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Gospel Questions VII: The Wedding at Cana et al.

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Question #1:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Thanks a million for your helpful response. I certainly appreciate these outstanding studies on Michael and the person of Jesus Christ! In Daniel 10:13, Michael is referred to as "one of the chief princes," while Christ is not one amongst equals, as he is wholly unique and the only begotten of the Father. Bible scholar Ron Rhodes also has a superb study on this matter in his eminently practical book, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah Witnesses.

With respect to the Kings of the East, modern arm-chair theologians have entertained all sorts of outlandish, nonbliblical speculation about the army of 200 hundred million being a Chinese invasion. This silly speculation all rests on a statement made by Communist China, in which she once boasted that she could launch an army of 200 million. Hardly questioning the veracity of this claim, many have concluded that the 200 hundred million must be a future Chinese invasion of the Middle East. Taking their faulty exegesis further, they tie this preposterously large Asian military horde to the "Kings of the East." The Kings of the East, which are found in chapter 16, are part of the bowl judgments, while the army of 200 hundred million belong to the trumpet judgments – that's seven chapters apart; moreover, the two judgements are separated by a period of time. The biblical text found in Rev. 9:13-19 makes it clear that the invasion of two hundred million are demons, not Chinese. This demonic army is commanded by four fallen angels. The invasion, which is also written about in Joel 1-15, 2:11, is propelled from the Euphrates River, where ancient Babylonia was located. The similarities between the invasion referenced in Rev. 9:13-19 and the aforementioned verses in Joel are, to say the least, startling!

I have some questions about Jesus' ministry. Given the Lord's habit of preaching to large groups, like say, during the Sermon on the Mount, how did his voice carry so that he could clearly be heard by all his listeners? When I have attempted to speak before a large audience, sans microphone, my voice didn't carry very far. Matthew 5:1-2 reads, "Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them ..." If the "them" is referencing the disciples, this doesn't pose an acoustic challenge, but if refers to the multitudes, then, short of a miracle, his voice would fade as it reached the listeners on the outskirts. Given that the antecedent to the word "them" is the disciples, would it be safe to say that his listening audience in this case was only the disciples? Still, the Son of God did address large crowds in other instances. In my effort to understand the sound dynamics and challenges of Jesus' public discourses, I came across an interesting excerpt from a site called Explain that stuff, which may shed some light on the matter:

You might not think you could hear someone whispering if they sat a long way away, but if they can make the sound of their voice bounce off something into your ears, their voice will travel much further than usual.

If you're inside a building with a giant dome, the sounds you make will reflect off the curved roof like light rays bouncing off a mirror. Buildings that work this way are sometimes called whispering galleries. The dome of the US Capitol and the famous reading room in the British Museum in London are two well known examples. You can hear the same effect at work outside when you sit in a naturally curved area called an amphitheatre. You can talk in a normal voice and still be heard very clearly a considerable distance away.  

When Jesus prophesied the temple's future destruction in Matthew 24:1-3, we know that he foresaw the events in Jerusalem of 70 AD. Having heard his ominous prophesy, the Master's disciples privately asked a pressing question: "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" In response, the Lord gives a lengthy overview of what we futurists would refer to as The Tribulation (see Matthew 24:4-51). We read in Matthew 24:32-35 "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near; at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." Framing the events in Jerusalem of AD 70 as a focal point, most historicists take a preterist view of the Olivet discourse. Dr. R.C. Sproul and other scholars propose a third way of interpreting Matthew 24:1–35, which argues that "the substance of the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in AD 70." When Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down" , he was, as all commentators agree, prophesying the destruction of the second Jewish temple by the Romans in 70 AD, but I would like to know what your views are with regards to what Jesus meant by "this generation"?

Presenting a word picture about the impossibility of being saved apart from God's intervention, and not, as some have suggested, the mere difficulty of it, Jesus said, "Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." There are opposing views about the eye of the a needle spoken of in Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, and Luke 18:25. What is your view?

