Tuesday, January 18, 2022

WM 220: Text Note: Luke 2:14: Hixson or Linus?


What is the issue?

The setting: The angel of the Lord appears to the shepherds and announces the birth of Christ (vv. 9-12). This angel is then joined by the heavenly host in praising God (v. 13). The question: What was the content of that praise (v. 14)?

In the AV:

Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

In some modern version, such as the ESV:

Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

This not just a difference in wording. It reflects a difference in text:

TR (Scrivener’s, 1894): δοξα εν υψιστοις θεω και επι γης ειρηνη εν ανθρωποις ευδοκια

W & H (1881): δοξα εν υψιστοις θεω και επι γης ειρηνη εν ανθρωποις ευδοκιας

It is a difference of one word, and one letter in that word. Is it the nominative ευδοκια, or the genitive ευδοκιας?

External evidence:

Taken from the NA 28:

The traditional reading is supported by the following: second corrector of Aleph, second corrector of B, K, L, P, Gamma, Delta, Theta, Xi, Psi, family 1, family 13, 565, 579, 700, 892, 1241, 1424, 2541, Lectionary 844, and the Majority Text. Among the versions it is the reading of the Syriac Harklean and the Coptic Boharic. Among the early church writers, it is found in Origin (in part), Eusebius, and Epiphaneus.

The modern reading is supported by the original hand of Aleph, A, the original hand of B, D, and W. Among the versions, the NA28 lists the Stuttgart Vulgate (2007) and the Sahidic (with some variations). Among the early church writers, it lists Cyril of Jerusalem.

Note: The NA 28 also lists a variant in the Old Latin, Clementine Vulgate, and Latin translation of Irenaeus that is closer to the modern text reading (hominibus bonae voluntatis).

Note: The modern text shows its typical favoring of the readings found in Aleph and B.

The supporting Greek evidence is particularly weak.

Pickering notes that the traditional text is supported by 99.4% of extant Greek mss., and the modern critical text only by 0.4%.

If this was the authentic reading, why was it almost completely ignored (not copied) in later generations?

Internal evidence:

See Metzger’s Commentary, which gives the modern text a {B} rating in his first edition, upgraded to an {A} rating in the second edition.

Meztzger says the noun in the genitive is the “more difficult reading,” adding, “The rise of the nominative reading can be explained either as an amelioration of the sense or as a paleographical oversight…”

If we assume the nominative is original, however, why could we not just as well see the genitive as an “amelioration of the sense”?

In support of the traditional reading is the fact that by placing “good will” in apposition to “peace” the emphasis might land more on the prepositional phrase “among men.” It is often noted that Luke, likely a Gentile, stresses Christ as the universal Savior of all kinds of men. The angel of the Lord, for example, brings “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (v. 10).

Metzger also suggests that the genitive would bring stress on God’s peace “resting on those whom he had chosen according to his good pleasure” (citing a parallel in the DSS, as noted by the RC scholar J. A. Fitzmyer!).

The modern reading, however, is hardly a more “Calvinistic” one, since it could just as easily be interpreted as implying that the bestowal of God’s peace was conditioned upon the expression of good will by men.


The external evidence overwhelming supports the traditional text. Reasonable internal arguments plausibly explain why a handful of mss. changed the noun from the nominative to the genitive. The traditional reading was the clear consensus of Christians throughout the ages and should not be abandoned.

A modern pastor tries to explain his preference for the modern text:

Elijah Hixson, Associate Pastor of Fireside Fellowship Church in Kingston, TN in asermon titled “Glory to God in the Highest” on Luke 2:14 (from December 20, 2020) made an attempt to justify translations based on the modern text.

Though Hixson never clearly addressed the issues by providing specifics as to why the traditional text should be abandoned and the modern affirmed, he picks up on the fact that people will be bothered by the changes being made in modern translations and attempts preemptively to allay their fears.

In the end, Linus got it right:

Theclimax of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special (originally released in 1965) gets it right, by using the traditional translation based on the traditional text. And no one even needs Mark Ward to explain it to them using modern words!!!!


Monday, January 17, 2022

Augustine, Harmony of the Evangelists, 1.22-23: Saturn & Jupiter


Image: Depiction of Saturn (Greek: Chronos), the Roman god of time, often depicted as partially shrouded and carrying a reaping hook. He was also the father of Jupiter or Jove (Greek: Zeus) who dethroned him as king of the gods. Ancient pagans tried to associate the Christian God with Saturn or Jupiter.


