Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Book Review Posted: Tyndale House Greek New Testament

I have posted to my site a pdf of my review of Dirk Jongkind, Ed., Tyndale House Greek New Testament, which appeared in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 10., No. 2 (July 2018): 329-333 (find it here).

I also recorded and posted an audio version of the review to (listen here).

There's also an extended discussion of the THGNT based on a draft of this review in WM 84: THGNT (listen here).

Note: The PRJ book review editor made a slight change to the opening sentence of the review's final paragraph, which I was not aware of till it came out. My original review read, "Traditionalists might be thankful for some things in the THGNT...." By "traditionalists" I meant those who holding to the traditional or confessional text. The edited phrase reads, "Adherents to the Majority Text might be thankful for some things in the THGNT...." This might give the wrong impression (for those who don't know me--smiles) that I hold the Majority Text position. In the editor's defense, I should have made clear what I meant by "traditionalist."


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

For my Father is greater than I

Image: First snowfall, North Garden, Virginia, December 11, 2018

Devotion taken from my sermon on John 14:27-31 from 11/11/18.

John 14:28b: for my Father is greater than I.

The final statement in v. 28 is important to consider, because it has been twisted by unstable men down through the years, going all the way back to a man named Arius  (c. 250-c. 366) who taught that Christ was not equal in essence to God the Father (a teaching called after its founder “Arianism”).

Calvin says Arius and his followers “tortured” this verse “to prove that Christ is some sort of inferior God” who is “less than the Father.”

Jesus said: “For my Father is greater than I.” Does this prove Arius’ point?

No, it does not. But why not?

First, we need to consider that Christ is described as making himself “equal with God” (cf. John 5:18).  Consider also John 10:30 where he declared, “I and my Father are one.” Consider also all the “I am” sayings of John’s Gospel.

Second, we need to understand that Christ was speaking here of his circumstantial position and not his essence. At this point, as the incarnate Son, having taken on flesh, and not yet having taken on the glorious resurrection body, he had humbled himself as a servant. Positionally, the Father in heaven clearly was in the greater and more glorious position. But this says nothing of Christ’s equality of essence with God the Father. So, Calvin rightly says that the contrast here is between Christ’s “present state and the heavenly glory.” The Arians thus abuse this verse when they say it denies Christ’s equality with the Father.

Calvin also makes the point that Christ is here referring to the fact that as our mediator he was “accommodating himself to our weakness” and placing “himself between God and us.” This is why he says, “for the Father is greater than I.”

Paul makes this same point in 2 Corinthians 8:9 when he says, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”

Or, in the servant song of Philippians 2:5-11, Paul wrote of Christ: "6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men."

This is not the only passage that the Arians have twisted in an effort to deny the deity of our Lord. Another favorite target of the Arian’s has been Christ’s encounter with the rich young ruler, when he says to Christ, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18), to which Christ responds, “Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God” (v. 19). They miss, however, the irony of Christ’s words. He was telling this man that by addressing him as good he was, in fact, saying more than he could possibly have understood. Only God is the absolute good and Christ as the second person of the Godhead is, indeed, the Good Master!
In his commentary on this statement in John 14:28 Calvin notes how Arians also have also twisted 1 Corinthians 15:24 where Paul speaks of Christ at his coming delivering “up the kingdom to God, even the Father” and so wrongly assume the implication of some inferiority of Christ. Calvin counters that Christ reigns “not only in human nature, but as he is God manifested in the flesh” (cf. 1 Tim 3:16). When Paul speak of one person of the Godhead, the Son, giving the kingdom to another person of the Godhead, the Father, this is not a denial of the equality of those persons, but of the tasks each will perform at the end of the ages. The Son will give what he has acquired, and the Father will receive and rule.
We must be, as Peter puts it in 1 Peter 2:15, “always ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is within you with meekness and fear.”
As Paul puts it in 2 Tim 2:15 the workman approved unto God must be “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
This right division includes the fact that we must be prepared to defend the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ against Arian twisting of Scripture.

Friday, December 07, 2018

The Vision (12.7.18): Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you

Image: Ralph's tree farm, Nelson County, Virginia, November 2018

Note: Devotional taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 15:16-27.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain (John 15:16a).

Note first here how Christ speaks to the apostles and tells them that he has chosen them and not they him. We might immediately want to seize upon Christ’s words here to apply to the election to salvation of all disciples. We might want to lay this aside 1 John 4:19: “We love him, because he first loved us,” modifying it to read, “We chose him, because he first chose us.”

We need to acknowledge, however, that Christ was speaking specifically here about his election of the apostles. They were the ones “ordained” or appointed to a special and extra-ordinary office.

To what end had Christ chosen them? That they might “go and bring forth fruit.” Compare the Great Commission Christ gave to them in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go and make disciples of all nations….”.

His aim also was that the fruit would remain. His purpose was that their labors would not be a flash in the pan, a one hit wonder. And they did it. Look at the fruit they produced! We are the evidences of it!

I think we can rightly extend and apply this teaching as well to the present disciples, beyond the apostles. This is Christ’s end or goal for us. That we would produce fruit and that this fruit should remain.

Calvin observed: “But I extend this statement much farther, as meaning that the Church shall last to the very end of the world; for the labor of the apostles yields fruit even to the present day, and our preaching is not for a single age only, but will enlarge the Church, so that the new fruit will be seen to spring up after our death.”

The fruit of the apostles was not seen till long after their deaths. Have you ever considered that the greatest fruit that might be produced for the kingdom from your godly life and ministry and that of our church might be that which happens long after we are gone?

Christ chose the apostles and he has chosen us that we might bear fruit and that this fruit should remain. Let us then be faithful to this end.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

WM 110: Reeves & Hill on John 5:4; Text Note: Luke 9:55-56

I have posted WM 110: Reeves & Hill on John 5:4; Text Note: Luke 9:55-56 (listen here).

In this WM I do two things:

First, I offer some thoughts on a passage from a new book that I have recently begun to read. It is Ryan M. Reeves & Charles E. Hill’s Know How We Got the Bible (Zondervan, 2018) in the “Know Series” edited by Justin Holcombe.

I devoted WM 46 (listen here) to challenging an online article Reeves had written on Erasmus and his Greek NT, in which he perpetuated some of the old “Erasmus Anecdotes” and added a few new ones.

See also this blog post: Response to Ryan Reeves.

Here's the passage from Reeves and Hill's Know How We Got the Bible which I review (p. 26):

            In the Reformation era, European scholars had a smaller number of biblical manuscripts or copies of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament books, than have been found today. Their best copy of the New Testament, for example, dated from the twelfth century. After the rise of archaeology in the nineteenth century, we began to discover older copies of the New Testament. From these older copies, we learned that a few verses in Bible translations were not likely in the autographs, or original writings of Scripture.
            For example, the twelfth-century copy of John 5:4 reads:

For an angel came down at certain times into the pool and stirred the    water: so the first one who entered after the stirring of the water became healed of whatever disease he had. (author transl.)

            Older copies of John do not have these words, meaning they were not likely in the Gospel as originally written by the apostle John.

I point out that it is inaccurate to say that John 5:4 did not appear in any Greek mss. prior to the twelfth century. See my text note on this passage, which shows that John 5:4 appears in Codex Alexandrinus (dated fifth century) and in the Church Father Tertullian (c. 220).

Toward the end of this discussion I note that feminist theologians used to speak of the “hermeneutics of suspicion" and suggest that when you read any modern work on Biblical origins and development, even if the authors are credentialed scholars teaching in “conservative” or “evangelical” schools, one should employ a “hermeneutics of suspicion" or simply a grain of salt.

Second, I provide a spoken word version of my previously posted Text Note on Luke 9:55-56.


Monday, December 03, 2018

Calvin on Fullness of Joy (John 15:11)

Image: Scene from Ralph's tree farm, Nelson County, Virginia, November 2018

Calvin’s commentary on “that your joy may be full” from John 15:11: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”:

He adds, that this joy will be solid and full; not that believers will be entirely free from all sadness, but that the ground for joy will be far greater, so that no dread, no anxiety, no grief, will swallow them up; for those to whom it has been given to glory in Christ will not be prevented, either by life, or by death, or by any distresses, from bidding defiance to sadness.


Friday, November 30, 2018

The Vision (11.30.18): The Practical Syllogism

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 15:8-15.

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples (John 15:8).

Here is a simple Biblical test of assurance: Am I bearing spiritual fruit so that the Father is glorified in me? If I am bearing this fruit and the Father is glorified in me, then I give evidence that I am truly his disciple.

Some of the Reformation and Puritan Fathers used verses like this in discussions related to assurance of salvation: How do I know that I’m a Christian?

They developed what is known as the syllogismus practicus or “practical syllogism,” based on the logical deduction that a conclusion could be drawn from an action (see Joel R. Beeke, The Quest for Full Assurance [Banner of Truth, 1999]). So, the practical syllogism would go something like this:

Major premise: Only those who do x are saved.
Minor premise: I do x.
Conclusion: Therefore, I am saved.

Alongside this practical syllogism, some also developed what was called the “mystical syllogism”:

Major premise: Those who are saved have an inward confirmation of their salvation by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Minor premise: I have this inward work confirmation of the Holy Spirit.
Conclusion: Therefore, I am saved.

We see here in this verse and in some of the other teachings in these upper room discourses the Biblical basis for the practical syllogism. But we need to be careful, because we know that such tests can be wrongly used to convey false assurance (cf. Matt 7:21-23). One can say, I must be a Christian, because I pray, I attend services, I read the Bible, I serve others, etc. And it can all be a load of false assurance and works righteousness.

The thing that cannot be overlooked is the stress on abiding in Christ. How do we know we are truly in Christ? We abide or remain in him, because without him we can do nothing (John 15:5). The Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 24:13: “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Text Note: Luke 9:55-56

Image: NA 28 apparatus for Luke 9:50-58

The issue:

Translations based on the TR read as follows (disputed text underlined):

KJV Luke 9:55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

Compare translations based on the modern critical text:

ESV Luke 9:55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village.

The question: Is the passage found in the traditional text authentic, or is it spurious?

External evidence:

First: The following mss. and versions are listed in support of the traditional reading in the NA28:

Greek mss: K Γ Θ family 1 family 13 (579) 700* 2452 pm [permulti, divided reading in the Majority Text];

Versions: Old Latin, Clementine Vulgate, Wordsworth Vulgate, (Curetonian Syriac), (Peshitta Syriac), Syriac Harklean, Bohairic Coptic

Second: A shorter variant is also listed which reads: “and he said, you do not know what spirit you are [kai eipen ouk oidate poiou pneumatos este].” It is found only in codex D and in the Church Father Epiphanius of Constantia (d. 403). Note: NA26 also lists Marcion (c. II century) as a support for this reading but this mention is omitted in NA27 and NA28.

At the least, this shorter version of the variant provides evidence for at least part of the variant’s antiquity, with D dated to c. V century.

Internal evidence:

In his Textual Commentary (second edition, see pp. 124-125), Metzger connects the variant in Luke 9:55-56 with one that precedes in v. 54. In v. 54 the phrase “even as Elijah did” is omitted in the modern critical text but supported in the Majority text.

Metzger admits that the material omitted in the modern critical text in Luke 9:54, 55-56 “had fairly wide circulation in parts of the ancient church.” The absence of the disputed variant in v. 54 from “early witnesses’ like the heavyweight uncials Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (though it is present in Alexandrinus), according to Metzger, “suggests that they are glosses derived from some extraneous source, written or oral.” Metzger provides no further support or explanation for this conjecture.

Regarding the variants in vv. 55-56, Metzger adds that they “are somewhat less well attested than the additions to v. 54.” He adds, “The addition to v. 56 echoes Lk 19.10 (cf. Jn 3.17).” Compare:

KJV Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

KJV John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

In the end, Metzger gives the modern critical text reading at v. 54 a {B} reading and at vv. 55-56 an {A} reading.


There were clearly some disputes that emerged over the proper text of Luke 9:54-56.

The case for the modern critical text reading:

The modern critical text assumes that the earliest text omitted the variants that emerged as the consensus in the Majority text (there are some variations in the Majority text, but Pickering suggests that the variants are included, with some minor variations, in c. 75% of the extant mss.). This reflects the canon that the “shorter reading” is to be preferred.

On external evidence, it appeals to the omission of the variant in some early mss. which they favor, like Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.

On internal evidence, Metzger suggests that the addition to v. 56 is a harmonization with Luke 19:10 and John 3:17.

The case for the traditional text reading:

Must we necessarily assume that the shorter reading is authentic? Can we imagine any reasons why these variants might have been omitted for either unintentional (scribal errors) or intentional (theological) reasons?

The 1881 commentary on Luke by F. Godet sheds some light on possible theological disputes that might have occurred over Luke 9:54-56 (see pp. 288-290).

Regarding the omission of “even as Elijah did” in v. 54, Godet notes: “Perhaps this addition was meant extenuate the fault of the disciples; but it may also have been left out to prevent the rebuke of Jesus from falling on the prophet, or because the Gnostics employed this passage against the authority of the OT (Tertullian, Adv. Marc. iv.23).”

Regarding the omission in vv. 55-56 Godet suggests “it is probable that the cause of the omission is nothing more else than the confounding of the words” in these verses. One possibility is that a scribe confused the “and he said [kai eipen]” of v. 55 with the “and they went [kai eporouthēsan].”

Godet is not a hard and fast TR advocate. He also entertains the possibility of “glosses” that might have been introduced that led later copyists to take “the liberty of making arbitrary corrections” in the passage, adding that “the suspicion of Gnostic interpolation may have equally contributed to the same result.”

Certainly, we can see how this passage might have resulted in theological dispute. Perhaps some deemed the words of Christ to the disciples to be too harsh. On the other hand, perhaps some thought the words of Christ to be too lenient (i.e., that he came not to destroy but to save).

Whereas modern scholars see the parallels with Luke 10:19 and John 3:17 as textual harmonization, the traditional might only see a consistent and accurate overlap of the teaching of Christ faithfully preserved among the various Gospels.

When it comes to external evidence, even Metzger must admit that the traditional reading “had fairly wide circulation in parts of the ancient church.” It was the dominant reading of the early versions (Old Latin, Syriac, Coptic).
In the end, this was the reading that prevailed in the Majority of Greek mss. and was incorporated into the printed TR text.


There are plausible explanations for the intentional or unintentional omission of the disputed passage in Luke 9:55-56.

What is at stake here? The Majority tradition holds that this is an authentic dominical saying of the Lord Jesus Christ. The modern critical text view holds that this passage is spurious and that it was wrongly preserved in those texts and translations which contain it. But what if the modern view is wrong? What if this is an authentic and original part of Luke’s Gospel? If this is true, we are rejecting the words of Christ.

I see no prevailing reason to abandon the traditional text here.