Lastly, when Jesus' mother pointed out that the groom and guests at the wedding in Cana "have no wine," the Messiah's seemingly curt reply was "Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come." Jesus uses this common Semitic idiom, which serves to distance two parties who have different goals, so the impetus of his comment was to make it clear that all earthly, mundane concerns were subordinate to his divine mission; nevertheless, not only are Mary's subsequent command to the servants assumptive--"Do whatever he tells you."--but then the Lord still fulfills her earnest request. I guess one might say that he was following the fifth command, which adjures us to "Honor your father and mother ..." Still, I've often wondered why he honored the request. Timothy Keller, a very gifted author and preacher, addressing this very question once preached an amazing sermon, which could be summarized by the following:

Why did Jesus use his powers for something as trivial as replenishing wine at a party? It is because he knows that history will ultimately end at another feast, the wedding supper of the Lamb. Jesus sits in sorrow at this wedding party as he thinks of the price he will have to pay in order to invite us to the ultimate wedding party. He offers us his wine so we may taste God and know joy.

Thanks for all that you do! He's coming soon!

Response #1:

Hello Friend,

A good point on Michael as "one of a group" versus Christ who is unique!

On the acoustics question, and apropos of your excerpt, George Whitefield routinely preached outdoors to crowds numbering in the thousands, and, according to contemporaries, his voice could be heard clearly over great distances. That is without miraculous intervention or acoustical helps. I am sure that Whitefield and other pre-tech evangelists also did what the ancients like Demosthenes and Cicero did, namely, train their voices for volume and clarity for just such situations. I would assume that our Lord had a terrific voice, and that He had prepared it over many years before He began ministering at ca. age 30. One other factor to consider are the settings our Lord chose, often mountain or hills. The Greeks built their amphitheaters into hill-sides for just this reason, namely, the natural acoustic "bounce" the voice receives when projecting into a sort of sound-funnel. We don't have the specific geography to work with, but it is certainly not ruled out by the context that something of the sort might figure in here and in other similar situations.

As to Matthew 24, the disciples actually asked Jesus two questions, though no doubt they didn't realize they were separate: 1) when will this destruction happen (answer: 70 A.D.), and 2) what will be the signs of your coming? Our Lord spends most of the chapter explaining the second question – since of course this is the one which requires the most explanation. As to "this generation", Jesus is referring to the "type" of person which characterized the Jewish people of His day, that is, unbelievers who were and still are vehemently opposed to seeing Him as the Messiah. This will not change, "this generation" will not begin to pass away, until the partial Jewish revival of the Tribulation and the more pronounced turning back to the Lord which will occur when He is seen by the whole world at His return. There is, it is important to add, a "remnant according to the election of grace" for Israel in every chronological "generation" (Rom.10:5), so that there have always been and will continue to be Jewish believers who are not of "this generation" until the time when Israel takes back leadership in the Church during the Tribulation. For more on what the phrase "this generation" means in Greek, please see the links:

"O Faithless generation!"

"This generation" (Q#1)

"This generation" (Q#7)

Which generation is "this generation"?

The generation of hardness

You can find my view of the camel et al. detailed at the links: "Eye of the Needle I", and "Eye of the Needle II". In a nutshell, I agree with your synopsis of the issue: it is a very deliberate use of language to express the absolute impossibility of salvation without God's grace (so that this passage alone should be sufficient to discourage any notion of salvation by works – if properly attended to that is). And of course our Lord concludes with "but with God all things are possible".

As to the wedding at Cana and our Lord's turning of the water into wine, the excerpt you include is a very nice application but I would hesitate to adopt it as an interpretation (i.e., I don't think the passages teaches this but it is fine if it reminds us of this). It is clear from this incident that our Lord had been responding to Mary's requests for some time – no doubt all His life. His remonstrance makes it clear that this sort of thing is not His purpose (it is not a necessary part of His ministry), but it is also not in any way wrong (otherwise He wouldn't have done it). There being no limit to God's power and grace, our Lord accedes to the request – just as He often answers our prayers when we really could "do without". I am very encouraged by this, because one of the things it tells me is that when He says explicitly "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (Jn.14:14 NIV), we don't have to worry that perhaps our petition is not "right on the money" enough and so won't be heard: if it is not wrong and not directly contrary to the WILL of God for our lives in a significant way, we can expect this promise to be answered when utilized with faith (cf. Lk.18:1-8).

And thank you for your good words and encouragement!

In Jesus our dear Lord, the coming King.

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hello again Dr Luginbill,

I pray and hope things are much better than the last time we conversed. Once again, I had a few questions I needed help with.

What is the star that the wise men seen to lead them to Jesus? How can a star do that? Was the star an angel or a literal star? Were the wise men astrologers or astronomers?

Response #2:

Hello again, friend, and thanks for your prayers! Still waiting on events here, but very confident of the Lord's deliverance in all things. He is the One who keeps us from sinking, as long as we hold tight His hand and walk on the water with Him. As to your questions:

1) This star was not a typical star, you are absolutely correct. Scripture does identify stars with angels in several places (e.g., Job 25:3; Ps.103:20-21; Is.40:26 w. Lk.2:13; and of course Jesus Himself is the "Morning Star": 2Pet.1:19; Rev.22:16), so the possibility that an angel directed the movement of this light certainly cannot be overlooked. I have all this written up in BB 4A under "The Star and the Magi" (please see the link and also: "Questions about the star of Bethlehem"), and here is the part about the star itself:

As to the star itself, it is wrong to think of this object as a "star" in the sense that modern astronomy defines stars, or even as an asteroid or a comet. The description of this luminous object's behavior in Matthew makes it very clear that it is not to be identified with any such phenomenon and that we will search in vain for any secular evidence of its appearance, ancient or modern. This particular "star" has as its purpose not only the fulfillment of the prophecy in Numbers 24:17 (quoted above) heralding the advent of the Messiah, but also the directing of the Magi to Bethlehem. For this particular "star" actually guides the wise men to the place of Christ's birth – indeed it directs them to the very house in which He and Mary and Joseph were staying (Matt.2:9-10). The star appeared at Christ's birth, fulfilled the prophecy, brought the Magi to Judea, and led them to Jesus – and then apparently disappeared, its purpose having been accomplished.(46) This was entirely a supernatural event, foreordained and meticulously directed by God, not a predictable or otherwise recognizable astronomical event of the sort that can either be explained or rationalized by science. This was a miracle of the highest order.

2) As to the Magi, they were believers who studied scripture following the traditions and guidance of Daniel, and they had read the biblical prophecies about the "star rising" in Israel, and knew therefore that this was a portent of the Messiah. Here is part of what I write at the main link above on this subject:

Given that in Matthew 2:1 the wise men are said to have come "from the east", and given the fact that they know the scriptures and prophecies about the Messiah and respond to them so wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, it seems certain that these Magi are successors to the guild of wise men of whom Daniel was put in charge and over whom he unquestionably exerted considerable influence during his long tenure as their head (Dan.2:48). At the time of Christ, moreover, Babylon, while no longer an important political capital, was still a center of such "higher learning". While we would certainly not wish to accord all who claimed the title "Magician" at that time the truly blessed appellation of "believer", this small group of gentile men, dedicated to the scriptures, were rewarded for their faith in the truth, and were used of God in this extraordinary way, being privileged not only to experience the fulfillment of the prophecy they had long studied even to the extent of seeing the Messiah with their own eyes, but also to be allowed to contribute to God's plan so significantly in the giving of the expensive gifts of "gold, myrrh, and frankincense", with the gold representing Jesus' deity (as is often the case in symbolism of the temple, gold being rare, precious, and glorious), the myrrh (a costly substance used in making incense and in the process of embalming) representing His humanity taken on in order to die for us, and the sweet savor of the frankincense representing the acceptability of His sacrifice (cf. the "sweet savor" of the Levitical offerings representing Christ's work: Eph.5:2; cf. Heb.1:3). These valuable treasures almost certainly funded the escape of our Lord and His family to Egypt and supported them while they were there.(45)

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

I was reading John 17, and noticed, from our BibleWorks 4.0, a difference in the translation between the KJV and Douay-Rheims, and the other English translations of verses 11 &12. The NASB and other more modern translations have God giving His Name to Jesus, but the KJV and DR has God giving Jesus' disciples to Him. Here is the KJV version, vs. 11:

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are."

Is it a difference in manuscript, or interpretation, or what? I am just curious.

Take care. Thanks again.

Response #3:

This one boils down to one word in the Greek, the difference between reading the relative pronoun ho[i] (ᾧ; dat., sing., neut.) or hous (οὓς; acc., pl., masc.). The former is correct (i.e., "name which" rather than "those whom"), and is so without any question or serious debate; only a very small number of later mss. (outside of the Byzantine tradition) have this alternative reading. Unfortunately, KJV is based upon a small set of mss. which are all late and in that tradition. The problem for later copyists was that the ho[i] is an attracted relative; that is to say, it "ought" to be in the accusative but has picked up the dative from its preceding antecedent, onomati (ὀνόματι). While this is an extremely common idiom – and by no means an "error" – it is a difficult concept for non-native speakers (and apparently for Byzantine era Greek speakers as well). So it got "corrected" erroneously to something that was easier on later Greek ears.

