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Just who is the Son of God?

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Sunday School, Trinity on March 27, 2011 at 3:01 pm

 

 

Are there just 3 somebody’s in the Trinity is this some kind of mystic math? Isn’t loving Jesus enough why bother with all this 1st person 2nd person stuff? I mean really I just want to love Jesus and sing!

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

 

Mat 17:2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

 

(Heb 6:1-2 HCSB)  Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

 

Seeing God’s glory in the flesh witnessing how the Son existed with the Father and His revealing His true nature calls for some major rethinking and deeper investigating. The incarnation of the Son made a distinction and revealed more than a God that no one had ever seen. Language fails, minds fall short for explanation, disbelief tempts us, doubt and misunderstanding overtake our thinking, and then it becomes apparent God is one and more than one at the same time! HOW can this be? God introduced us to the Son and the Spirit and put them in human history. This was the mystery revealed from the prophets, they saw in the distance. This was the secret that was kept till the right time and place in history. We saw hints in the older testament of the preincarnate Christ and the best definition we have are theophanies but that is nothing to the revelation that happened in Bethlehem. Finally God allowed an encounter with how He truly is, how He really exists: as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We will never have the understanding it takes to grasp this, but what we do know goes all through eternity to who God is internally, eternally, and essentially. Remember the words we use fall short of accurate but are generally the only way we can express this marvelous revelation who knew that there are relationships of origin in the life of the Trinity.

One of the best examples of this is in the revelation of who the Son is. For Trinitarian reasons the second person of the Trinity is eternally the Son of the Father. The differences that make the word son expand from its earthly meaning and apply to a Son that is essential and eternal.

1st. First he cannot be younger than his father.

2nd. Second He is alone the son of the Living God because this exhausts the totality of essential son-ship in himself.

3rd. Third because of his eternal position He could not have a mother.

After we remove these particular temporal aspects of a son we are left with something that requires definition. The Son cannot be a different kind of being than his Father, which leaves someone from His very being. This allows for the Son to be co-equal with the Father not a lower being but on the same level as God. Next the Son exists in that relationship of originating from the Father- He comes from the Father. We define that relationship of origin with the word begetting, so the language we use to say that the Father begets the Son.  We could also say that the Father, fathers the Son. Different attempts to define this existence used expressions like the Father sires the Son this old fashioned word now has more to do with animal discussions than with eternal understandings. Beget is another word from the Queen’s English or the King James Bible type of speaking that is no longer used in modernity. For better clarity and to prevent misunderstandings we could express it as eternal begetting or eternal generation. The Bible is very clear regarding any language “that once upon a time the Son was begotten by the Father, never having existed before” being incorrect in understanding and language. There was never a time when the Son wasn’t the Son, the Father wasn’t the Father, and the Spirit was the Spirit. The Son always stands in this relationship of from-ness or eternal begottenness.

John 17:24 Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation.

What we are describing after the addition of the Spirit is the ontological Trinity or the immanent Trinity which includes these eternal relations of origin. This is the classic way of describing the eternal life of the triune God in him. This has been the understanding from the very beginning of the primitive church. The early fathers of the church with the acceptance of the community of believers saw the single/plurality of God “the three oneness or one three-ness” of God. Until the sending of the Son then the giving of the Holy Spirit people could only catch glimpses and shadows of the Tri-unity of God. When the God who is here, through the Son that was given, Immanuel, Jesus the Christ, the Son of Man, Jehovah cried “tetelestai” it is finished, the veil was torn in half in the Holy of Holies and for the first time since the fall God would be able to commune with His creatures personally.

Matthew 13:35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

 

We need to be extremely careful how we handle the truth of the Trinity and explain it in a particularly careful way. More than anything we should never describe the Trinity in a way that goes in any direction beyond what God has revealed. God claims the things that are secret. Be careful of anything that over clarifies or defines something as infinite as the Triune God of this universe. The same concept applies to the dual nature of the Son. Nothing can completely describe the man God Jesus the Christ, how can we describe 100 percent God and 100 percent man? If we can explain the dual nature of Christ the Trinity is easy by comparison.  Information concerning the Trinity is most precious and we should not be found missing what God has revealed about himself to us. Those things revealed belong to us and the family of God for eternity. The Trinity keeps our understanding of relationships of origin and sonship in proper perspective. The Son and the Holy Spirit have always come from the Father.

 

The Trinity is the background of the gospel of salvation and redemption as provided by God. God for us only makes sense if there is a God in himself reconciling us to himself through the Son. The language of redemption only makes sense in this setting. The prayers that Jesus the Christ the Son of Man offered only make sense if they are spoken to some other in eternity. The prayer of Christ spoken in John is understandable only if there is more than one in the Godhead. If God the Father is sending the Son then the giving and receiving make sense otherwise why would this prayer would be spoken and described in Holy Scripture?

 

John 17:1-11 HCSB Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You,  for You gave Him authority over all flesh; so He may give eternal life to all You have given Him. This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent–Jesus Christ. I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed. I have revealed Your name to the men You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.  Now they know that all things You have given to Me are from You, because the words that You gave Me, I have given them. They have received them and have known for certain that I came from You. They have believed that You sent Me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those You have given Me, because they are Yours. All My things are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one.

 

The concept of the Trinity has to be revealed since the Son was revealed in human history otherwise it would still be a secret yet to be discovered as the Son was prior to the incarnation. The language of Trinity comes from scripture and forces us to deal with how God is. Then the giving of the helper the Holy Spirit requires proper thinking and describing. Once the Son began His purpose of atonement that begins the process of describing how God exists. Jesus claimed to be God and the Son of God from all eternity at the same time. Obviously the Jews understood His claim because they wanted to stone Him for blasphemy and claiming equality with God was a crime unless you really were equal. That is when we were shown the proper meaning of the fatherhood of God the Father. At the same time the defining of the relationship of the eternal Son that has always existed with the Father and sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has been proceeding from the Father since eternity past. Remember the eternal life of God in himself is something “even better than the good news of the gospel” and we have the responsibility to handle this with reverence. This better explained that God’s eternal life as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a way of existing in eternal blessedness and perfection. God is the core of the gospel of repentance and salvation.  God in himself is perfectly happy; being perfect he cannot improve anything about himself. Susannah Wesley is quoted as saying that God is “perfect eternal blessedness” a being “that cannot receive any accession (attaining more of) of perfection or happiness from his creatures” He provides to us what he already has happiness and blessedness. Our vision of God with no unmet needs is how God exists already “in other words the good news starts far outside of us, in the life of the blessed Trinity which is complete in itself and suffers from no lack” quoted from The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity changes everything Fred Sanders author. What a wonderful and exciting moment when we realize that grace has a double portion when the Trinity is complete in itself and God still chose to redeem us! That is truly grace being unneeded, ungrateful, selfish, fallen evil creatures that rejected Him, he still choose in His completeness to seek and save us from our torment and sin.

 

Col 1:15-20 HCSB  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation; because by Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.  He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross–whether things on earth or things in heaven.

 

