Online Books Sat, 24 Feb 2018 06:03:12 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Introduction to the Bible - 48 - Galatians

Introduction to GALATIONS

By Stewart Thompson

See Stewart's personal bio story here.

stu thompson
Galatians Overview    
‘Sola Fide’, the cry that sprang from Martin Luther’s study of the scriptures means "by Faith alone". It was a driving force in the great reformation that delivered Europe from the dark repression of legalism in Roman Catholicism during the 1500's. The books of Galations, Romans and others greatly enlightened Luther. The reason for Galations being written is promptly stated, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:”, ch.1:6.  Galations was the apostle Paul’s response to the threat of legalism in the Jews religion to the essential liberty in the gospel of the grace of God. It primarily addresses the issue of the means of justification before God by ‘law keeping’ or by ‘faith’. It also shows how the believer’s life is lived effectively by the enabling of the Holy Spirit of God in liberty and not in bondage to the law.  
‘Galations’ is distinct from other church letters in that it was written to a number of assemblies in a large region. Whether that region was north or south Galatia [Asia Minor, modern Turkey] is unsettled. But we know that it was written to Gentiles with perhaps a small portion of resident Jews. These people had heard and believed the gospel of Christ, the means of the forgiveness of sins and thus the saving of their souls. Paul had a great love for them, even as that of a ‘birth mother’, ch. 4:19.

This letter contains three key components of the Christian faith; Life, Liberty & Love. Yet the assault of religion on the gospel is spearheaded by two elements; Law & Lust. Both are adapted by the flesh, that fallen nature of mankind, twisted and ruined by sin. Into the conflict Paul sent this letter to preserve both the Christians in Galatia and the very truth of the gospel that he preached. This letter came at a very crucial time, meeting one of the greatest needs of the New Testament era.
Author and Date

Galations begins by saying that Paul is the writer and the content through out has his personal experiences related firsthand. Nevertheless the following excerpt is notable;

“The authorship of Galatians never has been seriously doubted ...” Findlay says, “No breath of suspicion as to the authorship, integrity, or apostolic authority of ... Galatians has reached us from ancient times” (International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol. 2, p. 1156). Lightfoot adds, “Its every sentence so completely reflects the life and character of the apostle ... that its genuineness has not been seriously questioned” (St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 57). ...”  

A date in the mid AD 50's seems probable. Taking the visit in chapter two to Jerusalem as that of Acts 15 [AD 49] such a date is reasonable. Various reasons can be suggested to support an earlier date and many to support this recommended date..

Historical Setting

Paul previously preached the gospel to these people in Galatia [ch.1:11, 4:13 & 19] and likely during his first missionary journey recorded in Acts 13-14. After some period of time men, known as ‘Judaizers’ [professing to be Christians but still teaching the claims of Moses’ law] had infiltrated the gatherings of the early Christians in Galatia. They insisted that the male believers be circumcised. This wasn’t just a physical ritual but a commitment to adhere to all that the law demands, ch. 5:3. Doing so compromised the simplicity of the gospel of God’s grace; that a person is saved by faith in Christ, by virtue of his death on the cross as a substitute for the sinner. In submitting to the law one was saying that the death and resurrection of Christ was insufficient to save. The Judaizer said, yes you need Christ, but Christ plus the works of the law. The gospel that Paul preached said, “The just shall live by faith.” plus nothing.

Paul could see the entire future spread of the gospel to all peoples was in jeopardy by this false teaching. It must be confronted irrespective of persons and places. To do this he had to validate his apostleship, seeing he said this message came from Christ to him. He must also show that the message harmonized with the Old Testament scriptures and thus confirm that justification was never by works.


Outline of the Book with Notes
I   The Gospel Defended in Paul’s Apostleship - ch.1&2

 A - Crisis in Galatia - ch.1:1-9  Paul immediately qualifies his apostleship in the salutation as in no other, “not of men, neither by man ...”. This was primary in defending ‘ justification by faith alone’.
* v.6, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed ... unto another gospel:”.

 B - Conversion & Call of Paul - ch.1:10-24   The gospel Paul preached had no human origin, and he reminds them of his conversion to Christ and the call to preach Christ among the Gentiles.
* v.11-12, “... the gospel ... preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

 C - Counsel in Jerusalem - ch.2:1-10 Here Paul reviews the visit to Jerusalem [Acts 15]. The outcome was clear affirmation from the other apostles.
* v.2, 8-9, “I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles ... when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, ... when James, Cephas, and John ... perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; “

 D - Confrontation in Anticoh - ch.2:11-21  Peter’s social separation from the Gentiles supported the false teachers’ demand of keeping the law. This had to be stopped before it spread and compromised the truth of the gospel.
* v.14-16, “...why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as ...Jews? ... Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ,”.

Paul concludes the defense of his apostleship and gospel  by saying, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”.

II   The Gospel Defined in the Old Testament - ch.3 & 4

 A - Challenge to the Galations - ch.3:1-9 The apostle demonstrates how law keeping and faith conflict. The receiving, supplying and working of the Spirit are through ‘faith’ not ‘works’ which are by the flesh. Abraham is introduced as the precedent for, righteousness by faith alone. Only those ‘of faith’ are sons of Abraham.
* v.9, “ ... they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”

 B - Curse of the Law - ch.3:10-14  By four Old Testament quotes Paul establishes that the principle of law keeping brings only a curse. But faith brings the blessing of God through Christ.
* v.13, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us ...”.

 C - Covenant by Promise - ch.3:15-22  Continuing with Abraham the passage teaches that God’s promise of blessing via faith preceded the law which had no legal power to annul the promise. Abraham’s ‘seed’ [Christ] would come, by whom the covenant of promise for blessing for ‘all nations’ would be ratified.
* v.22, “... the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”

 D - Christ, the Objective of the Law- ch.3:23-27  The law served to identify transgression and awaken the need of justification which is only in Christ.
* v.24, “... the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

 E - Christ & the believers are Abraham’s Seed - ch.3:28-29   Faith in Christ secures each person and all believers as ‘one in Christ’.
* v.29, “... if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

 F - Children or Sons? - ch.4:1-7   Jews & Gentiles had ceremonies for boys ‘coming of age’. No longer considered a child, they were viewed as privileged and responsible sons. Those keeping the law for justification are like a child. The believer in Christ is placed into the position of a full son of the Father.
* v.4-5, “...God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

 G - Concern for the Galations - ch.4:8-20  Paul expresses great concern for the Galatians’ spiritual welfare. If they follow the teachers of the law they’ll lose contact with him and not grow in Christ’s likeness.
* v.19, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,”

 H - Conclusion in an Allegory - ch.4:21-31  Paul’s last appeal to Old Testament scriptures [‘the law’, v.21] refers to the two sons of Abraham. The story illustrates the two covenants; the son of the bondmaid is the covenant based on the works of the law and the son of the freewoman is that based on the promise to Abraham. He concludes that the two are incompatible, “the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.”
* v.31, “... brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.”

III   The Gospel Designed for Walking in Liberty - ch.5

 A - Circumcision & Bondage in the Law - ch.5:1-12   Paul calls the ‘free’ believer to stand fast in this liberty from Christ. Submitting to the false teacher’s demand of circumcision, a person was obligated to keep all the law which was bondage and not the product of grace.
* v.6, “... in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”

 B - Called unto Liberty to Love - ch.5:13-15   The potential for a person who recognizes their liberty in Christ to live selfishly and thus neglect others is relentless. This is as much the work of the flesh as is law keeping.
* v.14, “... the law is fulfilled in one word, ... Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

 C - Conflict of the Spirit & the Flesh - ch.5:16-26   This is a struggle that every genuine Christian experiences. Christian liberty is walking in the power of the Holy Spirit and not being in bondage to the flesh. The flesh is ‘self serving’; both in ‘law’ [self justification], ch.3:2-3, and in ‘lust’ [self gratification]. In contrast the Spirit is ‘other serving’, motivated by love. The flesh is manifest in ‘works’ but the ‘Spirit in ‘fruit’.
* v.25, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

IV   The Gospel Designed for Working in Humility - ch.6

 A - Consideration of Others & Oneself - ch.6:1-5   Chapter five tells us that liberty is expressed by love toward others and of the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit.  Here the spiritual believer [one walking in the Spirit] is to restore the fallen believer yet always remembering they are not beyond such temptation themselves.
* v.2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

 B - Communication or Corruption - ch.6:6-10   The principle of supporting those who have taught us the word of God is presented. Doing otherwise is ‘sowing to the flesh’ and inevitably reaping corruption. Again contrasting the Spirit’s work, serving others or the flesh’s work, gratifying self.
* v.9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

 C - Conclusion at the Cross - ch.6:11-18   False teachers boasted in the evident submission of another convert seen in circumcision. Paul boasted in nothing but the cross of Christ, “by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world”. For this faithfulness he was continually persecuted by those opposing the gospel of the grace of God.
* v.18, “ Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”


]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Fri, 15 Aug 2008 19:34:22 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 23 - Isaiah

The Prophet Isaiah

by Arend Remmers


1. Author and Time of Writing


According to chapter 1:1 the Prophet Isaiah (Meaning, Jehovah is Salvation) was the son of the Amoz, who according to an old Jewish tradition was the brother of King Amaziah. In any case Isaiah had a fairly free entry to the King’s court in Jerusalem (Is. 7:3; 38:1; 39:3). Isaiah was married and had two sons by the names of Shear-jashub (Hebr. “A remnant shall return”, Is. 7:3) and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Hebr. “Swift for spoil, hasty for prey”, Is. 8:3). Isaiah’s prophetic service covered the reigns of the kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Uzziah’s autocracy started around the year 767 BC and Hezekiah died around 697 BC. The prophet’s service fell into this time. According to Jewish tradition Isaiah shall have been persecuted by the impious king Manasseh (son of king Hezekiah) and sawn asunder in a hollow trunk (compare with Heb. 11:37). It was during the Middle Age that the presumption was first made which said that not all 66 chapters of the book originated from Isaiah himself. Towards the end of the 18th century, during the time of the Enlightenment, theological scientists and sceptics tried to prove more heavily that Isaiah could impossibly have written the whole book himself. It all started with ascribing chapters 40 to 66 to a writer of the 6th century BC (Deutero-Isaiah). During the 19th and 20th century the dismemberment of the book continued even further; the first 39 chapters were also ascribed to different authors and chapters 55 to 66 even to a so-called Trito-Isaiah who shall have been living around the turning from the 5th to the 6th century.  The main reasons for this criticism are the divers subjects and the pretended unequal style of the divers paragraphs and mainly because of the apparition of King Cyrus’ name around 200 years before his time (Is. 44:28; 45:1). It would be too much for the given scope to go into details of the attacks of Bible-criticism. We would only like to state that thematic and stylistic differences are to be found in the works of nearly every secular author without anyone doubting their authorship. The argument that the style of the various paragraphs is too different is therefore little sound. For the similarities stand out at least as much, for example the frequent mentioning of God as “the Holy One of Israel”  The mentioning of Cyrus’ name long before his time is one out of hundreds of examples in the Word of God who proof that God is declaring the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10). It is quite a characteristic of the prophet that he also receives messages concerning future things by the Spirit of God. The man of God out of Judah mentioned the name of king Josiah in front of king Jeroboam around 300 years before he ever lived (1 Kings 13:2). Isaiah has spoken many a prophecy not only concerning Cyrus but also regarding the Messiah, some of them being fulfilled already, some yet waiting to be fulfilled. The Jewish author Flavius Josephus writes (Jewish Antiquities XI 1.1-2) that the Persian king Cyrus read Isaiah’s utterances concerning him with astonishment and thereafter gave the command for the return of the Jews (Ezra 1:1-4). The book of Isaiah is mentioned around 60 times in the NT, which is more than all other prophets together. 28 references only originate from the chapters 40 to 66 whereby Isaiah’s name is mentioned explicitly 11 times (Math. 3:3; 8:17; 12:17; Luke 3:4; 4:17; John 1:23; 12:38; Acts 8:28-33; Rom. 10:16. 20-21). The most remarkable reference in this connection is John 12:38-41. Isaiah chap. 53 and chap. 6 are referred to there whereby Isaiah’s name is mentioned three times! The Word of God herewith confirms the unity of the book itself. Further clear testimonies to the unity of Isaiah are the scrolls found at the Dead Sea. In 1947 an approximately 7ms long leather-scroll with the whole text of the book Isaiah dating from the 2nd century BC was found in Qumran among others. This is the oldest completely maintained copy of a book of the OT. Such a scroll is mentioned in Luke 4:17-20 (compare Acts 8:28-35). Isaiah lived and worked in a difficult time. Though King Uzziah (Azariah) of Judah had a good start he later lifted up his heart against Jehovah. Uzziah’s son Jotham was a god-fearing king to a certain measure but his son Ahaz was a worshipper of idols. Hezekiah however brought about a great revival of the people. During this time enemies distressed the kingdom of Judah: Edom, Syria, Israel and the Philistines. The ungodly kings of the northern kingdom of Israel had allied himself with Syria and continued to attack Judah (2 Kings 15:37; 16:5-6; 2 Chron. 28:5-6). Instead of putting their trust in Jehovah the kings of Judah looked for refuge with Assyria (2 Kings 16:7; 2 Chron. 28:16) but never got real help (2 Chron. 28:20; 32:1). Isaiah experienced how the Northern Kingdom was allied with Egypt against Assyria and finally was defeated all the same and brought into Assyrian captivity in 722/21 BC (2 Kings 17). When Judah under king Hezekiah tried to get rid of the Assyrian supremacy Jehovah helped them (2 Kings 18:7; 2 Chron. 32). But shortly after that Isaiah had to judge the friendly relation with the other great power, Babylon, and had to announce the Babylonian captivity of Judah which was going to occur around 100 years later (2 Kings 18:7; 20:12-19). 

2. Purpose of Writing


Isaiah is the first of all prophetic books in the modern editions as well as in the Hebrew Bible where he is the first of the “later prophets”. Although Isaiah was not the first prophet his prophecies form the longest and most extensive prophetic book of Holy Scripture. It is Isaiah who writes in the most detailed manner of the promised Messiah (only the Psalms are of an even more messianic character) and is therefore also called “the evangelist among the prophets”. This is why he duly comes in the first place among the so-called four Major Prophets. The book of Isaiah consists of two large parts (chap. 1 – 35 and 40 – 66), which are separated by a historical part (chap. 36 – 39). The first main part contains the outer and the second the inner history of the people of God. The first part (chap. 1 – 35) contains mainly prophecies about the last times and God’s ways with Judah, Israel (chap. 1 – 12) and the nations to which they stand in relation to (chap. 13 – 27). After a six - fold cry of “woe” follows the description of the Millennium (chap. 28 – 35). Between the first and second main part we find the historical part on the life of king Hezekiah (chap. 36 – 39). There we find the description of the Assyrian’s attack against Judah and their defeat as well as Hezekiah’s healing of a sickness. Although historical these chapters in their context stress the prophecies about Israel’s enemies and the salvation of the remnant. The second main part (chap. 40 – 66) deals with the relation of God’s people to the Messiah (Christ) and ends with the description of Christ’s reign in the Millennium as well. In chap. 40 – 48 we find the salvation out of Babylon and the condemnation of idols and in chap. 49 – 57 the sufferings and glory of the servant of Jehovah. The chapters 58 – 66 contain a summary of thoughts and ways of God with His earthly people Israel. 

Throughout the book style and language of Isaiah are very expressive. With the exception of a few paragraphs (mainly in chap. 36 – 39) the book is written in the verse-form of Hebrew poetry


3. Peculiarities

a)     The “Holy One of Israel
Among the different names of God in Isaiah the “Holy One of Israel” has a special place. This name appears 28 times (Is. 1:4; 5:19.24; 10:17: His Holy One; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19.23: the Holy One of Jacob; 30:11.12.15; 31:1; 37:23; 41:14.16.20; 43:3.14.15; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5; 55:5; 60:9.14). This name is elsewhere only to be found in 2 Kings 19:22; Psalm 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Jer. 50:29; 51:5 and Ez. 39:7 (Holy One of Israel). It is remarkable that this name of God confirms the unity of the book of Isaiah: it appears in both main parts (chap. 1 – 39 and 40 – 66) 14 times each. A special emphasis is found in Isaiah using this name in his word to king Hezekiah in 2 Kings 19:22! The name “Holy One of Israel” implies that the God of Israel is completely separated from all evil for He is of purer eyes than to behold evil. This is also what the seraphim express who exclaim in front of His throne: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts” (compare Rev. 4:8).  b) The SalvationA further key word of the book of Isaiah is the word “salvation” or “deliverance” (Hebr. jeschu’a or jescha or teschu’a, wherefrom the name Je(ho)schua, Joshua = Greek: Jesus, is derived). The word is found in Is. 12:2,3 (Wells of salvation); 17:10 (God of thy salvation); 25:9 (Joy in his salvation); 26:1 (Salvation for walls and bulwarks); 26:18; 33:2.6; 45:8.17 (Everlasting salvation): 46:13; 49:6.8 (Day of salvation); 51:5.6.8; 52:7 (Publisher of salvation); 52:10: 56:1; 59:11.17 (Helmet of salvation); 60:18; 61:10 (Garments of salvation); 62:1.11. Although the prophet mostly saw the blessings of the Millennium in this salvation many of his expressions in the NT are applied to the everlasting salvation in the present time of grace (compare Acts 13:47; Rom. 10:15; 2 Cor. 6:2; Eph. 6:17). Surely the frequent mentions of the word salvation have helped to give Isaiah the name of “evangelist among the prophets”. c) Messianic PropheciesBesides the book of Psalms there is none other in the OT containing so many prophecies concerning the Lord Jesus. It is as if the prophet had had Christ constantly before his eyes (compare Is. 6 and John 12:38-41). The most important paragraphs are:-          The promised redeemer is Jehovah Himself: chap. 47:4; 48:17-          The incarnation of the Son of God: chap. 7:14; 9:2.6; 11:1-2; 48:16-          His humiliation: chap. 4:2; 42:1; 50:4-5; 53:1-2-          His rejection: chap. 8:14; 49:4; 53:3-          His sufferings: chap. 50:6; 52:14; 53:3-7. 10-12; 63:9-          His glory: chap. 9:7; 11:3-10; 25:8, 28:16; 32:1; 49:6; 52:15; 53:9-12; 58  -66. Besides these references there are many more in this book speaking of the Messiah, the redeemer Jesus Christ. 

4. Overview of Contents

I. Isaiah 1 – 35, First Main Part: Outward History of Israel
1. Chapter1 – 12:Judah and Jerusalem 
 Chapter1Sad Condition of Judah and Jerusalem
 Chapter2Restoration of Judah and Jerusalem
 Chapter3 – 4Judgment and Glory of Zion
 Chapter5Israel, the Unfruitful Vineyard of Jehovah
 Chapter6Isaiah’s Commission
 Chapter7The Messiah and the Assyrian
 Chapter8Attack of the Assyrians
 Chapter9Hope and Warning for Israel
 Chapter10Assyria, God’s Rod of Anger
 Chapter11-12The Reign of Peace  
2.Chapter13 - 27:Ten Burden of the Nations 
 Chapter13 – 14The Burden of Babylon and Philistia
 Chapter15 – 16The Burden of Moab
 Chapter17The Burden of Damascus
 Chapter18Israel’s Repatriation
 Chapter19The Burden of Egypt
 Chapter20Historical Appendix
 Chapter21The Burden of the Desert of the Sea (Babylon), Dumah and Arabia
 Chapter22The Burden of the Valley of Vision (Jerusalem)
 Chapter23The Burden of Tyre
 Chapter24 Judgment over the Entire Creation
 Chapter25The Blessings of the Reign of Peace
 Chapter26Judah’s Song of Salvation
  Chapter27Punishment and Salvation  
3.Chapter28 – 35Six fold “Woe” 
 Chapter28Woe to Ephraim
 Chapter29Woe to Jerusalem; Woe to the Despisers of God
 Chapter30Woe to the Alliance with Egypt
 Chapter31Woe to the Trust in Men
 Chapter32Outlook on the Reign of Peace
 Chapter33Woe to Assyria
 Chapter34Judgment over Edom (KJV: Idumea) and its Allies
 Chapter35The Blessing of the Reign of Peace
          II. Isaiah 36 – 39, Historical Insertion: Hezekiah and Isaiah 
 Chapter36 – 37Attack and Defeat of Assyria
 Chapter38Hezekiah’s Sickness and Recovery
 Chapter39Hezekiah’s Failure and Announcement of Judgment
III. Isaiah 40 – 66, Second Main Part: The Inner History of Israel
1.Chapter40 - 48:Jehovah Listens to His People 
 Chapter40Comfort for Israel
 Chapter41Israel, Servant of Jehovah
 Chapter42The True Servant of Jehovah
 Chapter43God’s Forgiveness
 Chapter44Jehovah Encourages His People
 Chapter45Jehovah Announces Salvation
 Chapter46 – 47Babylon’s Fall
 Chapter48God’s Love to An Apostate People
2.Chapter49 - 57:Rejection and Suffering of Jehovah’s Servant 
 Chapter49 - 50The True Servant of Jehovah
 Chapter51Encouragement of the Faithful Remnant
 Chapter52Zion’s Awakening and the Coming of Jehovah’s Servant
 Chapter53“And He Bore the Sin of Many”
 Chapter54Jerusalem’s Breaking Forth Into Singing
 Chapter55Grace for the Nations Also
 Chapter56Rejected Ones Will be Accepted
 Chapter57The Sad Condition of Israel  
3.Chapter58 - 66:Restoration and Glory of Israel
 Chapter58Accusation Against Israel
 Chapter59Apostasy and Confession
 Chapter60The Glory of the Reign of Peace
 Chapter61The Messiah and His People
 Chapter62Zion’s Glory
 Chapter63The Great Avenger
 Chapter65 – 66God’s Answer


]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:49:35 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 24 - Jeremiah

The Prophet Jeremiah
by Arend Remmers

Author and Time of Writing

The beginning of Jeremiah reads as follows: “The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah” and in chapter 51:64 we read: “Thus far the words of Jeremiah.” In contradiction to these simple introductory and final words of the prophet and in spite of the fact that there is no other prophet in the OT of whom we are told so many personal details regarding his life and service, modern critics of the book of Jeremiah claim that Jeremiah’s prophecies do mostly not originate from himself. And yet there is not one reasonable reason for such doubtful reasoning.


Out of Jeremiah’s records we see that he was born during the reign of impious king Manasseh (696 – 642 BC). He originated from the priestly family of Aaron. His hometown was Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, which was not far from Jerusalem (Jer. 1:1). In his very early years he was called by Jehovah to be a prophet (Jer. 1:4-10). This happened in king Josiah’s 13th year, which was in 627 BC (he reigned from 640 – 609 BC). Jeremiah’s service lasted over 40 years till after Jerusalem’s destruction through Nebuchadrezzar in the year 586 BC (Jer. 39). According to Jehovah’s command Jeremiah remained unmarried (Jer. 16:2).


To start with, Jeremiah lived in Anathoth. But soon enough the hatred of its inhabitants arose against him (chap. 11:18-23). The prophecies of chapter 1:2ff and 3:6ff were uttered during king Josiah’s time (640 – 609 BC). After Josiah’s death Jeremiah lamented for him (2 Chron. 35:25; compare Jer. 22:10). He prophesied against Shallum (or Jehoahaz) the son of Josiah king of Judah in chap. 22:11.


During the following reign of Jehoiakim (609 – 598 BC) Jeremiah prophesied Jerusalem’s doom. This is why the priests wanted to kill him (Jer. 26). In Jehoiakim’s fourth year Jeremiah prophesied amidst other things the 70 years captivity of Judah in Babylon (Jer. 25:11-12; 36:1; 45:1). During this time the Babylonians under Nebuchadrezzar defeated the Egyptian Empire in the battle of Carchemish (606 BC). Following this Jerusalem was besieged and a part of the inhabitants were brought to Babylon (which was the first deportation to Babylon in 605 BC). Jeremiah now got the task of God to write down all his hitherto existing prophecies into a book. He did this with the help of his secretary Baruch (Jer. 36:1-4). When Baruch had read out these words in the temple king Jehoiakim in fury cut the roll and burnt it (Jer. 36:20-26). Then God had Jeremiah rewrite it all again and Jeremiah added “besides unto them many like words” (chap. 36:27-32).


The next king, Jehoiachin or Jeconiah, only reigned for three months and was brought to Babylon in 597 BC (the second deportation). His successor was Zedekiah, the third son of Josiah (597 – 586 BC). Jeremiah gave Zedekiah the advice not to rely on Egypt while opposing to Babylon (Jer. 37:6ff) but to subject to the king of Babylon (chap. 27:12-22). When Jeremiah intended to go to the land of Benjamin he was captured and cast into the dungeon (Jer. 37:11 – 38:6). When finally the Babylonians took Jerusalem Jeremiah was freed out of  prison. He was given the choice to either go to Babylon or to remain in the land (for the king Nebuchadrezzar had given charge concerning him). When Gedaliah (who was appointed governor by the king’s command) was murdered the Jews flew for fear of the Babylonians’ vengeance to Egypt (although Jeremiah had warned them not to do so) and forced Jeremiah and Baruch to go with them (Jer. 41 – 43). This is were Jeremiah continued his prophetical service in the city of Tahpanhes (Jer. 43:8 – 44:30) and this is where he shall have been stoned to death according to tradition five years after Jerusalem’s destruction. The Bible remains silent regarding the death of this great prophet who lived and served in the last forty years of the kingdom of Judah.


Purpose of Writing


Jeremiah, the second of the so-called four Major prophets is rightly the so called crying prophet (compare Jer. 9:1.10; 13:17; 14:17; 15:10; 20:14). No other prophet encountered so much opposition and hatred. Although he had to suffer much sorrow by his compatriots during his life Jeremiah was greatly honoured after his death (compare with Math. 16:14). And although Jeremiah constantly lashed the Jews’ unrighteousness and their apostasy off the living God he loved his people up to the end (comp. chap.  17:16; 18:20).


The main contents and purpose of Jeremiah’s message are constantly returning appeals to the conscience of Judah’s inhabitants. The messages urged them to recognise their low moral condition and to come back to God from their apostasy off Jehovah as well as from their idolatry. With that Jeremiah constantly bore the threatening judgment of Jerusalem’s destruction before his eyes.


But Jeremiah also repeatedly speaks of God’s mercy for His people. The captivity in Babylon shall last for 70 years only (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10). After this time the people should return to their land.


Finally Jeremiah has a message of consolation, which still remains unfulfilled for it was not yet fulfilled after the 70 years’ captivity. After “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:4-7) Jehovah shall make a new covenant with His people (chap. 31:31-34) and the glorious time of the millennial peace-reign under the Messiah will dawn (chap. 23:5-8; 33:14-18). This hope of future blessing and power of the Spirit of God strengthened and encouraged Jeremiah in his sad service that was rejected by his Jewish contemporaries.




a)     Judah’s  70 Years’ Captivity in Babylon


In two references, Jeremiah mentions the looming destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of the people into captivity in Babylon and that the captivity should come to an end after 70 years by the remnant’s return (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10). The threatening punishment of God found a fulfilment during Nebuchadrezzar’s reign. During Jehoiakim’s reign Nebuchadrezzar, in 605 BC for the first time, marched up to Jerusalem and brought a number of Jews to Babylon, amongst whom was Daniel (Dan. 1:1).


During Jehoiachin’s short reign a second attack took place in 597 BC during which 10,000 people were led captive and brought to Babylon. Under Zedekiah’s reign, finally, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 586 BC and the remaining people carried off to Babylon. Jeremiah’s prophecy was thus fulfilled (2 Chron. 36:21).


In 539 BC Cyrus the king of Persia conquered Babylon and appointed Darius the Median as co-regent (Dan. 5:31). In Darius’ second year (which according to Persian counting was the year one) Daniel understood by the books that the 70 years of the desolation of Jerusalem, whereof the word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah the prophet, came to an end (Dan. 9:1-2). This is by the way a clear evidence for the God-given  recognition of the OT’s inspiration before the entire Canon was accomplished! When Daniel was confessing their sin in prayer he received further prophecies through the angel Gabriel concerning the 70 “weeks” of one year each. These weeks would last from the rebuilding of Jerusalem up to the coming of Messiah and to the time of the end (Dan. 9:20-27).


The author of Second Chronicles (36:22) and of Ezra (1:1) as well refers to Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding the 70 years’ desolation of Jerusalem. Based on king Cyrus’ edict around 42,000 Jews got ready for Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (around 536 BC). The prophet Zechariah (who prophesied shortly after the Jews’ return) likewise refers to the 70 years of Jehovah’s indignation with Jerusalem and with the cities of Judah (Zech. 1:12).


Now the question is as follows: from which of Nebuchadrezzar’s three campaigns against Jerusalem are the 70 years to be counted? Some researchers think to start from the destruction of the temple in 586 BC  and then conclude that the number 70 is not to be taken literally as only just 50 years passed by till the return of the remnant in 536 BC. Others (based on Ezra 5:1; 6:14 and Zech. 1:12) want to see the final date around 516 BC when the temple was accomplished to reach the number of 70 years.


The easiest and most likely way however is to take the first conquest of Jerusalem in 605 BC as starting point and the return of the Jews in 536 BC as final point in calculating the 70 years (based on 2 Kings 24:1-4 and 2 Chron. 36:20-23).


b) The Order of the Chapters in the Book of Jeremiah


The contents of the book of Jeremiah are not always written down in chronological order. One generally assumes that the contents of chapters 1 to 20 belong to the time of Josiah’s reign (although his name is only mentioned in chap. 1:1 and 3:6). No dates are mentioned out of king Jehoahaz’ reign.


- Chapters 25 to 26, 35 to 36 and 45 to 49 are generally placed into king Jehoiakim’s reign in spite of the fact that only chapters 25, 26, 35, 36 and 45 are dated.

- Chapters 21 to 24, 27 to 34 and 37 to 42 are placed into king Zedekiah’s reign; dates are mentioned in chapters 21, 27, 28, 29, 32, 33, 34 and 37.

- Jeremiah spoke the words of chap. 43:7-8 and chap. 44 in Egypt.

- Chapter 52 is an appendix corresponding nearly word-by-word with 2 Kings 24:18-25, 30. This appendix was added under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, maybe even by the prophet Jeremiah himself.


The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) omits several verses: chapters 10:6-10; 17:1-4; 27:1.7.13 and in some cases 17-22; 29:16-20; 33:14-26; 39:4-13; 51:44-49; 52:28-30 and other references. The chapters 46 to 51 follow in changed order after chap. 25:13. Many scientists however agree that the Alexandrian translators who were trained in Greek thinking have tried to smooth the difficult construction of the Hebrew book of Jeremiah. The Hebrew Masoretic text of the book which has been preserved therefore deserves clearly the priority.


c) Prophetical Symbols


We find many a prophetical action or sign with many prophets, for example Ez. 2:8 - 3:3; Hos. 1:2-9; Zech. 11:7-17. But in no other book we will find so many prophetical symbols as in the book of Jeremiah.

the linen girdle (chap. 13:1-11): the rejection of Israel

the potter and the clay (chap. 18:1-10): God’s patience

the earthen bottle (JND: flagon) (chap. 19:1-13): destruction

the yokes (chap. 27:2-11; 28:2.10-14): subjection

the acquisition of a field (chap. 32:6-15): faith and hope

the hidden stones in the brick-kiln (chap. 43:8-13): humiliation

the book cast into Euphrates (chap. 51:59-64): Babylon’s destruction


Overview of Contents

I.     Jeremiah 1: The Prophet’s Call

II.  Jeremiah 2-25: God’s Appeal to the People’s Conscience


 Israel’s Apostasy
 Announcement of Judgment
 Call to Repentance
 Judah’s Hardening
 Announcement of Jerusalem’s Siege
 Reasons for Judgment
 The People’s Lack of Understanding
 The Prophet’s Lamentation
 Jehovah and the Idols
 Israel has Broken the Covenant
 Jehovah Turns Away
 Judgment and Captivity
 The Great Drought
 The Remnant and Jehovah
 Expulsion and Return
 The Remnant’s Position
 18 – 19
 God’s Sovereignty
 Persecution of Jeremiah
 21 – 22
 Judgment over the House of David
 The Evil Shepherds of Israel
 The Way of Life and of Death
 Announcement of 70 Years of Exile
 Jeremiah in Danger to Life
 27 – 28
 The Yokes: Subjugation through Babylon
 Jeremiah Is Comforting the Captives in Babylon


III.  Jeremiah 30 - 33: The New Covenant and the Reign of Peace


 The People’s Salvation
 The New Covenant
 Jehovah’s Faithfulness
 Salvation and Praise

IV. Jeremiah 34 - 39: Events and Prophecies before Jerusalem’s Fall


 Jeremiah warns Zedekiah
 The Rekabites’ Faithfulness
 Jehoiakim’s Contempt of the Word of God
 Jeremiah has to go into Prison
 Jeremiah and Zedekiah
 Taking of Jerusalem


V. Jeremiah 40 – 45: Events and Prophecies after Jerusalem’s Fall


 Jeremiah Remains with Gedaliah
 Gedaliah is Murdered
 42 – 43
 The Remnant goes down to Egypt in spite of Jeremiah’s Warning
 Jeremiah’s Prophecies against Egypt
 Jeremiah’s Warning for Baruch


VI.               Jeremiah 46 – 51: Prophecies against the Nations


 Prophecy against Egypt
 Prophecy against the Philistines
 Prophecy against Moab
 Prophecy against Ammon, Edom, Damascus and other Enemies
 50 – 51
 Prophecy against Babylon

VII. Jeremiah 52, Historical Appendix: The Fall of Jerusalem


]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:48:25 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 25 - Lamentations

by Arend Remmers

Author and Time of Writing

Although the Lamentations do not bear any name of an author they have been ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah in the oldest tradition already. The Lamentations in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT, around 200 BC) begin with the following words: “And it happened after Israel had been led captive and Jerusalem had been destroyed that Jeremiah sat and lamented with the following lamentation and said: How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people!“ Most researchers – included the ones who refuse Jeremiah as author – would agree that the author must have been an eyewitness of Jerusalem’s destruction (compare with Jer. 39). Jeremiah’s authorship is underlined by a number of stylistic parallels in the two consecutive books.


Jerusalem’s destruction by the Babylonians in the year 586 BC, which is described in the Lamentations by Jeremiah as eyewitness, is decisive for the date of writing. The time of writing therefore will have to be set shortly after this incident and in Jeremiah’s last years of life.


Purpose of Writing


In most of the modern Bible editions the Lamentations follow upon the book of Jeremiah. In the Hebrew Bible however they are set in the third part, the so-called “writings” (Hebr. Ketubim). There they belong to the so-called “rolls” (Hebr. Megillot), which are read on certain festive days. The reading of the Lamentations happens on the 9th day of the month of Ab (July/August) that is the fasting-day on the occasion of Jerusalem’s destruction (compare Jer. 52:6).


The Lamentations are written in poetry. The five chapters form five stanzas of one elegy over Zion’s fall.


- The two first stanzas (chapters) are composed of 22 verses each and the initial letter of each verse follows the alphabetical order.

- The third stanza (chapter) is constructed identically with the difference that each verse of the succeeding set of three begins with the same Hebrew letter. This is why chapter 3 contains 66 verses.

- The fourth stanza (chapter) is constructed as stanzas 1 and 2 with the difference that each verse contains of two instead of three lines.

- The fifth stanza (chapter) contains of 22 single lines, which however are not in alphabetical order. With this we find here one of the few cases where chapters and verses are inspired! Compare with paragraph 3. Peculiarities, a) Hebrew Poetry, in the Book of Psalms.


The Lamentations are the expression of a heart full of love for the earthly people of Jehovah, a people punished for their sins by loosing their kingdom, their land, their city and their sanctuary. Jeremiah considers himself as part of these people but thereby repents and puts his hope in spite of all mourning in God.




Christ in the Lamentations


Similar to the Psalms we may also see in Lamentations a prophetical preview of the sufferings of the Jewish remnant in the last time of trouble before Christ’s appearing. As Jeremiah identified himself with the sad condition of the people under God’s judgment so will also the Lord Jesus have compassion with Israel’s woe, and especially so with the remnant’s woe.


This is why various parallels are to be seen. Jeremiah lamented over Jerusalem and the Lord Jesus did so as well (Math. 23:37-38; Luke 19:41-44).


Further parallels are:


Lam.   2:15-16        - Math. 27:39

Lam.   3:8              - Math. 27:46

Lam.   3:19             - Math. 27:34


Overview of Contents

I.                   Lamentations 1: Lamentation over Jerusalem’s Destruction

II.                 Lamentations 2: Reason for God’s Wrath

III.              Lamentations 3: Lamentation of the Prophet

IV.               Lamentations 4: Sufferings during the Siege

V.                 Lamentations 5: Prayer for Mercy

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:47:06 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 26 - Ezekiel

The Prophet Ezekiel
by Arend Remmers

48 chapters
Author and Time of Writing
Purpose of Writing

Author and Time of Writing

The book of Ezekiel (= he will be strengthened of God; some Bible editions Ezechiel according to the Latin Vulgate) bears the name of its author who is mentioned twice in this book (Ez. 1:3; 24:24). In contrast to various other prophets Ezekiel has not been criticised as much. Should the reason for it be that the book does not speak in such detailed manner of the glory of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah?


According to Ez. 1:3 the prophet, together with King Jehoiachin, and many noble of the people of Judah had been brought to Babylon in the second deportation in 597 BC. This event is described in 2 Kings 24:14 and 2 Chron. 36:10.


Ezekiel originated from the priestly family of Aaron (Ez. 1:3). There are various explanations for the not very precise date in chap. 1:1, which says “in the 30th year”. One explanation is that Ezekiel is talking about his own age (compare with Num. 4:3; 1 Chron. 23:3). Ezekiel was married; his wife passed away on the day Jerusalem was assaulted (chap. 24:1. 18). After he was taken captive he lived in his own house in Tell-Abib by the river Chebar and he was esteemed by the Jews who had been taken into captivity, for they went to see him more than once (Ez. 8:1; 14:1; 20:1).


Ezekiel started his prophetic ministry in the 5th year of the captivity (chap. 1:2), which is the year 593 BC. At that time Daniel, the prophet, whom Ezekiel probably knew, had already been a prisoner for around 12 years in the palace of the king of Babylon (compare Ez. 14:14.20; 28:3).


The last dated message of Ezekiel was given in the 27th year of the captivity, that is the year 571 BC (Ez. 29:17). Ezekiel therefore prophesied in Babylon for at least 22 years.


In his book Ezekiel gives 13 exact dates for his prophecies. Their chronological order is: Ez. 1:1; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 29:1; 26:1; 30:20; 31:1; 33:21; 32:1.17; 40:1; 29:17. All but three messages are therefore given in chronological order and have probably been written down accordingly.


Ezekiel is not mentioned anywhere else in the Scriptures. We neither find any references to the book in the NT but remarkable parallels (see paragraph on Peculiarities).

 Purpose of Writing


The book of Ezekiel is the third in a row of the so-called four Major Prophets. Ezekiel is also one of the prophets who lived in exile. While Jeremiah lived Judah’s downfall in Jerusalem Daniel and Ezekiel had already been deported to Babylon.


Ezekiel’s prophecies correspond in many aspects to Jeremiah’s prophecies as regards to the contents. His prophecies are interspersed with many pictures and symbols as well. Both recall their sad condition to the apostate people; both prophesy the downfall of the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem’s destruction but also the final restoration in the millennium. In contrast to Jeremiah, Ezekiel arranges his prophecies in clear manner under the guidance of the Holy Spirit  (who is mentioned extremely often in this book; e.g. chap. 2:2; 3:12.24). The first part shows the condition of the people that leads to Ezekiel’s rejection (chap. 1 – 24). Then Ezekiel announces the judgments over the neighbouring people (chap. 25 – 32). Finally, we are given the prophecy on the return of the united Israel in days to come and the description of the millennium with the temple in Jerusalem (chap. 33 – 48).


Having said this, there are certain parallels with Jeremiah’s prophecies in spite of all differences.


In contrast to this Ezekiel and Daniel complete one another. Daniel mainly describes the history of the four great prophetic world empires, that is the “time of the nations” (compare with Luke 21:24) whereas Ezekiel describes the events before and after Jerusalem’s treading down. This is why the Messiah’s appearing (His first and His second coming to this earth) is not described.




a) Ezekiel and the New Testament

Direct references from the book of Ezekiel cannot be shown in the New Testament.


We may however see an allusion to Ezekiel in John 3 where the Lord Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, about the necessity of the new birth. The birth of water and of Spirit is the divine condition to enter into the kingdom of God on earth. Ezekiel had already written that God would gather His people, cleanse it with clean water from their filthiness and from all their idols, put a new spirit within them and put His spirit within them (Ez. 36:25-27). This Nicodemus should have known and the Lord therefore asks him: “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”


Several striking similarities exist between Ezekiel and the book of Revelation:


Ez.1:  - Rev.4:2-7 - the Throne of God

Ez. 3:3   - Rev.  10:9-10  - the eating of the Little Book

Ez. 8:3   - Rev.  13:14   - the image

Ez. 9:4-6    - Rev.  7:3   - the seal

Ez. 10:1-8   - Rev.  8:1-5  - the censer filled with fire

Ez. 38:2    - Rev.  20:8   - Gog and Magog

Ez. 40   - Rev.  21  - the New Jerusalem

Ez. 47:1-12  - Rev.  22:1-2  - the River and the Tree of Life


In some respects, we will find recurring similarities as, for instance, the description of the throne of God and the four living creatures. In some places the NT prophecy goes further than what had been revealed in the OT. So we find the earthly Jerusalem in Ezekiel but in the Revelation Jerusalem is the heavenly city.


b) The Glory of Jehovah


The glory of Jehovah, which is the visible sign of God’s presence with His people Israel, plays an important role in Ezekiel. The glory is represented as a cloud that is resting in the sanctuary of the temple (compare with Ex. 40:35; 1 Kings 8:10.11). Ezekiel mentions the cloud in the following references: chap. 1:28; 3:12.23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4.18.19; 11:22.23; 43:2.4.5; 44:4.


When Jehovah rejected His people this cloud of glory left the temple and the city of Jerusalem. But the cloud reappears at the end of the book and will dwell in the new temple of the millennium. The cloud has been seen once only during the long interval: it was at the Lord Jesus’ transfiguration on the mount (Math. 17:5; 2 Pet. 1:17).


Overview of Contents


I.   Ezekiel 1 – 24: Prophecies concerning Jerusalem’s Destruction


 Ezekiel’s Vision of Jehovah’s Glory
 2 – 3
 Ezekiel’s Commission
 4 – 5
 Judgment of Jerusalem
 Judgment of Idolatry
 Judgment of Israel
 Israel’s Idolatry
 The Angel Slays Jerusalem
 The Glory of Jehovah departs from the Temple
 Threat of Judgment
 The King is led into Captivity
 Prophecies against the False Prophets
 Judgment over Idolaters
 The Useless Vine
 Unfaithfulness and Ingratitude of Israel
 Abasement and Exaltation of the House of David
 The Righteous Judgment of God
 Lamentation for the Princes of Israel
 Past, Present and Future of Israel
 The Sword of Jehovah
 Jerusalem’s Sins
 Aholah and Aholibah (or: Oholah and Oholibah)
 Jerusalem’s Destruction Announced


II.   Ezekiel 25 – 32: Prophecies against Seven Neighbouring People


 Ammon, Moab, Edom and the Philistines
 26 – 28
 Downfall of Tyrus and Zidon
 29 – 32
 Prophecies against Egypt


III.  Ezekiel 33 – 48: Prophecies on Israel’s Restoration


 The Prophet’s Service as Watchman
 Israel’s Shepherds and the True Shepherd
 Judgment over Edom (Seir)
 Israel’s Return and Blessing
 Resurrection and Reunion of Israel
 38 – 39
 Attack and Destruction of Gog
 40 – 42
 The Temple in the Millennium
 43 – 46
 The Divine Service in the Millennium
 47 – 48
 The Land of Israel in the Millennium


 Arend Remmers

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:46:05 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 40 - Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew 

by Louis Berkhof  


 The Gospel of Matthew may be divided into five parts:

 I. The Advent of the Messiah, 1: 1-4: 11. Matthew proves by the legal  genealogy that Christ was the Son of David, the child of the promise;  that, in harmony with the prophecies, He was born of a virgin at  Bethlehem and his way was prepared by John the Baptist; and records his  baptism and temptation.

 II. The Public proclamation of Messiah's Kingdom, 4: 12 16: 12. Here we  find Jesus, after John is taken captive, choosing his first disciples  and beginning his work in Galilee, 4: 12-4: 25. Then follows a splendid  example of Christ's teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, in which the  law of the New Kingdom is promulgated, and its righteousness and life  are contrasted with those of Pharisees and Scribes, 5-7. This is  followed by the description of a series of miracles, interspersed with  brief teachings of the Lord and the calling of Matthew, giving clear  evidence of the power and mercy of Jesus and establishing his authority  to set up the New Kingdom and to proclaim its laws, 8: 1-9: 38. Next we  have a catalogue of the twelve apostles and their commission to  announce the coming Kingdom to the house of Israel, 10. It is brought  out that the teachings and miracles of Jesus lead to serious  questionings on the part of John the Baptist, to open opposition from  the side of Pharisees and Scribes, and to the interference of his  relatives, 11: 1-12 :50; that as a result Christ substitutes parabolic  for plain teaching, 13: 1-53; and that the opposition finally  culminmates in his rejection by the synagogue of Nazareth, by Herod and  by the spiritual leaders of the people, both of Jerusalem and of  Galilee, leading in every instance to the withdrawal of his gracious  works and also to an exposition and condemnation of the hypocracy and  wickedness of the leaders of the nation. 13: 54-16: 12.

 III. The Distinct and Public Claim of Messiahship, 16: 13-23: 39. In  this section the evangelist shows, how Christ instructs his disciples  regarding the Messiahship. The Lord calls forth their explicit  confession of him as Messiah, 16: 13-20; and teaches them in a  threefold form that He must suffer and die, but will rise again. In  connection with these announcements we have the narrative of the  transfiguration and the healing of the epileptic demoniac, and  instruction regarding the civil and religious relations and duties of  the disciples, such as the payment of the temple tribute, the  self-denying, humble, loving and forgiving spirit of true discipleship,  divorce, the proper attitude toward children, the danger of earthly  possessions, the gracious character of the reward in God's Kingdom, and  the ministering spirit demanded in his followers, 16: 21-20: 28. At  Jerusalem also He now makes his claim, entering the city as the Son of  David and assuming Messianic authority in the temple. He brings out  clearly the future rejection of Israel, answers the test questions of  his enemies and pronounces a sevenfold woe on Pharisees and Scribes,  20: 29-23: 39.

 IV. The Sacrifice of Messiah the Priest, 24: 1-27: 66. Matthew  demonstrates that Christ, now that He is rejected by the Jews, prepares  his disciples for his sacrificial death by unfolding the doctrine of  his future coming in glory and by teaching them the true posture of his  followers in waiting for the day of his coming, 24: 1-25: 46. He then  describes how Christ brought his sacrifice, after eating the Paschal  lamb, being betrayed by Judas, condemned by the Sanhedrin and Pilate,  and dying on the cross, 26:1 27: 66.

 V. The Truimph of Messiah the Saviour and King. The author brings out  that Jesus by rising again from the dead fully established his claim to  the Messiahship. Abundant evidence of the resurrection is furnished and  it is clearly shown that in the end Christ is clothed with Messianic  authority.


 1 As to form we find, in the first place, a characteristically Jewish  numerical arrangement of things in this Gospel. The genealogy in ch. 1  consists of three groups of generations of fourteen each. There are  seven beatitudes ch. 5; seven petitions in the Lord's prayer ch. 6; a  group of seven parables ch. 13; and seven woes on Pharisees and Scribes  ch. 23. As to the style of Matthew, in the second place, may be said  that it is smoother than that of Mark, though not so vivid. But it is  tinged with Hebraisms, less indeed than the language of Luke, but more  than that of Mark. It is rather impersonal, lacking in individuality.  Its individualism of language consists mostly in the frequent use of  certain words and phrases. The Hebraistic formulae of transition chai  egeneto and chai idou occur repeatedly, and the simple tote is  constantly used, especially with a historical tense. Further the  following characteristic expressions are found: he basileia ton ouranon  instead of the more common he b. tou theou; hina plerothe to rethen  hupo churiou dia tou prophetou, or an abbreviated form of this  expression; and hopos instead of hina.

 2. The arrangement of the material in this Gospel also differs  considerably from that in the other Synoptics. The narrative is not  continuous, but is interrupted by five great discourses, such as are  not found in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, viz, the Sermon on the  Mount, chs. 5-7; the charge to the apostles, ch. 10; the parables of  the Kingdom, ch. 13; the discourse on the church, ch. 18; and the final  eschatological discourses of Christ on the last judgment, chs. 23-25.  After every one of these discourses we find the words: "And it came to  pass, when Jesus had ended (made an end of, finished) these sayings,  etc.

 3. As to contents the following peculiarities deserve our attention: In  the first place the Gospel of Matthew has a more Jewish aspect, than  the other Synoptics. Its predominant subject is, the Messiah and his  Kingdom. The discourses of which we spoke all have reference to this  Kingdom, and it is clearly brought out that the mission of Christ is to  the Jews only and that the establishment of His rule will be a  restoration of the fallen throne of David. Cf. the genealogy ch. 1 and  also 2:2; 10:5, 6; 15:24; 19:28, etc. Yet we must not think that it  positively excludes the idea of salvation for the gentiles; it clearly  holds out a hope to them and even announces that the Kingdom will be  taken from Israel on account of its unfaithfulness. Cf. 2:1-13; 8:  10-12; 15:28; 21:43; 22:1-14. In the second place the first Gospel  alludes to the Old Testament more frequently than any other: It  emphasizes the fact that the New Testament reveals the fulfilment of  Old Testament promises; that Christ was born, revealed himself and  labored as the prophets of old had foretold. Matthew contains more than  40 quotations, while Mark has 21 and Luke, 22. The characteristic use  of hina (hopos) plerothe in quotations proves that Matthew had an eye  for the divine teleology in history. And in the third place Matthew  looks at things in their grand general aspect and pays less attention  to the minor details on which Mark so much loves to dwell.


 The superscription ascribes the first Gospel to Matthew. That this  embodies the opinion of the early Church is evident from the testimony  of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius and several others, who all  point to Matthew as the author. The Gospel itself shows unmistakably,  by its Jewish physiognomy, that its author was a Jew, yea even that he  was a Palestinian Jew, for he quotes from the Hebrew and not from the  Septuagint. It contains no direct evidence, however to the authorship  of Matthew, though there are a couple points of difference between it  and the other Synoptics that are best explained on the assumption that  Matthew wrote it. When we compare the lists of the twelve apostles in  Mt. 10:2-4; Mk. 3: 16-19; and Luke 6:14- 16, we notice that only in the  first Gospel the name Matthew is followed by the less honorable  qualification "the publican ;" and that it has the order, "Thomas and  Matthew" instead of, "Matthew and Thomas.'

 The apostolic authorship of this gospel is denied by several  rationalistic critics, such as Davidson; Julicher and Baljon. Their  reasons for rejecting it are the following:

 (1). Legend, misunderstanding and irrelevancy are very prominent in  this Gospel, which would not be the case if the writer had been an eye  and ear witness of Jesus. The reference is to such narratives as the  story of the wise men, the flight into Egypt, and the slaughter of the  innocents, ch. 2; the doublet of the miraculous feeding, 14:16-21; 15:  32-38; the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on two animals, 21: 2,  7; the opening of the graves at the resurrection of Christ, 27: 52; the  setting of a watch at the sepulchre and the bribing of them, etc. (2).  The Gospel of Matthew is too closely dependent on Mark, not merely in  choice of matter and arrangement but in verbal detail, to be the work  of an apostle. (3). The author never indicates by the use of the  pronouns I or we that he was an eye witness of the things which he  narrates.

 In answer to these objections it may be said that one's disbelief in  miracles does not prove them false, and that the seeming difficulties  to which reference is made easily yield to good exegesis. The  dependence of Matthew on Mark (instead of the reverse as the Tubingen  school believed) is indeed accepted by a great number of scholars  today, but is not absolutely proven. And even if it were, it would be  no disparagement for Matthew. The impersonal objective style is the  prevailing one in the historical books of the Bible and is irrelevant  as an objection to the authorship of the apostle.

 Our information regarding Matthew is very scanty. We read of him first  in connection with the call to follow Jesus, Mt. 9: 9, 10; Mk. 2:14,  15; Lk. 5 : 27-29. There is no reason to doubt that the Matthew of the  first Gospel is the Levi of the second and third. Possibly his name was  changed by the Lord after his call to the discipleship, just as those  of Peter and Paul. In Mark he is said to be the son of Alphaeus, whom  some identify with Alphaeus the father of the apostle James. But this  identification does not commend itself to us, since we may assume that,  if James and Matthew had indeed been brothers, this would have been  stated in their case as well as it is in those of Andrew and Peter and  John and James. He belonged to the despised class of publicans and  hence cannot have been a very strict Jew. When Jesus called him, he  made a great feast for the Lord, to which he also invited many  publicans and sinners. Clement of Alexandria describes him as a  rigorous ascetic, living "on seeds and herbs and without flesh." It is  not impossible that by a very natural reaction his sinful life changed  into one of great austerity. A veil of obscurity is cast over the  apostolic career of Matthew. Tradition has it that he remained at  Jerusalem with the other apostles for about twelve years after the  death of the Lord, laboring among his fellow-countrymen. When the work  was done, it is said, he preached the Gospel to others, according to  the popular opinion in Ethiopia. He probably died a natural death.


 I. Original Language. A hotly debated question is that regarding the  language in which Matthew originally wrote his Gospel. The difficulty  of the problem arises from the fact that external testimony and  internal evidence seem to disagree. As a result the camp is very much  divided, some scholars ardently defending a Hebrew, others with equal  zeal a Greek original. The earliest testimony in regard to this matter  is that of Papias and runs as follows: "Matthew composed the oracles  (logia) in the Hebrew dialect, and everyone interpreted them as he was  able." It is clear from the original that in these words the emphasis  falls on the phrase "in the Hebrew language." But Papias does not stand  alone in this assertion; a similar statement is found in Irenaeus:  "Matthew among the Hebrews did also publish a Gospel in writing in  their own language." Pantaenus is said to have gone to India, where he  found "the writing of Matthew in Hebrew letters." Origen quoted by  Eusebius also says that "the first Gospel was written by Matthew . . .  who delivered it to the Jewish believers, composed in the Hebrew  language." Eusebius himself makes the following statement: "For  Matthew, having first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go  to other people, delivered to them in their own language the Gospel  written by himself." Jerome also states that "Matthew wrote a Gospel of  Jesus Christ in Judea in the Hebrew language and letters for the  benefit of those of the circumcision who believed. Who afterwards  translated it into Greek, is uncertain." To these testimonies might be  added those of Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Ebedjesu and  Chrysostom.

 On the other hand it is pointed out that the present Greek Gospel does  not impress one as a translation, but has all the appearance of an  original work, since: (1.) The hypothesis of a translation fails to  account for the identity seen in certain parts of the Synoptic Gospels.  (2.) While the author himself indeed quotes from the Hebrew text of the  Old Testament, the quotations of our Lord are almost uniformly taken  from the Septuagint. Is it conceivable that this would be the case in a  Hebrew Gospel? (3.) The Gospel contains translations of Hebrew words,  as: "They shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God  with us," 1: 23 ; "A place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of  a skull," 27: 33. (4.) There are certain explanations of Palestinian  customs and habitual occurrences that would have been altogether  superfluous in a Hebrew Gospel, naturally intended only for the natives  of Palestine, f. i. in 22:23; 27:8, 15; 28:15.

