Friday, July 31, 2020

The Vision (7.31.20): The Fading Away of the Rich Man

Image: Blueberries with morning dew, North Garden Virginia, July 2020

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on James 1:9-11.

For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways (James 1:11).

James works upon the consciences of the rich by reminding all men of the brevity of this life. See v. 10b: “because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away” (cf. Isaiah 40:80).

He continues in v. 11 to describe how the rising sun with its burning heat soon withers the grass and its flower fades “and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth.” Go to any nursing home, yeah, to any cemetery, and you see the condition of the youth of yesterday. All the beauty queens, all the athletes, all the intellectuals, all the successful businessmen, statemen, and captains of industry have gone the way of all flesh. James speaks directly to the rich: “so shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”

Those words remind me of General MacArthur’s famous speech in which he said, Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.” But MacArthur was wrong. They do die, and then they fade away from memory. And what is more, even their death is not the end. As Paul said in Hebrews 9:27: “and it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.”

All the richest men of past generations have already discovered this, whether Nelson Rockefeller, Howard Hughes, or Steve Jobs. And all the wealthy of the present generation, whether Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, will find it out soon enough.

Christ ended his parable of the barn builder in Luke 12:20 with the rich man hearing the Lord say to him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.”

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:7: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

The truth also is that you do not need to be a fabulously wealthy to be the rich man who is addressed here. You simply have to be a man who rests in himself and his own ability and who falsely thinks that everything is going to keep going just as it is now forever and ever. It will not.

James challenges us to ask ourselves: Where do I find my greatest contentment and consolation in life? In Christ or in the things of this world?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Eusebius, EH.8.14-15: The Tyrants Maxentius and Maximin

Image: Bust of Maxentius (AD 276-312; Roman emperor 306-312). Pushkin Museum, Moscow. 

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s Book 8, chapter 14-15.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters describe political turmoil that arose during the decade long Diocletian persecution, which included the rise of two tyrants: Maxentius in the West (Rome) and Maximin in the East. This volatility would lead ultimately to the rise of Constantine as emperor.

Chapter 14 describes the rise of Maxentius, son of the deposed Maximin, as the tyrant of Rome. Not only did he persecute Christians, but he lived a life of gross moral debauchery, which included forced adultery and rape. He put many Romans, including senators, to death. Worst of all he engaged in witchcraft and magical practices, including ripping up pregnant women to explore the entrails of their fetuses. He is described by Eusebius as a Caligula-like figure.

Meanwhile, another tyrant arose in the East named Maximin (aka Maximinus Daia). He also practiced magic and was filled with superstitions. He energetically persecuted Christianity and attempted to restore paganism, including ordering pagan temples to be built in every city. He engaged in drunken excesses, riotous living, and the sexual assault against women.

The only ones who opposed him were the Christians, who suffered greatly under his persecution. Eusebius notes how a Christian lady [Dorothea, according to Rufinus] of Alexandria rebuffed Maximin in order to maintain her modesty.

He then notes how a woman of Rome [Sophronia, according to Rufinus] was likewise attacked by Maxentius but took her own life by the sword.

Chapter 15 notes that during the remainder of the ten years of persecution there was no respite from the plotting and warring of the two tyrants. Even travelers on the sea were not safe, as they might be accused of siding with the enemy and made subject to torture, including death by crucifixion or fire.


These chapters again describe the disorder within the empire and the rivalry among the tryants Maxentius and Maximin, which would eventually lead to the rise of Constantine, who would end persecution and bring peace to the church.


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

John Calvin: "Away with the error of Nestorius..."

I recently heard an anti-Protestant pundit claim that Protestantism commits the error of Nestorianism in Christology. I thought of this as I happened to be reading a few sections of Calvin’s Institutes yesterday and ran across these statements:

“Away with the error of Nestorius, who in wanting to pull apart rather than distinguish the nature of Christ devised a double Christ…. Let us beware also, of Eutyches’ madness; lest, while meaning to show the unity of the person, we destroy either nature” (Institutes, 2.14.4).

“I have testified that we do not agree at all with Nestorius, who imagined a double Christ” (Institutes, 2.14.7).


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Book Review posted: Jeffery Smith, The Rich Man and Lazarus

You can listen above to an audio version of my book review of Jeffery Smith, The Rich Man and Lazarus: The Plain Truth About Life After Death (Evangelical Press, 2020).

You can also read a pdf of my written review which appeared in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 12, No. 2 (July 2020): 244-245.

Enjoy! JTR

Monday, July 27, 2020

New Books from Poh Boon Sing

I got a package of books in the mail a couple of weeks ago from Pastor Poh Boon Sing of Damansara Reformed Baptist Church in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

Pastor Poh has been been redeeming the time during the quarantine by reformatting some of his old books (I had read his book on The Christian in the Chinese Culture a few years ago and found it to be an excellent resource) and producing some new works from his teaching ministry on various topics.

You can find all of these books on amazon in paperback or kindle editions, if you are looking for some profitable summertime devotional reading.


Saturday, July 25, 2020

Eusebius, EH.8.13: Church Leaders Martyred During the Diocletian Persecution

Image: Martyrdom of Anthimus of Nicomedia and others, Miniature from the Menologion of Basil II, c. AD 1,000.

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 8, chapter 13.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter begins by listing the various rulers of the churches who became martyrs during the Diocletian persecution.

First in the list is Anthimus, bishop of Nicomedia, who was beheaded.

Others include the presbyter Lucian of Antioch;

Tyrannion, bishop of Tyre;

Zenobius, presbyter of Sidon;

Silvanus, bishop of Emesa;

Silvanus, bishop of Gaza, beheaded at the copper mines at Phaeno, one of 39 martyrs there;

Peleus and Nilus, bishops of Egypt;

Pamphylius, presbyter of Caesarea, whom Eusebius describes as “the most marvelous man of our day”;

Peter, bishop of Alexandria;

Phileas, Hesychius, Pachymius, and Theodore, bishops of Egypt.

To these could be added “countless other famous persons as well.” Eusebius promises to write more in another work.

The chapter then turns to discuss the Roman government. This is typical of Eusebius, to parallel descriptions of church and imperial leaders.

He notes that before the time of persecution, the Christians had enjoyed peace and prosperity.

Reference is made to the so-called Tetrarchy, set up by Diocletian, in which power was shared between Diocletian and Maximin, as emperors, and Galerius and Constantius Chlorus, as Caesars.

It was under the Tetrarchy that the persecution had begun in 303, and which would last a decade till 313.

Eusebius notes that Diocletian fell under a “fateful disease” and became “deranged”, and this resulted in him resuming life as a private citizen in 306.

According to Eusebius, of the Tetrarchs, only Constantius (father of Constantine) lived “in a manner worthy of his high office” and did not persecute the Christians or tear down their churches, but even protected them.

His son Constantine was made emperor (one of the Tetrarch) after his death “by God Himself, the King Supreme.”

The chapter closes with reference to the later struggle for power between Constantine, Licinius, and Maximin, which resulted in the deposition and death of Maximin and the removal of his public monuments and memorials.


In this chapter Eusebius honors the church leaders who died as martyrs during the Diocletian persecution (303-313). He also describes the rise of Constantine to imperial power, providing a perhaps overly positive portrayal of Constantine’s father Constantius, and noting the rise of Constantine as divinely orchestrated.


Friday, July 24, 2020

The Vision (7.24.20): A Double Minded Man

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on James 1:5-8.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8).

In James 1:6-8 the Apostle describes the type of person who does not ask for wisdom from God as “wavering” (v. 6a). He then adds: “For he is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (v. 6b).

The sea is an image of inconsistency. If you go to the ocean you will see the waves crashing on the shore, but they do not do so uniformly. They are shaped by the circumstances. The waves of the sea are an image of instability, of that which is ever erratic and chaotic. James here says that the wavering and inconsistent man is like this.

Paul uses the same analogy in Ephesians 4:14 when he urges believers not to be like children “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”

We might say that a consistent and fruitful Christian life requires, to use a phrase borrowed from a philosopher, “a long obedience in the same direction.”

What would happen if we tried to plant a tree, but every week we dug it up and transplanted it to a new location? Would it ever put down deep roots and grow downward and upward to a magnificent height?

James says that the unstable and wavering man shall not receive anything from the Lord (v. 7). He will depart from the Lord’s presence with empty hands.

The Apostle then adds a final observation: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” The word for “double minded” in Greek is di-psychos, literally double-spirited, or even double-souled. Bunyan has a character like this in Pilgrim’s Progress named “Mr. Facing-both-ways.”

There is a warning for us here. Do not be like this man.

What is the opposite of such a person? It would be a single-minded man, a consistent man, a  man who fixes his affections on Christ, who forms a core convictional and doctrinal framework based on Scripture, and who holds fast to those commitments, without wavering, not blown about here and there by every passing fancy.

