you think? Am I off on this?



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Oloryn

posted August 23, 2007 at 3:02 am


Just to throw another log on the fire, is there any validity to Michael Esses’ suggestion that it would have been proper to refer to an engaged (and still virgin) but not yet married woman as an almah, rather than as a bethulah? He claimed this is shown in references to Rebekah, but it doesn’t seem to completely check out (I seem to remember finding one verse calling Rebekah a bethulah after she had left with the servant). If there’s any validity to it, it would have Isaiah rather accurately predicting Mary’s marital state at the time of Jesus’ birth.On hermaneutics in general, may I suggest that one prime prerequisite for doing hermeneutics well is simply the ability to listen well in one’s own native language? Particularly, the ability to listen well to people who don’t think like you do, and understand what they’re trying to get across (instead of the usual bit of trying to force-fit their words and thought patterns into your own). If you can’t master this with people who share a language and some common culture with you, how well are you really going to do with writings in strange languages written from within cultures alien to you? Scholarship can barely make up the difference when the ability is there – Scholarship alone isn’t going to make up for a lack of this ability.One thing gaining this ability gives you is something of an immunity against proof-texting. You can’t spend time practicing at really listening to people in this fashion without getting some familiarity with the strange way even ordinary people handle words (though I’ll admit in my case it may be amplified by my long years in the computer industry – a place where long-term success depends on your ability to carry multiple, conflicting sets of vocabulary in your head and keep them straight). You have a particular technical understanding of what a word means, and then find someone else using it in a similar, yet significantly different way. When you dig into the two meanings, you find that there’s a significant common core between the two, but the difference in background and perspective between you two has introduced significant differences. See this kind of thing enough (and it happens even in ordinary, non-technical conversation), and it soon breaks you of the assumption that a word used in different contexts will nevertheless always have the same, strict, technical meaning. You can expect a common core, so to speak (otherwise, you can’t really communicate), but you have to be ready to listen for significant differences of perspective.Or, to make this shorter (too late!), it’s a good idea to, essentially, practice ‘contemporary’ hermeneutics with people you have a chance of getting correction from if you understand them incorrectly before diving into material far divided from you in culture and time, where you have no chance of getting interactive feedback.Which might imply that a good tool for the Biblical scholar is simply time spent in conversation with non-scholars. It’s far too easy to assume that the biblical writers think like scholars (or worse, modern scholars!). The only antidote I know of for that is spending enough time communicating with non-scholars that you can be comfortable with non-scholarly thinking.



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Ben Witherington

posted August 23, 2007 at 7:14 am


Cheryl:Alas, I wish I was guessing. We have plenty of evidence of messing with the LXX by Christians. It’s called textual variants. Not all copiests were unscrupulous, but some were. See Bruce Metzger’s book on the Canon of Scripture. I do want to stress again that since the prophecy is deliberately multivalent, it could certainly mean what Matthew thought it meant. It could also be read to mean something else as well.To Stuart, you are making a good point about Ahaz. However, sometimes warning signs are put up long before there is any danger of something happening. However, there are plenty of commentators who think that the reference is to a child born during the time of Isaiah. Here is an essential part of the problem we have not discussed. It was not unusual for early Jews to believe a prophecy that was vague might have multiple fulfillments. Sometimes this was discussed in terms of the prophecy having a deeper meaning, sometimes this was discussed in terms of the idea that a partial present fulfillment didn’t completely exhaust the potential of the prophecy. It’s complicatedAs for almah and Betulah, yes I suppose there is no reason why the former word could not refer to an engaged person. In Jewish culture of Jesus’ day, the marriage began with the engagement and contract, and about a year later the marriage ceremony happened and the marriage was consummated. One was supposed to wait until after the ceremony, however.Blessings,Ben W.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 23, 2007 at 8:43 am


You wrote: “Every translation is already an interpretation of an ancient Biblical text.”I would add, that most translations are usually (!) thoughtful and intelligent interpretations of the Biblical text!I’ve been in a church Bible study class where a passage of scripture is read and someone else notes that their translation is different. Often, someone will turn to me (being the only one in the Bible study with a Greek NT)and ask, “What does the Greek really mean?” It is often the case that most translations are grammatically justified even when they differ from each other. I’m at pains to explain that just as in English, words (even Greek words) often have more than one meaning. Proof of this can be found in any dictionary … or lexicon!



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 23, 2007 at 9:51 am


Dear Ben,The problem with copyists changing a copy is similar to the situation I have when I witness to Mormons. They say that we cannot trust the scriptures because copyists changed the original and now the copies are all tainted. How is it possible to taint God’s word and gather up every extant copy to change it there too? No, we can know where the tainting is by comparing copy with copy. Any “tainting” that we have found in the text is the result of copying error, misspellings and notes in the margin that got copied into the text. To charge “Christians” with deliberately tainting the word of God is very, very strong. Now I know that it does happen. After all the New World Translation is filled with bias from the JW translators but these biases are easily found by comparing their translation with the NASB for example. To say that “Christians” deliberately “tainted” the Greek old testament so that we can no longer trust the LXX or even know where it has been tainted sounds extremely liberal to me. Where to next? Did these same “Christians” deliberately “taint” the New Testament too? Perhaps they decided to take something out like the claim that “Christians” took out reincarnation?So here is the deal. I want to see the evidence. I want to see that the original LXX did not have the word for virgin. Where is the evidence that the original translators did not have the word for virgin in the LXX?All around us are those who would smear the bible as “tainted” and thus unreliable. They mock Christians and they mock God’s word. I think it is time that we stand up for the God-breathed Word of God that has stood the test of time.You also said: “I do want to stress again that since the prophecy is deliberately multivalent, it could certainly mean what Matthew thought it meant. It could also be read to mean something else as well.”But Matthew was inspired by God in his writing so his “thought” was God’s thought. We need to hold to scripture as completely inspired including inspired words and inspired grammar. If we can take the precious word of God and disregard it because we think that Matthew was wrong when he wrote about Christ’s virgin birth, then what is next? Perhaps John was wrong when he wrote that Jesus is God in the flesh? Matthew was inspired of God to interpret the OT to say that Jesus was virgin born. Scripture is not a selection of uninspired thoughts by fallible men. Rather scripture tells us God’s thoughts and whenever man’s thoughts are inspired to be there, when the thoughts are in error, we are told they are in error. Where are Matthew’s words ever told to us that they are in error? They simply aren’t and the virgin birth is so important that to doubt it and disagree with it will take one into unbelief. If Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin, in other words if Jesus had a natural human father, then we do not have a kinsman Redeemer. The one who saves us from our sin had to be completely free of original sin. If Jesus had a human father he would have had inherited sin and he would have needed someone to die for him. I have an article on my blog that I diagram out that shows the importance of the virgin birth. It is called “Adam as head of the family” and it is at my blog at: http://strivetoenter.com/wim/2006/11/20/adam-as-head-of-the-family/Note that the link came through on two lines but you will need to copy both lines and put them together to get to the article.No, the virgin conception meaning that Jesus was conceived without having a human father is extremely important and one cannot touch this doctrine without doing violence to the entire gospel. When the gospel is under attack by many from all angles, let’s stand up and fight for God’s word and not mimic the words of the critics of God who say that his word is “tainted” “unreliable” and “untrustworthy”. Either Matthew was inspired and gave the facts about Jesus’ birth accurately or you can throw out all of the Bible because now it is up to humans to decide where the bible is inspired and where it is not. I have seen too much of this in the cults and when the same reasoning comes into the church it makes me tremble with fear for the future of the church.



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Ben Witherington

posted August 23, 2007 at 10:33 am


Cheryl:I am actually on your side in this squabble, but honesty about the truth is required. We do not have, never have had the original text of the LXX. The whole point of textual criticism is to help us reconstruct what the original text of the LXX or the Hebrew text says, when we are dealing with the OT. And yes there are plenty of textual variants in the NT manuscripts as well, and some of them are tendentious and theological in character– a deliberate alteration. See Meztger’s Textual Commentary on the NT Greek Text. This is not a question of liberal vs. conservative, this is a question about honesty in regard to where we are when it comes to the text of the Bible. Let’s take one example. Later manuscripts add to 1 John 5 a whole verse about the Trinity in heaven as the heavenly witnesses.This is not in our earliest and best Greek texts of the NT and should not be in our NT at all. Original text determines canon, but we have to reconstruct the original text, even of the NT, because we do not have it. What we have is some 4,000 mss. of the Greek NT in part or in whole, and no 2 of them are exactly identical! Hence the need for reconstruction. As Metzger says, the good news is this– we know with a great deal of certainly what about 90% of the Greek NT originally said, and in regard to the other 10%, most of it is of no major theological or ethical consequence. I quite agree with your high view of the inspiration of the Bible, but you do not seem to understand the multivalent character of Biblical prophecy. I am not saying Matthew was wrong. I AM saying his interpretation was not the only possible one because of the inherent indirect and imprecise nature of the prophecy. Had the Isaiah prophecy mentioned it was referring to Jesus born of Mary directly, that would be one thing. It doesn’t It seems to refer to a birth during the time of King Ahaz. Blessings,Ben W.



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Nick Norelli

posted August 23, 2007 at 11:15 am


Stuart, You said: “The sigbn [sic] of Emmanuel was clearly a sign for King Ahaz in the face of the Syro-Ephraimite War. A birth 800 or so years later would not be a sign to Ahaz at all.”If you go back and read it again you’ll notice that Ahaz rejected the sign and then in turn a sign was given to the house of David (Ahaz was simply addressed as a representative).It could very well have referred to a contemporary event OR a prophecy to be fulfilled at an unknown time in the future. It depends on how one renders the participle הָרָה (harah).For those engaged in the parthenos/almah conversation I would just mention that words derive their meaning from their usage and parthenos had a broader range of meaning when the LXX was produced than it had when Matthew wrote his Gospel. For example, Dina was called a parthenon in Genesis 34:3 after having been raped. Brenton translates this as ‘damsel’ rather than ‘virgin’ yet in Isaiah 7:14 he translates parthenos as ‘virgin’. And as an aside, almah in the Hebrew text while usually having reference in the Hebrew Bible to young girls who were virgins, simply means ‘young woman’ — and even betulah doesn’t always necessitate virginity. Michael L. Brown gives a very readable treatment of this issue in Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol. 3, (Baker, 2003), 17-32).



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Ryan

posted August 23, 2007 at 11:29 am


I was writing this before Nick’s comment, but following his thought…Ben, let’s assume that what you are saying is correct, that the text of Isaiah 7:14 is multivalent. If this is true, then we must be able to show in context that this interpretation fits. I believe it doesn’t, but am willing to have someone show me the evidence to prove me wrong.If God Himself was giving the sign described in Isaiah 7:14, a sign that would confirm that He will fulfill His Word to King Ahaz, then where is this child who was born described? When God stopped the sun, we are told narratively when He did it. When God promised He would deliver the Jews from Egypt, we are told narratively about the events. Here we are given a God-sized sign; where is its fulfillment? Where is this son called Immanuel ever mentioned again?So on comes Isaiah 9:6-7. The New English Translation (NET) takes your interpretation of Isaiah 7:14, and thus states in Isaiah 9:6 the following: “For a child has been [note: past tense] born to us, a son has been given to us. He shoulders responsibility and is called: Extraordinary Strategist, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” REALLY? Are we to believe that such a person had already come? Was there two incarnations??…A man was born and called “Mighty God”?? “Everylasting Father”?? “Prince of Peace”?? Surely such statements are blasphemous to make of any normal man. And Isaiah 9:7 says that He will sit on David’s throne. Where had this happened?Is it not possible that God promised this sign to Ahaz, but due to Ahaz’s unbelief (see 2 Chron 28), it remained yet future? Remember Isaiah 7:9 stated “…If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.” Indeed, the remainder of Isaiah 7 prophecies that Ahaz will be “shaved” by the King of Assyria. Judah will be pillaged and will live on curds and honey.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 23, 2007 at 12:06 pm


Dear Ben,You said: “The whole point of textual criticism is to help us reconstruct what the original text of the LXX or the Hebrew text says, when we are dealing with the OT. And yes there are plenty of textual variants in the NT manuscripts as well, and some of them are tendentious and theological in character– a deliberate alteration.” I agree that there could be “some” deliberate alternation. I even gave an example of that today with the New World Translation. But to say that “Christians” did this or that it is wide spread enough to have tainted the LXX just seems to me to be fueling the camp that mocks the bible. We can find the interpolations by textual criticism. That is a good thing. But “Christians” are those who do not alter God’s word and the majority of the copying, I am sure you will have to admit, did not altar the Word deliberately nor did the mistakes “taint” any doctrine. The rest we can pick out and disregard.So is the “virgin” part a deliberate change “tainting” the LXX? I don’t see the evidence for this at all.You said: “you do not seem to understand the multivalent character of Biblical prophecy. I am not saying Matthew was wrong. I AM saying his interpretation was not the only possible one because of the inherent indirect and imprecise nature of the prophecy. Had the Isaiah prophecy mentioned it was referring to Jesus born of Mary directly, that would be one thing. It doesn’t It seems to refer to a birth during the time of King Ahaz.”I do understand that prophecy can be fulfilled in AD 70 and again in the future. But the “virgin” prophecy is nothing like that. Where is the child and where is the woman that was part of the prophecy? If this prophecy is a multi-level prophecy like others are, then God failed to produce a sign that could be identified in the past. That is not consistent with how God has shown himself through scripture. When Matthew interprets the prophecy as belonging to Jesus, we need to see that as THE fulfillment unless God tells us otherwise. I fully understand that prophecy can be multi-level so that it can be fulfilled in the day it was written and also fulfilled thousands of years later in the far future. But there is evidence for such a fulfillment. I see no evidence of a fulfillment at the time that the prophecy was given. When I see God’s writing in scripture, I see that he is clear, he is understandable and his prophecy is verifiable. If there is no evidence that the prophecy came to pass in the past because there is nothing we can point to and nothing that God tells us about the fulfillment in any other way except through Jesus, then I think we need to leave it at that or risk harm in causing people to doubt the bible.



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James Pate

posted August 23, 2007 at 12:12 pm


I have a question about the Christian tampering with the LXX in the second to third centuries C.E. Where is Matthew getting his version of Isaiah 7:14, which has virgin? Is it the LXX? Another Greek translation? His personal translation? I find the last option unlikely, since Matthew seems to stumble over the Hebrew on some occasions (or at least that is one view). For example, he presents Jesus as riding on two animals in fulfillment of Zechariah 9, even though the passage of Zechariah 9 does not seem to require two animals (aph can mean “even” as well as “and”).



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Ryan

posted August 23, 2007 at 12:54 pm


Ben, the question that James has asked is the kind of question we need answered here for your case to stand.If we presume that “Christians” tampered with the LXX in the 2nd to 3rd century AD when Matthew was already dead, then clearly this has nothing to do with the text that Matthew had his hands on. For your view to stand, we would therefore need proof that the LXX was tampered with between the time it was written and when Matthew wrote Matthew. And it only really makes sense that it would be tampered with after Jesus’ birth (more likely after His death and resurrection) and before Matthew penned Matthew. But then you have a problem because the LXX had already been in circulation for at minimum 130 years and to tamper with it would be more easily detectable. Imagine misquoting a significant passage of the KJV…wouldn’t someone notice it and correct your error?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 23, 2007 at 1:00 pm


One point which is often overlooked is that the Greek term “parthenos” in ancient Greek did not necessarily mean “virgin.” Indeed, if one consults Liddell, Scott, Jones, and McKenzie’s “Greek-English Lexicon,” the Greek term “parthenos” can be used “of unmarried women who are not virgins” (p. 1339). Further proof of this can be found at Genesis 34:4, Dinah, who had been raped, was called a “parthenos.” Thus when the translator(s) of the LXX translated Is 7:14, they did so with a term which could mean “virgin,” but could also only mean “girl” or “maiden.”



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Ben Witherington

posted August 23, 2007 at 1:11 pm


Dear All:Three points: 1) some Jewish exegetes assumed that the baby in question was one of the children either of the then Jewish king, or of Isaiah himself. This is how they interpreted the text; 2) Cheryl, I wish it were true that Christians did not tamper with the Scriptures in copying it, but unfortunately the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that they did. And this applies to both the NT and the LXX. Only a minority of scribes seem to have done this, but it was common enough to be found in numerous manuscripts from a variety of manuscript traditions. One other point. The canon of the NT was not closed before the 4th century A.D. The manuscript copiers before then may or may not have thought they were copying Scripture when they were copying NT books. Some apparently did, some apparently saw it as just edifying Christian literature. 3)The manuscript of the LXX known to Matthew must have indeed included the term parthenos, but as another poster mentioned, this does not always mean a virgin intacta. So once more with feeling, why did Matthew go with the LXX rather than the less clear MT version of Isaiah 7.14– answer because he knew that there was an actual virginal conception in the life of Mary as an historical event. BTW, all of you get kudos for asking good probing questionsBlessings,Ben W.



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Nick Norelli

posted August 23, 2007 at 1:52 pm


I would just add that Matthew often uses a Midrashic (i.e. highly reflective) hermeneutic in his Gospel in which he actually does remove verses in the OT from their original context (thus violating the interpretive principle we would call authorial intent) and appropriates them in the NT to reveal truths about Jesus. Now we can always argue that he was justified in doing so because the words he was writing were ‘God-Breathed’ — but it is highly doubtful that Matthew knew what he was writing was inspired or would be deemed Scripture.I think the best way to look at it is the way in which another Nick commented earlier:“They already HAD Jesus, and they were SEEING things in the OT in a new way BECAUSE of Jesus.”So the original intent of Isaiah’s prophecy could have spoken to a descendant of Ahaz that would be born in his lifetime (and certainly the Hebrew grammar and syntax does allow this possibility) which is how many Jews have traditionally interpreted the passage.James Pate, It is most likely that Matthew was using the LXX in quoting Is. 7:14 but Robert Gundry in The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel shows that Matthew drew from a number of sources to include the LXX, Hebrew Text, Aramaic Targums, and at times his own translations.



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Ryan

posted August 23, 2007 at 2:35 pm


Nick said…”So the original intent of Isaiah’s prophecy could have spoken to a descendant of Ahaz that would be born in his lifetime (and certainly the Hebrew grammar and syntax does allow this possibility) which is how many Jews have traditionally interpreted the passage.“God could have fulfilled this prophecy in Ahaz’ time, but clearly He didn’t. Right? I ask again, where was the boy called Immanuel, supposedly fathered by Isaiah…or some unknown man? Scripture tells us that the Messiah must come from the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15), and Ben made it clear that the way Jews understood lineage was through the seed of the man (ref “In their view the woman was like a giant cistern or well into which the male planted his seed.“). Agreed. Therefore, He could not have an earthly father because he would be born with original sin. We can also see that Isa 7:14 is not a prophecy of a normal human, but is the incarnation of God in the flesh. Immanuel means GOD with us, not just another man. God was with them in the prophets, but no prophet was called Immanuel! And, as I showed concerning Isaiah 9:6, it would be blasphemous to call this child “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” if He were not God incarnate.But Ben’s point does not seem to be primarily about the timing of the prophecy, but of the nature of its message or interpretation. That there were two possible meanings: normal conception bearing normal, sinful human, or virgin conception, bearing the Son of God. We would do well to remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit was NOT confused concerning the details when He spoke through Isaiah and Matthew. Here He does not leave another meaning up to us:2 Peter 1:19-21: “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”



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yuckabuck

posted August 23, 2007 at 2:35 pm


I think we make too many assumptions when we come to the Biblical text. When Ben says that what the text meant then is what it means now, he is talking about US and our hermeneutics, not the gospel writers. Stuart’s original question was good, but why can’t the answer simply be that Matthew recorded typological fulfillments of prophecy because he was inspired by God to do so? What is wrong with saying that Isaiah intended the fulfillment to refer to some child born during Ahaz’s reign, but that God allowed him to use certain Hebrew words that would allow Matthew (inspired by God)to see in hindsight that the prophecy also predicts Christ?2) Here’s what’s wrong, I guess. Someone else says that we should only interpret the Bible in certain ways, or “risk harm in causing people to doubt the bible.” Wow. What if God Himself put things in the Bible that might “risk harm in causing people to doubt the bible?” Tell your unsaved neighbor that there is a talking donkey in the Bible, and see if it causes them to place more trust in the Bible. If we assume that there no things in the Bible that might cause doubts (whether it be talking donkeys, men living inside a fish, people rising from the dead, or a writer quoting a prophecy that may have had a different referent), we are guilty of telling God what He SHOULD have done, instead of accepting by faith what He HAS, in fact, done.3)More assumptions- God wouldn’t put a prophecy in Scripture unless it either hasn’t come to pass yet, or He directly includes a narative of its fulfillment somewhere else in Scripture. Again, that is how we WANT the Bible to be, not neccessarily how God MADE the Bible to be. The Bible includes prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70), but nowhere relates the fulfillment in its pages. Also, a fulfillment of Is 7:12-17 IS related elsewhere- in Isaiah 8:1-3. Using some of the same language as the prophecy a son is born to Isaiah that makes the prophecy true. (Interestingly, the boy is refererd to as “Immanuel” in verse 8, but God tells Isaiah to give him a different name, “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.” Isaiah meant this boy, but God left the door open for Matthew to point to another child.) 4) More assumptions- The child in Isaiah 7 is the same as in Isaiah 9. The text nowhere says this. 5) Assumption- The sign had to be supernatural, or else Ahaz would not have cared. The ancients did not see a gap between the natural and the supernatural. A baby born naturally then could still be a sign from God. The point of the sign was all about timing, not whether or not a virgin conceived and remained a virgin. Ahaz sees way out of the threat to Judah, but Isaiah says that God can change things pretty quickly.6) More assumptions- “If you go back and read it again you’ll notice that Ahaz rejected the sign and then in turn a sign was given to the house of David.” The “House of David” was just another way of saying “Ahaz” in that culture. When we read it through the lenses of our individualistic western culture, we want to see a distinction between “Ahaz” and the “House of David.” All you need to do is look as Is 7:13, where the “House of David” is castigated because Ahaz won’t ask for a sign. I love the Bible, and want to devote my life to studying it and teaching it to others. Because of that, I refuse to make it a smoother or clearer book than God made it to be. I’m sorry if that harms people’s faith, but Jesus also said things that drove people away (John 6:61-66).God bless you,Chuck



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yuckabuck

posted August 23, 2007 at 2:44 pm


more assumptions-”Isa 7:14 is not a prophecy of a normal human, but is the incarnation of God in the flesh. Immanuel means GOD with us, not just another man.”Anyone could have been named Immanuel, even if they were a normal human. Just because Joshua’s name means “The Lord saves,” does that mean that Joshua was also divine? That is how people were named then, using parts of God’s name in their name. Try to read the Old Testament on its own terms just briefly, instead of only seeing it through the eyes of the New Testament. It’s God’s Word too. Once you have done that, then go back to seeing it all fulfilled in Christ.God bless you.



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Ben Witherington

posted August 23, 2007 at 3:47 pm


Nice to hear from you again Yuckabuck. I have just two final things to point out in regard to this conversation, which has been productive. To Ryan, the answer to your question is that Jewish interpreters assumed that ‘Immanuel” was a royal throne name (which it is), not a personal name, and that therefore it refers to the next child of Ahaz, born before the Syro-Ephramite war. Most ancient near eastern Kings had numerous throne names, and indeed were often called ‘God manifest’ or the like. The Jewish practice during the period of the Davidic monarchy was the same– specifically in the case of Solomon and those who followed him.And to Ryan, the statement in 2 Peter has nothing to do with discerning one two or ten ‘right’ meanings in a prophecy. It is a statement about the source of such true prophecy– not human interpretation but rather the Holy Spirit. It says nothing about whether the Spirit might inspire multiple layers of meaning in a text or not. Last thing, midrash, like pesher was a homiletical technique of handling the text. It was not intended to be seen as historical exegesis. The text was being used for some pastoral purpose to make a point. For example, when John Wesley used the phrase ‘a brand plucked from the burning’ to refer to his own rescue as a child from a burning parsonage, he was not suggesting his life event was predicted by Zechariah or any other prophet. He was simply using Biblese to talk about his life. This is an example of one sort of homiletical use of the text. The writers of the NT sometimes do offer us an exegetical interpretation of the OT, but sometimes they use it quite deliberately in an ad hoc or homiletical way which was common and accepted practice in their day.Blessings,Ben



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 23, 2007 at 4:33 pm


Ben,You said: “Cheryl, I wish it were true that Christians did not tamper with the Scriptures in copying it, but unfortunately the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that they did. And this applies to both the NT and the LXX. Only a minority of scribes seem to have done this, but it was common enough to be found in numerous manuscripts from a variety of manuscript traditions.”My point had been that there was only a small minority that attempted to tamper with the scripture, just as there is a minority today who attempt to tamper with scripture. My point concluded that we can pick out these interpolations then and now so it does not actually distort scripture at all since we can see where the tampering has been done and from textual criticism we can know we do have God’s words.You also said: “One other point. The canon of the NT was not closed before the 4th century A.D. The manuscript copiers before then may or may not have thought they were copying Scripture when they were copying NT books. Some apparently did, some apparently saw it as just edifying Christian literature.”The scriptures were already understood as scripture in the day they were written. Peter references Paul’s writings as scripture. I am sorry but I find your references to tampering of the text to be concentrating on the minor when the body of Christ has already exposed the errors and we have the inspired words that God gave us. I believe that every word of scripture is inspired and every piece of grammar is inspired and God has preserved his word. I have this nagging doubt that you believe the same. When you focus on a prophecy and try to make it fulfilled in the past when there is no evidence of such a fulfillment and then suggest that Matthew was only putting his own thoughts into scripture instead of God inspiring the words of Matthew, it just seems over the top to me because you appear to be siding with those who contradict the inspiration of scripture.You also said:”3)The manuscript of the LXX known to Matthew must have indeed included the term parthenos, but as another poster mentioned, this does not always mean a virgin intacta. So once more with feeling, why did Matthew go with the LXX rather than the less clear MT version of Isaiah 7.14– answer because he knew that there was an actual virginal conception in the life of Mary as an historical event.”Would not a better answer have been that the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to use the LXX as confirmation of what God is verifying as true in prophecy concerning Jesus? Why would we have to consider how Matthew would have thought when we can consider that the Holy Spirit inspired the proper words? Is it not possible that your writing may cause some to doubt the virgin birth?I feel very confused about your answers. It seems like you are appealing to the inspiration of scripture, but at the very same time you seem to be saying that scripture isn’t inspired in its word usage. It seems like you think the Holy Spirit did not inspire the word “virgin” in Matthew and the reason the word is in the passage is only because Matthew added it himself without inspiration. Do you see how confusing that is? I find it confusing and troubling.



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Ross

posted August 23, 2007 at 5:03 pm


Ps to Josh & BenRe- comment of Josh on questioning Ben pastoring 4 churches at one time. In my second pastorate in Canada I was called upon to pastor 13 churches at one time! Canadians are good or foolish?!



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Ryan

posted August 23, 2007 at 6:00 pm


Both Nick’s affirmed the following…”They already HAD Jesus, and they were SEEING things in the OT in a new way BECAUSE of Jesus.“John 1:45 – “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”This was at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry before any miracles had been performed. Clearly, these would not have recognized Jesus as the Messiah if they had not understood what the prophets were referring to BEFORE Jesus came upon the scene.Furthermore, it is also because of all these prophecies that Jesus expected the people of Israel to recognize Him. In fact, He rebuked them for their slowness of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken. These prophecies may sometimes be difficult to root out, but when you have done your homework, they clearly speak of the Messiah. If they were justified in seeing the virgin birth any other way than referring to Messiah, Jesus should have consoled them; instead He rebuked them for not seeing it.Luke 24:25-27: “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”John 5:37-40: “And the Father who sent me has Himself testified concerning me. … You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”Remember, Jesus is stepping into the presence of people who only know the Old Testament and saying these things.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 23, 2007 at 6:08 pm


Ben Witherington writes: “The canon of the NT was not closed before the 4th century A.D.”Although true, such statements appear to me to be misleading. First of all, there is no such thing as “the canon,” as if there was only one of them, rather it is better to speak of many different canons. The Canon of Athanasius (367 CE) marks the first time the scope of the NT canon is declared to be exactly the same 27 books which are generally accepted today, but it also included the books: Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah, which doesn’t fit in everyone’s canon.The Canon of Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389 CE)was ratified by the Trullan Synond in 692 CE. It excluded the book of Revelation.German Bibles printed before Luther’s translation included Paul’s Epistle to the Loadiceans.The Ethiopic church appears to have a canon of 46 Old Testament books and 35 New Testament books.Broadly speaking, we can speak of three major canons (excluding the above mentioned Ethiopic canon), namely: (1) the Orthodox canon, (2) the Roman Catholic canon, and (3) the 66-book “Protestant” canon.



