Saturday, August 29, 2015

Benjamin Keach, the Comma Johanneum, and Proof-Texts

I was reading Benjamin Keach's extended sermon titled "The Blessedness of Christ's Sheep" from John 10:27-28 in A Golden Mine Opened (1694) and was struck by this section in which he describes how Christ's sheep are committed to his Word and to right doctrine, including the doctrine of the Trinity (see point 2 above). Note that the prooftext he uses to cinch his point here is the Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7). The verse is, of course, also used in the Second London Baptist Confession (1689) as a proof in Chapter Two:  "Of God and Of the  Holy Trinity" paragraph 3.

This illustrates how Keach and the men of his generation accepted the Comma Johanneum as a vital part of Scripture. This acceptance of 1 John 5:7 and other traditional text readings as part of the true text of Scripture presents a problem for confessional men who have embraced the modern critical text of the Enlightenment. Lest such citations be disregarded or downplayed as mere simplistic "proof-texting" one should consult Richard A. Muller's  scholarly treatment of how the Reformers, the early orthodox, and the high orthodox made use of such dicta probantia (see Holy Scripture: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology, pp. 525-540). He notes that rather than being "rank citation of texts apart from context and apart from any consideration of the results of exegesis" such citations "arose out of a context of normative, established exegesis" (p. 525). He adds that such citations "may point toward a massive exegetical labor in commentaries and polemical treatises" (p. 528).

One more note on Keach's citation of Scripture in this series of sermons:  Though he appears usually to cite passages from the King James Version (1611), which at the time had only been in existence for a few decades, Keach often makes frequent use of free citations. Perhaps many of these were cited from memory, and the marginal references were only later added in preparation for publication. In his citation of 1 John 5:7 above, for example, Keach uses "Holy Spirit" rather than "Holy Ghost" (as in the KJV). From what I have read of Keach this is typical of his preference.   


Friday, August 28, 2015

The Vision (8.28.15): Musculus: Five Benefits of the Public Reading of Scripture

Luke 4:17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written (NKJV).

Acts 13:15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.

Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Colossians 4:16 And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

1 Timothy 4:13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

The Regulative Principle of Worship holds that the only elements we should have in our worship services are those prescribed by command or example in the Scriptures.  One of those elements of worship is the public reading of Scripture.  This is why each Sunday, in addition to the reading and singing of Psalms as well as the reading of the text of the sermon, we usually read at least one chapter from the Bible in of our worship services.  At present we are reading through Paul’s letters in the morning and Genesis in the afternoon.  We believe that merely exposing God’s people to the reading of Scripture not only honors the Lord but also blesses his people. 

Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563) was an influential Reformed theologian.  In Richard Muller’s book on Holy Scripture (Baker, 1993), he summarizes a series of five reasons that Musculus offered for the public reading of God’s Word (pp. 471-472):

1.  The general edification of Christians.

2.  The maintenance of “the purity of public doctrine” against errors caused by the ignorant.

3.  The aid of others who cannot read and who, unless others read publicly for them, might be shut out from the light of Scripture.

4.  Preparation for and support of godly preaching.

5.  The establishment of a basic rule for the mind and heart more useful in a single verse than a “whole sermon of a Doctor [who] intends to demonstrate his learning and eloquence more than just to instruct simply folk plainly in the knowledge of God.”

May we continue to read and hear God’s Word.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Summary and Evaluation: Michael F. Bird's "Introducing Paul"

Note:  Just about every semester I teach a college course titled “New Testament and Early Christianity.”  In addition to the Bible and the main textbook I generally also assign a brief secondary book on the life and letters of Paul.  Last semester, I made use of Australian evangelical scholar Michael F. Bird’s Introducing Paul.   This semester I am using Anthony C. Thiselton’s The Living Paul (IVP Academic, 2009) and next semester I plan to use Thomas R. Schreiner’s Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, Second Ed. (Baker Academic, 2011).  Here is my summary of each chapter and my final evaluation of Introducing Paul:

Book Summary and Evaluation

Michael Bird, Introducing Paul:  The Man, His Mission, His Message (IVP Academic, 2008).

