Thursday, October 31, 2019

Confessional/Canonical Text on Josh Gibbs's "Talking Christianity" Podcast

I was a guest last evening on Josh Gibbs's podcast "Taking Christianity." He was in Kansas City and I was in Charlottesville. Unfortunately, due to a skype malfunction only my audio feed would work (and even then I sometimes had a hard time hearing/following--sorry Josh!). We discussed the recent Text and Canon conference, along with general discussions on the Confessional Text and Modern Text Criticism, apologetics, etc. The podcast appears on multiple platforms, but here is the version:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Eusebius, EH.4.27-30: Tatian and the Encratites

Image: Canon tables, Rabula Gospels, illuminated Syriac Gospel Books, c. sixth century, Florence, Italy

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 27-30. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters continue the discussion of various early Christians writers, theologians, and apologists.

Chapter 27 describes the ministry of Apolinarius of Hierapolis. In addition to his apology to Marcus Aurelius (mentioned in ch. 26), Eusebius notes the following from his pen:

Five books Against the Greeks

Books one and two On the Truth

Books one and two Against the Jews

A treatise against the heresy of the Phrygians (a movement contemporaneous with and related to Montanus).

The two works against Greeks and Jews, shows the precarious state of Christians as neither Jews nor pagans.

Chapter 28 describes the writing of Musanus against the heresy of the Encratites. Lake explains, “they seemed to have preached an ascetic doctrine somewhat resembling that of later Manichaeans” (395).

Chapter 29 traces the roots of the Encratite movement to Tatian as “the author of this error.” Eusebius cites Irenaeus who said the Encratite ideas had come from Saturninus and Marcion, but had been introduced by Tatian, who had been a “hearer” of Justin Martyr, but who had left the church after Justin’s martyrdom.

The Encratites are described as preaching against marriage, annulling the orthodox doctrine of creation, especially the special creation of man and woman. It is noted that Tatian, in particular, denied the salvation of Adam.

The movement was later led by one Severus and the followers are also known as the Severiani. These, Eusebius says, used the Law and the Prophets of the OT and the Gospels of the NT, according to their peculiar interpretations, but rejected Paul’s letters and the book of Acts.

Eusebius also surveys the writings of Tatian, including:

The Diatessaron (a harmony of the four Gospels)

A paraphrase of the apostles, “correcting their style”

Against the Greeks (the only work that Eusebius says the orthodox might find helpful).

Chapter 30 introduces Bardesanes of Mesopotamia “an able man and skilled in Syriac” and “a powerful arguer” who wrote against Marcion. His most noteworthy work was a dialogue with Antoninus (Marcus Aurelius) Concerning Fate. He wrote in Syriac and his works were translated into Greek. Eusebius notes he had formerly been a Valentinian but had become orthodox. Nevertheless, “he did not completely clean off the filth of this ancient heresy.”

The book ends rather abruptly with the announcement of the death of Soter of Rome.


Eusebius continues to stress the clash of orthodoxy and heresy in pre-Constantinian Christianity. Of note is the discussion of the Encratites and the battle over the canon of Scripture, as well as the discussion of Tatian and his Diatessaron, which was rejected by the orthodox who affirmed four separate and distinct canonical Gospels.


Friday, October 25, 2019

Being a Titus 2 Church

Images: Scenes from 2019 family retreat (top to bottom): Friday campfire; Saturday morning men and boys prepared pancake breakfast; Saturday afternoon recreation.

But speak thou the things that become sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).

Our CRBC family retreat was held last Friday-Saturday at Lake Anna. For our Saturday devotional we focused on Paul’s instructions in Titus 2 on how to encourage intergenerational fellowship within the church, with exhortations for older men, older women, younger women, and younger men (see Titus 2:1-18).

We got together in family groups to read and discuss this teaching and then came back together for a group discussion. Here is the discussion guide we used:

1.    Preliminary discussion:

How is your family’s day to day schedule right now? If you could change one thing to make it better what would that be?

Be brutally honest: How is your family doing at family devotions? Prayer before meals? At regular church attendance and participation? Rate your family 1-10. Are there any changes that could be made to improve the spiritual life of your family? Note: This will not be discussed in the larger group, but is just for your own “in-house” evaluation.

2.    Read aloud together Titus 2 and answer the following:

What four groups are addressed in 2:1-8?

What is each group commanded to do? Are there any instructions here that you find surprising?

Take one group addressed and find an example in the Bible that illustrates either a good or bad model of this.

Thanks to those who participated in the retreat. If you did not make it this year, plan to come next year.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Eusebius, EH.4.26: Melito of Sardis

Image: Remains of the synagogue of ancient Sardis, c. AD third century, Manisa Province, Turkey

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryHere is Book 4, chapter 26. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter focuses on Melito of Sardis, though brief reference is also made at the start to Apolinarius of Hierapolis, whose work will be covered in 4.27.

It is noted that both Melito and Apolinarius wrote apologies to the Emperor (Marcus Aurelius, who ruled from 161-180).

A summary is given of Melito’s writings, the titles of which Lake notes are sometimes hard to decipher.

The works cited include:

On the Passover
On Christian Life and the Prophets
On the Church
On the Lord’s Day

These seems to be primary, and then there is added:

On the Faith of Man
On Creation
On the Obedience of Faith
On the Senses
On the Soul and Body (Lake notes the text is uncertain for this title)
On Baptism and Truth and Faith and Christ’s Birth (Lake says these may be chapters in the same book)
An unnamed treatise of prophesy
On Soul and Body (same title as above?)
On Hospitality
On the Devil
The Apocalypse of John
On God Incarnate
And To Antoninus (To Antoninus Verus or Marcus Aurelius)

So, Melito was a prolific author. The interest in the Old Testament and Jewish practices seems to belie the fact that Melito was a Jewish Christian.

Eusebius offers a quote from the book On the Passover and notes it was cited by Clement of Alexandria.

He also gives several longer extracts from the apology to the emperor. In them Melito refers to Christianity as a “philosophy” noting that it had originated during the time of Augustus and that it was “an omen of good” to the Romans. He suggests that the Roman Empire had flourished under Augustine, because he did not persecute Christians. He says that only Nero and Domitian had persecuted believers and with them had begun the practice of falsely accusing Christians.

Eusebius also cites the preface to his six-volume work called the Extracts (Eklogai) in which he quotes a letter from Melito to a brother named Onesimus in which he provides a list of the canon of the Old Testament, as accepted by Christians. Here are the OT books as he lists them in this letter:

The five books of Moses:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy,

Joshua, the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth,

Four books of Kingdoms [1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings], two books of Chronicles,

The Psalms of David,

The Proverbs of Solomon and his Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job,

The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, the twelve in a single book,

Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra

Some point of interest in this OT canon list:

1.  The book of Esther is not mentioned.

2.  The book of Lamentations is not mentioned, but it is likely included with Jeremiah.

3.  The book of Nehemiah is not mentioned, but it might have been included with Ezra.

4.  The ordering shows the influence of the LXX. For example:  Ruth is listed with the historical works and Chronicles is listed with Kingdoms rather than at the end with a grouping of “the writings” in the tri-partite Hebrew Bible ordering.

5.  The listing is distinctive, however, in that it does not include the apocryphal books.  The one exception could be the Wisdom of Solomon, but it might be that the phrase “The Proverbs of Solomon and his Wisdom” simply refers to the book of Proverbs.

Conclusions to be drawn from this list:

1. This list shows that the early Christians accepted the OT as part of the Christian Scriptures, contra Marcion.

2. Melito’s OT canon excluded the apocryphal works of the LXX, showing that at least some early Christians rejected these works as canonical and, instead, received the same books as those of the Hebrew Bible.

3. Melito’s OT canon also gives evidence that there was still some apparent controversy about which books were canonical, especially with regard to the book of Esther.

Overall conclusion:

Melito of Sardis was an important figure in early Christianity, another of the “writing bishops.” This description is especially valuable for the insights it provides on the early Christian view of the Old Testament.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A Text-Criticism Themed Cartoon

Someone sent me a link to this video just as I was sitting down to look over my notes for the Text and Canon Conference:

Monday, October 21, 2019

Eusebius, EH.4.23-25: Dionysius of Corinth, Theophilus of Antioch, Philip of Gortyna

Image: Remains of the ancient Odeon (concert hall) in Gortyna, Crete

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 23-25. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters continue the record of some of the noted second century bishops and writers, first noted in EH.4.21. These include: Dionysius of Corinth; Theophilus of Antioch; and Philip of Gortyna (Crete).

Chapter 23 describes the ministry of Dionysius of Corinth, who wrote many letters to the churches. K. Lake notes that none of these are extant.

They include:

A letter to the Lacedaemonians.

A letter to the Athenians. He says that Dionysius the Areopagite of Acts 17 was the first bishop. A bishop named Publius was martyred, and the church declined spiritually until Quadratus became bishop.

A letter to the Nicomedians, in which he opposed Marcion.

A letter to Gortyna in Crete on welcoming Philip as bishop.

A letter to Amastris in Pontus, mentioning their bishop Palmas, with teaching on marriage, chastity, and backsliding.

A letter to Cnossus, with exhortations to the bishop Pinytos, and a charitable exchange between them.

A letter to the Romans and their bishop Soter. A quote is offered from the letter in which reference is made to their good works including ministering to Christians in the mines. K. Lake: “The mines were constantly used by the Romans as convict establishments, as work in them was regarded as unfit even for slaves” (382). Eusebius that he also the same letter quotes from a letter from Rome to Corinth (perhaps 1 Clement or, as Lake says Harnack suggested, 2 Clement).

A letter to a Christian woman named Chrysophora offering her “the proper spiritual food.”

Chapter 24 describes the ministry of Theophilus of Antioch. He is said to have written three “elementary treatises” to Autolycus and another work titled Against the Heresy of Hermogenes among others. He is especially commended for driving off heretics from Christ’s sheep like wild beasts. He was succeeded as bishop by Maximinus (7th from the apostles).

Chapter 25 describes the ministry of Philip of Gortyna in Crete, who, like Irenaeus and Modestus, also wrote against Marcion.


Eusebius continues to trace and commend these bishops who were writers and defenders of orthodoxy against heretical teaching.


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 conference messages/lectures here, including ones by Jim Renihan, Jeff Johnson, Scott Meadows, and others.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 Listen here.


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.


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.).


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