Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Eusebius, EH, 3.24: The Writings of the Apostle John

Image: St. John the Evangelist, 1635-1636, painting by Francesco Furini, Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon, France 

Another episode is posted to the series from Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapter 24. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

In this chapter Eusebius, describes the writing of the apostle John, whose settlement in Ephesus, after his banishment at Patmos, had been noted in previous chapters.

He begins with the Gospel of John, noting that it is read “in all the churches under heaven.”

He accepts the tradition that it was the fourth and last Gospel written.

To explain why only two apostles wrote Gospels, Eusebius notes that they were “simple men in speech” and did not aspire to “to represent the teachings of the Master in persuasive or artistic language” but to rely on the Holy Spirit.

Eusebius says that John knew of the other Gospels and welcomed them, but that he wrote his Gospel to expand on the early ministry of Christ. The other Gospels, says Eusebius, only describe one year in Christ’s ministry, from the death of John the Baptist. He notes the significance of John’s statement in John 3:24: “For John was not yet cast into prison” [Richard Bauckham also calls attention to this verse in his article “John for Readers of Mark” in his edited work, The Gospel for All Christians]. So, Eusebius observes: “Thus John in the course of his gospel relates what Christ did before John the Baptist had been thrown into prison, but the other three evangelists narrate the events after the imprisonment of the Baptist.”

Eusebius also explains that John had no genealogy, because this had already been handled by Matthew and Luke.

He also makes reference to Matthew’s Gospel having been written for a Jewish audience and notes Luke’s introduction to his Gospel and how Luke had gained from “his profitable intercourse and life with Paul and his conversation with the other apostles.”

After his Gospel, Eusebius notes the acceptance, without controversy, of 1 John, but that 2-3 John were disputed, as was Revelation, with many conflicting opinions on it.


Monday, July 29, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.21-23: The Apostle John Restores a Wayward Youth

Image: Remains from the Basilica of St. John, ancient Ephesus, a church site that dates to the 4th century.

A new episode has been added to the series from Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapters 21-23. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

Chapter 21: This brief chapter flows both imperial and ecclesiastical succession.
Among the emperors, Nerva was succeeded by Trajan.

In the church at Alexandria, the bishops, in order, were Annianus, Abilius, and Cerdo (in Trajan’s first year).

In Rome, after Peter and Paul: Linus, Anencletus, and Clement.

Chapter 22: The ecclesiastical order continues:

In Antioch, Evodius was followed by Ignatius.

In Jerusalem, “the bother or our Savior” [James] was followed by Simeon.

So, in chapters 21-22 we have the four great early Christian city centers: Alexandria, Rome, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

Chapter 23: This chapter presents traditions related to John, the “beloved disciple,” Apostle and Evangelist, who, after the death of Domitian and his release from banishment settled in Ephessus and became the administrator of the churches of Asia.

Two witnesses are cited for John’s life and ministry: Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria.

From Irenaeus: “Now the church at Ephesus was founded by Paul, but John stayed there until the time of Trajan, and it is a true witness of the tradition of the Apostles.”

From Clement’s work “Who is the rich man that is saved” Eusebius shares an extra-biblical Johannine account, which he calls a “true tradition.”

It involves John’s ministry in Ephesus and the surrounding region and John’s  entrusting a young convert to the care of a bishop (Lake says another tradition says this was in Smyrna). The young man, however, was neglected after his baptism and became a robber. John returned and asked the bishop about the man. The bishop reported he was spiritually dead, but John sought him out and restored him.

Eusebius says he shares this account “both for the sake of the narrative and the edification” of his readers.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

WM 129: The Synoptic Problem and Text Criticism

I have just posted WM 129: The Synoptic Problem and Text Criticism. Listen here.

In this episode I do two things:

First, I share a draft of a recent book review I completed on the Synoptic Problem.

Second, I reflect on a recent blog post that raised questions about the Synoptic Problem and Text Criticism.

Part One: Book Review:

Stanley E. Porter and Bryan R. Dyer, Eds., The Synoptic Problem: Four Views (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2016): 194 pp.

Part Two: Blog post:

In a blog post titled “Markan Priority, Messianic Secret, and the Textus Receptus” from May 9, 2019 on the Evangelical Text Criticism blog, Peter Gurry noted an article from David Parker in an anthology titled The Future of NT Textual Scholarship (Mohr Siebeck, 2019), sadly priced at over $150!

