"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" Lest We Drift Away (2:1-4) by Mark Copeland


Lest We Drift Away (2:1-4)


1. The author of "The Epistle To The Hebrews" was concerned about the
   spiritual well-being of his initial recipients...
   a. They were fellow Jews who had become Christians
   b. His concern is that they not drift back into Judaism
   c. He deals with this problem in two ways:
      1) By emphasizing the superiority of Christ and the New Covenant
      2) By a series of exhortations for them to remain steadfast

2. In chapter one we saw...
   a. The superiority of Christ to the prophets - He 1:1-3
   b. The superiority of Christ to the angels - He 1:4-14

3. Now we come to the first of several exhortations - cf. He 2:1-4
   a. In which we find a warning about the danger of "drifting"
   b. The figure suggested is that of a boat...
      1) Drifting along at an almost imperceptible pace
      2) Carried along in the wrong direction by a subtle current

4. In this lesson, I want us to examine...
   a. The reasons behind such an exhortation
   b. Various "currents" that can cause us to "drift away"
   c. The key to avoiding "drifting away"

[Let's begin, then, with some...]


      1. It is possible for us to "drift away" from our salvation!
         a. We can certainly "neglect" our salvation - He 2:3
         b. Later, we will learn that we can "depart" from God - He 3:12-14
         c. Also, that one can so "fall away" that it becomes 
            impossible to renew them to repentance! - He 6:4-6
         d. One can reach a point where the sacrifice of Christ is no 
            longer available for their sins! - He 10:26-27
      2. The danger of "drifting" is very real!
         a. It is possible for a child of God to so sin as to be lost!
         b. Otherwise, such an exhortation as this is meaningless!

      1. As noted in He 1:1-2, God now speaks to us through His Son
         a. We have seen that this Son is:
            1) Superior to the prophets - He 1:1-3
            2) Superior to the angels - He 1:4-14
         b. We have seen that this Son is:
            1) The appointed Heir of all things!
            2) The brightness of God's glory, the express image of His
            3) Our Sustainer and Redeemer!
            4) The "Firstborn" who receives worship
            5) "God" enthroned and anointed
            6) The "LORD" (Yahweh) who is the eternal creator
            7) The "Sovereign", reigning at God's right hand
      2. When God spoke through angels...
         a. His word proved steadfast
         b. Every transgression and disobedience received a just reward
            - He 2:2
      3. How much more, then, when He speaks through His Son!
         a. Will not His word prove just as steadfast?
         b. Will not every unrepented transgression and disobedience
            receive a just reward?
         -- Dare we neglect the Word of God spoken through His Son?

      1. The word spoken by the Son was confirmed by His apostles 
         - He 2:3
         a. Individuals who were eyewitnesses - Ac 10:39-41; 2Pe 1:16
         b. Men who endured much to serve Him - cf. 1Co 4:9-13
      2. The word spoken by the Son was confirmed even more! - He 2:4
         a. By God Himself, through signs, wonders, and miracles 
            - cf. Jn 10:37-38
         b. By the Holy Spirit, with gifts according to His will 
            - cf. 1Co 12:7-11
      -- Shall we neglect that Word to which such have born witness?

      1. We lose "so great a salvation"! - He 2:3
      2. It is a "great salvation", because it offers such things as:
         a. The forgiveness of sin
         b. Transformation of character by providing power over sin
         c. Assurance of God's fatherly presence
         d. A clear and peaceful conscience
         e. A glorious hope for eternity
      -- Dare we lose all this through "neglect"?

[Just as those who neglected the word spoken through angels (i.e., the
Law of Moses) lost their "promised land", so there are grave
consequences for those who neglect the salvation spoken of by the Son
of God!  Such "neglect" is possible when we "drift away".

Following the metaphor of drifting, what "currents" might cause one to


      1. In which we grow weary of doing good, a concern expressed in Ga 6:9
      2. As time passes by...
         a. We can gradually lose some of the fervor of our devotion - e.g., Re 2:4
         b. We may begin to rest on past accomplishments, and cease 
            pressing forward - cf. Php 3:13-14

      1. As we become familiar with the truth, it may seem common place to us
         a. We may lose its sense of novelty
         b. We may take it for granted
      2. Like the Ephesians we may lose our "first love" - Re 2:4

      1. The tides of modern opinion can easily induce us - 1Co 15:33
      2. Bombarded by the secular humanism, false religions, and even 
         plastic "Christianity" offered as "truth", it is hard to 
         maintain the course!
      3. Such things can move us away from the simplicity and wisdom of
         our Lord! - e.g., 2Co 11:2-3

      1. Our warfare is not only without, but also within - 1Pe 2:11
      2. Our flesh is constantly waging war against our souls, and 
         against the Spirit who desires that we follow Him - Ga 5:16-17

      1. The constant pressure of daily cares, anxieties, duties, etc.,
         can distract us
      2. Jesus warned against this on several occasions - Lk 8:14; 21:34

[Any and all these things can slowly move us away from the Lord and His
great salvation if we are not careful!  However, as we return to our 
text, we can learn...]


      1. Imagine yourself in a canoe, in a river with a slow moving current...
         a. Failure to pay constant attention leads to drifting
         b. The drifting may be subtle, but often by the time you 
            realize it, it is too late!
         c. Last minute corrections may be made, but even then one may
            still run into the brush, crash into the rocks, or go over the falls!
         -- Only by giving earnest heed can that be avoided
      2. So it is with our salvation!
         a. We must be "diligent" to the task at hand - cf. 2Pe 1:5,10
         b. There is no place to be half-hearted about this! - e.g., 
            Php 3:12-15
      3. Note that we must give the "more" earnest heed
         a. We are to be more earnest than those who heard the word of
            God spoken through angels (i.e., the Israelites)
            1) Because we have the word of God spoken through the Son
            2) Which pertains to a salvation greater than that enjoyed by them
            3) To whom more is given, more is required! - cf. Lk 12:48
         b. Are you more earnest in giving heed to what you have heard,
            than those saints in the Old Testament?

      1. The "things we have heard" refer to:
         a. The Word of God spoken through His Son
         b. The great salvation
         -- I.e., the gospel of Christ in all aspects!
      2. How can we do this?
         a. The Bereans provide a good example - Ac 17:11
            1) In the way in which they initially listened ("received
               the word with all readiness")
            2) In the way in which they followed up 
                ("searched the Scriptures daily...")
         b. Certainly through:
            1) Earnest attention whenever God's word is proclaimed
            2) Earnest study of God's Word on our own
            3) Earnest study in preparation for our Bible classes
         c. With the sort of study of God's Word...
            1) Entered into with a prayerful devotion to God - Ps 119: 18
            2) Concluded with a prayerful desire to please God - Ps 119:10-11
      3. Are you giving "the more earnest heed to the things we have 
         a. Another year has past; how did you do?
         b. Another year is already started; how will you do?


1. We have been blessed to receive "so great a salvation"...
   a. A salvation spoken to us first through God's own Son!
   b. A salvation then confirmed by God Himself, the Holy Spirit, and 
      those who heard Him!
   c. A salvation much greater than any offered before!

2. But please note carefully...
   a. One need not "reject" or "actively fight" against this great
      salvation to "receive a just reward"
   b. Those who simply "drift away" through "neglect" will also not 
      1) Escape what?
      2) From what we learn later, it will be "much worse punishment"!
         - cf. He 10:28-29

Have you neglected this great salvation Jesus offers?  If so, may this
first exhortation found in "The Epistle To The Hebrews" move you to
repent, and cause you to give "the more earnest heed" to the gospel of
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

eXTReMe Tracker 

Was Jonah Swallowed by a Fish or a Whale? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Was Jonah Swallowed by a Fish or a Whale?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The book of Jonah reveals that “[t]he Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (1:17, emp. added). About 800 years later, Jesus alluded to this amazing event (Matthew 12:39-41). According to the King James translation of Matthew 12:40, Jesus referred to Jonah being “three days and three nights in the whale’s belly” (emp. added). Since fish and whales are different creatures, skeptics accuse Jesus and the Bible writers of making a mistake (cf. Wells, 2012). Longtime Bible critic Dennis McKinsey alleged that Matthew 12:40 is “[p]robably the most famous scientific error by Jesus” (1995, p. 142). “Apparently Jesus hadn’t read the Old Testament very closely… Anyone with even a minimum of biological knowledge knows that a whale is not a fish and a fish is not a whale” (pp. 142-143).

Such a criticism of Jesus and the Bible writers epitomizes the impotence of skeptics’ attacks on God and His Word. McKinsey bases his criticism solely on an English translation made nearly 1,600 years after Jesus spoke these words. The skeptic never bothered to compare translations. He never asked about the word that Jesus originally spoke or that Matthew recorded. He did nothing but make a cursory criticism that might sound sensible on the surface, yet with only a little investigation, is easily and rationally explained.

What was the underlying Greek word that is translated “whale” in the KJV (as well as a few other versions)? A brief look in various respected Greek dictionaries quickly reveals that the word is ketosand is defined broadly as a “large sea creature” (Newman, 1971, p. 100), “sea monster” (Danker, et al., 2000, p. 544), or “huge fish” (Vine, 1952, p. 209). Jesus indicated that Jonah was swallowed by a “large sea creature,” which was not necessarily a whale, but may have been.
Nearly 300 years before Jesus spoke of Jonah being swallowed by a ketos (Matthew 12:40), translators of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) used this same Greek word(ketos) to translate the Hebrew word (dahg, fish) found in Jonah 1:17, 2:1, and 2:10. The fact is, as Hebrew and Greek scholar Jack Lewis concluded, both dahg and ketos “designate sea creatures of undefined species” (1976, 2:178). In no way did Jesus, the Creator of all things (John 1:3), make a mistake about what kind of animal God “had prepared” to swallow Jonah. The animal was a great sea creature, and not necessarily a great “fish” according to our modern, more limited, definition of the word. It may very well have been a type of fish (e.g., shark), water-living mammal (e.g., whale), or extinct, dinosaur-like, water-living reptile. We simply cannot be sure. As Dave Miller concluded: “Both the Hebrew and Greek languages lacked the precision to identify with specificity the identity of the creature that swallowed Jonah” (2003).

Finally, one crucial truth that many (especially the Bible critics) miss in a discussion about God and the Bible writers’ naming and classifying of animals is that God did not classify animals thousands of years ago according to our modern classification system. As far back as Creation, God divided animals into very basic, natural groups. He made aquatic and aerial creatures on day five and terrestrial animals on day six (Genesis 1:20-23,24-25). Just as God sensibly classified bats with “birds,” since they both fly (Leviticus 11:13-19; see Lyons, 2009), He could classify whales as “fish,” since they both maneuver by swimming. To accuse Jesus or the Bible writers of incorrectly categorizing an animal based upon Carolus Linnaeus’ 18th-century classification of animals, or any other modern method of classifying animals, is both illogical and unjust.

[NOTE: For more information on the Hebrew and Greek words dahg and ketos, see Miller, 2003.]


Danker, Frederick William, William Arndt, and F.W. Gingrich, (2000), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Lewis, Jack P. (1976), The Gospel According to Matthew (Austin, TX: Sweet).
Lyons, Eric (2009), “Did the Bible Writers Commit Biological Blunders?” Reason & Revelation, 29[7]:49-55, July.
McKinsey, Dennis (1995), The Encylopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Jonah and the ‘Whale’?” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=69.
Newman, Barclay M., Jr. (1971), A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (London: United Bible Societies).
Vine, W.E. (1952), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).
Wells, Steve (2012), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/whale.html.

Was God Satisfied with His Creation or Not? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Was God Satisfied with His Creation or Not?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

At evilbible.com, a Web site that purports to “spread the vicious truth about the Bible” (“Biblical…,” 2013), the very first alleged “obvious contradiction” listed involves Genesis 1:31 and Genesis 6:6. Since Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good,” and Genesis 6:6 reveals that “the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart,” the Bible is said to be contradictory and untrustworthy. Allegedly, the Lord could not be both satisfied and dissatisfied with His Creation.
The fact is, however, God could logically be both pleased and displeased with His Creation, if the statements were referring to two different periods of time. Most any Bible student knows that, though only four complete chapters separate Genesis 1:31 and 6:6, they are separated—chronologically speaking—by more than a millennium. “In the beginning” God was pleased with His Creation. Several hundred years later, after “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5), God was then “sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (6:6). It is quite telling that such a simple explanation has apparently eluded the minds of many skeptics.

Was Jesus Misquoted? by Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.


Was Jesus Misquoted?

by Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was written by auxiliary staff writer Dewayne Bryant, who holds two Masters degrees, and is completing Masters study in Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology and Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, while pursuing doctoral studies at Amridge University. He has participated in an archaeological dig at Tell El-Borg in Egypt and holds professional membership in both the American Schools of Oriental Research as well as the Society of Biblical Literature.]

Jesus is under attack like never before. While criticism of the Faith is nothing new, there is an increase in the public exposure of Christianity’s detractors. From documentaries on the small screen to blockbuster movies on the silver screen, critics are pursuing all media venues to preach a message of distrust—and even hate. The members of the new atheism have lambasted the Christian Faith in bestselling books, describing the faithful as simple-minded, anti-scientific, and even dangerous. For Christianity’s critics, the spiritual forecast looks bright for a brisk trade in fear.

Not all of the enemies of the Faith come from a secularist perspective. While plenty come from a scientific background, one of the newest cast members is a former minister and purported biblical scholar. Bart Ehrman, professor of religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is one of the foremost scholars in the country in the area of textual criticism, the art and science of evaluating ancient manuscripts. Trained at Princeton Theological Seminary under Bruce Metzger, a theological conservative and one of the greatest text critics of the 20th century, Ehrman abandoned his former fundamentalist roots and has penned several books questioning the Bible.


Ehrman specializes in textual criticism, the art and science of evaluating biblical manuscripts. Textual criticism is concerned with studying ancient documents in order to determine the original wording of the text. Like all other documents from antiquity, the original autographs of the New Testament writings are no longer extant. While scribes from the ancient world were quite exact in their standards of copying, no scribe was perfect. This means that manuscripts possessed by biblical scholars have slight—though usually meaningless—differences due to copyist’s errors. In his bestselling book Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman paints a rather bleak picture of the current state of the study of biblical texts:

Not only do we not have the originals, we don’t have the first copies of the originals, we don’t even have the copies of the copies of the originals, or copies of the copies of the copies of the originals. What we have are copies made later—much later.... And these copies all differ from one another, in many thousands of places.... These copies differ from one another in so many places that we don’t even know how many differences there are (2005, p. 10).

It is amazing that a book about textual criticism made it onto the New York Times bestseller list, but there is one major difference that makes its popularity unsurprising. The very fact that it attempts to discredit the Bible is a major selling point. Members of the modern militant variety of atheism have used Ehrman’s book as a rallying point. Christopher Hitchens lists Misquoting Jesus as essential reading in the book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007). Sam Harris, another of the new atheists, lists Ehrman’s work on his Web site as recommended reading.

Ehrman’s basic approach is one of despair. He asserts the original text is irrecoverable and virtually unknowable. According to Ehrman, the text was written long after the events they purport to record, by “orthodox” scribes who intentionally altered the text itself. He describes this secretive alteration of the text as something akin to a conspiracy. These alterations changed the face of Christianity as we know it. He says, “It would be wrong...to say—as people sometimes do—that the changes in our text have no real bearing on what the texts mean or on the theological conclusions that one draws from them.... In some instances, the very meaning of the text is at stake, depending upon how one resolves a textual problem” (p. 208).

In short, the Christian Faith practiced by millions today is unlike that practiced in the first century. Not only is it different, it is inaccessible because agenda-driven scribes have corrupted the very documents that serve as a window to the early church. Short of the invention of time travel, no one can know precisely how early Christianity was practiced—according to Ehrman.


According to scholars and critics like Ehrman, the New Testament documents were transmitted in poor fashion. In one of the greatest hoaxes in textual criticism, liberal scholars like Ehrman perpetuate the misconception that the transmission of the biblical text is like a game of “broken telephone” or “Chinese whispers.” According to the rules of the game, a line of people take turns whispering a phrase into the ear of the next person in line. They must whisper it so softly that the person on the other side of their neighbor cannot hear it, and they are not allowed to repeat themselves. When the message gets to the end of the line, it is usually nonsensical and garbled beyond recognition, much to the delight of the participants.

The “broken telephone” analogy is a popular one, but woefully incorrect. Distorting the message to the point of incomprehensibility is the point of the game. That was not the point of the biblical scribes who copied what they believed to be the very Word of God. It is a well-known fact that Old Testament scribes copied the text with a level of fidelity nearly inconceivable by moderns. Scribes developed a highly sophisticated method of counting words, letters, the middle word of a book along with its middle letter, and everything else imaginable to ensure that the copy of the text was a perfect reproduction of the original manuscript. For that reason, the vast number of copyist errors in the Old Testament manuscripts consists of nothing more than a single letter, usually one that looks similar to another in the Hebrew alphabet. Using rules of textual criticism, scholars are able to classify and correct the error quite easily.

While the Old Testament scribes were quite sophisticated in their efforts, what about the scribes who copied the New Testament documents? Unfortunately, New Testament scribes were not always as faithful as their Jewish counterparts. But this hardly means that their work is suspect. Let us return to the broken telephone analogy. Scribes copying the documents were not copying for an audience of one. Their work could be checked and verified by many others who read the copies, or heard them read aloud in the first churches. Furthermore, they were under no rules that limited their ability to communicate their message or forbade them from correcting anyone else. The sheer gravity of copying the words of the apostolic writers, not to mention those of Christ Himself, would have involved the entire Christian community.

To his discredit, Ehrman uses the broken telephone argument when he surely knows better. Trained at Princeton Seminary, a premiere school for New Testament studies, Ehrman knows that scribes did not transmit the biblical documents in this manner. While scribes in the New Testament world did not have the same checks and balances used by Jewish scribes, it does not mean that their efforts were slack or their standards lax. Copying the biblical documents was not for an audience of one, but for the entire Christian community. Others would have been able to check the documents and note any errors that the scribes might have made.

An inconvenient truth for Ehrman, and others favorable to his views, is the witness of authorities in the early church. The early church fathers began quoting and alluding to the books of the New Testament very early. In his Apologia Prima, Justin Martyr indicates that on Sunday the apostolic writings would be read publicly. Tertullian echoes Justin’s sentiments, saying,

Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over to the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally (De Praescriptione Haereticorum 36.1).

As New Testament scholars Darrell Bock and Daniel Wallace point out, “What is at issue here is the meaning of ‘authentic’ writings. If this refers to the original documents, as the word in Latin (authenticae) normally does, then Tertullian is saying that several of the original New Testament books still existed in his day, well over a century after the time of their writing” (2007, p. 45, italics in orig.). Tertullian specifically references Paul’s letters to the churches at Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, Ephesus, and Rome. Although this point is not entirely certain, it is an interesting thought. Tertullian’s statement provides evidence of a concern for preserving the manuscripts accurately. Given human fascination with historical relics and our interest in preserving them, it is possible that the early churches would have mirrored Tertullian’s concerns, preserving the letters written by the apostles themselves.

Bock and Wallace make a powerful argument concerning two of the earliest manuscripts known today. Citing p75 and Codex Vaticanus (also known as B), they argue that the two manuscripts

have an exceptionally strong agreement. And they are among the most accurate manuscripts that exist today. P75 is about 125 years older than B, yet it is not an ancestor of B. Instead, B was copied from an earlier ancestor of P75.... The combination of these two manuscripts in a particular reading must surely go back to the very beginning of the second century (2007, p. 47).

The state of the New Testament text is much better than the situation of despair found in Misquoting Jesus. As a world-class text critic, Ehrman must be fully aware of this material, yet chooses not to cite any of it in his work. In fact, he rarely cites scholars who disagree with him, leaving the inaccurate impression that he represents a vast majority of scholars who hold the same viewpoint. This borders on academic dishonesty.
That Ehrman knows the ancient scribes were conscientious about serving as custodians of the textual tradition is revealed in admissions throughout the text of Misquoting Jesus. He says, “Far and away, the most changes are the result of mistakes, pure and simple—slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort or another” (p. 55). The truth finally comes out that the massive majority of errors in the New Testament manuscripts are the result of a copyist’s error, not a deliberate alteration. What Ehrman downplays is that textual critics are well-schooled in how to detect and qualify copyists’ mistakes. By referring to the 400,000 errors in the manuscripts, Ehrman is leaving a false impression with his readership. Some of the errors are easily correctable, and others are downright absurd. As Bock and Wallace explain, “What exactly constitutes a textual variant? Any place among the manuscripts in which there is variation in wording, including word order, omission or addition of words, and even spelling differences is a textual variant. Thus, the most trivial alterations count as variants” (p. 54).

Ehrman does reserve some qualified praise for the ancient scribes. He writes:

The scribes—whether non-professional scribes in the early centuries or professional scribes of the Middle Ages—were intent on conserving the textual tradition they were passing on. Their ultimate concern was not to modify the tradition, but to preserve it for themselves and for those who would follow them. Most scribes, no doubt, tried to do a faithful job in making sure that the text they reproduced was the same text they inherited (p. 177).

Indeed, scribes in the ancient world were expected to copy texts faithfully, despite Ehrman’s assertions that they deliberately altered the New Testament documents. His understanding of ancient scribal custom is made clear by his inclusion of a humorous story about a scribe who deliberately modified the wording of a passage in a copy of the Bible (Codex Vaticanus). A later scribe came along and changed the word back to its original reading, adding the marginal note: “Fool and knave! Leave the old reading, don’t change it!” (p. 56).

A weakness of Ehrman’s argument is that, while he argues that scribes deliberately altered the text, one must ask how he knows it was altered; the charge presupposes that the original reading is still accessible in some way. One cannot argue that the words of Jesus or the teaching of Paul has been changed if one does not know what they actually said, which Ehrman repeatedly confesses. Rather, the very fact that scholars know that the text was altered on occasion means that they have a good idea of what the original reading was. This makes Ehrman’s arguments relatively inconsequential, since he depends upon later examples of change to make his points.

The criticism of Misquoting Jesus has come fast and furious. In the age of the Internet, substantial criticisms of the work have appeared en masse. Not only do Ehrman’s ideas fail to convince those who have studied the issue, New Testament scholars have posted devastating critiques of his work on-line in venues ranging from academic blogs to seminary Web sites. Academic heavyweights such as Darrell Bock, Craig Blomberg, and Craig Evans have all provided measured criticism of Ehrman’s work, although he appears to have paid little attention. Indeed, Ehrman fuels the controversy when interviewed, choosing to rehash the same arguments each time when they have been answered by other scholars in a variety of media venues. In interviews, Ehrman generally tends to overplay the nature of the manuscript errors and attributes much more importance to them than is warranted.
Ehrman’s book Orthodox Corruption is a scholarly version of the popular-level Misquoting Jesus. Of this book, New Testament scholar Gordon Fee writes, “Unfortunately, Ehrman too often turns mere possibility into probability, and probability into certainty, where other equally viable reasons for corruption exist” (1995, 8:204). Some critics of Christianity are notorious for failing to incorporate the criticisms of their peers in their own work and making adjustments where necessary. In this Ehrman is no exception, as Orthodox Corruption generally states a similar case as the one found later in Misquoting Jesus, even after fellow scholars offered criticism that appears to have gone largely unheeded.

Ehrman’s work resonates in a post-Christian culture where Christianity is viewed as secretive and even deceptive. His description of the state of the text is bleak, but it is just as inaccurate. Scholars have great confidence in the Greek text that lies beneath modern English translations, and for good reason. Ancient scribes believed they were copying the very words of God, and treated their duties with a commensurate level of care. They knew that God, and His Word, deserved no less.


Bart Ehrman has made something of a career out of selling the idea that the New Testament is not only full of inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and outright contradictions, but that some of those discrepancies were deliberately inserted into the text. He is something of a theological celebrity, enjoying airtime in a number of different radio and television interviews. As one of the foremost New Testament textual scholars in America, Ehrman should be taken seriously. At the same time, his criticism of the Faith is questionable, and, at times, laughable.
Ehrman excels at selling a packaged version of Christianity that is supposedly authentic but falls short. He matter-of-factly describes the supposed difficulties with Christianity almost as if they are trade secrets of the Faith. On the popular level, it is likely that many of his readers have never heard of these criticisms of the New Testament from a scholar writing for a lay audience. At the same time, scholarly treatments of these issues are readily available. Many fine works written by both the scholar and non-scholar alike have answered all of the objections Ehrman raises. From that standpoint, Ehrman’s exploration of these issues gives an appearance of disingenuousness.
Unlike less scholarly, more popular authors such as Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), Peter Baigent (The Jesus Papers), and Simcha Jacobovici (The Jesus Family Tomb), Ehrman must be taken seriously. He is a widely respected scholar who has produced a number of contributions to the field of New Testament studies. At the same time, he also appears to have little interest in resolving the problems he raises. An honest seeker will try to resolve difficulties he uncovers, if for no other reason than to explore the mystery itself. Ehrman seems to have little interest in finding solutions, preferring instead to emphasize what he considers to be problems in the text. The Christian must be aware that the overwhelming majority of those difficulties often have rather simple solutions, offered by scholars bearing the same level of credentials as Ehrman himself.


Bock, Darrell and Daniel Wallace (2007), Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson).
Ehrman, Bart (2005), Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (San Francisco, CA: Harper).
Fee, Gordon (1995), “Review of The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, by Bart D. Ehrman” in Critical Review of Books in Religion, 8:203-206.
Harris, Sam “Recommended Reading (A-Z),” [On-line], URL: http://www.sam harris.org/site/book_reading_list/.
Hitchens, Christopher (2007), God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve Books).

Veils, Footwashing, and the Holy Kiss by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Veils, Footwashing, and the Holy Kiss

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The average American feels that truth is unknowable, and therefore everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. He or she feels that one viewpoint is as good as another, and no one should be so arrogant or judgmental as to say that one view is correct and all others are wrong. After all, one cannot be certain as to what is ultimately right and what is ultimately wrong. And who is to say who is right and who is wrong? How can we be so sure that we have all the answers?

This cultural inclination has infiltrated the church. It manifests itself among those who insist that we in the churches of Christ have been too narrow and dogmatic about our doctrinal positions. They say we have assumed that we’re right, and that other religious groups are wrong; we have made too much of some issues, and too little of others; and our rigid doctrinal stance has, in turn, caused us to be unloving and intolerant of alternative viewpoints and churches.

Of course, this entire line of thinking proceeds from a humanistic, pluralistic mindset. It constitutes the classic attempt to dodge accountability and responsibility. When Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), He was showing that we must be right about certain matters. We do not know everything. But we can know some things—those things that God expectsus to know. We can know truth! We can know that we know (1 John 2:3). We can know which things we have to know, and we can know which things we do not have to know. But we must analyze each matter logically and scripturally.

For example, some have concluded that God wants women to wear head-coverings when they worship in the presence of men. They believe this conclusion follows from the teaching of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. However, the wearing of a veil in Corinth conveyed a meaning within Graeco-Roman culture that is not conveyed in American culture. It was a cultural phenomenon (“judge in yourselves”—vs. 13). To them, the veil symbolized a woman’s submission to male authority (vs. 10). The removal of the veil symbolized a woman’s rejection of male authority, and was equivalent to the shameful practice of shaving the head—an act done by women of ill-repute (vs. 5-6). Since the symbolism of the veil in Corinthian culture was in harmony with the abiding principle of female submission to male leadership, Corinthian Christians were admonished to conform to the cultural practice.
The application of this injunction is that Christians, who find themselves in cultures today where a particular cultural symbol undergirds an abiding biblical principle, should conform to that cultural propriety. Head coverings have no such significance in American culture, and vary throughout the world (cf. Genesis 24:65; 29:25; 38:14-15; Song of Solomon 4:1,3; 6:7). If Paul intended for veils to be enjoined upon all Christian women in all cultures for all time, then three conclusions follow: a hat is no substitute; veils must be worn outside the worship assembly as well; and those who refuse must be urged to shave their heads.

Another area of confusion about which the truth may be ascertained is the “holy kiss.” Both Paul and Peter urged first-century Christians to greet each other with holy kisses (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14). Was this injunction intended to be an abiding feature of Christianity? Does God want Christians today to practice a “holy kiss,” even as He desires that baptism, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper be observed?

Kissing as a greeting predated Christianity (1 Samuel 20:41; 2 Samuel 20:9; Matthew 26:49; Luke 7:45; Acts 20:37). Americans typically have been unable to relate to kissing as a standard form of greeting. They shake hands or offer a pat on the back. However, hugging has become increasingly prominent in recent years. Paul could not have been commanding Christians to start kissing each other as a form of greeting—they were already doing so! Rather Paul was applying Christian principles to the existing and widespread cultural practice of kiss-greetings by urging them to keep their greeting holy. Far from enjoining kissing, he was requiring holy kissing. He was telling Christians to make their kiss-greetings a sanctified activity—set apart for, or in line with, proper Christian living. He was instructing them, “Since you kiss, when you kiss, make it holy—greet one another with a holy kiss.”
A third practice that requires clarification in order to understand its proper application is foot washing. Jesus literally startled and shocked the disciples on the occasion when He insisted upon washing their feet (John 13:1-20). It is nearly as surprising to find religious groups today who believe that Jesus was instituting an abiding occurrence—a worship act to be observed ritualistically in the practice of Christianity.
As a matter of fact, the washing of feet in first-century Palestine was a common cultural amenity that was necessary due to the dry, dusty road conditions and the footwear of the day (i.e., sandals—Genesis 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; Judges 19:21; 1 Timothy 5:10). In a typical middle-eastern setting, several social courtesies were ordinarily extended to guests. These expressions of hospitality included the kiss greeting, anointing, and caring for the guest’s animals, in addition to providing food and shelter (Genesis 18:4-5; 24:32; Judges 19:21; Ruth 3:3; 2 Samuel 12:20; Psalm 23:5; Ecclesiastes 9:8; Daniel 10:3; Matthew 6:17; Luke 7:44-46). Western culture typically has a completely different list of social amenities, including taking a guest’s coat, offering something to drink, and asking the guest to be seated.

In a culture where household servants were in abundant supply, the task of washing a guest’s dusty feet normally would have been performed by a servant of the host. This fact is what made Jesus’ action so repugnant to the disciples. They were disgusted that Jesus would lower Himself to perform such demeaning labor.

Since the disciples of Jesus already were practicing foot washing, Jesus was simply using the cultural custom to teach a spiritual principle. That is why He prefaced His action by noting they would not understand the significance of what He was about to do (John 13:7). That is why, when He finished, He asked, “Do you know what I have done to you?” (vs. 12). Obviously, they knew that He had washed their feet! If He was merely urging them to continue this common practice, they would have understood His injunction instantly. But that was not the point He was attempting to get across to them. He was teaching self-humiliation and forgiveness. We, too, must be humble enough to correct our mistakes and receive the forgiveness that Jesus offers. We must be willing to treat others better than ourselves by serving them and showing concern for the fulfillment of their needs. It would be a simple matter if we could fulfill this edict by ritualistically washing another’s feet. However, Jesus was conveying the fact that the humility and unassuming, servant-attitude that He wants us to display require a far more diligent, consistent dedication of one’s daily behavior.

The God Who Forgives by Trevor Bowen


The God Who Forgives

"Why should I be a Christian?" The very posing of this question implies that some people believe reasons exists why one should not be a Christian. Let us think about why someone would not want to become a Christian. Sometimes, a person hesitates in becoming a Christian because he believes that he is too wicked for God to forgive him. Often this person might feel like if he has not already, then some day he will inevitably go so far that God will not forgive him. The hesitant student is not the only person that fears this fate. Sometime even Christians wonder about God’s continuing capacity to forgive, so let us consider what the Bible has to say about the God who forgives.

God Does Not Want Anyone to be Lost

Often people feel like God is a ferocious and cruel god, who longingly waits to instantly punish any man caught in sin. However, the Bible paints a different picture of God.
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." II Peter 3:9
God does not want anybody to be lost. In fact, he is patient with us so that we might not be lost. Being longsuffering, God mercifully provides frequent opportunities to repent. Although it is clear that God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4), we still may wonder why God does not want people to be lost.
"But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?" Ezekiel 18:21-23
From these verses we learn that God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. He does not enjoy their death because He loves them. This love was the reason why Jesus died on the cross for the whole world (John 3:16-17). How can a God who loves us and desires us to be saved not forgive the repentant who humbles himself before God?

Extreme Examples of God’s Forgiveness

The extent of God’s forgiveness can be seen in extreme examples from the Bible. One of the single-most extreme examples is that of the Judean king, Manasseh. Late in the history of the divided kingdom, King Manasseh proved himself to be one of the most wicked kings that Israel had seen.
"Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. But he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. ... Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. ... So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen." II Chronicles 33:1-10
Although we see this stubborn king being more wicked than any before him, notice how he responds when he is punished by the Lord.
"Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon. Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God." II Chronicles 33:11-13
The text continues, mentioning how the penitent Manasseh destroyed all of the idols upon his return, repaired the Lord’s altar, sacrificed peace and thanksgiving offerings, and commanded the people to worship God. This man was able to turn back to God, and God was willing to receive him back. How can we do more wickedly than this king, who among other evils sacrificed his own children to idols?
Among other examples, the apostle Paul could be mentioned who persecuted and killed Christians, but eventually repented and became one of the most well-known and influential servants of the Lord (Acts 9:1-22). The Corinthian church was filled with once worldly people, who committed grievous sins.
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." I Corinthians 6:9-11
Friend, there is not much that God has not forgiven. From murder (II Samuel 12:7-14) to the sacrificing of children (II Chronicles 33:1-13), we have record of God forgiving the most horrific sins. Even though we have examined these compelling examples, one more extreme example of God’s forgiveness exists that we need to study.


We are all extreme examples of God’s forgiveness. No man can boast that he is deserving of heaven because he earned it, or even because he sinned less than others. Sin is a terrible thing that separates all of us from God (Romans 3:23), condemning all of us to hell (Romans 6:23), even if someone committed only a single sin (James 2:10-13). Sin is just that bad.
Even though each of us would have stood without hope before God, the gospel reveals that God loved us before we loved Him (I John 4:9-19). Jesus came and died in our place for us, not as though we were deserving, but while we were ungodly (Romans 5:6-8). Though God requires that we respond to his gospel plea (Matthew 7:21-23James 2:14-26), the Bible teaches that we have been saved by grace, not by meritorious works (Ephesians 2:1-10). Consequently, no man can boast of his salvation as if it was accomplished by his own merit. Therefore, each one of us is an extreme example of God’s forgiveness to one who was undeserving.


Although sin and the temptations of the world may lure us into believing that we are too wicked for God to forgive, the Bible teaches that God does not want anyone to be lost. He desires that all men should be saved. The examples of King Manasseh, Kind David, the apostle Paul, the Corinthians, and many more illustrate God’s capacity to forgive even the most wicked sinners. Finally, God extends his mercy to each one of us. We are equally in need of God’s mercy. No one can boast in himself. Therefore, just as God has forgiven every previous convert, He will also graciously accept your repentance, if you are willing to humble yourself before the God who forgives.
May we assist you in accomplishing your desire to be saved? You may read more material on what the Bible says about the requirements for salvation, e-mail any of our local contacts, or complete one of our on-line Bible studies to learn more about your role in God’s salvation for you.
 Trevor Bowen