Hope this helps!

Yours in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4:

G'Day Brother!

I hope you and all those around you are keeping well.

Just a small question. Would you say "The Parable of the Sower", is rendered best in the NIV Translation?

In Luke 8:13, ". . . they believe for a while, but . . .".

E.g., KJV doesn't have the word "but".

Should it be there? Just curious.

Love In Christ

Response #4:

KJV has "and" while NIV has "but". The word in Greek, kai (καί), is the most common connector in that language. It most commonly means "and", but can also mean "also" and can even mean "even" – and especially in the NT can sometimes mean "but". That is because it is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew and Aramaic universal connector we/ve. The context is our guide as to which to use in English. As in most cases where the choice is between "and" or "but", there will be little or no difference in meaning when translated (i.e., it matters little whether this is an addition "and they fall away" or a contrast "but they fall away"). It's just that in English whenever we feel that the contrast is more obvious than the addition we prefer "but" over "and", so that is certainly what I would prefer here.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Dear Professor,

Thank you for your prayers and your replies - they are deeply appreciated. I continue in my study and slowly grow in my understanding, although I'm aware I've got a very long way to go. I'm slowly progressing with Greek and Hebrew and hope that I can bear some fruit for our Lord in the future, despite all the difficulties. Things happening in my life with regard my relationships with friends and family and show so clearly how lack of understanding of the scripture can result in decisions being made that impact our lives for years after. This provides another motive to study and grow, I know how myself and those close to me would have benefitted from being at a different spiritual level these few years ago and how badly lacking was good Bible teaching. All these things contribute to us being or not being saved, or bearing or not bearing the fruit for our Lord.

Could you please clarify:

Luke 7:47: "but he who is forgiven little, loves little."

Does this passage relate to believers as well? Am I correct to think that a part of spiritual growth is to become increasingly aware of one's sinfulness and hence the need for Saviour, hence resulting in a growth in love?

Response #5:

I truly appreciate your spirit and your drive for Jesus Christ. You motivate me, my friend.

As to your questions:

Yes, I certainly think that it is very much true that, as John says, "we love Him because He first loved us", and that the more we become aware of how much we owe our dear Lord Jesus – not that we will ever come close in this life to appreciating what it cost Him and the Father and what it took for Him expiate all of our sins – the more we will love Him and be grateful to Him and be motivated to respond to Him in the way He encouraged Peter to do: "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs" (Jn.21:15 NIV).

Question #6:

A series of questions about what you wrote: The anointing at Bethany: The first of these events was Jesus' anointing by Mary, sister of Martha and brother of Lazarus (similar to but to be distinguished from an earlier occurrence related at Lk.7:36ff.).

a) Could you please explain the relationship between Lk.7:36 and John 12 - was it the same person - Mary - anointing the Lord on both occasions?

b) In the footnote you add: the fact that Simon is the host in both cases . . .

How do we know that Simon was the host in John 12? Also, was Simon a Pharisee, like Luke 7:36 suggests?

c) How do we know that these two anointings took place on two separate occasions?

d) You wrote: Matt.26:6-13; Mk.14:3-9; Jn.12:1-8; cf. the holy anointing oil: Ex.30:22-33.

You provide the quotation of Ex.30:22-33 - but it seems that the oil used by Mary was made of different substance - I assume it's just a comparison?

e) You wrote: . . . it demonstrated that while none of His disciples seemed to understand, at least Mary did realize full well that our Lord was about to give His life on our behalf, so that "wherever in the entire world this good news [of the Kingdom] is proclaimed, what this woman has done shall also be mentioned to remind of her [faith]"

How do we know that Mary was aware that the Lord was about to give His life on our behalf? The anointing in itself might suggest that, but then were Old Testament prophets always aware of the meaning of the words that God inspired them to say?