Parker apparently writes about how the rejection of the TR was connected to the overall objectives inherent in the application of modern historical-critical method to the TR. Here is the brief quote from Parker’s article:

The result [of using 4th/5th c. manuscripts for critical editions] represented a huge change from the Textus Receptus. Gone were the Johannine Comma, the Pericope Adulterae, the Longer Ending of Mark. Gone too were so many harmonisations and alterations in the text of Mark that the new editions produced what by comparison with the Textus Receptus was a new version of the Gospel. A new approach to the Synoptic Problem and the influential theory of the Messianic Secret were just two developments that would never have been possible using the Textus Receptus.

So, the rejection of the TR leads to the Synoptic Problem and the Messianic Secret? Parker (and perhaps Gurry too, though more cautious) see this as a great advance. But is it? What has this meant for the authority of the Bible?

Could it be that the first step to reclaiming Biblical authority is reclaiming an authoritative text?


Friday, July 26, 2019

The Vision (7.26.19): The Treasures of the House of the LORD (1 Kings 7)

Image: Silver Torah plate, depicting the temple pillars, Jachin and Boaz.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 7.

So was ended all the work that king Solomon made for the house of the LORD. And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated; even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, did he put among the treasures of the house of the LORD (1 Kings 7:51).

1 Kings 7 describes the temple furnishings or “treasures of the house of the LORD.” One modern commentator (Dale Ralph Davis) on 1 Kings titles his entry on 1 Kings 7: “Interior Decorating.” This commentator also observes that the author of I Kings had “enthusiasm for describing liturgical equipment” (Davis, 1 Kings, 75)!

What spiritual lessons do we learn from 1 Kings 7?

First: We learn something of the centrality and preciousness of worship.

It is to be orderly, reverent, and regulated not by the will of man but by the will and command of God. Do we approach worship with an irreverent, flippant, indifferent, or aloof spirit?

Second: We learn also of Christ. The temple anticipated the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ and the new covenant worship of the people of God.

Consider London Baptist Confession 8 (“Of Christ the Mediator”), paragraph 6:

Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to all the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein he was revealed….

The temple (and even Solomon’s palace) pointed toward Christ as a promise, shadow, and type of that which was to come.

Consider the “porch of judgement” (1 Kings 7:7) where Solomon evaluated the people, declared them innocent or guilty, and exercised righteous judgement.

We are reminded that in this present age that we can come before Christ and seek his counsel, evaluation, and judgment.

We are also reminded that at the end of the ages all men will stand before him: “For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor 5:10).

Think for a second of that temple and its furnishing.

Consider those massive bronze pillars, named Jachin and Boaz (1 Kings 7:15, 21). Now we can say that Christ is our foundation. Christ is our pillar. The wise man will build his life on Christ (see Matt 7:24-27). Christ is the Jachin (He shall establish) and the Boaz (He is our strength).

Consider the sacrifices that were made there, and the molten sea and basins of water needed to give cleansing.

Christ laid down his life once for all so that we might be cleansed from our sin and made righteous in God’s sight. Consider:

Hebrews 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

Hebrews 10:12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.

In 1 Kings 7 we have the inspired account of a 20-year process to build Solomon’s temple and palace. It stood for years, till destroyed by the Babylonians, pointing forward to a hidden reality, a mystery that has now been revealed in Christ for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Hilarion Alfeyev: Supposed Contradictions in the Gospels as Proofs for their Historicity

Image: The Four Evangelists, St. Nocholai of Zicha and South Canaan Seminary Chapel, St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary, South Canaan, Pennsylvania.

Another passage from Hilarion Alfeyev’s study of the Gospels in which he suggests that supposed contradictions among the Gospels are actually proofs for their historicity:

We ought to consider as convincing proof of the historicity of Jesus the presence of supposed contradictions or variances between the evangelists who, it would appear, are describing one and the same event but vary in the details. Thus, for example, the Gospel of Matthew (20.30-34) speaks of Jesus’ healing of two blind men, while the parallel excerpt in Mark (10.46-52) speaks of only one blind man. In Matthew (8.28-34) Jesus heals two demoniacs, while in Mark (5:1-16) and Luke (8.26-36) he heals only one.

The presence of discrepancies in details between the evangelists in light of the essential similarity of the accounts speaks not against but, on the contrary, for the reality of the events described. If we were dealing with a hoax, then the authors would certainly have made sure to check their information with each other. The differences bear witness to the fact that there was no collusion between the evangelists (Jesus Christ: His Life and Teachings, Vol. 1: The Beginning of the Gospel: 13).