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yuckabuck

posted August 23, 2007 at 6:59 pm


Ryan, You do not seem to be arguing from what the Old Testament actually SAYS, but from how you see it as a Christian. For instance, most of the verses you quote show that the early Christians used the Sciptures (the O.T.) to prove that the Messiah must suffer, die, and rise again, NOT that the Messiah would be supernaturally conceived. You can see Peter doing just that in Acts 2- prooving Messiah would die and rise again from Scripture. No one was using the O.T. to prove a virgin birth, until God inspired Matthew to put it in his gospel. The reference John 1:45 is to what Moses wrote- which most likely refers to Deuteronomy 18, where God says that He will raise up a prophet like Moses. They were NOT looking for a virgin-born messiah. Nobody knew it would happen that way. That’s why it was so controversial. You are trying to argue for a particular interpretation of Isaiah 7 based on what Christians in hindsight know that God has done. Nobody understood it that way then. Philip and Nathaniel were not saying, “Let’s follow Jesus, because I hear he’s virgin-born like Isaiah 7 predicted.” The fact that Jesus was more than a man was one of those things that the disciples themselves didn’t really get until after the resurrection. (And it’s still debatable even then, though John’s account of Thomas saying, “My Lord and my God” is pretty heavy stuff.)God bless you,Chuck



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yuckabuck

posted August 23, 2007 at 7:24 pm


Cheryl, Why must differences in interpreting a verse frequently lead to accusations of unorthodoxy? Just because Dr. Witherington doesn’t agree with your take on Isaiah 7, then he has a less than adequate view of the inspiration of Scripture? I believe God inspired the Scriptures. I also believe this-1) God gave Isaiah a prophecy whose primary referent at the time was a baby born normally around that time.2) Isaiah probably thought it referred to a baby born normally around that time (his own- Isaiah 8:1-3).3) Everyone else thought it referred to a baby born normally around that time.4) God knew what He had planned for the Saviour, and so inspired Isaiah to use a Hebrew word that would be one day translated into the Septuagint by parthenos.5) After Jesus rose from the dead, God began to show the disciples that Jesus was more than a normal man. 6) He led Luke to investigate (Luke 1:3) and find stories about Mary being a virgin when Jesus was conceived. 7) He led Matthew to see that Isaiah 7:12 actually applies even better to Jesus than it did to some baby born in Isaiah’s day, since Mary stayed a virgin the whole time, and Jesus really was GOD WITH US in a special way.8) Matthew, inspired by God, quotes Isaiah 7 in his gospel, even though Isaiah’s original prophecy referred to something else.How is any of this a low view of Scripture? To say that Isaiah 7:12 had to only mean Jesus, and nothing else, is really a low view of God. Is He really one dimensional, and incapable of working in the way I have outlined above?I’m sorry if I sound impatient. I have been reading Ben’s blog for a long time, and I have seen too many instances of any disagreements over a verse being put down to a wrong view of Scripture on Ben’s (and my) part.As an added note to Cheryl, I would point out that my complaint is the same as Gordon Fee’s regaarding women in ministry. In his book Gospel and Spirit, Fee points out how some who interpret the Bible as allowing women in ministry were being accused of not believing in the full inspiration of Scripture by those who rejected women in ministry. Their thinking ran, “Since Fee rejects the CLEAR teaching of Scripture that women cannot teach, then he musn’t believe in the inspiration of Scripture.” That kind of accusation is unfair and hurtful.God bless you,Chuck



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Ryan

posted August 24, 2007 at 12:53 am


Dear Chuck,It doesn’t follow that just because there was debate and controversy, particularly amongst those who were either jealous or unbelieving, doesn’t mean that the prophecies concerning Jesus were not known. The John 1:45 reference proves that specifically the prophecies concerning Jesus’ lineage (son of Joseph) and His home town (Nazareth) were known; it is likely more was also known. Simeon the prophet was waiting for the Christ and recognized Him as a baby when He was getting blessed in the temple! At minimum, your claims that “they were not looking for…” and “nobody knew…” are unsubstantiated and mere guessing despite the evidence to the contrary.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 24, 2007 at 2:07 am


Chuck,You said: “Why must differences in interpreting a verse frequently lead to accusations of unorthodoxy? Just because Dr. Witherington doesn’t agree with your take on Isaiah 7, then he has a less than adequate view of the inspiration of Scripture?”It isn’t that Dr. Witherington has a different take on Isaiah 7 that causes the source of the problem. It is that he appears to be denying that Matthew was inspired by God to clearly reveal that Isaiah was prophesying about Jesus. I could just think he was wrong if he had two interpretations of the Isaiah prophecy especially if one interpretation had no evidence of fulfillment (other than people’s assumptions) but when he says things about the tainting of scripture and that Matthew could have been giving only his own thoughts and importing them into Isaiah (instead of the Holy Spirit inspiring Matthew) and that the “virgin” conception could actually be considered to be a woman who is a virgin up to the time of intercourse, it comes across as questioning whether the virgin birth of Jesus was a necessity and maybe it was an interpolation into scripture (even though it is said it could be truth read back into a passage that wasn’t really speaking about Jesus). These are the things that cause me great concern. My ministry since 1988 has been ministering to the cults especially the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have seen the scriptures manipulated and distorted and accused of being tainted with no evidence and no reason other than to deny what the bible says. Foundational doctrines are denied and people have been sent to hell with a bible in their hands. I have also seen this same thinking creep into the church and I have seen people lose their faith as a result. As an apologist who has given my life to minister to the lost in the cults, I have been sensitized to the movement to leave aside the inspired words and the inspired grammar for things like “it appears to be” and “perhaps it could or could not be”…As one who came through a crisis of faith many years ago where I had to accept the word of God exactly as it is written or chuck the whole thing as a hopeless case of trying to find out what is inspired and what isn’t, I hate for anyone to set aside the inspiration of God’s word and accept their own reasoning in exchange.Chuck also said: “As an added note to Cheryl, I would point out that my complaint is the same as Gordon Fee’s regaarding women in ministry. In his book Gospel and Spirit, Fee points out how some who interpret the Bible as allowing women in ministry were being accused of not believing in the full inspiration of Scripture by those who rejected women in ministry. Their thinking ran, “Since Fee rejects the CLEAR teaching of Scripture that women cannot teach, then he musn’t believe in the inspiration of Scripture.” That kind of accusation is unfair and hurtful.”Yes, that kind of accusation is indeed unfair and hurtful. However at the same time I must say that some egalitarians have been their own worst enemies. Because the spiritual equality of men and women is so clear in the rest of scripture, some have chosen to disregard the hard passages of scripture as if they came from a hateful Paul bent on stifling women. Others have pitted one scripture against another as if scripture were not fully inspired and contradicted itself. Others seemed to feel free to pick and choose which scriptures they would like to obey. These kinds of attitudes have helped to bring the accusation against egalitarians that they are not believing in the full inspiration of scripture. While I am an egalitarian, I am one BECAUSE of scripture not in spite of it. My challenge has been to understand what the hard passages of scripture mean in context without dismissing any word or any piece of grammar. The hard passages of scripture are inspired by God and we need to know what they mean. It is hard work and has been a challenge for the church for a very long time. My journey took me into scripture studying every single passage in depth so that I could understand what God inspired and why. In the end I was confident that God was fully in control and his word was fully inspired and I knew that we as a church had missed out on the meaning of these hard passages of scriptures because we had ignored some of the inspired words and some of the inspired grammar that are necessary to understand the passages. My thesis became a script and then a DVD called “Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free?” This set has been instrumental in freeing many women from the bondage of believing that they are limited in their spiritual gifts by God and must set aside their calling to obey “scripture”. All of my study was done with a full and healthy respect for scripture because I believe that each word is inspired and each piece of grammar is inspired and each piece together was placed in the passage for a reason.Do you see why I would be sensitive to anyone giving out information that might cause someone to believe that the scriptures have been corrupted or that Jesus’ virgin conception wasn’t necessary? When we start letting the authority of God through his word slide while we elevate our reason, we are in danger of bringing ourselves and others into a loss of faith.



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bethel

posted August 24, 2007 at 7:53 am


Hi Cheryl,I don’t think Dr Witherington is saying that Matthew made his own personal judgment on the term ‘virgin’ absent the Holy Spirit, nor is he saying that the virgin birth did not occur. Rather, I think Ben is pointing out that the Jews at the time of Isaiah 7 understood the prophecy in terms of their then-existing social and historical context – i.e. a young girl will give birth to a son not necessarily in terms of a supernatural conception but certainly in terms of the timing as another poster has pointed out. However, Matthew was inspired by the Holy Spirit to make certain the prophecy by being unequivocal about Jesus’ supernatural birth, thus establishing Christ as the complete fulfillment of the Immanuel prophecy. Personally, I mostly agree with Ryan’s view of Isaiah 7, but I do not think that Ben’s view necessarily weakens the scripture as he affirms the complete fulfillment of it in Christ. He is just describing how a Jew in Isaiah’s day and context might view a certain prophecy that could have a more poignant and complete fulfillment later. As another example, note Matt 2:17-18.As to your points on the LXX, yes I am perplexed when bible scholars can suggest Matthew is misrepresenting or misappropriating the OT to fit into his biased need to validate the Messiah-ship of Christ (one seminary professor came close to that view in one of the talks I attended) – if this is the case, I’m in total agreement with you that we need to defend the integrity of the scripture. However, there are brothers and sisters in the faith who believe in the full inspiration of the bible in spite of the existence of textual variants and although there are views allowing for multiple ‘potential’ fulfillments of prophecy I don’t think this negates the inspiration principal even if we may not agree with them on this. The part which I believe you feel most uncomfortable about is whether Ben’s view allows for variants – indeed corruptions – into our NT texts that would throw our faith in doubt. These have been dealt with in detail (for e.g. FF Bruce); suffice to say I think there is broad agreement that if at all any ‘editing’ by later copyists took place, they do nothing to effect the major foundational or doctrinal elements of our faith. Even for the question of Matthew’s use of LXX for the Immanuel prophecy – what difference does it make if he opted for a particular manuscript if he was divinely inspired to do so? All Christians uphold the virgin birth of Christ. In my opinion, the fact that scholars believe there were later ‘corruptions’ to manuscript is an interesting side topic with all the debate and speculation of ‘human’ intention. If we’re convinced the Holy Spirit is the Author of divine inspiration, then ivory tower jousting can do nothing to the power of the Gospel we preach. God blessKeith



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Falantedios

posted August 24, 2007 at 9:32 am


Greetings all!Boy, take a day off from the internet and Hermeneutics explodes!Hello, fellow Nick! Thanks for the kind words.Thank you, Ben, for the encouragement.Cheryl, I appreciate your position, but I think Isaiah himself backs you into a corner. We are told that the great sign will first of all be a sign FOR AHAZ. How, praytell, can Mary’s conception have been a sign for Ahaz? The text does not say that Ahaz rejected God’s ability to perform signs. The text says he rejected the sign itself. How could he reject the sign if the sign never appeared? If no sign appeared to Ahaz, then he would be right to call God a liar. That’s how I read it, anyway.Further, you are right that God insures that his word is not lost. But He doesn’t tell US how He does it. The way you speak, your faith seems terribly dependent upon one particular interpretation of inspiration. The Bible is surprisingly reticent on its claims for itself.Another contributor to this discussion has rightly pointed out that there is no canon. Cheryl, for your position on inspiration needs to be polished by the fact that God never autographed a particular manuscript. Yet another contributor mentioned that Peter compares Paul’s writing to scripture. I do not believe that is a magic Greek word that means “inspired.” I believe that, again, context must be King here. Which writings of Paul’s did Peter mean? Every word that flowed from the pen of his emanuensis after the Damascus Road? Only the letters we have left to us? God has left room for faith to grow, even in textual matters. Neither our justification, nor our vindication, nor our salvation depends upon our understanding of the nature of inspiration. God has no creed but Christ.in HIS love,Nick



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 24, 2007 at 9:41 am


What about Mt 2:14-15 & Hosea 11:1-2?Matthew appears to be saying that the Holy Family’s return from Egypt was a fulfillment of the prophecy in Hosea 11:1b “out of Egypt I called my son” (NRSV). Yet if we look at the context of Hosea, it appears that he is referring to the people of Israel leaving Egypt for the promise land. Hosea writes: “When Israel was a child, I loved him and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols” (Hosea 11:1-2 NRSV).If this passage is really a prophecy about Jesus, as Matthew suggests, when did Jesus sacrifice to Baal?



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Ryan

posted August 24, 2007 at 10:42 am


Steven said…”If this passage is really a prophecy about Jesus, as Matthew suggests, when did Jesus sacrifice to Baal?“Here again we see that everything hangs on the inspired grammar. In Hos 11:1, the references are singular “him,” “a child,” “my son.” However, immediately in verse two it shifts to the plural: “they called them,” “they went from them”. In the first verse, the whole of a nation is treated as a single son. The grammar seems to strongly imply something more is meant than literal Israel. I haven’t studied this one enough, so I will leave it at that for now.



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Falantedios

posted August 24, 2007 at 10:55 am


Dear Steven,In what way do you mean “really”?Does Matthew say something that cancels out Hosea’s original meaning?Hosea was not a reporter or a psychic or a astrologer. He was a prophet, faithfully retelling the story of God and Israel to explain the situation of his day and to call his people to appropriate faith-action. Matthew is no different.Matthew doesn’t “appear to be” saying anything. He is saying that now, 20 or so years after the death of his Lord, he realizes that Israel was called out of Egypt and Jesus was called out of Egypt. Matthew does not believe in coincidence, so it is clear to him that all three events (Call of Israel, Hosea’s interpretation, and Joseph’s call) are intricately related. Just how they are related is the story of the next 26 chapters!in HIS love,Nick



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 24, 2007 at 11:34 am


Ryan wrote: “In the first verse, the whole of a nation is treated as a single son. The grammar seems to strongly imply something more is meant than literal Israel.”I would respectfully disagree with your conclusion, in fact, your previous sentence seems to me to make my point and to contradict your own conclusion. In the first verse, the whole nation is treated figuratively as a single son. “The context is king!” Hosea is using family imagery to speak of the exodus, verses one and two belong together. There is nothing in Hosea ‘s book to suggest that half of verse one refers some future person while the rest of the passage refers to Israel’s exodus.



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Ben Witherington

posted August 24, 2007 at 11:38 am


Wow what a discussion— Cheryl, just so you will know, I am not questioning that Matthew was inspired to find Christ in that multivalent Isaiah text, nor am I questioning the original Hebrew text either of Isaiah. The Holy Spirit however, after Pentecost, led Christians to see and find Christological things in the OT that no one before them had even considered. In fact, as another NT writers says, there were things even angels longed to look into in OT times, but it was not given them. The problem with a flat reading of the whole canon is that it ignores the before and after of both history and the text, and more importantly the partial revelation and understanding reflected in the OT, and the fuller revelation and understand reflected in the NT. Cheryl, God in his wisdom has not yet given us the autographs of the Bible. We are still dealing with copies of copies and they all have flaws. As I have said, for the most part the variants do not affect much when it comes to theology or ethics or history, but they are nonetheless there, and they do affect our ability to understand what the original author meant. If we ask why God has not given us the inerrant, flaw free original in these latter days, I think there is a good answer. If we had something like that, we would be in danger of Bibliolatry– the worship of a perfect book, rather than the perfect God. It would become our golden calf (rather like Joseph Smith’s mythical golden tablets). As it is, we have to trust God, and simply accept that we have what we have. The good news is this. Due to the finding of many new mss. and careful scholarly text work, we are closer today to the original text of the NT than at any point in time since before the Middle Ages. I think God in his providence has made this so. The further we get away from the time of the Christ event, the more God allows us to get closer to the original inspired text of the NT, without however turning it into an idol, rather than what it is– a means to the end of having a saved relationship with God.Blessings,Ben W.



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James Pate

posted August 24, 2007 at 11:38 am


Hi Ryan,This is a response to what you said to Chuck about whether or not the Jews of Jesus’ day had Messianic expectations that coincided with Jesus.Reading the Gospels, it seems to me that they did not. When Jesus told his disciples that he would suffer and rise again on the third day, his disciples did not understand him; Peter even tried to dissuade him. If they had already applied Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 to the Messiah, and they thought that Jesus was the Messiah, then they would not be shocked that Jesus had to suffer and die. On the road to Emmaus, the two disciples there said they hoped that Jesus had been the one to redeem Israel; their expectation seemed to have been shattered by Jesus’ death.You refer to John 1:45. I do not see there that they believed the Messiah would come from Nazareth. Rather, the text says that Jesus of Nazareth is the one the prophets predicted. They did expect a Messiah, but their understanding of Messiahship at the time was not necessarily what Christians had after Jesus’ resurrection.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 24, 2007 at 11:44 am


Keith,You said: “However, there are brothers and sisters in the faith who believe in the full inspiration of the bible in spite of the existence of textual variants and although there are views allowing for multiple ‘potential’ fulfillments of prophecy I don’t think this negates the inspiration principal even if we may not agree with them on this.”I certainly do agree with you that we can believe in the inspiration of scripture and have differing views of prophecy and still be brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen to that! My view is that Christians can disagree and still should not divide over these secondary issues. We are the body of Christ and we are to love one another and be gracious and kind at the same time that we are passionately defending our point of view.The difficulty I have is when I see people go past the bounds of inspiration because I have seen the fruit of this and have seen people lose their faith. For example you said this: “All Christians uphold the virgin birth of Christ.” Did you know that there are many Christians who have started to doubt the virgin conception of Christ? Some feel that the virgin conception is unnecessary for Christ to be our Savior. I really don’t know if Dr. Witherington believes that it is completely necessary or not, but this is a area that I will contend for the faith with passion. Any deviation from the essentials is a place where we can lose our way and I have fought long and hard with the cults to not want this to happen in the church. When I first started ministering to Jehovah’s Witnesses it never occurred to me that I would be be seeing “Christians” denying the omniscience of God, the full Deity of Christ or the virgin conception. I am no longer so naive. We are in the last days, I believe, where we need to contend earnestly for the faith and we now have to do this IN the church! We do it with gentleness and respect, but we do it earnestly and with passion because souls are at stake.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 24, 2007 at 11:48 am


Nick wrote: Matthew … is saying that now, 20 or so years after the death of his Lord, he realizes that Israel was called out of Egypt and Jesus was called out of Egypt.Matthew doesn’t seem to put it just they way you did. Matthew refers to the return of the Holy family as the “fulfillment” of Hosea’s prophecy. And that’s the crux of the problem. Matthew is calling it a “fulfillment.” If Matthew had written something like “just as God called the people of Israel out of Egypt, so also now he calls Jesus out of Egypt,” there wouldn’t be a problem. But what he wrote was “this was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet” (Mt 2:15). The problem here is with the word “fulfill.”



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 24, 2007 at 12:32 pm


Ben Witherington writes: “I am not questioning that Matthew was inspired to find Christ in that multivalent Isaiah text …”But how do you know that the Isaiah text was meant to be “multivalent”? Earlier you wrote: ‘What it meant is what it means’. What if Isaiah only meant for Is 7:14 to be a sign for Ahaz and his generation. Why should anyone assume that Isaiah also thought of it as a prophesy for some far off future generation?



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Falantedios

posted August 24, 2007 at 12:39 pm


Dear Steven,I think the problem lies in the relationship between your definition of ‘fulfill’ and how the NT authors use it.Your definition causes a conflict between Hosea and Matthew. Trust Matthew to show you how he means ‘fulfill’. Trust that he does NOT mean to conflict with Hosea. “To bring to completion” is not the single absolute way that the word ‘fulfill’ must be defined in each and every instance that one finds.Further, LISTEN to Hosea! He says that God called his son Israel out of Egypt, but he never came! THAT is why Israel kept sacrificing to Baal. Their bodies came out of Egypt, but their hearts remained. The response to that call that “developed the full potential” of the passage in question did not come until the life and ministry of Jesus.in HIS love,Nick



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 24, 2007 at 1:03 pm


Nick,You said: “Cheryl, I appreciate your position, but I think Isaiah himself backs you into a corner. We are told that the great sign will first of all be a sign FOR AHAZ. How, praytell, can Mary’s conception have been a sign for Ahaz? The text does not say that Ahaz rejected God’s ability to perform signs. The text says he rejected the sign itself. How could he reject the sign if the sign never appeared? If no sign appeared to Ahaz, then he would be right to call God a liar. That’s how I read it, anyway.”If you read through the passage carefully you will see something else that you have missed. In Isaiah 7:8 God gives a prophecy that will be complete within 65 years. This is a very long way away and God wants Ahaz to have faith that the kingdoms coming against him will not ultimately prevail and their end is in sight. So God tells Ahaz to ask for a sign that God will accomplish what he has said he would do. Yet Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign so God then creates the sign himself. However notice in verses 13 & 14 to whom the sign is given:Isa 7:13 Then he said, “Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? Isa 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. Do you see that God speaks to the “House of David” in verse 13? So we can also see that in verse 14 that the “you” refers back to “the House of David” in verse 13. Ahaz was told to ask for a sign and he refused so he doesn’t get a sign. God gives the sign not to Ahaz but to the entire “House of David”. So the prophecy is to the “House of David” – to the royal family. According to the inspired words of scripture, God did not give a sign to Ahaz because Ahaz did not ask for one. God gave the sign to the “House of David”. This is the God-sized sign that God gives and this sign, Matthew tells us, is the virgin conception of Jesus.Matthew was inspired to tell us without a shadow of a doubt that the prophecy found its fulfillment with Jesus. While the Jews may have misunderstood the prophecy to think that it was given to Ahaz, the inspired words of God tell us otherwise.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 24, 2007 at 1:09 pm


Nick wrote: “I think the problem lies in the relationship between your definition of ‘fulfill’ and how the NT authors use it. Your definition causes a conflict between Hosea and Matthew.”Okay, how would you define it?I believe that traditionally, in this type of context, the term has been used to refer to a fulfillment of a divine prediction. Davies and Allison, in their commentary on Matthew (1988), write: “To state the obvious, Christians had long before Matthew’s time been intensely interested in scriptural proof texts and prophecies. Matthew’s constant appeal to the OT is therefore nothing extraordinary” (p. 29). Are you claiming that this is not the case? Are you suggesting that Matthew was not interested in proof texts and prophecies?How do you understand the words: “This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet”? If Matthew does not think of this as a fulfillment of prophecy, what is it?



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 24, 2007 at 1:40 pm


Ben,This discussion has gone faster than my typing has caught up to.You said: “Cheryl, just so you will know, I am not questioning that Matthew was inspired to find Christ in that multivalent Isaiah text, nor am I questioning the original Hebrew text either of Isaiah.”I am very glad to hear that you are not questioning the inspiration of Matthew or the inspiration of Isaiah. I am wondering, though, if others might be influenced by the emphasis on “noodling” and “tainting” of the text. You may find this will be used by those who want to use evangelical Christians to prove that scripture is unreliable.I also agree that there is so much in the OT that was not fully understood before the Holy Spirit came. Also even if the LXX translators did not fully understand Isaiah 7, at least we know that (according to Matthew) they were faithful in understanding enough to translate the prophecy as a “virgin” will conceive.I think the big thing here is to understand that God nowhere says that the prophecy is given to Ahaz personally. Ahaz had his chance and he refused to ask as God wanted him to. God then takes that refusal and gives all of mankind a prophecy by giving the sign of Jesus to the “House of David”. We can trust that and be sure that Jesus indeed is from a virgin just as scripture says and his conception was never tainted with sin.I am off for the weekend so may not be able to contribute for awhile.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 24, 2007 at 1:44 pm


Nick,You said: “Further, LISTEN to Hosea! He says that God called his son Israel out of Egypt, but he never came! THAT is why Israel kept sacrificing to Baal. Their bodies came out of Egypt, but their hearts remained. The response to that call that “developed the full potential” of the passage in question did not come until the life and ministry of Jesus.”I agree with you and you have done a good job.Ryan,You have done a great job in using the inspired grammar to show too that God speaks about about bringing a singular “son” from Egypt and then he talks about “they” (plural) as sacrificing to an idol. This again brings up the importance of seeing the inspired words and the inspired grammar. When we take the verses only as a whole and forget to pay attention to the detail, then there is much that we can miss.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 24, 2007 at 1:53 pm


Cheryl writes: Do you see that God speaks to the “House of David” in verse 13? So we can also see that in verse 14 that the “you” refers back to “the House of David” in verse 13. Ahaz was told to ask for a sign and he refused so he doesn’t get a sign. God gives the sign not to Ahaz but to the entire “House of David”. So the prophecy is to the “House of David” – to the royal family. I’m impressed with your posts to this blog, you write well and are very knowledgeable. Nonetheless, I don’t find your argument here compelling. You are correct that the prophecy was given to the “house of David,” but your wish to transfer that over to the “royal family” appears to be a stretch. It is much more logical IMO to consider the “house of David” as referring to Ahaz and his own house. But Isaiah 7:1-17 is a complex text and Isaiah 7:14 has been referred to as “the most controversial passage in the Bible.”



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properly basic

posted August 24, 2007 at 2:17 pm


Over at Victor Reppert’s blog they are discussing hermeneutics, but really slavery in the Old and New Testament–The question is, why does the Bible not explicitly repudiate the practice of slavery? Maybe there is something beneath the text we are unaware of. Perhaps, it’s impossible to interpret scripture purely on scriptural grounds. What say ya’l?link:(bloghttp://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2007/08/reply-to-larry-arnhart.html)



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 24, 2007 at 2:56 pm


Steven,Hey, thanks for the compliment!Regarding the royal line of David, I bow to Albert Barnes for that one. He said concerning this passage:”Shall give you – Primarily to the house of David; the king and royal family of Judah.”Now do something else. Do a word search for the phrase “house of David”. You will find as I did that it refers to the kingly line of David. For example:1Ki 12:26 Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. 1Ki 13:2 He cried against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’1Ki 14:8 and tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you–yet you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight; 1Ch 17:24 “Let Your name be established and magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is the God of Israel, even a God to Israel; and the house of David Your servant is established before You.’Psa 122:5 For there thrones were set for judgment, The thrones of the house of David. Isa 22:22 “Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open. Isa 22:23 “I will drive him like a peg in a firm place, And he will become a throne of glory to his father’s house. Jer 21:12 O house of David, thus says the LORD: “Administer justice every morning;Zec 12:7 “The LORD also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah. Zec 12:8 “In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them. Zec 12:10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. Luke’s reference to the “House of David” ties Jesus and salvation to the kingly line:Luk 1:69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant– Luk 1:70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old– I looked up all the reference to “House of David” in the entire bible and there are 25 references. All of them refer to the kingly line of David. Jesus is from the “house of David” and that is a reference to his kingly heritage.I saw nothing in my search that gave me any hint at all that the term “house of David” would refer to the house of Ahaz. No, my friend, this one is pretty clear. The prophecy was not given to Ahaz because he refused to ask for one. The prophecy was given to the “house of David” and with the virgin birth of Jesus through the line of David, this prophecy was solely fulfilled in Jesus.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 24, 2007 at 3:06 pm


Steven,One other thing. Albert Barnes (bless his heart) says one other thing about Isaiah 7:2Isa 7:2 – And it was told the house of David – That is, the royal family; or the king and princes; the government. Ahaz was the descendant and successor of David.I like this kind of solid evidence. To me it is a slam dunk that God has bypassed Ahaz and taken the prophecy to the kingly line of David (House of David) and Ahaz never gets the benefit of seeing the actual sign.That is just like our Father God. When he is refused he does not push himself on a person. Ahaz will was done. He did not get a sign.



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Brianmpei

posted August 24, 2007 at 3:13 pm


Ben, can I have permission to reformat this and create a handout for our church? Giving you credit of course.



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Nick Norelli

posted August 24, 2007 at 3:15 pm


Cheryl, You said: “As one who came through a crisis of faith many years ago where I had to accept the word of God exactly as it is written or chuck the whole thing as a hopeless case of trying to find out what is inspired and what isn’t, I hate for anyone to set aside the inspiration of God’s word and accept their own reasoning in exchange.”My question is why present yourself with this false dilemma? Why does it have to be all or nothing? Could it be possible that *some* of the text is not inspired (such as Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11; 1John 5:7-8) and yet your faith remains strong because of the vast majority that is? I personally believe that when we scrutinize the text we will find *some* faults but we will be better for it because through honest investigation we will know what the problems are and what they mean to our faith. I think the more we move away from fundamentalist fideism the less likely we will be to have a crisis of faith when presented with problems in the text of Scripture. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that Bart Ehrman wouldn’t have become a ‘happy agnostic’ if he didn’t have such a rigid view on inspiration and inerrancy prior to studying at the advanced level. Just something to think about…_________________________Properly, You said: “Perhaps, it’s impossible to interpret scripture purely on scriptural grounds. What say ya’l?”I say, here here! I am a firm believer that the largest contributor to misunderstanding the Bible is the tendency to force 21st century Western ideas in to Near Eastern/Mediterranean/Greco-Roman texts of the ancient world. We are a low context culture and as such we need everything spelled out for us in plain chapter and verse. We then take this to the Scriptures and assume that everything is already there so there’s no need to dig further. But the cultures of the Bible were high context and took many things for granted. There were shared assumptions/presuppositions that did not need to be spelled out explicitly in the text because these things were foundational to the culture. This is a large part of the reason that I respect scholars such as BW3 so much — he’s not afraid to step out of the text itself and into the culture to find out how the text was understood by the original audience and why. We should all approach the Scriptures in such a way with reverence and respect.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 24, 2007 at 3:49 pm


Cheryl wrote: I saw nothing in my search that gave me any hint at all that the term “house of David” would refer to the house of Ahaz. You’re overlooking the obvious. The Hebrew term “house” (bayith) is often used to refer to a “family” including dependent relatives. And according to Matthew (1:6-9), Ahaz was indeed a descendant of David.A word study is quite useless if one ignores what the words themselves mean. Social units which were smaller than the tribe, but larger than a single family were also called bayith. And if the ancestor after whom the house was named was a king, the term bayith could be translated as “dynasty” (cf. Hoffner’s article on bayith in the TDOT).And that is what we have here at Isaiah 7:13, the “house of David” merely refers to David’s dynasty, and Ahaz and his family clearly belongs to that dynasty.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 24, 2007 at 3:51 pm


Nick,You said: “My question is why present yourself with this false dilemma? Why does it have to be all or nothing? Could it be possible that *some* of the text is not inspired (such as Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11; 1John 5:7-8) and yet your faith remains strong because of the vast majority that is?”Yes, these texts you bring up are not considered inspired because they are not in the oldest manuscripts. Textual criticism has given us the places that are interpolations and they are very few. That I have no problem with. It is passages that are no question that they are in the text, yet are hard to understand. For example the one that brought me to my knees was the fact that Jesus was in the tomb “three days and three nights” but tradition says that he was crucified on Friday.My problems were solved one day in 1986 when I was in Israel. The bible came alive to me and my trust in tradition was overridden by my trust in God and his Word. I now believe with all my heart that the inspired scriptures (not the interpolations) are written as they are for a reason. I may not understand the reason, but if I work hard at understanding each word and each inspired piece of grammar the meanings have become clear. That is a God-thing and my trust in YHWH God and his inspired word is steadfast and will not be moved.I hope that helps you to understand what I mean :)



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 24, 2007 at 3:57 pm


Steven,You said: “And that is what we have here at Isaiah 7:13, the “house of David” merely refers to David’s dynasty, and Ahaz and his family clearly belongs to that dynasty.”But you have forgotten one thing. Ahaz refused to ask for a sign, and if the sign WAS for him, scripture would have told us so. It would have been so easy. Instead God bypasses Ahaz and gives the sign to the “House of David”. I find no proof at all that Ahaz received the sign and the logical conclusion I get from the passage is that if you refuse God’s blessing you don’t get it. Remember Esau?Heb 12:16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. Heb 12:17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. Esau rejected God’s blessing and when he wanted it back, it wasn’t available. I don’t see anywhere in scripture where someone refused God’s blessing and then received it. If I am wrong, then I stand to be corrected.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 24, 2007 at 4:10 pm


Cheryl writes: But you have forgotten one thing. Ahaz refused to ask for a sign … Actually, I hadn’t (yet) forgotten that fact, having read and re-read this passage today. … and if the sign WAS for him, scripture would have told us so. Actually, it does, you just don’t accept it as such. … I find no proof at all that Ahaz received the sign … I think we have established that fact. I will admit that the Isaiah passage isn’t as clear as one might hope, have you taken a look at the messages dealing with Mt 2:14-15 & Hosea 11:1-2? In my opinion, this is a clearer example.



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James Pate

posted August 24, 2007 at 4:15 pm


Cheryl, The sign was for Isaiah’s time. First of all, house of David in Isaiah 7 means Ahaz. Here is Isaiah 7:1-2 (note especially v 2):”And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it. 2 And it was told the HOUSE OF DAVID, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.”Second, v 16 relates the sign to the house of David to events in Isaiah’s time. Note:”16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.”Who are the kings? Presumably the ones mentioned in v 1.



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Brian

posted August 24, 2007 at 5:13 pm


Thanks for the post Dr. Ben. If one wished to pursue the matter further what books might you suggest one consider reading to further understand hermenutical issues? (augmenting Fee and Stuart of course).



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 24, 2007 at 5:49 pm


Steven,You said: “I think we have established that fact. I will admit that the Isaiah passage isn’t as clear as one might hope, have you taken a look at the messages dealing with Mt 2:14-15 & Hosea 11:1-2? In my opinion, this is a clearer example.”The Hosea passage is very much like the Isaiah passage. There is a contrast between acceptance and rejection. In Hose 11:1 it says:Hos 11:1 When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. This is the acceptance and God says “him” and “MY son”. But the next verse there is a rejection and the grammar changes.Hos 11:2 The more they called them, The more they went from them; They kept sacrificing to the Baals And burning incense to idols. With the rejection is now “they” and “them”. Matthew 2:15 shows by inspiration that Hosea 11:1 is a prophecy of Jesus.Mat 2:15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.” But Hosea 11:2 could not possibly be about Jesus because it is a rejection. So while God shows favor on his son (the Messiah) his fleshly son (Israel) is experiencing rejection because they have disobeyed.In the same way we have a very distinct contrast in Isaiah 7. In verse 14 we have the one who is called “God with us” and that is indeed a blessing.Isa 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.Again Matthew shares this blessing in Matthew 1:21-23.Mat 1:21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Mat 1:22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: Mat 1:23 “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” And once again we have a divergence in the prophecy to show the result of disobedience and it is a rejection.Isa 7:16 “For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken. Isa 7:17 “The LORD will bring on you, on your people, and on your father’s house such days as have never come since the day that Ephraim separated from Judah, the king of Assyria.” Isa 7:18 In that day the LORD will whistle for the fly that is in the remotest part of the rivers of Egypt and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. Isa 7:19 They will all come and settle on the steep ravines, on the ledges of the cliffs, on all the thorn bushes and on all the watering places. Isa 7:20 In that day the Lord will shave with a razor, hired from regions beyond the Euphrates (that is, with the king of Assyria), the head and the hair of the legs; and it will also remove the beard. Isa 7:21 Now in that day a man may keep alive a heifer and a pair of sheep; Isa 7:22 and because of the abundance of the milk produced he will eat curds, for everyone that is left within the land will eat curds and honey. Isa 7:23 And it will come about in that day, that every place where there used to be a thousand vines, valued at a thousand shekels of silver, will become briars and thorns. So who is the boy of Isaiah 7:16? Remember that when Isaiah came to talk to Ahaz he brought his young son with him.Isa 7:3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway to the fuller’s field, Isaiah’s son’s name was Shear-jashub and God instructed Isaiah to bring him for a very good reason. The reason is that he was to become an object lesson to Ahaz. Shear-jashub means a remnant will return. The blessing was rejected by Ahaz and Ahaz was given the judgment that followed. One child brought the blessing (the virgin born Messiah) and Shear-jashub was an object lesson for Ahaz and Israel’s rejection. He hadn’t asked for a sign for God’s blessing. But God gave him a sign for God’s rejection. Isaiah’s son stood before them. Although before that boy was old enough to decide between good and evil the enemies who were coming before Ahaz would have their land forsaken, Israel too would be judged.Isaiah’s other son was also used as a sign of judgment:Isa 8:3 So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz; Isa 8:4 for before the boy knows how to cry out ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.” Both of Isaiah’s sons were used of God to signal a rejection of Israel and when God brought the first son before Ahaz, he was the son who was being talked about in Is. 7:16.Does this make sense? It is all about blessing and rejection. God often puts the two together and asks us to choose.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 24, 2007 at 5:56 pm


James Pate,Sorry I said Steven in my last post and I was actually responding to you.You also said: “16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.”Who are the kings? Presumably the ones mentioned in v 1.”The kings who are mentioned in verse 16 are indeed the enemy kings mentioned in verse 1. However your statement that the “House of David” refers only to Ahaz cannot be correct. Check every other reference to “House of David” in scripture and you will see that it refers to the kingly line of David. Scripture never refers to just one of the kings in that line.



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D. Lynn

posted August 24, 2007 at 6:23 pm


Do classical Greek works like Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato have the same kind of textual variants as the NT? Thanks



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Greg Anderson

posted August 24, 2007 at 7:09 pm


Quite a great deal of wrangling here. Almost like a gaggle of geneticists arguing over where the genome sequence twixt a chimpanzee and a human differs and on what polypeptide chain. Notwithstanding, I must agree with Cheryl. If we don’t have a virgin birth, that is one sans human male gamete(s), then Jesus’ blood is of no efficacy and we have indeed followed cunningly devised fables.



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yuckabuck

posted August 24, 2007 at 7:53 pm


Re: “House of David” vs. Ahaz(One more time, with feeling..)As I said in an earlier comment above, it is wrong to separate Ahaz from the House of David. (It is also wrong to say that house of David means Ahaz and nothing more.) Both are examples of taking the Scriptures out of context.The Jews of Isaiah’s time (and Jesus’) were not part of a fiercly individualistic culture like we are. They did not merely see people as distinct individuals, but as part of larger corporate groups. They did not have the problems we do with God “punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation” (Ex 20:5). Remember, this exchange between Isaiah and Ahaz even occurs before the message of Ezekiel 18 (where it is only “The soul who sins is the one who will die.”)Ahaz was seen as the current representative of the House of David, and he was also therefore the representative for the whole nation of Judah. When he sins, it affects the house of David, past and present, as well as the whole nation. You can see this clearly in Isaiah 7:12-13, where the whole “House of David” is castigated by Isaiah for something only Ahaz did. The whole house bears guilt because of his actions.Conversly, when the prophecy is given to the house of David, that includes Ahax as well. The phrase “House of David” does not exclude Ahaz, but it does not merely equal him either, as Cheryl’s listing of verses from Scriptures written during times when someone other than Ahaz was ruling amply show.When taking the context of a Scripture into account, we must go farther than only looking at the literary context, ie. seeing how a sentence fits within the paragraph or within a chapter. Among other things (genre, linguistic usage, inter texuality, etc), we must also look at the CULTURAL CONTEXT. When God inspired Isaiah to prophecy, He did not suddenly change Isaiah into a modern American who sees everyone individualistic terms, only to have Isaiah revert back to his native worldview once the prophecy ended. When we ignore the cultural context of what was written, we have taken the Scriptures OUT of context.(I am not criticisizing our culture. But to understand Scripture, we must take off our own cultural blinders that make us miss what God was saying through Isaiah.)Does this make it harder to interpret the Scriptures? Yeah, but that’s why God gives people like Dr. Ben gifts of knowledge to understand the cultural context, and gifts of teaching to explicate it to us, who would otherwise be missing the boat. (When Jesus promised in John 16:13 to lead “YOU” into all truth,” the YOU is plural,meaning all of us together. NO ONE is sufficient in themselves to understand everything in Scripture on their own. God set it up so we would have to learn from others. Even seminary professors.)



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James Pate

posted August 24, 2007 at 7:55 pm


Cheryl,Thanks for your response. What I was saying about house of David was that it refers to Ahaz in Isaiah 7. When news was brought to the house of David in v 2, does that mean that every Davidic descendant throughout all time was told? No, it means that Ahaz was. I appreciate your attempt to reconcile the traditional Christian interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 (the verse as a prophecy about Jesus) with a contextual reading of the verse. But I have problems with seeing two children in Isaiah 7. After Isaiah 7:14 says that an almah will bear a son, v 15 says that he shall eat butter and honey that he may know to choose the good and refuse the evil. Why would the person in v 15 be someone other than the person in v 14? In v 16, the same child is discussed, for it says that, before the child is able to choose good and refuse evil (which is said about the child in v 15), the two kings will be destroyed. And that is the sign: a child will be born whose life will relate to the destiny of the king of Syria and the king of Israel.One question I have: How was the virgin birth a sign to the house of David, assuming your interpretation of the house of David? A sign of what? What is the sign intended to convey to that specific house (you may have touched on this somewhat in your statement about blessing, but something seems to be missing)?



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Ryan

posted August 25, 2007 at 1:17 am


Hi Chuck,you said… “Remember, this exchange between Isaiah and Ahaz even occurs before the message of Ezekiel 18 (where it is only “The soul who sins is the one who will die.”)“Indeed, but Ezekiel was only reiterating the law of Moses: “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deut 24:16).you said… “Ahaz was seen as the current representative of the House of David, and he was also therefore the representative for the whole nation of Judah. When he sins, it affects the house of David, past and present, as well as the whole nation.“You seem to be forgetting the idea that “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (Rom 9:6). This is precisely the point that Cheryl was making concerning Hosea 11:2. In the same way, because Ahaz has rejected the word of the Lord, and does not put his trust in Him, he removes himself from the true house of David who are the recipients of the promised Messiah.you said… “When [Ahaz] sins, it affects the house of David, past and present, as well as the whole nation.“Are you saying that Ahaz’ sin is attributed back to David (who is dead)?you said… “You can see this clearly in Isaiah 7:12-13, where the whole “House of David” is castigated by Isaiah for something only Ahaz did. The whole house bears guilt because of his actions.“It is not as you think. Though all Israel may suffer because of the king’s sins (and Ahaz’ were many), God follows His own laws as referred to in Deut 24:16. Remember Lot? God would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if there were even 10 righteous that remained in the city, and He was merciful towards Lot and his family. The sins of the people Israel meant that even Joshua and Caleb (who were righteous in God’s sight) had to endure 40 years in the wilderness, yet of the original numbered men over 20, they alone remained to enter the promised land (Num 14:28-31).So although God’s judgement was to come upon all Israel, He spared His remnant who were truly of Israel; even so, the true house of David consists of those who followed in David’s ways.you said… “When taking the context of a Scripture into account, we must go farther than only looking at the literary context, ie. seeing how a sentence fits within the paragraph or within a chapter.“Absolutely. And that is where the general context of scripture comes into play as well as the historical account of what is happening and how God has worked in the past. One of God’s characteristics is that He doesn’t change; so if we know how He operates, we can expect Him to be consistent. In addition, however, we know that the grammar is inspired because the Holy Spirit doesn’t need help with His grammar; He doesn’t need someone to teach Him how to speak accurately. If we truly believe in the inspiration of scriptures, that God is ultimately the author of scripture, then we can take the texts (after textual criticism to find the earliest and most reliable manuscripts) and find clues that help us know for certain what the meaning of a text is, and whether it leaves itself open to multivalence. And, taking the text seriously down to the very letters and grammar is not Bibliolatry. Jesus Himself forms one argument from the inspired tense of one word “I am“:Mar 12:24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? Mar 12:25 “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Mar 12:26 “But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, and the God of Jacob’? Mar 12:27 “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken.”About your comments on cultural context, I don’t think the cultural context behind Isaiah 7 is being ignored here.you said… “(When Jesus promised in John 16:13 to lead “YOU” into all truth,” the YOU is plural,meaning all of us together. NO ONE is sufficient in themselves to understand everything in Scripture on their own. God set it up so we would have to learn from others. Even seminary professors.)“What I am hearing from you is that it is important to listen to what others are saying and to consider it. Indeed, the Bereans were commended for they “received the word with great eagerness” in addition to “examinging the Scriptures [Old Testament] daily to see whether these things were so”. However, we are not to put our trust in any person (no matter how well educated), nor in a group of people (there are many groups of people who have fallen as one into error — ie. the cults), nor even in angels; our trust must be in God alone and the sword of the Spirit, His Word, is the final arbiter of all truth. Those that know God have been given of His Spirit, and if we listen to Him, He will teach us. Consider this: “It is written in the prophets, ‘and they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me” (John 6:45). How does one hear and learn from the Father? The scripture also says in Matt 23:8-9:”But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”Do we not hear from the Father through meditating on His Word and seeking first and foremost to know the truth? I trust that this is what we all desire. Our striving with one another should be to sharpen each other in our understanding of the Word…for we are all to be brothers under the One God.



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Ryan

posted August 25, 2007 at 1:47 am


Hi James,you said…”What I was saying about house of David was that it refers to Ahaz in Isaiah 7. When news was brought to the house of David in v 2, does that mean that every Davidic descendant throughout all time was told? No, it means that Ahaz was.“You forget that the prophet wrote God’s word down! Therefore, those who would come after could know the sign that was given and it would confirm the fulfillment of the promise.you said…”But I have problems with seeing two children in Isaiah 7. After Isaiah 7:14 says that an almah will bear a son, v 15 says that he shall eat butter and honey that he may know to choose the good and refuse the evil. Why would the person in v 15 be someone other than the person in v 14? In v 16, the same child is discussed, for it says that, before the child is able to choose good and refuse evil (which is said about the child in v 15), the two kings will be destroyed.“In verse 15 it says “he will eat” and “he knows” (second person), so why then does the prophet use the words “the boy” in verse 16 instead of “he”? Secondly, why did God specifically request that Isaiah was to bring his son Shear-jashub (remnant shall return) with him to speak to king Ahaz? Why was this necessary if he was not referred to as part of the sign? Clearly he wasn’t referring to Shear-jashub in verse 14. Again, the grammer is aiding us here. How do you fit Shear-jasub into the picture unless he is being referred to? Think of Isaiah turning to his son and placing his hand on his head when he says, “For before the boy…”you said…”How was the virgin birth a sign to the house of David, assuming your interpretation of the house of David? A sign of what? What is the sign intended to convey to that specific house (you may have touched on this somewhat in your statement about blessing, but something seems to be missing)?“The sign was to confirm that God would protect those that trust in Him. The prediction was that the current seige “shall not stand nor shall it come to pass” and that Ephraim will be shattered within another 65 years (after Ahaz passed away). It was a sign to have faith: to “take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted.” The sign to the house of David was that if the near term prophecies come to pass, they could put their trust on the long term prophecy on Immanuel, a child who will be God with us.God bless,Ryan



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Ryan

posted August 25, 2007 at 2:11 am


Hi again, James!This is from a post already quite a while ago…you said…”This is a response to what you said to Chuck about whether or not the Jews of Jesus’ day had Messianic expectations that coincided with Jesus. Reading the Gospels, it seems to me that they did not.“Then how do you explain Simeon who was “looking for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25), or more specifically for the Messiah? Later this text also says that Anna the prophet “continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” There were many waiting for it to happen…why? In what I would consider a parallel setting, why was Daniel praying for the return of the exiles from Babylon? Was it not because he had read Jeremiah who prophecied that they would return after 70 years (see Dan 9:2)? So at the proper time, he began to pray. Daniel prophecied in Dan 9:25-26 that the Messiah will be cut off with the precise year and month of the death of Christ. If the prophets knew of this prophecy and the nearness of its fulfillment, wouldn’t this also be why they were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem?You may well be correct that most were not aware of all the prophecies, but it would make a lot of sense that if they were looking for Him that they would be studying the prophets to see what the signs would be. As Peter says, “…the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” (1 Pet 1:11). Indeed, this was after the fact that Peter says this, but it shows that the prophets made careful searches and inquiries in order to know these things. Perhaps Phillip was not included here, but certainly Simeon and Anna and others were.I will agree with you, though, that the understanding they had before was not the same as it was after He suffered, died and rose again.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 25, 2007 at 8:19 am


d.lynn asked: Do classical Greek works like Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato have the same kind of textual variants as the NT? Thanks Yes and no. Every work which is hand copied over and over again (such as most texts dated before the 16th century) would have textual variants. That is the nature of creating manuscripts. But for many classical Greek texts, we have only a handful of copies and that would limit the number of textual variants. Indeed, there are some Greek texts for which we have only one manuscript and so we don’t have any existing textual variants. But if you turned to a critical edition of most popular Greek works, you will find textual variants listed at the bottom of the page.Because the New Testament was so popular it was also copied more often. On the one hand, this creates more textual variants, but on the other hand, it also insures us that we have a fairly reliable text, much more reliable than most ancient Greek texts.



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yuckabuck

posted August 25, 2007 at 10:07 am


Ryan, Ahh, as expected- “if someone doesn’t accept my interpretation, then they don’t fully believe in the inspiration of Scripture, or they think God has changed!” (The theological equivalent of threatening to take my ball home if you won’t play by my rules.) I really don’t know why you have embarked on your crusade, but I’m done with this. You refuse to truly listen to anyone else’s points, you accuse everyone else of bad argumentation, and then you continually use the same arguments that do not make sense themselves.For instance,Nowhere in Luke (or the rest of the Bible) does it say that Simeon was waiting to see the baby Jesus because Simeon knew that the Messiah would be supernaturally conceived of a virgin.Nowhere.To THIS DAY, the Jews still do not think Messiah will be anything more than a mere human being.They didn’t think it then, they still don’t think it now.Also, quoting Deut 24 or Romans 9 prove NOTHING about what my point was. I was not arguing that Israel should put a man’s children to death when he is convicted of a crime (Dt24), nor that everyone born a Jew by blood will find salvation (refuted by Romans 9). And yes, you are completely ignoring the cultural context of Isaiah 7. To offer an interpretation of House of David that goes against how the people living at the time would have understood it is a textbook example of ignoring the cultural context.You quote the story of Lot, but you ignore a verse like Jeremiah 49:12, where God says that sometimes those who don’t deserve to drink the cup of judgement actually experience it anyway.I could go on, but I sense that it would be foolish on my part. I happen to believe in the full inspiration of Scripture, whether you believe it or not. And I never said God wasn’t the same, yesterday, today, forever. I never said I put my trust in men rather than God. But all those verses you quote are in the plural, meaning that all the promises are not just to Ryan, but to the church. That is also why Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit to one another. Because sometimes God has not given me personally all the knowledge I need to fully understand (1 Cor 13:9-12), and I need God to meet my need through someone else in the body of Christ. To do that, I have to be willing to submit, to bend my pride, and to try to listen to what others are actually saying, instead of clinging to my myopic view of everything.Barring that attitude, I don’t really see a need to discuss with someone an issue when their whole reason for being here is just to convince everyone else of the rightness of their own views. This is the last day of my vacation, and I am going to spend it with my family. Bye now.May God bless you!Chuck



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 25, 2007 at 10:27 am


Ryan wrote: One of God’s characteristics is that He doesn’t change; so if we know how He operates, we can expect Him to be consistent. We must be reading two different Bibles, for as I read the Bible, God does not appear to be consistent. Take a little thing like eating a beer brat (with pork sausage). Now that is one of my favorite things to eat, especially one right off the grill. A brat in one hand, and a beer in the other, that has to be almost heaven. Now in my Bible he told the Jews not to eat pork sausage, and many are still to this day kosher. The mind of God appears to have changed on this issue and many others … at least as I read the Bible.Ryan added: In addition, however, we know that the grammar is inspired because the Holy Spirit doesn’t need help with His grammar; He doesn’t need someone to teach Him how to speak accurately. The book of Revelation (in Greek) has a number of solecism which would appear to refute your point. John made so many grammatical mistakes that it would be hard for me to believe that anyone who has read Revelation in Greek could make the statement you just did.



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James Pate

posted August 25, 2007 at 12:30 pm


Hi Ryan. Thanks for your response. I know you have a lot of posts to address, but I’ll add mine to the fray for when you have the time (no hurry). 1. First of all, Simeon, Anna, and company. I do not deny that the Jews of Jesus’ day expected a Messiah. I’m just saying that most of them (even the disciples) did not expect a Davidic Messiah who would die. There may be some exceptions. Simeon predicted that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart, and John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (though he later questioned Jesus’ Messianic credentials as he languished in prison). These people may have had spiritual insight that others lacked. Anna, after all, was a prophetess. But, overall, many Jews of Jesus’ day expected a Messiah who would do the things that Zechariah mentioned early in Luke: restore Israel and defeat her enemies.2. Isaiah 7: Why did Isaiah bring Shearjashub? Probably because his name was Shearjashub (“a remnant will return”), and Isaiah wanted to communicate to Ahaz that a remnant would return. I still have difficulty seeing the person of Isaiah 7:16 as different from the person in vv 14-15. One reason is that v 16 has a similar theme to v 15, namely, knowing the good and refusing the evil. Second, v 16 is connected to the previous verse by the conjunction “ki” (“for”). Third, when did Jesus eat butter and honey? He may have in the sense that all of us do, but that was never a defining aspect of his ministry. Moreover, Isaiah 7 presents a time when butter and honey will be the staple of all of the land of Judah, and that is when Assyria invades (v 22).3. My point on the House of David is that we should look at how it is used in Isaiah 7: It is used to refer to Ahaz, who at that time was the representative of the House of David. You are correct that the prophet recorded these events, and that may be because he knew that they had further significance, or that the events taught a lesson about trust in God.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 25, 2007 at 3:04 pm


Cheryl writes: Check every other reference to “House of David” in scripture and you will see that it refers to the kingly line of David. Scripture never refers to just one of the kings in that line. You keep repeating this line while ignoring the simple fact that Ahaz was “the kingly line of David” at that time. The issue under discussion is whether the Hebrew phrase translated as “House of David” at Isaiah 7:14 refers to the then contemporary “House of David” (namely Ahaz and his court) or to some future “House of David.” Checking other references of this phrase cannot necessarily tell you how Isaiah used it here in this passage.The scholars I’ve consulted on this issue think that it refers to Ahaz and his court. You obviously disagree. I doubt there is anyway to prove the issue one way or the other.



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Jeremiah Duomai

posted August 25, 2007 at 3:15 pm


Dr.Ben, I have heard people say that there was no systematic persecution of Christians in the first century. Yet I read again and again that Revelation was written to the persecuted Christians. I wonder how one can reconcile the two. I am also wondering that if the titles like “Kyrios” and “Sotere” are emperial rhetoric is it possible that the Caesar Cult started persecuting the Christians early? By the time the evangelists and Paul write their books. That may then suggest that Revelation was written before 70 AD.



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Greg Anderson

posted August 25, 2007 at 5:55 pm


Dr. Witherington, Having followed with great enthusiasm the many posts here with regards to the Septuagint, I am intrigued with your reply to Cheryl concerning her view of the text itself. You state that it was “very possible” the text was messed with by Christian scribes in the 2nd century to establish Christological veracity. Still others will maintain that the “noodling” was done as a scholastic reaction by the Jews to confute the Christian claim of Jesus as Messiah. In my line of endeavour, “very possible” is considered to be conjecture whilst rigorous data is admissible. So which is it? In closing, I’ll use the same query Salieri put to Mozart in the film Amadeus: “Being a foreigner, I’d love to learn”…



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Ryan

posted August 25, 2007 at 6:36 pm


Hi James,Thanks for your response. I agree with your first point. There were some who understood the scriptures, but many did not. Matthew 13:17 tells us, “For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” The reason that seems to be given is that many had departed from the way of righteousness, placing themselves outside of the kingdom without understanding unless they repent (ref. Matt 13:11-17, Mark 4:12, John 8:42-45). Nevertheless, Jesus rebuked them for their lack of knowledge of the scriptures:Luk 24:25-27 “And He said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, we read (Luke 16:29-31): “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”You are correct; many expected the Messiah to restore Israel and defeat her enemies — and indeed, He will come in this way, but they neglected the scriptures that said that He would come first in the form of a servant to suffer and die. Yet, not all did; there was and will always be (by God’s grace) a faithful remnant).Concerning your second point, you said…”Isaiah 7: Why did Isaiah bring Shearjashub? Probably because his name was Shearjashub (“a remnant will return”), and Isaiah wanted to communicate to Ahaz that a remnant would return.“I agree, though it wasn’t just Ahaz and it wasn’t Isaiah’s intent (after all, God told him to bring his son).You said…”I still have difficulty seeing the person of Isaiah 7:16 as different from the person in vv 14-15. One reason is that v 16 has a similar theme to v 15, namely, knowing the good and refusing the evil. Second, v 16 is connected to the previous verse by the conjunction “ki” (“for”). Third, when did Jesus eat butter and honey? He may have in the sense that all of us do, but that was never a defining aspect of his ministry. Moreover, Isaiah 7 presents a time when butter and honey will be the staple of all of the land of Judah, and that is when Assyria invades (v 22).“I agree that vv 15-16 seem connected. I can offer a couple of possibilities:1. Hebrew ki doesn’t only mean “for”; it can also mean “nevertheless.” Do you have legitimate grounds for rejecting this alternate conjunction? 2. Though we are not explicitly told, perhaps Jesus ate curds and honey between the age of 2 and when he returned to Nazareth from Egypt. The LXX says “before he knows…he shall eat” (instead of when, or at the time).3. Another possibility is that vv 15-16 both refer to Shear-jashub, and v22 does seem to tie in with v15… though I am still not convinced of this. I am thinking that for Joseph, Mary and Jesus, the exit to (before Jesus was 2) and return from Egypt were in haste, it is thus likely that this is when He ate curds and honey, though we are not expressly told this in scripture. It seems reasonable, though, wouldn’t you agree? Perhaps what is really at play here and which makes for our confusion is that a parallel is being drawn between Immanuel’s exodus to Egypt and Shear-jashub’s exodus, yet both will return, both will eat curds and honey. We know there are two separate children spoken of in vv14-16 because Shear-jashub was already a child and Immanuel was prophesied to be born.Concerning your third point commenting on the house of David, indeed, v13 shows Isaiah rebuking the house of David of whom Ahaz was the living representative of. However, by speaking to the house of David instead of Ahaz directly, was not God showing that the sign was to the house in a larger context? Heavy casualties were inflicted on the house of David and Judah and they were delivered into the hands of Aram and Damascus (2 Chron 28:5), but ultimately a remnant will return. Likewise, heavy casualties were suffered in Israel in the time of Christ; all children under 2 were killed and Jesus’ family went into exhile to Egypt, but He too returned.



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Ryan

posted August 25, 2007 at 6:56 pm


Steven,My comment about the unchangeableness of God was concerning His character. The dietary laws certainly had an aspect of health in them, but I believe that they were primarily to teach Israel how God desires them to listen and act. Pigs don’t ‘chew the cud,’ which depicts a person who receives a word without thinking carefully about it. God wants us to consider His words carefully, to meditate on them. Yet, there is no point in merely being a hearer of the word if you are not a doer, thus the divided hooves. If you are like a rabbit, not fully divided from the ways of the pagans, but continue to have union with darkness, then your hearing does you no good. The sacrificial rules were required to remind them of the coming reality which was in Christ and to place their trust in it, but Hebrews tells us that they could not remove sin — it was a temporary covering. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, many things which were foreshadows became fulfilled and sanctified in Christ; amongst other things, this included the dietary distinctions, physical circumcision (which always was to include circumcision of heart along with the physical sign) and the sacrificial laws. This doesn’t show inconsistency in God’s character at all, but shows that He has a sovereign plan intended to communicate deep meaning to us and reinforce His desires.It was said that man does not live on bread alone. Indeed, this was the case before the dietary laws came into effect and is still the case today. The Kingdom of God is not now nor ever was a matter of food and drink; it was always about hearing and obeying. The more I learn, the more I see the consistency in God’s plan from the beginning of time.I am not knowledgeable concerning your comments on John’s grammar in Revelation. You’ll have to give me some specific examples for me to consider if you want to take this thought further.BTW, pass the bratworst (definitely one of my favorite also)!



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Ryan

posted August 25, 2007 at 7:18 pm


Chuck,I’m not quite sure how to respond to your last post… It seems that you are on your own crusade against someone who loves scripture and is very certain in what he believes. If I find scriptural objection with something you say, you seem to take it personally as though I am not listening to you. But why resort to ad hominem? I do apologize if I have unnecessarily offended you or others; I assure you, my intent was not to do so.you said…”That is also why Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit to one another. Because sometimes God has not given me personally all the knowledge I need to fully understand (1 Cor 13:9-12), and I need God to meet my need through someone else in the body of Christ. To do that, I have to be willing to submit, to bend my pride, and to try to listen to what others are actually saying, instead of clinging to my myopic view of everything.“Absolutely. God has gifted each in the body to serve one another. However, He has not setup people to become my infallible guides; I am always to listen a discerning heart, comparing what I am told with scripture. since I (and all who are in the body) have the same Spirit, we are able to judge all things (1 Cor 2:13-16). I don’t just blindly accept what others are saying, but that doesn’t therefore imply that I am not listening or am just clinging to a myopic view of everything.you said…”Barring that attitude, I don’t really see a need to discuss with someone an issue when their whole reason for being here is just to convince everyone else of the rightness of their own views. This is the last day of my vacation, and I am going to spend it with my family. Bye now.“If I think I am right, it only makes sense that I try to convince others of my views. In fact, isn’t it true you think you are right also…and this is why you are trying to convince me of your views? I suppose you won’t read this anyways, but I sincerely hope you enjoyed the remainder of your vacation with your family and had time to rest.God bless,Ryan



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 25, 2007 at 8:03 pm


Earlier, Ryan wrote: … we know that the grammar is inspired because the Holy Spirit doesn’t need help with His grammar; He doesn’t need someone to teach Him how to speak accurately. The book of Revelation (in Greek) has a number of solecism which would appear to refute your point. I will present just four examples, many more could be given.(1) “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev 1:4b NRSV). The Greek phrase translated as “him who is and who was and who is to come” is in the nominative case, it should be in the genitive case.(2) “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev 1:5 NRSV). In the Greek text, the Greek for “Jesus Christ” is in the genitive case, and so the Greek for “the faithful witness,” “the firstborn,” and “the ruler” should also be in the genitive case, but John puts them in the nominative case.(3) “you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet” (Rev 2:20 NRSV). The Greek for “who calls” is in the wrong case.(4) “Then I saw … a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns …” (Rev 5:6). The Greek participle translated as “having” has both the wrong gender and the wrong case.A. T. Robertson, in his “A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research” (1934), writes: “But the point of difficulty in the Revelation of John is not any one isolated discord in case or gender. It is rather the great number of such violations of concord that attracts attention” (414).And James Hope Moulton, in his “A Grammar of New Testament Greek” (1908), writes: “The author’s [John’s] uncertain use of cases is obvious to the most casual reader. … We find him perpetually indifferent to concord. But the less educated papyri give us plentiful parallels …” (9).Furthermore, the human (!!) authors of scripture have different writings styles, and their grammar is not alway perfect, John’s Revelation is only the worst example. I misspell words and write ungrammatical sentences all the time, but then I don’t claim that my posts have been proof-read by God. The book of Revelation does not appear to have been proof-read by God either. John could have used a good proof-reader.



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Ryan

posted August 25, 2007 at 8:20 pm


Hi Steven,Thanks for the information. I will need a little time to consider it. But I do have a few follow-on questions: John wrote other books, one being the gospel of John and also the 3 epistles so named. Do these also show the same characteristics you noted in Revelation? Is there any evidence to show that in the order they were written that the grammar got noticeably worse?Also, of the textual variants for the book of Revelation, do they differ in these examples you have given, particularly in the grammer (whether or not it had been corrected/corrupted, or whatever might have been the case)?Thanks,Ryan



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 25, 2007 at 8:41 pm


Ryan asks: John wrote other books, one being the gospel of John and also the 3 epistles so named. Do these also show the same characteristics you noted in Revelation? While the early Christian tradition held that John, John, and John were the same person, modern scholarship does not concur. But in regards to the many solecisms one finds in Revelation, they are not found in the Gospel of John, nor in the letters of John.As for textual variants, it appears that some scribes attempted to correct some of John’s solecisms, but not all (I’m using the 27th edition of Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece).



