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Biblical Interpretation XII

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Question #1:

Hi Bob,

I was wondering why the Bible doesn't use "vegetables" when making a comparison to "fruits" (i.e., "fruits" of the Spirit). Do most fruits have seeds on the "inside"? And do vegetables contain any seeds at all? Did Jesus use fruits in His teachings because the spiritual seeds are to start from within us? I thought about this today, but I don't know if this makes any sense, or if my mind is just wandering off into weird ideas and thoughts. I just find it interesting how Jesus' teachings consisted of many earthly things and made comparisons to it with the spiritual nature of things in this world.

Response #1:

On your first question, the "problem" is the difference between English and, in this case ("fruit of the Spirit"), Greek. In Greek, the word karpos, often translated "fruit", is wider in its meaning than the English word (which can also be used metaphorically it should be added, as is the case in Galatians 5:22). "Fruit" in Greek is the product of all plants which is also edible (not just what we call "fruit" in English in a technical sense as opposed to, e.g., vegetables or grains – karpos covers all of these categories).

We have nothing to fear – if we are truly walking with Jesus Christ. We can rejoice in the truth we have been given and feel wonderful about it . . . as long as we don't make the mistake of getting a swelled head (as if this was not just what we were supposed to be doing anyway: cf. Lk.17:10).

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

I forgot to mention that why I believe Paul is making an analogy in Galatians 5 with real fruits and not vegetables is because of a linked passage found in the Parable of the vine and the branches, where Jesus said that we cannot bring forth fruit unless we abide in Him, and I cannot think of any vegetables that grows on trees, or is there? Jesus also said that He wants us to bring forth fruit and that it may "remain" in us in the parable in John 15. This is why I though about the seeds in the fruit because they are on the inside of it, and indication of it may "remain" in us. And there seems to be some connection of the fruits mentioned in John 15 with the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5.

Response #2:

The connection between John 15 and Galatians 5 is that we are talking about the production of believers; and production is often referred to as karpos or "fruit" (but as I say, this word means any sort of agricultural production, like e.g., wheat and barley, not just apples and pears etc.). So for example we see believers producing a "crop" from a "field" many places in scripture as well, e.g.:

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop (karpos), patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.
James 5:7 NIV

For more on the agricultural analogy for spiritual production, please see in the new BB 6A: "The Plant Analogy".

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Bob,

A slave law in Exodus 21:6 states that some slaves should serve their masters “forever.” This statement, however, directly contradicts the slave law in Leviticus 24:40, which states that all slaves must be released every fiftieth year (the year of Jubilee).

Someone else weighed in: "maybe they don't understand that the Hebrew word rendered "forever" means actually "as long as" (conditions exist). A scholar wrote a book called Biblical Words for Time showed that "forever" was not an accurate rendering. That erases the problem."

Is this true? I thought that 'olam always meant forever and ever.

Response #3:

It's a common problem in lay interpretation (and, come to think of it, interpretation by "experts" with credentials), to think on the one hand that the Bible is being literal when it is being figurative and on the other hand to look for symbolism where the Bible is being dead-on literal; add to that the tendency to import modern and particularly English notions into scripture, ignoring the time and culture and language in which the Bible was written. I think the above – for all who nod to accepting the Bible as the Word of God – is behind the majority of misinterpretations of this sort.

The word 'olam means 'olam. We may wish to translate it as "forever", but that is a "dynamic equivalency" which will sometimes work, sometimes not. What is "forever" anyway to us here in the 21st century? In the time period we are in, it can't extend beyond the end of the Millennium, not if the "forever" thing is wedded to the current universe which is going to be destroyed and replaced by the new heavens and the new earth (link). In the case of a human being on this earth in a temporary body, for anything that is not spiritual and eternal but merely physical and temporal, "forever" ('olam) can only mean "his/her entire life long", and that's how I take the context you ask about.

Here is a link for more details on this subject:  "What does 'forever' mean in the Bible?"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:

My problem is how to reconcile Exodus 21:6 and Deuteronomy 15:16-17 with Leviticus 25. It seems that the former teach perpetual slavery while the latter chapter teaches that everyone who is an Israelite will be released from slavery. This is sometimes taken as evidence for the documentary hypothesis.

Response #4:

Of course the Bible also doesn't have footnotes to tell us "well now there are also three or four exceptions to this". And yet the Bible is written in such a way as to be truthful and powerful in spite of all potential twisting by those who don't respect its authority. And it has no inconsistencies. These two facts alone speak to the undeniable (by anyone with an ounce of humility) divine inspiration of it. So whenever an absolute statement is made for emphasis to state the overall principle, mention will usually not be made of exceptions of which everyone ought to be aware – because they go without saying. Deliberately obviating one's own right to redemption and later release would seem to me to – obviously – trump the general principle that otherwise applies at the end of seven years or in the Jubilee.

Analogously, Matthew 19:19 gives the divorce exception rule, but the parallel passages elsewhere in the gospels do not. That is not a contradiction or an accidental omission, and we would be right to infer the exception even it were not present at Matthew 19:19. But because our Lord's words carry added weight with many (the Bible is actually His Word), for our benefit the exception is added in that one place. It's absence elsewhere does not overturn its presence there.

But I wouldn't worry too much about this one. The Israelites NEVER actually did as the Law commands. There is no evidence that there was ever a "Sabbath year", let alone a Jubilee. That is an additional reason why the Babylonian captivity lasted seventy years (cf. Lev.26:34; 26:43).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Should we take 1 Corinthians 11:4 as meaning that a man shouldn't pray with a head covering (like a cap or hat)? I'm asking as I have assumed this so far and wanted to make sure this assumption is correct. One of the changes in my daily spiritual rhythm has been to go outside early in the morning and say a part of my prayer during a short walk (I live in a nice countryside) rather than saying all of it kneeling. The list of people for whom I am praying has been growing and I must say I have really been enjoying this morning walk (during many days this is the only time when I go outside of my apartment). Being under an open heaven has also only helped me to focus as I am able to see the glory of God displayed in His creation. But although it is only a small thing, I began to wonder about 1 Corinthians 11:4 as it is getting cold, it rains occasionally too (but I suppose an umbrella would not go against the scripture anyway).

Response #5:

On 1st Corinthians 11:4, verse fourteen tells us that Paul is actually talking about hair when he refers to covering, and men are brought in here as an example to explain the abuses that the women in Corinth were engaging in: a combination of things: tearing out the hair in mourning according to pagan customs, or engaging in Jewish vows and shaving their heads, neither of which is permissible (see the link: "Hats of Hair?").

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Psalm 136:2 (NASB):
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Could this title be understood "God of angels and/or human beings"?

Response #6:

Only hypothetically. It's a common superlative expression. Jesus, e.g., is "the Lord of Lords and King of Kings" (Rev.17:14; 19:16), and while there may be other lords and kings, the point of that expression is not them but Him – His superiority in every way over all that exists.

Question #7:

A friend of mine has just asked me about Nicolaitans from Revelation 2:6 and 2:15. I re-read your explanation and it is clear, but one question that appeared to me is how we should apply the etymology. You explain it as the voice of majority being decisive, but my first thought was that the Nicolaitans, rather than supporting the rule of majority, were the ones who were conquering the people themselves - is such a take a possibility?

Response #7:

On the Nicolaitans (covered at the link), this is an argument from the context and the etymology, so of course it is open to interpretation. However, who would "the majority" be if not "the people" in the phrase "people-conquer" or alternatively "conquer-the-people"? So the alternative would yield "we [who would have to be the minority] conquer the people [who would have to be the majority]", and I would reject it for that reason.

Question #8:

On the Nicolaitans, what I meant here is taking the etymology as meaning that it is they who conquer the people with their false teachings - i.e., the false teachers who conquer the people, unbelievers and believers both.

Response #8:

My point on the Nicolaitans is that there is no other element in the name itself other than "conquer" and "people", so we have to take it one way or another and not both, i.e., either as "the people conquerors" (new way which I don't see) or "the people conquers" (old way). According to the new way, these are false teachers, I suppose, but what do we know about them other than they have some success (?); according to the old way, this phrase explains their whole philosophy: as we say in Latin vox populi, vox dei, "the voice of the people [is for us] the voice of God", or, "what the people say (about what they want or find good or godly irrespective of any outside input) goes". Since from context we get the impression that the Nicolaitans were libertines and taught that Christians could do whatever they want and perhaps even should (cf. Rom.3:8), the old way is descriptive of a group which ignores God's authority (even while claiming to belong to Him) and does whatever it pleases (indulging in all manner of carnality). After all, there is all manner of false teaching, and some of it rather than being licentious is highly legalistic and overly prudish about the sorts of behavior normally attributed to the Nicolaitans.

Question #9:

The instance of Saul is an interesting one and I did in fact want to ask you about it at some point. This is because "an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized" Saul and I was wondering if this could be seen as a possession - which we know is not possible with believers.

1 Samuel 16:14 (NASB)
14 Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.

1 Samuel 28:19 indicates that Saul would join Samuel and I take it you interpret this as referring to Abraham's bosom rather than a general reference to Sheol which could still include condemnation in torments?

Response #9:

I'm convinced that believers are not allowed to be demon-possessed (the Holy Spirit resides in us, after all). But we can be harassed in all manner of ways in terms of our bodies (with no control whatsoever over our hearts or behavior):

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
2nd Corinthians 12:7 NKJV

This by definition would also have to be an "evil spirit", and Paul is one of the greatest believers of all time (obviously not possessed). God's purpose in allowing it is also is different – resulting from good behavior rather than from ill.

Yes. Samuel was in paradise. In our Lord's relating of Lazarus and the rich man in the gospel of Luke, Abraham makes a point of emphasizing the separation of the the believers there from the unbelievers in Torments:

"And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us."
Luke 16:26 NKJV

Given the above, I don't think that Samuel would have said "you will be with me" if paradise was not the place meant. Finally, Samuel says that Saul's sons will be joining him as well – and I would find it even harder to believe that Jonathan is not in heaven, even if he made a bad decision and not breaking with his father entirely so as to endure exile with David.

Question #10:

Hi Bob,

Jesus prayed to His Father that His sheep may be one, even as He and His Father is one. I noticed that the same Greek word for one is used in other verses in John, such as Jesus and His Father are one; and the Jews wanted to stone Him because they understood it as Jesus making the claim to be "equal" with God. I pondered what the word one means in that verse (John 17:21-23) and it doesn't seem to be speaking of denominations or the like because they didn't exist at the time. However, some people will use that verse to say that the church is gone so far away from the truth that this verse is not longer applicable. Jesus was praying to His Father and He said that is Father ALWAYS hears Him. I believe that Jesus' prayer is always answered, and that the oneness being spoken of here is about being one, as in having life in both the Father and the Son. Or anyone who turns to God for Salvation will be united with Him eternally in that regard. Is this the correct meaning of that passage? I know that Muslims will say that Jesus was not speaking od His Deity in John 10:30 because the same Greek word for one is used there also, and they say it's the same context. Is this correct? Or is my interpretation the correct one?

God Bless,

Response #10:

Jesus could not make the statement He made in John 10:30 if He were not God – which the gospel of John makes crystal clear that He is from the very first verses (cf. also Jn.17:11):

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1:1-5 NKJV

It is folly to discuss the Bible with unbelievers (unless they are truly seeking for salvation) or even with wayward believers involved in cult-like organizations, because such people have no respect for the Bible's authority. Presenting them with the correct meaning of a Bible verse is liking placing a pearl before an angry hog.

The word "one" is the numeral in Greek as in English, but as in English what it means has to be determined by the context. In Hebrew, adopted by the New Testament, God being "one" means God being "unique", and does not mean that Jesus and the Father are the same Person (see the link), as is clear from, e.g., this passage where they are different even though "one" and so are we:

"Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are."
John 17:11 NKJV

As believers, collectively we have come to "share in the divine essence" (2Pet.1:4) because of our unity with Christ – but we are NOT God. So our unity has to be different in quality and scale than that of the Trinity. The Trinity have never had an argument – because they are perfectly aligned in their will even though God is three in person. Human beings are different and there have never been two human beings who have agreed on absolutely everything. Our unity as believers has to do with us "fighting on the same team", putting each other first before ourselves, and striving to do all we can to see that the whole team is successful "as one" by helping each other out through our spiritual gifts and ministries. Here is something I just posted on that from BB 6A:

(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying [goal] of belief in and full-knowledge (epignosis) of the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity of the fullness of Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

    [verse 13] "unifying" = enotes. Literally, "oneness", this word is used by Paul here to refer to the goal of collective growth, a theme near and dear to his heart and returned to on many occasions and in this passage as well at the end where the Church is to "work out its own growth for the building up of itself in love". The Body of Christ, properly functioning, is thus all about spiritual growth, a collective organism with Christ Himself as our Head whose purpose is to promote the growth of all of its parts so that by mutual support every single Christian grows up to spiritual maturity, progresses in their walk with Christ, and in turn helps (through the gifts and ministries and effects supplied by God) the rest of the Body to grow as well – ideally (e.g., Rom.15:5; 1Cor.1:10; 2Cor.13:11; Eph.4:3; Phil.2:2-4; Col.3:14; cf. 1Pet.3:8-9).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Bob,

Thank you for sharing this with me. I had already thought of this opportunity to help as a blessing from the Lord, but even more so now. To be able to be of service to the Lord for the benefit of His church, no matter how small, is a real joy.

I don't think there's anyone who could write as much as you do without any typos. I know there's no way I could. I have read a lot of your brilliant 'stuff' but I still have a lot more to read. It's always been my intention to read all of it, so I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for you as I go.

I meant to mention to you how helpful I found this week's email postings. It's reassuring to know that I'm not alone in experiencing very similar challenges to other Christians in this era of Laodicea. It's good to have true brothers and sisters in Christ who think alike - even if there aren't many of us. After reading a couple of the emails and your responses I feel so much calmer about everything.

I've learnt a very precious lesson this week:-

Look at what happens when you wipe the slate clean and take your eyes off what is going on around you and instead fix them firmly on the Lord - peace, joy and blessings. And I just thought - Exodus 14!

In our dear Lord Jesus

Response #11:

You're very welcome, my friend.

I really appreciate you zealous attitude for the Lord and for the truth, and I am very encouraged by your spirit.

I'm keeping your prayer concerns before the Lord daily, and I'm very happy to hear about the increasing peace of mind you have – by trusting more in more in Him.

Thanks also SO much for your editing input. New changes to BB 6A identified and corrected. What a sharp eye you have! I'm very grateful your help!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

On the Four Horseman-the Hades following after part. Maybe this actually means that the persons so affected will tend to die quickly (so that they are not in a state of dying/death very long) or/and spread it to others quickly and then they die quickly, and it spreads out. (You might almost think of, from the Native American perspective at the many deaths after the arrival of the Europeans, they might say that the grave/death is following a certain person or object -they didn't quite understand germs and the molecular level, etc- as everyone around it drops dead in a chain). It just seems odd with the implication that before this time you die, and you go to the place you go slowly.

Response #12:

The fourth horseman (see the link): I translate "followed with him". What this means is that death, physical death and the accelerated incidence of it, will be one of the four major characteristics of the Tribulation. As it says in Isaiah,

"[During the Tribulation] I will make men more rare than gold, and mankind than the choice bullion of Ophir."
Isaiah 13:12

The sixth trumpet judgment (second woe) alone is prophesied to kill a entire third of mankind (Rev.9:15-18)! And it is very clear that the other trumpet judgments, the bowl judgments, the scarcity and warfare of the Tribulation, and the persecution of believers will kill very many more – not to mention the judgment on Babylon or the second advent where the entire vast army of the beast collected from around the world will be entirely destroyed. So we can see this tribulational trend verified through Revelation and in every other place in scripture which talks about that time. If ten percent of the world's population survives, it would be surprising.

Question #13:

On "the love of many will cool," the site says that this means kindness/civility/tolerance. The thing is that, for that some of those things, cooling is normal and common-sensical in a state of chaos. Love cooling, I think we should just look at the list of what Paul said love is, and then we can substitute (patience, longsuffering, etc). I would say specifically it is caring for the well-being of others. I have seen people be extremely polite and civil and tolerant while destroying someone else. And I think there are plenty of place in the Bible where someone was loving but not necessarily what we would call nice/civil. Only civility (along the lines of the importance of dressing respectably) is the one that maybe you can say we are required to do. The others, I don't see that in the Bible. This is just my opinion. I hope I didn't offend. I was wondering what you thought.

Response #13:

The "love" in question is first and foremost love for the Lord. The Tribulation will test the faithfulness of all believers, and it will be very easy to fall into the sort of questioning and distancing from Him that we see Job beginning to fall into for example. Following a cooling off of one's love for Jesus Christ, clearly, the response of such believers in loving other believers by doing what He wants done for others will also cool off (less Bible teaching, less helping, less encouraging, less witnessing), and the final "cooling" is the freezing that will take place in the case of one third of believers alive at that time who fall into the Great Apostasy.