1.  What is Paul?

There are five images that emerge for Paul:  persecutor, missionary, theologian, pastor, martyr.

Paul was a maverick and a controversialist.

2.  A funny thing happened on the road to Damascus

There are three historical anchor points for determining Paul’s life:  (1) Death of King Aretas c. 38-40 AD (cf. 2 Cor 11:32-33; Acts 9:24-25); (2) expulsion of Jews from Rome by Claudius in 49 AD (cf. Acts 18:2); and (3) proconsulship of Gallio in Corinth 51-52 AD (cf. Acts 18:11-13).

Bird provides a chronology of Paul’s life and letters from birth (c. 5 BC-10 AD) to death (c. 67-68 AD).

Paul was “the last person” one would have expected to become a Christian (p. 37).

3.  The stories behind the story

Here the focus in on the OT backgrounds for Paul’s thought:  God and creation; Adam and Christ; Abraham; Israel.

Brid also investigates Paul’s understanding of Jesus:  What did Paul know about the historical Jesus?  Bird says Paul does not “play off” the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith” (p. 55).  Also important is Paul’s view of the ekklesia as the people of God.

4.  Reading someone else’s mail

Bird reviews each of Paul’s letters in this order (reflecting his view of their chronological order): Galatians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, Romans, Pastorals.

Bird presumes Pauline authorship of all epistles.

5.  The royal announcement

Bird presents his summary of Paul’s understanding of the gospel as more than merely a series of propositional points.  The gospel concerns the story or narrative of Jesus (cf. 1 Cor 15:1-5; Rom 1:1-4; 2 Tim 2:8).  The gospel “is what one believes in and is saved by” (p. 82).

Bird also notes how Paul’s gospel and its declaration that “Jesus is Lord” would have brought him into conflict with Caesar.

“The centre of Paul’s gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Messiah” (pp. 90-91).

6.  The crux of the gospel

This chapter offers a survey of various concepts Paul uses to describe the significance and meaning of the cross and resurrection:  righteousness [justification and imputation; note:  Bird does not see imputation as explicit but implicit in the text of Paul]; sacrifice [note:  Bird sides with Leon Morris against C. H. Dodd in favoring “propitiation” over “expiation”; he also gives a nuanced affirmation of “penal substitution”]; reconciliation; redemption; adoption; renewal [note the discussion here:  Bird might be accused of confusing justification and sanctification]; victory.

7.  The return of the King

Bird traces Paul’s eschatology.  Paul believed in two ages:  the present evil age and the age to come.  With Christ;s coming the two ages now overlap.

Paul anticipates large numbers of Jews being converted in the future.

Note:  Bird rejects dispensationalism but holds to a messianic or millennial reign of Christ on earth after the parousia (some form of either historic premillennialism or post-millennialism?).

Paul also teaches a personal eschatology:  life after death. 

8.  One God, one Lord:  monotheism and the Messiah

Paul was a messianic monotheist:  “God is known through Jesus the Messiah, or Jesus is the one who reveals and manifests the person and work of God” (p. 125).

9.  Living a life worthy of the gospel:  the ethics of Paul

Paul taught that when one becomes a Christian he undergoes a “fundamental shift” (p. 135).

Bird rejects the idea of there being a “civil war” in believers but prefers to say shortcomings are due to failure to live as new creatures.

He offers a “pre-Christian” reading of Romans 7.  The “I” is Israel.

Paul sees the weakness of the law.  Bird rejects the Puritan distinction between law and gospel:  “Paul was not a Puritan in this regard” (p. 141).

He urges Christians to live fruitful lives following the example and teaching of Jesus.

