From Mark Copeland... "DISCIPLINES FOR THE DISCIPLE" The Discipline Of Meditation

                     "DISCIPLINES FOR THE DISCIPLE"

                      The Discipline Of Meditation


1. In this series we have defined spiritual disciplines as...
   a. Spiritual exercises that bring one closer to God, to become more
      godly in character and behavior
   b. Spiritual activities such as prayer, meditation, fasting, singing,
      giving, etc.

2. Our previous study examined the discipline of prayer...
   a. Noting especially the value of secret, simple, and steadfast
   b. In which we praise God, make supplication for our needs, intercede
      for others

3. Closely tied to prayer is the disciple of meditation...
   a. A spiritual exercise practiced by men of God - Gen 24:63; Ps 1:1-2
   b. A spiritual duty given to those who are Christians - Php 4:8; 1 Ti 4:15

4. But some questions may come to mind...
   a. What exactly is meditation?
   b. Why should we take time to meditate?
   c. How should we meditate?

[This study will attempt to provide answers to these questions...]


      1. That practiced by many Eastern religions
         a. Like Hinduism, Buddhism, or Transcendental Meditation
         b. Where the object is to experience truth, peace, or being,
            usually inexpressible
      2. That practiced by Christian mystics
         a. Such as Quakers, and others often found among Catholics and
         b. Who meditate to experience God, or to receive some
            revelation from God
      3. Both Eastern and Christian mystical meditation usually seek to
         empty the mind so as to find or receive truth within (i.e., a
         subjective form of meditation)

      1. To contemplate on truth or reality already revealed (i.e., an
         objective form of meditation)
      2. For example, the man "after God's own heart" is one who
         meditates on:
         a. The Lord Himself - Ps 63:6
         b. His wonderful Works - Ps 77:12
         c. His revealed Word - Ps 119:15,23,48,97-99,148
      3. In the words of Paul, we are to meditate on "things" - Php 4:8
         a. Things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good
         b. Things that are of any virtue, and are praiseworthy

[There is a very real difference between Biblical meditation and that
commonly practiced by many religions:  Christian meditation dwells on
that already revealed in creation or inspired revelation, whereas other
forms of meditation seek some new truth or experience to be revealed.
Understanding the difference, why is Biblical meditation important...?]


      1. As seen from such passages like Ps 1:1-3; Isa 40:28-31
      2. This alone should motivate us to meditate more often

      1. The goal of the Christian is to become more like Christ - cf.
         Ro 8:29
      2. This requires a "transformation" - Ro 12:1-2
      3. But notice that this is possible only by "renewing the mind"
         - Ro 12:2
      4. This "renewing" is possible only when we "set our minds" on
         proper things
         a. On things above
         b. Not on things on the earth - Col 3:1-2
      5. Only then, when our minds are "set on things above", will we be
         successful in completing the "transformation" which includes
         "putting off the old man" and "putting on the new man" 
           - cf. Col 3:1-2 with Col 3:5-14

      1. They "mind the things of the flesh", which leads to "death" and
         "enmity with God" - cf. Ro 8:5-8
      2. You cannot be a spiritual person if you "dwell" on carnalthings
         a. "Recent studies conducted by a Stanford University research
            team have revealed that 'what we watch' does have an effect
            on our imaginations, our learning patterns, and our
            behaviors." - Denis Waitley, Seeds Of Greatness, p. 47-48
         b. " First we are exposed to new behaviors and characters.
            Next, we learn or acquire these new behaviors. The last and
            most crucial step is that we adopt these behaviors as our
            own." - ibid.
         c. "One of the most critical aspects of human development that
            we need to understand is the influence of 'repeated viewing'
            and 'repeated verbalizing' in shaping our future." - ibid.
         d. The information goes in, 'harmlessly, almost unnoticed,' on
            a daily basis, but we don't react to it until later, when we
            aren't able to realize the basis for our reactions." - ibid.
         e. "In other words, our value system is being formed without
            any conscious awareness on our part of what is happening!"
            - ibid.
         f. "You are what you watch and think." - ibid., p. 45
         g. "If a sixty second commercial, by repeated viewing, can sell
            us a product, then isn't it possible for a sixty minute soap
            opera or 'smut-com', by repeated viewing, to sell us a
            lifestyle?" - ibid., p. 47
      3. Fill your mind with positive and spiritual thoughts if you
         really want to:
         a. "renew the mind"
         b. "be transformed"

[If Christians are to succeed, they must set their minds (meditate) on
the things of the Spirit, on things above, where Christ is!  Only then
will they with God's help put off the old man and put on the new man.
Finally, a few thoughts on...]


      1. For Isaac, it was in the field at evening - Gen 24:63
      2. For David, it was in bed during the night watches - Ps 4:4; 63:6;119:148
      -- A time and place free from distraction

      1. David focused his meditation on three things:
         a. The Lord Himself - Ps 63:6
         b. His wonderful Works - Ps 77:12
         c. His revealed Word - Ps 119:15,23,48,97-99,148
      2. Paul mentioned things that possess virtue and are praiseworthy
         - Php 4:8
         a. Whatever is noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report
         b. Which could include devotional writings by uninspired authors
         -- A subject or object worthy of mindful contemplation

      1. Read it contemplatively every day - Ps 1:2; 119:15
      2. Read it with a prayer in your heart - cf. Ps 119:18
      3. As you read, occasionally read it aloud to yourself
         a. The Hebrew word in Ps 1:2 for meditate means "to mutter"
         b. Reading slowly and audibly helps to focus one's mind on the
      4. As you read, you might ask yourself the following questions:
         a. Is there some truth I should know from this verse?
         b. How does this passage affect a previously held conviction?
         c. Is there something I should stop doing in light of this verse?
         d. Is there a practice I should change?
         e. Is there a habit I ought to begin?
      5. You might end with a prayer such as David's - cf. Ps 119:10
      -- "Hold the Word of God in your heart until it has affected every
         phase of your life...this is meditation."


1. In Ps 19:14, we find David praying:

   "Let the words of mouth and the meditation of my heart
      Be acceptable in Your sight,
   "O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."

