Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Vision (1.29.15): David's Gladness in the LORD


Note:  The devotion below is taken from one of the closing applications in last Sunday morning’s sermon from 2 Samuel 6:12-23.

“So David went out and brought up the ark of God … with gladness” (2 Samuel 6:12b).

“And David danced before the Lord with all his might …” (v. 14).

“So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet” (v. 15).

We are to come before the Lord with gladness, with exuberance, and even with loud and clear voices.

Does this passage validate dancing, whether highly choreographed “interpretive movement,” so-called “liturgical dance,” or spontaneous dancing?  “It’s right there in the 2 Samuel 6,” someone might say, “David did it.”  But we must remember that the New Testament continues and completes God’s story, including God’s requirements in worship.  The New Testament nowhere commands dancing.  Notice too that this passage also describes sacrifices and religious objects (the ark itself), but we recognize that such physical things have passed away.  Now, we worship in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24).

We must look to a principle here.  And the principle is coming with joy and gladness and exuberance before the Lord.

One commentator noted how in this single chapter with its description of Uzzah’s error and David’s dancing,  “fearfulness and gladness are held together.  In Yahweh’s presence you should shudder and dance!”  He adds, “a fearful sense of God’s holiness does not suppress joy but stimulates it” (Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel:  Looking on the Heart, p. 66).

It has been noted before that there is one kind of joy expressed at a football game when your team scores the winning touchdown.  And there is another when you attend a formal graduation ceremony, a wedding, a monarch’s coronation, or a Presidential inauguration.  I want to suggest that the joy we express in new covenant worship is more like the second than the first, but it is no less deep and profound.  We are to have a deep and abiding gladness in God, so that our hearts dance before him.


Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Text and Translation Note: Psalm 8:5


This week I’ve been reading Timothy Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek:  The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible (Oxford Press, 2013).

In this work, Law makes reference to numerous text and translation issues relating to various Scriptural passages.  In general, he wants to challenge the privileged place of the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Old Testament in the Christian tradition and to argue for the validity of the LXX.

One interesting passage he discusses is Psalm 8:5.  Law notes:

The Greek translator makes a theological decision that will later impact Christian interpretation, using “angels” instead of “God” in verse 6 (verse 6 in the Septuagint).  The Hebrew Bible, speaking of human beings, reads:  “Yet you have made them a little lower than God . . .”  The Septuagint translator was perhaps bothered by the suggestion that human beings were only “a little lower” than God, so he changed the passage to read:  “You diminished him a little in comparison with the angels” (pp. 55-56).

Though the passage was well known to me, I was not fully aware of the text and translation issues within it.

The Text:

A quick check of the text does indeed reveal that the Hebrew MT reads elohim, which is typically translated in the OT as “God,” though the form is technically a masculine plural, so it might be rendered “gods” or perhaps even “heavenly beings.”

The LXX does indeed read angeloi or “angels.”  The LXX is also clearly the version cited in the only NT passage—Hebrews 2:7— where the OT passage is directly quoted.

Reformation Era Translations:

The King James Version, which normally follows the Hebrew MT, does not render elohim as “God” but as “angels.”  Compare:

KJV Psalm 8:5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

What are we to make of this decision?  Did the KJV translators here act like many modern OT editors and translators and choose to follow the LXX rather than the Hebrew?

Such a choice was not unanimous among the Reformation era translations.  The Geneva Bible sticks with the Hebrew:

Geneva Bible Psalm 8:5:  For thou has made him a little lower than God, and crowned him with glory and worship.

Likewise, the 1590 Hungarian translation of Karoli Gaspar also follows the Hebrew:

Hiszen kevéssel tetted õt kisebbé az Istennél, és dicsõséggel és tisztességgel megkoronáztad õt!

Note its use of Isten (God) rather than angyalok (angels).

The question one might pose is why the KJV translators who are usually so careful to follow the Hebrew original seemingly depart from it here.

Modern Translations:

The NASB follows the Hebrew Masoretic text in translating “God”:

NASB Psalm 8:5 Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God, And dost crown him with glory and majesty!

The NKJV follows the KJV’s lead in translating “angels”:

NKJV Psalm 8:5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

The NIV departs from both by translating “heavenly beings”:

NIV Psalm 8:5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

The ESV follows the same route as the NIV by using “heavenly beings”:

ESV Psalm 8:5  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

The ESV also adds a note explaining:  “Psalm 8:5 Or than God; Septuagint than the angels.”

