The City Of Lights – A Study Of Isaiah 60 And Ephesians 5:13b-14

Midtown_Manhattan_as_City_of_Blinding_Lights

Ephesians 5:13b-14 “for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” (NASB)

Isaiah 60:1-3 “Arise, shine; for your light has come,
And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. “For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you
And His glory will appear upon you. “Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.

Introduction:

Cities have always captured the imagination of people throughout the ages. Ancient cities like Athens or Rome dominated the minds of the Greeks and Romans. Certainly the city of Jerusalem became the epicenter of ancient Israel. In the picture above, New York City is most commonly associated with movies or depictions of the American mindset. For the Christian, there is one city to which the scripture points and which more and more comes to characterize the Christian longing for eternity with God. What is this city of which I speak? Zion. 

Whenever one preaches regularly every week, there are times where what could be said or expounded never gets a chance to see the light. In a recent message, I had preached from Paul’s exposition on the Spirit-filled life in Ephesians 5. (1) 

Why is it that Paul writes: “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” Paul’s allusion to Isaiah 60:1 had a purpose in making his point about the value of Spirit-led living. The Holman Christian New Testament Commentary states: 2

“Sins are exposed by shining light into sin’s darkness. An amazing thing happens. Darkness can no longer hide its nature and acts in secret. All is exposed to light. Light that makes everything visible brings an even more radical element. Literally, this reads, everything that is revealed is (or becomes) light. Light turns darkness into light. This is the church’s mission. Whether the people in darkness are church members or society members, the goal is to transform them completely from darkness to light.”

In today’s post I want to look closer at Ephesians 5:13b-14 and see why Paul refers to Isaiah 60. As will be seen in the remainder of this post, promises relating to the coming age of Christ’s coming Kingdom blend into the realities of Christian living today. 

Isaiah 60 – A Glimpse Into The Future “City Of Light”

The emphasis upon “light” that is a feature of the Holy Spirit’s illuminating ministry to the Christian (see John 14:8-12; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 1 John 2:20,27) dominates the thought- pattern of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 60. The Hebrew text of Isaiah 60 contains seven different words for “light” with nearly 20 references to the concept in the chapter. In the course of Isaiah’s prophecy, the reader discovers this final section that portrays what will be Yahweh’s eschatological restoration of the City of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel.

The New American Commentary notes the following on Isaiah 60: (3)

“The first message of salvation describes how God’s glorious coming as a light to Zion (60:1–3) will glorify God and the city of Zion where he will dwell. His coming will attract Hebrews and Gentiles from around the world. They will come with gifts of gold, sacrifices, and praise to God (60:4–9). Although in past times Judah was judged (60:10, 15, 18), in the future all who oppose God will perish (60:12) and all those who love God will come to the holy city of the Lord. Then Hebrews and Gentiles will experience the presence of their Savior and Lord (60:16) and the transformation of Zion. In that day God’s light will be brighter than the sun (60:19), and everyone there will be righteous and bring glory to God (60:21).”

If one were to survey the immediate surrounding contexts of Isaiah 60, a remarkable feature would emerge: reference to what would be the first and second comings of the Messiah.

Isaiah 59:15-21 gives a preview of what would be Messiah’s 1st coming (59:15-18) and the New Covenant arrival of the Holy Spirit (59:19-21). From the vantage point of the Old Testament era leading up to Christ’s entry-point into history, the prophet Isaiah was viewing this as one future coming.

Little did Isaiah realize that there would be an unforeseen parenthetical period of some 2,000 or more years between the 1st coming of Messiah (Jesus Christ) and the yet to occur second coming. Isaiah 61:1-2a is quoted by Jesus at the beginning of his earthly ministry to signal the beginning of His public Messianic life in Luke 4:18. The remainder of Isaiah 61:2bff refers to what will be Christ’s second coming in the establishment of His Kingdom.

When we come to Isaiah 60, the prophecy (from an Old Testament standpoint) is speaking entirely of a future age. The city of Jerusalem is foreseen as being somehow made by Yahweh into a spatio-temporal reality shot-through with the celestial, uncreated light of God Himself. Like a stained-glass lampshade refracting the light from a bright lightbulb, Jerusalem somehow be the eschatological city-of God. References abound in Isaiah 60 of gentile nations being drawn to this “city of light” (Isaiah 60:3, 4, 5b, 6, 7, 9,10-12, 16). 

Outlining Isaiah 60

The theme of “light” pervades Isaiah 60. In reading through this particular vision, the following outline of Isaiah 60 can be offered:

1. Light of God’s Glory Upon The City. Isaiah 60:1-3

2. Illumination of God’s Glory Within The City. Isaiah 60:4-9

3. Light Draws The Nations To The City. Isaiah 60:10-18

4. Light Will Shine Upon The Earth. Isaiah 60:19-22

The outline attempts to bring out how the city of lights is being viewed by Isaiah in the vision. We see the city viewed with reference to Yahweh as its light source in 60:1-3. We then travel from looking upon the city to viewing God’s glory from within the city’s walls (60:4-9). Isaiah then focuses upon the city’s relationship to the nations of the world, giving us a clue to Yahweh’s calling and mission for this future metropolis (60:10-18). Finally, the extraordinary reality depicted in Isaiah’s vision includes how this holy city of Zion will have not only earth-wide, but cosmic-wide influence – not needing illuminaries like the sun or moon (60:19-22). 

How the “City of Light” Applies To The Christian Church 

It must be noted that Isaiah 60 is situated between to major chapters predicting the coming of Messiah. The full reality of this city of lights in-breaks into this present age by two ways as expounded by the New Testament.

The first of these is the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. As already mentioned, Jesus had referred to His own ministry as an inauguration of the coming Kingdom (see Isaiah 61:1-2a and Luke 4:18). Doubtless is our Lord’s awareness of His ability to inaugurate the coming Kingdom of God by his miraculous deeds, parables, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.

In the wake of Jesus’ accomplished redemption, resurrection and ascension, we find a second avenue of connecting the future spoken of by Isaiah into this present age – the church. The New Testament church exists as a result of Christ’s ascension and subsequent sending of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2; 8; 10; 19). The seeds of the glorious kingdom and city spoken of in Isaiah 60 germinate in the seed-bed of Christ’s church in this present age. Like Abraham in Hebrews 11:10-16, New Testament believers look for a city whose Builder and Maker is God. 

In considering Christ’s ministry and the reality of the church as the means by which the future coming Kingdom is pulled into this present age, we return to Paul’s reference in Ephesians 5:13b-14.

