Friday, August 19, 2016

The Vision (8.19.16): A Root of Bitterness

Note:  Devotion taken from sermon notes from 8.17.16 message at CRBC on Hebrews 12:12-17.

Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

There is as strong “horizontal” emphasis in this passage which begins in v. 14 with the command:  “Follow peace with all men, and holiness….”.  This reaches a resounding conclusion in v. 15b, which warns, “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you.” What a powerful image!  We can envision a root reaching its tentacles deep into the heart.  It is a bitter, a foul, a distasteful root.   But what is the root of bitterness? 

It might be seen as personal bitterness.  It is the holding of a grudge.  It is unresolved anger.  It is hanging on to a grievance.  It is having a sour and bitter and diseased heart.  This, however, may reflect a modern psychology-influenced type of interpretation.

The older interpreters saw the “root of bitterness” somewhat differently.  Matthew Poole described it as embracing doctrinal and practical error:  “The Apostle intending hereby the hindering the springing up and growing of errors, heresies, or immoralities, as profaneness, filthiness, etc., which are apt to infect churches and, as they spread, to molest, trouble, and disturb them, and to keep them from pursuing holiness….”

Owen likewise sees it as referring to the concealing of a heart “inclined unto apostasy.”  It is hidden “for a season, like a root it the earth.”  Those who harbor this root gradually have it discovered in several ways:  “Commonly they begin the discovery of themselves in the neglect of church assemblies and duties” thence “they proceed to perverse disputing, and contentions against the truth” and “so go on to manifest themselves.”  He adds:  “this root will not always lie covered, this evil heart will manifest itself” (Owen, Hebrews, Vol. 7, p. 292).

The inspired author closes with this sad truth:  “thereby many be defiled.”  Sadly, a root of bitterness growing in one person’s heart most often does damage to others.

May we guard against nurturing or hiding a root of bitterness in our hearts, whether it be a grudge against a brother or neighbor, or a doctrinal or practical error.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Searched and Known # 6: The Alternative Uses of Elohim (Psalm 82:6; John 10:34)

Ethan McG. has posted a new edition of his apologetics podcast: Searched and Known # 6.  You can listen to this episode here.

In this episode Ethan and I discuss the alternative meanings of the Hebrew word Elohim, from gods, to angels, to judges, to Jehovah.

We especially discuss the usage of the word in Psalm 82:6: "Ye are gods [elohim]" and Jesus' citation of this verse in John 10:34: "Ye are gods [theoi]." Though some have improperly taken this citation to bolster some form of polytheism, we make the argument that in Psalm 82 the term means "judges." When Jesus cites the verse in John 10:34, his point is to castigate the Jews who rejected him.  His rhetorical point:  You were not offended when corrupt men were given the title of judges [theoi; elohim], but you are offended when I, a fully sanctified man, is called the Son of God (see John 10:35-36).


Friday, August 12, 2016

The Vision (8.12.16): Scripture's "Directive" Approach

Image:  Zinnias, North Garden, Virginia, August 2016

Note:  Devotion taken from the introduction to last Sunday morning’s sermon on Hebrews 12:12-17.

One of the things that is typical of Paul’s letters in the NT is that they end with exhortations (commands, imperatives).  “This is what you should do.” Or: “This is what you should not do.”

That in itself is striking.  We live in a world where few are willing to do as Paul did.

Maybe you’ve noticed this with modern physicians.  “Well,” they might say, “You could have the surgery or you could treat it with drugs or you could just learn to live with it.”  “But doctor, what do you think I should do?” the hapless patient asks.  Fewer and fewer seem willing straightforwardly to answer this sort of question.

 In modern counseling, for another example, the method now in vogue is called “non-directive” counseling. The counselor offers no judgments and gives no positive advice and no negative warning.  He simply reflects back what he has heard the client say:  “Do I hear you saying …?”  His role is only to clarify.

Paul’s letters are the opposite of this.  They are “directive.”

We do not know if Paul wrote Hebrews.  The book does not appear to be a letter.  The author himself calls it a “word of exhortation” (13:22).  But we do know that Hebrews closes with many exhortations to the readers, which include lapsed and wavering professed Jewish Christians.  It too is “directive.”  And so the inspired author exhorts:

“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (12:12)!

“Make straight paths for your feet” (12:13)!

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness…” (12:14)!

May we heed the directives in God’s Word.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Reformed Baptist Trumpet (Vol. 7, No. 1)

The newest issue of The Reformed Baptist Trumpet (Vol. 7, No. 1), the e-journal of the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia was sent out today.

In this issue you will find:
  • An invitation to the 2016 Keach Conference (p. 2)
  • An article by W. Gary Crampton on "Special Revelation" (pp. 3-9)
  • An article by Felix Doulos on "Six Lessons for Christian Teachers" (pp. 10-14)
  • A review of Poh Boon Sing's A Garden Enclosed (pp. 15-22)
  • paradosis article from Daniel King, A Way to Sion (pp. 23-25)
We hope you will join us for the Keach Conference on Saturday, October 1, 2016.


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Word Magazine # 56: Text Note: John 1:18 "only begotten Son" or "only God"?

Note:  I posted to today WM # 56:  Text Note:  John 1:18 "only begotten Son" or "only God"?  

The Issue:

The textual issue here is of Christological significance.  Should it read “the only begotten Son [ho monogenes huios]” (as in the TR) or “only God [monogenes theos]” (as in the modern critical text)?

Compare the KJV and ESV translations:

KJV John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

ESV John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God,[a] who is at the Father's side,[b] he has made him known.

ESV Footnotes:
a.     John 1:18 Or the only One, who is God; some manuscripts the only Son
b.     John 1:18 Greek in the bosom of the Father

External Evidence:

The TR reading [ho monogenes huios] is supported by the following Greek mss:  Codices A [Alexandrinus], C [Ephraemi, 3rd corrector], Kappa, Gamma, Delta, Theta, Psi, family 1, family 13, etc.  It is the reading of the Majority Text.  With regard to versions it is the reading of the Old Latin, the Curetonian Syriac, and the Harklean Syriac.

The modern critical text reading [monogenes theos] is supported by the four Greek mss:  p66, Sinaiticus [original hand], Vaticanus, and C [original hand].  Among the versions, it is the reading of the Peshitta Syriac and a marginal reading in the Harklean Syriac.

A variation of the modern critical text reading includes the article:  ho monogenes theos.  This reading is found in three Greek mss: p75, the first corrector of Sinaiticus, and 33.

In his Commentary, Metzger notes that with the acquisition of p66 and p75, the modern reading is “notably strengthened” (this and all citations below, p. 198).  Even this, however, is a reminder that the TR reading was abandoned in the nineteenth century modern text of Westcott and Hort primarily on the basis of the twin heavyweight uncials Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.

Internal Evidence:

Which reading fits best and makes most sense within the context of John?

Metzger assumes that the “Son” reading “undoubtedly is easier” than “God” here.  He suggests it is “the result of scribal assimilation to Jn 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9.”

One wonders, however, why he does not conversely consider that the TR reading may be distinctively Johannine given the usage in John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9.

With regard to the alternative reading found in p75, Metzger argues that if the article were original then there is no good reason it would have been deleted.  He suggests that the anarthous use of theos (as in John 1:1) “appears to be more primitive.”  He suggests the article was only added as “Son” began to replace “God.”

We should note that in Metzger’s Commentary, this reading is given only a {B} reading. It also includes a minority report from Alan Wikgren, one of the five members of the UBS Greek NT committee.  Wikgren asserts that the modern text reading is “doubtful” He suggests it “may be a primitive, transcriptional error in the Alexandrian tradition” due to confusion over nomina sacra where “Son” would have been abbreviated as upsilon sigma and “God” as theta sigma.  Wickgren says “at least a D decision would be preferable.”

Christological concerns:

This text difference is important due to the use of a Christological title for Jesus.  Did the original refer to Jesus as “the only-begotten Son” (as in the TR) or as the “only God” (as in the modern critical text).  Note:  Some have suggested that the modern critical text could be translated as two terms [the only one, who is God] rather than one [the only God].

One might even suggest that the modern critical text is a valuable reading in support of the deity of Jesus, as he is explicitly described as theos (much as defenders of the TR wish to retain the reading “God” in 1 Tim 3:16).

On the other hand, the Majority Text’s tenacious retention of the reading “Son” rather than “God” might well argue for its originality, perhaps indicating that the tradition was so committed to the preservation of the original text that it was unwilling to alter it even for what might seem to be a Christological “improvement.”

Hills, following Burgon, suggests that the modern reading might be traced back to the heretic Valentinus who wanted to deny that the “Son” was the “Word” (see Hills, The KJV Defended, pp. 133-134.  If this is true the theos reading, far from being intended to affirm the deity of Jesus, might have been intended to deny it!


The traditional reading has ancient and widespread attestation.  It was the prevailing reading of the Majority Text.  The modern reading has ancient support, but it is limited to a handful of Alexandrian (Egyptian) mss.  Wikgren has provided  a reasonable transcriptional possibility for the modern reading due to confusion over the nomina sacra.  The change might also have its roots in Christological controversy, the terms of which are no longer clear to us.  There is no compelling reason to abandon the confessional text of John 1:18.


Friday, August 05, 2016

The Vision (8.5.16): The Chastening of the Lord

Image:  Zinnia, North Garden, Virginia, July 2016

Note:  The devotion below is taken from the sermon notes from last Sunday morning’s sermon on Hebrews 12:4-11.

Hebrews 12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

In Hebrews 12:5-6 we have an example of Scripture within Scripture.  The inspired author cites Proverbs 3:11-12.

The citation begins, “My son….” (v. 5).  The setting in Proverbs is a father’s instruction of his son, the king’s instruction of the prince.  Here the words have greater spiritual weight.  The Father is God the Father.  The son is the blood-bought child of God.

“despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint….”

This the first of eight times that a variation on the word “chasten” appears in our passage (vv. 4-11).  Sometimes it appears as the verb “to chasten” (once translated as “to correct” in v. 9).  In others it is the noun “chastisement” or “chastening.”

What does chastening mean?  First, it is not merely punishment.  We might call it the intentional infliction of suffering with the goal or end of spiritual improvement.  Though taken from a Hebrew original in the Proverbs, the Greek term used in v. 5 is paidea.  In Greek this usually refers to the training or instruction or education or guidance of a child.   The term also came to refer to the education of the ideal citizen.

Chastening is a school of affliction in which we are enrolled in order to be made more Christ-like.

When we come under the shadow of afflictions which God might allow for our chastening we are not to question the Lord, to fight against the Lord, to slander the Lord, to despise the Lord, but to see it as his perfect will which he has sovereingly orchestrated for our good.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Book Review of Currid's "Againsts the Gods" in July 2016 PRJ

My book review of John Currid's Against the Gods:  The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament appeared in the July 2016 edition of The Puritan Reformed Journal (pp. 249-252).  I have posted a pdf to my site.  I don't do a lot of reading in OT studies but I used this book a few semesters ago in an Introduction to OT class, found it helpful, and wrote the review then.

Update (8.8.16):  I have also uploaded an audio version of the review (listen here).