Back to the KJV translation choice:

I think the KJV translation choice at Psalm 8:5 can be understood as an attempt to produce an ecclesiastical translation which harmonizes the OT passage with its NT citation of this verse at Hebrews 2:7, which in Greek reads angeloi and is rendered in English as “angels.”

The Geneva Bible uses “angels” at Hebrews 2:7 and the Karoli angelok (angels). The modern English translations (NASB; NIV; ESV; NKJV) all use “angels” at Hebrews 2:7 also.


The KJV (and the NKJV which follows it) is the only translation that harmonizes the two passages (Psalm 8:5 and Hebrews 2:7) by making the reference identical.  Again, this would be a place where one might say that the KJV is driven more by an ecclesiastical concern than a purely academic one.  The point is not that the KJV translators were following the Septuagint at Psalm 8:5 but that they were following the Greek of Hebrews 2:7.  That is, they were guiding the reader to naturally understand the harmony between Psalm 8:5 and Hebrews 2:7 as part of the harmony of the Christian Scripture.

JTR

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Word Magazine # 33: Recent Mark Fragment Papyrus Discovery

Image:  An Egyptian mummy mask like that in which the Mark papyrus fragment was reportedly found.


Note:  Yesterday I posted WM # 33:  Recent Mark Fragment Papyrus DiscoveryThe article below provides the information covered in this edition (the article can also be viewed here):

I had two persons this week contact me and ask about my response to a 1.20.15 Washington Post article which makes reference to a papyrus fragment of the Gospel of Mark that has recently been found in an Egyptian mummy mask.  The article cites an earlier one (dated 1.18.15) on a website named Live Science.  The article also includes a youtube video of Dr. Craig Evans, a well respected professor at Acadia Divinity School in Canada, discussing this find in a July 2014 Apologetics Conference (note:  the video was posted over six months ago).  Indeed, the announcement of this “discovery” is not exactly news.  Dan Wallace made reference to it in a debate with Bart Ehrman in 2012 (read Ehrman’s reaction here).

Aside:  My limited experience in reading Evans has shown him to be one of those evangelical scholars whose commitment to the academy often leads him to take uneven positions.  For examples:  On one hand, he contributed an excellent chapter to the book How God Became Jesus (Zondervan, 2014) proving the historicity of the burial of Jesus, contra the historical skepticism of Bart Ehrman.  On the other hand, he contributed an article to the book Bart D. Ehrman & Daniel B. Wallace in Dialogue:  The Reliability of the New Testament (Fortress Press, 2011) in which he conjectured that Matthew 27:51b-53 (the account of some dead being raised at the crucifixion of Jesus) was not authentic despite the fact that the text is completely undisputed in transmission!

The claim put forward by Evans here is that this yet unpublished fragment may date to 80 AD (a spoken claim Evans makes in the video) or 90 AD (a written claim made in the article).  If substantiated, what would be the significance of this?  It would prove the early existence of the Gospel of Mark (but most modern scholars, even skeptical ones like Bart Ehrman, already date Mark to the mid-60s AD).   Evans also claims that such a find gets scholars back to the original “autograph” of Scripture (at least of the Gospel of Mark).

I want:

(1) To offer some general background information on NT papyri;

(2) To clarify some confusion about the significance of the papyri;

(3) To offer some reasons why this find is probably not as significant as some might suppose.

First:  I want to offer some background on the papyri:

What is a papyrus (plural papyri)?  This term refers to writing material that was made from a plant which grows along the Nile in Egypt.  A NT papyrus is a piece of papyrus on which a part of the text of the NT is written.  The earliest NT texts and fragments of texts which we have are written on papyri.  The material itself dates the text as very ancient.  From about the fourth century AD till the fifteenth century AD, the NT was written on vellum (animal skins).  From then till now it has been written on paper.  And we are currently undergoing another technological revolution in which texts are being written digitally.  Cf.:

c. 50-350 AD
papyrus
c. 350-1500 AD
vellum
c. 1500-2000 AD
paper
c. 2000-present
paper/digital

According to Robert Hull, Jr. the first NT papyrus was discovered by Tischendorf in 1868, and four more were published by 1898 (The Story of the NT Text, p. 110).  We need to pause here to observe that the rise of the modern critical text in the nineteenth century did not come about because of papyri discoveries.  Lachman in 1831 and WH in 1881 did not base their modern critical Greek NTs on papyri finds.  The modern critical text was based on the uncials, not the papyri.  The notion that the modern critical text came about as the result of papyri finds is a misconception that apologist James White, among others, seems to perpetuate.