This God-centered reality of the coming age in Isaiah 60 gives one of the clearest statements of Christ’s Deity in the New Testament. The Hebrew text of Isaiah 60:1 states: ק֥וּמִי א֖וֹרִי כִּ֣י בָ֣א אוֹרֵ֑ךְ וּכְב֥וֹד יְהוָ֖ה עָלַ֥יִךְ זָרָֽח׃. Whenever we look at the corresponding red words in the NASB, we see that the glory is question is that of Yahweh by the phrase: the glory of the Lord”. This same phrase is used to describe the Shekinah glory of God that dominated the Tabernacle in Moses’ day Exodus 40) and Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 8:11). Thus, when Paul refers to “Christ shining upon you” in Ephesians 5:14, the equating of Christ with Yahweh in terms of Deity, power and glory is inescapable (see other references, such as Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:1-4).   

Other New Testament authors capitalize upon the eschatological city of Zion mentioned by prophets like Isaiah. Whenever we note the New Testament testimony about the “city of lights” that we observed in Isaiah 60, it is very clear: the future Kingdom of God has broken into this present age, informing both Christian identity, conduct and hope. Let the reader consider the following New Testament texts the point to the immediate application of texts like Isaiah 60: 

1. John 14:1-3 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

2. Hebrews 13:14 “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.”

3. Revelation 21:2-3 “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.”

Closing Thoughts And Applications

Whenever we consider how the New Testament authors read Old Testament passages in light of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension – we can then see why Paul saw fit to utilize Isaiah 60 in Ephesians 5:14. The theme of “light” which characterizes the age to come ought to also characterize Christian life and conduct in this age. Undoubtedly, the need for the Holy Spirit’s leading in His filling ministry is required if followers of Christ expect to be salt and light wherever they go. 

Endnotes:

1. In Ephesians 5:13b-14 the text appears as follows in the Greek: πᾶν γὰρ τὸ φανερούμενον φῶς ἐστιν. διὸ λέγει· Ἔγειρε, ὁ καθεύδων, καὶ ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, καὶ ἐπιφαύσει σοι ὁ Χριστός. The NASB translates Ephesians 5:13b-14 as follows (note the corresponding red words): “for everything that becomes visible is light. Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 60 provides the backdrop for the exhortation to live the Spirit-filled life. The present passive participle, “τὸ φανερούμενον” (that which is illuminated) speaks of an object or person receiving light from an outside source. The present or continuous aspect of the participle refers to either ongoing reception or intermittent action, depending upon the context. Whenever we consider the strength of Paul’s admonition to be Spirit-filled and awakened to the deeper life in Jesus Christ, it would seem the preference to be that of an ongoing, growing state of repeated illumination.

2. Max Anders. Holman New Testament Commentary: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. Logos Software. 

3. Gary V. Smith. New American Commentary – Isaiah 40-66. Logos Software

Advertisements
Posted in Preaching / Homiletics | Leave a comment

A Great Phone App For Studying And Reading The Greek New Testament

sblimage

It wasn’t too long ago that a downloadable app for Android phones was made available to users that features the Societies For Biblical Literature Greek New Testament (from here-on SBL GNT). The phone app (called “SBL GNT”) is available for free on “Google Play” and contains a wealth of useful tools for anyone desiring to increase their competency in the Greek New Testament. Readers can also go to the following web-page that links you to the app here: https://www.bible.com/versions/156-sblg-sbl-greek-new-testament

In this post I want to highlight some of the features of the app so as to encourage readers to try it out for themselves. I promise that I am in no way a spokesman. I’m simply a busy pastor that loves studying the Greek New Testament.  So what are some of the features of this app that are applicable for persons desiring to maintain their study of the Greek New Testament?

First, the app features the entire text of the “SBL GNT”, a widely available text of the Greek New Testament. Each word in the text features a built-in lexicon and parsing guide that pops-up on the user-screen when tapped by the finger.

Secondly, various options are included for increasing one’s speed and fluidity of the text. For instance, there are various reading plans and a button that causes the text to scroll down at varying speeds. The reading plan can be utilized for anyone desiring to use the text in their daily devotions.

The automatic “scroll-down feature” makes the text go down while you attempt to keep up. Overtime, as ease of reading increases, the speed can be adjusted. New Testament scholar Daniel Wallace’s reading plan for journeying through the New Testament in 12 months, one month or going through portions is utilized. I recommend the plan of working through the three-week reading plan of the General Epistles (James, 1 &2 Peter, 1,2,3 John and Jude).  

As a final comment, the SBL text in the app can be read in a “day-time” format with black lettering on white background or a “night-time” feature with white-letters on black-background. I believe anyone who downloads this app will find immediate gratification and the ease that comes with taking the Greek New Testament with you wherever you go. 

Posted in Contemporary Issues, Greek New Testament study, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Has The Bible Been Discredited By Archaeology And Genetics? Critiquing A Recent Article

Joshua 16:10 “But they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites live in the midst of Ephraim to this day, and they became forced laborers.”

Introduction:

Today I read a news article claiming that recent genetic testing and archaeology discredits the historical accuracy of the Bible. The title of the article: “Bible says Canaanites were wiped out by Israelites but scientists just found their descendants living in Lebanon”. Whenever one reads the title, let alone the article, where does one start? The writers make it sound like this serves a deathblow to the reliability and credibility of the Bible’s accuracy. As will be seen, a simple question can be asked: “Is there any proof that the skeptic has read the Book of Joshua, or the Old Testament, in making their case?” Below I will offer a simple critique of the article and demonstrate why it fails to disprove the narrative of Joshua. To make this evaluation as brief as possible, I will lay out in summary form the central idea of the article by constructing the following four-point argument:

1. The Bible claims that all the Canaanites were wiped out by the Israelites, per God’s command, thus there ought not to be modern-day descendants

2. Recent DNA testing from ancient Canaanite remains links genetically modern-day descendants

3. Therefore the Bible’s claim about the Canaanites being wiped out is false

4. Therefore it follows, the Bible is false

For those desiring to read the article in its entirety, the link is here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/bible-canaanites-wiped-out-old-testament-israelites-lebanon-descendants-discovered-science-dna-a7862936.html

In order to respond to the claims made by this article, one only needs to deal with the first premise or statement in the above argument, namely: “The Bible claims that all the Canaanites were wiped out by the Israelites, per God’s command, thus there ought not to be modern-day descendants.”  One only needs to explore whether or not the Bible actually makes such a claim. If no evidence can be found for this central thought proposed in the article, then the arguments are invalidated. 

As we have noted already, if we simply ask the critic whether or not they have read the Biblical account, we find out quickly whether or not their arguments are solid. So, did the Israelites wipe out every single living Canaanite? Consider the following Biblical texts:

Joshua 16:10 “But they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites live in the midst of Ephraim to this day, and they became forced laborers.”

Joshua 17:12 “But the sons of Manasseh could not take possession of these cities, because the Canaanites persisted in living in that land.”

Joshua 17:13 “It came about when the sons of Israel became strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.”

Joshua 17:16 “The sons of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the valley land have chariots of iron, both those who are in Beth-shean and its towns and those who are in the valley of Jezreel.”

As can be seen in the underlined texts of Joshua, there were still Canaanites living in the land after the Northern and Southern campaigns led by Joshua. As one goes later on into Old Testament history, we still find left-overs of the Canaanites. Take for instance the Jebusites who occupied what would become the city of Jerusalem during the beginning years of King David (2 Samuel 5). David’s driving out of the Jebusites and turning their stronghold into the famed “City of David” shows that Canaanites were still alive some 350 years after Joshua. 

Or how about even later still, in the New Testament, in Matthew 15:22 “And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” This episode in the ministry of Jesus occurs over a millennium after the recorded events in Joshua. Canaanites were still around in Jesus day! He demonstrated incredible mercy to this woman – a profound lesson on the mercy of God!

If we take the Biblical data, the first premise of the above re-constructed argument is show invalid. In terms of the central point of the article, we then find that its insistence on the Bible being inaccurate is also rendered invalid. Whenever we find a skeptical argument rendered false by a simple reading of the Biblical text, whatever other details mentioned by the critic are rendered irrelevant. So what if Lebanese people are descendants of the ancient Canaanites? If there is evidence of survivors from the Canaanites throughout the Bible (which there are), then the information about the DNA linkage is just simply information and doesn’t overturn Biblical reliability, the existence of the God of the Bible nor the Christian worldview. 

Closing thoughts

The above evaluation ought to remind everyone who is a Jesus-follower and student of the Bible to be sure they know their Bibles. Sadly, too many unsuspecting Christians can be shaken by such a poorly researched article like the one written above. If we know our Bibles, we can say with confidence that it is accurate and that as always, any attempt to discredit the Bible fails in the long-run. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Death’s Obituary: Interpreting And Applying 1 Corinthians 15:55

2a645f7f3fb01b11944964fe6466d32f

1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (NASB) 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Introduction:

Today’s post wants to consider Paul’s Old Testament quotations in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, wherein He is announcing the victory of Jesus Christ over death by His resurrection from the dead. The quotes are interesting for a number of reasons – among those reasons being the fact that Paul is drawing from not one but two Old Testament references. What this post aims to do is two tasks:

1. To explore these quotations in terms of how Paul uses them in supporting his closing remarks in 1 Corinthians 15. 

2. To understand both the textual and theological features of the Old Testament texts from whence the quotations derive.

By exploring Paul’s Old Testament quotations and their theological and textual features, we will discover why his closing remarks are so potent in closing out his powerful argument for Christ’s resurrection. In short, what Paul is doing in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 is declaring a sort of obituary concerning death, and Christ’s decisive victory by way of His resurrection. So with those sentiments, let’s dig into the text!

Paul’s use of Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:34 in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

As we noted earlier, Paul quotes not just one – but two Old Testament texts. The NASB text of Isaiah 25:8 reads-

He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.”

This first line (in red) in Isaiah 25:8 is alluded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:54, which reads in the NASB:

“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.‘” 

The second Old Testament text quoted by Paul in his closing remarks of 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 is from Hosea 13:14, which again the NASB renders:

“Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting?
Compassion will be hidden from My sight.”

The red line highlighted in Hosea 13:14 is referenced by Paul in slightly different wording in 1 Corinthians 15:55 – 

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

A read through Isaiah 25 and Hosea 13 and Hosea 14 reveal God’s intent to restore the nation of Israel not only to its former glory, but beyond to that of eschatological glory in the age to come. For the Old Testament prophets at least, the age of Israel’s restoration was set to occur at the end of history under the reign of the Messiah (see for example Ezekiel 37-39; Daniel 12; Joel 2; Amos 9; Zechariah 12-14). The concept of the people of Israel being resurrected at the end of history is alluded to and mentioned as occurring during this same future time-frame (see Job 14:14; 19:28; Ezekiel 37; Daniel 12). With these two main thoughts of “restoration” and “resurrection” being tied together in the prophets, connecting them with Messiah’s coming at the end of the age was how the Old Testament viewed the situation.

What made the aftermath of Jesus’ remarkable life and death so life-altering and history-altering was when the apostles began proclaiming that Jesus Christ had raised from the dead. Furthermore, for Paul to take texts like Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14 and apply them as having been initiated in their fulfillment by the resurrection of Jesus meant the “age to come” had broke into “this current age”. The Bible Knowledge Commentary summarizes Paul’s reason for utilizing these texts in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55:

“The apparent victories of Satan, in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:13) and on Golgotha (Mark 15:22–24) were reversed on the cross (Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14–15) and vindicated in the resurrection of Christ. From the vantage point of the certain resurrection of the saints, Paul voiced his taunt against death and Satan.” 

The Textual And Theological Features Of Paul’s Quotations In 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Thus far we have summarized what Paul was quoting (Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14) in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 and the point he was making (to show Christ’s decisive victory over death by His resurrection from the dead). Such an argument by Paul reminds one of an obituary of sorts – or what we could call “death’s obituary”. The textual and theological features of these quotations will be briefly considered. 

In the New Testament, we discover that whenever an author quotes or alludes to the Old Testament, they are using one of three sources: the Hebrew Old Testament, the Greek Old Testament (i.e the Septuagint, LXX) or some other version of the Old Testament (examples: Aramaic Targum or unknown version).

To mention the first reference used by Paul – Isaiah 25:8 – the verbs for “swallow” are different, indicating that Paul may had derived his quotation from another Old Testament version. Below we can see a comparison of the Greek Septuagint text of Isaiah 25:8 and the Greek New Testament text of 1 Corinthians 15:54b with translations:

Isaiah 25:8 (Septuagint) κατέπιεν ὁ θάνατος

                                          Death is gobbled up

1 Corinthians 15:54b Κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος.

                                         Death is swallowed up in victory

 

The theological context is that of Yahweh restoring His people and the earth to such a degree as to wipe out death itself. The curse is reversed in Isaiah 25, effectively disarming and dismantling the curse of Genesis 3. In Jesus’ victory over death, we discover that the beginning phase of God’s restorative efforts has begun! Paul’s entire argument in 1 Corinthians 15 is to show that all who are united to Jesus in saving faith have this restorative process initiated in themselves. Truly what we see here is an “already-not yet” reality.

So with this first text studied, what about the second text: Hosea 13:14? Again, we consider the text of 1 Corinthians 15:55, first in the Greek Text (SBL Text) with the English rendering of it:

1 Corinthians 15:55 “ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ νῖκος; ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ κέντρον;

1 Corinthians 15:55 “Where for you, Oh Death, is the victory! Where for you, Oh death, is the sting?” 

The second person singular pronouns (in red) could just as easily refer to death’s ownership of victory and the sting it administers as to reference to Death as the object of Paul’s taunt. In modern editions of the Greek New Testament, question marks (in green) are shown as English semi-colons (;), thus, Paul is asking more of a rhetorical question here. It is obvious what has happened: Jesus has snatched the victory and sting of death from its jaws! The point of Paul’s quotation is to do a theological equivalency of “na na na na na” to death. Again, the quote is taken from Hosea 13:14, which is difficult to render from its Hebrew original. The Hebrew of Hosea 13:14 is as follows:

Hosea 13:14 (Hebrew text)  מִיַּ֤ד שְׁאוֹל֙ אֶפְדֵּ֔ם מִמָּ֖וֶת אֶגְאָלֵ֑ם אֱהִ֨י דְבָרֶיךָ֜ מָ֗וֶת אֱהִ֤י קָֽטָבְךָ֙ שְׁא֔וֹל נֹ֖חַם יִסָּתֵ֥ר מֵעֵינָֽי׃

English translations have difficulty rendering this text due to the fact that it is hard to decide whether the Lord is addressing His people in the form of a series of rhetorical questions (example: will I rescue you from the hand of Sheol? = מִיַּ֤ד שְׁאוֹל֙ אֶפְדֵּ֔ם) or is He addressing them with the promise to redeem (example: I will rescue you from the hand of Sheol. = מִיַּ֤ד שְׁאוֹל֙ אֶפְדֵּ֔ם). We find the major English translations handling Hosea 13:14 as follows:

A. ESV of Hosea 13:14 “I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death.
O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes. ”

B. NASB of Hosea 13:14  “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death?
O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight.”

C. NIV of Hosea 13:14 “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?”

D. KJV of Hosea 13:14  “I will ransom them from ithe power of the grave; I will redeem them from death:
O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.”

As can be seen, the issue of which sentences are to be interrogative sentences and which ones are to be declarative makes rendering this text a challenge for the interpreter. The NET Bible has excellent translators notes on this text, which I will place in the footnotes of this post for anyone wanting to dig even further.Even though the translation issues are difficult, they need not be impossible. Sometimes whenever we are attempting to translate the Hebrew, we can compare the Greek translation of the Old Testament (i.e Septuagint), which is rendered below along with an authorized English translation of the Septuagint Text:

Hosea 13:14 (Septuagint Greek text) “ἐκ χειρὸς ᾅδου ῥύσομαι αὐτοὺς καὶ ἐκ θανάτου λυτρώσομαι αὐτούς, ποῦ ἡ δίκη σου, θάνατε; ποῦ τὸ κέντρον σου, ᾅδη; παράκλησις κέκρυπται ἀπὸ ὀφθαλμῶν μου.”

Hosea 13:14 (Lexham English Septuagint)  “From the hand of Hades I will rescue, and from death I will ransom them. Where is your penalty, O death?
Where is your sting, O Hades? Comfort is hidden away from my eyes.”

Whenever we take the Septuagint text’s rendering of the first two sentences as declarations, we find God promising to restore His people. The next two sentences are rhetorical taunts against death, as seen in the interrogative pronouns (red) and question marks (green semi-colons). The final sentence then is God declaring to His people that (for the time being in their day), His comfort is hidden due to His wrath. Thankfully, Hosea 14 shows God’s true intention to redeem His people, which matches the first two sentences of Hosea 13:14. So whenever we compare the Greek Septuagint text of Hosea 13:14 to the portion of it quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:55, what do we discover? Note the comparison of the portions in red:

Hosea 13:14 (Septuagint) “ἐκ χειρὸς ᾅδου ῥύσομαι αὐτοὺς καὶ ἐκ θανάτου λυτρώσομαι αὐτούς, ποῦ ἡ δίκη σου, θάνατε; ποῦ τὸ κέντρον σου, ᾅδη; παράκλησις κέκρυπται ἀπὸ ὀφθαλμῶν μου.”

1 Corinthians 15:55 (SBL Greek New Testament) ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ νῖκος; ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ κέντρον;

Paul’s quotation differs from the Septuagint text by one definite article (τὸ = the) and two nouns (νῖκος = victory and θάνατε = death) , with the words in black (in 1 Corinthians 15:55) being synonyms. It seems Paul is taking the sense of the Septuagint text as capturing what He is conveying about the lopsided victory of Christ over death.

Closing thoughts:

Taunting death is Paul’s way of saying that what Christ achieved is decisive or, to put it another way, “an already done deal”. In the Hebrew text, we have Yahweh stating His intent to destroy death: אֱהִ֨י דְבָרֶיךָ֜ מָ֗וֶת אֱהִ֤י קָֽטָבְךָ֙ שְׁא֔וֹל = “I will make a decree against you, Oh death! I will destroy you, O Sheol!” In the Greek text of the Septuagint, we have God taunting his enemy death in what appears to be His inevitable victory over it. In short, we can use Paul’s quotation and use of Hosea 13:14 in 1 Corinthians 15:55 as an authoritative method of rendering Hosea 13:14. In Paul’s quotations of Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14, the point is being made: death has been decisively defeated. The restoration of redeemed humanity and the created order has begun in the resurrection of the Son of God. Whenever we consider the wider contexts of Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14, as well as their respective renderings in the Hebrew and Greek Septuagint, we discover how potent of a conclusion is drawn by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. In short, Paul has spelled out death’s obituary, a victory anticipated by the prophetic Spirit operating through Isaiah and Hosea and fulfilled by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. 

Endnotes:

1. The translation of the first two lines of this verse reflects the interpretation adopted. There are three interpretive options to v. 14: (1) In spite of Israel’s sins, the LORD will redeem them from the threat of death and destruction (e.g., 11:8). However, against this view, the last line of 13:14 probably means that the LORD will not show compassion to Israel. (2) The LORD announces the triumphant victory over death through resurrection (cf. KJV, ASV, NIV). However, although Paul uses the wording of Hosea 13:14 as an illustration of victory over death, the context of Hosea’s message is the imminent judgment in 723–722 B.C. (3) The first two lines of 13:14 are rhetorical questions without explicit interrogative markers, implying negative answers: “I will not rescue them!” (cf. NAB, NASB, NCV, NRSV, TEV, CEV, NLT). The next two lines in 13:14 are words of encouragement to Death and Sheol to destroy Israel. The final line announces that the LORD will not show compassion on Israel; he will not spare her.

