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Question #1: 

Hello--I have a Hebrew question for you. One of our contributors is an ex-Messianic – a good apologist but a bit of a fanatic sometimes and doesn't always get the facts straight. The person makes the claim that the Hebrew word "shekinah" is Rabbinic and refers to the feminine spirit of God, that the term comes from the word "shakan" , "to dwell" and that "shekina" isn't found in the Bible. The person even cited a Jewish scholar on this:


Shekinah: The Feminine Element in Divinity

Gershom Scholem: On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead, Schocken, 1991 VII

In conclusion, I would like to respond to a question that has no doubt occurred to a number of readers during the discussion of these notions of the feminine within the divine. Can the Shekhinah be described as a cosmic force in the same sense as we find the feminine in the image of Shakti in Indian Tantric religion? To my mind, I believe that we can discern quite clear differences between the two conceptions — differences no less profound than their affinities.

It is impossible to apply this to the Kabbalist schema without misconstruing the sense of the symbols. None of the Sepheroth appearing as male in these pairs could be identified with the masculine in Indian symbolism, albeit the idea of femininity as producing the motion of time may indeed correspond to an astonishing passage in Sefer ha-Bahir.

This passage describes the Shekhinah as the precious gem that brings forth the years i.e., time, which flows from the primal time gathered therein, but I am by no means certain that this primal time can be identified with eternity

On the other hand, when dealing with these comparisons, we must not forget that the Shekhinah is split in the Kabbalah, so that the active element within the feminine has been primarily absorbed in the symbolism of the upper Shekhinah. The latter is the womb of the Sefiroth, of the aeons and cycles of the worlds (shemitoth), while other aspects of Shakti, such as the eternal feminine and the destructive element, are expressed in the final Sefirah or Malkhuth. On the other hand, the notion of the masculine as purely inactive and passive, an idea that seems intrinsic to the doctrine of Shakti, is totally alien to the Kabbalah, in which the male is perceived as active and flowing.


I just wanted your opinion on this. I have heard that when God appeared to Moses and the Israelites, He appeared in the "shekina glory" of the cloud that went before them. But is the word even found in the OT? Does it mean "feminine part of God"? This person is the same one who thinks the Alexandrian Greek manuscripts of the NT are all corrupted and that the KJV is the best translation of the NT, though NOT a "KJV Onlyist". You helped me with that some months ago.

Thanks and have a good day.

Response #1: 

It is true that 1) the word shekhinah does not occur in the Bible; 2) it does come from the root shakhan which means "to dwell"; and 3) it is a feminine noun.

It is important to note first that just because a particular word does not occur in scripture does not mean that the concept is wrong or incorrect. For example, "Trinity", "kenosis", and "ex nihilo" do not occur anywhere in scripture either, but for convenience and clarity sake each of these terms has been traditionally used to express a doctrinally correct concept. The same is true of the phrase "shekhinah glory". The truth that the Lord's glory was manifestly resident in the tabernacle/temple and expressed in these terms is certainly present in scripture:

Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled (<shakhan) upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Exodus 40:35 NIV

Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell (<shakhan) in our land.
Psalm 85:9 NIV

Then the glory of the LORD rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the LORD.
Ezekiel 10:4 NIV

He said: "Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live (<shakhan) among the Israelites forever."
Ezekiel 43:7a NIV

The fact that the exact phrase is not used, therefore, has no relevance. The usage in the last two passages in particular shows that the two terms, i.e., "glory" when used of the glory of the Lord residing in the temple, and "I shall dwell", when used of the Lord in regard to the temple, mean the same essential thing.

I suppose one might find fault with the fact that this biblical concept has been traditionally called "the shekhinah glory" – just as someone might argue for a better name for the Trinity (e.g., the "Tri-Unity" or some such). But the concept would be the same in either case, and is doctrinally correct. And it is very clear from the above citations and all such other passages what is meant: the Lord's manifest and glorious presence in the tabernacle/temple.

There are many languages wherein non-gender specific "things" may be grammatically masculine or feminine. English used to be this way. Hebrew (along with German and Greek and Latin, to name a few) still is. In all such cases, including Hebrew, the fact that a certain noun which does not refer to a woman or women is feminine, or the fact that a certain noun which does not refer to a man or men is masculine has absolutely no interpretive value whatsoever – it is an accident of grammar, usually being a function of noun-type. The noun-type of shekhinah is a feminine type (note the -ah ending), and that is why it is feminine. People sometimes try to pull this same sort of theosophistic legerdemain with the Holy Spirit because ruach is feminine in Hebrew – but since pneuma, the word for the Spirit in Greek, is neuter, well, any reasonable person can see immediately that the gender of the nouns is of no value: the Spirit can't be neuter and feminine at the same time, and in fact of course the Spirit is a "He", even though the two words in scripture used to describe Him are feminine and neuter in Hebrew and Greek respectively (e.g., "He" is the Restrainer in 2Thes.2:7b where the participle describing Him is masculine – and grammatically gender does reflect actual gender when modifiers are being used of the person in question). On all this please see the link: "The Holy Spirit is Masculine, not Feminine or Neuter".

Finally, as to the word shekhinah in Rabbinic Hebrew, according to Marcus Jastrow's Dictionary, the best authority I know of on these things, the fundamental meaning of the word is "royal residence" (something that certainly makes sense as it is derived from the root meaning "to reside/dwell"), and also has the specific meaning often employed of "residence of God" (because the rabbins had the passages cited above in mind). Whatever later Jewish mystics have cooked up on this front need not concern serious students of the Word of God.

See also the link:  The Shekhinah Glory

Hope this helps – feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus our glory. the One who resides in us,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Dear sir,

I just ran across your website in my, seemingly never ending search for the reason why the Christian church refers to the Messiah as Jesus. You obviously are a man of God and a teacher of HIS ways which places you in a higher position of judgment by HIM. This in itself is a great responsibility to teach correctly for we will all stand accountable before HIM. Please understand, I hold those of you who chose to be teachers of the Word, with the utmost respect and I hope some day I will be equally as capable.

In my search I have basically been thrust into an etymological study of words and their origins. I felt this to be important in regards to the CREATORS names because how better do you initially show respect than to use the name correctly in its original form. If I’m introduced to Juan Verde I am not going to start calling him John Green because I’m American and I speak only English. If I’m introduced to a man named Robert, I’m not going to immediately referee to him as Bob or Bobby or Ted because that’s what sounds good to me. If we are mentally challenged it might be justified but as a people I don’t believe that to be the case. Am I suggesting that those who use the name Jesus are disrespectful and that YHWH won’t honor prayers in that name? Absolutely not! It happens all the time! YHWH does love HIS people and HE doesn’t hold us accountable for our ignorance. Please, I am not using that word as an insult. We all have our ignorance in some things but if we choose to get wisdom, we should also choose to get understanding and that’s what my on going search is because I desire to draw closer to HIM and understanding and wisdom is the best way.

Let’s set aside the idea of respect and just deal with the nuts and bolts, language and words. Each language has its basic beginning which it evolves from. The words that form the basic language of course are given meaning and these are root words. They tell us the dynamics of the word and its origin. Each language has its uniqueness. For example, if you were to hear an African Bushman talk, you would hear a lot of clicks and whistles and if you were to tell an Eskimo that there is snow on the ground outside you would only be telling him a small portion of what he would like to know because in his language there are several words for snow, each describing its condition. So root words help us to understand the foundational meaning of a word.

Now we get to the name/word Jesus. I have as yet found no root word or meaning for the name. Yes it does reference back to the supposed Greek/Latin word Iesous but there is no meaning given in the Greek dictionaries for that word that I have found as yet. In our own language Funk and Wagnall’s define Jesus as 1.founder of Christianity, 6? B. C.-29? A. D., son of Mary; regarded in the Christian faith as Christ, the Messiah. 2. In Christian Science, the highest human corporeal concept of the divine idea. Also Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. This definition comes from a "college" dictionary. Our Colleges, the homes of intellectualism which, in part is defined as "superior thinking", really?. You spoke of the possible use of the name Yeshua being confusing. Well this definition of the accepted name of the SON of the CREATOR I find quite superficial and rather convoluted. I know for myself who they are referring to but I want to know what the name means. Why do I feel this is important? For the simple reason it is important to HIM. Enough so that HE, through HIS messenger, commanded it of Mary. You will name Him Y’hoshua (evolved: Yeshua) for HE will save the world. Not a difficult concept. I sat in a full gospel church for 22 years, believing everything that came off the pulpit. I have been a messianic believer for 13 years and have been called everything from a Jew, which was actually a compliment to me even if it wasn’t meant that way, to a Cultist. All because I choose to call the Messiah what HIS FATHER named HIM and choose to learn more of the Torah. What I have learned is the incredible depth of the Hebrew language, each letter having a numeric value and tone as well as a greater definition. Without this knowledge the full gospel church is really half gospel. My daughter-in-law went to a Christian school to apply for a teaching job that was offered. She was turned down because she used the name Yeshua. The pastor and administrator told her that it would be confusing for the children. I think its time to define this "confusion" for what it actually is and that’s anti-Semitism. Let’s take an even closer look at the name in the Bible. The original name Y’hoshua which Yeshua comes from is written in English as Joshua, page 570 in the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. This being so it’s strange that Joshua wasn’t used as the English name for the LORD. I won’t take up anymore of your time with what I believe to be the reason. However I will conclude with this. Words are important. The very existence of creation was spoken into being through words. Our savior is referred to as the Living Word of Elohim. We are told we will stand accountable for every word we speak. Elyon (AlMIGHTY GOD) tells us from the first page to the last, if you love me you will obey my Word. We are not held accountable for our ignorance but we are for the knowledge given to us. What are humans that they feel the right to change the name of the Messiah? Where did that right come from? It’s certainly not in the scriptures. This old argument, well GOD knows my heart no matter what name I use. Yes, HE definitely knows our heart and what does it say about our hearts when we refuse to use HIS correct, FATHER given name? What causes us to be so stiff necked, is it pride and arrogance that bristles at the possibility that we could be wrong? That what we were taught was wrong? There is a lot that has been taught and before we teach it we need to make certain it is correct. Responsibility and respect is foundational.

In HIS correct NAME,

Response #2: 

Good to make your acquaintance.

This is really a very simple issue, in my humble opinion. I believe that the New Testament is the inspired Word of God (as well as the Old Testament). I assume you agree with this statement – if not, there is little for us to discuss.

Throughout the New Testament, in the original text, our Lord is referred to in the Greek as Iesous (Ἰησοῦς, originally derived from the Hebrew יְהֹושֻׁעַ) . When Paul and Peter and John and James and all the other apostles and men of God address Greek speaking audiences in the New Testament they call Him Iesous. "Jesus" is merely the English transliteration of this Name. Not only that but consider these quotations:

"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.
Acts 9:5 NIV

"'Who are you, Lord?' I asked. "'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,' he replied.
Acts 22:8 NIV

"Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' "'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied.
Acts 26:15 NIV

You are, of course, free not to use this Name if you feel convicted not to do so (and I certainly would not hold that against you – and I deplore any sort of active prejudice as you report on this account), but there is no basis in my view for finding any fault with believers who do. After all, if Jesus calls Himself "Jesus", on what basis should we feel there is a problem in doing what the Lord Himself and all of His apostles did?

In Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3: 

Hi Bob,

Thank you for your very comprehensive reply.

I noticed in a list of misguided religionists ideas that the mosaic law is non-Christian.

I think maybe my last question, for a while is, what, if any, role do the Ten Commandments have for a Christian. Are they the "mosaic law"? I don't know anyone who has memorized them. Should we?

Thanks again,

Response #3: 

You are most welcome. As to your most recent question, everything in the Bible has been placed there "to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom.15:4 NIV). The Mosaic Law is wonderful. What is not wonderful is the use to which it is currently being put by many putative Christians. As Paul says:

Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
1st Timothy 1:6-11 NIV

The original purpose of the Law was to "lead us to Christ" (Gal.3:24), but now that Christ has come in the flesh and accomplished eternal salvation through His work on Calvary's cross in dying for our sins, that first purpose has been fulfilled:

For Christ is the end (Gk. telos = "purpose" which He fulfilled) of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Romans 10:4 ESV

The result is that we have now died to the Law and are to serve by the Spirit, not by the letter.

For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Romans 7:5-6 NIV

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1-2 NIV

With the full understanding in Christ of everything which even the prophets of old desired to know but could not (1Pet.1:12), everything in the Old Testament is blessed and helpful to read even now. For example, we can see in the dietary regulations given in the Law the tangible signs the Lord gave to His people-of-witness to show the world how they were holy in fact from the behavioral differences they were commanded to observe. What is not helpful, what is terribly wrong, is for Christians to go back to these "weak and beggarly elements" (Gal.4:9 KJV) and attempt to use them now for spirituality or, even worse, for salvation. One of the worst manifestations of this misuse today of the Law is the continuation of rituals which foreshadowed Christ and His sacrifice. This is wrong, as the entire book of Hebrews loudly proclaims, because it suggests that Christ has not yet come, or worse that His sacrifice was somehow insufficient. So, for example, animal sacrifices before the cross were godly because they very vividly demonstrated what God would have to do for us for us to be saved; and reading about this in the Old Testament – especially if one understands it – is godly because it shows us God's great grace in proclaiming the gospel even before it was ratified by the blood of Christ; but continuing to practice animal sacrifice after the cross is wicked because it dishonors Jesus Christ:

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Hebrews 6:4-5 NIV

How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Hebrews 10:29 NIV

For the Law is "only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves" (Heb.10:1 NIV), so that the problem comes not in reading the Law nor in understanding the Law but in misapplying the Law – as if teaching about Christ were not the purpose of the Law, and as if Christ had never come and fulfilled the Law.

The Ten Commandments are an encapsulation of the Law in its most important points (further encapsulated in the New Testament under the Law of Love: Matt.22:38-40). Correctly understood, the "ten words" point the way towards complete dedication to the Lord and proper behavior toward our fellow man, allowing others the same freedom to come to Him and be saved and adore Him just as we have done (just as the command to love Him and love others does in the Law of Love). You can find out more about the specifics of the Ten Commandments at the following links:

The Ten Commandments

Notes on the Ten Commandments

Should Christians Obey the Sabbath?

As to memorization, there are certainly worse things you can do than memorizing scripture, any scripture. This is not one of my personal strong points, but I love the Psalms when it comes to having some verses to delight in when reading the Bible itself is not convenient.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Dear Sir,

I have read a couple of your articles. Would you please give me a reply by e-mail to my question below. I am a gentile Christian (Indian by origin and not Jewish). Am I expected to observe the feasts mentioned in Leviticus 23, especially Feast of Tabernacles. Our church is very multicultural, multinational and multiethnic and is a bit divided about celebrating feast of tabernacles. Some argue that this feast is a lasting ordinance of God and will continue till the millennium and so should be observed and celebrated. Others argue that in Christ, all feasts are fulfilled and celebrating it is going back to putting our trust in the law. They say that we are saved by grace and so exempted from observing Sabbath, new moons, days, seasons etc. and it is 'foolish/beggerly" - as some bible versions say- to go back to enslave ourselves to law.

Your reply by e-mail will be appreciated.

Thank you

Response #4: 

First, my sincere apologies for the long delay in responding to this email. Sometime every month I go through the pre-filtered emails on my server and, occasionally, I find a genuine question amidst the hundreds of spam emails which have likewise not been forwarded to my main account. As in the case of your email, it is not clear to me why the spam filter singles these out. In any case, please know that the oversight was not deliberate.

As to your specific question, I agree with those in your group who do not see Christian adherence to the rituals and requirements of the Mosaic Law as necessary, and I must say that I also find such activities as you relate, specifically, Christian participation in Jewish festivals, as potentially spiritually dangerous. A large part of the symbolism behind these and other practices of the Law is directed towards anticipating the coming of the Messiah and foreshadowing His sacrifice in dying for the sins of the world. Since Jesus has in fact already come and has in fact already died for the sins of the world, participating in rituals which by their very continuation suggest He has not done so seems to me to be problematic in the extreme – and in this I believe I also have the Spirit of God:

(4) For, in the case of those who have been enlightened (i.e., have become believers, "light in the Lord": Eph.5:8), and who have experienced the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Holy Spirit (i.e., have been baptized with the Spirit so that He indwells them, and by the Spirit into union with Christ), (5) and who have experienced that the Word of God is good, and [who have experienced] miracles [foreshadowing] the age to come, (6) it is impossible to restore them to [true] repentance after having fallen [into sin] as long as they keep crucifying the Son of God afresh and exposing Him to open shame (i.e., while they continue in their sin, the particular sin in question here being continued participation in the sacrificial rites of Law which foreshadowed Christ's work on the cross and suggesting by that participation that His work was ineffective).
Hebrews 6:4-6

Of course, I do understand that in the case of many Christians who are involved in such things there is no consciousness of guilt because of a complete lack of understanding of what these rituals actually mean. Indeed, many Christian groups now make it a practice to celebrate Passover and the like, and the trend is certainly towards more of this sort of thing rather than less. However, on the one hand ignorance is not really much of an excuse, and on the other hand engaging in rituals which have been fulfilled by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is an indication of a lack of any true or deep interest in the truth of the Word of God. For that reason, it generally tends to be the case that groups which are doing this sort of thing are also not doing the sorts of thing they ought to be doing: teaching, learning, believing and applying the Word of God as their number one focus. And if it is the case that they lack all true substance, then it matters much less if their presentation is somewhat flawed.

Here are some links wherein this particular subject is discussed:

Should Christians celebrate Jewish festivals?

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism I

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism II

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism III

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism IV: Unclean and Impure?

The Jewish Ceremonial Calendar

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #5: 

Sabbath is Saturday. If there is no day special God blessed then there is no day to special assembly. Then I might as work 7 days a week.

Response #5: 

Dear Friend,

Well, if you are working for the Lord, that might not be a bad application of the truth of the Word of God. Jesus, after all, worked on the Sabbath – in the cause of the Father's truth:

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
John 5:16-18 NIV

As to special days, with the fulfillment of the Law through the blood of Christ these have now been abrogated:

But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
Galatians 4:9-11 NIV

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17 NASB

It is therefore not for no reason that the New Testament repeats all of the commandments except the fourth. That does not mean, however, that the fourth commandment has been rescinded (see the link). Quite to the contrary, the fourth commandment has been expanded:

Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
Hebrews 4:7-11 NIV

The "Sabbath" rest, as described above, is now to be observed "today" – "as long as it is called 'today' " (Heb.3:13), that is every day. And so we should all "make every effort to enter that rest" at all times and on every day of the week. If the Sabbath were one day a week, no such effort would be needed. Entering into God's rest of peace in a day by day walk with Jesus Christ requires the special effort of continuing and continual spiritual growth. The time of shadow has passed. We are no longer left to seek God one day a week but at all times; we are no longer to rest in Him ritually one day a week but to rest in our dear Savior at all times on every day of the week – and to do so for real (please see the link: Walking with Jesus).

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
Psalm 62:5 (cf. v.1) NIV

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.
Psalm 116:7 NIV

Here are some other links you may find helpful:

The Sabbath Rest

The Sabbath

Yours in the encouragement and truth which is in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob Luginbill

Question #6: 

Hi Dr

What is your spiritual revelation concerning the LORD’S Sabbath? Is it wrong to worship on a Sunday? GOD commanded rest on the seventh day, are we falsely worshiping the sun gods when we worship on Sunday? Why was the day of rest changed from Saturday to Sunday? Is this the mark of the beast? Is this the great deception of the last days? Are we unknowingly worshiping Satan?

Best Regards

Response #6: 

Always good to hear from you.

In truth, the specific day of rest has now been transformed by the coming of Christ and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit – transformed into a "moment by moment Sabbath" into which Christians are to enter at salvation and always abide.

Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. "For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
Hebrews 4:7-11 NIV

The fourth commandment, the only one concerned with sanctifying and separating ourselves from reliance on the world (see the link: in BB 3B "The Ten Commandments"), meant, for Israel, the visible and ritual separation of a single day per week. Believers after the cross and the gift of the Spirit are to "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always" (1Pet.3:15 NASB). For this reason the fourth commandment is the only one never repeated after the cross (i.e., to avoid misunderstanding: "today / right now" is our Sabbath, not one day a week).

It is a good rule of thumb for believers always to be suspicious of any sort of ritual or ritualization of our Christianity which in truth is first and foremost a relationship of Bride to Bridegroom with the Lord who bought us with His death on behalf of our sins: we have the reality in Jesus; rituals are of the past, mere shadows that looked forward to the blessed truth we now see perspicuously and hear loud and clear:

But at that time [when you were unbelievers], not knowing God, you were slaves to those things which are by nature not [truly] gods. But now, having recognized God, or, as it really is, having been recognized by God, how is it that you are turning back to these weak and impoverished false principles which you wish to serve as slaves all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that I may perhaps have spent my labor on you in vain.
Galatians 4:8-11

So don't let anyone judge you in regard to food or drink, or in the category of festival observances, be it of new moons or Sabbaths. All these things are shadows of what is to come, but the reality has to do with Christ. Let no one gain control over your life, desiring to [enslave you to himself] through a show of false humility and the adoration of angels, basing his approach on what he has [allegedly] seen while puffed up by his own fleshly thoughts, yet not embracing the Head [Christ]. For it is from this Source that the entire body [the Church] is [truly] supplied and instructed through [all] its joints and sinews, and [thus] produces the growth that God has given. If you have died with Christ to these false principles [belonging to] this world, why are you letting yourselves be [wrongly] indoctrinated as if your life were of this world? In accordance with the commandments and teaching of [mere] men [these false teachers tell you] "Don't handle! Don't taste! Don't touch!", even though [we know] that all these [are only] things [which] decay with use.
Colossians 2:16-22

Replacing Saturday with Sunday as a new Sabbath is not much different in my view from observing a Saturday Sabbath: both practices completely misunderstand the whole meaning of grace and the difference between pre-cross ritual and post-cross reality in the Holy Spirit.

It is true that Christians tend to gather on Sunday and that is both traditional and defensible – if we are going to assemble it has to be on some day, after all (so that the day of the Lord's resurrection, the first day of the week, makes good sense). Making an issue of which day is a distraction from the principle that we are to be at rest and at peace in Jesus Christ at all time. But what is worse is adopting any of the practices of the Jewish Sabbath, for that is just legalism – and in the case of abandoning grace, a little leaven has a tendency to leaven the whole lump.

I have written quite a lot on all this so let me direct you to the following links so as not to short-change you (and, as always, please do feel free to write me back about any of this):

Should Christians honor Sunday as the new Sabbath?

The Sabbath

Combating Legalism VI

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism I

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism II

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism III

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism IV: Unclean and Impure?

In Jesus our dear Lord who has fulfilled the Law,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I was listening to a teaching from a Christian apologist that said that he doesn't believe that SDA's are cults and classified them as the "weaker brethren". He compared them to the weaker brethren in Galatians that were brethren or true believers, but were weaker because they didn't understand the liberty in Christ who has freed us from the bondage of the law to serve Him. On the other hand, Walter Martin classified SDA's as a cult and gave his reasons why. If a fundamental SDA dies, will they go to heaven? are they saved or considered true believers? I've known several SDA's where I didn't know they were SDA's until they said so. Everything they believed and lived seemed biblical and even displayed fruits of the spirit. So this makes me wonder how this could be so if they are a cult. What are your thoughts on this?

God Bless,

Response #7:

Always good to hear from you. As to your question, I would wish to make a distinction between an organization/denomination, it's official doctrine, and the people who may be associated with it (whether members or not). For example, there are many things within the official, doctrinal stance of the Roman Catholic church in regard to which, if a person really believed them, it would be difficult to understand how they could be saved. As I have often remarked, I have had a number of ex-RC's tell me that they were not saved when members of that church, and that in their view it is impossible to be a member of that church and be saved. However, in my experience and observation, it is often the case that people are members or associates of particular religious groups out of tradition or accident more than from seeking out that particular group because of its stated doctrines. People in this country, more often than not, are RC because their parents were (or SDA, or Mormon, or what have you). Now if a person has converted to one of these groups/denominations where key doctrinal elements are antithetical to true Christianity, I would be more worried for them, because it may mean that the person has actually investigated these matters and consciously accepted and agreed with such teachings. Even that is not necessarily the case, however, since oft times people get involved in groups/denominations for social reasons rather than out a search for the truth – especially when it comes to groups that are not really following the Lord zealously or correctly.

In our country, there is a lot of information out there about the truth, and the Spirit uses what is true in all His ministrations. So it is just possible (however unlikely we think it is) that even though a person is SDA or Mormon or RC, that nevertheless that person is a genuine believer in Jesus Christ, relying on faith alone in Jesus for salvation, and having a rudimentary understanding of His perfect, divine person and His substitutionary death for us on the cross – regardless of the official teachings to the contrary of the group to which he/she may belong. It may not be likely, but it is possible. For it is certainly true that it is very unusual for anyone, especially in this country, to agree with everything their organization officially believes. And it is also true that for most of these groups there is a spectrum of belief so that the precise doctrines officially accepted may differ rather significantly depending on the particular "flavor" of the denomination we are talking about. That may be less true in large and monolithic organizations like the RCs or LDS (although even here there are some rather well-known factions as well as some rather substantial internal disagreements on basic beliefs), but it is certainly the case when it comes to something like the SDAs where there are three or four official separate organizations, some of which are not as solid on or may have rejected altogether some of the more troubling aspects of SDA doctrine of the sort that led Walter Martin to label them a cult (e.g., the incorrect interpretation of Romans 8:3 et al. which leads to misunderstanding and misstating Jesus' perfection and sinlessness). When it comes to individual cases, therefore, I would keep a bit of an open mind on account of the above.

On the other hand, just because people use the name "Jesus" and seem to be friendly and nice does not necessarily mean that they are saved. There are many religions and pseudo-Christian organizations whose members do both and yet are not saved. Further, it is a hallmark of cults to indoctrinate their members to "sound good" on points that might concern the uninitiated and to "be pleasant and loving" in the way they interact with others at least initially – the better to spring the trap. Just as our own spiritual status and relationship with the Lord is not really a matter of "how we feel" but of what is actually true (i.e., we are "in Christ" by grace through faith even on days when we feel lousy and act cranky), so the genuine spiritual status and true relationship with the Lord others have is not necessarily clear and obvious from inconsequential and superfical behavior (even if they have a false patina of "saintliness"). Gross sinfulness is a sign of trouble, but that can be hidden (at least at first). Being polite and friendly may mean something, but it may just be a facade:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
2nd Corinthians 11:13-15 NIV

The Galatians were also duped by just this sort of "seemingly well-meaning sincerity" put up forward as a veil for false evangelism. So the only thing that really counts is the truth. We cannot see into the hearts of other people, and we only really know what they tell us (and this may be "spin" . . . or worse).

However, it is true that, occasionally, believers are placed under great pressure so that the genuineness, quality and power of their faith may be revealed for what it is. I have seen and know some true believers in Jesus Christ who have and who are suffering tremendous opposition from the evil one, and yet are acquitting themselves marvelously as ambassadors for the Lord in spite of the heavy pressures they are facing. That type of true faith is very difficult to fake, and is a witness to all who see it not only of the genuineness of their faith but of the power and wonder of the Lord who sustains those He loves through such trials. And this is the type of true faith that will receive great reward from our Lord on that coming day of days.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1st Peter 1:6-7 NIV

Hope this helps with your question – feel free to write me back.

In Jesus in whom we have placed our faith for eternal life,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill, 

Thank you very much for responding in a way that makes perfect sense. I saw a documentary where a woman and several other RC's frequent a site (hospital where the girl passed away) where a young mute girl that once had brain damage had died. It was documented that oil had came out of these statues (Mary and Jesus statues that cried this black oil) that were in the hospital room where the girl was stationed at. These RC's had placed the oil on people who were ill and they were miraculously healed. It seems as if these RC's place their trust in this oil and the dead girl as their source of healing and miracles. To me, it seems like a deception from the enemy to have others take their eyes off of Jesus and on Mary and this dead girl. It is difficult for me to understand how RC's such as these could be true believers. I understand that we cannot know a person's heart but RC's such as the ones I mentioned seem so far out in left field biblically that it would seem incomprehensible that such people could be true believers. Maybe I have poor spiritual discernment, I'm not sure. What are your thoughts on this?

God Bless,

Response #8: 

Yes I quite agree! It is difficult to understand how a person could be so superstitious and border-line idolatrous and really have a saving faith in Jesus Christ, relying on Him by grace through faith alone for their salvation. When it comes to opining on a person's eternal future in the abstract, however, I tend to be "glass half full" and reserve judgment since no one, as you say, can peek into their heart of hearts. But when it comes to talking with anyone who is personally inclined to any sort of outrageous, unbiblical, or otherwise spiritually dangerous behavior I tend to be "glass half empty" and consider that it is better to tell such people the truth, even if they take my always (meant to be anyway) tactful corrections the wrong way. I hasten to add, however, that I also tend to stay away from unsolicited remonstrances of this sort: if a person is seeking, they will give you an opening through the ministry of the Spirit. If they are not seeking, one is well-advised to leave any intervention for private prayer:

Like one who takes a dog by the ears Is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.
Proverbs 26:7 NASB

"Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."
Mark 7:6 NASB

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Bob,

You should know that I'm a full fledged "cultist" ( as "you people call us ) who does believe in "soul sleep" and, get this, is not a trinitarian!

I have no problem with you disagreeing, however. Your heart seems to be in the right place, and who can argue with that?

May Yahweh be with you tonight!

Response #9: 

I don't consider soul-sleep adherents "cultists" (I'm not sure but I think that is the Lutheran position); I just believe that the position is not biblical.

The Trinity, however, is another matter. I am always very concerned when I hear this sort of disclaimer, not out of concern for my position or yours, but because of what I believe the Bible teaches about salvation.

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
1st John 5:11-13

What does it mean to "have the Son" except to have a saving relationship with Him? And what does it mean to "believe in His name/Person" but to accept who He is and what He has done for us? Without accepting Christ's eternal godhead, we are not accepting a very important part of His Person. Accepting that Jesus was "a good man" but not accepting that He is God as well as human (since the incarnation) is not only an immense dishonor to who He is, but is also a failure to accept an important part of the gospel (i.e., the Person of Christ).

The way I see scripture teaching the gospel, believing in Christ as God only will not save, because it minimizes what Jesus did in humbling Himself to become a human being and wrongly makes the expiation of sin seem like a mere parlor trick; believing in Christ as human only will not save, because it dishonors His deity and makes the expiation of sin a myth since only a Person who is both God and human could do it (see the link: "The Spiritual Death of Christ").

They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.
Acts 16:31a NIV

"Lord" = kyrios = YHVH;

"Jesus" = Iesous = YH- (=YHVH) -HOSHUA


For much more info on this please see the links:

Jesus is God

The Divinity of Christ

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

As always, I have no problem with you believing whatever you want to. I do happen to not understand what you're trying to tell me here. maybe you can clarify!

We believe that Yahweh is the only God and that Yashua is the supernaturally born, promised Messiah and open mediator between any one human and Yahweh himself. None of us, to my knowledge, believe that he was "just a good person". Yes, Yashua is the Son of God.

If you do ( and it's ok if you don't ) want to know more about my beliefs, you can check out "http: //focusonthekingdom.org/index. htmleck out" www. truthortradition. com , http ://www.teleiosministries.com /index.html,

I don't think that any of these site would "recognize" what you call a "godhead". We recognize "God" and his son ( as mentioned below ).

Thanks for the email...it's important to me that you know that I am not the one mediator so I will not judge your standing with Yahweh ( I "have" to call him that! )

Response #10: 

I did have a look at the first website, specifically, the page "Who is Jesus Christ". This page illustrates perfectly what I was trying to say in my previous email. The synopsis starts with "We believe that Jesus Christ is a completely unique (one of a kind) human being"; the rest of the page continues in this vein, introducing each point with "He is the only man who . . . ". This synopsis does not go out of its way to say ". . . and He is not God", but that is clearly the position the group holds.

However, Jesus is God.

That is not to say that the Father is not God – He is.

That is not to say that the Spirit is not God – He is.

But it is to say and acknowledge and believe and proclaim that Jesus – in addition to being all the things listed on the linked website – is God.

And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
John 17:5 KJV

No mere human being could say this. In His deity, Jesus existed before the universe was made. That can only be true of God, since all God's creatures, men and angels both, exist only within the created universe.

Scripture is very clear about the deity of Jesus Christ. The links in the previous email spell this out but I happy to discuss individual verses and points.

The only way to "have the Father" is to "acknowledge the Son" (1Jn.2:23). How can refusing to accept who the Son is constitute acknowledging Him?

Hence my concern.

Written in the love of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

We don't agree with you or with your logic, however, you should follow your conscience. Time will tell!

You extrapolated accurately.....none of those sites believe that Jesus is God ( Yahweh ), like me.

I have a friend who is a Methodist pastor, who likes to "rip" JW's. I just ignore it and have coffee with him (not that I'm a JW ).

The "God issue" aside, what is your life story, as it pertains to religion and anything else that you want to tell me.

I'm in the middle of watching a History Channel on the 40 days that Jesus was on Earth after his resurrection.

Why do you think that he was not easily recognizable to some? I'm trying to formulate an opinion and am open to suggestions!

Response #11: 

I'm not big on talking about myself unless there is a pertinent point to be made. I do have some stuff posted to the site if interested (links: Current Resume; A Bit of Autobiography).

On Jesus being "not easily recognizable", I think that all of those instances are situation dependent. First, it is clear that after the resurrection our Lord was not going from point "a" to point "b" on foot, and it was clearly recognized that He had died on the cross. So people's reaction in those early days when He did appear was one of wonder (i.e., they were still having a hard time believing their own eyes). That would be my explanation for Mary Magdalene's mistaking Him for a gardener, especially at a bit of a distance and in the early morning twilight, and also for Peter and company in the boat not immediately recognizing Him, also being some distance from shore. On the road to Emmaus, His companions were deliberately kept from recognizing Him (Lk.24:16). Then too there is the point that in resurrection there are indications that we all will look somewhat different than we do now, being in ideal form at an ideal age and with all of the earthly wear and tear removed. The last time people had seen our Lord His face had been beaten to a pulp. Now He appeared not only without any visible trauma (with the exception of the marks of the nails in his hands as a memorial to His sacrifice), but also with all the aging and wear and tear of His earlier life removed. If I were all of a sudden a beyond perfect 20 year old instead of a very beaten up 58 year old, I probably wouldn't even be able to recognize myself in the mirror. Small wonder that under the additional circumstances of the prior effects of torture and death on a cross, followed by a resurrection that even the eleven had not anticipated and were having trouble grasping, Jesus' appearances were a shock.

On logic and interpretation, I would really be interested to hear your response to my question about John 17:5. It's more than an academic question if I am right, and one your group should be able to answer easily enough if Jesus is not God.

After all, if Jesus is God (and He is), refusing to believe that He is such would be denying the essence of the Son and denying Him His full glory and honor, and, in turn, that certainly would have implications for people who claim to be His followers.

In the love of Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Click here: Yah is One.Yah is Love.: A.B. on Hebrews 1:10 and John 17:5

Bob, I don't see John 17:5 as at all implying that Jesus is God. It COULD be used to "prove" that he existed before he walked the Earth, but I am not convinced that he did.

I asked a person at biblefoucs.net what she thinks, when she responds, I will share. I have also asked another person at another site, but have not, yet, heard back.

Here is what A.B. has to say.

1) I don't. necessarily, agree with all that these folks say, on any one subject.

2) As mentioned before, I am not interested in changing your mind, at all. Each person has to work out his or her salvation.

I do pray that certain people are "introduced" to Yahweh and Yashua, however.

I will check out your bio!

Response #12: 

I don't have anything to say about A.B.'s comment since he does not address the passage at all.

But here is why I don't understand how anyone would not see John 17:5 as expressive of Christ's divinity.

"Glory" is the manifestation of the effulgent essence of God:

Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Exodus 40:34-35 NIV

"World" is the created world:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.
Acts 17:24 NIV

Since Christ has God's glory, He is God – only God has God's glory. Since He had it before the world was created, He existed before the world was created – only God existed before the world was created.

But if that is confusing for some reason, how about this one:

Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
John 5:17-18 NIV

Only God can be equal with God.

Or this one:

"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"
John 8:58 NIV

Jesus not only existed before Abraham – and only God can exist before being created (and all human beings are only created at birth). Moreover, Jesus says not "I was" but "I am":

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
Exodus 3:14 NIV

Since Jesus Himself claims to be God, Yah, equal to the Father, existent before creation, possessing the divine glory before the world began (and these are only three passages of many), I would not want to have to explain to Him why I was unwilling to accept this truth, a truth which is an important part of the gospel.

I do care about what you believe because I care about your eternal salvation.

Written in the love of Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

I won't "reinvent the wheel", so I will post, below, the Telios statement of beliefs, in part.

Bob, I don't see Jesus ( Yahsua ) claiming to be God in any of those examples or elsewhere in the Bible. Being "equal", for example, ( as concluded by SOMEONE ELSE , not Jesus, by the way ), does not make you the being that you're "equal" with. If anything, it makes you a different being and there is only one true God, as Jesus DID say ( the father, the one true God ).



As you can see, I'm committed to my conclusions ( have been, for along time) and do not AT ALL worry about answering to Yahweh/Yashua about them. Some other issues could be a different story!!!!

Response #13: 

I certainly wish you would consider what I wrote to you and be willing to continue the conversation – not out of any personal desire to "count coup" but out of concern for your spiritual life. There are a multitude of passages which, fairly considered, make it quite clear that Jesus Christ, true human being that He is since the incarnation, is most certainly divine.

On your objections to the one passage you did respond to, the only way to be equal to God is to be God; if a person is not God, that person is not equal to God.

Secondly, John does not say, "they thought He was making Himself equal to God"; he says "but he was even calling God his own Father", which He was, and "[thus] making himself equal with God", which He is. John is describing Jesus' words and actions with this sentence, not the thinking of the religious crowd per se which might be erroneous. Indeed, there would be no point in including this comment if it were erroneous.

A son is subordinate to his father in terms of how he acts, and the Son acts in obedience to the Father in the carrying out of the Plan of salvation. But just as a son is of necessity of the same nature and essence as his father, so the Son is of the same nature and essence of the Father. There is no way, logical or theological, for the Father to be God and the Son not to be God. That was the conclusion reached even by these unbelievers about what Jesus was saying, and the way John writes it here in His gospel means that it was a correct deduction.

In the Name of the Great "I AM", Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

Click here: BiblicalUnitarian.com - Content

It's easier for me to do it this way!

Response #14: 

John 5:18 does teach the Trinity. This link only addresses questions anticipated by its writer. It doesn't address most of the points I made. It's also guilty of extremely faulty logic and makes assertions about what Jesus "meant" or the Pharisees "understood" or what "is clear" – but without any proof or cogent argument.

To address the one point the link does try to prove, nothing in the verse says that Jesus was only talking about being "equal in authority" to the Father (that is an assumption the writer makes which does not pass muster; see below), and the Pharisees were upset with Jesus in context because He called God His Father, not because He claimed or demonstrated an authority equal to the Ruler of the Universe (although it is hard for me to understand how someone who is not God could have such authority).

Moreover, the incorrect suggestion that because the Bible describes Joseph as "equal to Pharaoh" but he was not Pharaoh, that therefore Jesus is not being equated with God also reveals the truth of what I have been trying to tell you. Joseph had to be a human being to be equal to Pharaoh. To be equal to God in any respect a person would have to be God (otherwise there could be nothing close to a claim of equality). So Jesus has to be God to be equal to God. Jesus is not the Father, just as Joseph was not Pharaoh, but Jesus is God.

And of course there are other verses I have shared with you which make this clear, and many more, if you are interested in looking into it. The fact that there are organizations out there pumping out ready made defenses against finding the truth for oneself is heartbreaking, especially if one considers the eternal implications. Choice, however, has always been the issue, and God never allows any genuine desire to know Him through His Son go un-quenched.

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2nd Corinthians 5:20 NIV

Yours in Jesus Christ the Lord,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hi Bob!

We don't agree with you, however, It's perfectly ok with me for you to believe whatever you want to believe.

Time will tell!

How about sharing some "prophecy prediction" with me? I like those a lot!

Response #15: 

OK. But I don't make prophecy predictions. I don't have that gift, and the way I read the Bible that gift has not been given since the end of the era of the apostles. The Bible tells us all we need to know about the future. There are no unfulfilled prophecies that must be fulfilled before the Tribulation begins, and it will be very clear to all when it does begin.

In Jesus Christ the Lord,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

The woman in Australia ( and her group ) wrote this article in "response" the question which you raised!

I can't emphasize enough that my purposes is not to change your mind as I have no problem with your conclusions, as previously mentioned!

Only sending because you might like reading it, even if to disagree. I have not yet read it!!

Hope you're well!

Response #16: 

Thanks for the link. However, the writer is woefully wrong about his/her translation of the Greek text of John 17:5. I do this for a living (Greek professor), and I can tell you that any one of my second semester students would be able to correctly identify and translate the tense in the verse as a progressive past (imperfect): ". . . with the glory which I was [continually] having/enjoying with you before the world began".

The claims the author makes about what is possible and what is not are entirely erroneous, leading me to believe he/she does not understand very much about Greek (let alone Hebrew). Long story short, you can't make an imperfect into a future just because that is what you prefer.

I encourage you to read that article, actually, because I am hoping that when you see the tortured efforts that must be resorted to in order turn this verse inside out until it no longer means what it very clearly means on its face will alert you to the fact that you have been had. For if we can do to this verse what this person does, we can prove that any verse in scripture means anything we want it to mean whenever we want it to bear said meaning. One heads up: the author doesn't actually get to the point until very late in the article (the set up is a just a smokescreen to keep you from seeing that the person has no answer to the actual question).

Yours in the hope of Jesus Christ our LORD (i.e., Yah).

Bob L.

Question #17: 

I did read the article, eventually! A lot of it is "mumbo jumbo" to me, however, if I can tell you that it is possible ( in my opinion ) that Yahsua exited before living on Earth ( but not as an archangel ). I doubt that that's the case and, as you know, I certainly do not believe that he's God ( Yahweh ).

Still, I appreciate any input which you bring to the table, always.

Whenever i send you something, it's NOT to "provoke" you, at all!!!

I will share your conclusions with her!

They're in Australia!!


You're fine! Feel free to share my responses.

Response #17:

I do understand your position. However, the verse does actually say "the glory I had with you before the world/universe existed". You have to be God to exist before the universe and to exist outside of the universe.

Yours in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Bob, I get stuff from many folks, including this, in my opinion, very entertaining man!

Don't know whether he's a trinitarian or a "cultist", but I do want your thoughts on the rather long blog, if you feel inclined to read it.

This particular post is ironic because I too find the number "11" crossing my path a LOT ( don't worry I'm not a nutcase ). Actually, when I got up to type this, it was 8:11!!!

LINK: http://feeds.feedburner.com/Parablesblog

Also, two articles for you:


Bob threw a number of quotes at us. There were two others which we thought worthwhile to ponder on. I have put them up now.

http://biblefocus.net/quote/ Before-Abraham-was-I-am- John-8-58/index.html

http://biblefocus.net/quote/ Making-himself- equal-with-God- John-5-18/index.html

I thank you for prodding us to think on these things. I love to consider

Yeshua's words. My friend loved the first one, best and so do I. But these are interesting to me and I hope to you. Let me know if there is anything which is not clear- or could be explained.


For BibleFocus.net

Response #18: 

We have talked about John 5:18 before. On John 8:58, please see the following links (it's a very straightforward verse in any standard English translation: "I AM" is a claim of divinity):

The Meaning of Jesus' Words at John 8:58

"I am" in John 8:58

As to your other email with the blog info, I'm not much on numerology. In my view, it is rare that numbers have significance in scripture beyond their face value, and when they do have an additional, symbolic meaning, that is generally obvious. However, it is very easy for people to jump into numerology with gusto and the next thing you know all sorts of scriptures are being distorted. Some have come to see numbers as intertwined with everything the Bible says (i.e., the "Bible codes" heresies or Kabbalah). Here are a couple of links which will give you the gist of my take on these matters:

The Number 20

The Number 40

The Number 12 (question #4)

153 Fish: Explaining some Difficult New Testament Passages

Cults and Christianity (Bible Codes)

Yours in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Bob, what is your take of the "sacred secret", mentioned in Ephesians, I think?

Response #19: 

I have never heard of a "sacred secret" before. If you are referring to the meaning of the word "mystery" in the New Testament, I have written some things about that. Please see the links:

The Mystery of Christ and the Church

Jesus is "the" Mystery

The Completion of the Mystery of God

The Mystery of Lawlessness

The Unleashing of the Mystery of Lawlessness

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

Hello--Sorry to bother you again, but could you look at something for me? Last year, you explained something for me, concerning Col. 2:16-17, about the "relative time" in the verb used, that Paul was writing from the perspective of the OT people who were looking to the substance of Christ--but that the shadows HAD passed and we now have the substance/body of Christ, whose body we are. However, an MJer is bringing up another argument against this interpretation of these verses here:

"NASB Col 2:16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

That is so weird! You put the mere in brackets [they didn't according to the blueletterbible]? It's not in the Greek either. But as another person pointed outr to you, the word for is is actually in the Greek. And it is 3rd person SINGULAR! IS! It CANNOT be ARE! They use "in respect to" for the Noun #3313 Meros and the preposition en "in". Meaning "in a part". Things is plural but the verb is singular. Doesn't compute!

Now, could you please explain to me why most bibles have "are" and not "is" at vs. 17--"which ARE a shadow..." etc.? I said it was to put it into good, vernacular English. Is the "which" plural? What?

She also gripes about how "matter" is singular, but not sure what she is getting at, since the things Paul mentioned are connected by "or's" not "ands" so therefore, each one was treated individually, hence the singular "matter". I think she thinks Paul is only referring to one thing on here as the shadow, but not sure. The "reasoning" of some of these Judaizers doesn't make much sense, sometimes. Plus, I told her that one can't judge Greek by English grammar, that they are sometimes the same, but sometimes different. Thanks.

Response #20: 

The "is = are" issue is a well-known Greek idiom. Throughout ancient Greek, the New Testament included (though there are some exceptions in the NT), neuter plurals take singular verbs. This is very much a Greek idiom, not paralleled in any other language of which I am aware. Some take it to be a fossil from Indo-European. Personally, I attribute it to the Greek tendency to view 'things' conceptually (i.e., "things" as a composite whole rather than an individuated collection). That may explain why Greek often says "these things" where would say "this" and "this" where we would say "these things" – a different way of looking at thing . . . s. However that may be, that grammatical "tic" is the reason for the "is" rather than "are". Paul's grammar is quite good, and he was clearly aware that "are" would have been a grammatical mistake in Greek.

Note also on this the "literal" translation: "which things is". The critical point for correspondent's argument is that, even if he/she wishes to ignore the rules of grammar in regard to is-not-are for neuter plurals, the fact remains that the subject of "is" here is a neuter plural ("which things is/are"). Since the subject is plural, regardless of the verb the is/are question in this case is not a matter of debate (for anyone who reads basic Greek).

On "matter", I assume you are talking about what NASB translates as "in respect to". This is a prepositional phrase that is governing the word "festival" (en merei / ἐν μερει). The word μερος / meros can mean "part" (it's the -mer in polymer: "of many parts"), but it has a wide range of meanings. I would not quibble with any of the versions' take on this phrase (almost all of them say "in respect to" or "in regard to"), although "in the matter of" would be more accurate. I take it to mean "in the category of". Paul is not adding the word just as a manner of speaking. His purpose is move the argument from "food and drink" to a different "category" altogether: festival observance. But that is fine tuning. Any of the versions give the essential sense of the passage well enough.

Hope this helps!

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Hi--Can you stand one more thing about this verse? My correspondent backed off and actually agreed with you, and I nearly fell out of my chair when I read that she did....no MJer has EVER agreed with your translation of the Greek and what it means and the grammar, etc. But she DID add this telling little phrase:

"In the "respect/matter" issue I am glad he agreed that "matter" would be more accurate but he adds a definite article that is not there. It reads "in A matter of". And it should be noted that "matter" is a noun. I agree that it moves it from food issues to observance issues. But it also tells us it is not saying the observance of the feast is the issue but matters, parts, of the ways the Appointed Time is being observed. So just like he is not saying that eating or drinking is a shadow neither is he saying the keeping the Appointed Times is a shadow."

I told her that just because a noun is anarthrous doesn't automatically mean one can slap an "a" in front of the noun. Sometimes the anarthrous nouns are definite; sometimes not. I think it depends upon the context and maybe the position in the sentence--my knowledge of Greek grammar is sketchy, at best. Anyway, I told her she would have to turn a blind eye to what the verse actually says, in order to deny its clear meaning. But do you have any comments about what she wrote? I don't see anything about "parts of the way" the appointed time is being observed in what Paul wrote, do you?

