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.


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.7: Christ's Prophecies of the Fall of Jerusalem

Image: Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, painting, 1867, by Francesco Hayez (1791-1882).

Another episode is posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapter 7. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

Eusebius continues to stress the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in AD 70 as “the reward of the iniquity of the Jews and of their impiety against the Christ of God.”

He also stresses that the fall of Jerusalem had been accurately prophesied by Jesus himself in his teaching ministry.

He cites Josephus’ estimate that 1.1 million died by famine and sword and that 90,000 under age 17 were sold into slavery.

He then recalls again Christ’s prophecies against the city, especially in Luke chapters 19 and 21. Eusebius expresses none of the modern skepticism that sees these as mere ex eventu prophecies. Rather, he sees this an indisputable evidence of Christ’s divine character and of the supernatural character of his words.

He also sees it as especially appalling that a robber and murderer (Barabbas) was released rather than “the author of life.”

Finally, he notes that despite such insults, it is a sign of divine long-suffering that the fall of Jerusalem came only 40 years after Christ’s crucifixion.


Friday, July 12, 2019

The Vision: I purpose to build an house

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 5.

“And, behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God….” (1 Kings 5:5a).

Solomon is known for two key things:

First, he was a man of great wisdom (see 1 Kings 3—4).

Second, he built the temple in Jerusalem.

This second great achievement begins to be described in 1 Kings 5 (the preparations for building) and continues in 1 Kings 6 (the completion of the building), 1 Kings 7 (the vessels and furnishings of the temple), 1 Kings 8 (the dedication of the temple), and even in 1 Kings 9 (the blessing that comes to King Solomon by building the temple).

If you’ve ever built a house or had a house built you know the excitement of looking over the plans and imagining what it will look like. And you likely also know the less exciting but necessary part of making a financial plan to be able to secure the realization of the project. And for the physical builder, he also has to assemble the materials, be they blocks, lumber, plywood, sheetrock, etc. to complete the project.

A house does not just pop up out of thin air. And Solomon’s temple did not just materialize out of nowhere. The Lord was pleased to use means. He made Solomon the chief instrument to bring about the construction of this place of worship.

Overall, this passage teaches us about the importance of worship. Consider these four points:

First: Worship must be a priority in the believer’s life.

Solomon’s first priority as a leader over Israel was to make provision for worship, to build a central place of worship.

Worship must be a spiritual priority for us as well. This includes not only private worship but especially public worship.

Second: Worship must be regulated not by the preferences of men (“will-worship”) but by the design of God.

The detailed and orderly construction of Solomon’s temple reflects the Regulative Principle of worship.

True worship is not that which comes from human whims and imaginations, but it is giving to the Lord that which he desires from us.

Third: True worship requires proper preparation.

Notice the intentionality and the preparation of Solomon. Such is also required of us. We must order our lives aright.

Fourth: True worship now comes not in a place but in a person.

The temple that Solomon built would be destroyed by the Babylonians, rebuilt by the exiles who returned led by men like Ezra and Nehemiah, refurbished by Herod, and destroyed again by the Romans in AD 70, and there has never been another temple built to replace it.

The early Christians were considered strange, because they had no physical temple. They looked not to a place but to a person: the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is indeed our temple. Let us worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, July 11, 2019

WM 127: Interview: Robert Truelove on Text and Canon Conference

WM 127: Interview: Robert Truelove on Text and Canon Conference has been posted. Listen here.

In this interview with Truelove, Pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia, we discuss his testimony, pastoral ministry, and interest in the text of Scripture.

We also discuss the upcoming Text and Canon Conference which will be hosted at his church on October 25-26, 2019. See the conference website here.


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.5-6: Starvation during the Siege of Jerusalem

Image: Close-up of the Arch of Titus, Rome, constructed AD 82, depicting Roman looting of the Jerusalem temple in AD 70.

A new episode has been added to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapters 5-6. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter focuses on the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70, as well as the horrendous sufferings undergone by the inhabitants of Jerusalem during the siege and before the fall of the city.

Josephus is used a source for much of the information.

In chapter 5 reference is made to a group of Christians in Jerusalem who were “commanded by an oracle” to flee the city before its destruction to settle in the city of Pella of the region Perea.

Eusebius sees the destruction of Jerusalem during the Passover season as a clear sign of this having been divine retribution for the crucifixion of Jesus.

In chapter 6 he describes the grotesque sufferings of those under siege in Jerusalem. These focus on accounts of hunger and starvation, that led to infighting and terrible acts of inhumanity. Not only did the beleaguered inhabitants begin to eat belts, shoes, and leather stripped from their shields, but they also turned to cannibalism.

The low point comes in the account of a woman named Mary of Bathezor, who, driven mad with hunger, killed, cooked, and ate her infant son.


Tuesday, July 09, 2019

WM 126: Review: Dillehay on the Ending of Mark

I have posted WM 126: Review: Dillehay on the Ending of Mark. Listen here.

In this episode I review part of a sermon from June 16, 2016 (look at this sermon page to find the entire original message) by Pastor Justin Dillehay of Grace Baptist Church of Hartsville, TN.

I looked up the message after reading Pastor Dillehay's Gospel Coalition article on dealing with textual variants (referenced in WM 123).

This is one of several WMs that have reviewed various contemporary preachers and teachers who reject the authenticity and originality of the traditional ending of Mark (16:9-20). See the WM archives for WMs 4, 35, 44, 60-63, 64, 65, 66.

For more detailed arguments regarding external evidence in defense of Mark's traditional ending, see my article "The Ending of Mark as a Canonical Crisis" in Puritan Reformed Journal Vol. 10, No. 1 (January 2018): 31-54.


Friday, July 05, 2019

The Vision (7.5.19): And God gave Solomon wisdom

Image: Another scene from 2019 CRBC VBS.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 4.

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is one the sea shore” (1 Kings 4:29).

The historian tells us the source of the blessings that came to Israel through Solomon: “And God gave Solomon wisdom…” (v. 29). It did not come from Solomon himself but from the Lord. One commentator observes: “Grace explains wisdom” (Davis, 1 Kings, p. 49).

As James wrote, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” Where does wisdom come from? Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” If we do not get this right everything else will be askew, off-kilter, or, as they say in Appalachian English, sigogglin.

Solomon’s wisdom, like the number of the nation of Israel, was as the sand of the seashore! (v. 29b).

His wisdom excelled that of the men of the East and of Egypt (v. 30).

He was wiser than the other sages of Israel, like Ethan the Ezrahite (credited with writing Psalm 89), Heman (the name means “faithful”; credited with writing Psalm 88), Chalcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol (v. 31a). His fame spread beyond the boundaries of Israel (v. 31b). He was internationally known for his wisdom. In 1 Kings 10 we read about the queen of Sheba hearing of his fame and coming “to prove him with hard questions” (v. 1).

He spoke 3,000 proverbs (v. 32a). We know Solomon as the father of Biblical wisdom literature, including as author of much of the book of Proverbs. He wrote 1,005 songs (v. 32b). Psalms 72 and 127 are attributed to him, as is the Song of Songs.

He was a naturalist, an arborist, a biologist, a zoologist (v. 33). A wise man appreciates the beauty and complexity of the natural world and praises the Designer who created and sustains it all.

Solomon was a man of great wisdom, but in the fullness of time a greater than Solomon has come. He is, as Paul described him, the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24). The Lord Jesus Christ would himself declare, “a greater than Solomon is here” (Matt 12:42). True wisdom comes from the fear of Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle