Friday, May 24, 2019

The Vision (5.24.19): Come and dine

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 21:1-14.

Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine (John 21:12a).

Let’s return to that last statement of the risen Lord to the seven disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, “Come and dine.”

Many interpreters have found in this invitation overtones of the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, as a means of grace, even though the food here is not the bread and cup, but the bread and fish.

That’s possible, but rather than an invitation to the Lord’s table I think we can see it more broadly as a general invitation to discipleship, to join in having that nourishing and soul-satisfying communion with Christ, which includes being part of God’s people, that fellowship which Christ has built and to which the apostles and those who have come after have added in his name.

Come and enjoy. Come and be fed. Come and be ministered unto by the risen Christ himself. Christ satisfies the hungry soul. Christ fills the empty life. Christ gives rest to the weary. Come and dine.

Christ’s statement might be described as the New Covenant equivalent to Isaiah 55:1: “Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat: yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

And to Psalm 34:8: “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”

And it anticipates that ultimate communion which is to come: “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 16:9).

Come and dine.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Scenes from 2019 CRBC Youth Conference (May 17-18)

Last weekend we enjoyed our annual Youth Conference at the Machen Retreat Center in beautiful Highland County, Virginia.

This year's theme was "Understanding the Doctrine of the Trinity" and I had the privilege of teaching the young people. Unfortunately, we did not do an audio recording of the sessions, but here are the four session topics and links to the teaching handouts given the participants:

Session One: The Biblical basis of the Trinity

Session Two: What the Trinity Is

Session Three: What the Trinity Is Not

Session Four: Why the Trinity Matters

We also had a lively Q & A at the end with some very insightful questions. Aside from the teaching, there was also time for fellowship. recreation, and the annual "Chopped" dessert competition (Reformed Youth edition).

Here are some scenes from the weekend:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

WM 122: TR and Apologetics: Robert Truelove Interviews Pooyan Mehrshahi

Image: Cover to the Gospel of John in Farsi, translated from the TR, Trinitarian Bible Society (read online here).

I have posted to WM 122: TR and Apologetics: Robert Truelove Interviews Pooyan Mehrshahi (listen here).

This episode shares an interview posted to Robert Truelove's youtube channel on May 16, 2019 and is shared with his permission (watch the video here). Pooyan Mehrshahi is pastor of Providence Baptist Chapel in Cheltenham, England (listen to his sermons and teaching here). He is also engaged in ministry to Farsi speaking people through the Parsa Trust (look here and here).

The podcast addresses the challenge made by some modern text advocates that adoption of the confessional text means the supposed abandonment of meaningful apologetics, especially with Muslims. Pastor Pooyan ably points out that this challenge is groundless, and, in fact, it is the modern critical text position that proves problematic in apologetics.

Enjoy! JTR

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Vision (5.17.19): Confessing Thomas

Image Roses, North Garden, Virginia, May 2019.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 20:24-31.

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print [typos] of the nails, and put my finger into the into the print [typos] of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

And Thomas answered and said unto him, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

We know the disciple Thomas as “Doubting Thomas” because of the skepticism he expressed when his fellow disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord” (John 20:25).

Thomas had not been present on that first Lord’s Day evening when Christ “stood in the midst” as they assembled behind closed doors (v. 19). He was incredulous. Sometimes modern people suggest that the whole reason Christianity took root in the first century is because the people of that age were simply religiously naïve, superstitious, and unsophisticated. They didn’t have our modern refinement and rationalism. But people are people, in the first century as now. They have reason and common sense, drawn from ordinary experience. They knew then as we know now that dead men stay dead. It is unsurprising then that Thomas did not immediately believe the report of his fellows.

We have the expression, seeing is believing. In Thomas’s case seeing and touching is believing. He said he wanted verifiable, empirical evidence of the reality of the resurrection, or he would remain in unbelief about it.

Then, on the second Lord’s Day evening, Christ again “stood in the midst” of the disciples and invited Thomas to place his finger in his nail pierced hands, and his hand in his riven side (vv. 26-27). He gave Thomas the exhortation: “and be not faithless, but believing [kai mē ginou apistos, allas pistos]” (v. 27).