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James Pate

posted August 25, 2007 at 11:52 pm


Hi Ryan, As I was reading your last comments to me, my thought was, “If Isaiah wanted to say what Ryan, Cheryl, and many other Christians say that he was saying, couldn’t he have been more explicit?” There are many things in Isaiah 7 that the prophet does not say. He does not mention that the son of Isaiah 7:14 will be the Messiah. He does not explicitly contrast the blessing that Immanuel will bring with the curse that Ahaz brought upon himself. He does not explicitly say that both Immanuel and Shearjashub will eat curds and honey. If he wanted to convey this message to Ahaz, couldn’t he have been more explicit?I want to bring up a grammatical point, and I invite anyone with a more knowledge of Hebrew to correct me if I am wrong. In Isaiah 7:14, the grammar seems to indicate that things are in the present tense. “An almah [is] pregnant (harah) and gives birth (yoledet) to a son.” Yoledet is a participle, which is often present tense, whereas the perfect is past and the imperfect is future. Now, I am not going to stake my life on this, since there are times when a participle can indicate the past, for there are passages where the participle is used for God bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt long after God had done so (as if God is the BRINGER of them out of Egypt–that can be another use of the participle), and I have not done a search to see if a participle can refer to the future, or rather, the far future. That’s where I hope someone can help me out. Maybe someone has memorized Waltke O Connor or Gesenius.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 26, 2007 at 8:43 am


James writes: In Isaiah 7:14, the grammar seems to indicate that things are in the present tense. “An almah [is] pregnant (harah) and gives birth (yoledet) to a son.” Yoledet is a participle, which is often present tense, whereas the perfect is past and the imperfect is future. And then he adds: I have not done a search to see if a participle can refer to the future, or rather, the far future. That’s where I hope someone can help me out. I would like to help you out with my vast knowledge of Hebrew grammar, I did get an “A” in a post-grad course in advanced Hebrew, but that was 20 years ago, and I think they gave an “A” to every student who showed up. (grin)But perhaps I can help you out with my vast knowledge of human biology, since I have two children (tongue firmly in cheek). Normally births happen subsequent to pregnancies. Thus if the women is presently pregnant, then the birth will be clearly in the future, whether it will be the near future or far future, only her obstetrician might know for sure.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 26, 2007 at 12:41 pm


Ryan wrote: After Jesus’ death and resurrection, many things which were foreshadows became fulfilled and sanctified in Christ; amongst other things, this included the dietary distinctions, physical circumcision (which always was to include circumcision of heart along with the physical sign) and the sacrificial laws. This doesn’t show inconsistency in God’s character at all, but shows that He has a sovereign plan … I’ve been hesitant to follow up on this point, wondering what would be the right way to approach this problem. But now I think I’ll take a stab at it.The problem as I see it is that the commandments in Hebrew scripture never claimed that they were temporary. You claim they were temporary, but they don’t! If you read, for example Leviticus 26, the author does not say: “You must follow all these commandments, until Jesus is crucified, and then after that you may pick and choose which of these commandments you would like to follow.” Rather, the author makes it clear that one was expected to follow all of these commandments. No exceptions were given.As for circumcision, Genesis speaks of it as “an everlasting covenant,” whereas you speak of it as a temporary covenant.What about the commandment to keep the sabbath holy (Exodus 20:8ff)? Most Christians seem to believe that keeping the sabbath holy means to go to church on Sunday. Whereas Hebrew scripture makes it clear that to keep the sabbath holy means to cease work from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.And what about the brats you and I enjoy so much? According to Hebrew scripture, eating brats is wrong. Leviticus never states that it is only wrong to eat (pork sausage) brats before Jesus is crucified, and after that it will be okay. Leviticus merely states that it is wrong.Earlier you wrote: One of God’s characteristics is that He doesn’t change; so if we know how He operates, we can expect Him to be consistent.God’s commandments do not appear to be consistent. For example, look at Numbers 15:32ff. God commands that a man is put to death. What was his crime? He did yard work on a Saturday! Have you ever done yard work on a Saturday? Do you really believe that a person should be put to death merely for picking up some sticks?



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James Pate

posted August 26, 2007 at 1:24 pm


Yeah Steven, you got me there! :D That is common-sense biology! But I wonder if bearing can ever be a process rather than a single event.What you say about the perpetuity of the law is interesting, and the issue has troubled me. I’m not too hung up on the issue of whether or not Christians can eat brats, since Jewish interpretation seemed to have held that Gentiles did not have to observe those laws in the first place. What troubles me is that there are places where the Levitical or Aaronide priesthood (or something associated with it) is said to be perpetual, whereas the Epistle to the Hebrews appears to say differently.This issue gets thornier. Some Christians argue that perpetuity of forever in the Bible do not always mean forever and ever. In saying that, they play right into the hands of Christian universalists who deny eternal punishment or torment.



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Amanda

posted August 26, 2007 at 6:22 pm


James,you wrote:’Some Christians argue that perpetuity of forever in the Bible do not always mean forever and ever.’The problem is that the word translated ‘eternal’ in ‘eternal covenant’ doesn’t always have that sense. It is the word used when Hannah says that Samuel will live in Shiloh ‘always’. If you insist on it meaning forever and ever then Samuel should still be there.Another way to come at the problem of the ‘eternal covenant’ and other such descriptions of laws and statutes is to ask these questions: Could it mean that for person who enters into this covenant it will be, as far as they are concerned, unending?OrCould it be a way of emphasing that God can be trusted to keep his promises that the covenant contain; he’s not going to change his mind and reject the people who have entered this covenant.Given that the laws given to Israel were kept as a response to being in the Mosaic covenant there is no reason to think they apply to us, unless the NT shows us otherwise.



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Nick Norelli

posted August 26, 2007 at 6:46 pm


James, Perhaps this note from Michael L. Brown’s Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol. 3 will help to answer your grammatical question:”…a predicate adjective and/or participle derives its tense from the surrounding verbal context, and in this verse [Is. 7:14], that context seems to be future (the Lord will give you a sign). See further hans Wildberger, Isaiah 1-12, trans. Thomas H. Trapp (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), 286, n. 14d, where Wildberger notes, “Whether the participle is to be translated in a present or a future sense can be determined only on the basis of a full treatment of the entire section” (referring to the Septuagint and other Greek recensions)… [M.L. Brown. Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol. 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections, (Baker, 2003), 199, n31.]So I guess your answer goes back to something Dr. Witherington said in the original post… “Context is KING”



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James Pate

posted August 26, 2007 at 8:54 pm


I’ll have to think some about what you say, Amanda. Sure, Samuel did not dwell in Shiloh forever, as in up to this day, the same way that the slave who chose to stay with his master in the Torah did not do so. But they did so forever in the sense that the situation lasted for the rest of their lives (but then again I do not know if Shiloh was destroyed in the time of Samuel).You ask if forever can mean that God will not change his mind and reject those who entered his covenant. How is this different from the conventional understanding of forever–the one that sees it as without end? If God does not change his mind and reject the people of his covenant, does that not imply that the covenant is perpetual? In addition, perpetuity does not only apply to God’s end of the bargain, but to Israel’s as well. Certain ordinances are said to be perpetual.To Nick, thank you for the Michael Brown reference. I have his books, and I find them useful (though, unfortunately, I have not yet read all of them cover to cover). Does he really rule out the pregnancy being present, however? The sign that the LORD WILL give may be that the child will reach a certain age after the Syro-Ephraimite alliance is destroyed. That is future, but does the birth have to be?



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Nick Norelli

posted August 27, 2007 at 8:30 am


James, No, he doesn’t rule out that the pregnancy could have been present, at least not grammatically. I only quoted the section of the end note pertaining to determing present or future based on the verbal context but in the same note he says that grammatically either is possible and cites sources that say the same thing.I’d note that either way you choose to translate the participle הָרָה (either as ‘is pregnant’ or ‘will conceive’), the birth itself is still future. If you have Vol. 3 of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, check out pages 17-32 where he explains in detail why he feels Matthew’s interpretation of the passage was correct. Hope this helps…



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 27, 2007 at 8:52 am


James writes: What troubles me is that there are places where the Levitical or Aaronide priesthood (or something associated with it) is said to be perpetual, whereas the Epistle to the Hebrews appears to say differently.Of course the book of Hebrews has a different point of view, it is a Christian text. What most Christians fail to understand is that the Hebrew Bible was written without any help from Christian ideology.Genesis spoke of circumcision as “an everlasting covenant,” but Saint Paul thought circumcision would hinder his preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles and so he did away with that commandment.So Christians had to view Hebrew scripture in a new light, whereas Jews even today look upon the commandment of circumcision as a permanent fixture of their religious tradition, Christians had to re-interpret those commandments as being only temporary, only in force until Jesus’ crucifixion. But there is nothing in Hebrew scripture which claims that its commandments are only temporary.Isaiah 7:14 is not a prophecy about Mary giving birth to Jesus, but Matthew (1:22-25) re-interpreted that passage to be so.Hosea 11:1-2 is not a prophecy about the Holy family returning from Egypt, but Matthew (2:13-15) re-interpreted that passage to be so.



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James Pate

posted August 27, 2007 at 1:21 pm


Thanks for your response, Nick. I will take a look at the Michael Brown reference. Steven, I read above that you attend a church Bible study group, so I assume that you are a Christian. How do you, as a Christian, deal with the issues that you just mentioned (e.g., the OT offering a different perspective from the NT, the OT not being a prophecy about Jesus)?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 27, 2007 at 2:37 pm


James asks: Steven, I read above that you attend a church Bible study group, so I assume that you are a Christian. How do you, as a Christian, deal with the issues that you just mentioned (e.g., the OT offering a different perspective from the NT, the OT not being a prophecy about Jesus)?I am a Christian. While I was raised in a very conservative holiness church, my wife and I migrated over to the Lutheran church (ELCA) over 20 years ago.All Christians, both conservative and mainstream Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox, will generally claim something to the effect that absolute authority can be none other than God. Then, they will generally claim that God is manifest and knowable in Jesus Christ, and further that scripture tells us about Jesus. Most likely, we all agree on these points, but beyond this general agreement, there are significant confessional differences. From a (mainstream) Lutheran point of view, the authority of scripture is grounded in its witness to Christ. While I can accept the notion that the bible is inspired, I firmly reject the notion that it is “infallible.” I believe that the books of the bible should be interpreted from a historical perspective, each book taken on its own terms. Thus the Hebrew scriptures must be understood on their own terms, without reading later Christian theology back into earlier texts.The same is true for the New Testament. While I value my adopted Lutheran heritage, I don’t believe it fair to simply read (= re-interpret) the New Testament as if it was a Lutheran treaties. Even Paul is not always as Lutheran as we might have liked him to be.Scripture is still important, they are the foundational documents of our faith. God still speaks to us through them as we study and pray. They are read during our worship services and they are the basis for the preaching we hear from our pulpits.I hope I haven’t used “we” or “our” too often, nor do I mean to give you or anyone else offense by these statements. I’ve tried to express what I believe, I don’t expect others to necessarily share those beliefs.



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James Pate

posted August 27, 2007 at 3:13 pm


I appreciate your response, Steven.I hope that my next question will be clear. You said that Lutherans believe that the authority of Scripture is grounded in its witness to Christ. Is there a way to see the OT as a witness to Christ, while at the same time treating its writings on their own terms?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 27, 2007 at 4:05 pm


James asks, You said that Lutherans believe that the authority of Scripture is grounded in its witness to Christ. Is there a way to see the OT as a witness to Christ, while at the same time treating its writings on their own terms?I hate to speak for all (ELCA) Lutherans. In consulting my “Christian Dogmatics” edited by Braaten and Jenson (1984), I don’t see that they address that issue exactly (at least, I don’t remember it doing so).My former pastor and I used to meet once a week to translate the Greek New Testament and discuss theology. We did this for 20 years before he passed away. And so, most of my understanding of Lutheranism comes from him.The way I would put it would be that Hebrew scriptures helps gives us the context by which to understand the emergence of Christian and its witness to Jesus. In my opinion, it would be a historical anachronism to think that any author of Hebrew scripture knew anything about the historical Jesus, or Christian theology. In my opinion, that simply would not be possible.As I understand it, most conservative Christian churches tend to lump together their own theological perspectives, the early creeds (if any), and all the books of the Bible into one homogenized and harmonized doctrinal lump. With such an interpretation Jesus can be found in the pages of Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah, etc. as easily as he can be found within the gospels. With all due respect, and you and everyone else on this blog have presented thoughtful posts, but from my point of view, finding Jesus in Hebrew scripture appears to me to be more eisegesis than exegesis.



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Ryan

posted August 27, 2007 at 6:26 pm


Hi Steven,I have been busy so I haven’t responded to some other earlier posts yet, but you said something that perked my curiosity and I’d like to put it on the table.you said…”With all due respect, and you and everyone else on this blog have presented thoughtful posts, but from my point of view, finding Jesus in Hebrew scripture appears to me to be more eisegesis than exegesis.“”Therefore, when He comes into the world, He [christ] says…’Behold, I have come (in the scroll of the book it is written of Me) to do Your will, O God’” (Heb 10:5-7)I think it is one thing to accuse one of us of eisigesis, but are you actually accusing the NT authors and even Jesus of eisegesis? Doesn’t Jesus refer to the Hebrew scriptures as speaking about Him, or that He had to fulfill what was written about Him?



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 27, 2007 at 6:33 pm


James Pate said: “As I was reading your last comments to me, my thought was, “If Isaiah wanted to say what Ryan, Cheryl, and many other Christians say that he was saying, couldn’t he have been more explicit?” There are many things in Isaiah 7 that the prophet does not say. He does not mention that the son of Isaiah 7:14 will be the Messiah. He does not explicitly contrast the blessing that Immanuel will bring with the curse that Ahaz brought upon himself. He does not explicitly say that both Immanuel and Shearjashub will eat curds and honey. If he wanted to convey this message to Ahaz, couldn’t he have been more explicit?”First of all the things that Isaiah said in Isaiah 7 are what God gave him. They are not his ideas nor his words.Secondly although the word “Messiah”, is not specifically in verse 14, we can know that this is the Messiah because his name means “God with us” and because he would be sinless. His birth by a virgin means that he does not have original sin.You said that God does not explicitly contrast the blessing and the curse, yet He does so in verse 9. “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.” This is the result of unbelief and it is clearly seen as a curse because of what happens to Israel. In contrast the blessing that God brings through the sign is that a child will be “God with us”. That is a blessing!As far as verse 15 & 16, they seem to flow if we take them as a reference to the son of Isaiah in their midst.There is blessing when we listen to God’s words and take them to heart. If we harden our hearts and refuse God there is a curse that comes from disobedience.



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Jonathan Erdman

posted August 27, 2007 at 6:50 pm


Ben said:Meaning is not something we get to read into the text on the basis of our own opinions or ideas. Meaning is not in the eye of the beholder. Meaning is something that resides in the text, having been placed there by the inspired author and requires of us that we discover what that meaning is by the proper contextual study of the text. Prove it.



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Ryan

posted August 27, 2007 at 6:58 pm


Jonathan said… Prove it.Jonathan, in your blogger profile you state the following about your beliefs… “but this one thing i do know: i know that my redeemer lives and someday I will see him to his face…someday my fragmented soul will be made whole and the darkness of my heart will be transformed by the light of Christ’s presence…“I’m intrigued… by the same argument you posed to Ben, how do you know that you are not just reading your wishful thinking into the scripture?



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Jonathan Erdman

posted August 27, 2007 at 7:48 pm


It’s possible, Ryan, of course.When we say I know what does that mean? Typically there are varying levels of uncertainty. And also allowances for the possibility of error.I’ll hold to what I said in my blogger profile – even if someone shot me in the head for it. But that doesn’t mean there is absolutely no possibility of some strange psychological process of “reading in” wishful thinking.However, to go more to your point I would say this: I don’t know that I can picture any interpretation of any text that isn’t some sort of “reading into.”The point: The lines between exegesis and eisegesis are blurred in most interpretative acts. (Just read the book of Hebrews.)



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 27, 2007 at 8:38 pm


Ryan writes: I think it is one thing to accuse one of us of eisigesis, but are you actually accusing the NT authors and even Jesus of eisegesis? Even Jesus? To my knowledge, Jesus didn’t write anything. The Gospels are accounts by other people and what they said Jesus said. You do understand the difference between primary sources and secondary sources, yes?As for the NT authors, you’re absolutely correct, I have accused them of eisegesis! Indeed, that was my point when I wrote: Hosea 11:1-2 is not a prophecy about the Holy family returning from Egypt, but Matthew (2:13-15) re-interpreted that passage to be so.Re-interpretation and eisegesis go hand in hand.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 27, 2007 at 9:06 pm


Jonathan asks Ben to prove his statement: Meaning is not something we get to read into the text on the basis of our own opinions or ideas. Meaning is not in the eye of the beholder. Meaning is something that resides in the text, having been placed there by the inspired author and requires of us that we discover what that meaning is by the proper contextual study of the text.I doubt that this could be proven, but it would be a hermeneutical position with which I would concur. What part of it don’t you like?



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Stuart

posted August 27, 2007 at 9:12 pm


Hi Steven,I have been enjoying your posts here. I don’t have anything to add to the points you are making, but I’ll say that even before Christianity, Jews were using their books in ways similar to the ways of the NT writers, like re-interpreting Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones as a statement out the resurrection of the dead, when the original context was the restoration of Israel after exile. I have a question for you. It seems to me that the faith of Evangelicals is not really so much in God or in Jesus, but first and foremost in a book, or to be more specific, in a theory of inspiration of a book. They will argue {I may be over-simplifying} if you do not believe Hoseas “out of Egypt” passage is about Jesus, as Matthew holds, how can you trust what Matthew says elsewhere?How do you as a mainstream ELCA Lutheran deal with this?Stuart



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 27, 2007 at 9:24 pm


Jonathan writes: I don’t know that I can picture any interpretation of any text that isn’t some sort of “reading into.”How about interpreting the verse “They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught” (Mk 1:21). What would be so hard with the interpretation of this verse?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 27, 2007 at 9:50 pm


Stuart asks: It seems to me that the faith of Evangelicals is not really so much in God or in Jesus, but first and foremost in a book, or to be more specific, in a theory of inspiration of a book.Thank you for your kind words in regard to my posts.But I would like to draw a distinction between people and their ideology. I have some very harsh opinions of conservative Evangelical theology, but I would not like to pass judgment on Evangelicals as a whole group.Of the many conservative Evangelicals which I personally know, I have a very high regard for them, and a healthy respect for their religious beliefs. They are not all perfect, but then neither am I.As for my harsh opinions of their theology, I would be reluctant to speak my thoughts in an open forum as this, since it is not my goal to attack anyone’s religious beliefs.I hope no one has taken offense in anything which I have posted in this thread. At times, perhaps, I hope to challenge people to think about things, but it has not been my intent to attack anyone. I am more than willing to accept that others are just as sincere about their beliefs, as I am about mine.I will concur with you that the theology of the inspiration of the bible plays a very important role in conservative Evangelical theology, indeed, it undoubtedly colors all their theological thinking. And at times, they talk of “believing in the Bible,” which I find very strange. Where does scripture ever suggest that we need to “believe in the Bible”? Of course, I’m sure at times the things I say must sound strange to them too.



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Jonathan Erdman

posted August 27, 2007 at 11:16 pm


SCM says:Jonathan writes: I don’t know that I can picture any interpretation of any text that isn’t some sort of “reading into.”How about interpreting the verse “They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught” (Mk 1:21). What would be so hard with the interpretation of this verse?You also said you agreed with the statement that meaning was “there” – that meaning was “encoded” in the text. If you tell me that there is a biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein on my coffee table I can see it and I could look at it and I could pick it up. I can understand it existing “there” – on the table.But where does “meaning” reside? I can see the markings for the Mark 1:21 verse. And if I have a Bible in front of me then I can hold a physical object and view the ink marks on the paper. But I can’t physically see the meaning. So, where is it?Meaning is the result of interpretation. Meaning is always meaning for someone. The Mark 1:21 verse means nothing until my brain starts to piece together an interpretation. And in order to start to piece together an interpretation I need to both read things from the text and also read things into the text. For example, I am going to read into the text my understanding of “sabbath” and what I think it means that “he entered on the sabbath.” This seems like a no brainer. But I have a certain visual of Jesus walking along a road into a crowded area. My Jesus picture looks a certain way. And I see the disciples as well.Does your picture look the same? I’ll be a hundred bucks that it doesn’t look exactly the same. Why? ‘Cause we all read a bit differently and bring different things to the text.



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Jonathan Erdman

posted August 27, 2007 at 11:17 pm


Where does scripture ever suggest that we need to “believe in the Bible”?Good question.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 28, 2007 at 7:50 am


Jonathan writes: You also said you agreed with the statement that meaning was “there” – that meaning was “encoded” in the text. … But where does “meaning” reside?I know for a fact that words have meaning because I can (at times) understand what some people say, and they can (at times) understand what I say. If my wife asks me to run upstairs and get her a pair of shoes and I ask which pair of shoes, and she says the pair which looks like clogs, and I run up and look in her closet and yell down, the black pair or blue pair, and she yells back, the blue pair, and I bring down the blue pair of shoes to her satisfaction, didn’t meaningful communication take place? Didn’t the words we spoke have meaning?You wrote: Meaning is always meaning for someone.Of course. Meaning is always from someone and for someone else. That is, after all, the whole point of communication, namely that other people understand what we think. And while communication can at times be difficult, and we don’t always get our meaning across to others, it is not impossible. More often than not, it works. My wife can give me a grocery list of items to bring back from the store, and on a good day, I can actually bring the items she wants. The meaning was encoded on her slip of paper which she gave me.And if meaning wasn’t encoded in words? ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borograves, and the momeraths outgrabe … or something like that.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 28, 2007 at 8:42 am


Cheryl writes: although the word “Messiah”, is not specifically in verse 14, we can know that this is the Messiah because his name means “God with us” and because he would be sinless. His birth by a virgin means that he does not have original sin.This illustrates that you are using a different methodology than a historical-critical methodology. You are not taking Isaiah on his own terms, for nowhere does Isaiah state that “God with us” is the name of the Messiah. Nowhere does Isaiah state that the baby would be born of a virgin. Nowhere does Isaiah state that the baby would be born without original sin.I understand you believe what you write is true, but it is based on a particular methodology, namely one which assumes that the authors of Hebrew scripture often wrote about Jesus. But this makes it hard for you to prove your point, for only those who have already accepted your methodology will find your arguments cogent, the rest, I believe, will find it difficult to accept, since the book of Isaiah doesn’t support your assertions about it.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 28, 2007 at 10:23 am


To: Jonathan,Why do you read, if words don’t contain any meaningful information?Why do you argue about whether or not words contain “meaning,” if they don’t?If all you are doing is looking at letters and creating meaning out of your imagination and merely pretending to read, are you not in effect only disagreeing with your own imagination?These words which I type, do they contain meaningful information to others, or do others just stare at them and pretend to find meaning for themselves? Perhaps someone thinks I’m writing a message about flying elephants, will someone else suppose I’m writing a movie review of “The Thin Man” (1934) and comparing it to Dashiell Hammet’s text? Will anyone surmise that the real topic here is semantics or the philosophy of meaning?



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Ryan

posted August 28, 2007 at 10:49 am


Steven said…”Even Jesus? To my knowledge, Jesus didn’t write anything. The Gospels are accounts by other people and what they said Jesus said. You do understand the difference between primary sources and secondary sources, yes? As for the NT authors, you’re absolutely correct, I have accused them of eisegesis! … Re-interpretation and eisegesis go hand in hand.“Yes, Jesus did not pen anything himself, but clearly his disciples wrote down what he said. Yes, the source for his words is secondary. However, if you are implying that what they wrote as the words of Jesus is inaccurate, then you are saying that what they wrote was in error or false. Therefore, if you believe that what they wrote is an accurate representation of Jesus’ words, it doesn’t matter that they wrote it down instead of Jesus; they are still His words and you are indirectly Jesus Himself of eisegesis.If you don’t believe that what the disciples wrote as Jesus’ words in inerrant, then who decides what Jesus said and what He didn’t say? After all, Jesus said things like, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48). If this is not a true account of what He said, how can anyone who reads it be held accountable? If Jesus was not meant by the OT scriptures and we are simply reading Him into them, then how will God be justified in holding those Jews who do not believe on Him accountable in the day of judgment?Furthermore, if Jesus who is the Word incarnate and the creator of everything, if the prophets were only to speak God’s Word no more no less, and if Jesus did not do or say anything that the Father did not first show Him, then what you are suggesting is a strong accusation against God Himself. To imply that Jesus needed to read into the text meaning that was not originally there is implying that He couldn’t get it right the first time (in the Old Testament). If Jesus Himself taught His disciples, surely He taught them how to interpret scripture. If He showed several on the road to Emmaus everything in the law and prophets about Himself, then surely what Matthew was reporting to us concerning Isaiah 7:14 was informed by Jesus as these disciples would have told the others. Steven also said…”This illustrates that you are using a different methodology than a historical-critical methodology.“If by this you mean that Jesus Himself also didn’t follow your methodology of interpretation, then might I respectfully suggest that it is your methodology and not Jesus that needs adjusting.



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Ryan

posted August 28, 2007 at 10:57 am


In John 7:27, we read that some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from.” So I must ask then, where did these Jews get this idea that they will not know where the Messiah would be from? Perhaps since Joseph was betrothed to Mary, they assumed that Jesus had to come from their union. At least in John 8:41 some thought Jesus was born of fornication. But in Matthew 2, Herod asks the scribes where the Messiah is to be born, and they clearly knew that the place was to be in Bethlehem. So what are these Jews then referring to? Is it not the virgin birth understanding of Isaiah 7:14?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 28, 2007 at 11:50 am


To Ryan,At some point, we hit what is called the “hermeneutical circle,” namely, the things you say make sense to you because you accept all the presuppositions which go with them, and the some goes for myself. The things I say makes sense to me because I accept all the presuppositions which go with them. And so, we write at cross purposes to some degree, neither person able to convince the other. No doubt the historical Jesus did not follow the historical-critical method of interpretation, for the obvious reason that this methodology didn’t exist until the 17th and 18th centuries. At the beginning of the 17th century, the Bible was generally considered to be the universal authority in all fields of knowledge, but by the end of the 17th century that sense of authority had been serious eroded, and mainstream scholars began interpreting the Bible with what is called, the historical-critical method, in effect, treating the Bible as any other historical source text and reading each book in the Bible on their own terms.One area of biblical research was the Synoptic problem. And to study this problem a new tool was developed called a Synopsis. The first person to develop this tool was Johann Griesbach, who in 1776 published a Synopsis which contained the Gospels in Greek side by side pericope by pericope. Prior to Griesbach many attempts had been made to write harmonies of the Gospels, attempts to explain all of the dissimilarities and contradictions between the Gospels. What was discovered was that the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) appeared to be dependent on a common source. While there are a number of different theories how this was done, currently the most popular theory, one which I hold to be true, is that both Matthew and Luke had a copy of Mark and re-wrote much of Mark’s gospel as their own. In my opinion, a study of the Gospels synoptically offers proof that even New Testament authors were willing to re-write history. Our “hermeneutical circles” makes it hard for anyone to jump from one circle into another, but I believe that the evidence is on my side of the argument. If one would be willingly to look at the Gospels synoptically, they will find that the New Testament authors were willing to re-write history from their sources.Perhaps you are already familiar with a synopsis, but in case you (or someone else) are not: There are many Synopses (plural of Synopsis) available. Perhaps the most popular is “Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum” edited by Kurt Aland. There is an English edition using the RSV titled “Synopsis of the Four Gospels,” as well as a bilingual edition. There is also: “Gospel Parallels: A Synopsis of the First Three Gospels” by Thronckmorton. There is: “Synopsis of the First Three Gospels with the Addition of the Johannine Parallels” by Huck and Greeven. And “Synopsis Graeca Quattuor Evangeliorum” by Boismard and Lamouille.At the very least, reading the Gospels in Greek synoptically helped me to move from my conservative “hermeneutical circle” to my present willingness to accept the historical-critical method. Perhaps it would work for you, or perhaps not. It is just a suggestion.It has been suggested that reading the New Testament in Greek is like seeing in color, whereas reading it in translation is like seeing it in black and white: one gets the point but misses a lot of the nuances. I believe this is even more true in doing a Synoptic study of the Gospels.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 28, 2007 at 11:59 am


Ryan writes: in Matthew 2, Herod asks the scribes where the Messiah is to be born, and they clearly knew that the place was to be in Bethlehem. So what are these Jews then referring to?The problem with your argument is that we don’t have Herod’s account of the events, nor the account from the Jews themselves who are referred to at John 7:27. What you have presented is evidence from 1st century Christian sources, and all it proves it that 1st century Christians had the conviction that Jews and Herod had ideas about a coming Messiah.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 28, 2007 at 12:25 pm


Ryan writes: Jesus did not pen anything himself, but clearly his disciples wrote down what he said. Yes, the source for his words is secondary. However, if you are implying that what they wrote as the words of Jesus is inaccurate, then you are saying that what they wrote was in error or false.So how do you imagine that this happened? Did the disciples stand around Jesus with tape recorders? While Jesus was preaching the sermon on the mount, did his disciples have papyri, quill, and ink bottles in hand, writing down everything as he spoke? One could almost hear it now: “Jesus, could you slow down and repeat what you just said, darn, I just knocked over my ink bottle, could someone give me a hand, …”Or could it be that the sayings of Jesus were passed on by memory, each person re-telling what they had once heard Jesus speak, until at some point 1st century Christians decided to collect those sayings and write them down?After all, we have no evidence from scripture itself which tells us which Matthew wrote the book Matthew, which Mark wrote the book Mark, which Luke wrote the book Luke, nor which John wrote the book John. What evidence is there that any of the authors of the four Gospels even knew Jesus in the flesh? Let alone, dictated his sayings as he spoke?



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Ryan

posted August 28, 2007 at 12:49 pm


Steven said…”What you have presented is evidence from 1st century Christian sources, and all it proves it that 1st century Christians had the conviction that Jews and Herod had ideas about a coming Messiah.“Then why would Herod go on a killing rampage to destroy all the Bethlehem boys under 2 years of age if he didn’t actually feel that this child was a threat to his kingdom? Besides, is not this action of Herod’s documented elsewhere? Even still, wouldn’t all those living at the time of Matthew who heard of these events and read Matthew’s text object to him writing that this really happened if it didn’t indeed happen? Wouldn’t Matthew have been discredited by his contemporaries if he told something that was historically inaccurate?Furthermore, if you are suggesting that Matthew is just giving us his thoughts which are possibly not the truth about historical events, then how can you trust him in what he says about spiritual things? Honestly, upon what do you base your Christian faith and how do you know that what you believe is really true?



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Ryan

posted August 28, 2007 at 1:10 pm


Steven said…”So how do you imagine that this happened? Did the disciples stand around Jesus with tape recorders?…Or could it be that the sayings of Jesus were passed on by memory, each person re-telling what they had once heard Jesus speak, until at some point 1st century Christians decided to collect those sayings and write them down?“Indeed, there was a passing of events on by memory. The whole Hebrew culture was trained and well versed in passing on history orally. No they didn’t have tape-recorders, but Jesus told the disciples…”But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).Many people heard the things that Jesus said and were witnesses of the events that took place. And we have four accounts of the gospels which are not merely copies of one another (though there are commonalities) but which have differences in the telling of the same events showing that they were the testimonies of different people who actually saw these events. What 1st century evidence do you have that testifies against the disciples, saying “we were there, but what Matthew, Mark, Luke or John wrote was not what Jesus said or did”?Listen also to what Luke says in the opening verses of his book:”Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1-4).



