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Question #1: 

What is the history of the church from the death of John the disciple to about 1500?

Response #1:   

May I recommend to you Philip Schaff's History of the Christian Church in eight very long and heavily footnoted scholarly volumes? It's available online at the link. Comment: there is much we do not know. Political Christians are always the ones who make the news (and the history books), whereas in God's eyes one little old lady who is consistent in her prayer life may do more for the Church of her generation than a thousand so-called "saints". We will have to wait until the judgment seat of Christ to find out the "true history" of the Church. Comment 2: The Bible does give us the trends of the seven eras of the Church from John's day until the Tribulation (this is covered at the link in part 2A of Coming Tribulation: "The Seven Churches").

Question #2:

Was John the Baptist or John the disciple the last prophet?

Response #2: 

John the apostle was the last to have the gift of prophecy and was given to pen the last book of the canon, Revelation, in ca. 68 A.D.

Question #3:  

Hello. Hope you are well.

Robert, what is your opinion on the theology of Martin Luther and also Helmut Koester?

Response #3:    

I'm not a student of Luther. In my book, he deserves respect for his courage in breaking with Rome and at great personal risk. He began to unravel the skein of lies the R.C. church had spun in the middle ages, but he most certainly did not come to the end of that task – nor did any of the Reformers. Any pastor-teacher would be well-served to have at least a modest background in Church History, but in my view there is very little to be gained, theologically speaking, from dredging over the writings of famous figures of the past. That is true even when it comes to the earliest extra-biblical material, the so-called Apostolic Fathers. And if I have my Koester right, he claims that even though the writings of many of the "fathers" are significantly different from the Bible, that doesn't mean that they got any of their (correct) information or guidance from extra-biblical sources. I would certainly agree with that – and my conclusion would be "so why should we give more respect to their verbiage than what we can read with our own eyes in our own Bibles (especially since they are very often wrong or misleading in their interpretations)?" I certainly don't put a high premium on them, and the same goes for Luther and the Reformers.

Bottom line: I am happy to celebrate any theologian, pastor or group which is "correct" on any point of doctrine or Bible teaching – especially if they manage to express the truth in a simple yet comprehensive and understandable way. But it would be a monumental waste of time to pore over everything out there in hopes of some sort of "validation" on individual points. One thing I know for certain is that "getting it right" when it comes to groups that are really not much interested in Bible teaching (at least not as their #1 priority) is almost always more of an accident than anything else, and they will be wrong (or at least "off") on most other important matters. That is certainly the case with most denominations today, regardless of which "flavor" we are talking about.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Hi Mr. Luginbill,

Peace be to you, in Jesus' name. If you have some time to spare may I ask your thoughts on two different matters related to my studies? First, I have recently begun to read, "The Confessions of St. Augustine, translated by John K. Ryan 1959", I greatly admire Augustine's love for, and devotion to God, he has certainly influenced me to be more committed to Christ Jesus. However, I have never really studied anything by Augustine before, and needless to say, I have found him somewhat difficult to follow sometimes, even so I will continue to try to get what I can from my readings. In light of these issues, and as one who is himself a professor of Classics, may I ask if you have any suggestions for gaining the most from my studies of Augustine, any issues to be aware of when reading his work?

Secondly, sometime back I acquired a book entitled, "How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren 1972" (original was 1940), in which Dr. Adler 1902 - 2001, aims to teach the reader the principles of good reading, or as he would say, "intelligent reading....", reading for understanding vs. reading for information. Again, since you have a background in Classical Studies, I was wondering if you knew anything about the book, and if you had any thoughts as to its content? Since acquiring the book several months ago, I have done quite a bit of research on Dr. Adler (who actually became a Christian in the last 10 years of his life), and from what I have discovered he was considered one of the greatest philosophers of our time. Anyway, I was wondering if you had any thoughts and/or suggestions on these issues.

Thank you very much for sharing your time, and may you have a blessed week, in JESUS our Precious King!

Response #4:     

Good to hear from you. To be quite frank, I never warmed up to Augustine. He is responsible for a lot of doctrinal confusion that became embedded in the R.C. church and was passed down even to the Protestant reformers. He is a good Latin stylist, and I enjoy reading his Latin, but I couldn't recommend him as any kind of devotional or doctrinal reading. If you are being encouraged by his writings, well and good. But I would caution you severely about taking anything from him of a doctrinal nature (and this can be a difficult line to walk at times).

I haven't read the other book. Is that the same Charles van Doren who was involved in the quiz show scandal (or is it his father)? Nowadays at universities people are very much into this Adler "critical thinking" model. It seems to me – to the extent that it is true – to be common sense systematized to the point where it is difficult to apply. This sort of thing (i.e., learning how to think and express oneself) used to be accomplished by reading, writing and discussing – and realizing that your point of view was perhaps not the only one out there. In my estimation, a good Classical education is better at accomplishing this, because by learning Greek and Latin the mind is transformed – and the Classical works that are read therein will provide more than enough intellectual stimulation and growth to provide naturally the result the Adler model seeks to produce artificially. Would be curious to hear your review, however.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Bob,

Do you agree with the traditional 14 stations of the cross, more specifically, that a woman named Veronica wiped Jesus' face with a cloth?


Response #5:   

If it happened, it's not in the Bible.

If it's not in the Bible, it's not important for us to know.

If it didn't even happen, even letting it into our consciousness as a possibility is a distraction from the truth.

For these reasons, I dismiss out of hand all such accretion of tradition and to the best of my ability attempt to ignore what I have learned about it lest it pervert and corrupt the true picture of our Lord from scripture which I have been laboriously attempting to construct for many years.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ who is our all in all.

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Hello Robert

Are you familiar with the sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" by Jonathan Edwards?

Response #6:    

I'm familiar with it and him. Neither Edwards nor this genre of 18th century fire and brimstone preaching (which has still not entirely run its course in evangelicaldom) nor "sermons" in general as they are usually constituted in Protestantism today are my particular up of tea. There are certainly some things in this material that I would consider incorrect doctrinally, quite apart from the methodology. But everyone has his/her own spiritual gifts and is called to their own peculiar ministry by the Lord – and we shall all answer for our own choices in that regard. God is righteous, and a proper appreciation of what that means to imperfect and sinful man should fill us all with reverent fear; but God is also love, and a proper appreciation of what that means should fill us all with hope of salvation. Leaving out the one tends toward libertinism; leaving out the other to paranoia. The true biblical perspective is to accept both and pursue sanctification without panic while resting assured in salvation without taking the Lord for granted.

The wise person will respond to the "problems" of sin, death and judgment by accepting Christ as their Substitute so as to be saved, then spend their lives trying to follow and serve the Master who bought them in a way He will find acceptable. That's human life in nutshell – from the divine perspective.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Bob,

I have found it hard to interpret some aspects of scripture without knowing the historical context in which the authors were writing, and the absence of this knowledge has led to erroneous assumptions among Protestants (not that Catholics have the truth figured out).

For instance, it is common among American evangelicals to assume that the house churches in Acts were Spartan in their manner of conduct, and mostly consisted of having a reading discussion with singing and hymns inserted for edification. However, "house churches" in first century were not at all like house churches today, wherein believers sit around the coffee table and talk about the Bible, because a "house" in first century Rome was designed to house all of a family's relatives, slaves, and servants. As you are undoubtedly familiar with, an ancient house church would have a room called atrium in Latin (I don't know the Greek word), which was designed to house about a hundred people. In addition, a historical raid of an ancient house church in The Shape of the Liturgy by G. Dix documented two golden chalices, six silver chalices, one silver bowl, seven silver lamps, two torches, seven bronze candlesticks, and eleven bronze lamps that hung with chains.