Thomas then answered, “My Lord [kurios] and my God [theos]” (v. 28). This is a truly amazing statement. It anticipates the classic confessions: Jesus is Lord (cf. Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3; Phil 2:11), and: Jesus is God (cf. John 10:30; Rom 9:5; Titus 2:13; 1 Tim 3:16).

We live in an age in which doubt is promoted as a virtue. Some might see Thomas as exhibiting this “noble” quality. Indeed there are no questions that are too big for us to bring to our God.

The narrative, however, does not end with Thomas’s doubt but with his confession: My Lord and my God. Thus, in the end, he should not be known as “Doubting Thomas” but as “Confessing Thomas.”

Christ now exhorts us, as he did Thomas: “Be not faithless, but believing.”

Let us not be doubters but confessors, to the glory of Christ!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Eusebius, EH.2.18: Philo of Alexandria

A new installment is posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 2, chapter 18 (listen here).

Notes and Commentary:

Eusebius here surveys the various writings of the respected Jewish philosopher, stateman, and author Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BC-AD 50), a rough contemporary of both Jesus and Paul.

He notes that Philo wrote on various spiritual and mundane topics, including allegorical expositions of the Hebrew Bible.

He again notes Philo’s famed trip to Rome during the reign of Caius Caesar (Caligula) and also notes that during the reign of Caius’s successor, Claudius, Philo described Caligula's impiety in an ironically titled work “Concerning Virtues”, which he read before the Senate.

He also notes Claudius’s expulsion of Jews from Rome, a detail noted in Acts 18:2 that led to Aquila and Priscilla being in Corinth, where they became hosts to Paul.

Eusebius has a high view of the book of Acts, referring to it as “sacred Scripture.”


Friday, May 10, 2019

The Vision (5.10.19): Christ Stood in the Midst

Image: Rhododendron, North Garden, Virginia, May 2019
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 20:19-23.
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you (John 20:19).
In Christ’s appearance to his disciples on the first resurrection Sunday evening, we have a pattern for what still happens in the assemblies of God’s people.
Admittedly, Christ is not present physically now as he was in that forty-day period after his resurrection and before his ascension, but he is nonetheless present by means of the Spirit.
When we gather as God’s people, Christ stands in our midst. We cannot see him, hear him, touch him, but he is not less present. Our winsomeness as an assembly comes not through who we are but through the one who stands in our midst.
There is something more powerful that happens when we come together than when any of us is alone in private devotion.
Christ offers peace to us, as he promised his original disciples in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’
He also gives us proofs and evidences of the truth and reality of who he is and what he has done. On that first Lord’s Day evening “he shewed unto them his hands and his side” (John 20:20) Now, he gives us proofs by the reading and preaching of his Word.
On that first Lord’s Day evening he commissioned his disciples, “as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21). He still sends us out into the world to be his witnesses. He also gives us, as he did the first disciples, the Holy Spirit to empower our ministry (John 20:22).
Finally, he reminds us of the authority granted to us as the church founded by the apostles on Christ the chief cornerstone: to announce forgiveness of sin and to evaluate and condemn sin that is retained (cf. John 20:23).
We are still assembling on the first day of the week, and Christ is still coming to stand in our midst.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Book Review posted: Modern English Version (MEV)

My review of the Modern English Version (MEV) appears in the latest issue of the Midwestern Journal of Theology, Vol. 18 No. 1 (Spring 2019): 129-135.

I have posted a pdf of the review to my page (read it here).

I also posted a spoken word version of the review to (listen here).

I had also discussed the MEV in WM 108.


Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Eusebius, EH.2.16-17: Mark, Philo, and the Therapeutae

Image: Modern entrance to the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of St. Anthony in the Eastern Desert of Egypt. It is considered by many to be the oldest Christian monastery in the world, founded c. 251.

A new installment is posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 2, chapters 16-17 (listen here).

Notes and Commentary:

Eusebius begins by relaying the tradition that Mark was the first to take the gospel to Alexandria, Egypt, before he went to Rome to be with Peter and to compose his Gospel.

Eusebius then draws on Philo of Alexandria’s work On the Contemplative Life and his description of the Therapeutae, an ascetic spiritual group near Alexandria.

