Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Gospel According to John 1:1

I am starting a new project. I will be doing a verse-by-verse study of the Gospel According to John. My goal is to give each verse time to sink in so that I don’t skim over certain doctrinal points. Since I don’t know biblical Greek I am going with Augustine’s idea and comparing several translations to get a better sense of what was said in the Greek.

I will use the New American Standard Version, English Standard Version, The New International Version, and the New American Bible. As a side note I will also compare the difference between today’s bibles and the Wycliffe new testament.

This is meant to be a personal Bible study, but I am more than ok with others sharing what they notice that I might overlook. I chose to start with John because it’s best to begin with the gospel, and if I am blessed to continue this study past john through the other gospels Luke will lead strait into Acts of the Apostles.

John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

All four translations say the exact same thing. The translation with the most difference is the Bible in Basic English, which says;

From the first he was the Word, and the Word was in relation with God, and was God.

Right off the bat John establishes a fact of the Gospel that denies a great heresy that would rise up after his time. Arianism, was a heresy that denied the Deity of Christ. The Arians claimed that the proper translation of this passage was “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and God was,” In the Greek there are no periods or any way to mark the end of a sentence, so one was able to get away with saying this was a proper way to put the phrasing together, but since the entire passage is speaking about the Word, it is an unnatural jump to suddenly just be talking about God. Taken with the whole passage it only makes sense if John is saying that the Word was God.

He uses the phrase “In the beginning,” to bring back an idea his Jewish audience would be familiar with already. Genesis 1:1. This will go in line with 1:3 to define Christ as creator, which also backs up his claim of Godhood. By saying he was with God and was God it shows a distinction in the Godhead. The idea of God being one, but also being distinct persons is backed by Genesis 1:26 and 11:7.

Wycliffe translation;

In the beginning was the word, and the word was at God, and God was the word. [In the beginning was the word, that is, God's Son, and the word was at God, and God was the word.]

While the same points are covered in the Wycliffe translation as in the newer text, the sentence structure is a little harder to follow.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Religion of the book?

A Roman Catholic friend of mine posted this thesis on his facebook wall,

“Catholicism is not a "religion of a book", Catholicism is a religion of the "Word" of God, a word which is "not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living." The Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, and the Church, through the Holy Spirit, "open our minds and hearts to understanding the Holy Scriptures." (Found in CCC p37 paragraph 108)

Now, before I even get to the reason why Protestants, the Latin church, and the Eastern churches differ on this issue (which will have to be in another entry) I must address errors (even in the Latin church’s view) that are built into this statement. I welcome comments (supporting or opposing my statement) so long as they are well thought out and backed with factual data.

The most glaring issue with this thesis is the statement proclaiming scripture “a dead letter,”

In page 36 on paragraph 104 of the CCC we see that sacred scripture is the word of God. It also states the same on p 43 pp 135.

In the book of Hebrews Ch4: 12 we see this proclamation,

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

We’ll write this out as an “if then” statement.

If the scriptures are the word of God and the word of God is living, then the scriptures are living.

If the scriptures are living they are not a “dead letter”

I am also curious as to how the written word could be described as “a written and mute word,” Since written language has been invented it has spoken volumes. Before telephones it was the only way to rapidly spread information from one location to another in a reliable fashion.

During the Roman persecutions it was punishable by death to own the sacred scriptures. If they were found they were burned (and so were their owners on some occasions). Not only are the letters of sacred scripture far from mute, they cry out with the blood of the martyrs!

I will delve more into Jewish and Christian history in another entry, but it must be said that written scripture has a voice, and it is mighty.

The fact that we need the Holy Spirit to guide us in our understanding of scripture is unquestionable, but the idea that being under or not being under Rome imparts or removes the Spirit from a church is unsupportable by scripture.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Unity or division?

1Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.

2It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

3They said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.

4They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."

5The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.

6The LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.

7"Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech."

8So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.

9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.

(Genesis 11:1-9 ASV)

I've recently begun to wonder if some of the divisions throughout Christianity may have actually been put there by God to prevent a similar problem to the Babel incident. We as humans tend to group people together and naturally form little clusters of familiarity. There are just so many people we have the ability to actually see as people before we start seeing only the group. If your congregation or parish is small you probably know everybody that attends. If it is larger you probably have a certain group you are with and the rest are just a mass of faces to you.

Imagine how it was in the first and second century. there weren't 3-5 church buildings on every street. the people in small towns had to go to the nearest city to meet with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Imagine if every church in the world was still like that. How would we house so many worshippers? What would drive us to divide and build new churches? Can you see the inherent dangers that would form from having so many people together?

While on the surface this may sound like the unity that Jesus prayed for I'm beginning to wonder if God has a different view of unity than we do.

I first started wondering about this when I was reading early christian writings and found out that while Paul and Peter celebrated easter on Sunday as did every church they started, John celebrated easter on the day of Passover regardless of whether it was sunday or not. The day on which you celebrate easter (or if you celebrate it at all for that matter) is not a doctrine relevant to the salvation of your soul (Romans 14:1-12) but early on it nearly tore the church apart. The council of Nicaea declared an official day for easter ( for political reasons) and once again there was an uproar and groups broke off. Who are we to say one group was right and the other wrong? Both group's practices were apostolic in nature, both were still in communion with each other. It got me to wondering if the apostles intentionally taught certain other practices different from one another. Say, for instance baptism. Is it possible that some of the apostles only baptized believers, while others baptized believer's children as well? I'm not saying this with any form of certainty, I'm merely wondering out loud, but anybody who can give any extra information is more than welcome. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's thought along these lines before.

Maybe God left the descriptions of how the Lord's supper was to be done vague on purpose. He simply stated bread and fruit of the vine. My tradition uses both of the unleavened variety in order to closer approximate what was used in the last supper, but some use leavened bread, some leavened cup, and any mixture of the two. There have been wars fought over this because it has been seen as a sign of disunity. (it was one of the contributing factors to the great schism)

I am of a tradition that sings all of its worship songs a cappella because we see no command to use musical accompaniment. Others see this as a sign that any instrument is acceptable. Other than the fact that the songs are to teach and uplift we're not given much information. God had to know that there would be differing views on the matter. Was there intent behind not giving specifics? Was it freedom? Restriction?

I am not talking about doctrines pertaining to salvation (such as the deity of christ), but I think the great schism, the reformation, and denominationalism may actually be a defense mechanism God instilled in the church (for lack of a better word)

I could give more examples, but I'd like to hear other's views on the matter. I may come back and write more on it.

It appears to me that each time we as humans attempt to force unity on anything it splinters. I believe that in proclaiming christ and not foaming at the mouth at one another we show God's unity in our diversity and that despite its appearance the church is one.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Why believe 2 James the Just

The apostle Paul wasn't the only person to convert from enemy of the faith to one of its strongest champions. Today We will look at James called the Just.

James was Jesus's little brother (I will discuss this more in a later entry). He was historically known for being a faithful Hebrew and had been given the nickname the Just or Justice because of his hardline view of the law. The main mention of his view of Jesus of Nazareth is found in John 7:1-5 (I am using the NIV translation)

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus's brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here ang go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things show yourself to the world." for even his own brothers did not believe in him.

So what we see is James and Jesus's other brothers encouraging him to go into the city and preach knowing that the people will try to kill him. Imagine yourself in Jame's position. Your brother has claimed that he is the prophecied Messiah. He is the savior of your people that has been fortold for thousands of years. It would be a pretty hard sale to say the least. You would at least laugh and hopefully try to get him psychological help.

James did not go to Jesus's crucifiction, and is not mentioned again until Jesus ressurected. He appeared to him and explained why he had to die to fulfil prophecy. From there James becomes the Bishop of Jerusalem because none of the apostles wanted to take such an important position.

Here is the account of what faithfulness to the Lord earned James [Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History 2:23:1-18]

"The Jews, after Paul had appealed to Caesar and had ben sent by Festus to Rome, frustrated in thier hope of entrapping him by the snares they had laid, turned themselves against James, the brother of the lord, to whom the episcopal seat at Jerusalem was committed by the apostles. The following were their nefarious measures also against him:

Conducting him into a public place, they demanded that he should renounce the faith of Christ before the whole multitude and confessed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, our Savior and Lord. Unable to bear any longer the testimony of the man, who, on acount of his elevated virtue and piety was deemed the most just of men, they seized the opportunity of licentiousness afforded by the prevailing anarchy and slew him. As Festus died about this time in Judea, the province was without a governor and head. But, as to the manner of James's death, it has been already stated in the word of clement that he was thrown from a wing of the temple and beaten to death with a club.

Hegesippus also, who flourished nearest the days of the apostles, in the fifth book of his commentaries gave the most accurate account of him: "James, the brother of the Lord, who, as there were many of this name, was surnamed the Just by all, frome the days of our Lord until now, received the government of the church with the apostles. This apostle was consecrated from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor fermented liquors, and abstained from animal food. A razor never came upon his head, he never anointed with oil, and never used a bath. He alone was allowed to enter the sanctuary. He never wore woolen, but linen garments. He was in the habit of entering the temple alone and was often found upon his bended knees, and interceding for the forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as hard as camel's, in consequence of his habitual supplication and kneeling before God. And indeed, on account of his exceeding great piety, he was called the Just, and Oblias( of Zaddick and Ozleam) which signifies justice and protection of the people; as the prophets declare concerning him. Some of the seven sects, therefore, of the people, mentioned by me above in my commentaries, asked him what was the door to Jesus? and he answered, "that he was the Savior."

"From which, some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the aforesaid heresies did not believe either a resurrection, or that he was coming to give to every one according to his works; as many however, as did believe did so on account of James. As there were many therefore of the rulers that believed, there arose a tumult among the Jews, Scribes, and Pharisees, saying that there was danger, that the people would now expect Jesus as the Messiah. They came therefore together, and said to James, "We entreat thee, restrain the people, who are le astray after Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat thee to persuade all that are coming to the feast of the Passover rightly concerning Jesus; for we all have fonfidence in thee. for we and all the people bear thee testimony that thou art just, and thou respectest not persons. Persuade therefore the people not to be led astray by Jesus, for we and all the people have great confidence in thee. Stand therefore upon a wing of the temple, that thou mayest be conspiuous on high, and thy word may be easily heard by all the people; for all the tribes have come together on account of the Passover, with some of the Gentiles also. The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees, therefore, placed James upon a wing of the temple, and cried out to him, "O thou just man, whome we ought all to believe, since the people are led astray after Jesus that was crucifed, declare to us what is the door to Jesus that was crusified,"

And he answered with a loud voice, "Why do ye ask me respecting Jesus the Son of Man? He is now sitting in the heavens, on the right hand of great Power, and is about to come on the clouds of heaven." And as many were confirmed, and gloried in this testimony of James, and said, Hosanna to the son of David, these same priests and Pharisees said to one another, "We have done badly in affording such testimony to Jesus, but let us go up and cast him down, that they may dread to believe in him,"

And they cried out, " Oh, oh, Justus himself is deceived," and they fulfilled that which is written in Isaiah, "Let us take away the just, because he is offensive to us; wherefore they shall eat the fruit of thier doings" (Isa 3:10) Going up therefore, they cast down the just man, saying to one another, " Let us stone James the Just," and they began to stone him, as he did not die immediately when cast down but turning round, he knelt down saying, "I entreat thee, O Lord God and Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," Thus they were stoning him, when one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, a son of the Rechabites, spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out saying, "Cease, What are you doing? Justus is Praying for you,"

And one of them, a fuller, beat out the brains of Justus with the club that he used to beat out clothes. Thus he suffered martyrdom, and they buried him on the spot where his tombstone is still remaining, by the temple. He became a faithful witness, both to the Jews and the Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ."

Would anyone do this without reason to believe?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why believe 1. Saul of Tarsus

I will begin my entries on evidence for faith with witness accounts. Today I will use Saul of Tarsus as an example.
Saul was a Pharisee trained by a rabbi named Gamaliel who was a member of the Sanhedrin (like the supreme court of Judaism). He was moving up the ladder and would've likely become part of the Sanhedrin himself. Before his conversion he was famous for hunting down christians and arresting them. he would take them to the Sanhedrin and they would be tortured and executed. (needless to say he wasn't Jesus's biggest fan)
One day while he was on a road leading to Damascus with a load of warrants for various Christians he was spoken to directly by Jesus and struck blind. He was led by those traveling with him to Aninias of Damascus (who's name was more than likely on one of the warrants). Aninias healed Saul's blindness, baptized him, and took him in while he was comming to terms with what he had done.
Saul changed his name to Paul after his conversion to do away with his old name while doing away with his old life. He became "an apostle out of season" and the spread of christianity throughout the known world was mostly due to his personal work.
Why is all of this important?
(I hate to Godwin my own blog, but) If Saul was a high ranking general in Nazi Germany sent by Hitler himself to arrest known Jews in a certain area, but when he got to the city where his enemy was he converted to Judaism, was circumsised, and began to live as an orthodox Jew it would be about as drastic and impacting on his life. He would have to be pretty heavily convinced.
What did he have to gain from such a conversion? Money? No, he was fairly wealthy as a Pharisee, but as a Christian he was homeless and peniless. He only owned the clothes on his back and had to keep on the move to evade arrest.
Fame? A hight position? As I mentioned earlier he was on his way to becoming a member of the Sanhedrin. He was well respected as an authority in the Jewish faith. While he did become an apostle when he became a christian if he had wanted status he could've gotten it easier if he remained in the Jewish faith. As a christian he lost his home, his friends, and any chance at an easy stable life.
Remember, at this time the Jews were not messed with by the Roman Government. Christians on the other hand were arrested and executed by the Jews and later the Roman Government as well. For his trouble Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned for most of his life, dragged to the edge of the city stoned and left for dead, and eventually beheaded.
Why would someone go through all of that unless they had a real reason to believe?

Why do I believe?

I have believed in God since I was very little, but when I reached "the age of reason" I started researching to make sure that I was going in the right direction. The more I have researched the issue, the stronger my faith has become. I hear many people say that faith means belief in something despite a lack of evidence, but the bible says that faith is evidence of something that is not seen. I have not personally seen God, but I've seen evidence of his existance. In the same way that I have never seen France, but based on photos, friends who have been, and historical documents I have read I can say with confidence that there is a country in Europe called France. I take France on faith. You may use a different definition of faith in your daily life, but when I use the word talking or writing this is what I am refering to. I, therefore, do not believe in "blind faith" or "a leap of faith" such statements make it sound like a Christian must defy evidence and keep him or herself ignorant in order to be a Christian. For the next few entries I will devote my time to providing various pieces of evidence I have that strengthen my faith.
I hope such a list will help strengthen my brothers and sisters, and provide evidence for people who are on the fence or outright skeptical about Christianity. Since I know most people do not enjoy reading as much as I do I will try to make these short examples sticking with one subject at a time, but for those who are interested I will provide links to great written works that will go more in depth on the subjects I will discuss.
further reading:
C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity
Josh and Sean McDowell's More than a Carpenter
Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ (also availible in movie form)
I hope others will find this information useful.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Do not be wise in your own eyes"

All Christians are students of Christ's teachings. Some are farther along than others, and some assume they are farther than they actually are. We are all told to diligently seek God and to study. I know I have a long way to go, but I know I am not alone. I will post my questions and what I find on this blog. I am not infallible and welcome corrections and logical scriptural reproofs.

examples of a good response;

"In your last entry you said when Jesus was a child his family ran to Etheopia but in Matthew 2:13 it says that they actually went to Egypt,"


"In yesterday's entry on the council of Jerusalem you say that Peter was the last to speak, but in Acts 15:12-21 it shows that James made the final judgement using God's word from sacred scripture,"

If I make a mistake be it doctrinal or historical I will not be angry at correction.

Some examples of bad responses;

"You said Jesus went to Etheopia, but my Pastor says he went to Egypt,"

This is not a bad reply because the information is in error, but rather because it does not provide scriptural or historical citations to help me correct my work.

"Your blog is stupid! your statement about communion was all wrong! Are you really that dumb?"

Well probably, but Is calling me an idiot going to make me any smarter? Please feel free to elaborate on what I said that was wrong. I will evaluate the info you give me and make a decision based on facts that may not have crossed my mind.

I am not claiming to be a teacher. I am simply thinking out loud in order to grow in wisdom. Looking at my banner you can see I have a long way to go, but I know I'm not alone. I hope this blog proves helpful to all who visit.

In Christian love,
-Ed "the Layman"