The major papyri finds came in the twentieth century, not the nineteenth century.  By 1930, 42 NT papyri had been published (Hull, p. 111).  Eldon Jay Epp has called 1930-1980 “the period of the papyri” (The NT and Its Modern Interpreters, p. 83).  The two most notable finds in this period were:

The Chester Beatty Papyri in the early 1930s [which included p46, the oldest copy of the Pauline writings, (dated to c. 200 AD).  The beginning pages are missing.  Its order:  Romans (from 5:17, opening is missing), Hebrews, 1-2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians.  The final pages are missing and their content is uncertain].

And the Bodmer Papyri in the early 1950s [which included p66 (dated c. 200 AD), one of the oldest witnesses to John and the oldest not to contain the PA; p72 (dated to the third century), the oldest witness to 1-2 Peter and Jude; and p75 (dated c. 200), the oldest witness to Luke and one of the oldest to John—it was purchased by the Vatican in 2006].

Notice how the numbering goes up with time.  The name/numbers assigned come from a numbering system created by a scholar named Caspar R. Gregory (1846-1917).  These numbers are assigned once a discovery is made by the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung (Institute for NT Textual Research) in Münster, Germany.

How many papyri do we now have?  The Nestle-Aland 28th edition of the Greek New Testament lists the papyri through p127 (including the date, library location, and content). The estimated dates for these works range from the second to the eighth centuries, with most dating to the third and fourth centuries.  Some contain only a single verse or fragment of a verse (e.g., p12 contains Hebrews 1:1).  More commonly, they consist of several verses (e.g., p98 has Revelation 1:13-20).  Others, however, more rarely, preserve the text of entire books (e.g., p72, as discussed below, has most of 1-2 Peter and Jude).  For comparison, the NA 27th edition (1993) listed papyri through p98 and the NA 26th edition (1979) through p92.  Clearly, the number in the handbook has grown over time as further discoveries have been made.  Cf.:

By 1898
5 papyri
By 1930
42 papyri
By 1979 (NA 26)
92 papyri
By 1993 (NA 27)
98 papyri
By 2013 (NA 28)
127 papyri

Second, I want to clarify some confusion about the significance of the papyri:

I already noted that we must be clear that the modern critical Greek NT was based on uncials not papyri.  In fact, Eldon Jay Epp in a 1974 JBL article once famously called the twentieth century a mere “interlude” in NT textual criticism since so little had been changed or developed in the consensus regarding the modern critical text since WH in the nineteenth century.

More importantly, it is often falsely assumed that the papyri finds only reinforced WH and the modern critical text.  In fact, the opposite is true.  If WH were right one would have expected the papyri consistently to reflect the so-called “Neutral text” of Codex B.  Instead, scholars find that the papyri reflect a “mixed text.”  They include so-called Alexandrian, Western, and Caesarean readings, and, this is the shocking part, the papyri also include Byzantine readings!

The book to read here is one by Harry A. Sturz, The Byzantine Text-Type & New Testament Textual Criticism (Thomas Nelson, 1984).  This book includes an Appendix which lists 150 papyri passages that reflect a Byzantine reading.  Sturz notes that WH’s claim that the Byzantine text could not be found earlier than the third century “vanished into thin air in the presence of the papyri” (p. 63).

Third, I want to offer some reasons why this find is probably not as significant as some might suppose:

First, we do not know anything about the length of this fragment or which part of Mark it comes from. It is probably only a verse or two at most. It would be great if it came from Mark 16:9-20!

Second, we do not know whether or not it comes from an orthodox source.  If it only consists of a verse or two (or maybe even part of a single verse), how do we know for sure that it comes from canonical Mark?  It could come from a Gnostic document that quotes Mark.  The orthodoxy and the canonical integrity of the papyri are suspect. P72, for example, includes 1-2 Peter and Jude but it also includes:  The Nativity of Mary, Apocryphal Correspondence of Paul and the Corinthians, the eleventh Ode of Solomon, Melito’s Homily on the Passover, a hymn fragment, the Apology of Phileas, and a Greek version of Pss 33 and 34.

