Thursday, December 4, 2008

The "Man" with whom Jacob Wrestled (Genesis 32:24)

In consideration of this passage of Scripture, Beza, with no particular explanation, simply states that the identity of the man with whom Jacob wrestled was God, “That is, God in the form of a man.” Gill, on the other hand, notes various interpretations of this man’s identity, listing them as follows: “not a phantasm or spectre, as Josephus calls him; nor was this a mere visionary representation of a man, to the imagination of Jacob; or done in the vision of prophecy, as Maimonides; but it was something real, corporeal, and visible: the Targum of Jonathan says, it was an angel in the likeness of a man, and calls him Michael, which is not amiss, since he is expressly called an angel, (Hosea 12:4); and if Michael the uncreated angel is meant, it is most true; for not a created angel is designed, but a divine Person, as appears from Jacob's desiring to be blessed by him; and besides, being expressly called God, (Genesis 32:28,30); and was, no doubt, the Son of God in an human form.” While Gill demonstrates that some have commented that this was either a vision or interaction with simply an angelic being, he comes to the same conclusion as Beza in that this “man” is God, yet more specifically identifies Him as the Son of God.
Henry, as Gill, observes more than one possible answer to the question of the identity of this “man,” however, he does not indicate which of these possibilities he believes. He states, “Some think this was a created angel, the angel of his presence (Isa. 63:9), one of those that always behold the face of our Father and attend on the shechinah, or the divine Majesty, which probably Jacob had also in view. Others think it was Michael our prince, the eternal Word, the angel of the covenant, who is indeed the Lord of the angels, who often appeared in a human shape before he assumed the human nature for a perpetuity; whichsoever it was, we are sure God’s name was in him, Ex. 23:21.” While Henry seems to make a distinction between these two possibilities, being either an angel in the order of cherubim, a protector of the Glory of God (e.g. consider the cover of the Ark of the Covenant), or the Son of God (as Henry calls Him, the eternal Word and the Lord of the Angels), MacArthur points out that these are likely one in the same individual. He comments that, “The angel, who delivered the Israelites from Egypt, was none other than the Lord Himself (Ex 14:19; 23:20-23; 33:12,14,15; Nu 20:16). He is sometimes identified as the Angel of the Lord.” As stated earlier, Gill indicates that this was not merely a vision. Henry elaborates on this point by commenting that, “It was not only a corporal [sic], but a spiritual, wrestling, by the vigorous actings of faith and holy desire; and thus all the spiritual seed of Jacob, that pray in praying, still wrestle with God.”[3]
As a final commentator, MacArthur, like Beza, has short and direct comments to the identity of the “man” with whom Jacob wrestled. Unlike Beza, MacArthur uses two specific evidences to support his conclusion, one from the text and one from a later reference to the event: “The site name, Peniel, or ‘face of God’ given by Jacob (v. 30) and the commentary given by Hosea (Hos 12:4) identifies this man with whom Jacob wrestled as the Angel of the Lord who is also identified as God, a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ.” With this statement, MacArthur leaves no ambiguity to his conclusion of the man’s identity.
Considering the various points of these commentators, it is my conclusion that this is a theophany, or more specifically a Christophany, that is, that the “man” with whom Jacob wrestled was the preincarnate Christ. Several evidences point me to this conclusion (some of which have already been raised). First, the context of Hosea 12:4 shows that God is sometimes referred to as an angel, not that it was merely an angel that wrestled with Jacob. Second, the “man” had the supernatural power to alter Jacob’s anatomy so as to cause a permanent limp with a simple touch. Third, the “man” exercised divine authority in renaming Jacob as God had done earlier with Abram and Sarai. Fourth, the meaning of this new name given Jacob (“Israel”: he who strives with God; or God strives) shows that his wrestling and striving was with God Himself. Fifth, the name of the place given by Jacob where these events occurred (“Peniel”: the face of God) affirms this “man” was God Whom Jacob saw face to face. Sixth, the sons of Israel no longer eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh as a sort of holy reverence for this event, further supporting that God is the reason this touch merited such reverence, not that it was merely the touch of a man. Finally, the characteristics given in this passage are descriptive of only one other individual in Scripture: The Angel of the Lord, or the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, an identification confirmed by the evident deity, character, deeds, and power of this “man.”

Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Genesis 32". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible".>. 1599-1645.
Gill, John. "Commentary on Genesis 32:24". "The New John Gill Exposition of the
Entire Bible". apter=032&verse=024>. 1999.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Genesis 32". "Matthew Henry Complete
Commentary on the Whole Bible". . 1706.
MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Crusaders and the Church

An often debated topic in Church History is the legitimacy of the Crusades. As with other events that occurred under the leadership of the papacy, the Crusades have been ardently debated from both sides of the argument. The most important question regarding their accomplishment, and that of any activity within the history of the Church, is whether or not they advanced the cause of Christ. Were the Crusades ordained by God as some sort of Holy War, or were they merely the acts of wicked men attempting to advance their own agenda?
The First Crusade, unlike later crusades, was considered a great success for the Church. Following the conquest of Jerusalem by the Seljuk Turks in 1070, as well as years of cruelties toward Christians, the threat toward Constantinople and Eastern Christendom motivated a response from Pope Urban II in 1095. Urban responded with a sermon to a convocation at Clermont in southern France, where church dignitaries as well as the common people heard his declarations explained. He told of the plundering, desecration of Churches, rape of Christian women, and torture and murder of Christian men. With the enthusiastic response of the people, the First Crusade soon set out from Constantinople following recruitment of crusaders. “By 1098 both Edessa and Antioch had fallen to the crusaders, and the following year Jerusalem itself followed and was put under the Christian rule of Godfrey of Bouillon.” While it took over two decades to solicit a response from the Western Empire to the needs of Byzantium, it can be said that the success of the First Crusade appealed to the unified religious zeal of medieval Europe. Of course, some of the incentives offered by the papacy by participation were “immunity from taxes and debt payment, protection of crusaders’ property and families, and especially the indulgence, which guaranteed the crusader’s entry into heaven and reduced or abolished his time in purgatory.” It is no wonder that this combination of offenses and benefits motivated a united Christian empire to march for the Holy Land and establish their short-lived, yet Christian, states (the Outremer).
With the new Outremer and successful capture of the Holy Land by the crusaders, two new religious orders were created for defense. These were the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar. In spite of their efforts, Edessa again fell to the Muslims in 1144. Following this, the Second Crusade was formed in 1147 by the order of Pope Eugene III and popularized by Bernard of Clairvaux. Led by King Louis VII of France and Conrad III, Holy Roman Emperor, this crusade was marked by several disappointments which climaxed at Damascus, where the crusaders were ambushed and unable to take the city. Led by two kings and preached by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the Second Crusade failed dramatically, which may be why it has never received much attention.
Following the Second Crusade, the rise of an important Kurdish general named Saladin would cause further failure for the future of crusaders. It was the skillful leadership of Saladin which first repelled the forces of Jerusalem from Egypt, overthrew the Fatimids to establish the new Ayyubid dynasty, and travelled to the Outremer and conquered Jerusalem in 1187. In addition to his military prowess, Saladin is considered “one of the few historical Muslims who enjoys a favorable image in the West, [but] that does not mean he is understood. He may have been a noble soul in comparison with his contemporaries, but he was also a man of his era.” Saladin’s reputation was based upon his merciful dealings with conquered enemies, endorsing peace and rights which his Muslim predecessors had not. While this may be true, Saladin was not always forgiving and lenient toward his enemies (e.g. Reynald of Chatillon).
In spite of the rise of this “good infidel,” the Third Crusade was launched by Pope Gregory VIII in 1189. This time Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman emperor, came along, as well as King Philip II of France and King Richard I of England. With such personalities, the Third Crusade “has always attracted interest, for it pitted Richard the Lionheart against Saladin in a fight to the finish for Jerusalem itself.”5 These Kings, however, were no more successful than their predecessors from the Second Crusade and their efforts were a dismal failure as well. Oddly enough, Barbarossa drowned along the way.
Fortunately for these men, Saladin remained true to the good side of his character and made peace with those involved in the Third Crusade. Unlike Chatillon, who attacked Muslims making their annual hajj to Mecca and Medina, Saladin guaranteed that Christians who made similar pilgrimages to Jerusalem would be safe.7
The last crusade worth mention is the Fourth Crusade. Just as the first and third crusades, the purpose of this crusade was to again attempt to recapture Jerusalem, which had been in Muslim hands for 11 years. Likely the oddest of all, the Fourth Crusade was ordered by Pope Innocent III in 1198. As relations with the Byzantine Empire were strained during this time because of the masses of crusaders moving across their land, the decision was made to sail to the Holy Land. The crusade had formed around a few powerful barons, but the problem with the idea proposed was that these barons had no boats. In 1201, six men were sent to Venice to purchase boats, and ended up with the Venetians joining the Crusade themselves with a fleet of war galleys. Additionally, the Venetians “agreed to provide transportation and provisions for the French Crusaders and their horses for one year.”5 Because many of the crusaders represented various military groups, and they were not under the oath of the barons who had made arrangement with the Venetians, nearly 2/3 less than the contracted amount of individuals showed up, as they rather took advantage of cheaper or more convenient transportation from various ports. The Venetians agreed to loan the money to the crusaders if they should help subdue Zara. As Zara was not only a Catholic city, but also under the rule of the king of Hungary who had taken the crusader’s vow, this land was under the protection of the church. However, the crusader’s had agreed to assist the Venetians and therefore, the whole Fourth Crusade was excommunicated!5
By 1203, the crusaders were ready to sail, although there were only a few months left on lease for the fleet and their provisions had been eaten. Alexius Angelus, the son of Emperor Isaac II Angelus, convinced the crusaders to help him overthrow his uncle,
Alexius III Angelus. He promised many riches and thousands of troops in return for this liberation. The crusaders attacked Constantinople and restored Alexius to the throne. Alexius paid half what he promised and died in a coup that winter. The crusaders attacked the city again, captured and sacked it. In 1204, “Baldwin of Flanders was elected the first emperor of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. Thus ended the Fourth Crusade, having never reached Jerusalem.”5
Considering the events of the crusades and their motivating factors, we return to the question of whether they advanced the cause of Christ. One commentator believes that, “the crusades were rooted in the competitive culture of Western aristocracy. Noble adventurism and the greed for land were driving dynamics, not only of the expansion into the fringes of the Catholic core, but also of the crusades to the Holy Land…the crusades were essentially an outlet for the buccaneering attitudes of the nobility. Their war-like spirit was applied by the pope, to establish papal leadership in Christendom. In the end, these papal attempts failed, because in the later Middle Ages, the aristocracy was drawn into the service of the crown, leaving the pope as one power among many.” On the other hand, it has been said that, “[T]he internal personal decision to follow the cross, to inflict harm on others at great personal risk, at the cost of enormous privations, at the service of a consuming cause, cannot be explained, excused or dismissed either as virtue or sin. Rather, its very contradictions spelt its humanity."
So then, with varying commentaries on the events of the crusades, what are we to believe about them? It is my opinion that the First Crusade with its successes had the most admirable motivations. While it is true that brutality and even cannibalism occurred during this crusade,2 it seems that the unity of Eastern and Western Christianity as well as a religious zeal to remove the Muslims from lands not promised them by God was done with good intentions. However, with the ensuing power struggle and continued abuses, whether condemned by the Church or not, of the following crusades, it seems as though personal rather than Spiritual interests were at heart.
We see this culminate in the Fourth Crusade with the sack of Constantinople. While all the crusades may be argued to represent a Christian worldview, at least in the context of their mission, I do not believe that even the first can be argued to advance the cause of Christ. As with the Apostles, believers are not promised blessing in this life so much as suffering. Additionally, the proclamation of the Gospel is the most important aspect of the Christian faith, and it does not seem evident that this was a major concern of the crusades. Therefore, while the purpose of the crusades, particularly the first, may have been noble, they overall appear to be a dismal failure to the cause of Christ.

Dowley, Tim, ed. Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI:
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987.
Hill, Jonathan. Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity. Zondervan: Grand
Rapids, 2006.
Madden, Thomas F. 2005. Crusaders and Historians. First Things, no. 154: 26-31. ATLA
Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed December 3, 2008).
Karabell, Zachary. Peace Be upon You. Vintage Books: New York, 2007.
Janse, Antheun. 2007. The Crusades and the Expansion of Catholic Christendom, 1000-
1714. Church History and Religious Culture 87, no. 3: 373-374. ATLA Religion
Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed December 3, 2008).
Andrea, Alfred J. 2007. God's War: A New History of the Crusades. Christianity Today
51, no. 7: 55-56. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost
(accessed December 3, 2008).

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Elder Shall Serve the Younger (Gen 25:23)

In consideration of the implications of this passage, it is clear that the elective purposes of God are ordained not only for individuals, but for nations as well. Paul, speaking of God’s purpose in the election of Jacob, remarks the following:
“11 For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ 13 Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”[1]
Paul’s point, which is demonstrated earlier in verse 8 of Romans chapter 9, is that God’s people are such through His promise, not through any particular lineage. Looking again to Genesis 25, this is an important thought to keep in mind as MacArthur notes that, “This was contrary to the custom in patriarchal times when the elder son enjoyed the privileges of precedence in the household and at the father’s death received a double share of the inheritance and became the recognized head of the family (cf. Ex 22:29; Nu 8:14-17; Dt 21:17). Grave offenses could annul such primogeniture rights (cf. Ge 35:22; 49:3,4; 1Ch 5:1) or the birthright could be sacrificed or legally transferred to another in the family, as in this case (vv. 29-34). In this case, God declared otherwise since His sovereign elective purposes did not necessarily have to follow custom (cf. Ro 9:10-14, esp. v. 12).”[2]
So, while MacArthur points out that the custom of the day was for the eldest son to be in headship over his brothers, particularly in regards to inheritance (the double portion) and family leadership as the father passed away, God’s sovereignty in the election of individuals is not necessarily concerned with family position or cultural custom.
Gill, regarding these customary relationships, notes further God’s elective purpose for these two then future nations as well with his comments that, “the offspring of Esau, the eldest, should become tributary to the posterity of Jacob, the younger; which was verified in the times of David, when the Edomites were subdued by him, (2 Samuel 8:14) ; and still more in the times of Hyrcanus, when the Edomites or Idumeans became one people with the Jews, and embraced their religion, rather than to be dispossessed of their country.”[3]
As both Biblical and extra-Biblical history attest to the fulfillment of this particular prophecy, God’s election again testifies that the smaller, more insignificant nation (Israel) was blessed solely by God’s choice. Henry also agrees with both MacArthur and Gill by noting that Rebekah was “now pregnant, not only with two children, but two nations, which should not only in their manners and dispositions greatly differ from each other, but in their interests clash and contend with each other; and the issue of the contest should be that the elder should serve the younger, which was fulfilled in the subjection of the Edomites, for many ages, to the house of David, till they revolted, 2 Chr. 21:8.”[4] Also considering the election of God and His choice in grace, Henry notes that, “God is a free agent in dispensing his grace; it is his prerogative to make a difference between those who have not as yet themselves done either good or evil.”[4]
So, in conclusion, it seems that this verse (Genesis 25:23) testifies to God’s grace in election of both individuals and nations. History as well supports this testimony which has proven that indeed, the elder and his progeny did serve the younger and his progeny, and that they (the elder brother/nation) may also be blessed through the younger as any in accordance with repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

[1] Romans 9:11-13, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006), 1678.
[2] John F. MacArthur, Notes on Genesis 25:23, The MacArthur Study Bible (Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006), 50.
[3] John Gill, Commentary on Genesis 25:23, The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible, . 1999.
[4] Matthew Henry, Complete Commentary on Genesis 25, Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the
Whole Bible, . 1706.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Rise of the Papacy

With the fall of the Western Roman Empire to pagans, Rome was left to defend itself and its faith against outside forces. By the administration of the office of the Bishop of Rome, this great city and the Church continued to grow in power and influence regardless of the crumbling empire around them. This paper will seek to give a brief review of the history of the papacy as it grew in power during the period of medieval Christianity. Setting the stage for the future papacy, there were four Bishops of Rome who would assist with the rise of the papacy prior to its increase in power under the reign of Gregory the Great in the sixth century.
The first of these individuals is Damasus I, Bishop of Rome from AD 366-384. Damasus developed a papal theology which established the idea of papal authority as coming directly from Christ to Peter as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. With this idea, the office of the Bishop of Rome included an understanding of papal succession as well. This passage, in chapter 16 verses 18 and 19, states the following:
“18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the
gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom
of heaven , and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and
whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Protestants understand Christ’s play on words here between petros (Peter/a small stone) and petra (a large boulder), as well as the context of this passage, as MacArthur points out, “Since the NT makes it abundantly clear that Christ is both the foundation (Acts 4:11,12; 1Co 3:11) and the head (Eph 5:23) of the church, it is a mistake to think that here He is giving either of those roles to Peter.” In spite of this helpful clarification reestablished after the Reformation, Damasus is known as the individual “who made the theory about Peter an essential part of papal doctrine. He was the first pope to refer consistently to the church of Rome as the ‘apostolic see’ and to address bishops of other churches as ‘sons’ rather than as ‘brothers’.” Damasus was also endorsed by the eastern emperor Theodosius I who issued a famous decree in AD 380 requiring “all peoples to adhere to ‘the religion that is followed by Pope Damasus and Peter, bishop of Alexandria’.” We should be familiar with the influence of Damasus as he is the Pope who commissioned Jerome to complete the translation used by the Roman Catholic Church to this very day: The Latin Vulgate.
The second of these individuals is Siricius, successor of Damasus I. Siricius (AD 384-399), following in the influence of his predecessor, was the first Bishop of Rome to apply the term “pope” specifically to himself. This term meant “father” and had originally applied to the bishops of any of the great apostolic sees (Rome, Jerusalem, and Antioch).1 Siricius further demonstrated his authority by the first papal use of the ‘decretal’. This was “a letter of instruction modeled on the Emperor’s decree sent to provincial governors. In using this kind of letter the pope was claiming the same kind of binding authority for himself in the church as the Emperor had in secular affairs.”4
The third of these individuals is Leo I, who reigned as pope from AD 440-461. Leo’s leadership was desperately needed during a period of barbarian attacks on the empire. With the edict of Valentinian III in AD 445 compelling the attendance of all bishops who otherwise refused to attend the papal court, an emperor’s edict had turned the pope’s claim into law. As Leo combined both a spiritual and political role of leadership in Rome, he also made clear “the concept that the papacy was Peter’s own office, not only as founder but also as present ruler of the church through his servant, the pope.”6 Leo is also famous for demonstrating imperial power as he negotiated peace for Rome with Attila the Hun in AD 452. His arguments persuaded Attila to “retire beyond the Danube, on condition of receiving Honoria with a rich dowry as his wife.”
The last of these four individuals is Gelasius I. During his reign as Bishop of Rome, an important synod held at Rome in AD 495 was the first known to hail the pope as “the Vicar of Christ.”1 Gelasius clearly announced the principle that from the decisions of the chair of Peter there is no appeal. In his own words, “Nobody at any time and for whatever human pretext may haughtily set himself above the office of the pope who by Christ’s order was set above all and everyone and whom the universal church has always recognized as its head.”
Looking at the foundation built by these four bishops of Rome, the path had been prepared for the rise of the papacy influencing the transition between the ancient world and medieval Christianity with Gregory the Great in AD 590. Gregory began life in a rich noble family and even served as prefect of Rome in AD 573. After this, he gave up his wealth and estates to become a monk, founding seven monasteries. During this time, Gregory was chosen abbot and later became secretary to Pope Pelagius. After the death of Pelagius, despite Gregory’s efforts to the contrary, “the nobles, the clergy, and the people of Rome all agreed in choosing Gregory to succeed him.” Although Gregory accomplished much in service to the Roman Catholic Church in general and the papacy specifically, as he took charge of Rome’s finances, food and water supply, policing, and was an accomplished diplomat and great helper of the poor1, it seems that he is most famous for two things: His relationship with the Lombards to achieve peace and his ordering of missionaries to pagan Britain.
The last Germanic tribe to enter the Roman Empire was the Lombards, arriving in Italy in AD 568. Because the governor at Ravenna was incompetent to quell this invasion, the work was given to the papacy to help in the matter. Gregory attempted to accomplish the conversion of the invaders to catholic Christianity as one possible solution. He supported Theodelinda, a catholic Christian and Lombard Queen, which helped to eventually turn the Lombards away from Arianism toward Catholicism.
A famous story is recounted where Gregory, as a monk prior to becoming pope, saw some attractive young children with light skin and hair in the slave market. Gregory learned these pagan youth were Angli from England. “He replied that these young lads were not ‘Angles’ but ‘Angels’!” This particular interaction is famed to have led to his future missionary zeal to England, as pope, although he was never able to participate in these missions himself.
Having established the preparation for the rise of he papacy by Damasus, Siricius, Leo, and Gelasius, as well as the far-reaching power and character of Gregory, there is one last subject to mention which helped to move the consolidated power of the papacy beyond the borders of the ancient Roman empire. This subject is missions and one great individual is Boniface (Wynfrith of Crediton), an English missionary who was converted as a result of the earlier missionary efforts of Gregory. Boniface became the bishop of the German church under papal authority and began evangelizing the Hessians of Bavaria and Thuringia, later becoming Archbishop of Mainz. “He is justly known as the ‘Apostle to the Germans’. He brought Germany into Christian Europe under papal leadership.” Boniface was also a personal emissary of Pope Gregory III, playing a key role at an AD 742 council in Francia which ruled priests were subject to their bishops and not allowed to fight in war or hunt, as well as the standardization of monasticism. With the establishment of the papacy through the influence of the individuals mentioned, as well as the furthering of Roman Catholic Christianity throughout Europe by means of missions, the papacy had grown greatly in power and influence as it continued to exist during the period of medieval Christianity.

Hill, Jonathan. Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity. Zondervan: Grand
Rapids, 2006.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles: Wheaton, 2001.
MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006.
Dowley, Tim, ed. Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI:
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987.
Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church, Volume III: Nicene and Post-Nicene
Christianity, Fifth edition, revised. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 2008.
Schaff, Philip. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian
Church, Second Series, Volume XII (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand
Robertson, J.C. Sketches of Church History. The Tract Committee: London, 1904.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Sons of God (Genesis 6:2)

To answer the question of the identity of the sons of God in Genesis 6, it seems that most of the older theologians agree that they were the “godly.” That is, men who were followers of the one true God as opposed to the world around them. Beza comments simply that the sons of God were, “The children of the godly who began to degenerate,”[1] while leaving the daughters of men to be, “Those that had wicked parents, as if from Cain.”1 Gill agrees with this conclusion as his own statements are that, “those ‘sons of God’ were not angels either good or bad…nor the sons of judges, magistrates, and great personages…but rather this is to be understood of the posterity of Seth, who from the times of Enos, when then began to be called by the name of the Lord, (Genesis 4:25) had the title of the sons of God, in distinction from the children of men.”[2] Not only does Gill identify who he believes the sons of God to be, but he also identifies who he believes they are not: Angels or great personages.
Continuing in the same fashion as these two men, Henry indicates that the sons of God are, “the professors of religion, who were called by the name of the Lord, and called upon that name.”[3] Henry further establishes the details of these unions when identifying them as mixed marriages, noting that, “The posterity of Seth did not keep by themselves, as they ought to have done, both for the preservation of their own purity and in detestation of the apostasy. They intermingled themselves with the excommunicated race of Cain.”3 This is an important point as the language of Genesis 6:2 indicates that, “they took wives for themselves;” that is, this is not simply an act of fornication with ungodly women, but rather becoming yoked unequally with them in marriage (2 Corinthians 6:14) prior to having sexual relations with them (Genesis 6:4).
As a last representative of this group of older theologians, we come to Calvin. His remarks regarding the situation as a whole, rather than specifically commenting on the identity of the sons of God, are the following: “For marriage is a thing too sacred to allow that men should be induced to it by the lust of the eyes…Therefore our appetite becomes brutal, when we are so ravished with the charms of beauty, that those things which are chief are not taken into the account. Moses more clearly describes the violent impetuosity of their lust, when he says, that they took wives of all that they chose; by which he signifies, that the sons of God did not make their choice from those possessed of necessary endowments, but wandered without discrimination, rushing onward according to their lust.”[4] In spite of specifically stating their identity, Calvin does indicate through his comments that he too believes that the sons of God were “godly” men. There is also clarification brought beyond Henry’s comments about the nature of the union, even to the motivation of the union itself: Lustful desire.
Moving beyond the general consensus of men such as Beza, Gill, Henry, and Calvin, we come to MacArthur. His argument identifies the sons of God as fallen angels. MacArthur states, “The sons of God, identified elsewhere almost exclusively as angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7), saw and took wives of the human race. This produced an unnatural union which violated the God-ordained order of human marriage and procreation (Ge 2:24). Some have argued that the sons of God were the sons of Seth who cohabited with the daughters of Cain; others suggest they were perhaps human kings wanting to build harems. But the passage puts strong emphasis on the angelic vs. human contrast. The NT places this account in sequence with other Genesis events and identifies it as involving fallen angels who indwelt men (see notes on 2Pe 2:4,5; Jude 6). Matthew 22:30 does not necessarily negate the possibility that angels are capable of procreation, but just that they do not marry. To procreate physically, they had to possess human, male bodies.”[5] MacArthur makes several points that help to support his argument: First, the sons of God are identified almost exclusively as angels; second, the New Testament seems to confirm this conclusion based upon two passages of Scripture (2 Peter 2:4,5 and Jude 6); and third, Matthew 22:30 only dictates that angels in heaven cannot marry.
In spite of these arguments, Davis points out that, “the concept of sonship, based on God’s election, is common to the Old Testament (cf. Exod. 4:22; Deut. 14:1; 32:5, 6, 18, 19; Hos. 1:10; Isa. 1:2; 11:1; 43:6; 45:11; Jer. 31:20; Ps. 73:15).”[6] This means that, while the particular term “sons of God” refers primarily to angels, the concept of being a son of God does not. Davis also indicates that, “As for the passage in Jude, Keil argues that it is not referring to the passage in Genesis 6:1-4; Jude 6, 7 are concerned with fornication, Genesis 6:2 with marriage.”[7] It seems from the text of Jude that this could be understood either way, as “in the same way as these” could refer to either the cities surrounding Sodom and Gomorrah, or perhaps the fallen angels. Addressing MacArthur’s third point, while it is true that, “Matthew 22:30 does not necessarily negate the possibility that angels are capable of procreation, but just that they do not marry,”5 it is also true that angels, not having physical bodies, are in fact incapable of said procreation.
Considering the variety in commentary over the issue, I agree with Davis that, “It seems to this author [Davis] that the third view [dynastic rulers in the Cainite line] is the least likely, and that either of the first two [angels and the godly line of Seth, respectively] is credible, given the evidence currently available.”[8] Because of the context of Genesis 6:1-4, God’s design revealed in Genesis 1 (“after their kind”) and Genesis 2:24, the straightforward hermeneutic of Matthew 22:30, the possible interpretation of Jude 6,7, and the context of 2 Peter 2:4,5, I believe the identity of the sons of God in Genesis 6:2 to be the godly line of Seth. I hold this view with reservations, because of MacArthur’s arguments, particularly the possible interpretation of Jude 6,7, coupled with 2 Peter 2:4,5 (particularly the use of “Tartarus” for Hell). Further, MacArthur holds this view in the only manner I see able to remain consistent with orthodoxy: “To procreate physically, they had to possess human, male bodies.”5 That is, because fallen angels are incorporeal beings incapable of producing their own physical bodies (this seems to be possible only in the case of the preincarnate Christ as the Angel of the Lord or angels in association with the will and ministry of God [cf. Genesis 19:1-11 with Scripture references to the Angel of the Lord]), the only way for them to be identified with the sons of God in Genesis 6:4 would be through demonizing (possessing) men.

[1] Theodore Beza, Commentary on Genesis 6, The 1599 Geneva Study Bible, . 1599-1645.
[2] John Gill, Commentary on Genesis 6:2, The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible, . 1999.
[3] Matthew Henry, Complete Commentary on Genesis 6, Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible, . 1706.
[4] John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis – Volume 1, Translated by Rev. John King, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2008. [5] John F. MacArthur, Genesis 6:2 notes, The MacArthur Study Bible (Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006), 24.
[6] John J. Davis, The Degeneration of Man, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis (Sheffield Publishing Company: Salem, 1998), 113.
[7] John J. Davis, The Degeneration of Man, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis (Sheffield Publishing Company: Salem, 1998), 112.
[8] John J. Davis, The Degeneration of Man, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis (Sheffield Publishing Company: Salem, 1998), 114.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Nakedness of Noah and the Sin of Ham (Gen 9:22)

This passage may seem confusing at first glance as it appears Ham was cursed simply for the accidental sight of his naked father. In spite of this, many commentators agree that there is no sin committed by the accidental sight of a naked individual, but rather Ham’s actions and thoughts stemmed from a purposeful and sinful behavior. Beza remarks that Ham’s sight of his father was, “In derision and contempt of his father.”[1] Gill agrees as he states that this sight, “Which, had it been through surprise, and at an unawares, would not have been thought criminal; but he went into his father's tent, where he ought not to have entered; he looked with pleasure and delight on his father's nakedness…he went out of the tent after he had pleased himself with the sight; see (Habakkuk 2:15) and in a wanton, ludicrous, and scoffing manner, related what he had seen.”[2] According to Gill, this sight was premeditated, and Ham entered Noah’s tent with the intention of either humiliating him, reveling in his foolish drunkenness, being pleased erotically at the sight, or a combination thereof.
Henry agrees with Beza and Gill over the nature of Ham’s viewing his father, as he states, “To see it accidentally and involuntarily would not have been a crime; but, 1. He pleased himself with the sight...2. He told his two brethren without (in the street, as the word is), in a scornful deriding manner, that his father might seem vile unto them.”[3] In contrast to the sinful activity of Ham, Henry further elaborates on the response of Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth: “They not only would not see it themselves, but provided that no one else might see it, herein setting us an example of charity with reference to other men’s sin and shame.”3 So then, while Ham purposefully intended to see, mock, and humiliate his father, his brother’s responded with honor toward their father by attempting to minimize both his sin and shame.
Looking to Calvin, we find his comments not only agree with Beza, Gill, and Henry about the nature of Ham’s sight, but he also develops why both Noah and Ham’s sins were wrong. He states, “Drunkenness in itself deserves as its reward, that they who deface the image of their heavenly Father in themselves, should become a laughingstock to their own children…In the meanwhile, Ham, by reproachfully laughing at his father, betrays his own depraved and malignant disposition…This Ham, therefore, must have been of a wicked, perverse, and crooked disposition; since he not only took pleasure in his father’s shame, but wished to expose him to his brethren.”[4] Like Henry, Calvin notes how the actions of Ham attempt to shame his father beyond the mockery of a single individual with the invitation to his brothers to join him in this sin.
Finally, MacArthur also agrees with Beza, Gill, Henry, and Calvin over the nature of Ham’s sight, however, he disagrees with Gill over the particular thing that Ham had done to him. While Gill leaves open the possibilities of Ham’s actions beyond seeing his father’s nakedness, MacArthur swiftly refutes this possibility with the statement that, “There is no reasonable support for the notion that some perverse activity, in addition to seeing nakedness, occurred. But clearly the implication is that Ham looked with some sinful thought, if only for a while until he left to inform his brothers. Perhaps he was glad to see his father’s dignity and authority reduced to such weakness. He thought his brothers might share his feelings so he eagerly told them. They did not, however, share his attitude (v.23).”[5]
In conclusion, it is quite obvious that the “nakedness of Noah” was simply that: being naked without clothing. The sin of Ham on the other hand was not simply an accidental viewing of his father’s nakedness, but rather the premeditated intention to see this nakedness so as to shame his father before himself and others. If we consider the situation of drunkenness and nakedness related by Scripture in Habakkuk 2:15 (Woe to you who make your neighbors drink, who mix in your venom even to make them drunk so as to look on their nakedness!), perhaps there is even the possibility that Ham played a hand in securing his father’s drunkenness for this purpose. That being said, this particular action was obviously not innocent as it resulted in the curse of the descendents of Ham (the Canaanites), which was necessary for the future conquest of the Promised Land (Canaan) by the Israelites.

[1] Theodore Beza, Commentary on Genesis 9, The 1599 Geneva Study Bible, , 1599-1645.
[2] John Gill, Commentary on Genesis 9:22, The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible, . 1999.
[3] Matthew Henry, Complete Commentary on Genesis 9, Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the
Whole Bible, . 1706.
[4] John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis – Volume 1, Translated by Rev. John King, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2008, .
[5] John F. MacArthur, Notes on Genesis 9:22, The MacArthur Study Bible (Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006), 29.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Foundation of Orthodoxy and the Canon

In a post-modern culture, truth is viewed by many as subjective opinion, rather than as objective fact. This is difficult for the orthodox Christian believer in sharing the Gospel, as the authority for which our conviction lies is found in the pages of Scripture. So then, now more than ever, the question of what books make up the canon of Scripture and how we can know that these books are authoritative as compared to others is of utmost importance. Considering this, we shall review a brief history of the canon, specifically the New Testament, and how it came to be recognized as authoritative.
Looking to the first half of the second century AD, an important individual arose on the scene by the name of Marcion. Although Marcion was branded a heretic, his contribution to the necessity of recognizing an official canon was of infinite value. After being convicted of heresy and excommunicated in AD 144, Marcion spread his heresy throughout large sections of the Roman empire. This was highly detrimental to the progress of orthodoxy as Marcion could not reconcile what he believed to be the “angry God of the Old Testament with the loving and sacrificial God of the New Testament, represented in the person of Jesus.”1 This means that he did not recognize God as a Trinity, nor did he accept the Old Testament as Scripture and the God communicated therein. In spite of his heresy, Marcion was one of the first “Christians” to argue for a particular list of New Testament books that should be recognized as Scripture. As stated earlier, his contribution was recognizing the necessity of an official canon, and this in particular as he heretically rejected books otherwise viewed as authoritative by orthodox Christians.
In the second half of the second century AD, a problem arose from the opposite side of the heretical spectrum. This time, rather than the limiting of the canon of Scripture to specific books and their modified forms to support the heresies of individuals such as Marcion, the recognition of a plethora of writings began to gain support with the influence of Montanus. The problem here was that Montanus and his followers were prone to ecstatic outbursts which were written down and identified as prophetic oracles on the same level of authority as Scripture. Coupled with the apocalyptic, yet unfulfilled, nature of many of these outbursts, this “forced the Church to argue that the canon of Scripture should be limited to those books with apostolic and eye-witness authority, for the writings and practices of the Montanists had clearly exceeded the theological boundaries represented by those apostolic authorities.”1 Because of these two major influences in the second century, being the discrediting of authoritative books and the elevation of non-authoritative writings, the Church had been backed into a corner requiring the standardized acknowledgement of the authoritative books of Scripture to be recognized by an official canonization. That is not to say that these books would then become official after this recognition, but rather that canonization would set limits upon the already generally recognized Scriptures by the majority of orthodox believers.
Not all agree that these two individuals impacted the canon as much as has been stated. The comment has been made that, “Marcion, various gnostic groups and the Montan-ists were not, as is usually asserted, catalysts that led to a second century closing of the canon of Christian scriptures…but [rather] there was no second century closing of the scripture collection at all.” While the sentiment here regarding the closing of the canon may be partially true, as there were other influences toward the close of the canon over time, it is necessary to define terms. If “canon” does in fact mean “scripture collection,” then this statement is true, but only as the “canon” was closed much earlier, not much later; that is, as soon as God had inspired the last book of the Bible. The important point to note is that “Scripture” and “Canon” are not generally equivalent terms. It seems that for all the argument of the early Church, inspiration had been overlooked. While it is true that today’s canon does contain the collection of inspired Scripture, the authority of the Scripture comes by means of the Holy Spirit Who inspired it, not the Church who collected and canonized it.
Moving forward, the end of the fourth century provided a series of councils which would help to close the canon, and three lists were instrumental in influencing these councils toward a consensus. The first is the Muratorian Fragment. This eighty-five line document of Latin text contains “a listing of the books considered authoritative by the Church, accompanied by a number of historical and theological comments. The weight of scholarly opinion holds that the original document (probably written in Greek) dates from the end of the second century CE. The list contains four categories of Christian books. The first category is those works universally accepted as Scripture: the four Gospels, the Book of Acts, thirteen letters of Paul, Jude, two (or three) letters of John, the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Apocalypse of John. A second category contains one disputed book: the Apocalypse of Peter. Third are those books that were rejected for public reading and worship but still remained acceptable for reading in private, such as the Shepherd of Hennas. Finally, the fragment lists a number of books which should be rejected altogether by the Church.”1 Although this fragment does not contain the exact representation of the canon as we know it today, it does promote a list of criteria in recognizing a work as Scripturally authoritative, especially being, “the public reading of a book in a service of worship and apostolic authorship.”1
The second of these lists is found in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea. In it, Eusebius, “categorized the books as those universally accepted: the four Gospels, the Book of Acts, the Pauline epistles (including Hebrews), 1 Peter, and 1 John. He noted some question as to whether the Apocalypse of John ought to be included in this category, and he chose to include it here as well as with those he concluded were to be rejected. The second category included those books that were disputed, yet familiar to most in the Church: James, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John. Finally, in a somewhat overlapping category, Eusebius listed the books that were to be rejected because of serious doubts about their apostolic character or authorship: the Acts of Paul, Shepherd of Hennas, Apocalypse of Peter, Epistle of Barnabas, Didache of the Apostles, and the Gospel According to the Hebrews.” This list plays an important role as Eusebius can be respected for his study of history and collection of works which would otherwise have been lost, although not necessarily his theology, as he was suspected of Arianism. This may make it harder to distinguish between him and Eusebius of Nicomedia (who was present at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 in support of Arius).
The third of these lists is that contained in Athanasius’ Festal Epistle of AD 367. “While he excluded the books of the Old Testament now considered deuterocanonical [recognized as Scripture by Roman Catholicism], his list of New Testament books contains the twenty-seven books now considered canonical (albeit in a slightly different order). Although the debate would continue for some years, this list of Athanasius would eventually establish the limits of the New Testament canon.”1 This list was very similar to the list accepted by the Western Church, and even more influential as Jerome’s translation of the Latin Vulgate gained popularity. Jerome’s translation contained the same books as found in the list of Athanasius.
Apart from heretical factions and supporting documentation, three Church councils around the turn of the fifth century “effectively ratified the choice of the twenty-seven books. As one of the Western Church's leading biblical scholars and theologians, Augustine threw his considerable support behind the acceptance of these limits at Hippo in 393, Carthage in 397, and again at Carthage in 419.”1 As most councils throughout Church history, it is evident that these three also existed to combat heresy.
In conclusion, several of Roger Nicole’s criteria are in common with history about how to deem whether or not a book is Scripture and should be canonized. These are Apostolicity (it should have been written by an apostle), Orthodoxy (any canonical book must be orthodox as God would not permit his Word to teach falsehood as well as truth), Church Authority (it is the prerogative of the Church to establish the canon), and the Witness of the Holy Spirit Given Corporately to God’s People and Made Manifest by a Nearly Unanimous Acceptance of the NT Canon in Christian Churches.

Sheeley, Steven M. 1998. "From "Scripture" to "Canon": The Development of the New
Testament Canon." Review & Expositor 95, no. 4: 513-522. ATLA Religion
Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 8, 2008).
Kalin, Everett R. 1988. "The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning." Currents
in Theology and Mission 15, no. 5: 446-446. ATLA Religion Database with
ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 8, 2008).
Nicole, Roger R. 1997. "The Canon of the New Testament." Journal of the Evangelical
Theological Society 40, no. 2: 199-206. ATLA Religion Database with
ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 8, 2008).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Meaning of Day (Genesis 1:5)