2. By heeding Paul's command ("meditate on these things" - Php 4:8), we
   can ensure that our meditations will be acceptable in the sight of
   our Lord!

Together with frequent prayer, the practice of meditation will go a long
way toward exercising one's self unto godliness...!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

eXTReMe Tracker 

What is the Jewish Talmud? by Alden Bass, Ph.D.


What is the Jewish Talmud?

by Alden Bass, Ph.D.

“Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—’then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, teaching as doctrine the traditions of men’ ” (Matthew 15:3-9).
In interpreting the Law of Moses, the Pharisees overstepped their bounds by inserting the traditions of their fathers in place of God’s holy law, and were summarily condemned by the Lord for their actions. Though Jesus preached against this Pharisaical traditionalism throughout His earthly ministry, the Judaism practiced today is based almost exclusively upon it. What Jesus called the “traditions of men” is now known as “rabbinicalism,” and is grounded firmly in the extrabiblical writings of the Talmud.
The Jews believe that two laws were given to Moses—the written and the oral. Both were given to Moses by God at Sinai: the written was engraved on stone tablets, and penned by Moses shortly before his death (Deuteronomy 31:9-13), while the oral was revealed in the conversation between God and the great Lawgiver on the mountain. This second body of law was passed from Moses to Joshua, from Joshua to the Israelite elders, and then from generation to generation as the ages passed. Each generation of teachers “expanded” on this law, which eventually became quite extensive, and added much unnecessary legislation to God’s already adequate laws. It was this orally transmitted law that was advanced and defended by many of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day (Matthew 15:1-2), and then used in their attempts to restrict Him from certain activities on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6). The Jews found justification for the oral law in Exodus 20:1 (“And God spoke all these words…”), although this interpretation of the passage is contrived at best.
After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Bar-Kokhba rebellion in the first century A.D., the rabbis who were familiar with the oral law were few in number, and it was feared that there would not be enough Jews left to pass on the great traditions. To remedy this potential problem, Rabbi Judah the Prince set out to organize and record the oral law into a formal body of written law in A.D. 166 (Telushkin, 1991). The oral law, now called the Mishna, was methodically organized. Formerly, if a question arose about the Sabbath, a search would be made in all five books of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament), and scattered references would be collected. This was time-consuming and impractical during the time when books were rare, and so Rabbi Judah organized and grouped all related passages into topical sections, along with the interpretations, opinions, and precedents that characterized the oral traditions. Thus the Mishnah, the codified oral law, consists of 63 “tractates” relating to every aspect of Jewish life.
To illustrate the differences in the two types of law, contrast these passages from the Torah and the Mishna. The Torah declares: “Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day.” This was practiced in a literal fashion for centuries (with the Jews probably sitting around in the cold and dark from Friday night until Saturday evening), until the scribes and Pharisees came along with their new interpretation. These learned men declared that it was acceptable to have lights on the Sabbath, so long as they were kindled before the Sabbath began, and not touched until after the Sabbath ended. This interpretation led to all sorts of little regulations to guard people from accidentally touching the lamp on the Sabbath. One of these was the Mishna regulation “one shall not read by the lamplight”—the reason being, if one were reading by the lamp, one might be tempted to adjust the light, and thereby violate the original commandment (see Browne, 1933, pp. 181ff.).
As the Jewish teachers continued to study and debate the fine points of the Mishna, a body of scholarly commentary grew, which subsequently was called the Gemara. This commentary was combined with the Mishna, and referred to as the Talmud. There are two works that fall under this appellation, labeled by their place of origin: the Babylonian Talmud, and the Jerusalem Talmud. The latter is less intact, and was completed c. A.D. 350, while the former and more respected of the two was completed c. A.D. 550. Today, only one manuscript survives: the Munish manuscript of 1342. These books are of tremendous size, comprising about 6,000 pages in today’s modern print. Alfred Edersheim, noted Jewish scholar, defined the Talmud in this way:
If we imagine something combining law reports, a Rabbinical “Hansard,” and notes of a theological debating club—all thoroughly Oriental, full of digressions, anecdotes, quaint sayings, fancies, legends, and too often of what, from its profanity, superstition, and even obscenity, could scarcely be quoted, we may form some general idea of what the Talmud is (1972, p. 103).
The Talmud is intended to do more than simply restate the law; the material is meant to connect the laws to everyday life, and to give practical instruction. The Talmud presents the opinions of the scholars, and presents their debates over each topic, no matter how mundane or inane. Its purpose was to complement the Torah, but it came to supplement (if not displace) it. Note the tediousness and absurdity of the following rabbinic debate:
Rabbah [a Babylonian scholar] said [that one should not read by the lamplight] even if it be placed [far out of reach, say] the height from the ground of two men, or two stories, or even on top of ten houses, one above the other.
[That is] “one may not read.” But it does not say two may not read together, [for then one can guard the other against snuffing the wick]. Against this supposition, however, there is a tradition that “neither one nor two together” [may read].
Said Rabbi Elazar: “There is no contradiction here. The Mishna allows [two people to read together] so long as they read the same subject. But the tradition [forbids it only if] they are reading different subjects…” (Browne, 1933, pp. 182-183, emp. in orig.).
And so it goes, on and on…
Such Socratic, rambling dialogue is common in the Talmud, and many examples could be cited. Strong and McClintock remarked:
Abounding, moreover, in fantastic trifles and Rabbinical reveries, it must appear almost incredible that any sane man could exhibit such acumen and such ardor in the invention of those unintelligible comments, in those nice scrupulosities, and those ludicrous chimeras which the rabbins have solemnly published to the world… (1970, 10:168).
Underlying the Talmud is the assumption of the perfection of the Mishna, giving this book of human origin a sanctity almost equal to that of the Bible (Douglas, 1991, p. 808). This became necessary for the survival of Judaism after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, since much of the Old Law revolved around the Temple. After the House of God was destroyed and the Jews scattered, Judaism essentially had to be rewritten. Observe in this excerpt the great respect given to the traditions, compared to the law in the Talmud:
The spirit of the Talmudic process is expressed in a tale in tractate Baba Meziah. Rabbi Eliezer, a proponent of unchanging tradition—“a well-lined cistern that doesnt lose a drop,” as his teacher characterized him—was engaged in a legal disputation with his colleagues. “He brought all the reasons in the world,” but the majority would not accept his view. Said Rabbi Eliezer, “If the law is as I hold it to be, let this tree prove it,” and the tree uprooted itself a hundred amma, but they said, “Proof cannot be brought from a tree.” Rabbi Eliezer persisted, saying, “Let these waters determine it,” and the waters began to flow backwards, but his colleagues responded that waters cannot determine the law. Once again Rabbi Eliezer tried, asking the walls of the study house to support him. They began to totter, whereupon the spokesman for the majority, Rabbi Joshua, admonished them, “when rabbis are engaged in legal discussion what right have ye to interfere!” So the walls did not fall in respect for Rabbi Joshua, nor did they return to their upright position, in respect for Rabbi Eliezer-and “they remain thus to this day!” But Rabbi Eliezer would not surrender and cried out: “Let Heaven decide.” A voice was heard from Heaven saying: “Why do ye dispute with Rabbi Eliezer; the law is always as he says it to be.” Whereupon Rabbi Joshua arose and proclaimed, quoting Scripture, “It is not in Heaven!” Rabbi Jeremiah explained, “The Law was given at Sinai and we no longer give heed to heavenly voices, for in that Law it is stated: ‘One follows the majority.’ ” God’s truth, divine law, is not determined by miracles or heavenly voices, but by the collegium of rabbis, men learned in the law, committed to the law and expert in its application to the life of the pious community (“The Talmud,” 2003).
Despite the tedious legalese illustrated above, the Talmud does offer pieces of wisdom and learning. “Be thou the cursed, not he who curses.” “The soldiers fight, and the kings are called the heroes.” “The passions are not all evil, for were it not for them, no one would build a house, marry a wife, beget children, or do any work.” One third of the book consists of “clever fables and quaint legends and amusing proverbs” like those mentioned above, and is the essential source for all Jewish culture.
Today, Jews accept the Talmud in many different ways. An old joke says that if you put ten Jews in a room together you’ll get eleven different opinions on it. The Orthodox Jews basically accept the Talmud as authoritative, while the more liberal Reformed Jews reject most of the legislation. Conservatives fall somewhere in between. Nonetheless, it is accepted by all Jews as an important body of tradition and lore.
The Christian can learn a great lesson from this discussion about the dangers of adding to God’s Word. In the case of the Jews, what began as small footnotes to the Word became a body of literature all its own—a body that now possess as much authority in some minds as the written law of God. While there is always a place for scholarly examination and reference in personal Bible study, we must be careful never to accept “as doctrine the commandments of men.”
[The Talmud can be found on-line at http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htm]