Boris Johnson and Mary Beard: Greece vs. Rome

Boris Johnson became the Prime Minister of the UK yesterday. This brought to mind the Intelligence Squared Debate: Greece vs. Rome, in which Johnson made the case for the superiority of Greek culture and Mary Beard the superiority of Rome culture. Though Beard won the debate, Johnson acquitted himself well. How many heads of state can begin a speech by quoting the opening lines of the Iliad in Greek?

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.17-20: Domitian, Persecution, and the Grand-Nephews of Jesus

Image: Closeup of marble bust of Domitian (AD 51-96), Louvre Museum, Paris

New episode posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 3, chapters 17-20. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters cover various developments in early Christianity during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (or Domitianus, 51-96; emperor, 81-96).

Chapter 17: Eusebius notes Domitian’s great cruelty against his fellow Romans. He was “the successor to Nero’s campaign of hostility to God” and, following after Nero, was the second to promote persecution of Christians.

Chapter 18: John the Apostle and Evangelist was exiled to Patmos at this time. Note: Eusebius assumes John the Apostle is the author of Revelation. He also cites Irenaeus as saying John wrote Revelation during Domitian’s reign.

He notes that in the 15th year of Domitian’s reign, Flavia Domitilla, niece of the Romans consul Flavius Clemens and other Christians were banished to the island of Pontia. If true, this shows the spread of Christianity to high social circles in Rome.

Chapters 19-20: Eusebius relays a tradition from Hegesippus that the grandsons of Jesus’s brother Judas [Jesus’s grand-nephews] were threatened by Domitian, since they came from the family of David. They are described as relatively poor laborers [farmers? See Richard J. Bauckham] and small landholders [39 plethra; Lake suggests that a plethron was about one fourth of an acre; so, 39 plethra would be less than 10 acres]. They were released by Domitian and became leaders in the church.

He cites Tertullian’s statement that Domitian was “a Nero in cruelty.”

Domitian was succeeded by Nerva.

Eusebius closes by noting that after his banishment John settled in Ephesus.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

WM 128: Brash WJT Article on the "Originals"

WM 128: Brash WJT Article on "Originals" is posted. Listen here.

This episode is a review of this article:

Richard F. Brash, “Ad Fontes!—The Concept of the ‘Originals’ of Scripture in Seventeenth Century Reformed Orthodoxy”, Westminster Journal of Theology 81 (2019): 123-139.

Brash is identified in the article as a Missions Partner of St. Ebbe’s Church, Oxford and as a PhD candidate in Systematic Theology at New College in the University of Edinburgh.

I had heard recently about his ThM thesis at Westminster Seminary, from which I assume the article was extracted. The thesis: Richard F. Brash, The Reformed Doctrine of the Providential Preservation of Scripture, 1588-1687 (Westminster Theological Seminary, 2017): 218 pp.

This article is important in that it addresses how the Reformed orthodox who created the WCF, etc. understood the concept of the “originals” of the text of Scripture.

The problem is that there is a tendency among moderns to think anachronistically, to suppose that the Reformed orthodox thought about the text of Scripture the way nineteenth and twentieth and even twenty-first century modern text critics did. That is, the purpose of text criticism is to restore the corrupted text and approximate the inspired autograph. It is anachronistic to think that the men who framed the WCF and 2LBCF held to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Innerancy!

This point has already been made by T. Letis in his critiques of B. B. Warfield.

See the opening two paragraphs and especially Brash’s point that the Reformed orthodox “typically posited a practical univocity” between the autographa and the apographa.

He adds that this “univocity” was supported by “the doctrine of the providential preservation of the scripture that underlay it” (123). These views came under pressure in the seventeenth century and were refined, “But ultimately most Reformed orthodox of this period maintained the belief that Scripture had been preserved in the extant copies, which were as far as they were concerned ‘original.’” (123).

Another summary:

“Following Muller, I will demonstrate that while some of the Reformed orthodox did make the conceptual, heuristic distinction between the autographa and apographa, they typically posited a practical univocity between these two. This univocity, and the doctrine of the providential preservation of Scripture that underlay it, came under increasing pressure during the seventeenth century, and so it underwent some refinement, the details of which I will describe. But ultimately most Reformed orthodox of this period maintained the belief that Scripture had been preserved in the extant copies, which were as far as they were concerned ‘original.’ This distinguished their position from Rome’s, as we shall see. It also made them much less willing than many of their successors to countenance conjectural emendation of the biblical text” (124).