 

 

Posted in Biblical Theology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Exploring And Comparing Possible Backgrounds Of The “Two-Adam” Theology In Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 15:42-48

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Romans 5:19 “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”

1 Corinthians 15:45 “So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

Introduction:

Today’s post wants to consider the possible background informing Paul’s use of the “two-Adam” theology in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 15:42-48. This blogger has written elsewhere on the theological meaning, life-practical application and Biblical significance of Paul’s two-fold comparison of Adam and Jesus Christ at the following blogposts:

1. http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2017/03/reflections-on-jesus-as-second-adam.html

2. http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2017/03/seeing-unity-of-bible-through-jesus-new.html

3. http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2017/03/life-practical-considerations-of-jesus.html

A brief explanation by what is meant by “Two-Adam” Theology

When I say “two-Adam” theology, I am referring to how the author or authors utilize Adam or more than one Adam to communicate their particular theological message. In the above posts that I just linked, the reader can discover how Paul’s “two-Adam” theology opens up the world  of the Bible in terms of the Bible’s unity, practical Christian living and deepening one’s understanding of Jesus Christ as the New Adam. In this particular post, we want to explore what if any connections there could be between Paul’s statements on the two Adams and other literature outside the New Testament that refer to similar themes. 

Craig A. Evans has compiled a very helpful book for students of New Testament studies entitled: “Ancient Texts For New Testament Studies – A Guide To The Background Literature”, published by Hendrickson publishers in 2005. The resource aids one greatly in referencing both the relevant Jewish and Graeco-Roman literature that was circulating in and around the composition of the New Testament. In as much as the New Testament documents are authoritative Divine revelation, they nonetheless were not revealed in a vacuum. I won’t even attempt to develop a detailed theory in this post outlining how such background literature may or may not influence the Biblical author’s thoughts, since each New Testament book may more or less be somewhat influenced are not influenced at all. Still, God used each author’s cultural and language competencies to compose the scriptures – including familiarity with all the relevant literature or lack thereof in their day.  

As one reads Evans’ book and consults his summaries of the various examples of Jewish and Graeco-Roman literature relevant to New Testament studies, one finds examples of material mentioning their own “two-Adam” theology. Below we find the following sources that mention the historic Adam of Genesis 1-2 in ways that somewhat parallel what we find in Paul’s use of Adam in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 15:42-48.

1. Philo of Alexandria.

Philo was a first century Jew who lived in Alexandria Egypt and wrote in Greek. One can buy English versions of his voluminous works for a reasonable price and begin studying his thoughts. Philo’s writings chiefly provided spiritualized or allegorized commentaries on the books of the Old Testament and attempted to articulate Jewish thought in conjunction with Greek philosophy. According to Craig A. Evans in the book cited above, Philo makes some interesting comments distinguishing Adam in Genesis 1:26-28 (i.e “heavenly man”) from that of a more “earthly Adam” in his comments on Genesis 2:7. Evans cites several references within Philo’s works. For our sake I will only mention one example from Philo’s section where he answers various questions on Genesis, Volume 1, section 4. The following is Philo’s commentary on Genesis 2:7 in comparison to God’s creation of man in Genesis 1:26-27 – 

“What is the man who was created? And how is that man distinguished who was made after the image of God? (Genesis 2:7). This man was created as perceptible to the senses, and in the similitude of a Being appreciable only by the intellect; but he who in respect of his form is intellectual and incorporeal, is the similitude of the archetypal model as to appearance, and he is the form of the principal character; but this is the word of God, the first beginning of all things, the original species or the archetypal idea, the first measure of the universe.”

Philo then continues:

“Moreover, that man who was to be created as a vessel is formed by a potter, was formed out of dust and clay as far as his body was concerned; but he received his soul by God breathing the breath of life into his face, so that the temperament of his nature was combined of what was corruptible and of what was incorruptible. But the other man, he who is only so in form, is found to be unalloyed without any mixture…”.proceeding from an invisible.”

In having read the other Philonic citations mentioned by Evans on Philo’s “two-Adam” doctrine (Philo’s “Confusion Of The Tongues”, chapter 14, sections 62-64), the reader will find Philo making the Adam of Genesis 1 to be a “heavenly man” or archetype after which people must pattern their lives, while the Adam of Genesis 2 is viewed as a picture of humanity living for their own desires. 

So did Philo’s “two-Adam” theology influence Paul’s “two-Adam” theology? Evans offers the following assessment on page 172 of his book “Ancient Texts For New Testament Studies: 

“Philo’s distinction between the two-Adams is not precisely the same as Paul’s, but his language does illuminate the context in which Paul’s discussion may be better understood.”

New Testament scholar Stephen Hultgren wrote an article in the “Journal for the Study of the New Testament 25 (2003): 343-70, entitled: The Origin of Paul’s Doctrine of the Two Adams in 1 Corinthians 15.45-49.” The summary of his scholary article or “abstract” draws this conclusion concerning the possible relationship between Philo and Paul:

“Study of Philo, however, makes it unlikely that Paul is reacting either to Philo, to Alexandrian traditions, or even to a misrepresentation of Philo.”

In as much as Philo’s statements are remarkable, the conclusions drawn from the literature would rule out either any connection or at least some possible influence of Philo on Paul’s comparison between Adam and Jesus. So, are there any other sources of ancient period literature that could had possibly informed the literary backdrop for Paul’s comparison of the historic first Adam to Jesus Christ being the “Second Adam”? For brevity’s sake, we will consider one more class of sources, namely Aramaic commentaries on the Old Testament called “Targums”. 

2. Aramaic  Targums

By the days of Jesus, Jews in Israel were speaking Aramaic as the common language or lingua franca of the streets. The Jews likely would had known Koine Greek, the common language spoken all over the Medittaranean world (since they used the Greek Old Testament and the Apostle would later write the New Testament in Kine Greek). In the various Jewish meeting places (i.e “synagogues”) dotting the 1st century world from Rome to Jerusalem, the Old Testament scriptures would had been read and expounded from Aramaic translations called “Targum”. Craig Evans on page 185 of his book defines a “Targum”:

“The word ‘Targum,’, from the Aramaic word trgm, ‘to translate’, basically means a paraphrase or interpretive translation.”