So contrary to the received wisdom among Evangelicals, which is that the house church started simple and became elaborate under Roman influence, it was actually the reverse: the house church started elaborately and slowly became simplified over history. With this in mind, how should we interpret what Paul considered to be a proper administration of the Lord's Supper in I Corinthians 11:27-30? I would imagine that it would look very similar to what the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox church practice.


Response #7:   

I would respectfully have to disagree. Houses then and now come and came in all sizes and shapes. Most of the believers of the early days were dirt poor and couldn't afford anything like these large estate houses on the lines of what we know about from, e.g., Pompey. Also, there is nothing in the NT which suggests any of the paraphernalia cooked up in later centuries. All that "stuff" is an attempt to mimic the priestly rites of ancient Israel which the R.C. and Orthodox churches have taken to extremes, a fact in and of itself which demonstrates the low level of spirituality and understanding of the truth into which the church-visible fell almost immediately after the passing of the apostles. That was prophesied, however, in the message to the church at Ephesus. Whatever truth there may be in documents such as the one you reference, comes from a much later period. If I'm not mistaken, the earliest dates to which the "Apostolic Tradition" might go (upon which Dix is basing this) is the third century. By that time there was all manner of non-biblical teaching and practice afoot in the church-visible (so it's hardly any sort of recommendation).

However, you certainly do have a point about modern attempts to reduplicate the situation described in the book of Acts. For one thing, Acts is a transitional book where practices vary greatly from the beginning to the end and it doesn't cover the entire apostolic period – neither of which facts are generally understood or appreciated even though both are absolutely critical for the book's proper interpretation. For another thing, it is quite different to have a time when there are apostles around with no completed canon to a time where there are no apostles but we do have the entire Bible.

Generally speaking, Christians get way too worked up about all these sorts of non-essentials anyway. It doesn't matter what sort of building or what sort of paraphernalia or what sort additional activities are present; what matters is whether or not the actual truth is being taught in a substantive way for the spiritual growth of the assembled which is the main purpose of the meeting (Heb.10:23-25). That is almost never the case today, whether one attends a highly ritualized service/church with all manner of paraphernalia, or meets in someone's kitchen, or anything in between. It is a mistake to believe that in this case variation of form has anything whatsoever to do with proper function.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is the very truth.

Bob L. 

Question #8:  

Hi Bob,

But what about the practice of the Lord's Supper? I do not think that this is a "non-essential," given that Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior commanded believers to "do this in memory of Me."


Response #8:    

Communion is not a non-essential, so even more reason to get it right and not wrong. From the very early days (after the apostles) various groups began endowing communion with powers it was never meant to have, and in the process lost the essential nature of it – to remember what our Lord did for us in dying for our sins. Doing that collectively is a blessing. But it can certainly be done alone as well. For example, the R.C. church sees communion, weirdly, as a literal "transubstantiation" of the elements, the partaking of which imparts special "grace" (which is a magic word in that and in many groups) – all the better to manipulate its followers by threatening to take away the right to this magic ceremony which only an R.C. priest has the magic powers to conduct. In Orthodox theology there is less of a transactional and more of a mystical transmogrification of the truth. They view anamnesis ("remembrance") as some sort of transcendental mystery. You don't understand that? That's OK; neither do they – which is the whole point: it's something important which somehow in unknown ways brings the believer closer to God. So once again THEY are essential. In fact, we all can and we all should remember what the Lord has done for us on a regular basis, and scripture gives us the way of doing so. If we do this with other believers, that can be a wonderful experience since we then see a joint solidarity of appreciating Jesus Christ, who He is and what He did for us in dying for our sins. However, to the extent that the group in question doesn't understand communion or warps the ceremony into something non-biblical, it is better to remember the Lord on one's own (in my humble opinion). No doubt the churches did things more or less the right way as long as the apostles were around, but 1st Corinthians 11:17ff. we see a church which had been directly instructed by Paul and his team and yet which had to be reprimanded nonetheless for wandering from the truth very shortly thereafter. No great surprise then, I suppose, if a century or two after the apostles passed even greater abuses became "standard practice".

Here are some links on communion:

The meaning of communion

The Communion Ceremony outside of the Local Church

The Meaning of the Communion Ceremony

Communion and the Blood of Christ

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – who is worthy of remembrance every day (at least).

Bob L.

Question #9: 


Are you familiar with the whole mid-acts dispensational debate? Have you written anything on it? I'd appreciate your help.

Response #9:   

It's always a bit dicey to weigh in on controversies with fancy non-biblical names. For one thing, not everyone will always be understanding precisely the same thing from the titles given, and many people erroneously try to deduce theology from theology based upon such esoteric definitions. So I will do my best here to give you my "nutshell" appreciation of this issue, but please do keep this principle in mind, namely, that it's what the Bible teaches that counts, and theologies along with English topical titles of the sort you ask about may have little to do with the truth scripture actual proclaims.

There are all manner of schools of interpretation of the Bible out there in the ether. This is just another variation on a theme. The biblical definition of a "dispensation" is quite different from what many people familiar with the Scofield Study Bible probably think of (please see the links below for the details). As is clear from the passages where Paul in particular uses the word oikonomia and its cognates (1Cor.9:17; Eph.1:10; 3:2; Col.1:25), the thing that is being "dispensed" is the truth of the Word of God. So "dispensation" in scripture first and foremost is referring to the truth and how it is delivered to the people of God. We do know that the way God communicates his truth to His people has been different in different periods – much different for Israel than was the case before Israel, and much different during our age of the Church than was the case for those who worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
Hebrews 1:1-2 KJV

As this passage makes clear, the revelation of Jesus Christ is the difference-maker, with the way in which the gospel was presented before the cross through shadows being much different from the way it is presented now that the Son has come in person and has actually suffered for our sins.

[Jesus] whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,
Romans 3:25 NKJV

The differences on the one hand between animal sacrifice to teach by shadow and analogy the suffering of the coming Messiah, and the actual cross of the Son of God are so great (not to mention all the other elements of the Law that would be inappropriate for the entire gentile world after the shadows of the Law had been fulfilled), that it is no wonder that there had to be a period of transition between the age of Israel and the age of the Church. This transition is plainly evident at many places in the book of Acts (and throughout the epistles); for example, we may recall that the elders in Jerusalem had to decide to remit the gentile believers from following the Law (and in so doing they not only freed them from circumcision but from almost everything else in the Pentateuch: Acts 15:23-31).

"For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell."
Acts 15:28-29 NASB

Rather than thinking of this issue through the lens of a Procrustean model of hyper-dispensationalism somewhat divorced from what the Bible actually teaches on the subject, it is better to focus on what had really happened to "shake things up": Christ had come, had died for all sin and been raised from the dead; and the Holy Spirit had been given to all who believed. Coming from a Jewish background, it took even the apostle Peter, who would one day have his own powerful ministry to the gentiles, some time to grasp the differences in approach the Spirit was demanding. In Acts chapter 10, Peter has to be shown a dramatic vision three times and told specifically by the Holy Spirit to go and minister to Cornelius and his gentile friends before being willing to do so – and Peter himself explains that without this graphic lesson and command he would never have done so:

"That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for."
Acts 10:29 NASB

And even so, Peter would on occasion lapse back into old habits (Gal.2:11-14). The book of Acts, therefore, is a historical book. It certainly is inspired, but it relates what actually happened (as do Kings and Chronicles, for example). We cannot, therefore, automatically understand that when one of the apostles says or does something that it is meant to be taken as a proscriptive rule for the Church today (anymore than we would want to repeat King David's sins just because they are "in the Bible"), not only because things were in the process of changing but also because when examining actual lives, no one is perfect – save our dear Lord Jesus. For example, Peter and the other ten were certainly wrong to cast lots to replace Judas (Acts 1:15-26) – Paul is clearly the twelfth apostle whose name will be on one of the gates of New Jerusalem, not Matthias – and it would also be wrong for a local church today to throw dice to appoint "apostles". That is what happened at the time; the fact that the Spirit recorded what happened does not mean He wants us to use it as a model. That test, namely, of whether something said or done in Acts is to be taken as proscriptive (a model for us) or merely descriptive (what happened is correctly described but not meant as a model for us) has to be at the heart of any correct interpretation of the book of Acts.

I'm not sure that those involved in the "debate" you reference are conversant with these truths (most likely they are not), but this appreciation of the truth is the biblical solution to all such (only) apparent "contradictions" in the book of Acts.

Here are a few links to where I have written some things on this subject:

The Time of transition vs. the status quo (in BB 6B)

Historical and Transitional Nature of Acts  

Peter's "Learning Curve" in the Time of Transition

More on the Transitions in Acts


Dispensing the Truth

The Scofield Reference Bible

Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church I

Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church II

Please do feel free to write back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #10:  

My Brother

Thank you. This IS helpful. One of the immediate issues we're facing at our church is the question of two different gospels as perceived in Gal. 2:7,8.

You're very welcome.

Response #10:    

On Galatians 2:7-8, I think that the NIV translation gives the correct interpretation of this issue, namely, that this is not a case of two different gospels – there is and always has been only "one way" of salvation, namely, putting one's faith in our dear Lord Jesus Christ (Jn.14:6) – but of two different groups who were to receive the same gospel:

On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.
Galatians 2:7 NIV

It has always been and still is appropriate to take the culture and sensibilities of the audience in question into account when communicating the gospel – as long as the truth itself is not compromised. For as to "two gospels", Paul says earlier in this same epistle:

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
Galatians 1:8-9 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus, through whom alone we have life eternal.

Bob L.

Question #11: 


As the subject says, this is my battle. I've been in a mid-acts church for about 4 years. I fell head over heals with this until basic Bible understanding started challenging me to think. I suspect that you and I are close in age. I gather this from what I glean from your bio. I'm 65. I was saved while in college at the University of Oregon. I spent seven years in the NFL. Since being saved I've had a love for apologetics. I'm always looking to go deeper in understanding on various issues, this being one. Any help is very appreciated. See attachment

Response #11:   

Thanks for the background, my friend. As mentioned in the previous email, there are a number of controversies out there in the ether of evangelicaldom these days regarding the nature of Acts. On the one hand that is probably a good thing since the book has been so misunderstood for so long. On the other hand, most of what is being written about the book is a product and a function of the general lack of interest in the learning and teaching the doctrines of scripture in a detailed and substantive way, which characteristic is a hallmark of this last Church era before the Tribulation, the lukewarm age of Laodicea (see the link).

I think I did address most of these issues in your attachment at least obliquely (you might have to consult some of the links for the details), but I will say a few more things here, inasmuch as some of what is contained here deserves individual comment. First, salvation has always been the same. Before the cross, believers put their faith in God that He would deliver them from death and damnation by providing a solution to their sins; that Substitute was foreshadowed by the graphic death of innocent animals in the temple rite (and even before that, dating back to Adam and Eve just out of the garden; see the link: "The Proto-Evangelium").

"I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God."
Job 19:25-26 NIV

Once Jesus came in the flesh and actually died for all sin, including those previously committed (Rom.3:25), the One who was actually the Substitute was revealed, and the way in which He provided redemption for us was also made clear: His spiritual death for us on the cross (see the link). So from that point forward, we now look back at our Lord's first advent and His actual death on our behalf, rather than looking forward in anticipation to what was foreshadowed before but only dimly understood, the constant before and after the cross being a faith/trust/hope in God for His solution to the sin/death/damnation that otherwise would be our collective lot as human beings through the provision of a Substitute to die in our place.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
1st Peter 1:10-12 NIV

What all this means is that the doubts the disciples sometimes had, their ignorance about important issues of doctrine (in spite of having the best Teacher who ever lived), and, in particular, their obvious difficulty in climbing the steep learning-curve of transition from the Law to the dispensation of grace in the Holy Spirit are all "their problems". Not saying we would have done better, but none of these things affects in any way what salvation is or how it is gained:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith [in the person and work of Jesus Christ]—and this [salvation] is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not [something that comes] by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV [expanded]

The book of Acts, as I often try to explain, is a historical book. It records under inspiration of the Holy Spirit what actually did happen. It is descriptive (of actual events recorded accurately) and therefore not to be taken as inherently prescriptive: i.e., the fact that a Christian does something or says something in the book or Acts does not mean that this is what we should say or do; he/she may be right, may be wrong, or may be acting in a way that we can understand but would not necessarily want to duplicate. When Peter has the incipient Church hold a lottery to replace Judas, it doesn't take a Th.D. in systematic theology to understand that this was not authorized by the Lord and was therefore, to put things charitably, not something we would want to duplicate. There are many such examples. Why? Because Acts is describing actual believers on the firing line, so to speak, attempting to come to terms with the radically new situation with which they had been presented in the death and resurrection of Christ, possessing now the Holy Spirit, and being prodded by Him to act according to grace rather than according to the Law now fulfilled (Rom.10:4).

The disciples/apostles in writing the gospels or epistles most certainly do give us prescriptive teaching which we must take as the absolute truth of God (which it is: 1Thes.2:13). But it is important to note that most of the epistles, in fact all much of the New Testament, was written after the bulk of the period covered by the book of Acts (see the link). The book of Acts shows the apostles to us while they are still thick in the midst of this transition from Israel to the age of grace, with all their warts, doing good things, questionable things and things which are a little bit of both; saying things that are doctrinally right on the mark, occasionally questionable, and sometimes appropriate only to their unique circumstances and not to be taken as a model for today (since we are not of Israel nor ministering to Israel for the most part). After all, Peter and company were ministering almost exclusively to Israel before Acts chapter ten (and mostly so thereafter until much later), and certainly none of the unbelieving Jewish population would easily be able to understand the doctrines of the Church at first presentation.

When you think about it, there is such a great difference between the Old Covenant and the New (albeit salvation, as mentioned, has always been the same; please see the link: BB 4B: Soteriology), that there really did have to be a time of transition; what Acts shows us is that the Lord in His perfect wisdom allowed that transition to take place first in the hearts of the apostles, and over time at that without it necessarily happening smoothly or without pain and controversy. They all took some time to completely "get it", and that is true of Paul as well as Peter and company. But in the process of coming to the point of fully understanding the new time of grace and all the unique truths revealed with it, they did accomplish the will of God in guiding the brand new Church into the equally new era of the Spirit.

The main problem with how these things are viewed today is that in ignorance of the facts above, most believers tend to assume something like "Peter was an apostle; apostles are perfect; therefore everything Peter says and does in the book of Acts is something I should emulate precisely and formulaically". But that is no more true than it would be in the case of Moses or David, who both made notable mistakes recorded in scripture, and who both were acting under the Law and not under grace – whereas the apostles had to make some colossal shifts: from Law, to Jesus' unique ministry to Israel (Matt.9:15), to grace, all in a few short years.

Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."
Luke 22:35-36 NIV

Truth is truth. How we get the truth today has changed dramatically from the way it was distributed, "dispensed", in Enoch's time or in David's time (Heb.1:1-3); and how we apply it is also sometimes subject to circumstances as our Lord's words above make clear (i.e., for the Church Age there is no more circumcision, feast days, temple rite, dietary code, etc.). Occasionally in Acts, different approaches are reflective of this issue. Paul rejected John Mark from being part of the second missionary journey; later on he becomes one of Paul's closest confidants (e.g., 2Tim.4:11). It rested on the shoulders of the eleven plus Paul and those closely associated with them to develop and establish the entire foundation of the new Church (Eph.2:20). It really should not be surprising that they had to learn by doing as they went along – just as we are doing today on the doorstep of the Tribulation (with most Christians still being ignorant about the truth of most of its major doctrines). In fact, the only other way for all this to have happened, that is, to develop churches which were not based upon Jewish traditions, rites and rituals, but on the newly formed and forming canon under the guidance and gifting of the Holy Spirit, would have been for God to have reached down, touched them, and magically turned them into absolutely perfect persons whose every word was infallible and every deed a perfect reflection of the will of God. That did not happen.

The apostles were some of the most exceptional human beings who ever lived, but as your attachments – and the entire New Testament – show quite clearly, they were still human. They had to undergo a transition in the entire way they thought about these things through Judaism. They did so and in a way that puts any of the rest of us to shame, if we would be honest with ourselves about how we would have performed, and for this they will receive the greatest of heavenly rewards. But they did have climb a steep learning-curve, and it was neither immediate nor entirely without bumps and lumps. Failing to realize this critical point and trying to make the book of Acts something it is not inevitably leads to gross errors of doctrine and practice.

Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Bob,

"But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul." (Acts 23:16).

Are there any other verses that speak of the relationship between Paul and his family?

In the Logos made flesh,

Response #12: 

In the same chapter, Acts 23:6, Paul states that he is "the son of a Pharisee"; and so scholars have naturally speculated that the presence of his sister's boy (or perhaps her whole family) in Jerusalem had something to do with religious training as being a "family business" (just as Paul had "sat at the feet of Gamaliel" in Jerusalem in his youth: Acts 22:3). The only other possible reference I know of to Paul's family is this one (the reference by Paul to "his mother and mine" in speaking of Rufus at Rom.16:13 is generally taken as metaphorical, correctly in my view; cf. Jn.19:27):

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen [NIV: "relatives"] (Gr: syngeneis), and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
Romans 16:7 KJV

The word syngeneis may just mean "fellow countrymen" here (as it does elsewhere in the book: Rom.9:3), that is to say, that these individual were Jewish. However, since Prisca and Aquilla of v.3 were not mentioned in this way some have argued for Andronicus and Junia or Junias (see the links) to have been actual kin. Since Paul is not overly technical in categorizing groups in these salutations (a good example is Col.4:14 where Luke is sometimes incorrectly thought not to be a Jew based on v.11 of that chapter), I think "fellow countrymen" more likely.

There is no secondary information about Paul's life; all we know of him comes from scripture (Acts and the epistles). Later on, things, as in "The Acts of Paul", are made up out whole cloth. So we have to read between the lines of scripture as best we can to get our picture of him. That has been done and done and overdone in the scholarship. Here's some bibliography:

The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, 2v. (1864), by W. J. Conybeare and J. S. Howson
[masterful assemblage of secondary materials]

The life of St. Paul (1912), by James Stalker
[highly speculative reconstruction of Paul's life]

The Life And Work Of St. Paul, 2v. (1880), by F.W. Farrar
[less detailed than Conybeare]

A Harmony of the Life of St. Paul (1951), by F.J. Goodwin
[a truly excellent tool]

What all of the first three of these books (and many similar ones) have in common is a historical approach rather than what I would call a "Christian" one; and that is more so the case when they pass beyond "the life" and onto treating the epistles of Paul and their contents, through their lack of understanding of what it means for a person to be born again, and what it means for scriptures to be inspired, and what it means to realize that God is in control of all things. Secular viewpoint is evident throughout these works and their ilk, valuable as they might be (Goodwin being a notable exception).

This is a trend which has not abated in modern scholarship. The IDB article states that "most scholars agree that the man who wrote the epistles and the man who wrote Acts never met" (!); that is typical of the sort of thing one can expect from such "histories". So there is plenty out there in terms of speculation, and also of background to, e.g., the Roman empire, the cities of Tarsus and Jerusalem at that time, the traditions about what Judaism was like when Paul was young and growing up, etc. Interesting as all these things may be, however, they shed very little actual light on either the course of Paul's life or, much more importantly, the truth he was given to write by the Spirit in his wonderful epistles. In fact, it is much more common for people who go off the deep end with these sorts of forays into historical background to want to reinterpret obvious meanings on the basis of "Paul understood from the Jewish perspective" (the same sort of thing happens whenever scholars search for "the historical Jesus" as well).

So read, enjoy, but don't let these materials influence how you think about actual scripture.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

This is a trend which has not abated in modern scholarship. The IDB article states that "most scholars agree that the man who wrote the epistles and the man who wrote Acts never met" (!)

The problem with this is that the author of Acts refers to Paul and himself with the first person pronoun "we." Unless there is evidence that these passages were tampered with, then we are every bit justified in believing that the author of Acts was indeed accompanying Paul during his missionary journeys. They are dishonestly reading the text. This is like how authors, upon the discoveries of Qumran, redacted every text they discovered there at an earlier date, except for Daniel.

However, I once heard someone say that Koine Greek has a special "seafaring language" that uses the the pronoun "we" whenever a character is on the sea, which is why Luke uses "we" when he was with Paul. This has to be the most inane theory I have ever heard to explain away the evidence.

Response #13:    

Very good points.

I do think it's true that the consideration "scholarly arguments" receive when directed against the Bible and its truths is always greater than anything professional Classicists or ancient historians would ever be willing to put up with in the case of secular texts.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Hi Bob,

Why does Paul say that "three times I've been shipwrecked" in II Corinthians 11:25? In the Book of Acts, it appears that there was only one shipwreck in his missionary journeys.


Response #14:     

This is a good demonstration of the fact that the book of Acts doesn't contain the entire historical record any more than the gospels do. It's not uncommon in ancient history where there is a dearth of sources to find a snippet here or there which is otherwise not mentioned. It doesn't mean it's not true just because it may not be contained in whatever major work most comprehensively covers the period, e.g., Acts in the case of the time of the apostles, or Thucydides in the case of 5th cent. B.C. Greek history – that is a dangerous fallacy. In the verse you cite, Paul goes on to say "I spent a night and a day in the open sea" (NIV). That clearly is different from the famous wreck off the coast of Malta. And so it's clearly another incident not recorded in Acts (possibly occurring before Luke began accompanying Paul).

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hi Dr,

Can you recommend a good book on the apostle Paul? I want to supplement it along with Bible study so I can better understand his work through the power of the Spirit.

I appreciate it sir. In Christ our Lord

Response #15:   

Best book I can recommend on Paul: the Holy Scriptures.