Methodologically, Brash surveys four key thinkers from the seventeenth century, broadly defined, from 1588 (the publication of William Whitaker’s Disputation on Holy Scripture) to 1687 (the death of Francis Turretin).

He focuses on four individuals:

William Whitaker (1548-1595);
William Ames (1576-1633);
John Owen (1616-1683); and
Francis Turretin (1623-1687).
He also focuses on the WCF and the Helvetic Consensus Formula.

The article has seven sections:

First: Introduction:

He begins by noting that early Reformers, like, Calvin were not greatly troubled by the minutia of text criticism.

But this changed in the seventeenth century.

One reason was the rise of polyglot Bibles and the awareness of existing textual variants. Codex Alexandrinus, for example, was given to King Charles I by Cyril Lucaris, Patriarch of Constantinople, in 1628 and its readings included in Brian Walton’s Polyglot Bible (1657).

Another reason was the urgency of RC apologetics.

Second: William Whitaker:

His key work is Disputation on Holy Scripture (1588).

Brash says WW “bretrays little or no awareness of the existence of different manuscripts or textual variants” (126). He assumes that “the extant manuscripts are faithful copies of the inspired autographs” (127).

“He believed in an inspired Bible without mistakes, and assumed that the extant manuscripts were faithful copies of the autographa” (128).

“So, for Whitaker the ‘original’ is not necessarily to be equated with the autographa alone, since the copies are effectively the same as the autographa” (128).

Third: William Ames:

His key work is Marrow of Sacred Divinity (1630), of which chapter 34 is “Of the Holy Scripture.”

He also wrote a key polemical work against the RC Cardinal Bellarmine, Bellarminus Enervatus (1629), in four volumes with volume one , De Verbo Dei, on Scripture.

“Like Whitaker, Ames and his Reformed contemporaries in Europe were convinced that the ‘original’ Bible manuscripts in possession of the church had been providentially preserved” (130).

He differs from WW in that he admitted “there may have been errors in certain copies, but Ames is adamant that there can have been no error that affected the entirety of manuscripts available to the church” (130).

Fourth: WCF (1647):

He sees the WCF as standing as a “bridge” between the earlier views of Whitaker and Ames and the later views of Owen and Turretin (131).

He notes Wayne Spear’s observation that WW was the primary theologian behind the WCF view of Scripture.

What is meant by the WCF’s statement that the Bible is “immediately inspired” in Hebrew and Greek” and “by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages”?
This did NOT mean the modern idea of Scripture being inspired in the original autograph only!

Brash cites the writings of Edward Leigh (132) to draw this conclusion: “In other words the distinction is not textual, but linguistic. The appeal is made, not to a particular class of texts (the autographa), but to the textual tradition as a whole, in the original languages of Scripture.”

JTR: I agree with Brash that the WCF was not thinking in modern terms of the autographs, but to a “textual tradition,” but I do think we could say that this textual tradition was embodied in the printed texts of the day: the Masoretic text of the OT and the TR of the NT.

Fifth: John Owen:

Best source: Of the divine original (1659).

Owen made explicit the distinction between the autographa and apographa. The autographa were lost but their content preserved in the apographa, which had not been corrupted (see quote, 133).

He cites Henry Knapp’s 2002 dissertation on Owen as noting that Owen did not reject text criticism but the practice of it that suggested the “original” text had to be reconstructed (134).

JTR: Owen was among first to see the problems with modern text criticism.

Sixth: Francis Turretin:

His key work: Institutes of Elenctic Theology (1679-1685).

He recognized textual variants but did not take a modern approach (see quote, 135).

“Turretin does not locate authority in the autographa so that the apographa needs to be corrected by them, but rather locates it in both the autographa and the apographa, so that any translations or versions deriving from these should be corrected by them, considered as one. In sum, Turretin presumes for the purposes of his argument that apographa and autographa are materially the same” (136).

“It is important for Turretin to defend the Hebrew and Greek texts against Roman Catholic claims that they are corrupt” (137).

Brash adds here that Turretin sometimes did this “on the basis of mistaken appeals to the witness of the majority of texts” and gives as examples: John 8:1-11; I John 5:7; and the ending of Mark (137; but see f.n. 73 where Brash says that for the ending of Mark “Turretin’s argument is actually borne out by the manuscript tradition” (137).
JTR: I think Brash errs here in at least two ways. First, I don’t think FT supported the disputed readings listed because they were in the majority text tradition but because they were in “textual tradition” he perceived to be inspired. Second, he gives too much credence to modern text criticism and does not acknowledge the current changes going on within it.

He notes the Helvetic Consensus Formula (1675), partly written by Turretin, reflecting his bibliology including defense of the Masoretic Hebrew vowel point tradition.

Seventh: Conclusion:

The key question is authority (see opening paragraph, 138).

Key backdrop is polemics against RC (see second paragraph, 138).

“One thing that makes this question of particular interest is that the seventeenth-century formulation is demonstrably not the same as that which is commonly held by Reformed and evangelical theologians today, at least at the level of detail. The key shift is that the locus of authority today is typically in the autographa alone, not the autographa and apographa together, as most seventeenth century Reformed writers maintained (138-139).

He closes: “But more work needs to be done on the theological relationship between the autographa and the texts that have come down to us. Where is the activity of God in this textual history, and how do we account for what we have in our hands? In this respect, the Reformed orthodox reflections on the providential preservation of Scripture form a useful resource on which to draw, even if we cannot follow all their conclusions” (139).

JTR conclusion:

Brash is to be commended for this work. He helpfully calls attention to the fact that the Reformed orthodox were not using modern, reconstructionist text criticism and that they saw a “practical univocity” between the autographa and apographa.

He stops short, however, of saying their viewpoint should be retrieved. My question is, Why not? What conclusions of Whitaker, Ames, Owen, and Turretin can we not follow? I believe their approach is superior and should be embraced.

Finally, here is a text I received from a friend this week, that seemed to be providential:

It struck me today…many Reformed brothers, who are convinced of the CT, turn to the Puritans or Church Fathers for their theology, and rely on their wisdom and insight in handling the Bible, yet totally reject their handling of the Biblical text itself.


Monday, July 22, 2019

To understand Christ: Two keys are required

I just started reading Hilarion Alfeyev’s Jesus Christ: His Life and Teaching; Volume 1 The Beginning of the Gospel (St. Vladimir’s Press, 2018; translated from the Russian original). In the forward the author writes:

The Gospel story of Jesus Christ from the perspective of interpretation may be compared to a collection of treasures amassed over two thousand years in a safe with two locks. In order to touch this treasure, we have first of all to open the safe, and in order to open it, two keys are required. One key is the belief that Jesus was fully man with all the attributes of a flesh-and-blood person. However, we need a second key also—belief that Jesus was God incarnate. Without this key the safe will not open, and the treasures will not glisten with their original brilliance: the Gospel image of Christ will not come to the reader in all its resplendent beauty (xiii).


Friday, July 19, 2019

The Vision (7.19.19): So Solomon built the house

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 6.

So Solomon built the house and finished it (1 Kings 6:14).

We are continuing our study of 1 Kings, the first part of which (1 Kings 1—11) concerns the reign of King Solomon, known for two things: (1) his wisdom; and (2) building the temple.

Five of these first 11 chapters are devoted in part or whole to the temple:

1 Kings 5: Preparation
1 Kings 6: Building
1 Kings 7: Furnishings
1 Kings 8: Dedication
1 Kings 9: Blessing

In 1 Kings 5, we saw Solomon’s preparation. The temple would not just pop out of thin air, but he has to make the plans, procures the materials, and provide for the labor to fulfill this goal.

Now, in 1 Kings 6 we see the fulfillment of those plans. If 1 Kings 5:5 is the key verse for the “preparation” chapter (“And , behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God…”), then 1 Kings 6:14 is the key verse for the “building/fulfillment” chapter (“So Solomon built the house and finished it.”).

We no longer have or need a physical temple, because Christ is our temple and our once for all sacrifice. These chapters are then perhaps most helpful in that they address the centrality of worship in the life of the believers. Solomon knew that his most important duty in the sphere of influence the Lord had given him as king was to lead his people rightly to worship the Lord.

A spiritual lesson to be learned: We do not need merely the desire or the plan to serve the Lord, but we need also the resolve to see it through. This means we must finish what we start. We must persevere as the Lord completes the good work he has begun in us (Phil 1:6).

In Luke 14 Christ taught his followers to count the cost of discipleship. He compared the commitment to become a disciple to being like a man who intended to build a tower and who first had to sit down and count the cost “whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish” (vv. 28-30).