Third, the dating of papyri is notoriously difficult and can be subjective.  Example:  For a long time, most scholars have argued that the oldest NT text is p52, the John Rylands Fragment, which contains a fragment from the Fourth Gospel [John 18:31-33, 37-38].  A 2005 article by Brent Nonglobri titled “The Use and Absue of p52:  Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel” [HTR 98 1 (2005):  23-48], however, pointedly challenges the early dating of p52.  A recent post on the Evangelical Text Criticism blog by Dirk Jongkind has suggested that the oldest NT papyri may, in fact, be p104’s fragment of Matthew 21:34-37, 43-45? (he also points out, coincidentally, that 104 is twice 52!).  Regarding the dating of this supposed Mark fragment, see this post by P. J. Williamson in which he states, contrary to claims by Evans and Dan Wallace, that this fragment could not possibly be precisely dated to 80 AD!  See also his comments about the ethics of destroying mummy masks!

Fourth, most importantly, this report illustrates the pitfalls of chasing manuscripts to attempt to prove or disprove the validity and historicity of Scripture.  The Lord did not allow the autographs to be preserved.  Finding scraps of papyri will not prove or disprove the authority or antiquity of the Bible to skeptics.  In 2012 Dan Wallace apparently claimed that this find could be as significant as the Dead Sea Scrools discovery, to which Bart Ehrman responded:  “He is wrong about that.  In fact, if it is just a scrap, as it appears to be, then it probably will not change a single, solitary thing in the entire field of NT textual criticism.”  I have to agree here with Ehrman.  Confessional Christianity teaches that God providentially preserved his word in the faithful copies that were made and used by God’s people.  That is not to say there is not a place for scholarly study and for the collection of papyri for historical study, but let’s not make overstatements and false claims about what such finds can actually establish.  We know we have the word not because of papyri witnesses but because of the providentially preserved text’s own self-authenticating power.

JTR  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Vision (1.22.15): CRBC: Looking Forward to 2015



Note:  Praise God for a unified and very encouraging Annual Church Conference last Sunday at CRBC (1.18.15)!  After looking back over the past year, we looked forward with anticipation to some of the following upcoming ministry goals and events in 2015:

·        To continue to conduct weekly Lord’s Day worship services.
·        To continue to broadcast worldwide on sermonaudio.com.
·        To continue mission giving to Andy and Beth Rice (Zambia) and Trinitarian Bible Society.
·        To offer prayer and financial support to Ethan McGonigal for short term mission service in Japan.
·        To appoint our second deacon.
·        To conduct our first church wedding.
·        To conduct another “Puritan” Vacation Bible School tentatively scheduled for June 22-25, 2015.
·        To host the 14th Annual Keach Conference on Friday-Saturday, September 25-26.

Of course, we make these plans while also praying “If the Lord will” (cf. James 4:13-15).


Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Philip Pullman: Modern Bibles are too dull

Image:  Philip Pullman

A friend sent me a link to this article in The Telegraph in which author Philip Pullman bemoans the fact that with the rise of modern translations children are no long brought under the literary influence of the venerable King James Version.  He also laments the loss of the old Book of Common Prayer.  The article is drawn from this BBC interview of Pullman with Michael Rosen.  Here’s an excerpt:

Speaking of the demise of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, the author said: “I do regret that children don’t have this experience of language which is grand and stately, and above their heads if you like.

“Because it gave me an immense amount of pleasure to hear the cadences and rhythms of these great prayers.

“I whisper along with them at times, just for the enjoyment of the words, and it’s something I wouldn’t be without. If it was cut out of me I’d miss it terribly.

“How can we give children that sense these days when they seldom see a King James Bible, they go to churches – if they go to church at all -where there’s a modern service book whose language is rather flat and dull?”

Pullman is President of an organization called the Society of Authors and he is best for the His Dark Materials trilogy of fantasy novels.  The interesting thing is that Pullman’s novels have been criticized as a negative presentation of religion in general and of Christianity in particular.  Why then does he laud the influence of the KJV?  He recognizes its literary superiority.