There are a few things out there written about him which can be of some help, but the source of everything these books say about him which is both 1) correct, and 2) actually knowable . . . is the Bible. When other things are put in, even if the speculation is erudite and comes from a conservative source, it's still just that; and very often people who write such books have a definite theological lens which is coloring their treatment; that is bound to provide a view fraught with parallax regarding what Paul means in his epistles – which is surely the most important thing. Here are a couple which have been useful to one degree or another to me:

St. Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen, William M. Ramsey

Epochs in the Life of Paul, A.T. Robertson

A Harmony Of The Life Of St. Paul, by Frank J. Goodwin

All of these books are older and are in the public domain, so I have linked to where the can be found at Internet Archive (they are probably available online elsewhere as well). Since they were all pretty popular in their time (when people still cared about such things), it's pretty easy to find used copies (I would try ABE books), and also reprints (at Amazon and elsewhere – but the original editions are better, so a good used copy would be superior and probably significantly cheaper).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Why do scholars who search for a "kerygma" to the gospels always end up discovering a Jesus that looks like a white 20th century upper middle class academic? Has there ever been a search for the historical Jesus that ends up with the scholars concluding that the historical Jesus was more conservative, or more traditional, or more oriental in values?

Response #16:    

Best guess: it has to do with getting tenure and publishing (and in some cases selling books).

To the point, the question itself contains an a priore judgment: why do we have to search for a historical Jesus unless the history given by the gospels is not genuine? When a person starts with the proposition that the truth is not true, how can what one "discovers" not be a lie? What the Lord says in the gospels is the kerygma, "the thing proclaimed", namely, the truth of the Word of God. Looking for a "core" is only a device to hollow out the true core and replace it with some lie – just as the devil is always wont to do.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hi Bob,

"King Herod heard of it; for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him."

This man seems to be appealing to Jesus' miracles as evidence that Jesus was John revived. Does this mean that people saw John do miracles which were unrecorded in the Gospels?


Response #17:   

Since Herod connects them with John's putative (not actual) reappearance, I think rather that Herod heard about Jesus' miracles, and explained to himself their occurrence coming about as a result of a rising from the dead on John's part – i.e., Herod is being superstitious as unbelievers are often wont to be.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Hi Bob,

Various books of the Bible call James "the Lord's brother," but Luke 6:15-16 says that he is the son of Alphaeus. How do you interpret this?


Response #18:    

James son of Alphaeus was one of the twelve; James "the Lord's brother" (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; Gal.1:19; Jude 1:1 and the epistle "James") is a different person.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Was the author of James an apostle? Perhaps you should respond with a clarification on the relationship between James the Less, James the Greater, James the son of Alphaeus, and James "The Lord's Brother"

Response #19:   

No, the author of the epistle of James was our Lord's brother, but His brothers apparently were not believers until after the resurrection (Jn.7:5). There were two disciples/apostles by that name, John's brother and also James "the son of Alphaeus", so called in scripture, no doubt, to avoid confusion as this was a very common name at the time: the name is derived from "Jacob" in Hebrew, being the Greek equivalent.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

If James the Lord's Brother was not an apostle, how do you explain this? "I saw none of the other apostles--only James, the Lord's brother." (Galatians 1:19)

Then Jude Thaddeus was not the author of the Epistle of Jude. I have a hard time accepting that Jude and James were written unsupervised without apostolic authority. I feel like a failure.

Response #20:    

Galatians 1:19 makes it clear that this James who also wrote the epistle is Jesus' brother and not John's brother (who had already been killed: Acts 12:2), or James Alphaeus (certainly because of Jn.7:5).

The question here has to do with the word "apostle". There are two types, but only twelve with a "capital 'A'", so to speak. There are only twelve "Apostles of the Lamb" (e.g., Rev.21:14), but many more "apostles" who had the gift and/or office. The word apostle itself means "one sent out" or better in the NT context "one commissioned". There are different types of commissions. The office of missionary (and gifts given pertaining thereto) is the modern day equivalent (please see the link: "other apostles").

As far as the books of James and Jude are concerned, inasmuch as these were both brothers of our Lord, that would certainly seem to cover things in terms of authority: if Mark could write his gospel on the basis of Peter's authority and if Luke could write his gospel and the book of Acts based upon Paul's apostolic authority, surely James and Jude could write based on the authority of our Lord who was the ultimate "Apostle" sent to save us (Heb.3:1); and we know He appeared to James after the resurrection (1Cor.15:7; not one of the apostles: cf. 1Cor.15:5 and the second half of 1Cor.15:7). Also, even though Peter was not asserting his authority over James (as far as we can tell from Acts at any rate), he had been given the commission of "the gospel to the circumcised" (Gal.2:7), and was the spiritual "head" of the church in Jerusalem at that time (Acts 1:15; 2:14; etc. – even if he doesn't always act the part later on); so it is not as if there were not apostolic connection.

Finally, just because one doesn't have the answer or see the solution to a biblical problem immediately doesn't indicate any sort of failure. We all have to learn one step at a time. From my point of view, your knowledge about all things biblical is prodigious, and well ahead of where I was at your age. I like to think that the Lord has made a certain amount of use of me even so, and I know for sure that He has a plan for you. Only take care to add faith to knowledge at all times: only what is true AND believed deep in the heart can be useful to the Spirit in guiding our steps and empowering our walk with our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

When you have the time, I would like your thoughts on the "Didache" - authenticity, time period, possible authorship, etc.

I realize you are extremely busy, but I do value your opinion and whenever possible, your thoughts would be appreciated.

Yours in Christ,

Response #21:   

Good to hear from you again.

As to your questions on the Didache, literally, "[the] teaching", this work belongs to a group of early works known collectively as the "apostolic fathers". All one has to do is to read these works to see the truth of our Lord's words in Revelation about the era of Ephesus (see the link), which period consisted of the first generations after the passing of the apostles: "But I have against you [the fact] that you have abandoned [that] love you had at first" (Rev.2:4); our Lord is speaking about the trend in this period toward abandoning attention to scripture in favor of ritual and tradition, the chief characteristic of that age. It's not so surprising, really, when one considers the words of Moses: "If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die!" (Deut.31:27b NIV). I'm sure that the Corinthians, for example, being border-line rebellious while Paul was around (cf. "and if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear"; 1Cor.16:10 NKJV), did not improve once that great apostle had left the scene. We see the same sort of thing in the history of all denominations as well, where the founders are zealous for the Lord and His truth, but those who follow are zealous only for the forms they have received in a traditionalist way rather than for the truth that produced them in the first place.

As to "authenticity", the work is not attributed, so there is no problem there; whoever wrote it, even if it does date to the first or second century (or somewhat later), we can be sure that it was not written by one of the writers of scripture or anyone closely associated with them or mentioned in the Bible. Whether it really is an early document is also open to question. There are early references to a Didache of the apostles, but whether or not this work is that work or merely a pseudepigraphical work making "hay" off of the known title of a lost work (in the same way that the so-called "Book of Enoch" we have has nothing to do with the one mentioned by Jude – except insofar as it is trafficking on the name) is difficult to say. It is very odd that there are no other fragments of this work beyond the single Greek ms. and a lone Latin ms. both discovered in the 19th century. So it may be authentic; one would have to conduct a detailed study of the references and supposed paraphrases of it in the early church fathers before rendering even a tentative judgment – and as mentioned in the Jude/Enoch parallel, that would not rule out someone in the 19th cent. constructing a book that took this slim evidence into account (there are modern examples of this after all, as in so-called "book of Jasher"). N.B: there are claims of some small P.Oxy. papyri fragments and also of Coptic translations; having worked with papyri quite a bit, however, I would want to reserve judgment to see whether or not there really is a "smoking gun" that would support the unity of ancient mentions/evidence with the ms. found much later.

In any case, none of this makes much difference from the point of view of believers in Christ – unless it helps to disabuse them of the idea that there is anything in the Didache (or other such works, apocryphal or otherwise) which might be of any spiritual benefit. Specialists can consult these things without spiritual damage; most believers ought to give these materials a wide berth. Jerome was famously quoted as saying that looking for anything of value in the Apocrypha was like looking for nuggets of gold in the mud – i.e., the last place gold will be fhe sam style="margin-left: 60px; margin-right: 60px; font-size: 14pt; font-family: Georgia e goes for all such pseudepigraphical works). The Didache is at odds with scripture (rightly understood) on every point with which it deals (notably water-baptism and communion), so that paying attention to it only reinforces incorrect, Roman Catholic views. Personally, I don't even find any particular value to it from a linguistic point of view (inasmuch as the Greek is obviously somewhat later than the NT, and derivative of it where there are similarities so as not to be illuminating on points of grammar or vocabulary).

Here are a few links on related matters:

The so-called "Q" Hypothesis of the composition of the gospels.

Issues of Canonicity: The Apocrypha, the Book of Enoch, and Divine Inspiration.

The Gospel of Judas, and Issues of Canonicity

The Gospel of Thomas

The Author of Hebrews

The Canonicity of the book of Hebrews

The so-called "Documentary Hypothesis"

The Relationship between the Books of Kings and Chronicles

More on the Documentary Hypothesis

The Canon (from "Read Your Bible")

Jesus' use of "I AM" from Exodus 3:14 in John 8:58 (for LXX quotes)

The Book of Enoch is a Forgery

The Canon and the Roman Catholic Tradition

Literacy and the Canon

Two Timothys two Pauls?

The "value" of the Apocrypha

Hope this is some help to you, my friend!

In Jesus Christ or dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hi Bob,

Miracles in the Bible can be either viewed as the great absurdity which completely discredits the Christian religion, or as the great vindication which proves Christianity to be truly of God. It's easy to develop an Aristotelian view of God as the unmoved mover who answers prayers and acts as the source of providence for the universe, but it's quite another thing to say that God directly acts and intercedes for his creation in the form of Jesus Christ.

Now, there is nothing that tells us that it must be viewed as the great absurdity or as the great vindication. It is entirely a matter of choice. However, one of the strongest arguments for the existence of a God who directly acts and intercedes with his creation is this following excerpt from a pagan historian:

"In the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad, there was a great eclipse of the Sun, greater than had ever been known before, for at the sixth hour the day was changed into night, and the stars were seen in the heavens. An earthquake occurred in Bythinia and overthrew a great part of the city of Nic a."

It's one thing to suggest that the author Luke made up the darkness on Crucifixion day. But is it really possible to suggest that another author with no connection to Luke made up the same event during the same time? (And no, it's impossible for it to be a solar eclipse because we can calculate where the earth and moon were on 33 AD).

However, the most deadly attack against the Christian church has to be Arianism, because it's a very difficult heresy to refute once it takes hold in an adherent's mind. I believe there is more hope for the agnostic who is simply uncertain about all things than there is for the Arian who has already made up his own truth.

(Fun fact about history: no small "thanks" to Emperor Constantine, Christianity was on the verge of being completely replaced by Arianism. It was actually the pagan emperor Julian the Apostate whose antagonistic attitude toward Christianity finally caused the false sect to wither. God really does work all things out for the good of those who love him)


Response #22: 

Good stuff as always.

The quote is attributed to Phlegon by Eusebius (who preserves it). Apparently, Tertullian claimed that this supernatural and otherwise unexplained darkness and earthquake were recorded in the Roman archives. The only caveat here is that these are Christian sources (at least in the transmission), and for that reason likely to be criticized by non-believing correspondents.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #23:  

If a non-believing correspondent said that to me, I would tell him that he's creating a conspiracy theory. Eusebius and all of his contemporaries conspired, along with the Jews of the first century, along with every missionary during the past 2000 years. They're all in on a conspiracy.

Response #23:    

We believe the Bible, regardless of external support; unbelievers doubt the Bible, regardless of external support. It's a great quote (thanks); just trying to put this into perspective from a tactical point of view in terms of apologetics. I'm very happy to have this additional support for the 33 A.D. date. If one is engaging in apologetics, however, being forewarned about possible quibbles is beneficial. I don't need Phlegon to believe the Bible; I can understand, however, why someone might doubt Phlegon.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:  


Dr. Luginbill : You probably have read Henry Grattan Guinness' at Archive.com, but I thought you would enjoy one of his books concerning the creation. My wife and I hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas this year!

In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Response #24:     

Thanks for the link!

Guinness was an interesting bloke. I certainly can't claim to have any scientific credentials myself (whereas he was admitted as a peer to the Royal Academy of Science). Still, I would quibble with the approach of using extra biblical information as the primary lens for biblical interpretation. To be truly helpful, any chronology of prophecy is going to have to arise from scripture alone.

Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas as well!

Yours in our dear Savior Jesus Christ who truly is the Gift of God to the entire world.

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Hi Bob,

My heart is filled with seething rage at this man:


I responded to his magnum opus with the following comment: "I can't wait to read Rabbi Sean Carroll's latest disquisitions. Surely it will be filled with the same depth of argument as a Talmudic discourse by Maimonides." Apparently it hit a little too close to home and he deleted it.

This man is so insufferably smug. He's a global warmist too, so I pray that he may live to see all of his precious ideas utterly discredited and be reduced to weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Response #25:   

The link references some book by somebody I never heard of. Guess I won't buy it.

On your reaction, it is always good to be zealous for the Lord, however, it is bad for the blood pressure (not to mention the spirituality) to get too exercised about the words of fools.

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.
Proverbs 26:4 NIV

Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.
Proverbs 26:4 NIV

The first verse is obvious: we should take care not to let ourselves get down on the same level as fools in our discourse, especially out of emotional upset. The second verse may sound like a reversal, but what it actually means is that we ought not to throw our pearls before swine, but should only interact with fools on their own superficial level, taking care not to be emotionally concerned about their idiocy. The Lord will open up a way of witness in those cases where the fool in question is in any way open to a "word well-spoken", and if we are in the Spirit we will be able to give that good word through the Spirit's ministry.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #26:  

I sent him the following email:

I watched your argument with William Lane Craig, and the gist of your argument is that we can have models that explain the beginning of the universe, and none of these models include God, therefore God is a superfluous idea.

Why stop there? We have models of the universe that explain everything in terms of abstract mathematical structure, and none of these models include the existence of concrete objects, therefore the existence of concrete objects is superfluous. Just as "the universe is all that there is," so are abstract mathematical objects "all that there is." While believing in the existence of concrete objects may have been hot stuff 2,500 years ago when Aristotle posited them, it just isn't up to snuff to modern models of physics.

Response #26:    

Have you ever had a look at Guinness?



I'm not conversant with math or astronomy to the point of being able to tell whether or not a scientific type would find these researches convincing, but Guinness was admitted to the Royal Academy of Science. Might be grist for your apologetic mill.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #27: 

I am skimming over the Table of Contents, and the bit about centralization in nature looks very interesting (and neo-aristotelian in character). Scientists prefer to develop theory regarding the structure of the universe from first principles, but tend to shy away from analogy (unless they're biologists), so they're not likely to appreciate the train of thought involved here. This is also why mathematics dominates a large fraction of the scientific enterprise (again, unless they're biologists!)

But I would have to sit down and read it for myself.

Response #27:   

Thanks for having a look. I don't see much point in the "discoveries" Guinness made from the standpoint of interpreting the Bible; rather, any utility today strikes me as in the apologetic realm. So it's good to know that you don't feel it would be very valuable in that regard.

