Thursday, October 17, 2019

WM 135: Benjamin Keach: Orthodox, Puritan, Baptist


Image: Benjamin Keach (1640-1704)

WM 135: Benjamin Keach: Orthodox, Puritan, Baptist. Listen here.

In this episode I play a biographical lecture/message on the life of Particular Baptist Pastor Benjamin Keach (1640-1704) I did in September 2018 at the 1689 Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, hosted by Christ Reformed BC of New Castle, Indiana.

The theme of the conference was "The Ordinary Means of Grace." I also did a message on "The Word of God as a Means of Grace" (listen here).

You can find all the messages lectures here, including ones by Jim Renihan, Jeff Johnson, Scott Meadows, and others.

JTR

Monday, October 14, 2019

Eusebius, EH.4.19-22: Hegesippus and the "Seven Heresies"



This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryHere is Book 4, chapters 19-22. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters continue the record of the succession of church leaders in various cities during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, as well as cataloguing the various heresies that contended with the orthodox faith. Special attention is given to the early Jewish Christian writer Hegessipus.

Chapters 19-20 notes that in Rome Soter succeeded Anicetus; in Alexandria, Agrippinus succeeded Celadion; in Antioch Theophilus (sixth from the apostles) succeeded Eros (fifth) who succeeded Cornelius (fourth).

Chapter 21 notes other key writers and leaders who provided a standard for ‘sound faith”, including Hegessipus, Dionysius of Corinth, Pinytus of Crete, as well as Philip, Apolinarius, Melito, Musanus, Modestus, and “above all” Irenaeus.

Chapter 22 turns to the writings of Hegesippus, who, Eusebius says, wrote five treatises. He also says that Hegesippus was “converted from among the Hebrews.”

Eusebius cites Hegesippus as saying he had traveled widely, as far as Rome, and that he had “mingled” with many key bishops “and that he found the same doctrine among them all.”

He adds Hegesippus’s observation that in each city “things are as the law, the prophets, and the Lord preach.”

He further notes Hegesippus’s record of the bishops in Jerusalem where Simeon followed James the Just and his claim that the earliest church was like a “virgin” before the rise of heresies.

He notes one source of error as Thebouthis who was not made a bishop and says this began the “seven heresies” (but it is hard to say what these seven were, since more than seven seem to be listed). The various heresies catalogued include:

Simon (Magus) and the Simonians;
Cleobius and the Cleobians;
Dositheus and the Dosthians;
Gorthaeus and the Goratheni and the Masbothei;
The Menandrianists, Marcianists, Carpocratians, Valentinians, Basilidians, and Saturnillians.

To these he adds a list of (seven) Jewish sects: Essenes, Galileans, Hemerobaptists, Masbothei, Samaritans, Sadducees, and Pharisees.

He adds a few further observations on Hegesippus’s writings noting that they included extracts from the Gospel according to the Hebrews and that he discussed various apocryphal writings.

Conclusion:

Eusebius again sees a pristine early church, attacked from within by various heresies, withstood by the line of faithful bishops and orthodox writers, like Hegesippus.

JTR

Friday, October 11, 2019

Gleanings from 1 Kings 17



Image: Engraving depicting Sarepta (Zarephath) c. AD 1837.

Note: Devotion take from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 17 (audio not yet posted).

And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this word I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth (1 Kings 17:24).

1 Kings 17 divides very easily into three parts, each describing the ministry of Elijah and the miraculous power that accompanied it:

1.    The miraculous provision from the brook and the ravens (vv. 1-7);
2.    The miraculous provision from the widow (vv. 8-16);
3.    The raising of the widow’s son (vv. 17-23).
And it ends with that final description of Elijah from the grateful widow (v. 24).

Here are at least five spiritual gleanings from 1 Kings 17:

First: We learn here how God provides for his people, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

He gives us a hiding place. He leads us by still waters. He sends his ravens.

The believer may not always have more than enough, but he often has just enough from God’s hand.

So, Christ taught his anxious disciples not to take thought for what they would eat or drink or wear, but “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (Matt 6:26).

Second: We learn about God’s care not only for his servants but also for the spiritually poor and destitute, for the fatherless and the widow.

When Christ visited his hometown synagogue in Luke 4 we are told that his fellow Jews did not receive him as the Messiah. The Lord Jesus reflected, “No prophet is accepted in his own country” (v. 24). He then recalled 1 Kings 16, noting that though there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, the prophet was sent instead to the widow of Zaraphath in Zidon (Luke 4:25). The unspoken meaning was clear. If his fellow Jewish townsmen would not receive him, he would go to others, even to Gentiles.