 The conclusion to which this evidence leads is corroborated by the  following facts: (1.) In all probability no one has ever seen the  Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, and no trace of it can now be found. (2.) All  the quotations from Matthew in the early Church fathers are taken from  the present Greek Gospel. (3.) The Gospel of Matthew always stood on an  equal footing with the other Gospels and is cited just as much as they  are. This evidence both external and internal has given rise to several  theories, which we can briefly state in the following manner: (1.)  Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew and someone else translated it into  Greek. This position was held by the Church in general until the time  of the Reformation. Since then several Protestant scholars took another  view, because Rome defended the ultimate authority of the Vulgate by  pointing out that the Greek Matthew was also merely a translation. The  attacks of Rationalism on the so-called second-hand Matthew, and the  dubious character of a part of the ancient testimony, also served to  bring this theory into discredit. Notwithstanding this, however, some  of the ablest scholars have defended it up to the present. The  prevailing idea among them is that the Greek Matthew is not so much in  all parts a literal translation as a new redaction. According to  Westcott it gives in writing the Greek counterpart of the Hebrew  Gospel, that had taken shape in oral tradition from the beginning. Zahn  regards it as the ripe fruit of the interpretation of the Hebrew  original in the congregations to which Papias refers.

 (2.) There never was a Hebrew original, but Matthew wrote his Gospel in  the Greek language. The present gospel is not a translation, but an  original work. They who hold this view are of the opinion that the  testimony of Papias and of those following him was a sheer mistake, due  partly to ignorance and partly to a confounding of the Gospel of  Matthew with the Ebionite Gospel according to the Hebrews.

 (3.) Matthew wrote neither a Hebrew nor a Greek Gospel, but, if  anything, a work called the logia by Papias, which must have been a  collection of the sayings or discourses of the Lord. According to some  these logia are lost, but must probably be identified with one of the  supposed sources (Q) of our present Gospels. Others as Godet and  Holdsworth believe that the work contained the discourses that we find  in the Gospel of Matthew and was therefore incorporated bodily in our  present Gospel.

 (4.) The evangelist after writing his Gospel in Hebrew with a view to  his countrymen, possibly when he had left Palestine to labor elsewhere,  translated or rather furnished a new recension of his Gospel in the  Greek language with a view to the Jews of the Diaspora. The former was  soon lost and altogether replaced by the latter.

 In formulating our opinion in regard to this question. we desire to  state first of all that we have no sufficient reason to discredit the  testimony of the early Church. It is true that Eusebius says of Papias  that he was "a credulous, weak minded, though pious man," but in  connection with this we must bear in mind: (1) that Eusebius says this  in connection with the chiliastic opinions of Papias that were odious  to the historian; (2) that he himself elsewhere testifies that Papias  was a man "in the highest degree eloquent and learned and above all  skilled in the Scriptures," and (3) that the peculiar views of Papias  did not necessarily impair his veracity, nor invalidate his testimony  to a historical fact. Let us remember also that it is inconsistent to  believe Papias, when he says that Matthew wrote the Gospel, and to  discredit his further testimony that the apostle wrote in Hebrew, as  some scholars do. It is indeed almost certain that Pantaenus was  mistaken, when he thought that he had found the Hebrew Gospel in India;  and that Jerome labored under a delusion, when he imagined that he had  translated it at Cesarea. What they saw was probably a corruption of  the Hebrew original, known as, "the Gospel according to the Hebrews."  But this possible mistake does not invalidate the other independent  testimony of Jerome and that of all the early fathers to the effect  that Matthew wrote the Gospel in Hebrew.

 In the second place we desire to point out that Papias in speaking of  the logia of Matthew undoubtedly referred to his Gospel. The word logia  does not mean speeches or sayings, as is now often asserted. It is  found four times in the New Testament, viz, in Acts 7: 38; Rom. 3 : 2;  Heb. 5:12; I Peter 4:11, and in every one of these places it has its  classical meaning of oracles. It is applied to the divine utterances of  God in his Word. In later writers the word is generally employed to  indicate inspired writings. There is no reason to think that Papias  used the word in the sense of logoi. If in addition to this we take in  consideration that in all probability the testimony of Irenaeus is  based on, that of Papias and that he takes the word as referring to the  Gospel of Matthew, the presumption is that Papias had the Gospel in  mind. The meaning of his testimony is therefore, that the first Gospel  was written in Hebrew. The so-called Logia-source is a creature of the  imagination.

 In the third place the internal evidence of our present Gospel proves  conclusively that this is not a mere translation of a Hebrew original.  The evidence adduced seems quite sufficient. The Greek Matthew may be  and most likely is in substance a translation of the original Hebrew;  yet it mustibe regarded as in many respects a new recension of the  Gospel. The loss of the Hebrew original and the general substitution  for it of the Greek version is readily explained by the scattering of  the Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem, and by the early  corruption of the Hebrew Gospel in the circles of the Ebionites and the  Nazarenes.

 In the fourth place it seems most plausible that Matthew himself,  shortly after he had written the Hebrew Gospel, translated it,  adjusting it in several respects to the needs of the Jews that were  dispersed in different lands. True, early tradition does not speak of  this, and Jerome even says that it was not known in his time who  translated it into Greek. This favors the idea that it was done very  early. Moreover our Greek Gospel was known from the beginning as the  Gospel katha Matthaion, just as the second and third as the Gospel kata  Markon and kata Loukan. As such it is also universally quoted by those  fathers that are accustomed to mention their authors. The case of  Matthew would thus be analogous to that of Josephus.

 II. Readers and Purpose. The Gospel of Matthew was undoubtedly destined  for the Jews. This is expressly stated by Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius,  Gregory Nazianzen, e. a. This testimony is corroborated by internal  evidence. The genealogy of Jesus goes back only to Abraham, the father  of the Hebrew race; and in harmony with the tenets of the Jews the  Messiahship of Christ is proved from the prophets. The whole Gospel  impresses one as being occasioned by the exigencies of the Jews both in  Palestine and without. In none of the other Gospels is the false  position of Pharisees and Scribes so clearly exposed.

 It was Matthew's purpose to convince the Jews that Jesus was the  Christ, the great Davidic King promised by the prophets. He knew that,  if this could be shown clearly, they would be won for the Saviour. This  purpose is very evident from the Gospel. The legal genealogy of Christ  is traced back to Abraham; and it is clearly brought out that prophecy  was fulfilled in the manner of Christ's birth 1: 23; the place of his  nativity 2: 6; his flight into Egypt 2:15 ; the murder of the innocents  2:18; his residence at Nazareth 2: 23; the ministry of his forerunner  3: 3; 11:10, his removal to Capernaum 4:15, 16; his healing the sick  8:17; his meek and retiring disposition 12:18-21; his teaching by  parables 13: 34, 35; his entry into Jerusalem 21: 4, 5; his rejection  by the builders 21:42; his being David's Son and Lord 22: 44; his  desertion by his disciples 26: 31; the price of his betrayal 27: 9; the  division of his raiment 27: 35; and his cry of agony 27: 46. It is  Matthew only that records the sayings of the Lord: "I am not come to  destroy, but to fulfill," 5:17; and: "I was not sent but unto the lost  sheep of the house of Israel," 15 : 24. To him Jerusalem is "the Holy  City," "the Holy Place," and "the City of the great King." On seven  different occasions he calls the Lord "the Son of David." In harmony  with the prophets Christ the King is most prominent in his Gospel,  though of course the prophetic and priestly character of the Lord are  also clearly revealed.

 III. Time and Place. Little can be said as to the time, when Matthew  wrote his Gospel; and what few indications we have of the time are  rather uncertain, because we do not know, whether they bear on the  origin of the Hebrew original or of the present Greek Gospel. Tradition  generally points to Matthew's Gospel as being the first. Irenaeus makes  a very definite statement, viz.: "Matthew among the Hebrews published a  Gospel in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching the  Gospel at Rome and founding a church there." This must have been  somewhere between 63-67 A. D.

 Something may be gathered in this respect from the contents of the  Gospel. We cannot, as some do, infer from 22: 7 that it was composed  after the destruction of Jerusalem, for then we would have to assume  that our Lord could not have predicted this event. Moreover this  argument impugns the veracity of the evangelist. A proof for the  contrary, viz, that this Gospel was written before the destruction of  Jerusalem, is found in 24:15, where we find in a discourse of the  Saviour this parenthetic clause of the writer: "let him that readeth  understand," in connection with the Lord's admonition to the  inhabitants of Judea to flee to the mountains, when they shall see the  abomination of desolation standing in the Holy Place. The same  inference is drawn by some from the eschatological discourse of Christ  in chs. 24-25, where the beginning of sorrows, the destruction of  Jerusalem, and the Lord's return in glory are placed alongside of each  other, without any distinction of time; and the writer does not by a  single word betray any knowledge of the fact that the destruction of  Jerusalem would be separated in time from the Lord's return. But this,  being an argument from silence, is rather precarious. The dates  assigned to this Gospel by rationalistic critics range from about 70 to  125 A. D.

 As to the place, where the Gospel was written, Athanasius says that it  was published at Jerusalem; Ebedjesu, in Palestine; and Jerome, in  Judea for the sake of those in Judea who believed. There is nothing in  the Gospel itself that contradicts this. It is very likely, however,  that the Greek Gospel was written elsewhere.

 IV. Method. The question arises, whether Matthew used sources in the  composition of his Gospel. The prevalent opinion at present is that the  writer of this Gospel, whoever he may have been, drew in the main on  two sources, viz, on the logia of Matthew for the discourses of the  Lord, and on the Gospel of Mark for the narrative portion of his work.  It is found necessary, however, to assume several other minor sources.  Thus Weiss, Julicher, Baljon, Peake, Buckley, Bartlet (in Hastings D.  B.) e. a. Against these see Davidson and Salmon. Zahn's opinion is that  Mark employed the Hebrew Matthew in the composition of his Gospel, and  that the writer of our Greek Matthew in turn used the Gospel of Mark.  The great diversity of opinion among New Testament scholars in this  respect shows clearly that it is quite impossible to determine with any  degree of certainty what sources Matthew employed. All we can say is  (1) that in all probability the Hebrew Matthew depended on oral  tradition only; (2) that our Greek Matthew is based on the Hebrew; and  (3) that it is not impossible that Matthew had read the Gospel of Mark  before he composed the present Greek Gospel.


 The Gospel of Matthew has been accepted as canonical from the earliest  times. There are many traces of its use, especially of the Sermon on  the Mount in the Didache. Next we find it clearly quoted in the Epistle  of Barnabas, who cites ten passages with the significant formula "it is  written." This proves that the Gospel was used and recognized as  canonical in the early part of the second century. Further it is  abundantly testified to until the beginning of the third century, when  all controversy ceases, there being up to that time altogether 21  witnesses, so that this Gospel is one of the best attested books in the  New Testament. Among these witnesses are the old Latin and Syriac  Versions that contain this Gospel; early church fathers that refer to  it as authoritative or quote it; and heretics who, even while attacking  the truth, tacitly admit the canonical character of the Gospel.

 This book is properly placed at the very beginning of the New  Testament. It forms part of the foundation on which the New Testament  structure was to be reared. And among the Gospels, which together  constitute this foundation, it is rightly put in the first place. It  is, as it were, a connecting link between the Old Testament and the  New. As the Old Testament had reference to the Jews only, so the Gospel  of Matthew is written for the old covenant people. And it is clearly  linked to the Old Testament by its continual reference to the prophets.  The permanent spiritual value of this Gospel is that it sets forth in  clear outline Christ as the One promised of old; and, in harmony with  the prophetic literature, especially as the great divine King, before  whom the Church of all ages must bow down in adoration. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:44:06 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 41 - Mark

The Gospel of Mark

by Louis Berkhof


 We may divide the contents of Mark's Gospel, that treats of Christ as  the mighty Worker, into five parts:

 I. The Advent of the mighty Worker, 1:1--2:12. Jesus is heralded as the  mighty One by John the Baptist, and proclaimed as the Son of God by the  Father, 1:1-13. After calling some of his disciples, He taught the  Galilean multitudes as one having authority, worked mighty miracles  among them, as the casting out of demons, the healing of Peters  mother-in-law, the cleansing of a leper, etc., and showed His authority  to forgive sins, 1: 14--2:12.

 II. The Conflict of the mighty Worker, 2: 12--8: 26. In connection with  the feast of Levi, the fact that the apostles did not fast, and that  they plucked ears of corn on the sabbath, Jesus gives the Pharisees  instruction regarding the purpose of his coming, and the moral  character of the requirements of his Kingdom, 2:13--3: 8. The healing  of the man with the withered hand leads to the enmity of Pharisees and  Herodians, which caused the withdrawal of Jesus. The Lord now chose  twelve apostles and continued his mighty works, so that even his  friends and relatives sought to restrain him, and his enemies claimed  that He did them through the power of the devil, 3: 9-35. Next we find  him teaching the people regarding the origin, the quiet growth,  independent of mans efforts, and the future strength of the Kingdom of  God, 4:1-34. His divine power shines forth in his calming the sea, his  curing the demoniacs in the land of the Gadarenes and the woman that  had the issue of blood, and his raising the daughter of Jairus, 4:  36--5 : 43. He finds no faith at Nazareth, and now sends out the twelve  into the cities of Galilee, 6:1-13. Herod, hearing of Christ, stands in  awe of him, believing him to be John the Baptist, whom he beheaded,  6:14-29. Withdrawing with the twelve to a desert place, He feeds the  five thousand, and after that shows his power over nature by walking on  the sea, 6: 30-56. The Pharisees accost him, because his disciples eat  bread with unclean hands, 7:1-23. He now cures the daughter of the  Syro-Phoenician woman and the deaf and dumb man at Decapolis, where He  also feeds the four thousand, 7: 24-8: 9. Once more the Pharisees ask  him for a sign. Leaving them, He restores the sight of the blind man at  Bethsaida, 8:10-26.

 III. The Claim of the mighty Worker, 8: 27--13: 37. The Lord shows the  necessity of his suffering, leads his disciples to confess him as  Messiah, and points out what is required of them, 8:27-38. His power  and glory are seen in the transfiguration and in the miracle following  this, 9:1-29. Then follows a second revelation of his future suffering,  followed by teachings regarding humility and offenses, 9: 30-50. In  Perea Christ, tempted by the Pharisees, gives his opinion on the  question of divorce; then He blesses little children and points out the  way of life to the young ruler, 10:1-31. For the third time He reveals  his future suffering, and prepares his disciples for a life of service,  10: 32-45. At Jericho He restores the sight of Bar-timeus. Next he  enters Jerusalem amid loud hosannas, curses the fig-tree and cleanses  the temple, 10: 46--11: 26. In the temple He reveals his superiority by  answering the questions of Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians, and  points to himself as Davids Lord, 11: 27--12: 44. Then he speaks of his  coming in glory, 13.

 IV. The Sacrifice of the mighty Worker, 14:1--15 : 47. Preparation is  made for Jesus death by the Sanhedrin and Judas on the one hand, and by  Mary of Bethany on the other, 14:1-11. The passover is eaten and the  Lords supper instituted, 14:12-25: In Gethsemane follows bitter agony  and captivity, 14: 26-52. Then the Lord is tried and condemned by the  Sanhedrin and by Pilate, and finally He is crucified, 14: 53--15 : 47.

 V. The mighty Worker as Conqueror of Death, 16:1-20. Women go to the  grave on the first day of the week and are directed by the angels to go  to Galilee, 16:1-8. The Lord appears several times, gives blessed  promises, and at last ascends to heaven, 14:9-20.


 There are certain characteristics by which the Gospel of Mark is  distinguished from the other Gospels:

 1. The most striking peculiarity of the second Gospel is its  descriptive character. It is Marks constant aim to picture the scenes  of which he speaks in lively colours. There are many minute  observations in his work that are not found in the other Synoptics,  some of which point to its autoptic character. He mentions the look of  anger that Christ cast on the hypocrites about him, 3: 5; relates the  miracles, performed immediately after the transfiguration, with greater  circumstantiality than the other Gospels, 9: 9-29; tells of Jesus  taking little children in his arms and blessing them, 9: 36; 10:16;  remarks that Jesus, looking at the young ruler, loved him, 10: 21, etc.

 2. This Gospel contains comparatively little of the teaching of Jesus;  it rather brings out the greatness of our Lord by pointing to his  mighty works, and in doing this does not follow the exact chronological  order. Teaching is subordinate to action, though we cannot maintain  that it is ignored altogether. Mark, though considerably smaller than  Matthew, contains all the miracles narrated by the latter except five,  and besides has three that are not found in Matthew. Of the eighteen  miracles in Luke, Mark has twelve and four others above this number.

 3. In the Gospel of Mark several words of Christ that were directed  against the Jews are left out, such as we find in Mt. 3: 7-10; 8: 5-13;  15: 24, etc. On the other hand more Jewish customs and Aramaic words  are explained than in the first Gospel, f. i. 2:18; 7:3; 14:12; 15:6,  42; 3:17; 5:41; 7:11, 34; 14: 36. The argument from prophecy has not  the large place here that it has in Matthew.

 4. The style of Mark is more lively than that of Matthew, though not as  smooth. He delights in using words like euthus or eutheos and polus  prefers the use of the present and the imperfect to that of the aorist,  and often uses the periphrastic einai with a participle instead of the  finite verb. There are several Latinisms found in his Gospel, as  kenturion,kordantes, krabbatos,praitorion, spekoulator and phragelloun.


 Just as in the case of Matthew we are entirely dependent on external  testimony for the name of the author of the second Gospel. And the  voice of antiquity is unanimous in ascribing it to Mark. The most  ancient testimony to this effect is that of Papias, who says: "Mark,  the interpreter of Peter, wrote down carefully all that he recollected,  though he did not [record] in order that which was either said or done  by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him; but  subsequently, as I have said, [attached himself to] Peter, who used to  frame his teaching to meet the [immediate] wants [of his hearers] ; and  not as making a connected narrative of the Lords discourses. So Mark  committed no error, as he wrote down some particulars just as he called  them to mind. For he took heed to one thing--to omit none of the facts  that he heard, and to state nothing falsely in [his narrative] of  them." Several other church fathers, such as Irenaeus, Clement of  Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Jerome, Eusebius, e. a., follow in his  wake; there is not a dissentient voice.

 We cannot glean a single hint from the Gospel itself as to the identity  of the author. It may be that the obscure young man who followed Jesus  in the night of his betrayal. 14: 51, 52, and who, stripped of his  garment fled naked in the darkness of night, was the author himself.  The house of Marks mother was at least in later time a rendezvous for  the disciples of the Lord, Acts 12:12; so that it is not improbable  that Jesus and his disciples ate the Paschal supper there, and that  Mark, hearing them depart, left his bed and stole after them. This  would immediately explain the acquaintance of the author with this  interesting fact.

 Some scholars have expressed doubt as to the identity of Mark, the  evangelist, and John Mark, the companion of Barnabas and Paul. The  general consensus of opinion, however, favors this. Proceeding on the  assumption that this view is correct, we find Mark mentioned first in  connection with Peter's deliverance from prison in 44 A. D. After  leaving the prison walls the apostle went to "the house of Mary, the  mother of John, whose surname was Mark," Acts 12:12. From the way in  which Luke introduces his mother we gather that Mark was a well known  person, when the Acts were written. The fact that Peter calls him his  son, I Peter 5:13 naturally leads to the supposition that in his early  years he had frequent intercourse with the apostle and was through the  instrumentality of Peter led to a saving knowledge of the truth. He was  a cousin of Barnabas and hence a Jew, probably even of a priestly  family, Acts 4: 36. When Barnabas and Paul set out on their first  missionary journey, Mark accompanied them until they came to Pamphylia,  when for some unknown, but as it seems reprehensible reason, he turned  back. At the beginning of the second missionary journey he was minded  to accompany the apostles again, but Paul positively refused to accept  his services. He now accompanied his uncle to Cyprus. When we next hear  of Mark, about ten years later, he is spoken of by Paul as one of those  few "fellow-laborers that have been a consolation to him," Col. 4:10;  Philem. 24. In his last letter the apostle speaks of Mark once more,  and in such a laudatory manner as to prove that Mark has fully regained  his confidence, II Tim. 4:11. The last we hear of Mark in Scripture is,  when Peter sends the greetings of Mark, his son, to the Christians in  Asia Minor, I Peter 5:13. These four passages lead us to the following  construction of his later history: He was with Paul during the apostles  first imprisonment at Rome and then intended to visit the congregation  of Colossae. We have no reason to doubt that he carried out this  purpose. After Pauls release Mark was at Rome with Peter, who in  writing to the Christians of Asia Minor assumes that they know Mark.  Apparently he made another visit to Asia Minor, since Paul requests  Timothy, II Tim. 4:11 to take Mark with him, when he comes to Rome.  After the death of Peter he is said to have visited Alexandria, where  he was the first to found Christian churches, and finally died a  martyrs death. This tradition, though old, is not without suspicion.

 It seems that Mark was "like Peter more a man of action than of deep  and abiding principle, a man of fervor and enthusiasm rather than of  persevering effort; but he was transfused by the power of the same  Christ who transfused Peter into the man of rapid, continued and  effective effort in the missionary work of the Church." Gregory, Why  Four Gospels, p. 163.

 The relation of Mark to Peter deserves special attention. Scripture  speaks of this in the two places already mentioned, and tradition  abundantly testifies to it. Papias says that "Mark was Peters  interpreter and wrote down carefully all that he recollected." Clement  of Alexandria also says that he wrote down the discourses of Peter, as  he remembered them. Irenaeus, Tertullian and Jerome all style Mark "the  interpreter of Peter." Tertullian even says that "the Gospel published  by Mark may be reckoned Peter's, whose interpreter he was." And Origen  still stronger: "Mark wrote his Gospel according to the dictates of  Peter." Similarly Athanasius. All these testimonies agree in asserting  that Mark was dependent on Peter in writing his Gospel; they disagree,  however, as to the degree of dependence, some claiming merely that Mark  recorded what he remembered of Peters preaching, and others, that he  wrote what Peter dictated. Which representation is the true one?

 The title of the Gospel is against the dictation theory, for if Peter  had dictated the Gospel, it would in all probability have been called  by his name, just as the Epistles dictated by Paul are universally  ascribed to him. On the other hand the autoptic touches in the Gospel  make it probable that in some parts of his work Mark employed the very  words of Peter; they also suggest a possible basis for the later  tradition that Peter dictated to Mark. However, it is not impossible  that some of the Church fathers accentuated the dependence of Mark on  Peter unduly, merely to enhance the authority of his work. The true  relation of the evangelist to the apostle is expressed in the words:  "Mark was the interpreter (hermeneutes) of Peter." This does not mean  that he accompanied Peter on his missionary journeys as dragoman,  translating Aramaeic discourses into Greek (Davidson), or Greek into  Latin (Bleek); but that he was Peters scholar and in his Gospel  interprets i. e. sets forth the doctrine of Peter for those who have  not heard the apostle.

 The Gospel itself incidentally testifies to the relation in which it  stands to Peter. There are many touches that indicate first-hand  knowledge, as in 1:16-20; 1:29; 9:5; 15:54, 72; 16: 7. Some things  found in the other Synoptics are unexpectedly omitted by Mark, as  Peters walking on the water, Mt. 14: 29; his appearance in the incident  of the tribute money, Mt. 17: 24-27; the statement of Christ that He  prayed for Peter individually, Lk. 22: 32; the significant word spoken  to him as the Rock, Mt. 16:18. In other cases his name is suppressed,  where it is used by Matthew or Luke, as 7:17 cf. Mt. 15: 15; 14:13 cf.  Lk. 22:8.

 The authorship of Mark is quite generally admitted; yet there are some,  such as Beischlag and Davidson e. a. who deny it. They maintain that  our present Gospel does not tally with the description of Papias, where  he says that Mark wrote down the things he heard of Peter "not in  order." Wendt supposes that Papias had in mind a series of narratives  that are embodied in our present Gospel, a sort of Urmarkus. But when  Papias said that the evangelist wrote "not in order," he did not say  anything that is not true of our Mark, for in it we do not find things  in the order of their occurrence. And in ancient literature there is  not a single trace of an Urmarkus.


 1. Readers and Purpose. External testimony enlightens us respecting the  circle for which the Gospel of Mark was intended; it points to Rome and  the Romans. Clement of Alexandria says that many of the converts of  Rome desired of Mark that he should write down the discourses of Peter.  Jerome also speaks of this "request of the brethren at Rome"; and  Gregory Nazianzen says: "Mark wrote his Gospel for the Italians." If we  now turn to the Gospel itself, we find that it was peculiarly adapted  to the Romans. They were a strenuous, a very active people; Marks  Gospel is pre-eminently the Gospel of action, and is written in a brisk  lively style. The fact that the argument from prophecy holds an  inferior place in it, and that so many Jewish customs and Aramaeic  words are explained, points away from the Jews; while the Latin words  contained in the gospel, the reference to the Roman manner of divorce,  10:12, the reduction of a coin to the Roman quadrans, 12:42, the  knowledge of Pilate presupposed in 15: 1 (cf. Mt. 27: 1 and Lk. 3:1),  and the introduction of Simon of Cyrene as the father of Alexander and  Rufus, 15:21 (cf. Rom. 16:13),--all point to Rome.

 It stands to reason that the purpose of Mark in writing stood in the  closest relation to the circle of readers for whom he intended his  Gospel. It is certainly true, as Zahn asserts, that his intention was  to record the beginning (arche) of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, i. e.  the beginning of its preaching and of its course; but he has this in  common with the other Synoptics; it is nothing distinctive (cf. p. 58  above). The theory of Hilgenfeld and Davidson, following Baur, that the  Gospel of Mark was written to conciliate the two opposing parties of  the apostolic age, the Petrine and the Pauline, and therefore carefully  avoids the exclusivism of Matthew as well as the universalism of Luke  can only be sustained by the most forced and artificial  interpretations. Neither does the gospel support the view of Weiss,  that it was written at a time, when the hope of Christs second coming  was on the decline, and intended to show that the Messianic character  of Jesus mission was sufficiently attested by His earthly life. Mark's  aim was simply to record the gospel narrative without any special  dogmatic aim, but to do this in such a manner as would be most suitable  for the Romans, the busy Romans, the people of action. Hence he places  special emphasis on the acts of Christ. For those who loved conquest  and admired heroism he desired to picture Christ as the mighty  Conqueror that overcame sin and all its consequences, yea even death  itself.

 2. Time and Place. As to the time when Mark wrote his Gospel the  witness of the early Church is not unanimous. Irenaeus says that after  the death of Peter and Paul Mark wrote down what he had heard Peter  preach. Clement of Alexandria places the composition of the Gospel  before the death of Peter, stating that, when Peter heard of it, "he  neither obstructed nor encouraged the work." Jerome informs us that  Peter "approved and published it in our churches, commanding the  reading of it by his own authority~" Others say that Peter dictated to  Mark. The question to be decided is therefore, whether Mark wrote  before or after the death of Peter. It is generally assumed that the  testimony of Irenaeus is the most trustworthy. It is possible that some  of the later Church fathers insisted on Marks having written the Gospel  during the life of Peter, in order to clothe it with apostolic  authority. Zahn would harmonize the testimony of the fathers by  assuming that Mark began his work before and finished it after the  death of the apostle; and that Peter on hearing of Mark's venture at  first said nothing regarding it; then, seeing a part of the work,  rejoiced in it; and still later, when it had almost reached its perfect  form, sanctioned it, Einl. II p. 203.

 Turning to the Gospel itself, we find that it contains no positive  evidence as to the time of its composition. Some inferred from 13: 24  as compared with Mt. 24: 29 that it was written after the destruction  of Jerusalem, the evangelist being conscious of the lapse of a certain  period between that catastrophe and the day of Christs return. But the  foundation is too slender for the conclusion. With greater probability  others infer from 13:14, "let him that readeth understand," that the  destruction of the city was still a matter of expectation. This seems  to follow also from Marks utter silence regarding that calamity. The  probable conclusion is therefore that the year 70 A. D. is the terminus  ad quem for the composition of this Gospel. From Col. 4:10 we may infer  that it was written after 62 A. D., for if Paul had known Mark as an  evangelist, he would most likely have introduced him as such. A place  of still greater importance is II Peter 1: 15. "Yea I will give  diligence that at every time ye may be able after my decease to call  these things to remembrance." Here Peter seems to promise that there  will be a record of his preaching after his demise. We would therefore  date the Gospel between 67 and 70 A. D. Davidson without good reasons  places it in the beginning of the second century, about 125 A. D.  Regarding the grounds for his position, (1) that in this Gospel belief  in the divinity of Christ is more pronounced than in the first century;  and (2) that the word euangelion is used in a sense foreign to the  apostolic age, we merely remark that they are both unproved  assumptions.

 The testimony of the fathers points, almost without a dissenting voice,  to Rome as the place, where Mark composed his gospel. Chrysostom,  however, testifies that "Mark wrote in Egypt at the request of the  believers there. But in another statement he admits that he really  knows nothing about it.

 3. Method. Augustine called Mark "the abridger of Matthew," assuming  that the second Gospel was an abbreviated compilation from the first.  This theory has since been defended by several scholars of the Tubingen  school, but is now abandoned. The general features of the Gospel do not  bear out that view. Zahn finds that Mark based his Gospel both on the  oral communications of Peter and on the Hebrew Matthew, Einl. II p.  322. Davidson denies the originality and priority of the Gospel by  making it depend to a great extent on Matthew and Luke, Introd. I p.  478. Salmon finds throughout the Gospel many evidences of the priority  and independence of Mark, but believes that in other places he is, with  Matthew and Luke, dependent on a common source, Introd. p. 155. The  prevalent opinion at present is that Marks Gospel was prior to the  other two, though, at least according to some, he may have employed the  euangelion of Matthew. But in order to maintain this priority its  defenders have resorted to such artificial and unlikely theories that  they in part defeated their own purpose. The theory of an Urmarkus has  been broached, but found little acceptance. The opinion of Dr. Arthur  Wright that we must distinguish between a proto-, a deutero- and a  tritoMark, a distinction applied to oral tradition by him, is now by  others applied to written documents. Cf. Holdsworth, Gospel Origins p.  108.

 Here again the great difference of opinion proves that it is quite  impossible to trace in all details the origin of the material found in  this Gospel. The great objection to several of the theories propounded  is that they seek to account for the origin of Mark in a too mechanical  way. We may be certain of two things: (1) that Mark derived the  greatest part of his material from the preaching of Peter that had  gradually assumed a definite shape in his mind; and (2) that he has  recorded partly the ipsissima verba of Peter (except for the occasional  change of we into they), and partly merely the substance of the  apostles kerugma in a form and with interpretations of his own. For the  rest of his material he probably depended on the Hebrew original of  Matthew.


 The integrity of the Gospel of Mark is generally maintained, with the  exception, however, of the last twelve verses, regarding which there is  a great difference of opinion. The critical camp of the past century is  just about equally divided, although at present the tide is somewhat  against these verses. The reasons for rejecting them are both external  and internal. These verses are wanting in the two oldest and most  valuable manuscripts, viz, the Sinaitic and the Vatican. Eusebius and  Jerome and a few others state that they were wanting in almost all the  Greek copies of the gospels of their time. It is possible, however,  that the testimony of Jerome and the rest resolves itself into that of  Eusebius. This is all but certain with respect to that of Jerome, as  even Davidson admits. They are wanting also in the important MS. k,  representing the African text of the old Latin Version, which has  another and shorter conclusion, like that in MS. L. They are also  absent from some of the best MSS. of the Armenian Version. Then the  style of this section is abrupt and sententious, not graphic like that  of the rest of the Gospel. It makes the impression of a collection of  brief notices, extracted from larger accounts and loosely combined. Its  phraseology is also peculiar. Thus prote sabbatou, verse 9 is used  instead of he mia ton sabbatou as in 16 :2. The verb poreuesthai, which  occurs three times in this section, is not found in the body of the  Gospel. Neither is the word theasthai, 16:11, 14. Another unique  feature is the use of ho kurios as a designation of Christ, verses 19,  20.

 These verses have also found ardent defenders, however, among whom  especially Dean Burgon must be named, though he is perhaps a little too  positive. In his work on, "The last Twelve Verses of the Gospel  according to Mark," he put up an able defense. The authenticity of this  section is favored by the following considerations: It is found in most  of the uncial MSS. and in all the cursives, though some of these mark  it with an asterisk, or indicate that it was absent in older copies.  Moreover its absence from Aleph and B looks somewhat suspicious. It is  also incorporated in most of the ancient Versions, of which the Itala,  the Curatorian and Peshito Syriac, and the Coptic are older than any of  our Greek codices. All the existing Greek and Syriac lectionaries, as  far as they have now been examined, contain these verses. Irenaeus  quotes the 19th verse as a part of the Gospel of Mark. Justin Martyr  too in all probability testifies to the authenticity of these verses.  And several of the later fathers, such as Epiphanius, Ambrose and  Augustine certainly quote from them. And as far as internal evidence is  concerned, it seems very unlikely that Mark would end his Gospel with  the words ephobounto gar without recording a single appearance of the  Lord. Moreover these verses contain too many peculiarities to be a  forgery.

 We cannot delay to discuss the causes for the variation of the MSS, nor  to review the different conclusions to which scholars have come as to  the extent of Marks Gospel. They who wish to study the subject can do  so in the work of Burgon, in the Introductions of Guericke and Salmon  and in Urquharts New Biblical Guide VII, where this section is  defended; and in the work of Westcott and Hort, "The New Testament in  Greek," and in the Introductions of Reuss, Weiss, Davidson and Zahn,  who reject it.

 It seems to us that the ground offered for the rejection of these  verses by external testimony is rather slender and uncertain, while the  internal evidence is weighty indeed. In view of it we are inclined to  accept one of two possible conclusions: either that Mark himself added  these verses some time after he had written his Gospel, possibly  culling his material from Matthew and Luke; or that someone else wrote  them to complete the work. The latter is favored by the Armenian Gospel  that was written in 986 and was discovered by F. C. Conybeare in 1891,  and which has the superscription above this section: "Of the Presbyter  Ariston." In either case we see no reason, however, to doubt the  canonicity of this part of Marks Gospel, though some have attempted to  make this suspicious especially by pointing to the unlikely (?)  miracles of verses 17, 18. Cf. Luke 10:19.


 Though the external testimony to the canonicity of Mark's Gospel is not  so abundant as that for the Gospel of Matthew, yet it is sufficient to  establish this beyond a shadow of doubt. It is quoted by at least two  of the apostolic fathers, by Justin Martyr and by the three great  witnesses of the end of the second century, Irenaeus, Clement of  Alexandria and Tertullian, and is referred to as a part of the Word of  God by several others. We find no expressions of doubt in the early  Church.

 The special purpose of this Gospel in the canon is to show us Christ in  his divine power, destroying the works of satan, and conquering sin and  death. More than other Gospels it places prominently before us the work  of Christ in behalf of those that are bound by the shackles of satan  and are suffering the consequences of sin. We here see the Lion out of  the tribe of Juda, conquering and ever to conquer. Mark is the only one  of the evangelists that speaks of the future Kingdom of God as coming  with power, 9:1. In that way this Gospel has special significance for  the Church of all ages. It gives her the blessed assurance that her  future is entrusted to One who has shown himself a mighty Conqueror,  and who is abundantly able to save to the uttermost all who believe in  Him. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:42:52 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 42 - Luke

The Gospel of Luke

by Louis Berkhof


 Like the contents of the previous Gospels we may also divide those of  Luke's into five parts:

 I. The Advent of the Divine Man, 1 :-4:13. After stating his aim the  evangelist describes the announcement from heaven of the forerunner,  John the Baptist, and of Christ himself, and their birth with the  attendant circumstances, 1: 1-2: 20. Then he shows that Christ was made  subject to the law in circumcision, in the presentation in the temple,  and in his journey to Jerusalem, 2: 21-52. He traces the descent of the  Son of Man to Adam, and points out that He was prepared for his work by  baptism and temptation, 3: 1 4: 13.

 II. The Work of the Divine Man for the Jewish World, 4: 14- 9: 50. In  this part we first see Christ preaching in the synagogues of Nazareth,  Capernaum and all Galilee; performing many miracles in Capernaum and by  the sea of Galilee, such as the curing of Peter's mother-in-law, the  wonderful draught of fishes, the cleansing of the leper, and the  healing of the palsied man; calling Levi to follow him; and instructing  his enemies regarding his authority, his purpose, and the moral  character of his demands, as a result of which many were amazed and  Pharisees and Scribes were filled with hatred, 4: 14 6: 11. After a  night of prayer the Lord now chooses his twelve disciples and proclaims  the constitution of his Kingdom, 6:12-49. He cures the centurion s  servant, raises the widow's son, and gives instruction by word and  example regarding the nature of his work and the character of the  subjects of his Kingdom, 7:149. The origin of the Kingdom is now  illustrated in the parable of the sower, and the divine power of Christ  over both the natural and the spiritual world is shown in the stilling  of the storm, in the deliverance of the Gadarene demoniac, in his  curing the woman with the issue of blood and raising the daughter of  Jairus, 8:1-56. The twelve are sent out and on their return Christ  retires with them to a desert place, where He miraculously feeds the  five thousand, after which He once and again announced his future  suffering and was transfigured on the Mount, 9:1-50.

 III. The Work of the Divine Man for the Gentiles, 9: 51-18: 30. Jesus  in traveling towards Jerusalem sends messengers before him, but these  are rejected by the Samaritans; then He sends out the seventy, who  return with a good report, teaches that neighborly love is not to be  restricted to the Jews (good Samaritan), and gives his disciples  instruction regarding prayer, 9: 51-11:13. The Pharisees now claim that  Christ casts out the devils through Beelzebub, in answer to which He  pictures their condition, and when they tempt him in various ways,  pronounces his woe upon them and warns his disciples against them, 11:  14-12 :12. In connection with the parable of the rich fool the Lord  warns against covetousness and anxious care, and bids his disciples to  be prepared for the day of his coming, 12:13-53. Sitting at meat in the  house of a Pharisee, He teaches those present true mercy, true  humility, true hospitality, and the fact that they, having refused the  supper of the Lord, will be rejected, 14:1-24. Next the necessity of  self-denial is impressed on those that would follow Jesus, and in three  parables the Pharisees are made acquainted with the real purpose of his  coming, 14: 25-15: 32. The disciples are instructed in the careful use  of their earthly possessions, and to the Pharisees the law of  retribution is explained, 16:1-31. In various ways the Lord impresses  on his followers the necessity of a forgiving spirit, of humility, of  faith and gratitude, of constant prayer with a view to the unexpected  character of his coming, of trusting in God and of selfdenial, all  ending in everlasting salvation, 17:1 18: 30.

 IV. The Sacrifice of the Divine Man for all Mankind, 18:31-23 :49.  Jesus announces once more his future suffering and death, at Jericho  restores the sight of a blind man and calls Zaccheus, and points out to  his followers that his Kingdom would not immediately come, 18: 32-19:  27. Triumphantly He enters Jerusalem, where He cleanses the temple,  answers the questions of the Chief Priests, the Scribes, the Pharisees  and the Sadducees, and instructs his followers regarding his future  coming, 19: 28-21 :38. After eating the passover with his disciples He  was betrayed, condemned and crucified, 22:1 23:56.

 V. The Divine Man Saviour of all Nations, 24. On the morning of the  first day Christ arose; women seek him in the grave; He appears to two  of his disciples on the way to Emmaus, to the eleven, and finally  departs from them with the promise of the Spirit.


 The following are the most important characteristics of the third  Gospel:

 1. In point of completeness it surpasses the other Synoptics,  beginning, as it does, with a detailed narrative of the birth of John  the Baptist and of Christ himself, and ending with a record of the  ascension from the Mount of Olives. In distinction from Matthew and  Mark this Gospel even contains an allusion to the promise of the  Father, 24: 29, and thus points beyond the old dispensation to the new  that would be ushered in by the coming of the Holy Spirit. The detailed  narrative of Christ's going to Jerusalem in 9: 51-18:14 is also  peculiar to this gospel.

 2. Christ is set before us in this Gospel as the perfect Man with wide  sympathies. The genealogy of Jesus is trace back through David and  Abraham to Adam, our common progenitor, thus presenting him as one of  our race. We are told of the truly human development both in body and  spirit of Jesus in 2: 40-52, and of his dependence on prayer in the  most important crises of His life, 3: 21; 9: 29. Those features of the  Lord s miracles of healing are clearly brought out that show his great  sympathy. "Peter's mother-in-law suffers from a great fever; and the  leper is full of leprosy. The hand restored on the sabbath is the right  hand, the centurion s servant is one dear to him, the son of the widow  of Nain, is an only son, the daughter of Jairus an only daughter, the  epileptic boy at the hill of transfiguration is an only child." Bruce,  The Expositor's Greek Testament I p. 47.

 3. Another feature of this gospel is its universality. It comes nearer  than other Gospels to the Pauline doctrine of salvation for all the  world, and of salvation by faith, without the works of the law. In the  synagogue at Nazareth Christ points out that God might again deal with  the Jews as He had done in the days of Elijah and Elishah, 4:25-27; He  declares that the faith of the centurion was greater than any He had  found in Israel, 7: 2-10; sends messengers before his face into  Samaria, 9: 52-56; demands love of Israel even for the Samaritans, 10:  30-37; heals the Samaritan leper as well as the others, 17: 11-19; and  speaks the significant word: "Blessed are they that hear the word of  God and keep it, 11:28.

 4. More than the other evangelists Luke relates his narrative to  contemporaneous history and indicates the time of the occurrences. It  was in the days of king Herod that the birth of John the Baptist and  Christ was announced, 1:1, 26; during the reign of Caesar Augustus,  that Christ was born, 2: 1; while Cyrenius was governor of Syria, that  the taxation took place, 2: 2; in the fifteenth year of Tiberias, etc.,  that Christ was baptized and began his public ministry, 3:1, 2. Notice  also the following chronological indications: 1:36, 56, 59; 2:42; 3:23;  9:28, 37, 51; 22:1, 7. We should not infer from the foregoing, however,  that Luke furnishes us with a chronological record of the Lord s public  ministry. Very indefinite expressions of time are found throughout the  Gospel, as: "and it came to pass, when he was in a certain city," 5:12;  "and it came to pass on a certain day," 5:17; "and it came to pass also  on another sabbath," 6: 6, etc.

 5. Luke writes a purer Greek than any of the other evangelists, but  this is evident only, where he does not closely follow his sources. The  Greek of the preface is of remarkable purity, but aside from this the  first and second chapters are full of Hebraisms. Of the rest of the  Gospel some parts approach very closely to classical Greek, while  others are tinged with Hebrew expressions. Plummer says: "The author of  the Third Gospel and of the Acts is the most versatile of all the New  Testament writers. He can be as Hebraistic as the LXX, and as free from  Hebraisms as Plutarch." Comm. on Luke in International Crit. Comm. p.  XLIX. His style is also very picturesque; he tries to make us see  things, just as the eyewitnesses saw them. Moreover his Gospel contains  312 words that are peculiar to him. Several of these are hapax  legomena. There are also five Latin words, viz. denarion,legeon,  soudarion,assarion and modios. Cf. lists in Plummer's Comm. and  Davidson's Introd.


 Though the author speaks of himself explicitly in the preface of his  Gospel, we are dependent on tradition for his name. And here again the  testimony of the fathers is unanimous. Irenaeus asserts that "Luke, the  companion of Paul, put down in a book the Gospel preached by him." With  this agrees the testimony of Origen; Eusebius, Athanasius, Gregory,  Nazianze, Jerome, e. a.

 The Gospel itself offers us no direct collateral testimony. Yet there  are certain features that strengthen our belief in the authorship of  Luke. In the first place the writer evidently looks at things with the  eye of a physician. In 1882 Dr. Hobart published a work on, The Medical  Language of St. Luke, showing that in many instances the evangelist  uses the technical language that was also used by Greek medical  writers, as paralelumenos, 5:18, 24 (the other Gospels have  paralutikos);sunechomene pureto megallo 4 :38; este he rhu'sis tou  haimatos 8 :44 (cf. Mt. 5 :29) ; anekathisen, 7 :14, Luke carefully  distinguishes demoniacal possession from disease, 4:18; 13: 32; states  exactly the age of the dying person, 8:42; and the duration of the  affliction in 13:11. He only relates the miracle of the healing of  Malchus ear. All these things point to Luke, "the beloved physician.

 In the second place there is what has been called the Paulinism of  Luke. This has sometimes been emphasized unduly, no doubt, but it  certainly is a characteristic feature of the third Gospel, and is just  what we would expect in a writing of Paul's companion. In the third  place we find great similarity between this Gospel and the Acts of the  Apostles. If Luke wrote the latter, he also composed the former. The  general opinion is expressed by Knowling in his introduction to the  book of Acts, in the Expositor's Greek Testament II p. 3: "Whoever  wrote the Acts wrote also the Gospel which bears the name of Luke." It  is true that there are more Hebraisms in the Gospel than in Acts, but  this is due to the fact that the writer in composing the former was  more dependent on written sources than he was in writing the latter.

 The only certain knowledge we have of Luke is derived from the Acts of  the Apostles and from a few passages in the Epistles of Paul. From Col.  4:11,14 it appears that he was not a Jew and that his wordly calling  was that of a physician. Eusebius and Jerome state that he was  originally from Antioch in Syria, which may be true; but it is also  possible that their statement is due to a mistaken derivation of the  name Luke from Lucius (cf. Acts 13: 1) instead of from Lucanus. The  testimony of Origen makes us suspect this. Theophylact and Euthymius  had the mistaken opinion that he was one of the Seventy sent out by our  Lord. This is refuted by the preface of the Gospel, where Luke clearly  distinguishes himself from those that saw and heard the Lord.  Apparently the evangelist joined the company of Paul and his  co-laborers on the second missionary journey at Troas. This may be  inferred from the beginning of the we-sections in Acts 16:10. The first  one of these sections ends at 16:17, so that Luke probably remained at  Philippi. He stayed there, so it seems, until Paul returned from Greece  on his third missionary journey, for in Acts 20: 5 we suddenly come  upon the plural pronoun of the first person again. Then he evidently  accompanied the apostle to Jerusalem, 20: 6, 13, 14, 15; 21:1-17. In  all probability he was with Paul at Qesarea, 27: 1, from where he  accompanied the apostle to Rome, 27:1 28:16. He remained at Rome during  the first imprisonment, Col. 4:14; Philem. 24, and was according to  these passages a beloved friend and fellow-laborer of the apostle. And  when the great missionary of the gentiles was imprisoned for the second  time, Luke was the only one with him, II Tim. 4:11, and thus gave  evidence of his great attachment to Paul. The last part of Luke's life  is involved in obscurity. Nothing certain can be gathered from the  conflicting testimony of the fathers. Some claim that he gained a  martyr's crown; others, that he died a natural death.

 The question must be asked, whether Paul was in any way connected with  the composition of the third Gospel. The testimony of the early Church  is very uncertain on this point. Tertullian says: "Luke's digest is  often ascribed to Paul. And indeed it is easy to take that for the  master's which is published by the disciples." According to Eusebius,  "Luke hath delivered in his Gospel a certain amount of such things as  he had been assured of by his intimate acquaintance and familiarity  with Paul, and his connection with the other apostles." With this the  testimony of Jerome agrees. Athanasius states that the Gospel of Luke  was dictated by the apostle Paul. In view of the preface of the gospel  we may be sure that the Church fathers exaggerate the influence of Paul  in the composition of this Gospel, possibly to give it apostolic  authority. Paul s relation to the third Gospel differs from that of  Peter to the second; it is not so close. Luke did not simply write what  he remembered of the preaching of Paul, much less did he write  according to the dictation of the apostle, for he himself says that he  traced everything from the beginning and speaks of both oral and  written sources that were at his command. Among these oral sources we  must, of course, also reckon the preaching of Paul. That the great  apostle did influence Luke s representation of "the beginning of the  Gospel," is very evident. There are 175 words and expressions in the  gospel that are peculiar to Luke and Paul. Cf. Plummer p. LIV. Besides,  as we have already seen, some of the leading ideas of Paul are found in  the third gospel, such as the universality of the Gospel, the necessity  of faith, and the use of the word diakaioo in a forensic sense, 7:29;  10:29; 16:15; 18:14. A striking resemblance exists also between Luke s  account of the institution of the Lord s supper, 22:19-20. and Paul s  memoir of this in I Cor. 11: 23-25, but this may be due to the use of a  common source.

 The Lukan authorship of the Gospel was generally accepted up to the  time, when Rationalism began its attacks on the books of the Bible. The  Tubingen school, notably F. C. Baur, maintained that the Gospel of  Marcion, who began to teach at Rome in 140 A. D., was the original of  our Gospel. Others followed where Baur led. In later years, however,  critical opinion wheeled about completely and the opinion is generally  held that Marcion's Gospel is a mutilation of Luke's, though in some  parts it may represent another and even an older text. This, of course,  made it possible again to maintain the authorship of Luke. But even now  there are several German scholars who doubt that Luke wrote the Gospel,  and Harnack's protest against their contention seems ineffective. Their  objections to the Lukan authorship are based on the Acts of the  Apostles rather than on the Gospel, but, as has been intimated, the two  stand or fall together. We shall consider these objections, when we  treat of Acts.


 1. Readers and Purpose. The Gospel of Luke was first of all intended  for Theophilus, who is addressed as "most excellent Theophilus" in 1:  3, and is also mentioned in Acts 1:1. We have no means of determining  who this Theophilus was. It has been supposed by some that the name was  a general one, applied to every Christian, as a beloved one or a friend  of God. But the general opinion now is, and rightly so, that it is the  name of an individual, probably a Greek. The fact that he is addressed  by Luke in the same manner as Felix, 23: 26, 24: 3, and Festus, 26: 25  are addressed, led to the conclusion that he was a person of high  station. Baljon thinks he was undoubtedly a Gentile Christian, while  Zahn regards him as a Gentile who had not yet accepted Christ, since  Luke would have addressed a brother differently. It is generally  agreed, however, that the Gospel was not intended for Theophilus only,  but was simply addressed to him as the representative of a large circle  of readers. Who were these first readers of the gospel? Origen says  that the third gospel was composed "for the sake of the Gentile  converts ;" Gregory Nazianze, more definitely: "Luke wrote for the  Greeks." Now it is quite evident from the gospel itself that the  evangelist is not writing for the Jews. He never gives the words of  Jesus in the Aramaeic language; instead of amen lego he has alethos  lego, 9:27; 12 :44; 21:3; for grammateis he uses nomikoi, didaskalos,  2:46; 7:30; 10:25; 11:45; and of many places in Palestine he gives a  nearer definition. It is very probable that that Gospel of Luke was  intended for the Greeks, because Paul labored primarily among them,  Theophilus was in all probability a Greek, the preface of the gospel is  in many respects like those found in Greek historians, and the whole  Gospel is remarkably adjusted to the needs of the Greeks. Cf. for this  last point especially Gregory, Why Four Gospels p. 207 if.

 The purpose of Luke is clearly stated in the preface, viz. 98 that  Theophilus and the Gentile readers in general might know the certainty  of those things, wherein they had been instructed, 1: 4. It is his  desire to present clearly the truth of all Gospel facts. In order to do  this, he aims at fulness of treatment; traces all things from the  beginning; writes an orderly account of all that has happened,  recording the sayings of the Lord in their original setting more than  the other evangelists do, thus promoting definiteness and strengthening  his representation of the reality of things; mentions the names not  only of the principal actors in the Gospel history, but also those of  others that were in any way connected with it, 2:1, 2; 3:1, 2; 7:40;  8:3; brings the Gospel facts in relation with secular history, 2:1, 2;  3:1, 2; and describes carefully the impression which the teachings of  Christ made, 4:15, 22, 36; 5:8, 25; 6:11; 7:29; 8:37; 18:43; 19:37.  From the contents of the Gospel we may further gather that it was the  author s nearer purpose to present Christ in a very acceptable way to  the Greeks, viz, as the perfect man (cf. p. 91 above), as the  sympathetic friend of the afflicted and the poor, 1: 52; 2:7; 4:18;  6:20; 12:15 ff. 16:19, etc., and as the Saviour of the world, seeking  those that are lost, 7: 36-50; 15:1-32; 18:9-14; 19: 1-10;23:43.

 2. Time and Place. Tradition tells us very little regarding the time,  when Luke wrote his Gospel. According to Eusebius Clement of Alexandria  received a tradition from presbyters of more ancient times "that the  Gospels containing the genealogies were written first." Theophylact  says: "Luke wrote fifteen years after Christ's ascension. The testimony  of Euthymius is to the same effect, while Eutichius states that Luke  wrote his Gospel in the time of Nero. According to these testimonies  the evangelist composed his Gospel possibly as early as 54, and  certainly not later than 68 A. D.

 Internal evidence is even more uncertain. Some infer from 21: 24 that  Luke realized that a certain time was to elapse between the destruction  of Jerusalem and the final judgment, and therefore wrote after the  destruction of the Holy City, a very inconclusive argument indeed,  since this is a prophetic word of Christ. We might argue in favor of a  date after the destruction of Jerusalem from the absence of the warning  note that is found in both Matthew and Mark, but being an argument from  silence even that does not prove the point. Several scholars,  especially of the Tubingen school, date the Gospel near the end of the  first or in the beginning of the second century. The main argument for  this date is the supposed fact that Luke is in some parts of his Gospel  dependent on the Antiquities of Josephus, a rather chimerical idea.  Both Zahn and Weiss are of the opinion that Luke wrote after the  destruction of Jerusalem, but not later than the year 80 A. D. Zahn  settled on this terminus ad quem, because he considers it likely that  Luke was a member of the Antiochian congregation as early as the year  40 A. D., and would therefore be very old in the year 80 A. D.; Weiss,  since the evangelist evidently expected the second coming of Christ in  his time, which was characteristic of the first generation after  Christ. The great majority of conservative scholars place the  composition of this Gospel somewhere between 58 and 63 A. D. The main  arguments for this date are: (1) it is in harmony with ancient  tradition; (2) it best explains the total silence of Luke regarding the  destruction of Jerusalem; and (3) it is most in harmony with the dating  of Acts in 63 A. D., which offers a good explanation of Luke s silence  with respect to the death of Paul.

 As to the place, where the Gospel of Luke was written tradition points  to Achaia and Boeotia. We have no means of controlling this testimony,  however, so that it really leaves us in ignorance. Some of the modern  guesses are, Rome, Caesarea, Asia Minor, Ephesus, and Corinth.

 3. Method. In view of the preface of Luke's Gospel we have reason to  believe that in the composition of it the evangelist depended on both  oral tradition and written sources. In present day theories the  emphasis is mainly placed on written sources, and the most prevalent  hypothesis is that he employed the Gospel of Mark, either in the  present form or in an earlier recension; the apostolic source Q or some  diegesis containing this (from which two sources he derived mainly the  matter that he has in common with Matthew and Mark); and a third main  source of unknown character and authorship, from which he drew the  narrative of the nativity, chs. 1, 2, and the account of the last  journey to Jerusalem, contained in 9: 51 18:14. Zahn also believes that  Luke employed Mark as one of his sources, but does not attempt to give  a nearer definition of the other sources used. The opinion that he drew  part of his material from Josephus deserves but a passing notice. It  seems to us that it is impossible to determine exactly what sources  Luke used; all we can say is: (1) Having been an associate of Paul for  several years, part of which he spent in Palestine, where he had  abundant opportunity to meet other apostles and eyewitnesses of the  Lord's works, he must have gathered a large store of knowledge from  oral tradition, which he utilized in the composition of his gospel.  This accounts for a great deal of the matter which he has in common  with Matthew and Mark. (2) During the time of his research in Palestine  he also became acquainted with a goodly number of diegeseis narratives  of the Gospel facts, of which we can no more determine the exact  nature, and drew on them for a part of his material. One of these  probably contained the matter found in chs. 1 and 2, and in 9: 51  18:14. (3) It does not seem likely that Luke read either the Gospel of  Matthew or that of Mark, and classed them or either one of them with  the previous attempts, on which he desired to improve. Oral tradition  in connection with the guidance of the Holy Spirit is quite sufficient  to explain the resemblance between these Gospels and that of Luke.


 The canonicity of this Gospel is well attested. Says Alexander in his  work on the Canon p. 177: "The same arguments by which the canonical  authority of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark was established, apply  with their full force to the Gospel of Luke. It was universally  received as canonical by the whole primitive Church has a place in  every catalogue of the books of the New Testament, which was ever  published is constantly referred to and cited by the Fathers as a part  of sacred Scripture and was one of the books constantly read in the  churches, as a part of the rule of faith and practice for all  believers." There are in all 16 witnesses before the end of the second  century that testify to its use and general acceptance in the Church.

 The gospel of Luke presents to us Christ especially as one of the human  race, the Seed of the woman, in his saving work not only for Israel,  but also for the Gentiles. Hence it pictures him as the friend of the  poor and as seeking sinners, emphasizes the universality of the Gospel  blessings, and distinctly bespeaks a friendly relation to the  Samaritans. Its permanent spiritual value is that it reminds the Church  of all ages that in every nation he that feareth God, and worketh  righteousness, is accepted with him; and that we have a great High  Priest that was touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and was in  all parts tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:41:34 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 44 - Acts

The Acts of the Apostles 

by Louis Berkhof

 The contents of this book is naturally divided into two parts; in each  of which the main topic is the establishment of the Church from a  certain center:

 I. The establishment of the Church from Jerusalem, 1:1--12: 25. In this  part we first have the last discourse of Christ to his disciples, the  ascension, the choice of an apostle in the place of Judas, the  fulfilment of the promise in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the  conversion of three thousand, 1: 1--2: 47. Then follows the healing of  the lame man by Peter and John; their faithful witnessing for Christ in  the temple, for which they were taken captive by the priests, the  captain of the temple and the Sadducees; their release, since the  enemies feared the people; and their thanksgiving for deliverance, 3:  1--4: 31. Next the condition of the Church is described: they had all  things in common, and severe punishment was meted out to Ananias and  Sapphira for their deception, 4: 32--5:11. On account of their words  and works the apostles were again imprisoned, but delivered by the  angel of the Lord; they were brought before the council of the Jews and  dismissed after a warning, 5:12--42. The murmuring of the Grecians  leads to the appointment of seven deacons, one of which, viz. Stephen,  wrought miracles among the people, and after witnessing for Christ  before the council, became the first Christian martyr, 6: 1--7: 60.  This is followed by a description of the persecution of the Church and  the resulting scattering of believers, of the work of Philip in  Samaria, of Sauls conversion, and of Peters healing of Eneas and  raising of Tabitha, 8:1--9:43. Then we have Peters vision of the  descending vessel, his consequent preaching to the household of  Cornelius, and the defense of his course before the brethren in Judea,  10:1--11:18. The narrative of the establishment of the Church at  Antioch, of James martyrdom, and of the imprisonment and miraculous  deliverance of Peter concludes this section, 11: 19--12: 25.

 II. The Establishment of the Church from Antioch. 13:1--28: 31. From  Antioch Barnabas and Saul set out on the first missionary journey,  including visits to Cyprus, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and  Derbe, from where they returned to Antioch, 13:1--14: 28. Then an  account is given of the council of Jerusalem and its decisions  affecting the Gentiles, 15:1-34. After his contention with Barnabas,  Paul starts out on the second missionary journey with Silas, passing  through the Cilician gates to Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Troas, whence  he was directed by a vision to pass into Europe, where he visited  Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth, preaching the gospel  and establishing churches. From Corinth he again returned to Jerusalem  and Antioch, 15: 35--18: 22. Shortly after Paul began his third  missionary journey, going through Asia Minor, staying at Ephesus for  over two years, and passing into Corinth, from where he again returned  to Jerusalem by way of Troas, Ephesus and Cesarea, 18: 23--21:16. At  Jerusalem the Jews sought to kill him, his defense both on the steps of  the castle and before the Sanhedrin merely inciting greater rage and  leading to a positive determination to kill him, 21:17--23:14. A  conspiracy leads to Paul's deportation to Cesarea, where he defends his  course before Felix, Festus and Agrippa, and on account of the unfair  treatment received at the hands of these governors, appeals to Caesar,  23:15--26: 32. From Cesarea he is sent to Rome, suffers shipwreck on  the way, performs miracles of healing on the island Melita, and on  reaching his destination preaches the gospel to the Jews and remains a  prisoner at Rome for two years, 27:1--28: 31.


 1. The great outstanding feature of this book is that it acquaints us  with the establishment of Christian churches, and indicates their  primary organization. According to it churches are founded at  Jerusalem, 2: 41-47; Judea, Galilee and Samaria, 9: 31; Antioch, 11:  26; Asia Minor, 14: 23; 16: 5; Philippi, 16: 40; Thessaalonica, 17:10;  Berea, 17:14; Corinth, 18:18, and Ephesus, 20:17-38. From the sixth  chapter we learn of the institution of the deacons office, and from 14:  23 and 20:17-38 it is clear that elders, also called bishops, were  already appointed.

 2. The narrative which it contains centers about two persons, viz.  Peter and Paul, the first establishing the Jewish, the second the  Gentile churches. Consequently it contains several discourses of these  apostles, as Peters sermon on the day of Pentecost, 2:14-36; and in the  temple, 3:12-26; his defenses before the Jewish council, 4: 8-12; 5 :  29-32; his sermon in the house of Cornelius, 10: 34-43; and his defense  before the brethren in Judea, 11: 4-18. And of Paul the book contains  the sermons preached at Antioch, 13: 16-41; at Lystra, 14:15-18; and at  Athens, 17: 22-3 1; his address to the Ephesian elders, 20: 18-35; and  his defenses before the Jews on the stairs of the castle, 22:1-21;  before the Sanhedrin 23:1-6; and before Felix and Agrippa, 24:10-21;  26:2-29.

 3. The many miracles recorded in this writing constitute one of its  characteristic features. Besides the miracles that are not described  and of which there were many "signs and wonders" by the apostles, 2:  43; 5:12, 15, 16; by Stephen, 6:8; by Philip, 8: 7; by Paul and  Barnabas, 14: 3; and also by Paul alone, 19:11,12; 28:1-9 ;--the  following miracles are specifically described: the gift of tongues,  2:1-11; the lame man cured, 3:1-11; the shaking of the prayer hall,  4:31; the death of Ananias and Sapphira, 5:1-11; the apostles delivered  from prison, 5:19; the translation of Philip, 8: 39, 40; Eneas made  whole, 9: 34; Dorcas restored to life, 9: 36-42; Pauls sight restored,  9:17; the deliverance of Peter from prison, 12: 6-10; the death of  Herod, 12: 20-23; Elymas, the sorcerer, struck blind, 13: 6-11; the  lame man at Lystra cured, 14: 8-11; the damsel at Philippi delivered  ,16: 16-18; the jail at Philippi shaken, 16: 25, 26; Eutychus restored  to life, 20:9-12; Paul unhurt by the bite of a poisonous viper, 28:1-6;  the father of Publius and many others healed, 28:8, 9.

 4. The style of this book is very similar to that of the third Gospel,  though it contains less Hebraisms. Simcox says that "the Acts is of all  the books included in the New Testament the nearest to contemporary, if  not to classical literary usage,--the only one, except perhaps the  Epistle to the Hebrews, where conformity to a standard of classical  correctness is consciously aimed at." The Writers of the New Testament,  p. 16. The tone is most Hebraic in the first part of the book,  especially in the sermons in chs. 2 and 13 and in the defense of  Stephen ch. 7, in all of which the Old Testament element is very large  ;--and it is most Hellenic in the last part of the book, as in the  epistle of the church at Jerusalem, the letter of Lysias, the speech of  Tertullus, and the defense of Paul before Agrippa. This is undoubtedly  due to the fact that the first part of the book deals primarily with  Jewish, and last part especially with Gentile Christianity.


 The Greek title of the book is praxeis apostolon, Acts of Apostles.  There is no entire uniformity in the MSS. in this respect. The  Sinaiticus has simplypraxeisalthough it has the regular title at the  close of the book. Codex D is peculiar in havingpraxis apostolon, Way  of acting of the Apostles. We do not regard the title as proceeding  from the author, but from one of the transcribers; nor do we consider  it a very happy choice. On the one hand the title, if translated, as is  done in both the Authorized and the Revised Version, by "The Acts of  the Apostles," is too comprehensive, since there are but two apostles  whose acts are recorded in this book, viz. Peter and Paul. On the other  hand it is too restricted, because the book contains not only several  acts, but also many words of these apostles; and also, since it records  besides these acts and words of other persons, such as Stephen, Philip  and Barnabas.


 The voice of the ancient Church is unanimous in ascribing this book to  Luke, the author of the third Gospel. Irenaeus in quoting passages from  it repeatedly uses the following formula: "Luke the disciple and  follower of Paul says thus." Clement of Alexandria, quoting Paul's  speech at Athens, introduces it by, "So Luke in the Acts of the  Apostles relates." Eusebius says: "Luke has left us two inspired  volumes, the Gospel and the Acts." The external testimony for the Lukan  authorship is as strong as we could wish for.

 Now the question arises, whether the internal evidence agrees with  this. The book does not directly claim to have been written by Luke.  Our Scriptural evidence for the authorship is of an inferential  character. It seems to us that the Lukan authorship is supported by the  following considerations:

 1. The we-sections. These are the following sections, 16-10-17; 20:  5-15; and 27:1--28:16, in which the pronoun of the first person plural  is found, implying that the author was a companion of Paul in part of  the apostles travels. Since Paul had several associates, different  names have been suggested for the author of this book, as Timothy,  Silas, Titus and Luke, who according to Col. 4:14; Philemon 24; and II  Tim. 4:11, was also one of the apostles companions and best friends.  The first two persons named are excluded, however, by the way in which  they are spoken of in 16:19 and 20:4, 5. And so little can be said in  favor of Titus that it is now quite generally agreed that Luke was the  author of the we-sections. But if this is true, he is also the author  of the book, for the style of the book is similar throughout; there are  cross-references from the we-sections to the other parts of the book,  as f. i. in 21: 8, where Philip is introduced as one of the seven,  while we know only from ch. 6 who the seven were, and from 8: 40, how  Philip came to be in Cesarea; and it is inconceivable that a later  writer should have incorporated the we-sections in his work in such a  skillful manner that the lines of demarcation cannot be discovered, and  should at the same time leave the tell-tale pronoun of the first person  undisturbed.

 2. The medical language. Dr. Hobart has clearly pointed out this  feature in both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Some  make light of this argument, but Zahn says: "W. K. Hobart hat fur  Jeden, dem flberhaupt etwas zu beweisen ist, bewiesen, dass der  Verfasser des lucanischen Werks em mit der Kunstsprache der  griechischen Medicin vertrauter Mann, em griechischer Arzt gewesen  ist." Einl. II p. 429. We find instances of this medical language in  achlus13:11;paralelumenos;, 8:7; 9:33;puretois kai dusenteria  sunerxomenon, 25 :8.

 3. Assuming that Luke wrote the third Gospel, a comparison of Acts with  that work also decidedly favors the Lukan authorship, for: (1) The  style of these two books is similar, the only difference being that the  second book is less Hebraistic than the first,--a difference that finds  a ready explanation in the sources used and in the authors method of  composition. (2) Both books are addressed to the same person, viz.  Theophilus, who was, so it seems, a special friend of the author. (3)  In the opening verse of Acts the author refers to a first book that he  had written. Taking the points just mentioned in consideration, this  can be no other than our third Gospel, though Baljon, following  Scholten, denies this. Geschiedenis v/d Boeken des N. V. p. 421.

 4. The book contains clear evidence of having been written by a  companion of Paul. This follows not only from the we-sections, but also  from the fact that, as even unfriendly critics admit, the author shows  himself well acquainted with the Pauline diction. We have reasons to  think that he did not derive this acquaintance from a study of Pauls  Epistles; and if this is true, the most rational explanation is that he  was an associate of Paul and heard the great apostle speak on several  occasions. Moreover the authors characterization of Paul is so detailed  and individualized as to vouch for personal acquaintance.

 The authorship of Luke has not found general acceptance among New  Testament scholars. The main objections to it appear to be the  following: (1) The book is said to show traces of dependence on the  Antiquities of Josephus, a work that was written about A. D. 93 or 94.  The reference to Theudas and Judas in 5: 36, 37 is supposed to rest on  a mistaken reading of Josephus, Ant. XX, V, 1, 2. (2) The standpoint of  the author is claimed to be that of a second century writer, whose  Christianity is marked by universality, and who aims at reconciling the  opposing tendencies of his time. (3) The work is held by some to be  historically so inaccurate, and to reveal such a wholesale acceptance  of the miraculous, that it cannot have been written by a contemporary.  There is supposedly a great conflict especially between Acts 15 and  Galatians 2.

 We cannot enter on a detailed examination of these objections; a few  remarks anent them must suffice. It is by no means proven that the  author read Josephus, nor that he wrote his work after the Jewish  historian composed his Antiquities. Gamaliel, who makes `the statement  regarding Theudas and Judas, may very well have derived his knowledge  from a different source; and his supposed mistake (which may not be a  mistake after all) does not affect the authorship, nor the  trustworthiness of the book. That the standpoint of the author is more  advanced than that of the Pauline Epistles (Baljon) is purely  imaginary; it is in perfect harmony with the other New Testament  writings. And the idea of a struggle between the Petrine and Pauline  factions is now generally discarded. Historical inaccuracy does not  necessarily imply that a book was written a considerable time after the  events. Moreover in the book of Acts there is no such inaccuracy. On  the contrary, Ramsay in his, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman  Citizen has conclusively proved that this book is absolutely reliable  and is a historical work of the highest order. It may be that some  difficulties have not yet found an altogether satisfactory solution,  but this does not militate against the authorship of Luke.


 1. Readers and Purpose. It is not necessary to speak at length about  the readers for whom this book was first of all intended, because like  the Gospel of Luke it is addressed to Theophilus, and like it too it  was undoubtedly destined for the same wider circle of readers, i. e.  the Greeks.

 But what was the purpose of the author in writing this book? This is a  very much debated question. The book of Acts is really a continuation  of the third gospel and was therefore, in all probability, also written  to give Theophilus the certainty of the things narrated. We notice that  in this second book, just as in the first, the author names many even  of the less important actors in the events, and brings out on several  occasions the relation of these events to secular history. Cf. 12:1;  18:2; 23:26; 25:1. Of what did Luke want to give Theophilus certainty?  From the fact that he himself says that he wrote the first book to give  his friend the certainty of the things that Jesus began to do and to  teach, we infer that in the second book he intended to give him  positive instruction regarding the things that Jesus continued to do  and to teach through his apostles. It seems that he found his program  in the words of the Saviour, 1: 8: "But ye shall receive power, after  that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be my witnesses both  in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost  parts of the earth." In harmony with this program he describes the  march of Christianity from Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish  Theocracy, to Rome, the center of the world. With Paul in Rome,  therefore, the authors task is finished.

 Opposed to this view are those that regard the book as a tendency  writing, in which history has been falsified with a definite purpose.  As such we have:

 (1) The theory of the Tubingen school, that the book was written to  conciliate the Petrine and Pauline factions in the early Church, and  therefore represents Peter as more liberal, and Paul as more Judaistic  than is in harmony with their own writings. The supposed parallelism  between Peter and Paul, according to some, ministers to the same  purpose. This theory in the bald form in which it was broached by Baur,  is now generally abandoned, and has been modified in various ways.

 (2) The view defended by some later scholars, such as Overbeck and  Straatman, that the book of Acts is really an apology for Christianity  over against the Gentiles, especially the Romans. Hence the author  gives the Romans due honor, and clearly brings out the advantages which  Paul derived from his Roman citizenship. He desires to convey the  impression that the doctrine taught by Paul, who was protected by the  mighty arm of Rome, who was acquitted of false charges by Roman  governors, and who with a good conscience appealed to Caesar himself,  could not be regarded as dangerous to the state. Wrede considers this a  subordinate purpose of the author.

 The abiding merit of these theories is that they contemplate the book  of Acts as an artistic whole. For the rest, however, they do not  commend themselves to our serious consideration. The basis on which  they rest is too uncertain; they are not borne out by the facts; they  are inimical to the well established historicity of the book; and they  come to us with the unreasonable demand, born of unbelief and aversion  to the miraculous, to consider the author as a falsifier of history.

 2. Time and Place. As to the time, when the book was composed little  can be said with certainty. It must have been written after A. D. 63,  since the author knows that Paul staid in Rome two years. But how long  after that date was it written? Among conservative scholars, such as  Alford, Salmon, Barde e. a. the opinion is generally held that Luke  wrote his second book before the death of Paul and the destruction of  Jerusalem, because no mention whatever is made of either one of these  important facts. Zahn and Weiss naturally date it about A. D. 80, since  they regard this date as the terminus ad quem for the composition of  the third gospel. Many of the later rationalistic critics too are of  the opinion that the book was written after the destruction of  Jerusalem, some even placing it as late as A. D. 110 (Baljon) and 120  (Davidson). Their reasons for doing this are: (1) the supposed  dependence of Luke on Josephus; (2) the assumption, based on Lk. 21:20;  Acts 8:26 ff. that Jerusalem was already destroyed; and (3) the  supposed fact that the state of affairs in the book points to a time,  when the state had begun to persecute Christians on political grounds.  None of these reasons are conclusive, and we see no reasons to place  the book later than A. D. 63.

 The place of composition was in all probability Rome.

 3. Method. The problem of the sources used by Luke in the composition  of this book has given rise to several theories, that we cannot discuss  here. And it is not necessary that we should do this, because, as Zahn  maintains, none of these repeated attempts has attained any measure of  probability; and Headlam says: "The statement of them is really a  sufficient condemnation." Hastings D. B. Art. Acts of the Apostles. For  a good discussion of the various theories of Van Manen, Sorof, Spitta  and Clemen cf. Knowlings Introduction to Acts in the Expositors Greek  Testament. With Blass we believe that, if Luke is the author, the  question of sources for the greater part of the book need not be  raised. The writer may have learnt the early history of the Jerusalem  church from Barnabas at Antioch and from several others who found  refuge in that city after the persecution; from Philip, whose guest he  was for several days, 21: 8-15, and with whom he must have had frequent  intercourse during Pauls later stay at Cesarea; and from Mnason, an old  disciple, 21:16. And regarding the missionary journeys of Paul he, in  all probability, received full information from the apostle himself,  and could partly draw on his own memory or memorandum. It is quite  possible that the author had written records of the speeches of Peter  and Paul, but he certainly did not reproduce them literally but colored  them in part with his own style.


 The book of Acts is a part of the inspired Word of God. We have in it  the fruit of apostolic inspiration, in so far as we find here speeches  of some of the apostles and of Stephen, who was filled with the Holy  Ghost, when he defended his course before the Jewish council, 6:5, 10.  And in the composition of his book Luke was guided by the Holy Spirit,  so that the whole work must be regarded as a product of graphical  inspiration. This follows from the fact that this book is a necessary  complement of the Gospels, which are, as we have seen, inspired  records. It is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke, that is quoted as  Scripture in I Tim. 5:18 (cf. Luke 10: 7). If the Gospel is inspired,  then,. assuredly, the work that continues its narrative is also written  by inspiration. Moreover we find that the Church fathers from the  earliest time appeal to this book as of divine authority,--as an  inspired work.


 The place of Acts in the canon of Holy Scripture has never been  disputed by the early Church, except by such heretical sects as the  Marcionites, the Ebionites and the Manichaeans, and then only on  dogmatical grounds. Traces of acquaintance with it are found in the  apostolic fathers, as also in Justin and Tatian. Irenaeus, Clement of  Alexandria and Tertullian frequently quote from this book. It is named  in the Muratorian canon, and is also contained in the Syriac and old  Latin Versions. These testimonies are quite sufficient to show that it  was generally accepted.

 As an integral part of Scripture it is inseparably connected with the  Gospels, and reveals to us, how the Gospel was embodied in the life and  institution of the Church. We here see that the sowing of the precious  seed that was entrusted to the apostles resulted in the planting and  extension of the Church from three great racial centers of the world,  from Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish Theocracy, from Antioch, the  center of Greek culture, and from Rome, the capital of the world. The  Gospels contain a revelation of what Jesus began to do and to teach;  the book of Acts shows us what he continued to do and to teach through  the ministry of men. There is an evident advance in the teaching of the  apostles; they have learnt to understand much that was once a mystery  to them. In the Gospels we find that they are forbidden to tell anyone  that Jesus is the Messiah; here we read repeatedly that they preach  Christ and the resurrection. They now exhibit Christ in his true  character as the Prince of Life and as the King of Glory. And the  effect of their teaching was such as to bear striking evidence to the  regenerating power of Him, who by the resurrection from the dead was  powerfully declared to be the Son of God. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:40:31 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 45 - Romans

The Epistle to the Romans

by Louis Berkhof


 This Epistle consists of two clearly marked but very unequal parts,  viz, the doctrinal (1:1--11: 36) and the practical part (12:1--16: 27).

 I. The Doctrinal Part, 1: 1--11: 36. In this part we have first the  introduction, containing the address, the customary thanksgiving and  prayer, and an expression of the apostles desire to preach the gospel  also at Rome, 1: 1-15. In the following two verses the apostle states  his theme: "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one  that believeth. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from  faith to faith," 1:16, 17. After announcing this he describes the  sinful state of the Gentiles, points out that the Jews are likewise  guilty, and declares that their prerogatives do not exempt them from  punishment but rather increase their guilt, 1: 18--3: 20. He then  defines the righteousness which God has provided without the works of  the law, and proves that this is revealed in the Old Testament, is the  basis of a Christian experience that is rich in spiritual fruits, and  proceeds on the same principle of moral government on which God dealt  with Adam, 3:21--5 : 21. Next he replies to the objections that on his  doctrine men may continue in sin and yet be saved; that his teaching  releases men from moral obligation; and that it makes the law of God an  evil thing, 6:1--7:25. In the following chapter he shows that on the  basis of man's justification by faith his complete sanctification and  final glorification is assured, 8:1-39. Having stated the way of  salvation through faith, he now points out that this does not conflict  with the promises given to Israel by showing that these pertained only  to the elect among them; that the rejection of Israel is due to their  refusal of the way of salvation; that it is not a complete rejection;  and that in the end the Jews will be converted and will turn to God,  9:1--11: 36.

 II. The Practical Part, 12:1--16: 27. The apostle admonishes the  Christians at Rome that they be devoted to God and love one another,  12:1-21. He desires that they willingly subject themselves to the civil  authorities and meet all their obligations, 13:1-14. He enjoins upon  them due regard for the weakness of others in matters of indifference,  and the proper use of their Christian liberty, 14:1-23. Then he holds  up to them Christ as their great example, and speaks of his purpose to  visit Rome, 15: 1-33. Finally he sends a long list of greetings to Rome  and closes his epistle with a doxology, 16:1-27.


 1. The characteristic feature of this Epistle is found in the fact that  it is the most systematic writing of the apostle, an elaborate  treatment of a single theme with appropriate practical exhortations. It  contains a careful and rather full statement of what Paul himself  calls, "my Gospel," 2:16; 16: 25. His Gospel is that man is justified  by faith and not by the works of the law. In harmony with this theme  the contents of the Epistle are Soteriological rather than  Christological. The apostle points out that both Gentiles and Jews need  this justification; that it is the way of salvation provided by God  himself; that it yields the most blessed spiritual fruits; that it does  not issue in the moral degradation of man, but in a life sanctified by  the Spirit and culminating in everlasting glory; and that, though the  Gentiles will have precedence over the Jews, who rejected the Gospel,  these too will at last accept it and be saved. Godet calls this  Epistle, "The Cathedral of Christian Faith." Because of its methodical  character some have mistakenly regarded it as a treatise rather than as  a letter. If it were a treatise, it might have been sent to one church  as well as another, and it may be regarded as accidental that it was  sent to Rome. But this is not the case. We cannot understand this, the  greatest of Paul's literary productions, unless we study it  historically in its relation to the church of Rome.

 2. The style of the Epistle is described by Sanday and Headlam in the  following words: "This Epistle, like all the others of the group (I and  II Cor. and Gal.), is characterized by a remarkable energy and  vivacity. It is calm in the sense that it is not aggressive and that  the rush of words is always well under control. Still there is a rush  of words rising repeatedly to passages of splendid eloquence; but the  eloquence is spontaneous, the outcome of strongly moved feeling; there  is nothing about it of labored oratory. The language is rapid, terse,  incisive; the argument is conducted by a quick cut and thrust of  dialectic; it reminds us of a fencer with his eye always on his  antagonist." Intern. Grit. Comm., Romans p. LV.


 Both external and internal evidence clearly point to Paul as the  author. We find the first direct evidence for his authorship in the  Apostolicon of Marcion. The letter is further ascribed to Paul by the  Muratori canon, and is quoted as his by Irenaeus, Clement of  Alexandria, Tertullian and a host of others. The Epistle itself claims  to have been written by Paul, and this claim is borne out by the  contents, so that even Davidson says: "The internal character of the  epistle and its historical allusions coincide with the external  evidence in proving it an authentic production of the apostle." Introd.  I p. 119.

 The authenticity of this great letter, along with that of the Epistles  to the Corinthians and to the Galatians has been well-nigh universally  admitted. The first one to attack it was Evanson in 1792, followed by  Bruno Bauer in 1852. Their rather reckless criticism has made little  impression on German critical opinion. In more recent times the Pauline  authorship has been denied by the Dutch scholars Loman (1882), Pierson  and Naber (1886) and Van Manen (1892), and by the Swiss scholar Steck  (1888); but their arguments, of which an epitomy may be found in  Sanday-Headlam, Romans p. LXXXVI; Baljon, Gesch. v/d Boeken des N. V.  p. 97 ff.; and Godet, Introd. to the N. T. I St. Paul's Epistles p.  393,--failed to carry conviction among New Testament critics.


 Regarding the church to which this letter is addressed there are  especially two questions that call for discussion, viz. 1. It's Origin;  and 2. It's Composition.

 1. Its Origin. There are three theories respecting the origin of the  church at Rome.

 a. According to a tradition dating from the fourth, and probably from  the third century, that found general acceptance in the Roman Catholic  church, the congregation at Rome was founded by Peter in A. D. 42  (Jerome and Eusebius) or in A. D. 44 (Acts 12:17). This view is now  generally given up and is even rejected by some Catholic scholars. It  finds no support in Scripture, but is rather contradicted by its plain  statements. From Acts 16: 9, 10 we get the impression that Paul was the  first missionary to pass into Europe (A. D. 52), and this is just what  we would expect, since he, in distinction from the other apostles, was  sent to the Gentiles. Moreover we still find Peter in the East, when in  A. D. 50 the council of Jerusalem is held, which does not agree with  the tradition that he was at Rome 25 years. And neither in this  Epistle, nor in those written from Rome do we find the slightest trace  of Peter's presence there; yet Paul would certainly have mentioned him,  had he been the bishop of the Roman church. It is also impossible to  reconcile Paul's plan to visit Rome with the principle he himself lays  down in 15 : 20, if the local church had been founded by Peter. And  finally tradition tells us that Linus was the first bishop of Rome, and  Clement, the second.

 b. Protestants often ascribed the origin of this church to the Roman  Jews that were in Jerusalem at the feast of Pentecost, Acts 2:10, and  witnessed the extraordinary phenomena that accompanied the descent of  the Holy Spirit. On that theory the church really originated among the  Jews. In proof of this the report which Suetonius gives of the decree  of expulsion issued by the emperor Claudius against the Jews of Rome,  is adduced: "Judaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes Roma  expulit." It is said that this Chresto must be Christ, whose religion  spread in the Jewish synagogue and caused violent dissensions that were  dangerous to the public peace; but this may well be, and indeed is,  questioned by many scholars. Moreover it is rather doubtful, whether  the Jews converted at the time of Pentecost were in a position to  evangelize others and to establish a Christian church. And finally this  explanation does not square with the fact that the church at Rome, as  we know it from the Epistle, does not bear a Judaeo- but a  Gentile-Christian complexion.

 c. It seems more likely, therefore, that the church at Rome originated  somewhat later, and in a different fashion. We know that before A. D.  44 the gospel had been brought to Antioch in Syria and spread rapidly  among the Gentiles of that region, Acts 11: 20. Soon a flourishing  church was established in that beautiful city on the Orontes, a church  endowed with great spiritual gifts, having in its midst an abundance of  men that were well qualified for the work of evangelization, Acts 13:1.  Now there was at that time a lively intercommunication between Syria  and Rome, and it is certainly not improbable that some Gentile  Christians, filled with the spirit of evangelization, set out from here  for the capital of the world. Or if not from here, some such persons  may have gone forth from the other centers of Christianity,  established, by Paul on his missionary journeys. This would explain,  how the great apostle acquired so many acquaintances at Rome as he  names in chapter 16, mostly Gentiles, some of whom he calls his  fellow-laborers (cf. 3, 9, 12), while he characterizes others with some  word of endearment (cf. 5-8, 10, 11, 13). Some such friends they must  have been who went out to meet Paul on the Appian way, Acts 28:25,  while the Jews at Rome were evidently quite ignorant as to the  teachings of Christianity, Acts 28: 17-29. On this theory the Gentile  character of the church at Rome causes no surprise.

 2. Its Composition. Quite a controversy has been waged about the  question, whether the church at Rome was predominantly Jewish- or  Gentile-Christian. The traditional idea was that it consisted primarily  of Christians from the Gentiles; but the view that it was composed  mainly of Jewish Christians gained currency through Baur and was widely  accepted for some time. In support of this theory scholars appealed:  (1) To the passages in the epistle, in which Paul seems to include  himself and his readers in the first person plural, as 3: 9 and 5:1.  But notice the same feature in I. Cor. 10:1, though the Corinthians  were certainly Gentiles. (2) To those passages that speak of the  relation of the readers, or of Paul and his readers alike to the law,  as 7:1-6. This argument is stronger than the preceding one; yet we find  that the apostle employs similar language with reference to the  Galatians, Gal. 3: 13--4: 9, while most of these were certainly outside  the pale of Jewry. (3) To the character of Pauls argumentation and the  dialectical form in which he presents his Gospel to the Romans. But  even this does not necessarily imply that he was writing primarily to  Jewish Christians, since he argues in similar fashion in the Epistle to  the Galatians, and because this finds a ready explanation partly in the  Jewish training of the apostle and partly in the fact that Paul was  fully conscious of the objections which legalistic adversaries were  wont to bring against his doctrine. Besides, he knew that there were  Jewish converts in the church at Rome too, who might make similar  strictures. (4) To the chapters 9-11, regarded by Baur as the kernel of  the epistle, which relate particularly to the Jews. Yet in these very  chapters Paul addresses, in the most unambiguous manner, the Gentiles,  and refers to Israel as distinct from his readers, cf. 9: 3, 24;  10:1-3; 11:13, 17-20, 24, 25, 30, 31.

 When in 1876 Weizsacker again took up the defense of the older view, he  produced a decisive reaction in its favor. And, no doubt, it deserves  the preference, for: (1) In 1: 5, 6 Paul writes: "By whom we have  received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among the  Gentiles (tois ethnesin) for his Name; among whom ye are also the  called of Jesus Christ." (2) In verse 13 he says that he had often  purposed to come to Rome "that I might have some fruit among you also,  even as among other Gentiles." (3) When the apostle says in 11:13: "For  I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles,  I magnify mine office," it is best to assume with Meyer and Godet that  he is addressing the whole congregation in its chief constituent  element. (4) According to 15:15 ff. the writer has spoken the more  boldly to the Romans, because of the grace that was given him "that he  should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the  Gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be  acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost." On the strength of  these passages we conclude that, though there was a Jewish constituency  in the church at Rome, it consisted primarily of Gentile Christians, so  that in ministering to it also Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles. It  seems almost certain, however, that a legalistic tendency had sprung up  in the congregation, but this tendency may have been characteristically  Roman rather than specifically Judaistic. For further details of this  controversy cf. Holtzmann, Einleitung p. 232 ff.; Sanday-Headlam, Comm.  p. XXXI ff.; The Expositors Greek Test. II p. 561 ff.; and Zahn,  Einleitung I p. 299 ff. etc.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. It is impossible to speak with absolute  certainly respecting the occasion of Paul's writing this Epistle,  although scholars are quite well agreed that the apostle found it in  the fact that he had finished his work in the East and now intended to  visit the imperial city, on which he had long since cast his eye.  Probably an imminent journey of Phebe to the capital offered him, on  the eve of his departure for Jerusalem, the desired opportunity to send  his communication to Rome.

 But if the question is asked, why the apostle wrote this letter to the  Romans, why he gave it the particular character that it has, we find  that there is a great variety of opinions. Some regard the Epistle as  historical and occasional; others, as dogmatic and absolute. There are  those who hold that the particular form of the letter was determined by  the condition of the readers; and those that would make it dependent on  the state of Paul's mind. Some believe that the apostle in writing it  had in mind his Gentile readers, while others hold that he had special  reference to the Jewish constituents of the church at Rome. The  different theories respecting the purpose of the letter may be reduced  to three.

 a. According to some the purpose of the letter is dogmatic, the Epistle  containing a systematic exposition of the doctrine of salvation. But if  Paul meant to give in it nothing but an objective statement of the  truth, the question may be asked, why he should send it to Rome, and  not to some other church.

 b. Others affirm that the aim of the Epistle is controversial, Paul  giving an exposition of the truth with special reference to the  opposition of Judaeism to his gospel. Now we need not doubt that there  is a polemic element in this Epistle, but the question may well be  raised, whether the apostle did not combat legalism in general rather  than Judaeism.

 c. Still others believe that the purpose of the letter is conciliatory,  aiming at the unity of Jew and Gentile in the church at Rome. This  theory also contains an element of truth, for Paul certainly was very  solicitous about that unity, when he wrote this Epistle; but it is a  mistake to regard the promotion of it as his sole purpose in writing.

 It seems to us that, with Holtzmann, Sanday-Headlam and Denney (in Exp.  Gk. Test.), we should combine these various elements in stating the  purpose of the Epistle. Paul had long cherished a desire to visit the  city on the Tiber. Through his friends and associates he had received  some intelligence regarding the church that had been founded there. And  now that he is about to depart for Jerusalem, he has evil forebodings;  he may never see Rome; and yet he deems it desirable that the Roman  church, which had not been founded by an apostle, should not only be  notified of his intended visit, but receive a full and clear statement  of his Gospel. Hence he prepares for the Romans a careful exposition of  the Gospel truth. And knowing, as he did, the legalistic tendency of  the human heart, accented, as it often was in his time, by Judaeism,--a  tendency that probably found a fruitful soil among the moralistic  Romans, he clearly exhibits its antagonism to the doctrine of  salvation, at the same time carefully guarding and assiduously  cultivating the unity of the believers at Rome, of the weak and the  strong, of Jews and Gentiles.

 2. Time and Place. As to the time, when Paul wrote this Epistle, we can  infer from 1: 13 that he had not yet been in Rome, and from 15: 25 that  he was still a free man. Therefore he must have written it before  Pentecost of A. D. 58, for then he was taken captive at Jerusalem. On  the other hand it is clear from 15:19-21 that the apostle has finished  his task in the East and is now about to transfer his ministry to the  West. Hence it follows that he composed this letter at the end of his  third missionary journey, i. e. in the fall of A. D. 57, or in the  spring of A. D. 58. This also agrees with the fact that the apostle in  the Epistles to the Corinthians (116: 1-4; II 8, 9) is still occupied  with the collection for the saints at Jerusalem, while this work is  finished, when he writes to the Romans, 15:25.

 If this date is correct, then the Epistle must have been written at  Corinth. And there are some data that corroborate this conclusion. The  bearer of the letter is a member of the church at Cenchrea, one of the  ports of Corinth, 16: 1; and Gajus, the host of Paul, is most likely  the person mentioned in I Cor. 1: 14. Moreover the salutations of  Timothy and Sopater or Sosipater in 16: 21 is in perfect agreement with  what is said in Acts 20:4 regarding the presence of these men at  Corinth, when Paul started for Jerusalem.


 Touching the integrity of the Epistle to the Romans two questions have  arisen: 1. Is the doxology, 16: 25-27, in the right place, or does it  belong between 14: 23 and 15:1, or is it spurious? And 2. Are the  chapters 15 and 16 genuine or spurious?

 1. The place of the doxology at the end of chapter 16 was doubted as  early as the days of Origen. External testimony favors it, since it is  found there in most of the MSS, while some have it at the end of  chapter 14, and a few, in both places. Zahn is of the opinion, however,  that internal evidence decidedly favors placing it at the end of  chapter 14, because: (1) Paul's letters are often interspersed with  doxologies, but never end with them. (2) It seems unlikely that Paul  should add a doxology, closely connected with the body of the letter,  after a list of personal greetings not so connected with it. (3) The  doxology is closely related to the subject-matter of 14: 23 and 15:1.  (4) It is far harder to explain its transfer from the 16th chapter to  the 14th than the reverse. Einl. I p. 268 ff.

 Some, as f. i. Davidson and Balj on, doubt the genuineness of the  doxology, but: (1) It is found in all the MSS. (2) The thought  expressed in it is too rich and varied to be an interpolation. (3) No  possible motive can be found for forging such a doxology.

 2. The 15th chapter is regarded by some as spurious, (1) because it is  not found in the canon of Marcion; and (2) since the appellative  applied to Christ in verse 8 is considered very strange as coming from  Paul; the expression in verse 19 is not characterized by the usual  Pauline modesty; and the verses 24, 28, 29 are held to be in conflict  with 1:10-15, because they imply that Paul merely desired to pay a  short visit to Rome, when he was on his way to Spain. But the first  argument has little weight, since Marcion omits many other parts of the  New Testament, and several that are generally admitted to be genuine;  and the difficulties mentioned under (2) easily yield to exegesis.

 A far greater number of scholars reject chapter 16, (1) because  Marcions canon does not contain it; (2) since it is contrary to the  apostles custom to end his letters with so many greetings; and (3)  because Paul was not in a position to know so many persons at Rome. To  the first argument we need not reply again (cf. above) ; and as far as  the greetings are concerned, it may be that Paul intentionally greeted  so many persons at Rome to bring out clearly that, though he had not  founded the church there, he was not a stranger to it, and to cultivate  a certain familiarity. It deserves our attention that the only other  Epistle in which we find a list of greetings is that to the Colossian  church, which was like the church of Rome, in that it was not founded  by the apostle. And taking in consideration the extensive travels of  Paul in the East, and the constant movement of people in all parts of  the empire to and from Rome, it causes no surprise that so many of the  apostles acquaintances were in the capital.

 Some who doubt the destination rather than the genuineness of this  chapter surmise that it or a part of it originally constituted an  epistle, or a fragment of one, that was addressed to the Ephesians.  They point out that Phebe would be more likely to journey to Ephesus  than to Rome; that, in view of what is said in Acts 18:19; I Cor.  16:19; II Tim. 4:19, there is a greater probability that Aquila and  Priscilla were at Ephesus than in the imperial city; and that Epenetus  is called "the first-fruits of Achaia unto Christ, 16: 5. But none of  these proofs are conclusive. Moreover Dr. Gifford points out in the  Speakers Commentary that of the twenty-two persons named in verses  6-15, not one can be shown to have been at Ephesus; while (1) Urbanus,  Rufus, Ampliatus, Julia and Junia are specifically Roman names; and (2)  besides the first four of these names, "ten others, Stachys, Apelles,  Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Hermes, Hernias, Patrobas (or (Patrobius),  Philologus, Julia, Nereus are found in the sepulchral inscriptions on  the Appian way as the names of persons connected with `Qesars household  (Phil. 4:22), and contemporary with St. Paul."


 The Epistle to the Romans is one of the best attested writings of the  New Testament. Its canonicity was never doubted by the Church, and it  has been remarkably free from the attacks of Rationalism up to the  present time. Before the beginning of the third century there are  nineteen witnesses to the canonicity of the letter, including some of  the apostolic fathers, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Justin  Martyr, the Muratori Canon, Marcion, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria  and Tertullian. Both friends and foes of Christianity accepted it as  authoritative.

 It is the most systematic of all the writings of Paul, containing a  profound and comprehensive statement of the way of salvation, a  statement made with special reference to the legalistically inclined  Romans. That salvation can be had through faith only, and not by the  works of the law, not by one's works of morality, on which the man of  the Roman type was inclined to place his reliance, is at once the great  central doctrine of this epistle and its permanent lesson for all ages. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:39:06 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 46 - 1 Corinthains

The First Epistle to the Corinthians

by Louis Berkhof


 The contents of this Epistle may be divided into five parts:

 I. Condemnation of the Factions in the Church, 1:1--4: 21. After a  brief introduction in 1: 1-9 Paul states that he had heard of the  divisions among the Corinthians, 1: 11-12. In arguing against these he  points out that his conduct was free from party spirit, since this is  opposed by the gospel and forbidden by the character of Christ,  1:13-31. Moreover he reminds the Corinthians that his preaching had  been free from all partisanship which glories in the wisdom of man,  because the gospel is the message of divine wisdom, is revealed by the  Spirit and is understood only through the Spirit; white party spirit  misapprehends the nature of the ministry, 2: 1--3 : 23. He concludes  this argument by pointing to his own example, 4:1-21.

 II. The Necessity of Church Discipline urged, 5:1--6: 20. The  Corinthians are exhorted to cast out the incestuous person, 5:1-13; to  desist from lawsuits before the unrighteous, 6:1-11; and to flee from  fornication, 6:12-20.

 III. Answer to Inquiries sent from the Church, 7:1--14: 39. Here we  find a discussion of the lawfulness of marriage and its duties;  directions about mixed marriages and an apostolic advice to the  unmarried, 7:1-40. Then follows a discussion of Christian liberty in  the participation of food offered to the idols, in which love must  rule, and one must beware of any participation in idolatrous practices.  The apostle illustrates this principle at length by pointing to his own  example, 8:1--11: 1. Next the place of woman in the assemblies of the  church, and the proper observance of the Lord's supper is considered,  11:2-34. And finally the spiritual gifts manifest in the congregation  come in for consideration. Their source and diversity, their functions,  the superiority of love over the extraordinary gifts, and of prophecy  over the speaking of tongues, and the right service of God,--all  receive due treatment, 12:1--14: 40.

 IV. A Discussion of the Resurrection, 15:1-58. The apostle shows that  the resurrection of Christ is an essential article of the apostolic  testimony, and is the pledge of our resurrection; and answers various  objections, describing the nature of the resurrection body and the  final victory over death.

 V. Conclusion, 16:1-24. In this chapter the apostle commends to the  Corinthians the collection for the saints at Jerusalem, bespeaks a good  reception for Timothy, and ends his epistle with friendly admonitions  and salutations.


 1. This Epistle is the most comprehensive of all the writings of Paul.  It is just about as long as the letter to the Romans, and contains the  same number of chapters; but, while the Epistle to the Romans  systematically treats a single theme, this letter discusses a great  variety of subjects, such as party spirit, church discipline, marriage  and celibacy, Christian liberty, the place of woman in the church, the  significance and use of the charismata, and the resurrection of the  dead. And the apostle treats of these matters in a very orderly way,  first taking up the accusations contained in the report of those from  the household of Chloe, and then answering the questions that were put  to him in the letter sent by the Corinthians.

 2. Closely connected with the first is a second characteristic, viz,  that this Epistle is the most practical of all the Pauline letters. It  reveals to us, as no other New Testament writing does, the snares and  pitfalls, the difficulties and temptations to which a church just  emerging from heathendom and situated in a wicked city, is exposed.  Many of the problems that arose in the Corinthian church constantly  recur in city congregations. As important as the Epistle to the Romans  is for instruction in Christian doctrine, the first Epistle to the  Corinthians is for the study of social relations.

 3. Little need be said regarding the language of Paul in this Epistle;  it is the Greek of a Hellenistic Jew. We cannot call it Hebraistic;  neither is it literary Greek. It is rather the Greek of Paul's own  period, containing, aside from a few Hebrew loanwords, such as pascha,  very few words that are found exclusively in the Septuagint. Findlay  says: "Paul has become in this epistle more than elsewhere tois  'Ellesin hos 'Ellen." Exp. Gk. Test. II p. 748. The argumentative form  too in which the apostles thought is cast here, as elsewhere, is far  more Greek than Hebrew, more Western than Oriental.


 This epistle also claims to have been written by Paul, 1:1, 2, and  bears upon the face of it the earmarks of the great apostle. The  language, the style, the doctrine, and the spirit which it  breathes,--are all his; and the historical allusions in chapters 9 and  16 fit in exactly with what we know of his life and acquaintances from  other sources. Besides this there is an imposing body of external  evidence from Clement of Rome down to the authenticity of the letter.  Hence it, like that written to the Romans, has been remarkably free  from hostile attacks. Robertson and Plummer truly say in the  Introduction to their Commentary on this Epistle p. XVI: "Both the  external and the internal evidence for the Pauline authorship are so  strong that those who attempt to show that the apostle was not the  writer succeed chiefly in proving their own incompetence as critics."

 The free-lance Bruno Bauer was the first, and for a long time the only  one, to attack the genuineness of I Corinthians. But in the last two  decennia of the preceding century the Dutch critics Loman, Pierson,  Naber and Van Manen, and the Swiss professor Steck chimed in with a  most irresponsible kind of criticism, founded on supposed  inconsistencies and evidences of composite authorship found in the  Epistle, and on imaginary conflicts between it and the Acts of the  Apostles. No critic of name takes their argument serious; according to  the general estimate they are scarcely worth the paper on which they  are written.


 1. Its Origin. After Paul left Athens on his second missionary journey,  he came to the capital of Achaia,--to Corinth, a city situated on the  isthmus of the Peloponnese between the Ionian and the Aegean sea. It  was not the old Corinth, since this had been destroyed by Mummius in  146 B. C., but Corinth redivivus, Corinth rebuilt by Ceasar just a  hundred years later, that had rapidly risen in fame, and now had a  population of between six and seven hundred thousand, consisting of  Romans, Greeks, Jews and people of such other nationalities as were  attracted by the commercial advantages of Corinth. The East and the  West met there, and it soon became the mart of the world, where  unparalleled riches were found alongside of the deepest poverty. And  with the increase of riches and luxury came a life of ease and  licentiousness. Worldly wisdom and great moral degradation went hand in  hand. On the Acropolis shotie the temple of Venus, where a thousand  maidens devoted themselves to the sensual service of the goddess.  Corinthian immorality became a byword; and the expression to live like  a Corinthian (korinthiazein) was indicative of the greatest  licentiousness. Farrar says: "Corinth was the Vanity Fair of the Roman  Empire, at once the London and the Paris of the first century after  Christ." St. Paul I p. 556.

 To that worldly-wise profligate Corinth Paul wended his way with a sad  heart in A. D. 52. Depressed in spirit because of past experiences, he  began his labors in the synagogue, preaching to the Jews; but when they  opposed him, he turned to the Gentiles and taught them in the house of  a certain Justus. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, became one of  his first converts, and many others believed and were baptized, Acts  18:1-8. Encouraged by a vision, he now began a ministry of a year and a  half in that city. The Jews, filled with hatred, brought him before  Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, but did not succeed in making out a  case against him. Even after this incident he labored a long time in  Corinth and the adjacent country and undoubtedly established the  Corinthian church on this occasion, Acts 18:18; ICor. 1:1.

 2. Its Composition and Character. We may be sure that the church  consisted primarily of Christians from the Gentiles. This impression is  conveyed by the account of Pauls work in Corinth, preserved for us in  Acts 18, and is strengthened by a careful study of the epistle. The  apostle says of the congregation, describing it according to its main  constituent element: "Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto  these dumb idols, even as ye were led," 12:1. Yet the church also  comprised many Jews, as we may infer from Acts 18:8; I Cor. 1:12; 7:18;  12:13. The majority of the converts were of the poorer classes, 1: 26;  but there were also Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, Acts 18: 8; I  Cor. 1: 14, Erastus, the chamberlain of the city and Gajus, Paul's  host, Rom. 16: 23, and several others that were in more favorable  circumstances, as we may infer from I Cor. 11:21, 22.

 As far as the complexion of the church is concerned we find that it  bore the impress of its surroundings. There was a shallow  intellectualism, coupled with a factiousness that was "the inveterate  curse of Greece." Lax morals and unseemly conduct disgraced its life.  Christian liberty was abused and idolatrous practices were tolerated.  Even the gifts of the Holy Spirit gave rise to vainglory; and a false  spiritualism led, on the one hand, to a disregard of bodily sin, and,  on the other, to a denial of the bodily resurrection. But these faults  should not blind us to the fact that there was a great deal in the  church of Corinth that was praiseworthy. The social relations among the  Corinthians had already undergone to a certain degree the elevating and  sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit; the church was rich in  spiritual gifts, and was willing to impart of its substance to the poor  saints at Jerusalem.

 The divisions at Corinth deserve more than a passing notice, since they  are made so prominent in the Epistle. The question is, whether we can  determine the character of the existing parties. In attempting this we  desire to point out first of all that they were no parties in the  strict sense of the word, each with an organization of its own, but  merely dissensions in the church, representing a difference of opinion.  They had not led to an absolute split in the ranks of believers, for  Paul distinctly recognizes a certain feeling of unity in the church of  Corinth, since he mentions meetings of the whole church repeatedly,  11:18; 14: 23. Yet there were four divisions of which each one had his  own slogan.

 a. Some said: "I am of Paul !" This party is mentioned first, not  necessarily because it comes first in chronological order. Since the  church had been founded by Paul, it would seem that a separate party,  using the apostles name as their shibboleth, could only arise in  opposition to another. It consisted most likely of those serious-minded  believers who had regard to the contents of the gospel preaching rather  than to its form; and who heartily accepted the simple doctrine of the  cross, as Paul preached it, who had come to them without wisdom of  words that the cross of Christ might not be made of non-effect.

 b. Others said: "I am of Apollos !" We do not believe that the  preaching of Apollos differed essentially from that of Paul, nor that  he was to blame for the dissension that arose as a result of his work.  Paul himself bears witness to his perfect unity of spirit with Apollos,  where he says that Apollos watered what he had planted, and that he  that planteth and he that watereth are one, 3: 6-8; and that he had  greatly desired to send Apollos with Timothy and the other brethren to  Corinth, 15:12. And is it not likely that Apollos refused to go, just  because he feared that it might foster the party spirit? The Apollos  Christians were in all probability those cultured Greeks who, while  they were in accord with the doctrine of free grace, greatly preferred  a speculative and oratorical presentation of it to the simple preaching  of Paul.

 c. Still others said: "I am of Cephas !" While the two former parties  undoubtedly constituted the bulk of the congregation, there were also  some who had scruples regarding the doctrine of free grace. They were  conservative Jewish believers that adhered to the decisions of the  council of Jerusalem and persisted in certain legal observances.  Naturally they in spirit rallied around Peter, the apostle of  circumcision. It may be that the tradition preserved by Dionysius of  Corinth is true that Peter has at one time visited Corinth. If it is,  this helps to explain their watchword.

 d. Finally there were also those who said: "I am of Christ !" This  party has always been the most difficult to characterize, and, as a  result, a great number of theories have been broached. After F. C. Baur  many interpreted this "of Christ" in the light of II Cor. 10: 7, where  the opponents of whom Paul speaks are ultra-Judaeists. On that theory  the Christ-party would be even more strictly Jewish than the party of  Peter. Others, such as Hilgenfeld and Hausrath maintain that it  consisted of those that had been in personal relation with the Lord,  and probably belonged to the five hundred of I Cor. 15: 5. Godet  suggests that they were such as were embued with the spirit of  Cerinthus, and believed in Christ in distinction from the human Jesus.  He identifies them with those who would call Jesus accursed, I Cor. 12  :3. We prefer to think with Meyer, Ellicott, Alford, Findley (Exp. Gk.  Test.) and Biesterveld that it consisted of the ultra-pious ones who,  despising all human leadership, arrogated the common watchword as their  own private property, and by so doing made it a party slogan. They  regarded themselves as the ideal party, were filled with spiritual  pride, and thus became a great stumblingblock for the apostle. The key  to this interpretation is found in 3: 22, 23, where the apostle offers  a corrective for the party spirit, when he says: "Whether Paul, or  Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present,  or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's and Christ is  God's." Findlay correctly remarks that "the catholic humeis Christou  swallows up the self-assertive and sectarian Ego de Christou.

 3. Pauls Communications with it. There are two questions that call for  consideration under this heading: a. How often did Paul visit Corinth?  and b. Did he write more letters to the Corinthian church than we now  possess?

 a. We know that Paul visited Corinth in A. D. 52, Acts 18:1, and again  in 57, Acts 20: 2. Are there traces of any other visits? The allusions  in II Cor. 2: 1; 12:14; 13: 1 seem to imply that he had been in Corinth  twice before he wrote II Corinthians, and hence prior to the visit of  A. D. 57. In all probability we must assume a visit not recorded in the  Acts of the Apostles. The question is, however, whether we must place  it before the writing of I Corinthians, or between this and the  composition of II Corinthians. This cannot be decided absolutely with  the data at hand, but we consider it preferable to place it before the  first Epistle: (1) because the time intervening between the two letters  is so short that a trip to Corinth in that time is exceedingly  improbable; (2) Since, Timothy and Titus having been in Corinth a part  of that time, we cannot understand, what could make it imperative for  Paul to make such a hasty visit; and (3) II Corinthians constantly  refers to things written in the first Epistle in a way that would not  have been necessary if Paul had already been in Corinth himself. In  favor of placing it after the writing of the first Epistle, it is urged  that I Corinthians does not refer to a visit that shortly preceded it.

 b. It seems to us that Paul unquestionably wrote more epistles to the  Corinthians than those which we now possess. In I Cor. 5 : 9 the author  clearly refers to an earlier letter, forbidding intercourse with  immoral persons. That letter had been misunderstood, and therefore the  impression it made is now corrected by the apostle. Very likely it also  spoke of the collection for the saints at Jerusalem, 16:1, and conveyed  the apostles intention to visit Corinth both before and after his visit  to Macedonia, to which II Cor. 1: 15, 16 refers, and which he changed  before writing I Corinthians (cf. 16: 5), thereby unwittingly exposing  himself to the calumny of his enemies, II Cor. 1:15-18. From II Cor. 7:  6-8 some infer that another letter, far more censorious than I  Corinthians intervened between the two canonical letters, and caused  the apostles uneasiness; but the evidence is not strong enough to  warrant the conclusion.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. This letter was occasioned by reports which  Paul received from Corinth and by a series of questions that were put  to him by the Corinthians. Those who were of the house of Chloe told  him of the divisions in their home church, 1: 11, and common report had  it that fornication and even incest was permitted in the congregation,  5:1. Moreover the church sent a letter, probably by the hand of  Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, 16:17, asking the apostles opinion  in several matters, as marriage, 7:1; the eating of meat offered to the  idols, 8: 1; the proper conduct in the church, 11: 2; the right use of  the spiritual gifts, 12: 1; and in all probability also respecting the  doctrine of the resurrection, 15.

 In harmony with this occasion the purpose of the Epistle is especially  twofold: In the first place the apostle desires to quench the party  spirit that was rife among the Corinthians that he might lead them all  to the unity of faith that is in Jesus Christ; and to correct the other  evils that were found in the church, such as the case of incest and the  irregularities that disgraced their Agapae, which culminated in the  Lords Supper. And in the second place it was his aim to give the young  church, struggling with temptations and baffled by many difficult  questions, further instruction along the lines indicated by them in  their letter. With great diligence and care and solicitude for the  welfare of the congregation the apostle applies himself to this task.  In answer to the question, whether he also intended to defend his  apostleship over against his enemies we would say that, though this was  not altogether absent from his mind (cf. chs. 4 and 9), he does not aim  at this directly like he does in writing II Corinthians, when the  hostility of the false teachers has become far more pronounced.

 2. Time and Place. The place, where this Epistle was written, is  clearly indicated in 16: 8, and therefore does not call for further  discussion. This also aids us in determining the time of writing. The  only stay of Paul at Ephesus of any duration is described in Acts 19.  If our chronological calculations are correct, he came there in A. D.  54 and, after a stay of three years, left there again in 57. According  to I Cor. 16: 8 he wrote the epistle toward the end of his Ephesian  ministry, before Pentecost of A. D. 57, and therefore probably in the  early part of that year. We cannot conclude from I Cor. 5: 7 that it  was when the feast of unleavened bread was celebrated, although it is  very well possible that the nearness of that feast gave rise to the  line of thought developed in that chapter.


 The canonicity of the Epistle is abundantly attested by early Christian  literature. It is the first one of the New Testament writings that is  cited by name by one of the apostolic fathers. Clement of Rome says in  his first Epistle to the Corinthians: "Take the Epistle of the blessed  Paul the apostle into your hands etc." The writings of the other  apostolic fathers, viz. Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius and Polycarp show  clear traces of the use of this Epistle. From Irenaeus on it is quoted  as Holy Scripture. The Gnostics regarded it with special favor. It was  found in Marcion's canon, in the Muratorian Fragment etc. The testimony  to it is very full and clear.

 In the Epistle to the Romans we have a statement of the way of  salvation with special reference to the legalistic Romans; in this  Epistle we find an exposition of it particularly with a view to the  philosophically inclined Greeks. It clearly reveals that the way of  wordly wisdom is not the way of life, a valuable lesson for the Church  of all ages. But there is still another phase that gives the Epistle  permanent value; it contains the doctrine of the cross in its social  application. In it we see the church of God in the world with all its  glitter and show, its temptations and dangers, its errors and crimes,  and are taught to apply the principles of the Christian religion to the  diversified relations of life, as we meet them in the bustle of a great  and wicked city. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:37:56 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 47 - 2 Corinthians

The Second Epistle to the Corinthians

by Louis Berkhof


 The contents of this Epistle are naturally divided into three parts:

 I. Review of Pauls Relation's with the Corinthians, 1: 1--7:16. After  the usual epistolary introduction, 1: 1-11, the apostle vindicates  himself with respect to the change in his intended visit, and with  reference to what he had written respecting the offender, 1: 12--2:13.  Having done this, he takes up the discussion of the apostleship. In the  first place he considers the office of an apostle, comparing the  ministry of the Law with that of the Gospel, 3: 6-18, and vindicating  his own position as an apostle of the New Covenant, 2: 14--3: 5; 4:1-6.  Then he treats of the sufferings of an apostle which are inseparably  connected with his work, but are alleviated by the hope of future  glory, 4: 7--5:10. Next the life of an apostle passes the review, which  finds its constraining motive in the love of Christ, has its spiritual  basis in the life of the Redeemer, and is marked by sufferings,  dishonor and poverty, on the one hand; but also by longsuffering and  kindness, by knowledge and righteousness, on the other, 5:11--6:10.  This is followed up by an appeal of the apostle to the Corinthians that  they should give him place in their hearts, and should not be unequally  yoked together with unbelievers, 6: 11--7: 4. Finally the apostle tells  the Corinthians that he had been comforted greatly by the coming of  Titus, by whom his fears that the former letter might have estranged  them, were allayed and made place for rejoicing, 7: 5-16.

 II. The Collection for the Judaean Christians, 8:1--9:15. The apostle  points the Corinthians to the example of the Macedonians who gave  abundantly for the poor at Jerusalem, 8:1-7; and to the example of  Christ who became poor that the Corinthians might be enriched, 8: 8-15.  He commends to them Titus and the two brethren that are sent with him  to gather the collection, 8:16-24; and exhorts them to give abundantly  for this worthy cause, 9:1-15.

 III. Pauls Vindication of his Apostleship, 10:1--13:14. In this part  Paul deals directly with his opponents. First of all he points out that  the ministry entrusted to him also extended to the Corinthians, 9:1-18.  Then he replies to his opponents that he had been perfectly loyal to  the cause of Christ, 11:1-6; that he had not dealt deceitfully with the  Corinthians, when he refused support from them, 11: 7-15; that he had  far greater things in which to glory than they could boast of, 11:  16--12:10; and that it had never been and was not now his aim to make a  gain of the Corinthians, 12: 11-18. Finally he gives them warnings in  view of his coming visit, and closes his epistle with final salutations  and benediction, 12:19--13:13.


 1. II Corinthians is one of the most personal and the least doctrinal  of all the letters of Paul, except the one written to Philemon. The  doctrinal element is not altogether wanting; the great truths of  salvation find expression in it, as well as in the other letters of the  apostle; but, though they enter into its composition, they have a  subordinate place and are, as it were, eclipsed by its large personal  element, in which we see the very heart of the apostle, with all its  varying moods of courage and anxiety, of love and aversion, of hope and  disappointment. Alford says: "Consolation and rebuke, gentleness and  severity, earnestness and irony succeed one another at very short  intervals and without notice."

 2. The second characteristic of this Epistle is closely connected with  the preceding one; it is the most unsystematic of all the letters of  Paul. How greatly it differs in this respect from the Epistle to the  Romans and from First Corinthians, becomes perfectly evident, when one  attempts to give an outline of the contents. This irregularity is due  to the fact that in this letter we do not find a calm discussion of  doctrinal subjects or of certain phases of Christian life, but above  all an impassioned self-defense against unjust charges and calumnies  and insinuations. However humble the apostle may be, and though he may  regard himself as the least of all the saints, yet in this letter he  finds himself constrained to boast of his sufferings and of his work.

 3. The language of this Epistle has been judged variously, some  criticizing it severely and others praising its excellencies. We cannot  deny that it is more rugged and harsh, more obscure and difficult of  interpretation than we are accustomed to in Paul's other writings.  "Parentheses and digressions often intersect the narrative and disturb  its sequence." (Davidson) Meyer says beautifully: "The excitement and  varied play of emotion with which Paul wrote this letter, probably also  in haste, certainly make the expression not seldom obscure and the  sentences less flexible, but only heighten our admiration of the great  delicacy, skill and power with which this outpouring of Paul's spirit  and heart, possessing as a defense of himself a high and peculiar  interest, flows and gushes on, till finally, in the last part, wave on  wave overwhelms the hostile resistance." Comm. p. 412.


 The external testimony to the authorship of Paul is inferior to that of  I Corinthians; yet it is so strong that it leaves no room for honest  doubt. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and many others,  from all parts of the early Church, quote it by name.

 But even if this were not so strong, internal evidence would be quite  sufficient to settle the question of authenticity. In the first place  the Epistle claims to be a product of the great apostle. In the second  place it is written in a style that is in many respects  characteristically Pauline, notwithstanding its unique features; it  contains the doctrine of salvation, as we are wont to hear it  proclaimed by the apostle of the Gentiles; and it reveals his  character, as no other Epistle does. And in the third place the thought  of this Epistle is closely interwoven with that of I Corinthians. In I  Cor. 16: 5 Paul speaks of his plan of travel, and in II Cor. 1:15-24 he  comments on it; in I Cor. 5 he urges that discipline be applied to the  incestuous person, and in II Cor. 2: 5-11 he says, with reference to  this case, that they have inflicted sufficient punishment, and  restrains their evident severity; respecting the collection for the  Judaean Christians which he enjoins on the Corinthians in I Cor. 16:14,  he gives further directions in II Cor. 8 and 9; to the Judaeizers who  cast doubt on his apostleship he refers in I Cor. 4 and 9, and speaks  of them more at length in II Cor. 10-13.

 The authenticity of the Epistle too was attacked by Bruno Bauer and by  the Dutch critics that we mentioned in connection with the first  Epistle. But their work failed to convince anyone but themselves. Godet  truly says: "--the scholars who cannot discern, across these pages, the  living personality of St. Paul, must have lost in the work of the  study, the sense for realities." Introd. to the N. T. I p. 337.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. In order to understand the occasion that  induced Paul to write this Epistle to the Corinthians, we must bring it  in connection with the first letter, which was in all probability borne  to Corinth by Titus, Paul's spiritual son. After it had gone forth, the  apostle pondered on what he had written in that letter, and it caused  him some uneasiness of mind, II Cor. 7: 8. He reflected that he had  written in a rather severe strain regarding the divisions at Corinth  and the incestuous person, and feared for a time that his words might  be misconstrued, that his letter might create a false impression, and  that his severity might provoke resentment and thus injure the cause of  the gospel that lay so near to his heart.

 We are aware that some scholars, as f. i. Hausrath, Schmiedel, Kennedy,  Baljon, Findlay, Robertson (in Hastings D. B.) and Davidson hold that  II Cor. 2:4, 9; 7:8 refer to a second lost epistle of Paul, the  so-called Painful Letter; but with Zahn, Holtzmann and Bernard (in  Expositors Gk. Test.) we believe it to be a rather gratuitous  assumption that such an epistle ever existed.

 Shortly after Paul had sent I Corinthians, he left Ephesus for Troas,  where a splendid opportunity for work offered. Yet he was keenly  disappointed, for he had expected to find Titus there with tidings from  Corinth; and when he did not find him, his very anxiety caused him to  sail for Macedonia that he might meet his beloved brother and  co-laborer the sooner and be reassured by him, II Cor. 2:12, 13. The  mere change of the field of labor brought him no relief, for he says:  "When we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were  troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears." 7:  5. Soon, however, he was comforted by the coming of Titus, 7: 6; the  painful uncertainty now made place for calm assurance, yea even for joy  and thanksgiving. But his happiness was not unalloyed, since the report  of Titus was not altogether favorable. The Corinthian congregation as a  whole had taken kindly to the warnings and directions of the previous  letter. The words of reproof had made a deep impression on them, had  saddened their hearts, had filled them with sorrow,--but it was a godly  sorrow that worked repentance. Hence the apostle had occasion to  rejoice and did rejoice, 7: 7-16. The enemies of Paul, however, had  been embittered by the former Epistle and had increased their sinister  work, attempting to undermine the apostolic authority of Paul by  charging that he was fickle and vacillating, 1:15-24; that he was  controlled by fleshly motives, 10: 2; that he was bold at a distance,  but cowardly, when present, 10:10; that he was dealing deceitfully with  the Corinthians even in taking no support from them, 11: 7-12; and that  he had not shown himself an apostle by his works, 12:11-13.

 The question may be asked to which one of the four parties mentioned in  I Corinthians the enemies belong with which the apostle deals in II  Cor. 10-13. It is quite clear, and scholars are generally agreed, that  they were in the main, if not exclusively, ultra-Judaeists. But there  is no such unanimity in classifying them with one of the divisions of  which the first Epistle speaks. Following F. C. Baur many, such as  Baljon, Davidson, Weiss, identify them with those whose watchword was:  "I am of Christ !" Others, however, as Meyer and Zahn regard them as  belonging to the party that professed special allegiance to Peter. To  this view we give preference; however, with the provisos that in this  letter Paul does not deal with the whole party, but rather with its  leaders, who had probably come from Judaea with letters of  commendation, 3:1, and whom Paul qualifies as "false apostles,  deceitful workers, transforming themselves in apostles of Christ,"  11:13 ;--and that it is quite possible that some of his words refer to  those who, ignoring and dispising all human authority, claimed to be of  Christ, and did not uphold the honor and faithfulness of the apostle  against the false teachers. Cf. 10: 7.

 This being the situation at Corinth, when the apostle wrote his second  letter, he was naturally led to write with a twofold purpose. In the  first place it was his desire to express his gratitude for the way in  which the Corinthians had received his former letter, and to inform  them of the joy he experienced, when they had manifested their  willingness to mend their ways and had been filled with godly sorrow.  And in the second place he considered it incumbent on him to defend his  apostleship against the calumnies and the malignant attacks of the  Judaeistic adversaries.

 2. Time and Place. In view of the account we have given of the course  of events that followed the writing ofI Corinthians, it is not very  difficult to establbish approximately both the time and the place of  writing. We may assume that, in accordance with the plan expressed in I  Cor.15 : 8, the apostle remained at Ephesus until Pentecost of A. D.  57. On leaving Ephesus he went to Troas, from where he crossed over to  Macedonia. There he soon met Titus, presumably in the summer of that  same year, and therefore some time before he was ready to visit  Corinth, and received information from him regarding the condition of  the Corinthian church. Overjoyed by what he heard, but at the same time  apprehending the danger that lurked in the agitation of the Judaeizers,  he immediately wrote II Corinthians, and sent it to Corinth by the hand  of Titus, who was accompanied on his journey by two of the brethren,  whose names are not recorded, 8:18, 22. The letter was written,  therefore, in the summer of A. D. 57, somewhere in Macedonia.


 The integrity of the letter has been attacked especially on two points.  It is claimed by some that the verses 6: 14--7: 1 do not belong, where  they stand, but form an awkward interruption in the course of thought.  A few scholars regard them as a part of the lost letter to which I Cor.  5: 9 refers. Now it is true that at first sight these verses seem out  of place, where they stand, but at the same time it is very well  possible to give a plausible explanation for their insertion at this  point. Cf. Meyer, Alford, Expositors Greek Testament.

 Several critics opine that the chapters 10-13 did not originally form a  part of this letter. Hausrath and Schmiedel advocated the theory that  they constituted a part of the so-called Painful letter that intervened  between I and II Corinthians. The reasons why they would separate this  section from the other nine chapters, are the following: (1) The 10th  chapter begins with the words Autos de ego Paulos, which de marks these  words as an antithesis to something that is not found in the preceding.  (2) The tone of the apostle in these last chapters is strikingly  different from that in the other nine; from a calm and joyful tone it  has changed to one of stern rebuke and of sharp invective. (3) Certain  passages found in the first part point back to statements that are  found in the last chapters, and thus prove that these are part of a  previous letter. Thus 2: 3 refers to 13:10; 1:23 to 13:2; and 2:9 to  10:6.

 But to these arguments we may reply, in the first place, that de often  does no more than mark the transition to a new subject (cf. I Cor. 15:  1; II Cor. 8:1); in the second place, that the change of tone need not  surprise us, if we take in consideration the possibility that Paul did  not write the whole Epistle at a single sitting and therefore in the  same mood; and the fact that in the last chapters he deals more  particularly with the false teachers among the Corinthians; and in the  third place, that the passages referred to do not necessitate the  construction put on them by the above named critics. Moreover, if we  adopt the theory that another letter intervened between our two  canonical Epistles. we are led to a very complicated scheme of Pauls  transactions with Corinth, a scheme so complicated that it is its own  condemnation.


 The ancient Church was unanimous in accepting the Epistle as a part of  the Word of God. Of the apostolic fathers Polycarp plainly quotes it.  Marcion included it in his canon, and it is also named in the  Muratorian Fragment. The Syriac and old Latin Versions contain it, and  the three great witnesses of the end of the second century quote it by  name.

 This Epistle too has permanent value for the Church of God. It is  inseparably connected with I Corinthians, and as such also brings out  that it is not the wisdom of the world but the foolishness of the cross  that saves; and sheds further light on the application of Christian  principles to social relations. More than any other Epistle it reveals  to us the apostles personality, and is therefore a great psychological  aid in the interpretation of his writings. It also has considerable  doctrinal interest in that it exhibits a part of the apostles  eschatology, 4: 16--5 : 8; brings out the contrast between the letter  and the spirit, 3: 6-18; describes the beneficent influence of the  glory of Christ, 3:18--A: 6; and contains an explicit statement of the  reconciliation and renovation wrought by Christ, 5:17-21. 

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Introduction to the Bible - 49 - Ephesians

The Epistle to the Ephesians


 The Epistle to the Ephesians is naturally divided into two parts:

 I. The Doctrinal Part, treating of the Unity of the Church, 1:1--3: 21.  After the address and salutation,l:l, 2, the apostle praises God for  the great spiritual blessings received in Christ, in whom the Ephesians  have been chosen, adopted and sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,  1: 3-14. He renders thanks for these blessings and prays that God may  make known to the Church, the glorious body of Christ, who filleth all  in all, the glory of its heavenly calling, 1: 15- 23. Then he compares  the past and present condition of the readers, 2:1-13, and describes  Christs work of reconciliation, resulting in the unity and glory of the  Church, 2:14-22. Next he enlarges on the mystery of the Gospel and  reminds his readers that he has been commissioned by God to make it  known to mankind, 3:1-13. He prays that they may be strengthened and  enabled to comprehend the greatness of the love of Christ to the glory  of God, 3:14-21.

 II. The Practical Part, containing Exhortations to a Conversation  worthy of the Calling and Unity of the Readers, 4: 1--6: 20. The  readers are exhorted to maintain the unity which God seeks to establish  among them by distributing spiritual gifts and instituting different  offices, 4:1-16. They should not walk as the Gentiles do, but according  to the principle of their new life, shunning the vices of the old man  and practicing the virtues of the new, 4:17-32. In society if must be  their constant endeavor to be separate from the evils of the world and  to walk circumspectly; husbands and wives should conform in their  mutual relation to the image of Christ and the Church; children should  obey their parents and servants their masters, 5:1--6: 9. Finally Paul  exhorts the readers to be strong in the Lord, having put on the whole  armour of God and seeking strength in prayer and supplication; and he  closes his Epistle with some personal intelligence and a twofold  salutation, 6:10-24.


 1. This letter is marked first of all by its general character. It has  this in common with the Epistle to the Romans, that it partakes  somewhat of the nature of a treatise; yet it is as truly a letter, as  any one of the other writings of Paul. Deissmann correctly remarks,  however, that "the personal element is less prominent in it than the  impersonal." St. Paul, p. 23. The letter does not presuppose, like  those to the Corinthians and to the Galatians, some special clearly  marked historical situation, does not refer to any historical incidents  known to us from other sources, except the imprisonment of Paul, and  contains no personal greetings. The only person mentioned is Tychicus,  the bearer of the letter. It treats in a profound and sublime manner of  the unity of all believers in Jesus Christ, and of the holy  conversation in Christ that must issue from it.

 2. It is also characterized by its great similarity to the letter sent  to the Colossians. This is so great that some critics have regarded it  as merely a revised and enlarged edition of the latter; but this idea  must be dismissed altogether, because the difference between them is  too great and fundamental. The Epistle to the Colossians is more  personal and controversial than that to the Ephesians; the former  treats of Christ, the Head of the Church, while the latter is mainly  concerned with the Church, the body of Christ. Notwithstanding this,  however, the resemblance of the two is readily observed. There is good  reason for calling them twin letters. In many cases the same words and  forms of expression are found in both; the thought is often identical,  while the language differs; and the general structure of the Epistles  is very similar.

 3. The style of the letter is in general very exalted, and forms a  great contrast with that of the epistle to the Galatians. Dr. Sanday  says: "With few exceptions scholars of all different schools who have  studied and interpreted this epistle have been at one in regarding it  as one of the sublimest and most profound of all the New Testament  writings. In the judgment of many who are well entitled to deliver an  opinion, it is the grandest of all the Pauline letters." The Exp. Gk.  Test. III p. 208. The style is characterized by a succession of  participial clauses and dependent sentences that flow on like a  torrent, and by lengthy-digressions. One is impressed by its grandeur,  but often finds it difficult to follow the apostle as he soars to giddy  heights. The language is further remarkable in that it contains a  series of terms with far-reaching significance, such as the council  (boule), of God, His will (thelema), His purpose (prothesis), His good  pleasure (eudokia), etc., and also a great number of hapax legomena.  According to Holtzmann there are 76 words that are peculiar to this  epistle, of which 18 are found nowhere else in the Bible, 17 do not  occur in the rest of the New Testament, and 51 are absent from all the  other Pauline letters (the Pastoral epistles being excepted).  Einleitung p. 259.


 The historical evidence for the Pauline authorship of the Epistle is  exceptionally strong. Some scholars claim that Ignatius even speaks of  Paul as the author, when he says in his Epistle to the Ephesians:  "--who (referring back to Paul) throughout all his Epistle (en pase  epistole) makes mention of you in Christ Jesus." But it is very  doubtful, whether the rendering, "in all the Epistle," should not  rather be, "in every Epistle." Marcion ascribed the letter to Paul, and  in the Muratorian Fragment the church of Ephesus is mentioned as one of  the churches to which Paul wrote Epistles. Irenaeus and Clement of  Alexandria refer to Paul by name as the author of this letter and quote  it as his, while Tertullian mentions Ephesus among the churches that  had apostolic Epistles.

 Internal evidence also points to Paul as the author. In the opening  verse of the Epistle the writer is named, and the structure of the  letter is characteristically Pauline. In the first place it contains  the usual blessing and thanksgiving; this is followed in the regular  way by the body of the epistle, consisting of a doctrinal and a  practical part; and finally it ends with the customary salutations. The  ideas developed are in perfect agreement with those found in the  letters which we already discussed, although in certain particulars  they advance beyond them, as f. i. in the theological conception of the  doctrine of redemption; and in the doctrine of the Church as the body  of Christ with its various organs. The style of the Epistle too is  Pauline. It is true that it differs considerably from that of Romans,  Corinthians and Galatians, but it shows great affinity with the style  of Colossians and of the Pastorals.

 Notwithstanding all the evidence in favor of the Pauline authorship of  this Epistle, its authenticity has been questioned by several New  Testament scholars. De Wette, Baur and his school, Davidson, Holtzmann  and Weizsacker are among the most prominent. The idea is that some  later, probably a second century writer impersonated the great apostle.  The principal grounds on which the Epistle was attacked, are the  following: (1) It is so like the Epistle to the Colossians that it  cannot be an original document. De Wette came to the conclusion that it  was a "verbose amplification" of the Epistle to the Colossians.  Holtzmann, finding that in some parts the priority must be ascribed to  Ephesians rather than to Colossians, advocated the theory that Paul  wrote an Epistle to the Colossians shorter than our canonical letter;  that a forger, guided by this, fabricated the Epistle to the Ephesians;  and that this plagiarist was so enamoured with his work that he, in  turn, revised the Colossian Epistle in accordance with it. (2) The  vocabulary and in general the style of the Epistle is so different from  that of the other letters of Paul as to give it an un-Pauline stamp.  This objection is based partly, though not primarily, on the numerous  hapax lechomena; but especially on the use of Pauline words in a new  souse, such as musterion, oikonomia and peripoiesis; on the expression  of certain ideas by terms that differ from those employed elsewhere by  the apostle for the same purpose, as f. i. ho theos tou kuriou hemon  Iesou, 1:17, and above all tois hagiois apostolois kai prophetais, 3  :5, which, it is said, smacks of a later time, when the apostles were  held in great veneration, and does not agree with the apostles estimate  of himself in 3 : 8; and on the fact that, as Davidson puts it, "there  is a fulness of expression which approaches the verbose." (3) The line  of thought in this letter is very different from that of the recognized  Pauline Epistles. The law is contemplated, not in its moral and  religious value, but only as the cause of enmity and separation between  Jew and Gentile; the death of Christ is not dwelt on as much as in the  other Epistles, while his exaltation is made far more prominent; the  parousia is placed in the distant future; and instead of the diversity  the unity of the Church in Jesus Christ if emphasized: (4) The Epistle  contains traces of Gnostic and even of Montanist influences in such  words as aiones, pleromaand geneai (5) The letter, along with the  writings of John, evidently aims at reconciling the Petrine and Pauline  factions, and therefore emphasizes the unity of the Church. This  unmistakably points to the second century as the time of its  composition.

 But these objections are not sufficient to discredit the Pauline  authorship. Such men as Lightfoot, Ellicott, Eadie, Meyer, Hodge,  Reuss, Godet, Weiss, Baljon, Zahn, Sanday and Abbot defend it. The  similarity of the Epistle and that to the Colossians is most naturally  explained by the fact that the two were written by the same author, at  about the same time, under similar circumstances, and to neighboring  congregations. The idea that it is but a copy of the Epistle to the  Colossians is now generally given up, since it appears that many  passages favor the priority of Ephesians. The theory of Holtzmann is  too complicated to command serious consideration. This whole argument  is very peculiar in view of the following ones. While it derives its  point from the Epistles similarity to Colossians, their cogency depends  on the unlikeness of this letter to the other Epistles of Paul. The  linguistic features to which the critics call attention are not such as  to disprove the Pauline authorship. If the hapax legomena found in this  letter prove that it is unPauline, we must come to a similar conclusion  with respect to the Epistle to the Romans, for this contains a hundred  words that are peculiar. The terms that are said to be used in a new  sense dwindle into insignificance on closer inspection. And of the  expressions that are held to be unusual only the one in 3: 5 has any  argumentative force. And even this need not cause surprise, especially  not, if we take in consideration that Paul designates believers in  general as hagioi, and that in this place he applies this epithet at  once to the apostles and to the prophets. And further we may ask,  whether it is reasonable to demand that such a fertile mind as that of  Paul should always express itself in the same way. The argument derived  from the line of thought in this Epistle simply succeeds in proving,  what is perfectly obvious, that the apostle looks at the work of  redemption from a point of view different from that of the other  letters, that he views it sub specie aeternitatis. It is now generally  admitted that the supposed traces of Gnosticism and Montanism have no  argumentative value, since the terms referred to do not have the second  century connotation in this Epistle. Similarly that other argument of  the Tubingen school, that the letter was evidently written to heal the  breach between the Judaeistic and the liberal factions of the Church,  is now discarded, because it was found to rest on an unhistorical  basis.


 There is considerable uncertainty respecting the destination of this  Epistle. The question is whether the words en Epheso in 1:1 are  genuine. They are indeed found in all the extant MSS. with the  exception of three, viz, the important MSS. Aleph and B and codex 67.  The testimony of Basil is that the most ancient MSS. in his day did not  contain these words. Tertullian informs us that Marcion gave the  Epistle the title ad Laodicenos; and Origen apparently did not regard  the words as genuine. All the old Versions contain them; but, on the  other hand, Westcott and Hort say: "Transcriptional evidence strongly  supports the testimony of documents against en Epheso." New Testament  in Greek, Appendix p. 123. Yet there was in the Church an early and,  except as regards Marcion, universal tradition that the Epistle was  addressed to the Ephesians. Present day scholars quite generally reject  the words, although they are still defended by Meyer, Davidson, Eadie  and Hodge. The conclusion to which the majority of scholars come is,  either that the Epistle was not written to the Ephesians at all, or  that it was not meant for them only, but also for the other churches in  Asia.

 Now if we examine the internal evidence, we find that it certainly  favors the idea that this Epistle was not intended for the Ephesian  church exclusively, for (1) It contains no references to the peculiar  circumstances of the Ephesian church, but might be addressed to any of  the churches founded by Paul. (2) There are no salutations in it from  Paul or his companions to any one in the Ephesian church. (3) The  Epistle contemplates only heathen Christians. while the church at  Ephesus was composed of both Jews and Gentiles, 2:11, 12; 4:17; 5: 8.  (4) To these proofs is sometimes added that 1: 15 and 3: 2 make it  appear as if Paul and his readers were not acquainted with each other;  but this is not necessarily implied in these passages.

 In all probability the words en Epheso were not originally in the text.  But now the question naturally arises, how we must interpret the  following words tois hagiois tois ousin kai pistois; etc. Several  suggestions have been made. Some would read: "The saints who are really  such ;" others: "the saints existing and faithful in Jesus Christ ;"  still others: "the saints who are also faithful." But none of these  interpretations is satistactory: the first two are hardly grammatical;  and the last one implies that there are also saints who are not  faithful, and that the Epistle was written for a certain select view.  Probably the hypothesis first suggested by Ussher is correct, that a  blank was originally left after tois ousin, and that Tychicus or  someone else was to make several copies of this Epistle and to fill in  the blank with the name of the church to which each copy was to be  sent. The fact that the church of Ephesus was the most prominent of the  churches for which it was intended, will account for the insertion of  the words en Epheso in transcribing the letter, and for the universal  tradition regarding its destination. Most likely, therefore, this was a  circular letter, sent to several churches in Asia, such as those of  Ephesus, Laodicea, Hierapolis, e. a. Probably it is identical with the  Epistle ek Laodikias, Col. 4 :16.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. There is nothing in the Epistle to indicate  that it was called forth by any special circumstances in the churches  of Asia. To all appearances it was merely the prospective departure of  Tychicus and Onesimus for Colossae, 6: 21, 22; Col. 4: 7-9, combined  with the intelligence that Paul received as to the faith of the readers  in the Lord Jesus, and regarding their love to all the saints, 1: 15,  that led to its composition.

 Since the Epistle was not called forth by any special historical  situation, the purpose of Paul in writing it was naturally of a general  character. It seems as if what he had heard of "the faith of the  readers in the Lord Jesus, and of their love to all the saints,"  involuntarily fixed his thought on the unity of believers in Christ,  and therefore on that grand edifice,--the Church of God. He sets forth  the origin, the development, the unity and holiness, and the glorious  end of that mystical body of Christ. He pictures the transcendent  beauty of that spiritual temple, of which Christ is the chief  cornerstone and the saints form the superstructure.

 2. Time and Place. From 3: 1 and 4: 1 we notice that Paul was a  prisoner, when he wrote this Epistle. From the mention of Tychicus as  the bearer of it in 6: 21, compared with Col. 4: 7 and Philemon 13, we  may infer that these three letters were written at the same time. And  it has generally been thought that they were composed during the Roman  imprisonment of Paul. There are a few scholars, however, such as Reuss  and Meyer, who believe that they date from the imprisonment at  Caesarea, A. D. 58-60. Meyer urges this view on the following grounds:  (1) It is more natural and probable that the slave Onesimus had run  away as far as Caesarea than that he had made the long journey to Rome.  (2) If these Epistles had been sent from Rome, Tychicus and Onesimus  would have arrived at Ephesus first and then at Colossae. But in that  case the apostle would most likely have mentioned Onesimus along with  Tychicus in Ephesians, like he does in Collossians 4: 9, to insure the  runaway slave a good reception; which was not necessary however, if  they reached Colossae first, as they would in coming from Casarea,  since Onesimus would remain there.

 (3) In Eph. 6: 21 the expression, "But that ye also may know my  affairs," implies that there were others who had already been informed  of them, viz, the Collossians, Col. 4: 8, 9. (4) Pauls request to  Philemon in Philem. 22, to prepare a lodging for him, and that too, for  speedy use, favors the idea that the apostle was much nearer Coloss~e  than the far distant Rome. Moreover Paul says in Phil. 2: 24 that he  expected to proceed to Macedonia after his release from the Roman  imprisonment.

 But these arguments are not conclusive. To the first one we may reply  that Onesimus would be far safer from the pursuit of the fugitivarii in  a large city like Rome than in a smaller one such as Caesarea. The  second argument loses its force, if this Epistle was a circular letter,  written to the Christians of Asia in general. The kai in Eph. 6 :21 is  liable to different interpretations, but finds a sufficient explanation  in the fact that the Epistle to the Colossians was written first. And  in reply to the last argument we would say that Philem. 22 does not  speak of a speedy coming, and that the apostle may have intended to  pass through Macedonia to Colossae.

 It seems to us that the following considerations favor the idea that  the three Epistles under consideration were written from Rome: (1) From  Eph. 6:19, 20 we infer that Paul had sufficient liberty during his  imprisonment to preach the gospel. Now this ill accords with what we  learn of the imprisonment at Qesarea from Acts 24:23, while it  perfectly agrees with the situation in which Paul found himself at Rome  according to Acts 28:16. (2) The many companions of Paul, viz.  Tychicus, Aristarchus, Marcus, Justus, Epaphras, Luke and Demas, quite  different from those that accompanied him on his last journey to  Jerusalem (cf. Acts 20: 4), also point to Rome, where the apostle might  utilize them for evangelistic work. Cf. Phil. 1:14. (3) In all  probability Philippians belongs to the same period as the other  Epistles of the imprisonment; and if this is the case, the mention of  Caesars household in Phil. 4: 22 also points to Rome. (4) Tradition  also names Rome as the place of composition. Ephesians must probably be  dated about A.D. 62.


 The early Church leaves no doubt as to the canonicity of this Epistle.  It is possible that we have the first mention of it in the New  Testament itself, Col. 4:16. The writings of Igpatius, Polycarp, Herman  and Hippolytus contain passages that seem to be derived from our  Epistle. Marcion, the Muratorian Canon, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria  and Tertullian clearly testify to its early recognition and use. There  is not a dissentient voice in all antiquity.

 The particular significance of the Epistle lies in its teaching  regarding the unity of the Church: Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ.  It constantly emphasizes the fact that believers have their unity in  the Lord and therefore contains the expression "in Christ" about twenty  times. The unity of the faithful originates in their election, since  God the Father chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world,  1: 4; it finds expression in a holy conversation, sanctified by true  love, that naturally results from their living relation with Christ, in  whom they are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit;  and it issues in their coming in the "unity of the faith, and of the  knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of  the stature of the fulness of Christ." The great practical exhortation  of the Epistle is that believers live worthily of their union with  Christ, since they were sometime darkness, but are now light in the  Lord, and should therefore walk as children of light, 5:8. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:33:20 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 50 - Philippians

The Epistle to the Philippians

by Louis Berkhof


 In the Epistle to the Philippians we may distinguish five parts:

 I. Pauls Account of his Condition, 1: 1-26. The apostle addresses the  Philippians in the usual way, 1, 2; and then informs them of his  gratitude for their participation in the work of the Gospel, of his  prayer for their increase in spiritual strength and labor, of the fact  that even his imprisonment was instrumental in spreading the Gospel,  and of his personal feelings and desires, 3-26.

 II. His Exhortation to Imitate Christ, 1: 27--2:18. He exhorts the  Philippians to strive after unity by exercising the necessary  self-denial, 1: 27--2: 4; points them to the pattern of Christ, who  humiliated himself and was glorified by God, 2: 5-11; and expresses his  desire that they follow the example of their Lord, 12-18.

 III. In formation respecting Paul's Efforts in behalf of the  Philippians, 2:19-30. He intends to send Timotheus to them that he may  know of their condition, and therefore commends this worthy servant of  Christ to them, 19-23; and though he trusted that he himself would come  shortly he now sends Epaphroditus back to them, and bespeaks a good  reception for him, 24-30.

 IV. Warnings against Judaeism and Antinomian Error, 3:1-21. The apostle  warns his readers against Judaeistic zealots that boasted in the flesh,  pointed to his own example in renouncing his fleshly prerogatives that  he might gain Christ and experience the power of His resurrection, and  in striving after perfection, 1:15. By way of contrast this induces him  to warn them also for the example of those whose lives are worldly and  licentious, 16-21.

 V. Final Exhortations and Acknowledgment, 4:1-23. He urges the  Philippians to avoid all dissension, 1-3; exhorts them to joyfulness,  freedom from care, and the pursuit of all good things, 4-9; gratefully  acknowledges their gifts, invoking a blessing on their love, 10-20; and  closes his Epistle with salutation and benediction, 21-23.


 1. The Epistle to the Philippians is one of the most personal of Paul's  letters, resembling in that respect II Corinthians. It has been called  the most letter-like of all the writings of Paul, and may be compared  in this respect with I Thessalonians and Philemon. The personal note is  very marked throughout the Epistle. There is not much dogma, and what  little is found is introduced for practical purposes. This holds true  even with reference to the classical passage in 2:6-11. The apostle,  with the prospect of an early martyrdom before him, yet not without  hope of a speedy release, opens his heart to his most beloved  congregation. He speaks of the blessings that attend his labors at  Rome, of the strait in which he finds himself, and expresses his desire  to remain with them. He manifests his love for the Philippians, shows  himself concerned for their spiritual welfare, and expresses his  profound gratitude for their support. Though in bonds, he rejoices, and  bids the readers be joyful. The tone of joyous gratitude rings through  the entire Epistle.

 2. The letter is in no sense a controversial one. There are in it no  direct polemics; there is very little that has to any degree a  polemical character. The apostle warns against errorists that are  without the church, but might disturb its peace, and forestalls their  attacks; he hints at dissensions, most likely of a practical nature, in  the congregation, and admonishes the readers to be peaceful and  self-denying; but he never once assumes a polemical attitude, like he  does in Corinthians or Galatians. Stronger still, the Epistle is  singularly free from all denunciation and reproof; it is written  throughout in a lauditory spirit. The apostle finds little to chide and  much to praise in the Philippian church.

 3. The address of the Epistle is peculiar in that it names not only,  "the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi," but adds, "with the  bishops and deacons." In that respect it stands in a class by itself.  The greetings at the end of the Epistle are also unique. On the one  hand they are very general, while, on the other, "the household of  Caesar" is singled out for special mention.

 4. As to style, Alford reminds us, that this letter, like all those in  which Paul writes with fervor, "is discontinuous and abrupt, passing  rapidly from one theme to another; full of earnest exhortation,  affectionate warnings, deep and wonderful settings-forth of his  individual spiritual condition and feelings, of the state of the  Christian and of the sinful world, of the loving councils of our Father  respecting us, and the self-sacrifice and triumph of our Redeemer."  Prolegomena Sec. IV. There are constant expressions of affection, such  as agapetoi andadelphoi. Notice especially 4:1, "Therefore my brethren,  my dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in  the Lord, my dearly beloved."


 The Pauline authorship of this Epistle is established as well as  anything can be. We probably find the first reference to it in the  epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, where we read: "The glorious  Paul who, being personally among you, taught you exactly and surely the  word of truth; who also, being absent, wrote you letters (or, a letter)  which you have only to study to be edified in the faith that has been  given you." The passage does not necessarily refer to more than one  letter. Our Epistle formed a part of Marcions collection, is mentioned  in the Muratorian canon, is found in the Syriac and old Latin Versions,  and is quoted by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and many  others.

 And this testimony of antiquity is clearly borne out by the evidence  furnished by the Epistle itself. It is self-attested and has, at the  beginning, the usual Pauline blessing and thanksgiving. Above all,  however, it is like II Corinthians in that the personality of the  apostle is so strongly stamped on it as to leave little room for doubt.  The historical circumstances which the Epistle presupposes, the type of  thought which it contains, the language in which it is couched, and the  character which it reveals,--it is all Pauline.

 The evidence in its favor is so strong that its authenticity has been  generally admitted, even by radical critics. Of course, Baur and the  majority of his school rejected it, but even Hilgenfeld, Julicher and  Pfleiderer accept it as Pauline. The great majority of New Testament  scholars regard the objections of Baur as frivolous, as f. i. that the  mention of bishops and deacons points to a post-Pauline stage of  ecclesiastical organization; that there is no originality in the  Epistle; that it contains evident traces of Gnosticism; that the  doctrine of justification which it sets forth is not that of Paul; and  that the Epistle aims at reconciling the opposing parties of the second  century, typified by Euodia and Syntyche.

 Of late Holsten has taken up the cudgels against the genuineness of  this letter. Dismissing several of the arguments of Baur as irrelevant,  he bases his attack especially on the Christological and Soteriological  differences that he discerns between this Epistle and the other  writings of Paul. The most important points to which he refers are  these: (1) The idea of the pre-existent Christ in 2: 6-11 does not  agree with that found in I Cor. 15 : 45-49. According to the first  passage the manhood of Christ begins with his incarnation; according to  the second, He was even in his pre-existence "a heavenly man." (2)  There is a glaring contradiction between 3 : 6, where the writer says  that he was blameless as touching the righteousness which is in the  law, and Rom. 7: 21, where the apostle declares:--when I would do good,  evil is present." (3) The doctrine of forensic, imputed righteousness  is replaced by that of an infused righteousness in 3: 9-11. (4) The  writer shows a singular indifference to the objective truth of his  Gospel in 1: 15-18, an attitude which compares strangely with that of  Paul in II Cor. 11:1-4, and especially in Gal. 1: 8, 9.

 But these objections are not of sufficient weight to disprove the  Pauline authorship. In I Cor. 15 the apostle does not speak of the  pre-existent Christ, but of Christ as he will appear at the parousia in  a glorified body. With what Paul says in 3: 6 we may compare Gal. 1:  14. In both places he speaks of himself from the standpoint of the Jew  who regards the law merely as an external carnal commandment. From that  point of view he might consider himself blameless, but it was quite  different, if he contemplated the law in its deep spiritual sense. It  is not true that Paul substitutes an infused for an imputed  righteousness in this Epistle. He clearly speaks of the latter in 2: 9,  and then by means of an infinitive of purpose passes on to speak of the  subjective righteousness of life. The persons spoken of in 1:15-18 are  not said to preach a Gospel different from that of the apostle; they  preached Christ, but from impure motives. Hence they can not be  compared with the adversaries of whom Paul speaks in Corinthians and  Galatians. To these he probably refers in 3: 2. Schurer says: "The  arguments of Holsten are such that one might sometimes believe them due  to a slip of the pen."


 The city of Philippi was formerly called Crenides, and derived its  later name from Philip, the king of Macedonia, who rebuilt it and made  it a frontier city between his kingdom and Thrace. It was situated on  the river Gangites and on the important Egnatian highway that connected  the Adriatic with the Hellespont. After the defeat of his enemies  Octavius about 42 B. C. determined on Philippi as one of the places,  where Roman soldiers who had served their time were to dwell. He  constituted it a Roman colony, with the special privilege of the jus  Italicum, which included "(1) exemption from the oversight of the  provincial governors; (2) immunity from the poll and property taxes;  and (3) right to property in the soil regulated by Roman law." These  privileges, no doubt, attracted many colonists, so that Philippi soon  became a city of considerable size. It is described in Acts 16:12 as,  "the chief city of that part of Macedonia and a colony."

 To that city Paul first came, when about the year 52, in obedience to  the vision of the Macedonian man, he passed from Asia into Europe. This  was in harmony with his general policy of preaching in the main centers  of the Roman empire. Apparently the Jews were not numerous in Philippi:  there was no synagogue, so that the small band of Jews and proselytes  simply repaired to the river side for prayer; and one of the charges  brought against Paul and Silas was that they were Jews. At the place of  prayer the missionaries addressed the assembled women, and were  instrumental in converting Lydia who, with characteristic generosity,  immediately received them in her house. We read no more of the  blessings that crowned their labors there, but find that on their  departure there was a company of brethren to whom they spoke words of  comfort.

 Little can be said regarding the composition of the Philippian church.  In the narrative of its founding we find no specific mention of Jews,  although the assembly by the river points to their presence. However  the fact that there was no synagogue, and that the enemies  contemptuously emphasized the Jewish nationality of the missionaries  leads us to think that they were few and greatly despised. It may be  that those who did live there had, under the pressure of their  environment, already lost many of their distinctive features. The  presumption is that some of them accepted the teaching of Paul and  Silas, but we cannot tell how large a proportion of the church they  formed. In all probability they were a small minority and caused no  friction in the congregation. Paul does not even refer to them in his  letter, much less condemn their Jewish tenets, like he does the errors  of the false brethren at Corinth and in the Galatian churches. The  adversaries of whom he speaks in 3: 2 were evidently outside of the  church. On the whole the Philippian church was an ideal one, consisting  of warmhearted people, diligent in the work of the Lord, and faithfully  devoted to their apostle.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. The immediate occasion of this Epistle was a  contribution brought by Epaphroditus from the Philippian church. They  had often sent the apostle similar tokens of their love (cf. 4:15, 16;  II Cor. 11:9), and now, after they had for some time lacked the  opportunity to communicate with him, 4:10, they again ministered to his  wants. From over-exertion in the work of Gods Kingdom their messenger  was taken sick at Rome. On his recovery Paul immediately sends him back  to Philippi, in order to allay all possible fears as to his condition;  and utilizes this opportunity to send the Philippians a letter.

 His purpose in writing this Epistle was evidently fourfold. In the  first place he desired to express his gratitude for the munificence of  the Philippians, especially because it testified to the abundance of  their faith. In the second place he wished to give utterance to his  sincere love for the Philippian church that constituted his crown in  the Lord. In the third place he felt it incumbent on him to warn them  against the dangers that were present within the fold, and the enemies  that were threatening them from without. Apparently there was some  dissension in the church, 1: 27--2:17; 4: 2, 3, but, in all probability  this was not of a doctrinal character, but rather consisted of personal  rivalries and divisions among some of the church members. In 3 : 2 the  apostle most likely referred to the Judaeizing Christians that traveled  about to make proselytes, and also threatened the church of Philippi.  Finally he desires to exhort his most beloved church to be joyful,  notwithstanding his imprisonment, and to lead a truly Christian life.

 2. Time and Place. Like the Epistle to the Ephesians that to the  Philippians was written at Rome. While several scholars assign the  former to the Caesarean captivity, very few refer the latter to that  period. The apostles evident residing in some great center of activity,  the many friends that surrounded him, his joyful expectation of being  set free soon, his mention of the pr~torium, 1:13, which may be the  praetorian guard (so most commentators), or the supreme imperial court  (so Mommsen and Ramsay), and the greetings of Caesars household,--all  point to Rome.

 The Epistle was written, therefore, between the years 61-63. The only  remaining question is, whether it was composed before or after the  other three Epistles of the captivity. The prevailing view is that  Philippians is the last of the group. This view is supported by the  following arguments: (1) The apostles words in 1: 12 seem to imply that  a long period of imprisonment has already elapsed. (2) A rather long  time was required in the communications between Rome and Philippi  indicated in the letter. The Philippians had heard of Pauls  imprisonment, had sent Epaphroditus to Rome, had heard of the latters  illness there, and of this their messenger, in turn, had received  intelligence. Four journeys are, therefore, implied. (3) Paul  anticipates that his case will soon come up for decision, and although  uncertain as to the outcome, he somewhat expects a speedy release.  These arguments are not absolutely conclusive, but certainly create a  strong presumption in favor of dating the Epistle after the other  three.

 Bleek was inclined to regard Philippians as the earliest of the  Epistles of the captivity. This view found a strong defender in  Lightfoot, who is followed by Farrar in his St. Paul. Lightfoot defends  his position by pointing to the similarity of this Epistle to Romans,  which implies, according to him, that it immediately follows this in  order of time; and to the fact that in this Epistle we have the last  trace of Paul's Judaeistic controversy, while in Ephesians and  Cobssians he begins to deal with an incipient Gnosticism, and his  teachings respecting the Church bear a close resemblance and are  intimately related to the views presented in the pastorals. These  Epistles, therefore, represent a further developmnt in the doctrine of  the Church. But these proofs do not carry conviction, since the  character of Paul's Epistles was not necessarily determined by the  order in which they were written, and the apostle did not write as one  who is presenting his system of thought to the world in successive  letters. His Epistles were called forth and determined by special  situations. And the question may be asked, whether it seems plausible  that any considerable development of doctrine should take place within  the course of at most a year and a half.


 The Epistle to the Philippians is not quoted as much as some of the  preceding ones, which is probably due to the fact that it contains  little doctrinal matter. Notwithstanding this its canonicity is well  established. There are traces of its language in Clement of Rome and  Ignatius. Polycarp, addressing the Philippians, speaks more than once  of Pauls writing to them. The Epistle to Diognetus, Justin Martyr and  Theophilus contain references to our letter. In the Epistle of the  churches of Vienne and Lyons Phil. 2: 6 is quoted. Marcion has it and  the Muratorian canon speaks of it. And it is often directly quoted and  ascribed to Paul by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian.

 Though the Epistle is primarily of a practical nature, it has also  great and abiding dogmatic significance. It contains the classical  passage on the important doctrine of the kenosis of Christ, 2:6-11.  Aside from this, however, its great permanent value is of a practical  character. It reveals to us the ideal relation between Paul and his  Philippian church, a relation such as the church of God should  constantly seek to realize: he, sedulously seeking to promote the  spiritual welfare of those entrusted to his care, even in a time of  dire distress; and they, though possessing no great wealth, willingly  and lovingly ministering to the natural wants of their beloved apostle.  It points us to Christ as the pattern of that self-denial and  humiliation that should always characterize his followers. It comes to  us with the grand exhortation, enforced by the example of the great  apostle, to press forward for "the prize of the high calling of God in  Christ Jesus." And finally it pictures us the Christian satisfied and  joyful, even when the shades of night are falling. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:31:58 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 51- Colossians

The Epistle to the Colossians

by Louis Berkhof


 The Epistle to the Colossians may best be divided into two parts:

 I. The Doctrinal Part, emphasizing the unique Significance of Christ,  1:1--2: 23. Paul begins the letter with the apostolic blessing, the  usual thanksgiving and a prayer for his readers, 1:1-13. Then he  describes the pre-eminence of Christ as the Head of both the natural  and the spiritual creation, who has reconciled all things to God,  14-23, of which mystery the apostle himself was made a minister, 24-29.  He warns his readers against the inroads of a false philosophy that  dishonored Christ. Since the Colossians have all the fulness of the  Godhead in their Lord and Saviour, are rooted in him, and have arisen  with him to a new life, they should walk in him and avoid semi-Jewish  practices and the worship of angels, 2:1-19. This was all the more  necessary, because they had died with Christ to their old life and to  the beggarly elements of the world, 20-23.

 II. The Practical Part, containing divers Directions and Exhortations,  3: 1--4:18. Where believers have risen with Christ to newness of life,  they must part with the vices of the old man and clothe themselves with  Christian virtues, 3:1-17. Wives should submit themselves to their  husbands and husbands should love their wives; children must obey their  parents and parents must beware of discouraging their children;  servants should obey their masters and these should give the servants  their due, 18--4:1. The duty of prayer and thanksgiving is urged, and  directions are given for the right behavior of believers toward the  unconverted, 2-6. With a few personal notices, several greetings and a  salutation the apostle closes his Epistle, 7-18.


 1. On its formal side this Epistle differs from that to the Ephesians  in its polemical character. It is not a general exposition of the truth  that is in Christ Jesus, without reference to antagonistic principles,  but a statement of it with a special view to the errors that were  gradually creeping into the Colossian church, insidious errors of which  the Cobssians, so it seems, little realized the danger. It is true that  we find none of the fiery polemics of the Epistle to the Galatians  here, nor any of the sharp invective of II Corinthians;--yet the  controversial character of this letter is very evident.

 2. On its material side it exhibits great affinity with the Epistle to  the Ephesians. Hence the contention of the critics that the one is but  a copy of the other. We should not infer from this, however, that the  teaching of these Epistles is identical. While that contained in  Ephesians is in the main Theological, that found in Colossians is  primarily Christological, the summing up of all things in Christ, the  Head. Essentially the Christology of this letter is in perfect harmony  with that of previous Epistles, but there is a difference of emphasis.  The writer here places prominently before his readers, not only the  Soteriological, but also the Cosmical significance of Christ. He is the  Head both of the Church and of the new creation. All things were  created by him, and find the purpose of their existence in him.

 3. In point of style and language too this Epistle shows great  similarity to its twin-letter. Of the 155 verses in Ephesians 78  contain expressions that find parallels in Colossians. There are the  same involved sentences of difficult interpretation, and also a great  number of hapax legomena. The letter contains 34 words that are absent  from all the other writings of Paul, 12 of which are found in other New  Testament books, however, (cf. lists of these words in Alford and in  Abbotts Comm.) Of these 34 words at least 18, and therefore more than  half, are found in the second chapter. Owing to the polemical character  of this letter the author is generally speaking in a more  matter-of-fact manner than he is in Ephesians, and it is only, when he  sets forth the majesty of Christ, that he soars to sublime heights.  Comparing this Epistle with those to the Corinthians and the  Philippians, Lightfoot says: "It is distinguished from them by a  certain ruggedness of expression, a want of finish often bordering on  obscurity." Comm. p.123.


 There are no good reasons to doubt the Pauline authorship of this  Epistle. Marcion and the school of Valentinus recognized it as genuine.  And the great witnesses of the end of the second century, Irenaeus,  Clement of Alexandria and Tertuilian repeatedly quote it by name.

 Moreover the internal evidence decidedly favors the authenticity of the  letter. It claims to be written by the apostle in 1: 1; the line of  thought developed in it is distinctly Pauline and is in striking  harmony with that of the Epistle to the Ephesians; and if we do not  first rule out several of the Pauline Epistles and then compare the  style of this letter with those that remain, we may confidently assert  that the style is Pauline. Moreover the persons named in 4:7-17 are  all, with but a couple exceptions (viz. Jesus called Justus and  Nymphas) known to have been companions or fellow-laborers of Paul.

 Yet the Epistle did not go unchallenged. Mayerhoff began the attack on  it is 1838, rejecting it, because its vocabulary, style and thought  were not Pauline; it was so similar to Ephesians; and it contained  references to the heresy of Cerinthus. The school of Baur and many  other critics, such as Hoekstra, Straatman, Hausrath, Davidson,  Schmiedel e. a., followed his lead and considered this Epistle as a  second century production. Holtzmann, as we have already seen, found a  genuine nucleus in it.

 There are especially three objections that are urged against the  Pauline authorship of this letter. (1) The style is not that of the  apostle. The fact that the letter contains 34 hapax legomena that  characteristically Pauline terms, such as dikaiosune, soteria,  apokalupsis and katargein are absent, while some of the particles often  employed by the apostle, as gar, oun, dioti and hara are rarely found;  and that the construction is often very involved and characterized by a  certain heaviness, is urged against its genuineness. (2) The error  combated in this Epistle, it is said, shows clear traces of second  century Gnosticism. These are found in the use of the terms sophia,  gnosis, 2 :3, musterion, 1 :26, 27; 2 :2, pleroma,1 :19, aiones, 1 :26,  etc.; in the series of angels named in 1: 16; and in the conception of  Christ in 1: 15. It is held that they point to the Valentinian system.  (3) Closely related to the preceding is the objection that the  Christology of this Epistle is un-Pauline. Davidson regards this as the  chief feature that points to the Gnostics, Introd. I p. 246, but it is  also thought to conflict with the representation of Paul in his other  writings, and to approach very closely the Johannine doctrine of the  Logos. Christ is represented as the image of the invisible God, 1:15,  the central Being of the universe, absolutely pre-eminent above all  visible and invisible beings, 1: 16-18, the originator and the goal of  creation, and the perfect Mediator, who reconciles not only sinners but  all things in heaven and on earth to God, 1: 16-20.

 In answer to the first objection we may say that the argument derived  from the hapax legomena is irrelevant and would apply with equal force  in the case of the Epistle to the Romans. From the fact that more than  half of them are found in the second chapter it is quite evident that  they are due to the special subject-matter of this letter. The  difference between Colossians and some of the other Pauline writings  also explains why the characteristically Pauline terms referred to  above are absent from our Epistle. Had Paul used exactly the same words  that he employs elsewhere, that would also, in all probability, have  been proof positive for many critics that the letter was a forgery.  Moreover it should not be regarded as very strange that a persons  vocabulary changes somewhat in the course of time, especially not, when  he is placed in an altogether different environment, as was the case  with Paul. We fully agree with Dr. Salmon, when he says: "I cannot  subscribe to the doctrine that a man, writing a new composition, must  not, on pain of losing his identity, employ any word that he has not  used in a former one." Introd. p. 148.

 As to the second objection we would reply that there is absolutely no  proof that the Epistle presupposes second century Gnosticism. The  Gnostics evidently did not regard it as a polemic directed against  their tenets, for Marcion and the Valentinians made extensive use of  it. Moreover some of the most important elements of Gnosticism, such as  the creation of the world by a demiurge, ignorant of the supreme God or  opposed to Him, are not referred to in the Epistle. An incipient  Gnosticism there may have been in Paul's time; but it is also possible  that the error of the Colossian church is in no way to be identified  with the Gnostic heresy. Present day scholarship strongly inclines to  the view that it is not Gnosticism at all to which Paul refers in this  letter.

 And with respect to the third argument, we do not see why the further  development of the Pauline Christology cannot have been the work of  Paul himself. There is nothing in the Christology of this Epistle that  conflicts with the recognized representation of Paul. We clearly find  the essence of it in Rom. 8:19-22; I Cor. 8:6; II Cor. 4:4; Phil,  2:5-11. These passages prepare us for the statement of Paul regarding  the Cosmical significance of Christ,. 1: 16,17. And the representation  that all the forces of creation culminate in the glory of Christ does  not necessarily run counter to Rom. 11: 36 and I Cor. 15 : 28,  according to which all things exist to the praise of God, their  Creator.


 Colossae was one of the cities of the beautiful Lycus Valley in  Phrygia, situated but a short distance from Laodicea and Hierapolis.  Herodotus speaks of it as a great city, but it did not retain its  magnitude until New Testament times, for Strabo only reckons it as a  polisma. We have no information respecting the founding of the  Colossian church. From the Acts of the Apostles we learn that Paul  passed through Phrygia twice, once at the start of his second, and  again at the beginning of his third missionary journey, Acts 16: 6; 18:  23. But on the first of these journeys he remained well to the East of  Western Phrygia, where Colossae was situated; and though on the second  he may have gone into the Lycus Valley, he certainly did not find nor  found the Colossian church there, since he himself says in Col. 2: 1  that the Colossians had not seen his face in the flesh. In all  probability Paul's prolonged residence at Ephesus and his preaching  there for three years, so that "all those in Asia heard the word of the  Lord Jesus," Acts 19:10, was indirectly responsible for the founding of  the churches in the Lycus Valley. The most plausible theory is that  Epaphras was one of Paul's Ephesian converts and became the founder of  the Colossian church. This is favored by 1 :7, where the correct  reading is kathos emathate,and not kathos kai emathete.

 The church consisted, so it seems, of Gentile Christians, 1: 21, 27; 2:  11-13; the Epistle certainly does not contain a single hint that there  were Jews among them. Yet they were clearly exposed to Jewish  influences, and this need not cause surprise in view of the fact that  Antiochus the Great transplanted two thousand families of Jews from  Babylonia into Lydia and Phrygia, Jos. Ant. XII 6. 4. This number had,  of course, greatly increased by the time the Epistle was written.  Lightfoot estimates that the number of Jewish freemen was more than  eleven thousand in the single district of which Laodicea was the  capital. Cf. his essay on The Churches of the Lycus Valley in his Comm.  p. 20.

 According to the Epistle the Colossians were in danger of being misled  by certain false teachings. As to the exact nature of the Colossian  heresy there is a great variety of opinion. Some regard it as a mixture  of Judaeistic and theosophic elements; others dub it Gnosticism or  Gnostic Ebionism; and still others consider it to be a form of  Essenism. We can infer from the Epistle that the errorists were members  of the congregation, for they are described as those "not holding the  head," 2:19, an expression that is applicable only to those that had  accepted Christ. And it seems perfectly clear that their error was  primarily of a Jewish character, since they urged circumcision, not,  indeed, as an absolute necessity, but as a means to perfection,  2:10-13; they appealed to the law and emphasized its ceremonial  requirements and probably also the ordinances of the rabbis, 2:14-17,  20-23. Yet they clearly went beyond the Judaism that Paul encountered  in his earlier Epistles, falsely emphasizing certain requirements of  the law and adjusting their views to those of their Gentile neighbors.  Their dualistic conception of the world led them, on the one hand, to  an asceticism that was not demanded by the law. They regarded it as  essential to abstain from the use of meat and wine, not because these  were Levitically unclean, but since this abstinence was necessary for  the mortification of the body, which they regarded as the seat of sin.  They neglected the body and apparently aspired after a pure spiritual  existence; to be like the angels was their ideal. On the other hand the  consciousness of their great sinfulness as material beings made them  hesitate to approach God directly. And the Jewish doctrine that the law  was mediated by the angels, in connection with the influence that was  ascribed to the spirits in their heathen environment, naturally led  them to a worship of the angels as intermediaries between God and man.  Among the higher spirits they also ranked Christ and thus failed to  recognize his unique significance. The Colossian error was, therefore,  a strange mixture of Jewish doctrines, Christian ideas and heathen  speculation; and this composite character makes it impossible to  identify it with any one heretical system of the apostolic time. Cf.  especially Zahn, Einl. I p. 329 if.; Holtzmann, Einl. p. 248 if.;  Lightfoot, Comm. pp. 71-111; Biesterveld, Comm. pp. 18-28.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. From the Epistle itself we can readily infer  what gave Paul occasion to write it. Epaphras, the founder and probably  also the minister of the congregation, had evidently seen the danger,  gradually increasing, that was threatening the spiritual welfare of the  church. The errorists did not directly antagonize him or Paul; yet  their teaching was a subversion of the Pauline gospel. Hence he  informed the apostle of the state of affairs, and this information led  to the composition of the Epistle.

 The object Paul has in view is the correction of the Colossian heresy.  Hence he clearly sets forth the unique significance of Christ, and the  all-sufficient character of his redemption. Christ is the image of the  invisible God, the Creator of the world, and also of the angels, and  the only Mediator between God and man. He in whom all the fulness of  the Godhead dwells, has reconciled all things to God and has delivered  men from the power of sin and death. In his death He abrogated the  shadows of the Old Testament and terminated the special ministry of the  angels that was connected with the law, so that even this vestige of a  supposed Biblical foundation for the worship of angels has been  removed. In him believers are perfect and in him only. Hence the  Colossians should not fall back on the beggarly elements of the world,  nor in sham humility worship the angels. Having their life in Christ,  they should conform to his image in all their domestic and social  relations.

 2. Time and Place. For the discussion of these we refer to what we have  said in connection with the Epistle to the Ephesians. The letter was  written at Rome about A. D. 61 or 62. Of course the majority of those  who reject this Epistle date it somewhere in the second century.


 The canonical character of this Epistle has never been doubted by the  Church. There are slight but uncertain indications of its use in  Clement of Rome, Barnabas and Ignatius. More important references to it  are found in Justin Martyr and Theophilus. Marcion gave it a place in  his canon, and in the Muratorian Fragment it is named as one of the  Pauline Epistles. With Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian  the quotations increase both in number and definiteness. That the  Epistle is not quoted as often as Ephesians is probably due to its  polemical character.

 The permanent value of this letter is found primarily in its central  teaching, that the Church of God is made perfect in Christ, its  glorious Head. Since He is a perfect Mediator and the complete  redemption of his people, they grow into him, as the Head of the body,  they find the fulfillment of all their desires in him, as their  Saviour, and they reach their perfection in him, as the Goal of the new  creation. His perfect life is the life of the entire Church. Hence  believers should seek to realize ever more in every atom of their  existence the complete union with their divine Head. They should avoid  all arbitrary practices, all human inventions and all will-worship that  is derogatory to the only Mediator and Head of the Church, Jesus  Christ. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:31:03 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 52 - 1 Thessalonians

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians

by Louis Berkhof


 In the first Epistle to the Thessalonians we distinguish two parts:

 I. Pauls Apologia, 1:1--3:13. The letter opens with the usual apostolic  blessing and thanksgiving, 1: 1-4. This thanksgiving was called forth  by the fact that the apostles work in Thessalonica had not been in  vain, but had resulted in a faith that was spoken of throughout  Macedonia and Achaia, 5-10. The writer reminds the readers of his  labors among them, emphasizing his suffering, good moral behavior,  honesty, faithfulness, diligence and love, 2:1-12. He thanks God that  they had received him and his message and had suffered willingly for  the cause of Christ at the hands of the Jews, and informs them that he  had often intended to visit them, 13-20. His great love to them had  induced him to send Timothy to establish them and to strengthen them in  their affliction, 3:1-5; who had now returned and gladdened his heart  by a report of their steadfastness, 6-10. He prays that the Lord may  strengthen them, 11-13.

 II. Practical Exhortations and Instruction regarding the Parousia,  4:1--5 : 28. The apostle exhorts the Thessalonians that they follow  after sanctification, abstaining from fornication and fraud, and  exercising love, diligence and honesty, 4:1-12. He allays their fears  respecting the future of those that have died in Christ, 13-8, and  admonishes the Thessalonians in view of the sudden coming of Christ to  walk as children of the light that they may be prepared for the day of  Christs return, 5:1-11. After exhorting the brethren to honor their  spiritual leaders, and urging them to warn the unruly, to comfort the  feeble-minded, to support the weak, and to practice all Christian  virtues, the apostle closes his Epistle by invoking on the  Thessalonians the blessing of God, by expressing his desire that the  Epistle be read to all the brethren, and with the usual salutations,  12-28.


 1. This Epistle is like that to the Philippians one of the most  letterlike of all the writings of Paul. It is, as Deissmann says, "full  of moving personal reminiscences." The practical interest greatly  predominates over the doctrinal; and though the polemical element is  not altogether absent, it is not at all prominent. The letter is  primarily one of practical guidance, instruction and encouragement, for  a faithful, persecuted church, whose knowledge is still deficient, and  whose weak and faint-hearted and idlers greatly need the counsel of the  apostle.

 2. Doctrinally I Thessalonians is one of the eschatological Epistles of  Paul. It refers very little to Christ's coming in the flesh to give  himself a ransom for sin, but discusses all the more his future coming  as the Lord of Glory. There are at least six references to the parousia  in this short letter, two of which are rather extensive passages,  1:10;2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:1-11, 23. This doctrine is at once the  impelling motive for the exhortations of the apostle, and the  sufficient ground for the encouragement of his readers, who expected  the return of Christ in the near future.

 3. The Epistle never appeals to the Old Testament as an authority, and  contains no quotations from it. We find a reference to its history,  however, in 2:15, and probable reminiscences of its language in 2:16;  4: 5, 6, 8, 9; 5: 8. The language of 4:15-17 shows some similarity to  II Esdras 5:42, but the thought is quite different.

 4. The style of this letter is thoroughly Pauline, containing an  abundance of phrases and expressions that have parallels in the other  Epistles of Paul, especially in those to the Corinthians. Comparing it  with the other polemical writings of the apostle, we find that it is  written in a quiet unimpassioned style, a style, too, far more simple  and direct than that of Ephesians and Colossians. There are 42 words  peculiar to it, of which 22 are not found elsewhere in the New  Testament, and 20 are, but not in the writings of Paul.


 The external testimony in favor of the Pauline authorship is in no way  deficient. Marcion included the letter in his canon, and the Muratorian  Fragment mentions it as one of the Pauline writings. It is contained in  the old Latin and Syriac Versions; and from the time of Irenaeus,  Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian it is regularly quoted by name.

 The internal evidence also clearly points to Paul as the writer. The  Epistle comes to us under the name of Paul; and those that were  associated with him in writing it, viz. Silvanus (Silas) and Timotheus,  are known to have been Pauls companions on the second missionary  journey. It is marked by the usual Pauline blessing, thanksgiving and  salutation, and clearly reflects the character of the great apostle to  the Gentiles. Although it has been subject to attack, it is now  defended by critics of nearly every school as an authentic production  of Paul.

 Schrader and Baur were the first ones to attack it in 1835. The great  majority of critics, even those of Baur's own school, turned against  them; such men as Hilgenfeld, Pfleiderer, Holtzmann, Davidson, Von  Soden and Julicher defending the genuineness of the letter. They found  followers, however, especially in Holsten and Van der Vies.

 Of the objections brought against the Epistle the following deserve  consideration: (1) As compared with the other writings of Paul, the  contents of this Epistle are very insignificant, not a single doctrine,  except that in 4:13-18, being made prominent. In the main it is but a  reiteration of Pauls work among the Thessalonians, and of the  circumstances attending their conversion, all of which they knew very  well. (2) The letter reveals a progress in the Christian life that is  altogether improbable, if a period of only a few months had elapsed  between its composition and the founding of the church, cf. 1:7, 8;  4:10. (3) The passage 2:14-16 does not fit in the mouth of him who  wrote Rom. 9--11 and who was himself at one time a fierce persecutor of  the Church. Moreover it implies that the destruction of Jerusalem was  already a thing of the past. (4) The Epistle is clearly dependent on  some of the other Pauline writings, especially I and II Corinthians.  Compare 1: 5 with I Cor. 2: 4 ;-- 1:6 with I Cor. 11:1;--2:4 ff. with I  Cor. 2:4; 4:3ff.; 9:15 ff.; II Cor. 2:17; 5:11.

 The cogency of these arguments is not apparent. Paul's letters have an  occasional character, and the situation at Thessalonica did not call  for an exposition of Christian doctrine, save a deliverance on the  parousia; but did require words of encouragement, guidance and  exhortation, and also, in view of the insinuations against the apostle,  a careful review of all that he had done among them. Looked at from  that point of view the Epistle is in no sense insignificant. The words  of 1: 7, 8 and 4:10 do not imply a long existence of the Thessalonian  church, but simply prove the intensity of its faith and love. Three or  four months were quite sufficient for the report of their great faith  to spread in Macedonia and Achaia. Moreover the very shortcomings of  the Thessalonians imply that their religious experience was as yet of  but short duration. In view of what Paul writes in II Corinthians and  Galatians respecting the Judaeizers, we certainly need not be surprised  at what he says in 2:14-16. If the words are severe, let us remember  that they were called forth by a bitter and dogged opposition that  followed the apostle from place to place, and on which he had brooded  for some time. The last words of this passage do not necessarily imply  that Jerusalem had already been destroyed. They are perfectly  intelligible on the supposition that Paul, in view of the wickedness of  the Jews and of the calamities that were already overtaking them, Jos.  Ant. XX 2, 5, 6, had a lively presentiment of their impending doom. The  last argument is a very peculiar one. It is tantamount to saying that  the Epistle cannot be Pauline, because there are so many Pauline  phrases and expressions in it. Such an argument is its own refutation,  and is neutralized by the fact that in the case of other letters  dissimilarity leads the critics to the same conclusion.


 Thessalonica, originally called Thermae (Herodotus), and now bearing  the slightly altered name Saloniki, a city of Macedonia, has always  been very prominent in history and still ranks, after Constantinople,  as the second town in European Turkey. It is situated on what was  formerly known as the Thermaic gulf, and is built "in the form of an  amphitheater on the slopes at the head of the bay." The great Egnatian  highway passed through it from East to West. Hence it was of old an  important trade center and as such had special attraction for the Jews,  who were found there in great numbers. Cassander, who rebuilt the city  in 315 B. C. in all probability gave it the name Thessalonica in honor  of his wife. In the time of the Romans it was the capital of the second  part of Macedonia and the seat of the Roman governor of the entire  province.

 Paul, accompanied by Silas and Timothy, came to that city, after they  had left Philippi about the year 52. As was his custom, he repaired to  the synagogue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The result of this  work was a spiritual harvest consisting of some Jews, a great number of  proselytes (taking the word in its widest significance) and several of  the citys chief women. From the Acts of the Apostles we get the  impression (though it is not definitely stated) that Pauls labors at  Thessalonica terminated at the end of three weeks; but the Epistles  rather favor the idea that his stay there was of longer duration. They  pre-suppose a flourishing, well organized congregation, 5:12, whose  faith had become a matter of common comment, 1: 7-9; and show us that  Paul, while he was in Thessalonica, worked for his daily bread, 2: 9;  II Thess. 3 : 8, and received aid at least twice from the Philippians,  Phil. 4:16.

 His fruitful labor was cut short, however, by the malign influence of  envious Jews, who attacked the house of Jason, where they expected to  find the missionaries, and failing in this, they drew Jason and some of  the brethren before the rulers, politachas (a name found only in Acts  17:6, 8, but proved absolutely correct by inscriptions, cf. Ramsey, St.  Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen p. 227) and charged them with  treason. "The step taken by the politarchs was the mildest that was  prudent in the circumstances; they bound the accused over in security  that peace should be kept." (Ramsay) As a result the brethren deemed it  advisable to send Paul and his companions to Berea, where many accepted  the truth, but their labors were again interrupted by the Jews from  Thessalonica. Leaving Silas and Timothy here, the apostle went to  Athens, where he expected them to join him shortly. From the narrative  in the Acts it seems that they did not come to the apostle until after  his arrival at Corinth, but I Thess. 3: 1 implies that Timothy was with  him at Athens. The most natural theory is that both soon followed the  apostle to Athens, and that he sent Timothy from there to Thessalonica  to establish and comfort the church, and Silas on some other mission,  possibly to Philippi, both returning to him at Corinth.

 From the data in Acts 17:4 and I Thess. 1:9; 2:14 we may infer that the  church of Thessalonica was of a mixed character, consisting of Jewish  and Gentile Christians. Since no reference is made in the Epistles to  the tenets of the Jews and not a single Old Testament passage is  quoted, it is all but certain that its members were mostly Christians  of the Gentiles. Only three of them are known to us from Scripture,  viz. Jason, Acts 17:5-9, and Aristarchus and Secundus, Acts 20: 4. The  congregation was not wealthy, II Cor. 8: 2, 3; with the exception of a  few women of the better class, it seems to have consisted chiefly of  laboring people that had to work for their daily bread, 4:11; II Thess.  3: 6-12. They had not yet parted company with all their old vices, for  there was still found among them fornication 4: 3-5, fraud 4: 6 and  idleness 4:11. Yet they were zealous in the work of the Lord and formed  one of the most beloved churches of the apostle.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. What led Paul to write this letter, was  undoubtedly the report Timothy brought him respecting the condition of  the Thessalonian church. The apostle felt that he had been torn away  from them all too soon and had not had sufficient time to establish  them in the truth. Hence he was greatly concerned about their spiritual  welfare after his forced departure. The coming of Timothy brought him  some relief, for he learnt from that fellow-laborer that the church,  though persecuted, did not waver, and that their faith had become an  example to many. Yet he was not entirely at ease, since he also heard  that the Jews were insinuating that his moral conduct left a great deal  to be desired, while he had misled the Thessalonians for temporal gain  and vainglory, 2: 3-10; that some heathen vices were still prevalent in  the church; and that the doctrine of the parousia had been  misconstrued, giving some occasion to cease their daily labors, and  others, to feel concerned about the future condition of those who had  recently died in their midst. That information led to the composition  of our Epistle.

 In view of all these things it was but natural that the apostle should  have a threefold purpose in writing this letter. In the first place he  desired to express his gratitude for the faithful perseverance of the  Thessalonians. In the second place he sought to establish them in  faith, which was all the more necessary, since the enemy had sown tares  among the wheat. Hence he reminds them of his work among them, pointing  out that his conversation among them was above reproach, and that as a  true apostle he had labored among them without covetousness and  vainglory. And in the third place he aimed at correcting their  conception of the Lords return, emphasizing its importance as a motive  for sanctification,

 2. Time and Place. There is little uncertainty as to the time and place  of composition, except in the ranks of those who regard the Epistle as  a forgery. When Paul wrote this letter, the memory of his visit to  Thessalonica was still vivid, chs. 1 and 2; and he was evidently in  some central place, where he could keep posted on the state of affairs  in Macedonia and Achaia, 1: 7, 8, and from where he could easily  communicate with the Thessalonian church. Moreover Silas and Timothy  were with him, of which the former attended the apostle only on his  second missionary journey. and the latter could not bring him a report  of conditions at Thessalonica, until he returned to the apostle at  Corinth, Acts 18: 5. Therefore the Epistle was written during Paul's  stay in that city. However it should not be dated at the beginning of  Paul's Corinthian residence, since the faith of the Thessalonians had  already become manifest throughout Macedonia and Achaia, and some  deaths had occurred in the church of Thessalonica. Neither can we place  it toward the end of that period, for II Thessalonians was also written  before the apostle left Corinth. Most likely it was composed towards  the end of A. D. 52.


 The canonicity of this Epistle was never questioned in ancient times.  There are some supposed references to it in the apostolic fathers,  Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Ignatins and Polycarp, but they are very  uncertain. Marcion and the Muratorian Fragment and the old Latin and  Syriac Versions testify to its canonicity, however, and from the end of  the second century its canonical use is a well established fact.

 In this letter we behold Paul, the missionary, in the absence of any  direct controversy, carefully guarding the interest of one of his most  beloved churches, comforting and encouraging her like a father. He  strengthens the heart of his persecuted spiritual children with the  hope of Christ's return, when the persecutors shall be punished for  their evil work, and the persecuted saints, both the dead and the  living, shall receive their eternal reward in the Kingdom of their  heavenly Lord. And thus the apostle is an example worthy of imitation;  his lesson is a lesson of permanent value. The glorious parousia of  Christ is the cheering hope of the militant church in all her struggles  to the end of time. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:29:56 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 53 - 2 Thessalonians

The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians

by Louis Berkhof


 The contents of the letter naturally falls into three parts:

 I. Introduction, ch. 1. The apostle begins his letter with the regular  blessing, 1, 2. He thanks God for the increasing faith and patience of  the Thessalonians, reminding them of the fact that in the day of  Christ's coming God will provide rest for his persecuted church and  will punish her persecutors; and prays that God may fulfil his good  pleasure in them to the glory of his Name, 3--12.

 II. Instruction respecting the Parousia, ch. 2. The church is warned  against deception regarding the imminence of the great day of Christ  and is informed that it will not come until the mystery of iniquity has  resulted in the great apostacy, and the man of sin has been revealed  whose coming is after the work of satan, and who will utterly deceive  men to their own destruction, 1--12. The Thessalonians need not fear  the manifestation of Christ, since they were chosen and called to  everlasting glory; and it is the apostles wish that the Lord may  comfort their hearts and establish them in all good work, 13--17.

 III. Practical Exhortations, ch. 3. The writer requests the prayer of  the church for himself that he may be delivered from unreasonable and  wicked men, and exhorts her to do what he commanded, 1--5. They should  withdraw from those who are disorderly and do not work, because each  one should labor for his daily bread and thus follow the example of the  apostle, 6--12. Those who do not heed the apostolic word should be  censured, 13--15. With a blessing and a salutation the apostle closes  his letter, 16--18.


 1. The main characteristic of this letter is found in the apocalyptic  passage, 2:1-12. In these verses, that contain the most essential part  of the Epistle, Paul speaks as a prophet, revealing to his beloved  church that the return of Christ will be preceded by a great final  apostacy and by the revelation of the man of sin, the son of perdition  who, as the instrument of satan, will deceive men, so that they accept  the lie and are condemned in the great day of Christ. II Thessalonians,  no doubt, was written primarily for the sake of this instruction.

 2. Aside from this important doctrinal passage the Epistle has a  personal and practical character. It contains expressions of gratitude  for the faith and endurance of the persecuted church, words of  encouragement for the afflicted, fatherly advice for the spiritual  children of the apostle, and directions as to their proper behavior.

 3. The style of this letter, like that of I Thessalonians, is simple  and direct, except in 2:1-12, where the tone is more elevated. This  change is accounted for by the prophetic contents of that passage. The  language clearly reveals the working of the vigorous mind of Paul, who  in the expression of his thoughts was not limited to a few stock  phrases. Besides the many expressions that are characteristically  Pauline the Epistle contains several that are peculiar to it, and also  a goodly number which it has in common only with I Thessalonians. Of  the 26 hapax legomena in the letter 10 are not found in the rest of the  New Testament, and 16 are used elsewhere in the New Testament but not  in the writings of Paul.


 The external testimony for the authenticity of this Epistle is just as  strong as that for the genuineness of the first letter. Marcion has it  in his canon, the Muratorian Fragment names it, and it is also found in  the old Latin and Syriac Versions. From the time of Irenaeus it is  regularly quoted as a letter of Paul, and Origen and Eusebius claim  that it was universally received in their time.

 The Epistle itself claims to be the work of Paul, 1: 1; and again in  3:17, where the apostle calls attention to the salutation as a mark of  genuineness. The persons associated with the writer in the composition  of this letter are the same as those mentioned in I Thessalonians. As  in the majority of Paul's letters the apostolic blessing is followed by  a thanksgiving. The Epistle is very similar to I Thessalonians and  contains some cross-references to it, as f. i. in the case of the  parousia and of the idlers. It clearly reveals the character of the  great apostle, and its style may confidently be termed Pauline.

 Nevertheless the genuineness of the Epistle has been doubted far more  than that of I Thessalonians. Schmidt was the first one to assail it in  1804; in this he was followed by Schrader, Mayerhof and De Wette, who  afterwards changed his mind, however. The attack was renewed by Kern  and Baur in whose school the rejection of the Epistle became general.  Its authenticity is defended by Reuss, Sabatier, Hofmann, Weiss, Zahn,  Julicher, Farrar, Godet, Baljon, Moffat e. a.

 The principal objections urged against the genuineness of this letter  are the following: (1) The teaching of Paul regarding the parousia in  2:1-12 is not consistent with what he wrote in I Thessalonians 4:13-18;  5:1-11. According to the first letter the day of Christ is imminent and  will come suddenly and unexpectedly; the second emphasizes the fact  that it is not close at hand and that several signs will precede it.  (2) The eschatology of this passage 2:1-12 is not Paul's but clearly  dates from a later time and was probably borrowed from the Revelation  of John. Some identify the man of sin with Nero who, though reported  dead, was supposed to be hiding in the East and was expected to return;  and find the one still restraining the evil in Vespasian. Others hold  that this passage clearly refers to the time of Trajan, when the  mystery of iniquity was seen in the advancing tide of Gnosticism. (3)  This letter is to a great extent but a repitition of I Thessalonians,  and therefore looks more like the work of a forger than like a genuine  production of Paul. Holtzmann says that, with the exception of  1:5,6,9,12; 2:2-9, 11, 12, 15; 3:2, 13, 14, 17, the entire Epistle  consists of a reproduction of parallel passages from the first letter.  Einl. p. 214. (4) The Epistle contains a conspicuously large number of  peculiar expressions that are not found in the rest of Paul's writings,  nor in the entire New Testament. Cf. lists in Frames Comm. pp. 28-34,  in the Intern. Crit. Comm. (5) The salutation in 3:17 has a suspicious  look. It seems like the attempt of a later writer to ward off  objections and to attest the Pauline authorship.

 But the objections raised are not sufficient to discredit the  authenticity of our Epistle. The contradictions in Paul's teaching  regarding the parousia of Christ, are more apparent than real. The  signs that precede the great day will not detract from its suddenness  any more than the signs of Noah's time prevented the flood from taking  his contemporaries by surprise. Moreover these two features, the  suddenness of Christ's appearance and the portentous facts that are the  harbingers of his coming, always go hand in hand in the eschatological  teachings of Scripture. Dan. 11:1--12: 3; Mt. 24: 1-44; Lk. 17:20-37.  As to the immediacy of Christ's coming we can at most say that the  first Epistle intimates that the Lord might appear during that  generation (though possibly it does not even imply that), but it  certainly does not teach that Christ will presently come.

 The eschatology of the second chapter has given rise to much discussion  and speculation regarding the date and authorship of the Epistle, but  recent investigations into the conditions of the early church have  clearly brought out that the contents of this chapter in no way  militate against the genuineness of the letter. Hence they who deny the  Pauline authorship have ceased to place great reliance on it. There is  nothing improbable in the supposition that Paul wrote the passage  regarding the man of sin. We find similar representations as early as  the time of Daniel (cf. Dan. 11), in the pseudepigraphic literature of  the Jews (cf. Schfirer, Geschichte des fiidischen Volkes II p. 621 f.),  and in the eschatological discourses of the Lord. The words and  expressions found in this chapter are very well susceptible of an  interpretation that does not necessitate our dating the Epistle after  the time of Paul. We cannot delay to review all the preterist and  futurist expositions that have been given (for which cf. Alford,  Prolegomena Section V), but can only indicate in a general way in what  direction we must look for the interpretation of this difficult  passage. In interpreting it we should continually bear in mind its  prophetic import and its reference to something that is still future.  No doubt, there were in history prefigurations of the great day of  Christ in which this prophecy found a partial fulfilment, but the  parousia of which Paul speaks in these verses is even now only a matter  of faithful expectation. The history of the world is gradually leading  up to it. Paul was witnessing some apostacy in his day, the musterion  tes anomias was already working, but the great apostacy (he apostasia)  could not come in his day, because there had been as yet but a very  partial dissemination of the truth; and will not come until the days  immediately preceding the second coming of Christ, when the mystery of  godlessness will complete itself, and will finally be embodied in a  single person, in the man of sin, the son of perdition, who will then  develop into a power antagonistic to Christ (anti-christ, ho  antikeimenos), yea to every form of religion, the very incarnation of  satan. Cf. vs. 9. This can only come to pass, however, after the  restraining power is taken out of the way, a power that is at once  impersonal (katechon) and personal (katechon), and which may refer  first of all to the strict administration of justice in the Roman  empire and to the emperor as the chief executive, but certainly has a  wider signification and probably refers in general to "the fabric of  human polity and those who rule that polity." (Alford). For a more  detailed exposition cf. especially, Alford, Prolegomena Section V;  Zahn, Einleitung I p. 162 if.; Godet, Introduction p .171 if.; and  Eadie, Essay on the Man of Sin in Comm. p. 329 if.

 We fail to see the force of the third argument, unless it is an  established fact that Paul could not repeat himself to a certain  degree, even in two Epistles written within the space of a few months,  on a subject that engaged the mind of the apostle for some time, to the  same church and therefore with a view to almost identical conditions.  This argument looks strange especially in view of the following one,  which urges the rejection of this letter, because it is so unlike the  other Pauline writings. The points of difference between our letter and  I Thessalonians are generally exaggerated, and the examples cited by  Davidson to prove the dissimilarity are justly ridiculed by Salmon, who  styles such criticism "childish criticism, that is to say, criticism  such as might proceed from a child who insists that a story shall  always be told to him in precisely the same way." Introd. p. 398. The  salutation in 3:17 does not point to a time later than that of Paul,  since he too had reason to fear the evil influence of forged Epistles,  2: 2. He merely states that, with a view to such deception, he would in  the future authenticate all his letters by attaching an autographic  salutation.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. Evidently some additional information  regarding the state of affairs at Thessalonica had reached Paul, it may  be through the bearers of the first Epistle, or by means of a  communication from the elders of the church. It seems that some letter  had been circulated among them, purporting to come from Paul, and that  some false spirit was at work in the congregation. The persecution of  the Thessalonians still continued and had probably increased in force,  and in some way the impression had been created that the day of the  Lord was at hand. This led on the one hand to feverish anxiety, and on  the other, to idleness. Hence the apostle deemed it necessary to write  a second letter to the Thessalonians.

 The purpose of the writer was to encourage the sorely pressed church;  to calm the excitement by pointing out that the second advent of the  Lord could not be expected immediately, since the mystery of  lawlessness had to develop first and to issue in the man of sin; and to  exhort the irregular ones to a quiet, industrious and orderly conduct.

 2. Time and Place. Some writers, such as Grotius, Ewald, Vander Vies  and Laurent advocated the theory that II Thessalonians was written  before I Thessalonians, but the arguments adduced to support that  position cannot bear the burden. Moreover II Thess. 2:15 clearly refers  to a former letter of the apostle. In all probability our Epistle was  composed a few months after the first one, for on the one hand Silas  and Timothy were still with the apostle, 1: 1, which was not the case  after he left Corinth, and they were still antagonized by the Jews so  that most likely their case had not yet been brought before Gallio,  Acts 18:12-17; and on the other hand a change had come about both in  the sentiment of the apostle, who speaks no more of his desire to visit  the Thessalonians, and in the condition of the church to which he was  writing, a change that would necessarily require some time. We should  most likely date the letter about the middle of A. D. 53.


 The early Church found no reason to doubt the canonicity of this  letter. Little stress can be laid, it is true, on the supposed  reference to its language in Ignatius, Barnabas, the Didache and Justin  Martyr. It is quite evident, however, that Polycarp used the Epistle.  Moreover it has a place in the canon of Marcion, is mentioned among the  Pauline letters in the Muratorian Fragment, and is contained in the old  Latin and Syriac Versions. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian  and others since their time, quote it by name. The great permanent  value of this Epistle lies in the fact that it corrects false notions  regarding the second advent of Christ, notions that led to indolence  and disorderliness. We are taught in this Epistle that the great day of  Christ will not come until the mystery of iniquity that is working in  the world receives its full development, and brings forth the son of  perdition who as the very incarnation of satan will set himself against  Christ and his Church. If the Church of God had always remembered this  lesson, she would have been spared many an irregularity and  disappointment. The letter also reminds us once more of the fact that  the day of the Lord will be a day of terror to the wicked, but a day of  deliverance and glory for the Church of Christ. 

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Introduction to the Bible - 54 - 1 Timothy

The First Epistle to Timothy

by Louis Berkhof


 The first Epistle to Timothy may be divided into four parts:

 I. Introduction, 1:1-20. The apostle begins by reminding Timothy that  he had been left at Ephesus to counteract prevalent heresies, 1-10. He  directs the attention of his spiritual son to the Gospel contradicted  by these errors, thanks the Lord that he was made a minister of it, and  charges Timothy to act in accordance with that Gospel, 11-20.

 II. General Regulations for Church Life, 2: 1--4: 5. Here we find first  of all directions for public intercession and for the behavior of men  and women in the meetings of the church, 2:1-15. These are followed by  an explicit statement of the qualities that are necessary in bishops  and deacons, 3:1-13. The expressed purpose of these directions is, to  promote the good order of the church, the pillar and ground of the  truth, essentially revealed in Christ, from which the false brethren  were departing, 3:14--A: 5.

 III. Personal Advice to Timothy, 4: 6--6: 2. Here the apostle speaks of  Timothys behavior towards the false teachers, 4: 6-11; of the way in  which he should regard and discharge his ministerial duties, 12-16; and  of the attitude he ought to assume towards the individual members of  the church, especially towards the widows, the elders and the slaves,  5: 1--6: 2.

 IV. Conclusion, 6: 3-21. The apostle now makes another attack on the  heretical teachers, 3--10; and exhorts Timothy to be true to his  calling and to avoid all erroneous teachings, giving him special  directions with respect to the rich, 11-21.


 1. This letter is one of the Pastoral Epistles of Paul, which are so  called, because they were written to persons engaged in pastoral work  and contain many directions for pastoral duties. They were sent, not to  churches, but to office-bearers, instructing them how to behave in the  house of God. It is evident, however, that, with the possible exception  of II Timothy, they were not intended exclusively for the persons to  whom they were addressed, but also for the churches in which these  labored. Cf. as far as this Epistle is concerned, 4:6, 11; 5:7; 6:17.

 2. From the preceding it follows that this letter is not doctrinal but  practical. We find no further objective development of the truth here,  but clear directions as to its practical application, especially in  view of divergent tendencies. The truth developed in previous Epistles  is here represented as the "sound doctrine" that must be the standard  of life and action, as "the faith" that should be kept, and as "a  faithful word worthy of all acceptation." `rhe emphasis clearly falls  on the ethical requirements of the truth.

 3. The letter emphasizes, as no other Epistle does, the external  organization of the church. The apostle feels that the end of his life  is fast approaching, and therefore deems it necessary to give more  detailed instruction regarding the office-bearers in the church, in  order that, when he is gone, his youthful co-laborers and the church  itself may know how its affairs should be regulated. Of the  office-bearers the apostle mentions the episkos and the presbuteroi,  which are evidently identical, the first name indicating their work,  and the second emphasizing their age; the diakonoi, the gunaikes, if 3  :11 refers to deaconesses, which is very probable (so Ellicott, Alford,  White in Exp. Gk. Test.) and the cherai, ch. 5, though it is doubtful,  whether these were indeed office-bearers.

 4. Regarding the style of the Pastoral Epistles in general Huther  remarks: "In the other Pauline Epistles the fulness of the apostles  thoughts struggle with the expression, and cause peculiar difficulties  in exposition. The thoughts slide into one another, and are so  intertwined in many forms that not seldom the new thought begins before  a correct expression has been given of the thought that preceded. Of  this confusion there is no example in the Pastoral Epistles. Even in  such passages as come nearest to this confused style, such as the  beginning of the first and second Epistles of Timothy (Tit. 2: 11 if.;  3: 4 if.) the connection of ideas is still on the whole simple." Comm.  p. 9. This estimate is in general correct, though we would hardly speak  of Pauls style in his other letters as "a confused style."


 Paul addresses this letter to "Timothy my own son in the faith," 1: 2.  We find the first mention of Timothy in Acts 16:1, where he is  introduced as an inhabitant of Lystra. He was the son of a Jewish  mother and a Greek father, of whom we have no further knowledge. Both  his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois are spoken of as Christians  in II Tim. 1: 5. In all probability he was converted by Paul on his  first missionary journey, since he was already a disciple, when the  apostle entered Lystra on his second tour. He had a good report in his  home town, Acts 16: 2, and, being circumcised for the sake of the Jews,  he joined Paul and Silas in their missionary labors. Passing with the  missionaries into Europe and helping them at Philippi, Thessalonica and  Berea, he remained with Silas in the last named place, while Paul  pressed on to Athens and Corinth, where they finally joined the apostle  again, Acts 17:14; 18: 5. Cf. however also I Thess. 3: 1 and p. 222  above. He abode there with the missionaries and his name appears with  those of Paul and Silvanus in the addresses of the two Epistles to the  Thessalonians. We next find him ministering to the apostle during his  long stay at Ephesus, Acts 19: 22, from where he was sent to Macedonia  and Corinth, Acts 19: 21, 22; I Cor. 4:17; 16:10, though it is  doubtful, whether he reached that city. He was again in Paul's company,  when II Corinthians was written, II Cor. 1:1, and accompanied the  apostle to Corinth, Rom. 16: 21, and again on his return through  Macedonia to Asia, Acts 20: 3, 4, probably also to Jerusalem, I Cor.  16: 3. He is then mentioned in the Epistles of the imprisonment, which  show that he was with the apostle at Rome, Phil. 1: 1; Col. 1:1;  Philem. 1. From this time on we hear no more of him until the Pastoral  Epistles show him to be in charge of the Ephesian church, I Tim. 1: 3.

 From I Tim. 4:14, and II Tim. 1:6 we learn that he was set apart for  the ministry by Paul with the laying on of hands, in accordance with  prophetic utterances of the Spirit, I Tim. 1: 18, when he probably  received the title of evangelist, II Tim. 4: 5, though in I Thess. 2: 6  he is loosely classed with Paul and Silas as an apostle. We do not know  when this formal ordination took place, whether at the very beginning  of his work, or when he was placed in charge of the church at Ephesus.

 The character of Timothy is clearly marked in Scripture. His readiness  to leave his home and to submit to the rite of circumcision reveal his  self-denial and earnestness of purpose. This is all the more striking,  since he was very affectionate, II Tim. 1: 4, delicate and often ill, 1  Tim. 5 : 23. At the same time he was timid, I Cor. 16:10, hesitating to  assert his authority, I Tim. 4:12, and needed to be warned against  youthful lusts, II Tim. 2: 22, and to be encouraged in the work of  Christ, II Tim. 1: 8. Yet withal he was a worthy servant of Jesus  Christ, Rom. 16: 21, I Thess. 3 : 2; Phil. 1: 1; 2:19-21; and the  beloved spiritual son of the apostle, I Tim. 1: 2; II Tim. 1: 2; I Cor.  4:17.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. This letter was occasioned by Paul's necessary  departure from Ephesus for Macedonia, 1: 3, the apprehension that he  might be absent longer than he at first expected, 3:14, 15, and the  painful consciousness that insidkus errors were threatening the  Ephesian church. Since Timothy was acquainted with these heresies, the  apostle refers to them only in general terms which convey no very  definite idea as to their real character. The persons who propagated  them were prominent members of the church, possibly even  office-bearers, 1: 6, 7, 20; 3:1-12; 5:19-25. Their heresy was  primarily of a Jewish character, 1: 7, and probably resulted from an  exaggeration of the demands of the law, a mistaken application of  Christian ideas and a smattering of Oriental speculation. They claimed  to be teachers of the law, 1: 7, laid great stress on myths and  genealogies, 1:4; 4: 7, prided themselves like the rabbis on the  possession of special knowledge, 6: 20, and, perhaps assuming that  matter was evil or at least the seat of evil, they propagated a false  asceticism, prohibiting marriage and requiring abstenence from certain  foods, 4: 3, and taught that the resurrection was already past, most  likely recognizing only a spiritual resurrection, II Tim. 2:18. The  charge entrusted to Timothy was therefore a difficult one, hence the  apostle deemed it necessary to write this Epistle.

 In connection with the situation described the purpose of Paul was  twofold. In the first place he desired to encourage Timothy. This  brother, being young and of a timid disposition, needed very much the  cheering word of the apostle. And in the second place it was his aim to  direct Timothy's warfare against the false doctrines that were  disseminated in the church. Possibly it was also to prevent the havoc  which these might work, if they who taught them were allowed in office,  that he places such emphasis on the careful choice of office-bearers,  and on the necessity of censuring them, should they go wrong.

 2. Time and Place. The Epistle shows that Paul had left Ephesus for  Macedonia with the intention of returning soon. And it was because he  anticipated some delay that he wrote this letter to Timothy. Hence we  may be sure that it was written from some place in Macedonia.

 But the time when the apostle wrote this letter is not so easily  determined. On what occasion did Paul quit Ephesus for Macedonia,  leaving Timothy behind? Not after his first visit to Ephesus, Acts 18:  20, 21, for on that occasion the apostle did not depart for Macedonia  but for Jerusalem. Neither was it when he left Ephesus on his third  missionary journey after a three years residence, since Timothy was not  left behind then, but had been sent before him to Corinth, Acts 19: 22;  I Cor. 4:17. Some are inclined to think that we must assume a visit of  Paul to Macedonia during his Ephesian residence, a visit not recorded  in the Acts of the Apostles. But then we must also find room there for  the apostles journey to Crete, since it is improbable that the Epistle  of Paul to Titus was separated by any great interval of time from I  Timothy. And to this must be added a trip to Corinth, cf. above p. 168.  This theory is very unlikely in view of the time Paul spent at Ephesus,  as compared with the work he did there, and of the utter silence of  Luke regarding these visits. We must date the letter somewhere between  the first and the second imprisonment of Paul. It was most likely after  the apostles journey to Spain, since on the only previous occasion that  he visited Ephesus after his release he came to that city by way of  Macedonia, and therefore would not be likely to return thither  immediately. Probably the letter should be dated about A. D. 65 or 66.


 There was not the slightest doubt in the ancient church as to the  canonicity of this Epistle. XVe find allusions more or less clear to  its language in Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ilegesippus, Athenagoras and  Theophilus. It was contained in the old Latin and Syriac Versions and  referred to Paul by the Muratorian Fragment. Irenaeus, Clement of  Alexandria and Tertullian quote it by name, and Eusebius reckons it  among the generally accepted canonical writings.

 The great abiding value of the Epistle is found in the fact that it  teaches the Church of all generations, how one, especially an  office-bearer, should behave in the house of God, holding the faith,  guarding his precious trust against the inroads of false doctrines,  combating the evil that is found in the Lords heritage, and maintaining  good order in church life. "It witnesses," says Lock (Hastings D. B.  Art. I Timothy) "that a highly ethical and spiritual conception of  religion is consistent with and is safeguarded by careful regulations  about worship, ritual and organized ministry. There is no opposition  between the outward and the inward, between the spirit and the  organized body.". 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:27:24 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 55 - 2 Timothy

The Second Epistle to Timothy

by Louis Berkhof


 The contents of this Epistle falls into three parts:

 I. Considerations to strengthen Timothy's Courage, 1: 1--2:13. After  the greeting, 1, 2, the apostle urges Timothy to stir up his  ministerial gift, to be bold in suffering, and to hold fast the truth  entrusted to him, 3--14, enforcing these appeals by pointing to the  deterrent example of the unfaithful and the stimulating example of  Onesiphorus, 15--18. Further he exhorts him to be strong in the power  of grace, to commit the true teaching to others, and to be ready to  face suffering, 2:1-13.

 II. Exhortations primarily dealing with Timothy's Teaching, 2: l4--4:  8. Timothy should urge Christians to avoid idle and useless  discussions, and should rightly teach the truth, shunning vain  babblings, 14-21. He must also avoid youthful passions, foolish  investigations, and false teachers who, for selfish purposes, turn the  truth of God into unrighteousness, 2: 22--3: 9. He is further exhorted  to abide loyally by his past teaching, knowing that sufferings will  come to every true soldier and that deceivers will grow worse, 10-17;  and to fulfil his whole duty as an evangelist with sobriety and  courage, especially since Paul is now ready to be offered up, 4:1-8.

 III. Personal Reminiscences, 4: 9-22. Paul appeals to Timothy to come  to Rome quickly, bringing Mark and also taking his cloak and books, and  to avoid Alexander, 9-15. He speaks of his desertion by men, the  protection afforded him by the Lord, and his trust for the future,  16-18. With special greetings, a further account of his  fellow-laborers, and a final salutation the apostle ends his letter,  19-22.


 1. II Timothy is the most personal of the Pastoral Epistles.  Doctrinally it has no great importance, though it does contain the  strongest proof-passage for the inspiration of Scripture. In the main  the thought centers about Timothy, the faithful co-laborer of Paul,  whom the apostle gives encouragement in the presence of great  difficulties, whom he inspires to noble, self-denying efforts in the  Kingdom of God, and whom he exhorts to fight worthily in the spiritual  warfare against the powers of darkness, that he may once receive an  eternal reward.

 2. It is the last Epistle of Paul, the swan-song of the great apostle,  after a life of devotion to a noble cause, a life of Christian service.  We see him here with work done, facing a martyrs death. Looking back  his heart is filled with gratitude for the grace of God that saved him  from the abyss that yawned at his feet, that called and qualified him  to be a messenger of the cross, that protected him when dangers were  threatening, and that crowned his work with rich spiritual fruits. And  as he turns his eyes to the future, calm assurance and joyous hope are  the strength of his soul, for he knows that the firm foundation of God  will stand, since the Lord will punish the evil-doers and be the  eternal reward of his children. He already has visions of the heavenly  Kingdom, of eternal glory, of the coming righteous Judge, and of the  crown of righteousness, the blessed inheritance of all those that love  Christs appearance.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. The immediate occasion for writing this  Epistle was the apostles presentiment of his fast approaching end. He  was anxious that Timothy should come to him soon, bringing Mark with  him. In all probability he desired to give his spiritual son some  fatherly advice and some practical instruction before his departure.  But we feel that ths alone did not call for a letter such as II Timothy  really is. Another factor must be taken in consideration. Paul was not  sure that Timothy would succeed in reaching Rome before his death, and  yet realized that the condition of the Ephesian church, the danger to  which Timothy was there exposed, and the importance of the work  entrusted to this youthful minister, called for a word of apostolic  advice, encouragement and exhortation. It seems that the Ephesian  church was threatened by persecution, 1:8; 2:3, 12; 3:12; 4:5; and the  heresy to which the apostle referred in his first epistle was evidently  still rife in the circle of believers. There were those who strove  about words, 2:14, were unspiritual, 2:16, corrupted in mind, 3: 8,  indulging in foolish and ignorant questionings, 2: 23, and fables, 4:4,  tending to a low standard of morality, 2:19, and teaching that the  resurrection was already past, 2:18.

 Hence the object of the Epistle is twofold. The writer wants to warn  Timothy of his impending departure, to inform him of his past  experiences at Rome and of his present loneliness, and to exhort him to  come speedily. Besides this, however, he desired to strengthen his  spiritual son in view of the deepening gloom of trials and persecution  that were threatening the church from without; and to fore-arm him  against the still sadder danger of heresy and apostasy that were  lurking within the fold. Timothy is exhorted to hold fast the faith, 1:  5, 13; to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, 2: 3-10;  to shun every form of heresy, 2:16-18; to instruct in meekness those  that withstand the Gospel, 2:24-26; and to continue in the things he  had learnt, 3:14-17.

 2. Time and Place. From 1: 17 it is perfectly evident that this letter  was written at Rome. The apostle was again a prisoner in the imperial  city. Though we have no absolute certainty, we deem it probable that he  was re-arrested at Troas in the year 67. The situation in which he  finds himself at Rome is quite different from that reflected in the  other epistles of the captivity. He is now treated like a common  criminal, 2: 9; his Asiatic friends with the exception of Onesiphorus  turned from him, 1: 15; the friends who were with him during his first  imprisonment are absent now, Col. 4:10-14; II Tim. 4:10-12; and the  outlook of the apostle is quite different from that found in  Philippians and Philemon. It is impossible to tell just how long the  apostle had already been in prison, when he wrote the Epistle, but from  the fact that he had had one hearing, 4:16 (which cannot refer to that  of the first imprisonment, cf. Phil, 1: 7, 12-14), and expected to be  offered up soon, we infer that he composed the letter towards the end  of his imprisonment, i. e. in the fall of A. D. 67.


 The canonicity of this Epistle has never been questioned by the Church;  and the testimony to its early and general use is in no way deficient.  There are quite clear traces of its language in Clement of Rome,  Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, and  Theophilus of Antioch. The letter is included in all the MSS., the old  Versions and the Lists of the Pauline Epistles. The Muratorian Fragment  names it as a production of Paul, and from the end of the second  century it is quoted by name.

 The Epistle has some permanent doctrinal value as containing the most  important proof-passage for the inspiration of Scripture, 3:16, and  also abiding historical significance in that it contains the clearest  Scriptural testimony to the life of Paul after his first Roman  imprisonment. But Lock truly says that "its main interest is one of  character, and two portraits emerge from it." We have here (1) the  portrait of the ideal Christian minister, busily engaged in the work of  his Master, confessing His Name, proclaiming His truth, shepherding His  fold, defending his heritage, and battling with the powers of evil; and  (2) the "portrait of the Christian minister, with his work done, facing  death. He acquiesces gladly in the present, but his eyes are turned  mainly to the past or to the future." (Lock in Hastings D. B. Art. II  Timothy) He is thankful for the work he was permitted to do, and  serenely awaits the day of his crowning. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:26:16 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 56 - Titus

The Epistle to Titus

by Louis Berkhof


 The contents of this Epistle may be divided into three parts:

 I. Instruction regarding the Appointment of Ministers, 1: 1-16. After  the opening salutation, 1-4, the apostle reminds Titus of his past  instruction to appoint presbyters, 5. He emphasizes the importance of  high moral character in an overseer, in order that such an  office-bearer may maintain the sound doctrine and may refute the  opponents that mislead others and, claiming to know God, deny Him with  their words, 6-16.

 II. Directions as to the Teaching of Titus, 2:1--3: 11. Paul would have  Titus urge all the different classes that were found in the Cretan  church, viz, the elder men and women, the younger women and men, and  the slaves, to regulate their life in harmony with the teachings of the  Gospel, since they were all trained by the saving grace of God to rise  above sin and to lead godly lives, 2:1-14. As regards their relation to  the outer world, Titus should teach believers to subject themselves to  the authorities, and to be gentle towards all men, remembering that God  had delivered them from the old heathen vices, in order that they  should set others an example of noble and useful lives, 3:1-8. He  himself must avoid foolish questionings and reject the heretics, who  refused to listen to his admonition, 9-11.

 III. Personal Details, 3:12-15. Instructing Titus to join him at  Nicopolis after Artemus or Tychicus has come to Crete, bringing with  him Zenos and Apollos, the writer ends his letter with a final  salutation.


 1. Like the other Pastoral Epistles this letter is also of a personal  nature. It was not directed to any individual church or to a group of  churches, but to a single person, one of Pauls spiritual sons and  co-laborers in the work of the Lord. At the same time it is not as  personal as II Timothy, but has distinctly a semi-private character. It  is perfectly evident from the Epistle itself (cf. 2:15) that its  teaching was also intended for the church in Crete to which Titus was  ministering.

 2. This letter is in every way very much like I Timothy, which is due  to the fact that the two were written about the same time and were  called forth by very similar situations. It is shorter than the earlier  Epistle, but covers almost the same ground. We do not find in it any  advance on the doctrinal teachings of the other letters of Paul; in  fact it contains very little doctrinal teaching, aside from the  comprehensive statements of the doctrine of grace in 2: 11-14 and  3:4-8. The former of these passages is a locus classicus. The main  interest of the Epistle is ecclesiastical and ethical, the government  of the church and the moral life of its members receiving due  consideration.


 Paul addressed the letter to "Titus mine own son after the common  faith," 1:4. We do not meet with Titus in the Acts of the Apostles,  which is all the more remarkable, since he was one of the most trusted  companions of Paul. For this reason some surmised that he is to be  identified with some one of the other co-laborers of Paul, as ~. i.  Timothy, Silas or Justus, Acts 18: 7. But neither of these satisfy the  conditions.

 He is first mentioned in Gal. 2:1, 3, where we learn that he was a  Greek, who was not compelled to submit to circumcision, lest Paul  should give his enemies a handle against himself. From Titus 1: 4 we  infer that he was one of the apostles converts, and Gal. 2: 3 informs  us that he accompanied Paul to the council of Jerusalem. According to  some the phrase ho sun emoi in this passage implies that he was also  with Paul, when he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians, but the  inference is rather unwarranted. He probably bore I Corinthians to its  destination, II Cor. 2:13, and after his return to Paul, was sent to  Corinth again to complete the collection for the saints in Judaea, II  Cor. 8:16 if. Most likely he was also the bearer of II Corinthians.  When next we hear of him, he is on the island of Crete in charge of the  church(es) that had been founded there. Titus 1: 4. 5. and is requested  to join Paul at Nicopolis, 3:12. Evidently he was with the apostle in  the early part of his second imprisonment, but soon left him for  Dalmatia, either at the behest, or against the desire of Paul. The  traditions regarding his later life are of doubtful value.

 If we compare I Tim. 4:12 with Titus 2:15, we get the impression that  Titus was older than his co-laborer at Ephesus. The timidity of the  latter did not characterize the former. While Timothy went to Corinth,  so it seems, with some hesitation, I Cor. 16:10, Titus did not flinch  from the delicate task of completing the collection for the saints in  Judaea, but undertook it of his own accord, II Cor. 8:16,

 17. He was full of enthusiasm for the Corinthians, was free from wrong  motives in his work among them, and followed in the footsteps of the  apostle, II Cor. 12:18.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. The occasion for writing this Epistle is found  in the desire of Paul that Titus should come to him in the near future,  and in the condition of the Cretan church(es), whose origin is lost in  obscurity. Probably the island was evangelized soon after the first  Pentecost by those Cretans that were converted at Jerusalem, Acts 2:  11. During the last part of his life Paul visited the island and made  provision for the external organization of the church(es) there. When  he left, he entrusted this important task to his spiritual son, Titus,  1:5. The church (es) consisted of both Jews and Gentiles, 1: 10,  ofdifferent ages and of various classes, 2:1-10. The Cretans did not  have a very good reputation, 1: 12, and some of them did not believe  their reputed character, even after they had turned to Christ.  Apparently the errors that had crept into the church(es) there were  very similar to those with which Timothy had to contend at Ephesus,  though probably the Judaeistic element was still more prominent in  them, 1: 10, 11, 14; 3: 9.

 The object of Paul in writing this letter is to summon Titus to come to  him, as soon as another has taken his place; to give him directions  regarding the ordination of presbyters in the different cities; to warn  him against the heretics on the island; and guide him in his teaching  and in his dealing with those that would not accept his word.

 2. Time and Place. Respecting the time when this Epistle was written  there is no unanimity. Those who believe in the genuineness of the  letter, and at the same time postulate but one Roman imprisonment, seek  a place for it in the life of Paul, as we know it from the Acts.  According to some it was written during the apostles first stay at  Corinth, from where, in that case, he must have made a trip to Crete;  others think it was composed at Ephesus, after Paul left Corinth and  had on the way visited Crete. But the word "continued" in Acts 18: 11  seems to preclude a trip from Corinth to Crete. Moreover both of these  theories leave Pauls acquaintance with Apollos, presupposed in this  letter, unexplained, 3:13. Still others would date the visit to Crete  and the composition of this letThr somewhere between the years 54-57,  when the apostle resided at Ephesus, but this hypothesis is also  burdened with insuperable objections. Cf. above p. 249. The Epistle  must have been composed in the interval between the first and the  second imprisonment of the apostle, and supposing the winter of 3:13 to  be the same as that of 11 Tim. 4: 21, probably in the early part of the  year 67. We have no means to determine, where the letter was written,  though something can be said in favor of Ephesus, cf. p. 639 above.


 The Church from the beginning accepted this Epistle as canonical. There  are passages in Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Barnabas, Justin Martyr and  Theophilus that suggest literary dependence. Moreover the letter is  found in all the MSS. and in the old Latin and Syriac Versions; and is  referred to in the Muratorian Fragment. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria  and Tertullian quote it by name.

 The permanent value of the letter is in some respects quite similar to  that of I Timothy. It has historical significance in that it informs us  of the spread of Christianity on the island of Crete, a piece of  information that we could not gather from any other Biblical source.  Like I Timothy it emphasizes for all ages to come the necessity of  church organization and the special qualifications of the  officebearers. It is unique in placing prominently before us the  educative value of the grace of God for the life of every man, of male  and female, young and old, bond and free. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:25:35 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 57 - Philemon

The Epistle to Philemon

by Louis Berkhof


 We can distinguish three parts in this brief letter:

 I. The Introduction, 1-7. This contains the address, the customary  blessing, and a thanksgiving of the apostle for the charity of  Philemon, for the increase of which Paul hopes, because it greatly  refreshes the saints.

 II. The Request, 8-21. Rather than command Philemon the apostle comes  to him with a request, viz, that he receive back the converted slave  Onesimus and forgive him his wrong-doing. Paul enforces his request by  pointing to the conversion of Onesimus, and to his own willingness to  repay Philemon what he lost, though he might ask retribution of him;  and trusts that Philemon will do more than he asks.

 III. Conclusion, 22-25. Trusting that he will be set free, the apostle  requests Philemon to prepare for him lodging. With greetings of his  fellow-laborers and a final salutation he ends his letter.


 1. This letter is closely related to the Epistle that was sent to the  Colossian church. They were composed at the same time, were sent to the  same city and, with a single exception (that of Justus), contain  identical greetings. At the same time it is distinguished from  Colossians in that it is a private letter. Yet it is not addressed to a  single individual, but to a family and to the believers at their house.

 2. The letter is further characterized by its great delicacy and  tactfulness. It bears strong evidence to Christian courtesy, and has  therefore been called "the polite epistle." In it we see Paul, the  gentleman, handling a delicate question with consummate skill. Though  he might command, he prefers to request that Philemon forgive and  receive again his former slave. Tactfully he refers to the spiritual  benefit that accrued from what might be called material loss. In a  delicate manner he reminds Philemon of the debt the latter owed him,  and expresses his confidence that this brother in Christ would even do  more than he requested.


 Marcion included this letter in his Pauline collection, and the  Muratorian Fragment also ascribes it to Paul. Tertullian and Origen  quote it by name, and Eusebius reckons it among the Pauline letters.

 Moreover the Epistle has all the marks of a genuine Pauline production.  It is self-attested, contains the usual Pauline blessing, thanksgiving  and salutation, reveals the character of the great apostle and clearly  exhibits his style.

 Yet even this short and admirable Epistle has not enjoyed universal  recognition. Baur rejected it because of its close relation to  Colossians and Ephesians, which he regarded as spurious. He called it  "the embryo of a Christian romance," like that of the Clementine  Recognitions, its tendency being to show that what is lost on earth is  gained in heaven. He also objects to it that it contains seven words  which Paul uses nowhere else. Weizsacker and Pfleiderer are somewhat  inclined to follow Baur. They find proof for the allegorical character  of the letter in the name Onesimus =profitable, helpful. The latter  thinks that this note may have accompanied the Epistle to the  Colossians, to illustrate by a fictitious example the social precepts  contained in that letter. Such criticism need not be taken seriously.  Hilgenfelds dictum is that Baur has not succeeded in raising his  explanation to the level of probability. And Renan says: "Paul alone  can have written this little masterpiece."


 The letter is addressed to "Philemon our dearly beloved and  fellow-laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus, our  fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house," 1, 2. Little is known  of this Philemon. He was evidently an inhabitant of Colossae, Col. 4:  9, and apparently belonged to the wealthy class. He had slaves,  received a circle of friends in his house, and was able to prepare a  lodging for Paul, 22. His munificence was generally known, 5-7, and he  made himself useful in Christian service. He was converted by Paul, 19,  most likely during the apostles three years residence at Ephesus.  Apphia is generally regarded as the wife of Philemon, while many  consider Archippus as their son. We notice from Col. 4:17 that the  latter had an office in the church. Probably he was temporarily taking  the place of Epaphras. The expression "the church in thy house"  undoubtedly refers to the Christians of Colossae that gathered in the  dwelling of Philemon for worship.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. The occasion for writing this Epistle is  clearly indicated in the letter itself. Onesimus, the slave of Philemon  absconded and, so it seems, defrauded his master, 18, 19. He fled to  Rome, where in some way--it is useless to guess just how--he fell in  with Paul, whom he may have known from the time of his Ephesian  residence. The apostle was instrumental in converting him and in  showing him the evil of his way, 10, and although he would gladly have  retained him for the work, sent him back to Colossae in deference to  the claims of Philemon. He did not send him empty-handed, however, but  gave him a letter of recommendation, in which he informs Philemon of  the change wrought in Onesimus by which the former slave became a  brother, bespeaks for him a favorable reception in the family of his  master and in the circle that gathered at their house for worship, and  even hints at the desirability of emancipating him.

 2. Time and place. For the discussion of the time and place of  composition cf. what was said respecting the Epistle to the Ephesians.


 This Epistle is rarely quoted by the early church fathers, which is  undoubtedly due to its brevity and to its lack of doctrinal contents.  The letter is recognized by Marcion and the Muratorian Fragment, and is  contained in the old Latin and Syriac Versions. Tertullian quotes it  more than once, but no trace of it is found in Irenaeus and Clement of  Alexandria. Eusebius classes it with the Homologoumena and Jerome  argues at length against those who refused to accept it as Pauline. The  Church never doubted its canonicity.

 The permanent value of this little letter is both psychological and  ethical. It shows us Paul as he corresponds in a friendly way with a  brother in Christ, and thus gives us a new glimpse of his character,  the character of a perfect gentleman, unobtrusive, refined, skillful  and withal firm,--a character worthy of imitation. Moreover it reveals  to us how Paul, in view of the unity of bond and free in Jesus Christ,  deals with the perplexing question of slavery. He does not demand the  abolishment of the institution, since the time for such a drastic  measure had not yet come; but he does clearly hint at emancipation as  the natural result of the redemptive work of Christ.  __________________________________________________________________The Epistle to Philemon


 We can distinguish three parts in this brief letter:

 I. The Introduction, 1-7. This contains the address, the customary  blessing, and a thanksgiving of the apostle for the charity of  Philemon, for the increase of which Paul hopes, because it greatly  refreshes the saints.

 II. The Request, 8-21. Rather than command Philemon the apostle comes  to him with a request, viz, that he receive back the converted slave  Onesimus and forgive him his wrong-doing. Paul enforces his request by  pointing to the conversion of Onesimus, and to his own willingness to  repay Philemon what he lost, though he might ask retribution of him;  and trusts that Philemon will do more than he asks.

 III. Conclusion, 22-25. Trusting that he will be set free, the apostle  requests Philemon to prepare for him lodging. With greetings of his  fellow-laborers and a final salutation he ends his letter.


 1. This letter is closely related to the Epistle that was sent to the  Colossian church. They were composed at the same time, were sent to the  same city and, with a single exception (that of Justus), contain  identical greetings. At the same time it is distinguished from  Colossians in that it is a private letter. Yet it is not addressed to a  single individual, but to a family and to the believers at their house.

 2. The letter is further characterized by its great delicacy and  tactfulness. It bears strong evidence to Christian courtesy, and has  therefore been called "the polite epistle." In it we see Paul, the  gentleman, handling a delicate question with consummate skill. Though  he might command, he prefers to request that Philemon forgive and  receive again his former slave. Tactfully he refers to the spiritual  benefit that accrued from what might be called material loss. In a  delicate manner he reminds Philemon of the debt the latter owed him,  and expresses his confidence that this brother in Christ would even do  more than he requested.


 Marcion included this letter in his Pauline collection, and the  Muratorian Fragment also ascribes it to Paul. Tertullian and Origen  quote it by name, and Eusebius reckons it among the Pauline letters.

 Moreover the Epistle has all the marks of a genuine Pauline production.  It is self-attested, contains the usual Pauline blessing, thanksgiving  and salutation, reveals the character of the great apostle and clearly  exhibits his style.

 Yet even this short and admirable Epistle has not enjoyed universal  recognition. Baur rejected it because of its close relation to  Colossians and Ephesians, which he regarded as spurious. He called it  "the embryo of a Christian romance," like that of the Clementine  Recognitions, its tendency being to show that what is lost on earth is  gained in heaven. He also objects to it that it contains seven words  which Paul uses nowhere else. Weizsacker and Pfleiderer are somewhat  inclined to follow Baur. They find proof for the allegorical character  of the letter in the name Onesimus =profitable, helpful. The latter  thinks that this note may have accompanied the Epistle to the  Colossians, to illustrate by a fictitious example the social precepts  contained in that letter. Such criticism need not be taken seriously.  Hilgenfelds dictum is that Baur has not succeeded in raising his  explanation to the level of probability. And Renan says: "Paul alone  can have written this little masterpiece."


 The letter is addressed to "Philemon our dearly beloved and  fellow-laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus, our  fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house," 1, 2. Little is known  of this Philemon. He was evidently an inhabitant of Colossae, Col. 4:  9, and apparently belonged to the wealthy class. He had slaves,  received a circle of friends in his house, and was able to prepare a  lodging for Paul, 22. His munificence was generally known, 5-7, and he  made himself useful in Christian service. He was converted by Paul, 19,  most likely during the apostles three years residence at Ephesus.  Apphia is generally regarded as the wife of Philemon, while many  consider Archippus as their son. We notice from Col. 4:17 that the  latter had an office in the church. Probably he was temporarily taking  the place of Epaphras. The expression "the church in thy house"  undoubtedly refers to the Christians of Colossae that gathered in the  dwelling of Philemon for worship.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. The occasion for writing this Epistle is  clearly indicated in the letter itself. Onesimus, the slave of Philemon  absconded and, so it seems, defrauded his master, 18, 19. He fled to  Rome, where in some way--it is useless to guess just how--he fell in  with Paul, whom he may have known from the time of his Ephesian  residence. The apostle was instrumental in converting him and in  showing him the evil of his way, 10, and although he would gladly have  retained him for the work, sent him back to Colossae in deference to  the claims of Philemon. He did not send him empty-handed, however, but  gave him a letter of recommendation, in which he informs Philemon of  the change wrought in Onesimus by which the former slave became a  brother, bespeaks for him a favorable reception in the family of his  master and in the circle that gathered at their house for worship, and  even hints at the desirability of emancipating him.

 2. Time and place. For the discussion of the time and place of  composition cf. what was said respecting the Epistle to the Ephesians.


 This Epistle is rarely quoted by the early church fathers, which is  undoubtedly due to its brevity and to its lack of doctrinal contents.  The letter is recognized by Marcion and the Muratorian Fragment, and is  contained in the old Latin and Syriac Versions. Tertullian quotes it  more than once, but no trace of it is found in Irenaeus and Clement of  Alexandria. Eusebius classes it with the Homologoumena and Jerome  argues at length against those who refused to accept it as Pauline. The  Church never doubted its canonicity.

 The permanent value of this little letter is both psychological and  ethical. It shows us Paul as he corresponds in a friendly way with a  brother in Christ, and thus gives us a new glimpse of his character,  the character of a perfect gentleman, unobtrusive, refined, skillful  and withal firm,--a character worthy of imitation. Moreover it reveals  to us how Paul, in view of the unity of bond and free in Jesus Christ,  deals with the perplexing question of slavery. He does not demand the  abolishment of the institution, since the time for such a drastic  measure had not yet come; but he does clearly hint at emancipation as  the natural result of the redemptive work of Christ. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:24:06 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 59 - James

The General Epistle of James

by Louis Berkhof


 There are no clearly defined parts in this Epistle; hence no  classification of its contents is attempted. After the opening  salutation the writer points out the significance of temptation in the  life of his readers, exhorts them to ask in faith for the wisdom needed  in bearing them and warns them not to refer their inward temptations to  God, 1:1-18. Then he admonishes them to receive the Word in all  humility and to carry it out in action, 19-27. He warns importance, 3:1-12. Wisdom from above is commended to the  readers, since the wisdom of this world is full of bitter envy and  works confusion and evil, while heavenly wisdom is plenteous in mercy  and yields good fruits, 13-18. The author then reprimands the readers  for their quarrelsomeness, which results from a selfishness and lust  that infects even one's prayers and renders them futile; and exhorts  them to humble themselves before God, 4:1-12. He condemns those who, in  the pride of possession, forget their dependence on God, and denounces  the rich that oppress and rob the poor, 4:13--5: 6; after which he  urges the brethren to be patient, knowing the Lord is at hand, 7-11.  Finally he warns his readers against false swearing, gives special  advice to the sick, exhorts them all to pray for one another, reminding  them of the efficacy of prayer, and of the blessedness of turning a  sinner from his sinful way, 12-20.


 1. From a literary point of view the Epistle of James is quite  different from those of Paul. The latter are real letters, which cannot  be said of this Epistle. There is no benediction at the beginning, nor  any salutation or greeting at the end. Moreover it contains very little  that points to definite historical circumstances such as are known to  us from other sources. Zahn calls this Epistle, "eine . . . in  schriftliche Form gefasste Ansprache." Einl. I p. 73. Barth speaks of  it as, "eine Sammlung von Ansprachen des Jakobus an die Gemeinde zu  Jerusalem," which, he thinks were taken down by a hearer and sent to  the Jewish Christians of the diaspora. Einl. p. 140. And Deissmann  says: "The Epistle of James is from the beginning a little work of  literature, a pamphlet addressed to the whole of Christendom, a  veritable Epistle (as distinguished from a letter). The whole of the  contents agrees therewith. There is none of the unique detail peculiar  to the situation, such as we have in the letters of Paul, but simply  general questions, most of them still conceivable under the present  conditions of church life." Light from the Ancient East p. 235.

 2. The contents of the Epistle are not doctrinal but ethical. The  writer does not discuss any of the great truths of redemption, but  gives moral precepts for the life of his readers. There is no  Christological teaching whatever, the name of Christ being mentioned  but twice, viz. 1: 1; 2: 1. Beischlag correctly remarks that it is "so  wesentlich noch Lehre Christi und so wenig noch Lehre von Christo." The  letter may be called, the Epistle of the Royal Law, 2:8. The emphasis  does not rest on faith, but on the works of the law, which the writer  views, not in its ceremonial aspect, but in its deep moral significance  and as an organic whole, so that transgressing a single precept is  equivalent to a violation of the whole law. The essential element of  life according to the law is a love that reveals itself in grateful  obedience to God and in self-denying devotion to one's neighbor.

 3. Some scholars, as f. i. Spitta, claim that this Epistle is really  not a Christian but a Jewish writing; but the contents clearly prove  the contrary. Yet it must be admitted that the Epistle has a somewhat  Jewish complexion. While the writer never once points to the examplary  life of Christ, he does refer to the examples of Abraham, Rahab, Job  and Elijah. In several passages he reveals his dependence on the Jewish  Chokmah literature, on the Sermon on the Mount, and on the words of  Jesus generally; compare 1: 2 with Matt. 5:12 ;--1 : 4 with Matt. 5 :  48 ;--1 : 5 with Matt. 7:7;--1:6 with Mark 11:23;--1:22 with Matt.  7:24;--2:8 with Mark 12:31;--2:13 with Matt. 5:7; 18:33;--4:10 with  Matt. 23:12; etc. Moreover the author does not borrow his figurative  language from the social and civil institutions of the Greek and Roman  world, as Paul often does, but derives it, like the Lord himself had  done, from the native soil of Palestine, when he speaks of the sea, 1:  6; 3:4; of the former and the latter rain, 5: 7; of the vine and the  fig-tree, 3:12; of the scorching wind, 1:11; and of salt and bitter  springs, 3:11, 12.

 4. The Epistle is written in exceptionally good, though Hellenistic  Greek. The vocabulary of the author is rich and varied, and perfectly  adequate to the expression of his lofty sentiments. His sentences are  not characterized by great variation; yet they have none of the utter  simplicity, bordering on monotony, that marks the writings of John. The  separate thoughts are very clearly expressed, but in certain instances  there is some difficulty in tracing their logical sequence. We find  some examples of Hebrew parallelism especially in the fourth chapter;  downright Hebraisms, however are very few, cf. the adjectival genitive  in 1: 25, and the instrumental en in 3:9.


 According to external testimony James, the brother of the Lord, is the  author of this Epistle. Origen is the first one to quote it by name,  and it is only in Rufinus Latin translation of his works that the  author is described as, "James, the brother of the Lord." Eusebius  mentions James, the brother of Christ, as the reputed author,  remarking, however, that the letter was considered spurious. Jerome,  acknowledging its authenticity, says: "James, called the Lord's  brother, surnamed the Just, wrote but one Epistle, which is among the  seven catholic ones.

 The author simply names himself, "James a servant of God and of the  Lord Jesus Christ," 1: 1, thus leaving the question of his identity  still a matter of conjecture, since there were other persons of that  name in the apostolic Church. It is generally admitted, however, that  there is but one James that meets the requirements, viz, the brother of  the Lord, for: (1) The writer was evidently a man of great authority  and recognized as such not only by the Jews in Palestine but also by  those of the diaspora. There is only one James of whom this can be  said. While James, the brother of John, and James the son of Alphaeus  soon disappear from view in the Acts of the Apostles, this James stands  out prominently as the head of the Jerusalem church. During the Lords  public ministry he did not yet believe in Christ, John 7: 5. Probably  his conversion was connected with the special appearance of the Lord to  him after the resurrection, I Cor. 15: 7. In the Acts we soon meet him  as a man of authority. When Peter had escaped out of prison, after  James the brother of John had been killed, he says to the brethren:  "Go, show these things to James," Acts 12:17. Paul says that he, on his  return from Arabia, went to Jerusalem and saw only Peter and James, the  Lords brother, Gal. 1: 18, 19. On the following visit James, Cephas and  John, who seemed to be pillars, gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand  of fellowship, Gal. 2: 9. Still later certain emissaries came from  James to Antioch and apparently had considerable influence, Gal. 2:12.  The leading part in the council of Jerusalem is taken by this James,  Acts 15:13 if. And when, at the end of his third missionary journey,  Paul comes to Jerusalem, he first greeted the brethren informally, and  on the following day "went unto James, and all the elders were  present," Acts 21:18. (2) The authorship of this James is also favored  by a comparison of the letter, Acts 15 : 23-29, yery likely written  under the inspiring influence of James, together with his speech at the  council of Jerusalem, and certain parts of our Epistle, which reveals  striking similarities. The salutation chairein Acts 15: 23, Jas. 1:1  occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in Acts 23:26. The words to  kalon onoma to epiklethen eph humas, 2:7, can only be paralleled in the  New Testament in Acts 15:17. Both the speech of James and the Epistle  are characterized by pointed allusions to the Old Testament. The  affectionate term adelphos, of frequent occurrence in the Epistle (cf.  1:2,9, 16, 19; 2:5, 15; 3:1; 4:11; 5:7,9, 10, 12, 19), is also found in  Acts 15: 13, 23; compare especially Jas. 2: 5 and Acts 15:13. Besides  these there are other verbal coincidences, as episkeptesthai, Jas.  1:27; Acts 15:14; terein and diaterein, Jas. 1:27, Acts 15:29;  episkeptesthai, Jas. 5 :19, 20; Acts 15 :19; agapetos, Jas. 1:16, 19;  2:5; Acts 15:25. (3) The words of the address are perfectly applicable  to this particular James. He does not claim that he is an apostle, as  do Paul and Peter in their Epistles. It might be objected, however,  that if he was the brother of the Lord, he would have laid stress on  that relation to enhance his authority. But does it not seem far more  likely, in view of the fact that Christ definitely pointed out the  comparative insignificance of this earthly relationship, Matt. 12:  46-50, that James would be careful not to make it the basis of any  special claim, and therefore simply speaks of himself as a servant of  God and of the Lord Jesus Christ?

 Now the question comes up, whether this James cannot be identified with  James, the son of Alphaeus, one of the Lord's apostles, Mt. 10:3; Mk.  3:18; Lk. 6:15; Acts 1:13. This identification would imply that the  so-called brethren of the Lord were in reality his cousin's, a theory  that was broached by Jerome about A. D. 383, and which, together with  the view of Epiphanius (that these brethren were sons of Joseph by a  former marriage) was urged especially in the interest of the perpetual  virginity. But this theory is not borne out by the data of Scripture,  for: (1) The brethren of the Lord are distinguished from his disciples  in John 2:12, and from the twelve after their calling in Mt. 12:46ff.  ;Mk 3:31 ff. ; Lk. 8:19 ff. ; and John 7:3. It is stated that they did  not belong to the circle of his disciples, indirectly in Mt. 13:55; Mk.  6:3, and directly in John 7:5. (2) Although it is true that cousins are  sometimes called brethren in Scripture, cf. Gen. 14 16; 29:12, 15, we  need not assume that this is the case also in the instance before us.  Moreover it is doubtful whether James the son of Alphaeus was a cousin  of Jesus. According to some this relationship is clearly implied in  John 19: 25; but it is by no means certain that in that passage, "Mary  the wife of Clopas" stands in apposition with, "his mother's sister."  If we do accept that interpretation, we must be ready to believe that  there were two sisters bearing the same name. It is more plausible to  think that John speaks of four rather than of three women, especially  in view of the fact that the gospels speak of at least five in  connection with Jesus death and resurrection, cf. Mt. 27: 56; Mk. 16:  1; Lk. 24:10. But even if we suppose that he speaks of but three, how  are we going to prove the identity of Alphaeus and Clopas? And in case  we could demonstrate this, how must we account for the fact that only  two sons are named of Mary, the wife of Clopas, viz. James and Joses,  Mt. 27: 56; Mk. 15: 40; Lk. 24:10, comp. John 19: 25, while there are  four brethren of the Lord, Mt. 13:55; Mk. 6: 3, viz. James, Joses,  Judas and Simon? It has been argued that Judas is indicated as a  brother of James the less in Lk. 6:16; Acts 1: 13, where we read of a  Ioudas Iakobou. But it is contrary to analogy to supply the word  brother in such cases. (3) We repeatedly find the brethren of the Lord  in the company of Mary, the mother of Jesus, just as we would expect to  find children with their mother. Moreover in passages like Mt. 12:46;  Mk. 3: 31, 32; and Lk. 8:19 it is an exegetical mistake to take the  word mother in its literal sense, and then to put a different  interpretation on the word brother. We conclude, therefore, that James,  the brother of the Lord and the author of this Epistle, was not an  apostle. There are two passages that seem to point in a different  direction, viz. Gal. 1: 19 and I Cor. 15:7; but in the former passage  ei me may be adversative rather than exceptive, as in Lk. 4: 26, 27,  cf. Thayer in loco; and the name apostle was not limited to the twelve.  The considerations of Lange in favor of identifying the author with  James, the son of Alphaeus, are rather subjective.

 James seems to have been a man of good common sense, with a well  balanced judgment, who piloted the little vessel of the Jerusalem  church through the Judaeistic breakers with a skillful hand, gradually  weaning her from ceremonial observances without giving offense and  recognizing the greater freedom of the Gentile churches. He was highly  respected by the whole Church for his great piety and whole-hearted  devotion to the saints. The account of Hegesippus with respect to his  paramount holiness and ascetic habits is in all probability greatly  overdrawn. Cf. Eusebius II 23.

 The authorship of James has been called in question by many scholars  during the last century, such as DeWette, Schleiermacher, Baur,  Hilgenfeld, Holtzmann, Harnack, Spitta, Baljon e. a. The main reasons  for regarding the Epistle as spurious, are the following: (1) The  condition of the church reflected in it reminds one of the church at  Rome in the time of Hermas, when the glowing love of the first time had  lost its fervency. (2) The Greek in which the Epistle is written is far  better than one could reasonably expect of James, who always resided in  Palestine.

 (3) The writer does not mention the law of Moses, nor refer to any of  its precepts, but simply urges the readers to keep the perfect law that  requires love, charity, peacefulness, etc., just as a second century  writer would do; while James believed in the permanent validity of the  Mosaic law, at least for the Jews. (4) The Epistle bears traces of  dependence on some of the Epistles of Paul, especially Romans and  Galatians, on the Epistle to the Hebrews and on I Peter; and clearly  contradicts the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith.

 But these arguments need not shake our conviction as to the authorship  of James. The condition implied in this letter may very well and, at  least in part, is known to have existed about the middle of the first  century. Jos. Ant. XX 8.8; 9.2 Cf. especially Salmon, Introd, p. 501 f.  With respect to the second argument Mayor remarks that, accepting the  view that Jesus and his brethren usually spoke Aramaeic, "we are not  bound to suppose that, with towns like Sepphoris and Tiberius in their  immediate vicinity, with Ptolomais, Scythopolis and Gadara at no great  distance, they remained ignorant of Greek." Hastings D. B. Art. James,  the General Epistle of. The idea that James was a fanatic Judaeist and  therefore could not but insist on keeping the Mosaic law, is not borne  out by Scripture. He was a Jewish Christian and reveals himself as such  f. i. in Acts 15:14-29; 21:20-25 and in his Epistle, cf.2:5 if.;  3:2;4:7, 14. His insistence on the spirit of the law, not at all  Judaeistic, is in perfect harmony with the teaching of the Lord. The  literary dependence to which reference has been made may, in so far as  any really exists, just as well be reversed, and the contradiction  between James and Paul is only apparent. Cf. the larger Introductions  and the Commentaries.


 The Epistle is addressed to "the twelve tribes which are in the  dispersion," 1: 1. Who are indicated by these words? The adverbial  phrase, "in the dispersion" excludes the idea that the writer refers to  all the Jewish Christians, including even those in Palestine (Hofmann,  Thiersch) ; and the contents of the letter forbid us to think that he  addresses Jews and Jewish Christians jointly (Thiele, Guericke, Weiss).  There are, however, two interpretations that are admissible. The  expression may designate the Jewish Christians that lived outside of  Palestine (the great majority of scholars); but it may also be a  description of all the believers in Jesus Christ that were scattered  among the Gentiles, after the analogy of I Pet. 1: 1 and Gal. 6:16  (Koster, Hilgenfeld, Hengstenberg, Von Soden). Zahn is rather uncertain  in his interpretation. He finds that the twelve tribes mentioned here  form an antithesis to the twelve tribes that were in Palestine, and  refer either to Christianity as a whole, or to the totality of Jewish  Christians; and reminds us of the fact that there was a time, when the  two were identical. Einl. I p. 55. We prefer to think of the Jewish  Christians of the diaspora in Syria and neighboring lands, which were  probably called "the twelve tribes" as representing the true Israel,  because (1) the Epistle does not contain a single reference to Gentile  Christians; (2) James was pre-eminently the leader of the Jewish  Church; (3) the entire complexion of the Epistle points to Jewish  readers.

 The Epistle being of an encyclical character, naturally does not have  reference to the situation of any particular local church, but to  generally prevailing conditions at that time. The Jewish Christians to  whom the Epistle is addressed were subject to persecutions and  temptations, and the poor were oppressed by the rich that, possibly,  did not belong to their circle. They did not bear these temptations  with the necessary patience, but were swayed by doubt. They even looked  with envy at the glitter of the world and favored the rich at the  expense of the poor. In daily life they did not follow the guidance of  their Christian principles, so that their faith was barren. There may  have been dead works, but the fruits of righteousness were not  apparent.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. The occasion for writing this Epistle is found  in the condition of the readers which we just described. James, the  head of the Jerusalem church, would naturally be informed of this,  probably in part by his own emissaries to the various churches of the  diaspora, Acts 15:22; II Cor. 3:1; Gal. 2:12, and in part by those  Jewish Christians that came from different lands to join in the great  festivals at Jerusalem.

 The object of the Epistle was ethical rather than didactic; it was to  comfort, to reprove and to exhort. Since the readers were persecuted to  the trial of their faith, and were tempted in various ways, the writer  comes to them with words of consolation. Feeling that they did not bear  their trials with patience, but were inclined to ascribe to God the  temptations that endangered them as a result of their own lust and  worldliness, he reproves them for the error of their way. And with a  view to the blots on their Christian life, to their worldliness, their  respect of persons, their vainglory and their envy and strife, he  exhorts them to obey the royal law, that they may be perfect men.

 2. Time and Place. The place of composition was undoubtedly Jerusalem,  where James evidently had his continual abode. It is not so easy to  determine when the letter was written. We have a terminus ad quem in  the death of James about the year 62, and a terminus a quo in the  persecution that followed the death of Stephen about A. D. 35, and that  was instrumental in scattering the Jewish church. Internal evidence  favors the idea that it was written during this period, for (1) There  is no reference in the Epistle to the destruction of Jerusalem either  as past or imminent; but the expectation of the speedy second coming of  Christ, that was characteristic of the first generation of Christians,  was still prevalent, 5: 7-9. (2) The picture of the unbelieving rich  oppressing the poor Christians and drawing them before tribunals, is in  perfect harmony with the description Josephus gives of the time  immediately after Christ, when the rich Sadducees tyrannized over the  poor to such a degree that some starved. Ant. XX 8.8; 9.2. This  condition terminated with the destruction of Jerusalem. (3) The  indistinctness of the line of separation between the converted and the  unconverted Jews also favors the supposition that the letter was  composed during this period, for until nearly the end of that time  these two classes freely intermingled both at the temple worship and in  the synagogues. In course of time, however, and even before the  destruction of Jerusalem, this condition was gradually changed.

 But the question remains, whether we can give a nearer definition of  the time of composition. In view of the fact that the Christian Jews  addressed in this letter must have had time to spread and to settle in  the dispersion so that they already had their own places of worship, we  cannot date the Epistle in the very beginning of the period named.  Neither does it seem likely that it was written after the year 50, when  the council of Jerusalem was held, for (1) the Epistle does not contain  a single allusion to the existence in the church of Gentile Christians;  and (2) it makes no reference whatever to the great controversy  respecting the observance of the Mosaic law, on which the council  passed a decision. Hence we are inclined to date the Epistle between A.  D. 45 and 50.

 Some have objected to this early date that the Epistle is evidently  dependent on Romans, Galatians, Hebrews and I Peter; but this objection  is an unproved assumption. It is also said that the presbuteroi  mentioned in 5:14 imply a later date. We should remember, however, that  the Church, especially among the Jews, first developed out of the  synagogue, in which presbyters were a matter of course. Moreover some  urge that the Christian knowledge assumed in the readers, as in 1: 3;  3:1, does not comport with such an early date. It appears to us that  this objection is puerile.

 Of those who deny the authorship of James some would date the Epistle  after the destruction of Jerusalem, Reuss, Von Soden, and Hilgenfeld in  the time of Domitian (81-96); Blom in A. D. 80; Bruckner and Baljon in  the time of Hadrian (117-138).


 There was considerable doubt as to the canonicity of this Epistle in  the early church. Some allusions to it have been pointed out in Clement  of Rome, Hermas and Irenaeus, but they are very uncertain indeed. We  cannot point to a single quotation in Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria  and Tertullian, though some are inclined to believe on the strength of  a statement made by Eusebius, Ch. Hist. VI 14 that Clement commented on  this Epistle, just as he did on the other general Epistles. There are  reasons, however, to doubt the correctness of this statement, cf.  Westcott, on the Canon p. 357. The letter is omitted from the  Muratorian Fragment, but is contained in the Peshito. Eusebius classes  it with the Antilegomena, though he seems uncertain as to its  canonicity. Origen was apparently the first to quote it as Scripture.  Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius and Gregory of Nazianze recognized it,  and it was finally ratified by the third council of Carthage in A. D.  397. During the Middle Ages the canonicity of the Epistle was not  doubted, but Luther for dogmatical reasons called it "a right strawy  Epistle." Notwithstanding the doubts expressed in the course of time,  the Church continued to honor it as a canonical writing ever since the  end of the fourth century.

 The great permanent value of this Epistle is found in the stress it  lays on the necessity of having a vital faith, that issues in fruits of  righteousness. The profession of Christ without a corresponding  Christian life is worthless and does not save man. Christians should  look into the perfect law, and should regulate their lives in harmony  with its deep spiritual meaning. They should withstand temptations, be  patient under trials, dwell together in peace without envying or  strife, do justice, exercise charity, remember each other in prayer,  and in all their difficulties be mindful of the fact that the coming of  the Lord is at hand. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:20:50 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 61 - 1 Peter

The First General Epistle of Peter

by Louis Berkhof


 The contents of the Epistle can be divided into four parts:

 I. Introduction, 1:1-12. After the greeting, 1, 2, the apostle praises  God for the blessings of salvation, which should raise the readers  above all temporal sufferings, since they are so great that the  prophets searched them, and the angels were desirous to understand  their mystery, 3-12.

 II. General Exhortations to a worthy Christian Conversation, 1:  13--2:10. The writer exhorts the readers to become ever more firmly  grounded in their Christian hope. To that end the holiness of God  should be the standard of their life, 1:13-16; they must fear God, and  as regenerated persons, love the brethren and seek to increase in  spiritual life, 1:17--2:3. This growth should not only be individual,  however, but also communal, a developing into a spiritual unity, 4-10.

 III. Particular Directions for the special Relations of Life, 2:11--4:  6. The author urges the readers to be dutiful to the authorities, 2:  11-17; more particularly he exhorts the servants among them to follow  the example of Christ in self-denying service, 18-25; the wives to  submit themselves to their husbands, and the husbands to love their  wives and to treat then with consideration, 3:1-7. Then he admonishes  them all to do good and to refrain from evil, that in their sufferings  they may be like their Master, whom they should also follow in their  Christian conversation, 3: 8--4: 6.

 IV. Closing Instructions for the present Needs of the Readers, 4:  7--5:14. The apostle exhorts the readers to prayer, brotherly love,  hospitality, and conscientiousness in the exercise of their official  duties, 4: 7-11. He warns them not to be discouraged by persecutions,  but to regard these as necessary to the imitation of Christ, 12-19.  Further he exhorts the elders to rule the flock of Christ wisely, the  younger ones to submit to the elder; and all to humble themselves and  to place their trust in God, 5:1-9; and ends the letter with good  wishes and a salutation, 10-14.


 1. Though there are some doctrinal statements in the Epistle, its chief  interest is not theoretical but practical, not doctrinal but ethical.  It has been said that, while Paul represents faith and John love, Peter  is the apostle of hope. This distinction, which may easily be  misconstrued, nevertheless contains an element of truth. The basic idea  of the Epistle is that the readers are begotten again unto a lively  hope, the hope of an incorruptable, undefiled and unfading inheritance.  This glorious expectation must be an incentive for them to strive after  holiness in all the relations of life, and to bear patiently the  reproach of Christ, mindful of the fact that He is their great  prototype, and that suffering is the pre-requisite of everlasting  glory.

 2. The Epistle has a characteristic impress of Old Testament modes of  thought and expression. Not only does it, comparatively speaking,  contain more quotations from and references to the Old Testament than  any other New Testament writing, cf. 1: 16, 24, 25; 2: 3, 4, 6, 7, 9,  10, 22-24; 3:10-12, 13, 14; 4:8, 17, 18; 5:5, 7; but the entire  complexion of the letter shows that the author lived and moved in Old  Testament conceptions to such an extent, that he preferably expresses  his thoughts in Old Testament language.

 3. On the other hand, there is great similarity between this Epistle  and some of the New Testament writings, notably the Epistles of Paul to  the Romans and to the Ephesians, and the Epistle of James. And this  likeness is of such a character as to suggest dependence of the one on  the other. Nearly all the thoughts of Rom. 12 and 13 are also found in  this letter; compare 2: 5 with Rom. 12: 1 ;--1:14 with Rom. 12:2  ;--4:10 with Rom. 12: 3-8 ;--1 :22 with Rom. 12: 9 ;--2:17 with Rom.  12:10, etc. The relationship between it and the Epistle to the  Ephesians is evident not only from single passages, but also from the  structure of the letter. There is a certain similarity in the general  and special exhortations, which is probably due to the fact that both  Epistles are of a general character. Compare also the passages 1:3 and  Eph. 1:3;--1:5 and Eph. 1:19;--1:14 and Eph. 2:3;--1:18 and Eph.  4:17;--2: 4, 5 and Eph. 2: 20-22. There are also points of resemblance  between this Epistle and that of James, and though not so numerous, yet  they indicate a relation of dependence; compare 1: 6, 7 with Jas. 1:2,  3;--2:1 with Jas. 1:21;--5:5-9 with Jas. 4:6, 7, 10.

 4. The Greek in which this letter is written is some of the best that  is found in the New Testament. Though the language is simple and  direct, it is not devoid of artistic quality. Simcox, comparing it with  the language of James, says: "St. Peters language is stronger where St.  James is weak, and weaker where he is strong--it is more varied, more  classical, but less eloquent and of less literary power." The Writers  of the New Testament p. 66. The authors vocabulary is very full and  rich, and his sentences flow on with great regularity, sometimes rising  to grandeur. It is noticeable, however, that the writer, though having  a good knowledge of Greek in general, was particularly saturated with  the language of the Septuagint.


 The external authentication of this Epistle is very strong. Irenaeus,  Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen and Cyprian all quote it by  name and without expressing the slightest doubt as to its canonicity.  And Eusebius says: "One Epistle of Peter called his first is  universally received." Salmon suggests that, in view of what Westcott  says, its omission from the Muratorian Canon may be due to the error of  a scribe, who left out a sentence. Cf. Westcott, The canon of the N.  T., Appendix C.

 Aside from the fact that the letter is self-attested there is very  little internal evidence that can help us to determine who the author  was. There is nothing that points definitely to Peter, which is in part  due to the fact that we have no generally recognized standard of  comparison. The speeches in Acts may not have been recorded literally  by Luke; and II Peter is one of the most doubted Epistles of the New  Testament, partly because it is so dissimilar to our letter. If we  leave the first verse out of consideration, we can only say on the  strength of internal evidence that the writer was evidently an  eyewitness of the sufferings of Christ, 3:1; that the central contents  of his teaching is, like that of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles, the  death and the resurrection of Christ; and that his attitude toward the  Christians of the Gentiles is in perfect harmony with that of the  apostle of the circumcision. Moreover the persons mentioned in 5:12, 13  are known to have been acquaintances of Peter, cf. Acts 12:12; 15:22.

 The apostle Peter, originally called Simon, was a native of Bethsaida,  John 1: 42, 44. When the Lord entered on his public ministry, Peter was  married and dwelt at Capernaum, Lk. 4:31, 38. He was the son of Jonas,  Mt. 16:17 and was, with his father and his brother, by occupation a  fisherman, Mk. 1: 16. We find him among the first that were called to  follow the Lord, Mt. 4:18, 19, and he soon received a certain  prominence among the disciples of Jesus. This was in harmony with the  new name, Pe,troj, which the Lord gave him, John 1: 42. With John and  James he formed the inner circle of the disciples; together they were  the most intimate followers of the Saviour and as such enjoyed special  privileges. They only entered with the Lord into the house of Jairus,  Lk. 8: 51; none but they witnessed his glory on the Mount of  Transfiguration, Mt. 17: 1; and they alone beheld him in his hour of  great grief in the garden of Gethsemane, Mt. 26: 37. The trial of Jesus  was also the hour of Peters deepest fall, for on that occasion he  thrice denied his Master, Mt. 26:69-75. He truly repented of his deed,  however, and was restored to his former position by the Lord, John  21:15-17. After the ascension he is found at the head of the disciples  at Jerusalem, guiding them in the choice of an apostle in the place of  Judas, Acts 1: 15-26, and preaching the Pentecostal sermon, Acts  2:14-36. Laboring at first in connection with John, he healed the lame  man, repeatedly addressed the people in the temple, executed judgment  on Ananias and Sapphira, and once and again defended the cause of  Christ before the Sanhedrin, Acts 3-5. During the time of persecution  that followed the death of Stephen, they together went to Samaria to  establish the work of Philip, Acts 8:14 ff. In Lydda he healed Aeneas,  Acts 9:22 f. and raised up Tabitha in Joppa, Acts 9: 36 f. By means of  a vision he was taught that the Gentiles too were to be admitted to the  Church, and was prepared to go and preach Christ to the household of  Cornelius, Acts 10:1-48. After James, the brother of John was killed,  Peter was cast in prison, but, being delivered by an angel, he left  Jerusalem, Acts 12:1-17. Later he returned thither and was present at  the council of Jerusalem, Acts 15. Nothing certain is known of his  movements after this time. From I Cor. 9: 5 we infer that he labored at  various places. On one occasion Paul rebuked him for his dissimulation,  Gal. 2: 11 ff. From all the traditions regarding his later life we can  gather only one piece of reliable information, to the effect that  towards the end of his life he came to Rome, where he labored for the  propagation of the Gospel and suffered martyrdom under Nero.

 Peter was a man of action rather than of deep thought. He was always  eager and impulsive, but, as is often the case with such persons, was  wanting in the necessary stability of character. Burning with love  towards the Saviour, he was always ready to defend his cause, Mt.  17:24, 25; 16:22; Lk. 22: 33; John 18:10, and to confess his name, John  6: 68 f.; Mt. 16:16. But his action was often characterized by undue  haste, as f. i. when he rebuked Christ, Mt. 16:22, smote the servant of  the high priest, John 18:10, and refused to let the Saviour wash his  feet, John 13:6; and by too much reliance on his own strength, as when  he went out upon the sea, Mt. 14:28-31, and declared himself ready to  die with the Lord, Mt. 26: 35. It was this rashness and great  self-confidence that led to his fall. By that painful experience Peter  had to be taught his own weakness before he could really develop into  the Rock among the apostles. After his restoration we see him as a firm  confessor, ready, if need be, to lay down his life for the Saviour.

 Until the previous century the Epistle was generally regarded as the  work of Peter, and even now the great majority of New Testament  scholars have reached no other conclusion. Still there are several,  especially since the time of Baur, that deny its authenticity, as  Hilgenfeld, Pfleiderer, Weizsacker, Hausrath, Keim, Schurer, Von Soden  e. a. The most important objections urged against the traditional view,  are the following: (1) The Epistle is clearly dependent on Pauline  letters, while it contains very few traces of the Lords teaching. This  is not what one would expect of Peter, who had been so intimate with  the Lord and had taken a different stand than Paul, Gal. 2: 11ff.  Harnack regards this argument as decisive, for he says: "Were it not  for the dependence (of I Peter) on the Pauline Epistles, I might  perhaps allow myself to maintain its genuineness; that dependence,  however, is not accidental, but is of the essence of the Epistle."  Quoted by Chase, Hastings D. B. Art. I Peter. (2) It is written in far  better Greek than one can reasonably expect of a Galilean fisherman  like Peter, of whom we know that on his missionary journeys he needed  Mark as an interpreter. Davidson regards it as probable that he never  was able to write Greek. (3) The Epistle reflects conditions that did  not exist in the lifetime of Peter. The Christians of Asia Minor were  evidently persecuted, simply because they were Christians, persecuted  for the Name, and this, it is said, did not take place until the time  of Trajan, A. D. 98-117. (4) It is very unlikely that Peter would write  a letter to churches founded by Paul, while the latter was still  living.

 As to the first argument, we need not deny with Weiss and his pupil  Kuhl that Peter is dependent on some of the writings of Paul,  especially on Romans and Ephesians. In all probability he read both of  these Epistles, or if he did not see Ephesians, Paul may have spoken to  him a good deal about its contents. And being the receptive character  that he was, it was but natural that he should incorporate some of  Paul's thoughts in his Epistle. There was no such antagonism between  him and Paul as to make him averse to the teachings of his  fellow-apostle. The idea of an evident hostility between the two is  exploded, and the theory of Baur that this letter is a Unionsschrift,  is destitute of all historical basis and is burdened with a great many,  improbabilities. Moreover it need not cause surprise that the teaching  of this Epistle resembles the teaching of Paul more than it does that  of Christ, because the emphasis had shifted with the resurrection of  the Lord, which now, in connection with his death, became the central  element in the teaching of the apostles. Compare the sermons of Peter  in the Acts of the Apostles.

 With respect to the objection that Peter could not write. such Greek as  we find in this Epistle, we refer to what Mayor says regarding James,  cf. p. 286 above. The fact that Mark is said to have been the  interpreter of Peter does not imply that the latter did not know Greek,  cf. p. 80 above. It is also possible, however, that the Greek of this  Epistle is not that of the apostle. Zahn argues with great plausibility  from 5 :12, Dia. Silouanou/, that Silvanus took an active part in the  composition of the letter, and in all probability wrote it under the  immediate direction rather than at the verbal dictation of Peter, Einl.  II p. 10 f. Cf. also Brown on I Peter in loco,, and J. H. A. Hart, Exp.  Gk. Test. IV p. 13 f. Against this, however, cf. Chase, Hastings D. B.  Art. I Peter. It is possible that Silvanus was both the amanuensis of  Peter and the bearer of the Epistle.

 The third argument is open to two objections. On the one hand it rests  on a faulty interpretation of the passages that speak of the sufferings  endured by the Christians of Asia Minor, as 1:6; 3: 9-17; 4:4 f., and  especially 4:12-19; 5: 8-12. And on the other hand it is based on a  misunderstanding of the correspondence between Pliny and Trajan A. D.  112. The passages referred to do not imply and do not even favor the  idea that the Christians were persecuted by the state, though they do  point to an ever increasing severity of their sufferings. There is no  hint of judicial trials, of the confiscation of property, of  imprisonments or of bloody deaths. The import of the Epistle is that  the readers were placed under the necessity of bearing the reproach of  Christ in a different form. As Christians they were subject to  ridicule, to slander, to ill treatment, and to social ostracism; they  were the outcasts of the world, 4:14. And this, of course, brought with  it manifold temptations, 1: 6. At the same time the correspondence of  Pliny and Trajan does not imply that Rome did not persecute Christians  as such until about A. D. 112. Ramsay says that this state of affairs  may have arisen as early as the year 80; and Mommsen, the greatest  authority on Roman history, is of the opinion that it may have existed  as early as the time of Nero.

 The last objection is of a rather subjective character. Peter was  undoubtedly greatly interested in the work among the Christians of Asia  Minor; and it is possible that he himself had labored there for some  time among the Jews and thus became acquainted with the churches of  that region. And does it not seem likely that he, being informed of  their present sufferings, and knowing of the antagonism of the Jews,  who had occasionally used his name to undermine the authority and to  subvert the doctrine of Paul, would consider it expedient to send them  a letter of exhortation, urging them to abide in the truth in which  they stood, and thus indirectly strengthening their confidence in his  fellow-apostle?


 The letter is addressed to "the elect who are sojourners of the  dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia," 1:1. The  use of the strictly Jewish term diaspora, is apt to create the  impression that the letter was sent to Jewish Christians. Origen said,  presumably on the strength of this suPerscription, that Peter seems to  have preached to the Jews in the dispersion. And Eusebius felt sure  that this letter was sent to Hebrews or to Jewish Christians. The great  majority of the church fathers agreed with them. Among recent scholars  Weiss and Kuhl defend the position that the letter was addressed to  Jewish congregations founded in Asia Minor by Peter. But the idea that  the original readers of this Epistle were Christians of Jewish  extraction is not favored by internal evidence. Notice especially (1)  the passages that point to the past moral condition of the readers, as  1:14 (comp. Gal. 4: 8; Eph. 4:18); 1:18 (comp. Eph. 1:17); 4:2-4 (comp.  I Thess. 4: 5; Eph. 2: 11); and (2) the emphatic use of "you" as  distinguished from the "us" found in the context, to mark the readers  as persons that were destined to receive the blessings of the gospel  and to whom these at last came. Moreover this is in perfect agreement  with what we know of the churches of Asia Minor; they certainly  consisted primarily of Gentile Christians. But the question is  naturally asked, whether this view is not contradicted by the address.  And to that question we answer that it certainly is, if the word  diasporas must be taken literally; but this will also bear, and, in  harmony with the contents of the Epistle, is now generally given a  figurative interpretation. The word diasporas is a Genitivus  appostitivus (for which cf. Blass, Grammatik p. 101) with parepidemois)  Taken by itself the address is a figurative description of all  believers, whether they be Jewish or Gentile Christians, as sojourners  on earth, who have here no abiding dwellingplace, but look for a  heavenly city; and who constitute a dispersion, because they are  separated from that eternal home of which the earthly Jerusalem was but  a symbol. In agreement with this the apostle elsewhere addresses the  readers as "pilgrims and strangers," 2:11, and exhorts them "to pass  the time of their sojourning here in fear," 1: 17. Cf. the Comm. of  Huther, Brown, and Hart (Exp. Gk. Test.), and the Introductions of  Zahn, Holtzmann, Davidson and Barth. Salmon admits the possibility of  this interpretation, but is yet inclined to take the word diaspora/j  literally, and to believe that Peter wrote his letter to members of the  Roman church that were scattered through Asia Minor as a result of  Neros persecution. Introd. p. 485.

 As to the condition of the readers, the one outstanding fact is that  they were subject to hardships and persecutions because of their  allegiance to Christ, 1: 17; 2:12-19. There is no sufficient evidence  that they were persecuted by the state; they suffered at the hands of  their associates in daily life. The Gentiles round about them spoke  evil of them, because they did not take part in their revelry and  idolatry, 4: 2-4. This constituted the trial of their faith, and it  seems that some were in danger of becoming identified with the heathen  way of living, 2: 11, 12, 16. They were in need of encouragement and of  a firm hand to guide their feeble steps.


 1.Occasion and Purpose. In a general way we can say that the condition  just described led Peter to write this Epistle. He may have received  information regarding the state of affairs from Mark or Silvanus, who  is undoubtedly to be indentified with Paul's companion of that name,  and was therefore well acquainted with the churches of Asia Minor.  Probably the direct occasion for Peter's writing must be found in a  prospective journey of Silvanus to those churches.

 The writers purpose was not doctrinal but practical. He did not intend  to give an exposition of the truth, but to emphasize its bearings on  life, especially in the condition in which the Christians of Asia Minor  were placed. The Tubingen critics are mistaken, however, when they hold  that the unknown writer, impersonating Peter, desired to make it appear  as if there was really no conflict between the apostle of the  circumcision and the apostle of the Gentiles, and to unite the  discordant factions in the Church; for (1) such antagonistic parties  did not exist in the second century, and (2) the Epistle does not  reveal a single trace of such a tendency. The writer incidentally and  in a general way states his aim, when he says in 5:12, "By Silvanus I  have written briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true  grace of God wherein ye stand." The main purpose of the author was  evidently to exhort the readers to suffer, not as evil-doers, but as  well-doers, to see to it that they should suffer for the sake of Christ  only; to suffer patiently, remaining steadfast in spite of all  temptations; and to bear their sufferings with a joyful hope, since  they would issue in a glory that never fades away. And because these  sufferings might lead them to doubt and discouragement, the writer  makes it a point to testify that the grace in which they stand, and  with which the sufferings of this present time are inseparably  connected, is yet the true grace of God, thus confirming the work of  Paul.

 2.Time and Place. There are especially three theories regarding the  place of composition, viz. (1) that the Epistle was sent from Babylon  on the Euphrates; (2) that it was composed at Rome; and (3) that it was  written from Babylon near Cairo in Egypt. The last hypothesis found no  support and need not be considered. The answer to the question  respecting the place of composition depends on the interpretation of  5:13, where we read: "She (the church) that is in Babylon, elect  together with you, saluteth you." The prima facie impression made by  these words is that the writer was at ancient Babylon, the well known  city on the Euphrates. Many of the early church fathers, however,  (Papias, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Eusebius, Jerome) and  several later commentators and writers on Introduction (Bigg, Hart,  Salmon, Holtzmann, Zahn, Chase) regard the name Babylon as a figurative  designation of Rome, just as it is in the Apocalypse, 17: 5; 18: 2, 10.  In favor of the literal interpretation it is argued, (1) that it's  figurative use is very unlikely in a matter-of-fact statement; and (2)  that in 1: 1 the order in which the provinces of Asia Minor are named  is from the East to the West, thus indicating the location of the  writer. Aside from the fact, however, that the last argument needs some  qualification, these considerations seem to be more than off-set by the  following facts: (1) An old and reliable tradition, that can be traced  to the second century, informs us that Peter was at Rome towards the  end of his life, and finally died there as a martyr. This must be  distinguished from that fourth century tradition to the effect that he  resided at Rome for a period of twenty-five years as its first bishop.  On the other hand there is not the slightest record of his having been  at Babylon. Not until the Middle Ages was it inferred from 5:13 that he  had visited the city on the Euphrates. (2) In the Revelation of John  Rome is called Babylon, a terminology that was likely to come into  general use, as soon as Rome showed herself the true counterpart of  ancient Babylon, the representative of the world as over against the  Church of God. The Neronian persecution certainly began to reveal her  character as such. (3) The symbolical sense is in perfect harmony with  the figurative interpretation of the address, and with the designation  of the readers as "pilgrims and strangers in the earth." (4) In view of  what Josephus says in Ant. XVIII 9. it is doubtful, whether Babylon  would offer the apostle a field for missionary labors at the time, when  this Epistle was composed. We regard it as very likely that the writer  refers to Rome in 5:13.

 With respect to the time when this Epistle was written, the greatest  uncertainty prevails. Dates have been suggested all the way from 54 to  147 A. D. Of those who deny the authorship of Peter the great majority  refer the letter to the time of Trajan after A. D. 112, the date of  Trajan's rescript, for reasons which we already discussed. Thus Baur,  Keim, Lipsius, Pfleiderer, Hausrath, Weizsacker, Hilgenfeld, Davidson  e. a. In determining the time of writing we must be guided by the  following data: (1) The Epistle cannot have been written later than A.  D. 67 or 68, the traditional date of Peter's death, which some, however  place in the year 64. Cf. Zahn Einl. II p. 19. (2) Peter had evidently  read the Epistles of Paul to the Romans (58) and that to the Ephesians  (62), and therefore cannot have written his letter before A. D. 62. (3)  The letter makes no mention whatever of Paul, so that presumably it was  written at a time when this apostle was not at Rome. (4) The fact that  Peter writes to Pauline churches favors the idea that Paul had  temporarily withdrawn from his field of labor. We are inclined to think  that he composed the Epistle, when Paul was on his jojurney to Spain,  about A. D. 64 or 65.


 The canonicity of the letter has never been subject to doubt in the  opening centuries of our era. It is referred to in II Peter 3:1. Papias  evidently used it and there are clear traces of its language in Clement  of Rome, Hermas and Polycarp. The old Latin and Syriac Versions contain  it, while it is quoted in the Epistle of the churches of Vienne and  Lyons, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian all quote it by  name, and Eusebius classes it with the Homologoumena.

 Some scholars objected to this Epistle that it was characterized by a  want of distinctive character. But the objection is not well founded,  since the letter certainly has a unique significance among the writings  of the New Testament. It emphasizes the great importance which the hope  of a blessed and eternal inheritance has in the life of God's children.  Viewed in the light of their future glory, the present life of  believers, with all its trials and sufferings, recedes into the  background, and they realize that they are strangers and pilgrims in  the earth. From that point of view they understand the significance of  the sufferings of Christ as opening up the way to God, and they also  learn to value their own hardships as these minister to the development  of faith and to their everlasting glory. And then, living in  expectation of the speedy return of their Lord, they realize that their  sufferings are of short duration, and therefore bear them joyfully. In  the midst of all her struggles the Church of God should never forget to  look forward to her future glory,--the object of her living hope. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:17:20 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 62 - 2 Peter

The Second General Epistle of Peter

by Louis Berkhof


 The contents of the Epistle can be divided into two parts:

 I. The Importance of Christian Knowledge, 1:1-21. After the greeting,  1, 2, the author reminds the readers of the great blessings they  received through the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and urges them to live  worthy of that knowledge and thus to make sure their calling and  election, 3-11. He says that he deemed it expedient to put them in mind  of what they knew, and that he would see to it that they had a  remembrance of these things after his decease, 12-15. This knowledge is  of the greatest value, because it rests on a sure foundation, 16-21.

 II. Warning against False Teachers, 2:1--3:18. The apostle announces  the coming of false prophets, who shall deny the truth and mislead  many, 2:1-3. Then he proves the certainty of their punishment by means  of historical examples, 4-9, and gives a minute description of their  sensual character, 10-22. Stating that he wrote the letter to remind  them of the knowledge they had received, he informs them that the  scoffers that will come in the last days, will deny the advent of  Christ, 3:1-4. He refutes their arguments, assuring the readers that  the Lord will come, and exhorting them to a holy conversation, 5-13.  Referring to his agreement with Paul in this teaching, he ends his  letter with an exhortation to grow in grace and in the knowledge of  Jesus Christ, 14-18.


 1. Like the first Epistle this second one is also a letter of practical  warning, exhortation and encouragement. But while in the former the  dominant note is that of Christian hope, the controlling idea in the  latter is that of Christian knowledge. It is the epignosis chpistou'  which consists essentially in the acknowledgment of the dunamis kai  parousia of Christ. Advancement in this epignosis' as the ground and  aim of the exercise of all Christian virtues, is the prominent feature  of every exhortation." Huther, Comm. p. 344. This knowledge, resting on  a sure foundation, must be the mainstay of the readers, when false  doctrines are propagated in their midst, and must be their incentive to  holiness in spite of the seducing influences round about them.

 2. This Epistle has great affinity with that of Jude, cf. 2:1-18;3:1-3.  The similarity is of such a character that it cannot be regarded as  accidental, but clearly points to dependence of the one on the other.  Though it cannot be said that the question is absolutely settled, the  great majority of scholars, among whom there are some who deny the  authorship of Peter (Holtzmann, Julicher, Chase, Strachan, Barth e.  a.), and others who defend the authenticity of the Epistle (Wiesinger,  Bruckner, Weiss, Alford, Salmon), maintain the priority of Jude. The  main reasons that lead them to this conclusion, are the following: (1)  The phraseology of Jude is simpler than that of Peter in the related  passages. The language of the latter is more laborious and looks like  an elaboration of what the former wrote. (2) Several passages in Peter  can be fully understood on1y in the light of what Jude says, compare 2:  4 with Jude 6; 2:11with Jude 9; 3:2 with fade 17. (3) Though the  similar passages are adapted to the subject-matter of both Epistles,  they seem more natural in the context of Jude than in Peter; The course  of thought is more regular in the Epistle of Jude.--The priority of  Jude is quite well established, though especially Zahn, Spitta (who  defends the second Epistle of Peter at the cost of the first) and Bigg  put up an able defense for the priority of Peter.

 3. The language of II Peter has some resemblance to that of the first  Epistle cf Weiss, Introd.~~p. 166, but the difference between the two  is greater than the similarity. We need not call special attention to  the a[pax lego,mena found in this letter, since it contains but 48,  while I Peter has 58. But there are other points that deserve our  attention. Bigg says: "The vocabulary of I Peter is dignified; that of  II Peter inclines to the grandiose." Comm. p. 225. And according to  Simcox, "we see in this Epistle, as compared with the first, at once  less instinctive familiarity with Greek idiom and more conscious effort  at elegant Greek composition." Writers of the N. T. p. 69.

 There are 361 words in I Peter that are not found in this Epistle, and  231 in II Peter that are absent from the first letter. There is a  certain fondness for the repetition of words, cf. Holtzmann, Einl. p.  322, which Bigg, however, finds equally noticeable in I Peter. The  connecting particles, hina, hoti, oun, men, found frequently in I  Peter, are rare in this Epistle, where instead we find sentences  introduced with touto or tautachph` 1:8, 10; 3:11, 14. And while in the  first Epistle there is a free interchange of prepositions, we often  find a repetition of the same preposition in the second, ph` i dia, is  found three times in 1 :3-5 and en seven times in 1: 5-7. Different  words are often used to express the same ideas; compare apokalupsis, I  Pt. 1 :7, 13; 4:13 with parousia, II Pt. 1 :16; 3 :4;--rhantismos, I  Pt. 1 :2 with katharismos, II Pt. 1 :9 ;--kleronomia, I Pt. 1 :4 with  aionok basileia, II Pt. 1:11.


 This Epistle is the most weakly attested of all the New Testament  writings. Besides that of Jerome we do not find a single statement in  the fathers of the first four centuries explicitly and positively  ascribing this work to Peter. Yet there are some evidences of its  canonical use, which indirectly testify to a belief in its genuineness.  There are some phrases in Clement of Rome, Hermas, the Clementine  Recognitions and Theophilus that recall II Peter, but the coincidences  may be accidental. Supposed traces of this Epistle are found in  Irenaeus, though they may all be accounted for in another way, cf.  Salmon, Introd. p. 324 f. Eusebius and Photius say that Clement of  Alexandria commented on our Epistle, and their contention may be  correct, notwithstanding the doubt cast on it by Cassiodorus, cf.  Davidson, Introd. II p. 533 f. Origen attests that the book was known  in his time, but that its genuineness was disputed. He himself quotes  it several times without any expression of doubt. It is pointed out,  however, that these quotations are found in those parts of his work  that we know only in the Latin translation of Rufinus, which is not  always reliable; though, according to Salmon, the presumption is that  Rufifius did not invent them, Introd. p. 533 f. Eusebius classes this  letter with the Antilegomena and Jerome says: "Simon Peter wrote two  Epistles, which are called catholic; the second of which most persons  deny to be his, on account of its disagreement in style with the  first." This difference he elsewhere explains by assuming that Peter  employed a different interpreter. From that time the Epistle was  received by Rufinus, Augustine, Basil, Gregory, Palladius, Hilary,  Ambrose e. a. During the Middle Ages it was generally accepted, but at  the time of the Reformation Erasmus and Calvin, though accepting the  letter as canonical doubted the direct authorship of Peter. Yet Calvin  believed that in some sense the Petrine authorship had to be  maintained, and surmised that a disciple wrote it at the command of  Peter.

 The Epistle itself definitely points to Peter as its author. In the  opening verse the writer calls himself, "Simon Peter, a servant and an  apostle of Jesus Christ," which clearly excludes the idea of Grotius,  that Symeon, the successor of James at Jerusalem, wrote the letter.  From 1: 16-18 we learn that the author was a witness of the  transfiguration of Christ; and in 3: 1 we find a reference to his first  Epistle. As far as style and expression are concerned there is even  greater similarity between this letter and the speeches of Peter in the  Acts of the Apostles than between the first Epistle and those  addresses. Moreover Weiss concludes that from a biblical and  theological point of view, no New Testament writing is more like I  Peter than this Epistle, Introd. II p. 165. Besides the whole spirit of  the Epistle is against the idea that it is a forgery. Calvin maintained  its canonicity, "because the majesty of the Spirit of Christ exhibited  itself in every part of the Epistle."

 Notwithstanding this, however, the authenticity of the letter is  subject to serious doubt in modern times, such scholars as Mayerhoff,  Credner, Hilgenfeld, Von Soden, Hausrath, Mangold, Davidson, Volkmar,  Holtzmann, Julicher, Harnack, Chase, Strachan e. a. denying that Peter  wrote it. But the Epistle is not without defenders; its authenticity is  maintained among others by Luthardt, Wiesinger, Guericke, Windischmann,  Bruckner, Hofmann, Salmon, Alford, Zahn, Spitta, and Warfield, while  Huther, Weiss, and Kuhl conclude their investigations with a non  liquet.

 The principle objections to the genuineness of II Peter are the  following: (1)The Language of the Epistle is so different from that of  I Peter as to preclude the possibility of their proceeding from the  same author. (2) The dependence of the writer on Jude is inconsistent  with the idea that he was Peter, not only because Jude was written long  after the lifetime of Peter, but also since it is unworthy of an  apostle to rely to such a degree on one who did not have that  distinction. (3) It appears that the author is over-anxious to identify  himself with the appost1e Peter: there is a threefold allusion to his  death, 1:13-15; he wants the readers to understand that he was present  at the transfiguration, 1: 16-18; and he identifies himself with the  author of the first Epistle, 3 :1. (4) In 3 :2 where the reading humon  is better attested than hemon, the writer by using the expression, tes  ton apostolon humon entoles, seems to place himself outside of the  apostolic circle. Deriving the expression from Jude, the writer forgot  that he wanted to pass for an apostle and therefore could not use it  with equal propriety. Cf. Holtzmann, Einl. p. 321. (5) The writer  speaks of some of Paul's Epistles as Scripture in 3:16, implying the  existence of a New Testament canon, and thus betrays his second cen  dpoint. (6) The Epistle also refers to doubts regarding the second  coming of Christ, 3:4 ff., which points beyond the lifetime of Peter,  because such doubts could not be entertained before the destruction of  Jerusalem. (7) According to Dr. Abbott (in the Expositor) the author of  II Peter is greatly indebted to the Antiquities of Josephus, a work  that was published about A. D. 93.

 We cannot deny that there is force in some of these arguments, but do  not believe that they compel us to give up the authorship of Peter. The  argument from style is undoubtedly the most important one; but if we  accept the theory that Silvanus wrote the first Epistle under the  direction of Peter, while the apostle composed the second, either with  his own hand or by means of another amanuensis, the difficulty  vanishes.--As far as the literary dependence of Peter on Jude is  concerned, it is well to bear in mind that this is not absolutely  proved. However, assuming it to be established, there is nothing  derogatory in it for Peter, since Jude was also an inspired man, and  because in those early days unacknowledged borrowing was looked at in a  far different light than it is today.--That the author is extremely  solicitous to show that he is the appostle Peter is, even if it can be  proved, no argument against the genuineness of this letter. In view of  the errorists against which he warns the readers, it was certainly  important that they should bear in mind his official position. But it  cannot be maintained that he insists on this over-much. The references  to his death, his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and his  first Epistle are introduced in a perfectly natural way. Moreover this  argument is neutralized by some of the others brought forward by the  negative critics. If the writer really was so over-anxious, why does he  speak of himself as Simon Peter, cf. I Pt. 1: 1; why does he seemingly  exclude himself from the apostolic circle, 3 : 2; and why did he not  more closely imitate the language of I Peter ?--The difficulty created  by 3:2 is not as great as it seems to some. If that passage really  disproves the authorship of Peter, it certainly was a clumsy piece of  work of a very clever forger, to let it stand. But the writer, speaking  of the prophets as a class, places alongside of them another class,  viz, that of the apostles, who had more especially ministered to the  New Testament churches, and could therefore as a class be called, "your  apostles," i. e. the apostles who preached to you. The writer evidently  did not desire to single himself out, probably, if for no other  reasons, because other apostles had labored more among the readers than  he had.--The reference to the Epistles of Paul does not necessarily  imply the existence of a New Testament canon and it is a gratuitous  assumption that they were not regarded as Scripture in the first  century, so that the burden of proof rests on those who make it.--The  same may be said of the assertion that no doubt could be entertain  asthe second coming of Christ before the destruction of Jerusalem.  Moreover the author does not say that these were already expressed, but  that they would be uttered by scoffers that would come in the last  days.--The attempt to prove the dependence of II Peter on Josephus, has  been proved fallacious, especially by Salmon and by Dr. Warfield. The  former says in conclusion: "Dr. Abbot has completely failed to  establish his theory; but I must add that it was a theory never  rational to try to establish." Introd. p. 536.


 The readers are simply addressed as those "that have obtained like  precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour  Jesus Christ," 1:1. From 3: 1 we gather, however, that they are  identical with the readers of the first Epistle and from 3:15, that  they were also the recipients of some Pauline Epistle(s). It is vain to  guess what Epistle(s) the writer may have had in view here. Zahn argues  at length that our Epistle was written to Jewish Christians in and  round about Palestine, who had been led to Christ by Peter and by  others of the twelve apostles. He bases his conclusion on the general  difference of circumstances presupposed in the two letters of Peter,  and on such passages as 1: 1-4, 16-18; 3: 2. But it seems to us that  the Epistle does not contain a single hint regarding the Jewish  character of its readers, while passages like 1: 4 and 3:15 rather  imply their Gentile origin. Moreover, in order to maintain his theory,  Zahn must assume that both 3: 1 and 3:15 refer to lost letters, cf.  Einl. II p. 43 ff.

 The condition of the readers presupposed in this letter is indeed  different from that reflected in the first Epistle. No mention is made  of persecution; instead of the affliction from without, internal  dangers are now coming in view. The readers were in need of being  firmly grounded in the truth, since they would soon have to contend  with heretical teachers, who theoretically would deny the Lordship of  Jesus Christ, 2:1, and his second coming, 3: 4; and practically would  disgrace their lives by licentiousness, ch. 2. These heretics have been  described as Sadducees, as Gnostics, and as Nicolaitans, but it is  rather doubtful, whether we can identify them with any particular sect.  They certainly were practical Antinomians, leading careless, wanton and  sinful lives, just because they did not believe in the resurrection and  in a future judgment. Their doctrine was, in all probability, an  incipient Gnosticism.

 Since the author employs both the future and the present tense in  describing them, the question arises, whether they were already present  or were yet to come. The most natural explanation is that the author  already knew such false teachers to be at work in some places (cf.  especially I Corinthians and the Epistles to the Thessalonians), so  that he could consequently give a vivid description of them; and that  he expected them to extend their pernicious influence also to the  churches of Asia Minor.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. The occasion that led to the composition of  this Epistle must be found in the dangerous heresies that were at work  in some of the churches, and that also threatened the readers.

 In determining the object of the writer the Tubingen school emphasized  3:15, and found it in the promotion of harmony and peace between the  Petrine and Pauline parties (Baur, Schwegler, Hausrath). With this end  in view, they say, the writer personating Peter, the representative of  Jewish Christendom, acknowledges Paul, who represents the more liberal  tendency of the Church. But it is unwarranted to lay such stress on  that particular passage. Others regarded the Epistle as primarily a  polemic against Gnosticism, against the false teachers depicted in the  letter. Now it cannot be denied that the Epistle is in part  controversial, but it is only its secondary character. The main object  of the letter, as indicated in 1: 16 and 3: 1,2 was to put the readers  in mind of the truth which they had learned in order that they might  not be led astray by the theoretical and practical libertines that  would soon make their influence felt, and especially to strengthen  their faith in the promised parousia of Jesus Christ.

 2. Time and Place. The Epistle contains no certain data as to the time  of its composition. We can only infer from 3: 1 that it was written  after I Peter, though Zahn, who is not bound by that passage, places it  before the first Epistle, about A. D. 60-63. The fact that the  condition of the churches, which is indicated in this letter, is quite  different from that reflected in the earlier writing, presupposes the  lapse of some time, though it does not require many years to account  for the change. A short time would suffice for the springing up of the  enemies to which the Epistle refers. Can we not say, in view of the  tendencies apparent at Corinth that their doctrines had already been  germinating for some time? Moreover, according to 1: 14 the writer felt  that his end was near. Hence we prefer to date the letter about the  year 66 or 67.

 They who deny the authenticity of the Epistle generally place it  somewhere between the years 90 and 175, for such reasons as its  dependence on Jude and on the Apocalypse of Peter, its reference to  Gnosticism, and its implication respecting the existence of a New  Testament canon.

 Since a trustworthy tradition informs us that Peter spent the last part  of his life at Rome, the Epistle was in all probability composed in the  imperial city. Zahn points to Antioch, and Julicher suggests Egypt as  the place of composition.


 For the reception of this Epistle in the early church, we refer to what  has been said above.

 Like all the canonical writings this one too has abiding significance.  Its importance is found in the fact that it emp1i~sizes the great value  of true Christian knowledge, especially in view of the dangers that  arise for believers from all kinds of false teachings, and from the  resultant example of a loose, a licentious, an immoral life. It teaches  us that a Christianity that is not well founded in the truth as it is  in Christ, is like a ship without a rudder on the turbulent sea of  life. A Christianity without dogma cannot maintain itself against the  errors of the day, but will go down before the triumphant forces of  darkness; it will not succeed in cultivating a pure, noble spiritual  life, but will be conformed to the life of the world. In particular  does the Epistle remind us of the fact that faith in the return of  Christ should inspire us to a holy conversation. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:15:33 +0000
Introduction ot the Bible - 63 - 2nd and 3rd John

The Second and Third General Epistles of John

by Louis Berkhof


 The Second Epistle. After the address and the apostolic blessing, 1-3,  the writer expresses his joy at finding that some of the children of  the addressee walk in the truth, and reiterates the great commandment  of brotherly love, 4-6. He urges the readers to exercise this love and  informs them that there are many errorists, who deny that Jesus Christ  is come in the flesh, admonishing them not to receive these, lest they  should become partakers of their evil deeds, 7-11. Expressing his  intention to come to them, he ends his Epistle with a greeting, 12, 13.

 The Third Epistle. The writer, addressing Gajus, sincerely wishes that  he may prosper, as his soul prospereth, 1-3. He commends him for  receiving the itinerant preachers, though they were strangers to him,  5-8. He also informs the brother that he has written to the church, but  that Diotrephes resists his authority, not receiving the brethren  himself and seeking to prevent others from doing it, 9, 10. Warning  Gajus against that evil example, he commends Demetrius, mentions an  intended visit, and closes the Epistle with greetings, 11-14.


 1. These two Epistles have rightly been called twin epistles, since  they reveal several points of similarity. The author in both styles  himself the elder; they are of about equal length; each one of them, as  distinguished from the first Epistle, begins with an address and ends  with greetings; both contain an expression of joy; and both refer to  itinerant preachers and to an intended visit of the writer.

 2. The letters show close affinity to I John. What little they contain  of doctrinal matter is closely related to the contents of the first  Epistle, where we can easily find statements corresponding to those in  II John 4-9 and III John 11. Several concepts and expressions clearly  remind us of I John, as f. i. "love," "truth," "commandments," "a new  commandment," one "which you had from the beginning," "loving truth,"  "walking in the truth," "abiding in" one, "a joy that may be  fulfilled," etc. Moreover the aim of these letters is in general the  same as that of the first Epistle, viz. to strengthen the readers in  the truth and in love; and to warn them against an incipient  Gnosticism.


 Considering the brevity of these Epistles, their authorship is very  well attested. Clement of Alexandria speaks of the second Epistle and,  according to Eusebius, also commented on the third. Irenaeus quotes the  second Epistle by name, ascribing it to "John the Lord's disciple."  Tertullian and Cyprian contain no quotations from them, but Dionysius  of Alexandria, Athanasius and Didymus received them as the work of the  apostle. The Muratorian Canon in a rather obscure passage mentions two  Epistles of John besides the first one. The Peshito does not contain  them; and Eusebius, without clearly giving his own opinion, reckons  them with the Antilegomena. After his time they were generally received  and as such recognized by the, councils of Laodicea (363), Hippo (393)  and Carthage (397).

 Internal evidence may be said to favor the authorship of John. One can  scarcely read these letters without feeling that they proceeded from  the same hand that composed I John. The second Epistle especially is  very similar to the first, a similarity that can hardly be explained,  as Baljon suggests, from an acquaintance of the author with I John, ml.  p. 237, 239. And the third Epistle is inseparably linked to the second.  The use of a few Pauline terms, propemtein, eudousthai and hugiainein,  and of a few peculiar words, as phluarein, philoproteuein  hupolambanein, prove nothing to the contrary.

 The great stumbling block, that prevents several scholars from  accepting the apostolic authorship of these Epistles, is found in in  the fact that the author simply styles himself ho presbuteros. This  appelation led some, as Erasmus, Grotius, Beck, Bretschneider, Hase,  Renan, Reuss, Wieseler e. a., to ascribe them to a certain well-known  presbyter John, distinct from the apostle. This opinion is based on a  passage of Papias, as it is interpreted by Eusebius, The passage runs  thus: "If I met anywhere with anyone who had been a follower of the  elders, I used to inquire what were the declarations of the elders;  what was said by Andrew, by Peter, by Philip, what by Thomas or James,  what by John or Matthew, or any other of the disciples of our Lord; and  the things which Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the  Lord say; for I did not expect to derive so much benefit from the  contents of books as from the utterances of a living and abiding  voice." From this statement Eusebius infers that among the informants  of Papias there was besides the apostle John also a John the presbyter,  Church Hist. III 39. But the correctness of this inference is subject  to doubt. Notice (1) that Papias first names those whose words he  received through others and then mentions two of whom he had also  received personal instruction, cf. the difference in tense, eipen and  legousin; (2) that it seems very strange that for Papias, who was  himself a disciple of the apostle John, anyone but the apostle would be  ho presbuteros; (3) that Eusebius was the first to discover this second  John in the passage of Papias: (4) that history knows nothing of such a  John the presbyter; he is a shadowy person indeed; and (5) that the  Church historian was not unbiased in his opinion; being averse to the  supposed Chiliasm of the Apocalypse, he was only too glad to find  another John to whom he could ascribe it.

 But even if the inference of Eusebius were correct, it would not prove  that this presbyter was the author of our Epistles. The same passage of  Papias clearly establishes the fact that the apostles were also called  elders in the early Church. And does not the appellation, ho  presbuteros, admirably fit the last of the apostles, who for many years  was the overseer of the churches in Asia Minor? He stood preeminent  above all others; and by using this name designated at once his  official position and his venerable age.


 The second Epistle is addressed to eklekte kuria and her children, whom  I love in truth, and not only I, but all those that know the truth,"  1:1. There is a great deal of uncertain{y about the interpretation of  this address. On the assumption that the letter was addressed to an  individual, the following renderings have been proposed: (1) to an  elect lady; (2) to the elect lady; (3) to the elect Kuria; (4) to the  Lady Electa; (5) to Electa Kuria.

 The first of these is certainly the simplest and the most natural one,  but considered as the address of an Epistle, it is too indefinite. To  our mind the second, which seems to be grammatically permissible, is  the best of all the suggested interpretations. As to the third, it is  true that the word kuria does occur as a proper name, cf. Zahn, Einl.  II p. 584; but on the supposition that this is the case here also, it  would be predicated of a single individual, which in Scripture is  elsewhere done only in Rom. 16:13, a case that is not altogether  parallel; and the more natural construction would be kuria te eklekte.  Cf. III John 1 :1; the case in I Pet. 1 :1 does not offer a parallel,  because parepidemois is not a proper noun. The fourth must be ruled  out, since eklekta is not known to occur as a nomen proprium; and if  this were the name of the addressee, her sister, vs. 13, would  strangely bear the same name. The last rendering is the least likely,  burdening the lady, as it does, with two strange names. If the letter  was addressed to an individual, which is favored by the analogy of the  third Epistle, and also by the fact that the sisters children are  spoken of in vs. 13, while she herself is not mentioned, then in all  probability the addressee was a lady well known and highly esteemed in  the early church, but not named in the letter. Thus Salmond (Hastings  D. B.), while Alford and D. Smith regard Kuria as the name of the lady.

 In view of the contents of the Epistle, however, many from the time of  Jerome on have regarded the title as a designation of the Church in  general (Jerome, Hilgenfeld, Lunemann, Schmiedel), or of some  particular church (Huther, Holtzmann, Weiss, Westcott, Salmon, Zahn,  Baljon). The former of these two seems to be excluded by vs. 13, since  the Church in general can hardly be represented as having a sister. But  as over against the view that the Epistle was addressed to an  individual, the latter is favored by (1) the fact that everything of a  personal nature is absent from the Epistle; (2) the plurals which the  apostle constantly uses, cf. 6, 8, 10, 12; (3) the way in which he  speaks to the addressee in vss. 5, 8; (4) the expression, "and not I  only, but also all they that have known the truth," 1, which is more  applicable to a church than to a single individual; and (5) the  greeting, 13, which is most naturally understood as the greeting of one  church to another. If this view of the Epistle is correct, and we are  inclined to think it is, kuria is probably used as the feminine of  kurios, in harmony with the Biblical representation that the Church is  the bride of the Lamb. It is useless to guess, however, what particular  church is meant. Since the church of Ephesus is in all probability the  sister, it is likely that one of the other churches of Asia Minor is  addressed.

 The third Epistle is addressed to a certain Gajus, of whom we have no  knowledge beyond that gained from the Epistle, where he is spoken of as  a beloved friend of the apostle, and as a large-hearted hospitable man,  who with a willing heart served the cause of Christ. There have been  some attempts to identify him with a Gajus who is mentioned in the  Apostolic Constitutions as having been appointed bishop of Pergamum by  John, or with some of the other persons of the same name in Scripture,  Acts 19: 29; 20:4, especially with Pauls host at Corinth, Rom. 16:23; I  Cor. 1: 14; but these efforts have not been crowned with success.


 1. Occasion and Purpose: In all probability the false agitators to whom  the apostle refers in the Second Epistle, 7-12, gave him occasion to  write this letter. His aim is to express his joy on account of the  obedience of some of the members of the church, to exhort all that they  love one another, to warn them against deceivers who would pervert the  truth, and to announce his coming.

 The third Epistle seems to have been occasioned by the reports of  certain brethren who traveled about from place to place and were  probably engaged in preaching the Gospel. They reported to the apostle  that they had enjoyed the hospitality of Gajus, but had met with a  rebuff at the hands of Diotrephes, an ambitious fellow (probably, as  some have thought, an elder or a deacon in the church), who resisted  the authority of the apostle and refused to receive the brethren. The  authors purpose is to express his satisfaction with the course pursued  by Gajus, to condemn the attitude of Diotrephes, to command Demetrius  as a worthy brother, and to announce an intended visit.

 2. Time and Place. The assumption seems perfectly warranted that John  wrote these Epistles from Ephesus, where he spent perhaps the last  twenty-five years of his life. We have no means for determining the  time when they were composed. It may safely be said, however, that it  was after the composition of I John. And if the surmise of Zahn and  Salmon is correct, that the letter referred to in III John 9 is our  second Epistle, they were probably written at the same time. This idea  is favored somewhat by the fact that the expression, "I wrote somewhat  (epsrapsa ti) to the church," seems to refer to a short letter; and by  the mention of an intended visit at the end of each letter. But from  the context it would appear that this letter must have treated of the  reception or the support of the missionary brethren, which is not the  case with our second Epistle.


 There was some doubt at first as to the canonicity of these Epistles.  The Alexandrian church generally accepted them, Clement, Dionysius and  Alexander of Alexandria all recognizing them as canonical, though  Origen had doubts. Irenaeus cites a passage from the second Epistle as  John's. Since neither Tertullian nor Cyprian quote them, it is  uncertain, whether they were accepted by the North African church. The  Muratorian Fragment mentions two letters of John in a rather obscure  way. In the Syrian church they were not received, since they were not  in the Peshito, but in the fourth century Ephrem quotes both by name.  Eusebius classed them with the Antilegomena, but soon after his time  they were universally accepted as canonical.

 The ermanent significance of the second Epistle is that it emphasizes  the necessity of abiding in the truth and thus exhibiting one's love to  Christ. To abide in the doctrine of Christ and to obey his  commandments, is the test of sonship. Hence believers should not  receive those who deny the true doctrine, and especially the  incarnation of Christ, lest they become partakers of their evil deeds.

 The third Epistle also has it's permanent lesson in that it commends  the generous love that reveals itself in the hospitality of Gajus,  shown to those who labor in the cause of Christ, and denounce the  self-centered activity of Diotrephes; for these two classes of men are  always found in the Church. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:14:01 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 65 - Jude

The General Epistle of Jude

by Louis Berkhof  


 The writer begins his Epistle with the regular address and apostolic  blessing, 1, 2. He informs his readers that he felt it incumbent on him  to warn them against certain intruders, who deny Christ, lead  lascivious lives and will certainly be punished like the people  delivered from Egypt, the fallen angels and the cities of the plain,  3-7. These intruders are further described as defilers of the flesh and  as despisers and blasphemers of heavenly dignities, and the woe is  pronounced on them, 8-11. After giving a further description of their  debauchery, the author exhorts the readers to be mindful of the words  of the apostles, who had spoken of the appearance of such mockers,  12-19. Admonishing them to increase in faith and to keep themselves in  the love of God, and giving them directions as to the correct behaviour  towards others, he concludes his Epistle with a doxology, 20-25.


 1. This Epistle is characterized by its very close resemblence to parts  of II Peter. Since we have already discussed the relation in which the  two stand to each other (II Peter), we now simply refer to that  discussion.

 2. The letter is peculiar also in that it contains quotations from the  apocryphal books. The story in verse 9 is taken from the Assumption of  Moses, according to which Michael was commissioned to bury Moses, but  Satan claimed the body, in the first place because he was the lord of  matter, and in the second place since Moses had committed murder in  Egypt. The falsity of the first ground is brought out by Michael, when  he says: "The Lord rebuke thee, for it was God's Spirit which created  the word and all mankind." He does not reflect on the second. The  prophecy in verses 14, 15 is taken from the Book of Enoch a book that  was highly esteemed by the early church. According to some the  statement regarding the fallen angels, verse 6, is also derived from  it. The latest editor of these writings, R. H. Charles, regards the  first as a composite work, made up of two distinct books, viz, the  Testament and the Assumption of Moses, of which the former, and  possibly also the latter was written in Hebrew between 7 and 29 A. D.  With respect to the Book of Enoch he holds, "that the larger part of  the book was written not later than 160 B. C., and that no part of it  is more recent than the Christian era." Quoted by Mayor, Exp. Gk. Test.  V p. 234.

 3. The language of Jude may best be likened to that of his brother  James. He speaks in a tone of unquestioned authority and writes a  vigorous style. His Greek, though it has a Jewish complexion, is fairly  correct; and his descriptions are often just as picturesque as those of  James, f. i. when he compares the intruders to "spots (R. V. `hidden  rocks) in the feasts of charity;""clouds without water, carried along  by winds," "autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the  roots," "wild waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame ;" etc.,  12, 13. Like James also he employs some words that are otherwise  exclusively Pauline, as ai'dios, churiotes, oicheterio, prographein.  Moreover the letter contains a few hapax legomena.


 Tbe Muratorian Canon accepts Jude, but indicates that it was doubted by  some. Clement of Alexandria commented on it, and Tertullian quotes it  by name. Origen acknowledges that there were doubts as to the  canonicity of Jude, but does not seem to have shared them. Didymus of  Alexandria defends the Epistle against those who questioned its  authority on account of the use made in it of apocryphal books.  Eusebius reckoned it with the Antilegomena; but it was accepted as  canonical by the third council of Carthage in 397 A. D.

 The author designates himself as "Jude the servant of Jesus Christ, and  brother of James." There are several persons of that name mentioned in  the New Testament, of which only two can come in consideration here,  however, viz. Jude, the brother of the Lord, Mt. 13:55; Mk. 6:3, and  Jude the apostle, Lk. 6:16; Acts 1: 13, also called Lebbeus, Mt. 10: 3,  and Thaddeus, Mk. 3:18. It appears to us that the author was Jude, the  brother of the Lord, because: (1) He seeks to give a clear indication  of his identity by calling himself, "the brother of James." This James  must have been so well known, therefore, as to need no further  description; and there was but one James at that time of whom this  could be said, viz. James the brother of the Lord. (2) It is  inconceivable that an apostle, rather than name his official position,  should make himself known by indicating his relationship to another  person, whoever that person might be. (3) Though it is possible that  the writer, even if he were an apostle, should speak as he does in the  17th verse, that passage seems to imply that he stood outside of the  apostolic circle. - In favor of the view that the author was the  apostle Jude, some have appealed to Lk. 6:16; Acts 1 :13, where the  apostle is called Ioudas Iachobou but it is contrary to established  usage to supply the word brother in such a case.

 Very little is known of this Jude. If the order in which the brethren  of the Lord are named in Scripture is any indication of their age, he  was the youngest or the youngest but one of the group; compare Mt.  13:55 with Mk. 6: 3. With his brothers he was not a believer in Jesus  during the Lord's public ministry, John 7:5, but evidently embraced him  by faith after the resurrection, Acts 1:14. For the rest we can only  gather from I Cor. 9:5 respecting the brethren of the Lord in general,  undoubtedly with the exception of James, who resided at Jerusalem, that  they traveled about with their wives, willing workers for the Kingdom  of God, and were even known at Corinth.

 The authenticity of the Epistle has been doubted, because: (1)The  author speaks of faith in the objective sense, Ths a fides quae  creditur, 3, 20, a usage that points to the post-apostolic period; (2)  He mentions the apostles as persons who lived in the distant past, 17;  and (3) he evidently combats the second century heresy of the  Carpocratians. But these grounds are very questionable indeed. The word  faith is employed in the objective sense elsewhere in the New  Testament, most certainly in the Pastorals, and probably also in Rom.  10:8; Gal. 1:23; Phil. 1:27. And there is nothing impossible in the  assumption that that meaning should have become current in the time of  the apostles. The manner in which Jude mentions the apostles does not  necessarily imply that they had all passed away before this letter was  composed. At most the death of a few is implied. But we agree with Dr.  Chase, when he judges that the supposition that the apostles were  dispersed in such a way that their voice could not at the time reach  the persons to whom this letter is addressed, meets all the  requirements of the case. Hastings D. B. Art. Jude. The assumption that  the heretics referred to were second century Carpocratians, is entirely  gratuitous; it rests on a mistaken interpretation of three passages,  viz, the verses 4b, 8, 19.


 Jude addresses his Epistle to "those that are sanctified by God the  Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called." On account of the  very general character of this designation some, as Ewald, regard the  Epistle as a circular letter; but the contents of the Epistle are  against this assumption. Yet we are left entirely to conjecture as to  the particular locality in which the readers dwelt. Some scholare, e.  g. Alford and Zahn, believe that the Epistle was written to Jewish  readers, but we are inclined to think with Weiss, Chase, Bigg, Baljon  e. a. that the recipients of the letter were Gentile Christians, (1)  because the letter is so closely related to II Peter, which was sent to  the Christians of Asia Minor; and (2) since the heresies to which it  refers are known to have arisen in Gentile churches. Cf. especially I  Corinthians and the letters to the seven churches in the Apocalypse.

 Many expositors are inclined to look for the first readers in Asia  Minor on account of the resemblance of the heresies mentioned in the  Epistle to those referred to in II Peter. But possibly it is better to  hold with Chase that the letter was sent to Syrian Antioch and the  surrounding district, since they had evidently received oral  instruction from the apostles generally, and were therefore most likely  in the vicinity of Palestine. Moreover Jude may have felt some special  responsibility for the church in that vicinity since the death of his  brother James.

 In the condition of the readers there was cause for alarm. The danger  that Peter saw as a cloud on the distant horizon, Jude espied as a  leaven that was already working in the ranks of his readers. False  brethren had crept into the church who were, it would seem, practical  libertines, enemies of the cross of Christ, who abused their Christian  liberty (Alford, Salmon, Weiss, Chase), and not at the same time  heretical teachers (Zahn, Baljon). Perhaps they were no teachers at  all. Their life was characterized by lasciviousness, 4, especially  fornication, 7, 8, 11, mockery, 10, ungodliness, 15, murmuring,  complaining, pride and greed, 16. Their fundamental error seems to have  been that they despised and spoke evil of the authorities that were  placed over them. They were Antinomians and certainly had a great deal  in common with the Nicolaitans of the Apocalypse.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. The danger to which these Christians were thus  exposed, led to the composition of this Epistle. Apparently Jude  intended to write to them of the common salvation, when he suddenly  heard of the grave situation and found it necessary to pen a word of  warning, 3. In the verse from which we draw this conclusion, the author  also clearly states his aim, when he says that he deemed it imperative  to write to them that they should earnestly contend for the faith which  was once delivered to the saints. In order to do this, he pictures to  them the disobedient and immoral character of the ungodly persons that  had unawares crept into the fold and endangered their Christian faith  and life; reminds them of the fact that God would certainly punish  those wanton libertines, just as He had punished sinners in the past;  and exhorts them to stand in faith and to strive after holiness.

 2. Time and Place. We have absolutely no indication of the place where  this Epistle was written; it is not unlikely, however, that it was at  Jerusalem.

 With respect to the time of its composition we have a terminus ad quem  in the date of II Peter, about A. D. 67, since that Epistle is  evidently dependent on Jude. On the other hand it does not seem likely  that Jude would write such a letter, while his brother James was still  living, so that we have a terminus a quo in A. D. 62. A date later than  62 is also favored by the Pauline words employed in this letter, in  some of which we seem to have an echo of Ephesians and Colossians.  Moreover the great similarity between the conditions pictured in this  letter and those described in II Peter is best explained, if we date  them in close proximity to each other. We shall not go far wrong in  dating the Epistle about the year 65.

 The older critics of the Tubingen school dated the Epistle late in the  second century, while more recent critics, as Pfleiderer, Holtzmann,  Julicher, Harnack, Baljon, think it originated about the middle or in  the first half of the second century. They draw this conclusion from,  (1) the way in which the writer speaks of faith, 3, 20; (2) the manner  in which he refers to the apostles, 17; (3) the use of the apocryphal  books; and (4) the supposed references to the doctrines of the  Carpocratians. But these arguments can all be met by counter-arguments,  cf. above.


 In the early Church there was considerable doubt as to the canonicity  of this epistle especially because it was not written by an apostle and  contained passage from apocryphal books. There are allusions more or  less clear to the Epistle in II Peter, Polycarp, Athenagoras and  Theophilus of Antioch. The Muratorian Canon mentions it, but in a  manner which implies that it was doubted by some. It is found in the  old Latin Version, but not in the Peshito. Clement of Alexandria,  Tertullian and Origen recognized it, though Origen intimates that there  were doubts regarding its canonicity. Eusebius doubted its canonical  authority, but the council of Carthage (397) accepted it.

 In the Epistle of Jude we have the Christian war-cry, resounding  through the ages: Contend earnestly for the faith that was once  delivered unto the saints! This letter, the last of the New Testament,  teaches with great emphasis that apostacy from the true creed with its  central truths of the atonement of Christ and the permanent validity of  the law as the rule of life, is assured perdition; and clearly reveals  for all generations the inseparable connection between a correct belief  and a right mode of living. 

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:12:00 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 66 - Revelation

The Revelation of John
by Louis Berkhof

After the introduction and the apostolic blessing, 1:1-8, the book contains seven visions or series of visions, extending from 1:9-22:7, followed by a conclusion, 22:8-21.

I. The first Vision, 1: 9-3:22, is that of the glorified Christ in the midst of the Church, directing John to write letters of reproof, of warning, of exhortation and of consolation to seven representative churches of proconsular Asia, viz. to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatire, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

II. The second Vision, 4:1-8:1, reveals God as ruling the world’s destiny, and the Lamb as taking the book of the divine decrees and breaking the seven seals of which each one represents a part of God’s purpose, the first four referring to the terrestrial, and the last three to the celestial sphere. Between the sixth and seventh seals an episode is introduced to show the safety of the people of God amid the judgments that are inflicted on the world.

III. The third Vision, 8:2-11:19, shows us seven angels, each one having a trumpet. After an angel has offered up the prayers of the saints to God, the seven angels blow their trumpets, and each trumpet is followed by a vision of destruction on the sinful world, the destruction of the last three being more severe than that of the first four. Between the sixth and seventh trumpets there is again an episode describing the preservation of the Church.

IV. The fourth Vision, 12:1-14: 20, describes the conflict of the world with the Church of God. The Church is represented as a woman bringing forth the Christ, against whom the dragon representing satan wages war. In successive visions we behold the beasts which satan will employ as his agents, the militant Church, and the advancing stages of Christ’s conquest.

V. The fifth Vision, 15:1-16:21, once more reveals seven angels, now having seven vials or bowls containing the last plagues or judgments of God. First we have a description of the Church that triumphed over the beast, glorifying God; and this is followed by a picture of the sevenfold judgment of God on the world, represented by the seven vials.

VI. The sixth Vision, 17:1-20:15, reveals the harlot city Babylon, the representative of the world, and the victory of Christ over her and over the enemies that are in league with her, the great conflict ending in the last judgment.

VII. The seventh Vision, 21:1-22: 7, discloses to the eye the ideal Church, the new Jerusalem, and pictures in glowing colors her surpassing beauty and the everlasting, transcendent bliss of her inhabitants.

The book closes with an epilogue in which the seer describes its significance and urges the readers to keep the things that are written on its pages, 22:7-21.

1. The Revelation of John is the only prophetic book in the New Testament. It is called a prophecy in 1:3, 22: 7, 10,18, 19. A nearer description of the book is given, however, in the name Apocalypse, for there is a difference between the prophetic books of the Bible in general and that part of them that may be said to belong to the Apocalyptic literature. Naturally the two have some eicments in common: they both contain communications, mediated by the Holy Spirit, of the character, will and purposes of God; and the one as well as the other looks to the future of the Kingdom of God. But there are also points of difference. Prophecy, while it certainly has reference also to the future of God’s Kingdom, is mainly concerned with a divine interpretation of the past and the present, while the chief interest of Apocalyptic lies in the future. Prophecy again, where it does reveal the future, shows this in its organic relation with principles and forces that are already working in the present, while Apocalyptic pictures the images of the future, not as they develop out of existing conditions, but as they are shown directly from heaven and to a great extent in supernatural forms.

2. A characteristic feature of the book is that its thought is largely clothed in symbolic language derived from some of the prophetic books of the Old Testament. Hence its correct understaiding is greatly facilitated by studying the writer’s Old Testament sources. Yet we must constantly bear in mind that he does not always employ the language so derived in its original significance. Compare ch. 18 with Is. 13, 14; Jer. 50, 51; 21:1-22:5 with various parts of Is. 40-66; Ezek. 40-48 ; 1:12-20 with Dan. 7, 10 ; ch. 4 with Is. 6; Ezek. 1, 10. But however dependent the author may be on the prophets, he does not slavishly follow them, but uses their language with great freedom. The symbolic numbers 3, 4, 7, 10, 12 and their multiples also play an important part in the book.

The external testimony for the authorship of the apostle John is quite strong. Justin Martyr clearly testifies that the book was written by “John one of the apostles of the Lord.” Irenaeus whose teacher was Polycarp, the disciple of John, gives very decisive and repeated testimony for the authorship of the apostle. The Muratorian Canon mentions John as the author of the book, and the context shows that the son of Zebedee is meant. Hippolytus quotes the Apocalypse several times as a work of John; and that the John which he has in mind is the apostle, is clear from a passage in which he speaks of him as “an apostle and disciple of the Lord.” Clement of Alexandria names the apostle as the author of the book, as do also Victorinus, Ephrem the Syrian, Epiphanius e. a. In the West Ambrose and Augustine repeatedly quote the Apocalypse as written by John the apostle, and Jerome speaks of the apostle John as also being a prophet.

This strong external testimony is corroborated by internal evidence: (1) The author repeatedly calls himself John, 11,4,9, 228, and there is but one person who could use the name thus absolutely to designate himself without fear of being misunderstood, viz. John the apostle. (2) The writer evidently stood in some special relation to the churches. of proconsular Asia (i. e. Mysia, Lydia, Caria and a part of Phrygia), which is in perfect harmony with the fact that John spent the later years of his life at Ephesus. (3) The author was evidently banished to the island called Patmos in the Aegean sea, one of the Sporades to the South of Samos. Now a quite consistent tradition, which is, however, discredited by some scholars, says that this happened to the apostle John; and there are some features that seem to mark this as an independent tradition. (4) There are also notes of identity between the writer and the author of the fourth Gospel and of I John. Like in John 1:1 ff. and I John 1:1, so also in Rev. 19:13 the name ὁ λόγος is given to our Lord. He is called ἀρνίον twenty-nine times in this book, a word that is used elsewhere only in John 21:15, as a designation of the disciples of the Lord. It is remarkable also that the only place, where Christ is called a Lamb outsid of this book, is in John 1:29, the word ἀμνός being used. The term ἀληθινός, found but once in Luke, once in Paul and three times in Hebrews, is employed nine times in the gospel of John, four times in the first Epistle, and ten times in the Apocalypse, though not always in exactly the same sense. Compare also with the repeated expression ὁ νιχῶν, 27,11,17, etc.; John 1633; I John 213,14; 44, 54,5.

Still there have been dissentient voices from the beginning. The Alogi for dogmatical reasons impugned the authorship of John and ascribed the book to Cerinthus. Dionysius of Alexandria for more critical reasons, but also laboring with a strong anti-chiliastic bias, referred it to another John of Ephesus. Eusebius wavered in his opinion, but, led by considerations like those of Dionysius, was inclined to regard that shadowy person, John the presbyter, as the author. And Luther had a strong dislike for the book, because, as he said, Christ was neither taught nor recognized in it; and because the apostles did not deal in visions, but spoke in clear words, he declared that it was neither apostolic nor prophetic.

The Tubingen school accepted the Johannine authorship of the Apocalypse, while it denied that the apostle had written any of the other books that are generally ascribed to him. A great and increasing number of critical scholars, however, do not believe that the apostle John composed the Apocalypse. Some of them, as Hitzig, Weiss and Spitta, suggest John Mark as the author, while many others, such as Bleek, Credner, Dusterdieck, Keim, Ewald, Weizsacker e. a., regard it as the work of John the presbyter. The principal objectipns urged against the authorship of the apostle are the following: (1) While the apostle in the gospel and in the first Epistle does not mention his name, the writer of this book names himself both in the first and in the third person. (2) The genius of the two writers is quite different: the one is speculative and introspective, the other, imaginative, looking especially to the external course of events; the one is characterized by mildness and love, the other is stern and revengeful; the views of the one are spiritual and mystic, those of the other are sensuous and plastic. (3) The type of doctrine found in the Apocalypse has a Jewish stamp and is very unlike that of the gospel of John, which is idealizing and breaks away from the Mosaic basis. In this book we find the Old Testament conception of God as a fearful Judge, of angels and demons, and of the Church as the new Jerusalem. There are twenty-four elders round about the throne, twelve thousand of each tribe that are sealed, and the names of the apostles are engraved on the foundation stones of the heavenly city. Moreover the necessity of good works is strongly emphasized, cf. chs. 2, 3 and also 14:13. (4) The style of the book is of a very distinct Hebraic type, different from anything that is found in the other writings of John. Instead of the regular and comparatively faultless construction of the Gospel, we here find a language full of irregularities.

But we do not believe that these considerations necessitate the assumption that the author of the book cannot be identified with the writer of the fourth gospel. It is in perfect harmony with the usage of the historical and the prophetical writers of the Bible throughout that the writer conceals his name in the Gospel and mentions it in the Apocalypse. The different light in which we see him in his various books is the natural result of the vastly different character of these writings. We should also remember that a prophetic book naturally reflects far less of the personal character of its author than epistolary writings do. The alleged Judaeistic type of the teachings found in the Apocalypse does not militate against the authorship of John. In a symbolic description of the future condition of the Church it is perfectly natural and indeed very fitting that the author should derive his symbolism from Old Testament sources, since the Old Testament is symbolically and typically related to the New. It cannot be maintained that the Christological and Soteriological teaching of the Apocalypse is essentially Jewish. The Jews that oppose Jesus are denounced, 3:9; the Church is composed of people out of every nation, 7:9; salvation is the free gift of grace, 21:6; 22:17; and though the necessity of good works is emphasized, those are not regarded as meritorious, but as the fruits of righteousness, and are even called the works of Jesus, 2:26. The strongest argument against the authorship of John is undoubtedly that derived from the style and language of the book. There has been an attempt on the part of some scholars, as Olshausen and Guericke, to explain the linguistic differences between the Apocalypse and the Gospel of John by assuming that the former preceded the latter by about 20 or 25 years, in which time the authors knowledge of Greek gradually matured. But the differences are of such a kind that it may be doubted, whether the lapse of a few years can account for them. The language of the fourth Gospel is not that of the Apocalypse in a more developed form. While it is questionable, whether an altogether satisfactory explanation can be given with the data at hand, it seems certain that the solution must be found, at least in part, in the transcendent nature of the subject-matter and in the symbolic character of the book. The fact that the author so often violates the rules of Greek grammar, does not necessarily mean that he did not know them, but may also indicate that under the stress of the lofty ideas that he wished to express, he naturally resorted to Aramaic usage, which was easier for him. The facts in the case do not prove that the Greek of the Gospel is superior to that of the Apocalypse. In the former writing the author does not attempt so much as in the latter; the language of the one is far simpler than that of the other.

The apostle addresses the Apocalypse to “the seven churches which are in Asia,” 1:4. Undoubtedly this number is not exhaustive but representative of the Church in general, the number seven, which is the number of completeness, forming a very important element in the texture of this prophetic writing. These churches are types that are constantly repeated in history. There are always some churches that are predominantly good and pure like those of Smyrna and Philadelphia, and therefore need no reproof but only words of encouragement; but there are also constantly others like Sardis and Laodicea in which evil preponderates, and that deserve severe censure and an earnest call to repentance. Probably the greater number of churches, however, will always resemble those of Ephesus, Pergamus and Thyatire in that good and evil are about equally balanced in their circle, so that they call for both commendation and censure, promise and threatening. But while there is a great difference both in the outward circumstances and in the internal condition of these churches, they all form a part of the militant Church that has a severe struggle on earth in which it must strive to overcome by faith (notice the constantly repeated ὁ νιχῶν) and that may expect the coming of the Lord to reward her according to her works.

1. Occasion and Purpose. The historical condition that led to the composition of the Apocalypse was one of increasing hardships for the Church and of an imminent life and death struggle with the hostile world, represented by the Roman empire. The demand for the deification of the emperor became ever more insistent and was extended to the provinces. Domitian was one of the emperors who delighted to be styled dominus et deus. To refuse this homage was disloyalty and treason; and since the Christians as a body were bound to ignore this demand from the nature of their religion, they stood condemned as constituting a danger to the empire. Persecution was the inevitable result and had already been suffered by the churches, when this book was written, while still greater persecution was in store for them. Hence they needed consolation and the Lord directed John to address the Apocalypse to them. Cf. especially Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire pp. 252-319.

It is but natural therefore that the contents of the book are mainly consolatory. It aims at revealing to the servants of Christ, i. e. to Christians in general the things that must shortIy (not quickly, but before long) come to pass. This note of time is to be considered as a prophetic formula, in connection with the fact that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years and thousand years as one day. The central theme of the book is, “I come quickly,” and in the elaboration of this theme Christ is pictured as coming in terrible judgments on the world, and in the great final struggle in which He is conqueror, and after which the ecclesia militans is transformed into the ecclesia triumphans.

2. Time and Place. There are especially two opinions as to the composition of the Apocalypse, viz. (1) that it was written toward the end of Domitians reign, about A. D. 95 or 96; and (2) that it was composed between the death of Nero in the year 68 and the destruction of Jerusalem.

(1). The late date was formerly the generally accepted time of composition (Hengstenberg, Lange, Alford, Godet e. a.) and, although for a time the earlier date was looked upon with great favor, there is now a noticeable return to the old position (Holtzmann, Warfield, Ramsay, Porter (Hastings D. B.), Moffat (Exp. Gk. Test.) e. a.). This view is favored by the following considerations: (a) The testimony of antiquity. While there are few witnesses that refer the book to an earlier date, the majority, and among them Irenaeus whose testimony should not lightly be set aside, point to the time of Domitian. (b) The antithesis of the Roman empire to the Church presupposed in the Apocalypse. The persecution of Nero was a purely local and somewhat private affair. The Church did not stand opposed to the empire as representing the world until the first century was approaching its close; and the Apocalypse already looks back on a period of persecution. Moreover we know that banishment was a common punishment in the time of Domitian. (c) The existence and condition of the seven churches in Asia. The utter silence of Acts and of the Epistles regarding the churches of Smyrna, Philadelphia, Sardis, Pergamus and Thyatira favors the supposition that they were founded after the death of Paul. And the condition of these churches presupposes a longer period of existence than the earlier date will allow. Ephesus has already left her first love; in Sardis and Laodicea spiritual life has almost become extinct; the Nicolaitans, who are not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, have already made their pernicious influence felt in the churches of Ephesus and Pergamus, while similar mischief was done in Thyatira by the woman Jesebel. Moreover Laodicea, which was destroyed by an earthquake in the 6th (Tactitus) or in the 10th (Eusebius) year of Nero, is here described as boasting of her wealth and self-sufficiency.

(2). Against this and in favor of the earlier date defended by Dusterdieck, Weiss, Guericke, Schaff, are urged: (a) The late testimony of the Syrian Apocalypse that John was banished in the time of Nero, and the obscure and self-contradictory passage in Epiphanius that places the banishment in the time of Claudius. Cf. Alford, Prolegamena Section II. 14, where the weakness of this testimony is pointed out. (b) The supposed references in the Apocalypse to the destruction of the Holy City as still future in 111,2,13. But it is quite evident that these passages must be understood symbolically. Regarded as historical predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem they did not come true, for according to 11: 2 only the outer court would be abolished, and according to vs. 13 merely the tenth part of the city would be destroyed, and that not by Rome but by an earthquake. (c) The supposed indications of the reigning emperor in 13:1 ff., especially in connection with the symbolical interpretation of the number 666 as being equal to the Hebrew form of Nero Ceasar. But the great diversity of opinion as to the correct interpretation of these passages, even among the advocates of the early date, proves that their support is very questionable. (d) The difference between the language of this book and that of the Gospel of John is thought to favor an early date, but, as we have already pointed out, this is not necessarily the case.

It is impossible to tell, whether John wrote the Apocalypse while he was still on the island of Patmos, or after his return from there. The statement in 10: 4 does not prove the former theory, nor the past tenses in 1:2, 9, the latter.

3. Method. Of late several theories have been broached to explain the origin the Apocalypse in such a manner as to account satisfactorily for the literary and psychological features of the book. (1) The Incorporation theory holds to the unity of the Apocalypse, but believes that several older fragments of Jewish or Christian origin are incorporated in it (Weizsacker, Sabatier, Bousset, McGiffert, Moffat, Baljon). (2) The Revision-hypothesis assumes that the book has been subject to one or more revisions, (Erbes, Briggs, Barth). The last named author is of the opinion that John himself in the time of Domitian revised an Apocalypse which he had written under Nero. (3) The Compilation-hypothesis teaches that two or more sources fairly complete in themselves have been pieced together by a redactor or redactors, (Weyland, Spitta, Volter at least in part). (4) The Jewish and Christian hypothesis maintains that the groundwork of the Apocalypse was a Jewish writing in the Aramaic language, written about 65-70, that was later translated and edited by a Christian (Vischer, Harnack, Martineau). In connection with these we can only say that to us these theories seem unnecessary and in the majority of cases very arbitrary. There is every reason to maintain the unity of the Apocalypse. The use of written sources in its composition is an unproved assumption; but the author was evidently impregnated with Old Testament ideas and modes of expression, and drew largely on the storehouse of his memory in the symbolic description of the supernatural scenes that were presented to his vision.

Various principles of interpretation have been adopted with reference to this book in the course of time:

1. The older expositors and the majority of orthodox Protestant commentators adopted the Continuist (kirchengeschichtliche) interpretation, which proceeds on the assumption that the book contains a prophetic compendium of Church history from the first Christian century until the return of Christ, so that some of its prophecies have now been realized and others still await fulfilment. This theory disregards the contemporaneous character of the seven series of visions and has often led to all sorts of vain speculations and calculations as to the historical facts in which particular prophecies are fulfilled.

2. In course of time the Futurist (endgeschichtliche) interpretation found favor with some, according to which all or nearly all the events described in the Apocalypse must be referred to the period immediately preceding the return of Christ (Zahn, Kliefoth). Some of the Futurists are so extreme that they deny even the past existence of the seven Asiatic churches and declare that we may yet expect them to arise in the last days. As a matter of course this interpretation fails to do justice to the historical element in the book.

3. Present day critical scholars are generally inclined to adopt the Praeterist (zeitgeschichtliche) interpretation, which holds that the view of the Seer was limited to matters within his own historical horizon, and that the book refers principally to the triumph of Christianity over Judaeism and Paganism, signalized in the downfall of Jerusalem and Rome. On this view all or almost all the prophecies contained in the book have already been fulfilled (Bleek, Duisterdieck, Davidson, F. C. Porter e. a.). But this theory does not do justice to the prophetic element in the Apocalypse.

Though all these views must be regarded as one-sided, each one contains an element of truth that must be taken in consideration in the interpretation of the book. The descriptions in it certainly had a point of contact in the historical present of the Seer, but they go far beyond that present; they certainly pertain to historical conditions of the Church of God, and conditions that will exist in all ages, but instead of arising successively in the order in which they are described in the Apocalypse, they make their appearance in every age contemporaneously; and finally they will certainly issue in a terrific struggle immediately preceding the parousia of Christ and in the transcendent glory of the bride of the Lamb.

The particular form of inspiration in which the writer shared was the prophetic, as is perfectly evident from the book itself. The author, while in the Spirit, was the recipient of divine revelations, 11,10, and received his intelligence by means of visions, in part at least mediated and interpreted by angels, 110,19, 41,2, 51, 61, 177-18, 219. He received the command to write and to prophecy from God himself, 119, 104,11, 1413. And the “I” speaking in the book is sometimes that of the Lord himself and sometimes that of the prophet, which is also a characteristic mark of the prophetic inspiration. In chapters 2 and 3 f. i. the Lord speaks in the first person, and again in 16:15 and 22:7.

The canonical authority of the apocalypse has never been seriously doubted by the Church. Hermas, Papias and Melito recognized its canonicity, and according to Eusebius Theophilus cited passages from it. The three great witnesses of the end of the second century all quote it by name and thus recognize its authority. Hippolytus and Origen also regarded it as canonical. Similarly Victorinus, Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine. Gradually, however, the fact that Millenarians found their chief support in the book, made it obnoxious to some of the Church fathers, who deemed it inexpedient to read it in the churches. This explains, why it is absent from some MSS. and from some of the catalogues of the ancient councils.

The book is primarily a book of consolation for the militant Church in its struggles with the hostile world and with the powers of darkness. It directs the glance of the struggling, suffering, sorrowing and often persecuted Church toward its glorious future. Its central teaching is, “I come quickly!” And while it reveals the future history of the Church as one of continual struggle, it unfolds in majestic visions the coming of the Lord, which issues in the destruction of the wicked and of the evil One, and in the everlasting bliss of the faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ. Hence the book comes to the enemies of God’s Kingdom with words of solemn warning and with threatenings of future punishment, while it encourages the followers of the Lord to ever greater faithfulness, and opens up to them bright visions of the future, thus inspiring the Church’s constant prayer: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”


]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 19:56:12 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 62 - 1 John

Brief Preface to John’s Three Epistles

by Jim Brown. (see also Jim Brown's persion bio regarding his experience with salvation)

The apostle John, who also authored the gospel of John, wrote three letters around 90 A.D.   Although all three are doctrinal by nature, they are also very personal.  The first letter contains five chapters and John often refers to its recipients as his “little children” (i.e. Chapter/Verse 2:13, 18; 3:7, 18, 4:4, 5:21).

In I John 3:1, the word “sons” is properly rendered “children” in the original manuscripts.  This tells us that John is writing to those who have been “born again” (see John 3:3,7 and I Peter 1:23) and are now considered by God to be children in His family.  Being born again, Peter tells us takes place when we put trust in God’s word about us (Romans 3:23 all have sinned) and about Christ (I Cor. 15:3 – Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures).

The five chapters of John’s first letter are devoted to helping Christians “walk in the light” (I John 1:7).  The whole line of teaching is geared toward helping the children of God maintain fellowship with the Father.  The grounds for forgiveness of sins is declared in I John 1:9 when believers confess their sins to God the Father only on the grounds of Christ’s cleansing blood (1:7) shed at the cross where He was crucified over 50 years before this letter was written.  Having established this foundational truth, John builds upon it with guidelines for Christian conduct and preservation in a world, which he finds contrary to the new spiritual appetites, which accompany being born again.  John cites the Christian’s three chief enemies:  the world, the flesh, and the devil warring against his desire to please God always pointing to Christ as the remedy for his difficulties and his source of joy and hope.

For further study regarding the Apostle John's writings see The Person of Christ - 8 - Sonship in John

In John’s second and third epistles, John refers to himself as an elder.  This suggests he is writing as an overseer of the original gathering of believers in Jerusalem whose beginnings are recorded in Acts 2. It is interesting to note that John has no need to defend his being an apostle like Paul had to since many were still alive at this time who understand that John knew the Lord Jesus personally while he was here on earth.

It may be that the lady of 2 John and Gaius of 3 John are faithful believers to whom he has written in different churches found in locations other than Jerusalem, however the spiritual tenor of his letters are as an overseer addressing to faithful believers during a time of the decline of all churches.  Both letters are written primarily to warn and instruct regarding false teachers who were already among the Christians.  John encourages both of these individuals even as he would encourage believers today to hold fast the truth of scripture no matter how devious, cunning, or overbearing these new false teachers might be.  Since all the other apostles were martyred, John lived at least 20 more years beyond them to see the day Paul spoke of in his second letter to Timothy.  Paul writes (2 Timothy 4:3-4) that sound doctrine (teaching) will not be tolerated and the truth will become repugnant to those who hear it.

In conclusion, John is interested in seeing the joy of God’s children maintained, in seeing them grow spiritually, and he desires their protection from evil and error through recognition and avoidance of each.  The continual anecdote for the variety of ills faced by Christians is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and the truth that He is the Son of God.  He encourages the pursuit and maintenance of God’s truth while continuing to obey His greatest commandment:  To Love One Another.  There is a three word verse perhaps the first one children learn which is found in 1 John 4:8 and it says simply “God is Love”.  This powerful truth permeates all of John’s writings, whether in the 21 chapters of the Gospel of John or in these three letters written toward the end of John’s life while exiled on the island of Patmos. He was exiled for the same reason the Lord Jesus was crucified:  The truths about man and God could be tolerated.

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 19:45:18 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 16 - Nehemiah

Introduction to Nehemiah

by Becky MacLeod

(Also see Becky's personal biographical story about salvation. Becky MacLeod)

The book of Nehemiah is a historical account of one man with a heart for the things and people of God making a tremendous impact on an entire nation. This Jewish man, Nehemiah, undertook a monumental task, and despite struggles, opposition, and setbacks, successfully completed the work God gave him to do.  In addition to being an enjoyable book to read, we can glean very practical lessons for our Christian life. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith.”  Despite opposition from Satan, whose goal is to see God’s work destroyed and His people discouraged, we too, can finish the work God has given us to do on this earth.

The beginning of the book finds Nehemiah and most of the children of Israel, God’s chosen people, in captivity in Babylon, far away from their home in Israel.  How did they come to be found in that situation?  Chapter 9 takes us briefly through the history of the Israelites: God choosing Abraham and promising him the land of Canaan for his descendants, the Israelites’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt, God giving them His Law on Mount Sinai, their struggles in the wilderness, their possession of the Promised Land where God greatly blessed them with riches in a beautiful and plenteous land, and their struggles in their new home.

Yet in plenty they turned away from God to idols and the gods of the land.  God repeatedly was merciful to them, giving them many opportunities to repent and return to Him, but after numerous warnings God allowed the northern tribes of Israel to be conquered by the Assyrians and carried away as captives.  This should have been a warning to the southern tribe of Judah,  but they too, because of disobedience, were eventually invaded by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, some 120 years later.  Over the next 20 years they were carried out of their homeland into Babylon, far away from their country and their beloved and once-glorious city of Jerusalem.  Israel, which had been the richest and most powerful nation on earth, found itself in ruins, its people scattered and in captivity because of disobedience to God.

The book of Nehemiah commences almost 150 years after the carrying away into Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem.  Many people eventually became comfortable in the land of their captivity, assimilated into the godless Babylonian culture.  However, some still retained a heart for the things of God and for the place where God had chosen to put his Name (Ezra 6:12).

Nehemiah had never seen Jerusalem but had certainly heard about the beloved city of his ancestors.  While serving in the palace as cupbearer to the king, a place of earthly prominence and influence, in contact with one of the greatest monarchs of his time, King Artaxerxes I, Nehemiah retained humility and a heart for the things of God.  He heard about the plight of his brethren who were in Jerusalem, trying to survive.  Over 90 years earlier, after the fall of the Babylonian empire, the Persian king Cyrus had permitted some of the Jews to return to their homeland, and there had been several groups of exiles who had made the journey back to the land of Israel. The book of Ezra gives the accounts of these expeditions.  By Nehemiah’s time the temple of God had been rebuilt in Jerusalem, although it did not compare in majesty and beauty to the original temple built by the great King Solomon.  Nehemiah obtained permission from the king to lead another expedition for the purpose of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

The book of Nehemiah is broken down into two major sections: the first seven chapters deal with the physical restoration of the city walls, while the closing chapters deal with the spiritual restoration of the people to the laws of God.  The main characters are Nehemiah the Governor, and his opponents, Sanballat & Tobiah, who were “grieved…exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel” (2:10 KJV).  These two men were non-Jews who had set themselves up in a place of prominence, and when Nehemiah came they were concerned with losing position, influence and power.   It became their aim to stop the work by any means they could devise.  But what they did not realize was that this was God’s work and no one could stop it!  Despite the threats, ridicule and opposition the wall of the city was finished in fifty-two working days, the gates and doors firmly set in place.  Then the enemies and all the nations around “lost their confidence, for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (Neh. 6:16 NASB).

For further study on the historical biblical context of Nehemiah see CHAPTER 2 - Unfulfilled Prophecy - Dating the 70 Weeks of Daniel

Problems from Without
Though finding willing workers among the people Nehemiah also found much to discourage.  The opposition took many different forms, all seemingly instigated by Sanballat, Tobiah and their accomplices.  His enemies began with ridicule, then attempted to instill fear by threatening a personal attack on Nehemiah’s character.  They also attempted trickery (through feigned friendliness), false accusations, compromise and threats, but with the help of God, Nehemiah was wise enough to perceive their evil intentions.  The workers themselves were also exhausted and in danger, and fear gripped them.   Nehemiah encouraged them with these words: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome” (4:14 NASB).  Guards were posted day and night, and as each man repaired a section of the wall he worked with a weapon by his side. 

Problems from Within
Not only were there threats from without, Nehemiah also encountered internal problems that needed his attention.  Due to an economic crisis some Jews were taking advantage of their own brothers.  The temple tithes and offerings were being neglected, and the Sabbath was not being kept as commanded by God.   Some of the Jews also had intermarried with heathen nations in direct violation of God’s law.  Nehemiah addressed each situation he encountered prayerfully.

Lessons for Us
-When faced with difficulties Nehemiah’s first response was to go immediately to God in prayer for guidance and strength.  Philippians 4:6 instructs us to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”   (NASB).  Many times over Nehemiah proved that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16 NKJV).

-We can take note of the many leadership qualities Nehemiah manifested:
     -true care for the people
     -willingness to endure ridicule and trials for what he knew to be right
     -working alongside the people
     -discernment of his enemies’ evil intentions
     -willingness to listen to the people’s fears and complaints
     -giving encouragement when needed
     -correcting the people when necessary
     -fully depending on God and not self

-Revival and restoration begins with one individual- me.  After recognizing the need, Nehemiah did not ask the Lord to send someone else, but rather made himself available to God.  Under Nehemiah’s leadership, Jerusalem underwent a spiritual restoration, beginning with the people’s recognition of changes needed in their own lives.  The public reading of the Law caused them to acknowledge their personal & national responsibility to God’s commands.  They wept and fasted, repented, confessed their sin to God, and took an oath to walk in God’s law.

-God does not call people for service in the future if they are not actively working today.  Nehemiah was faithfully occupied where God had placed him, serving a pagan king in a pagan land.

-God is in control, even in impossible circumstances.  Could a city wall  really be built in 52 working days amidst many forms of opposition?  “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26 NASB).

-When something is being done that brings honor to God, Satan will seek to interfere and destroy.  This was evident from the time Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem.  Yet God’s power over Satan was clearly manifested.

-Service for God is not always easy, and may require personal sacrifice (comforts, personal gain, and even safety), but we can be confident that if we are doing God’s work His purposes will be accomplished.


]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Thu, 10 Apr 2008 19:32:03 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 37 - Haggai

by Stu Thompson
Also, see Stu's persional autobiography about his experience that lead to him becoming a Christian.stu thompson

Introduction to HAGGAI


The book 'Haggai' falls among those commonly noted as the 'Minor Prophets'. Yet though it may well be the second shortest book of the Old Testament it is certainly not minor in it's significance. Like other portions of God's word it arrived at a very crucial time in Biblical history. In this case, it is the great need of rebuilding God's house, the temple in Jerusalem. And this in itself is the primary theme of the book, 'The Call to Build God's House'.

Author and Date

 As the book is entitled, the author is evidently considered to be Haggai himself. Chapter 1, verse 1, introduces this man as the one who God uses to bring his word to the failing people of that time. Little is known of Haggai outside of this brief book. There are two references to himin the book of Ezra [5:1 & 6:14] but other than that there is no other mention of him by name. His name means 'festive' or 'my feast' and may indicate the hope his parents had in the future blessing of God revealed through the likes of Jeremiah. Whether Haggai was born previous to the exile in Babylon or during it is not known. Some suggest from Hag. 2:3 that he was personally aware of the former temple in Jerusalem before it was destroyed and the people taken away to Babylon. But his knowledge of such may simply have been by oral tradition even from faithful parents who told him about it's splendor.

Haggai very carefully throughout his book dates the times at which the Lord used him to speak. By means of reference to King Darius and the year of his reign the prophet establishes the date of his ministry for God at what is commonly believed to be 520 B.C..
The quotation of Haggai 2:6 in Hebrews 12:26 gives New Testament validation to this book as being God inspired scripture. The character of this obscure prophet is clearly seen in 3:13, “Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message ...”. Haggai was a genuine and faithful prophet of God.

Historical Setting

 In 538 B.C. King Cyrus of Persia issued a decree that allowed a remnant of the people of Israel to return from captivity in Babylon to Judah and in particular, Jerusalem. Ezra 1:2 leaves no doubt as to why this Gentile king did this, “The LORD God of heaven ...hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”. So the people returned and in 536 B.C. construction began. But violent opposition from the surrounding people caused them to cease the work and the people fell into a state of apathy. God had restored them to their homeland, had called them to rebuild his 'house', the temple in Jerusalem, but they ceased to do the work.

In the following sixteen years the work had not only stopped but the people had become absorbed with self occupation and personal prosperity. It is in such a setting that God calls two men, Haggai and Zechariah, to speak for him. And for Haggai the particular task is to call the people back to the reason they have been delivered from Babylon. That is, to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And not just to build a physical house but to renew their spiritual character so as to relate effectively to God in his house.


Outline of the Book with Notes

There are four different dates that Haggai notes as to when 'the word of the LORD came' to him [see 1:1, 2:1, 2:10 & 2:20]. And by these various writers have divided the book in making an outline of the messages that the prophet delivered. Yet within these four messages I would like to outline the book as follows;

1) The Revealed Word through Haggai in Prophecy   ch.1:1-11
2) The Response of all the People in Harmony   ch.1:12-15 [note Ezra 5:2]
3) The Review and Promise of the House Filled with Glory  ch.2:1-9
4) The Restoration of the Priesthood in Purity   ch.2:10-19
5) The Recognition of the Governor's True Authority   ch.2:20-23

The Revealed Word in Prophecy

Note first that Haggai’s ministry as recorded lasted less than 4 months. His faithfulness to God had both an immediate impact, v.12-15, and a lasting one. The temple was completed in a little less than 4 1/2 years from the time he began to minister. Did he see the end [temple finished] of his call to build? We could assume so but we are not given certain record that it was so, Ezra 6:14-15.
   v.3 - Anything done for God begins with God,  particularly with His word.

v.5  – Five times in this book the Spirit of God calls via the prophet 'to consider'; 1:5,7, 2:15,18 twice. The term literally means 'set your heart'. All revival and restoration of God's people is always first heart work.

 v.6 - Material gain at the cost of God’s house results in personal loss,  v.9-11. It may not be material loss but we can count on spiritual loss in such a state.

Obedience conceived in the heart, v.5 & 7, is what the Lord is calling us to through His word. And what is conceived in the heart is born from the spirit of the ‘stirred’ person, ch.1:14.

The Response of all  the People in Harmony

From v.1 when Haggai first spoke for God to here is 23 days. In less than one month the faithful ministry of God’s word has prompted a faithful response from His people and the work has begun. In Ezra 5:2 the governor, high priest and the prophets are particularly identified as those who began to build. Thus we see that Haggai, and likely Zechariah, ‘practiced what they preached’. This was no ‘hit & run’ message from Haggai.    

We can’t blame others for the lack of work and exercise in the local assembly. The governor didn’t say the people were the reason the house hadn’t been built. The priests didn’t say we have no temple and therefore we can not work. And the people didn’t blame the lack of leadership etc. for no past progress in the temple’s construction. They all worked together.

v.13 - The key to this united response was God’s promise, “I am with you, saith the LORD.” 


The Review and Promise of the House Filled with Glory

Here in this section we have God’s promise of spiritual enrichment due to faithful labor and the prospect of his glorious presence like never known before.

v.3 - Though the foundation of the new temple seemed so much less than that of the past God ultimately intends that his house will be filled with glory surpassing anything of the former, v.7-9.
v.4 - In view of the extensive opposition from the nations around the use of the name ‘Lord of hosts’ is intended to remind the people of God that He is both their defender and enabler. Therefore ‘be strong’!

v.5-7 - The one who delivered the enslaved people from Egypt has power over the very heavens and earth plus all nations. Thus his promise of the future glory is to be trusted.

.Interesting that eventually, v.7 says, ‘all nations’ shall come and there will be peace, v.9, as a result of this house being built. This appears to be the future prospect of the millennial reign of Christ in that place.  See Gen. 49:10  ‘expectation of the nations’ &  Gen. 3:15  the promised ‘seed of the woman’ is the hope of all mankind not just the Messiah of Israel. The work of the people in Haggai’s day was but a stepping stone to the greatest time of peace among men that will ever be known in this world.

The Restoration of the Priesthood in Purity

It was one thing to have all the people working together to build God’s house. But it was yet another thing to have a holy priesthood to function for God in that house. Thus this section is devoted to the restoration of the purity of the priests. Looking at Ezra 3:1-6 we see that the priests were functioning effectively for God before the foundation of the new temple was even laid. But it seems that in the sixteen year interval of work stoppage there has been a sad decline in their condition. What good is the house if the worship is not pure?

v.12-13 - The problem of ‘defilement by association’ is identified. Handling ‘holy things’ does not essentially change the condition of the ‘vessel’ they are in. But defiled persons essentially change the character of the ‘holy things’ that are contacted.

v.14 - As goes the priesthood so goes the people. There was no executive exemption for the priests behavior and eventually the whole nation was effected. Their work and their worship was unclean.

The problem of ‘defilement by association’ is identified. Our worship rises no higher than our daily behavior and activity.

v.15-19 - The Lord reminds the people of the losses they suffered due to his judgement, But in turn he reminds them of the promised blessing that will come when they ‘consider’ their ways or ‘set their hearts’ to his house and work, ch. 1:7-8.

The Recognition of the Governor's True Authority

From the beginning of this book it is evident as noted that anything done for God begins with God’s word. In this closing section we are reminded that genuine leadership for God’s people is established by God and for God.
v.21-22 - At this point it is good to note Ezra 1:2b ‘kingdoms’. Through the instruments of Cyrus and Darius the Lord subdued the kingdoms of that time and through one throne gave the remnant security and thus the opportunity to rebuild the temple. But at no time did these kings ‘shake the heavens and the earth’. A greater picture is in view than just the present circumstances of God’s people governed by Zerubbabel.
v.23 - Here we note that if as it seems Zerubbabel was appointed governor by the present Gentile authorities that ultimately the Lord had chosen him. So like Cyrus, II Chron. 36:22-23 & Ezra 1:1-2, being used of God to initiate the remnant’s return to build God’s house so also the Gentile king had appointed a man from the lineage of David to lead the people yet it was the Lord’s doing. The words ‘as a signet’ would affirm Zerubbabel and thus encourage him to work faithfully though in the face of surrounding opposition. But always he was to be mindful that he is just the ‘signet ring’, token of authority, not the hand. For it was the LORD of hosts who by his own hand had chosen him to lead.

As a prophetic picture of Christ, Zerubbabel [Matt.1:12 & Lk.2:27, he blends both genealogies] portrays the Messiah as God’s unique chosen one.  Christ alone, as He said in Matt. 28:18, has the authority and ability to establish a kingdom that subdues powers in the heavens and the earth. He will rule over Israel and the nations in the age to come having vanquished all the nations of men, as here in v.22. And ruling in Israel will restore it  to God’s favored purposes in the midst of all the peoples of the world.

Practical Relevance

Passages like Romans 15:4 tell us that Old Testament writings have present day benefits. With careful consideration we can see many lessons in the little book of Haggai that readily relate to local assembly [church] activity today. God’s word is the single source of guidance for church practices today and is the very means of enabling us to be effective in working for him and expressing worship to him. And as in the case of Zerubbable we must never lose sight that the source of the overseers’ and elders’ authority today still  rests singly in God’s word and nothing else. Yet the ‘flock’ of believers is to recognize that the overseers are made such by God and for God.   

For more historical information see Fulfilled Prophecy, Evidence for the Bible and Forgotten Truths THE ERAS OF SERVITUDE

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Tue, 01 Apr 2008 20:22:54 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 60 - Hebrews

Introduction to Hebrews
By Steve McMurray ~ Clyde, Ohio


The letter written to the Hebrews presents for us an outstanding analysis of the relationship between the Old Testament and New Testament in our Bibles. Although, for a twentieth century Gentile like me it is somewhat mysterious, to the Jewish reader, the allusions to the temple worship and Levitical priesthood would be very familiar.

(To read a story about a Jewish man who was converted to Christianity, read the personal story of Andy Feinberg ~ Chandler, Arizona )

Unlike the other epistles found in the New Testament, the writer to this letter is unknown. Much speculation and interest surrounds this mystery but we should be cautious to not dwell on the things that the Spirit of God has not revealed to us. Instead we will concern ourselves with what is before us in this instructive letter.

Historical Background

We know only that is was written sometime between our Lord's crucifixion in 33 A.D. and the razing of the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. This letter is unique in that it is not written to an individual (e.g. Timothy, Titus, and Philemon), a church (Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians) or a group of churches (Galatians, Revelation) as are the other epistles.  Instead it is addressed to an entire culture - that of the Hebrews.

In the first century, the church was almost exclusively comprised of Jewish believers. The book of Acts chronicles how the gospel spread from Jerusalem to the entire world through the Apostles of Christ. The letter to the Romans reminds us that it was preached "To the Jew first, and also to the Gentile"

This is stated to make the point that Christianity is not a Gentile phenomenon superior to the Jewish culture. Instead, the Christian gospel is Jewish through and through. It does not supplant the Old Testament but rather fulfills it. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. This is emphatically stated in Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus is the Messiah, the same yesterday, today and forever" Or, more succinctly: "Jesus is Jehovah"

To these first century Hebrews, the Words and Works of Jesus of Nazareth were fresh in their cultural experience and too powerful to be dismissed. To those familiar with what the prophets had spoken, the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus were events well known to them and a powerful fulfillment of prophecy that could not be honestly ignored.

Remember that on the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter preached a sermon to thousands of Hebrews gathered for the feast (Acts 2) 3000 of them were converted that day and many more were in awe with the power shown in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:43). As a result, there were many Hebrews who were giving an intellectual assent, but unlike those that were added to the church daily, many had not yet come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Letter to the Hebrews was therefore written to state the case for faith in the Lord Jesus to those newly saved and to those wavering.

Tradition and Relevance

In any culture, change brings conflict.  For these first century Hebrews, enlightened by Word of God, they were in the midst of a struggle against the man-made traditions of Jewish culture while attempting to see the true meaning of the traditions in the law of Moses.

The threats to cultural traditions were met by the religious rulers of the day with threats of expulsion from the synagogue, confiscation of property, family rejection and physical harm. So, to those who were not yet believers there was hesitation and wavering in their acceptance of Jesus as Messiah.

Herein lies the relevance of the letter for us today: we live in a Christ rejecting culture. The teaching of sin runs counter to the world's view of man. The idea that the way to heaven is possible only through the Lord Jesus is considered to be intolerant and unacceptable.  So, to those who are honestly looking at the claims of Jesus and finding them to be irrefutable, there is a struggle against the traditions of cultural and even religious training.  There also often exists to varying degrees the same threat to one's livelihood, acceptance and safety that these first century Hebrews were faced with.

Plan of the letter: Who's who in the Old Testament

Making the case for faith, the writer takes his readers on a journey through some of the prominent figures of the Old Testament.

Kenneth Wuest, a prominent Greek expositor of the New Testament states it as follows:
"To prove to him on the basis of his own Old Testament Scriptures that the New Testament has superseded the First, would result in that Jew going on to faith in Christ, if he is really sincere in wanting to be saved.  The author proves the proposition he advances twice, and from two different standpoints.

First, he compares the relative merits of the founders of the testaments, arguing that a superior workman turns out a superior product. This he does in 1:1-8:6 where he proves that Christ, the founder of the New Testament is superior to the founders, under God, of the first testament who are the prophets (1:1-3), the angels (1:4-2:18), Moses (3:1-6), Joshua (3;7-4;13), and Aaron (4:14-8:6).

After stating in 8:6 the proposition he has just shown to be true, he proves it again by comparing the relative merits of the testaments themselves in 8:7-10:39;
 First, the new testament was prophesied to be better (8:7-13)
 Second, it is actual, the first testament is typical (9:1-15)
 Third, it is made effective with better blood (9:16-10:39) Finally, he proves in 11:1-12:2 that faith, not works is the way of salvation, and closes his letter with admonitions (12:3-13:25)

Warnings given

The letter also contains several passages that are troubling to many believers by the warnings given. Wrong teaching that fails to apply the context of the letter leads to wrong applications of the warnings and instructions. By understanding the context we discern that the warnings are given to unsaved readers who may have made professions of faith but are considering renouncing their faith and returning to the temple sacrifices which they had left.

The warnings however apply to any present reader who is making or considering a profession of faith in Christ but remains without reality. He or she is returning to the shadows of their former life. This same sin of rejection is described by the writer in various ways:

1. Letting the truth slip away (2:1-4)
2. Hardening the heart against the pleading of the Holy Spirit (3:7-9)
3. Falling away (5:11-6:12)
4. Willful sin of treading underfoot the Son of God, counting His blood as common blood and doing insult to the Spirit of Grace (10:26-29)

The author urges his reader not to stand aloof from the living God (3:12) nor to fail of the heavenly rest that comes with faith in Christ as did those who rebelled during the Exodus and did not enter the promised rest of Canaan. (4:1-2)

For more information about the warnings in Hebrews, see also - Eternal Security by Harry Ironside

Types and Anti-types

This is a phrase often used by Bible students to describe the elements of the Old Testament sacrificial system that, when properly performed according to the pattern, provided a type or a picture of God's Anointed One, the Anti-type.

For instance, the Passover lamb is offered as a substitute in place of the death of the first born. It is the type or a picture of Jesus Christ, the Anti-type, coming many centuries later whom John the Baptizer declared to be: "...the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world"

Throughout the letter, the various types and images of temple worship are brought before the reader to show that Jesus is the only one who is the fulfillment of these various types. Most importantly, Jesus Christ is seen as the fulfillment of a superior order of priesthood, called a High Priest after the order of Melchizidek.

Melchizidek's priesthood is unique in many ways:
First, he was recognized as a King-Priest. This is something that the sons of Aaron were forbidden to claim.
Second, His priesthood was not an inheritance as was the Aaronic order.
Third, His priesthood was unending.

As a result of this continuing priesthood, there remains a perpetual confirmatory witness to the everlasting covenant that God made with Abraham and his seed.

All of these factors were pointed out to make it clear to the Hebrew, that Christ and Christ alone is able to stand as a perfect mediator between God and men. As others have stated, "No one else is needed, no one less will do".

As there is now a perfecting sacrifice,(10:1-10) offered once for sins forever and also now a perfect High Priest (10:10-14), there is therefore no more sacrifice for sin (10:15-18) and no more need for the temple worship (10:19-22). Instead, they are wise to take the place of rejection, outside of the camp of Israel. This is the same place taken by the Lord Jesus Himself when He was crucified outside of the temple precincts and the then existing city walls (13:10-15).


Again Wuest states it:
"Thus, the purpose of the writer was to reach the professing Jews of that date who outwardly had left the temple sacrifices, and had identified themselves with those groups of people who were gathering around an unseen Messiah, the High Priest of the New Testament system who had at the Cross fulfilled the First Testament system of typical sacrifices. These unsaved Jews were under the stress of persecution and in danger of renouncing their profession and returning to the abrogated sacrifices of the Levitical system."

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Mon, 10 Mar 2008 05:14:31 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 09 - Book of Ruth

Introduction to Ruth

by Shad Sluiter 


During the time of the Judges in Israel, a family from Bethlehem migrated to the country of Moab in order to escape from a famine.  The two sons married foreigners of Moab and then suddenly died.  The father also died which left three widows alone in the world – Noami, the mother and her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah.

Ruth pledged her loyalty to her Naomi her mother-in-law and they returned to Israel together.  In order to make a meager living, Ruth collected left-over grain in the barley fields of a rich farmer named Boaz.  In the course of a year, Ruth and Boaz were married.  Boaz was a relative of Naomi’s husband which had great significance in Israel.  Their land, family name and inheritance was kept within the family even though all the men of the family had died.  Ruth had a son, Obed, who became the great grandfather of King David.

Historical Background

The events of the Book of Ruth fall in the time period “when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1). The people were morally lost in that time.  In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). Israel suffered oppression and moral weakness in a series of downward spirals.  See the book of Judges for more details.  However, Boaz and Ruth are two people who stand in sharp contrast to the trouble times.  Boaz maintained purity, honesty, generosity and fidelity throughout the good times and bad.  Ruth ran “upstream” from the decline being foreign idol worshiper who came to Israel to know the One True God.

Samuel has traditionally been credited with writing the book of Ruth.  Samuel survived long enough to know that David would eventually become king after Saul.

Historical Significance

The seemingly insignificant decision made by Ruth throughout her life – marrying a Jew, leaving home as a poor widow with Naomi, choosing to clean leftover barley in a particular field – eventually lead to her becoming part of the genealogy line of the Messiah (Matthew 1:3,5-6,16).  Only two books in the Bible are named after women – Ruth and Esther.

Customs and Laws

The heart of the story revolves around the law of inheritance given in Leviticus 25:25-34 and Deuteronomy 25:5-10. The land of a man who is forced to sell because of poverty can be bought back (redeemed) by a relative.  Also, if a man dies, his brother or closest relative is supposed to marry the widow.  Any children born to the woman were to be considered children of the dead man.  Boaz married Ruth because he was the closest relative of Ruth’s departed husband who was willing to marry her.

Figures and Characters in the Book

The Redeemer (Boaz) of a gentile woman (Ruth) brings to mind the imagery of Christ, the Redeemer, paying the ultimate price to purchase the right to have a Gentile Bride – his church (Ephesians 5).

The names in the story represent characteristics of their lives. The following talbe shows the interpretation or the meaning of names in the original language.




House of Bread.  God was supposed to be blessing Israel.  However a famine tested the fortitude of Elimelech and his loyalty to God’s commands.


My God is King.  However, Elimelech chose to flee Israel in time of famine, abandoning his inheritance.


Pleasant.  However, for a period of time after her return to Israel, she called herself “Mara”, or bitterness, since the Lord had dealt bitterly with her.

Mahlon and Chilion.

Sick and Pining.  Perhaps they died of illness which would be true to their names.


Back of the Neck or StubbornnessOrpah was the widow who chose to return to her gods instead of following her mother-in-law back to Israel.


Friend or Friendly.  She was perhaps the last friend that Naomi had in the world.  She refused to abandon her even when Naomi was at the lowest point in her life.


Strength.  He fulfills his name becoming the stable, redeemer of Ruth to keep the family line going.



Other figures in the events of the book have been viewed as the following:

Famine in Bethlehem – This was a test from God to Elimelech who was supposed to preserve his ownership of the land for all generations. The lack of family leadership in Elimelech lead to his own demise, the death of his two sons, a depressed and grieving widow. See the online book Marriage and the Family by Dr. Sandy Higgins for more information.  Specifically, read the chapter titled Failing Fathers.

Field of Boaz – Gleaning in the field is like finding spiritual food in the Word of God.  Handfuls of barley heads, grains, and “beating it out” are symbols of how someone searches the scriptures, meditates and finds spiritual strength.


Some scriptures related to Ruth have caused some students of the Bible to see contradictions in the interpretation of the law:

·        Deuteronomy 23:3 forbids Moabites from worshiping in the tabernacle of the Lord.  How could God provide a place for Ruth in His worship?  Isaiah 56:1-8 tells us that foreigners who turn to God will be included in his covenant with Israel.

·        Deuteronomy 25:5-6 demands that a man marry his brother’s widow if his brother dies.  How does God reconcile this with incest and polygamy?  It is believed that a brother or closest relative would marry his brother’s widow only if he had not been married yet.  In the case of Boaz, the story makes to mention of any other wife in the family other than Ruth.

·        Deuteronomy 7:1-3 forbids the Israelites from marrying the inhabitants of the Land of Canaan.  Why would God authorize this marriage to a pagan?  First, Moab was not included in the list of forbidden countries in which to marry.  However, Moab was a country of idolatry.  Ruth, at the time of her proposal to Boaz, was no longer part of the idol worshiping nation of Moab.  She had left that behind making her a seeker after Jehovah.

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Sat, 03 Nov 2007 00:01:58 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 03 - Leviticus

Introduction to Leviticus

The book of Leviticus is like a user’s manual for the Lord’s Tabernacle and later the Temple.  This law was in use until the destruction of the temple in AD 70. Additionally, the book of Leviticus gives the Jews details of the daily law of the people including regulations about their diet, criminal law and civil law.

Background and Setting

·        Name of the Book - The Levites, or the tribe of Levi, were chosen by God to be the priests of Israel.  Leviticus bears their name since all of the details of how to conduct sacrifices to the Lord are spelled out clearly in this book. 

·        Purpose –The second half of the book of Exodus gives the details of how Moses was to build the Tabernacle, however, the book of Leviticus tells us in great detail how the sacrifices were to be conducted.  Additionally, Leviticus contains instructions for how to ordain the priests, how the people were to remain ceremonially clean and how business practices in the nation were to be affected by God’s law.

·        Date of Writing – The last verse in the book says “These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the children on Mount Sinai” (Leviticus 27:34).  So chronologically and geographically, Leviticus doesn’t move the story of Israel any further along in their story since they arrived at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19. 

Details of the Book

·        Outline

o       Chapters 1-7 give us the details of the five main sacrifices used in the temple – the burnt offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, the sin offering and the trespass offering.  These are explained in more detail later on in this article.

o       Chapters 8 to 10 explain the regulations about the priesthood.

o       Chapters 11 to 16 explain the details of sanctification, which means to be ceremonially clear or set apart to God.

o       Chapters 17 to 27 explain the laws about the details of law that affect the daily lives of Israel including food, sexual behavior, relations with neighbors, crimes and holidays.

·        The Offerings – One of the most outstanding themes of the Moses Law was that the people of Israel had a relationship with a holy God illustrated by their use of animal sacrifices.  The first five chapters describe each type of offering.  An offering could be for atone for sins or to offer worship.  Sometimes the priest was allowed to take a portion for himself.  All of the offerings give us an understanding of the greatest offering ever made, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross – to put away sins as well as provide a pleasing sacrifice to God.  Numbers 6:12-83 gives us specific examples of people who brought offerings in groups.  That is, a person may offer more than one type of offering at each session at the tabernacle.  Each offering had its own specific significance both in that day as well as is seen in the life of Christ.


Offering Name


Similarity with the Death of Christ.



Burnt Offering

·        A worshiper would offer a burnt offering voluntarily as an act of devotion.

·        A bull, sheep or turtledove depending on the wealth of the worshiper.

·        100% of the animal was consumed by the fire.  The priest and worshiper received nothing.

Christ’s life and death were 100% dedicated to his father as an act of devotion.



Grain Offering

·        A worshiper would offer his grain offering voluntarily as an act of thanksgiving.

·        The offering was a cake made with wheat flour or barley in several forms: oven-baked, on a pan, or on a griddle.

·        A portion of the cake was burned on the altar and the remainder was given to the priest and his family.

The ingredients represent the absolute purity of Christ.  The dough was made without yeast or honey to avoid fermentation which throughout the Bible is symbolical of sin.  The cakes were made with fine flour and with some incense which represent an evenness and fragrance of the life of Christ before God.



Fellowship Offering or Peace Offering

·        A worshiper would offer his peace offering as an act of fellowship with God or to express gratitude.

·        The offering was either a lamb or a goat.

·        This is the only sacrifice in which the worshiper was allowed to eat some of the meat.  The act of sharing a meal between the worshiper, the priests and with God gives us the two commonly used named – the fellowship offering and the peace offering.

·        The peace offering was used on special occasions in great quantities (Exodus 23:14-17; Numbers 29:39; 1 Kings 8:63-65)

The peace and fellowship we enjoy with God on the basis of Christ’s death is pictured in these generous offerings to God.



Sin Offering

·        A person who sinned was required to atone for his unintentional act through a sacrificial death.

·        Depending on the leadership position of the sinner, the sacrifice would be either: a bull for the priests or for the entire nation (4:3), a goat for a community ruler (4:23), a goat or lamb for a common person (4:27), two turtle doves for the poor (5:7) or even fine flour for the very poor (5:11)

·        The emphasis on offering putting his hands on the head of the animal and the “shedding of blood” shows that the sinner took personal identification with the sacrifice and that his death was deserved.

This sacrifice is the clear picture of salvation of a guilty sinner.  The substitution death of the animal, his spilled blood and the fire of the altar tell us that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15) taking our personal punishment.  Shedding the blood of Christ means his death was forfeited for mine (Hebrews 9:22; 10:1-18).



Trespass Offering or Guilt Offering

·        A person who sinned was required to atone for his unintentional act through a sacrificial death. 

·        The sacrifice for a trespass offering was always a ram, plus the restoration to the offended person, plus a 20% penalty.

·        The difference between the trespass offering and the sin offering is that it was possible to make restitution for the sin in the case of the trespass offering (5:16).  A sin in which no restitution was possible required the sin offering.

Understanding salvation through Christ’s death includes the knowledge that God has been offended by our actions and that Christ has provided satisfaction to the offended justice (Isaiah 53:10; Romans 3:21-27)

·        The Yearly Calendar

God invited the people of Israel to meet with him on special occasions throughout the year.  The holidays of the nation of Israel were specified in Leviticus 23.  Each holiday, or feast of Jehovah, had special rituals associated with it giving us not only another set of illustrations of the person of Christ, but also a view of the prophetic calendar of God.

Feast Name and ChapterDateDescription and DetailsWhat it symbolizes in the New Testament


Leviticus 23:4-5; Exodus 11-12; Numbers 9:1-14; 28:16; Deuteronomy 16:1-7

14th day of the 1st month (Abib).March or April

Each family kills a lamb in memorial of the rescue from Egypt. They eat it with bitter herbs.Since the destruction of the temple 70 AD, the lamb is left out of modern day celebrations.

The lamb provided salvation from the dominion of Egypt.  Christ saved us from sin by shedding his blood.Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12-26; John 2:13; 11:55; John 19:31-36; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:28

Unleavened Bread

Leviticus 23:6-8; Exodus 12:15-20; 13:3-10; 23:15; 34:18; Numbers 28:17-25; Deuteronomy 16:3-8

15 to 21 of the 1st month (Abib).March or AprilFollowing the Passoever supper, the Jews were to remove all leaven from the house as a reminder that the leaven of Egypt was to be left behind.The immediate result of salvation through the death of the Passover lamb shows in the life of a believer in leaving sin behind.Mark 14:1; Acts 12:3; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
FirstfruitsLeviticus 23:9-1416th day of the 1st month (Abib)March or AprilPresent the first sheaf of the barley harvest to the Lord as a grain offering.Symbolizes resurrection of Christ – the first fruit from the dead.Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks

Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:15-21; Numbers 28:26-31; Deuteronomy 16:9-12

6th day of the 3rd month (Sivan).  50 days after the Feat of First Fruits.May or JunePresent the first sheaf of the wheat harvest to the Lord as a grain offering.Additionally, two other offerings are presented – the sin and peace offerings.The Holy Spirit came to the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, giving birth to the Church (Acts 2).Acts 2:1-4, 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8


Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 19:1-6

1st day of the 7th month (Tishri)September or October This was the first of three feasts of the fall season.  The priests blew trumpets as an announcement of the beginning of the fall harvest.The modern name for the feast is Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year’s Day.  Two calendars existed in Israel – a civil and religious calendar.  The civil calendar marks the new year at the beginning of the fall harvest.The trumpet call to re-gather God’s people is pictured in either the re-gathering of the nation of Israel or in the rapture of the church.

Day of Atonement

Leviticus 16; 23:26-32; Numbers 29:7-11

10th day of the 7th month (Tishri)September or OctoberThe high priest would make a sin offering of a scapegoat for the entire nation.Christ is pictured as the sin bearer, taking the guilt of the entire world on himself as a sin offering.Romans 3:24-26; Hebrews 9:7; 10:3, 19-22

Tabernacles or Feast of Booths

Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:33-43; Numbers 29:12-34; Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Zechariah 14:16-19

15th to the 21st day of the 7th month (Tishri)September or OctoberThe people were to move into temporary shelters, or booths, for an entire week to commemorate the journey from Egypt to Canaan.Symbolizes the rest of a believer in Christ.John 7:2,37

The feasts of Jehovah are primarily two groups of festivals – one in the spring and the second in the fall.  The symbolic prophecy of these events aligns roughly with the age of the church and the future that awaits us:

Name of the Feast

Historical Event


Death of Christ

Unleavened Bread


First fruits

Resurrection of Christ

Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)

Birth of the Church

Long gap of summer.  No feasts celebrated.

Age of the church.


Rapture of the Church

Day of Atonement

Israel is saved at the close of the tribulation realizing “but He was wounded for our transgressions…”


The Millennium.  The earth is at rest under the rule of Christ the King.

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Wed, 31 Oct 2007 23:34:57 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 46 - 1 Corinthians

Introduction to 1 Corinthians

by Shad Sluiter

For more information about the church, read the online book Gathering Unto His Name, by Norman Crawford.

Paul’s First Letter to the Church in Corinth
First Corinthians (1 Corinthians) is the name of the letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to a church that lived in the city of Corinth. 

The City of Corinth

Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia which is now part of modern-day Greece.  It was one of the most prominent and richest cities in the Roman Empire with a population estimated at more than 500,000.  It was a morally corrupt city known for drunkenness, prostitution and idol worship.  Corinth was the home of the Temple of Aphrodite which itself had over 1,000 Temple prostitutes who served the temple worshipers.

The Gospel in Corinth

Perhaps when Paul left Athens, he was dragging his feet in discouragement for being mocked and for seeing little results in his gospel preaching (Acts 17:17,23,30-34). However Corinth, located about 50 miles to the west, was a far more successful venture. He stayed in Corinth a year and a half (18:11). During that time, he supported himself through his profession of tent making, working with Aquila and Priscilla. They were a Jewish couple who had fled Rome because of Emperor Claudius' edict forcing all Jews to leave (18:1-3). A church had been established in their home (1 Corinthians 16:19).
On his third missionary journey, Paul returned to Ephesus (I Corinthians 16:8), where he received disturbing reports concerning problems in the Corinthian church (1:11; 5:1; 7:1; 11:18). The church in Corinth was building a very poor reputation.  Paul heard about their un-Christian attitudes in regards to divisions, fornication and lawsuits among themselves.

The Contents of the Letter

Part one – Reproof for reports of bad behavior.  (Chapter 1-6)

Problem #1 – Divisions (Chapter 1-4)

The church had divided itself into four competing camps: Paul, Apollos, Peter and Christ.  Paul’s first purpose of writing was to correct their thinking.  There was a group in the church who may have called themselves something like “the disciples of Paul”.  Others followed the wisdom and teaching of Apollos, a teacher who visited the church in Corinth.  Yet another group followed the apostle Peter.  The “Paul” party doubtless was quick to emphasize the spiritual freedom that comes from redemption through faith in Christ since Paul was the master teacher of the gospel as contained the book of Romans and Galatians.  Perhaps they were guilty of offending others with their “liberty”.  Apollos was a gifted speaker whose followers could have been enamored by his eloquent speech but lacked precise understanding of the scriptures.  We know from Acts 18 that Apollos was strong in presentation, but lacked some depth of understanding of the basic teachings of the Bible.  (See Acts 18:25-26).  The third division of the church followed Peter.  Perhaps these people were Jewish believers who wanted to emphasize the importance of meanings of ceremonies and practices of the Law of Moses.  Peter was guilty of applying Old Testament law to believers in the New Testament (Galatians 2:11).  Finally, a fourth group claimed superiority of all the others by saying “I am of Christ”.  Though they may have technically been correct in choosing the correct leader to follow, they were obviously guilty of doing so with great pride and arrogance.

Paul wrote to correct the Corinthians church error of divisions by showing how different their attitudes were from the true reality of the mind of God.
• In chapters 1 and 2, Paul reminds the believers in Corinth that human wisdom is foolishness compared to the wisdom of the message of the cross.
• In chapter 3, Paul reminds them that human effort will come to nothing in the final analysis.  Only what is done for Christ will have any lasting value.
• In chapter 4, Paul writes about the “glorious” work of being a leader in the church.  He suffered hunger and rejection for being an apostle.  Far from wanting to gather a following, the true Christian leader is humble, hardworking and a model of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Problem #2 – Fornication (Chapter 5)

The reputation of the believers in Corinth reaches its low point where Paul has to say
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife.  And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-2)
Obviously, their understanding of sexual and moral purity was so wrong that Paul has to write a specific list of sins that should not be tolerated by a church.  These sins include: sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler.  These types of sins are to be dealt with by refusing to associate with any believer who practices these sins even to the point of refusing to eat with them.

Problem #3 – Lawsuits (Chapter 6)

The church was ruining its reputation in the community by taking each other to court.  The stinging rebuke is

“Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers” (1 Corinthians 6:5)

Finally, Paul summarized their problems of gross, open immorality by pleading with the fact that they had been redeemed from such habits.
“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Part two – Responses to questions that were asked by the Corinthians.

Starting with chapter 7, Paul says “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote me…”  From this point on, Paul is answering questions that were contained in a letter.
1. Should a believer divorce his/her unbelieving husband/wife? (1 Corinthians 7:1-24))
2. Should a single person get married or is it better to remain single? (1 Corinthians 7:25-40)
3. Can a believer eat meat that was used in pagan religious ceremonies?   (1 Corinthians 8)
4. Paul, are you really have the authority to be a true apostle?  (1 Corinthians 9-10)
5. Do women and men have separate roles in the church? (1 Corinthians 11:1-16)
6. What kind of behavior should be expected at the church meeting where the Lord’s Supper is practiced (1 Corinthians 11:17-34)
7. Do all people have spiritual gifts? (1 Corinthians 12)
8. What value do spiritual gifts have? (1 Corinthians 13)
9. How should speaking in tongues be done in the church? (1 Corinthians 14)
10. What will happen to Christians at the resurrection? (1 Corinthians 15)
11. How should a church collect money? (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)


In spite of all the problems in Corinth, God still called them “them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:1).  God used their mistakes to enable Paul to explain how to correctly operate an assembly of Christians giving us the letter that has been called “The Charter of the Church”.

]]> (Super User) Introduction to the Bible Sun, 21 Oct 2007 05:42:41 +0000
Introduction to the Bible - 22 - Song of Solomon Introduction to the Song of Solomon

by Shad Sluiter 

The greatest song of love

King Solomon of Israel wrote over 1005 songs and 3000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32).  Of these 1005 songs, this “Song of Songs” is taken to be the very best of the best of all his songs in the same way that “the King of kings and the Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16) means that Christ is the King of all kings who ever reigned and the Lord of anyone who ever ruled.  

History and Background

Solomon’s life followed a roller-coaster path of closeness to God and spiritual coldness.  His first days of being king were marked by humility and simplicity.

 “And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.” 1 Kings 3:7

However later in his life he indulged in idolatry and forsook God.

 “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.” 1 Kings 11:4

 “And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice” 1 Kings 11:9

Contrast with Ecclesiastes

Many experts consider the Song of Solomon to have been written early in his life. Later, towards the end of his life, he apparently returned to close fellowship with God. His book of Ecclesiastes indicates that he regretted that he had squandered his time, energy and wealth on everything except his pursuit of God.  His lesson learned, he realized that only God can really satisfy the human heart.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

The strong contrast in emotions between the state of thinking of Solomon in Ecclesiastes is shown in the inability of the material world to fill an empty heart – “all is vanity” – and the inability of the human heart to contain the joy of being the person who fills a special relationship designed by God – “I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine”.

Theories of interpretation

There have been various opinions about the meaning of the book of the Song of Solomon.  Obviously it is wonderful literature with colorful language filled with romantic sentiments.  However, the ancient Jews were not inclined to include a piece of writing in the inspired collection of scriptures just because it was well written by an expert poet.  To them it obviously contained spiritual teaching.  The meaning of the book is a love song, but also goes beyond the romantic language of a young married couple to another, similar relationship.

1) Literal Meaning – The love between a husband and wife

Who is Solomon’s Wife?

Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon as an expression of love between him and his young wife.  A Shulamite (6:13) is the identity of the "black but comely" (Song of Solomon 1:5) princess in the Song of Songs.  Her name has the sound of 'shalom' for peace and 'Yerushalayim' for Jerusalem. Although her identity is unknown, several suggestions have been made. 

She must have been a resident of Shunem, the little village in the tribe of Issachar, to the north of Jezreel (Josh. 19:18), where the Philistines encamped against Saul (1 Sam. 28:4), and where Elisha stayed for a while with a woman who’s son was raised to life (2 Kings 4:8-37).  One possible shunemite woman mentioned in the Bible is Abishag, the woman who took care of David (1 Kings 1:1-15) in his old age.  We also know that Solomon married Pharoah’s daughter (1 Kings 3:1).  However, nothing in the Song of Songs tells us definitely who she was. She must have been his first wife since he later wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:9  “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun”. Later he sinned against God by marrying an additional 699 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3).

The difference between pornographic sex and passionate love

If we understanding the book as a song between a bridegroom and his bride, we learn that God’s view of sexual pleasure within the marriage bond is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  Although many have falsely accused the church of saying that “sex is evil”, the reality is that many have failed to distinguish between lust and passionate love for one’s spouse.  Lust wants to take, hoard and steal.  Love always gives, feels for the other person and exalts.

The song exalts purity, romance and affection between two people who are truely in love rather than in selfish lust.  While the New Testament may explain the duties and responsibilities of selfless love and submission (Ephesians 5:18-33; 1 Corinthians 7:1-5; 13:1-8; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7), the Song of Solomon illustrates the passion of this beautiful theme. 

The outline

This love story takes us from the days of courtship (1:1-3:5), to their first love of marriage (3:6-5:1) until their love matures to weather storms of life as well as sunny days (5:2-8:14).

2) Symbolic Meaning – God and His People

A second approach to interpreting the book is to compare the relationship between an ideal couple and that of God and his people.  Jewish rabbis regard this book as an illustration of the marriage relationship between God as Husband and Israel as His wife.  They have Biblical authority for making this comparison because of other scriptures that use the metaphor of marriage to illustrate God’s unconditional, powerful love for his people.

Psalm 45 is considered an important key in interpreting the LORD as the husband of Israel who is his bride.  Many of the same thoughts and phrases are used in both scriptures. Psalm 45 applies them to the LORD of Israel. Song of Songs applies them to Solomon and his beloved bride, making the comparison unmistakable as well as scriptural.

There are other places in the Old Testament which make reference to the relationship of the LORD and Israel as a holy matrimony.  

Hosea 2:16-20 And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.  And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. (ESV)

Isaiah 54:4 – “Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.”

Jeremiah 2:2 – “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord, I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. (ESV)

Ezekiel 16:8-14 “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.  Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God. (ESV)

Many Christians have long taught that the Song of Songs expresses the love that exists between Christ and His Church. This too, is a line of thought that comes directly from other passages in the New Testament that compare the relationship of the church with Christ…

Revelation 19:7-9 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;  it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (ESV)

Revelation Chapter 21:9-10 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.


The Song of Solomon is not only a fine example of romantic poetry; it carries with it the meaning of a spiritual relationship between God and his people.  

For more teaching about the family, see the online book Marriage and the Family by Dr. Sandy Higgins.

For more information about the church, read the online book Gathering Unto His Name by Norman Crawford. 

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