Friday, May 26, 2023

The Vision (5.26.23): The false "repentance" of Judas


Note: Devotional taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 27:1-14.

“Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself…” (Matthew 27:3a).

Judas stands in the Gospel accounts as a prototype for the “false professor.” What privileges and advantages had been given to him, to be close to Christ and an eyewitness of his ministry! In the end, however, Judas showed that he was not a genuine disciple.

Did he betray Christ because he thought it might spur a revolt against the Romans? We do not know. Matthew does tell us that when Judas saw that Christ was condemned by the chief priests and taken to the Roman governor Pilate to be crucified (as Christ had prophesied) that Judas “repented himself.”

This description stands out and might be easily misunderstood. Does this mean that Judas was filled with godly remorse? Was his conscience made tender and burdened with guilt at his sin against God? Does this correspond with the bitter tears of Peter (26:75)? Sadly, we must conclude when the situation is studied closely that there is no evidence of true “evangelical repentance” by Judas.

The verb (metamelomai) used in Matthew 27:3 to describe the “repentance” of Judas has the meaning of regret. There is no real evidence that Judas exhibited godly sorrow for what he had done to Christ. It is more accurate to say he felt sorrow for what he had done to himself. Judas had compromised his integrity and been used by the religious leaders to reach their ends, and then he felt deep regret about this.

The verb (meta-no-eo) is the term used in the New Testament to refer to evangelical repentance, godly sorrow for one’s sin that leads to a spiritual change of mind and heart, to turning away, with sincere revulsion from sin, and turning toward Christ. This is the term used in Acts 2:38 when Peter preached the cross and resurrection of Christ at Pentecost and their hearts were pricked. Peter declared, “Repent, and be baptized everyone one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins….” This is not the term, however, used to describe Judas’s “repentance.”

If Judas shed tears that day, they were crocodile tears, not the bitter tears of true repentance, which Peter wept.

The experience of Judas stands as a warning, a sign-post, for all those who falsely profess faith in Christ and who then betray the Lord. Their end is disgust and destruction.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Augustine, Harmony of the Evangelists.2.6-8: John the Baptist & the Two Herods


Image: John the Baptist, Byzantine medallion from an icon frame, c. 1,100, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

In this episode, we are looking at Book 2, chapter 6-8 where Augustine discusses the appearance of John the Baptist in all four Gospels, explains the mention of two Herods (Herod the Great King of the Jews and his son Herod tetrarch of Galilee) in the Gospels, and Matthew’s mention of Archelaus.

2.6: On the position given to the preaching of John the Baptist in all the four evangelists.

Augustine calls attention to the fact that all four Gospels describe the ministry of John the Baptist. For Matthew and Luke, John’s public preaching ministry begins after their respective birth narratives. Mark does not have the birth narrative but starts in 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” and then proceeds to John’s ministry. Luke makes mention of the political setting (Luke 3:1-2) before describing John’s ministry. John also appears early in the prologue to the Fourth Gospel: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John” (John 1:6). The four Gospel accounts of John the Baptist, according to Augustine, “are not at variance with one another.” The differences in detail among the four Gospels do not demand the same detailed analysis as required with the genealogies. He encourages his readers to apply the same methodology he used to harmonize apparent differences in the genealogies to other such passages in the Gospels.

2.7: Of the two Herods.

Augustine here draws a distinction between Herod the Great, under whose reign Christ was born, and his son Herod the tetrarch of Galilee in the event someone might be confused about the mention of Herod’s death in Matthew 2:15, 19 (Herod the Great) and the mention of Herod the tetrarch ruling in Galilee in Luke 3:1. His response indicates that this was apparently an area where some critics of the Gospels had claimed a contradiction.

2.8: An explanation of the statement made by Matthew, to the effect that Joseph was afraid to go with the infant Christ into Jerusalem on account of Archelaus, yet was not afraid to go into Galilee, where Herod, that prince’s brother, was tetrarch.

Augustine here anticipates another point at which the Gospel readers might encounter confusion. Matthew 2:22 says that Joseph was fearful to go to Judea when he heard Archelaus ruled there, but then he went to Galilee where Herod ruled. Augustine explains, however, that Galilee was not ruled by Archelaus but by Herod the tetrarch. He notes a time difference between when Archelaus ruled (and was replaced by Pontius Pilate) and the time when the family of Jesus settled in Nazareth.


Augustine offers a harmonious and unified account of John the Baptist across all four Gospels. He is attentive to any perceived misunderstandings that might arise as to the mention of historical figures like the two Herods and Archelaus. We also see again in this section some textual differences between Augustine’s Old Latin text and the traditional Greek text of the New Testament. For example, when citing Mark 1:2 Augustine reads, “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah”; whereas, the traditional text reads, “As it is written in the prophets.”


Thursday, May 18, 2023

Augustine, Harmony of the Evangelists.2.5: Harmonizing the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke


Image: James Tissot, Les rois mages chez Hérode (The Magi in the House of Herod), c. 1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum.

In this episode we are looking at Book 2, chapter 5 where Augustine harmonizes the infancy narrative in Matthew 1—2 and that in Luke 1—2.

2.5: A statement of the manner in which Luke’s procedure is proved to be in harmony with Matthew’s in those matters concerning the conception and the infancy of the boyhood of Christ, which are omitted by the one and recorded by the other.

Augustine argues that there is “no contradiction” between the two evangelist in their respective infancy narratives. Luke sets forth in detail what Matthew omitted. Both bear witness “that Mary conceived by the Holy Ghost.” There is “no want of concord between them.”

Matthew and Luke both affirm that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Each is also unique. Only Matthew has the visit of the magi. Only Luke has the manger, the angel announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, the multitude of the heavenly host praising God, etc.

Augustine notes that a deserving inquiry can be raised as to the precise timing of the events in both Matthew and Luke, and how they can be harmonized with one another. He then provides a narrative in which he weaves Matthew chapters 1-2 and Luke 1-2 into one unified account, in this order:

Matthew 1:18: Introduction

Luke 1:5-36: The conception of John and Jesus

Matthew 1:18-25: Announcement to Joseph

Luke 1:57—2:21: Luke’s birth account (shepherds, angels)

Matthew 2:1-12: Matthew’s account of birth (wise men)

Luke 2:22-39: The visit to Jerusalem

Matthew 2:13-23: Flight to Egypt and return to Nazareth

Luke 2:40-52: Family Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus is twelve


Augustine provides his own merging of the two infancy narratives, perhaps in the same way earlier writers like Tatian had attempted to blend the Gospels into one account in his Diatessaron. Augustine is likely drawing on Old Latin translations and his narrative provides several interesting textual variants. For example, the angelic announcement in Luke 2:14 reads “and on earth peace to men of good will [Hominibus bonae voluntatis],” diverging from the traditional text, which would be rendered, “and on earth peace, good will toward men.” So, this chapter is interesting not just for insights into harmonization but also textual issues via the Old Latin version(s) cited.


Friday, May 12, 2023

WM 280: Debunking the anecdote that Sinaiticus & Vaticanus were "de luxe" copies ordered by Constantine



First: The legend articulated:

Background to the legend: Eusebius, The Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine, 4.36-37.

The legend promoted: See Fragments of Truth video (42:29).

Second: Three Reasons the legend is NOT true.

First: There is no explicit evidence that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were among the “de luxe” copies mentioned by Eusebius. There are certainly no indications of this in the mss. themselves.

Second: According to Eusebius, the copies ordered by Constantine were for the church in and around Constantinople.

Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, however, are both generally associated with Egypt.

To use now outdated text-type language. Copies made in Constantinople would most likely have reflected the “Byzantine” text and not the “Alexandrian” text.

Third: There are numerous differences between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which would be unlikely if they had been among these works that were made to order.

Dean John Burgon in The Revision Revised (1881) noted thousands of differences between the two manuscripts in the Gospels alone (see this article).

There is even a significant difference in the ordering of the books. Sinaiticus places Acts after the Pauline letters and before the General epistles, while Vaticanus places Acts after the Gospels and before the Pauline epistles.

Three: This legend has long-been discounted even by mainstream scholars.


Bruce Metzger, The Text of the NT: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (1964): 7-8.

D. C. Parker, Codex Sinaiticus: The Story of the World’s Oldest Bible (2010): 19-22.


Clearly, this scholarly legend has been fabricated by some to promote a level of prestige and acceptance of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus as premiere authorities.


The Vision (5.12.23): The Passive Obedience of Christ


Image: Rhododendron, North Garden, Virginia, May, 2023.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 26:57-68.

But Jesus held his peace (Matthew 26:63a).

In Matthew 26:57-68 we read of Christ’s trial before Caiaphas, the high priest. Two false witnesses bring slander against our Lord (vv. 60-61). In the face of these false charges, Christ simply stood in silence and made no effort to explain or defend himself.

This was so unsettling to the high priest that he asked our Lord, “Answerest thou nothing?” (v. 62). In v. 63, Matthew notes, “But Jesus held his peace.” He was, in fact, fulfilling Isaiah 53:7 “as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

Aside from the fulfillment of prophecy notice three other things about Christ’s response:

First, it demonstrates the perfection and strength of his character. He had the spiritual fruit of self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) in a perfect measure. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:7, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”

Second, it demonstrated his perfect trust in God the Father to vindicate his cause. He was resting in that knowledge and did not, therefore, feel compelled to justify, defend, or explain himself. As Paul will write: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Third, it demonstrated what theologians call the passive obedience of Christ. In his life and ministry Christ demonstrated active obedience to the law. For example, he went to Jerusalem for the Passover each year (cf. Deut 16:16); he loved his neighbor as himself (Leviticus 19:18); etc. Yet he also demonstrated passive obedience to the God’s plan of salvation. The triune God had ordained that there would be one who would give his life a ransom for many. And the Lord Jesus Christ, as the eternal Son of God made flesh, did not run from this task. He did not seek to avoid it. He did not protest or complain about it. He embraced it.

We might note at least two things we gained from this:

First, we are the beneficiaries of Christ’s obedience. “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

Second, Christ provided us a model for suffering in the face of injustice. As Peter will put it, he gave us “an example” that we “should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Peter adds of our Lord, “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (v. 23).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Augustine, Harmony of the Evangelists.2.3-4: Genealogies


Image: Saint Augustine Basilica overlooking the ruins of Hippo Regius.

This is a series of readings from and notes and commentary upon Augustine of Hippo’s Harmony of the Evangelists.

In this episode we are looking at Book 2, chapter 3-4 where Augustine addresses both supposed conflicts between and among the genealogies of Matthew 1 and Luke 3.

2.3: A statement of the reason why Matthew enumerates one succession of ancestors for Christ, and Luke another.

Augustine begins by noting in particular a difference between Matthew and Luke in the line between David and Joseph in the two genealogies. They follow different directions with Matthew offering a series “beginning with David and traveling downwards to Joseph,” and Luke, on the other hand, having “a different succession, ”tracing it from Joseph upwards….” The main source of the difference, however, is in the order between Joseph and David and the fact that Joseph is listed as having two different fathers. Augustine explains that one of these was Joseph’s natural father by whom he was physically begotten (Jacob, in Matthew), and the other was his adopted father (Heli, in Luke). Both of these lines led to David.

Augustine further notes that adoption was an ancient custom. Though terms like “to beget” generally indicate natural fatherhood, Augustine notes that natural terms can also be used metaphorically, so Christians can speak of being begotten by God (e.g., cf. John 1:12-13: “to them he gave power to become the sons of God”). Augustine thus concludes, “It would be no departure from the truth, therefore, even had Luke said that Joseph was begotten by the person by whom he was really adopted.” Nevertheless, he sees significance in the fact that Matthew says “Jacob begat Joseph” (Matthew 1:16; indicating he was the natural father) and Luke says, “Joseph, which was the son of Heli” (Luke 3:23; indicating he was the adopted father of Joseph). Those unwilling to seek harmonizing explanations of such texts “prefer contention to consideration.”

2.4: Of the reason why forty generations (not including Christ Himself) are found in Matthew, although he divides them into three successions of fourteen each.

Augustine begins by noting that consideration of this matter requires a reader “of the greatest attention and carefulness.” Matthew who stresses the kingly character of Christ lists forty names in his genealogy. The number forty is of obvious spiritual significance in the Bible. Moses and Elijah each fasted for forty days, as did Christ himself in his temptation. After his resurrection, Christ also appeared to his disciples for forty days. He sees numerological significance in the fact that forty is four time ten. There are four directions (North, South, East, and West) and ten is the sum of the first four numbers.

Matthew intentionally desires to list forty generations, but he also suggests three successive eras (Abraham to David; David to Babylonian exile; Babylonian exile to Christ). This would be fourteen generations each for a total of forty-two, but Matthew, Augustine suggests, offers a double enumeration of Jechonias, making it “a kind of corner” and excluding it from the overall count, resulting then in the more spiritually significant number forty.

Augustine suggests that Matthew’s genealogy stresses Christ taking our sins upon himself, while Luke, who focuses on Christ as a Priest, stresses “the abolition of our sins.” He sees significance in Matthew’s line from David through Solomon by Bathsheba, acknowledging David’s sin, while Luke’s line flows from David through Nathan, whom Augustine erroneously ties to the prophet Nathan, by whose confrontation with David, God took away sin.

He also sees numerological significance in the fact that Luke’s genealogy includes seventy-seven persons (counting Christ and God himself). He sees the number seventy-seven as referring to “the purging of all sin.” Eleven breaks the perfect number ten, and it was the number of curtains of haircloth in the temple (Exodus 26:7). Seven is the number of days in the week. Seventy-seven is the product of eleven times seven, and so it is “the sign of sin in its totality.”


The harmonization of the genealogies has been a perennial issue in Gospel studies from the earliest days of Christianity (see Eusebius’ citation of Africanus in his EH). Augustine maintains the continuity and unity of both Gospel genealogies while also noting the uniqueness of each individual Gospel account. In both genealogies Augustine offers pre-critical insight into the intentional use of spiritually significant numbers (forty in Matthew; seventy-seven in Luke) to heighten what he sees as the theological perspectives and intentions of the Evangelists.



Here's a chart showing Augustine's breakdown of the genealogy in Matt 1:1-17 which yields 40 names according to his calculation. He excludes in his scheme Jechonias as "a kind of corner" and Jesus Christ as "the kingly president" over the whole.

Monday, May 08, 2023

Used Bookshop Discovery: Palestinian Syriac Texts from Palimpsest Fragments in the Taylor-Schechter Collection (1900)

Note: This post is taken from my twitter: @Riddle1689

Stopped at a used bookshop in Charlottesville on Saturday and ran across this volume titled Palestinian Syriac Texts from Palimpsest Fragments in the Taylor-Schechter Collection (1900) by the Victorian era Scottish twin "Sinai Sisters" Agnes Smith Lewis & Margaret Dunlop Gibson.

The volume includes Syriac fragments from various OT and NT books with Greek reconstructions. At the end it has 8 facsimili plates of the fragments (including one extended trifold).

You can find here an online edition of the work taken from a volume in the Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

I wonder how many original hard copies of this volume still exist. But one is in my library now. It cost me a whopping $12.

More images from the book:

Friday, May 05, 2023

The Vision (5.5.23): Thus it must be


Image: Lily, North Garden, Virginia, May 2023.

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 26:47-56.

Matthew 26:53 Thinkest thou that I cannot pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

After our Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane, Judas led the mob to arrest him. Peter drew his sword and struck a glancing blow, cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant (see Matthew 26:51). Christ however commanded that Peter put the sword back in its place, stating, “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (v. 52).

Christ then proceeded to say to Peter and the rest in v. 53: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” A Roman legion consisted of 6,000 soldiers, so twelve legions of angels would have been 72,000 angels.

We are reminded here of the incarnate Son’s intimate communion with the Father. We are also reminded of the Son’s passive obedience regarding his passion. It is not that he lacks the power to throw off this puny mob that has come to arrest him, as though he were a thief, with swords and staves. He did not need Peter’s toothpick of a sword to defend him. He had myriads of angels at this command. But he goes to the cross as an act of obedience.

This point is cinched in v. 54 in the question he posed: “But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” The last phrase is of interest, “Thus it must be.” In Greek this phrase includes a short particle (dei) with the infinitive, indicating that something is necessary to come about. It is sometimes called the divine dei. It is God’s will that Christ go to the cross.

Christ’s death upon the cross is not, in the end, according to the evil will of men, but according to the good will of God, the Father. We can look back at Christ’s words in 26:24a: “The Son of man goeth as it Is written of him.”

This has been Matthew’s constant emphasis throughout his Gospel, stressing that the events of Christ’s life take place in fulfillment of Scripture. This started with his virgin birth (Matt 1:22-23), continued in his public ministry in Galilee (4:13-16); and now includes his passion.

In being arrested and going to the cross for sinners, Christ fulfilled in obedience the divine plan of salvation in the covenant of redemption. Thus it must be.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

2023 Virginia Reformed Baptist Youth Conference: Friday-Saturday, July 21-22

Image: Scene from 2022 Youth Conference

Conference: Designed for youth ages 13-19 who are members or participants in Reformed Baptist Churches in Virginia. Sponsored by Christ RBC, Louisa.

Venue: Machen Conference Center (OPC) in Highland County (the "little Switzerland" of Virginia)

Theme: The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit

Speaker: Daniel Vincent, deacon and "Gifted Brother" from Covenant RBC, Warrenton. Host of the Particular Baptist Podcast.