This so infuriated those in Nazareth that they took Christ to the brow of the hill on which the city was built to cast him down “headlong” (v. 29), but, Luke says, “he passing through the midst of them went his way” (v. 30).

If we will not honor Christ someone else will.

Third: We learn here that God can take resources that are mean and insufficient and make them more than adequate—even unendingly adequate—for the times in which they are needed.

“And the barrel of oil wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail…” (1 Kings 16:16).

Fourth: We learn how God can take those who are dead and bring them to life.

Just as Elijah raised the widow’s son, Christ raised the only son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17). He also raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11).

What is most astounding, however, is that he takes those who are spiritually dead, and he raises them to new life through that same resurrection power (Eph 2:1).

Fifth: We learn here about the persistence and the truth of God’s word.

God never fails to send his word. He sends it in every generation. He no longer sends his prophets as he did in the days of Elijah, because he has now sent his Son (Heb 1:1), and his Son sent forth his Apostles (Matt 28:19-20), and part of their mission was to give to his people the Word of God written (John 20:31). And now the Lord sends his elders and preachers to proclaim that Word (2 Tim 4:1-2).

We can say of all Scripture what this widow said of Elijah: “the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.” Christ’s prayer for the disciples in John 17:17 was “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

Faith in Christ goes hand in hand with faith in his written Word. One cannot have a high view of Christ and a low view of the Bible.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Eusebius, EH.4.16-18: Justin Martyr



This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryHere is Book 4, chapters 16-18. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

The focus of these chapters is the life, martyrdom, and writings of Justin, now better known at Justin Martyr.

Chapter 16 notes how Justin’s martyrdom was hastened by his conflict with the Cynic philosopher Crescens and how Justin had anticipated or prophesied this end in his First Apology. Justin’s martyrdom is dated to AD 165 (see Lake, l).

Whereas Justin was a “in truth a supreme philosopher,” Eusebius cites Justin’s description of Crescens as “not worthy to be called a ‘philosopher’” but as a man who either did not understand the Christian faith or who purposely misrepresented it, by relentlessly attacking Christians, falsely accusing them of being “atheists and impious.”

Eusebius also cites Tatian’s reference to Crescens’s ill character, painting him as a hypocrite and a “lover of money,” and also noting his persecution of Justin to death.

Chapter 17 describes a report in Justin’s First Apology of a Christian woman married to a “dissipated” husband who brought accusations against her as a Christian. Having been granted a divorce from her husband by the emperor, the man turned his animus against her Christian teacher Ptolemy and brought charges against him of being a Christian before a magistrate named Urbicius. When Urbicius ordered the execution of Ptolemy another Christian named Lucius objected and was also condemned. An unnamed third Christian man also objected and received the same punishment. From such an incident, Justin anticipated his own death.

Chapter 18 lists the literary works of Justin, which are described as marked by “educated intelligence” and “helpfulness.”

They include:

A First Apology to the emperor Antoninus Pius.

A Second Apology to the Roman senate, during the time of Antoninus Verus (Marcus Aurelius).

An Apology to the Greeks (Oratio Contra Graecos), that included a discussion of demons.

A Confutation (Cohortatio Contra Graecos), a treatise against the Greeks.

A work on the Sole Sovereignty of God (De Monarchia), from Scripture and Greek writings.

Psaltes

On the Soul (a first book outlining the Greek view and a second giving a Christian response)

A Diaologue with Trypho the Jew in Ephesus

Lake notes in the introduction to the EH that Eusebius listed ten books of Justin [the nine listed above and a work against Marcion noted below), but that only two are extant: the First Apology to Antoninus Pius and The Dialogue with Trypho (see l-li).

Eusebius adds that Justin said “prophetic gifts” “illuminated” the church up to his time. Of course, that implies cessation thereafter.

He says Justin said Revelation was the work of the Apostle John, and that he charged Trypho with having “cut out” passages from Scripture.

He notes that Irenaeus cites a treatise by Justin against Marcion in Against Heresies, as well as a statement about Satan not being allowed to blaspheme before Christ’s coming.

Conclusion:

These chapters offer an admiring presentation of Justin as a great Christian philosopher, apologist, and martyr who defended the faith by word and writing in the early years of the Christian movement.

JTR

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

WM 134: Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical Critical Method



WM 134: Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical-Critical Method is posted to sermonaudio.com. Listen here.