The interview reminded me of the chapter on “Acclaim for the King James Bible By the Literary Establishment” in Leland Ryken’s The Legacy of the King James Bible (see my review of this book here) in which Ryken notes:

It will come as no surprise that English and American authors as well as literary critics, prefer the King James Version. I suspect, though, that the vehemence with which they prefer the KJV will come as a mild shock. The problem that I faced in composing this chapter was avoiding overkill. I have accordingly kept the chapter brief. I will note in passing that I do not remember ever having encountered a member of the literary establishment who preferred any English Bible other than the KJV (p. 160).

It seems that that the KJV is praised as passionately in the English department as it is cried down in the Religion department.

Along these lines, see also the poet T. S. Eliot’s 1962 review of the New English Bible in the Sunday Telegraph in which he described that modern translation as “an active agent of decadence.”

JTR 

"The body who came back from heaven": Near-Death Experience Recanted


Image:  Alex Malarkey

I did a post back in December 2013 on the recent phenomenon of evangelical memoirs claiming near death experiences and the doctrinal errors, especially regarding the sufficiency of Scripture, they promote:  Near Death Experiences and the Sufficiency of Scripture.

On January 15, 2015 NPR posted an article concerning another book in this genre that I did not mention in my article:  The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven (Tyndale, 2010).  See also this Washington Post article.  The twist here is that the young man, Alex Malarkey (yep, I know, ironic name given the story), upon whose experience the book was supposedly based and who is listed as the co-author of the book along with His father, Kevin Malarkey (the author’s blurb identifies Mr. Malarkey as a “Christian therapist with a counseling practice hear Columbus, Ohio”), has now issued a recantation of his story and a rebuke of the retailers who continue to promote and profit from the book.  The NPR article reports on a written statement from Alex:

"I did not die. I did not go to Heaven," Alex wrote. He continued, "I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible."
He concluded, "Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough."
This statement certainly took a lot of courage for this young man to make.  It also sounds like someone has pointed out to him how his book challenges and is in conflict with the authority of Scripture.  Among the distributors of the book directly mentioned are LifeWay, the publishing arm of the supposedly conservative SBC.  Sadly, the article also points out that somewhere behind the conflict is a disruption in the Malarkey family:
Alex's parents are now divorced; he and his siblings live with his mother, Beth Malarkey, who has previously spoken out against the book featuring her son. She has also said that profits from the book haven't been going to Alex. Another book about a boy who said he had gone to heaven, Heaven Is For Real, has been turned into a movie.

Last spring, Beth Malarkey wrote a blog post stating, "Alex's name and identity are being used against his wishes (I have spoken before and posted about it that Alex has tried to publicly speak out against the book), on something that he is opposed to and knows to be in error according to the Bible."

Maybe this controversy will help open the eyes of those duped by the errors promoted in these “Christian” near death memoirs.  As Father Abraham told the rich man in Hades:  “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31).


JTR  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Update on Goochland County Religious Exemption Homeschool Policy

Image:  This picture appeared in the email sent out by The Family Foundation of Virginia concerning the Goochland meeting.  A small group listens to a livestream of the meeting from CRBC's Doug G.'s phone out in the overflow hallway.

Note:  This article appeared as a prayer update in the 1.15.15 Vision:

There was an incredible outpouring of visible support for the Pruiett family and opposition to policy change on religious exemption homeschooling at the Goochland County School Board Meeting on Tuesday evening (1.13.15). A number of CRBCers were present and Brian O. and Michelle B. represented us well by speaking during the session.  As a result the board voted to amend the policy.   You can read about the outcome in this Fox News article and in this Richmond Times-Dispatch article.

Here also is a note that Doug Pruiett sent out the day after the meeting:

Dear Family & Friends:

FIRST, to those of you who came to the meeting in support, THANK YOU for being used of God.  Those who could not come but who were praying for us, it was evident that God was moving through your prayers.  God bless all.
The meeting was standing room only in the main board room, three overflow rooms filled, and the hallway full of people, hundreds in attendance.  There were thirty people who spoke, only two of which were for the policy.  Those two people showed open hostility to home schoolers and religious people and were not very gracious.  The remaining speakers ALL had powerful points, just amazingly powerful as God clearly moved.
After three hours of public comments, the board voted 4-1 to repeal the offensive policy and replace with a very simple one (that was acceptable to the crowd).  The new policy removes the need for child affidavits, no mention of application, no renewals, no interviews, just a statement from the parents saying on behalf of themselves and their children, they attest to the religious training being done.
It was amazing how God brought people from near (many) and far to this meeting.  Just an absolute blessing.  HSLDA, HEAV, the Family Foundation, and other home school organizations were there.  Lawyers, mothers, fathers, young adults, children, all spoke.  Also, to add frosting, they voted to suspend enforcement action on current folks like us until the “second reading.”  The singular motion to repeal and replace must go to a “second reading” and before the whole crowd we got the board members to vow that they would vote the same way on the second reading.  HSLDA may provide some input on slight tweaks to the new policy.
There were TV cameras rolling from a couple stations.
God absolutely amazed us through this process, local news coverage, national news coverage, hundreds of people coming out, anointed speakers, and touched hearts on the board.  To GOD alone be the glory forever!
Safely in Jesus,

Doug & Carla Pruiett & Family

The Vision (1.15.15): Thomas Watson: 27 of Satan's Subtleties


Note:  A few weeks ago I gave a Sunday School message on the sixth petition in the Lord’s Prayer:  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matt 6:13).  At the time I made mention of a 2010 message I did on the same topic in which I made use of Thomas Watson’s peerless study of the Lord prayer in which the Puritan father lists no less than 27 of Satan’s subtleties in tempting men to sin (see Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer [original 1692; Banner of Truth, 2009]:  pp. 262-282).  Here are my notes from that 2010 sermon in which I summarized and adapted Watson’s list.  In this list it is as though he had discovered Satan’s playbook.  Here are some of Satan’s strategies noted by Watson:

1.      He knows our natural temper and constitution.

As a farmer knows the proper seed to plant, Satan knows just the right temptations to sow in our hearts.  “Satan tempts the ambitious man with a crown, the sanguine [passionate] man with beauty, the covetous man with a wedge of gold.”

2.      He chooses the fittest seasons to tempt in.  Watson lists six such seasons:

First, in our first initiation and entrance into religion.  He attacks most sharply at the first signs of conversion.

Second, when he finds us unemployed [not meaning here without a job but without spiritual employment].  The hunter shoots the bird that sits still, so Satan aims at the man who is not active in spiritual life.

Third, when a person is reduced to outward wants and straits.  He hits us when we are on hard times and hungry.  Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of stew.  Satan came at Jesus after he fasted for 40 days.

Fourth, after an ordinance.  After hearing a sermon or a baptism or the Lord’s Supper.

Fifth, after some discovery of God’s love.  As a pirate likes to attack a ship laden with treasure, so Satan seeks to rob us at just the times when we are full of joy.

Sixth, when he sees us at our weakest.  He likes to break over the hedge at the lowest point.  This often comes on two occasions:  (1) when we are alone; this was when Satan approached Eve in the Garden; and (2) when the hour of death approaches.  Like a crow, Satan likes to peck at the weak saint on his deathbed with temptation.  He tells the saint he is a hypocrite.  Like a coward, he strikes us while we are down.

3.      He often baits his hook with religion.

He sometimes tempts men into sinful and unwarrantable actions by making them think that they are honoring God all the more.

4.      He tempts to sin gradually.

He tempts first to lesser sins, that he may bring on greater.  Think of the addict who begins with drinking and moves on to “recreational drugs” and then moves on to hard drugs.

5.      His policy is to hand us over to temptations by those we least suspect.

He can use friends, family members, even religious friends to ensnare and entice.

6.      Satan tempts some persons more than others.

He “tempts most where he thinks his policies will most easily prevail.”

Five types of persons that Satan works on most often:

First, Ignorant persons.

Second, unbelievers.

Third, proud persons.

Fourth, melancholy persons.  He works on those who have a discontented spirit.

Fifth, idle persons.  “The devil will find work for the idle to do….  If the hands be not working good, the heart will be plotting evil.”

7.      Satan might give some respite but he does not completely go away.

He lulls us into complacency.  Just as a man who wants to scale a wall has to run back a bit to make a greater jump, sometimes when he is quiet he is just preparing for a more bold attack.  Thus, we must always be watchful.

8.      He either tries to make men leave off the means of grace or to miscarry them.

He tells men that they are not worthy and that they are not making any progress to discourage them and make them stop.

Or he causes them to miscarry by being distracted or slipping into formalism or pride (doing acts of piety to be seen by men—see Matthew 6).