Response #6:

They are two different incidents. In the first, Mary expressed here gratefulness for her salvation indicating that she knew that Jesus was taking away her sins (shown more by her tears than by the costly [unnamed] perfume she used). In the first instance, she anoints our Lord's feet; but in this second, His head. Also, in the second incident, Mary uses nard (Jn.12:3), a perfume associated with embalming, and, as Jesus says when the disciples complain ""Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "[It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial" (Jn.12:7 NIV; cf. Matt.26:12). Putting all of the information together in the gospels it makes a certain amount of sense to me that Jesus stayed with one particular family when in Bethany (that was the practice He recommended to His heralds [Lk.10:7], and the one followed by the prophets [e.g., 2Kng.4:8-11]). This impression is reinforced by the facts that 1) Mary has easy access to the home on both occasions and 2) the family is often described together in such situations (Jn.12:2; cf. Lk.10:38: my assumption is that Simon was Mary's brother-in-law). The precise formulation of the holy anointing oil was forbidden from being duplicated (Ex.30:33); the principle of anointing is the point of comparison. Finally, this righteous act of Mary's "will also be told, in memory of her" . . . "wherever the gospel is preached", because she alone seems to have understood that Jesus was about to die for the sins of the world: the proof of this is Jesus' statement (for if done in ignorance it would hardly be appropriate to memorialize her act in this way as "part of the gospel"). That is not to say that Mary understood in the detail we now understand (albeit I dare say that most Christians today do not even understand Christ's spiritual death as opposed to His physical death at all). It was enough in Old Testament times to trust God that He would provide a Substitute at His own cost through grace (the picture inherent in all animal sacrifice). Mary has gone her contemporaries one better by understanding that Jesus was that Sacrifice (even if the precise details of how He accomplished what He accomplished would have to await the gift of the Spirit).

There is more at the link: Mary Magdalene

Question #7:

Could you please clarify:

John 10:34-35: Jesus answered them, "Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken) . . ."

What scripture does Jesus have in mind here and what is its meaning?

Response #7:

To have free will, the image of God, is to be, biblically speaking, a "mighty one", that is, a "god" (Hebrew 'el). Now Jesus' audience would probably have understood the difference between being 'el and being 'elohiym, God. In Hebrew the words are different (or more precisely the latter is the plural [of majesty] of the former), but in Greek there is no distinction (i.e., the singular is used for "God" in the Greek just as it is used for "god"). Among other things, our Lord's use of this language and this quotation proves that His adversaries did not understand the scriptures even though they were attempting to use them to convict Him. And if they had truly understood them, they would be falling down in worship of Him instead of opposing Him. There is much more about the importance of our free will in this regard of being "eliym" at the link in BB 4B under "Free will faith and the will of God".

Question #8:

Could you please clarify:

John 8:56: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."

What does this passage refer to?

Response #8:

Abraham is only "dead" from the earthly point of view of limited human beings. From God's true, divine point of view, he is very much alive in the third heaven with all of the other departed elect, and he is observing events as they all are. He rejoiced as all in heaven did to see the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus uses this point to refute the whole incorrect mind-set of His accusers who do not actually believe in God and who consider Abraham "dead" – but he is very much alive.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."
John 11:25-26a NIV

Question #9:

Regarding the quotation in Matthew 27:9, what is your opinion on this (Dr. E.J. Young):

A similar parallel is found in Luke 24:44 where Christ designates the third part of the Old Testament canon by the term Psalms. As a matter of fact, the book of Psalms was only the first book of this division, but evidently the Lord thought it sufficient to name only the first book as a suitable identification of the entire third section. Possibly this is the procedure which Matthew also is following. If so, he is simply doing what the Lord Himself, on another occasion, saw fit to do. (p. 173)

Response #9:

This verse, Matthew 27:9, fulfills two prophecies, one in Zechariah 11:13f. and one in Jeremiah 32:6ff. Although the more salient details are in Zechariah, as the more renowned prophet, Jeremiah therefore receives the credit for the citation here.

Question #10:

Could you explain:

Luke 2:35: "and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

Response #10:

The first half of the verse is a parenthesis. The second half goes with the previous verse.

Question #11:

Regarding Luke 2:35 - your clarification as always helped, but I'm still unsure about the meaning of the words 'and a sword will pierce even your own soul' in the context of this passage.

Response #11:

This refers to the sorrow and suffering Mary would experience at witnessing Jesus' condemnation and crucifixion.

Question #12:

Could you explain:

John 7:31: Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, "When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?

Response #12:

The purpose of our Lord's miracles was to demonstrate the truth that He was the Messiah. This fact is legitimately used as proof of His being the Messiah by those who believe.

Question #13:

Regarding John 7:31, I was just wondering why people used the expression they did ("When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?). It may sound as if our Lord (called 'this man') was not Christ (who is yet to come)?

Response #13:

The spiritual status of the people mentioned here is unknown. The objection they raise with their leaders is against rejecting out of hand someone who is doing miracles that only someone empowered by God could do. That is certainly a good first step, but salvation requires accepting the truth of the gospel: that Jesus is both God and man, and that He paid the price for all of our sins in His death on the cross.