Question #28:  

Hi Bob,

A Roman coin minted under the Emperor Vespasian (ca. 70 AD) depicts Rome as a woman sitting on seven hills. Do you think there is a possibility that John was referring to this?


Response #28:    

John was with the Lord by the time Vespasian became emperor.

Revelation speaks of mountains, not hills – although the incorrect association of the seven mountains with the city of Rome (usually in anti-papal writings) has a long and storied history. The beast is new Rome and/or her ruler, but the seven hills/mountains are the heads of the provinces of that revived empire. See the link: "Horns and Heads"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #29: 

Hi Bob,

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

"That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn." - Hillel

Why do the teachings of Jesus Christ and Hillel seem to be so in concord?


Response #29:   

1) Because certain things are actually in the Law in the first place (Lev.19:18).

2) Because rabbinic literature after the fact sought to coopt and thereby to a certain extent to discredit Christian teaching as unoriginal (i.e., not "Hillel" himself but some later scribe writing in his name).

In Jesus who is the truth,

Bob L.

Question #30:  

When explaining the meaning of the church, where Thiessen (Lectures in Systematic Theology) takes a position different to yours; he uses Matthew 16:18 as one of his key arguments. Could you comment on the following:

There is some confusion at this point. Those who hold that the church is but the spiritual Israel of the New Testament, in other words, a continuation of Old Testament Israel, necessarily believe that the church was begun in Old Testament times. Others hold that it began with the preaching of Christ. But these positions are shown to be unscriptural on the basis of Christ's own statement. Christ declared at Ceasarea Philippi that the church was still future, for He said, "Upon this rock I will build My church" (Matt. 16:18).

Response #30:    

Thiessen's presentation of the issue as if these are the only two ways to understand what the Bible has to say about the Bride of Christ (or that these were the only issues) is, unfortunately, typical. What we can say is that at the resurrection all believers from Adam and Eve to the last person saved during the Tribulation will rise to be with Christ when He returns – and that is "the Bride of Christ". This is what Thiessen and all evangelicals believe (they just are off by seven years as to when that will happen). Does he (do they) believe that the "Church" will standing over here while "Israel" will standing over there, one of the right and one on the left? And what about believers before Abraham? And what about Jewish believers after Pentecost? The differences between us are "here and now" in this world, not eternal. We are all part of Christ. We who are saved after Pentecost have these blessings now positionally, and many other blessings that the Old Testament saints did not have. Furthermore, we have the New Testament and the entire canon of scriptures. The differences between Israel and the "Church" of the Church Age – and also between Israel and the believers before Israel – and also between Israel before and after the giving of the Law – have to do primarily with the way in which God's truth was and is disseminated, and with our concomitant responsibilities as believers as a result. This is what "dispensations" is all about (the true biblical doctrine as opposed to the way this concept is widely misunderstood in evangelicaldom; see the link). But as to the verse "on this Rock I will build", nothing about this verb or this statement suggests that there was no Church whatsoever when our Lord says this. There was already a foundation:

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV

A "church" is an ekklesia, an "assembly". I think a big part of T's problem (and that of his ilk) is that they have infused the word "church" with mystical significance not present in scripture through centuries of incestuous theology built on theology. Having a heart open to the actual Bible is key to any depth in understanding and teaching of the Word. How could they not remember these verses quoted directly above? How could they leave Israel and those before Israel out of the resurrection (for all intents and purposes)? Only by divorcing themselves from scripture to the point where the Bible is used to support theology rather than the other way around.

Question #31: 

Hello Brother and Doc,

Acts 2:38 I know for some is a controversial verse. Here is what is says in German:

Petrus sprach zu ihnen: Tut Busse, und jeder euch lasse sich taufen aud den Namen Jesu Christi zur Vergebung eurer Sunden, so wedet ihr empfangen die Gabe des helligen Geistes.

I don't know if you are familiar with the German language, so here is the translation:

Peter said to them: Repent, and each will leave you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye receive the gift of the Spirit.

My wife says and I agree that Water Baptism, if that is what this verse means, but I think in means what it says "In the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, that is be immersed in Jesus Christ in the name (authority) of" does not provide for remission of sins, but being immersed into the Kingdom of God does, in other words when one becomes a believer he is then immersed into the name (authority and Kingdom of God.

Thank You so much for your time. Any comments you can supply would be greatly appreciated.

Response #31:   

Word order and punctuation are different issues in English and German than in Greek (where there is no ancient punctuation to speak of, and where word order is much more flexible because of the nature of the language not being SVO as ours are).

The key to understanding this verse is that "for the forgiveness of your sins" ought to be linked in any proper translation not to "baptism" but to "repent": it is the change of mind toward God and specifically in accepting Jesus Christ that leads to forgiveness of sins, not water-baptism. Here is a parallel passage where water-baptism is not even mentioned but which makes the issue clear since the terminology used is similar:

"Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."
Acts 5:31 NKJV

That was Peter speaking as well, and Peter elsewhere in scripture always connects the idea of repentance to that of forgiveness, not water-baptism:

"Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.
Acts 8:22 NKJV

Elsewhere in the book of Acts it is also made clear that water-baptism's only significance is in the fact that it may represent this internal change of believing in Christ (whereas water-baptism is an external ritual which can be accomplished without any genuine faith):

Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus."
Acts 19:4 NKJV (cf. Acts 13:24)

And that is why Peter can connect repentance and forgiveness without water but never has water without these two: it is repentance which leads to forgiveness irrespective of the (now) unnecessary use of water:

"Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."
Acts 3:19 NKJV (cf. Acts 11:18)

So Luther, along with most translators, has left out a critical comma in their translation of Acts 2:38. I.e., the text would be OK if he had punctuated: Christi, zur; that would have made it clear that "forgiveness" is to be taken with "repent" and not with "be baptized". For a detailed treatment of Acts 2:38 and what this sentence really means and why it does mean what it means in the Greek – as opposed to what baptismal regenerationists wish to have it mean – please see the following links:

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV

Baptism: Water and Spirit V

Baptism: Water and Spirit VI

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #32:

Hi--Are you familiar with Tertullian's writings? I have read some of his Against Praxeus and find it interesting and that he had a brilliant mind and good way of explaining things...but I was wondering if what this Mormon said about what he wrote and the meaning of certain words is true:


The Christian Godhead versus Mormon Godhead:

The Mormon Godhead consists of three gods. 1+1+1-3 "I have always declared God to be a distinct personage.

I was wondering about "being" but in Greek, I think the word can mean nature or essence, but not sure about in the Latin. I did reread some of the stuff from Tertullian that I have, and he was a tad inconsistent in the way he used "being" and "person" in regards to God, but overall, he most definitely believed God to be three distinct Persons in One Godhead.

Thanks. Have a nice weekend.

Response #32: 

Happy to be of what help I can be here. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I'm not an authority on the church fathers and never had any desire to be. In my opinion, just as John makes clear in his prophecy of the seven churches, the early post-apostolic church "abandoned" its "first love" (attention to the Word of God) very early on, and the history of the true Church since has been in large part the recovery of the truth as taught by the Bible, not by the institutional church and its famous personalities (I'm sure any Lutheran can appreciate the point since that is Luther's contribution in a nutshell). So what Tertullian did or didn't write in Latin, what he did or didn't mean, how well his writings have been translated, how his writings have or have not been interpreted, and how they might relate to man-made creeds which are also not scripture, well, all that is historically interesting to some folks, I expect, but none of it is really here nor there when it comes to the truth of the Bible.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I believe I'm not mistaken when I say that T' – who wrote in Latin, not Greek – spoke of one "essence" (Latin substantia) and three "persons" (Latin personae). As such, this part of his writing would be completely in line with the traditional (and in my view orthodox) understanding of the Trinity. So that is fine as far as it goes. But no theologian writing over a century and a half after the canon was closed can invent anything; nor did he discover anything Paul and the other apostles didn't know and understand (or for that matter what anyone with a Bible and sufficient interest could also find with a little effort today). Mormons and other unbelievers who for whatever reason have to give lip-service to the Bible are always hard at work blocking, refuting, and wiping out of their consciousnesses any truth they bump into in scripture which challenges their teachings of death – and also trying to undermine the same in the eyes of believers – apparently on assumption that if enough people believe the lie, then the lie will become the truth (typical human viewpoint).

If it were me, I would stand my ground on the scriptures. It seems to me that once we start defending creeds and church fathers (all of which are "in the woods" to some degree), we're conceding that Christianity and its doctrines "evolved" (which is of course falderal), and have thus already lost the argument.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior – He who is the very Truth.

Bob L.

Question #33:  

Hi Bob,

Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father alone, or from the Father and the Son?


Response #33:    

I've written about this briefly at a number of places at Ichthys. Here is one of them (in BB 5):

Rather than being grounds for confusion (or dissension as in the "Great Schism" between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches occasioned by the filioque clause regarding this matter), what we have is a very common situation in scripture where, when it is a question of joint action, the Bible often emphasizes the role of One member of the Trinity or another, depending upon the precise circumstances. The important point is that the gift of the Spirit is a joint action of the entire Trinity – who are always "one" in an ineffably perfect and complete way in essence, and in all they have ever planned, said or done.

And here is another where I use it as an analogy:

So the Son does reveal the Father and the Father does reveal the Son. The two are not mutually exclusive. As with the filioque clause controversy, there really is no controversy at all: the Son sends the Spirit and the Father sends the Spirit. The Trinity are separate persons but share the same divine essence and so are "one" in a way human beings cannot fathom. In terms of this point, there never has been a shadow of a disagreement or moment of discovery between the three. So the fact that the Son's actions make clear who the Father is and the Father is the One who reveals the Son to the world is only natural – as is also the Spirit's role in revealing the truth about Him who is the truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is the Word of God (Jn.1:31-33).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L

Question #34:  

Hi Bob,

God the Father did not redeem the world, neither did the Holy Spirit, but God the Son did redeem the world. This is a big difference. If I said that God the Father and God the Son redeemed the world, I am saying something totally different from what the Bible teaches.

Similarly, I believe that God the Father sent the Holy Spirit, not God the Son. This is another one of Augustine's errors that permediates all of western Christiandom, that is, if you can even find an Evangelical that knows what the Filioque controversy even is!

(That's pretty much only you.)


Response #34:     

On the other hand, the infinite Trinity, while three unique persons, is still "one" in ways that human beings (who are many and finite) cannot really understand. There has never been and never could be a difference of opinion between them, nor could or would anything be done independent of the Godhead taken together. The sending of the Holy Spirit is a good example. Eastern position: only the Father (Jn.14:26); RC position: only the Son (Jn.15:26; 16:7). True position: both are correct . . . in terms of strict doctrine; but the fact that they don't realize that both things are correct shows that they don't understand who God is or much about the Plan of God or how to interpret the Bible and its truths.

When you're spiritually dead, you tend to argue vociferously about things you don't really understand and over perceived differences with the positions of other people who likewise do not have a clue – on the grounds that this somehow validates your spirituality (when really it only proves the lack of it).

Hope you are doing well, my friend! I pray for you and your family daily.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #35: 

Hi Bob,

I love Charles Hodge. I just started reading his book What Is Darwinism and I came across this absolutely devastating quotation.

Bόchner, Moleschott, and Vogt hold that matter is eternal and indestructible; that matter and force are inseparable: the one cannot exist without the other. What, it is asked, is motion without something moving? What is electricity without an electrified body? What is attraction without molecules attracting each other? What is contractibility without muscular fiber, or secretion without a secreting gland? one combination of molecules exhibits the phenomena of life, another combination exhibits the phemonema of mind. All this was taught by the old heathen philosopher [i.e. Epicurus] more than two thousand years ago. That this system denies the existence of God, of mind as a thinking substance distinct from matter, and of the possibility of the conscious existence of man after death, are not inferences drawn by opponents but conclusions openly avowed by its advocates.

How unfortunate it is that unbelievers have no shame. My prayer is that the spark of shame may be lit while it still can be found.


Response #35:   


Question #36:  

On page 26 of his History of the Christian Church, Willston Walker draws a sharp distinction between Jerusalem Christian Community and Diaspora and writes:

Whether or not he was present, as Acts maintains he was, at the stoning of Stephen in Jerusalem, it was Stephen the Hellenist, who spoke against the Law and the Temple, who represented the strain in early Christianity that would have given offense to Paul, "so extremely" zealous was he for the traditions of Judaism. It is therefore no matter for surprise that we hear nothing of any actions of his against the Palestinian Christian community in Jerusalem, yet we find him traveling to Damascus, a Diaspora city, to bring discipline to bear against Christians there (who must, incidentally, have had some connection with the synagogue).

This sounds rather strange. Not only does Walker express on occasions a low view of inspiration (which he does in other places as well), but also seems to be saying that Paul only opposed those who abandoned the law rather than all Christians. What is your take on this issue? It is true that the Jewish Christians at that time were still practicing the law, so it seems that he may have a point; I haven't thought about it from this perspective.

Response #36:    

Walker seems to indicate that there were "two Stephens"; that is obviously wrong. He is also dead wrong when he says "we hear nothing of any actions of his (Paul) against the Palestinian Christian community in Jerusalem" (e.g., Acts 8:3; 9:1).

Question #37: 

Also, as I'm going through Walker's book, I frequently recognise that he seems to have quite a low view of inspiration. For example he writes:

"All of these writings (referring to New Testament texts) respond to needs in the life of the churches, and all alike testify to an increasing sense of the necessity for a settled, authoritative "apostolic" tradition to provide a basis for the churches' self-understanding."

As if the authors wrote what they did seeing a need to address certain doctrinal issues or needs of the church rather than guided by the Holy Spirit, who led them to produce just what was required. This is only one instance of such reasoning in the book and may not be the clearest, but many examples could be provided. Perhaps you have come across similar conclusions there?

Response #37:   

As to Walker, if memory serves I mentioned the disturbingly low view of inspiration occasionally put forward in the text; that is an occupational hazard with most academic treatments of this kind (at least the published ones). I'm confident that you can easily sift the wheat from the chaff here. Besides, becoming aware of what academic Christianity looks like is a necessary thing for a prospective pastor/teacher in my view, and this is mild stuff compared with the form criticism, source criticism and redaction criticism which haunt the halls of most seminaries these days.

Question #38:  

In chapter 4 of the History of the Christian Church, Walker develops a view that the early persecution came not so much as a result of faith in Jesus Christ, but through the abandonment of the Law, which is why the persecution referred to in Acts 8:1 didn't affect the apostles. I have never come across this theory before which Walker hangs on to later in the book also - what is your take on it.

Response #38:    

To be generous, Walker and co. may be referring to the fact that in the early days Christianity was not distinguished from Judaism in the eyes of most unbelievers or in the eyes of the Roman state in particular. Judaism was a religio licta, that is, an accepted religion/cult, and so its followers were immune from persecution on the basis of belonging to it. Christians, when it was realized that their faith was not the same thing as Judaism, became vulnerable to persecution.

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