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 28, 2007 at 1:17 pm


Ryan asks: Then why would Herod go on a killing rampage to destroy all the Bethlehem boys under 2 years of age if he didn’t actually feel that this child was a threat to his kingdom? Besides, is not this action of Herod’s documented elsewhere?Actually, it is not! There is no historical evidence (outside the Gospel of Matthew) which supports it as being historical.Ryan asks: Wouldn’t Matthew have been discredited by his contemporaries if he told something that was historically inaccurate?Are you suggesting that every text written in antiquity is 100% factual history?Ryan asks: Honestly, upon what do you base your Christian faith and how do you know that what you believe is really true?Luther, in his small catechism wrote: “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith” (the third article).Frankly, I don’t worry about it. I trust in God to take care of everything. And if my understanding of scripture is wrong at a few places, and I’m sure it is, I don’t worry about it. I don’t believe that their will be a Bible test, nor a theological test, to take before one is admitted into heaven. I believe we get in by God’s grace, not by my works, not by understanding the Bible, and not by having the correct theology (which should be Lutheran I suppose). And so, I fully expect to see non-Lutherans there as well!



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 28, 2007 at 1:38 pm


Ryan quotes Luke as saying he wrote his gospel so that we may “know the exact truth” (Luke 1:4). So lets take a look at Luke’s attention to historical detail. At Luke 2:1-5, Luke wrote:In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child (Lk 2:1-5 NRSV). Luke 2:1-5 contains a large number of historical discrepancies. There are four major difficulties about the historicity of this passage: (a) Luke here assumes that Quirinius and King Herod were contemporaries, but Quirinius was appointed governor (legate) of Syria in 6 CE, ten years after Herod had passed away in 4 BCE. (b) Luke here asserts that a world-wide census was ordered, yet there is absolutely no evidence for a simultaneous census of every province of the Roman empire. (c) Luke here appears to assert that this Roman census compelled everyone to return to the city of their ancestry. Not only did the Romans not conduct any census (or taxing) in this manner, such a procedure would be absurd. How would one determine where to go? Since one would have many ancestors, and any particular ancestor could have lived in many different cities, which city of which ancestor? (d) Furthermore, at this time Galilee was under an independent ruler and would not have been bound by a Roman census or taxation, so that Joseph of Nazareth, as a Galilean, would have been exempt from the entire business.You can consult historical-critical biblical scholars, or Roman historians, both will support the fact that this “decree” is not historical, it simply lacks historicity.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 28, 2007 at 2:00 pm


Ryan quotes Luke as saying:: Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses … What does this tell us? (1) First of all, Luke does not appear to be an eyewitness! (2) Luke’s gospel appears to have been compiled from a number of sources, some written, and some oral. (3) Luke appears to suggest that he composed his gospel not because he was taking dictation from God, but because he had “investigated everything carefully” and from his sources he composed his gospel. Do you assume that Luke’s sources are infallible as well? It only stands to reason that if Luke’s sources were not infallible, then Luke’s gospel could not be infallible either.



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Jonathan Erdman

posted August 28, 2007 at 2:58 pm


Steven Craig Miller:I know for a fact that words have meaning because I can (at times) understand what some people say, and they can (at times) understand what I say. If my wife asks me to run upstairs and get her a pair of shoes and I ask which pair of shoes, and she says the pair which looks like clogs, and I run up and look in her closet and yell down, the black pair or blue pair, and she yells back, the blue pair, and I bring down the blue pair of shoes to her satisfaction, didn’t meaningful communication take place? Didn’t the words we spoke have meaning?The last sentence is the key question. But what are “words”? In the case of these comments he “words” are simply blips on our computer screen. In the case of a letter the “words” are simply ink taking up space on paper. Are you saying that the “meaning” is in the ink? That seems silly to say. It seems more right to say that meaning is something that I develop in my mind as I look at the ink on the paper.More from Steven:Why do you read, if words don’t contain any meaningful information?Why do you argue about whether or not words contain “meaning,” if they don’t?If all you are doing is looking at letters and creating meaning out of your imagination and merely pretending to read, are you not in effect only disagreeing with your own imagination?These are odd questions and miss the point. When I view words on paper I form an interpretation and develop a meaning in my mind. It is certainly not an arbitrary conjecture – although for some people I do wonder – but you asked me what I do, and so there is he answer to your rather bizarre-sounding questions. In most cases (the normal ones – all bizarre scenarios to the side), Interpretation/meaning is formed in the mind after interacting with the text.Even more bizarre scenarios from Steven:These words which I type, do they contain meaningful information to others, or do others just stare at them and pretend to find meaning for themselves? Perhaps someone thinks I’m writing a message about flying elephants, will someone else suppose I’m writing a movie review of “The Thin Man” (1934) and comparing it to Dashiell Hammet’s text? Will anyone surmise that the real topic here is semantics or the philosophy of meaning?Steven: This is nonesense to me. Are you ok??? Was it getting too late at night??? Or one too many drinks??? (Hopefully it was the latter!)



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 28, 2007 at 3:39 pm


Jonathan writes: But what are “words”? In the case of these comments he “words” are simply blips on our computer screen. In the case of a letter the “words” are simply ink taking up space on paper. Are you saying that the “meaning” is in the ink? That seems silly to say. How is meaning communicated from one person to another? Meaning is communicated because it is encoded in the vocabulary and grammar of a language.You continue: It seems more right to say that meaning is something that I develop in my mind as I look at the ink on the paper.But how did you mind come up with anything meaningful? It wouldn’t be because it recognized something, would it? If someone, not knowing Japanese, would look at a Japanese text, how would this person supposed to know what the Japanese text was trying to communicate? You could look at the text all you want, and unless you know Japanese, you wouldn’t be able to make out what it says. But if you understand the vocabulary, grammar, and writing system, of a language, it is possible that you could understand what was written because you understand the encoding. You find meaning through reading the text.Thus I concur with Ben Witherington, that the meaning is encoded in the complex of words and phrases we find in the text.



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Jonathan Erdman

posted August 28, 2007 at 9:57 pm


Saying so doesn’t make it so.



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Jonathan Erdman

posted August 28, 2007 at 9:59 pm


Meaning is in the eye of the beholder.



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Ryan

posted August 28, 2007 at 11:27 pm


Jonathan said… “Saying so doesn’t make it so.” and “Meaning is in the eye of the beholder.“If meaning is in the eye of the beholder, why are you bothering to try to convince us of your views? Why should any of us listen to you?



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 29, 2007 at 12:46 am


Steven said: “This illustrates that you are using a different methodology than a historical-critical methodology. You are not taking Isaiah on his own terms, for nowhere does Isaiah state that “God with us” is the name of the Messiah. Nowhere does Isaiah state that the baby would be born of a virgin. Nowhere does Isaiah state that the baby would be born without original sin.”Isaiah does say that the name of the baby will be Immanuel which means “God with us”. For those of us who are dull of hearing and don’t know enough of the Hebrew language to know the importance that God places on names and what God is saying, it has been translated in Matthew 1:23.Mat 1:23 “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”The words that Isaiah said (which are truly God’s words) do mean virgin or the LXX would not have been accepted by the Jews with the translation of the Hebrew as the Greek word for “virgin”. Matthew quotes scripture from the LXX many times and he either was inspired to do this or he lied and made it up himself. If scripture is made up of lies, then why would you even read it? But if it is the truth, then we know that Jesus is sinless as he said and as John the Baptist testified and as God the Father testified and only as the sinless lamb of God does he qualify to take away your sin and my sin. If he isn’t sinless then his death covers nothing. God’s sacrifice for sin must be pure and spotless.Isaiah states that the God-sign will be a virgin born son, so we can know for sure that Jesus is sinless because the sin line comes from Adam not through the woman. God had told the serpent right from the start that the seed of the woman (not the seed of the man) would bruise his head. It really all comes down to what foundation our “faith” rests on. If we think that God didn’t provide an inspired word with inspired grammar so that we cannot be sure what God meant, then the foundation of our faith must be a trust in our own power of discernment. What do we keep as truth from scripture and what do we throw away as fiction, stretching of the truth, guesses or worst of all lies? For me, I will stand on the firm foundation of the word of God as completely inspired from God himself. What I have seen in my brief lifetime is that the once troubling inconsistencies and improbabilities of scripture have melted away through archeology and comparing scripture with scripture. What once were taunts by atheists have now been soundly refuted by scholars.Now Steven, I would like to ask you, how would you feel if you have balked at what seemed to be a discrepancy and then later found out that it had been answered logically and accurately by solid evidence unearthed through archeology or other solid evidence? Would you give God the glory and admit that you had been wrong to doubt? Or would you just go on to another issue?My life has been focused on helping Jehovah’s Witnesses find freedom in Christ and I have seen time and time again how man-made organizations and man-centered wisdom has led people away from trust in God into trusting their own righteousness and trusting a man’s word over God’s word. When these precious souls come free from this bondage and find out that God meant what he said and said what he meant, they want to trust in the word of God alone. Their trust in man has been shattered as it should be. Ultimately we will stand before God and give him an answer for why we didn’t believe what he said. Our eternal destiny is at stake. There is “another Jesus” “another spirit” and “another gospel” and these can lead us into deception. 2Co 11:3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 2Co 11:4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. Another Jesus cannot save, a watered-down gospel cannot save and a different spirit will lead us away from God. Simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ is always founded on God’s word alone. I trust that someday you too will come into that simplicity of devotion to the historical Jesus who can be found both in the Old Testament and the New. Matthew was truly inspired when he states that Jesus is the Immanuel “God with us”.



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Ryan

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:02 am


Hi Steven. Sorry, I have a day job, so its hard to keep up with this thread sometimes.Steven said… “Actually, it is not! There is no historical evidence (outside the Gospel of Matthew) which supports it as being historical.“I did a little searching, and it seems that as far as I can tell no one has yet found explicit evidence aside from Matthew’s account concerning the Bethlehem massacre. Several things occurred to me which should help explain why this may be so:1. As stated in Micah 5:2, Bethlehem was very small. In the first century it may have had 500 people; how many would have been boys 2 and under? Perhaps 20 or 30 at most. Matthew doesn’t tell us.2. Josephus says that Herod murdered a vast number of people, and was so cruel to those he didn’t kill that the living considered the dead to be fortunate. Can we expect Josephus or someone else in the Roman empire to document all the wickedness of Herod, even towards an insignificant town and against babies who would not yet have a name in society?3. There were other perhaps more significant or noteworthy things going on in the Roman empire as well atrocities by Herod that would likely overshadow this event. For instance, in 4 BC, Herod burns alive 40 Jews who destroyed a golden eagle in perhaps the same year as the children were slaughtered in Bethlehem. Herod also dies this year. In the following year, Archelaus (Herod’s son) kills 3000 Jews in the Temple. Also, previously, in 7 BC, Rome is divided into 14 regions. In that year Herod executed his son.Given Herod’s track record of atrocities over 30+ years of his reign, the Bethlehem slaughter — occurring near the end of his reign — would probably have been an insignificant event in comparison. Given his track record, what Matthew reported is very believable. Therefore, I don’t believe we have any reason to not believe Matthew’s account. It is plausible, we can see reasons why the Bethlehem event could have been overlooked, and nothing surfaces to contradict it.Steven said… “Are you suggesting that every text written in antiquity is 100% factual history?“No I am not. However, Matthew is reporting these events as historical fact, not conjecture. And his writings would have been widely spread amongst his contemporaries who you would think would hold him accountable for any misrepresentation. Finally, we are talking about scripture, not just another text written in antiquity. It is a text that claims to be inspired by God.Steven said… “Frankly, I don’t worry about it. I trust in God to take care of everything. And if my understanding of scripture is wrong at a few places, and I’m sure it is, I don’t worry about it. I don’t believe that their will be a Bible test, nor a theological test, to take before one is admitted into heaven. I believe we get in by God’s grace, not by my works, not by understanding the Bible, and not by having the correct theology (which should be Lutheran I suppose).“Didn’t the scholar Bart Ehrman lose his faith for the same kind of things you have suggested in your previous posts? These things you are saying are not insignificant details, and there are probably a significant number of people reading this blog who, if what you said was true, would lose trust in the scriptures. I would. I mean, why should I trust Matthew with my salvation if I cannot trust him with simple earthly things like getting historical accounts correct. If he applies his own wishful thinking to his historical accounts, then perhaps he has applied his own wishful thinking to the nature and way of salvation.I hold that if there is a seeming contradiction or something that looks like an error in the grammar, it means that I don’t understand it and I need to study carefully until I do. If it seems like Jesus is reinterpreting a scripture that didn’t originally have the meaning He applies, I assume that I must not understand something and I put myself to study, believing that God’s Word is inspired and if I ask for wisdom and search the scriptures and study diligently, I will find the answer. I don’t make the kind of sweeping liberally-minded assumptions you do.The problem with most people today is that they don’t excercise discernment; they are not Bereans. When some highly educated person with several Theological degrees says something, they think to themselves, “Well, they must know what they are talking about… how could I contradict them? After all, I’m not a Ph.D. and I don’t understand all the nuances of Hebrew or Greek.” Understanding God’s word does not require a Ph.D., but it does require faith and diligent study. I suppose you could come up with an objection to every one of the prophecies of Christ or every one of the historical events documented in the gospels. And we might be here for the greater part of a year (or more) discussing the evidence for each one in detail. After I refute all your objections, would you then believe?You are also right in saying that you don’t get to heaven by meriting it through works, but our theology does have a direct impact on whether we place our faith in God and His word or not. I’m not sure how commendable it is that you still trust in a book in which you cannot have surety of its veracity. Its like living a contradiction; you seem to think you have proof that there are errors, inaccuracies, misrepresentations and eisegesis, yet despite this you put your faith in the text when it speaks of the way to eternal life and promises you salvation. Think about this. You probably have it pretty well living in some middle class community, in a relatively safe American neighbourhood with the religious freedoms we have here. But if you lived in Saudi Arabia, you had better be sure what you believed was correct, because your life might depend upon it.C.S. Lewis once said, “You never know how much you believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.”



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:05 am


Steven said: “Cheryl writes: Check every other reference to “House of David” in scripture and you will see that it refers to the kingly line of David. Scripture never refers to just one of the kings in that line.You keep repeating this line while ignoring the simple fact that Ahaz was “the kingly line of David” at that time. The issue under discussion is whether the Hebrew phrase translated as “House of David” at Isaiah 7:14 refers to the then contemporary “House of David” (namely Ahaz and his court) or to some future “House of David.”Checking other references of this phrase cannot necessarily tell you how Isaiah used it here in this passage.”What we can tell from the phrase “House of David” is the context from every other reference and we can see that each one is about the kingly line of David. Is Isaiah the one unique example where it means something else? Well, let’s look at the context. Does God give the sign to Ahaz? The first sign that is absolutely fulfilled in the birth of Christ did not happen in Ahaz’s lifetime. The only sign that happened in Ahaz’s lifetime was the sign about the child in his presence and what would happen before the child in his presence would know to refuse evil and choose good.Isaiah’s next son spoke also of the evil that Ahaz would experience:Isa 8:4 for before the boy knows how to cry out ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.” God did not give the prophecy of a Savior to Ahaz because Ahaz rejected him.Isa 8:5 Again the LORD spoke to me further, saying, Isa 8:6 “Inasmuch as these people have rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah And rejoice in Rezin and the son of Remaliah; Isa 8:7 “Now therefore, behold, the Lord is about to bring on them the strong and abundant waters of the Euphrates, Even the king of Assyria and all his glory; And it will rise up over all its channels and go over all its banks. The waters of Shiloah is God himself. The prophecy of “God with us” is for those who accept God’s word. The prophecy of the destruction is for those who reject God. Two prophecies. One good in time for the kingly line of David because Jesus came from the “House of David”.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:18 am


Ryan,You said to Steven: “I hold that if there is a seeming contradiction or something that looks like an error in the grammar, it means that I don’t understand it and I need to study carefully until I do….Think about this. You probably have it pretty well living in some middle class community, in a relatively safe American neighbourhood with the religious freedoms we have here. But if you lived in Saudi Arabia, you had better be sure what you believed was correct, because your life might depend upon it.”Well said!! The bottom line is what do we do when we see what appears to be an error in scripture? If we do as you suggest, we are true Bereans who trust in God and his word. How could we even think of parading what seems to be errors in the full view of others who may have fragile faith without having done the hard work first of trusting God and finding out where we ourselves could be wrong? Your point also about our lives could be at stake for what we believe is so true. Great point!



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Ryan

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:33 am


To add one little important point to the end of CS Lewis’ quote I made above: “…but by that time, will it be too late?”Steven said… “What does this tell us? (1) First of all, Luke does not appear to be an eyewitness!“Indeed, Luke wasn’t an eyewitness himself; he was actually a very good historian. And he says, “…just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses.” So those who were eyewitnesses told him the things he wrote down. They are the witnesses and he is the historian. What exactly were you expecting? This doesn’t discount Luke’s gospel at all! In fact, if one wanted to accuse Christians that their gospels were an “inside job” they can’t do this because Mark wasn’t one of the 12 apostles and Luke wasn’t an eyewitness. Remember, that Paul wasn’t an eyewitness either and yet he was inspired to write scripture as Peter says.Steven said… “It only stands to reason that if Luke’s sources were not infallible, then Luke’s gospel could not be infallible either.“Steven, you seem to be misunderstanding what inspired means. Are not all humans fallable? Surely it is so. The the prophets and writers of OT scripture must have been fallable as well. Then how is it that the prophets were required to be 100% correct or they were stoned to death? Is it not because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit? If LUke’s sources were those who were eyewitnesses of the events and you won’t believe them, then who will you believe?Steven said… “You can consult historical-critical biblical scholars, or Roman historians, both will support the fact that this “decree” is not historical, it simply lacks historicity.“Folks, take a look at Dr. Norman Geisler’s analysis and decide for yourself: http://www.ankerberg.com/Articles/editors-choice/EC1205W3A.htmAnd by the way, would you [Steven] or anyone else who agrees with him please respond to my 7:57 AM post about John 7:27?



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Ryan

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:34 am


Woops, the link to Geisler’s article didn’t show up correctly. Try clicking here.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 29, 2007 at 8:00 am


Ryan writes: Matthew is reporting these events as historical fact, not conjecture. And his writings would have been widely spread amongst his contemporaries who you would think would hold him accountable for any misrepresentation. Finally, we are talking about scripture, not just another text written in antiquity. It is a text that claims to be inspired by God.Where does Matthew claim to be “inspired by God”?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 29, 2007 at 8:20 am


Sheryl writes: The words that Isaiah said (which are truly God’s words) do mean virgin or the LXX would not have been accepted by the Jews with the translation of the Hebrew as the Greek word for “virgin”.Actually, the facts are more complicated than you’re suggesting. Furthermore, this point has been addressed by me before in this very thread.I wrote: One point which is often overlooked is that the Greek term “parthenos” in ancient Greek did not necessarily mean “virgin.” Indeed, if one consults Liddell, Scott, Jones, and McKenzie’s “Greek-English Lexicon,” the Greek term “parthenos” can be used “of unmarried women who are not virgins” (p. 1339). Further proof of this can be found at Genesis 34:4, Dinah, who had been raped, was called a “parthenos.” Thus when the translator(s) of the LXX translated Is 7:14, they did so with a term which could mean “virgin,” but could also only mean “girl” or “maiden.”And so the LXX does not support your assertion.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 29, 2007 at 8:43 am


Cheryl writes: My life has been focused on helping Jehovah’s Witnesses find freedom in Christ …I wonder how Jehovah’s Witnesses feel about this, do they value your “ministry” or do they see it as religious harassment?Cheryl writes: There is “another Jesus” “another spirit” and “another gospel” and these can lead us into deception.Please speak for yourself, I don’t want to be included in your “us.”Cheryl: Ultimately we will stand before God and give him an answer for why we didn’t believe what he said.Is that how you plan on getting into heave? By having “an answer” and by you own works?We Lutherans see things differently. For us, salvation is by the grace of God, through the work of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in our lives. I have an advocate with Jesus, and when I stand before God, my advocate is not going to talk about my good works, nor my answers, but rather his own good works done on the cross. While I have lived a pretty good life, I’ve only been married once (now for 26 years), have two children, always go to church and bible study, donate time to the community, study the bible at home, pray, worship, etc. I don’t trust on my own works for salvation, but rather my trust is in Jesus and his works for my salvation.Of course I understand, different religious traditions think differently on these issue.



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Ryan

posted August 29, 2007 at 9:45 am


Steven said… “Where does Matthew claim to be “inspired by God”?“You are proving that I am fallible, Steven. I don’t believe that Matthew directly claims inspiration for himself. Then again, can you point out where Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiates, Proverbs, etc. claim this for themselves? Perhaps you don’t think they are scripture. So then how do you know they are?The early church treated all these as scripture, and Paul says in 2 Tim 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” Peter says Paul’s writings were scripture… “and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15-16). Its a strong implication.



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Ryan

posted August 29, 2007 at 9:48 am


Steven said… “Is that how you plan on getting into heave? By having “an answer” and by you own works?“Steven, while you can never merit salvation by your works, what we do and the way we respond is a direct indication of whether or not the Holy Spirit is indwelling us. How is it that you know you are saved? Is there a scripture that you trust on this which you have no question about concerning its inspiration? Or are you trusting Luther whose writings are not scripture?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 29, 2007 at 10:07 am


Ryan: How is it that you know you are saved? Is there a scripture that you trust on this which you have no question about concerning its inspiration? Or are you trusting Luther whose writings are not scripture?I’m more than willing to answer honest questions about my beliefs. But if you’re wanting to turn this into religious harassment, I don’t care to be a part of it. Your questions are beginning to seem more like accusations than a friendly discussion. It is a low blow for you to ask if I’m trusting in Luther. For I have already made it clear that I trust in God’s grace for my salvation. If that is not sufficient for you, all I can say is that I don’t need your personal approval.If you are interested in further discussion, fine, I will be more than willing to discuss issues with you. If you are wanting to turn this into a personal attack and whether or not I as a Lutheran can measure up to your personal standards, then I think I have better things to do with my time.



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Ryan

posted August 29, 2007 at 10:15 am


Hi Steven,I’m not interested in offending you and I apologize if my question came across that way. I’m interested in how you would respond to my post concerning John 7:27?



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 29, 2007 at 11:09 am


Steven,You said: “Thus when the translator(s) of the LXX translated Is 7:14, they did so with a term which could mean “virgin,” but could also only mean “girl” or “maiden.”Let me ask you point-blank then. Do you believe that Jesus was conceived and born from a virgin or was he conceived in the natural way that all men are conceived?Steven, you also asked: “I wonder how Jehovah’s Witnesses feel about this, do they value your “ministry” or do they see it as religious harassment?”Jehovah’s Witnesses that are still Witnesses hate anyone who exposes the lies that their organization has told and anyone who shares the biblical Jesus with them (they believe Jesus is Michael the Archangel). However those who have left the Watchtower and have come to the support group I ran for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses loved me. They found it refreshing that I only lifted up Jesus and not any organization. From 1988 until several years ago when my busy schedule and our pending move forced me to give up that part of my ministry, we had a very enthusiastic group of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who found freedom in Christ and who absolutely loved my teaching and my compassion. As a Christian I would feel the same if I was wrong. If I am wrong, then I appreciate anyone who points out the truth. I do not like the truth obscured and hidden.Steven you also said: “Cheryl writes: There is “another Jesus” “another spirit” and “another gospel” and these can lead us into deception. Please speak for yourself, I don’t want to be included in your “us.”"Then perhaps you see yourself as above everyone else. Anyone can be deceived if they do not have the solid foundation of God’s word to test everything by. I have been deceived at one time by tradition. However when God’s word opposes tradition, I rejected tradition and held on firmly to God’s word. If you believe you are beyond being deceived yourself, all I can say is the truth from 1 Corinthians 10:121Co 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. I had said: “Ultimately we will stand before God and give him an answer for why we didn’t believe what he said.” Steven you asked me back: “Is that how you plan on getting into heave? By having “an answer” and by you own works?”I didn’t say anything about getting into heaven or not. I said that we would give an answer for our unbelief.Rom 14:10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. Rom 14:11 For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” Rom 14:12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Since we will all give an account of ourselves to God, our unbelief will need to be accounted for. Where is the line drawn regarding unbelief? The Israelites in the wilderness did not go into the promised land because the generation that saw God’s works refused to believe and God judged them for their unbelief. They were Israelites in name and by generation, but in their hearts they were not true Israelites. Where does this leave us? I am not the one to judge but I do know this about myself – I do not want to even come close to unbelief because I do not want to fail to receive what God has for me. Works do not cause one to merit heaven but unbelief can keep one away from even entering heaven as belief is a requirement.Steven you said: “While I have lived a pretty good life, I’ve only been married once (now for 26 years), have two children, always go to church and bible study, donate time to the community, study the bible at home, pray, worship, etc. I don’t trust on my own works for salvation, but rather my trust is in Jesus and his works for my salvation.”I do not doubt that you are by the world’s standards a good person. I also do not doubt that you do not trust your works. That is a good thing! However I wonder how your trust is in the Jesus of the bible when you doubt that he is in the Old Testament? Jesus said that the Old Testament testifies about him:Joh 5:38 “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. Joh 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; Joh 5:40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. If we cannot trust the Old Testament to reveal Jesus as he said, then I wonder if we are really putting our trust in Christ? This is not an accusation, but a question. I have seen many who claim to believe in Jesus but they deny what Jesus said in scripture. That is an inconsistency.How am I saved? I trusted Christ and his word enough to ask him to be my Lord. He forgave me of my sin and I subject myself to his Lordship and his rule. When he says something in scripture I believe it and follow it. I never put any human wisdom as judge over the words of Jesus either in scripture directly or inspired by him. I have yet to see a valid refutation of the claims of Christ and I trust Jesus my Savior not only to save me but to have preserved his word. If he couldn’t preserve the bible with an inspired message then how can he preserve me?You also said: “We Lutherans see things differently.”I have learned from all my years of work with JW’s to never claim a denomination as my identity. I have been pressured to give my church group and almost always I refused to do so when they ask. The reason I refuse is because I know they are looking to see what group I consider is “The Truth” and what group has the correct doctrine and what group will grant me salvation. What I say to them is that no denomination, no church died for me and no church can save me. Since only Jesus died for me and he alone has purchased my salvation through his precious blood, I refer to myself as a Christian for I proudly bear his name and his reproach.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 29, 2007 at 11:11 am


Ryan asks: I’m interested in how you would respond to my post concerning John 7:27?I already have. (Do a search of this thread looking for “7:27″.) But perhaps in all the messages which we have sent back and forth to each other, you missed it.Even so, I’m unsure why you think John 7:27 is important for our discussion?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 29, 2007 at 11:56 am


[Some words or phrases below are written in Greek.] The early church also treated Baruch, Judith, Tobit, and many other writings as “scripture.” Do you accept them all as scripture too?As for 2 Timothy 3:16, it appears that you’re taking it out of context. Paul makes it clear he was referring to the writings which Timothy knew as a child, that would exclude the New Testament.Furthermore, the Greek term γραφή translated as “scripture” (at 2 Tim 3:16) is merely the common Greek term meaning “writing.” Now when the Greek text was translated into Latin, γραφή was translated as “scriptura.” And, as it turns out, “scriptura” is simply the common Latin term meaning “writing.” Now, in the 16th century, when Tyndale and others translated this passage into English, they translated it with the English cognate “scripture.” But, as it turns out, if you look up this word in the Oxford English Dictionary, you will find out that “scripture” can mean “writing” as well as referring to a sacred text.Further complications are found when looking at the Greek text of 2 Tim 3:16 when we notice that the Greek verb for “is” is missing!I would offer three different possible translations for 2 Timothy 3:16:(1) “All scripture is inspired and useful for teaching …” (tradition interpretation).(2) “All inspired scripture is also useful for teaching …” (cp. NEB & REB).(3) “Every writing, those inspired and those useful, are for teaching …”In addition, this passage does not define what “inspired” means. I have no problem accepting scripture to be “inspired” as long as one does not take it to mean “infallible.” As for 2 Peter 3:15-16, the Greek phrase ὡς και τὰς λοιπὰς γραφὰς might simply mean: “as also [they do] the other writings.” Perhaps the author of 2 Peter thought of Paul’s writings as scripture, but that cannot be proven from this text.



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Ryan

posted August 29, 2007 at 12:12 pm


Steven said… “The problem with your argument is that we don’t have Herod’s account of the events, nor the account from the Jews themselves who are referred to at John 7:27. What you have presented is evidence from 1st century Christian sources, and all it proves it that 1st century Christians had the conviction that Jews and Herod had ideas about a coming Messiah.“You also said… “Even so, I’m unsure why you think John 7:27 is important for our discussion?“Firstly, this is important because you are claiming that Matthew’s account of historical events is merely his “Christian convictions concerning ideas that the Jews and Herod had about a coming Messiah” and not historical fact. It seems to me that you have no evidence for this claim, but I am giving you evidence in John 7:27 that the Jews in fact know about the coming Messiah and his origins. If they claimed that no one would know where the true Messiah would come from, thus (to them) proving that Jesus was not the Messiah because they knew where He came from, then John at least attests to Matthew’s statement about Herod and the scribes. This also relates to the virgin birth which is why I asked the question. If they knew the Messiah would come from Bethlehem yet said this, either they were making no sense or, though they were unbelieving, interpreted isaiah 7:14 to mean a virgin birth.Interestingly, in responding to Herod, the scribes do not fully quote from Micah 5:2 which is very strong evidence that the testimony is likely true. If Matthew made it up, why would he (Matthew) not finish Micah 5:2? Check it out… this is what the text actually says (what the scribes reportedly left out is in bold):”But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2, NASB).The scribes quoted this verse, but stopped before it said that this Messiah was God Himself!! This is very characteristic of the unbelieving scribes and gives credibility to the veracity of Matthew’s account! After all, where would he have heard this account if not from the Magi who were present when Herod and the scribes were speaking? Is it inconceivable to you that their testimony would have been relayed to Matthew? Is it not possible that they visited Israel later, either during Jesus’ ministry or during the formation of the early church (perhaps even at Pentecost)?What evidence do you have that your claims about Matthew’s account are true? Rather, is it not true that the Jews knew these things, especially those who rejected Jesus as the Messiah. And they did it with knowledge!”And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.’ Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, ‘We are not blind too, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.‘” (John 9:39-41)



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Ryan

posted August 29, 2007 at 12:38 pm


Steven said… “In addition, this passage does not define what ‘inspired’ means. I have no problem accepting scripture to be ‘inspired’ as long as one does not take it to mean ‘infallible.’“The word traslated “inspired” or “God-breathed” is theopneustos which literally means God’s breath, or God’s words. Isn’t that clear to you? So, what you are saying is, I have no problem that scripture is God’s words, just so long as you don’t take it to mean that He doesn’t make mistakes. You are treating God’s inspiration as meaningless.Steven said… “As for 2 Timothy 3:16, it appears that you’re taking it out of context. Paul makes it clear he was referring to the writings which Timothy knew as a child, that would exclude the New Testament.“Indeed, Paul is referring to the OT. And in context, he is also referring to Paul’s teaching and way of life (v10), that Timothy must continue in the things he has learned and is confident about (v14). In v15 he says that the “holy writings” were able to give him “wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” yet you claim that Jesus had to be read into the OT, that it had to be re-interpreted. Paul commends the Bereans for readily accepting his word and for searching the [OT] scriptures to see if the things he said were true (Acts 17:11). But when you report on the OT, you claim that these things were not the intended meaning, that they have to be re-interpreted to speak of Jesus.In 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter refers to “all” of Paul’s letters, and then conjoins them with the term loipoy which means “other,” “rest of” or “remaining” when he refers to the scriptures being twisted. Indeed, it proves positively without doubt that Peter is claiming Paul’s letters are scripture.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 29, 2007 at 12:48 pm


Ryan writes: You are treating God’s inspiration as meaningless.And again, you have gone from discussing the issues, to making personal attacks.