Essentially, all but a few books in the Old Testament had Targums. Much like modern day commentaries or sermonic helps used by preachers in preparing sermons, Targums aided in interpretation, exposition and application of the Biblical text. Often-times there would be interesting commentary that would read extra-levels of interpretive imagination into how the text was understood. Craig Evans summaries of the Targums is sweeping in its scope and depth. On page 338 of his book – “Ancient Texts For New Testament Studies”, he comments on the Targum of the Psalms, and how they treated the creation texts referring to Biblical Adam:

“Paul has quoted a portion of Gen. 2:7, adding the words “first” and the proper name “Adam.” This manner of referring to Adam occurs at least five times in Targum Psalms (i.e, adam quedema; cf Psalm 49:2; 69:32; 92:1; 94:10). All of these references are to the Adam of the creation story, who offered sacrifice (Tg. Pss 69:32), uttered a song concerning Sabbath (Tg. Ps 92:1), and was taught knowledge by the Lord (Tg. Ps 94:10). Paul’s contrast between the first man, who is physical, and the second man, who is heavenly, has its counterpart to Philo (cf. Alleg. Interp. 1.31-32), commenting on Gen. 2:7, but the locution ‘First Adam’ is distinctly targumic.”

Thankfully, this blogger has the Logos version of the Aramaic Targums with Aramaic dictionaries to explore exactly what Evans was referencing. In researching Evans’ citations, the following Aramaic phrase, אדם קדמא (Adam Qedema), or variations of it, translated “First Adam” or “Former Adam” appears in the above cited texts. In 1 Corinthians 15:45, Paul uses the phrase “ο πρωτος ανθρωπος αδαμ” (ho protos anthropos adam), translated “the first man Adam”, which is equivalent to the Aramaic phrase we find in the Targums. Elsewhere in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and Romans 5:12-21, Paul refers to the historic Adam by using variations on this phrase or phrases with similar meaning. 

These Aramaic Targums, which would had been familiar to Jewish audiences throughout 1st century Israel (called by historians ancient “Palestine”), would also had been known to Paul, since the Jewish teachers or Rabbi’s that he had learnt the scriptures would had referenced such resources. To cite once more from the journal article cited earlier from Stephen Hultgren:

“The closest parallels to Paul from the history of religion are found in rabbinic literature. Paul knew Palestinian exegetical traditions about a first and last Adam. His encounter with the risen Christ gave concrete form to that abstract idea.”

Conclusions:

The world of the New Testament is doubtless a fascinating world. Today’s post wanted to explore the possible backdrop to Paul’s “two-Adam” theology that we find in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 15:42-45. In so far as this blogger considers Paul’s writings as authoritative Divine, inerrant and infallible revelation, such documents also bare the background and language of their human authors. This reminds us that the Bible can be studied with the standard tools of historical investigation and language study, yielding forth further proof as to its reliability and richness. We considered two ancient sources outside the New Testament for consideration of whether or not they influenced Paul’s thought.

The first was Philo. We discovered that in as much as he did have a sort of “two-Adam theology”, it seems that his influence on Paul’s thinking was at best very minimal to non-influential.

The second possible influence on Paul’s thinking about “Two-Adam theology” were the Aramaic Targums. We discovered that the formulation of the phrase “first-Adam” might very well had informed Paul’s phraseology in how he compares Jesus (“The Second-Adam) to the historic “First-Adam” of Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:7). We can say that, at bare minimum, the linkage between the Targums and Paul’s thinking seem more promising.

From surveying a sample of the scholarly literature on Paul’s two-Adam theology, what can be said? It definitely appears that Paul’s development of contrasting the first Adam to Christ was drawn mainly from Paul’s dramatic encounter with the post-resurrection Christ in his calling to Apostleship. Other titles used of Christ in the New Testament (i.e “Son of Man”; “Messiah” or “Christ”) have similar indirect parallels in the available Jewish literature and each evidence a unique reformulation of their meaning in light of Christ’s resurrection and ascension into Heaven. If Paul is in any fashion drawing from background literature like the Targums, the influence is quite minimal in comparison to the one event that forever altered Paul’s thinking and life: namely his encounter with the post-resurrected Jesus. Indeed, we can gain a deeper appreciation for how Jesus Christ would be the “Second-Adam” or “Last-Adam” due to His decisive revelation of being God in human flesh and rising from the dead, providing salvation to all who believe.    

 

 

 

 

Posted in Greek New Testament study, Jesus' relationship to the Bible, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Studying Romans 5:1-5 in English and Greek – God’s Process Of Making The Christ-Follower More Like Jesus

Romans-5.3-5

Introduction:

Romans 5:1-5 is a powerful portion of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, reminding the reader of the benefits that flow from justification by faith. Such benefits are designed by God to work forth a process whereby the Christ-follower is made more and more like Jesus in their experience of being justified by faith. Such a process is part-and-parcel of what the Bible refers to as “sanctification” (see 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3).

Today’s post is going to dig deeper into Romans 5:1-5 by a tool called  “grammatical diagramming”. The phrase “grammatical diagram” refers to showing relationships between words, phrases and clauses within the given passage. Such a method provides the foundation for preachers developing homiletical outlines for sermons, teachers – lessons and deepening oneself in the text. Such a grammatical study can be done on either the English or underlying original language of the Biblical text (Hebrew/Aramaic for the Old Testament; Greek for the New Testament).

To ensure that our attempt at diagramming Romans 5:1-5 will prove beneficial, we will base any labeling and formatting upon the particular approach to diagramming advocated by George H. Gutherie and J. Scott Duvall in their manual: “Biblical Greek Exegesis – A Graded Approach To Learning Intermediate And Advanced Greek”. 

This blogger has chosen this work due to Gutherie and Duvall’s statement in equipping pastors and students of scripture with this approach, as stated on page 18 of their manual: “God calls us to a life of study toward a deeper understanding of Scripture for both personal edification and ministry to others.” What follows below is a suggested method for digging deeper into the text.

A quick life-practical word about Romans 5:1-5 and how we will proceed in this post

Romans 5:1-5 is an excellent text to try out this method, since it not only explains the benefits of Christian salvation, but also how God continues working in the believer’s life to develop them as a people of God growing in love with Jesus.  In what will follow, I will outline Romans 5:1-5 as it appears in the NASB (New American Standard Bible) and the 1550 edition of the Greek New Testament by Robert Stephanus. Along the way I will offer any clarifying comments so that readers can follow along and benefit from the study.

Romans-5.3-5

Romans  5:1 (NASB) 

(Assertion, result following from prior chapter) “Therefore,”

(result clause) having been justified by faith,

(simultaneous result) we have peace with God

                         (agency) through our Lord Jesus Christ

Romans 5:1 (Greek Text)

(Assertion, result following from Romans 4) ουν

(result clause) δικαιωθεντες εκ πιστεως 

(simultaneous result) ειρηνην εχομεν προς τον θεον

                         (agency) δια του κυριου ημων  ιησου χριστου

Comment: When the label “assertion” is used, it indicates Paul making a statement of fact. What follows from the assertion are the results of having been justified by faith. The first “simultaneous result” is that the believer begins experiencing peace with God and continues experiencing such. The Greek text’s main verb, translated “we are having”, is a present, active, indicative that emphasizes progressive, ongoing action. The label “agency” is defined by Gutherie and Duvall as being the personal agent performing the action. The Personal agent “through whom” these blessings flow from justification into progressive sanctification is Christ. Christ is the grounds for our justification by way of His accomplished work. In the next few verses, the Person of the Holy Spirit will be mentioned. His involvement in our sanctification has more so to do in applying what Jesus has accomplished. Relevant cross-references that speak of our peace with God, Christ’s accomplished work and agency and the Spirit’s agency in our sanctification are 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:6; Ephesians 1:7; Philippians 4:6-7 and 1 John 2:1-2.  

Romans 5:2 (NASB)

             (explanation)through whom also we have obtained our introduction                                        (means) by faith into this grace

                                                        (sphere) in which we stand;

             (result #1)            and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:2 (Greek Text) 

                (explanation)δι ου και την προσαγωγην εσχηκαμεν                                         (means) τη πιστει εις την χαριν ταυτην                                                             (sphere)  εν η εστηκαμεν                       (result)           και καυχωμεθα

                                        (basis)    επ ελπιδι της δοξης του θεου

Comments: Now Paul is going to further clarify what he meant when he referred to Jesus Christ as the one “through whom” these blessings of justification flow. The verb translated in the NASB as “we have obtained” is in the Greek text a perfect tense verb, indicating the beginning of something in the past with continuing, ongoing results in the here and now. This same verb is an “active, first person”, meaning that we who are believers in Christ are active participants in this access won for us by Christ. When we see the next label “means”, we find that saving faith is the “means” by which such benefits are received and enjoyed. The label “sphere” has to do with the believer’s status of “standing in” or “enjoying such blessings. So then, what are the results of being justified by faith and thus gaining access to God through Christ? rejoicing! boasting in God! Any ability the Christian has to rejoice in God is based upon (hence the label “basis”) the hope of God delivered in the Gospel. 

Romans 5:3 (NASB) 

        (result #2) And not only this, but we also exult

                            (sphere) in our tribulations,

        (simultaneous) knowing that

        (circumstance) tribulation brings about perseverance 

Romans 5:3 (Greek Text)

          (result #2) ου μονον δε αλλα και καυχωμεθα

                              (sphere) εν ταις θλιψεσιν

          (simultaneous) ειδοτες οτι

          (circumstance) η θλιψις υπομονην κατεργαζεται

Comments: Whether we are reading Romans 5:3 in English or Greek, the idea of God using trials in our life to mold our character is not easy to think about. Nevertheless, Paul lists boasting in the “sphere” or domain of such trials as a second outcome of the hope acquired from having been justified by faith. In the last clause of Romans 5:3, the NASB renders the following: “tribulation brings about perseverence”. The verb translated “brings about” could also be rendered “working out”. The imagery of  “working out” a splinter or of doing a “work out” to achieve greater physical endurance comes to mind. The resistance brought about by trials is used by God to strengthen our resolve and reliance upon Him (see 2 Corinthians 4:18; James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:6-7). 

Romans 5:4 (NASB)

        (sequence) and perseverance,

        (sequence) proven character;

        (sequence) and proven character, hope;

Romans 5:4 (Greek Text)

        (sequence) η δε υπομονη

        (sequence) δοκιμην

        (sequence) η δε δοκιμη ελπιδα

Comments: In Romans 5:4 we find the labels “sequence” indicating a series of nouns used by Paul to express a progression of character building in the Christian. The word translated “endurance” comes from a root referring to “remaining under” someone or something that is applying pressure. The next noun, translated by the NASB as “proven character”, speaks of a piece of metal that is tempered through the process of intense heat. With this progression then comes the last term – “hope”. In this progression, it appears that the Christian comes to appreciate the Divine hope of the Gospel more in the face of situations that appear “hopeless”. Desperation for God, His Word and all the other graces He gives increases whenever the normal resources for coping with life (friends, finances, so-called “easy times”) are either short in supply or utterly absent. 

Romans 5:5 (NASB)

(assertion) and hope does not disappoint,

         (inference) because the love of God has been poured                                   out within our hearts

                              (agency) through the Holy Spirit who was                                                   given to us.

Romans 5:5 (Greek Text)

(assertion) η δε ελπις ου καταισχυνει

        (inference) οτι η αγαπη του θεου εκκεχυται εν ταις                                        καρδιαις ημων

                              (agency) δια πνευματος αγιου του δοθεντος                               ημιν

Comment: In this final verse, we find another “assertion” clause, indicating a statement of fact by the Apostle Paul. Such hope does not “disappoint”. Why? The label called “inference” points to the emptying process that can occur in the experience of intense trial. God’s love has an easier time “filling in” the places of the Christian’s life that might not had been accessible if times and seasons would had been easier.  The final label, “agency”, now points us to the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, Who is regulating both us and the course of experiences, trials and blessings to bring about the Christ-like qualities He wants to bring forth. Paul’s whole point in these first five verses is to show how God is making us by experience whom He has declared us to be in justification – namely the righteousness of God in Christ. 

Final thoughts and life application:

diagramming” of the Biblical text in English or in Greek. Such a tool is an example of how one can go about the initial steps in preparing a sermon, a Bible lesson or digging deeper into the text for one’s own edification. We looked at Romans 5:1-5 to discern what benefits flow from having been justified by faith. One could say that we are justified by faith “unto” the following benefits: peace with God, hope in God, strengthening by God and love from God. Such truths can prove very helpful to believers who are going through difficult times. Romans 5:1-5 reminds us that the Christian life is not promised immunity from trouble. Nevertheless, God’s promise to us in justification is that He will be with us every step of the way as we progress in sanctification through this life while looking forward to his glorification or completion of our redemption in eternity (compare Philippians 1:6; Jude 1:24-25).  

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How A Recent Book Increases Confidence In The Reliability Of The New Testament Text

periadulttitlepage

John 7:53-8:11  7:53“Everyone went to his home. 8:1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

Introduction:

The account of the woman caught in adultery and Jesus’ exoneration of her from being stoned is perhaps one the most beloved portions in John’s Gospel. However, the textual history of these twelve verses has caused many New Testament scholars today to doubt their authenticity. Although English translations such as the KJV and NKJV include these verses as original to John’s Gospel, more recent translations and even recent critical editions of the Greek New Testament raise questions. Translations such as the New American Standard Bible (NASB) use brackets or double brackets to distinguish John 7:53-8:11 from the surrounding text. Other translations such as the English Standard Version (ESV) have a textual note such as the following:

“[The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53–8:11.]”