Question #14:

Could you please explain the minor differences in how God's words are rendered in different gospels:

Luke 9:35 NASB: Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!"

Mark 9:7 NASB: Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!"

Matthew 17:5: NASB: While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!"

Is it again to do with the rendering of Hebrew? Did God say these words in Hebrew?

Response #14:

There are many reasons why the gospels differ one from another in treating the same event (and I believe we have discussed these matters before). Language issues can account for seeming discrepancies. In this instance, however, which is clearly the same one referred to in all three synoptics, I believe you are precisely correct. I do believe the Father spoke in Hebrew on this occasion, and therefore Luke has merely translated the Hebrew word in question as "elect" instead of "beloved" (Matthew's addition of "with whom I am well-pleased" is merely a case of one writer adding more of what was actually said). Interestingly, Delitzsch's translation of the Greek New Testament back into Biblical Hebrew has the same Hebrew word for all three passages: yedhidh, "beloved" (cf. Deut.33:12). I would agree that this is the word being translated in all of the gospels. Also very interesting is the fact that the root from which yedhidh is derived, ydd, means "to cast lots", so clearly the Hebrew concept of "beloved" flows from the idea of special choice, making Luke's use of "elect" just as valid as the others. The fact that the Spirit has included both renderings (and the more complete quote from Matthew) shows us God at work in giving us a full picture of the truth in expressing how deeply the Son is loved by the Father.

Question #15:

Could you please explain:

Luke 5:24: But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"—He said to the paralytic—"I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home."

In your reply regarding this passage you said that it was easier for our Lord to say 'get up', because it didn't require His sacrifice on the cross. In light of that, could you explain why does Jesus say:

'But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"—He said to the paralytic—"I say to you, get up,'

Saying 'get up' doesn't require the 'authority on earth to forgive sins', why then Jesus uses this act as a demonstration ('so that you may know')?

Response #15:

The unbelieving crowd is reasoning, "this is just a man so he can't forgive sins". Jesus of course does have the authority to forgive sins because He died for them all. The miracle He performed was the proof that He was who He said He was, and did have the authority He said He did, for God would not empower just anyone to do such a miracle, and certainly not someone who said "your sins are forgiven" if the person didn't actually have that power.

Question #16:

Could you please clarify:

John 5:26 NASB: For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself;

Response #16:

The second part of the sentence 'even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself' - refers to the Father giving the Son the life in Himself, meaning in the Father, or the Son the life in Himself meaning in the Son? Is eternal life meant here by 'life'?

Question #17:

You translated:

I am the Way: the truth and the life.
John 14:6

I have only seen this passage translated without a colon - could you explain why is it normally not there?

Response #17:

There is often little or no punctuation at all in the original Greek, so that most all punctuation of the Greek New Testament is a matter of interpretation. Given the nature of Greek, in most cases the proper English punctuation is obvious, but there are instances where it makes a difference, and sometimes a great deal of difference. In my opinion, by placing "Way" first, and given that this is the original name of Christianity (e.g., Acts 9:2; 19:9; n.b., the name "Christian" is a late and non-biblical development, pace most English versions; see the link: "The Name 'Christian' "), our Lord means for that to be the emphatic predicate. Therefore the two following elements, "the truth and the life", describe and explain what Jesus being "the Way" means: He is the only true way to eternal life.

Question #18:

You wrote: At John 12:41, for example, John attributes to Jesus Isaiah's vision of the Lord surrounded by the Seraphs who cry out "holy, holy, holy" (Is.6:1-13).

How do we know that it's these words from Isaiah that John means here? Do you state that these Isaiah's words refer to our Lord because of the following verse: "These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him"? Could it be, that the words quoted by John were spoken by the Father, and about the Son? Or were they spoken by the Son?

Response #18:

They had to have been spoken by the Son. The quotation in John 12:38-40 comes from Isaiah 6 as even John affirms in verse 41. John says then says that Isaiah said "these things", i.e., the quotation given by God (often assumed to be the Father but actually the Son in Christophany; see the link) because he beheld Jesus' glory at that time.

Question #19:

Does with these words in John 10:16, "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd",

Jesus refers to the believers outside of Israel?

Response #19:

Yes. This is a prophecy of the expansion of the family of God to include the gentiles as equal partners and in great numbers (that is the "mystery of the Church"; see the link).