Let us be consistent, single-minded men and women, rather than double-minded.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, July 23, 2020

WM 170: Review/Reaction: Elaine Pagels, Why Religion?

I have posted WM 170: Review/Reaction: Elaine Pagels, Why Religion? Listen above.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Eusebius, EH.8.11-12: Universal and Brutal Suffering in the Diocletian Persecution

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 8, chapter 11-12.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters continue to report on the godly martyrs who laid down their lives during the Diocletian persecution.

Chapter 11 begins by describing an unnamed small town in Phyrgia, where, Eusebius, says all the inhabitants were Christians, including the city officials. The Roman soldiers set fire to the town and burned the inhabitants alive, including young children and women.

It next notes the martyrdom of a certain Audactus, “a man of illustrious Italian birth,” who at the time he was put to death was serving as a magistrate and minister of finance in some unnamed locality.

Chapter 12 traces the gruesome sufferings of other Christians throughout the Roman world.

In Arabia they were slain with the axe.

In Cappadocia, their legs were broken.

In Mesopotamia, they were hung over smoking fires.

In Alexandria, they were mutilated.

In Antioch, they were roasted on the gridiron.

Eusebius notes that some in Antioch took their own lives by jumping off lofty houses before they could be seized.

As another example of this he describes a noble woman of Antioch and her two unmarried daughters who were captured in a foreign country and were being transported back to Antioch. At risk of being violated by the soldiers, in the midst of their journey, they threw themselves into a river and drowned thus becoming “their own executioners.”

He also notes another pair of maidens at Antioch who were also thrown into the sea.

In Pontus, Christians suffered various cruel tortures, like having reeds driven under their finger nails, having melted lead poured on their backs, and having their private parts abused. Eusebius says it was as if the tormenters tried to outdo one another in the novelty of their tortures.

Worn out with their bloodlust against the Christians, Eusebius says they rulers determined to promote more supposedly “humane” punishments, liking gouging out the right eye and crippling the left foot of believers before sending them slave labor in the copper mines.

These martyrs, he concludes, were “conspicuous throughout all the world.” To name each one would be impossible.


This chapters note the universality and brutality of the Diocletian persecution. It took place across the Roman world and included a variety of unspeakable tortures. Eusebius even praises those who took their own lives in these situations, without seeming to pass judgement on the suicide as sinful. Many of those not to put to death were maimed and enslaved. He stresses that the sufferings of the Diocletian persecution were not only universal but incalculable.


Friday, July 17, 2020

The Vision (7.17.20): James's "Golden Chain" of Perseverance

Note: Devotional taken from last Sunday's sermon on James 1:1-4.

James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations; 3 knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Last Lord’s Day we began our pilgrimage of exposition through the epistle of James by considering James 1:1-4.

These opening verses introduce one of the key themes of James: the necessity of perseverance in the faith.

James 1:2-4 reminded me of Paul’s teaching in Romans 8:29-30, which we sometimes refer to as the “golden chain of redemption.” In Romans 8:29-30 Paul describes a “chain” of events related to salvation: Those whom God foreknew, he predestinated; those whom he predestinated, he called; those whom he called, he justified; and those whom he justified, he glorified.

We might call the teaching James provides in James 1:2-4 the “golden chain of perseverance.”

The first “link” in the chain: James says that believers will face “diverse temptations” that result in the “trying” or testing of our faith (vv. 2-3a).

Notice that the temptations are diverse. It is not one thing or necessarily the same thing over and over, but temptation is multi-faceted, creative, and diverse. When Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness, he made three different attempts to deceive him, not just one (cf. Matt 4:1-11).

The second “link” is patience (longsuffering). James says that this “worketh” or results from the endurance of these diverse temptations (v. 3b).

The third “link” is the attainment of the state of being “perfect and entire” (v. 4). This is parallel to the final state of glorification in Romans 8:30.

This is why the believer meets all these diverse temptations with joy. He knows that the Lord permits these for his own good end and purpose in our lives.

Every athlete knows that when the coach makes you run wind-sprints till you can barely breathe or lift weights till your arms and legs feel like spaghetti, he is not doing this because he is a sadist. He is training you, strengthening you, preparing you, so that you can be more than you ever imagined.

If that is what a coach is doing, think of what the Lord is doing right now in and through you!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Six Key Themes in the Epistle of James

In last Sunday's introductory sermon in our new series on James, I suggested that the following six key themes in this epistle:

First, James was part of the Jewish mission to the church and was likely originally directed primarily to Jewish Christians, though now it is relevant to all Christians whatever, Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free.

Second, James assumes that those who read this letter already know the basic facts about the life of Jesus, including his death, burial, and resurrection. The words “cross”, “resurrection,” and “gospel” do not appear in James.

Third, James is a practical book that focuses on ethics or the proper living out of the Christian life. James knows the ethical teaching of Christ including the command to love one neighbor as oneself (cf. 2:8), and he knows the teaching of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount (cf. 4:12: “who art thou that judgest another?” and Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”).

Fourth, James is a wisdom book. This theme begins early (1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God….”) and continues throughout (cf. e.g., 3:17). It is like the book of Proverbs in the OT with many wise saying to instruct us how to live our lives skillfully to the glory of God and to avoid foolishness and failure.

Fifth, James focuses on the importance of good works in the Christian life. One of its clear themes is that faith without works is a dead faith (see 2:17, 20). This is one of the most controversial aspects of James. How can it be reconciled with Paul’s teaching in Galatians 2:16 that “a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ”?

Perhaps you’ve read somewhere how Martin Luther once expressed some concerns about James, even calling it a “right strawy epistle, and that some radicals even wanted to remove James from the NT. But Luther eventually came to see that James was not at odds with Paul and the wiser men acknowledged that “It is dangerous to loosen foundation stones” (Manton, 9).

The Puritan Thomas Manton noted the core of James’s message on this point as follows: “But in Christ there are no dead and sapless branches; faith is not an idle grace; wherever it is it fructifieth in good works” (9). More contemporary preachers are fond of saying that though we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, the faith we have is never alone. It is accompanied by good works as the sign of spiritual life in us. Or perhaps you have heard it said that works are the fruit but not the root of our faith.

Sixth, James stresses the importance of perseverance in the Christian life in the face of struggles, setbacks, frustrations, and trials. We get some sense of what many of these early Jewish Christians suffered when we look at Paul’s letter to the Hebrews when he writes about those who after they were "illuminated" suffered "a great fight of afflictions", including being made a "gazingstock", while taking "joyfully" the "spoiling" of their goods (Hebrews 10:32-34).


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

WM 169: Who Wrote the Epistle of James?

In WM 169 I explore the question of who wrote the epistle of James, in connection with my commencement of a new sermon series through James on Lord’s Day mornings at CRBC. Last Sunday I preached the first message in the series on James 1:1-4 (listen here).

In that introductory message I necessarily spent some time teaching on the question of authorship. In v. 1a the author is identified: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ….”

“James” is the anglicized form of the Hebrew name Jacob.

He describes himself as a “servant [doulos, slave] of God” and a servant/slave of “of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

But the problem is, Who is this James?

The Gospels tell us that that there were two disciples of the twelve apostles who were named James (see the lists of the twelve in Matt 10; Mark 3; and Luke 6; cf. Acts 1).

The first was James, the brother of John and the son of Zebedee. He was one of the closest friends and companions to the Lord Jesus, along with Peter and John. This James is sometimes called James the Major or Greater.

The second was a disciple named James the son of Alphaeus, who is mentioned much less frequently in the Gospels, and has sometimes been called James the Minor or Lesser.

In addition, however, there is mention made in the Gospels of one who was a brother of Jesus named James (see Matthew 13:53-58; Mark 6:3: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.”).

It is sometimes suggested that this was a third James, the brother of the Lord. It was said of some early writers that he has been among the seventy sent out by Christ (Luke 10) and that he was sometimes called Oblias and “James the Just.” It was he, they suggest, who is the James became the leader of the early church in Jerusalem, who stood up to speak in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:13).

I might add that there is what we could call a fourth James, the brother (or father?) of the apostle Judas (literally “Judas of James”) (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13; this is the Judas “not Iscariot” of John 14:22). Note: For the view of this person as a "fourth" James see D. E. Hiebert, James, 27. The traditional Protestant orthodox view (reviewed below) would see this James as James the son of Alphaeus and the Judas (Jude) here as the author of Jude and the brother of James son of Alphaeus (Jude 1:1).

Which James wrote this epistle?

Here are some observations that help us make a judgement:

First, notice that the author does not identify himself as James the brother of John, or James the son of Alphaeus, or as James the brother of Jesus. He does not identify himself as an apostle but simply as a slave.