In his complete commentary on Genesis, Matthew Henry answers this question by suggesting that we observe, “That God divided the light from the darkness, so put them asunder as that they could never be joined together, or reconciled; for what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Co. 6:14. And yet he divided time between them, the day for light and the night for darkness, in a constant and regular succession to each other…God has thus divided time between light and darkness, because he would daily remind us that this is a world of mixtures and changes (emphasis in original).”[1] Henry’s words demonstrate several things: First, he indicates time is divided between light and darkness, or day and night; second, he indicates that this division of time occurs constantly during the regular succession of day following night, et cetera; third, he indicates that this constant division of time between night and day occurs on a daily basis. Hence, Henry demonstrates his belief that day in the context of Genesis 1:3-5 refers to two things: When referring to light, day means daytime, or the period of the day in which there is light as separated from the darkness of night; When referring to days in sequence (one day, a second day, etc.), day refers to a literal twenty-four hour period which encompasses a period of light and darkness (daytime and nighttime).
John Gill, in his commentary on Genesis 1:5, takes the same position, but makes an interesting point which takes into consideration the lack of heavenly bodies as containers of light, which would not be created until the fourth day (Genesis 1:14-19). He states, “Either by the circulating motion of the above body of light, or by the rotation of the chaos on its own axis towards it, in the space of twenty four hours there was a vicissitude of light and darkness; just as there is now by the like motion either of the sun, or of the earth; and which after this appellation God has given, we call the one, day, and the other, night.”[2] While we often consider only the creation of light and its separation from darkness on day one, it is refreshing to consider that at this point in time, the earth remained formless and void. Gill allows for the lack of a completed creation to possibly infer both the lack of a rotational cycle for the earth as well as the lack of an orbital pattern for the earth at this point in God’s creative process. As Gill indicates, whether the division of light and darkness was accomplished by the axial rotation of the earth in reference to the light, or the circulating motion of the mass of light itself, the assertion is made that either of these occurred only in the continual pattern of a twenty-four hour period.
John Calvin agrees with both Henry and Gill in their understanding of the term “day,” but, just as Gill, he too adds an important point to the argument. Rather than refute the hypothesis that “day” refers to long ages, he refutes an older hypothesis that God would not have taken so much time as six days to complete His creation. He states that, “And God called the light That is, God willed that there should be a regular vicissitude of days and nights; which also followed immediately when the first day was ended. For God removed the light from view, that night might be the commencement of another day…The first day Here the error of those is manifestly refuted, who maintain that the world was made in a moment. For it is too violent a cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction. Let us rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men (emphasis in original).”[3] Calvin reiterates the points above of Henry and Gill that “day” refers to the sequential day and night period given in the space of a normal twenty-four hours. Additionally, Calvin makes reference to the capacities of men by God taking six full days to complete His creation. Perhaps Calvin was considering Exodus 20:11 in this statement, as it appears that God’s creative process purposely parallels the construction of the work-week and Sabbath. While the argument can be made that God may have either finished the portion of His creative process instantaneously each day, or took the full night and day sequence to complete this portion, the argument from Calvin is that a day is twenty-four hours and God took six of these periods to complete His creation.
Finally, John MacArthur, from his notes on Genesis 1:5 in the MacArthur Study Bible, takes the opportunity to comment on the appropriate usage of the Hebrew term “yom” under varying circumstances. He comments, “God established the pattern of creation in 7 days which constituted a complete week. “Day” can refer to: 1) the light portion of a 24 hour period (1:5,14); 2) an extended period of time (2:4); or 3) the 24 hour period which basically refers to a full rotation of the earth on its axis, called evening and morning. This cannot mean an age, but only a day, reckoned by the Jews from sunset to sunset (vv. 8,13,19,23,31). “Day” with numerical adjectives in Hebrew always refers to a 24 hour period. Comparing the order of the week in Ex 20:8-11 with the creation week confirms this understanding of the time element. Such a cycle of light and dark means that the earth was rotating on its axis, so that there was a source of light on one side of the earth, though the sun was not yet created (v. 16).”[4] While MacArthur’s understanding of the axial rotation of the earth is a more specific statement than the freedom given by Gill, he agrees with Henry, Gill, and Calvin, in that “day” in Genesis 1:5 refers to a literal 24-hour period of time. MacArthur’s study of the Hebrew language helps to support this argument as he provides grammatical rules when pairing “day” with numerical adjectives for the appropriate understanding of the term.
Considering the solutions given by these four men, I agree with them all in that the term “day” in Genesis 1:5 refers to a literal 24-hour period of evening and morning, establishing a sequential pattern for the division of time into days, as well as light and darkness into nighttime and daytime, respectively. While MacArthur and Gill agree that there were no heavenly bodies to contain the light at this point in the creative process, I better appreciate Gill’s point regarding light as there is no necessary requirement for any scientific laws or currently observed scientific phenomena to have existed prior to the completion of God’s creation. While the modern form of the argument seems to pit long ages against literal 24-hour periods, and this likely due to the overwhelming acceptance and influence of evolutionary biology, I also appreciate Calvin’s argument against the instantaneous completion of creation merely described as having occurred in six days. At a minimum, this stresses how far secular humanism has brought man away from recognizing the power of God.
As a final thought, despite the varying interpretations of how we should understand the term “day,” Boyd and Eddy offer some unifying words for the evangelical community over this issue: “With all orthodox Christians, evangelicals hold to theism as a worldview. More specifically, they uphold the Biblical claim that the Triune God alone is the sovereign Creator of all that is and that he is active in creation (Genesis 1-2; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:3).”[5]

[1] Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Genesis 1". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentaryon the Whole Bible". . 1706.
[2] Gill, John. "Commentary on Genesis 1:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". . 1999.
[3] John Calvin. Commentary on Genesis – Volume 1, trans. Rev. John King (Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2008),
[4] MacArthur, John F. Genesis 1:5 notes. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006.
[5] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, The Genesis Debate, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 51.

The Desire of Woman (Genesis 3:16)

The desire that the woman has for her husband, according to John Gill, “is to be understood of her being solely at the will and pleasure of her husband; that whatever she desired should be referred to him, whether she should have her desire or not, or the thing she desired; it should be liable to be controlled by his will, which must determine it, and to which she must be subject.” Quite simply, this statement communicates a position of subjection from the woman to her husband. It would seem that because the woman did not refer the matter of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to her husband (who failed as well as he was there with her and did nothing), she was punished by means of further subjection to her husband who would thus rule over her.
Matthew Henry agrees with this position, but he also adds an important point about the response of wives to this subjection. He states, “The whole [female] sex, which by creation was equal with man, is, for sin, made inferior, and forbidden to usurp authority, 1 Tim. 2:11, 12. The wife particularly is hereby put under the dominion of her husband, and is not sui juris—at her own disposal, of which see an instance in that law, Num. 30:6-8, where the husband is empowered, if he please, to disannul the vows made by the wife…Those wives who not only despise and disobey their husbands, but domineer over them, do not consider that they not only violate a divine law, but thwart a divine sentence [emphasis in original].” Henry hints at the fact that while the desires of a woman are subjected to the authority of her husband in the bonds of marriage, the desire itself is not necessarily to subject herself but rather to attempt to rule over her husband. This seems reasonable as the Scripture reiterates that in spite of this desire, the husband will rule over his wife.
This brings us to the comments of John MacArthur. Regarding the desire of woman, MacArthur has this to say: “Sin has turned the harmonious system of God-ordained roles into distasteful struggles of self-will. Lifelong companions, husbands and wives, will need God’s help in getting along as a result. The woman’s desire will be to lord it over her husband, but the husband will rule by divine design (Eph 5:22-25). This interpretation of the curse is based upon the identical Heb. words and grammar being used in 4:7 (see note there) to show the conflict man will have with sin as it seeks to rule him [emphasis in original].” While MacArthur concurs with the conclusions of Gill and Henry, he further demonstrates the intent of the Hebrew language which, perhaps, is lost a bit in translation. In Genesis 4:7, God is telling Cain that doing well lifts his countenance, while not doing well leads to mastery by sin. The same English words “desire is for” are used in both Genesis 3:16 and 4:7. Understanding the Hebrew helps the reader to comprehend that the desire of the wife for her husband is the same as the desire of sin for Cain: To master him. Just as the husband will yet rule over the wife in spite of her desire, so God exhorts Cain to master the sin which desires him.
Finally, in answer to the question of what the desire of woman refers, it is the want of mastery over her husband, which is yet subjected to his headship given by created order and divine decree, and exacerbated by the judgment of The Fall.

Gill, John. "Commentary on Genesis 3:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire
Bible". . 1999.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Genesis 3". "Matthew Henry Complete
Commentary on the Whole Bible". . 1706.
MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Article Reviews: "Conversion of Constantine and Pagan Rome," "Western Roman Empire," and “Eastern Christianity on the Eve of Islam.”

The Conversion of Constantine
In this article, Whitney Oates reviews the book “The Conversion of Constantine and Pagan Rome,” by Andrew Alfoldi. In the book, Alfoldi speak about the theory of a genuine religious conversion of Constantine at the Battle of the Mulvian Bridge in October, 312 AD. The book also hints at Constantine progressing through 4 phases in his life, slowly ridding himself of paganism, and moving from tolerance to a thorough opposition and persecution of the religion in the final years of his life prior to his death in 337 A.D. Oates communicates the problems other scholars would find with this theory of conversion in light of the murder of Constantine’s wife and son, as well as the retention of the title of pontifex maximus. Also in this article, Oates reviews the book, “The Age of Constantine the Great,” by Jacob Burckhardt.
The Impact of the Fall of the Western Empire on the Church
In this article, various Wikipedia contributors discuss the background, dynasties, rebellions, and eventual fall of the Western Roman Empire. The time period discussed is from 259-480 AD. Also discussed in the article are the Roman Republic, tetrarchies, non-dynastic emperors, economy, and the legacy of the Western Empire. Part of that legacy included the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. The various provinces and regions within the Western Empire were slowly conquered by invading Germanic rulers, however, these rulers’ “tribes were already Christianised [sic], though most were followers of Arianism.” These rulers converted to Catholicism, gaining loyalty from the Roman populace, and enabling the Roman Catholic Church to replace many Roman institutions in the West, so that the majority of Europe was converted as well.
“Eastern Christianity on the Eve of Islam”
In this article, Dr. George Khoury explains several Christological heresies that occurred prior to the coming of Islam. Focusing in particular upon the Syrian Church, Khoury briefly discusses Arianism and Apollonarism before discussing Nestorianism and Monophysitism. Following Monophysitism, the “Jacobites” transferred the influence of Greek thought to Syria and then to Islam. Following a short discussion on Islam, Khoury closes with a brief discussion of the Armenian, Coptic-Ethiopic, Maronite, and Melkite Churches, which are independent descendents of the Monophysitic churches of Syria.

Oates, Whitney Jennings. 1950. "Conversion of Constantine and Pagan Rome." Theology
Today 7, no. 3: 423-427. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost
(accessed October 29, 2008).
Wikipedia contributors, "Western Roman Empire," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, ht
223 (accessed October 29, 2008).
Al-Bushra. “Eastern Christianity on the Eve of Islam.”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Article Reviews: “Persecution in the Early Church,” “Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ,” and “The Road to Nicaea.”

“Persecution in the Early Church”
In his article, Dr. William Frend gives a recap on the first 300 years of growth and lulls in persecution with the advent of each new emperor, leading up to what he entitles the “Great Persecution.” Following 43 years of relative peace, in 303 AD, Dr. Frend describes the beginning of this persecution related to a history of opposition just below the surface of an apparent acceptance, the coup d’etat of Diocletian and appointment of his co-emperor Maximian, and subsequent appointments of Constantius and Galerius as their assistants (Caesars). Galerius’ popularity due to a victory over the Persians, and the illness of Diocletian in 304 AD led to Galerius seizing “his chance and imposed a universal obligation to sacrifice on pain of death.” Galerius and Constantius assumed the positions of Diocletian and Maximian upon their formal abdication. The “Great Persecution” ended with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, signed by Constantine, the son and successor of Constantius, and Licinius, the successor of Galerius. Constantine defeated Licinius in 324 AD, unifying the empire under his rule and establishing Christianity as the religion of the Empire.
“Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ”
This article is a review of the book “Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ” by Klaus Wengst. The reviewer, Edgar Krentz, notes that Wengst examines Christian attitudes toward Pax Romana according to social status and geography. In the book, Wengst considers all benefits regarding the Pax Romana as evil, in spite of the majority of scholarship. Krentz notes that Wengst compares Christ to a political protestor that does not encourage rebellion, Paul as ambivalent, and Luke as an upper-class pro-Roman. It seems that in spite of these Biblical characters being attributed to different periods and geographical regions during this earliest of Church history, the gospel is spread through the empire as the Church adapts and responds to the Roman political environment.
“The Road to Nicaea”
This article, by John Anthony McGuckin, explores the reasons and path to the First Council of Nicaea in 325AD. McGuckin indicates that the Council was called over the dispute of, “one apparently simple question: in what way is Jesus divine?” The problem arose when Alexander, the Archbishop of Alexandria, held one of his common seminars with senior clergy in which he articulated the eternality of Christ in common with the Father. Arius, a senior priest of Alexander’s, argued that Christ might have existed before the rest of creation; however, that it wasn’t appropriate to believe that he shared the Father’s divine pre-existence. After gaining his parishioners in a party cause, Arius was deposed by Alexander to avoid the public fallout. Arius appealed the decision to Eusebius of Nicomedia, a powerful bishop and kinsman of the Emperor Constantine, who ultimately called the Council as a 20th anniversary of his having taken the throne in 305 AD and to solidify his rule. A majority agreement was made over the use of “homoousias” (of the same substance as) in the creed and all remaining dissenters were excommunicated and deposed.

Frend, William H.C. 1990. "Persecution in the early church." Christian History 1990.
Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed October 23, 2008). http://searc
Krentz, Edgar. 1989. "Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ." Currents in Theology
and Mission 16, no. 6: 459-459. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials,
EBSCOhost (accessed October 23, 2008).
McGuckin, John Anthony. 2005. "The Road to Nicaea." Christian History and Biography
Winter 2005. Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed October 23, 2008
). b=33h&AN=33h-6182D2B2-0F5317A2&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Image of God

In their book, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology, Boyd and Eddy indicate three views concerning what the imago Dei (image of God) could refer to: The Soul (the Substantival View), Our God-given authority (the Functional View), and our relationality (the Relational View). It is my conviction that this “image” refers to the human soul, and therefore I agree with the Substantival View. In defining how the imago Dei is the human soul, Boyd and Eddy comment, “the spiritual substance of humans sets them apart from all other animals as beings who are uniquely created in the imago Dei (emphasis in original).” Considering this “spiritual substance,” Boyd and Eddy describe five Biblical aspects which support this view. These five aspects are the following: “…humans are beings who shall never cease to exist spiritually…humans have the capacity to think rationally…humans possess a capacity for moral goodness…Humans can and should sense God’s Spirit calling them into relationship with him…humans possess the capacity to love.” It seems that the strongest argument to me for this view, apart from the Biblical evidence, is the essence of human beings. Boyd and Eddy remark that, “If we associate the imago Dei with something humans do rather than with who they are, then individuals who cannot or do not perform these tasks cannot be regarded as truly human (emphasis in original).” This is an excellent argument not only for supporting the Substantival View of the imago Dei, but also for supporting the sanctity of human life in our secularized post-modern culture. The first of three examples that come to mind are the 50,000,000 (fifty million) children aborted since the U.S. Supreme Court established abortion-on-demand in their infamous Roe v. Wade decision. The second example would be the value of physically/medically disabled individuals whose lives are considered below the acceptable norm. One of the saddest and most frustrating recent examples of this was the nationally-televised torturous death of Terry Schiavo by withholding both food and liquids to an alert and conscious woman because her estranged husband was waiting for the insurance money to enjoy with his adulteress companion and new family. The nation stood by and watched as Jeb Bush, several judges, Michael Schiavo, and medical doctors did nothing to stop the wicked destruction of a human life, but rather allowed the bedridden Terry to simply waste away. The third and final example is the value of the lives of mentally challenged/mentally unstable individuals. The US has seen in decades past the institutionalization of individuals with Down’s Syndrome or simple learning disabilities because they have been deemed a burden to society. Additionally, a common practice for mentally incompetent individuals who have been arrested is to simply put them in lockdown in the infirmary of the local county jail as state-run mental hospitals do not have the bed space. It is quite easy to see the complications we encounter when the value of human life and the image of God in that life is based upon either what we do (the Relational View) or how we act (the Functional View). As a final argument, Scripture tells us that, “You shall not murder.” In determining why God would command this of us, we can understand that if human beings are made in the image of God, this means to murder an individual is to profane the image of God. Therefore, if the image of God is based upon what we do or how we act, it would be illogical for God to command this. However, because the image of God is the human soul, prohibiting the destruction of that image by the sin of murder makes perfect logical sense. This is why I believe that the image of God is the human soul, because it is the only way to agree with God that human beings are of infinite value and worth, as we bear His holy image.

Boyd, Gregory A. and Eddy, Paul R. The Divine Image Debate. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.
MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006.

Friday, October 10, 2008

McDonald's Recants its Support for the Homosexual Agenda

After approximately five months, it appears that McDonald's has felt enough pressure from their primary market (traditional families with traditional values) that they have ended their association with the pro-homosexual activist group National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Richard Ellis, a McDonald's VP, resigned from the board of directors of NGLCC and his seat on the board will not be replaced. Officials have also stated that McDonald's will not be renewing their membership come December. This is a step in the right direction for the fast food giant and AFA (American Family Association) has ended their boycott.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Charismatic Gifts Debate

In answering the question of whether or not the sign gifts are present today, I categorize myself as a cessationist. Because cessationism can mean more than one thing, my conviction resembles that of a Classical Cessationist (while the sign gifts have ceased with the office of Apostle and the closing of the canon, I do not limit God’s ability to perform independent miracles today). The other cessationist positions are Full (no more miracles at all), Concentric (while miracles [sign gifts] have ceased, they appear in unreached areas to further the Gospel), and Consistent (both sign gifts and the ministries listed in Ephesians 4 have ceased; i.e. not just apostles, but pastors, teachers, and evangelists).1 As a cessationist, I look to Scripture to verify my own personal convictions.