Question #20:

You render John 1:1 differently to what I've been familiar with:

The Word [Jesus Christ] existed at the very beginning, and there was reciprocity (i.e., co-divinity) between the Word and God [the Father]. And the Word was God.
John 1:1

You mention reciprocity and translate this passage slightly differently, could you explain your translation?

Response #20:

This translation is based upon correctly factoring in the meaning of the Greek preposition pros. It is a very unusual thing to say that the Word was "towards God" (that is usually what pros means), and rendering pros by the English word "with" is thus very misleading. I admit that "reciprocity (i.e., co-divinity) between the Word and God" does not exactly "sing", but the purpose of this translation is to make the point of what is actually meant here. "With God" might allow of some sort of subordination in eternity past. "Towards God", when rightly understood, does not (but it doesn't make much sense in English without an explanation). "Reciprocity between" is a way of reflecting this distinction in Greek (which is lost in most translations of which I am aware) in a way that is, I hope, somewhat understandable: it is meant to convey the coequality and co-deity of Father and Son in eternity past. See the link: "The Word was with God"

Question #21:

Quotation in Matthew 2:6 says 'are by no means least among the leaders of Judah', but Micah 5:2 says 'Too little to be among the clans of Judah'. The meaning here seems quite different with regard to the importance/size of Bethlehem?

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel."
Micah 5:2

‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’
Matthew 2:6

Response #21:

Matthew 2:6 is a paraphrase / interpretation of Micah 5:2. In my view, Micah 5:2 is an interrogatory and Matthew 2:6 is the inspired answer to the inspired question. "Are you too small (for the blessing to come)?" – "You are most definitely not too small" (hence the emphatic Greek negative which is added in the latter passage, oudamos: "by no means not!").

Question #22:

You wrote: Nazareth thus becomes the place where Jesus grows up (cf. Jn.2:1).

Could you please briefly explain why you included this passage here?

Response #22:

Just to establish that even by the time of the commencement of His ministry, Jesus was living in the north (Cana was near Nazareth, within 10-12 miles or so).

Question #23:

Could you please clarify:

Luke 9:27: But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."

Why does our Lord say this, when the kingdom still hasn't come?

Response #23:

Our Lord is referring here to the "preview" of the 2nd Advent (which is when the Kingdom comes) which Peter, John and James received on the Mt. of Transfiguration "about eight days later" (v.28).

Question #24:

You wrote: Luke 2:40 tells us that He "grew and was strengthened by being filled up with wisdom", demonstrating perspicuously the fundamental principle of spiritual growth: learning, believing, and applying the truth of the Word of God (true wisdom).

Should we understand the words 'grew', 'was strengthened' and 'filled with wisdom' as literally meaning 'learnt', 'believed' and 'applied the truth', or do they simply illustrate that process, without being the exact equivalents of the steps of spiritual growth?

Response #24:

Every language is different, and the Bible is not written as a theological textbook. In order to understand scripture and in order to teach what one has come to understand, it is necessary to categorize, expand, and explicate the truths it contains. As a result, theology develops technical vocabulary, terms and concepts. Ideally, this will be done modestly, taking pains to keep closely within biblical bounds, and these will reflect precisely the truth the Bible contains. Realistically, however, 1) no one is perfect and no one has a complete and perfect understanding of absolutely everything in scripture; 2) some formulations will thus be incorrect if only in some small part (i.e., they may essentially true, just not be 100% complete); 3) even for those things correctly understood in full and effectively expressed and explained at the time, it is also the case that those who follow, especially after the passage of some time, will not necessarily understand or mean the same thing precisely when they make use of the doctrinal formulations, theological constructs, and teaching examples they have received; language and culture change over time, and sometimes, as in our modern era, quite rapidly (these factors as well as relative lack of faith, sloppiness, and personal agendas which are more important than God's will explain the devolution of doctrine in denominations over time). For these reasons, what you are doing in building from the ground up is not only a good thing but a necessary thing – necessary, that is, for anyone desiring to have an independent ministry based as exclusively as possible upon the Word itself as opposed to someone else's understanding of it. Not that the latter is wrong. Indeed, for most of the Church dependency upon a good source of Bible teaching is both desirable and necessary for spiritual growth (i.e., "not all" are teachers: 1Cor.12:29). But for those who want to draw the water of the Word directly from the well of scripture, independently understanding the whole and the parts and how they fit together is critical. This is a long way of saying that while my answer to your question is a qualified "yes", I do want to make it clear that it is "yes" in respect to the way I am understanding and formulating this issue. The particular breakdown of the process of spiritual growth made use of in this ministry is one which I received and then significantly modified. I believe that it does reflect accurately the actual steps scripture spells out when the applicable doctrines are correctly understood, considered and applied. However, this is not to say that this is precisely what Luke says, so that "literally" is not the way I would put it. I would say that the interpretation of the passage you suggest is the very one I would embrace. But we always have to keep the literal text and our interpretation of it as somewhat separate things in our minds (the latter may improve; the former is eternal). That is salutary for our continued growth. Even when we are essentially "right" about our interpretations (as we always strive to be), there will be many times when there is more to learn or some refinement to make. We stand to miss out on these improvements if we start considering the two things (viz., scripture and our interpretation of it) as being one and the same, and the latter course can also lead to a certain sloppiness and unwarranted dogmatism if we are not careful about our method.

Question #25:

You wrote: cf. also Mk.8:28: the fact that people think Jesus might be "John" risen from the dead (Herod included) indicates that John was still the celebrity up until his death, a fact that gave our Lord "cover" to accomplish what He did without being fatally conspired against. After John's death, the celebrity factor began to remove Jesus' freedom of movement and resulted in ever increasing hostility from the power-structure in Judea.

I have never recognized this aspect of 'cover' in our Lord's ministry. So is what you mean here that Jesus had more freedom for some time due to people thinking that He was John the Baptist?

Response #25:

While John was still alive, John was the focal point of the opposition and expectation of the nation. People may have "heard of Jesus", but John remained "the news" until the time of his death. Much of what we read in the gospels took place during the final year of Jesus' ministry, termed by many exegetes "the year of opposition". With John out of the way, the question of whether or not Jesus was the Messiah (for John by then certainly wasn't in any position to herald another) was the one with which the ruling religious leaders in Jerusalem were confronted more and more, so that, right up until the time of the crucifixion, they began to "push back" against our Lord more and more in response.

Question #26:

You wrote: In short, our Lord Jesus met with stiff resistance in every good thing He did – and everything He did was good.

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Luke 4:13 NIV

Since the devil 'had finished all this tempting', and our Lord 'met stiff resistance in every good thing He did', would this mean that the devil resisted Him indirectly - through people that wouldn't open their hearts to the truth?

Response #26:

Yes, and also, I would certainly imagine, through opposing both Him and all who were following Him with many of his other "assets"; just because Satan was not personally present throughout our Lord's ministry certainly does not mean that he did not detail many of his subordinates to take over that role (I am sure he did).

Question #27:

Could you please clarify:

John 11:16: Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, so that we may die with Him."

What did Thomas mean here?

Response #27:

Thomas is expressing a lack of faith. Not the last time he would do so.

Question #28:

With regard to Mark 4:10-12:

As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. 11 And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN."

I know from your previous answers that the quotation from Isaiah that used here by our Lord refers to the ones who reject the truth and are not open to it in the first place, rather than being drawn away from it by the Lord. I wanted to ask about the phrase 'those who are outside' - does this quite literally mean those, who reject the truth? What does our Lord mean by being 'outside' here?

Response #28:

Matthew 13:11 says "to those [others]" and Luke 8:10 says "to the rest"; this refers to all who are not really interested in believing the truth. All who knock have it opened to them. If any who heard our Lord speak on any occasion had some kind of determination to get the whole truth and to understand it (which you are showing, for example), I have no doubt that He would have been happy to include all such into the inner circles (which at times seems to be bigger than twelve; e.g., Matt.5:1 seems to include more than the 12).

Question #29:

In light of the fact that the ministry of our Lord was perfect and filled with miracles, I'm not sure about the meaning of John 14:12:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

I ask you to take your time, professor, even though your replies always arrive very promptly.

With constant prayer for you and your ministry and in our Lord,

Response #29:

In line with the above, Jesus' words at John 14:12 , "greater things", must mean that ministering the completed Word is greater than performing miracles. That is not the perspective of the immature, but the more we advance the more we realize that nothing is more powerful or more important than the truth. And, after all, even during our Lord's ministry (and also in those of the apostles), the purpose of miracles and signs is to call attention to and gain a hearing for the truth. That in most cases even so the truth was not received is telling. But for those of us who are open to it, it is more powerful than any miracle our eyes could ever behold.

Thank you for your prayers, and for your friendship in Jesus Christ!

Bob L.

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