Amen and Amen

God the Father

In Apologetics on March 18, 2011 at 10:37 pm
(Isa 44:6 ESV)  Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.
1Co 8:6  But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
(Eph 4:6 ESV)  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
(1Ti 6:13-16 ESV)  I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time–he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
The concept of Trinity is can never be fully, explained, illustrations fall short; descriptions can never define the revelation that is Trinity. So as I feebly attempt to define my experience of the Trinity please bear with me it’s as though I am trying to explain the Grand Canyon to a foreigner who is visiting America for the first time. One of the major issues I find in misconceptions of the tri-unity of God is our understanding of the terms used to illustrate how we define the nature and being of God as he exists and expresses himself.
The New Testament obviously features these three characters, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Classically, Christian theology has traced these persons back to an eternal Trinity of God in himself. Since this threefoldness belongs to what God actually is rather than being only something he freely does, it has been called the ontological Trinity, the essential Trinity, or the Trinity of being.
First the being that is God expressed in three persons the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The idea of fatherhood conjures visions of a gentile, old grandpa God. Many reduce His existence into someone we can on a moment’s notice demand his attention; require his intervention with a careless promise of some proper behavior because we are in trouble. Somehow He is only welcome at most when we are unable or unwilling to deal with a difficult issue in our lives. Then when all is well we dispatch Him back to his quaint heaven that someday He will surly require our presence to make it complete. Contrast this with scripture and we are very quickly introduced to a much more engaged, caring, active person who at His will intervenes in the lives of His creatures. He is defined by relationship and His own definition of existence more than His actions carried out in our lives. He is God the Father in the first place, for Trinitarian reasons. There is not a point when He wasn’t the Father. He did not become Father at some point in history; to say he was not- the -Father then had some kind of metamorphous into the Father in ancient history is the wrong concept of Trinitarian fatherhood. The title God the Father wasn’t conjured up by some old men sitting around a Jerusalem campfire and the number of persons in the Trinity determined to be 3 out of some arbitrary decision.  God the Father never existed without his Son, so he was always God the Father. We can too easily slip into conversations about the blessings and actions of God as awesome and wonderful as they are but that is not WHO He is! He is, was and will always be with or without any of His actions God the Father. If all of mankind had never existed He would be God the Father. If the Universe had never been created He would still be God the Father. If He never redeemed the human race by giving His Son He would still be God the Father. Trinitarian fatherhood is not dependent on birth as in natural man, but in majesty and position in the Heavenly places.
In the nt, ‘father’ can refer to the male progenitor (e.g., Matt. 1:1-16; Mark 1:20; Acts 28:8), but in most instances it is used to refer to God. This Christian practice probably derives from the intimate term for father that Jesus used to address God (Heb. and Aram. abba; Mark 14:36; cf. Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). ‘Father’ is also the term for God Jesus used in the prayer he taught his followers (Luke 11:2). Rather than being derived from a human analogy, the term ‘Father’ for God represents the ideal by whom every human father is to be judged (Eph. 3:14-15). See also Curse and Blessing; Family,[1]
Father — a name applied (1) to any ancestor (Deut. 1:11; 1 Kings 15:11; Matt. 3:9; 23:30, etc.); and (2) as a title of respect to a chief, ruler, or elder, etc. (Judg. 17:10; 18:19; 1 Sam. 10:12; 2 Kings 2:12; Matt. 23:9, etc.). (3) The author or beginner of anything is also so called; e.g., Jabal and Jubal (Gen. 4:20, 21; comp. Job 38:28).
Applied to God (Ex. 4:22; Deut. 32:6; 2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 89:27, 28, etc.). (1.) As denoting his covenant relation to the Jews (Jer. 31:9; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; John 8:41, etc.).
(2.) Believers are called God’s “sons” (John 1:12; Rom. 8:16; Matt. 6:4, 8, 15, 18; 10:20, 29). They also call him “Father” (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:4) [2]
There are three differing views on the term Father as it is used to mean other than progenitor of a family. God is Father of the Son by definition clearly spelled out in Holy Scripture. The most vivid example of this is John 3:16.
(John 3:16 ESV)  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
A child was born in Bethlehem but a Son was given! Fatherhood existed in eternity past, present and eternity future.
The Father is eternal in Rom 16:26,27, He is the creator of all things Psalms 100:3, omnipresent Jer.23:24, omniscient 1 John 3:20. The Father wills and acts supernaturally Eph 1:5, gives life Gen 1:11-31, John 5:21, and finally He strengthens believers Psa 138:3!
In The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (Fred Sanders) we read:
There are not many alternatives to taking this mental step back into the eternal Trinity. One alternative would be to say that God in himself is really unipersonal but that when he reveals himself to us, he reveals himself in different aspects as Father, Son, and Spirit. But that would mean that a unipersonal God shows himself as tri-personal, which is not properly showing himself at all, but showing precisely what he is not. Another alternative would be to say that a merely unipersonal God was first the Father, then the Son, and then the Spirit. But that kind of serial monotheism cannot do justice to the biblical episodes in which the Father and the Son address each other in interpersonal communication. A one-personed God who puts on different masks for different tasks, or goes into different modes when he is in different moods, or plays different roles with different rules, is not the Trinity of the Christian faith. To settle for such limited knowledge of the Trinity would be a theological tragedy, not as bad as the heretical modalism’s of the other alternatives but still quite debilitating for Christian faith. We know much more than that there are three somebodies in God. When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, the glory that he showed the apostles was “glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14). We have met the Son and the Holy Spirit, in person, as the Father has sent them into human history. The Christian experience of salvation is an encounter with the true God as he truly exists: as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We certainly do not know everything about the persons of the Trinity, but what we do know extends all the way into who God is, internally, eternally, and essentially.
Finally looking at the Trinity in expression: The Chalcedonian Creed
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood;truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood;in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood;one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God (μονογενῆ Θεὸν), the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.


nt New Testament

[1] Paul J. Achtemeier, Publishers Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 305.

[2] M.G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

Trust and Obey

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Trinity on March 17, 2011 at 5:30 am

Copy of devotional on LOGOS this morning!