Second, we know it is not likely that the author was James the brother of John, because that James died very early on as a martyr, the first among the apostles to die for his faith, at the hands of Herod (Acts 12:2).

Third, it is possible that James the apostle, the son of Alphaeus, and James the brother of the Lord were the same person, so that there were not three prominent men among the early Christians but only two.

So, how can we say that James the son of Alphaeus was also the brother of the Lord?

The key here would be to understand the word “brother” not with the nearest sense as “sibling” but more broadly as a kinsman or “cousin.” Those who hold this view say that this James was the son of the sister of Jesus’s mother, also named Mary, the wife of Cleophas (another name for Alphaeus). See:

John 19:25: Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

Matthew 27:56: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.

Mark 15:40: There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;

Mark 16:1: And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

Luke 24:10: It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

This view that the author of James was the apostle James, the son of Alphaeus, who was also the brother (kinsman) of Christ, was held by many ancient men in the church, including Jerome (see his Lives of Illustrious Men, chapter 2) and of many of the early Protestant exegetes.

The Protestant men, in particular, pointed to Galatians 1:19 where Paul wrote of his early trip to Jerusalem, “But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.”

Then they look to Galatians 2:9 where Paul refers to James, Cephas, and John “who seemed to be the pillars” and conclude that this James must have been an apostle, otherwise, he would not have been accepted as a “pillar” alongside Peter and John.

Here is the conclusion reached in Matthew Poole’s commentary (1685):

“It is not certain that there were three Jameses, two of them apostles and the third (called Oblias and James the Just) one of the seventy disciples; the scripture mentioning but two, one the son of Zebedee, the other of Alphaeus, called the brother of the Lord (Gal 1:19), as being of kin to his family; and said to be a pillar (Gal 2:9), and joined with Peter and John. And though some have thought the James mentioned here to have been the third James, called Oblias, and one of the seventy; yet it is more probable that he was indeed no other than the son of Alphaeus, and one of the twelve; nor is it likely, that one of the disciples should be numbered as one of the three pillars, and therein preferred above so many apostles. This James, therefore, upon the whole, I take to be the penman of this Epistle….”

Thomas Manton in his commentary on James (1693):

“For indeed there were but two Jameses, this latter James being the same with him of  Alphaeus; for plainly the brother of the Lord is reckoned among the apostles (Gal 1:19); and called a pillar (Gal 2:9); and he is  called the brother of the Lord, because he was in that family to which Christ was numbered…. Well then, there being two, to which of these is the epistle ascribed? ….Well, then, James the Less is the person whom we have found to be the instrument which the Spirit of God made use of to convey this treasure to the church” (12-13).

And Matthew Henry’s commentary (expanded upon and published after his death in 1714):

“The writer of this epistle was not James the son of Zebedee; for he was put to death by Herod (Acts 12) before Christianity had gained so much ground among the Jews of the dispersion as is here implied. But it was the other James, the son of Alphaeus, who was cousin-german to Christ, and one of the twelve apostles (Matt 10:3). He is called a pillar (Gal 2:9), and this epistle of his cannot be disputed, without loosening a foundation stone.”

I must note, however, that in John Calvin’s commentary on James of 1551 he concluded that whether James was written by James the son of Alphaeus or another James who was “the rule of the church at Jerusalem,” “it is not for me to say.” He prefaced this conclusion by saying, “It is enough for men to receive this Epistle, that it contains nothing unworthy of an Apostle of Christ.”

Though Manton is much firmer in his convictions that James the son of Alphaeus and “brother of the Lord” is author, he nevertheless refers to the human author as “the subordinate author or instrument.” His point being that whoever wrote it, whether an apostle or not, the true author was the Lord himself by his Holy Spirit.

This consensus of the Protestant orthodox appears out of step with the view of most contemporary Protestant evangelicals who see the author of James as the “third” James, not James the son of Alphaeus, but James of Jerusalem.

Here, for example, is the discussion of authorship from the introduction to James in the MacArthur Study Bible: “Of the 4 men named James in the NT, only two are candidates for authorship of this epistle. No one has seriously considered James, the Less, the son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:3; Acts 1:13), or James the father of Judas, not Iscariot (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). Some have suggested James the son of Zebedee and brother of John (Matt. 4:21), but he was martyred too early to have written it (Acts 12:2). That leaves only James, the oldest half-brother of Christ (Mark 6:3) and brother of Jude (Matt. 13:55), who also wrote the epistle that bears his name (Jude 1)” (1924).

The Introduction to the ESV Study Bible also makes this assumption and makes no mention of the possibility that the author was the apostle James, son of Alphaeus: “The title of this book derives from the name of its author, James the Just (as he was called), the brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55) and leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15)” (2387).

The older Protestant men seemed more intent to settle James as an apostolic work (written by an apostle: James of Alphaeus). They were not apparently troubled by suggesting that James was not a sibling of Christ but a kinsman, nor did they attempt to defend the proposition that Mary had other children after the birth of Jesus.

Modern Protestants and evangelicals seem to rush past the idea of James as directly apostolic, in favor of the suggestion that the letter was written by one who was not an apostle (James the Just).

Though ultimately in agreement with Manton that the most important thing is the fact that God himself is the primary author and that the human author is only “subordinate,” at this point I am persuaded by Poole, Manton, and Henry that James the son of Alphaeus is the likely author.

Addendum: At the close I noted the commentaries I am reading as I preach through James: two older (pre-critical) works: Calvin and Manton, and one contemporary work by Edmund J. Hiebert. For Hiebert’s intriguing bio on theopedia, look here.


"absent from the body ...present with the Lord": David Larlham

Image: David Larlham (left) at the Lynchburg RB Mission, September 2019.

I received the note below today from a friend with news of the passing of David Larlham:

Just a quick email to let you know that we have received the sad news that our esteemed brother David Larlham was called home suddenly this morning following a heart attack.  But we rejoice that he is now “with Christ; which is far better” and has heard those blessed words “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
I know that all our hearts will go out in deepest sympathy to Monica, the immediate and wider family, and to David’s “church family” at Camberwell, who we know he loved so dearly.

I have been sent this link to the last sermon that David preached at Camberwell, only just over two weeks ago:

Further details concerning the funeral will follow as they become available.

It was my pleasure to meet David and his wife Monica last September while they were on vacation in the area and attended worship at CRBC.

I did the interview below as WM 131 with David in which he gives his testimony and tells of his career as a banker and then his second career as Assistant to the General Secretary of the Trinitarian Bible Society:

The interview makes clear David's love for his family, his church, and the Bible as the Word of God. Most importantly, it provides a clear testimony to his faith and hope in Christ.

"absent from the body ... present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8).


Monday, July 13, 2020

Eusebius, EH.8.10: The Report of Phileas on the Martyrs of Alexandria

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 8, chapter 10.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter features a first-person report from Phileas, bishop of Thmuis, a town in lower Egypt, on the tortures and martyrdoms that took place in Alexandria during the Diocletian persecution. Phileas is described as “a true lover both of wisdom and of God.” He wrote this while he was himself imprisoned, and it was reported in the previous chapter (8.9) that he himself had eventually suffered martyrdom by beheading.

Phileas expressed his admiration for the “Christ-bearing” martyrs for their ability to remain steadfast despite undergoing various gruesome tortures and sufferings for their faith. He draws upon the example of Christ from the Servant Song of Philippians 2:5-11.

After cruel torture some were placed in stocks, while others thrown to the ground. Some died under torture, others later died from wounds suffered, while still others recovered and “gained confidence.” When those in this last category were given the choice either to go free and unmolested, if they offered abominable sacrifices, or to face death if they remained steadfast, they chose death.


This chapter continues the account of the sufferings of Egyptian Christians during the Diocletian persecution. It is striking in that it comes from a first-hand report from an imprisoned bishop who would himself suffer martyrdom. Again, the courage and steadfastness of the Diocletian martyrs is remembered with admiration.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

WM 168: Q & A (NKJV, Ward, PIA), then review of Boyce on PA

Earlier this week, I posted WM 168: Q & A (NKJV, Ward, PIA), then review of Boyce on PA. Listen above.

Here are a few links to resources noted in this episode:

Part One: Following up with Correspondence:

On the NKJV:

Check out the articles page on the TBS website. If you scroll down to the section on "English Versions" you will find five articles on the NKJV.

Dane Johannsson also has this podcast on the NKJV.

On Mark Ward's Which TR? article:

See Ward's lecture, An Evaluation of Confessional Bibliology (September, 2019).

Listen to WM 140 here:

On the PIA and debates on text:

Look here for the PIA's list of public debates (none of which, according to the titles, give singular, sustained focus to defending his rejection of any specific TR text).

Part Two: Review of Introduction to Stephen Boyce on the PA:

Read Boyce's full article here.

Listen to my full debate with Boyce on the PA here:

Blessings, JTR