Bird rejects the ongoing validity of the moral law.  He writes, for example, "Surely the Ten Commandments feature prominently in the life of the Christian according to Paul?  To put it bluntly, not necessarily!" (p. 148).

Paul urged pursuit of things that lead to peace and urged liberty exercised in love to avoid both license and legalism.

Paul followed Jewish norms and rejected sexuality outside marriage.  He rejected homosexual behavior.  Bird says Paul saw a place for women in public ministry. 

10.  Gospelizing 101:  Paul’s spirituality

Paul urged “cruciformity” (being shaped by the cross) and “anastasisity” (living with resurrection power).
11.  Epilogue

Paul’s legacy:  the acceptance of Gentiles and the acceptance of his letters as Scripture.

Final Evaluation:  Bird is an engaging and entertaining (even humorous) writer.  This book is an interesting read.  Unfortunately, it reflects many of the weaknesses typical of evangelical scholarship which attempts both to be conversant with modern scholarship and hold to orthodox Christianity.  On the positive side, Bird upholds the traditional view of authorship of all the Pauline epistles.  He also provides an uncompromising presentation of Paul’s views on human sexuality.  On the negative side, his views on imputation are weak.  He does not uphold a Reformed view of the law/gospel and of the abiding validity of the moral law (see chapter 9).  Also, he presents an egalitarian view of gender with regard to church office and public ministry.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Who wrote Hebrews?

Note:  I started today a new sermon series on the book of Hebrews with a message titled "To the Hebrews" (Hebrews 1:1-2).  In this opening message I asked four foundational questions about Hebrews, beginning with: "Who is the author of this book?"

If you have a King James Version of the Bible, the full title of this book is given as:  “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.”
That conveys the fact that many Christians down through the years have believed that this book was written by the apostle Paul.  If this is so, Hebrews would be the 14th of Paul’s epistles in the NT.  Indeed, in our English Bibles it appears just after the Pauline corpus, after Philemon.  In many ancient Greek NTs it appeared after 2 Thessalonians and before 1 Timothy (see the order in the Robinson/Pierpont edition of the Byzantine Greek NT).

The authors of the two greatest Puritan commentaries on the book of Hebrews believed that the book was written by Paul.

William Gouge (1575-1653), described as an “arch Puritan,” preached more than a thousand sermons over a thirty year period on Hebrews.  In his commentary made from those sermons, which some describe as his magnum opus, he declares the “penman” of Hebrews “to be Paul the apostle” (Hebrews, Vol. 1, p. 4).

John Owen (1616-1683), the “Prince of the Puritans,” wrote a colossal commentary on Hebrews that fills seven volumes.  In the first volume of that work he includes an over 30 page essay in which he argues that the apostle Paul was the author of Hebrews (see Exercitation II, Hebrews, Vol. 1, pp. 65-92).

Why would they say that Paul wrote this book?  Here are a few reasons:

1.  This was the testimony of many in the ancient church.

2.  The author writes from prison and we know that Paul often did this (cf. 10:34).

3.  The author makes at least one reference to justification by faith, one of the Paul’s favorite themes (10:38).

4.  The author mentions Timothy who was one of Paul’s companion in his ministry (13:23).

5.  The author writes from Italy (perhaps Paul imprisoned in Rome; 13:24).

6.  The book ends with a standard “token” of Paul’s greetings:  “Grace be with you all. Amen” (13:25; cf. Phil, Col, 1-2 Thess, 1-2 Tim, Titus).

7.  It was suggested by the old interpreters (Gouge, Owen, Poole) that Peter likely refers to Hebrews in 2 Peter 3:15-16.

But there is one big problem with the idea of Paul’s authorship of Hebrews:  His name never appears explicitly in the book designating him as the author (as it does in every one of his epistles).

Some of the old interpreters suggest that Paul might have done this because his views were so controversial among some Jewish Christians he feared it might prevent “their reading or weighing of it as they ought” (Poole).

