Tuesday, August 20, 2019
I have posted Word Magazine 130: Review: Can We Trust the Gospels? Listen here.
In this episode I offer a book report/review of Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2018).
Friday, August 16, 2019
Image: Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, fresco in the series "The History of the True Cross," by Piero Della Francesca (c. 1415-1492), in the Basilica of San Franceso, Arezzo, Italy.
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 10.
And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart (1 Kings 10:24).
After Solomon completed and dedicated the temple (1 Kings 5—9), the historian tells us that “all the earth sought to Solomon to hear his wisdom” (10:24). This included the Queen of Sheba who “heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD” and “came to prove him with hard questions” (10:1).
1 Kings 10 anticipates the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20). It is part of a theme and a trajectory in Scripture arcing toward its ultimate fulfillment in Christ.
One might say this arc begins in Genesis 12 with the covenant promise made to Abraham: “and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (v. 3).
It continues in Rahab the harlot of Jericho (Joshua 6) and in Ruth the Moabitess, who said to her mother-in-law Naomi: “thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
It is there in the account of Elijah’s visit to the widow of Sidon (1 Kings 17) and in Elisha’s ministry to Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5).
It is there in the book of Jonah, when Jonah is sent to prophesy to the pagan city of Ninevah, upon whom the Lord had compassion (Jonah 4:11).
It is there when Isaiah prophesies of the Lord’s house being established on a mountain “and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isa 2:2).
It is there in Solomon’s Psalm 72 when he says, “all nations shall serve him” (v. 11).
It finds its culmination in Christ, who offered living water to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and who said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). By “all men” he meant “all kinds of men” or “men from all nations.”
Christ himself even made reference to the queen of Sheba in Matthew 12:42: “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.”
1 Kings 10 anticipates the fact all nations will be drawn to the wisdom of Christ.
The amazing thing, indeed, is not merely that the queen of Sheba was drawn to the wisdom of Solomon but that we have been drawn by God’s grace to the wisdom of Christ!Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Image: The traditional Martyrium (burial site) of Philip in ancient Hierapolis (modern day Turkey). Confusion goes back to Polycrates of Ephesus between Philip the Apostle and Philip the Evangelist.
Here is another episode in the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapter 31. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
This chapter discusses traditions related to the deaths of several apostolic figures.
After reference is made to the deaths of Paul and Peter having been previously discussed, Eusebius discusses traditions related to the apostle John and to Philip and his daughters.
He cites a letter of Polycrates of Ephesus to Victor of Rome noting the “great luminaries’ who “sleep in Asia.”
John is described as a “priest” (reference unknown according to Lake) and as a “martyr and teacher” who now “sleeps at Ephesus.”
Reference is made in this source to Philip as “one of the twelve apostles.” Lake comments: “Possibly Polycrates has confused Philip the Apostle and Philip the Deacon, and Eusebius did not notice it.” Polycrates also says that Philip “sleeps at Hierapolis with two daughters who grew old as virgins” and possibly a third daughter (text uncertain) “rests in Ephesus.”
He also cites the dialogue of Gaius with Proclus, who refers to Philip and his four daughters who were prophetesses and whose graves were in Hierapolis.
He says this is the same Philip the Evangelist and his four daughters at Caesarea mentioned in Acts 21:8-9.
There seems to be confusion here in general about Philip the apostle and Philip the Evangelist.
These references to the burial sites of these luminaries of the apostolic era may also reflect the early tradition of pilgrimages to these sites and remembrance of the martyrs, as reflected in works like the Martyrdom of Polycarp.
Yesterday, I did a post about my review article of Garnet Howard Milne’s book Has the Bible Been Kept Pure? that appears in the latest Puritan Reformed Journal. I also recorded an audio version of the review. As I did the audio version, I noticed that the editors had made a few changes to the text. I understand. This happens. I found one change, however, to be puzzling.
Near the end of the article I try to make a point about how focus on epistemology is key for overturning modern text criticism in the hearts of conservative, Reformed evangelicals and drew an historical analogy from politics.
In my original review it read as follows (note the lines in bold):
Still, it is Milne’s historical and doctrinal arguments that hold pride of place in this work, and they are formidable. The work’s greatest strength is its stress on the epistemological weaknesses of the modern text critical method. When Bill Clinton defeated the incumbent George H. W. Bush in the 1992 United States presidential election, he said his key to victory was that he kept reminding his campaign staff, “It’s the economy, stupid!” If the traditional text is once again to prevail among the Reformed and evangelical then it might well come about because its advocates keep repeating, “It’s epistemology, stupid!”
The anecdotal quip from the Clinton campaign is familiar to anyone who remembers the 1992 election. According to a Wikipedia entry, “It’s the economy, stupid” was actually a variation on “The economy, stupid” as coined by legendary Clinton political strategist James Carville.
Here, however, is how the passage above was edited to appear in the published article (again note the lines in bold):
Still, it is Milne’s historical and doctrinal arguments that hold pride of place in this work, and they are formidable. The work’s greatest strength is its stress on the epistemological weaknesses of the modern text critical method. When Bill Clinton defeated the incumbent George H. W. Bush in the 1992 United States presidential election, he said his key to victory was that he kept reminding his campaign staff it was all about the economy. If the traditional text is once again to prevail among the Reformed and evangelical then it might well come about because its advocates keep affirming that it is all about epistemology.
So, the offending word “stupid” was removed. It is indeed a coarse word. When my children were young we taught them not to say this word or to call anyone by that name. More than once, I had a child report with horror on some interaction overheard in public or on media, “He said the ‘S’ word.” And by that he meant he had heard someone use the word “stupid.” Oh the glories of giving your children shelter in homeschooling!
Is, however, the word so coarse that it should have been excised from the article? Would such a phrase offend the sensitive ear of the Puritan Reformed Journal reader? Does the paraphrase weaken the impact of the historical reference? Does “It’s epistemology, stupid!” make a bigger splash than “it is all about epistemology”?
Well, the article stands as it is. Maybe one day some Reformed digital scholar will write an article attempting to reconstruct the original text of the review, while another will argue it should stand as received. Smiles.
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
My extended review article on Garnet Howard Milne’s Has the Bible Been Kept Pure? The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Providential Preservation of Scripture (2017) appears in the most recent issue of Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 11, No. 2 (July 2019): 225-231.
You can read a pdf of the article at my academia.edu page.
You can also listen to an audio reading of the review on sermonaudio.com.
A “rough draft” version of the review was also presented back in WM 93.
Monday, August 12, 2019
Image: Ruins of the Baths of Carcalla, Rome, Italy. These baths were completed c. AD 217 but may be like the one where John supposedly fled from Cerinthus.
A new episode is posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapters 28-30. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
In these chapters Eusebius continues to trace heresies of the early post-apostolic era:
In chapter 28, he discusses the Gnostic teacher Cerinthus, citing several early Christian sources on Cerinthus, including:
Gaius who said that Cerinthus wrote a book in the name of “a great apostle” in which he says there will be a marriage feast that will last “a thousand years.” Lake: “It would appear that Gaius thought that Cerinthus was the writer of the Apocalypse.” If so, this would show controversy over the canonicity of Revelation and chiliastic or millenarian views.
Dionysius of Alexandria describes him as founder of the Cerinthian heresy and also disparagingly mentions his teaching that “the kingdom of Christ would be on earth.”
Irenaeus is cited as conveying a tradition from Polycarp of Smyrna of how the apostle John fled from a bath when Cerinthus entered, fearing it would fall in, because “the enemy of truth” had entered.
In chapter 29, Eusebius discusses the Nicolaitan heresy (cf. Rev. 2:6, 15). He notes that these traced themselves to the Nicolas among the seven servants in Jerusalem (Acts 6:5).
For a source he cites Clement of Alexandria, who conveys a tradition that Nicolas had a beautiful wife he offered to others out of jealousy, suggesting he was a libertine. Eusebius, however, suggests the opposite, that he gave up his wife because he was an ascetic, as was Matthias.
In chapter 30, Eusebius continues to draw upon Clement of Alexandria who countered those who rejected marriage by looking to the examples of the married apostles and apostolic associates, who were husbands and fathers, mentioning Peter, Philip, and Paul. He also conveys a tradition that Peter exhorted his wife when she was being led to her death by saying, “Remember the Lord.”
Conclusion: Again, we see that the formation of orthodox belief and practice is fleshed out through distinction from heresies.
Friday, August 09, 2019
Image: Overlooking the Badlands, South Dakota, August 2018.
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 9.
“And the Lord said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplications, that thou hast made before me” (1 Kings 9:3a).
After he had built the temple, the Lord appeared a second time to Solomon and declared to him that he had heard his prayers.
All throughout Scripture the Lord is presented as a hearer of the prayers of his people.
Think of the books of Judges, describing the days of Othniel: “And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother” (Judges 3:10).
Think of Hannah, crying out for a child in 1 Samuel 1:10: “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.” And the LORD heard and gave her a son, Samuel, which means, “God hears.”
Think of the early church gathered at the home of Mary the mother of John Mark in Acts 12, praying for the deliverance of Peter from prison. God answered that prayer, Peter was miraculously released, and came to the door of Mary’s house, met by the bewildered Rhoda (see Acts 12:13-17).
Think of the Psalms, like:
Psalm 31:22: “For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.”
Psalm 34:17: “The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.”
Do you think of your prayers as bouncing off a glass ceiling or a brick wall, or do you think of them as the cries of an infant, heard and responded to by a loving Heavenly Father?
The Lord heard Solomon’s prayer. And he will hear our prayers.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Thursday, August 08, 2019
Image: Closeup image of Simon Magus relief from the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, Toulouse, France.
A new episode is posted in our series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapter 26-27. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
In these two chapters Eusebius traces two early heresies:
First, in chapter 26 he describes the heresy of the sorcerer Menander the Samaritan. Menander followed after Simon Magus and appeared in Antioch where he “deceived many by magical arts.” Menander’s teaching reflects some sort of Gnosticism, with Eusebius suggesting Menander presented himself as a savior “sent from above for the salvation of men from invisible aeons.” Eusebius notes that Menander’s heresy was described by both Irenaeus and Justin. He also rejected the orthodox view of the resurrection and the Christian hope.
Second, in chapter 27, he describes the Jewish sect known as the Ebionites. Eusebius makes much of the fact that their name comes from the Hebrew word meaning “poor”, reflecting their low view of Christ. These saw Jesus as “a plain and ordinary man who had achieved righteousness by the progress of his character and had been born naturally from Mary and her husband.”
He makes a distinction between some Ebionites who deny Christ’s eternal pre-existence as the Logos and his Virgin Birth, while others deny the former but affirm the latter.
This group thus had an “adoptionistic” or “subordinationist” Christology, reflected in their denial of the eternal pre-existence of the Son of God and the Virgin Birth of Jesus. They also urged complete observance of the OT law. They also rejected the canonical Gospels in favor of the Gospel of the Hebrews and rejected the letters of Paul. They kept the Jewish sabbath but also commemorated the resurrection on Sundays.
Conclusion: These descriptions are of interest in that they demonstrate the emergence of orthodox stands against unorthodox teaching. Gnosticism is rejected. Low Christology is also rejected, while cardinal doctrines are also affirmed, like the deity of Christ, the eternal pre-existence of the Son of God, and the virginal conception. The denunciation of the Ebionites also demonstrates the importance of an orthodox canon. The Ebionites are misguided in that they reject the teaching of NT Scripture (the canonical Gospels and Pauline epistles).