Sunday, 30 December 2007

Pastor's Page: "Behold He Is Coming"

This is a short devotional formatted to fit a church bulletin page (in a large print font) which churches may freely reproduce, if the blog address is cited.

John the Revelator tells us, "Look! He is coming! And every eye will see him!" One of these days, we will hear a mighty shout and trumpet blast, and we will all look up to see Christ coming.
For some, this will be an incredibly good and joyous sight. For others, this will be a time of the greatest mourning. The contrast could hardly be greater. Christians long for that Day; we talk about it with great anticipation, and we pray that God would haste its coming. When it does happen, we'll sing and shout the victory!

Not so, the unbeliever! The Revelator continues, "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him" (1:7). Elsewhere he says,

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty,
and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the
mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and
hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the
Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand"

For those who have not placed their full allegiance in the slain but risen Lamb Christ Jesus, the day of his coming will be a day of disaster, not salvation; a day of wailing, not joy, a day of unassailable grief which will never be abated throughout all eternity.

Why such contrast? Why the extreme between great joy and great distress? The great divide falls on our acceptance of Christ's claims over our lives. Maranatha!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Pastor's Page: The Ugly Side of New Birth (Advent #4)

Duffy Robbins, a Youth Ministry professor, humorously recounts all the unsightliness and un-comeliness of giving birth. He notes that a first-time visitor from another planet would assume that something truly horrific was happening in the mater-nity ward, as he heard all the screaming, and wit-nessed the frenzied activity, and incredible pain and hardship associated with human birth. Robbins' tongue-in-cheek analysis conveys the important fact that bringing forth new life is messy business.

This was true even of the birth of the Savior. The miraculous conception brought shame to the couple. There was hardship in making the journey to Bethlehem. Being sent to the stable to share lodging with the sheep was insulting. There was panic in every step as they fled with Herod's thugs in hot pursuit. Bloodshed, violent shrieks of anguish, and tear-streaked cheeks filled nurseries in every household in Bethlehem as Herod raged over the one who was born King of the Jews. This birth was indeed a messy business.

But these labor pains were not in vain. The Savior was born, and so, New Life was brought into this world—like never before.

As with any new birth, we pace wearily through our daily lives, facing potential tragedy on every side. Yet we experience all this while fixing our eyes on Jesus who says, "Behold, I make all things new!" (Rev 21:5).

Monday, 10 December 2007

The Priesthood of Every Believer and How Churches Should Be Governed

The Priesthood of Every Believer
and How Churches Should Be Governed

As a sometime pastor, and as a scholar of the church (in training), I have an intense interest in what the Bible says about church governance. Does the Bible support the notion of a church governed by the pastor, a board, or the congregation? This post argues for congregational government, tying it to the doctrine of the indwelling of every believer, which is often overlooked in this discussion.

Definitions and Dynamics
Preliminarily, I should define some basic elements of the various types of church governance, with relevant commentary. First there is episcopal government in which an individual has sole authority in the church and rules by fiat. This is seen in Roman Catholicism in which the Pope rules the churches through his bishops and priests, but is also exemplified in the Episcopal and Methodist churches. Since the 1960s (more or less), this type of church governance has (ironically) become increasingly popular within the independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches in the U.S., following the model of people such as Bob Jones, John R. Rice, and Jack Hyles.

Second, a presbyterian model puts church governance into the hands of a board. Although the board is traditionally referred to as an elder board, it might also be called any other number of titles, such as trustees or even deacons (!). But perhaps the most important aspect of presbyterian governance is that this board controls the church and is self-perpetuating. That is, when an elder resigns, dies, or rotates off the board, the church does not choose his replacement, but rather the board chooses his replacement.

Third, a congregational or baptistic model puts church governance into the hands of the congregation which appoints leaders to various positions to facilitate the decision making/implementation process. The pastor may have more or less authority, and likewise other church leaders such as deacons and trustees, according to the previously defined limits outlined in the church's by-laws which were drawn by the congregation.

Plurality of Elders in the New Testament

Before making my argument for congregational government, I should address the claim that the Bible teaches a church governance of a plurality of elders, since this gets stated so often and gets little analytical scrutiny. Yes, to be sure, we know that there were elders in the early church and that the elders surely would have wielded leadership authority. However, this does not automatically mean that such elders reflected a presbyterian model in which they had unilateral control over the church and were self-perpetuating.

We also know that the apostles or their delegates appointed church elders in new churches. But again, this does not necessitate the notion that such elders, in turn, appointed their own replacements or had unilateral authority over the church.

On the contrary, there is reasonably good evidence to suggest that once a church became self-governing, it was the church itself which designated its own leaders, rather than the apostles or their delegates. A case in point is, of course, 1 Timothy, where the church was in leadership crisis, in part, because Hymenaeus and Alexander had been excluded from the church, necessitating Paul's extensive instructions about the church choosing their replacements. This assumes that the list of 1 Tim 3 was not written for the sake of Timothy. In fact, Timothy had just previously discussed the Ephesian situation with Paul at an undisclosed location as Paul was on his way to Macedonia (1:3). If it were Timothy's task to appoint elders, Paul and Timothy would have simply resolved the issue face to face, with the letter disclosing additional words of encouragement to those whom they had already chosen. Instead, the list appears designed to help the congregation figure out whom they should choose as their new leaders.

Doctrine of the Priesthood and Indwelling of Every Believer
Historically, episcopal government dominated the later years of the early church, as churches modeled their governance after the dictators of Rome. Many centuries later, in the Reformation era, the church came to understand the doctrine of the Priesthood of Every Believer, along with the Spirit's indwelling of every believer. This raised serious questions about episcopal governance and ultimately re-distributed or devolved authority from an individual bishop or priest to an elder board.

Baptists, however, took this doctrine more seriously and applied its implications more consistently in terms of church governance. If every believer really is a priest and is indwelt by the Spirit, then it is possible for even the lowest maidservant to be led by the Spirit of God. As such, the input of each person was cherished in the decision making process, at least in theory. (One wonders how freely Baptist women were permitted to contribute in those early years of the movement.) Consequently, while presbyterians were willing to devolve authority away from the monarchical bishop to a small group of elders, Baptists devolved authority all the way to the individual members of the church so that the congregation formed its own governance.

Earlier I said in a sideward comment that it is ironic that so many independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches have retroverted back to a papal model in which the pastor has all authority. Someone referred to these pastors as "protestant popes." What is so ironic about this trend is that this is a wholesale discarding of deeply considered convictions which our Baptist forebears held, and it is done without much serious thought. Baptists ought to embrace the doctrine of the Priesthood and Indwelling of Every Believer since they have traditionally held to this doctrine moreso than any other Christian movement.

This doctrine of the Priesthood and Indwelling of Every Believer puts congregational governance on a solid biblical basis. I'm not aware of any biblical text which speaks against the notion that the church congregation chooses its own leadership and defines the limits of leaders' authority, nor am I aware of any text which suggests that a board or an individual is supposed to have unilateral authority over the church. On the contrary, there are texts which seem to assume that the congregation determines its own leaders, and the doctrine of the Priesthood and Indwelling of Every Believer makes congregational governance the most biblical approach to this important issue.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Pastor's Page: A Tale of Two Kings (Advent #3)

This is a short devotional formatted to fit a church bulletin page (in a large print font) which churches may freely reproduce, if the blog address is cited.

A Tale of Two Kings

One king wasn't born a king at all; he hadn't even a drop of royalty in his blood. He had to scratch, connive, conspire, and backstab all the way to his throne. The other King was born a true king, not by virtue of his genealogy—although he was descendant of kings—but by virtue of his very nature.

One king looked like a king. He wore royal garments and was surrounded by royal courtesans. He lived in fine palaces and was protected by body guards and armies. The other King didn't look like a king at all. He wore swaddling rags and claimed a feeding trough for a crib. His courtesans, so to speak, were bedraggled shepherds.

One king sought everyone's worship and adoration. He exerted his kingship like a petty thug or a child tyrant. On hearing the news of another king being worshiped, he took drastic desperate steps to stop it. The other King was meek and lowly. To those who worshiped him, he gave the gift of rest and life. To show his love for us, he stretched his arms wide open to receive us as he drew his dying breaths.

One king died and was buried. No one mourned his death or built a great memorial to him. The other King, too, died, but was resurrected to life. His monument to us is an empty tomb.

O come, let us adore the true King.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

A Christmas Choral Reading for Five Readers

It Was in a Dream:
A Christmas Call to Discipleship

A Christmas Choral Reading for Five Readers

James M. Leonard
Christmas, 2007

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Pastor's Page (Advent): Near to the Heart of God

This is a short devotional formatted to fit a church bulletin page (in a large print font) which churches may freely reproduce, if the blog address is cited.

God is so, so very different from us: all knowing, all powerful, all wise, all holy. Yet, we were created "in his image." This means we have some things in common. In particular, God created us as persons, not as things or objects. He created us as thinking and reasoning beings. He created us as relational beings. He created us to have a right relationship with him as thinking persons who are free to act in this Creator-creature relationship. And there is one more thing about this relationship: it involves God's deep love for us.

The sad thing about this relationship is that we have all acted contrary to God's intentions. We have personally sinned against him. We have personally rebelled against his will. We have personally insulted the Spirit of his grace. As such, we have alienated ourselves from our Creator, and this torments our souls.

The Good News about Christmas is that God did not leave us in our alienation. At the right time, God came so close to us as to become one of us, through the incarnation of his Son, Jesus Christ. By doing so, he showed us his own desire to restore a right relationship with us. Christ came so that we may once again come near to the heart of God.

Friday, 30 November 2007

The Text of Micah

I don't dabble much in Old Testament Textual Criticism--mostly because I don't know anything about it (except for Wurstein's The Text of the Old Testament which I read 15 years ago and don't remember anything I read.

OT text criticism is a different world altogether from NT textual criticism. Bruce Waltke, an evangelical Old Testament exegete, built his scholarly career after establishing himself as an Old Testament text critic. He did his Harvard PhD on the Samaritan Pentateuch. I studied under him, but never took any of his text criticism classes (same with Fee!).

I'm reading Waltke's commentary on Micah currently. Fantastic read. He lays out some basic text critical data. In the New Testament, we have 5500+ Greek manuscripts and about 15,000+ manuscripts of ancient versions. Nearly every verse of the New Testament shows some variation (mostly minor, but many major) in the tradition.

The situation is completely different in the Old Testament. For Micah, we get the Masoretic text letter for letter from a manuscript called the Leningrad Codex--it is rather late--dating to 1010 A.D. Hebrew manuscripts of Micah prior to this are few and far between. However, found in one of the Dead Sea Scroll caves (Cave 5) was a scroll of Micah now known as Mur 88 or Mur XII. It was written about the time of the Second Jewish Revolt (132 A.D.). Incredibly, as Waltke points out, "[It is] virtually identical with the [Masoretic text = Leningrad Codex = BHS]; its nine [!!!] variants from the 1600 words of [Micah] are incidental." Waltke then lists them--all of which are nothing but minutiae (sometimes less than a jot or tittle).

The other ancient sources which attest to the text of Micah are:
  1. 23 fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls cache, known as 1QpMic
  2. A disputed number of fragments which comprise the Dead Sea Scrolls document 4QpMic or 4Q168.
  3. Ancient citations of Micah in the Zadokite Documents
  4. Septuagint (the Greek translation of Micah--but the text form is different from Masoretic text type)
  5. A Greek translation--Kaige-Theodotian--closer to the Masoretic text type
  6. Aquila's Greek translation (c. 130 AD)--even closer to the Masoretic text
  7. Syriac
  8. Old Latin
  9. Latin Vulgate
  10. Aramaic targums

As can be surmised, our attestation for Micah is extremely thin compared to any New Testament writing--although the Dead Sea Scrolls date earlier than any of our New Testament manuscripts. But what is amazing is how well preserved the Masoretic text is when compared between the 130 A.D. Qumran manuscript and the 11th century Codex Leningrad.

What Is Interim Ministry?

When a church loses its pastor, all kinds of things go topsy turvy. More often than not, the pastor leaves due to crisis. His departure is bound to upset a good number of the congregation if he leaves on bad terms. Typically, the Board of Deacons makes sure the church gets pulpit supply. Sometimes this is erratic, often with late Sunday night calls of desperation to find someone. Often, the pulpit supply is good, at other times, maybe not. A major problem is that the Deacons finally find someone willing to come on a regular basis. But then, this preacher gets into his head that maybe he should become pastor. He starts building up loyalties in the congregation. In effect, this circumvents the legitimate pastoral search. It becomes a runaway enterprise which the pastoral search committee can't control. Meanwhile, the church has not had a chance to recoup or heal from its recent loss. Ultimately, the church will likely hire the interim minister, but because the prior problems have not been resolved, the new pastor loses it in another 1-3 years. The cycle repeats itself.

A programmatic Interim Ministry fixes this problem. Some denominations facilitate this process. When the church declares a vacancy, it can appeal to the denominational structure to send it an interim minister. This interim minister is specifically trained to deal with the oddities and demands of interim ministry. He is employed by the denominational agency and is subcontracted out to the church. He serves as long as the denominational agency and the church mutually consent. One of the commitments made by the interim minister is not to candidate for the pastorate of his interim ministry. This is a huge bonus. It allows him to do the things he really needs to do without becoming conflicted by an interest in getting the job. Actually, the interim minister who knows that he cannot be considered for the pastorate can spend his capital on fixing any dysfunctionalities of a church without worrying about his job security. Everyone knows he is a short termer (perhaps 1-3 years), and is willing to give him some slack. They also realize he is not doing this or that for his own gain, but out of his professional concern for the church. The "dedicated" interim minister is, in effect, an outside consultant who becomes intricately connected to the church. Many churches are like dysfunctional families. Dysfunction is passed on from generation to generation until someone breaks the cycle. The specially trained interim minister works on breaking this cycle.

Fortunately, you don't have to re-invent the wheel. Specialists have studied interim ministries and have outlined a program for interim ministry.

Occasional Diversion: Roger Waters' Opera Ca Ira

Roger Waters was the creative genius of the phenomenally successful rock group Pink Floyd, which has managed the incredible feat of posting top 10 albums in each decade since the 1960s.[1] In 1984, he put out his first solo album, and now in 2006 he has succeeded in writing and releasing an epic opera on the French Revolution, called Ça Ira: There Is Hope.

This is not a rock opera, and is entirely devoid of those elements which characterize rock music. Waters doesn't sing on it, but such credentialed opera vocalists as Bryn Terfel play leading characters. The opera has been performed at significant operatic venues.

Here are some seasoned reflections, now that I've owned the CD for more than a year and have become intimately acquainted with it.

First, once you know the music, it sticks to your head moreso than any other item in the Floyd-Waters repertoire. I put the opera away for a few months, then recently played it, with the result being that the music is ominously present in my mind constantly, unavoidably.

Second, the poetry is highly Watersian. The poetry is worthy of publication by itself. There are many, many memorable lines, full of irony, freshness, and explosiveness. If you memorize these lines, you'll never lack for an a propos comment.

Third, recurring motifs intertwine and hold this massive work together, to the delight of the audience.

Fourth, great special effects aboud, of course, meeting and exceeding Floyd fans' high expectations.

Fifth, an amazing melting pot of irony, horror, and levity is achieved through the mocking innocence of young voices (children's), for example, "But we are not rats. We're not even human!"

Sixth, the opera achieves a great psychological impact. Much of the music requires repeated listening to catch the lyrics (typical of operatic voices, I think). Consequently, you get to know the music before the text gets processed in your minds. Thus, for example, in the song "Sugar, Silver, Indigo," you're surfing an exhilarating musical wave when finally the words crash down on you that the insatiable desire for the three imports "...make even the wisest man an idiot," which can't help but produce a snicker and a nodding affirmation. There is a complete libretto included with the cd, facilitating understanding of words and scenes.

One of the great keys to Waters' success is how he typically weaves the album together so that it has perfect segues with an exponentiating psychological impact. Does this album qualify? Much of it holds together, but perhaps not perfectly like Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and Amused To Death. Maybe after becoming more thoroughly acquainted with the music, some of the drag in sections will become less so.

It seems to me that Waters has a conceptual problem which keeps us from being endeared to the warm fuzzies of the French Revolution. The Revolution was not a glorious thing. Yes, we love liberty, but such a virtue seems to get lost in the messiness and vacillations of the French Revolution. A more obvious venue for an opera on glorious liberty would have been the American Revolution. But, given Waters' obvious disdain for America, I don't suppose this would have been an appealing theme to our composer!

The listener really doesn't know what to think about poor King Louis. The music seems to make us want to grieve over his death, but we have a hard time doing so logically, since he was so flawed. We are conflicted. The opera works toward a climax with the death of King Louis, and the listener somehow expects a conclusion here. But then we go on for some time, sometimes with great affectation. But instead of the expected epilogue after the King's execution, we forge on to new territory.

One of the amazing psychological effects produced by this album is how increasingly terrible the guillotine becomes. The first few times you hear the sound effect, you say, "Wow, that's cool." But after you get to know the music, you begin to dread the moment of the shrill sound of the falling of the blade. This dread reaches its apex in the song, "We want to get rid of the guillotine" in which we are treated to a parade of executions. Really and truly, Waters reproduces the dread of the guillotine within the listeners, almost as if we had been there. The end result is that this album is not one of those albums you would care to listen to for the sheer fun of it. You won't be putting this cd into your player without thinking twice about whether you're ready for it.

Musical reference to earlier albums is almost nil. Of course, there are points here and there where the listener delightfully says, "That sounds Floydian" or "that sounds Watersian." But such moments are rather subtle, and normally do not constitute a motif referral. The one major exception is the appropriation of "As we lie here in the dark, nothing interferes, its obvious..." from Pros and Cons for the lyrics of Cousin Bourbon of Spain. That tune is powerful in any context.

Ultimately, I can't help but think this opera album really is very important musically and lyrically. I would recommend to most anyone to buy it.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Translation Theory: American Standard Version (1901)

By far the best, most brutally literal (or minimalistic) standard translation is the American Standard Version (1901). It's great to use when your looking for the exactitudes of the Greek and Hebrew language, although it is awkward, and sounds like the Iranian Ambassador trying to give a soundbite in English.

But today, in looking at Matt 14:24 dealing with the boat being swamped by the waves of the sea, I found a place where ASV really, totally fails to keep up with its translation philosophy of minimalism, and ends up translating rather dynamically.

The problem is that Matthew incorporates a Greek technical term denoting distance. Our standard of measuring distance is the mile or kilometer. The Greeks used the term stadia. Matthew writes that they were many stadia from the land. NIV/TNIV says the equivalent, except without using stadia: " but the boat was already a considerable distance from land." This works fine, and is a good example of sticking with the Greek text as much as possible without hurting the English language.

Normally ASV will stick to the Greek even to the point of offending the English language, but in the case of Matt 14:24, ASV gives a strikingly dynamic (!) translation: "But the boat was now in the midst of the sea." In this case, ASV would make you assume that the Greek would have the word θαλασσα (sea) in this verse, and that the fuller expression "midst of the sea" could be found if you used a Greek interlinear. While you normally can assume things about the Greek behind the ASV without bad things happening to you, in this case, your assumption would get you into trouble.

I hate to say it, but my favorite brutal English translation, ASV, dropped the ball. Yes, it does give a good dynamic equivalent translation; but we don't use ASV for its dynamic equivalence!

In contrast, a good example of ASV's usefulness as a brutally minimal translation is found in Exod 1:13-14 which reads, "And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigor: and they made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field, all their service, wherein they made them serve with rigor."

Here, ASV shows the five-fold recurrence of the word serve/service as it correctly reflects the Hebrew. No modern translation (not even ESV) would dare to give such a brutal translation, precisely because any elementary school teacher would simply tell the student to find some other word, rather than boringly repeat the same word five times in the course of two sentences.

But Hebrew narrative is different. It loves this sort of repitition and uses it to convey theology. In this case, the emphasis is that Israel was exemplifying life under the curse of working by the sweat of the brow (Gen 3). By emphasizing this point, the narrator is setting the stage for God to restore the Sabbath Age of Rest (Gen 2:1-3) and to bring Israel into the land of Rest.

No English translation of this passage, other than ASV, calls attention to this motif. If you cannot read Hebrew, the only way to access this narrative technique is through the brutal minimalism of ASV.

The digital ASV is easily accessible everywhere (e.g.,;&version=8;), although its print form is hard to find. If you find one tucked away in a dusty corner of a church somewhere, take it and put it to good use.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Advent Weekly Themes, Daily Scriptures

Week One: Repentance and preparation--Isaiah 40:1-5.
Candle lighting: One purple candle.

Scripture memory: Isaiah 40:3
A voice of one calling:
"In the wilderness prepare
     the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
     a highway for our God.

Daily Scripture
Sunday Isaiah 40:1-11, “Comfort for God’s People”
Monday Matt 3:1-12, “John the Baptist Prepares the Way”
Tuesday Rev 2:1-7 “To the Church in Ephesus”
Wednesday Acts 2:14-41 “Peter Addresses the Crowd”
Thursday James 4:1-12 “Submit Yourselves to God”
Friday Isaiah 1:10-18 “Let Us Reason Together”
Saturday 1 John 1:5-2:2 “Walking in the Light”

Suggested Hymn: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Week Two: Good News--Matt 4:12-17
Candle lighting: Two purple candles

Scripture memory: “The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15 NIV)
Daily Scriptures:
Sunday Mark 1:14-15 with Matt 11:1-6 “Good News”
Monday Luke 4:14-30 “Jesus Rejected at Nazareth”
Tuesday Isaiah 52:7-12 “Blessed Are the Feet”
Wednesday Rom 1:8-17 “Not Ashamed of the Gospel”
Thursday Gal 1:6-9 “No Other Gospel”
Friday Eph 1:3-14 (The Gospel Paul Preached)
Saturday Matt 4:12-17 “Jesus Begins to Preach”
Suggested Hymn: It Came upon the Midnight Clear

Week Three: Joy and Anticipation--Luke 2:8-20
Candle Lighting: Two purple candles and the pink candle

Scripture Memory: Luke 2:10-11
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Daily Scriptures:
Sunday Luke 2:8-20 “The Shepherds and the Angels”
Monday Zech 9:9-17 “The Coming of Zion’s King”
Tuesday Isa 60:1-5 “The Glory of Zion”
Wednesday Rom 8:18-27 “Future Glory”
Thursday Philippians 4:4,10-13 “Joy and Contentment”
Friday 2 Peter 3:3-14 “The Day of the Lord”
Saturday Rev 6:9-11; 22:12-21 “Jesus Is Coming”
Suggested Hymn: How Great Our Joy!

Week Four: Royalty: Christ is King--Isaiah 9:1-7
Candle Lighting: Two purple candles followed by the pink candle, then by the third purple candle
Scripture memory: Luke 1:32-33
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.
Daily Scriptures:
Sunday Isa 9:1-7 “To Us a Child Is Born”
Monday Luke 1:5-25 “The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold”
Tuesday Luke 1:26-38 “The Birth of Jesus Foretold”
Wednesday Luke 1:39-45 “Mary Visits Elizabeth”
Thursday Luke 2:1-7 “The Birth of Jesus”
Friday Matt 1:18-25 “The Birth of Jesus Christ”
Saturday Matt 2:1-23 “The Visit of the Magi”

Suggested Hymn: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

Christmas Eve or Day: Christ is born--John 1:1-18 or Matt 1:18-2:23
Candle lighting: Two purple candles followed by the pink candle, then the third purple candle, and finally the Christ candle (the white candle)
Scripture memory: John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Suggested Hymn: What Child Is This?

Pastor's Page: Getting Ready! (Advent #1)

We invest so much of ourselves into the coming of Christmas. We spend gobs of money buying gifts. We spend countless hours looking for really nice gifts. We send cards and letters. We spend more time and more money in the decorating. We attend Christmas parties. We load up our grocery carts and refrigerators. The whole ordeal of planning our meals, purchasing the foods, and preparing them takes many, many hours. We spread a beautiful table cloth and set out our finest china. Not only do we spend time and money buying gifts, we even go to great efforts to wrap them.

Preparing for the coming of Christmas is all well and good. However, none of it matters if we're not prepared for the coming of Christ.

"Where is this `coming' he promised?" so ask the skeptics. "Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation," they say. But God hasn't forgotten his promise. Truly, truly, Christ is coming.

How embarrassed we would be if we forgot to buy a gift for a close loved one. How much more will we be embarrassed if Christ's coming catches us by surprise?

During this Advent season, don't be too busy to prepare for Christ's coming. Preparing for Christ's coming is so much more important than getting ready for Christmas.

Pastor's Page: Joying a Great Joy Greatly (Advent #2)

Awkward as it may sound, "joying a great joy greatly" is pretty close to the Greek of those biblical passages describing people's response to the coming of the Lord (see Matthew 2:10). Of course, not everyone is so eager for the coming of the Lord, but those who earnestly seek him are filled with a glorious and unspeakable joy (1 Peter 1:8).

Why such joy at the birth of a baby? Yes, we're all happy about the birth of any baby. But this baby was different, filling not only his parents with unspeakable and indescribable joy, but also even strangers with the kind of joy which is otherwise never, ever experienced. What was it about this baby which brought such joy?

The birth of this baby Jesus was a demonstration of God's great love and commitment to us—let us rejoice! The manger scene was a fulfillment of promises made long ago that God would not leave us in our fallen state—let us rejoice! The angel's announcement signaled that the time had come for a new beginning which will culminate in the new heavens and the new earth—let us rejoice!

This news eclipses even the joy of happy faces opening presents around the Christmas tree. In fact, without the coming of Christ, we'd be left to live in die in the worst sort of misery. So, for this reason, we "joy a great joy greatly."

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Master's Thesis: Fulfillment of Temple Theology in Matthew's Gospel

1994 Master's Thesis: Fulfillment of Temple Theology in Matthew's Gospel (Regent College, Vancouver, B.C., copyright 1994 by James M. Leonard)

Chapter 1

Introduction to the Problem
and Preview of Argument

1.1. Introduction

This chapter is designed to introduce the issue of Jesus and Temple in Matthew's Gospel. The history of research is outlined, followed by a preview of the argument contained in the subsequent chapters.

1.1.1. Review of Modern Scholarship

Developments in modern biblical scholarship have made a study on Jesus and the Temple in Matthew a timely endeavor. Such a study is propelled by advances in the third quest for the historical Jesus and in recent analyses of Matthew's theology. Both of these fronts are briefly analyzed in the following paragraphs.

1.1.2. The Third Quest for the Historical Jesus

The third quest for the historical Jesus has often found the relationship between Jesus and Temple at its center. This is the case, at least to some extent, in works by Marcus Borg, S.G.F. Brandon, Craig Evans, Richard A. Horsley, Ben F. Meyer, Jacob Neusner, but especially so in works by Bruce Chilton, Ernst Lohmeyer, E.P. Sanders, and N. Thomas Wright. The relationship between the historical Jesus and the Temple is explored further in section 3.2., and one may read Sanders for an extended analysis and review of the quest for the historical Jesus. Based upon the insights and contributions of these recent scholars, one may conclude that any resolution to the problem of the historical Jesus must explain Jesus' relationship to the Temple.

A study of the relationship between Jesus and the Temple in Matthew contributes to the quest in two significant ways. First of all, upon mature reflection of the text, one may find numerous indications of the historical relationship between Jesus and the Temple. Second, Matthew, as a member of the primitive community, is able to proffer his own assessment of the relationship between Jesus and the Temple, which may in fact reflect the historical situation. While the following chapters do not emphasize the quest, they certainly invite further consideration of the issue, especially in regard to Matthew's document.

1.2. The Theology of Matthew

In the 1960s and 1970s, redaction criticism came to the forefront as a critical tool of biblical scholarship. Remarkable advances have been made using this tool in conjunction with synoptic studies. However, just a few works providing a more comprehensive overview of Matthew's theology have been published, despite the availability of numerous works which detail specific aspects of Matthean theological peculiarities. To date, there is no work which provides a careful analysis of Matthew's Temple theology.

This last statement needs some qualification. H. Frankemö1le analyzes Matthew's Presence theology, focusing on 1:23 and 28:20 and other texts which refer to Immanuel's presence with his Church. Frankemö1le, however, does not seem to relate his discussion to Matthew's Temple theology. A few works, briefly or in passing, discuss Matthew's Temple theology in counterpoint to one or more of the other Gospels (e.g., Telford, Chance, and Weinert), or in the context of a general overview of Temple theology (e.g., R.E. Clements, B. Gartner, Lloyd Gaston, and R.J. McKelvey). However, the value of these works in regard to Matthew is largely vitiated by their brevity and lack of in depth analysis. No article or monograph provides a comprehensive discussion or even an adequate overview of Matthew's Temple theology.

Given the general interest in redaction criticism and in the Temple's role in the third quest, this dearth of inquiry regarding Jesus and the Temple in Matthew is striking. One would think that a study of Jesus and the Temple in Matthew would considerably advance present knowledge of Matthew's theology and the historical Jesus. Furthermore, such a study would almost certainly impact the issue of early Jewish Christianity and the parting of the ways since Matthew seems to have such a Heimat and since the Temple would likely have been a significant factor in debates between the parent and child communities (cf., e.g., the role of the Temple in Qumran's quarrel with the parent community). Consequently, a study of Jesus and the Temple in Matthew offers the potential to make considerable advances toward a better understanding of the historical Jesus, Matthew's own theology, and the relationship between primitive Christianity and Judaism.

1.3. Preview of Argument

Matthew inherited from the OT a rich and multifaceted Temple tradition. At the heart of this tradition was the notion that God had made his dwelling with his holy people and that God's abiding presence was manifest in the Temple. These traditions developed throughout the course of Israel's history, beginning at Mt. Sinai and continuing with numerous national crises, so that in the last and succeeding years of the kingdom, there arose a vision of a new eschatological Temple associated with the establishment of God's rule. In conjunction with this new vision, there arose disputes regarding cultic procedures and other issues which created some dissent within Jewish society, so much so that some fringe groups distanced themselves from the Temple and engaged in a thoroughgoing polemic against it. Against this background, Jesus and the Christian movement arose. There is evidence that Jesus himself took some (prophetic) action against the Temple and predicted its destruction. Some Christian communities reflected on Jesus' actions and predictions and concluded that the Temple had become obsolete and that somehow the eschatological Temple had arisen and was now comprised of members of the Church; in short, OT Temple theology was viewed as being fulfilled in the Church. Matthew's Gospel seems to reflect one such community.

That Matthew viewed the Church as fulfilling OT Temple theology is suggested variously throughout his Gospel. First of all, Matthew emphasizes God's presence with his faithful people, the Church, in the person of Jesus who is Immanuel, God with us. This emphasis is obtained by Matthew's repeated allusions to the Immanuel passage or its theology. In so doing, Matthew has incorporated the absolute fundamentum of OT Temple theology in describing Jesus' relationship to the Church. Second, Matthew describes the founding and functioning of the Church in terms which have a Temple domain. Third, Matthew hints at the Temple's defilement and underscores Jesus' declaration of judgment against the Temple in such a way as to establish that it is no longer the dwelling place of God. These elements of Matthew's Temple theology are explored in the following chapters with the intention of establishing that Matthew viewed the Temple as having been surpassed by the presence of Jesus in his Church in the new age, and therefore, as having become obsolete and destined for destruction. Matthew's community, then, is probably to be viewed as belonging to a larger Christian community which also viewed the Temple as obsolete and surpassed by something greater in the eschatological age.

What Is Reformation Arminianism?

What Is Reformation Arminianism?

For those well acquainted with the Calvinist-Arminian debate, Reformation Arminianism (or Classic Arminianism) is a theological system which emphasizes universal atonement within a framework of Calvinistic total depravity and the penal satisfaction view of the atonement.

For those less acquainted with such matters, Reformation Arminianism is first of all a way of understanding how salvation is accomplished within the main lines of Protestantism, which tends to emphasize human freedom of the will rather than a deterministic/predestinarian approach.

Reformation Arminianism is an older cousin to Wesleyan Arminianism, the latter being propagated in the American churches through denominations such as some Brethren groups, Methodist groups, Nazarene and Holiness groups, and by many Pentecostal/Charismatic groups. These groups traditionally have rejected total depravity and penal satisfaction view of atonement, and are well known for viewing salvation as something which can be lost at a moment's indulgence in sin (i.e., "Repeat Regeneration").

Reformation Arminianism, in contrast, is an accurate reflection of Arminius' own theological urgencies and is subject to perhaps only 25% of Calvinistic refutational argumentation, leaving about 75% to knock over straw men. In many ways, Reformation Arminianism assumes the some of the important urgencies of the larger Reformed movement, and is several steps closer to Calvinism than Wesleyan Arminianism.

These issues have been hotly debated since the late 1500s, but seemed to lag much in the 1970s-1990s. During this period Calvinism seemed to be on the decline, prompting such journal articles as the cleverly titled, "Where Have All the TULIPs Gone?" However, in the last 10-15 years, there has been a tremendous resurgence of Calvinism, putting this important issue back on the table for discussion as local churches find themselves in the midst of the debate.

PresuppositionsReformation Arminian soteriology, like Calvinism, presupposes holiness as the basic character of God which is absolute. Thus, sin must be punished. A sin against an infinite and absolutely holy God demands an infinite and eternal punishment. Consequently, for Calvinists and Reformation Arminians alike, hell is not an arbitrarily created punishment, but rather one which is necessary to the holiness of God. God can't just simply forgive sin; sin must be punished. God's wrath must be satisfied.

Penal Satisfaction View of the AtonementReformation Arminianism and Calvinism both view Jesus death as substitutionary. Instead of God's wrath being poured out upon deserving sinners, Jesus died in their place, bearing the full wrath of God. Traditional Wesleyan Arminians believe that Jesus' death was not a sin payment, but rather an astonishing demonstration of God's love for humanity, designed to draw them to the Father. In contrast, Reformation Arminianism and Calvinism both agree that Jesus' death was a payment for sin to satisfy God's wrath. The sole point of disparity between Reformation Arminianism and Calvinism regarding the atonement is not its nature, but its extent: was it universal, or did Jesus only provide payment for the sin debt of the elect?

Penal Satisfaction: A Double Payment?
A recurring argument in the debate against Reformation Arminianism is that if Jesus' death was a payment for sin, and if Jesus died for all humanity, then how could unbelievers rightly be sent to hell for sins which were already paid? Universal atonement, then, was argued to teach either universal salvationism (everyone goes to heaven), or to imply an unjust double payment for sin. (One wonders if this argument may have driven later Arminians to reject penal satisfaction.)

Reformation Arminianism unties the knot by appealing to the idea that the atonement was provided for everyone, but only applied to believers. (Lewis Sperry Chafer was one person who wrote a strong article to this effect, which was republished in a DTS journal in the late 1970s or early 1980s.)

Calvinists have a strong knee jerk reaction to the notion of an atonement which is provided but not applied, as witnessed in Murray's work Redemption Accomplished and Applied. However, the careful Calvinist must concede that even within a Calvinistic system, atonement consists first of substitutionary payment followed second by application of the payment.

This two-fold aspect of the atonement is, in principle, assumed by both Calvinists and Reformation Arminians. The difference is that Calvinists think that the atonement is applied automatically and co-extensively to the elect at the God-ordained time, while Reformation Arminians think that the atonement is applied not automatically, but on the condition of faith. Actually, to be precise, Reformation Arminians think that the atonement is applied to the individual's account when the person is united with Christ through faith. But at any rate, both sides explain salvation in terms of the atonement being provided, and then applied—either automatically, or conditionally.

If Calvinistic atonement is not explained in terms of first being provided followed subsequently with its application, then a very strange scenario emerges wherein the elect end up having been eternally justified, without ever being children of wrath and under condemnation and without God in the world. The whole point of salvation is that we actually lived in disobedience to God, but that God rescued us from this situation. If atonement was automatically applied at the point of Christ's sacrificial death, then the elect really didn't have an old way of life from which to be rescued. At this point, however, I'm not trying to defend or refute one position or the other, but only to assert that both sides must hold to a two stage salvation event, one in which atonement is first provided, followed by the application of the atonement to the individual.

Total DepravityReformation Arminians take total depravity seriously. With Calvinists, they affirm that by himself, an individual cannot understand biblical revelation, or put his faith in Jesus, or do anything to earn salvation. The difference between the two is that Calvinists think that regeneration must occur first for these things to happen, while Arminians believe that God is capable of enabling a person to believe, with the result being that God regenerates him.

To put it more starkly, Calvinists don't have any room for the idea that God could enable an unregenerate person to believe, while Reformation Arminians insist that God enables belief prior to regeneration. Of course, the Calvinist position is tied to the notion that God's grace is irresistible, and whoever is called cannot do anything but respond in faith. In contrast, Reformation Arminians think that a person whom God convicts is enabled to believe, but can continue to resist.

In some sense, the Reformation Arminian position is not really an assertion of the human's free will. According to Reformation Arminianism, the individual by himself is still unable to choose God by his own free will. His nature is such that he cannot overcome his propensity toward rebellion by his own strength. Like Calvinism, Reformation Arminianism believes that it is only by God's gracious intervention that a person could overcome his total depravity. The difference lies in the fact that Calvinists think that God cannot enable a person to believe without first regenerating him, while Reformation Arminians think that the enabling happens prior to regeneration.

Salvation through Faith
Calvinism and Reformation Arminianism have the same nuanced definition of faith. I can't quote him exactly, but the Calvinist J.I. Packer defines faith along the lines of a person coming to the point of total self-abnegation where he understands that he has no resources of his own to merit salvation, and a complete trust in Jesus and his work on the cross for salvation. This is a good definition, and Reformation Arminians should be happy with it.

On the other hand, Calvinists have often charged that Arminians seem to make faith into a work worthy of salvation. This might be a Wesleyan Arminian perspective, but Arminius and Reformation Arminianism would strongly deny it. In the Reformation Arminian system, faith is not a meritorious act.

However, faith is the condition or agency through which salvation comes, as attested by the Pauline formula that salvation is through faith. Calvinists have objected to this position first on the ground mentioned before that unregenerate people cannot believe, and second, on the ground that this would make salvation by works.

I find it entirely ironic that Paul's main thrust is that if you pursue salvation by faith, then you are not pursuing it by works, to use his language to the conclusion of Romans 9. Assuming the same definition of faith, as outlined above, if salvation is by faith, then it is not by works. Simply put, when the Calvinist claims that Arminians believe in a works-salvation, the response is that if it is by faith, by definition it cannot be by works.

And if God in his sovereignty chooses to make faith the condition whereby the atonement is applied, then who are you, O man, to say otherwise?

We are left to conclude then, that if God is capable of enabling an unregenerate person to choose to believe in him, and if faith is not a work, and if God established faith as a condition for salvation, then Reformation Arminianism's view of salvation through faith is internally consistent.

Robert E. Picirilli (Grace, Faith and Free Will) has made the case that the ultimate issue between Calvinism and Reformation Arminianism is whether or not salvation is through faith. It seems that Calvinism has a very difficult time speaking clearly on this issue. On one hand, Calvinists want to affirm that salvation is by grace through faith, but on the other hand, they seem to formulate much of their views as if faith is the happy response of having been saved, as if the Pauline formula said, "Salvation by grace unto faith."

The Issue of ContinuanceIf salvation is by grace through faith, Reformation Arminians argue by extension that continuance in salvation (i.e., eternal security) is also by grace through faith: "salvation by grace through faith; continuance in salvation by grace through faith."

Ironically, Arminius himself claimed that he wasn't prepared to take a position on whether or not a genuinely saved person could ever make shipwreck of his faith, explaining there are strong passages on both sides of the issue, and urging that further study is needed. Arminius' heirs, however, reject the notion that once you are saved, you are always saved.

Reformation Arminianism differs remarkably from Wesleyan Arminian on this issue. Wesleyan Arminians seem to think that a true believer is subject to losing his salvation by sinning. Ultimately, their view seems best explained as "salvation by grace through faith; continuance in salvation by not sinning."

In contrast, the Calvinist position on continuance seems best expressed as, "salvation by grace unto faith; continuance in grace unto faith."

The Calvinist-Arminian dialog probably ought to proceed along these lines. Unfortunately, J.I. Packer's classic article "Arminianisms" which has informed so much of the Calvinist animus against Arminianism betrays little or no awareness of Arminius or of Reformation Arminianism (he knows only of "Rational Arminianism" and "Evangelical Arminianism," i.e., Wesleyanism). As a result, a huge amount of the Calvinist animus is against straw men or, at least, against a lesser form of Arminianism which makes a much easier target than Reformation Arminianism.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

PhD Proposal: Codex Schoyen

Versional specialist Tjitze Baarda (Free University, Amsterdam) wrote of the Schøyen codex that it "presents us with a most intriguing version of Matthew, and therefore it should be studied carefully to establish the place which it takes in textual history…. I entertain the hope that this enigmatic text will become the object of a careful investigation in the near future. It might be an appropriate research object for a dissertation of someone who is interested in the relation of the Greek text and the early translations of the New Testament in general and the Coptic versions in particular" (NT 46.3, p.306).

Codex Schøyen 2650, the recently discovered (1999) Coptic manuscript of Matthew's gospel, is extraordinary for its great antiquity (300-350 C.E.), and sensational for its unusual text which may differ from canonical Matthew. Its editor, the late Hans-Martin Schenke, claimed it reflects a Hebrew or Aramaic Matthew derived from a Greek Vorlage unlike any other extant manuscript. His conclusions would have a wide range of consequences for Matthean studies, including the formative development of the gospels.

Some of these conclusions were questioned on methodological grounds by Baarda. While Baarda emphasized that his criticisms could only speak to the small portion of text which he examined (Matt 17:1-9), he urged that a full review of the entire manuscript be undertaken.
Even if some of Schenke's conclusions go too far, ms. Schøyen 2650 remains a potentially important witness to the text of Matthew. The great antiquity of the codex gives it automatic significance. Further, it may reflect one of the earliest attempts to translate Matthew into Coptic, and give indication of the latitude a translator might deem appropriate. Moreover, the publication of ms. Schøyen 2650 necessitates reconsideration of the development of the Coptic versions. A thorough understanding of the Schøyen codex and the place of the Coptic versions will probably become increasingly critical as Egypt continues to be the primary source of new manuscript discoveries.

Therefore, I propose to analyze ms. Schøyen 2650 in the hopes that codicological, papyrological, and textual data will assist in explaining its unusual text and its role in transmission history. This analysis will be achieved by a comparison of ms. Schøyen 2650 with other Coptic versions and manuscripts, and with the translation dynamics of other early versions, with a particular sensitivity to textual variation in the whole manuscript tradition. Ultimately, the project will be designed to make ms. Schøyen 2650 and the Coptic versions more helpful in establishing the text of Matthew, and address implications regarding the formative history of Matthew's gospel.

10 (or More) Views on Women in Ministry

Here is an exercise for you. Choose which position seems closest to your own. Then try defending it. The list is arranged from strictest to most free.

I start with a reminder from the two strictest texts....

1 Cor 14:33b-35: As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

1 Tim 2:11-12: A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

1. Women must keep absolutely silent in church ministry. They are not permitted to pray or sing aloud in worship, nor are they permitted to teach or vocally participate in the learning process by asking or answering questions, etc.
2. Women's vocal participation in congregational worship must be limited to joining with others as the whole congregation sings, prays, recites scripture, etc; no vocalizations as individuals in prayer, song, etc.
3. Individual women may participate in worship by singing or praying in front of the congregation, so long as there is no teaching or leading involved.
4. Women may teach only other women.
5. Women may teach only other women and boys who are not yet men.
6. Women may teach both men and women, but they may not lead worship services.
7. Women may lead worship services, but they may not preach or hold a "ministry position" such as Minister of Music.
8. Women may lead worship services and teach, but they may not serve as deacons.
9. Women may serve as associate ministers or as deacons, but may not serve as pastors.
10. Women may serve as pastors, so long as they serve under a male authority at the next denominational level (e.g., a woman pastor under a male area minister).
11. There are no restrictions on women in ministry.

After identifying which view represents your own view, cite chapter and verse to support it.

Presuppositions for Biblical Interpretation and the Meaning of the Term Exegesis

Definition: A Bible study process to determine the author's intended meaning to his original audience.

  1. The process includes doing word studies, context studies (phrase, sentence, paragraph, chapter, section, book, corpus, testament), historical and sociological studies, etc.

    "What the text meant to them back then."
  2. Exegesis must precede application to our modern situation:
"Making what the text meant to them back then relevant to us today."

Scriptures Relevant for Formulating Your Doctrine of Continuance in Salvation

Some NT Scriptures Possibly Supporting Eternal Security

John 17:11-12—"...Holy Father, protect them by the power of your that they may be one.... While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe.... None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction...."

John 6:39-40--"And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

John 10:28-29--"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."

Rom 8:30-38--"And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us...." Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.... Christ at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword...? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Rom 11:28-29--"As far as the gospel is concerned, [Israelites] are enemies on your [=Roman Christians] account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable."

Phil 1:6--"...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

2 Tim 1:12--"...yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day."

1 Pet 1:5--"...who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."

Eph 1:13-14--"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession."

Eph 4:30--"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."

2 Cor 1:21-22--"...He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

2 Cor 5:5--"Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

1 Cor 10:13--"...and God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear...."

2 Tim 4:18--"The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom...."

Some NT Scriptures Possibly Supporting the Possibility of Apostasy

Hebrews--This book seems to have been written to Jewish Christians under pressure to turn away from Christ and revert back to Judaism. This is suggested by 1) repeated warnings against turning away; 2) the author's call to continue in the faith; 3) the extensive argumentation for Christ's superiority over Judaism. The warnings and appeals are found in 2:1-4; 3:1,12-15; 4:1,11; 6:1-8; 10:19,22,24,26-31, 35-39.

Heb 2:1-4--"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?"

Heb 3:12-14--"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first."

Heb 4:1--"Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it."

Heb 4:11--"Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fa1l by following their example of disobedience."

Heb 6:4-6--"It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall way, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Heb 10:26-31--"If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

2 Peter was written to Christians who were under the potential influence of false teachers who claimed that a Christian could sin as much as they wished. Peter writes to these Christians urging them not to follow these false teachers.

2 Pet 1:5-10--"...make every effort to add to your faith.... For if you posses these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is near-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall....

2 Pet 2:18-22--"For [these false teachers] mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.... If they [=false teachers OR those "who are just escaping..."] have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."

1 Pet 1:5--"...who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."

1 Tim 1:18-20--"...holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

1 Tim 4:1--"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

Parable of the Sower: some sown among thorns grew but then were choked out by the cares of the world (Mark 4:1-21; Matt 13:1-23; Luke 8:4-15)

John 15:5-6--"I am the vine; you are them branches. If a man remains in me and I in him he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned."

Gal 5:4--"You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from Grace.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Gordon Fee and Textual Criticism

(This is the text of my successful argument that Gordon Fee should be given the 2006 Hall of Fame/Lifetime Achievement Award by the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog.)

Perhaps the student can be forgiven for nominating, from his limited experiences, his own favorite professor to an award. Perhaps, despite the student's own experiential limitations, that professor really is deserving. Let me argue such on behalf of Gordon Fee in regard to the highly esteemed and world renowned Evangelical Textual Criticism Hall of Fame/Lifetime Achievement Award.

First, let me explain that as a student of Prof. Fee, amazingly, I actually never read a single textual critical work of his. I came to study with him well after he had established his reputation as text-critic-turned-exegete, and my work with him was exegetically oriented, with only sideward glances at text criticism. What I know of his tc work comes from informal readings after my graduate degree.

In this light, I was surprised to find in my first real tc research paper how often I resorted to citing Prof. Fee's various works. The variety and scope of his writings and their strategic importance necessitated such frequent citation.

With a few exceptions, scholarship in textual criticism is not so much reflected in tomes, but in shorter research articles (Colwell and Birdsall, for example, had but two tc books published between them). Prof. Fee has written two volumes on tc, but his research articles are of such importance that we recall them as quickly as we recall the names of the few larger, important books in the field. These works are often definitive, and future scholarship will not be able to avoid prefacing their work with reference to Prof. Fee's works.

One example of this is William L. Petersen's 2002 article, "The Genesis of the Gospel" (in A. Denaux's New Testament Textual Exegesis) wherein he argued for a closer look at the early Fathers to determine gospel texts which look quite different from our canonical gospels. Despite his recognition of the cautions expressed in Prof. Fee's article, "The Text of John in Origen and Cyril of Alexandria" (Bib 52 [1971], 357-394), one wonders if the phenomena Petersen observed in citations from Theophilus (40) and the Didache (51-53) may be explicable in terms proffered by Prof. Fee thirty years earlier. Prof. Fee's passionate cautions regarding Patristic evidence were such as to have spilled over even into his introductory exegesis courses. One suspects that the radical revision of the Patristic evidence in the apparatus of NA-27 had a portion of its impetus from Prof. Fee's own writings (see also "The Text of John in The Jerusalem Bible: A Critique of the Use of Patristic Ciations in New Textament Textual Criticism" and "The Use of Greek Patristic Citations in New Testament Textual Criticism: The State of the Question").

Prof. Fee has had a knack for publishing strategically important articles for the discipline. This was true of his debunking of the myth that the "Alexandrian" text form was a recension. To a large degree, this work confirmed the basic Hortian program of reconstructing the NT text largely on the basis of the strict text form behind B, at a time when such confidence was beginning to lag.

Prof. Fee has been in the frontlines on issues which have been polemical. At a time when some Christian conservatives (Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) were being swayed by a revival of the Majority Text, Prof. Fee entered the arena and published several articles and debates on the issue. The same is true over the issue of eclecticism; his arguments for a reasoned eclecticism have seemed to have won the day against the rigorous eclecticism of Kilpatrick and Elliott.

Prof. Fee's work still speaks to current issues in tc. The last two decades have seen an increasing interest in the relationship between tc and gospel formation prior to 180 CE. Much of this scholarship would undermine our confidence in our critical text and in the "original text." Prof. Fee has probably written the definitive work looking at the implications of synoptic harmonization for the Synoptic Problem ("Modern Textual Criticism and the Synoptic Problem: On the Problem of harmonization in the Gospels"). Also, he himself has recognized the first 300 years as the "Period of Confusion," yet gives an analysis of this period which is far more sympathetic to Evangelicals and to the issue of biblical authority than is often given ("Textual Criticism of the New Testament;" cf. Koester, Petersen, Ehrman). In a short review of Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of the Text, Prof. Fee politely and with some subtlety shreds methods and conclusions so thoroughly that the book needs to be re-read with great reservation (Critical Review of Books and Religion, Aug 1995, 203-206).

I wonder if Prof. Fee has made his own contribution to the canons of criticism. He argues that "one criterion above all others superintends the scholar's choice at any point of textual variation: the variant that best explains the origin of all the others is most likely original." This probably is not original to Prof. Fee, but in my own limited experience, I have not seen the criterion stated so lucidly elsewhere.

A word should be said in regard to Prof. Fee's relationship to evangelicalism. As a Pentecostal, he admits to having some tensions within his evangelical world. One of these tensions is his emphasis on the Spirit's role in interpreting the text. He is more concerned with what, for example, Paul meant than what the text actually said. As such, he has been a little outside of the issue of inerrancy, and one wonders if maybe his emphasis on the Spirit has more in common with Prof. Parker and the living text approach than the earlier comment may suggest.

More importantly, however, Prof. Fee's evangelicalism can be seen in his far-reaching exegetical work. In an era when the Pastorals were considered not even deutero-Pauline, but trito-Pauline, Prof. Fee argued for their authenticity, and his tiny commentary on the Pastorals (New International Bible Commentary) rocked liberal scholarship way back on its heels. The same is true in regard to Paul's Trinitarianism; while it had become commonplace to dismiss orthodox Trinitarianism as a later Church development, Prof. Fee has boldly argued that the Trinitarianism of the later creeds is latent in Paul's writings, and largely assumed in his theology (God's Empowering Presence, 898; cf. Pauline Christology, 2007).

One important exegetical insistence of Prof. Fee's has import for some recent developments in tc. In the attempt to reconstruct primitive forms of the gospels prior to 180 C.E., a number of scholars have argued that the early Fathers and texts seem uninformed in regard to Jesus' life and teaching. They point out that this is a feature of the earliest Christian writings, and surmise that the four canonical gospels must not have been widely received by the Church in the first two centuries. In so doing, they point to the Pauline writings which have little to say about Jesus' life and ministry, suggesting that Paul knew little of Jesus' life. Prof. Fee would cry foul to this line of reasoning, arguing first of all the ad hoc nature of the Pauline epistles, and that they were task oriented, not treatise of theology or ethics. Typically, Paul wrote to fix problems, and the situation rarely would have required Paul to cite sayings or deeds of Jesus. In this regard, Prof. Fee was fond of pointing out that overly skeptical scholars would assume that Paul knew nothing of the Lord's Supper, except that, quite incidentally, observance of the institution had become a problem in Corinth, requiring Paul to address the situation. Likewise, in our attempt to push the text beyond the 180 C.E. barrier, we should remember this admonition, and ask whether a writing or a writer really had the occasion to refer to Jesus' life and ministry.

But for Prof. Fee, the goal of exegesis is hermeneutics…how one applies what was said back then to our lives today. I think if this is not the essence of evangelicalism, it is very close to its core. For it is only the appropriation of the text into our lives that we are truly Christian. And this is clearly evident in Prof. Fee's life's work.

Misquoting Metzger

I'm intrigued by the conclusion in Prof. Metzger's The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, in which Metzger and Prof. Ehrman take pains to correct the impression that the text of the NT was transmitted haphazardly. They write,

Lest the foregoing examples of alterations should give the impression that scribes were altogether willful and capricious in transmitting ancient copies of the New Testament, it ought to be noted that other evidence points to the careful and painstaking work on the part of many faithful copyists…. Even in incidental details one observes the faithfulness of scribes…. These examples of dogged fidelity on the part of scribes could be multiplied and serve to counterbalance to some extent, the impression that this chapter may otherwise make upon the beginner in New Testament textual criticism (4th ed., 271).

One wonders how this conclusion can be squared with Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus. Indeed, the foregoing two paragraphs in their entirety would seem to serve to contradict the most basic impression found in Misquoting Jesus.

The Beast and the False Prophet of Revelation are "She's"

The Beast and the False Prophet of Revelation are "She's"

Yep, that's right, according to my Bible, the Beast is a she, and so is the second Beast, her false prophet.

--at least according to my French Bible (I've just about read through the French NT as part of my prepatory studies for my PhD).

In French, the word for beast is bete (often the "st" sound in English is found simply as a "t" sound in French). Bete is a feminine noun. In English, we generally don't assign gender to nouns like they do in French, Spanish, most other Romance languages, Greek and Hebrew, etc. In English, "book," for example, is an "it," but in French "book" is a "he."

This scrambles up our translations sometimes, as it does with reference to the two Beasts in Revelation.

In Greek, the noun "beast" (therion) is neuter, and is usually referred to as "it." However, the two Beasts of Revelation are personal entitities. Consequently, our English versions are quick to use personal masculine pronouns for them (he, his, him). This is quite natural, and is similar to what we do in regard to the Holy Spirit which, in Greek, is neuter (it, its).

However, in French, since beast (bete) is feminine, it would be quite a slaughtering of the language to assign masculine pronouns to the Beast. Consequently, in the French translation, "she" had seven heads, and no one was able to make war with "her," and "she" spoke blasphemies.

So, this raises the issue of the translator having to be a slave to two masters. The first master is the Greek, which would require the English translator to use neuter pronouns for the Beast: "It" spoke blasphemies; "it" had seven heads, etc. But this conveys to the reader that the Beast was a non-personal entity, when clearly it was a thinking, feeling, acting being worthy of a personal, not impersonal, pronoun.

The second master to which the translator must be a slave is the receptor language, for example, English. To make sense to English readers, the translator ought to use the personal pronoun--either the masculine or the feminine would be justifiable. (Here is a clear case of our male-bias getting the best of us.) However, this is in conflict with the Greek master, for the Greek does not assign gender to the Beast.

All this is true also for French.

In most passages, NIV and NRSV try to please both masters equally. ESV, NASU, RSV, all try to give precedence to the Greek master. NLT tries to give precedence to the English master.

Sometimes, it's a hard task to try to serve two masters, but in translation theory, you really need to.

Transferal of Old Testament Temple Theology to the Church

One of the major components of OT religion is the Temple. It is an essential element of Jewishness. It factors also into the millennial schemes of some. While Dispensationalists would reject the notion of future sacrifices, a Restored Temple is a future expectation for them.

In contrast, the biblical writers viewed that there was an essential transferal of OT theology from national Israel to the Church. This was not so much a matter of making the Church equivalent to Israel, but rather that the Church was included into Israel by virtue of Christ's position as heir of the OT promises. As such, the Church is the true remnant of Israel, being akin to the stones being raised up as children for Abraham on the basis that they, like Abraham, believed in God.

One example of the transferal of OT theology to the church is Temple theology. The essential element of Temple theology is that the Temple was the locus of God's presence. Without this element, Temple theology would be nil. The motif is so strong and obvious, I won't detail it in this overview, although I wrote about 150 pages on it in my Master's thesis.

Matthew takes this motif and transfers it to the church. In his view, the Temple was no longer the locus of God's presence. Like Ezek 8-11, Matthew represents Jesus Immanuel as abandoning the Temple at the conclusion of Matt 23 and Matt 24:1. Rather than God's presence residing at the Temple, it has moved to reside in God's people, Jesus' disciples.

This portion of Matthean theology is perceptible in his Immanuel inclusio. Jesus himself is Immanuel, God-with-us (Matt 1:21). And he is with us always, even to the consummation of the age (Matt 28:20. Moreover, the theme is reinforced at significant points in Matthew, for where two or three are gathered in Jesus' name, Immanuel is present with them.

The fact that God's presence is removed from the Temple, makes the Temple a haunt for every kind of foul spirit and abomination; the swept house is made seven times worse. It is left to them desolate. It deserves to be torn down, without a stone being left atop the other. No longer is it a house of prayer, as the house of prayer now belongs to the disciples of Jesus who gather in his name, and among whom Immanuel is present as they ask anything in his name.

In every conceivable way, Matthew takes every aspect of Temple theology and transfers it to the church. Much more could be said.

But the one point I'm arguing is that the Church receives all the OT promises. Temple theology is but one example of an OT theme or promise being transferred to the Church. This was an interpretive matrix of the earliest Christians. By virtue of their faith in Jesus—the Supreme Jew—they were all made joint-heirs with Jesus, regardless of race.

Phoebe, the Deacon of Cenchrea

Only among those people who are opposed in principle to women in ministry is it necessary to put forth an argument that the list of people in Rom 16 reflect the various house churches and their pastors in Rome.

But let's start with Phoebe as a deacon. The most natural way to read the Greek is that she was a deacon. Those who have this entrenched notion that women could not be deacons are compelled to look for a different reading which they must admit is at least a little strained. Yes, "diakonos" can mean servant, but in Pauline ecclesiological usage "servant" takes on the nuances inherent in "Servant of the Lord" language from the OT, especially in regard to Moses. While non-ecclesiological usage could refer to someone who does menial task, anyone who is referred to as a diakonos in ministry takes on a high status. In fact, according to context, diakonos is often translated as "minister".

Moreover, the fact that Phoebe is listed as a diakonos "of the church Cenchrea," makes likely the diakonos is an official position. This is all the more obvious when we take into account that Paul is giving formal introduction to her to the Roman churches. Such formal introductions were commonly given in letters of referral, which this epistle contains for her. In such letters, the referrer would normally emphasize the referee's official capacity.

If Paul did not mean to imply she held an official church title, then he blundered badly, for his letter of recommendation, as it would have most naturally been read, leaves the Romans with the notion that he falsely inflated her resume. Such blunders are the sort of issues which create distrust, especially since Paul had no personal authority over these Christians (he had done no prior ministry with them, nor had he established any of their house churches).

Furthermore, as Greek scholars often comment, if Paul did not mean to convey Phoebe's status as an ordained deacon of the Church of Cenchrea, he could have easily avoided doing so by using one of the cognates of diakonos, such as the verb diakonew (perhaps as a participle), or the noun diakonia (service).

So yes, the translation can possibly be that she was merely a servant and not a minister/deacon. But who would want to argue such? Only those who have already decided that women could not be deacons.

Cranfield, whose commentary on Romans is unsurpassed for its exactitudes on these kinds of matters concludes, "We regard it as virtually certain that Phoebe is being described as 'a (or possibly "the") deacon' of the church [of Cenchrea].'

Authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles

Back in the 60s and 70s, you could only find people who accepted Pauline authorship of PE (Pastoral Epistles) among the more conservative schools not exactly well known for critical scholarship.

Then in the early 1980s, Gordon Fee wrote his small but groundbreaking commentary on the PE which 1) provided a reconstruction of the situation behind the PE which made sense of the textual data; and 2) gave critical reasons refuting liberal interpretation of some of the data--yes, there are some significant differences of style, but they can be accounted for.

The impact of Fee's analysis was so great that my survey of the best six commentaries on PE earlier in this decade showed that four of the six accepted Pauline authorship. In my estimation, the best commentary on PE is by Robert Mounce in the Word Biblical Commentary, which is profoundly indebted to Fee in reconstructing the situation behind the PE.

I just finished reading through the PE in French and Greek. Time and time again, I found myself saying, "If this is by a forger or a pseudepigrapher, why would he have have bothered mentioning this detail?"

Part of the problem leading up to belief that PE are inauthentic is that scholars took Timothy and Titus to be pastors who were supposed to establish fledgling churches with a proper church order. This certainly isn't the case for 1 Timothy, for Ephesus was one of Paul's oldest churches, they had had elders there for at least half a dozen years, and Timothy was not serving as a pastor, but as an apostolic delegate to fix major, major problems there. (Many older commentaries and Bible helps such as the notes from NIV Study Bible are badly mistaken on these things).

The issue of ordaining elders is also a misstep behind the acceptance of the inauthenticy of PE. According to Luke, the laying on of hands as an act of commissioning for a specific role in the evangelical task is attested prior to Paul's missionary journeys. Why would he not lay hands on elders as he appointed church leaders?

In the case of Ephesians, Paul was not giving instructions on which people should be ordained as church leaders in a new church. Quite the contrary. The only reason why he had to appoint new leaders was because he, apparently, had laid hands hastily on several of them a few years earlier, and they turned out to be scoundrels. He disfellowshiped them, and the resultant vacancies necessitated the appointment of new elders.

Much more could be said.

The Kiss in Christian Fellowship

Larry W. Hurtado (University of Edinburgh) has become one of my favorite biblical scholars, whose expertise is textual criticism and Christianity in the first two centuries. Nearly every page of his writings is fresh and relevant and teaches me something new.

He discusses the intimacy of the earliest Christian worship, explaining that Christians didn't meet in huge temples, but in people's homes. Even the homes of wealthier people could only accommodate 40-50 people, thus everyone had an intimacy with each other which probably exceeds what we have in today's church (excepting, of course, that which might be found in a vibrant small group).

Here is what he says about the holy kiss. Note my final comment after the quotation.

The simple exhortation to share the kiss, without any further explanation,
indicates that the gesture was quite broadly practised and familiar among the
first-century Christian groups. ...It is likely that the "holy kiss" or
"kiss of love" is to be understood as given and received in the worship
setting. Later references to the holy kiss in Christian writings of the
second and subsequent centuries consistently treat it as a liturgical action
[i.e., an act of worship], often linked specifically with the

Also, we learn that it was given mouth-to-mouth, an
exchanged kiss, expressing mutual intimacy and affection among all congregants,
and that for the first century or so at least, the kiss was exchanged with
members of one's own sex and the opposite sex as well.

In time,
from fears of impropriety and in efforts to abate pagan rumours of Christian
promiscuity, later church authorities sought to restrict the kissing to members
of one's own sex. Similarly motivated were rules that the holy kiss was to
be given with mouths closed and that no second kiss was permitted...! (At the
Origins of Christian Worship, 42-43).

Hurtado goes on to discuss the differences between the holy kiss of Christians and the socially accepted kiss in the Middle East.

It is not enough to say that their kiss was the same as our handshake. Today, we will shake hands with anyone and everyone, but the common kiss of the first century was more restricted. You just didn't kiss everyone.

The kiss was for intimates--one's own family and perhaps extended family. The kiss may be extended beyond this for greetings to express somewhat extraordinary honor. However, the NT kiss was different. It was shared between all the members of the fellowship, and done so as an act of worship.

Tregelles and the Hortian Text

(Some of this discussion was inspired by a 2005 or 2006 Society of Biblical Literature presentation by Peter Head on the text critic Tregelles, of whom I have no first hand knowledge.)

Few people incur the wrath of KJV-onlyites as Wescott and Hort do.

Throughout the 19th century, scholars were studying the thousands of variant readings which were known to exist in the Greek manuscripts. As they studied the manuscripts and the readings, scholars realized that some manuscripts agreed with others more than others. When they sorted it out, they came to a general consensus that there were three (more or less) broad streams of related manuscripts.

One of those streams came to be known as the Byzantine text type which, by a fluke of history, claimed the most manuscripts, the vast majority of which were 12th century or later.

Previously, naïve students of the text of the Bible assumed that whichever reading could boast of the most manuscripts was most likely to be the original reading. This method, if it could be called such, made the place of the Textus Receptus, secure and made all (English) Bible believing Christians feel confident about their KJV.

However, the work of various scholars in the 19th century, and especially of Westcott and Hort, unraveled this confidence. Once they demonstrated that all those manuscripts of the Byzantine Text were simply the offspring of one of the three or four grandchildren of the original text, scholars realized that you can't just count manuscripts to determine the original reading.

In effect, Wescott and Hort overturned the discipline of textual criticism from a democratic election into a something more like a representative republic. To press the analogy, it would be like the state of West Virginia with its 3 million people getting the same number of representative votes as the State of California with its 20 million votes.

Consequently, whenever someone might point out to 200 Byzantine manuscripts with a given reading compared to one or two manuscripts from another text type, the response would be, "So what? We don't count manuscripts anyway. We weigh them." Thus, a large quantity of late manuscripts supporting one reading only shows that the reading of one variant reading produced more manuscripts which are currently extant.

This overturning of the basic (pseudo)-methodology of the Textus Receptus (~ Byzantine ~ KJV), then is one of the great legacies of Westcott and Hort, and this is the reason why they are hated so much by KJV-onlyites. But there's more to the story….

KJV-onlyites rarely are capable of attacking Westcott and Hort on methodological grounds. The reality is, few of them are capable of reading Hort's famous introduction. Consequently, the attack against Westcott and Hort is almost entirely ad hominem. In particular, Hort is attacked for things like rejecting inspiration, or maybe even high doctrines like the Trinity…, whatever. (Apparently, little is known about Westcott's own personal life.)

Actually, KJV-onlyites know only one or two things about Hort, but their rhetoric gets fanned into ever increasing inflammatories and deprecations.

But now, the record needs to be set straight!

I'm not going to defend Hort. Say what you may.

However! Let me tell you about an Englishman named Tregelles. Apparently, Tregelles was a devoted believer, deeply involved in the Brethren movement which continues to be Great Britain's equivalent of American Fundamentalism, albeit gentler. He was known for his personal piety and theological orthodoxy.

Tregelles was not famous like Cambridge professor Hort was, even though Tregelles was older. Tregelles had been working on his own edition of the Greek New Testament, being well ahead of Hort. But the two men struck up a serious camaraderie, resulting in Tregelles sending Hort his edition and notes on the Greek New Testament as each page was written.

To be sure, Hort was critical of Tregelles for his firm belief in scripture, but Hort was impressed by Tregelles' work. In fact, Tregelles had a huge impact on Westcott and Hort's New Testament. A comparison of Tregelles' text to Westcott and Hort's text would see a characteristic similarity between the two.

Scholars are in the habit of referring to the Standard Text (i.e., Nestle-Aland's critical text) as the Hortian text. In reality, however, perhaps we should speak not so much of the Hortian text, but of the Tregellian text!

With all this background information, it seems that we can all dispense with the vicious attacks against Hort for his liberalism. KJV-onlyites might be able to make hay, so to speak, by attacking Hort, but in reality, Hort's text was largely derived from a seriously devoted believer who was committed to biblical inspiration, theological orthodoxy, and holy living.

Elders, Deacons, and Baptist Polity

Let me speculate as to why Baptists historically avoided the term "elder" (though, obviously there are exceptions, the most notable being "Elder Benjamin Randall").

Baptists, as we know, decided that the church's sole locus of authority should not be a ruling board. Of course, ruling boards were called "presbyteries" or "board of elders" or some such back then. Thus, the term "elder" in recent centuries had the connotation of a very powerful individual church leader who, with the help of a few other people, was in the habit of making all the major decisions for a church, without approval of the church membership. Thus, for example, we have the tragedy of Grace Church, Nashville, where the four member elder board dissolved a highly functioning church without any consultation or vote of the congregation.

Since our Baptist forefathers wanted no part of a system of church governance where a board of elders had sole authority over the church, I now speculate that they came to avoid the term "elder" precisely because it had such a negative conotation to them.The same happened with the term "bishop." Baptists exchanged the term "bishop," which connotated an authoritarian semi-Pope, for the more apt term "pastor" which conveys that the leader leads by persuasion, administration, and example, rather than by fiat.

In fact, since in recent history the term "elder" came to connote such a powerful church leader who, with a few others, made all the church decisions unilaterally, we might even be able to say that the term has evolved far beyond its meaning as expressed in the NT documents.

At any rate, since the term "elder" had this negative connotation, Baptists had to replace the term with another term. Of course, the Pastoral epistles portray deacons as church leaders, and so that term was readily available. Consequently, Baptists set up a system of leadership wherein a certain number of church leaders were elected to do pastoral kinds of ministry, without usurping the authority of the congregation. These leaders were just like the NT elders, but they didn't call them "elders" precisely because of the perceived evolution of the meaning of the term. In this light, again, I don't care if you call them deacons, or elders, or Grand PooBahs.

This group of people chosen by the congregation helps the pastor direct the affairs of the church, provides spiritual guidance to the church, helps formulate vision, ministers in various ways, helps hold the pastor accountable to the congregation, and represents the interests of the congregation. They don't however, usurp congregational authority. If an "elder board" operates on this model, then it is a "congregational" model, even if it calls itself an elder board. Essentially, it is Baptistic/congregational.

If, however, the board--whether called Deacons, Elders or Elderberries--has ultimate authority over the congregation, it is a "presbyterian" form of government.