Some of the ancient titles of the book, indeed, simply read “To the Hebrews” without naming Paul.

This led to many other speculations about others who might have written the book, including Luke, Barnabas (Acts), Clement (Phil 4:3), and Apollos (Acts 18: 1 Cor 1), among others.  Clement of Alexandria suggested that Paul wrote the book in Aramaic and Luke translated it into Greek.

When the great Reformer John Calvin wrote his commentary on Hebrews he acknowledged the traditional views of Pauline authorship but concluded:  “I, indeed, can adduce no reason to shew that Paul was its author” adding that “the manner of teaching and the style, sufficiently shew that Paul was not the author.”

Indeed, one of the ancient Church Fathers Origen wrote of the question of Hebrews’ authorship:  “What is the very truth in this matter only God knows” (as cited in Owen, Hebrews, Vol. 1, p. 67).

Though I think there is good reason to believe that Paul wrote this book, we have to rest content without being able to say that for sure.  This is a matter of the sufficiency of Scripture.  The Bible does not tell us everything that we could possibly know, but it tells us everything we need to know.

What makes Hebrews or any other book of the Bible Scripture is not merely the fact that it might have been written by an apostle.  Indeed, some books were clearly written by men who were not apostles (like Mark and Luke).  What makes Scripture Scripture is the fact that it is breathed out by God, no matter who the human penman was (cf. 2 Tim 3:16).  And it is truly apostolic because the apostles first, and the believers then and in all ages thereafter, recognized that it was the Word of God.

Owen:  “Hence an anxious inquiry after the penman of any part of Scripture is not necessary” (Hebrews, Vol. I, p. 67).

Calvin says, speaking specifically of Hebrews:  “I, indeed, without hesitation, class it among apostolical writings….  There is, indeed, no book in the Holy Scriptures which speaks so clearly of the priesthood of Christ, so highly exalts the virtue and dignity of that only true sacrifice which he offered by his death, so abundantly treats of the use of ceremonies as well as their abrogation, and, in a word, so fully explains that Christ is the end of the law.”


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Reflections on Vonnegut, Mamet, Humanism, and Religion

Image:  Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

When I was in ninth grade, my hippie-dippy English teacher, fresh out of Clemson University with an English degree and serving in my underprivileged Low Country South Carolina high school, decided that rather than having her students read some of the classics of Western literature we should instead read the novels of the avant-garde, anti-war author Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007).  This, by the way, is one of the reasons, my children are homeschooled.

Anyhow, I remember working my way through Vonnegut’s grim Slaughterhouse Five and his anti-religion Cat’s Cradle and writing an essay that compared the two works.  I also remember my mother reading over my essay before I turned it in and taking exception to my quotation of a Vonnegut character’s declaration about the meaninglessness of existence:   “No damn cat, and no damn cradle.”  She was more worried about the word “damn” in the quote than about the soul-sapping relativistic nihilism and anti-Christian thrust of Vonnegut’s worldview in his novels (which she had not read).

I recently picked up a used copy of one of Vonnegut’s last works:  A collection of essays under the title of A Man Without a Country (Seven Stories Press, 2005). Written in his 80s, Vonnegut speaks as an unrepentant socialist and humanist.  He demonstrates special disdain for then President George W. Bush.  At one point he even attempts to defend Marx’s dictum that “religion is the opium of the people.”  He observes:

Marx said that back in 1844, when opium and opium derivates were the only effective painkillers anyone could take.  Marx himself had taken them.  He was grateful for the temporary relief they had given him.  He was simply noticing, and surely not condemning, the fact that religion could also be comforting to those in economic or social distress.  It was a casual truism, not a dictum (p. 12).

So, I guess Vonnegut believed that Stalin and Mao just misread Marx when they mercilessly cracked down on religious freedom.  Hermeneutics is everything, I suppose.