Edersheim, Alfred (1972), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).
Browne, Lewis (1933), Stranger than Fiction (New York: Macmillan).
Douglas, J.D., ed. (1991), New 20th-Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Baker).
“The Talmud” (2003), Jewish Virtual Library [On-line], URL: http://jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/loc/Talmud.html.
Telushkin, Joseph (1991), Talmud/Mishna/Gemara [Reprinted at Jewish Virtual Library], [On-line],URL: http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Judaism/talmud_&_mishna.html.
M’Clintock, John and James Strong (1970), Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids: Baker).

Does God REALLY Know Everything? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Does God REALLY Know Everything?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Numerous passages of Scripture clearly teach that God is omniscient. The Bible declares that God “knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21), that His eyes “are in every place” (Proverbs 15:3), and that “His understanding is infinite” (147:5). Of Jehovah, the psalmist also wrote:
O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.... Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there (139:1-4,6-8).
The New Testament reemphasizes this truth: “God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20, emp. added). Not only does He know the past and the present, but the future as well (Acts 15:18; cf. Isaiah 46:10). According to the Bible, there is nothing outside of the awareness of God.
Atheist Dan Barker, however, alleged in his February 12, 2009 debate with Kyle Butt that the Bible paints a contradictory picture of God and His knowledge. Whereas some scriptures indicate that God knows the future, supposedly, the God of the Bible cannot exist because other passages reportedly teach that God does not know the future. Twelve minutes and 54 seconds into his first speech, Barker exclaimed:
Look what God said after he stopped it [Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac—EL]. He said: “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for I know now, I now know, that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld thy son.” I know now? I thought God knew everything. The Bible says God knows the future but here He is saying, “I didn’t even know.” The Bible even says that God searches and understands all the imaginations of the heart. The God of the Bible knows the future. The God of the Bible does not know the future (2009).
Is Barker correct? Does the Bible paint a contradictory picture of God’s knowledge? Do some passages testify to the omniscience of God, while others indicate that He is finite in His understanding?
The kind of language found in Genesis 22:12 actually is present throughout Scripture. As early as Genesis chapter three, God asked Adam, “Where are you?” (3:9). In Genesis four, He asked Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” (4:9). The book of Job reveals that at the beginning of God’s first speech to Job, God asked the patriarch, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (38:4, emp. added). Are we to assume questions like these or statements like those found in Genesis 22:12 and 18:21 (“I will know”) imply a lack of knowledge on God’s part?
First, one must acknowledge that questions often are asked and statements frequently are made for a variety of reasons. Are we really to assume that the Creator of heaven and Earth was ignorant of Adam’s whereabouts when He asked him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)? Are we to believe that God did not know where Job was when He made the world (Job 38:4)? Certainly not! What father, having seen his son dent a car door, would imply ignorance by asking, “Who did that?” Obviously, the father did not ask the question to obtain information, but to see if the son would admit to something the father knew all along. On occasion, Jesus used questions or made statements for the same purpose. When He questioned the Pharisees’ disciples and the Herodians regarding whose inscription was on a particular coin, it clearly was not because He did not know (Matthew 22:15-22). Likewise, when Jesus asked the multitude that thronged Him, “Who touched Me?” (Luke 8:45), it was not because the woman who touched Him was hidden from Him (Luke 8:47). Jesus knew the woman who was made well by touching His garment before she confessed to touching Him (Mark 5:32). His question was intended to bring attention to her great faith and His great power (Mark 5:34). In no way are the questions God asks or the statements He makes an indication of Him being less than omniscient.
Second, the term “know” (Hebrew yada, Greek ginosko) or one of its derivatives (i.e., knew, known, etc.) is used in Scripture in a variety of ways. Several times it is used in reference to a man and woman having sexual intercourse (Genesis 4:1,17,25; Judges 11:39; 19:25). Jesus used the term to refer to His regard for His sheep (i.e., people—John 10:27). In contrast to the way of the wicked that will perish, the psalmist wrote that God “knows” (i.e., approves, takes delight in, etc.) the way of the righteous (Psalm 1:6). Paul used the term “know” in Ephesians 3:19 in the sense of knowing “experimentally what intellectually is beyond our powers of knowing”—the love of Christ (Jamieson, 1997). The fact is, like so many words in Scripture (and in modern times) the word “know” has a variety of meanings. What’s more, neither Dan Barker nor any Bible critic can prove that the term “know” in Genesis 22:12 directly contradicts God’s omniscience.
Third, the Bible’s usage of phrases such as “now I know” (Genesis 22:12) or “I will know” (Genesis 18:21) in reference to God actually are for the benefit of man. Throughout the Bible, human actions (such as “learning”) frequently are attributed to God for the purpose of helping us better understand His infinity. When Jehovah “came down to see the city and the tower” built at Babel (Genesis 11:5), it was not for the purpose of gaining knowledge. Anthropomorphic expressions such as these are not meant to suggest that God is not always fully aware of everything. Rather, as in the case of Babel, such wording was used to show that He was “officially and judicially taking the situation under direct observation and consideration” (Morris, 1976, p. 272). Almighty God visited Sodom and Gomorrah likely “for appearance’ sake, that men might know directly that God had actually seen the full situation before He acted in judgment” (p. 342). “These cities were to be made ensamples to all future ages of God’s severity, and therefore ample proof given that the judgment was neither rash nor excessive (Ezek 18:23; Jer 18:7)” [Jamieson, 1997]. Similarly, in the case of God testing Abraham regarding Isaac, although God already knew what Abraham would choose to do, there still was a reason to allow Abraham the opportunity to actually show his great faith and know that God indeed had witnessed (in real time and not just in His foreknowledge), Abraham’s actions. God came “to know” of Abraham’s faith by actual experiment. The meaning of the phrase, “now I know” (Genesis 22:12), therefore, “is not that God had, by the events of this probation, obtained information regarding Abraham's character that He did not previously possess; but that these qualities had been made apparent, had been developed by outward acts” (Jamieson, 1997).
Similar to how God instructs man to pray and make “known” to Him our petitions for our benefit (Philippians 4:6), even though He actually already knows of our prayers and needs before they are voiced (Matthew 6:8), for our profit the all-knowing God sometimes is spoken of in accommodative language as acquiring knowledge.


Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Morris, Henry M. (1976), The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Blind Faith by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Blind Faith

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

A common misconception among atheists, humanists, and evolutionists is that those who reject evolution in order to hold to a fundamental, literal understanding of the biblical documents are guided by “blind faith.” Robinson articulated this position quite emphatically when he accused Christians of abandoning rationality and evidence in exchange for intellectual dishonesty and ignorance of the truth (1976, pp. 115-124). Many within the scientific community labor under the delusion that their “facts” and “evidence” are supportive of evolution and opposed to a normal, face-value understanding of the biblical text. They scoff at those who disagree with them, as if they alone have a corner on truth.
The fact of the matter is that while most of the religious world deserves the epithets hurled by the “informed” academicians, those who espouse pure, New Testament Christianity do not. New Testament Christians embrace the biblical definition of faith, in contrast to the commonly conceived understanding of faith that is promulgated by the vast majority of people in the denominational world.
The faith spoken of in the Bible is a faith that is preceded by knowledge. One cannot possess biblical faith in God until he or she comes to the knowledge of God. Thus, faith is not accepting what one cannot prove. Faith cannot outrun knowledge—for it is dependent upon knowledge (Romans 10:17). Abraham was said to have had faith only after he came to the knowledge of God’s promises and was fully persuaded (Romans 4:20-21). His faith, therefore, was seen in his trust and submission to what he knew to be the will of God. Biblical faith is attained only after an examination of the evidence, coupled with correct reasoning about the evidence.
The God of the Bible is a God of truth. Throughout biblical history, He has stressed the need for the acceptance of truth—in contrast with error and falsehood. Those who, in fact, fail to seek the truth are considered by God to be wicked (Jeremiah 5:1). The wise man urged: “Buy the truth, and sell it not” (Proverbs 23:23). Paul, himself an accomplished logician, exhorted people to love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). He stated the necessity of giving diligence to the task of dealing with the truth properly (2 Timothy 2:15). Jesus declared that only by knowing the truth is one made free (John 8:32). Luke ascribed nobility to those who were willing to search for and examine the evidence, rather than being content to simply take someone’s word for the truth (Acts 17:11). Peter admonished Christians to be prepared to give a defense (1 Peter 3:15), which stands in stark contrast to those who, when questioned about proof of God, or the credibility and comprehensibility of the Bible, triumphantly reply, “I don’t know—I accept it by faith!”
Thus, the notion of “blind faith” is completely foreign to the Bible. People are called upon to have faith only after they receive adequate knowledge. In fact, the Bible demands that the thinker be rational in gathering information, examining the evidence, and reasoning properly about the evidence, thereby drawing only warranted conclusions. That, in fact, is the essentiality of what is known in philosophical circles as the basic law of rationality: one should draw only such conclusions as are justified by the evidence. Paul articulated exactly this concept when he wrote: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). John echoed the same thought when he said to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). These passages show that the New Testament Christian is one who stands ready to examine the issues. God expects every individual to put to the test various doctrines and beliefs, and then to reach only such conclusions as are warranted by adequate evidence. Man must not rely upon papal authorities, church traditions, or the claims of science. Rather, all people are obligated to rely upon the properly studied written directives of God (2 Timothy 2:15; John 12:48; 2 Peter 3:16). Biblical religion and modern science clash only because the majority of those within the scientific community have abandoned sound biblical hermeneutics and insist upon drawing unwarranted, erroneous conclusions from the relevant scientific evidence.
The Bible insists that evidence is abundantly available for those who will engage in unprejudiced, rational inquiry. The resurrection claim, for example, was substantiated by “many infallible proofs,” including verification through the observation of more than five hundred persons at once (Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Many proofs were made available in order to pave the way for faith (John 20:30-31). Peter offered at least four lines of evidence to those gathered in Jerusalem before he concluded his argument with “therefore…” (Acts 2:14-36). The acquisition of knowledge through empirical evidence was undeniable, for Peter concluded, “as you yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22, emp. added). John referred to the auditory, visual, and tactile evidences that provided further empirical verification (1 John 1:1-2). Christ offered “works” to corroborate His claims, so that even His enemies did not have to rely merely on His words—if they would but honestly reason to the only logical conclusion (John 10:24-25,38). The proof was of such magnitude that one Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, even admitted: “[W]e know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).
Nevertheless, there are always those who, for one reason or another, refuse to accept the law of rationality, and who avoid the warranted conclusions—just like those who side-stepped the proof that Christ presented, and attributed it to Satan (Matthew 12:24). Christ countered such an erroneous conclusion by pointing out their faulty reasoning and the false implications of their argument (Matthew 12:25-27). The proof that the apostles presented was equally conclusive, though unacceptable to many (Acts 4:16).
The proof in our day is no less conclusive, nor is it any less compelling. While it is not within the purview of this brief article to prove such (see Warren and Flew, 1977; Warren and Matson, 1978), the following tenets are provable: (1) we can know (not merely think, hope, or wish) that God exists (Romans 1:19-20); (2) we can know that the Bible is the verbally inspired Word of God, and intended to be comprehended in much the same way that any written human communication is to be understood; (3) we can know that one day we will stand before God in judgment and give account for whether we have studied the Bible, learned what to do to be saved, and obeyed those instructions; and (4) we can know that we know (1 John 2:3).
By abandoning the Bible as a literal, inerrant, infallible standard by which all human behavior is to be measured, the scientist has effectively rendered biblical religion, biblical faith, and New Testament Christianity sterile—at least as far as his or her own life is concerned. Once the Bible is dismissed as “figurative,” “confusing,” or “incomprehensible,” one has opened wide the doors of subjectivity, in which every man’s view is just as good as another’s. The more sophisticated viewpoint may be more appealing, but it remains just as subjective and self-stylized.


Robinson, Richard (1976), “Religion and Reason,” Critiques of God, ed. Peter A. Angeles (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus).
Warren, Thomas B. and Antony G.N. Flew (1977), The Warren-Flew Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
Warren, Thomas B. and Wallace I. Matson (1978), The Warren-Matson Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).

Abraham’s Camels by Dewayne Bryant, M.A.


Abraham’s Camels

by Dewayne Bryant, M.A.

A fairly common charge against the Bible is that the Patriarchal narratives contain a number of anachronistic details, the domestication of camels being one of them. Based on the findings of two archaeologists at Tel Aviv University, Israel (Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef, 2013), a flurry of recent articles have claimed that camels mentioned in the patriarchal narratives constitute an anachronism, and that domesticated camels did not appear in ancient Israel until around the 10th century B.C. It should be quickly pointed out, however, that the archaeologists do not state explicitly their discovery contradicts the Bible. The popular media, however, has done quite a job—perhaps predictably so—in sensationalizing the issue.
The views of camel domestication in the ancient Near East range from the early third millennium B.C. to the ninth century B.C. Those skeptical of the historicity of the biblical narratives generally believe that camels were domesticated far too late to have made an appearance during the time of the patriarchs. Egyptologist Donald Redford states: “[C]amels do not appear in the Near East as domesticated beasts of burden until the ninth century B.C.” (1992, p. 277). Archaeologists Israel Finklestein and Neil Asher Silberman state: “We now know through archaeological research that camels were not domesticates as beasts of burden earlier than the late second millennium and were not widely used in that capacity in the ancient Near East until well after 1000 B.C.E.” (2001, p. 37). Even W.F. Albright, who was a staunch defender of the Bible, stated, “the domestication of the camel cannot antedate the end of the 12th century B.C.” (1951, p. 207).
The later use of camels is well attested. The Assyrian monarch Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C.) mentions kings of Arabia giving him camels to carry water for a military incursion into Egypt in 671 B.C. Likewise, the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (c. 825 B.C.)—which depicts Jehu of Israel giving tribute to the Assyrians—indicates that the Assyrians received “two-humped camels” from Egypt. Furthermore, scholars have long known that merchants preferred camels to donkeys for traversing arid regions in the first millennium. The question is whether any evidence of the domesticated camel exists to support their appearance in the book of Genesis.


Evidence shows that camels were known as early as the 4th millennium B.C., and domesticated before the beginning of the second. Biblical scholar Joseph Free surveyed the available evidence and concluded that the camel was well known in Egypt from earliest times, as early as the Fourth Dynasty (Free, 1944). Michael Ripinsky notes that excavations carried out over a century ago established the presence of camels in Egypt dating back at least to the First Dynasty (3100-2850 B.C.) with additional evidence indicating they were known in Pre-Dynastic times (prior to 3100 B.C.) (1985, 71:136-137). Although the domestication of the camel may have come much later, it nevertheless preceded the age of the patriarchs.
Ancient texts mention the camel in passing, but do so in ways that indicate they had been domesticated early in Mesopotamian history. A lexical text found at Nippur known as HAR.ra-bullum, alludes to camel milk (Archer, 1970, 127[505]:17). To risk stating the obvious, one does not simply milk a wild animal. Another text from the ancient city of Ugarit mentions the camel “in a list of domesticated animals during the Old Babylonian period (1950-1600)”, suggesting that it, too, was domesticated (Davis, 1986, p. 145). A fodder-list from Alalakh (18th century B.C.) includes the line 1 SA.GAL ANSE.GAM.MAL (269:59), translated as “one (measure of) fodder—camel” (Wiseman, 1959, 13:29; translation in Hamilton 1990, p. 384). Animals in the wild do not need feeding; they forage for themselves.
A cylinder seal from Syria (c. 1800 B.C.) depicts two short figures riding a camel. Gordon and Rendsburg state, “The mention of camels here [in Genesis 24] and elsewhere in the patriarchal narratives often is considered anachronistic. However, the correctness of the Bible is supported by the representation of camel riding on seal cylinders of precisely this period from northern Mesopotamia (1997, p. 121). While the riders on the seal seem to be deities, it nevertheless demonstrates the concept of camel riding (for illustration and discussion, see Gordon, 1939, 6[1]:21; Collon, 2000, Fig. 8).
Numerous discoveries of figurines depicting domesticated camels have been found from a wide range of locations in the ancient world. From the territory of Bactria-Margiana near present-day northern Afghanistan (late 3rd to early 2nd millennium) comes a copper alloy figurine of a camel equipped with a harness, now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Terracotta models of camel-drawn carts (dating as early as c. 2200 B.C.) have been discovered at the city of Altyn-Depe in present-day Turkmenistan (Kirtcho, 2009, 37[1]:25-33). A bronze figurine of a kneeling camel found in Byblos (19th-18th century B.C) is incomplete, with the hump (and its load) missing. However, the figurine has a slot in its back where the hump could be attached separately. Early in the 20th century, excavations conducted by the British School of Archaeology at Rifeh, Egypt explored a tomb and discovered a pottery figurine of a camel bearing a load of two water jars. Based on the pottery in the tomb, William Flinders Petrie dated it to the Nineteenth Dynasty (c. 1292-1187 B.C.) (Ripinsky, 1985, 71:139-140).
A rock inscription in hieratic (a type of Egyptian script) found near Aswan has an accompanying petroglyph of a man leading a dromedary camel. It is thought to date to the Sixth Dynasty (c. 2345-c. 2181 B.C.; Ripinsky, p. 139). If interpreted correctly, this petroglyph gives evidence of the domestication of the camel in Egypt roughly 2300-2200 B.C., centuries before the patriarchs ever visited. Additional petroglyphs in the Wadi Nasib, Sinai include a depiction of a man leading a dromedary. One author tentatively dates these petroglyphs to 1500 B.C. based on the presence of nearby inscriptions whose dates are known (Younker, 1997).
Finally, a curious piece of evidence comes from the ancient city of Mari. A camel burial (c. 2400-2200 B.C.) was discovered within a house. Ancient people often buried their animals, and this could hardly be explained away as a wild camel wandering into a home and subsequently buried by the occupants.


In the final analysis, we can say that the evidence for the domestication of the camel in patriarchal times is clear, but limited. Clear, because the evidence indisputably points to the domestication of the camel very early. Limited, because the camel does not appear to have been widely used, and the few and rather brief allusions to camels in texts seem to mirror the limited role they played in the ancient Near East at that time. As regards the Bible, the evidence suggests that the camel was indeed used for transportation, even if it was not the most popular choice of animals available to ancient travelers and workers.
The Bible records the existence of domesticated camels in the patriarchal narratives, but their footprint is actually quite small. They are listed among the very last items in the total wealth of both Abraham (Genesis 12:16) and Jacob (30:43; 32:7,15). They are mentioned as being used for travel by the patriarchs (Genesis 24:10-64; 31:17,34) and by the Midianites (Genesis 37:25). The Egyptians used them for transport as well (Exodus 9:3). Despite their use for transportation, however, the donkey appears as the favored mode of transportation for the patriarchs. In the ancient Near East as a whole, the same might be said during the early second millennium B.C.—the camel was known and domesticated, but not widely used until later.
Free makes an important observation that applies today just as much as it did a half century ago: “Many who have rejected this reference to Abraham’s camels seem to have assumed something which the text does not state. It should be carefully noted that the biblical reference does not necessarily indicate that the camel was common in Egypt at the time, nor does it evidence that the Egyptians had made any great progress in the breeding and domestication of the camel. It merely says that Abraham had camels” (Free, 3:191). Kitchen sums up the matter: “[T]he camel was for long a marginal beast in most of the historic ancient Near East (including Egypt), but it was not wholly unknown or anachronistic before or during 2000-1100” (2003, 339, italics in orig., emp. added).
Those claiming the absence of domesticated camels during the patriarchal age must deny a wealth of evidence to the contrary. Indeed, the evidence is both early and spread over a large geographical area. It includes figurines, models, petroglyphs, burials, seals, and texts. While some of this evidence is relatively recent, some of it has been known for over a century. Critics often claim that believers refuse to consider any evidence that has a bearing on the validity of their faith. It would appear that in the case of Abraham’s camels, the opposite is true.


Albright, William Foxwell (1951), The Archaeology of Palestine (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books).
Archer, Gleason (1970). “Old Testament History and Recent Archaeology from Abraham to Moses,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 127[505]:3-25.
Collon, Dominque (2000), “L’animal dans les échanges et les relations diplomatiques,” Les animaux et les hommes dans le monde syro-mésopotamien aux époques historiques, Topoi Supplement 2, Lyon.
Davis, John J. (1986), “The Camel in Biblical Narratives,” in A Tribute to Gleason Archer: Essays on the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody Press), pp. 141-150.
Finkelstein, Israel and Neil Asher Silberman (2001), The Bible Unearthed (New York, NY: The Free Press).
Free, Joseph P. (1944), “Abraham’s Camels.” Journals of Near Eastern Studies, 3[3]:187-193.
Gordon, Cyrus H. (1939), “Western Asiatic Seals in the Walters Art Gallery,” Iraq, 6[1:3-34.
Gordon, Cyrus H. and Gary A. Rendsburg (1997), The Bible and the Ancient Near East (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.), fourth edition.
Hamilton, Victor P. (1990), The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Kirtcho, L. B. (2009), “The Earliest Wheeled Transport in Southwestern Central Asia: New Finds from Alteyn-Depe,” Archaeology Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia, 37[1]:25-33.
Kitchen, Kenneth A. (2003), On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Redford, Donald B. (1992), Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Ripinsky, Michael (1985), “The Camel in Dynastic Egypt,” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 71:134-141.
Sapir-Hen, Lidar and Erez Ben-Yosef (2013), “The Introduction of Domestic Camels to the Southern Levant: Evidence from the Aracah Valley,” Tel Aviv, 40:277-285.
Wiseman, Donald J. (1959), “Ration Lists from Alalakh VII,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 13:19-33.
Younker, Randall W. (1997), “Late Bronze Age Camel Petroglyphs in the Wadi Nasib, Sinai,” Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin, 42:47-54.

Animal Rights by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Animal Rights

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The last 40 years have witnessed a decline in the predominating influence of the Christian perspective in American civilization. Sociologists now refer to America as a “post-Christian nation.” With this increasing alienation from the one true God of the Bible has come a corresponding upsurge in aberrant thinking regarding the value and nature of human life. The largest animal rights organization in the world, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is “dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals” and operates under the principle that “animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment” (“PETA’s Mission...,” 2007). Millions of dollars have been spent on causes that assign an inordinate value to animals—from dolphins, whales, and sea turtles, to birds, beavers, and spotted owls. Pet mega-supermarket chains have sprung up around the country. Pet dentists, pet nutritionists, petsitters, and pet therapists offer their expensive services to people whose pets have become “part of the family.” [NOTE: That is not to suggest that giving attention to pets is wrong; nevertheless, most Americans prior to the 1960s would disagree with current culture’s inflated preoccupation with animals as pets.]
What is the Christian (i.e., biblical) stance on animal rights? During the Creation week, after God made the animals, He made the first human beings, setting them apart from the animal kingdom by making humans in His own image (Genesis 1:27). A human possesses a soul—a spirit—that lives on after the death of the body (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Zechariah 12:1; Luke 16:22-31; Hebrews 12:9; James 2:26). Animals do not share this spiritual dimension with humans. While they possess an animating life force, when they die, they cease to exist. No part of their being continues to exist beyond physical death. Animals are not subject to the laws of God; they are not accountable for their actions as are humans; they do not commit sin; and they are not subject to God’s plan of salvation.
God created the planet to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). Included in His creation of human beings was His pronouncement regarding human rule of and domination over animals. Referring to humans, He stated: “[L]et them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, emp. added). He instructed humans to “fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28, emp. added). The Hebrew term for “dominion” (rah-dah) means to rule over (Harris, et al., 1980, 2:833; Gesenius, 1847, p. 758). The word for “subdue” (kah-vash) means to bring into submission by force (Harris, 1:430). The psalmist echoed these very directives when he praised God by saying, “You [God] have made him [man] to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen—even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas” (Psalm 8:6-8, emp. added). God stressed human domination in even stronger terms after the Flood: “[T]he fear of you [humans] and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that moves on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:2-3, emp. added). The only restriction that God placed on the consumption of animal meat was that the blood was to be drained from the animal before it was eaten (Genesis 9:4; cf. Leviticus 17:10-14; Deuteronomy 12:16,23-24; 1 Samuel 14:32-34; Acts 15:20).
Both Old and New Testaments endorsed human consumption of animal meat (Deuteronomy 12:15; 14:4ff.). While God placed certain restrictions on the Israelite dietary practices, primarily due to health concerns, Christians are under no such regulations—as Paul affirmed: “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4). God intended for animals to serve as food for humans; He did not intend for humans to serve as food for animals. In fact, God made provision for animals to be destroyed if they killed humans (Genesis 9:5; cf. Exodus 21:28). No such provision was made when humans killed animals. In fact, the divine sacrificial systems instituted by God under both the Patriarchal and Mosaic religions required animal sacrifice (Genesis 4:4; 15:9-10; Job 42:8; Leviticus 1:2ff.).
Likewise, the Bible endorses the use of animal skin/leather and fur in order to aid humanity. When the first human pair sinned, their newly acquired sense of shame led them to prepare coverings made from leaves (Genesis 3:7). However, God replaced their makeshift coverings with clothing made from animal skin (Genesis 3:21). Animal skins and hair were used in the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:5; 26:14; 35:23). The famed forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptizer, was “clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist” (Mark 1:6). Jesus’ sandals were laced with leather thongs (Mark 1:7; John 1:27). Many righteous people wore sheepskins and goatskins (Hebrews 11:37).
Assuredly, the Bible teaches the principle of stewardship and wisdom in the use of resources allotted by God (Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Corinthians 4:2). Occasional references seem to give a measure of consideration to the humane treatment of animals (e.g., Leviticus 22:27-28; Deuteronomy 22:6-7,10). God, Himself, provides for their care (Job 38:41; Psalm 147:9; Matthew 10:29), and we should not be wasteful, greedy, cruel, or reckless in our handling of Earth’s resources in general and Earth’s animals in particular. However, animals do not take precedence or preference over humans. A balanced, proper perspective is needed. We must realize that animals are not human and are not to be regarded as such. Animals, like the rest of the created order, render divinely intended services to humans as sources of food and clothing, as well as transportation (e.g., Mark 11:7) and other work-related performance.
If there is no God, then animal rights activism is as sensible, appropriate, and as noble as any other cause. However, if God exists, and if He has spoken to humans through the Bible, then our view of the created order must be shaped by God Himself. A review of Bible teaching regarding the status of animals reveals that animal rights activism evinces misinformed, misplaced zeal. Rather than spending millions of dollars on animals, would not a more rational approach be to concentrate on alleviating the starvation, sickness, and suffering of humanity? Or more importantly, why not concentrate our resources on striving to achieve what the Founders of American civilization considered to be the purpose of the Republic, as stated by the Continental Congress in October 1780: “to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth” (Journals of..., 1904-1937, 18:950-951, emp. added).


Gesenius, William (1847), Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979 reprint).
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 (1904-1937), ed. Worthington C. Ford, et al. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office), [On-line], URL:http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwjc.html.
PETA’s Mission Statement” (2007), [On-line], URL: http://www.peta.org/living/magazine.asp.

From Jim McGuiggan... Spectacles and the Jericho Road

Spectacles and the Jericho Road

Life is a strange old thing, isn’t it? Immanuel Kant wanted to tell us that there is no such thing as an unperceived world (he was right of course, at that point). And there’s no unperceived life—we see it through the lens we’ve inherited from our social/economic/religious or philosophical environment. We like to kid ourselves into thinking that we stand free of presuppositions, that we don’t bring our baggage to our Bible study. Silly isn’t it? F.F Bruce thought that none of us is so tradition bound as those of us that think we have no traditions that affect our thinking. What has this to do with the road to Jericho?
A fine writer, Kenneth Bailey, whose parents spent many years working among the peasants in the Mid-East and who, himself, spent twenty years doing the same, deals with the Good Samaritan story and context. Clearly his history in the Middle East has left its mark on his helpful work on the parables and yet his religious background gives the Luke 10:25-37 section a 16th century setting. He reads it as Christ exposing legalism as if he had been speaking during a Reformed/Roman Catholic debate. The Jewish teacher wanted to know what he had to do in order to gain eternal life and KB makes his talk of doing the crux of the problem. The teacher “was trying to save himself,” we’re told, and Christ exposes that nonsense. [It’s strange that Jesus doesn’t tell the teacher there’s nothing he can do. On the contrary he tells him to “do” more. Read the entire incident for yourself.]
So the entire 1st century Jewish story is read through a Lutheran and Reformed lens. That’s what I meant when I said there is no unperceived life. We are handed religious spectacles (depending on...) and we read scripture through them. It’s spooky to realise that. Some people think that such a thing affects only those linked to religious glasses but there are philosophical, cultural and political glasses as well. There are some who think that such a thing affects only those linked to old traditions—far from it!
Tradition is not the only thing that hands out spectacles. Fads and fashions do the same thing. Shaped by currents and influential people we can jump on the latest bandwagon. “Out with the old—in with the new!” That too can become a mindset and everything is judged in light of it. G.K Chesterton’s shrewd observation is worth recalling. He said democracy has taught us a person’s view should be given respectful consideration even if he/she is only our servant or employee. He went on to say that tradition has taught us that a person’s view should be given respectful consideration even if he/she is only our father or mother.
In the end, there’s no doubt about it, only God can deliver us from our shackles, no matter how or where or by whom they were made.
But reading with my own spectacles on, Luke 10:25-37 doesn’t at all look like a discussion of legalism or self-salvation. It looks to me like a straightforward (but too rich to grasp all) lesson on what love of God and neighbour means and calls for. Here’s a sectarian Jew—one that believed a currently held though disputed viewpoint that God called Israel to love their covenant brothers and sisters and feel no obligation whatever to those outside that circle (compare Luke 6:27-36 and Matthew 5:43-48).
Those that held that view thought that that was how they were to live out “the image of God”. The God they praised in the Shema had loved only Israel, don’t you see; loved only a segment of the human family that he had made so he regarded the rest as his enemies. At least that was what many inferred. Herein lies one of the dangers of thinking that God’s love is restricted to a particular covenantal expression of it.
(Some Jews thought that because God made a covenant exclusively with them that he made Gentiles for no other reason than to stoke the fires of hell. There’s a “Christian” version of that view that says God created the bulk of the human family for no other reason than to subject them eternally to conscious torture. Without wish or choice on their part and by God’s ordaining, they were born enemies, and he will burn them throughout the ceaseless ages “according to the good pleasure of his will.”)
In any case, this Jewish teacher wanted to justify himself—being a good sectarian he had to find good reason to justify his sectarianism (10:29). So he wanted to debate the definition of “neighbour”—in essence, he wanted to know whom he was obliged to love. The commandment to love couldn’t be doubted, but there was room for manoeuvring on the scope of it.
But his doctrine of election was skewed, don’t you know. Life and peace with God was possible only for Jews, he thought! (And later, some Christian Jews insisted on the same thing—see Acts 15:1-2—and so we got the books of Galatians and Romans.) In light of his view of God and the love of God that he saw expressed in Jewish election, and the consequences for the rest of the human family, this Bible teacher implicitly narrowed his obligation to love.
[I read a book some years ago, 300 pages +, that taught us what God took pleasure in. Rich in many ways! We were told that God took pleasure in galaxies, flowers, animals, his chosen number out of humanity, and on and on—but nowhere a word about the pleasure he takes in the entire human family. Well, I found a single sentence and text that were then passed by with nothing more than a disclaimer. I must confess that that’s a stunning absence. The book got rave reviews from many preachers. Hmmm. The Jewish Bible teacher was sectarian because he saw God as sectarian. He narrowed his obligation to love because he thought God had loved narrowly. If God refuses to love Gentiles how can it be right for him to love Gentiles? If God refuses to love the bulk of humanity how can it be right for those who are to live and love in his image love the bulk of humanity? Sectarianism is ugly—Jewish or Christian.]
But Jesus would have none of it. He wouldn’t enter the debate about what “neighbour” meant nor would be debate what might be the consequences of the definition of neighbour. He didn’t deny that God had made a peculiar covenant with Israel, the OT elect, but he flatly denied that God loved only those he covenanted with or only those who loved him. [And should that mean something to us? If so; what?]
In Luke 10 Jesus passed by the debate about the covenantal meaning of the word “neighbour” and asked “who loved?” (10:36). “Which of these people was a lover?” Jesus asked him. The Bible teacher knew it wasn’t the priest or the Levite. Whoever or whatever the man in the road was, the Samaritan loved him and came to his rescue. “If you want life go and do likewise,” said Jesus Christ. [This unnerves many Reformed types. It should unsettle many non-Lutheran types.]
Karl Barth was right. If the Bible teacher had had the heart he would have known he was talking to the cosmic good Samaritan.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.