Response #21: 

You are absolutely correct in your understanding of how the Greek definite article is employed.

The question is whether the prepositional phrase en merei can be parsed to mean "in regard to [only a] part of a festival, whether of the new moon or the Sabbath". There are two problems with this. The first, while not insurmountable, is significant. All the versions and translations including commentaries of which I know take en merei as a phrase acting with prepositional force (my own rendering, while a bit different, has much the same effect), and that is the natural way to read the Greek. In such cases, it is fairly common for Greek writers to utilize the indefinite pronoun tis, tinos (τις, τινος), when they wish to make it clear that a noun is acting with its own force as a true indefinite substantive. That is to say, if Paul had meant what correspondent thinks he means, it is very likely that he would have written ἐν μερει τινι, and not just ἐν μερει. That would have headed off what otherwise is very confusing, and would give the rendering "in some matter/part of" or "in a certain matter/part of". Merely using ἐν μερει makes it virtually impossible for a Greek reader to pick up the distinction correspondent claims is here, even if said distinction were obvious in the context – which it is not.

That brings me to the second objection, and I see no way of overcoming it. The question at issue is whether or not to be observing the shadows of the Law. Colossians 2:17 starts with a plural relative pronoun (as we all apparently now agree). Pronouns have antecedents. In this case, "which things", the first word in Colossians 2:17 (Greek ha, ἅ), must refer back to everything just mentioned, and it is semantically impossible and grammatically nearly so as well to exclude "eating and drinking" from this. If en merei meant "only some part of a festival", then a generalized statement about shadows immediately following would be incomprehensible without Paul defining first what parts of a festival are shadow and what parts are not. As the text now stands, if correspondent's interpretation were correct, this would be a very complicated set of statements which could not be interpreted without receiving further information from the apostle. Taking the verses as everyone else has always done, however, yields a perfectly good sense: "the observances of the Law, whether eating or drinking, or festivals of any sort, are shadows of what was to come: But Christ, who has now come, is the reality behind them".

So what other "part" of a festival, other than eating and drinking which must be included (as mentioned above), is shadow and what part is not? That is to say, the question "which?" would have to be answered for there to be a real split here, and the fact that it is not answered by Paul (along with the tortured way in which the verse would then have to be understood), guarantees that the universal understanding of the verse is the one which is correct.

I suppose this is a long way of saying that "let no one judge you . . . in a part of a festival" makes no sense and begs the question, "Is it all right, then, for some to judge in the entire festival?"

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #22: 

Hello--I hope I am not bothering you, but I have once again, a manuscript question. I thought we had gone over all there is to go over concerning Col. 2:16-17, about shadow and substance and such...but a new wrinkle has popped up. Some guy is NOW saying that what the Greek manuscripts wrote "got changed" and that they really should say that the "body of Christ, the church" has the right to do the judging. Here is what he wrote:

"These Colossians had been affected by Greek Asceticism that taught self denial of food and drink, hollow and deceptive human philosophy [2:8], Angel worship [2:18], commandments of men [2:22] and false humility [2:23]. Epaphras had taught these folks how to worship according to the practices of the new church and they had been observing all the Feast Days, Sabbaths and New Moons and were being roundly criticized by the neighbors (still Ascetic Greeks adherents) for doing so [2:16-17]. Paul had basically said, "Ignore them" and more importantly, he did not tell them to cease and desist. And according to the Greek Manuscripts before mankind decided to change the words he told them "Only the Body of Christ, The Church" could judge them in how they kept these New Moons, Feast Days and Sabbaths."

So, he is saying that the Colossians were following the Law of Moses, esp. concerning feast days and the Sabbath. I already told him what you told me, how Paul was writing from the perspective of the OT people, looking towards the fulfillment in the Messiah, when he wrote "a shadow of the things to come." However, I said that "BUT" implies a contrast. He is contrasting what he called "the shadow" with the body/substance, that is in Christ Jesus.

I know you have access to what the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts say in Greek. Are you aware of any "changes" done to what these manuscripts say in Colossians 2:16-17? Is there ANY way the Greek could be construed to be saying actually, "only the body of Christ, the church, could judge them in how they kept these New Moons, feast days, and Sabbaths"?

I told him he was to be congratulated because he found a way to make the scripture say what he wanted it to say--just say it was "mistranslated" or the text was "changed" by someone at a later time.

Also, this guy just elaborated a little bit more on what he meant by "changed." He is griping about the addition of "is" as in "But Christ is the body." But I still don't see how he can read this whole thing to mean that the judgment belongs to the body of Christ, i.e., the church, and so they are NOT to pay attention to the Greeks, but go on observing the OT festivals. Yet, from what I have read, the Christians there were getting it from BOTH sides--Judaizers and from the pagans.

You went over the addition of the word "is" here when you wrote this to me:

"As to "is", you are certainly correct. When the tense would be present, the verb "to be" is absent as much as it is actually used in Greek, generally only being used for emphasis and/or when it is a case of trying to avoid ambiguity. There is no ambiguity here so it can be left out (/pace/ your correspondent's failure to understand). The fact that the "alternative" reading makes no sense is telling. I note also that correspondent does not go to any lengths to try and make it make sense, preferring instead just to hop to his self-serving conclusion. You are correct that Paul uses "body" here as meaning "reality": "but the reality has to do with Christ". This is a fairly typical opposition (cf. 1Cor.5:3; Eph.4:4), and is not to be divorced here from the idea of the Body of Christ, both the reality of Him sacrificed for us (v.14) and of our participation in Him as one Body (v.19). That is the underlying "reality" which replaced the shadows which pointed and alluded to it: Jesus Christ come in the body and bearing our sins in His body that we might be one Body with Him forever. Jesus is our reality, whose Body we are."

Could you elaborate a bit though, on the addition of "is" here? I mean, is this fairly common in Koine Greek, to leave out the verb, but have it understood? Do you know of other examples in the NT of this? Sorry to be a bother.

Response #22: 

No bother! 

As usual you are "right on the money" in your analysis of what this person is doing and what the passage says.

There are no textual issues with this passage. None.

Also, correspondent can supply not a single version no matter how idiosyncratic that says anything remotely like what he wants to twist the words to say: they all say pretty much the same exact thing.

As you astutely note, the "but" contrasts "shadows" = rituals with the "reality/body" which belongs to Christ. That is the clear meaning in Greek and no translator has missed it – at least not one that has gone into print.

You are correct too that adding the verb "to be" is not necessary in the majority of Greek copula sentences, and that is true of ancient Greek from Homer until the Modern era. So correspondent is the only one exercised about this (most likely because he/she knows absolutely nothing about Greek).

As to "what correspondent is saying", that is impossible to tell without him/her being more forthcoming. My suggestion would be to demand from correspondent his/her own translation. That will make it clear just how and where he/she is twisting the language and smoke him/her out of this falsity of approach.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

Hello--I wonder if you can answer a question for me....you are aware that Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe that Jesus is fully God--he is a "god" to them, as sort of demi-god. Well, this one JW claims that in the bible individuals who are NOT truly YHWH can be addressed with that name, if the represent God. Hence, Jesus can be said to be "God" because he represents God, but isn't really God, himself. Dumb, I know....

Now, if you look at Gen. 18:3, where God and two angels come to Abraham under the oaks at Mamre, it starts off in my NASB bible, anyway, having Abe addressing one of them with "My lord." The "lord" isn't all in caps, as the preface says that when the YHWH appears in the original Hebrew and was replaced with "adonai", they will indicate this by capitalizing LORD. When it is not the substitute, but "adonai" was originally there, then it is "lord" or "Lord" depending upon whom was being addressed.

Well this guy wrote this to me:

"Then I suggest you get a bible that has a higher standard of Hebrew scholarship and understands what the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, R Kittel, 1984 notes in Genesis 18:3. I have a copy of that volume in hardcopy. In the margin for Genesis 18:3 a Masoretic note with the Hebrew letters Koph Lamed Dalet (134) indicate the first of 134 instances where pre-Masoretic copyists removed the name YHWH from the Hebrew text, replacing it with the word Lord"

I don't have this book, but could ask someone at Concordia Lutheran Seminary library in St. Louis to look it up for me. But if you have this book, could you check to see if it is true? Also, how old are the Masoretic texts? And could you check the LXX for me? Isn't that older than the Masoretic texts? And do you know if this verse is in the Dead Sea Scrolls? If so, and you have a book or something that has the Dead Sea Scrolls in them, the text I mean, could you look to see what it has in vs. 18:3? I know this is a lot, but I am not sure how to check this out otherwise, except to write to Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a Messianic Jew with a doctorate in Hebraic studies who knows both biblical Hebrew and Greek. But he travels a lot and is often very slow to answer. You, at least, usually answer me fairly quickly.

I told this guy rob that even if it is true--the YHWH was in vs. 3, that is no proof that Abe was addressing ALL of them as YHWH--he could very well have singled out the one who obviously appeared to be the leader among them, recognizing, somehow, that one of them was God and addressed Him as such.

This guys also points out the "you" and "your" in the following verses are plural, but we told him that was no big deal. While addressing God personally, Abe was just being courteous and including the other two, when offering refreshments--as he would have, had be addressing a king who had two retainers with him. While addressing the king personally, he would have included the two retainers in offering refreshments.

Anyway, please let me know what you think. Thanks and God bless you, as always.

Response #23: 

Starting with the Dead Sea Scrolls, as far as I am aware Genesis 18:3 and its immediate context has not come to light in any of the scrolls so far. There are large portions of Genesis found at Qumran (mainly in cave IV and so termed 4QGen), but not this particular passage (Gen.18:20-25 does occur in 8QGen, according to VanderKam and Flint's index). Facsimiles of these documents can be hard to come by, absent a good research library in your neighborhood; plans are supposedly afoot to make images of all the scrolls available over the internet at some future date (Brill press has something like this, but it is fee for service). Not that it matters much. I did work on the Isaiah scrolls in seminary, comparing them to the Masoretic text, and my own feeling is that while the scrolls are evidence of a sort, their main value is to confirm the quality and reliability of the MT. The Q scrolls are pretty clearly in my view mass-produced texts (the kind of thing you would expect to find in an individual household or a small, poor community such as Qumran) as opposed to the very careful, synagogue quality manuscripts which contain what we know as the MT. There are differences at times, but the Q scrolls prove conclusively that the MT is of ancient origin.

In Hebrew textual criticism, therefore, we have something of the reverse of the situation which obtained in the New Testament text. In the NT, the better manuscripts surfaced later and highlighted certain problems with the more popular texts (upon which, e.g., the KJV was based); but in Hebrew, the popular texts turned up later because the Jewish community worldwide never let the synagogue-based text fall into editorial confusion. The Masoretes were famous for counting every letter in order to assure that the text didn't change, and the notes your correspondent refers to (the so-called masorah, "notes of the Masoretes"), are all about controlling the text through counting. The bottom line is that the texts which come from Qumran present essentially the same text as the MT (98% or so, I would estimate), and the differences are almost always the result of mistakes in the Qumran scrolls and not usually significant.

As to the Masoretic Text per se, the critical Hebrew Bible editions are in their text no different from any other version of the Hebrew Bible one would consult. There are some MT manuscripts with slightly different readings in some passages, generally only a letter here or a letter there (due mainly to audible copyist mistakes or unconsciously making grammatical changes when copying), and these account for less than one tenth of one percent of the text. Simply put, the MT is the Hebrew Bible. It is true that no text is perfect, and it is also true that when dealing with problem passages (of which the MT has its share) any serious exegete would wish to know all of the pertinent evidence, and that includes the readings of Q scrolls when such exist for the passage in question and when they differ from the MT. One would also wish to have this information in regard to outlier manuscripts of the MT (in fact that would be even more valuable to have at one's finger tips). However, at present all we have to go on in the main (absent, as I say, a good research library and a lot of leg work) are the critical editions of the Hebrew Bible, BHS preeminently.

There will at some point be tools available which promise to fill in this deficiency to some degree: The Hebrew University Bible Project (HUBP), which will be a reproduction of the Aleppo Codex and will include an exhaustive textual apparatus, and the Oxford Hebrew Bible Project (which also looks very promising). At present rate of production, however, I'll be long dead before any significant portions of either are available. We should not bemoan this state of affairs too much, however, since BHS really is very good, and the MT is extremely reliable (with amazingly few textual variants in its various codices). And of course textual critical notes to the OT text are found in many of the notations to the text which predate modern scholarship (usually associated with the Masoretes).

A brief word on the Septuagint before moving on. It is a translation, and a highly problematic one with an even more vexed textual history of its own. I spent a lot of time on the LXX in seminary (too much), and can tell you that it is next to worthless for serious textual criticism of the Hebrew text. It has its values (mostly for vocabulary study), but it should almost never be preferred to the MT when there is a textual issue. At best, it might possibly provide some corroboration of an alternative reading when there is other evidence for the same.

As to the specific questions and comments in your email, first, let me observe that if the most important Name in the OT, YHVH, sometimes means YHVH but sometimes does not mean YHVH, then all serious interpretation has been rendered impossible – unless we have some sort of contextual signal. I.e., I am willing to accept that "servant of YHVH" means someone who is not YHVH him/herself. However, in Genesis 18:1 the text clearly states that "YHVH appeared to him (i.e., to Abraham)", and I know of no interpretive or linguistic convention which would allow anyone to say that this Person who appeared was not YHVH – at least according to the text. If a person wants to disbelieve that the One who appeared was YHVH, well, that is an individual prerogative. But it is not permissible to say that the text somehow backs up that disbelief: the text says unequivocally that the One who appeared was YHVH – and there are no indications to the contrary from BHS notes or from the masorah.

At Genesis 18:3, Abraham addresses Him as 'Adonay (the consonantal text is not YHVH) – but that is certainly understandable. 'Adonay is the correct appellation for divinity; for human beings it is generally "sir" ('Adoniy sing.; cf. e.g., Gen.23:6), not "my Lords" ('Adonay pl. of majesty, generally reserved for the Lord and kings). Since YHVH was not pronounceable and/or not to be pronounced, 'Adonay is what Abraham probably had to say (or else keep silent – and that would have been rude). Of course there are places where YHVH does occur in similar circumstances. In verse 27 of the same chapter where Abraham likewise addresses the LORD, many of the MT manuscripts have YHVH (although the majority have 'Adonay and that is what BHS prints). In either case, 'Adonay was what Abraham vocalized. That brings up an interesting point: since the vocalized text is the same whether or not the written text has YHVH or 'DNY, it would be very easy for a scribe to become confused, whether he was listening to a reading or vocalizing it himself (even mentally).

That in turn brings us to the QLD (qoph, lamed, daleth) masorah "134", which is to be found in margin for both of these passages. It is true that Genesis 18:3 is the first such of these marginal notations, but Ginsburg's theory of 134 text-changes from YHVH to 'Adonay, repeated here in essence by your correspondent, is certainly not universally accepted (for one thing, the math of the 134 instances only works with a great deal of fudging). A similar and equally plausible hypothesis to explain this number applied to instances of 'Adonay is that the Masoretes, rather than fiddling with the text (and with the divine Name at that) – the exact opposite of what they were all about – were instead tracking instances of where YHVH was addressed as 'DNY in spelling as well as vocalization. That would be interesting and potentially helpful, whether or not there were any underlying textual problems.

Since we have to do with the LORD in any case, this all strikes me as another sort of smoke screen designed to divert attention from the really critical point that the Visitor in question is in fact none other than YHVH, our dear Lord Jesus appearing in Christophany (see the link) – as Genesis 18:1 establishes incontrovertibly and as you so clearly note.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #24: 

HI--Wow, that was fast! Thanks for your input. I did look up the verb for "pass by" in 18:3--I think it is "abar" if I am reading our BibleWorks 4.0 correctly and Abe is directing it to the LORD. He says, "...please do {You} not pass Your servant by." (NASB). I looked in Strongs under "your" in the OT and there are none, nada, zilch, except one in the late OT. It was added to make smoother, more vernacular English, as the preface for Strong's says. Anyway, the verb must have the understood but unarticulated "you" in it, correct? And BibleWorks says the "pass by" verb is in the second person singular. I think my grade school teachers called that the "command" voice or something similar, in which the subject of the sentence is the understood though unarticulated "you," though in Abe's case, it sounds more like a plea. Which means that Abe was addressing ONLY the Lord at this point and NOT the two angels, and supposedly including them in "LORD." Am I correct in what I read? The text also says "Please do not pass YOUR servant by." How is the genitive of the second person singular accomplished here? Is it understood from the ending of "servant" in Hebrew? If so, is it also a singular "your"?

I know from what you said that the LXX isn't very helpful, though it can be useful to get an alternate reading. A pastor friend of ours said the Masoretes had several different versions of the OT and they destroyed all but what they considered the best one. Is that correct? I may not be remembering correctly what he said.

Pity this verse isn't in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Thanks again; if you could confirm what I asked about the singular "you" in that verse, I would greatly appreciate it. God bless!

Response #24: 

Yes indeed, Abraham is addressing only One Person in Genesis 18:3. That is clear from 1) the second person singular suffix on "eyes" = "your (s.) eyes"; 2) the second person singular suffix on "servant" = "your (s.) servant"; 3) the second person singular preformative pronoun on the main verb "pass by" = "may you (s.) not pass by". If Abraham were addressing the group, all of these would have to have been made plural. As it is, they are all singular. Therefore "my Lords" = "my LORD" is an unequivocal reference to YHVH (as is almost always the case with 'Adonay).

On the Masoretic text anecdote, this has all the earmarks of an apocryphal story. In any case, it would have been impossible since the Masoretes worked in Palestine but the Jewish community was widely dispersed throughout the world (with each congregation possessing its own copy of the OT). If something like this had happened in Palestine (or if a "preferred text" had been disseminated), there would be ample evidence of that from all over the Mediterranean world. In fact, the Jewish tradition is to preserve every scrap of the Bible. When a manuscript wore out, they would place it in the genizah or "treasury" behind the synagogue (i.e., a room parallel in location to where the holy of holies would be in the temple). Many of the ancient manuscript fragments we have come from such finds of excavated ancient synagogues, the Cairo genizah being one of the most famous and prolific – and the text is the same, the MT. Finally, the one thing Qumran does help to prove is the essential unity of the text even in ancient times. Even in these 2nd cent. B.C. copies of the scriptures, the text is, as mentioned in the previous email, was essentially the same as the MT but going on a millennium earlier than the Masoretes.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Hello--thanks for all the help you have given me on this Gen. 18:3. I had no idea you had studied all of this stuff. Is that part of knowing Classical Literature?

Can you stand one more question on this? This is about Gen. 19, though. This JW claims that Abe was addressing angels and not God and two angels, even though, as you said, Abe addressed God in vs. 18:3. They want to use this against our beliefs, that one can call someone other than YHWH "God", because he would be representing God. Like Jesus, for instance. Anyway, this JW wrote this:

"My friend and I have read the book in context, unlike you and Lukenbill. If you keep reading you can see that more than one are called YHWH: NWT Genesis 19:18 Then Lot said to them: "Not that, please, Jehovah! This is one of the 134 instances where the Sopherim changed YHWH to Adonai just like Genesis 18:3"

My NASB has "lords" in 19:18. And "said to them." I don't know who the Sopherim are, though I think you mentioned them in your last letter and would have to relook at it. Is he correct? It looks to me that, if he is, Lot appeared to be praying to YHWH and the angels were relaying God's response to him, since vs. 21 says "HE said to him..." And isn't that singular? So, what gives?

Thanks for your patience as always! God bless you.

Response #25: 

In between my second B.A. and second M.A. and Ph.D., I took an M.A.B.S. at Talbot Theological concentrating on Biblical Hebrew (I had done three years of course work in BH at Illinois prior to that, along with a year of Modern Hebrew).

Sopherim is the plural Hebrew word "scribes", and its precise designation depends upon the user. In terms of the Masoretic circle, the Sopherim, "the consonantal text writers", are sometimes distinguished from the Nakdaniym, the "vowel writers", as well as from the Masoretes, the "marginal note writers". However, Ezra was said to be a sopher "scribe" long before the Masoretes (Neh.8:1, etc.); your correspondent seems to be using the term in its later, technical sense. Importantly, since in Masoretic days the indications are that these three words really described different scribal duties rather than three distinct classes of individuals, this is just a seemingly erudite way to say that the Masoretes made these notes.

The notation "134" in the margin of the MT has no theological validity. It is a scribal observation whose precise meaning is not even recoverable. The notion that it means what your correspondent claims it means is a 20th century theory; it is not a "given" recorded somewhere. But of course even if it were, it would have no more theological importance than the vast store of medieval Jewish commentaries or the Talmud etc. The Masoretes did a fine job preserving the OT text for us, but they give every indication of having been unbelievers. So even if "134" meant what correspondent claims (of which there is no sound evidence), or even something close, that would mean just about as much as any modern day atheist telling us that God does not exist.

As to what is going on in Genesis 19:8, please note first of all that instead of the three "visitors", we now have to do with two angels (Gen.19:1) – as long as we are mentioning context. The critical third Person is no longer present. Lot addresses the two angels as "my lords" because they are plural – and the plural of 'Adoniy is 'Adonay. When one Person is addressed with this word, it usually refers to YHVH – and we recall that the verb and the noun suffixes in Genesis 18 make it irrefutably clear that only one Person is being addressed there. Here at Genesis 19:18, on the other hand, Lot is said to "say to them", and the plural suffix plus preposition, 'aleyhem, makes it equally irrefutable that more than one person is being addressed. 'Adonay is a plural of majesty when used for the LORD. But it can also be used as a true plural when addressing more than one person (just as also at Gen.19:2 where the text calls the angels in the previous verse "my lords"). Thus these instances prove conclusively what you have been telling your correspondent with not a sliver of daylight for genuine disputation. The fact that some scribe felt the need to count up instances of 'Adonay in scripture has nothing to do with anything – except that it seems to be a profitable device for leading astray those of little knowledge and less faith.

In Jesus our 'Adonay,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

Hello--Thank you for your time. You sure got around!

Anyway, what do you mean by the Masoretes being "unbelievers"? You mean, they rejected Jesus? But not the OT YHWH, correct? They rejected the Triune Godhead, correct? Also, didn't they live around the 6-8th centuries AD? I don't remember exactly.

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to answer me. Take care!

Response #26: 

Yes, the Masoretes lived in the early middle ages and were not Christians. God thinks highly of the whole Jewish people – as all believers should as well – but "not all Israel is Israel". Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, and even those who are Jewish and diligently study the Bible and accept the truth of the Old Testament YHVH – but do not accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah and their Savior – are not saved without faith in Him.

Yours in the One who died for us all that we all might have eternal life through faith in His holy Name.

Bob L.

Question #27: 

Hello--I am wondering if you have ever read the Biblica Hebraica, R.Kittel, 1984, that I mention below, from this JW guy, or do you have it in your possession or at your university? I put down all that you told me to him, but he says it triumphs "Lukenbill." JWs have a habit of twisting your name, when they don't like what you say...Like Endora on the old "Bewitched" TV show, who never got Darrin's name right, because she didn't like him. :-)

Anyway, how good a reference is it? Can you look up the passage that this guy is talking about, to see if anything else is being said in the margins or such? I don't mean to belabor the point, just want to leave no leaf uncovered and no stone unturned. Thanks for your patience.

Hi--I'm sorry, I forgot to ask something...who is Ginsberg? The guy who edited the Biblica Hebraica, R. Kittel, 1984? Also, you said that the number 134 is by no means certain. Are there other scholars who also disagree with the Kittel book, about this verse and the reason for the changes? If so, could you give me a couple of examples? When you have the time; no hurry, I know you are busy. Thanks,

Response #27:

Correspondent seems to be confusing BHK (Biblia Hebraica [Kittel ed.]) and BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia). These are the two major scholarly versions of the MT (both based upon the Leningrad Codex now in the British Museum). BHK's third edition came out in full in 1937; it was replaced for main scholarly use by BHS (which is based upon it) in 1977. To put things into a NT frame of reference, this is like Bauer, supplemented by Bauer-Ardnt-Gingrich, updated by Danker – but the same basic lexicon. The Hebrew text of BHK (3rd) and BHS are identical (unless one or the other made a transcription mistake or interpreted the codex's orthography differently in regard a particular letter in a particular passage – I don't know offhand of any instances of this). BHK is fine; BHS is just more user friendly, with larger print, more expansive introduction, and updated textual notes (referencing, for example, the Qumran texts, unknown to Kittel).

So Kittel is an edition of the Hebrew Bible. It prints the masorah in the margin similarly to BHS. The letters Qoph/Lamed/Daleth are merely printed in Kittel's edition in the margin the same as in BHS. As far as I am aware (I don't have my own edition of that earlier work), there is no extensive explanation given in Kittel for this number beyond relating that it counts forms of 'Adonay. The theory that correspondence relates apparently originates with C.D. Ginsburg's The Masorah (1886). I know of no major attempts to refute this (minor) part of Ginsburg's massive work, because it wouldn't mean very much to most people; it's only gaining prominence in recent years because the JW's have dug it up as some supposed "proof" of something or other, but as I have pointed out there is really no "there" there, even is somebody wanted to accept Ginsburg's theory. The singulars and plurals in the narrative make it very clear what is going on, whether our Lord is called YHVH or 'Adonay.

Hope this clears it up! Feel free to write back if not.

Yours in Jesus our YHVH.

Bob L.

Question #28: 

Hi--thanks. He mentions the Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia by Kittel and has 1984, I think, as the publishing date, but you have other dates. So, there are two different works involved, I take it....I forgot to put the "Stuttgartensia" in my last post to you; sorry about that. You say you don't have your own edition, but does your university have it? I was wondering where you had seen it and knew what it had in the margins. Thanks for your help; this should be the last question I need on this. I told this guy to write to you if he disagree with you. But I don't think he will. JWs are not supposed to be on Trinitatrian websites, but they get on, anyway. Take care.

Response #28: 

Your correspondent is confused. Kittel edited Biblica Hebraica (BH or BHK). Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia came out forty years later in 1977. The only connection between BHS and Kittel is that BHS is essentially an updated and enlarged version of BHK which was also derivative of earlier work (Kittel died before his 1937 third edition was completed). BHK has been superseded by BHS, but BHK has been reprinted by United Bible Societies press which holds the copyright (they reprint quite a lot of older editions). Perhaps your correspondent has a version with a reprint date of 1984? In any case, if it is genuinely the Kittel 3rd edition he is referencing, it is indistinguishable from BHS in terms of its text and its treatment of the masorah. But, to clear up the confusion once and for all (I hope), Kittel is not BHS. BHS is the successor to Kittel's BHK (aka BH . . . but not BHS).

While I do not own a copy myself (largely pointless since BHS is essentially this same thing, and that would be like having two or three different editions of Danker, BAG or whatever one wishes to call the most famous NT lexicon), I saw and used Kittel's 3rd edition (a reprint) when I was in seminary. It is, as I say, very similar in its setup, marginalia, critical notes and introduction to BHS – perfectly understandable since BHS is its successor. What both versions have in common apropos of our conversation is that neither furnishes the slightest bit of support for correspondent's theory (or, to put it more precisely, his misuse of Ginsburg's explanation for the marginal note "134"). All these two critical editions do is print this Masoretic notation in the margin of their texts.

And, finally, even if Ginsburg's numbers could be made to work, and even if the counting up of forms of 'Adonay had his hypothetical meaning for the Masoretes that 'Adonay had replaced YHVH in the text in these instances, even in that impossible situation it would still be a very long stretch to say either that 1) they were correct in their assumption or 2) this means anything more than that in such instances the pronunciation was written in instead of the consonantal text (see earlier emails). It is completely illogical to say that because some seventh century Jewish scribes may have had some suspicions about the OT text's practice in writing in or replacing the holy Name, that we Christians should doubt that the LORD is appearing to Abraham in Genesis chapter 18 – especially when the text, because of the singular verb and suffixes, clearly demonstrates that such is the case whether we were to find 'Adonay or YHVH: either way, it is the LORD who is being described, and, either way, the text will not allow us to understand the appellation "my LORD" in Genesis 18:3 as referring to the group (i.e., so it must be the LORD). This is a smoke and mirrors type argument whose objective is merely to introduce a seed of doubt. What I find particularly ridiculous about it is that if pushed to its logical conclusion, it actually strengthens the Trinitarian position. That is because the only functional change that accepting Ginsburg's 134 thesis would bring is a replacing of 'Adonay with YHVH in Genesis 18:3. In such a case, the proposition that Abraham is addressing YHVH could not be denied by any sort of logic, however specious, since now the text would actually say YHVH instead of 'Adonay.

In Jesus our dear LORD,

Bob L.

Question #29: 

Hello--thanks for further explanation. So far, this JW hasn't even commented on anything I have posted from you on this. If he does, I will let you know, but for now, what you have given me should be enough. God bless you!

Response #29: 

You're welcome,

Since we last chatted, I did find a copy of Kittel's third edition available on line, and I did check out Genesis 18:3. Kittel prints the exact same text as BHS with the exact same vowel points, but in fact he does not have the masorah at all (no "134" at all – that is only in BHS). In his textual footnotes, Kittel does suggest changing the verb and the noun suffixes to the plural (as the JW's wish), but only from personal preference (he references the Samaritan Pentateuch, but I checked that as well as the Targum Onkelos, and both have singulars throughout)! So perhaps your correspondent is basing his conviction on a supposition by a secular scholar in a footnote which has no outside textual support.

Yours in Jesus,

Bob L.


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