Oddly enough, Vonnegut makes various references to Jesus throughout the work.  At one point he writes:

How do humanists feel about Jesus?  I say of Jesus, as all humanists do, “If what he said is good, and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?”

But if Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being.

I’d just as soon be a rattlesnake (pp. 80-81).

So, Vonnegut rejects the orthodox Christology of Jesus, while he admires the ethics of Jesus (as he construes it).  Extra ethics, hold the cross and resurrection.

The perfect counterpoint to revisiting Vonnegut has been reading David Mamet’s The Secret Knowledge:  On the Dismantling of American Culture (Sentinel, 2011).  The Pulitzer Prize winning Mamet went from being among the confirmed liberal literary elite to being a staunch cultural and political conservative.  Mamet’s political conversion was driven by his embrace of Judaism.  He writes with the zeal of a convert, noting:

Liberalism is a religion. Its tenets cannot be proved, its capacity for waste and destruction demonstrated.  But it affords a feeling of spiritual rectitude at little or no cost.  Central to this religion is the assertion that evil does not exist, all conflict being attributed to a lack of understanding between the opposed (Secret Knowledge, p. 81).

Mamet’s definition of liberalism (humanism) as a religion echoes the central thesis of Machen’s classic Christianity and Liberalism (no doubt unintentionally).  One would like to have seen Mamet and Vonnegut duke it out over that one.


Friday, August 21, 2015

The Vision (8.21.15): Keep Yourselves from Idols

Acts 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

2 Corinthians 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

Note:  Last Sunday I preached from Acts 15 on The Apostolic Decree in which the apostles and elders in Jerusalem wrote to the Gentile brethren in Antioch telling them they did not need to be circumcised but they did need to abstain from idolatry, fornication, things strangled, and blood (the latter two likely referring to pagan sacrifices).  Here is an excerpt:

This past week I read a book titled Fragments from Kamunting:  325 days in police custody for the Christian faith.  The book is a collection of the prison writings of Pastor Poh Boon Sing of Malaysia who was imprisoned for his faith from October 27, 1987 to September 17, 1988.  From prison he continued reading, writing, and directing his church’s labors as a pastor.  In one letter he passed on counsel to share with the church regarding a new convert who had come to Christ out of paganism but who still had household gods within her home.  He wrote the following:

Concerning the removal of idols at Mdm Ng’s, a bit of “ceremony” will do no harm, and may even accomplish some good.  My suggestion is that Ho leads a group of church members to her house at the appointed time, sing a hymn, pray, then ask her the following questions in the hearing of all:

(i) Do you personally and willingly desire these idols to be destroyed?

(ii)  Do you agree to continue learning more of the Bible’s teachings and to obey God to the best of your ability?

Then proceed to remove all the idols, ask her for any charm papers and lockets that need destroying, and bring them out of the house.  When everyone is gathered around read Acts 19:11-20.  Then say, “Mdm Ng has requested for these idols to be destroyed.  We shall now destroy them in the name of the true and living God—The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”  Then proceed to break the idols and tear up all the charm papers. Then burn them.  Bring along a hammer and old newspapers and matches!  Finally sing another hymn and close in prayer.  Perhaps have a cup of tea in her house before leaving (pp. 128-129).

This is essentially what the apostles were saying to the Gentile believers in the Apostolic Decree.  You do not need circumcision.  You need the true and living God. And you must break completely with your old pagan life and your old pagan worship.

In our Western context, we may not have household gods that need to be removed in this manner, but we do have our own idols that must be crushed when we come to Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book Review: C. H. Pappas, "In Defense of the Authenticity of 1 John 5:7"

C. H. Pappas, In Defense of the Authenticity of 1 John 5:7 (CrossBooks, 2014):  127 pp.

Note:  An audio version of this review can also be heard here.

One of the results of the current overwhelming dominance, one might even say tyranny, of the modern critical Greek text of the New Testament over the minds of scholars, even in conservative evangelical and Reformed circles, has been the rarity of works which attempt to defend disputed traditional texts.  Admittedly, among the most disputed and the most difficult for traditionalists to defend is the so-called Comma Johanneum (CJ) or the “three heavenly witnesses” passage found in the second half of 1 John 5:7.  Many modern translations simply omit the verse’s second half without even adding a footnote to explain its absence (see the ESV)!  Into such a context comes a rare volume, C. H. Pappas’ contemporary effort to defend the traditional reading of 1 John 5:7.

Pappas writes as a pastor-theologian.  He has served for over thirty years as minister at Collins Road Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.  His discussion is not pitched at a technical but at a popular level:  “It is not written for the scholar but for the people who sit in the pews” (p. xxii).   Though it is clear that he prefers the KJV and advocates for it as an English translation, his defense of the CJ is not that of a KJV-Onlyist in that he defends the passage on the basis of the Greek text.

Here is a summary of some of Pappas’ arguments for the CJ on external, internal, as well as theological grounds:

1.  The CJ is admittedly not found in the largest number of Greek manuscripts nor is it in the earliest manuscripts, but it is found in at least nine late Greek manuscripts.

2.  The CJ is found in Old Latin manuscripts (which Pappas associates with the Waldensians), which can be dated very early and demonstrate its antiquity.

 3.  The CJ was known and cited by several early Church Fathers, most notably by Cyprian, Tertullian, Augustine, and Priscilian (in the Liber Apolegeticus).  Pappas defends the latter, in particular, from the charge of being a heretical source (see pp. 15-16).

4.  The CJ was suppressed in the Eastern church and, therefore, in many of the early Greek manuscripts due to the Arian controversy.

5.  The CJ eventually came to be accepted and acknowledged as part of the legitimate text of Scripture by the universal, faithful church and was included in the traditional printed texts of the Greek NT and in the vernacular translations which emerged from the Protestant Reformation.

6.  In modern times, the CJ only came to be widely challenged and removed from the Greek text of the NT and from translations after the work of Westcott and Hort and the revision committee (which included a Unitarian influence) in 1881.

7.  The CJ is even accepted by the modern Greek Orthodox churches as part of the legitimate text of Scripture.

8.  The CJ can be defended on internal grounds.  The masculine gender usage in 1 John 5:8 only makes sense grammatically if the traditional text of 1 John 5:7 is original.

9.  The appearance of the CJ as a marginal note in some Greek manuscripts can be just as plausibly explained as an attempt to correct a copying error of omission, rather than as an attempt to insert something that was not in the original.

10.  If the CJ was not original and it was inserted into the text by pious but misguided scribes who wanted to strengthen their argument for the Trinity, we would expect to find evidence of both Arians and orthodox Christians who would most certainly have protested against such an insertion.  There is no record of any such protests.

11.  The omission of 1 John 5:7 in the modern era came as the result of the application of the modern historical-critical method to Biblical studies and to the development of source and form criticism.  This modern method is not compatible with the traditional view of the divine preservation of Scripture.

Though firm in his defense of the CJ and clear in his rejection of the modern critical text, Pappas largely avoids ad hominem attacks and uncharitable outbursts.  There are, however, still a few statements like this one:  “Enough of the so-called early manuscripts!  They survived only because they were not used.  They were not used because they were heretical!  Burn them!” (p. 79).  On the other hand, at the book’s conclusion he urges his readers who reject modern translations not to do outrageous stunts like burning modern translations:  “This is utterly foolish” (p. 97).

