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.