Question #14:

Matthew 11:12: This might have a simple answer that I am missing, but what is meant by "violent men take it by force"?

Response #14:

On Matthew 11:12, from a previous posting:

Better translation: Matthew 11:12: "Since the days of John the baptist until this present time, the Kingdom of God has been under violent attack, and violent men are laying hands upon it." Jesus is explaining the defensive nature of the struggle encompassed in God's plan before the cross; after the cross the Church is "on the offensive" in the sense of greatly expanding the family of God to the point that Satan and his angels are being rapidly replaced (cf. Matt.16:18), and only managing an unsuccessful holding action (even though it may feel much different on personal basis when experience demonic counterattacks individually). This statement also makes it clear that John's coming, while very significant, was not the dividing point in human history: that dividing point is the cross.

And from "Matthew questions":

The focus of the assault is in this time period, but the principle goes back to the beginning of human history – the Church Age changes the situation as the Church moves over to the spiritual offensive (not without opposition, I should add), evidenced by the great mass of believers entering the lists for Christ and His Church during this era.

Question #15:

Hello brother been a long with me asking question hope all is well. I like to ask about Steven and Paul I see there came a point in their lives that they had to speak in their defense where they stood in with the Lord. Can you help me find other leaders in the old testament and new testament where they spoke in their defense in front of kings and churches or synagogues. Thank you

Response #15:

Good to hear from you, my friend! I have been thinking about you and keeping you in my prayers.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
1st Peter 3:15-16 NIV

The main point I would want to make about this is that while there are indeed times when we are called upon to give a good defense as the verse above states, but that this verse is saying that we must be WILLING to do so, having the courage through faith in the Lord to do so. This verse does not say that we need to be worrying about practicing rhetorical strategies or memorizing canned speeches for such eventualities. In fact, things are precisely the opposite:

"But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."
Matthew 10:19-20 NIV

“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
Luke 12:11-12 NIV

So the best preparation would not be, for example, to study the speeches of Peter and Paul in the book of Acts (or Daniel's speeches or Joseph's or Abraham's or Isaac's or David's when they stood before kings and high officials – to give you some examples of where to look), but rather to keep growing spiritually in learning and believing the truth of the Word of God. That way, the Spirit – the One who will really be giving the defense – will have plenty to work with: He will work with what we have treasured in our hearts by faith.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Bob,

I've heard bible teachers say that the fall of man was pre-ordained by God and it was not only that He knew man was going to rebel and made something good out of it; but that He actually planned the fall, otherwise we would never understand the Love of God through Jesus Christ any other way. And when the bible says that the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world, does this mean that this was pre-ordained? I heard someone say that God simply knew that Adam was going to sin and that Jesus was going to be crucified by evil men, and used it for His good purpose, and that it was not pre-ordained. Which is the correct view?

God Bless,

Response #16:

None of these things are exactly the way I personally would put them. God is God. He can't not know something. What we know from what He has told us of Himself, is that He is perfect and that therefore His plan – which would have had to be all-encompassing – is also absolutely perfect. What we can conclude for this all is that in order for there to be creatures with the image of God, actual, genuine free will and the opportunity to choose to live with Him – or not – it was inevitable that some would and some would not. Further, given the creation of such creatures, it would also be the case, to pay the price for those would choose for Him (who would necessarily have to be created in response to the previous group who chose against Him), that the cross would be necessary. So it's all part of the plan, but that does not mean our decisions are not absolutely free. When you think about it, even though we only understand dimly the magnitude of Christ's sacrifice, the fact that God went ahead with creation anyway – in spite of what it would cost the Father and His Son – tells us everything we need to know about that amazing nature of the love of God.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

One question regarding τὸν ἀληθινον and τὸ ἀληθινον in 1st John 5:20 – I still wonder whether John couldn’t have had the Father in mind here.

Response #17:

First, my translation:

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us a heart for coming to know the truth. And we are in [the One who is] the Truth, even in [God's] Son Jesus Christ. This One is the true God and eternal life.
1st John 5:20

If you wanted to render it, "we are in [the One who is] true", that would water down the fact that there is a definite article here; "we are in [the One who is] the true One" would be better but not very clear in English since what it really means is "the One who has the characteristics of the truth", since alethinos is an adjective derived from aletheia. The neuter to alethinon doesn't come into the question because that is not what the text reads (and I see even your Greek text has the masculine, not the neuter). So this is no special usage case. On every page of Greek we find instances where the antecedent (whether m/f/n and whether s/p) is left out to be supplied by us ("man/men/woman/women/thing/things); that potential is true of any adjective or participle (adjective in this case), with the definite article making clear what's been left out. I certainly agree that the last sentence undeniably establishes the deity of Christ – and you are correct that this is why many commentators want to link it back to "His . . ." instead of ". . . Son, Jesus Christ".

Question #18:

Here I didn't express my question clearly. My main problem is the Sinaiticus reading τὸν ἀληθινον and instead of τὸν ἀληθινον in the following part of the verse.

Response #18:

After reflecting on this passage over the years, I do not think that it much matters if we read neuter here or masculine. To expand what was mentioned last time in my explanatory paragraph, "in the One who is the true thing (i.e., the Truth)" or "in the One who is the true One (i.e., the Truth)", doesn't alter the essential meaning or translation. And as your citation of other passages in the gospel shows, John can also call Jesus "the Truth" using the noun. So it's a difficult question to figure the original text, especially inasmuch as Sinaiticus actually has a 'nu' written in above the end of the 'to', and from the orthography it's possible that this was a near contemporaneous correction. In any case, listening to a recitation in a scriptorium and writing what was heard, the nasal could easily have been missed in between the vowels. So it's possible to make a good argument either way. But either way we have the same essential meaning; I think that would be true even if we had the noun here (since we would be talking about the Lord in any case), but I don't think it's possible to make that big a jump in emendation without some textual support. All authors use variation in how they describe things, John being no exception.

Question #19:

If we were to accept the reading τὸν ἀληθινον as at least possible, do you not think that John could have had God the Father in mind there?

Response #19:

On 1st John 5:20, yes, it is possible (not the way I read it, however). But I would point out to any believer who is solid on the Trinity that John presents Father and Son here (as everywhere else) as "one" so that the interchangeability is an argument for the Trinity; i.e., even if a person doesn't want to accept that "God" at the end of the verse is Christ, the fact that it could equally be and cannot be proven not to be shows by that very fact that John sees Jesus as God . . . otherwise he would have taken pains (in the Spirit) to avoid confusion.

Question #20:

Why is Matthew's genealogy of our Lord incomplete?

Response #20:

The reason generally given, the one to which I ascribe, is that since this is the legal genealogy not the physical one (inasmuch as it refers to Joseph, not Mary), need only go back to the beginning of the Jewish race so as to establish our Lord's positional bona fides as the Messiah; and I would add that being partial is a plus because it shows that the purpose here is NOT to establish a biological but a legal link being through Joseph, not Mary.

Question #21:

Thank you, Professor, this is actually very helpful. One question that still bothers me on this is why Matthew chooses to make a point of there being 14 generations in three distinct periods of this incomplete genealogy he presents.

Response #21:

That is the way it actually fell out, so Matthew presents this in the Spirit – and such things can be helpful for memorizing and also for preventing things from falling out of the text (which is a common occurrence in lists of this sort).

Question #22:

Matthew 4:1 (NASB)
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

This verse just made me think – how was it that our Lord led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil?

Response #22:

It's a good question, and one I suppose we all wonder about, and not just in this regard. Our Lord was given very specific guidance on all manner of things (and no doubt on many things not recorded in scripture). We aren't told, specifically, but we can say is that on the one hand our Lord knew the truth of the Word and responded to the truth of the Word better than anyone who has ever lived – in fact He did so perfectly. So anything that could be gleaned from scripture without the Spirit's direct, verbal intervention was successfully gleaned by Him in a perfect way; on the other hand, no one before or since was more worthy or more capable of receiving specific, direct guidance without either this violating His free will (because He would see the issues perfectly) or causing error (as you or I would merely faint and fail if we were told to do specific things that seemed well beyond our ability).

Question #23:

On our Lord's temptation - one aspect of it that I still find hard to understand is why the Holy Spirit led our Lord to be tempted by the devil, which may seem somewhat hard to reconcile with what we had discussed previously - about God never leading us to temptation.

