Saturday, June 22, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.1-3: The Apostles and Their Writings



Image: St. Paul Writing to the Thessalonians, c. 1629, by Jan Lievens (1607-1674)

A new post has been added to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 3, chapters 1-3 (listen here):

Notes and Commentary:

Book 3 begins with an account of the apostles and a discussion of the canonicity of some of the early Christian writings.

Chapter 1 notes the scattering of the apostles:

Thomas: Parthia

Andrew: Scythia

John: Asia (Ephesus)

Peter: To Jews of the dispersion and then Rome where he died as a martyr.

Paul: From Jerusalem to Illyria and a martyr’s death in Rome.

The source cited is Origen’s commentary on Genesis.

Chapter 2 is brief and notes Linus (cf. 2 Tim 4:21) as the first bishop of Rome after the deaths of Peter and Paul.

Chapter 3 discusses the early writings.

Of Peter’s writings only 1 Peter is noted as beyond dispute. 2 Peter is not held to be canonical by some but is received by others.

Other works associated with Peter like the Acts of Peter, the Gospel of Peter, the Preaching of Peter, and the Revelation (Apocalypse) of Peter, says Eusebius, are not acknowledged “among the catholics [en katholikois]” or cited by any ancient or contemporary “orthodox writer [ekklesiastikos sungrapheus].”

Among Paul’s writings, Eusebius notes the 14 letter of Paul, among which Hebrews was challenged by the church of Rome with regard to whether it was by Paul.

The Acts of Paul is rejected.

The Shepherd of Hermas (cf. Rom 16:14) has also been rejected but found useful by some for use with those who need “elementary instruction.”

Here we see the process of the recognition (not formation) of the canon at work.

JTR

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Vision (6.21.19): The LORD shall return thy wickedness



Image: CRBC 2019 VBS Crew! Great week of learning about the life of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 2.

Therefore the Lord shall return thy wickedness upon thine own head (1 Kings 2:44b).

Solomon’s ending statement here concerning the just punishment of Shimei stands out.

This same principle is expressed by Paul in Galatians 6:7: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Eastern religions have the concept of karma, a distortion of this truth. A popular adage likewise says, “What goes around, comes around.”

The Biblical idea is different, however, because it does not posit some impersonal force, but the monitoring and intervention of a sovereign and just God. God is not mocked! He will not wink at our sin! If you live in an ungodly manner you will meet an ungodly end!

What does our sin deserve? It deserves the wrath of God. We deserve to have our wickedness brought down upon our heads, to reap what we have sown.

We deserve not only temporal punishment but eternal punishment.

A fundamental dilemma within the human experience is here expressed. God is holy and righteous, and he has holy and righteous standards with respect to which we have fallen short.

We are all like Adonijah in our pride and over-reaching.

We are all like Abiathar in that we have failed in our religious duties.

We are all like Joab in that we have been prone to violence, lust for revenge, and unjust anger.

We are all like Shimei in that we have cursed at just authority and trespassed gracious boundaries set for us.

And we are all also like David and Solomon too in their distinctive sins.

The prophet Isaiah, who ministered during the twilight of the Kingdom of Judah, would prophesy of a mysterious suffering servant who would come. He would be “wounded for our transgressions” and the Lord would lay on him “the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:5-6).

Then, in the fullness of time, Christ came. Of him Paul would write: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom 5:8-9).

Yes, we deserve to have our wickedness returned upon our own heads, to reap what we have sown. But the good news of the gospel is that Christ has reaped for us what we have sown.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, June 20, 2019

WM 125: Q & A:: Text, Translation, Preservation, Canon



I have posted WM 125: Q & A: Text, Translation, Preservation, Canon. You can listen here. I this episode I respond to three recent sets of questions sent to me by podcast listeners. Below are the questions (in italic) and my response notes (in bold):

Question one:

Hello Dr. Riddle,

Might you consider this Q/A for a Word Magazine broadcast (unless you’ve already addressed it; I don’t recall coming across this anywhere yet)?  When one holds to the Traditional/Confessional Text, how should we view and interact with: (i) the Critical Text (i.e. text(s) resulting from Reasoned Eclecticism); (ii) English translations from the CT?  This, particularly in light of the reality that, if one holds to the TT one would presumably view the CT as being an “adding to or taking away from” Scripture, which is a most serious thing.  Thus, do we view the CT and translations thereof still as Scripture, as parts of Scripture, as study resources only, or in some other type of category?

Response:

See Confession 1:8

I can use critical texts and translations based upon them as study tools.

As far as translations go, I can consider them the Word of God to the degree that they reflect the Hebrew and Greek original. In places where they depart from the original, they are deficient.

For authoritative study, preaching, and teaching I will prefer to study the received text and translations based upon it.

Will this be a test of fellowship? I can have fellowship with those who disagree but I reserve the right to advocate for my position.

Practically speaking I think it is wise for a local church to have an agreed upon text for its liturgical and doctrinal ministries. I prefer the traditional text.

Question two:

Hope this finds you well!

I want to get a better understanding of your view of the preservation of scripture. I've been thinking about what we can both agree it's not. Do we agree on these bullet points?

Response: I am not a fan of this format. Rather than offer some interpretation of what you think I may or may not agree with why not simply take something I have written or said and note your own agreement or disagreement?

Preservation does not mean a guarantee that God's people somewhere on earth will have the perfectly preserved word at any given point in time. The Textas Receptas [Textus Receptus?] did not exist until the 16th century. There was no Greek manuscript that perfectly matched the TR prior to the TR. Thus, if the TR is the perfectly inspired and preserved Word of God, then no single person [manuscript?] contained the perfectly inspired word of God prior to the 16th century. And moreover, it was centuries after Christ before any Christians had the full cannon in possession anyway.

Response:

I disagree with every sentence in this statement.

Preservation means that God’s Word has been “kept pure in all ages” (confession 1:8).

The received text did not come into existence only in the sixteenth century. It is identical with the divine original.

Since it is identical with the divine original, there were Greek mss. that “matched the TR” from the beginning. Thus, there were mss. that contained the inspired and preserved Word of God from the beginning.

Christians had the “full canon” the moment the last canonical book was written.

Preservation does not mean a guarantee that translations won't mess things up. No translation is perfect. Theological Propaedeutic [Philip Schaff, 1892] on page 193 gives a list of places where the KJV mistranslates things, for instance, including a place where it gets the gender wrong, being imprecisely gender-neutral instead of masculine.

Response:

On translations, see again Confession 1:8.

I am not familiar with this Schaff work but know he was a modern critical text advocate.

I would have to review his perceived KJV “mistranslations” one by one to see if they have any merit or if, as I suppose, they might be contested.

By extension, preservation does not mean a guarantee that meaningful numbers of Christians will have access to the perfectly preserved Word. Most people cannot read Greek and Hebrew. Therefore the overwhelming majority of Christians in church history have not had meaningful access to the perfectly preserved word of God

Response:

I disagree with the first sentence. See again Confession 1:8.

I agree with sentence two but disagree with sentence three. Muslims believe you must know Arabic to read and understand the Koran, but Christians do NOT believe that you must know Hebrew and Greek to read and understand the Bible.

Preservation does not guarantee that the Bible does not change from one generation to the next. The TR changed much in the 16th century, and conjectural emendations such as the TR's reading of Luke 2:22, based purely on theological reasons, were later found to have (admittedly very narrow) manuscript evidence. I don't think it's putting words in anyone's mouth to say that a TR advocate would point to this as a divine attestation that the conjecture was providential and well-founded; but underlying this conviction betrays the admission that new manuscript discoveries can indeed influence our position and that this need not be shied away from.

Response:

I disagree with every sentence in this paragraph.

Preservation does guarantee that the Bible does not change.

The printed TR tradition did not change much (i.e., it was not wildly unstable) in the sixteenth century and Luke 2:22 is not an example that proves a defeater for the Confessional Text position (see Agros podcast #12). Please note the distinction made by Jan Krans between an emendatio ingenii ope (‘emendation by means of reasoning’) and an  emendatio codice ope (‘emendation by means of manuscripts’).