Eusebius claims that the Therapeutae were, in fact, a Christian sect. Like the early Christians described in Acts they gave up their possessions and held their goods in common in order to follow their “philosophy.” He describes their practices of fasting and their allegorical interpretations of their Scriptures. He assumes their sacred Scriptures to have included the Gospels, the writings of the Apostles, and expositions of the prophets, like those found in Hebrews (which he assumes was written by Paul). He emphasizes the extremes of their fasting with some not eating for three days or barely eating over six days.

Eusebius acknowledges that some might be skeptical of his claim that the Therapeutae were Christians. Indeed, most would see them as a Jewish sect.

He further notes that men and women lived separately and practiced chastity. They also followed patterns (like fasting and keeping vigils to celebrate “the Passion of the Savior”) and practices, which Eusebius says, were still followed by Christians in his day.

Though his claims that the Therapeutae were Christians seems dubious, the description shows the developing interest in early Christianity in monasticism and ascetical spiritual practices like chastity and fasting.


Sunday, May 05, 2019

Eusebius, EH.2.13-15: Simon the Sorcerer, Peter, and Mark

A new installment has been posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 2, chapters 13-15 (listen here).

Notes and Commentary:

Eusebius here focuses on a tradition of Simon the Samaritan sorcerer, a false convert from Acts 8:9-25 as an arch-heretic who eventually settled in Rome.

He describes Simon as a demon-possessed magician who was fancied a god by his followers. He suggests that a statue to him was raised in Rome. Lake notes that Eusebius is likely in error here, suggesting that the statue, discovered in 1574, was inscribed not “to Simon a holy god” but “to the god Semo Sanctus” [Semo Sanctus being a Sabine deity].

Simon’s companion was a woman named Helena, whom Eusebius suggests was a former prostitute and whom Simon called the “First Idea” from him [a pseudo-Platonic or Gnostic concept].

Eusebius cites Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons as his sources for these traditions of Simon as “the first author of all heresy.”

He notes that the false practices of Simon and Helena includes being “thrown into marvel” [ecstatic spiritual experiences] and indecent sexual conduct.

If Simon was the arch-villain, the hero was Peter, the leader of the Apostles, who came to Rome “like a noble captain of God” to preach the gospel and refute heresy.

He suggests that the Romans encouraged Mark, “Peter’s follower,” to compose the Gospel of Mark, written in Rome and commended by the Apostle. He also cites Papias for the tradition of Mark being written in Rome and his reference to Mark in 1 Peter 5:13, as well as the reference there to “Babylon” as a code term for Rome.


Friday, May 03, 2019

The Vision (5.3.19): Mary Magdalene: Apostle to the Apostles

Image: Irises, North Garden, Virginia, May 2019

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 20:9-18.

John 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God. 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

The first resurrection appearance was to Mary Magdalene (cf. Mark 16:9).

Christ’s word to Mary Magdalene In John 20:17 constitute one of the most intriguing and perhaps difficult to understand statements of the risen Jesus. Ryle says, “No doubt the language is somewhat mysterious and ought to be delicately and reverently handled.”

Why did the risen Christ ask Mary not to touch him?

What is this reference to his ascending to the Father? Was there a preliminary ascension to the Father after his resurrection and a return to appear for forty days before his final ascension?

Was Mary as a woman disciple and non-apostle forbidden to touch him, while only the twelve were given the privilege of handling his body, including touching hid wounds, as Thomas did (see 20:27)?

What is being conveyed here?

It is unlikely that this is a reference to “two ascensions” since such a thing is not mentioned anywhere else in the Scriptures.

Many take the point as being simply to communicate to Mary not that he could not be touched at all but that his body had been changed. This is no longer his earthly body but his heavenly, resurrection body. His physical presence in their midst is only temporary, until such time as he ascends to be seated at the right hand of the Father. It thus points forward to the reality of the age in which we now live as disciples, wherein we cannot physically touch Christ with the hand, hear him with the ear, see him with the eye, and yet we do hear his voice in the Word, and we believe.

Christ then commissions Mary to go to the apostles and to tell them both of his resurrection and his ascension.

Mary obeyed this command (v. 18). This is an evidence of her faithfulness, for which she was remembered by the early Christians and often called by them, “the apostle to the apostles.”

In appearing first to Mary Magdalene Christ, in part, demonstrated the importance and value of women disciples. Women were not called to be apostles. They are not called today to be elders or deacons. But they are called to believe in the resurrection, to obey Christ, and to serve the Lord in their own spheres of influence.

So, let us learn from Mary and grow in our obedience.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Eusebius, EH.2.11-12: The Delusion of Theudas

Image: Modern view of the Jordan River

A new installment has been posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 2, chapters 11-12 (listen here).

Notes and Commentary:

Eusebius here makes reference to the speech of Gamaliel in Acts 5, in which the respected teacher describes a contemporary uprising under a man named Theudas that eventually came to nothing (see Acts 5:34-36). Gamaliel’s conclusion is that if the nascent Christian movement is not of God it will come to nothing, but if it is of God one can do nothing to stop it (Acts 5:38-39).

Eusebius compares the account in Acts with that in Josephus, describing how the Roman governor Fadus sent a squad a cavalry to attack Theudas’s followers at the Jordan river and killed many, including Theudas himself.

This is a reminder of the uncertain political times in which Jesus and the apostles lived and how the Romans would have treated religious movements they saw as a threat.

Eusebius closes by making mention of the famine in Judea at the time of Claudius, recorded by Josephus and also mentioned by Luke in Acts 11. He notes Josephus’s mention of Queen Helena of the nation of Adiabene, to which, he says, monuments still exist outside Aelia (Jerusalem). This reference to Jerusalem as Aelia is a reminder of that city’s destruction by the Romans and eventual re-naming after two unsuccessful revolts (AD 66-70 and AD 132-136 [the Bar Kochba Revolt]).

Eusebius continues to use Josephus to affirm the historical reliability of Acts.

His description of Theudas is also a reminder of the volatile times in which Christianity emerged in the Roman Empire.


Friday, April 26, 2019

The Vision (4.26.19): And he saw and believed

Image: After church fellowship at CRBC (4.21.19)

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 20:1-8.

Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw and believed (John 20:8).

This verse describes the entry of John, the beloved disciple, into the tomb, after Peter had already entered (see vv. 6-7). It is key to understanding the empty tomb. John records, in the third person, his own experience: “and he saw and believed [had faith].” This is John’s record of his own testimony.

Early in his ministry the Lord Jesus had asked the two disciples of John the Baptist who began following him, “What seek ye?” (1:38) and then he had said to them, “Come and see” (v. 39). This is the invitation extended to any who would consider Christ. Come and see.

John came to the empty tomb, he saw, and he believed [had faith]. What did he believe? He believed that the tomb was empty, that Jesus had been gloriously raised from the dead. He believed that Christ had experienced the resurrection, that his life had been vindicated by the Father. In believing this, he also came to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Peter had confessed this earlier: “And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:69). John had been a follower of Jesus before these things, and it is difficult to quantify the degree of change that took place at the empty tomb, but something fundamentally changed for John in light of the evidence and revelation of the resurrection. John was a changed man.

Through God’s own word an invitation is extended to all hearers to stoop and look into the empty tomb. Christ is saying, Come and see. Come and experience.

If any have wavered, now is the time to get off the fence and close with Christ. Psalm 34:8: “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”

How important is the resurrection as an article of faith? In Romans 10:9 Paul said, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” It is crucial. It is essential. Come, see, and believe.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Eusebius, EH.2.10: The Death of Herod Agrippa I

Image: Coins from the era of Herod Agrippa I (10 BC-AD 44). Herod ruled as King of Judea from c. AD 41-44.

Another installment is posted to the series from Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 2, chapter 10 (listen here).

Notes and Commentary:

The focus of this chapter is the death of Herod Agrippa I, the same who put to death James the apostle and brother of John and son of Zebedee (just as earlier in EH, 1.8 he had described the gruesome death of Herod the Great, the grandfather of Herod Agrippa I).

Eusebius says this Herod was overtaken by God because of his plot against the apostles.

He notes the account in Acts 12 of how Herod was flattered by the crowd who said he spoke with the voice of a god and not as a man, and how he was then struck down by an angel, eaten of worms, and died.

He compares also the parallel account in book 19 of Josephus’s Antiquities, noting how each corroborates the other and marvels: “I am surprised how in this and other points Josephus confirms the truth of the divine Scriptures.”

Once again, Eusebius stresses the theme of the justice of God. Those who oppose the purposes of God in the Christian movement pay the penalty.