Response #23:

This would again be the distinction between "tempt" and "test"; God allows us to be interfered with by the devil all the time, and much of that interference is temptation. But God doesn't tempt us Himself (Jas.1:13), and He also never allows us to undergo anything we cannot actually handle (1Cor.10:13).

Question #24:

Hi Bob and family,

Just sitting quietly out on our balcony and a ‘seed thought’ came into my mind, which caused me to think more about it and I wanted to share it with you. I was thinking again how sin so easily besets us and how it originates from two sources – either from our own volition, which I think is the worst kind because it begins in us and also from things that are put before us by Satan to tempt us to stray and I think we can all say that both ways happen to each and every one of us.

What happened to Eve came sharply into focus and I realised she was the first person to sin, albeit unconsciously. Remembering it was to Adam that God gave the warning, eat from any tree except from the tree in the middle of the garden. Eve heard it second hand from Adam so perhaps the warning relayed from Adam wasn’t quite as direct as if she heard it from God. Because of that Satan may have thought he stood a better chance of deceiving Eve when she was alone rather than Adam.

Thinking further about it and remembering that both Adam and Eve lived in a perfect world in perfect surroundings and wanted for nothing. They didn’t have all the distractions around them that we have around us and it’s easy to understand how this particular fruit had a fascination for Eve – both of them could eat from any tree except one, everything else was so nice to eat and this one was beautiful to look at, so why not, what could possibly go wrong? The serpent beguiled and tricked her with enticing words and she fell to his charm. Adam wasn’t around, she didn’t run to him for advice, so she ate from the forbidden tree and nothing happened to her then she took the fruit to Adam and he ate as well – possibly because he saw that Eve hadn’t died even though he knew what God had said.

I can only think they both had a child like mind not knowing/understanding the consequences of their actions. It can be easy now with thousands of years of hindsight to understand why she didn’t refuse the temptation of something that seemed so innocent. I can now understand how every one of us suffers in some degree to that old human failing – it won’t happen to me! We are all fighting an unseen enemy who is much more powerful, smarter and cleverer than us but we have Jesus on our side.

On another note, I have lately been thinking I would like to visit some nursing homes/retirement villages to try and give encouragement to those in them who will listen. For so many this may be their last place of residence, which I liken to a ‘bus stop’ and I don’t want any to miss the last bus so to speak if I can help it. I don’t yet know how I will achieve this but I’m praying God will open a way and if it’s to happen, I know He will lead.

In our last email, you kindly mentioned you would post anything else that I’d write and with your permission I would like to send you another one to include – it’s about the Genesis gap theory. Again if you would cast your eye over it (it’s only short) and if there is anything you feel needs changing I will happily correct it.

Again and as always dear Bob, with brotherly love,

Response #24:

On the strait gate, excellent work, my friend! You have a unique way of putting things, and this piece ministered to me personally. I have a different way of putting things on a number of these issues (as I'm sure you are aware), but I found myself substantially in agreement with the substance, and I think that this is an excellent prod to anyone who is, as you describe them, wandering about on a road not good but perhaps looking for an off ramp. Nice job!

Good observations about Adam and Eve as well! They are pretty much the same as mine (scattered throughout Ichthys but concentrated at the link: BB 3A starting at "Status Quo in Paradise").

I'd be happy to see your "gap" piece, my friend, and to post it too.

The nursing home idea strikes me as an excellent idea. I have a correspondent who does this in the states; actually, he is living in a retirement home and gives a lesson every Sunday . . . and receives a surprising amount of enthusiasm too, even though many of the attendees spent their lives in the RC church.

Keeping you and your family in my prayers daily, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Hi Bob and family,

Firstly allow me to wish you a very happy new year free from worries of any description and I pray that more will find the help that is in ichthys.

I have been thinking on the verse in Luke 13: 24 where Jesus tells us to strive to enter in – which in my mind He is qualifying the strait gate verses. In my article about the strait gate and thinking about it now I am realising that many could mistakenly think that it is easy even though it is simple in truth.

I have added a paragraph to that article because of those thoughts and I would very much like your consideration of and I’ll write that inclusion here for your perusal.

I would very much appreciate your take on this inclusion and if you think it needs adding to or changing I will gladly make such changes.

As always dear Bob, with brotherly love,

Response #25:

Always good to hear from you, my friend.