First, 2 Corinthians 12:12 and Ephesians 3:4-5 demonstrate that the sign gifts are associated with the office and ministry of Apostles and Prophets. This is important as only 14 men have ever held the office of Apostle according to Scripture (Luke 6:13, Acts 1:26, and 1 Corinthians 9:2). The argument that the office of Apostle continues today is not reasonable as the personal experiences of the twelve (disciples/apostles) along with Paul, in addition to the requirements for selecting a replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:22 indicates this had to be someone who was a witness of the entire ministry of Christ from John’s Baptism to the Ascension), attest to the limit of this temporary office. Additionally, Ephesians 2:20 demonstrates that the office, along with that of Prophet in the Old Covenant, is for a foundation upon which the Church is built (this would include the canon of Scripture as foundational as it was the written teaching, inspired by the Holy Spirit, of the Prophets and Apostles or someone directly related to them). So then, if the offices of Apostle and Prophet have ceased, it is reasonable to infer from Scriptural evidence affirming this point that the sign gifts associated with this office have ceased as well. As a side note, prophecy includes two things: foretelling and forthtelling. Because all orthodox Christians rightly believe that there is no new revelation, the foretelling aspect of this gift is no longer functioning. However, the forthtelling or proclamation of the Gospel will continue until the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).

Second, Hebrews 2:2-4 refers to signs, wonders, and miracles in the past tense as a confirmation of the message of salvation first coming through Christ and then His apostles. This passage affirms others such as 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. Here, Paul makes the point that prophecy and knowledge will be “done away,”2 while tongues will “cease.”2 Two verses later, in verse 10, Paul refers to both prophecy and knowledge as partial, being done away with at the coming of the perfect. MacArthur raises an important point here in that, “There may be a distinction made on how prophecy and knowledge come to an end, and how the gift of tongues does. This is indicated by the Gr. verb forms used.”3 Later, he points out that this difference indicates that the gift of tongues will cease by itself.3 Although the gift of tongues, along with other sign gifts, has ceased, it does not seem that the coming of the perfect described in these verses is the completion of the canon. Rather, Scripture indicates that the perfect has come when we see face to face (verse 12), and this occurs in the eternal state (Revelation 22:4).

Finally, 1 Corinthians 14:22 states that tongues is a sign for unbelievers. While the continuationist uses Paul’s emphasis upon tongues in this chapter to support their position, this is not the context of the message. Paul was communicating two things here: First, if tongues occurs at all, it should not be practiced in an unorganized or chaotic fashion; Second, prophecy is an altogether better and more desirable gift. So then, if tongues is a sign for unbelievers, and this along with the other sign gifts are associated with the office or ministry of Apostle, and the offices of both Apostle and Prophet have ceased, the sign gifts are no longer active today.

In conclusion, many detractors label cessationist congregations as either quenchers of the Spirit or not experiencing the same Spiritually-active worship as continuationist congregations. Boyd and Eddy indicate that, “All [evangelicals] believe the Holy Spirit supernaturally works in human hearts to bring people to the point of faith in Christ. All believe the Holy Spirit gives certain gifts to people to carry out ministry, such as teaching, preaching, administration, and hospitality. And all agree that God can and does at times miraculously intervene in the affairs of people.”4 I agree with this statement and believe that using Scripture to come to the conclusion that certain sign gifts have ceased with certain offices does not make one believer any less alive in the Spirit than another. God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are alive and well in today’s fallen world.

[1] "Cessationism." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 23 Sep 2008, 17:15 UTC. 3 Oct 2008 <>.

[2] 1 Corinthians 13:8, The MacArthur Study Bible (La Habra: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 1718.

[3] John F. MacArthur, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 Notes, The MacArthur Study Bible (La Habra: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 1719.

[4] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, The Charismatic Gifts Debate, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 213.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Five Points

The issue of salvation seems to be a hotly-debated one, especially as it relates to the relationship between human responsibility and divine sovereignty. Having said this, I now go on to present the five points of Calvinism, summarized by the acronym TULIP, to which I hold and defend as the Biblical presentation of salvation.

“The doctrine of total depravity (also called "total inability") asserts that, as a consequence of the fall of humanity into sin, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin (” There are two questions which must be answered in relation to this definition: First, how does sin affect the ability of a fallen individual to respond to the Gospel? Second, how does sin affect the free exercise of the will of said fallen individual? To answer the first question, we find that Scripture indicates that humanity has not come to Christ because they are dead in their sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). This makes sense as man’s attempt at responding affirmatively to God is hindered as his efforts are a “polluted garment (i.e. menstrual cloth - Isaiah 64:6),” enslaved to sin (John 8:34), completely corrupt (Psalm 14:3), hostile to God (Romans 8:7), etc. To put it simply, a natural rebellion against God keeps the natural man from coming to Him. Looking at the second question, we must understand the difference between the nature and the will. Both God and man can act only in accordance with their particular natures. We cannot say that God can will to do anything because He cannot will to sin. So then, unregenerate man has the freedom to will his course of action, but only that action which is not outside or beyond his particular nature. Apart from the free gift of grace from God to choose God, and thus apart from a new nature in Christ by being born-again, man is totally unable to respond to God. Until he is given a new nature in Christ, he can only freely choose to act in a manner consistent with his sin nature.

Because man can only act within his own fallen nature, it was necessary for God to elect some for Himself from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6). “The doctrine of unconditional election asserts that God's choice from eternity of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy alone (” Often, the objection is raised that this view of election makes God out to be an unfair tyrant. First, as Paul teaches us in Romans 9:20-21, we have no right as the creature to question the Creator as to His sovereign choice. Second, this objection refuses to accept that all men are responsible for their own sin and have earned an eternal damnation through their works (Romans 6:23). In true fairness, God would send all to Hell and He would receive all the glory in His perfect justice. However, because none choose Him (Romans 3:10-12), He regenerates some through the Holy Spirit enabling them to freely choose Him (in this, regeneration logically precedes justification, however, they occur simultaneously). God’s mercy and grace are demonstrated for those He has enabled to worship Him in Heaven, and again, God receives all the glory.

As it is true that God chose the believer for Himself (1 Peter 2:9-10), so also He provided the means to satisfy His justice so that His love could be demonstrated without violating His character (Romans 5:8). Likely the most controversial point of Calvinism is the doctrine of Limited Atonement. It seems the word “limited” tends to confuse people who are not familiar with what this doctrine teaches. As Boyd and Eddy note, “Christ’s death is sufficient for all the sins of the world, but it was intended to save only those whom the Father has predestined to be saved.” That is to say, while the power of Christ’s death in the atonement is unlimited, it is applied only to the limited number of those who are saved. The Canons of Dordt also clarify this misunderstanding by communicating, “This death of God's Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world (” Of course, we know that many will find themselves in Hell (Matthew 7:13-14), so it seems evident from Scripture that Christ did not die for the sinners whose punishment shall be meted out for an eternal damnation (though the power of the atonement is sufficient to save them), but rather for the elect alone (as the purpose of the atonement is efficient to save them).

Because it is true that God chose the believer (Ephesians 1:4) and paid for his sins (1 John 4:10), it is also true that those whom He bought will come to Him (John 6:37-39). The doctrine of Irresistible Grace is often referred to by detractors as divine arm-twisting. However, just as man in his natural state is a rebel against God, so by the enablement of his new nature he is finally able to freely choose God. Being given this new heart with new desires, the believer takes joy in the decision to follow Christ. Seeing the perversity of sin and the wrath of God to come, he gladly turns from his wickedness to the salvation of God.

Finally, because God draws the believer to Himself, and he shall come, so too the security of salvation is eternal as God has completed the process Himself (John 10:27-29, Philippians 1:6, John 6:44). This does not mean that the believer never sins, but that their sin does not result in a loss of salvation (1 John 1:8-10) and through repentance and confession he is restored to a right relationship with God. As Boyd and Eddy indicate regarding the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, “When people have been elected by God and changed by God’s irresistible grace, they cannot fall away.” In conclusion, because man is depraved in all his parts, God necessarily chose some in Himself to save from before the foundation of the world. Because He purchased the salvation of the elect alone in Christ, they will come to Him. God, as the author and finisher of faith, keeps the elect secure in their salvation as it is not the believer’s power, but rather God’s power working in him to save him.


"Calvinism." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 18 Sep 2008, 15:01 UTC. 19 Sep 2008

MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006.

Boyd, Gregory A. and Eddy, Paul R. The Salvation Debate. Across the Spectrum:
Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic,

"Canons of Dordt.” Historic Church Documents at