He also stresses the historicity of Acts by showing how the facts relayed are supported by Josephus.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Eusebius, EH.2.7-9: The Death of James the Apostle

Image: Martyrdom of St, James, Francisco de Zurbaran, 1640

Another installment has been added to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 2, chapters 7-9 (listen here).

Notes and Commentary:

In chapter 7 Eusebius relays a tradition that Pilate committed suicide and that this came as a penalty from God.

He mentions a source (the records of the Olympiads of the Greeks) but Lake notes, “No extant records confirm this statement.”

In chapters 8-9, he summarizes material taken from Acts chapters 11-12.

This includes events that happened under the reign of the emperor Claudius, including the famine foretold by the prophet Agabus.

He also relays the account of the death of James the apostle under Herod from Acts 12:1-2 and adds an account from Clement about a soldier who was converted during James’s trial and who was executed with him.

He notes also the arrest of Peter from Acts 12.

We see here again Eusebius’s use of Acts as a trustworthy source and his supplementing of it with extra information. We see also his desire to set the Christian movement against the wider backdrop of Roman history.


Monday, April 22, 2019

WM 121: Part Two: Notre Dame & the TR

I have posted WM 121: NASB 2020, Notre Dame & the TR (listen here).

This episode has two parts.

The first part is a review of some of the upcoming changes to the New American Standard Bible (NASB), coming in 2020. See my notes for Part One here.

The second part is a suggested analogy between the fire/reconstruction of Notre Dame and the TR. Below are my notes for Part Two:

This article is an attempt to draw an analogy between the destruction and proposed restoration of the Notre Dame Cathedral and the traditional text of Scripture.

One of the biggest news stories this week was, for course, the fire that destroyed a substantial part of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (on Monday, April 15, 2019). The source of the fire is still unexplained, though online rumors have run rampant about the possibility that it might have intentional act of arson or terrorism. Over the last year there have apparently been hundreds of acts of vandalism against French churches and Christian religious objects. One would have to be particularly dull not to be suspicious of the fact that the fire occurred during the so-called “holy week” leading up to Easter Sunday.

It is hard not to see symbolic significance in the damage done to this church, which had long been an icon of the Christian and RC heritage of France. I wonder how many poems will be written that memorialize this fire as a reflection of demographic, political, and religious changes in France and the West as it enters a post-modern and post-Christian era.

In a much-discussed online Rolling Stone article, posted the day after the fire and titled “How Should France Rebuild Notre Dame?”, EJ Dickson notes that the fire did not end up doing as much damage as some initially feared. He cites Jeffrey Hamburger, a Harvard art historian:

The fact that the building did not collapse — a concern in the hours immediately following the blaze — serves as a “powerful testimony to the skill of medieval builders,” Hamburger says. He credits the survival of the structure to the building’s iconic rib vaulting and flying buttresses, which prevented collapse. “It’s worth remembering why they went through the trouble building it this way — it wasn’t for aesthetic reasons, it was for fire-proofing,” Hamburger says. “In a way, what we have here is proof of concept.”

After noting the building’s role in French history and the fact that it serves as the “Point Zero” or supposed center of the city of Paris, the article offered this startling observation:

But for some people in France, Notre Dame has also served as a deep-seated symbol of resentment, a monument to a deeply flawed institution and an idealized Christian European France that arguably never existed in the first place. “The building was so overburdened with meaning that its burning feels like an act of liberation,” says Patricio del Real, an architecture historian at Harvard University.

The article also discusses the very difficult question of how the reconstruction of the cathedral should proceed. The cathedral began to be built in 1160 and was completed a hundred years later in 1260. It was built on a site that had previously held not only a fourth century Christian church but also on a site where a Roman temple to Jupiter was once situated. Over the years various additions and renovations were added, including a spire (now destroyed by the fire), in the nineteenth century.

With regard to reconstruction, the question arises as to which church should be reconstructed. The original completed in 1260? The church as it stood in April 2019? Should, for example, the spire be restored or left out? Should it be modernized with contemporary innovations and features? There is also the realization that no exact reproduction can be achieved in our day. We simply do not have the skilled workmen and artisans today who completed the original work by hand using pre-modern methods. We cannot do today what was done then.

Here is another quote from the conclusion of the RS article:

Although Macron and donors like Pinault have emphasized that the cathedral should be rebuilt as close to the original as possible, some architectural historians like Brigniani [an architecture professor at the City College of New York] believe that would be complicated, given the many stages of the cathedral’s evolution. “The question becomes, which Notre Dame are you actually rebuilding?” he says. Harwood [architecture professor at the University of Toronto], too, believes that it would be a mistake to try to recreate the edifice as it once stood, as LeDuc did more than 150 years ago. Any rebuilding should be a reflection not of an old France, or the France that never was — a non-secular, white European France — but a reflection of the France of today, a France that is currently in the making. “The idea that you can recreate the building is naive. It is to repeat past errors, category errors of thought, and one has to imagine that if anything is done to the building it has to be an expression of what we want — the Catholics of France, the French people — want. What is an expression of who we are now? What does it represent, who is it for?” he says.
Hamburger, however, dismisses this idea as “preposterous.” Now that the full extent of the damage is being reckoned with — and is less than many initially feared — he sees no reason to not try to rebuild and preserve one of the few remaining wonders of medieval architecture. “It’s not as if in rebuilding the church one is necessarily building a monument to the glorification of medieval catholicism and aristocracy. It’s simply the case that the building has witnessed the entire history of France as a modern nation,” he says. “[You] can’t just erase history. It’s there, and it has to be dealt with critically.”

So, why this reflection on Notre Dame de Paris? Certainly it is intriguing on many levels. What it brought to my mind, given the general interest of this podcast in the text and translation of Scripture, are the parallels that might be suggested between Notre Dame and the traditional text of Scripture (the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the OT and the Greek TR of the NT).

The traditional text of Scripture is not a physical edifice, like Notre Dame, but it is a priceless literary artifact that reflects the history and heritage of Christianity in both the West and the East. One might say that Notre Dame was there for some nine-hundred years, and the traditional text only represents a printed tradition of some five-hundred years. Even if we granted only a five-hundred-year span for the traditional text, that would be significant, but, in fact, we might just as well cogently argue that its legacy extends even further back. The Masoretic text goes back to Ezra and the TR reflects a predominant, organic ecclesiastical consensus largely present in the Byzantine tradition and confirmed by the Protestant orthodox in the Reformation and post-Reformation eras that, we might argue, goes back to the apostles. So, in fact, while Notre Dame has only a nine-hundred-year history, the traditional text has stood for over two thousand years.

To continue the analogy, we were told that this text had been severely damaged through blazing corruptions and errors in transmission from some unknown sources. In hindsight, however, many now fear that the damage might have been done from inside out by post-Enlightenment scholars who saw the traditional text as a monument of a bygone era, whose significance was eclipsed by modern “advances.” Such scholars likely saw the traditional text as the historian in the RS article says that some modern Parisians saw the Notre Dame, as “a deep-seated symbol of resentment, a monument to a deeply flawed institution … that arguably never existed in the first place.” Many, no doubt, saw and stillsee the toppling of the traditional text as a “liberation.”

Despite claims of its total collapse under what can only be described as the withering claims of modern criticism, further examination shows that the structure actually stands up still quite well, a testimony to the “proof of concept” not only of the inspired writers but also of the providentially guided tradents of the text. It still serves quite well as a “Point Zero” for finding the true center for Christian faith and practice.

While some would still suggest undertaking radical reconstruction to get back to the as yet undefined and elusive original, others suggest that the moment to be seized for making supposed modern updates and improvements. To borrow again from a scholar in the article, one might observe, “The question becomes, which [text of Christian Scripture] are you actually rebuilding?” The traditionalist, however, rightly recognizes that such an undertaking is fraught with difficulties and unintended consequences. For starters, we simply do not have the artisans and skilled laborers to undertake such a task. We cannot do now what a previous generation so expertly did under divine providence. Our attempts to tinker with and improve might be devastating for its preservation for future generations.

Of course, this analogy breaks down. Notre Dame has been severely damaged, and it will need to be repaired. The traditional text, however, though under intense assault, has not yet been consigned to the flames. To both the chagrin and wonder of many, it still stands as a monument to God’s immediate inspiration of his Word and his providential preservation of it. It does not need repair or replacement, but appreciation and admiration.