May the Lord give us the grace to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow him.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.11-16: Simeon of Jerusalem & Clement of Rome

Image: Defaced marble bust (c. AD 70) of the Roman Emperor Vespasian (c. AD 9-79), Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum, Copenhagen.

A new episode is posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapters 11-16. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

In these brief chapters Eusebius describes the continuation of the Christian communities in the time after the fall of Jerusalem, during the reign of the Roman Emperors Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. The focus is on the cities of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Rome, key center of early Christianity.

Chapter 11: Eusebius notes the importance of “the family of the Lord” in the church at Jerusalem, in the selection of Simeon, son of Clopas, to succeed James as bishop. He asserts that Simeon was the son of Clopas (Cleopas), the brother of Joseph (according to a tradition from Hegessipus). This is the Cleopas mentioned in Luke 24:18 (Cleopas as one of the two disciples who met the risen Lord on the way to Emmaus) and John 19:26 (Mary of Cleopas).

Chapter 12: This notes Vespasian’s efforts to seek out the family of David to avoid future insurrections.

Chapter 13: This notes the Roman imperial succession from Vespasian to Titus to Domitian, and also the Roman church succession from Linus to Anencletus.

Chapter 14: This notes the succession in the church of Alexandria from Annianus to Abilius in the fourth year of Domitian.

Chapter 15: This notes the succession in the church of Rome from Anencletus to Clement (cf. Phil 4:3) in the twelfth year of Domitian.

Chapter 16: This notes the “long and wonderful” epistle of Clement of Rome to the church at Corinth. For a review of Clement's epistle, see WM 113.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.9-10: Josephus and the OT Canon

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapters 9-10. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

Eusebius here offers a sketch of the life and writings of Josephus, the Jewish historian whose works he uses throughout the EH. He also includes Josephus’s description of the canon of the Hebrew Bible.

In chapter 9, he provides the sketch of Josephus.

He notes that Josephus was among the most famous Jews of the first century, having first fought against the Romans and then having joined with them in the Jewish war.

Among his literary works he notes the Antiquities of the Jews in 20 volumes and the Jewish War in 7 volumes.

He also notes another work in 2 books which he calls On the ancientness of the Jews, and which Lake notes is better known as Against Apion.

In chapter 10, Eusebius cites a passage in Against Apion in which Josephus describes the Jewish canon as consisting of 22 books (the same number as the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, though Josephus does not make this point). This number is presumably the same as the 39 books of the OT made by joining books into one volume.

He notes three parts of the Hebrew Bible:

First, 5 books of the law of Moses.

Second, 13 books of the prophets, covering the time from Moses to Artaxerxes.

Third, 4 books of “hymns to God and precepts for the life of men.” This would presumably be the Psalms and wisdom books.

He adds that there have been more recent works of history from Artaxerxes to his present (presumably 1-2 Maccabees, etc.) but that these “are not considered worthy of equal credence with the rest.”

He notes especially that the Jews do not dare to make “additions, omissions, or changes” to their Scripture and that they know this innately and are then taught from birth to regard the Scriptures as the decrees of God.

Finally, he notes that Josephus is also credited with writing a work titled “The Supremacy of Reason” or “Maccabees” (Lake: 4 Maccabees).

Josephus’s works are indeed a very important historical source for Eusebius in reconstructing the record of early Christianity. He remains an important source today.


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Eusebius, EH:3.8: "Clear Marvels" that forecast Jerusalem's doom

Image: View of Jerusalem, 1921, by Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Another entry is added to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapter 8. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

In the previous chapter (3.7) having discussed Christ’s prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem, Eusebius in this chapter (3.8) reviews a number of ill omens that supposedly also predicted its fall and destruction as described by Josephus.

These include:

A star that stood over the city and a comet that lasted a year;
A light that shone on the altar and temple for half an hour at the Feast of Unleavened Bread;
At the same feast, a cow that gave birth to a lamb;
The opening of a heavy, bronze gate in the temple on its own;
The appearance of a demonic phantom;
At Pentecost, the sounds of an invisible host in the air;
The “woes” of Jesus (Joshua) son of Ananias during the Feast of Booths;
And a “sacred script” that one from that country should rule the world, which Josephus took as a reference to Vespasian but Eusebius to Christ.

To modern ears these may seem like little more than superstitious fantasies, but Eusebius takes them seriously, though less so than he does the prophecies of Jesus in the Gospels.