9.      Satan can color over sin with the name and pretense of virtue.

“He can cheat men with false wares; he can make them believe that presumption is faith, that intemperate passion is zeal, revenge is prudence, covetousness is frugality, and prodigality is good hospitality.”

10.   He labors to ensnare us by lawful things.

Example:  “Relations are lawful, but how often does Satan tempt us to overlove!  How often is the wife and child laid in God’s room!  Excess makes things lawful become sinful.”

11.    He jostles our callings (to vocation and Christian service).

So, some spend all their time in spiritual activity “and under a pretense of living by faith, do not live in a calling.”  “Others, Satan takes off from duties of religion, under a pretense that they must provide for their families; he makes them so careful for their bodies that they quite neglect their souls.”

12.   He misrepresents true holiness so as to make others fall out of love with it.

He tries to make religion seem like a most melancholy thing.  He tries to make holy men seem like dour, unhappy, kill-joys.  He “paints holiness with a deformed and mis-shapen face as he can.”

13.   Satan draws men off from the love of the truth to embrace error.

He comes as an angel of light.  He loves to spread error.  He glories in division in the church.  “The devil dances at discord.”  His “policy in raising errors is to hinder reformation.  He was never a friend to reformation.”

“Satan tempts to error, because error devours godliness.”

14.  Satan bewitches and ensnares men by setting pleasing baits before them.

“The pleasures of the world are the great engine by which Satan batters down men’s souls.  His policy is to tickle them to death, to damn them with delights.”

15.   Satan in tempting pleads necessity.

He tells us that our case is extreme and thus he entices us to justify ungodly behavior.

16.   Satan draws men to presumption.

He makes men think, I can do this and God will forgive me.  At one point in his book, Watson says there is a difference between a soldier who is taken captive while actively fighting and resisting and one who willfully defects to the other side or who acts a traitor.

17.   Satan often comes under the highest pretenses of friendship.

He comes as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  He makes us think that the wrong he tempts us to do is for our good.

18.   Satan persuades men to keep his counsel.

That is, he would rather we conceal and hide our sin rather than deal openly with it.

19.  He “makes use of such persons as may be the most likely means to promote his designs.”

He can use men of renowned and seeming dignity and authority.  “He carries on his designs by men of wit and parts, such as, if it were possible, should deceive the very elect.”  He also makes use of bad company.  He uses men high and low.

20.  He strikes at some graces more than other; and he aims at some persons more than others.

Watson says the thing he attacks most is faith.  He knows he cannot take away our faith but if he can disturb it he can rob us our peace, comfort, and joy in Christ.  By this he can also make us lame and invalid in the other graces.

21.   He encourages doctrines that are flesh-pleasing.

He “tells man there is no need for strictness; nor so much zeal and violence; a softer pace will serve.”

22.  His policy is either to hinder us from duty, to discourage us in our duty, or to put us too far in duty.

He does not want us to meditate on the Word, to mortify sin, or to engage in self-examination.

He discourages us by telling us we are hypocrites.

He takes us too far.  Not only do we wade into the waters of repentance but we are drowned in the gulf of despair.

23.  He tempts to sin also by urging a “speedy repentance.”

He makes us think long-standing habitual sins can be easily or quickly overcome and we fall right back into them after brief victories.

24.  He puts us upon doing good things but unseasonably.

Watson gives the example of a man who stayed home to read the Bible, but in so doing he missed the gathering of the church to hear preaching and teaching and to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

Likewise, I knew a man who would come to mid-week meeting and read his Bible in a room but not join with the gathered church in study and prayer, and a man who did not attend the evening services of a church where he was a member because he was doing family devotions.

25.   Satan persuades men to delay repentance and turning to God.

“Many now in hell purposed to repent, but death surprised them.”

26.  Satan assaults and weakens the saints’ peace.

If he cannot keep them from heaven, he will try to keep them from heaven upon earth.

27. He even tempts men through plausible arguments “to make away with themselves” (take their own lives).


Watson concludes his list of these 27 subtleties by noting that once there was a story of a plot against the life of the Reformer Martin Luther.  It was learned that a man wanted to poison him, but a friend sent to Luther a picture of his would-be assassin so that he might recognize him when he saw him.  In these 27 traits, Watson says, “I have shown you the picture of him that would murder you.  Being forewarned, I beseech you take heed of the murderer.”