But Samuel replied, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

Life can often be a restless, disrupted existence until we give ourselves wholeheartedly to something beyond ourselves and follow and obey it supremely. Such implicit trust in God’s great love and wisdom with a sincere desire to follow His leading should be every Christian’s goal. Our willingness to trust and obey is always the first step toward God’s blessing in our lives.In 1886 Daniel B. Towner, director of the music department at Moody Bible Institute, was leading the music for evangelist D. L. Moody’s series of meetings in Brockton, Massachusetts. A young man rose to give a testimony, saying, “I am not quite sure—but I am going to trust, and I am going to obey.” Mr. Towner jotted down this statement and sent it to the Rev. J. H. Sammis, a Presbyterian minister and later a teacher at Moody, who wrote the present five stanzas.

Salvation is God’s responsibility.

Our responsibility is to trust in that salvation and then to obey its truths.

“Trust and Obey” presents a balanced view of a believer’s trust in Christ’s redemptive work, and it speaks of the resulting desire to obey Him and do His will in our daily lives. Then, and only then, do we experience real peace and joy.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies, but His smile quickly drives it away; not a doubt nor a fear, not a sigh nor a tear, can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, but our toil He doth richly repay;

not a grief nor a loss, not a frown nor a cross, but is blest if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love until all on the altar we lay, for the favor He shows and the joy He bestows are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet, or we’ll walk by His side in the way; what He says we will do, where He sends we will go—Never fear, only trust and obey.

Chorus: Trust and obey—for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus—but to trust and obey.

Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), 88.

Stand to Reason: Is the New Testament Text Reliable?

In Apologetics on March 8, 2011 at 6:16 am

Stand to Reason: Is the New Testament Text Reliable?.

In the spring of 1989 syndicated talk show host Larry King interviewed Shirley MacLaine on the New Age. When a Christian caller contested her view with an appeal to the New Testament, MacLaine brushed him off with the objection that the Bible has been changed and translated so many times over the last 2000 years that it’s impossible to have any confidence in its accuracy. King was quick to endorse her “facts.” “Everyone knows that,” he grunted.[1]

This appeal to common knowledge is enough to satisfy the ordinary, man-on-the-street critic of the New Testament. An appeal to the game “telephone” to demonstrate how reasonable this objection is. Whisper a message to one person and transfer it from person to person, ear to ear, in a circle. Then compare the message’s final form with the original. The radical transformation of the original phrase in so short a period of time is always good for a few laughs. This comparison is enough to convince the casual skeptic that the New Testament documents are equally unreliable.

The argument against the reliability of the New Testament texts can be stated very simply. How can we know that the documents we have in our possession accurately reflect originals destroyed almost two millennia ago? Communication is never perfect; people make mistakes. Errors are compounded with each successive generation, just like the message in the telephone game. By the time 2000 years pass, it’s anyone’s guess what the original said.

It’s easy to state the problem, and some may think merely raising the objection makes the argument itself compelling. Yet offering evidence on its behalf is a bit more difficult.

Usually the complaint is raised by people who have little understanding of the real issues. In cases like this, an appeal to common knowledge is more often than not an appeal to common ignorance. Like many questions about Christianity, this objection is voiced by people who haven’t been given reliable information.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

The question of authenticity is not really a religious concern at all; it’s an academic one. It can be answered in an academic way totally unrelated to spiritual convictions by a simple appeal to facts, an apologetic technique I call “Just the Facts, Ma’am.”

The objection at first glance is compelling. When we try to conceptualize how to reconstruct an original after 2000 years of copying, translating, and copying some more, the task appears impossible. The skepticism, though, is based on two misconceptions about the transmission of ancient documents like the New Testament.

The first assumption is that the transmission is more or less linear, as in the telephone example–one person communicating to a second who communicates with a third, etc. In a linear paradigm people are left with one message and many generations between it and the original. Second, the telephone game example depends on oral transmission which is more easily distorted and misconstrued than something written.

Neither assumption applies to the written text of the New Testament. First, the transmission was not linear but geometric–e.g., one letter birthed five copies which became 25 which became 200 and so on. Secondly, the transmission in question was done in writing, and written manuscripts can be tested in a way that oral communications cannot be.

Reconstructing Aunt Sally’s Letter

Let me illustrate how such a test can be made. It will help you to see how scholars can confidently reconstruct the text from existing manuscript copies even though the copies themselves have differences and are much older than the autograph (i.e., the original).

Pretend your Aunt Sally has a dream in which she learns the recipe for an elixir that would continuously maintain her youth. When she wakes up, she scribbles the directions on a scrap of paper, then runs into the kitchen to make up her first glass. In a few days her appearance is transformed. Sally is a picture of radiant youth because of her daily dose of what comes to be known as “Aunt Sally’s Secret Sauce.”