One recent edition of the Greek New Testament, the SBL text (produced by the Society Of Biblical Literature) has chosen to not even include John 7:53-8:11 in it’s text of John’s Gospel! In the footnotes section at the end of this post, I have included the full Greek Text of John 7:53-8:11 for those wanting to see what the text looks like in the original language.1

Whenever we see such notations or treatments of the Biblical text such as the examples above, what are we to conclude? Indeed, one must be honest when dealing with any portion of scripture. There are times when the science of textual criticism can aid greatly in showing which readings are original and which were the result of later scribes hand-copying the ancient Greek manuscripts and other ancient versions. But is the wide-spread doubt of John 7:53-8:11 being original to John’s Gospel warranted? This blogger thinks not and has recently completed reading a wonderful book that asserts the confidence one can have in the New Testament text.

Author James Snapp Jr. has written a thorough and clear book entitled: “A Fresh Analysis Of John 7:53-8:11 – With a Tour Of The External Evidence”. The book does contain some technical discussions and examples of citations from Greek and Latin sources. Nonetheless, Snapp translates each source he cites, making the book accessible for any reader wanting to better understand the textual issues surrounding John 7:53-8:11. In the Amazon electronic edition I read, we find the following summary:

Because John 7:53-8:11 (the pericope adulterae — the passage about the adulteress) is not found in some early manuscripts, some scholars have called for the removal of the passage from the text of the Gospels. In response, textual critic James Snapp Jr. offers this informative defense of the genuineness of the passage, with a detailed analysis of external and internal evidence (much of which is hardly ever mentioned in popular commentaries). Snapp offers a definitive explanation of why the passage, originally part of the text of the Gospel of John, is not in some early manuscripts, and why, in some other manuscripts, the passage is found in different locations in the Gospels-text.

The book’s central idea is stated as follows:

“In the case at hand, I submit the following hypothesis: John 7:53-8:11 was in an exemplar used by a copyist in Egypt in the mid-100’s-having descended to it from the autograph.”

When James Snapp refers to “exemplar”, he is speaking of a source document from which other copies were made. In terms of the term “autograph”, this has to do with the original manuscripts of the New Testament documents composed by the Apostles or their associates under the Divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. With his main thesis stated, Snapp will then answer the following question: what evidence does the book contain for John 7:53-8:11 as being original to John’s Gospel?

First, Snapp explores the so-called “External Evidence” (that is, all the available Greek copies of John, ancient translations and texts of John 7:53-8:11 as they appear in ancient church scripture reading materials or “lectionaries”). Below is a summary of the “external evidence” explored in the book:

1. Early Greek Manuscripts (that is, ancient hand-written copies of John’s Gospel from the fourth centuries onward)

2. Early Versions (that is, ancient translations from the Greek manuscripts)

3. Lectionaries (that is, scriptures read by the early church in their annual observances of Christian holidays and feasts)

4. Writings of the early church (that is, books written by the generations of church leaders following the Apostles. These leaders were known as “the church fathers”)

5. Marks that accompany John 7:53-8:11 (or 8:3-11) in some copies (that is, scribal marks or symbols in the ancient manuscripts that contained or did not contain John 7:53-8:11)

6. Notes about John 7:53-8:11 in some copies (that is, editorial notes contained in manuscripts explaining why the passage was kept or excluded)

7. Variations in the location of the passage (that is, John 7:53-8:11 occurring at the end of John in some manuscripts or in Luke 21 in other manuscripts) 

8. Augustine’s Theory of Excision (that is, the 5th century church father Augustine’s knowledge of the nature of John 7:53-8:11 and why it is missing in some manuscripts.

After the external evidence, Snapp then explores the language, vocabulary and relationship of John 7:53-8:11 to the rest of John’s Gospel, or what is called “the internal evidence”. Then as a third and final area of focus in putting the issues of John 7:53-8:11 into view, Snapp deals with general discussions of the passage by New Testament scholarship. Such conversations entail apologetical concerns one may have in preaching situations or conversations with unbelievers. Overall, James Snapp covers much ground in his relatively short work (106 pages). The coverage is thorough and the arguments made present a compelling case for John 7:53-8:11 being original to John’s Gospel and worthy of being preached and treated as inspired scripture by Christians in their everyday lives. 

Closing

In reading Snapp’s work, this author has been reinforced in the conclusion that John 7:53-8:11 is original to John’s Gospel and worthy of the title “inspired, canonical scripture” beyond a reasonable doubt. Readers can click on the following link where I review James Snapp’s book. https://www.amazon.com/review/R3AP98L9IB7RSK/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv

I commend it to anyone desiring to increase their confidence in the reliability of the New Testament text (as well as the fact the book only costs $0.99 as a Kindle download)!

Endnote:

1. John 7:53-8:11 (Greek Text) 7:53 και επορευθη εκαστος εις τον οικον αυτου 8:1 ιησους δε επορευθη εις το ορος των ελαιων 2 ορθρου δε παλιν παρεγενετο εις το ιερον και πας ο λαος ηρχετο προς αυτον και καθισας εδιδασκεν αυτους
3 αγουσιν δε οι γραμματεις και οι φαρισαιοι προς αυτον γυναικα εν μοιχεια κατειλημμενην και στησαντες αυτην εν μεσω 4 λεγουσιν αυτω διδασκαλε αυτη η γυνη κατειληφθη επαυτοφωρω μοιχευομενη 5 εν δε τω νομω μωσης ημιν ενετειλατο τας τοιαυτας λιθοβολεισθαι συ ουν τι λεγεις
6 τουτο δε ελεγον πειραζοντες αυτον ινα εχωσιν κατηγορειν αυτου ο δε ιησους κατω κυψας τω δακτυλω εγραφεν εις την γην 7 ως δε επεμενον ερωτωντες αυτον ανακυψας ειπεν προς αυτους ο αναμαρτητος υμων πρωτος τον λιθον επ αυτη βαλετω 8 και παλιν κατω κυψας εγραφεν εις την γην
9 οι δε ακουσαντες και υπο της συνειδησεως ελεγχομενοι εξηρχοντο εις καθ εις αρξαμενοι απο των πρεσβυτερων εως των εσχατων και κατελειφθη μονος ο ιησους και η γυνη εν μεσω εστωσα 10 ανακυψας δε ο ιησους και μηδενα θεασαμενος πλην της γυναικος ειπεν αυτη η γυνη που εισιν εκεινοι οι κατηγοροι σου ουδεις σε κατεκρινεν 11 η δε ειπεν ουδεις κυριε ειπεν δε αυτη ο ιησους ουδε εγω σε κατακρινω πορευου και μηκετι αμαρτανε

 

Posted in Textual Criticism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment