"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" Chapter Four OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To learn further how we should regard preachers and teachers 2) To learn a lesson in humility by observing the examples of the apostles SUMMARY With this chapter Paul brings to a conclusion his treatment of the problem of division as it existed in the church at Corinth. He describes the proper estimate one should have of those who serve God, and why we should leave the ultimate evaluation of such men to God (1-5). Having already used himself and Apollos as examples to help them see the errors of their arrogance (cf. "puffed up"), Paul also uses the example of the apostles in a passage filled with irony (6-13). His purpose is not to shame them, but to warn them, for he is sending Timothy to remind them of what is proper, and he himself is coming to deal with those who are "puffed up", if necessary (14-21). OUTLINE I. THE PROPER ESTIMATE OF PAUL & OTHERS (1-5) A. SERVANTS & STEWARDS (1-2) 1. Servants of Christ, stewards of the mysteries of God (1) 2. Their chief responsibility: faithfulness (2) B. THE PROPER JUDGE OF SUCH THINGS (3-5) 1. Not Christians, or any human court (3a) 2. Not even one's own self, but rather, the Lord (3b-4) 3. Therefore leave it up to Him (5) II. LESSONS IN HUMILITY (6-13) A. PAUL & APOLLOS ALREADY USED AS EXAMPLES (6) 1. To learn in them not to think beyond what is written (6a) 2. That none be "puffed up" on behalf of one against the other (6b) B. REBUKE IN THE FORM OF IRONY (7-8) 1. For they act as though they were the source of what they have (7) 2. With irony, Paul rebukes them (8) C. THE EXAMPLE OF THE APOSTLES (9-13) 1. Made a "spectacle" to the world (9) 2. Contrasted with the pride of the Corinthians, using more irony (10) 3. The plight of the apostles (11-13) III. PAUL'S PURPOSE IN WRITING THESE THINGS (14-21) A. NOT TO SHAME, BUT TO WARN (14-16) 1. Those whom he considers as beloved children (14) 2. Those whom he has begotten through the gospel (15) 3. Those whom he charges to imitate him (16) B. TO COMPLEMENT VISITS BY TIMOTHY AND HIMSELF (17-21) 1. He is sending Timothy to remind them (17) 2. He himself will soon come, Lord willing, to deal with those who are "puffed up" (18-21) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - The Proper Estimate Of Paul And Others (1-5) - Lessons In Humility (6-13) - Paul's Purpose In Writing (14-21) 2) What two terms properly describe preachers of the gospel? (1) - Servants of Christ - Stewards of the mysteries of God 3) Who is to be the judge of those who serve the Lord? (3-5) - The Lord 4) Why was Paul writing these things? (6) - That none be "puffed up" on behalf of one against the other 5) What technique did Paul use in teaching lessons about humility? (8,10) - Irony 6) Who did Paul use as an example of humility? (9-13) - The apostles 7) Why was Paul writing these things to them? (14) - To warn those he loved 8) How had Paul become like a "father" to them? (15) - Through teaching them the gospel by which they had been "begotten" in Christ Jesus 9) Why was he sending Timothy to them? (17) - To remind them of Paul's ways in Christ 10) What one phrase is used repeatedly in this chapter to describe some at Corinth? (6,18,19) - "puffed up" 11) What choices did Paul leave them as to how he might come to them? (21) - With a rod - In love and a spirit of gentleness
"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" Chapter Three OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To see the proper place of preachers and teachers in relation to their work 2) To appreciate God's view of the church as the temple of God SUMMARY Paul continues to deal with the problem of division in this chapter. Its seriousness is seen in its carnality, which prevented Paul from being able to speak as to spiritually mature people (1-4). To help them see the folly of exalting preachers over each another, Paul shows their relation to one other and to their work, which is building the temple of God (5-17). To the warning not to defile the temple of God, Paul adds another not to glory in the wisdom of this world nor in men (18-23). OUTLINE I. THE CARNAL NATURE OF DIVISION (1-4) A. CARNAL CHRISTIANS AT CORINTH (1-2) 1. Prevented Paul from speaking to them as to spiritual people (1a) 2. Their carnality indicated that they were still babes in Christ, unable to receive solid food (1b-2) B. EVIDENCE OF THEIR CARNALITY (3-4) 1. The envy, strife, and divisions among them (3) 2. As expressed in their calling themselves after men (4) II. RELATION OF PREACHERS TO THEIR WORK (5-17) A. PREACHERS ARE SERVANTS, USED BY GOD (5-7) 1. Ministers given the opportunity to serve God in various ways (5-6a) 2. But it is God who gives the increase (6b-7) B. THEIR RELATION TO ONE ANOTHER AND THEIR WORK (8-17) 1. United in their work, though their labor and rewards may differ (8) 2. Fellow workers with God, they work on God's building (9) a. Laying the foundation (as Paul did) of Jesus Christ (10-11) b. Building upon the foundation, using various materials to be tested at the Last Day (12-15) 3. A strong warning, since this building is the temple of God and indwelt by the Spirit (16-17) III. AVOID GLORYING IN WORLDLY WISDOM OR MEN (18-23) A. REASONS NOT TO GLORY IN WORLDLY WISDOM (18-20) 1. You will only deceive yourself (18) 2. The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (19-20) B. REASONS NOT TO GLORY IN MEN (21-23) 1. All things (including men) are yours (21-22) 2. You are Christ's, and Christ is God's (23) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - The Carnal Nature Of Division (1-4) - Relation Of Preachers To Their Work (5-17) - Avoid Glorying In Worldly Wisdom Or Men (18-23) 2) What prevented Paul from speaking to the Corinthians as unto spiritual people? (1-3) - They were carnal, still babes in Christ 3) What manifested their carnality? (3-4) - Their envy, strife, and divisions, as manifested in calling themselves after men 4) Who was more important, he that planted, or the one that watered? (6-7) - Neither, it was God who gave the increase 5) Upon what foundation is the church built? (11) - Jesus Christ 6) When will the work of ministers be fully made manifest? (13) - At the last Day 7) If those converted by preachers are lost, will the preachers be lost? (14-15) - No, but their reward will not be as great 8) What sort of building is the church? (16) - The temple of God, indwelt by His Spirit 9) What is the wisdom of this world to God? (19) - Foolishness 10) Why should we not glory in men? (21-22) - Because they are but instruments of God used to benefit us 11) And to whom do we belong? (23) - Christ
The Quran and the Person of Jesus
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Christianity and Islam are in hopeless contradiction with each other regarding several significant concepts and core doctrines—contradictions that strike at the very heart of their respective approaches to religion, life, spirituality, and human existence. The most crucial contention—the greatest tension between the two religions—pertains to the person of Christ. On this solitary point, Islam and Christianity, the Bible and the Quran, can never agree. This disagreement is of such momentous import, and of such great magnitude, as to make the inexorable incompatibility permanent.
Observe a few of the Quran’s declarations concerning the person of Jesus (taken from the translation by Muslim scholar Mohammed Pickthall [n.d.]):
Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to an agreement between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah (Surah 3:64).And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. Lo! Thou, only Thou art the Knower of Things Hidden. I spake unto them only that which Thou commandedst me, (saying): Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. I was a witness of them while I dwelt among them, and when Thou tookest me Thou wast the Watcher over them. Thou art Witness over all things (Surah5:116-117).Praise be to Allah Who hath revealed the Scripture unto His slave…to give warning of stern punishment from Him…and to warn those who say: Allah hath chosen a son, (A thing) whereof they have no knowledge, nor (had) their fathers. Dreadful is the word that cometh out of their mouths. They speak naught but a lie (Surah 18:1-5).And they say: The Beneficent hath taken unto Himself a son. Assuredly ye utter a disastrous thing, whereby almost the heavens are torn, and the earth is split asunder and the mountains fall in ruins, that ye ascribe unto the Beneficent a son, when it is not meet for (the Majesty of) the Beneficent that He should choose a son. There is none in the heavens and the earth but cometh unto the Beneficient as a slave (Surah 19:88-93).Allah hath not chosen any son, nor is there any God along with Him; else would each God have assuredly championed that which he created, and some of them would assuredly have overcome others. Glorified be Allah above all that they allege (Surah 23:91).He unto Whom belongeth the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, He hath chosen no son nor hath He any partner in the sovereignty. He hath created everything and hath meted out for it a measure (Surah 25:2).
These references, and others (e.g., 2:116; 6:101; 17:111; 19:35; 39:3-6; 43:14,59,81; 72:3-4), demonstrate that the Quran depicts Jesus as a mere man—a prophet like Muhammad—who was created by God like all other created beings: “The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him” (Surah 5:75; cf. 42:9,13,21). Indeed, when Jesus is compared to any of the prophets (listed as Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob), Allah is represented as stating: “We make no distinction between any of them” (Surah 2:136; 3:84). Though the Quran seems to accept the notion of the virgin conception (Surah 21:91), to attribute divinity to Jesus, or to assign to Jesus equal rank with God, is to utter a “dreadful” and “disastrous” thing—to formulate “nothing but a lie”!
Here, indeed, is the number one conflict between Islam and Christianity—–the deity, person, and redemptive role of Christ. If Christ is Who the Bible represents Him to be, then Islam and the Quran are completely fictitious. If Jesus Christ is Who the Quran represents Him to be, then Christianity is baseless and blasphemous. On this point alone, these two religions can never achieve harmony. But the New Testament is very, very clear: the heart, core, and soul of the Christian religion is allegiance to Jesus Christ as God, Lord, and Savior.
To exhaust what the New Testament has to say on this subject would require volumes (cf. John 21:25). However, it takes only a few verses to establish the clarity with which the New Testament affirms the divine nature of Jesus. The entire book of John is devoted to defending the divine identity of Christ, articulated in its thematic statement: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:30-31, emp. added). The book of John pinpoints seven “signs,” i.e., miraculous acts, performed by Jesus while He was on Earth that proved His divine person—beginning with the very first verse that forthrightly affirms: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (1:1-4). The “Word” is Jesus (1:14). This thesis reaches its climactic pinnacle when Thomas was forced to arrive at the only possible conclusion regarding the person of Jesus, when he exclaimed: “My Lord and My God!” (20:28). To the Muslim and the Quran, such a declaration is preposterous, horrifying, blasphemous, and absolutely unacceptable. But it is the clear teaching of the New Testament.
In the Old Testament, when Moses encountered God at the burning bush, he asked God to clarify His name so that Moses would be able to respond appropriately to the Israelites when he went to them in Egypt on God’s mission. God answered: “ ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you’ ” (Exodus 3:14). “I AM” is a reference to the eternality of God. Being God, He is eternal with no beginning and no end. He is self-existent and has always existed. Yet in the book of John, Jesus repeatedly identifies His own person with this same appellation (4:26; 8:24,28,58; 13:19). For example, when Jesus explained to the hostile Jews that Abraham had rejoiced to see His day, they responded, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus retorted: “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (8:58). The Jews unquestionably understood Jesus’ remark to be a claim to divinity, and promptly took up stones to kill Him (vs. 59).
Another Bible text where the deity of Jesus is set forth in unmistakable terms is the book of Colossians. Paul forcefully affirmed regarding Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (1:15-17). “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (2:9).
Such depictions of Jesus are frequent in the New Testament. Jesus was certainly a prophet, as the Quran itself affirms (Surah 4:163); but Jesus was not just a prophet. He was God in the flesh. In fact, oral confession of the deity of Christ is prerequisite to becoming a Christian (Romans 10:9-10). This singular point makes Christianity and Islam forever incompatible. One must be a Christian to be saved (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), and yet one cannot be a Christian without believing in, and verbally confessing, the deity of Christ. The Bible declares that Jesus was the final revelation of God to man (Hebrews 1:1-3). There have been no others.
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (n.d.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Did Moses Make a Scientific Mistake?
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
The Bible speaks of two animals, the coney and the hare, as “chewing the cud.” Isn't the Bible mistaken on this point? These animals do not actually chew the cud, do they?
An infidel once wrote: “Something that has long perplexed me is the way that inerrancy proponents can so easily find ‘scientific foreknowledge’ in obscurely worded Bible passages but seem completely unable to see scientific error in statements that were rather plainly written.” This skeptic then cited Leviticus 11:5-6, where the coney and the hare are said to chew the cud, and boasted that since these animals do not have compartmentalized stomachs like those in ruminants (e.g., the cow), Moses clearly made a mistake. What shall we say to this charge?
First, no scientific mistake can be attributed to the Bible unless all of the facts are fully known. In such an alleged case, the biblical assertion must be unambiguous. The scientific information must be factual. And an indisputable conflict must prevent anyharmonization of the two. Do these criteria obtain in this matter? They do not.
Second, we must note that the words “coney” (Hebrew shaphan) and “hare” (arnebeth) are rare and difficult words in the Old Testament. The former is found but four times, and the latter only twice. The etymology of the terms is obscure. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament), shaphan is rendered by dasupoda, meaning “rough foot,” and arnebeth becomes choirogrullion, literally, “swine-pig.” Hence, identification becomes a factor. It is commonly believed, however, that the arnebeth is some species of hare, and that shaphan denotes the Syrian hyrax.
But, so it is claimed, neither of these chews the cud. A number of scholars have noted that both of these animals, even when at rest, masticate, much like the cow or sheep, and that Moses thus employed phenomenal language (i.e., describing something as it appears), for the purpose of ready identification, inasmuch as these creatures were ceremonially unclean and thus prohibited for use as food (Archer, 1982, p. 126).
That is not an impossible solution. Bats, for example, are listed along with birds in Leviticus 11, not because both are mammals, but simply because both fly. The Scriptures do not necessarily follow the arbitrary classification systems of man. When Christ said that the mustard seed is “less than all seeds,” (Matthew 13:33), He was speaking from the vantage point of the Palestinian citizen—not that of a modern botanist. We today employ phenomenal jargon when we speak of the Sun “rising and setting.” Technically, it is not correct to refer to a woman’s amniotic fluid as “water,” and yet doctors employ this language frequently. Why do we not allow the biblical writers as much literary license as we ourselves employ? The bias of agnosticism is utterly incredible.
There is, however, another factor that must be taken into consideration. Rumination does not necessarily involve a compartmentalized stomach system. One definition of “ruminate” is simply “to chew again that which has been swallowed” (Webster’s Dictionary). And oddly enough, that is precisely what the hare does. Though the hare does not have a multi-chambered stomach—which is characteristic of most ruminants—it does chew its food a second time. It has been learned rather recently that hares pass two types of fecal material.
In addition to normal waste, they pass a second type of pellet known as a caecotroph. The very instant the caecotroph is passed, it is grabbed and chewed again.... As soon as the caecotroph is chewed thoroughly and swallowed, it aggregates in the cardiac region of the stomach where it undergoes a second digestion (Morton, 1978, pp. 179-181).
This complicated process provides the rabbit with 100% more riboflavin, 80% more niacin, 160% more pantothenic acid, and a little in excess of 40% more vitamin B12(Harrison, 1980, p. 121). In a comparative study of cows and rabbits, Jules Carles concluded that rumination should not be defined from an anatomical point of view (e.g., the presence of a four-part stomach); rather, it should be viewed from the standpoint of a mechanism for breeding bacteria to improve food. Cows and rabbits are similar in that both possess a fermentation chamber with microorganisms that digest otherwise indigestible plant material, converting it into nutrients. Some of the microorganisms in these two animals are the same, or very similar. Carles has stated that on this basis “it is difficult to deny that rabbits are ruminants” (as quoted in Brand, 1977, p. 104). Dr. Bernard Grzimek, Director of the Frankfurt Zoological Gardens in Germany, likewise has classified the hare as a ruminant (1975, pp. 421-422).
On the other hand, the hyrax also is considered by some to be a ruminant, based upon the fact that it has a multiple digestive process.
The hyrax has a very long protrusion, a caecum, and two additional caeca near the colon. At least one of these protrusions participates in decomposition of cellulose. It contributes certain enzymes necessary for breakdown of the cellulose (Morton, 1978, p. 184).
Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (1975) considers the hyrax as a ruminant. Professor Joseph Fischel of the University of California has suggested that the biblical allusion to the coney as a cud-chewer probably was due “to the structure of its digestive system, the protuberances in its large stomach together with its appendix and maw possibly being regarded as analogous to a ruminant’s four stomachs” (1971, p. 1144). In his significant study of the intestinal microflora in herbivores, scientist Richard McBee observed that the hyrax has a fermentation chamber for the digestion of grass by microorganisms (as quoted in Brand, 1977, p. 103).
Finally, the precise meaning of gerah, rendered “chewing the cud” in most versions, is uncertain. Many orthodox Jews consider it simply to mean a second mastication, or the semblance of chewing. Samuel Clark stated that the meaning of gerah “became expanded, and the rodents and pachyderms, which have a habit of grinding with their jaws, were familiarly spoken of as ruminating animals” (1981, 1:546).
In view of the foregoing facts, it is extremely presumptuous to suggest that the Mosaic account contains an error relative to these creatures. A sensible interpretive procedure and/or an acquaintance with accurate information would have eliminated such a rash and unwarranted conclusion.
Archer, Gleason (1982), Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Brand, Leonard R. (1977), “Do Rabbits Chew the Cud?,” Origins, 4(2):102-104.
Clark, Samuel (1981), “Leviticus,” The Bible Commentary, ed. F.C. Cook (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Fischel, Joseph W. (1971), “Hyrax,” Encyclopedia Judaica (New York: Macmillan).
Grzimek, Bernard, ed. (1975), Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold).
Harrison, R.K. (1980), Leviticus (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press).
Morton, Jean Sloat (1978), Science in the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Biologist Uses His Free Will to Reject Free Will
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Anthony Cashmore, biologist at the University of Pennsylvania, recently wrote an article alleging that human free will does not exist. He wrote: “It is my belief that, as more attention is given to the mechanisms that govern human behavior, it will increasingly be seen that the concept of free will is an illusion” (2010). According to Cashmore, you are reading this article because your genes and your environment have forced you to sit in front of your computer. You are not responsible for your decision to read this article, and, based on your alleged evolutionary history and your environment, you could not choose to be doing anything different than what you are doing now. You are literally a slave to your genes and your environment. As Cashmore wrote: “[A]n individual cannot be held responsible for either his genes or his environment. From this simple analysis, surely it follows that individuals cannot logically be held responsible for their behavior” (2010).
A response to such a bizarre claim is certainly warranted. First, it should be noted that the concept of human evolution is patently false (see Harrub and Thompson, 2003). Any attempt to discard free will based on evolutionary scenarios is doomed to failure. Second, it must be stressed that many in the greater scientific community, who hold an evolutionary bias, admit that human consciousness defies naturalistic explanations (Harrub and Thompson, 2003, pp. 247-428). Third, humans possess inherent qualities unlike anything seen in the animal kingdom. This truth testifies to the fact that humans have been stamped in the image of their divine Creator (Lyons and Thompson, 2002a andLyons and Thompson 2002b). These are just a few of the concepts that militate against Cashmore’s thesis.
The most damaging line of evidence against Cashmore’s proposition is the way in which he attempts to convince his readers of its truth. His five-and-a-half page article argues that our society should disregard the outdated concept that humans are responsible for their behavior. But if Cashmore is right, then there is no way we can disregard the concept, due to the simple fact that we did not choose it in the first place. If humans are not responsible for their beliefs or behaviors, then the generally held concept of free will, that Cashmore is trying to demolish, is nothing more than an evolutionary, environmental by-product. According to Cashmore’s line of thinking, if we believe in free will at the present, and act on that belief, we are not responsible for it. If he is right, why in the world would he attempt to urge the scientific community to change its mind about free will, if the community does not have the power to change its mind? Why spend time and effort arguing against free will, if your audience does not have the freedom to choose to accept or reject your reasoning anyway? The fatal flaw of the “no free will” argument is that it demands that the person making the argument has the free will to do so, and it tacitly assumes the parties evaluating the argument have the power to accept or reject it.
If Cashmore is right, his genes and environment forced him to write the article. All those who read it were equally compelled to do so, and their conclusions about his writing are preprogrammed responses that cannot be otherwise. So, if anyone disagrees with Cashmore’s thesis, using his line of thinking, that person cannot be said to be right or wrong. The most that can be said is that such a person’s genes and environment led him to a different conclusion than Cashmore’s. Yet the fact that Cashmore is writing a “persuasive” piece of literature belies the reality that his thesis cannot be correct.
It is ironic that Cashmore, in his concluding acknowledgements, thanked his colleagues and those who reviewed his manuscript. Yet if he is right, they were not responsible for their behavior, and they had no choice but to help him. Why thank biological organisms that are just stumbling around their environment without a choice in the matter? That would be like an architect thanking the bricks that made a home possible, or a pilot thanking the air for providing lift for his plane. In reality, Cashmore freely chose to write his article, just as I freely chose to respond to it. You freely chose to read this response, and you can and will freely choose how you respond to it. And it is upon the basis of free will that our divine Creator urges us, as free moral agents, to choose to serve Him and live moral lives (Joshua 24:15).
Cashmore, Anthony (2010), “The Lucretian Swerve: The Biological Basis of Human Behavior and the Criminal Justice System,” PNAS, [On-line], URL: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/02/04/0915161107.full.pdf+html.
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2003), The Truth about Human Origins (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Lyons, Eric and Bert Thompson (2002a), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God,’” Part 1,Reason and Revelation, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/123.
Lyons, Eric and Bert Thompson (2002b), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God,’” Part 2,Reason and Revelation, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/125.
Can Humans Become Gods?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
One of the more eye-opening beliefs of Mormonism is the polytheistic notion that humans can become gods. Standard Mormon theology maintains that even God (the Father) and Jesus Christ were once human. They were preceded by other humans who themselves progressed to the status of gods.
Of course, this doctrine was not presented initially by Joseph Smith, but was developedafter the production of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon actually contradicts later Mormon revelation, in that it affirmed in 1830 the biblical doctrine of the oneness of God in three persons, i.e., the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Observe the conversation between Ammon and King Lamoni:
And then Ammon said: “Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?” And he said, “Yea.” And Ammon said: “This is God.” And Ammon said unto him again: “Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?” And he said: “Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens.” And Ammon said unto him: “The heavens is a place where God dwells and all his holy angels.… I am called by his Holy Spirit to teach these things unto this people” (Alma 18:26-30).
Nephi declared: “And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end” (2 Nephi 31:21, emp. added). Amulek contended with the diabolical Zeezrom: “And Zeezrom said unto him: ‘Thou sayest there is a true and living God?’ And Amulek said: ‘Yea, there is a true and living God.’ Now Zeezrom said: ‘Is there more than one God?’ And he answered, ‘No’ ” (Alma 11:26-29, emp. added).
The Book of Mormon also affirmed that Jesus was God in the flesh:
And now Abinadi said unto them: “I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth” (Mosiah 15:1-4, emp. added).
Even the “three witnesses” to the Book of Mormon, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, affirmed monotheism and the oneness of God: “And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God” (“The Testimony,” 1981, emp. added). Joseph Smith affirmed the same thing in the Articles of Faith: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” (Pearl, 1981, p. 60).
These teachings certainly are in harmony with the Bible. The Bible repeatedly and frequently affirms the doctrine of monotheism and the unity of God: Deuteronomy 4:35,39; 6:4; Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6,8; 45:5; 46:9; Mark 12:29; Romans 3:30; 1 Corinthians 8:4,6; 1 Timothy 2:5. These and many other passages indicate “there is but one infinite Spirit Being, and that within that one Spirit essence there are three personal distinctions, each of which may be, and is, called God” (Lanier, 1974, p. 46). There is only one divine essence (ousia) or nature (phusis)—a solidaric unity—one divine substance in (not and) three persons (prosopa or persona), with each “person” being the subsistence (hupostaseis) of the divine Essence [NOTE: for discussions of the concept of Trinity and its treatment in church history, see Archer, 1982, pp. 357-361; Bickersteth, n.d.; Boles, 1942, pp. 19ff.; Chadwick, 1967, pp. 84ff.; Schaff, 1910, 3:670ff.; Walker, 1970, pp. 106ff.; Warfield, 1939a, 5:3012-3022].
But by 1844, Joseph Smith had begun to advocate a very different understanding of deity—in direct contradiction to the Book of Mormon. He began to promulgate the idea that God had, in fact, previously been a man Himself Who had become exalted, and that all men were capable of the same progression (see Tanner, 1972, p. 163). This shift was expressed formally in the Pearl of Great Price where, in the Book of Moses, God is spoken of in the singular throughout. For example: “I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God; by mine Only Begotten I created these things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven and the earth upon which thou standest” (2:1). In stark contrast, however, in the Book of Abraham, in a section discussing the same creation event, God is spoken of as “Gods.” For example:
And then the Lord said: “Let us go down.” And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.... And the Gods called the light Day, and the darkness they called Night....And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.... And the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness....And the Gods planted a garden, eastward in Eden, and there they put the man, whose spirit they had put into the body which they had formed (4:1,5,18; 5:8, emp. added).
Anyone who is familiar with the King James Version cannot help but be struck with the fact that the author of the Book of Abraham had before him a copy of a KJV and merely paraphrased the text. It is equally apparent that the author “had an axe to grind” in adjusting the text to foist upon the reader the notion of multiple “gods.” In fact, in the thirty-one verses of chapter four, the term “Gods” is used thirty-two times! It is used sixteen times in chapter five! Polytheism now so thoroughly permeates Mormonism that one Mormon apostle asserted that humans are the offspring of the union between an Eternal Father and an Eternal Mother (McConkie, 1979, p. 516)!
“LET US MAKE MAN”
Separate and apart from the issue of the inspiration of the Book of Mormon (see Miller, 2003), the question must be asked: Does the Bible give credence to the notion of multiple gods? Certainly not! However, various verses have been marshaled in an effort to defend the Mormon viewpoint. For example, on the sixth day of Creation, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). It is alleged by Mormons that the use of the plural in this verse implies a multiplicity of “gods.” However, an examination of the context reveals that the doctrine of the Trinity is being conveyed (see Leupold, 1942, 1:86ff.).
The Holy Spirit was active at the Creation, “hovering over the face of the waters” (1:2). “Hovering” refers to attentive participation (cf. Deuteronomy 32:11). Elsewhere, the Bible makes clear that Jesus also was present at the Creation, in active participation with Deity’s creative activity (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2; 2:10). Hence, when God spoke of “Us,” He was referring to Himself and the other two members of the divine Essence [cf. “Godhead” (theotes) in Colossians 2:9, “divine” nature (theios) in Acts 17:29 and 2 Peter 1:3-4, and “divinity” (theioteis) in Romans 1:20. The first term (theotes) differs from the third term (theioteis) “as essence differs from quality or attribute” (Thayer, 1901, p. 288; cf. Vine, 1966, pp. 328-329; Warfield, 1939b, 2:1268-1270)]. Some (e.g., Archer, 1982, p. 74) have suggested that God was including the angels in the “us,” since “sons of God” sometimes can refer to the angels (e.g., Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; cf. Psalms 29:1; 89:6), and “sons of God” can be shortened to “God” while still referring to angels (e.g., compare Psalm 97:7 with Hebrews 1:6, and Psalm 8:5 with Hebrews 2:7,9). In either case, the fact remains that the Bible presents a consistent picture that there is only one God, and that this divine essence includes three—and only three—persons.
“YE SHALL BE AS GODS”
Another verse that has been brought forward to substantiate Mormon polytheism is the comment made on the occasion of Adam and Eve being tempted to eat the forbidden fruit: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5—NKJV). The King James Version says, “ye shall be as gods.” Four points of clarification are in order on this verse. In the first place, Satan made this statement—not God. Satan’s declarations are never to be trusted, since he is “a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
In the second place, the uncertainty conveyed by the various English translations in their differing treatment of the verse (i.e., whether “God” or “gods”) is the result of the underlying Hebrew term elohim. This word is not to be confused with Yahweh, the formal name for God throughout the Old Testament. Elohim is a generic term used some 2,570 times in Scripture, and generally refers to the one true God, but also is used to refer to pagan gods, and even can refer to judges or rulers and, as noted previously, to angels (Harris, et al., 1980, 1:44-45). Though the word is plural in form, it is used in both the plural and singular sense [cf. “face” (panim)—Genesis 50:1; Exodus 34:35 and “image” (teraphim)—1 Samuel 19:13]. English shares a similar phenomenon with its plural nouns like “deer,” “seed,” “sheep,” and “moose.” The same form is used, whether referring to one or to many. Hebrew, like most other languages, matched the number (whether singular or plural) of verbs and adjectives with the noun. In the case of elohim, with only rare exception, the verbs and adjectives used with it are either singular or plural in conformity with the intended meaning (Ringgren, 1974, p. 272). Fretheim noted that its use in the Old Testament for Israel’s God is “always with singular verbs” (1997, 1:405; cf. Archer, 1982, p. 74).
Some Hebrew scholars maintain that the plural form used to designate the one true God is the pluralis majestatis or excellentiae—the plural of majesty—or the plural of intensification, absolutization, or exclusivity (e.g., Fretheim, 1:405; Gesenius, 1847, p. 49; Harris, et al., p. 44; Mack, 1939, 2:1265; Reeve, 1939, 2:1270), although others question this usage (e.g., Grudem, 1994, p. 227; Jenni and Westermann, 1997, p. 116). In the case at hand, Satan was tempting Eve with the prospect of being like God—Whom she knew, and from Whom she (or at least her husband) had received previous communication (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:3). She knew nothing of other “gods”—pagan or otherwise. Since the term elohim occurs 58 times in the first three chapters of Genesis and is consistently rendered “God,” and since Satan himself used the term earlier in the same verse as well as four verses earlier (vs. 1) to refer to the one God, no contextual, grammatical, or lexical reason exists for rendering it “gods” in verse five. In fact, most of the major English translations properly render it “God” (e.g., NKJV, ASV, NASB, NIV, RSV). [See also the discussion in Clarke, n.d., 1:50, who noted that the ancient Syriac version rendered the term correctly].
Third, elohim in this verse has an attached prefix (Biblia Hebraica, 1967/77, p. 4)—what Hebrew scholars call an “inseparable preposition” (Weingreen, 1959, p. 26). In this case, the prepositional prefix is the eleventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the kaph, and means “like” or “as.” Satan was not saying that Eve would become God or a god; He was saying she would become like God. This realization brings us to a fourth point: the context stipulates in what way Eve would become like God. In the very verse under consideration, an explanatory phrase clarifies what Satan meant: “You will be like God,knowing good and evil” (emp. added). This meaning is evident from subsequent references in the same chapter. When they disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew…” (verse 7, emp. added). God commented: “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil” (verse 22, emp. added). In other words, Adam and Eve became like God in the sense that they now were privy to a greater breadth of awareness, understanding, and insight: “They now had a sufficient discovery of their sin and folly in disobeying the command of God; they could discern between good and evil; and what was the consequence? Confusion and shame were engendered, because innocence was lost and guilt contracted” (Clarke, p. 51). As Keil and Delitzsch summarized: “By eating the fruit, man did obtain the knowledge of good and evil, and in this respect became like God” (1976, 1:95, emp. added).
GOD OF GODS
A third attempt to substantiate the Mormon doctrine of plural gods is the use of various verses from the Bible that speak of God being a “God of gods.” For example, on the occasion of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, the “Song of Moses” declared: “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods” (Exodus 15:11, emp. added). Forty years later, in his stirring challenge to the Israelites to be firm in their future commitment to God, he reminded them: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome” (Deuteronomy 10:17, emp. added). During the days of Joshua, some of the Israelites exclaimed: “The Lord God of gods, the Lord God of gods, He knows” (Joshua 22:22, emp. added). These verses, and many more in the Bible, speak of “gods” in such a way that a cursory reading might leave one with the impression that the Bible teaches that “gods” actually existed. However, one cannot really study the Bible and come away with that conclusion. The Bible presents a thoroughgoing monotheistic view of reality. It repeatedly conveys the fact that “gods” are merely the figment of human imagination, invented by humans to provide themselves with exemption from following the one true God by living up to the higher standard of deity. Humans throughout history have conjured up their own imaginary gods to justify freedom from restriction and to excuse relaxed moral behavior.
Consequently, all verses in the Bible that use the term “gods” to refer to deity (with the exception of the one God) are referring to nonexistent deities that humans have invented. When God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, the very first one said: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Liberal higher critics of the Bible (like Wellhausen) have alleged that this dictum advocated only monolatry(exclusive worship of Yahweh) rather than actually denying the existence of other gods. Distinguished professor of Old Testament languages, Gleason Archer, has maintained, however, that “this construction of the words is quite unwarranted” (1974, p. 235). Many additional passages clarify the point. For example, the psalmist declared: “For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods” (Psalm 96:4, emp. added). One might get the impression from this verse by itself that the psalmist thought that “gods” actually existed. However, the next verse sets the record straight: “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens” (vs. 5, emp. added). The Hebrew word for “idols” (elilim) means “of nothing, of nought, empty, vain” (Gesenius, p. 51). Notice carefully the contrast the psalmist was making. The people made their gods; but the one true God made the heavens (i.e., the Universe). The genuineness, reality, and greatness of God are placed in contrast to the people’s fake, nonexistent gods who could not make anything. Archer concluded: “This passage alone…demonstrates conclusively that the mention of ‘gods’ in the plural implied no admission of the actual existence of heathen gods in the first commandment” (1974, p. 236). As God Himself announced: “They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God” (Deuteronomy 32:21, emp. added).
The denunciation of the Israelites for conjuring up false gods—pretending that such actually existed, rather than devoting themselves exclusively to the one and only God—reached its zenith in the eloquent preaching pronouncements of the Old Testament prophets. Elijah treated the notion of the existence of gods in addition to the one God with sarcasm and forthright ridicule (1 Kings 18:27-29). The idea of multiple gods would have been laughable, if it were not so spiritually serious (cf. Psalm 115:2-8). The people on that occasion finally got the point, for they shouted: “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” (vs. 39).
Likewise, the reality of monotheism was pure, well defined, and single minded for Jeremiah. He frequently chastised the people by accusing them of following gods that were, in fact, “not gods” (2:11; 5:7; 16:20). Isaiah was equally adamant and explicit:
You are My witnesses, says the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, andbesides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; therefore you are My witnesses, says the Lord, that I am God. Indeed, before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it? (43:10-13, emp. added; cf. 37: 19; 40:18-20; 41; 44:8-24).
Over and over, Isaiah recorded the exclusivity of the one true God: “I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me” (45:5, emp. added); “There is no other God” (45:14, emp. added); “I am the Lord, and there is no other” (45:18, emp. added).
The New Testament continues the same recognition of the nonexistence of deities beyond the one God Who exists in three persons. Paul reminded the Galatian Christians of their pre-Christian foolish belief in other deities: “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods” (4:8, emp. added). By definition, the “gods” that people claim actually exist are not gods! In his lengthy discussion of whether Christians were permitted to eat foods that had been sacrificed to pagan deities, Paul clarified succinctly the Bible position on the existence of so-called gods:
Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol isnothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is only one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live (1 Corinthians 8:4-6, emp. added).
In this passage, Paul declared very forthrightly that idols, and the gods they represent, are, in fact, nonentities. The RSV renders the meaning even more clearly: “We know that an idol has no real existence, and that there is no God but one” (emp. added).
Of course, Paul recognized and acknowledged that humans have worshipped imaginary, nonexistent gods in heaven (like Greek mythology advocated) and on Earth (in the form of idols). He used the figure of speech known as “metonymy of the adjunct,” where “things are spoken of according to appearance, opinions formed respecting them, or the claims made for them” (Bullinger, 1898, p. 597; Dungan, 1888, p. 295; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4). He spoke of “gods” as if they existed, simply because many people of his day had that opinion. But Paul knew “there is no God but one.” As Allen observed: “The gods (i.e., the so-called divine beings contemplated by the pagans) represented by the images did not exist. …[T]hey were nothing as far as representing the deities envisioned by the heathen” (1975, p. 98, emp. added; cf. Kelcy, 1967, p. 38; Thomas, 1984, p. 30).
Paul continued his discussion of idols two chapters later, and again affirmed the nonexistence of any deities besides God: “What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?” (1 Corinthians 10:19). For Paul, it was technically permissible for a Christian to eat food that had previously been used in a pagan ceremony as an offering to a “god.” Why? Because such “gods” did not, and do not, actually exist—except in the mind of the worshipper (cf. 8:7-8)! Thus, the food used in such ceremonies was unaffected. However, the person who really thinks there are “gods,” and who then worships these imaginary “gods,” is, in actuality, worshippingdemons (10:20)! Paul said there are only two possibilities: “But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons” (10:20-21). Paul envisioned no class of beings known as “gods.” There is only the one true God, and then there are the demons and forces of Satan (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:15-16). This bifurcation of the spiritual realm (i.e., God versus Satan and his forces) is the consistent portrait presented throughout the Bible. The Bible simply admits no knowledge or possibility of “gods.”
YE ARE GODS
A final passage that is alleged to support the notion of “gods” is the statement made by Jesus when the Jews wanted to stone Him because He claimed divinity for Himself:
The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”?’ If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came…do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”? (John 10:33-36).
Mormons allege that Jesus here endorsed the notion that men can become “gods.” But, of course, Jesus did no such thing. On this occasion, He appealed to an Old Testament context to deflect the barb of His critics. Psalm 82 is a passage that issued a scathing indictment of the unjust judges who had been assigned the responsibility of executing God’s justice among the people (cf. Deuteronomy 1:16; 19:17-18; Psalm 58). Such a magistrate was “God’s minister” (Romans 13:4) who acted in the place of God, wielding His authority, and who was responsible for mediating God’s help and justice (cf. Exodus 7:1). In this sense, they were “gods” (elohim)—acting as God to men (Barclay, 1956, 2:89). Hebrew parallelism clarifies this sense: “I said, ‘You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High’” (Psalm 82:6, emp. added). They did not share divinity with God—but merely delegated jurisdiction. They still were mere humans—although invested with divine authority, and permitted to act in God’s behalf.
This point is apparent throughout the Torah, where the term translated “judges” or “ruler” is often elohim (e.g., Exodus 21:6; 22:9,28). Take Moses as an example. Moses was not a “god.” Yet God told Moses that when he went to Egypt to achieve the release of the Israelites, he would be “God” to his brother Aaron and to Pharaoh (Exodus 4:16; 7:1). He meant that Moses would supply both his brother and Pharaoh with the words that came from God. Though admittedly a rather rare use of elohim, nevertheless “it shows that the word translated ‘god’ in that place might be applied to man” (Barnes, 1949, p. 294, emp. in orig.). Clarke summarized this point: “Ye are my representatives, and are clothed with my power and authority to dispense judgment and justice, therefore all of them are said to be children of the Most High” (3:479, emp. in orig.). But because they had shirked their awesome responsibility to represent God’s will fairly and accurately, and because they had betrayed the sacred trust bestowed upon them by God Himself, He decreed death upon them (vs. 7). Obviously, they were not “gods,” since God could and would execute them!
Jesus marshaled this Old Testament psalm to thwart His opponents’ attack, while simultaneously reaffirming His deity (which is the central feature of the book of John—20:30-31). He made shrewd use of syllogistic argumentation by reasoning a minori ad majus (see Lenski, 1943, pp. 765-770; cf. Fishbane, 1985, p. 420). “Jesus is here arguing like a rabbi from a lesser position to a greater position, a ‘how much more’ argument very popular among the rabbis” (Pack, 1975, 1:178). In fact, “it is an argument which to a Jewish Rabbi would have been entirely convincing. It was just the kind of argument, an argument founded on a word of scripture, which the Rabbis loved to use and found most unanswerable” (Barclay, 1956, p. 90).
Jesus identified the unjust judges of Israel as persons “to whom the word of God came” (John 10:35). That is, they had been “appointed judges by Divine commission” (Butler, 1961, p. 127)—by “the command of God; his commission to them to do justice” (Barnes, 1949, p. 294, emp. in orig.; cf. Jeremiah 1:2; Ezekiel 1:3; Luke 3:2). McGarvey summarized the ensuing argument of Jesus: “If it was not blasphemy to call those gods who so remotely represented the Deity, how much less did Christ blaspheme in taking unto himself a title to which he had a better right than they, even in the subordinate sense of being a mere messenger” (n.d., p. 487). Charles Erdman observed:
By his defense Jesus does not renounce his claim to deity; but he argues that if the judges, who represented Jehovah in their appointed office, could be called “gods,” in the Hebrew scriptures, it could not be blasphemy for him, who was the final and complete revelation of God, to call himself “the Son of God (1922, pp. 95-96; cf. Morris, 1971, pp. 527-528).
This verse teaches the exact opposite of what Mormons would like for it to teach! It brings into stark contrast the deity—the Godhood—of Christ (and His Father Who “sanctified and sent” Him—vs. 36) with the absence of deity for all others! There are no other “gods” in the sense of deity, i.e., eternality and infinitude in all attributes. Jesus verified this very conclusion by directing the attention of His accusers to the “works” that He performed (vs. 37-38). These “works” (i.e., miraculous signs) proved the divine identity of Jesus to the exclusion of all other alleged deities. Archer concluded: “By no means, then, does our Lord imply here that we are sons of God just as He is—except for a lower level of holiness and virtue. No misunderstanding could be more wrongheaded than that” (1982, p. 374). Indeed, the Mormon notion of a plurality of gods is “wrongheaded,” as is the accompanying claim that humans can become gods.
It is unthinkable that the consistent prohibition of polytheism and idolatry throughout the Bible would or could give way to the completely contrary notion that, as a matter of fact, many gods do exist, and that these gods are merely exalted humans who now rule over their own worlds even as God and Christ rule over theirs. It is likewise outlandish—and contradictory—that humans would be required to worship God and Christ—while beingbanned from worshipping these other gods. The fact of the matter is that “historic Hebrew is unquestionably and uniformly monotheistic” (Mack, 1939, 2:1265). The same may be said of historic Christianity. To think otherwise is pure pagan hocus-pocus—“a mere creation of the imagination, a mere matter of superstition” (Erdman, 1928, p. 78, emp. added).
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