Sally is so excited she sends hand-written instructions to her three bridge partners (Aunt Sally is still in the technological dark ages–no photocopier) giving detailed instructions on how to make the sauce. They, in turn, make copies which each sends to ten of her own friends.

All is going well until one day Aunt Sally’s pet schnauzer eats the original copy of the recipe. Sally is beside herself. In a panic she contacts her three friends who have mysteriously suffered similar mishaps. Their copies are gone, too, so the alarm goes out to their friends in attempt to recover the original wording.

They finally round up all the surviving hand-written copies, twenty-six in all. When they spread them out on the kitchen table, they immediately notice some differences. Twenty-three of the copies are exactly the same. One has a misspelled word, though, one has two phrases inverted (“mix then chop” instead of “chop then mix”) and one includes an ingredient that none of the others has on its list.

Here is the critical question: Do you think Aunt Sally can accurately reconstruct her original recipe? Of course she could. The misspelled words can easily be corrected, the single inverted phrase can be repaired, and the extra ingredient can be ignored.

Even with more numerous or more diverse variations, the original can still be reconstructed with a high level of confidence given the right textual evidence. The misspellings would be obvious errors, the inversions would stand out and easily be restored, and the conclusion drawn that it’s more plausible that one word or sentence be accidentally added to a single copy than omitted from many.

This, in simplified form, is how the science of textual criticism works. Textual critics are academics who reconstruct a missing original from existing manuscripts that are generations removed from the autograph. According to New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce, “Its object [is] to determine as exactly as possible from the available evidence the original words of the documents in question.”[2]

The science of textual criticism is used to test all documents of antiquity–not just religious texts–including historical and literary writings. It’s not a theological enterprise based on haphazard hopes and guesses; it’s a linguistic exercise that follows a set of established rules. Textual criticism allows an alert critic to determine the extent of possible corruption of any work.

How Many and How Old?

The ability of any scholar to do effective textual criticism depends on two factors. First, how many existing copies are there to examine and compare? Are there two copies, ten, a hundred? The more copies there are, the easier it is to make meaningful comparisons. Second, how close in time are the oldest existing documents to the original?

If the numbers are few and the time gap is wide, the original is harder to reconstruct with confidence. However, if there are many copies and the oldest existing copies are reasonably close in time to the original, the textual critic can be more confident he’s pinpointed the exact wording of the autograph.

To get an idea of the significance of the New Testament manuscript evidence, note for a moment the record for non-biblical texts. These are secular texts from antiquity that have been reconstructed with a high degree of certainty based on the available textual evidence.

The important First Century document The Jewish War, by Jewish aristocrat and historian Josephus, survives in only nine complete manuscripts dating from the 5th Century–four centuries after they were written.[3] Tacitus’ Annals of Imperial Rome is one of the chief historical sources for the Roman world of New Testament times, yet, surprisingly, it survives in partial form in only two manuscripts dating from the Middle Ages.[4] Thucydides’ History survives in eight copies. There are 10 copies of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, eight copies of Herodotus’ History, and seven copies of Plato, all dated over a millennium from the original. Homer’s Iliad has the most impressive manuscript evidence for any secular work with 647 existing copies.[5]

Bruce’s comments put the discussion in perspective: “No classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest manuscripts of their works which are of any use to us are over 1300 years later than the originals.”[6]

For most documents of antiquity only a handful of manuscripts exist, some facing a time gap of 800-2000 years or more. Yet scholars are confident of reconstructing the originals with some significant degree of accuracy. In fact, virtually all of our knowledge of ancient history depends on documents like these.

The Biblical Manuscript Evidence

By comparison with secular texts, the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is stunning. The most recent count (1980) shows 5,366 separate Greek manuscripts represented by early fragments, uncial codices (manuscripts in capital Greek letters bound together in book form), and minuscules (small Greek letters in cursive style)![7]

Among the nearly 3,000 minuscule fragments are 34 complete New Testaments dating from the 9th to the 15th Centuries.[8]

Uncial manuscripts provide virtually complete codices (multiple books of the New Testament bound together into one volume) back to the 4th Century, though some are a bit younger. Codex Sinaiticus, purchased by the British government from the Soviet government at Christmas, 1933, for £100,000,[9] is dated c. 340.[10] The nearly complete Codex Vaticanus is the oldest uncial, dated c. 325-350.[11] Codex Alexandrinus contains the whole Old Testament and a nearly complete New Testament and dates from the late 4th Century to the early 5th Century.

The most fascinating evidence comes from the fragments (as opposed to the codices). The Chester Beatty Papyri contains most of the New Testament and is dated mid-3rd Century.[12] The Bodmer Papyri II collection, whose discovery was announced in 1956, includes the first fourteen chapters of the Gospel of John and much of the last seven chapters. It dates from A.D. 200 or earlier.[13]

The most amazing find of all, however, is a small portion of John 18:31-33, discovered in Egypt known as the John Rylands Papyri. Barely three inches square, it represents the earliest known copy of any part of the New Testament. The papyri is dated on paleographical grounds at around A.D. 117-138 (though it may even be earlier),[14] showing that the Gospel of John was circulated as far away as Egypt within 30 years of its composition.

Keep in mind that most of the papyri are fragmentary. Only about 50 manuscripts contain the entire New Testament, though most of the other manuscripts contain the four Gospels. Even so, the manuscript textual evidence is exceedingly rich, especially when compared to other works of antiquity.

Ancient Versions and Patristic Quotations

Two other cross checks on the accuracy of the manuscripts remain: ancient versions and citations by the early church Fathers known as “patristic quotations.”

Early in the history of the Church Greek documents, including the Scriptures, were translated into Latin. By the 3rd and 4th Centuries the New Testament was translated into Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, etc. These texts helped missionaries reach new cultures in their own language as the Gospel spread and the Church grew.[15] Translations of the Greek manuscripts (called “versions”) help modern-day textual critics answer questions about the underlying Greek manuscripts.

In addition, there are ancient extra-biblical sources–characteristically catechisms, lectionaries, and quotes from the church fathers–that record the Scriptures. Paul Barnett says that the “Scriptures…gave rise to an immense output of early Christian literature which quoted them at length and, in effect, preserved them.”[16] Metzger notes the amazing fact that “if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, [the patristic quotations] would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament.”[17]

 

The Verdict

What can we conclude from this evidence? New Testament specialist Daniel Wallace notes that although there are about 300,000 individual variations of the text of the New Testament, this number is very misleading. Most of the differences are completely inconsequential–spelling errors, inverted phrases and the like. A side by side comparison between the two main text families (the Majority Text and the modern critical text) shows agreement a full 98% of the time.[18]

Of the remaining differences, virtually all yield to vigorous textual criticism. This means that our New Testament is 99.5% textually pure. In the entire text of 20,000 lines, only 40 lines are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine.[19]

Greek scholar D.A. Carson sums up this way: “The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants.”[20]

This issue is no longer contested by non-Christian scholars, and for good reason. Simply put, if we reject the authenticity of the New Testament on textual grounds we’d have to reject every ancient work of antiquity and declare null and void every piece of historical information from written sources prior to the beginning of the second millennium A.D.

Has the New Testament been altered? Critical, academic analysis says it has not.


[1]Larry King with Shirley MacLaine, spring 1989.

[2]Bruce, F. F., The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 19.

[3]Barnett, Paul, Is the New Testament History? (Ann Arbor: Vine Books, 1986), 45.

[4]Geisler, Norman L., Nix, William E., A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 405. Note: Bruce records two existing copies of this document (p. 16) but Barnett claims there’s only one (p. 45) and that single copy exists in partial form. To be conservative, I’ve cited Geisler & Nix’s statistics.

[5]Metzger, Bruce M., The Text of the New Testament (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), 34. This number consists of 457 papyri, 2 uncials and 188 minuscule manuscripts.

[6]Bruce, 16-17.

[7]Geisler & Nix, 402.

[8]Ibid.

[9]Metzger, 45.

[10]Geisler & Nix, 392.

[11]Ibid., 391.

[12]Ibid., 389-390.

[13]Metzger, 39-40.

[14]Geisler & Nix, 388.

[15]Barnett, 44.

[16]Ibid., p. 46-47.

[17]Metzger, 86.

[18]Wallace, Daniel, “The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical?,” Bibliotheca Sacra, April-June, 1991, 157-8.

[19]Geisler and Nix, 475.

[20]Carson, D.A., The King James Version Debate (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 56.

When the preincarnate Christ arrived in the flesh He forced the apostles to think even father back than the prophets

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Trinity on March 2, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Joh 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,

Joh 17:2  since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

Joh 17:3  And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Joh 17:4  I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.

Joh 17:5  And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Joh 17:6  “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

Joh 17:7  Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.

Joh 17:8  For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

Joh 17:9  I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

Joh 17:10  All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

Joh 17:11  And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

 

Where do we start with the beginning when it comes to thinking of Jesus the Christ the Son of the Living God! Old Testament prophets spoke of God choosing us but they never discussed anything prior to the beginning of the world. When the preincarnate Christ arrived in the flesh He forced the apostles to think even father back than the prophets. When the Son of God in the form of a human arrived He required man to seek the very foundation of God’s ways and works even before the foundation of the world.  Jesus left no options concerning who He is and His relationship to the Father. Is He the fulfillment of ancient prophecies, how is He connected to Abraham, David, even Adam?  Or maybe the best way to acknowledge Jesus the Christ is to acknowledge Him as the eternal Son of the Living God going back in eternity before the foundation of the world. Taking that one step past the foundation of the world is peering into the eternal nature of God. In John 1:1 we see that the Word was God and the Word was with God. In the prayer of Jesus above he is reclaiming the glory that was His with the Father before the world began. We see the Son receiving from the Father all that was promised and the Son glorifying the Father by presenting all He was given as gift back to the Father no finer or deeper love is expressed than this. Then we are promised a unity with the Father like Christ has with Him. This unity expressed here refers not to a union of nature, but of feeling, plan, and purpose. Any other union between Christians is impossible; but a union of affection is what the Savior sought, and this he desired might be so strong as to be an illustration of the unchanging love between the Father and the Son. This confirms we understand the newer testament and we are biblically sound. When we claim God was the Trinity from all eternity or God is Father, Son, and Spirit without reference to the creation of the world.

The eternal Son has eternally existed alongside the eternal Father always receiving the full goodness of divinity from Him. Without the Father’s self-giving to the Son creation becomes (metaphysically) necessary to the being of God. According to the theologian Augustus H. Strong (1836-1921) “Neither God’s independence nor God’s blessedness can be maintained upon the grounds of absolute unity. Anti-Trinitarianism almost necessarily makes creation indispensable to God’s perfection, tends to a belief in the eternity of matter, and ultimately, leads to pantheism.” This makes grace all the more great and gracious! God’s expression of love in the creation and redemption of His fallen creatures from the background of the Trinity shows the astonishing graciousness of God’s free grace to be seen for what it is.  Because God is self sufficient through the community, harmony, and diversity of the Trinity he didn’t create us from need, or loneliness but simply from love and to glorify Himself through us. Our purpose is complete in Him but his existence is not dependent on me! His favor, blessing and love come from His abundant love. If God had created us out of need or loneliness then it lessons and weakens Him making Him dependant on something outside of Himself, a lesser God. An eternally essentially self-giving God would require an eternal world. This in turn would make God dependent on the world he created for his own satisfaction. Without the world, God would be a frustrated giver. A God that is less than sovereign, unable to avoid frustration and unable to accomplish His will or decrees ends up a lesser God. An infinite gospel requires an infinite background of whom and how God reveals himself. To quote David Sanders ( The deeper things of God: How the Trinity changes everything) a balanced view of the fountain from which the river of salvation flows “keeps one foot in the happy land of the Trinity and one foot on the ground of the gospel. When evangelicals lose their sense of proportion, they begin to talk as if they no longer care about the character of God unless they get something from it.” Our best defense against this kind of thinking has always been the doctrine of the eternal Trinity. God is eternally Trinity because triunity belongs to his very nature. The actions of God creation and redemption are things He does, and he would still be God if he hadn’t done them. Without the Trinity the expression of who he is, he would not be God. God minus the Father, Son and Holy Spirit would not be God, if he did nothing more than exist he would still be God. The things God does are the result of who he is and His greater glory. He is the being capable of receiving worship and praise without it destroying who He is. We see in the fall Satan, Angels, and man cannot receive that kind of adulation without it consuming and destroying us.  This makes grace all the greater and praise all the more deserving and the object of our worship worthy.

 

Way too Good not to Share “FREE”

In Apologetics, Christian on March 1, 2011 at 7:04 am

I was in my neighborhood restaurant this morning and was seated behind a group of jubilant individuals celebrating the successful passing of the recent health care bill. I could not finish my breakfast. This is what ensued:

They were a diverse group of several races and both sexes. I heard the young man exclaim, “Isn’t Obama like Jesus Christ? I mean, after all, he is healing the sick.” The young woman enthusiastically proclaimed, “Yeah, and he does it for free. I cannot believe anyone would think that a free market would work for health care. They are all crooks and thieves and don’t deserve all of that money.” Another said, ‘The stupid Republicans want us all to starve to death so they can inherit all of the power. Obama should be made a Saint for what he did for those of us less fortunate.” At this, I had had enough.

I arose from my seat, mustering all the restraint I could find, and approached their table. “Please excuse me; may I impose upon you for one moment?” They smiled and welcomed me to the conversation. I stood at the end of their table, smiled as best I could and began an experiment.

“I would like to give one of you my house. It will cost you no money and I will pay all of the expenses and taxes for as long as you live there. Anyone interested?”

They looked at each other in astonishment. “Why would you do something like that?” asked a young man, “There isn’t anything for free in this world.”

They began to laugh at me, as they did not realize this man had just made my point. “I am serious, I will give you my house for free, no money what so ever. Anyone interested?” In unison, a resounding “Hell Yeah” fills the room.

“Since there are too many of you, I will have to make a choice as to who receives this money free bargain.” I noticed an elderly couple was paying attention to the spectacle unfolding before their eyes, the old man shaking his head in apparent disgust. “I tell you what; I will give it to the one of you most willing to obey my rules.”

Again, they looked at one another, an expression of bewilderment on their faces. The perky young woman asked, “What are the rules?”

I smiled and said, “I don’t know. I have not yet defined them. However, it is a free home that I offer you.”

They giggled amongst themselves, the youngest of which said, “What an old coot. He must be crazy to give away his home. Go take your meds, old man.”

I smiled and leaned into the table a bit further. “I am serious, this is a legitimate offer.” They gaped at me for a moment.

“Hell, I’ll take it you old fool. Where are the keys?” boasted the youngest among them.

“Then I presume you accept ALL of my terms then?” I asked. The elderly couple seemed amused and entertained as they watched from the privacy of their table.

“Oh hell yeah! Where do I sign up?”

I took a napkin and wrote, “I give this man my home, without the burden of financial obligation, so long as he accepts and abides by the terms that I shall set forth upon consummation of this transaction.” I signed it and handed it to the young man who eagerly scratched out his signature.

“Where are the keys to my new house?” he asked in a mocking tone of voice. All eyes were upon us as I stepped back from the table, pulling the keys from pocket and dangling them before the excited new homeowner.

“Now that we have entered into this binding contract, witnessed by all of your friends, I have decided upon the conditions you are obligated to adhere from this point forward. You may only live in the house for one hour a day. You will not use anything inside of the home. You will obey me without question or resistance. I expect complete loyalty and admiration for this gift I bestow upon you. You will accept my commands and wishes with enthusiasm, no matter the nature. Your morals and principles shall be as mine. You will vote as I do, think as I do and do it with blind faith. These are my terms. Here are your keys.” I reached the keys forward and the young man looked at me dumbfounded.

“Are you out of your freaking mind? Who would ever agree to those ridiculous terms?” the young man appeared irritated.

“You did when you signed this contract before reading it, understanding it and with the full knowledge that I would provide my conditions only after you committed to the agreement.” Was all I said.

The elderly man chuckled as his wife tried to restrain him. I was looking at a now silenced and bewildered group of people.

“You can shove that stupid deal up you’re a** old man, I want no part of it” exclaimed the now infuriated young man.

“You have committed to the contract, as witnessed by all of your friends; you cannot get out of the deal unless I agree to it. I do not intend to let you free now that I have you ensnared. I am the power you agreed to. I am the one you blindly and without thought chose to enslave yourself to. In short, I am your Master.” At this, the table of celebrating individuals became a unified group against the unfairness of the deal.

After a few moments of unrepeatable comments and slurs, I revealed my true intent. “What I did to you is what this administration and congress did to you with the health care legislation. I easily suckered you in and then revealed the real cost of the bargain. Your folly was in the belief that you can have something you did not earn; that you are entitled to that which you did not earn; that you willingly allowed someone else to think for you. Your failure to research, study and inform yourself permitted reason to escape you. You have entered into a trap from which you cannot flee. Your only chance of freedom is if your new Master gives it unto you. A freedom that is given can also be taken away; therefore, it is not freedom.” With that, I tore up the napkin and placed it before the astonished young man. “This is the nature of your new health care legislation.”

I turned away to leave these few in thought and contemplation and was surprised by applause.

The elderly gentleman, who was clearly entertained, shook my hand enthusiastically and said, “Thank you Sir, these kids don’t understand Liberty these days.” He refused to allow me to pay my bill as he said, “You earned this one, it is an honor to pickup the tab.” I shook his hand in thanks, leaving the restaurant somewhat humbled, and sensing a glimmer of hope for my beloved country.

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