One might wish that some of Pappas’ arguments had been more clearly and ably exposited.  The author is primarily dependent on a limited number of secondary sources.  His arguments are often repetitive.  There are a number of historical simplifications, overstatements, unsubstantiated claims, and outright errors.  For example, Pappas several times asserts that the CJ had not been at all challenged in the modern era until Westcott and Hort in 1881 (e.g., “Interestingly enough, it was not until 1881 that the Comma was ever questioned” [p. 17]).  In fact, the CJ was challenged by intellectuals as diverse as Isaac Newton [see An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture In A Letter To A Friend by Sir Isaac Newton (London:  John Green, 1841)] and Edward Gibbon [George Travis, Letters to Edward Gibbon, Esq. Author of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Third Edition (London, 1794)] in the eighteenth century not to mention by Biblical scholars of that era.   The first published Greek NT to challenge the Textus Receptus (including the CJ) was not Westcott and Hort’s in 1881 but Karl Lachman’s in 1831.

Despite the book’s shortcomings on a scholarly level, there remains significant merit in thoughtful examination of many of the issues which Pappas raises and pondering of the questions he poses relating to the modern omission of 1 John 5:7 from the text of Scripture.  The best challenges are, in fact, the theological ones, like this one:

The issue before us is obvious:  it is not a matter of a preference for a translation.  The issue is a battle for the Bible!  If one text can be removed from the Scripture, who is to say that another shall not be removed? (p. 85).

The book is particularly welcome given that there are so few voices in our day who are asking these questions, raising these issues, and offering any challenge against the dominance, one might even say tyranny, of the modern critical text.

Jeffrey T. Riddle, Pastor, Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Louisa, Virginia.

Friday, August 07, 2015

2015 Keach Conference Coming!

Christ Reformed Baptist Church will be hosting the 2015 Keach Conference (an annual theology and ministry conference).  This year’s conference will be a one day event on Saturday, September 26, 2015.

The theme will focus on chapter IX of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith “Of Free Will.”

The speakers will be Bryan Wheeler, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Verona, VA; Steve Clevenger, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Warrenton, VA; Alpheus Atkins, Trinity Reformed Baptist Church, Boone’s Mill, VA; and Jeff Riddle, Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Louisa, VA .

Here is the schedule:

2015 Keach Conference (Saturday, September 26, 2015):

8:30--9:30 AM       Arrival:  Coffee and Fellowship

9:30—11:30 AM    Session One:

Bryan Wheeler:  Man in the State of Innocence

Steve Clevenger:  Man in the State of Sin

11:30—12:30 PM  Lunch on Site

12:30—2:30 PM    Session Two:

Alpheus Atkins:  Man in the State of Grace

Jeff Riddle:   Man in the State of Glory

Question and Answer Session with the Speakers

The conference is free to attend.  We do ask, however, that you pre-register here.

The Vision (8.7.15): CRBC Body Life

“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Last weekend offered some encouraging opportunities for ministry, fellowship, and worship at CRBC.  On Friday-Saturday, we hosted a table at the Louisa Ag Fair where we gave out copies of the Gospel of John, information about our church, and Christian tracts.  We also engaged in spiritual conversations with many who visited our table.

On Sunday we worshiped together, including gathering in the afternoon to observe the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper.  Here are a few more scenes from the weekend:

Image:  CRBC ladies at the Ag Fair table

Image:  Children at the Sunday Lunch

Image: Exhortation to baptismal candidates and congregation.

Image:  Buried with Christ in baptism; raised with Christ to newness of life.

Image:  The Lord's Supper.

May the Lord continue to give us unity and encouragement in Him.  

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Text Note on Revelation 11:17 and Response to Green Baggins' post "A Textual Variant That Makes a Difference"

A friend asked for my reaction to this recent post touching on text criticism which appeared on July 3 on the Green Baggins (GB) blog, a Reformed theology blog that does not ordinarily deal with text issues.  The post essentially suggests that the modern critical text reading of Revelation 11:17 is to be preferred not merely because of external evidence but for theological reasons.

The issue:

The textual issue addressed in the post is whether or not the phrase “and is coming [kai ho erchomenos]” should be included in the text of Revelation 11:17.  Compare the KJV (based on the traditional text) and the NASB (based on the modern critical text) [emphasis added]:

KJV Revelation 11:17 Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.