You talk about how your disagreements with modern textual critics are a fundamental disagreement about the preservation of God's word. You also talk about the fact that maybe there are impurities in the TR or slight changes that ought to be made. Please correct me if I'm overstating the case of our agreement in these above tenants. I'm struggling to understand what a TR-only advocate's view of preservation is. 

As a point of reference, this is what I've mentally constructed, based on our areas of agreement, as to what a TR advocates' view of preservation looks like. "For the first 15 centuries nobody had the Word of God in its full purity. There were editions that came close, but none of them fully hit the mark, for none of them matched the TR. And then through a one hundred years of editing through textual criticism of liberals who denied justification by faith and who in their doctrinal impurity are similar to modern 20th and 21st century textual critics, we went through the process of getting the TR. The changes were evolutionary and demonstrably based on scientific study of the available texts when we read these scholars in their own words. Lots of changes were made throughout this 100 years, many of them speculative, many of them seemingly in error, but through God's providence, what emerged is the closest thing we're ever going to get, nay, even the perfect Word of God. And any attempt to revisit this (including the efforts of Maurice A. Robinson at assembling a Byzantine priority text that seeks to fix the perceived problems in the TR) are unnecessary and should be decried as a rejection of the Received Text and a waste of time." 

Is that woefully missing the mark? How off am I? I want to fairly understand the case as best as possible.

Response:

Your “reconstruction” of the TR position is not something I recognize. What is this 100 year process? Who were the scholars working on this who rejected justification by faith and held other doctrinal errors similar to those held by modern text critics of the nineteenth century? Are you talking about Erasmus? This was not true of the Protestant orthodox (like Stephanus and Beza) who produced the printed editions of the TR.

What is the TR advocate's view of preservation? If we agree on the bullets, where does the disagreement lie, exactly? It seems we both agree that things were messy for the first 15 centuries — failing to do so is to deny history, inasmuch as the TR has important deviations from the majority text and has no full support of any single manuscript. It seems we disagree on whether that messiness has continued for the past 5 centuries or not. But for two people to have a disagreement about something that occurred 75% into New Testament history does not require a fundamental disagreement about the nature of the preservation of scripture, which tells me that there's something more here. Something I'm missing or misunderstanding. Can you help me here? 

Thanks

Response:

As noted above I have little, if any agreement, with the points you noted above.

The confessional text is NOT that “things were messy for the first 15 centuries.” No, God’s Word was “by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages.” The true text has not been “messy.” It has always been challenged, abused, ridiculed, and attempts have been made to alter and distort it. This has been true since the time of the apostles (2 Peter 3:15-16; Rev 22:18-19). The printing, editing, and promulgating the traditional text was of providential importance in the sixteenth-seventeenth century, but God’s word has always been kept pure. Christ’s sheep have always heard his voice in it.

Question three:

Hello Pastor Jeff,

As time may allow you…

1.    Thx for your post Audio and Video available from SEBTS's 2019 "Linguistics and New Testament Greek" Conference at http://www.jeffriddle.net/2019/06/audio-and-video-available-from-sebtss.html.  Just wondering whether to dip in or not… my objective at present is to form a more solid understanding of text criticism and understand the key aspects to the “two sides”… will listening to the link(s) contribute to that personal objective in your view?   Was this conference curved toward reasoned eclecticism (deliberate or otherwise)?

2. Would you hold to the canon being closed at the Reformation rather than by, or toward the end, of the 300’s AD?  I’ve heard Pastor Truelove’s several sermons on this now and taking pause for thought… I think I understand the historical nature of canonicity, but it strikes me that closure of same late provides historically challenges if not practical textual ones (i.e. if the canon closed late why can’t the text similarly ‘settle’ late?).

Response:

On #1: Though a few of these lectures are pitched at an introductory level, most are pitched to those who hold at least an intermediate level of Greek. Much of this is relevant for text criticism and all speakers would likely support the reasoned eclectic view.

On #2: I would say the canon was closed when the last canonical book was written. The question is: When do we have the first instance when the canon was recognized/acknowledged? This was not defined confessionally until the Reformation era. Canon is still a dividing line between RC, Orthodox, and Protestants.

JTR

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Vision (6.14.19): Introduction to 1 Kings



Image: Modern view of traditional site (since Middle Ages) of David's tomb in foreground with the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition in background, Jerusalem.

We began last Sunday at CRBC a new Lord’s Day morning sermon series through the book of 1 Kings.

It is important for us to return from time to time to the Old Testament. This too is part of our Bible and, as Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect. Thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:16-17). This is part of God’s word, and so it is for our profit.

1 Kings is a historical work. It continues the history of Israel’s kings that had begun in 1-2 Samuel (with the prophet Samuel and the kings Saul and David) and is continued by 2 Kings.

If you go to our sermonaudio.com site you will find a previous 25-part sermon series through 1 Samuel and a 27-part sermon series through 2 Samuel.

If we think of the books of 1-2 Kings as one book, we can divide it into three sections:

1.    The rule of King Solomon (1 Kings 1—11);

2.    The divided kingdom up till the time of the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to Assyria (1 Kings 12—2 Kings 17);

3.    The continuation of the Southern Kingdom of Judah until its fall to Babylon (2 Kings 18—25).

We call it the book of Kings, because it tells the history of Israel largely through her rulers, from King David on his death bed in 1 Kings 1, to King Jehoiachin of Judah, living in exile in Babylon in 2 Kings 25:27-30.

But it is also the story of God’s prophets, including Nathan, Elijah, and Elisha.

The author is never directly named. We might call him the historian. He lives during the time of the exile, since this is the last thing he records in 2 Kings.

Some Jewish traditions have attributed 1-2 Kings to Jeremiah (cf. the last chapter of Jeremiah (52) and the last chapter of 2 Kings (25), which are nearly the same in content).

Whoever the human author was, we know he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the true author of 2 Kings, as all of Scripture.

One of the questions we will come back to throughout this series will be: Where is Christ? How are we pointed toward Christ?

May we learn more of Christ as we work out way through 1 Kings.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Eusebius, EH.2.24-16: Nero: "a fighter against God"



Image: Marble bust of Nero, c. AD 64-68, Worcester Art Museum.

Another episode has been posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 2, chapters 24-26. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These final chapters of book 2 focus on the atrocities of the Roman Emperor Nero against both Christians and Jews.

Chapter 24 is a brief note on how Annianus succeeded Mark the Evangelist in Alexandria during Nero’s time.

Chapter 25 goes into greater detail as to Nero’s cruelty. Aside from his treacherous behavior toward his own family he is described as “the first of the emperors to be pointed out as foe of the divine religion.” Here he cites Tertullian.

He further describes Nero as “a fighter against God” and as one who slaughtered the apostles.

Eusebius conveys the tradition that Paul was beheaded and Peter crucified in Rome by Nero at the same time.

He cites an early Christian writer named Caius who describes “the sacred relics ofn the apostles” deposited in Roman cemeteries associated with Peter and Paul near the Vatican or Ostian Way.

He also cites Dionysius bishop of Corinth as confirming that Peter and Paul were martyred at the same time in Rome.

Chapter 26 also notes Josephus’s record of the persecution of Jews by Florus, procurator of Judea, during the twelfth year of Nero’s reign in the early days of the Jewish revolt.

JTR

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Eusebius, EH.2.23: The Piety and Martyrdom of James the Just



Image: A depiction of the martyrdom of James the Just in the Menologian of Basil II, an illuminated liturgical manuscript, c. AD 1,000.

A new episode has been added to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 2, chapter 23. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter draws on several sources (Clement of Alexandria, Hegessipus, and Josephus) on the life, ministry, and death of James the “Just”, the brother of the Lord.

James is described as having been allotted by the apostles “the bishopric in Jerusalem.”

He is said to have been put to death during the transition of the Roman governorship from Festus (who had died) to Albinus.

James is described as having reached great heights of righteousness through study of religion and philosophy.

According to Hegessipus his knees were hardened by his constant kneeling in worship and prayer.

He was called “the Just” or Oblias, which is interpreted as “a rampart of the people and righteousness.”

His death is described in detail. He was taken to “the battlements of the temple” to explain “what is the gate of Jesus”, but when he confessed Jesus he was thrown down and began to be stoned. James is said to have prayed for his attackers (as Jesus did in Luke 23:34). His life was finally taken when he was struck with a laundryman’s club.

He is said to have been buried by the temple, and it is noted that his unjust death was believed by Christians and Jews to be the reason for the Roman siege of Jerusalem which soon followed.

Josephus’s account is cited as laying much of the blame for James’s death on the machinations of the high priest Ananus.

At the close of the chapter Eusebius notes that the first Catholic epistle is attributed to James but that its authenticity is denied, as is the epistle of Jude, which is also among the seven catholic epistles. Despite the challenge to the authenticity of these works, however, Eusebius notes they “have been used publicly with the rest in most of the churches.” Here we see the organic process of canon recognition at work.

JTR

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Audio and Video available from SEBTS's 2019 "Linguistics and New Testament Greek" Conference


Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) hosted a conference on the theme "Linguistics and New Testament Greek: Key Issues in the Current Debate" on April 26-27, 2019.

There were eleven lectures presented in the conference. I took the opportunity to listen to audio of all the sessions on itunes last week. The videos can also be viewed on SEBTS's vimeo site.

Some of the lectures I found most helpful (with vimeo links):







JTR



Saturday, June 08, 2019

WM 124: Review and Rejoinders to Dirk Jongkind's An Introduction to the Greek NT



Note: I have posted WM 124: Review and Rejoinders to Dirk Jongkind’s An Introduction to the Greek NT (listen here).

Here are some notes:

Dirk Jongkind, An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2019): 124 pp.

This work is a brief introduction to the Tyndale House Greek New Testament (THGNT, Crossway, 2017) from its editor, Dirk Jongkind. For my audio review of the THGNT see WM 84. For my written review in PRJ see here.

This introduction has eight chapters. I will offer some summary and comments on each chapter:

1: Your Greek New Testament and the Manuscripts (17-26):

2: Practicalities (27-39):

3: Manuscripts (41-64):

4. How Decisions Are Made (65-85):

5. Why not the Textus Receptus? (87-91):

6. Why not the Byzantine Text? (93-100):

7. Biblical Theology and the Transmission of the Text (101-108):

8. Where to Go from Here? (pp. 109-110).

This is just a brief conclusion pointing readers to further resources, especially online one.

The book ends with acknowledgements (111-112) and a glossary of terms (113-116).

Final Thoughts:

This book will be welcomed by those who desire to use and understand better the THGNT. I described it in my earlier review as a “boutique edition,” but its promotion by Crossway will no doubt spur its use among many evangelicals, especially Calvinistic ones.

DJ is to be commended, in particular, for providing a theological rationale for his approach and for his charitable interaction with those who hold to differing views (namely, the TR and Byzantine Priority positions).

JTR

Friday, June 07, 2019

Eusebius, EH.2.22: Festus and Paul's Roman Imprisonments


Image: Coin minted while Porcius Festus was procurator of Judea (AD 59-62).

Another installment has been added to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 2, chapter 22 (listen here).

Notes and Commentary:

Eusebius here describes the things that transpired under the Roman governor Festus (succeeding Felix).

At this time Paul was sent as a prisoner to Rome, accompanied by Aristarchus (Col 4:10), where, as Luke records in Acts 28, he remained for two years, under arrest but freely preaching.

Eusebius adds that tradition holds that Paul was then released after this first Roman imprisonment and had his ministry extended until he was brought a second time to Rome.

It was during this second imprisonment, according to Eusebius, that Paul wrote 2 Timothy where he makes reference to his “first defense” and his release from “the lion’s mouth” (Nero).

Eusebius takes Paul’s reference in 2 Timothy to no one, including Luke, standing with him in this first imprisonment to indicate that Luke wrote Acts at that time.

Paul’s martyrdom came not at his first Roman imprisonment (when Nero might have been more lenient to the Christian movement) but at his second.

JTR