Notes:

In this episode I continue the “series” on those within the academy raising questions about the academy, which I started in WM 133 on Eta Linnemann’s rejection of the historical-critical method. Today the focus will be another German scholar Gerhard Maier and his work The End of the Historical Critical Method.

Before I do that let me offer a few follow ups to some previous episodes.

UPDATES:

First, I got an email this morning from Iain Murray, one of the founders of Banner of Truth, saying that he had made use of the WM 42 Interview with Lloyd Sprinkle (see also this blog post on Lloyd’s passing) in composing a biographical article on Lloyd’s life and ministry (a draft of which he also sent along—it is really excellent).

He wrote (in part):

Dear Dr Riddle, brother in Christ

I am very indebted to you for putting on the web your interview with our mutual friend Lloyd Sprinkle. I bought their first book in 1976.

We esteemed him and his work highly…. I preached for him once there….

Warm Christian greetings

Iain H.Murray
Edinburgh, UK
Second, in follow up to WM 132 Is there a “Confessional Text” movement?, Mark Ward posted this comment:

A clarification for your readers/listeners. I don’t believe what I’m saying is contradictory: Confessional Bibliology and mainstream KJV-Onlyism both tend to appeal to the KJV as the standard for textual critical decisions, because both use Scrivener’s GNT. They are both, then “KJV-Only,” practically speaking—it’s just that Confessional Bibliology is KJV-Only when it comes to textual criticism, not necessarily when it comes to translation. But the two views also, because they commonly appeal to “the TR” in their doctrinal statements rather than specifying *Scrivener’s 1881/1894 TR*, end up in the same position as advocates for the critical text (whether they realize it or not), namely saying that the word of God is preserved in the totality of good manuscripts. They just differ with critical text advocates over which manuscripts count as “good.” What TR advocates don’t have—until you offer an answer to “Which TR?”—is perfect confidence in every jot and tittle. TR advocates have to do textual criticism, just like I do. Robert Truelove told me that the “Which TR?” question has been answered over and over, but by far the clearest answer I could find was in Hills (his answer was “the KJV”); so I’m interested to see you saying that an answer is forthcoming.

I want you to know, too, that I take your call seriously: I’ve got to have a positive theological justification for my critical text view. I think I have what I need, and I got it from Dirk Jongkind’s recent book. But it could use some more development, and I’m cogitating upon this.

P.S. Calling your view “Confessional Text” makes it hard to abbreviate, since CT is already taken! =)

Third, also in WM 132, I mentioned a new unofficial directory on TR friendly churches, hosted by Five Solas OPC in Wisconsin. I checked the directory this morning and was amazed to see, I think, over 90 churches listed across the world (US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, etc.).

BOOK NOTE:

Gerhard Maier’s The End of the Historical-Critical Method.


JTR

Reading Notes: Gerhard Maier's "The End of the Historical-Critical Method"



Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical-Critical Method, Trans. Edwin F. Leverenz and Rudolph F. Norden (St. Louis, Missouri: Concordia, 1977): 108 pp.

Concordia is the publishing house for the conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The German original: Das Ende der Historisch-Kritischen Methode (1974).

See Vern Poythress’s review in the Spring 1976 WJT.

Maier (b. 1937) is a Lutheran scholar who made waves when this book first appeared offering a critique of the modern historical-critical method in which he had been trained.

Maier is also the author of Biblical Hermeneutics, trans. by Robert W. Yarbrough (Crossway, 1994). The Crossway author page still lists him as rector and professor at Tübingen. His German Wikipedia page says he was rector at the Albrecht Bengel Haus at the University of Tübingen from 1980-1995 and a Lutheran bishop in Württemberg from 2001-2005.

The End of the Historical-Critical Method is a brief book. It is a translation of the German original and suffers some of the weaknesses inherent in any effort to transfer thought from one language to another.

After a Forward by Eugene F. Klug, the book has three parts:

Part one: The inner impossibility of the concept (11-25).

This part argues that the historical-critical method fails, because it treats the Bible like any other book, and this plunges theology “into an endless chain of perplexities and endless contradictions” (11).

“The historical-critical method, in its actual application, has become an impenetrable screen which simply does not allow certain statements anymore, even though they may be proved a thousand times in the experience of believers” (11).

“The question is: Is this method (historical-critical) suitable for use with this subject matter (Bible, revelation)? (15).

Maier describes the contradictions of minister trained in the h-c method:

“Clergymen who on Mondays stood out as determined representatives of the historical-critical method at their church study groups at the same time were proud of the fact that on Sunday they had preached ‘normal’ sermons that were ‘faithful to the Scriptures’” (22).

“Accordingly the higher-critical method, as a matter of basic principle, means a procedure according to which the Bible is approached from an extra-Biblical position and with extra-Biblical standards, with the objective of discovering the Word of God in the process” (24).

The most important objection to the h-c method is that over against “divine revelation” it presents “an inconclusive and false counterpart which basically maintains human arbitrariness and its standards” (25).

Part two: The Actual End of the Historical-Critical Method (26-49):

This part begins with a survey of discussion among German scholars on the question of canon and whether there is a “canon within the canon.”

Maier warns that this discussion tends toward making the canon a matter of “subjective opinion” (35).

“Man, who began critically to analyze revelation and to discover for himself what is normative, found at the end of the road: himself” (35).

By these standards, for some, like W. Marxen, “the sermons of Augustine, Luther, or of the present are just as legitimately and normatively canonical” (35).

Even the approach taken by those like E. Käsemann who make justification the “focal point” run the risk of banishing “important lines and basic thoughts of Scripture into powerless darkness” (40).

“It is becoming more and more evident that the higher-critical method denotes a Babylonian captivity that hands the exegete over to a harmful degree of subjectivity” (40).

He cites the RC scholar Han Küng’s critique of Käsemann” “The bold program of finding a ‘canon in the canon’ demands nothing else than this: to be more Biblical than the Bible, more New Testamently than the New Testament, more evangelical than the Gospel, and more Pauline than Paul” (45).

In his summary, Maier concludes: “Thus the use of the historical-critical method has put us into a monstrous hole” (48).

It has “destroyed the certainty of faith” (49).

It has made uncertain whether or not God is actually speaking in Scripture: “With that, confidence had become impossible” (49).

It has created “a new docetism” (49).

The historical-critical method has “for all practical purposes” “arrived at the end of a blind alley” (49).

Part three: The Necessity of a Historical-Biblical Method:

Maier now turns to attempt to sketch a more pleasing alternative.

“A historical method? Yes! A critical method? ‘No!” or “Caution!’ is the watchword” (50).

He suggests the motto credo, ut intellegam (I believe in order to understand), rather than credo, quia intellego (I believe because I understand), adding that “right doctrine presumes right living, also on the part of the individual theologian. Without being born again, we remain as ignorant as Nicodemus” (54).

“The self-interpretation of Scripture is most profoundly connected with its goal of producing certainty” (55).

It is the “inner witness of the Holy Spirit (testimonium internum Spiritus Sancti [sic]) which indeed testified to the revelatory nature of Scripture” (57).

The hjstorical method cannot be applied as it is “generally used in historiography” (58). Scriptural interpretation “is impossible without dogmatic prejudice” (58).

“Ever since the Enlightenment the statement that Scripture contains divine revelation has prevailed and has become a leading dogma. But we have to rule it out. The true statement reads: ‘Scripture is revelation’” (63).

We may assume “there is no Scripture in the canon which is without canonical quality” (67).

As regards the outer boundaries of canon, Maier says it is “most unlikely” that any canonical writing is “missing” (67). JTR: But should we not say that it is impossible for any canonical writing to be missing?!

Maier notes the controversy over the vowel points, and recalls a defender of their inspiration Matthias Flucas, who, he says, prophetically “anticipated that with the first break in the dam the whole dam would continue to erode” (69). JTR: Recall Owen’s defense of the vowel points.

“The more one moves away from verbal inspiration, the more one falls into theosophical speculation” (69).

Maier says that, like J. A. Bengel, discerning Bible scholars must note that “in the course of several thousand years copyist errors, gaps, variants, and different vowel signs and punctuation entered the Scriptural text. But this does not alter the fact that the Bible presents an astonishingly faithful rendition of the original text, because the variants do not change the overall context, and only seldom do they bear much weight. It does, however, place before us the task of finding the original text, and then the task of developing a methodologically appropriate concept of inspiration” (69).

JTR: Here, it seems Maier assumes the validity of the approach of modern text criticism.

Later, he notes that the “infallibility of Scripture” should not be understood in the sense of “anthropological inerrancy” (72).

He adds: “Insofar as textual difficulties are concerned , we also accept the continuation of divine guidance (providentia Dei), without indulging in the idea of progressive or unterminated revelation and without being relieved of searching for the best possible form of text” (72).

Near the end Maier presents some “Procedural Steps” for doing what he calls a “Historical-Biblical Method” as opposed to a h-c method (80-88).

These steps include (a) preliminary remarks (take notes of the insights of the h-c method); (b) finding the text; (c) translation; (d) the contemporary historical background; (e) historicoreligious comparison; (f) concerning previous literary criticism and from criticism; (g) biblical classification; the analysis.

In a paragraph on “Finding the Text” as fundamental, Maier raises some important challenges regarding modern text criticism:

“For all scholarly work with the Scriptures, the first responsibility is that of finding the text. There are literally countless variants, and the number is constantly increasing, for example, through the collecting of ancient lectionaries. The comparison of variants must be carried out critically, that is, with reasonable and intelligent standards. The term ‘textual criticism,’ to be sure, leaves room for misunderstanding, for it does not infer criticism of the text but refers to critically finding the text out of a choice that sometimes is very limited and at other times quite extensive. Nevertheless, also this task remains subject to general theological and methodological principles and is therefore clearly an aspect of theology. Methodologically speaking, the insight is important that a result must be reached from various considerations. For example, the more difficult reading (lectio difficilior), which generally is given precedence, could possibly be the result of a scribal error and therefore have little meaning. Besides this, especially the theologian should guard against falling prey to a good-manuscripts myth and therefore following in blind confidence whenever certain manuscripts provide certain readings. A third warning concerns the procedures which follow the axiom that the longer version indicates a later refinement. As a matter of fact, in later times people were not adverse to abridging, and especially the hard working copyist was more inclined to leave something out than to add to the text” (81).

In his conclusion, Maier stresses that the Biblical scholar must be aware of the “subjectivity of the proceedings.” Oddly enough he says, “Therefore we cannot compel others to accept what to us seems to be the cardinal point” (89).

He later adds: “The Biblical interpreter is just the opposite of the ‘neutral scientist’” (90).

Finally, he closes with what seems to be more Lutheran view on Christ as the “center” of Scripture: “Every interpreter arrives at a center of Scripture which brings him joy… Thus we can designate Christ as the middle of Scripture and its pivotal point, its center, its heart” (91).

Though he proceeds to defend the totality of Scripture these closing comments seem to run counter to some of his earlier comments on the dangers of a “canon within the canon” hermeneutic.

JTR

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Eusebius, EH.4.14-15: The Life and Martyrdom of Polycarp of Smyrna



This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryHere is Book 4, chapters 14-15. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

The focus of these chapters is the life and martyrdom of Polycarp of Smyrna.

Chapter 14 begins with an excerpt from book three of Irenaeus’s Against Heresies and his note that from own childhood he knew the aged, respected, and orthodox Polycarp. Irenaeus recalls several anecdotes about Polycarp, including:

How he made a trip to Rome during which he corrected and converted heretics.

How Polycarp said John fled from the baths at Ephesus when the heretic Cerinthus entered for fear the bath would collapse!

How when Marcion asked for his recognition, Polycarp told him, “I recognize you as the first-born of Satan.”

He also mentions Polycarp's letter to the Philippians.

At the end of the chapter Eusebius notes the imperial transition from Antoninus Pius to his adopted sons Marcus Aurelius Verus and Lucius in AD 161.

Chapter 15 then describes the martyrdom of Polycarp, drawn from a written account of it. Lake suggests: “This seems to be a mistake,” since “It is almost certain that the death of Polycarp was in AD 156.”

This chapter then relays an extended account of the death of Polycarp using excerpts and summaries from “The Martyrdom of Polycarp.”

The climax comes when the aged Polycarp is taken into the arena and urged to say “Away with the atheists”, but Polycarp turns to the pagan crowd in the arena and says, “Away with the atheists.”

When urged to take an oath to Caesar to avoid death, the aged martyr responds: “For eighty and six years have I been his servant, and he has done me no wrong, and how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

When he was preserved from the fire, Polycarp was then stabbed with a dagger and so much blood flowed that the fire was extinguished.

With his death mention is made of the claiming of his bones, “more precious than precious stones, and finer than gold.”

The chapter ends with reference to other early martyrs, including:

Metrodorous, though he had been “a presbyter of the Marcionite error.”

Pionius, of whose death, Eusebius says, there is a popular written account.

Three martyrs of Pergamon in Asia: Carpus and Papylas, and a woman, Agathonice.

Conclusion:

This chapter well illustrates Eusebius’s use of sources. The focus on Polycarp demonstrates the rise of interest in the early martyrs and traditions that grow up about them (the “cult of the martyrs”), including the practice of obtaining relics from them after their martyrdom. The narrative is sure to say, however, that they did not worship the martyrs as they did God but showed respect to them as disciples of Christ. These chapters also demonstrate the price paid for the faith by some early Christians.

JTR

Saturday, October 05, 2019

WM 133: Eta Linnemann's Rejection of the Historical Critical Method



Image: Eta Linnemann (1926-2009)

I have posted WM 133: Eta Linnemann's Rejection of the Historical-Critical Method. Listen here.

In this episode I want to call attention to the life and thought of a German scholar named Eta Linnnemann (1926-2009), a German scholar who studied with Bultmann, gained a prestigious academic post, but who then rejected the method in which she had been trained, as she embraced evangelical faith.

Linnemann’s experience was called to mind when someone posted a comment to a 2012 blog post I wrote on Linnemann.

The commenter asked:

Could you please recommend me some other writers like Eta?

To which I responded with the following suggestions (edited):

EF Hills, Believing Bible Study (1967)

Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical Critical Method (1974, 1977)

David Steinmetz, "The Superiority of Pre-critical exegesis" (Theology Today article, 1980)

Craig A. Carter, Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis (2018)

Robert W. Yarbrough, Clash of Visions: Populism and Elitism in NT Theology (2019)

One key to recovery of the confessional text among otherwise conservative evangelical and Reformed brethren must be questioning the influence and direction of Enlightenment influenced modern historical-critical method, including in the area of text criticism.

So, let me review my 2012 blog post on Linnemann.

Linnemann devoted the last years of her scholarly work to challenging modern historical-critical approaches to the Synoptic Problem, which, using Source Criticism, posited Markan Priority, Q, and various theories about the literary dependence of the Gospels, that ultimately served to undermine their historicity, reliability, and authority. Her key work in this area was Is There a Synoptic Problem? Rethinking the Literary Dependence of the First Three Gospels (Baker Books, 1993). The closing epilogue to Is There a Synoptic Problem? Is worth hearing (pp. 209-210).

I do not know Linnemann’s views on text criticism, but one wonders what conclusions she might have reached had she turned her attention to this.

JTR

Friday, October 04, 2019

Admonitions from Ahab: As if it had been a light thing to walk in sin



Note: Devotion comes from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 16.

1 Kings 16:31: And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the ways of Jeroboam….

1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world have come.

1 Kings 16 is repetitive. One evil king is followed by another evil king in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It describes a string of no less than five evil kings (Baahsa, Elah, Zimri, Omri, and, finally, Ahab).

Dale Ralph Davis asks why some parts of the Bible seem boring and answers: “They’re boring because they are the records of sinful men who simply repeat the sins and evil of those before them. Sin is never creative but merely imitative and repetitious” (1 Kings, 179). He later says, “godlessness is dull” (180). In the 1960s a famous political study introduced the term “the banality of evil.” We see that in 1 Kings 16.

Ahab is the apex (or nadir) of this line of evil kings. He is the epitome of all that was rotten in Israel. There’s a reason Melville named the villain of Moby Dick Captain Ahab!

Ahab was second in the dynasty of Omri, and he ruled for 22 years, the same length of rule as Jeroboam (v. 29; cf. 1 Kings 14:20). Outwardly speaking his rule might have been successful. God, however, does not judge success as do men.

From God’s perspective Ahab was a spiritual failure. The inspired historian says that Ahab “did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him” (v. 30; cf. v. 33). Ahab was an overachiever in wickedness.

His spiritual duplicity is described in an intriguing way in in v. 31: “And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam….” There follows a catalogue of his failures including taking as his wife the Baal worshipping Jezebel (v. 31). Ahab even built a temple for Baal in Samaria (v. 32). In this he was an anti-Solomon. Solomon built the house of the LORD (the temple) in Jerusalem; Ahab built the house of Baal in Samaria.

In 1 Corinthians 10:11 the apostle Paul reflected on all the events recorded in the Old Testament: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples [types]: and they are written for our admonition….”

What are we meant to learn from Ahab and these other evil kings?

Perhaps we might consider these questions:

What does it mean to walk in the ways of Jeroboam [false worship]?

Who judges the success of a man’s life?

Has it ever been a light thing for you to walk in sin?

Have you unequally yoked yourself with unbelievers (cf. 2 Cor 6:14)?

Have you set up a house of Baal?

Reading 1 Kings 16 ought to remind the Christian that his only hope is the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 10:10 he declared: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle