the church in the old testament

There is a claim among Acts 2 dispensationalists that “church” is a dispensational term. The claim is that the church was established by Jesus or the apostles in the New Testament. After all, the word “church” is not used in the Old Testament.

This reasoning is highly flawed. It ignores one key difference between the Old and New Testament: they were written in different languages. That means both were interpreted into English, and it could very well easily be that the translators just chose not to use the word “church” in the Old Testament.

Luckily there is a way to test this claim. In the few hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek. This is known as the Septuagint (LXX). This is most likely the Bible that the Jews commonly used, as they were very Helenized by the time of Jesus.

If the LXX uses the same Greek world in the Old Testament as the Greek word for “church” in the New Testament, this would be powerful evidence that the “church” is not a dispensational term. In fact, the word ekklesia (G1577), the Greek word for “church”, is used over 70 times in the Old Testament.

In Deuteronomy 4 it refers to Israel:

Deu 4:10 … Gather the people to Me…

In Deuteronomy 23, it refers to Israel (“assembly”):

Deu 23:8 The children of the third generation born to them [foreigners] may enter the assembly of the LORD.

In Kings, it likewise refers to Israel:

1Ki 8:55 And he stood, and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice, saying,

And again:

1Ch 13:4 Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.

And again:

Mic 2:5 Therefore you will have no one to determine boundaries by lot In the assembly of the LORD.

All 77 times it is used, the concept is “God’s people” (or “Church” would be a good translation).

The word “ekklesia” is used throughout the Old Testament and seems not to be represented in the English due to translation bias. This fact, contrary to the Acts 2 dispensationalists’ original claim, is very damaging to the idea that the “Church” is a dispensational idea. The Church, just like the rest of Jesus’ and the Disciples’ ministry, is a very Old Testament concept.

edit: Because the Jews of Jesus’ time used the LXX, Jesus would have been aware of the Old Testament usage of “ekklesia”. There is no reason to think he had a different meaning.

Posted in Bible, Dispensationalism, Theology | Leave a comment

moses convinces God to look good

In Exodus 32, God sees Israel’s first major rebellion against Him. While Moses is on Mount Sinai talking to God about commandments for Israel, Israel camps below and builds a false idol in the shape of a calf. God then begins plotting to destroy all of Israel:

Exo 32:9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!
Exo 32:10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”

God states that He has seen Israel. God watched them rebel after a few days without Moses’ leadership. God then commands Moses to leave him alone. God says that He will destroy Israel and then use Moses’ lineage to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham.

What happens next is stunning:

Exo 32:11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
Exo 32:12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.
Exo 32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ “
Exo 32:14 So the LORD [repented] from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

Moses literally convinces God not to destroy Israel. Notice Moses’ argument:

1. Israel was God’s people
2. God expended great power to lead His people out of Egypt
3. If God were to destroy Israel, the Egyptians would think poorly of God
4. Israel is the offspring of notable individuals to whom God made promises
5. That promise was specifically an eternal inheritance

To a classical theologian, perhaps point 1 or point 4 would be the key points of argumentation. But the Bible stresses that it was particularly due to the pagan conceptions about God that God changed His mind. If God were to kill Israel, that would look terrible on God’s character. God had a chosen people. God used His great power to free them from Egypt. Then if God were to slaughter them in the wilderness, all the pagans would think very poorly on God. They would view God as a suicide cult God, who saves His people just to destroy them. God cared very much about this foreign people’s perceptions of Him and changed His mind based on this line of argumentation.

In verse 32, God repents of the evil He said He would do. In case it was not clear, Ezekiel 20 recaps the reason:

Eze 20:8 But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, ‘I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’
Eze 20:9 But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

Notice that God ignores Moses’ other key points and focuses just on foreign perception. Moses literally convinced God not to destroy a nation because that action would not look very well to a neutral observer. Without Moses and Moses’ arguments, Israel would have been destroyed. In case Exodus 32 is not clear, Moses recaps in Deuteronomy:

Deu 9:13 “Furthermore the LORD spoke to me, saying, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed they are a stiff-necked people.
Deu 9:14 Let Me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’

Deu 9:19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was angry with you, to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me at that time also.
Deu 9:20 And the LORD was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.

Moses recounts that God listened to him. God listened to Moses. Not only did God listen to Moses’ intercessions for the people, but also to Moses’ personal intercessions for Aaron. Moses says “God would have destroyed him”. It appeared Moses changed God’s mind.

The Exodus event was central to Jewish theology, so it is recapped time and time again. Each time, it is recapped as a normal reading without 21st Century theology attached. In Psalms 106, the text explicitly states again that Moses was the reason Israel was not destroyed:

Psa 106:23 Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, To turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them.

Moses intervened in God’s plan. God had a plan to destroy Israel. Moses did not want Israel to be destroyed, and thus Moses argued in favor of sparing Israel. God listened to Moses (Moses had very convincing arguments). And God repented of what He said He was going to do.

This is not the only event in which these exact things happen. When Israel first reaches the Promised Land, Israel is too afraid to enter. God again starts plotting to destroy them:

Num 14:11 Then the LORD said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?
Num 14:12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

Moses again intervenes. This time Moses sticks to his key point: how God’s wrath would be perceived by pagans:

Num 14:13 And Moses said to the LORD: “Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them,
Num 14:14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, LORD, are among these people; that You, LORD, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.
Num 14:15 Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying,
Num 14:16 ‘Because the LORD was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.’

Num 14:19 Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
Num 14:20 Then the LORD said: “I have pardoned, according to your word;

Moses’ argument basically remains unchanged. If God were to kill Israel it would look really bad on Israel. The Egyptians would see Israel leaving, then the next news they would hear is that all of Israel was found dead in the wilderness. They might even think God just was not capable of leading Israel into their Promised Land. The pagan people would have no respect for God.

This convinced God, again. God repents of the evil He said He would do. Ezekiel 20 recaps this reason:

Eze 20:13 Yet the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not walk in My statutes; they despised My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them’; and they greatly defiled My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them in the wilderness, to consume them.
Eze 20:14 But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles, in whose sight I had brought them out.

This is the second time that God changes His mind and spares Israel because of how God’s actions may be perceived. Ezekiel 20 goes on to show that even both these events (Exodus 32 and Numbers 14) are not alone. God time and time again spares Israel for this explicit reason.

This event is also recapped in Deuteronomy 9. Again Moses says that God said He would destroy Israel. Again Moses convinces God not to destroy Israel. Again Moses uses the exact same argument that God would impugn His own character by such action:

Deu 9:25 “Thus I prostrated myself before the LORD; forty days and forty nights I kept prostrating myself, because the LORD had said He would destroy you.
Deu 9:26 Therefore I prayed to the LORD, and said: ‘O Lord GOD, do not destroy Your people and Your inheritance whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
Deu 9:27 Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look on the stubbornness of this people, or on their wickedness or their sin,
Deu 9:28 lest the land from which You brought us should say, “Because the LORD was not able to bring them to the land which He promised them, and because He hated them, He has brought them out to kill them in the wilderness.”
Deu 9:29 Yet they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You brought out by Your mighty power and by Your outstretched arm.’

Moses convinces God again. Moses’ personal relationship and Moses’ persuasive abilities actually affected God. God knew this about Moses and passively points out Moses’ abilities in a later (centuries later) judgment against Israel:

Jer 15:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth.

God is saying in this verse that He is so certainly set against Israel that not even Moses (and Samuel) could convince Him otherwise. The listener, who would be familiar with Exodus, would understand inherently that this was a high hurdle. Moses could convince God to spare wickedly rebellious people. If Moses was unable to convince God, no one could.

In conclusion:

Exodus 32 is not meant to be taken figuratively. God really meant to destroy Israel. God really was furious with Israel. Moses really did convince God not to destroy Israel. God really did listen to Moses’ reasoning. And God really was concerned about how His own actions would make Him appear to other nations. The Bible could not be more explicit about these facts. The Exodus is God’s defining moment to Israel, it was taken very seriously by the writers of the Bible and is meant to be taken very seriously by the readers.

Posted in Bible, Calvinism, God, Omnipotence, Omniscience, Open Theism, Prophecy, Theology | Leave a comment

the black market for legal controlled drugs

A while back, I listened to an NPR story about black market drugs. These were normal drugs like Viagra and pimple medication. Because patents and copyrights create a framework for overpriced medicine, black markets in generic knockoffs are thriving.

The heart of the story:

In the course of Savage’s research, he and his team placed over 800 test orders and typically received their chosen medications in a timely fashion.

“We’ve maybe only had one time where we didn’t get anything,” said Savage. They tested some of the drugs they received, and all had the proper amount of the active ingredient.

Savage says the vast majority of customers are ordering erectile dysfunction drugs. Others order painkillers or stimulants for recreational use. But up to 15 percent of orders come from people seeking medications to treat chronic health conditions, likely because they can’t afford to purchase them through legal avenues.

Not only do black market vendors deliver the medicine that is advertised, but they do so at a fraction of the cost of regulated medicine. The black market price has to account for the risk of the spam advertisers, the third party vendors, and any other risks of governmental infringement. What this means is that although the black market prices are currently dirt cheap, prices would plummet even more without government to create a monopoly.

What this also tells us is that those who believe the government regulations are the only thing that saves us from dying of poison by unregulated drugs are out of touch with reality.

NPR hosts the audio and text here.

Posted in Econ 101, Economics, Goverment, prices | Leave a comment

the conditional eternal kingdom of israel

In 1 Samuel 8, Israel demands a king. God feels rejected (1Sa 8:7) but appoints Saul (possibly a late fulfillment of Deuteronomy 17:15). God planned to use Saul and set Saul’s kingdom up forever. But Saul fails. God then revokes His plan of an eternal kingdom for Saul. The Bible describes Saul’s eternal legacy being revoked on two separate occasions:

1Sa 13:13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.
1Sa 13:14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”

In verse 13, Samuel tells Saul that Saul would have had his kingdom established forever. But Saul sinned. Saul had not waited for Samuel to perform a sacrifice. Saul’s motivation was to rally his troops to fight the Philistines through a morale boosting sacrifice. When Samuel did not show up on time, Saul took matters into his own hands. This angered God, and Samuel informs Saul that his kingdom had now been taken from him. Before this point, God had sought to establish Saul’s kingdom forever. After this point, Saul was lost to God.

Notice the action words. God “would have” established a kingdom. God “sought” a replacement. All of this happened “because” Saul had not obeyed God. The text very clearly shows that God had planned to use Saul and Saul’s lineage to rule over Israel forever. But after God saw that Saul was rebellious, God revoked His plans and decided to form a new plan. This is God reacting to unexpected human behavior. If God had known beforehand that Saul would rebel, God would not have anointed him as king. God also would not have planned to appoint Saul as king forever. God would not have to seek a replacement. God did not expect Saul to act in this manner.

But it seems God gave Saul another chance. In 1 Samuel 15, Saul again disappoints God. This time, Saul did not utterly destroy the enemies that he had conquered. Samuel confronts Saul, tells Saul that Saul’s own kingdom would be taken from him and then Samuel hacks to death the defeated pagan king:

1Sa 15:26 But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.”
1Sa 15:28 So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.

It is after this event in which God specifically states that if He knew Saul would rebel in this fashion then God would never had appointed Saul in the first place:

1Sa 15:11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night.

God is saying, very explicitly, that if He knew Saul would have rebelled then God would not have appointed him. This event seems to have sealed Saul’s fate. After this Saul never seems to be on good footing with God again. It is interesting to note that Saul reigns another 15 more years after this event.

In 1 Samuel 28 (towards the end of Saul’s life), Saul uses a medium to summon Samuel who had died in chapter 25. Samuel, not too happy, reminds Saul that God became Saul’s enemy and had given Saul’s kingdom to David:

1Sa 28:16 Then Samuel said: “So why do you ask me, seeing the LORD has departed from you and has become your enemy?
1Sa 28:17 And the LORD has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David.
1Sa 28:18 Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day.

God “tore” the kingdom from Saul (the kingdom God was going to establish forever). God “gave” it to David. Samuel reminds Saul that this was because Saul chose not to obey God. Samuel cites the chapter 15 incident over the chapter 13 incident as the reason. Soon after, Saul dies in battle and David replaces Saul as king.

In 2 Samuel, God reveals to David that the eternal kingdom has now been given to him. This is after David brings the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem and David offers to build God a house. God seems to have been impressed by David’s zeal:

2Sa 7:12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
2Sa 7:13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
2Sa 7:14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.
2Sa 7:15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.
2Sa 7:16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” ‘ “

In this text, God promises to build Solomon’s kingdom forever (Solomon’s name is not known at this point because he is not born until chapter 12, plus there will be several other competitors for the throne). God promises to punish any wrong doing but God also promises that Solomon would not have his throne be removed in the fashion of Saul. The idea is that even if Solomon turned out like Saul, Solomon’s kingdom would not be taken due to God’s relationship with David.

But David understood that even this unconditional statement could be revoked by God if Solomon becomes wicked. Although God promised not to take away Solomon’s kingdom, David reminds Solomon to follow God:

1Ki 2:1 Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying:
1Ki 2:2 “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man.
1Ki 2:3 And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn;
1Ki 2:4 that the LORD may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

This is paralleled in 1 Chronicles 28:

1Ch 28:6 Now He said to me, ‘It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father.
1Ch 28:7 Moreover I will establish his kingdom forever, if he is steadfast to observe My commandments and My judgments, as it is this day.’
1Ch 28:8 Now therefore, in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the LORD, and in the hearing of our God, be careful to seek out all the commandments of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land, and leave it as an inheritance for your children after you forever.
1Ch 28:9 “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.

David understood that God’s promise of an enteral kingdom was conditional on David’s lineage remaining righteous. Although the prophecy was for an “eternal” kingdom and God had promised to show mercy after correction, God still could revoke His promise based on the actions of any king. If Solomon or Solomon’s heir were to forsake God, then their eternal kingdom would no longer be enteral.

Solomon acknowledges this conditional prophecy:

1Ki 8:25 Therefore, LORD God of Israel, now keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk before Me as you have walked before Me.’
1Ki 8:26 And now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father.

Paralleled in 1 Chronicles 6:

2Ch 6:15 You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day.
2Ch 6:16 Therefore, LORD God of Israel, now keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk in My law as you have walked before Me.’
2Ch 6:17 And now, O LORD God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David.

Solomon points out that only if Solomon and his sons listen to God will God continue Solomon’s lineage. Chronicles points out that they must follow God’s law. This entire section represents Solomon praising God for faithfulness and also petitioning God to fulfill God’s promises in the future. The conditional nature of the eternal kingdom is highlighted.

When God speaks back to Solomon, the conditional nature of the eternal kingdom is again highlighted. God cites His original promise and warns Solomon that the eternal kingdom could be taken for disobedience:

1Ki 9:4 Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments,
1Ki 9:5 then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’
1Ki 9:6 But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them,
1Ki 9:7 then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples.
1Ki 9:8 And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and will hiss, and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’
1Ki 9:9 Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore the LORD has brought all this calamity on them.’ “

Paralleled in 2 Chronicles 7:

2Ch 7:17 As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, and do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments,
2Ch 7:18 then I will establish the throne of your kingdom, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man as ruler in Israel.’
2Ch 7:19 “But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them,
2Ch 7:20 then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.
2Ch 7:21 “And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and this house?’
2Ch 7:22 Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this calamity on them.’ “

God’s warning is very harsh. God’s promised eternal kingdom is conditional on the kings who rule over it. If the kings worship other gods, God will revoke His promise and destroy the eternal kingdom. But as long as the kings are faithful to God, God will be faithful to the kings.

Solomon ends up rebelling against God in his old age. God, furious, decides to revoke the promise of an eternal kingdom:

1Ki 11:11 Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.
1Ki 11:12 Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son.
1Ki 11:13 However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”

Notice God’s intense change of plans. God dissolved His promise of an eternal kingdom, but for David’s sake allowed a fractional kingdom to continue.

In conclusion:

God sought to give Saul an eternal kingdom but revoked that plan after Saul rebelled. God then regretted ever making Saul king and wished that He had not.

God then gave David the eternal kingdom, but this too was conditional (although originally not explicit, David, Solomon, and God later emphasized the conditional nature of this eternal kingdom). God did not seem to know when or if David’s lineage would ever forsake God. The eternal kingdom was only eternal if certain conditions were met.

Solomon inherited this promise, but things did not end well. Solomon started loyal to God but forsook God later in life. God then dissolved His promise and split the eternal kingdom into two parts, allowing David’s lineage to continue reigned over a fractional piece of the original promised kingdom.

God’s promises, although they look unconditional and promise something eternal, can be revoked if the actions of man warrant revocation. God can change plans at will and respond to unpredicted behaviors of human beings. As stated in Jeremiah 18, if a nation rebels against God, God is not bound to the promises He made to them.

Posted in Bible, Calvinism, God, History, Immutable, Jewish History, Omniscience, Open Theism, Theology | Leave a comment

cut up chuck – the failure of utilitarianism

Economist Bryan Caplan has a post about utilitarianism in which he describes a scenario he calls “Cut up Chuck”:

The “Cut Up Chuck” Case: A homeless guy named Chuck comes into the ER with a treatable leg wound. But instead of treating his wound, Dan the ER doctor realizes that Chuck’s heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys are all healthy and in fact are all matches for five patients upstairs who are at death’s door and in need of donor organs. So Dr. Dan cuts up Chuck, passes out his organs, and saves five people who otherwise would have died. Question: Did Dr. Dan do the right thing?

One major point of the scenario is that it illustrates the common understanding that it is not right to cut up one random person to save five others. In other words, utilitarianism is wrong. The goal of any social or governmental program should not be “to maximize well-being”, to “maximize happiness” or to “maximize life saving”. Personal rights have a huge weight in morality.

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the apostles taught the law

When debating covenant theologians (in this context, covenant theologians are those who believe Paul and Jesus, James and the twelve taught the same ministry), it is not a fruitful use of time to talk about the differences between Paul and James:

Jas 2:24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

It is not enough to show these Christians that both Paul and James have near identical, opposite statements (even using the same Greek work for works/deeds and justification). The faith-alone crowd will attempt to claim that James was speaking in a different context about a non-salvation issue. Alternatively, the works-faith crowd will likewise try to explain away Paul (by saying he is only referring to symbolic law).

Although the two statements on face value contradict, one would have to build an overaching contextual framework for both in a failed attempt to change the immutable minds of the covenant theologians. It does not work.

Instead, the better path is Acts. Acts contains at minimum 3 very distinct instances of the apostles still teaching Jewish symbolic law: Acts 10, Acts 11, and Acts 21.

In Acts 10, Peter is praying on a rooftop. This is about 5-10 years after Jesus had died. Peter sees a vision. It is unclean meat. Peter is revolted.

Act 10:13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
Act 10:14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
Act 10:15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”
Act 10:16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

It takes the voice over three times to get through the Peter. Peter is adamant against eating non-kosher food. This tells us something extremely important about all the previous books of Acts: works were still being taught up until that point. There was no hint with Peter that the kosher food laws had been abolished. Peter becomes thoroughly confused:

Act 10:17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate.

Peter wonders about this for a while. This new revelation was shocking to him and he did not know what to make of it. It was not until men from Cornelius arrived that Peter put events together. Of note is Peter’s intelligence. Although his vision was not about Gentiles, Peter learned that the Gentiles being grafted in was paralleled in the kosher food law vision. Peter is not a dense individual, but until this point, Peter had not even considered that kosher food laws were abolished or Gentiles were grafted in.

Again, Peter was the head of the church, an apostle of Jesus, and had fellowshipped with Jesus for 3 years during Jesus’ lifetime and the 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead. Peter knew what Jesus taught. The clear conclusion was that whatever Jesus taught, it included kosher food laws and Gentile exclusion.

In this text, Peter has no clue that the kosher food laws were in jeopardy or that Gentiles were going to be accepted into salvation. Peter states as much. Peter is summoned to a Gentile’s house, and Peter’s first reaction is to talk about how Jewish-Gentile relations are still taboo:

Act 10:28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

Not only is Peter astonished at this, but also Peter’s friends:

Act 10:45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

None of these people, even after listening to the ministry of Jesus for three years, had any clue that the Gentiles would be accepted by God. In the next chapter, even more Jews are shocked at this. The text makes clear that they had only been going to the Jews thus far (Act 11:19).

As of Acts 10, no one had any clue that the symbolic law, including kosher, was not still required. For an entire 5-10 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, all Christians were teaching Jewish law! They are all shocked when kosher food laws are deemed non-enforced and Gentiles are given salvation. There is no way that Jesus taught anything except keeping the Mosaic Law. But the covenant theologians will hold that Peter was confused. They believe that for 5-10 years, the entire church was confused about the basic salvation method.

In Acts 15, Peter and James resolve a dispute between their converts and Paul. James and Peter’s converts confront Paul in Galatia and start preaching circumcision. Paul responds harshly and the matter is appealed to Peter and James. Peter and James, at this time, are still preaching circumcision. They hold debates on the issue, with various Christian factions arguing their points. This was not a resolved issue at this point (14 to 18 years after Jesus).

Peter solves the dispute by producing a letter explaining that the Gentiles (only the Gentiles) are exempt from circumcision. This pacifies the Jewish Christians who were in arms about Paul teaching not to circumcise. Both Peter and James, until this point, had not been teaching faith alone, had still been teaching circumcision. All of Christianity believed that circumcision was critical to salvation. This is at least 14 to 18 years after Jesus’ death. To stress this point: 14 to 18 years later, all of Christianity still believes that circumcision is necessary. The incident in Acts 10 did little to change Peter’s core teaching. Peter may or may not have taught kosher food laws, but he definitely was teaching circumcision. Peter’s compromise still mandates Jews circumcise, and only creates an exception for the Gentiles. If the text does not make this clear, the entire resolution is summarized in Acts 21.

In Acts 21, Paul for the last time goes to Jerusalem. There Paul meets with James and the elders. James summarizes Acts 15:

Act 21:25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe [contrasted to the Jews in the previous verses], we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

Notice “we have written”. This is James talking. James is summarizing the resolution of Acts 15. The resolution was that the Gentiles would not have to follow the Mosaic Law, but the Jews would still be required to keep the law. James had been preaching circumcision for 30 years after Jesus. Additionally, James is very concerned that Paul was teaching Jews not to circumcise.

The other events in Acts 21 are of interest as well. Paul is prophesied to be harmed in Jerusalem, but Paul goes anyways. Paul meets with James and the elders to tell them what great things were happening among the Gentiles. James interrupts. James points out that Christian Jews in Jerusalem were all zealous for the law. James relays reports to Paul that Paul had been teaching Jews not to circumcise (true reports (see Romans)). James reminds Paul that the compromise was that Gentiles did not have to follow the law, which did not extend to Jews. James asks Paul to pay for purification of certain Jews to prove to the Jewish Christians that he still taught works.

Paul accepted. But the Christian Jews and religious Jews riot. Paul is rescued by Romans and shipped aboard.

What this tells us is that all of Jerusalem still believed in circumcision. Furthermore, Peter and James did not preach against circumcision or else would have suffered similar fates. In fact, James encourages Paul to counter Paul’s own previous preaching on circumcision. There is no evidence that Peter and James ever gave up teaching circumcision and works for the Jews. Acts shows this very evidently.

When covenant theologians are forced to address Acts, they would rather talk about crazy theories that reconcile the book of James with the works of Paul. That is why showing that basic read skills and the book of Acts thoroughly discredit their theology: theology that they force onto Acts and create crazy narratives if explored.

Questions that Covenant Theologians will not answer:

Prior to Acts 10, was Peter under the impression that the Kosher food laws were required?
In Acts 21, did James believe that circumcision was still required for Jews?
In Acts 15, had the issue of gentile circumcision been resolved yet in the church?

Posted in Bible, Dispensationalism, Theology | 3 Comments

mosaic sex laws

In Deuteronomy 22 we find the primary Mosaic laws on adultery, rape and consensual sex. The first scenario that is presented is a man marrying a woman. The issue at stake is if she advertised herself as a virgin and if she was really a virgin:

Deu 22:13 “If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her,
Deu 22:14 and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, ‘I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,’
Deu 22:15 then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate.
Deu 22:16 And the young woman’s father shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he detests her.
Deu 22:17 Now he has charged her with shameful conduct, saying, “I found your daughter was not a virgin,” and yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.
Deu 22:18 Then the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him;
Deu 22:19 and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days.

In the first conditional, a man just hates his wife for any reason. The man understands that he can get out of the marriage by claiming she was falsely married to him as a virgin. The man claims this is the case. To retort, the parents advocate for their daughter, producing evidence of her virginity (the bloody marital night sheets). The man then is punished and has to pay a fine. The man also loses divorce rights.

But if the woman is indeed not a virgin, then she has defrauded her husband and is put to death.

Deu 22:20 “But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman,
Deu 22:21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from among you.

In Israel, it was extremely important not to falsely advertise your daughter as a virgin to her betrothed. Any de-virgining of a betrothed woman was akin to adultery (as the text later states). The punishment for any adultery was death. The text continues:

Deu 22:22 “If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.

This explicitly bans adultery. Both the woman and the man are stoned together (despite the myth that only the woman was to be punished). In this case, a man (married or unmarried) was having consensual sex with a married woman. This text does not seem to cover married (or unmarried) men having sex with unmarried women (like Abraham and Hagar (Gen 16:4)). That activity seems not to have been a crime or sin.

The text goes on to extend adultery to cover betrothed women as well:

Deu 22:23 “If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her,
Deu 22:24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you.

The text makes clear that the two individuals have sex in a city. Because there were plenty of potential witnesses the woman could not claim she was raped. The woman would have had ample opportunity to stop the rape before or while it was occurring.

What this text is hedging against is two adulterers found in adultery, and the woman trying to escape judgment by claiming she was raped. If she had ample opportunity to expose the rape, she cannot claim rape unless her claim was reasonable. The text explains what claims would be reasonable:

Deu 22:25 “But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die.
Deu 22:26 But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter.
Deu 22:27 For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.

In these verses, a man finds a woman in a field. This location distinction is important because previously the text talked about a married woman being raped in a populated city. If she did not cry out to attempt to get help then it was assumed that she was performing consensual sex. In a deserted field or warehouse or park, a woman had no opportunity to expose the rape. Her claim should be believed. The implication is that only the man (the rapist) would be put to death.

As in any good court of law, the Mosaic Law deals with evidence. If a woman’s claim is probable, it is to be believed. If a woman’s claim is improbable, then it is to be discarded. Innocent women are not to be put to death. Rapists and adulterers will always be put to death.

But then there is a case of consensual sex (where the woman is unmarried and unbetrothed):

Deu 22:28 “If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out,
Deu 22:29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.

This text is contrasted to the rape in the previous verses. The “finding”, “seizing”, and “lying” are steps in the consensual sex, not the violent forcible rape in verse 22. If these young people are found out, they are to be married. It is best for the woman if this happens, because if she does not make this known then she might be executed for adultery if she then tried to marry under false pretenses. Because this premarital sex was done in secret, the man loses all rights to divorce.

Interestingly enough, the father could always reject the suitor. From Exodus:

Exo 22:16 “If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife.
Exo 22:17 If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.

This admission disallowed suave, undesirable men from just seducing their ways into families. The father could overrule a match. Presumably, then he could advertise his daughter as a non-virgin for marriage.

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