This episode is a continuation of this series after a fairly significant break of c. four months (the last recorded episode was September 20, 2021). In his introduction to this work, S. F. D. Salmond described the Harmony as one of Augustine’s “most toilsome” works. After some preliminary information on the Gospels, much of Book 1 has to do with rather tedious Christian apologetics against pagan polytheistic religion. Nevertheless, we will continue to persevere in the series alongside the listener and trust we will be edified in the process. From this point I am going to do the episodes in an audio-only format on sermonaudio.com.

1.22: Of the opinion entertained by the Gentiles regarding our God:

Augustine surveys pagan misunderstandings of the Christian God. Some associate him with Saturn, and point to the worship of the Jews on the sabbath (Saturn’s day-Saturday).

The famed Roman scholar Varro, however, associated the God of the Jews with Jupiter (Greek: Zeus). In Roman mythology, Saturn was the father of Jupiter. Saturn had eaten all his children at their birth, lest they usurp him. Jupiter, however, was hidden by his mother and eventually attacked his father, conquered and expelled him, and freed his divine siblings from Saturn’s body. Jupiter then became the king of all gods.

Augustine argues that whether pagans think the God of the Bible is Saturn or Jupiter they have a problem. If they think he is Saturn, how can the reconcile the fact that Saturn never forbade the worship of other gods? If they think he is Jupiter, they should remember that, according to Roman mythology, even after Jupiter dethroned Saturn, he did not forbid worship of Saturn.

1.23: Of the follies which the pagans have indulged in regarding Jupiter and Saturn:

In this chapter Augustine pokes holes in the mythology and theology of paganism. He notes that though popular pagan religion relies on the stories of the gods as fables, the more sophisticated see deeper meaning. Their interpretations, however, are not consistent. Some follow a platonic view and see the Ether (God) as a spirit and not body. Others follow the Stoics and see its as body (pantheism?).

He cites writers of the past like the Greek Euhemerus and the Latin Cicero who suggested that the gods were originally men who moved from heaven to earth, as they did with Romulus and the Caesars.

Nevertheless, Augustine notes that the pagans assert they worship Jupiter (a vivifying spirit that fills the world) and not a dead man.

Saturn, they say, was also not a man but the equivalent of the Greek God Chronos (representing time). Augustine offers the jibe that by making this defense the pagans admit that one of their chief gods is literally temporal (time).

He notes that the Platonic philosophers have countered the Christians by arguing that Saturn comes from the names for fulness (satis) and mind or intellect (nous), so Saturn is “fullness of intellect.” Jupiter then comes from the “the supreme mind” and is the spirit that serves as “the soul of the world.”

If this is the case, Augustine retorts, they should tear down the images and capitol dedicated to Jupiter and erect them to Saturn. Instead, Saturn is a deity typically maligned as evil by the pagans.


Augustine continues to deconstruct the mythology and theology of paganism, pointing to the rational inconsistencies of pagan intellectual interpretations of the myths of Saturn and Jupiter. His ultimate point will be to suggest that the God of Christianity is superior to the myths of paganism, however one might try to interpret them.


Friday, January 14, 2022

The Vision (1.14.22): Warning to Capernaum


Image: Ruins of ancient Capernaum.

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 11:16-24.

And thou Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day (Matthew 11:23).

Matthew tells us that Christ upbraided the cities where his “mighty works” had been done “because they repented not” (Matthew 11:20).

Among those denounced was Capernaum (“the village of Nahum”) mentioned frequently in the Gospels as a chief hub of Christ’s early ministry. In Matthew 4:13 we read how Christ left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum. In Mark 1:21 it says that Christ taught on the sabbath days in the synagogue there. It was the site where he healed the servant of the centurion (see Matthew 8:5).

But even at Capernaum there were those who rejected Christ.

Christ speaks of the city as that “which art exalted unto heaven.” Matthew Poole suggests this was “ether with respect to their trading and outward prosperity, or with respect to the means of grace they enjoyed in hearing Christ’s sermons and seeing his miracles.” Nonetheless, Christ continues by adding that this exalted city of privilege “shalt be brought down to hell” (v. 23).

He contrasts Capernaum’s lack of receptivity with how wicked Sodom would have responded. This was not only a pagan city, but one especially known for its immorality. It was indeed destroyed, alongside Gomorrah, with brimstone and fire in the days of Abraham (see Genesis 18—19). Sodom is a byword in the Scriptures for an evil city. Even degenerate Sodom, however, if the works of Christ had been done in their midst, would have repented and “it would have remained until this day” (v. 23b).

Christ’s point is to emphasize that the “sin of sins” is to reject him. Worse than being a pagan Sodomite is being one who spurns Christ!

How might we apply this warning to ourselves?

Consider the privileges which many of us have been given? Were you raised in a Christian family, taken to a Christian church? Do you have a Bible on the bookshelf (even if rarely read), or are you, at the least, the beneficiary of a society deeply touched by Christ? Still, many given such privileges persist in rejecting him, mocking him.

Here is the warning. A day is coming when all wrongs will be made right. It will be better on that day for Sodom, than for those who, in the end, reject Christ (Matthew 11:24). Rejection of Christ is indeed the “sin of sins.”

Christ stands before us, teaching in his word, plaintively warning, toward the end that we might experience the two great turnings: turning away from our sin in repentance, and turning toward Christ in faith.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, January 13, 2022

WM 219: Changing Goals of Modern Text Criticism Revisited


First WM of 2022. Recorded this on 1/11/22 but had some editing to do and just posted today.


Saturday, January 08, 2022

The Vision (1.7.22): The least in the kingdom greater than John


Image: North Garden, Virginia, January, 2022.

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 11:7-15 (audio not yet available).

Verily I say to unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (Matthew 11:11).

Our Lord had great praise for John the Baptist. None of the godly men of the past exceeded John in greatness. John was, spiritually speaking, the equal of Moses, of David, of Solomon, of Isaiah. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and a spiritual Elijah (Matthew 11:13-14). “Notwithstanding,” our Lord adds, “he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (v. 11b).

Christ teaches us here that the most immature, undisciplined, and inconsistent disciple who enters fully into the kingdom of heaven, knowing that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, the Word made flesh, knowing the fulfillment of Christ’s ministry in his obedience unto death upon the cross and his glorious resurrection from the dead on the third day, and who places his fundamental trust in Christ, is greater even than John the Baptist, and if greater than John greater than all in that great godly line of Old Testament saints.

This does not mean that the Old Testament saints were not saved. They were. In Romans 4:3 Paul said, “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” John the Baptist was likewise a converted man.

The point is not to denigrate John’s faith or that of the great saints of the past, but to magnify our understanding of the blessing and privilege it is to know the Lord Jesus Christ in this age in the fulfillment of his ministry.

In Ephesians 3:5 Paul spoke of a mystery, which “in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”

The apostle Peter, likewise, in 1 Peter 1:12 speaks of the fact that those who preached the gospel to new covenant believers, with the help of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, revealed “things the angels desire to look into.”

The least disciple of Christ is greater than John the Baptist. What privileges have been given to new covenant believers! May we then be good and faithful stewards of these truths revealed to us and not compromise or forfeit them.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Personal Reflections: Ten Interesting Reads in 2021


New Year's Day is a good time for looking back and evaluating. I don’t think the intensity of my reading has decreased that much over the last several years, but I have probably finished fewer books, in favor of reading selective chapters from works, to mine the desired information, without completing them from end to end. Here is an eclectic selection of ten books, however, of at least ten interesting works of various genres that I was able to finish last year:

·       Nicholas Wolterstorff, In this World of Wonders: A Memoir of a Life in Learning (Eerdmans, 2019): 318 pp.

This engaging memoir comes from an influential American philosopher, shaped by Dutch Reformed and left-leaning evangelical traditions. The most interesting part was reading about how his study of aesthetics had practical application in the architectural design of his Grand Rapids home and his collection of art, from artisan chairs to Japanese ceramics.

·       Paul Abidan Shah, Changing the Goalposts of New Testament Textual Criticism (Wipf & Stock, 2020): 195 pp.

Shah accurately identifies the “radical shift” that has taken place in 21st century textual criticism (from the old modern goal of reconstructing the autograph to the new post-modern goal of merely suggesting a possible “initial text”). Unfortunately, he suggests the answer to this shift is trying to recapture the old modern goal, rather than abandoning modern reconstruction altogether. Listen to my review in WM 215.

·       Crawford Gribben, Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford, 2021): 210 pp.

This is a fascinating study of conservative Protestant and Reformed Christian efforts to carve out some version of an enclave of a distinctively Christian culture in the “American Redoubt” of the Pacific Northwest. Gribben, of Queen’s University in Belfast, explains how Doug Wilson is not your father’s Rushdoony. Listen to my interview with the author in WM 199.

·       William H. Willimon, Stories (Abingdon Press, 2020): 251 pp.

Willimon is a mainline Methodist Barthian ecclesiocrat with a Southerner’s gift for telling an engaging story (even if you can’t agree with him theologically). These “stories” are drawn from his many books and articles written over a long career.

·       Hilarion Alfeyev, The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ: His Life & Teaching, Volume 2 (SVSP, 2019): 432 pp.

This is the second in a projected six-part series on the life and teaching of Jesus. It focuses on an extensive exposition of Matthew 5—7 from an Eastern Orthodox perspective. Listen to my review of Volume 1 in this series here.

·       E. M. Cioran, The New Gods, trans. by Richard Howard (Quadrangle, NY Times Book Co., 1969): 120 pp.

I picked this used volume off the shelf at the Blue Whale Books in Charlottesville after having read the author’s The Trouble of Being Born a few years back. Cioran is a Romanian-born philosopher, banned under communism, exiled to France, misanthropic, pessimistic, acerbic, hero of modern “Anti-Natalists,” and master of aphorism. Not a Christian work, but sometimes recalls the rants of Qoheleth.

·       Matthew Y. Emerson, He Descended to the Dead: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday (IVP, 2019): 251 pp.

Thought provoking study of the descent clause. Found this helpful when I preached through the Apostle’s Creed. Listen to the series here.

·       Arthur C. Clarke, 2001 A Space Odyssey (ACE, 1968, 1999): 297 pp.

I read this sci-fi work, which served as the basis for the classic film, when I needed a break from reading theology. Predicts the internet, zoom calls, and space travel.

·       John David Punch, The Pericope Adulterae: Theories of Insertion & Omission: An Academic Essay in Theology (Doctoral Thesis, Radbound University, Nijmegen, 2010): 417 pp.

I found this book to be very helpful when preparing to teach and defend John 7:53—8:11.

·       James Romm, Ed. Seneca, How To Keep Your Cool: An Ancient Guide to Anger Management (Princeton University Press, 2019): 220 pp.

A modern diglot (Latin and English) edition of the Stoic Master’s De Ira (On Anger), abbreviated to read like a script from a TED Talk.


Personal Reflections: A Dozen Memorable Events of 2021


Image: Facade of Met Tab, London.

The Lord blessed me with some very kind providences in 2021. I hope this list is not taken as “boasting” but as an expression of sincere gratitude for many unexpected and undeserved blessings in 2021. Here is a list of a dozen such things (in chronological order):

·       I taught on text of Scripture at the Kept Pure Conference at the Five Solas Church in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, and got to meet and spend time with many friends, including Christian McShaffrey, Bill Greendyke, and Anne Hills Brown (daughter of E. F. Hills), March 26-27, 2021.

·       I watched my two younger sons win the VACA state championship in baseball for Grace Christian School and saw my son Isaiah given the conference MVP and tournament MVP awards, May 22, 2021.

·       Thanks to an anonymous gift from a church member, I attended for the first time since 2009 the Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, May 25-27, 2021.

·       I taught the children of CRBC on the Life of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) in our annual VBS, June 14-17, 2021.

·       I spent a week with my family at Topsail Island, North Carolina, June 28—July 3, 2021.

·       I enjoyed supper at Toscano’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts with my family and Dr. Jay Rhee, a friend I had not seen in 18 years, July 7, 2021.

·       I contributed an essay to the festschrift, A Workman Not Ashamed: Essays in Honor of Albert N. Martin (Free Grace Press, 2021).

·       I taught an intensive class on the Gospels at IRBS Seminary and preached at Heritage RBC, in Mansfield, Texas, August 3-8, 2021.

·       I attended the Christ-centered wedding of Fraser and Lily Jones (who met at the 2019 Text and Conference in Atlanta!) in Greenfield, Indiana, August 14, 2021.

·       I attended and gave the “Orientation” to the 20th annual Keach Conference, hosted this year at Redeeming Grace Church, Gloucester, Virginia, September 25, 2021.

·       I taught and preached at Metropolitan Tabernacle Church in London, November 27-29, 2021.

·       I attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Choir of Westminster Abbey and the St. James Baroque with my family in Westminster Abbey, November 30, 2021.

“my cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5).