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Ryan

posted August 29, 2007 at 12:55 pm


If you see revealing the truth as a personal attack, then there is not much else I can say…Inspiration for me means something useful, and that is that I can trust the words of scripture (both the OT and NT in their original languages) as the very words of God.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:12 pm


Ryan wrote: If you see revealing the truth as a personal attack, then there is not much else I can say…There is a difference between presenting your own personal views on an issue, and making inflammatory remarks about what I personally believe.You wrote: You are treating God’s inspiration as meaningless.Your statement is a bold face lie. I have never treated anyone’s inspiration as meaningless, let alone God’s. I asked you to discuss the issues and to cease from making personal attacks, and now you want to try to cover up your personal attacks by claiming that you are only “revealing the truth.” You are not revealing any truth about me. You don’t know me, and you know very little about me. It is not the truth you are revealing, merely your lack of civility.Since you appear to want to make this personal, since you appear unwilling to discuss just the issues without making personal attacks, I cannot in good conscious continue talking with you.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 29, 2007 at 7:37 pm


Steven,You said to Ryan, “Your statement is a bold face lie.”Since Ryan was giving his opinion and not quoting you, perhaps it might have been more generous to say that you think Ryan is not understanding you properly. When I read what is being said on both sides, it appears that you are extremely sensitive. I find that surprising because your original posts come across with a lot of boldness. I see the boldness especially when you credit Matthew with adding his own opinion to the OT scriptures. (That was you wasn’t it or has my memory failed since last week?) Perhaps Matthew if he were here to defend himself could likewise say that you have not understood him properly.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 29, 2007 at 9:22 pm


Cheryl writes: Perhaps Matthew if he were here to defend himself could likewise say that you have not understood him properly.If Matthew was here, I would have treated him with respect and civility. But being that he has been dead for almost 2,000 years, I thought the chances of personally offending him to be very, very low.I imagine that by now Matthew knows that his gospel contains historical errors. I doubt they would keep that from him in heaven. Perhaps one day I will have a chance to talk to him about it, hopefully over a beer, maybe at Luther’s place, and Matthew can tell me all about it. I imagine that he would tell me that his historical errors were trivial, and that the important thing was not to miss the gospel in his gospel. Of course, sometimes I have a very vivid imagination.



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Cheryl Schatz

posted August 29, 2007 at 9:39 pm


Steven,You said: “If Matthew was here, I would have treated him with respect and civility.”I would think that Matthew deserves respect and civility even though he is dead. His written work has been given to us by God as a witness to the works of Christ, ministry and testimony of Christ. If Matthew’s witness isn’t impeccable, then he is impeached and he is worthless as a credible witness.Matthew deserves to be treated as a credible witness. He is a brother in Christ who was chosen as an apostle by Christ and if we impeach Matthew, then we are saying that Christ picked as a foundational Apostle someone who would pass on error in God’s written record and this error is never corrected in God’s word, so God is to blame.I think it best to trust God rather than a negative review of any man who repudiates the written record.



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Ryan

posted August 30, 2007 at 3:11 am


Steven, what I said was an honest assessment of what you stated your beliefs were. I think you were pretty clear when you said, “I have no problem accepting scripture to be ‘inspired’ as long as one does not take it to mean ‘infallible.’” Was how I rephrased your statement incorrect: “So, what you are saying is, I have no problem that scripture is God’s words, just so long as you don’t take it to mean that He doesn’t make mistakes”?It seems to me that your view of inspiration is the same as how a poet or an artist is inspired. He sees something beautiful or smells an intriguing smell, and is inspired to write, or to paint… or perhaps to sing a song. If this is the kind of inspiration behind the authors of scripture, then it is understandable that you would think that their writings would be fallible. However, the bible speaks of its inspiration as it being from God Himself, that it is God-breathed. If scripture is to be useful for correction, rebuke and training, its pretty hard to do so when you are not sure that it is correct in the first place. And I’m not referring to incorrect translations, but your assertion that what we can be clear on it saying is historically inaccurate in places. What I meant by what I said is that this sort of inspiration does nothing useful for us but perhaps move our emotions. Perhaps I was overextending to use the word “meaningless,” but I meant it in the sense that you cannot build a foundation of faith on a text you cannot trust.I repeat, that if Matthew cannot get small historical facts correct, then why would I be so foolish to place my faith in what he says concerning spiritual matters, things I cannot see and test? I think that it would be very helpful for myself, but moreso for anyone else reading this, if you could respond to this. I believe that this is the crux of what is bothering me about much of what you are saying.Just to be clear, what I am asking you is how I can trust Matthew in what he says about spiritual matters (ie. the gospel) when I cannot trust him in earthly matters? And, by the way, I didn’t make this logic up… Jesus used it Himself:John 3:11-12 “Truly, truly, [ie. this is important!] I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”



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Ryan

posted August 30, 2007 at 10:29 am


Steven said… “I cannot in good conscious continue talking with you.“Perhaps your conscience will allow you to respond to my previous post for the sake of others…those like Bart Ehrman…who are losing or have lost their faith. They lose their faith because people tell them they cannot trust the historical records of Matthew and Luke, and then that these same authors have to reinterpret the OT to convince people of the authenticity of their beliefs. Why should we believe that God is speaking through them?So PLEASE don’t feel like you need to respond to me…please respond for their sake.Thanks,Ryan



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 30, 2007 at 1:03 pm


Ryan writes: Perhaps your conscience will allow you to respond to my previous post for the sake of others…I would love to continue our discussion, if I was convinced you weren’t merely trying to bait me into exposing my beliefs merely so you could latter make fun of them and ridicule them.As you must know, the Christian church is divided as to how it sees and reads the Bible. Conservative Christian hold that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God, whereas mainline Christians believe that while the Bible is inspired, it is not infallible.The conflict is rooted in two different ways of looking at scripture. Sometimes the conservative Christians go by the label “evangelical” (of course, many mainline Christians, such as myself, use this label too) and others by the label “fundamentalist.” What is the difference between a conservative evangelical and a fundamentalist? A fundamentalist has been defined as “an evangelical who is angry about something.”As I have stated all along, I am more than willing to discuss issues, as long as it doesn’t turn into personal attacks. I’m really not interested in reading about how my personal beliefs do not come up to your personal standards. I don’t care to read hate-mongering statements which belittle my religious beliefs. Unfortunately, some people just like to hate others, they enjoy hating. Frankly, I have more interesting things to do than to listen to such crap, like cleaning toilets.If you think we can keep our discussion at a very civil level, I will be willing to continue. Cheryl said that I have been too sensitive. Perhaps she is correct. I don’t apologize for that. I don’t want to find myself in a situation where I’m saying unkind things because someone said unkind things to me. That just doesn’t seem to me to be a healthy way to live life, nor very Christian.



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Ryan

posted August 31, 2007 at 1:28 am


Steven wrote… “I would love to continue our discussion, if I was convinced you weren’t merely trying to bait me into exposing my beliefs merely so you could latter make fun of them and ridicule them.“Let’s see if I can convince you that I am not trying to do what you wrote above. I am indeed contending with the things you are saying, but I am not trying to make fun of you or ridicule you. I know it is difficult to do so, but if it is at all possible we need to try to divorce the ideas themselves from who we are as people. None of us should be so married to any one idea that we are not willing to be convinced otherwise if the evidence demonstrates that we might be wrong.Now, 2 Cor 10:5 says “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” So then if some speculation or thought becomes a fortress keeping people from placing their complete trust in God, it is not persons (flesh and blood) we are to come against, but these ideas. It is not to ridicule or make fun of these ideas, but to treat them seriously, because of the spiritual effect they have in keeping people from a knowledge of God.I realize that sometimes when the problem with an idea is exposed, it can feel like you are cornered. If that happens, I will try to be more graceful. The reason you have correctly sensed me being more aggressive in my defense towards what you are saying is because, as far as I recall, when I give a strong argument in response to your objection, you either ignore my argument, continue to object until such a point as you conclude we are at an impasse, or you move onto the next objection without dealing with the argument I gave for the former. This issue of inspiration concerning accuracy and this whole idea of having to re-interpret the OT to get Jesus in there is not a side-issue that we can treat lightly. It is very serious, and as I mentioned, people like Bart Ehrman have completely lost faith because of it. I can see that there are others reading this blog who are at a similar point in their faith. If what you are saying is true, then they relegate faith to “blind” faith contrary to where the evidence seems to be leading.So can you see why I would come so strongly against these ideas of yours?Steven wrote… “As I have stated all along, I am more than willing to discuss issues, as long as it doesn’t turn into personal attacks. I’m really not interested in reading about how my personal beliefs do not come up to your personal standards. I don’t care to read hate-mongering statements which belittle my religious beliefs. Unfortunately, some people just like to hate others, they enjoy hating. Frankly, I have more interesting things to do than to listen to such crap, like cleaning toilets.“Steven, I’m not trying to force you to share my preferences; I actually believe that the things we believe have a real effect on our faith in God. If I was trying to make you like chocolate ice cream when you couldn’t stand it, that would be unfair and rude. But since we are both professing believers, and our authority is scripture, then if someone shows us where we might be in error by that authority, then it should follow that we would be eager to know the truth so we can follow it.It is not hate mongering to strongly disagree with one’s statements, especially when they have a logical and biblically reasoned justification for their disagreement. As Christians, we are called to tolerate people but not necessarily their ideas. In the end you can choose to believe what you want, but when you present your objections as though they are established facts in a public forum such as this, my concern that others not be misled motivates me to contend with your ideas.Steven wrote… “If you think we can keep our discussion at a very civil level, I will be willing to continue. Cheryl said that I have been too sensitive. Perhaps she is correct.“I can’t help but wonder if Jesus met up to these standards. We know that He is love, yet He certainly had a knack for offending people. I mean to have people plot and attempt to kill you 10 times? So if you are calling me to something higher than the life Jesus lived, I’m not sure how exactly to respond to that. All I can say is I will do my best to treat you fairly and give ideas a fair hearing.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 31, 2007 at 8:36 am


Ryan write: I can’t help but wonder if Jesus met up to these standards. We know that He is love, yet He certainly had a knack for offending people. I mean to have people plot and attempt to kill you 10 times? So if you are calling me to something higher than the life Jesus lived, I’m not sure how exactly to respond to that.Every conservative Christian bigot uses that argument. I used to be a monitor for a Christian bulletin forum (via a computer network). We would get in all sorts of people, some of them genuine bigots, while others just had limited social skills (and we tried to educate them as to what was acceptable behavior on our forum). But they would always give us this argument for justifying their rude behavior.All I can say is that you’re not Jesus and you don’t have the authority over my life to pretend that you do. When I correct my children, I can do so (at times) sharply, because I’m their father, and I have the authority to correct their behavior. Jesus had a certain authority as Rabbi, prophet, and Son of God. You don’t have any authority over me, you are not my pastor, you are not a member of my church or parish, you are not a relative of mine, you are not my employer, judge, or police officer. You are merely someone I’ve found on line who says he would like to discuss some issues. I’m willing to discuss issues with you, but I will not take any Jesus was at times harsh to others so I have a right, an obligation, to be harsh with you crap.So which is it? Are you wanting to be civil? Or are you wanting to justify your right to be harsh? Because I have time to waste for someone wanting to be civil. I don’t have any time to waste for someone out to attack my religious beliefs.



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Magnus

posted August 31, 2007 at 9:16 am


Steven,I think that the question posed by Ryan is as follows:’Just to be clear, what I am asking you is how I can trust Matthew in what he says about spiritual matters (ie. the gospel) when I cannot trust him in earthly matters?’It seems like a civil enough question and i would love to get your thoughts on it. From your post I can tell that you are a genuine nice guy that has thought these things through and i would greatly appreciate your answer to this since i already know Ryan’s answer.Magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 31, 2007 at 10:12 am


Magnus asks: how I can trust Matthew in what he says about spiritual matters (ie. the gospel) when I cannot trust him in earthly matters?This is a very good question, and an important one, I would be more happy to address it, but first I would like to ask you a question.I have a question about a person I know. His name is Vincent. He passed away maybe ten years ago, perhaps less. I suppose he was born during the twenties (give or take). He was the oldest child in his family, and when his father died early he went to work as a teenager to support the family. For a while, he even drove a mule team. He never learned much more than how to write his name, he was illiterate (he couldn’t even read street signs). When he got older he married a woman who had two boys, whose former husband had died of alcohol related death. Their union produced a girl, and so three children in all. The family always went to church (usually two or three times a week), prayed before meals, etc. When the children grew up, one boy joined the army, the other boy became a minister, and the girl became a housewife. I had known Vincent for some time, he had some type of speech impediment, it was difficult for him to enunciate his words. And so, he rarely talked, I saw him often in a family setting sitting off to the side quietly. He was fairly poor, but he was a hard worker, and always willing to help others who had some need. I can’t say that I knew him well, perhaps no one did except his wife, for it was not like one could have much of a conversation with him. But people seemed to speak highly of him, he rarely had any problems with anyone (and when it did happen, it was often just a misunderstanding, his hearing was starting to go also). My question is this, is it possible for a illiterate person who has never read the bible, who presumably understands very little about theology, to be a genuine Christian?



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Magnus

posted August 31, 2007 at 10:42 am


I would say yes, but it looks like he was exposed to the Bible a great deal by going to church 1-2 times a week. That is more than many Christians that can read. I hope that that answers the question. I hope that that does not mean that everyone will go to heaven though. For example, will we see the Dali Lama there?From your question would could suppose that is what you are getting at, but from reading your posts up to this point that would be foolish for anyone to think.magnus



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Magnus

posted August 31, 2007 at 10:47 am


sorry for the that that comments and would could suppose. loli meant one could suppose your comment to lead there.magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 31, 2007 at 11:16 am


To: Magnus, Let’s take one step at a time. You jumped from illiterate Christian to the Dali Lama, which in my opinion, is a huge jump. I’m wanting to make smaller steps.You asked: how I can trust Matthew in what he says about spiritual matters (ie. the gospel) when I cannot trust him in earthly matters?And I asked: is it possible for a illiterate person who has never read the bible, who presumably understands very little about theology, to be a genuine Christian?You answered, “yes.” Now I think you will see where I’m going with this better in my next question. Let’s assume that an illiterate person listened to the preaching of Peter in the 1st century, and let’s assume that he accepted the Christian message, was baptized by Peter, and instructed in the Christian faith by Peter and others. Was Peter always infallible in everything he said and did? (What about Galatians 2:11-14?) If Peter could not be trusted in all spiritual matters, let alone earthly matters, why should this illiterate person trust Peter in his preaching of the gospel? Or perhaps are we asking the wrong question, perhaps he wasn’t trusting Peter as such, but rather was trusting God and the work Jesus did for his salvation?Personally, I believe that those who put their faith in the Bible have their priorities all wrong, it is not the Bible which saves them, rather they should have faith in God.



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Magnus

posted August 31, 2007 at 11:34 am


i guess my struggle is where then does faith come from? i had always thought it came from Romans 10:17how would i know anything about Christ if it were not for the Bible? if what is written in that Book is wrong then how can someone like me trust it? why not just do what my brother, who is atheist, do and just live a good life that will bring me some happiness and success? i read the passage you quoted and it seems to me that it really has no bearing on the original question. After all, it looks like Paul called him out on it. i thought that is what one is uppose to do when it goes against scripture/God? the question is why owuld any man, let alone an illiterate one believe what someone says is written in a Book without believing that the book is accurate?Please know that i am in no way an expert or have any kind of schooling in these matters. i struggle at times with my faith and belief and enjoy reading different views and opinions. i also know that my faith is not in the Bible, but rather in jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour. who i am getting to know more and more by reading that Book. magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 31, 2007 at 11:59 am


Magnus writes: i read the passage you quoted and it seems to me that it really has no bearing on the original question. After all, it looks like Paul called him out on it. i thought that is what one is suppose to do when it goes against scripture/God?My point was that Peter was not infallible in everything he said and did, even when it came to spiritual matters, he sometimes got things wrong. There had to be people who heard the gospel from Peter and accepted Christianity even though Peter was not infallible when it came to spiritual matters. In my opinion, this has bearing on the original question.The question you asked was: how I can trust Matthew in what he says about spiritual matters (ie. the gospel) when I cannot trust him in earthly matters?Just as someone could benefit from hearing Peter preach, so also can we benefit from reading Matthew’s gospel. One does not have to believe that Peter’s preaching was infallible in order to trust in God, similarly, one does not need to believe that Matthew’s gospel is infallible in order to trust in God.



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Ryan

posted August 31, 2007 at 12:00 pm


Wow…Yes, I am not Christ, your pastor, your father, your rabbi, your prophet, a member of your church, a relative, employer, judge or police officer. But I’m not just a nobody since in Christ we are supposed to be brothers. By implication, I’m the bigoted one lacking in social skills.Tell you what, I’ll let you be my police officer; if my social handicap comes out again, you can blow the whistle. Sound reasonable? :-)Steven wrote… “If Peter could not be trusted in all spiritual matters, let alone earthly matters, why should this illiterate person trust Peter in his preaching of the gospel?“Let’s go back to what Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:11-12). Matthew is testifying to what he knows and what he has seen. If we do not accept his testimony, then by implication in this passage, Jesus asks how we will believe the messenger if he speaks of heavenly things.Your argument doesn’t seem to follow from this. Jesus wasn’t speaking to illiterate people. Matthew was human just as every person who penned scripture (and the Bible even shows us the mistakes of those who wrote it). But he was not speaking to gain recognition for Himself, but working for the honor of God. In John 7:18 we read, “He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.”If Matthew cannot get historical accounts right, why should even an illiterate person believe him?



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Magnus

posted August 31, 2007 at 12:15 pm


Steven,what part do i need to trust in Matthew’s gospel? i understand that i do not have to trust all of it, but which part should i trust?do you see my dilemma? how can i trust anything that he writes if i am unable to tell which parts are true and which parts are not? any help would be appreciated.magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 31, 2007 at 12:24 pm


Ryan writes: Matthew is testifying to what he knows and what he has seen.How do you know for a fact that the Matthew who wrote the “Gospel according to Matthew” was the same Matthew who was a (first generation) disciple of Jesus?



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Ryan

posted August 31, 2007 at 12:32 pm


Steven wrote… “How do you know for a fact that the Matthew who wrote the ‘Gospel according to Matthew’ was the same Matthew who was a (first generation) disciple of Jesus?“It appears that none of the four gospels had identifying names on them as far as we know until perhaps the late second century (perhaps by ~170 AD). The early church didn’t seem to need this since it appears they all recognized who wrote them.It seems to me that the burden of proof is on you since you are bringing the accusation that Matthew the apostle didn’t write it. What evidence do you have to support your objection?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 31, 2007 at 12:36 pm


Magnus writes: do you see my dilemma? how can i trust anything that he writes if i am unable to tell which parts are true and which parts are not?Why should this be a real problem? Is it really all that different from listening to a pastor preach? I listen to my pastor preach every Sunday. Is he infallible? Must I trust everything he says, or trust nothing?Have you ever read any other book aside from the Bible? Did you find something of value in any of those books?I’m not saying that the Bible is just like any other book, only that (from my point of view) it can’t be (or is not) any worse than other books. And if we can find something of value in those books, how much more should we be able to find something of value in the Bible?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 31, 2007 at 12:41 pm


Ryan writes: It seems to me that the burden of proof is on you …But it seems to me that the burden of proof is on you!Gosh … what are we going to do now? Maybe we could argue about “burden of proof” for a couple days?Most mainstream scholars hold that Matthew was not written by a first generation disciple of Jesus. I could present their reasons for holding this point of view, but I doubt you would be impressed by them.



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Magnus

posted August 31, 2007 at 12:56 pm


Steven,would it be fair then to say that all people are going to heaven? i mean i could make a case from some scriptures that all are saved and going to heaven. if i am understanding you correctly then the Bible is like most other books that one can get little tid bits of useful information from and leave it at that.while i do listen to my pastor on Sunday’s what should i do if he goes completely counter to what the Bible says? what if instead of using the Bible he asks us to study and bring the Koran, Moby Dick, or Shakespear. would that help anyone with their salvation?thanks again for your thoughts and reesponse to my questions. i understand that most of my questions are basic, but again i am new to most of this stuff.magnus



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Ryan

posted August 31, 2007 at 1:02 pm


Steven wrote… “Why should this be a real problem? Is it really all that different from listening to a pastor preach? I listen to my pastor preach every Sunday. Is he infallible? Must I trust everything he says, or trust nothing?“Nobody is saying that you need to blindly trust Matthew. But I have shown how his historical account of Herod and the Magi is very plausible and fits into the historical records we have, so why suggest that it is in error when there is no historical evidence to disprove Matthew who was much closer to the event then you or I?Also, when your pastor speaks, you should not be blindly accepting everything he says. Rather, we look back to the scriptures to confirm that what he is saying is true. If you cannot trust the scriptures, then how can you know if what he says is true? The apostle Paul who you would think would have a right to say, “listen to me!! I’m an apostle!” commended the Bereans as being more noble than others because they checked him out by scripture.Steven wrote… “Have you ever read any other book aside from the Bible? Did you find something of value in any of those books?“You can find something good in just about everything. But all those other books we read need to be tested according to the scriptures which are the oracles of God, the “God-breathed” writings. We don’t treat the Bible like other books and just look for the good in it because it says that all scripture is God-breathed. Why do you think it was so important that the prophets of old had to be 100% accurate or they were stoned to death as a false prophet? Because God does not lie, and if they were inaccurate then they were not speaking for Him.If we treat the Bible similar (perhaps only a little better) than other books, we might not look at the things that offend us or question whether or not they are really true, or whether Jesus in fact said such difficult things.Steven wrote… “I could present their reasons for holding this point of view, but I doubt you would be impressed by them.“If you have evidence for your assertions that you believe is compelling enough to conclude that we cannot trust Matthew’s historical accuracy, then why don’t you briefly summarize this evidence so we can evaluate it?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 31, 2007 at 1:26 pm


Magnus asks: if i am understanding you correctly then the Bible is like most other books that one can get little tid bits of useful information from and leave it at that.I didn’t say that the Bible is like most other books, only that it isn’t any worse than most other books. And I didn’t say that one can only get “little tid bits” from the Bible.What I am saying is that just because the Bible is not infallible, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from it. I reject the notion that the Bible has to be perfect and infallible or else it is just a piece of crap and not worth anything, and one shouldn’t trust anything it says. That is just unrealistic. That is not how normal people live life. Even science is not absolutely infallible, but it got men to the moon and back.Carl E. Braaten, in his “Christian Dogmatics,” writes: The Bible is the written Word of God in a derived way; it is the deposit of preaching of the early church (75). And just as one does not need to believe that preaching today is infallible, so also one does not need to believe that the Bible is infallible. All throughout the Bible, God has been able to work with and through fallible people, whether it be David or Peter, neither man was without faults. The desire to have something and to be able to hold something which one believes to be without fault appear to me to be idolatry, there is even an English term for this, it is called “bibliolatry.”



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 31, 2007 at 1:38 pm


Ryan writes: But I have shown how his historical account of Herod and the Magi is very plausible and fits into the historical records we have, so why suggest that it is in error when there is no historical evidence to disprove Matthew who was much closer to the event then you or I?Actually, your explanation didn’t appear plausible to me.Ryan writes: If you have evidence for your assertions that you believe is compelling enough to conclude that we cannot trust Matthew’s historical accuracy, then why don’t you briefly summarize this evidence so we can evaluate it?I have, you didn’t like it.Actually, I would like to re-visit Luke 2:1-5. You posted a web address which was supposed to refute my objections. I read that article, but it didn’t really address all the points I had raised. Perhaps you would like to go over what I wrote, point by point?



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Magnus

posted August 31, 2007 at 1:58 pm


Steven,are there then other ways to Heaven? i would really like to know, because the more i understand you the more i see that there is no point to it. I mean sure the Bible is a good book and we should read it and learn what we can but which parts? Can i pick and choose which ones to follow or is there a list? i have asked my Pastor and he seems to be with you on this that the Bible is a good book, but that it was written by fallible men that at times put their own spin on things.if that is the case then why Christianity at all? why not Hinduism or Islam or any of the other religions out there. in fact why not throw it out all together. i mean religion has had a poor track record when it comes to human atrocities and the such.i would like to know from someone who has obviously studied these things and thought them through if you think that there are other ways to God? thank you in advance for your response.magnus



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Ryan

posted August 31, 2007 at 2:58 pm


Hi Steven,I will respond point-by-point to your objections to Luke 2 hopefully later this evening.Ryan



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 31, 2007 at 3:21 pm


To: Magnus,My area of expertise (if I might be allowed to use that term) is biblical studies. I read ancient Greek, and have studied Hebrew & Latin. And I’m fairly well read in the area of scholarly biblical studies. I used to own somewhere around 10,000 books, although my wife is now trying to sell some of them off on ebay.What I’m trying to say is that surely there are people better versed at theology than I. I’ve read my Lutheran “Christian Dogmatics,” Tillich’s “Systematic Theology,” and Pannenberg’s “Systematic Theology.” But I wouldn’t call systematic theology my strong suit.Generally speaking, mainstream Christians tend to think that many non-Christians might make it to heaven nonetheless. But I doubt I know how to convince anyone that it might happen, or how one should argue the point.One book which made an impression on me years ago was “The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis. But perhaps I should read it again rather than simply recommending it after all these years. Anyway, I know that there are parts of that book which I really, really liked. Have you ever read it?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted August 31, 2007 at 3:32 pm


Ryan writes: I will respond point-by-point to your objections to Luke 2 hopefully later this evening.Fine, there is no rush.But what might be even better would be an opinion from an impartial scholar. I wonder how many Roman historians view Luke 2 as historical?



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Magnus

posted August 31, 2007 at 3:40 pm


Steven,thanks, i remember very little of The Great Divorce. that is the one with the heaven and hell and people in hell are ghosts? i will have to try and look at it again. if i am remebering the book then what i got was how people in hell do not really want to go to heaven. so if i really want to go to heaven then i should be fine. i am glad to have talked to you because it backs up with what my pastor and most of what my brother say. i can rest and not worry about this Christianity stuff anymore.many blessings to youmagnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 1, 2007 at 8:27 am


Magnus writes: I can rest and not worry about this Christianity stuff anymore.What “Christian stuff” are you trying to ignore? According to Jesus, there are two great commandments: (1) to love God and (2) to love others. On the one hand, these commandments seem fairly simple and straightforward, on the other hand, the human heart is often wanting merely to love itself first and to forget, or put off, the need to love God and others. There is no simple solution to this dilemma. Perhaps you would benefit from speaking to your pastor again. Ask him why he thinks this “Christian stuff” is of value, and how it might perhaps be of value for your life as well.Personally, I hate giving people personal advice over the internet. I’m not in the counseling business. The above is just my two-cents.



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Magnus

posted September 1, 2007 at 8:42 am


By stuff i mean that my brother is right in that the Bible is not true in that it has a bunch of errors and mistakes. you and my pastor agree on that wit him. Now knowing that i see that while it makes some good points it is not the only valid way. My pastor tells me that he likes Christianity and that is why he follows it. You bring up Jesus two great commandments, but how do i know he even said that? even you have stated that the Bible is infallible with errrors. is there any proof that he said those two were the most important? or that he said them in the first place?I remember where i read John Wesley say that if there be one error in that Book there may as well be a 1,000 or something like that. i would agree with him and since that is the case why waste time on such things?magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 1, 2007 at 9:23 am


Magnus writes: even you have stated that the Bible is infallible with errrors.Actually, that is not the case. I stated that the Bible was “fallible,” not “infallible,” and I also stated that the Bible contained “errors,” not “errrors.” It is a small, but important distinction to make. I only point this out to point out that we all make mistakes, it is the way the real world works. So why should you or anyone else be surprised to find out that Jesus’ disciples were just like us, fallible?You ask: is there any proof that he said those two were the most important? or that he said them in the first place?Sure, there is. It is not “absolute proof” (whatever that might be), but there is solid evidence. History is not like science. Jesus was a historical person, just as Socrates, or Aristotle. Do we have “infallible” proof what Socrates said and did? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about him. The same is true about Jesus. Magnus write: I remember where i read John Wesley say that if there be one error in that Book there may as well be a 1,000 or something like that.If Wesley said such a thing, and I don’t doubt he might have, in my opinion, such an opinion is just silly. If you carried such an attitude over into real life, you wouldn’t be able to do anything. And it would be silly to read anything. Everything you read has the potential of containing some error. I’m not infallible, so by that logic you shouldn’t read anything I write. The internet if full of error, you shouldn’t read anything on the internet. Indeed, all humans on earth currently are also fallible, so you shouldn’t listen to them, or read anything they have written. All knowledge is fallible, so don’t pay any attention to it either. It seems to me that you’re throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.



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Magnus

posted September 1, 2007 at 10:09 am


thanks for the correction, i fear that i am the most fallible man the world has ever known.You write that we can be somewhat sure of what he said because he is a historical person and i do believe that, but it also strikes me that there are plenty of examples throughout the ages that people were attributed with words or deeds that they had nothing to do with in the first place.How can i be sure of the physical resurrection? my pastor tells me that it quite possibly could of been just in the hearts of his followers. how can i know what God requires of me? to believe on him? How? if what was written about him may or may not be factual. why should i put my hope in something that i am no more certain of then any other ancient book?For example, you bring up Socrates and while he was a historical record would you state under penalty of death that those were his words? would you stake your salvation on them? i doubt it.is that not what the Bible asks us to do though, stake our salvation on its teachings?As always thank youmagnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 1, 2007 at 11:05 am


Magnus writes: How can i be sure of the physical resurrection? my pastor tells me that it quite possibly could of been just in the hearts of his followers.In your post, you raised a large number of questions. I doubt that I’m up to giving a satisfactory answer to them all, or any of them for that matter. As for the resurrection, there is no “absolute proof” of a physical resurrection. There is probably no one mainstream Christian response to this question. Even among mainstream Christians, many of them still believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus, but others might answer as your pastor did. Conservative Christians would likely argue that if Jesus wasn’t resurrected physically from the dead, then it isn’t worth being a Christian. I wish they would speak for themselves, but I believe their argument stems from their all or nothing attitude which they have. Whereas I look at it from a different point of view. I find that my Christian life does have meaning for me, it has been worthwhile. And whether or not Jesus was physically raised from the dead, I still enjoy going to church, worshipping God, singing hymns, confessing my sins, reading and studying the Bible, and reflecting on my life from a Christian point of view. Sometimes conservative Christians suggest that “sin” is all the fun things we could do if there was no God. In my opinion that is just not so. In my opinion, sin is, at least in part, its own punishment.Magnus asks: how can i know what God requires of me?I don’t believe that there is any simple answer to your question. And I’m not the one who wants to give out personal advice over the internet. But perhaps the place you should be looking for this answer is at your church, and in discussion with your pastor.



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Magnus

posted September 1, 2007 at 1:25 pm


steven,does your church evangelize? i mean does it send missionaries? if they do why?Would not the world we live in be much better if we stop trying to convert Muslims or Hindiu’s or any other person? it would seem that it would solve some of the ill will in the world.i am struck that Christianity works for you, but one would be hard to understand where you are comming from. no offense, but one minute you say the Bible has many errors and wrong on multiple levels and that the Old has no bearing on the New Testament. the next minute you tell me that we can believe in it historically. it seems like you have a hodge podge idea of Christianity. pick what you like and throw out or discard what you don’t. i can see how Atheism is attractive after reading some of the things written by you on here.please know that i appreciate your input and wish you well. i appologize if i had given you the impression that i needed your counseling or any other counseling. all i have tried to do is see where it is you are exactly comming from and while i still do not know where that is, i am inclined to not want to know anymore. since my simple mind can not understand some of the double talk that i have read. i hope that Christianity works for you in whatever form you have configured it.magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 1, 2007 at 1:50 pm


Magnus asks: does your church evangelize? i mean does it send missionaries? if they do why?Most of my churches missionary work, on a local, national, and world, scale, is directed to those who have no religious beliefs, as well as helping in relief efforts.Magnus writes: no offense, but one minute you say the Bible has many errors and wrong on multiple levels and that the Old has no bearing on the New Testament. the next minute you tell me that we can believe in it historically.Actually, you often seem to fail to grasp what I write. I never said that Hebrew scripture had no bearing on the New Testament. You have things backwards. What I said was that New Testament theological ideologies had no baring on Hebrew scripture. Also, I never suggested that we can “believe in it historically.” Rather I would suggest that just like most any other historical work, the Bible has historicity despite any errors in it.Magnus insults: it seems like you have a hodge podge idea of Christianity. pick what you like and throw out or discard what you don’t. i can see how Atheism is attractive after reading some of the things written by you on here.Or could it be that the reason my posts seem to you to be a “hodge podge,” is because you really don’t understand them?Magnus insults: all i have tried to do is see where it is you are exactly comming from and while i still do not know where that is, i am inclined to not want to know anymore. since my simple mind can not understand some of the double talk that i have read. It is interesting that you seem not to be able to understand what I write, nonetheless you are convinced that it is “double talk.” Could it be merely the former and not the latter?



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Magnus

posted September 1, 2007 at 2:31 pm


i am sorry if you took my post as an insult. yes i believe that your view of Christianity is a hodge podge view in that you pick and choose what to believe and what not too.So i assume that your church does not look to convert a person of different religious belief? of course i could be completely wrong again and show my fallible self. Too me the difference between when i am wrong is that i never have told nor asked anyone to believe me or what i say, but i was always under the impression from some of my Christian friends that i should believe scriputre. now i always took that to mean the Bible, but maybe i am wrong about that as well.After reading some of your comments it hit me of why should i believe what they say is true? sure some of the things might of happened, but its teachings could be chalked up to just some great teachings in line with Mohammed, Buddha, etc.Again,maybe i am wrong in this, but i could never see you briong anyone to Christ. The old line that i always here of go and make disciples probalby does not apply to you. if it does i wonder what type of disciple you would bring?again no offense, in fact if youtruly read what i am writing you would see that i am backing you up. anyways, good luck man! as someone wants said eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. (i think its from a Dave Matthews band song)magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 1, 2007 at 3:22 pm


Magnus writes: Again, maybe i am wrong in this, but i could never see you bring anyone to Christ.I’ve spent roughly half my life as a conservative Christian, and half my life as a mainstream Christian. As a conservative, I often went out evangelizing. I can’t say that I was ever successful, frankly, I think most of the people who I met at that time simply thought that I was a nuisance. I would probably now agree with them on that. Magnus writes: The old line that i always hear of go and make disciples probably does not apply to you.I think it was written for someone else. :-)Magnus asks: if it does i wonder what type of disciple you would bring?The person would be smart, well-read, handsome, fun to be with, great at parties, love to eat sausage brats, drink beer, and have a great sense of humor … NOT! Well, maybe just the well-read part. :-)Magnus writes: again no offense, in fact if you truly read what i am writing you would see that i am backing you up.This wouldn’t be an example of the proverb “with friends like you, who needs enemies,” would it? :-)



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Magnus

posted September 1, 2007 at 4:34 pm


Steven,Magnus writes: The old line that i always hear of go and make disciples probably does not apply to you.I think it was written for someone else. :-)I believe that you could use that answer for the whole Bible. Needless to say we are missing each others main points so I will leave it at that.Best wishes to you and God/Mother Earth/The Force ….BlessMagnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 1, 2007 at 6:02 pm


Magnus writes: I believe that you could use that answer for the whole Bible.Hmm … let’s see, Paul’s epistle to the Galatians was written to whom?(a) Me or (b) the Galatians?How would you answer this question?



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James Pate

posted September 1, 2007 at 9:29 pm


I would answer that question “Yes.”



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Magnus

posted September 2, 2007 at 9:18 am


Steven,I already said that you could use that answer for the whole Bible.Who was Romans writen too? Who was Timothy too? Who was ______ insert book of Bible written too?I wonder why read it then? Again it seems to me that you are able to pick and choose what to use and what not to use, I being the fallible and horrible creature that i am can not. It seems that when you say that you were a conservative Christian that you were not happy and then you saw the light and repented and now you are an enlightened Christian that is able to see things that most Christians that I have talked too do not.I am happy that what you found works for you and i do wish you the best, but to me it seems that you are walking down a very wide road that has plenty of company.I will keep searching for the road less traveled, i hear that it makes all the difference.magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 2, 2007 at 10:05 am


Magnus writes: It seems that when you say that you were a conservative Christian that you were not happy and then you saw the light and repented and now you are an enlightened Christian that is able to see things that most Christians that I have talked too do not.I don’t know that I’m happier today than I was before. What did happen was that I got a college education (a double major in philosophy and classical languages), I did a lot of reading in the area of biblical studies and theology, I learned to read ancient Greek, and I did a pericope by pericope comparison of the four Gospels in Greek with my pastor. At that point I was confronted with new evidence which I didn’t have before, and so it was only natural for me to modify some of my previous views.From my point of view, while conservative Christians often imagine that they believe in biblical authority, and they claim that the Bible is inerrant, in reality they have tacitly abandoned scripture in favor of a conservative Protestant ideology shaped largely in the nineteenth century. They buttress this conservative Protestant ideology with strings of quotations to give it a biblical flavor, but in fact it predetermines their reading of scripture so thoroughly that one cannot speak of the Bible as having any real independent voice in their differing theologies. (It is interesting to note that while conservative Christians all claim that the bible is infallible, nonetheless, they often come away with differing theologies.) In my opinion, if one would do a detail comparison of the Gospels, pericope by pericope, without trying to harmonize them based on an ideology of infallibility, just accepting the facts as they fall, they too would have to modify some of their views.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 2, 2007 at 11:36 am


Magnus writes: I will keep searching for the road less traveled, i hear that it makes all the difference.I guess if you like the great outdoors, I prefer to stay at home. Now my wife drags me outside every now and then. This summer we took a trip to Iceland (a Lutheran country, by the way) and found a few roads less traveled with beautiful countryside viewings of mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, etc. And in the summer time, Iceland was a little bit cooler than it was here in Chicago.



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Magnus

posted September 2, 2007 at 2:03 pm


Steven,While reading your second to last post i remembered a book i had read by Dr. Craig A. Evans Fabricating Jesus. Not sure about this, but he seems to have similar training as you, maybe more or maybe less. I do not have two resume in front to compare in depth. I wonder if you have read or heard of him?In the book he says things that I believe you are trying to say, but if not please let me know.”The truth of of the Christian message hinges not on the inerrancy of Scripture or on our ability to harmonize the four Gospels” This sounds like you, if i am not mistaken which has already been established that i am sometimes.he goes on to say “but on the resurrection of Jesus.” Now in earlier posts we established that some Christians do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. For your understanding of the Christian message is it important?of course you will probably say something like what do you mean by resurrection, but lets just say we keep it as the early Church believed it as the physical resurrection.In same book he writes “The evidence is compelling that the new Testament Gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John- are our best sources for understanding the historical Jesus. The New Testament Gospels are based on eyewitness testimony and truthfully and accurately relate the teaching, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.”Would you agree with that statement?By the way i enjoyed how the road less traveled turned into the outdoors. Something tells me though that you understand the meaning of the statement. magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 2, 2007 at 3:22 pm


To: Magnus,I’ve read a number of works by Craig A. Evans, although it was sometime ago. My impression is that he is more conservative than I, but nonetheless we would have many things in common.Craig writes: The New Testament Gospels are based on eyewitness testimony and truthfully and accurately relate the teaching, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.I don’t know what he means by “based on eyewitness testimony.” In my opinion (and the opinion of many scholars), the Gospels were composed by second generation disciples who were not themselves eyewitnesses, but who undoubtedly knew first generation disciples who preached and taught about Jesus. According to many scholars, the Gospel of Mark appears to have been written ca. 70 CE, roughly forty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, Mark himself was not an eyewitness, but according to tradition knew Peter and others. Then the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were composed from two primary sources, Mark and a now non-extant document scholars call “Q.” They were written in the 80s or early 90s. Last was the Gospel of John, which scholars date to the years 95-100 (give or take). All of this is speculation of course, there is no hard evidence, just scholarly conjecture. But if we compare this to other histories written in antiquity, the four canonical gospels are generally closer to the events which they portray than other works of antiquity. I firmly believe that there is no historical-critical reason for dismissing them completely out of hand.Craig writes: The truth of the Christian message hinges … on the resurrection of Jesus.I would hate to criticize a scholars of Craig’s stature based on one sentence taken without context. So let me say that I don’t know for sure what Craig might mean here. But I don’t believe that one can “prove” the resurrection. And I personally don’t believe that my faith depends (“henges”) on any single interpretation of the resurrection.Magnus writes: … but lets just say we keep it as the early Church believed it as the physical resurrection.It does appear that many 1st century Christians believed in a physical resurrection of Jesus. But it is interesting to note that in one of Luke’s account of the post-crucified Jesus appearing before Paul, Luke/Paul referred to it as a “heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). And Paul in 1 Corinthians refers to the resurrected body as a “spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:44), something different from a “physical body,” one without “flesh and blood” (1 Cor 15:50). By this I’m not meaning to suggest that Paul thought that Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t real, to him it was very real. Perhaps the problem is merely one of terminology, after all traditionally, Christians have always wanted to distinguish between a resuscitated body and a resurrected body. According to early Christian thinking Jesus’ resurrection was not simply a resuscitation. But perhaps Paul’s “spiritual body” open some doors to other interpretations.Magnus writes: By the way i enjoyed how the road less traveled turned into the outdoors. Something tells me though that you understand the meaning of the statement.What? Do you mean to tell me that you have roads inside your house? Cool! That must be one big house. :-)



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Magnus

posted September 2, 2007 at 4:31 pm


more conservative? how can that be possible. LOLHe referenced a book titled Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham in his book and I have went and gotten a copy. i will read it and see if it sheds more light on the subject. Perhaps our paths in the forrest will cross again. magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 2, 2007 at 4:50 pm


To: Magnus,I liked Richard Bauckham’s work on Revelation (he wrote a couple books on that topic). I haven’t read “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.” If you read the book, I would be interested to know how he “solves” the Synoptic Problem. In my opinion, that is one difficulty in the way of claiming that the Gospels were eyewitness accounts.



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Magnus

posted September 2, 2007 at 5:08 pm


i will read it and see what he says. my email is magnus0428@yahoo.com, just send me an email and i will let you know what he came up with or if you do not want to wait you could get the book as well.



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bethel

posted September 3, 2007 at 11:25 pm


Hi Magnus,In case you haven’t already done so, you might also like to refer to books by Lee Strobel (http://www.leestrobel.com/) and Mark Roberts (http://www.markdroberts.com/). In particular Dr Roberts has done a blog series on the reliability of the gospels (http://www.markdroberts.com/htmfiles/resources/gospelsreliable.htm). They are geared to address the layman but you might find some useful references for further study. An older work would be by FF Bruce (http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/ffbruce/ntdocrli/ntdocont.htm).God bless you.Keith



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 4, 2007 at 8:15 am


To Bethel,You present a number of resources so, if one wanted to indoctrinate oneself to a particular point of view, they could do so. I could present a number of mainstream scholarly resources so that one could indoctrinate oneself to the other side of the position. But what, if for example, one just wanted to know the truth? In my opinion, one of the best ways to get to the heart of this problem is to do a synoptic study of the Gospels, where each Gospel is laid out in parallel columns side by side and pericope by pericope so one can see the freedom each Gospel writer took to change and adapt the same stories. The problem is not that they did this once or twice, but that they did this repeatedly to the point of changing the very details of the story. Of course, it is better if one can do this study in Greek. There one will see how the Gospel writers even try to improve on the others grammatical style. At least this is the process I went through. I read both conservative and mainstream scholarly studies on the Gospels while reading through a Greek synopsis of the Gospels. By the time I carefully worked my way through the synopsis the conservative argument no longer made sense and the mainstream arguments appeared to be consistent with the facts I saw by reading the Gospels synoptically. No matter how ultimately one decides the issue, at least if one does such a study, one has at least been exposed to the facts of the case.



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Magnus

posted September 4, 2007 at 12:47 pm


Keith,thanks for the info and yes I have read some of their work. Stven,”I could present a number of mainstream scholarly resources so that one could indoctrinate oneself to the other side of the position”So i guess one side is conservative and the other is “mainstream”? I like the subtle implication in that.You talk of changing the very details of the story, sould you give an example? Just one for now since there are so many, but make it a really good one.magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 4, 2007 at 5:26 pm


Some Changes in the Gospel AccountsThe synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) contain a high degree of verbal similarity. In addition to verbal agreements, the synoptic gospels also often tell the very same stories. And not only do they tell the same stories, often they do so in the same order (although they also rearrange some of the stories). Because of the high degree of similarity between the synoptic gospels, most biblical scholars hold that the two of the three synoptic gospels had to copy from the remaining synoptic gospel. Most mainstream scholars (around 90%) hold that Matthew and Luke copied from the gospel of Mark and a non-extant written source called ‘Q.’(a) Mt 19:13-15 // Mk 10:13-16 // Lk 18:15-17Mark states that Jesus was “indignant” (Mk 10:14), Matthew and Luke tell the same story and omit that Jesus as “indignant.”(b) Mt 12:3-4 // Mk 2:25-26 // Lk 6:3-4Mark states that David entered into the house of God “when Abiathar was high priest” (Mk 2:26), but according to 1 Samuel 21, it was Ahimelech, not Abiathar, who was high priest at that time. Matthew and Luke tell the same story, but they omit Mark’s error.(c) Mt 20:20-21 // Mk 10:35-37According to Mark, the sons of Zebedee ask that one of them sit on his right hand and the other sit on his left hand. According to Matthew, it was the mother of the sons of Zebedee who makes this request.(d) Mt 12:12b-13 // Mk 3:4-5 // Lk 6:9-10Mark states that Jesus looked around with “anger” (Mk 3:5), Matthew and Luke tell the same story and omit that Jesus was angry.(e) Mt 9:1-2 // Mk 2:1-5 // Lk 5:17-20The Greek text of Mark’s gospels implies that the men, who brought the paralytic, dug through the roof, presumably removing a mud and thatch roof, such a removal would have created a big mess below where Jesus was teaching. Luke alters the passage to imply that they removed “tiles” from the roof, presumably a much cleaner operation. Matthew moves the whole scene away from a house into the open air.(f) Mk 1:23-28 // Lk 4:33-37In Mark’s account Jesus rebukes the man with an unclear spirit telling him to “Be silent,” nonetheless the unclean spirit cries out “with a loud voice.” In Luke’s account these details are reversed, first the man with an unclean demon cries out “with a loud voice,” and only then does Jesus rebuke him and tell him to “Be silent.”(g) Mt 21:1-9 // Mk 11:1-10 // Lk 19:28-40According to Matthew, Jesus asks his disciples to go get a donkey and colt and Jesus rides both of them into Jerusalem, whereas the same story in Mark and Luke only have one animal for Jesus to ride.(h) Mt 14:1-2 // Mk 6:14-16 // Lk 9:7-9According to Mark and Luke “some” here saying that “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead.” But according to Matthew it was Herod who made this statement.(i) Mt 19:16-22 // Mk 10:17-22 // Lk 18:18-23According to Mark Jesus tells a man “You lack one thing” (Mk 10:21), similarly Luke (18::22). But according to Matthew, the man asks: “What do I still lack?” (Mt 19:20).(j) Mt 27:45-54 // Mk 15:33-39 // Lk 23:44-48According to Mark, the person who filled the sponge with sour wine and gives it to Jesus to drink says: “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down” (Mk 15:36). Matthew tell the same story, except this time the person who makes this statement is not the one who filled the sponge but “the others” (Mt 27:49). Luke omits these details.(k) Mt 4:1-11 // Mk 1:12-13 // Lk 4:1-13Matthew and Luke have transposed the second and third temptations. This one example should make it painfully clear that inspiration of scripture does not guarantee infallible historical accuracy. For if God had inspired both Matthew and Luke to relate things as they actually happened then the two accounts should be the same. According to Matthew the order of the temptations are: (1) bread, (2) test, and (3) worship; but according to Luke the order of the temptations are: (1) bread, (2) worship, and (3) test. Both accounts cannot be historically accurate.(l) Mt 5:40 // Lk 6:29Matthew writes that Jesus said: if anyone wants to sue you and take your “chiton,” give your “himation” as well (Mt 5:40). Whereas Luke writes that Jesus said: and from anyone who takes away your “himation” do not withhold even your “chiton” (Lk 6:29). While this is not an earth shattering alteration of the text, it illustrates a case where it might be hard to pick up the difference without knowledge of Greek.(m) Mt 3:13-17 // Mk 1:9-11 // Lk 3:21-22Marks tells us that John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordon. It is possible that this could give some the wrong impression about the relationship between John and Jesus. Both Matthew and Luke solve this problem in two different ways. Matthew inserts verses 14 & 15 into his story, these verses have John the Baptist deferring to Jesus. Luke takes the pericope about John the Baptist being led off to prison and places it before Jesus’ baptism. In Luke’s account, in verse 20 John the Baptist is placed in prison, and in verses 21-22, Jesus is baptized without John’s name being mentioned. Thus, without being explicit, Luke’s gospel gives the impression that Jesus was not baptized by John.Many more examples could be given.



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Magnus

posted September 4, 2007 at 5:51 pm


Steven,That sure is a treasure chest of problems. I guess the just taking one and making it good was too much:)Oh well, people can write books on all that stuff. Let me just try k) I read somewhere that matthew uses time-ordering language like “then” and “again” where Luke simply uses “and” I thought that most people were under the impression that Luke’s account is not chronological. How though is this a big theological problem? It seems that they both agree to the 3 temptations. If they were exactly the same could one then not scream more boldly that they copied each other.I am sure that you looked at possible explanations when you found these differences, did you just not like them? Did not suite your fancy as they say? magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 4, 2007 at 7:00 pm


Magnus writes: Let me just try k) … I thought that most people were under the impression that Luke’s account is not chronological. How though is this a big theological problem? It seems that they both agree to the 3 temptations.As far as the chronology of the stories in the synoptic gospels, none of them match up completely. So it is absolutely clear that two of the three chronologies are not historical. And while it is clear that Luke deviates from Mark’s chronology more than Matthew, that point is only cogent if one accepts that both Matthew and Luke re-wrote Mark (which of course, I believe that they did).As far as it being a “big theological problem,” I would only suggest it is a problem for those who claim that both Matthew and Luke were inspired to write infallible history. For those who do not make that claim, it isn’t a “big theological problem.” As to the notion that both Matthew and Luke were inspired to write infallible history, only Matthew kept the historical order of the temptations, and Luke merely switched the chronology and didn’t mean to imply a historical order of the temptations. All I can say is that looks more like a rationalization, an attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too.Magnus writes: I am sure that you looked at possible explanations when you found these differences, did you just not like them?Actually, when I started working through a Greek synopsis of the four gospels, I held a conservative view of the inspiration of scripture. But I was also willing to listen to the evidence and let the facts speak for themselves. I was eventually forced to admit that scripture was not infallible history.



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Magnus

posted September 4, 2007 at 8:24 pm


Steven,you wrote: As to the notion that both Matthew and Luke were inspired to write infallible history, only Matthew kept the historical order of the temptations, and Luke merely switched the chronology and didn’t mean to imply a historical order of the temptations. All I can say is that looks more like a rationalization, an attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too.Maybe you can help me by showing me where this is fallible? Does infallible mean that the Gsopels have to write it down the exact same way and never change the order of anything? I thought fallible meant that one is liable to be erroneous? If that then is what fallible means how is one of the two accounts erroneous? Because they both did not put it in the exact same order? As for the cake and eating it too, I always thouught that is the argument that one should base it on… the taking it in context and what the writer means to convey. If that is the case then by pointing out that it appears Matthew was more in the chronological order and Luke was not focused on that, why is that not valid? I can not see how that is having your cake and eating it too. It seems to me that if the case were not able to be made that Matthew uses “then” and “again” and Luke uses “and” that your argument would be stronger.



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Ryan

posted September 5, 2007 at 3:27 am


Steven,It is taking more time than I anticipated to the census account in Luke 2. I wanted to read some of the scholarly literature on it first, though I got distracted by one of Ben’s other posts. That and family was visiting over the long weekend, so didn’t get much time.However, I want to respond to your allegations concerning alleged errors in the synoptic gospels.Steven wrote… (a) Mt 19:13-15 // Mk 10:13-16 // Lk 18:15-17: Mark states that Jesus was “indignant” (Mk 10:14), Matthew and Luke tell the same story and omit that Jesus as “indignant.”Steven, I don’t see how this is a problem at all. In fact, it would seem that if these are truly separate accounts of the same events (and not mere copies of one another), we would expect different details of the same event to be reported. What we see here is no discrepency whatsoever, as Matthew and Luke do not say that Jesus was not indignant, they just don’t focus on this fact of the event. Just one witness of a crime scene might report that the the suspect had brown hair and was tall, while another says that he was tall, male and wore bell bottom blue jeans, while another witness says he had blue jeans, had long hair and ran really fast, looked nervous and got into a green getaway car. All three accounts are different, yet it seems reasonable to conclude that all are clearly pieces of the same puzzle when in reference to the same event.Steven wrote… (b) Mt 12:3-4 // Mk 2:25-26 // Lk 6:3-4: Mark states that David entered into the house of God “when Abiathar was high priest” (Mk 2:26), but according to 1 Samuel 21, it was Ahimelech, not Abiathar, who was high priest at that time. Matthew and Luke tell the same story, but they omit Mark’s error.First, I want to point out that there are lots of details in these three accounts that should lead you to believe that these are three separate accounts. Mark is the only one who mentions Abiathar the high priest and also is the only one that says Jesus said “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Luke’s account is the shortest, but is the only one that mentions that they rubbed the heads of grain between their hands. In Mark, the Pharisees speak to Jesus and accuse His disciples. In Luke, he says that some of the Pharisees said, “why do you do…” (apparently speaking to the disciples). In Matthew’s account, the Pharisees speaking to Jesus say “your disciples”. Matthew’s account is the longest and he adds details not contained in the other accounts, such as “on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent,” “someone greater than the temple is here,” and “I desire compassion and not a sacrifice.” It seems to me that these are quite plausibly three unique accounts of the same events, all from eyewitness testimony. And, just as you wouldn’t claim that a witness of a crime scene was copying another witness because some of the reported details overlap, why would you think it necessary to do so here? The name of the high priest evidently wasn’t important to Luke and Matthew. Wouldn’t it be that if they were correcting Mark, then they would have mentioned Ahimelech instead of Abiathar? Silence does not imply correction.First, we should note that the phrase translated “when Abiathar was high priest” uses a particularly rare grammatical construction in the Greek. The Greek word epi preceeds Abiathar, and epi might be translated ‘upon,’ perhaps as “upon the time of Abiathar” (though that sounds a bit difficult. It is possible that if more examples of this construction can be found in extra-biblical literature, it may be that this evidence could substantiate a more general time-frame, ie. “in the days when Abiathar was high priest.” Suffice to say that it seems to be a strange construction.However, I think there is a more compelling explanation. Looking at the scripture, we know in 1 Sam 21 that David ate the consecrated bread from the priest named Ahimelech, and we know from elsewhere that Abiathar is stated as the son of Ahimelech who was also a priest at the same time as Ahimelech. However, strangely we have two scriptures which refer to Ahimelech as the son of Abiathar (2 Sam 8:17 and 1 Chron 18:16). How would you explain this? Perhaps both father and son shared the same two names. With your low view of scripture, I imagine that you would conclude that Mathew and the author of Samuel and the Chronicler all made the same error (at least Matthew’s in good company). But I suggest that we don’t have to draw such hasty, liberal conclusions because we are inclined to see the text as errant.Unfortunately, I only had enough time to address these two for now. However, I fully expect that there are perfectly reasonable explanations for what seems to be differences in the testimonies.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 5, 2007 at 7:49 am


Ryan writes: However, I want to respond to your allegations concerning alleged errors in the synoptic gospels.I wrote a message entitled: “Some Changes in the Gospel Accounts” and from that you conclude that I was presenting a list of “errors”? Please, don’t put words in my mouth, I’m more than capable of putting them their myself. What I presented was merely a (short) list of changes. They are not all “errors,” but if one assumes, as I do, that Matthew and Luke used Mark and ‘Q’ as a source, then these changes tells us how they freely used their sources.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 5, 2007 at 8:41 am


Ryan writes: I fully expect that there are perfectly reasonable explanations for what seems to be differences in the testimonies.Yes, yes, of course, that is perhaps the truest statement made on the topic of the infallibility of the Bible. One doesn’t first carefully read the Bible and then it dawns on one, “Wow, it has never occurred to me before, but it seems that the Bible is infallible in everything it says.” No one does it that way, rather it is the other way around, first one holds that the Bible must be infallible in everything it says, and only after one firmly believes that it is so does one invent rationalizations for every time the Bible appears to be historically inaccurate. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to invent an rationalization, almost anyone can do it if one tries hard enough, one only needs to be absolutely convinced that the Bible is infallible, and the rationalizations will almost automatically flow from that premise alone.But if one is willing to suspend one’s presuppositions, and to examine the gospel accounts for what they are. After a careful and meticulous reading of the gospels synoptically, it is my opinion that most people will come to the conclusion that the gospels writers were not infallible in everything they wrote.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 5, 2007 at 9:27 am


Ryan writes: First, we should note that the phrase translated “when Abiathar was high priest” uses a particularly rare grammatical construction in the Greek. The Greek word epi preceeds Abiathar, and epi might be translated ‘upon,’ perhaps as “upon the time of Abiathar” (though that sounds a bit difficult. It is possible that if more examples of this construction can be found in extra-biblical literature, it may be that this evidence could substantiate a more general time-frame, ie. “in the days when Abiathar was high priest.” Suffice to say that it seems to be a strange construction.Just out of curiosity, when did you learn to read Greek and how many years of formal training do you have?



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Ryan

posted September 5, 2007 at 9:52 am


Steven said… Just out of curiosity, when did you learn to read Greek and how many years of formal training do you have?I was primarily referring here to the New English Translator notes for this passage on Mark, and my NASB word study, and Strong’s. I am sorry if I gave the impression that I am a Greek expert. Given that you are a Greek expert, would you like to correct what I said?



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 5, 2007 at 10:11 am


To: Ryan,I don’t claim to be an “expert” either. I have had five years of college Greek, reading Homer, Plato, Xenophon, Sophocles, Euripides, the gospel of John, early Greek fathers (I studied at a Catholic university), etc. In addition, I met with my former pastor almost weekly for twenty years in order to translate the Greek New Testament. And I own and have studied every major Greek grammar published in English in the last hundred years. So, I’m not new to the subject of Greek grammar, but I would not consider myself an “expert.” I have not done post-grad work on the topic.From my limited point of view, I find your argument suspect. It just doesn’t seem reasonable to me. And I have consulted at least one conservative commentary who denied the validity of the argument you presented. But if you would cite one major Greek grammarian who supports your opinion (even someone very conservative like Daniel Wallace), I would concede that your argument had merit. But as it stands, I find it suspect.



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Ryan

posted September 5, 2007 at 10:16 am


Steven wrote… I wrote a message entitled: “Some Changes in the Gospel Accounts” and from that you conclude that I was presenting a list of “errors”? Please, don’t put words in my mouth, I’m more than capable of putting them their myself. What I presented was merely a (short) list of changes. They are not all “errors,” but if one assumes, as I do, that Matthew and Luke used Mark and ‘Q’ as a source, then these changes tells us how they freely used their sources.Let me see if I understand you correctly. What you listed as “differences” between the gospel accounts do not, in your view, constitute historically inaccurate descriptions? What does it matter what their source was? If I wrote down that President Bush has pink hair, wouldn’t that be an “error” regardless of my source? If I said my source was his wife, you might look closer next time, and I might have blindly trusted his wife, but this doesn’t change whether or not what I wrote was fact or fiction, right?I think that we all agree that there are differences between the gospel accounts. The question is whether or not they are incompatible accounts or not. Is this not the question we are asking here?



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Magnus

posted September 5, 2007 at 10:21 am


Steven,You wrote: “Wow, it has never occurred to me before, but it seems that the Bible is infallible in everything it says.” No one does it that way, rather it is the other way around, first one holds that the Bible must be infallible in everything it says, and only after one firmly believes that it is so does one invent rationalizations for every time the Bible appears to be historically inaccurate. I have to call that bluff, there are plenty of examples of former atheists who held the view that the Bible was fallible.It seems that you want the whole Bible to be word for word exactly alike and have no diferrences in style. It seems that you are predisposed to find fault, i know that is not how you started out as you say but now you are so entrenched in your view that it will be almost impossible to show you any thing that is counter to your view. The great thing is that we all know that a mere man can not do that, show you the error of your ways, but the Holy Spirit can. magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 5, 2007 at 10:47 am


Ryan writes: I think that we all agree that there are differences between the gospel accounts. The question is whether or not they are incompatible accounts or not. Is this not the question we are asking here?All I am saying is that not all the changes I listed would be considered to be errors. When I have time later, I will go into more detail.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 5, 2007 at 10:48 am


Magnus writes: I have to call that bluff, there are plenty of examples of former atheists who held the view that the Bible was fallible.Sometimes I wonder if you actually read what I write before you respond. Obviously what you say is true, but it has nothing to do with what I wrote.



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Magnus

posted September 5, 2007 at 10:57 am


Steven,You wrote: first one holds that the Bible must be infallible in everything it says, and only after one firmly believes that it is so does one invent rationalizations for every time the Bible appears to be historically inaccurate. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to invent an rationalization, almost anyone can do it if one tries hard enough, one only needs to be absolutely convinced that the Bible is infallible, and the rationalizations will almost automatically flow from that premise alone.What I am pointing out to you is that there are examples of former atheists who STARTED out thinking that the Bible is fallible only to come to the opposite conclusion. How is that not relevant to what you said? You said “first one holds that the Bible must be infallible” and I am saying that that is not always the case. Again, if anyone is not reading the other its you my friend. Perhaps if you actually read what people wrote without trying to attack it then you would understand. I know that you have taken 20 or more years of carefully reading the synoptic Gospels in Greek, but maybe you should spend the same amount of time and vigor in praying to God and talking to him. I am sure that if you ask him the Holy Spirit will show you what you need to know. God Bless You!magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 5, 2007 at 12:40 pm


Magnus insults: I know that you have taken 20 or more years of carefully reading the synoptic Gospels in Greek, but maybe you should spend the same amount of time and vigor in praying to God and talking to him. I am sure that if you ask him the Holy Spirit will show you what you need to know.Actually, I have spent that time in prayer, before my wife and I had children, I would often go off for days in order to spend time in prayer. I found that visiting monasteries was a nice place to pray (I visited Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, and Lutheran monasteries). And the Holy Spirit did show me what I needed to know. And what I’ve learned is that the issues which we are talking about are of little importance to God. One can live one’s whole life devoted to God and helping others and not know anything about the details which we’ve been discussing. As I worked to raise my children, it seemed to me that the more important lessons of the Bible have almost nothing to do with biblical scholarship. For me, this discussion & biblical scholarship are like watching TV, it is something I do to relax and for entertainment. The really important things in life, my religious faith, my relationship with my wife, children, & friends, my way of living my life, it is not dependent on biblical theology or whether or not the Bible has any errors. They are fun things to discuss, but in the larger scheme of things totally unimportant. While I don’t believe that God created the world merely some six or seven thousand years ago in a 144 hour period, I do believe that God created the universe. The fact that the book of Genesis is not a historical factual account of scientific evolution just isn’t important.



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Magnus

posted September 5, 2007 at 12:45 pm


Steven,Yo just have a way of taking thing out of context and not addressing the issues. So with that I say keep doing what you are doing and God Bless!magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 5, 2007 at 1:23 pm


To: Ryan,In my opinion, if one does a careful and detailed study of the gospels synoptically, most will come to two important conclusions. (1) Two of the synoptic gospels used the other as a source. (2) The gospel writers freely changed details in their source. Now perhaps I should have made myself more clear, I don’t believe that all changes can be considered to be “errors.” Nor do I think that every change which I listed in one of my previous posts can be considered “errors.” So on that score, I will admit to being at fault. I should have made this more clear. If they are not errors, why did I bring them up? I’ll get to that shortly.First, I want to elaborate on verbal similarities. The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) contain a high degree of verbal similarity. For example both Matthew and Luke have:“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume/begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt 3:7b-10 // Lk 3:7b-9 NRSV).The Greek text of Matthew 3:7b-10 and Luke 3:7b-9 are almost word for word identical (roughly 96% the same), except for two exceptions. (1) Matthew has “presume” and Luke has “begin” in the phrase “Do not … to say to yourselves.” Also, (2) Luke has an extra “and” which NRSV didn’t translate, they could have translated it as: “And even now the ax …” In addition, another change is how Matthew and Luke introduce this passage. According to Matthew this passage is introduced with: “But when he [John the Baptist] saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them” (Mt 3:7a). But according to Luke: “John said to the crowds that came out to him” (Lk 3:7a).Furthermore, the chances are that John the Baptist (as well as Jesus) did not preach in Greek, rather most scholars believe that both John and Jesus preached in Aramaic, so the Greek text which we have is a translation. Now if you compared a handful of English translations of the Greek text of Mt 3:7b-10 // Lk 3:7b-9, how many of them would be word for word exactly the same? Probably none! Similarly, what is the chances of Matthew’s account and Luke’s account of this passage to be two independent translations of the Aramaic and yet have such a similar word order in Greek? Probably none! Thus there is a high probability that Matthew’s and Luke’s account are dependent on a Greek source (Matthew could have copied from Luke, Luke could have copied from Matthew, or they both copied from some other source).Now, if they both copied from the same source, who made the change. Was “presume” changed to “begin” or the other way around?Let us look at example ‘a’ and ‘d’.(a) Mt 19:13-15 // Mk 10:13-16 // Lk 18:15-17(d) Mt 12:12b-13 // Mk 3:4-5 // Lk 6:9-10Mark states that Jesus was “indignant” (Mk 10:14), and Mark states that Jesus looked around with “anger” (Mk 3:5). In both stories as Matthew and Luke tell it, they omit the detail that Jesus was with “anger” or was “indignant.” Why? It appears that they omitted those details out of religious piety. It appears that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source and omitted those details in their re-telling of the stories. That was the point of me including them in my list.On the other hand, I do believe that some of the other examples which I gave do constitute historical “error.”



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Ryan

posted September 5, 2007 at 4:00 pm


Steven wrote… For me, this discussion & biblical scholarship are like watching TV, it is something I do to relax and for entertainment.It is hard for me to understand how you don’t seem to realize that what we believe has a direct effect on how we respond to God and how we act and live. While you seem to be able to ignore the clear implications that an errant text has on whether or not I can trust what it says about spiritual matters, it is no laughing matter for many people. For example, how can you with confidence trust the scriptures that speak about salvation from sin and Hell, and how to obtain that salvation? How do you know what is being said in those passages is not wishful thinking? I am amazed that you treat such discussion as mere sport. TV for the Romans at the time of Christ was watching people get attacked and killed. No disrespect, but I honestly don’t see how seeing this discussion as entertainment is any different…Steven wrote… In my opinion, if one does a careful and detailed study of the gospels synoptically, most will come to two important conclusions. (1) Two of the synoptic gospels used the other as a source. (2) The gospel writers freely changed details in their source.If there were multiple witnesses to the events that took place (and indeed there were), then I don’t have a problem with the fact that what we have did not result from people participating in these events and then sitting in a sound chamber until they were finished writing their gospel so that they would not be influenced in how they wrote their accounts by anyone else. Much of the account was likely passed on verbally and certain descriptions lived and so we see them described very similarly between the different gospels. However, since what we have is based on eye-witness accounts, the places where one witness recalls additional details of the event are added, or when the witness has a unique Spirit-inspired perspective, it is written. I have no problems with this; but we should be able to harmonize the accounts (they should not be saying opposite things).For example, in the passages from Matthew 3:7b-10 and Luke 3:7b-9 that you commented on, the fact that Matthew has “presume” and Luke has “begin” do not conflict with one another. Luke reports that John spoke to the crowds, and Matthew says that seeing the many Pharisees and Sadducees, John said what he said to them. But when we look at the accounts, we nowhere see Matthew suggesting that John pulled the Pharisees and Sadducees aside to speak to them privately; he spoke towards the mixed crowd, but Matthew informs us of more details than Luke — he tells us who the words were directed to when John spoke to the crowds. Some were coming to be baptized for the right reasons, and some were clearly not…Steven wrote… Mark states that Jesus was “indignant” (Mk 10:14), and Mark states that Jesus looked around with “anger” (Mk 3:5). In both stories as Matthew and Luke tell it, they omit the detail that Jesus was with “anger” or was “indignant.” Why? It appears that they omitted those details out of religious piety.I don’t think you can conclude “religious piety” as a motivation for the difference in these accounts. Mark or his source, Peter, recalls that Jesus was indignant and looked around with anger. This is additional details that neither Matthew nor Luke report because their witness is different. To say that they were correcting Mark or suggesting that perhaps he was wrong is unsubstantiated. If we want the most details of the events reported in the gospels, then we harmonize all the accounts and, in this way, get the fullest picture.Steven wrote… On the other hand, I do believe that some of the other examples which I gave do constitute historical “error.”Let’s look at these ones then, because what you have written concerning the above types of differences in the witnesses does not, it seems to me, prove your case for textual errors.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 5, 2007 at 4:41 pm


Ryan writes: For example, how can you with confidence trust the scriptures that speak about salvation from sin and Hell, and how to obtain that salvation?For two thousand years, the vast majority of Christians have been illiterate. You live in a different world, with a different education standard, and a different attitude towards scripture. From my point of view, I don’t need to “trust the scriptures,” rather my trust is in God and my Lord and savor, Jesus Christ.Ryan writes: I am amazed that you treat such discussion as mere sport. TV for the Romans at the time of Christ was watching people get attacked and killed. No disrespect, but I honestly don’t see how seeing this discussion as entertainment is any different…Gesh … conservatives can get so melodramatic at times! Get real! No one has threatened your life. At worst case scenario, one of us might go away with a bruised ego (but I try to avoid that). Our discussion is not about life and death. Neither of us are suggesting to the other that they go out and commit any sinful acts. No one of us is suggesting that one stop believing in God, or in Jesus. No one is suggesting that one stop reading scripture. Wednesday morning is when I meet with my church’s bible study, then this afternoon I re-read the passage we studied. So what is your problem here? Do you really feel like this discussion is life and death? If so, walk away, do something more meaningful with your life. Ryan writes: we should be able to harmonize the accounts (they should not be saying opposite things).Why would you assume that? When the police, newspaper reporters, or historians, investigate events are they always able to harmonize the accounts, or do some accounts contradict other accounts? Even eyewitness accounts often contradict the facts, being that memory is often not perfect. Ask any trial lawyer.Ryan writes: For example, in the passages from Matthew 3:7b-10 and Luke 3:7b-9 that you commented on, the fact that Matthew has “presume” and Luke has “begin” do not conflict with one another.As long as one assume that scripture is not verbally inspired to be infallibly accurate, then they don’t conflict. But if one makes that assumption that the very words of scripture are infallible, then which was it, did John say “presume” or “begin”?j) Mt 27:45-54 // Mk 15:33-39 // Lk 23:44-48According to Mark, the person who filled the sponge with sour wine and gives it to Jesus to drink says: “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down” (Mk 15:36). Matthew tell the same story, except this time the person who makes this statement is not the one who filled the sponge but “the others” (Mt 27:49). So which was it?



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Ryan

posted September 5, 2007 at 4:59 pm


Steven wrote… Our discussion is not about life and death. Neither of us are suggesting to the other that they go out and commit any sinful acts. No one of us is suggesting that one stop believing in God, or in Jesus.Steven, I meant spiritual life and death. Case and point follow (quoting from wikipedia):”[Bart] Ehrman became an Evangelical Christian as a teen. He attended Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College (B.A., 1978). His desire to know the original words of the Bible led him to textual criticism, which in turn undermined his faith in the Bible as the inerrant word of God. Ehrman now considers himself an agnostic. He appeared on The Colbert Report, as well as The Daily Show, in 2006 to promote his book Misquoting Jesus and was jokingly called an “atheist without balls” (alluding to his agnosticism) on national television by Stephen Colbert.”I will respond to the other stuff later when I get a chance.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 5, 2007 at 5:32 pm


Ryan writes: Steven, I meant spiritual life and death.Actually, I like Bart Ehrman’s scholarship. I’ve followed his work for sometime. I especially liked his “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture” published in 1993. And I’ve read many of this later words. Back in the days when I used to attend the local and national Society of Biblical Literature meetings, I heard Ehrman speak and enjoyed his presentation.But I don’t pretend to know his heart, nor what caused his agnosticism. One interpretation might be that it was the Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College which poisoned his heart, perhaps if he would have stayed with the Episcopalian tradition, which he was raised in, he might never of rejected Christianity. Just speculation, of course.But if you feel so insecure in your faith so that our discussion might lead you to deny your faith, I would most happily terminate our discussion. It is really not my intent to shaken your faith in God. If you feel that our discussion is doing you harm, let’s stop!



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 5, 2007 at 6:20 pm


Typo: I’ve read many of this later words should have read works.



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Ryan

posted September 6, 2007 at 12:06 am


Steven wrote… But if you feel so insecure in your faith so that our discussion might lead you to deny your faith, I would most happily terminate our discussion. It is really not my intent to shaken your faith in God. If you feel that our discussion is doing you harm, let’s stop!It is not my faith I am so worried about; I am concerned about those reading this blog, though I know that it is just a tiny tip of the iceberg of similar talk out there. Concerning Bart Ehrman, as far as I was told it was precisely because of his conclusions about the errancy of the text that he lost faith. It is the logical conclusion that I have asked you about and you have yet to respond to. In fact, there are surprisingly few answers you had for Magnus to his questions about faith and how we can know the truth. The Bible says that we are to give reasons for what we believe, but from what you have shared (correct me if I am wrong), you haven’t differentiated yourself from someone who is a decent, family-oriented, “cultural Christian.” Who is to say that if you weren’t raised in a Buddhist nation that you wouldn’t be a decent, family-oriented buddhist meditating yourself to godhood right now? If this were the case and someone came to you and told you that you had to repent and trust the God of the Jews, why should you listen to them? How would you know that what they are telling you was true when their text might be only slightly more reliable than what you have? If you feel as a buddhist that you are hearing from the god within, what would convince you that you need to reject that experience, repent and put your faith on Christ?I think that if one has the truth, it can withstand testing, so I think every Christian should think carefully through these things and study (if possible, of course) to show themselves approved. I’m not saying that we can know everything or that we have to have the answer to every single objection that someone might make, but one can learn a lot from the investigation, and if we have seek by faith, we will find. I have heard of most of your objections before and have done enough study to be reasonably convinced that these problems are reconcilable. But I am willing to step through them one by one to show that there are alternate explanations that are both reasonable and plausible to show that one can trust the text, and therefore have confidence that what we have is God’s words, and, when understood in context, that we can place our trust that what He has said is true and will come to pass.



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 6, 2007 at 8:36 am


Ryan writes: Concerning Bart Ehrman, as far as I was told it was precisely because of his conclusions about the errancy of the text that he lost faith.But it could only be that those conclusions conflicted with the unrealistic expectations of scripture which conservative theology gave him. If he had stayed with his Episcopal upbringing, he might never have had those unrealistic expectations of scripture, and then the conclusions about the errancy of the text wouldn’t have been a problem.Bart writes: even if God had inspired the original words, we don’t have the original words. So the doctrine of inspiration was in a sense irrelevant to the Bible as we have it, since the words God reputedly inspired had been changed and, in some cases, lost. Moreover, I came to think that my earlier views of inspiration were not only irrelevant, they were probably wrong. For the only reason (I came to think) for God to inspire the Bible would be so that his people would have his actual words; but if he really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place. Given the circumstance that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them (2005:211).Ryan writes: It is the logical conclusion that I have asked you about and you have yet to respond to.What “it”? For it seems to me that I have responded to it over and over again.Ryan writes: but from what you have shared (correct me if I am wrong), you haven’t differentiated yourself from someone who is a decent, family-oriented, “cultural Christian.”Actually, you haven’t done even that much, have you? And now, in this message, you appear to revert back to your more Fundamentalistic mindset, which is when you can’t seem to argue with the facts, you attack the person presenting the opposing point of view. Now, I don’t measure up to your conservative Christians standard and I’m merely a “cultural Christian.” Of course, this couldn’t be your religious bigotry rearing its ugly head since I articulate a theological point of view different from your own, could it?If you were really concerned about other people’s salvation, it would seem to me that you should be supporting what I’m doing. For unlike Bart Ehrman, I’m an example of someone who has taken historical-critical biblical scholarship seriously and yet has not lost his faith. Ryan writes: But I am willing to step through them one by one to show that there are alternate explanations that are both reasonable and plausible to show that one can trust the text, and therefore have confidence that what we have is God’s words … Earlier you were claiming that scripture had perfect grammar. You wrote: we know that the grammar is inspired because the Holy Spirit doesn’t need help with His grammar; He doesn’t need someone to teach Him how to speak accurately. But the fact is the Greek New Testament, especially in Revelation, contains a number of solecism which refutes your point. The facts contradict your theology.You appear to be a fairly intelligent guy. And I don’t doubt that you can create some rationalizations for obvious contradictions which might seem reasonable and plausible to you. And what about other problems in scripture, such as Joshua 10:12–13 where the Bible claims that for a 24 hour period, the sun stayed in mid-heaven. Or what about the fact that modern archaeology has proven that many of the details in Hebrew scripture are incorrect, for example, before Joshua and his choir could destroy the city of Jericho, archeologists tell us that the city had already been destroyed and the city abandoned before the time Joshua and the people of Israel were supposed to have arrived. The book of Joshua tells of many cites being destroyed, but archeological evidence doesn’t supports its claims. The Bible tells us that “Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across” (Jonah 3:3), but in actual fact, the ancient city of Nineveh was less than 8 miles (12.5 km) in circumference, it wouldn’t have taken any healthy person even a day to walk across it. I could go on and on, but why should I?Where does the Bible claim that it is infallible? Nowhere. Frankly, you are using a non-biblical theology to argue that the Bible is infallible. Nowhere does the Bible make the type of claims you make about it. And where shall our discussion go from here? Are you going to resort to attacking my Christian faith simply because I can articulate a position different from your own? Or do you want to go back and discuss the issues?



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Magnus

posted September 6, 2007 at 9:32 am


The issue is how does one know that his belief in the Christian God is correct as taught in the Scripture? You are saying that it is not important because you know that the Bible is wrong and that it does not affect you in the slightest. The question then is how is one saved with your theological take on the Bible? As for name calling, it seems that you do a great bit of that yourself. I guess since you KNOW that you are right that that makes it ok.There you have it in a nutshell, if we use your views of Scripture than how is one saved? Don’t try the people were illiterate for hundreds of years stuff because that is not the issue. What they were taught in most cases was what was in that Book. You are saying that it is filled with errors and inconsistencies. So how are they saved.magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 6, 2007 at 10:27 am


Magnus writes: As for name calling, it seems that you do a great bit of that yourself.You are mistaken. I’ve never called anyone any names. That is a figment of your imagination. I have (unfortunately) asked some harsh questions when someone attacks my faith, and made harsh statements criticizing things which have been written about me. But I have never attacked anyone’s faith, never insinuated than anyone wasn’t a good Christian, whereas such inflammatory remarks have been repeatedly made to me over and over again. I would prefer that our conversations be more civil, but I will not tolerate bigoted attacks on my faith. I do harbor the belief that liars and bigots will not make it into heaven without repenting from their sins, but I have not called anyone a liar, nor a bigot. Magnus asks: if we use your views of Scripture than how is one saved?The only way anyone can be saved, through the grace of God, because Jesus died for our sins on the cross, and through the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer. Anyone who imagines that there is a Bible test which one must take, and that one must score 90% or higher on it, before one can be saved, has simply not believed in the good news which Jesus, his disciples, and all true believers proclaim today.



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Magnus

posted September 6, 2007 at 10:43 am


Steven wrote: The only way anyone can be saved, through the grace of God, because Jesus died for our sins on the cross, and through the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer. Anyone who imagines that there is a Bible test which one must take, and that one must score 90% or higher on it, before one can be saved, has simply not believed in the good news which Jesus, his disciples, and all true believers proclaim today. But what if what Jesus and his disciples did not say that which is what your position leads too. then where is the person to turn? By the grace of God, how do we know of the grace of God? what if that was just the writers saying that to make it easy for them? Hey i know that God gave us a laundry list of what we need to do, but lets just say we are saved by grace. How can you not see the point? You are a bright and intelligent man. You claim that youare saved by grace of God and because Jesus died on the cross for our sins, why? Why should one believe that? You say that the Bible is wrong on many things and historically inacurate, then why should a non believer believe in that part of the Bible?You accused me once of wanting to have my cake and eating it too, but it sounds like that fits you more than anyone. And no that is not name calling. As for you not name calling, I guess the inferrences to fundamentalism and statements like this couldn’t be your religous bigotry rearing its head. Amazing how you can not see this.magnus



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Steven Craig Miller

posted September 6, 2007 at 10:48 am


Since this has turned into personal attacks. I’m withdrawing my participation.



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Magnus

posted September 6, 2007 at 2:55 pm


As for you not name calling, I guess the inferrences to fundamentalism and statements like this couldn’t be your religous bigotry rearing its head. Amazing how you can not see this.This paragraph was to point out how you acuse people of name calling when it is you who use words like fundementalism and “religious bigotry rearing its head”, but I guess that is not name calling? Can you point to any post where I have called you a name or personally attacked you?Again, you do not answer the core issue. Instead you divert and throw out statements like one is name calling you or attacking you.



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Ryan

posted September 6, 2007 at 3:16 pm


Steven wrote… Earlier you were claiming that scripture had perfect grammar. You wrote: we know that the grammar is inspired because the Holy Spirit doesn’t need help with His grammar; He doesn’t need someone to teach Him how to speak accurately. But the fact is the Greek New Testament, especially in Revelation, contains a number of solecism which refutes your point. The facts contradict your theology.I never said that scripture has “perfect” grammar, what I meant was that it was inspired. There is a difference between the two.Why are there solecisms in the book of Revelation? I’m not sure I know the answer yet… I haven’t even had the time to look at each of these in detail. However, there may are other proposals besides the assumption that John’s writing contains grammatical errors (solicism seems to me to just be a nice way of saying ‘error’). For instance, G. K. Beale in his book entitled The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text argues that many of the grammatical solecisms in Revelation are introduced in order to jar the reader into attending more closely to an OT allusion (ref). Daniel B. Wallace makes the following proposal here: “as the apostle aged, the language of the OT scriptures became part of the warp and woof of his vocabulary. We believe he wrote the Gospel in the 60s. Thirty years later, after shepherding the flocks in Asia Minor, John’s very language could easily have been strongly impacted by the scriptures he proclaimed. This would be akin to an old preacher using the King James Version all his life. By the time he is old he hardly knows the modern idioms! In the Revelation there are as many as 460 allusions to the OT, though not one direct, formal quotation. It is, in fact, our conviction that these very allusions often, if not normally, picked up the original syntax of the OT passage he was employing, even though such syntax would now be discordant with the context of his own writing (cf. 1:4-5, etc.). Much of this was intentional; much of it was not. But as John aged, biblical language became part of the very fabric of his own linguistic structure.”So, the Greek “solicisms” in the book of Revelation don’t refute my point that the grammar is inspired; they just present some difficulty in trying to understand what God was intending.Steven wrote… If you were really concerned about other people’s salvation, it would seem to me that you should be supporting what I’m doing. For unlike Bart Ehrman, I’m an example of someone who has taken historical-critical biblical scholarship seriously and yet has not lost his faith.While it is remarkable to me that you are able to still have faith in God as described by the words of a text you cannot trust as accurate, what you are doing by pointing out these supposed contradictions is no different than what unbelievers all over the world do. Some of these unbelievers, like my university OT professor, like the text of scripture or some things that it says, but don’t like all of it and particularly some of its implications and cannot believe in supernatural intervention by God in textual inspiration (God-breathed), prophecy and its fulfillment.I think the following rhetoric from Greg Koukl is helpful on the topic of inspiration (ref):“First, it doesn’t follow that because the Bible’s written by men, that it therefore must be in error. Human error is possible, not necessary. If human error were always necessary in anything man said, this challenge would be self-refuting (“suicide tactic”). If all human claims were necessarily in error, then the claim that the Bible was written by men and men make mistakes would also be in error because it’s a claim made by men who err, defeating itself. It is possible for human beings to produce something without errors. It’s done all the time. What is 2+2? What is the formula for nuclear fission?Second, this is circular reasoning. If there’s good evidence the Bible can be trusted, then the issue of man’s involvement is moot. A simple question illustrates this: “Are you suggesting with this objection that if God does exist, He’s not capable of writing what He wants through imperfect men?” This is [not] hard to affirm. If the answer is “No,” then the objection vanishes. If the answer is yes, then ask, “Did you ever own a dog? Could you get your dog to sit? If you can get a dumb dog to sit, what makes you think an all-powerful God can’t get a man to write just what He wants him to?” If you first establish that the Biblical record can be trusted, then the second problem—human involvement is irrelevant. If God inspires it then it doesn’t matter if men or monkeys did the writing; they’ll still write exactly what God intends.”



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Bryan

posted September 9, 2007 at 6:39 pm


I couldn’t possibly have read all of these comments, but in case it wasn’t mentioned before…Almah is actually a woman who has not yet produced a child. She can be married or unmarried, a virgin or not. That is why concubines can be called an almah, and also why Matthew can interpret almah as a virgin, since it can refer to any of these.The NT writers do not have an historical-grammatical view as we do. I do think that we should have an historical grammatical, but understand that this is not necessarily God’s intended hermeneutic for all ages. I believe he preserves theology that the Bible teaches, but not each individual interpretation.The NT writers have a 2d Temple mentality, which interprets the text with midrashic elements as well as seeing the text as having two meanings: one common, which anyone can see, and one cryptic, which only the elect can see.Betulah does not mean young woman either. That is naharah. I think people settle on such designations because they are just too unfamiliar with ancient Israelite class systems. Betulah rather refers to a a class of women, who are not yet married (whether they have been raped or not), but neither are they prostitutes either. This could be a virgin or someone who isn’t. With the case of Dinah, however, it may be the case that the author is seeking to convey the idea that anyone who is raped should not be considered ineligble for marriage as though they willingly had sex, but instead still classified as a virgin.”answer when we see him face to face, quite literally at the resurrection after his return. Only then are we fully conformed to Christ’s image in the flesh as well as in the spirit.”I do think this is a great example of what you are talking about, and that we all fall prey to doing this.Where is the resurrection in Chapt 13? Where is the struggle of spirit and flesh? The eschaton maybe. But the whole context is about love. The perfect is love, not the Bible or the eschaton. The Corinthian problem is that they think maturity is about gifts and being a part of different groups with better teachers. They think maturity is practicing “grace” above obedience. Paul is trying to convey to them that love, not shoving their freedom in the weaker brother’s face, nor having spiritual gifts, is maturity.The Matt 5 and 1 Cor idea of the “perfect” may vary in that the perfect in Matt 5 seems to be wholistic love, including one’s enemies, whereas the 1 Cor 13 idea is talking about maturity, but it is interesting that they both are talking about love.I understand where the eschaton comes from (we see in a mirror darkly, it talks about the perfect coming, etc.), but that is to take a few phrases out of the immediate context and pit it against the overall concern of Paul and statements of the larger context. I would also argue that when Paul says he has become a man, he is talking about maturity, not the future eschaton.



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Bryan

posted September 9, 2007 at 7:26 pm


Stephen, fulfilled has the connations of “filling something up.” In other words, giving a fuller meaning to something. That is very much different than a mechanical view of prophecy, which they ancients just don’t have. And the Messiah by himself is often seen as Israel collective.Secondly, “house of david” refers to the Royal line past, present and future in the Bible. In fact, the evidence even from non-Biblical sources like the Mesha Inscription tell us this as well.



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Bryan

posted September 9, 2007 at 7:48 pm


The idea that the Jews only believed the Messiah would be a human being is actually not true. The Qumran community saw him as a supernatural being. I would also like someone, who thinks that every prophecy spoken must be fulfilled within that generation, to explain to me who the person in Zech 12:10 is? The “fulfilled in a generation” view is heavily influenced by Jewish exegesis since Rashi, and does not necessarily reflect all earlier forms of exegesis.



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Bryan

posted September 9, 2007 at 8:14 pm


Hebrew’s verbal system is aspectual in nature, not time based. So time is determined by deictic markers in the context.



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Bryan

posted September 9, 2007 at 8:18 pm


Stephen,”The problem as I see it is that the commandments in Hebrew scripture never claimed that they were temporary. You claim they were temporary, but they don’t! If you read, for example Leviticus 26, the author does not say: “You must follow all these commandments, until Jesus is crucified, and then after that you may pick and choose which of these commandments you would like to follow.” Rather, the author makes it clear that one was expected to follow all of these commandments. No exceptions were given.”Actually, the OT does indicated this. Deuteronomy shows that law changes and evolves according the Israel’s historical situation. Morals do not evolve or change, but laws do. And the Levitical code is most assuredly in the main for the wilderness.



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Bryan

posted September 9, 2007 at 8:21 pm


“God’s commandments do not appear to be consistent. For example, look at Numbers 15:32ff. God commands that a man is put to death. What was his crime? He did yard work on a Saturday! Have you ever done yard work on a Saturday? Do you really believe that a person should be put to death merely for picking up some sticks?”This of course is a moral judgement concerning God or the OT or both. This stems from personal experience of what one believes is acceptable and what one believes is morally inacceptable. Really, it has nothing to do with the text, and everything to do with the interpreter.



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Bryan

posted September 9, 2007 at 8:32 pm


Stephen,I think the problem is that you are refusing the hermeneutical grid given you by the Christian worldview, which sees all of the text as supernatural and coming from God (therefore harmonious in some sense), and instead adopting a naturalistic worldview to interpret it (man wrote some of this and therefore it conflicts and Jesus–God’s ultimate purpose in the world–has nothing to do with these texts). It smacks of modernisms idea that you can approach the text without bias and then accuse others of eisegesis when they do not take upon themselves your particular worldview bias.



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Bryan

posted September 9, 2007 at 8:42 pm


“Our “hermeneutical circles” makes it hard for anyone to jump from one circle into another, but I believe that the evidence is on my side of the argument. If one would be willingly to look at the Gospels synoptically, they will find that the New Testament authors were willing to re-write history from their sources.”This is THE fundamental problem of modernists (whether liberal or fundamentalist). They do not understand that Scripture is a theologically driven historical document. Therefore, historical evidence is “packaged” to convey a theological message using a real historical frame with details changed to fit the theological message. Who in the world would care if God was just communicating to us proper history and science? Not to mention that ALL history is interpreted and the ancients viewed it as such.



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Bryan

posted September 9, 2007 at 8:45 pm


“We Lutherans see things differently. For us, salvation is by the grace of God, through the work of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in our lives. I have an advocate with Jesus, and when I stand before God, my advocate is not going to talk about my good works, nor my answers, but rather his own good works done on the cross. While I have lived a pretty good life, I’ve only been married once (now for 26 years), have two children, always go to church and bible study, donate time to the community, study the bible at home, pray, worship, etc. I don’t trust on my own works for salvation, but rather my trust is in Jesus and his works for my salvation.”Where did Jesus ever say this was true? All we have are a bunch of men writing Scripture. So ultimately it is just your personal opinion, in so far as Scripture agrees with you, that determines what is inspired and what is not. If we are so sinful, as Lutheranism teaches, then how can you trust your own experience to be an accurate guage?



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Bryan

posted September 9, 2007 at 9:42 pm


hfpvfboIlliterate Christians trusted the Scripture for 2000 years through the Cburch’s preaching it. What does it matter if it is read? This has no bearing on whether one trusts Scripture or not.



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James Pate

posted September 10, 2007 at 10:58 pm


Bryan, you are on fire, brother!



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Ryan

posted September 24, 2007 at 3:59 pm


I came across a book dealing with Bart Ehrman’s work. It is by Timothy Paul James and is entitled: “Misquoting Truth : A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s ‘Misquoting Jesus’” I haven’t read it yet, but it looks interesting and may address many of the issues that Steven raised.



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lusGuirediems

posted March 1, 2011 at 10:38 am


Hello. And Bye.



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