NASB Revelation 11:17 saying, "We give Thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who art and who wast, because Thou hast taken Thy great power and hast begun to reign.”

External Evidence:

The NA 28 lists the traditional text as supported by Greek mss. 051, 1006, and 1841.  Metzger says it is supported by “sixteen minuscules” (Textual Commentary, p. 744).   It also appears in the Clementine Vulgate and, with some slight variations, in the Coptic Bohairic.  NA 28 also notes the appearance of the phrase in Tyconius (c. 390) and, with variation, in Beatus of Liebana (c. 8th century).

In addition, there are also early mss. which include the conjunction kai though not the ho erchomenos.  These include:  p47, the original hand of Sinaiticus, C, and 2344.  This reading also appears in the Armenian and in some Latin Vulgate mss.

The modern critical text (omitting kai ho erchomenos) is supported by, among others, the following Greek mss.:  the second corrector of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, P, 046, 1611, 1854, 2053, 2329, 2351.  It is also the reading of the Majority Text.  Among the versions, it appears in the Old Latin and the Syriac.

Note:  This is an example of a passage where the Textus Receptus departs from the Majority Text, which agrees with the modern critical text.

Internal Evidence:

Metzger describes the traditional text as “a typical Byzantine accretion, in imitation of the tripartite expression in 1:4, 8; cf. 4:8” (p. 745).

Regarding the kai hoti variation in p47 and the original hand of Sinaiticus, Metzger says this “strains the syntax and appears to be a scribal blunder” (p. 745).

Overall, however, Metzger gives the modern critical text here only a {C} rating.

In response to Metzger, one wonders why the reading that is in harmony with a clear Johannine phrase and pattern as evidenced by contextual usage (1:4, 8; 4:8; cf. also 16:5!) should be suspect.  In addition, the oldest texts at least support the inclusion of the conjunction kai.  Could it be that the “scribal blunder” in p47 and Sinaiticus was the accidental omission of ho exchomenos after the kai?  Might it also be possible that this was later “corrected” in the Majority simply by omitting the kai and that the original reading was, in fact, preserved in the TR?  One might say that this is speculative, but it is no more speculative or less reasonable than the alternatives.

Conclusion and responding to the GB’s analysis:

The TR reading is a minority reading here, but it does have Greek mss., versional, and Patristic support.  In addition, on internal grounds, the reading is in harmony with typical Johannine usage in Revelation.  The TR reading, thus, can be reasonably supported.

How then do we respond to the GB argument?  Here is the post:

In Revelation 11:17, the Textus Receptus has added the phrase “and who is coming” to the end of the first clause of thanksgiving. No doubt, the scribes were used to seeing “who is, and who was, and who is coming.” The best manuscripts do not have the phrase “and who is coming.” The omission of the phrase is a fascinating glimpse into the theology of the text. The reason why the original did not have the phrase is because, from the perspective of the twenty-four elders, Christ had already come! If, as seems likely, the seventh trumpet is a description of the very end of the current world, then we are getting a glimpse at what post-consummation worship looks like. It is rather important, then, that the phrase “and is coming” is NOT present in the text. It is gloriously absent!

So, is the TR reading specious based on theological grounds?  The GB post suggests this is the case based on context.  The “original” did not have the “and is coming” phrase, because, in the context of the narrative, the parousia of Christ had already happened.  This conclusion, however, is anything but obvious for various reasons, most importantly because in Revelation’s repeated description of God as one “who is, was, and is coming,” it is in no way clear that the final phrase refers to the second coming or parousia of Christ.  The three-part phrase, instead, is an ontological description of the eternality of God.  He has always existed.  He exists now. He will always exist in the future (in the coming days).  If conceived in this manner, it is actually the modern critical reading which is inadequate theologically, since it only asserts God’s existence in the past and present without also affirming God’s presence and existence in the future.  Thus, I would respectfully submit that the GB interpretation is inaccurate.