Salvation is simple, but perseverance requires, well, "perseverance". We are not taken back to be with the Lord the instant we are saved; rather we are left here in the world to demonstrate to ourselves and others that our faith is actually genuine and will stand the test, and to show just how deeply we do believe and how much we are committed to following the Lord – that is the basis of rewards. All who make it to the end still believing are said to win the victory, the victory of faith (e.g., 1Jn.5:4-5; Rev.2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26; 3:5; 3:12; 3:21; 21:7).

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Matthew 7:13-14 KJV

As I read this passage, the gate refers to Christ as the one and only way of salvation – there is no other. The way is narrow as well, and Christ is also the only "Way", the truth and the life (Jn.14:6). Gates are points. Ways go on, sometimes for a very long time. Salvation has three aspects in scripture, initial (faith in Christ), progressive (our perseverance in faith as we walk through this world), and ultimate (when we are resurrected and "delivered" once and for all). Christ and faith in Him is the key to all three, but they are distinct (see the link).

As you say, it's easy . . . and it isn't. On the one hand, putting faith in Jesus Christ is very easy – for us (He paid for it in full), but on the other hand, even so there are many who do agonize over this most essential decision in human life even unto their death beds. Perseverance is easy in that God does everything for us; we "merely" have to trust Him. He is glorified by our trusting Him. But it seems every believer sometimes has difficulty trusting Him to the degree we should (though "without faith it is impossible to please God"; Heb.11:6), and far too many fall away under pressure, the ultimate failure of faith that is apostasy.

Thanks so much for your prayers and good wishes, my friend.

Happy new year to you and your family too!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26:

On the unconditional forgiveness, how does that square with the many times David asks God to punish his enemies or the the Lord Himself saying to pray for our enemies so that we will heap burning coals on their heads? I mean it would square to me if the forgiveness is based on confession/repentance.

Response #26:

On the matter of imprecatory prayer, this is a special case (I have written about it before at the links: "imprecatory Psalms II" and "imprecatory Psalms III"). David was a prophet as well as a king and these are prophetical psalms. Furthermore, David is a unique "type" of Christ, portraying Him as the victorious Messiah who rules over Israel. As such, we ourselves should be very careful not to pray for the destruction of our enemies; on the other hand, all of the Messiah's enemies will be destroyed for opposing Him. As the Father Himself said to the Son after the ascension (in another psalm of David's):

The LORD said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
Psalm 110:1 NKJV

Yes, we are to forgive . . . which does not mean pretending what happened didn't happen; it also doesn't require us to be stupid going forward or to have anything to do with evil people who have abused us. In Leviticus chapter 13, the Lord goes on at great length giving Moses instructions for the priests on how they are to handle "infected persons". We are believer priests, and we ought to also be very wary and careful in evaluating others, not judging them, but taking pains not to be conned by them; forgiving them, but not allowing them back into fellowship without similarly careful testing. That is wisdom.

Question #27:

What about the verse were the Lord says to pray for your enemies, because you will heap coals on their heads?

Response #27:

So this is along the same lines: like David we long to have justice done, but we don't do it ourselves. We leave all vengeance to the Lord and pray for the salvation and spiritual growth of all.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Romans 12:19 KJV

Question #28:

On faith: from the site: "The writer puts things the opposite of what one usually sees. "Give us a sign!" is the cry of erstwhile believers from our Lord's day up till the present. "Prove to me you're really God!""

My understanding of faith is not the sort of proof-less blind faith many think it is. From my mind, God has already given plenty of proof, and so the problem isn't in wanting proof, but wanting ever more, instead of taking the enough proof already given. Choosing to believe or not believe the proof. Sort of like in a courtroom you choose to believe one testimony over another. Or, on a slightly different tack, how we might say we 'believe' in a cause. Someone who says they don't believe in it is not saying it doesn't exist, but that they don't stand for it/support it/believe in it, etc. Do you think this understand is correct? You probably already meant this, so please don't take it as a challenge, but as me checking myself. I learn so much from the site, and just am checking my own understanding.

Response #28:

It's a good point. That is the basis for the principle of natural revelation. Faith has an object, and the object (for believers) is always the truth. If we feel we have indeed been given reasons to believe the truth, that is well and good. But eventually, to get anywhere in the Christian life, we have to begin to believe things because God says they are true, whether we feel this way or not.

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:29 NKJV

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