Thursday, October 14, 2010
An orthodox Jew once asked a Jewish Christian, “Suppose a son were born among us today, and it was said of him that he was born of a virgin, would you believe it?” “Yes,” replied the other, “I would believe it if he were such a son!”
Truly, the whole truth of the virgin birth of Christ, revolves around the Person of Christ. If Christ is who He is, and we are willing to believe Him, surely to believe in His virgin birth will only follow as a natural requirement. However, for many so-called Christian ‘scholars’ the issue seems to be reversed. For them, if the virgin birth can be proved, or disproved, the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth would be established. And very often, for the most part, the majority of all such ‘scholars’, either set about disproving the deity of Christ or the veracity of the Scriptures that mention His miraculous virgin birth.
Our purpose will be to first take a look at the prediction of the virgin birth in the Old Testament scriptures, and based upon our understanding of these predictions, examine the New Testament scriptures to see if they indeed fit the picture we presented with of Jesus of Nazareth. We believe a correct understanding of the scriptures themselves will lead to a correct understanding of the who Jesus Christ really is. For you see, if He was not really born of the virgin, that would put him, as far as His human origin as least is concerned, on the same level of other men, born into this world. True, God could in some mysterious way still cause His birth to be unique. However, our own conviction is that a careful examination of scripture will no doubt lead our readers to uphold the truth of Christ’s virgin birth.
To begin, let’s take a look at Genesis 3:15; that most famous of verse in the first book of the Bible which reads, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
Most commentators believe that the expression “seed of the woman” really is a veiled reference to the Messiah, who would be born of a woman without the intervention of a man; else the expression would have been “seed of the man”, as also generally speaking it is the man’s seed that is usually spoken of whenever the word ‘seed’ occurs in connection with the human family. For example, one writer says,
“The phrase...“her seed” is not found elsewhere in the Bible. Well over one hundred times we read of “the seed” and “seeds”, but in all cases the seed of the man is meant. But the seed of the woman is a unique concept and can be interpreted only as a foreshadowing of the virgin birth of our Lord. If He was not to be born of a virgin, then Adam would have been referred to: “his seed”, not “her seed”.
Of course the writer of the above words did not literally mean that the word ‘seed’ is never mentioned in the Bible in connection with a woman; for it is. For example, Ruth 4:12 reads, “And let thy house by like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore unto Judah, of the seed which the LORD shall give thee of this young woman.” Revelation 12:17 reads, “And the dragon was angry with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” In the first verse quoted, the meaning really is that the LORD should grant ‘children’ or ‘descendants’ to Boaz through Ruth. And the second verse quoted really means that the Devil turned his attention to wage war with the ‘remnant of her offspring’, or the rest of her children who keep the commandments of God and continue to hold the testimony of Jesus Christ. Obviously, the expression ‘her seed’ could not be a reference to the Messiah. Nor could it be argued that the words taken in context should mean the remnant of the Messiah, as though here the words ‘her seed’ was a veiled reference to the Messiah; and that therefore the remainder or ‘remnant’ of ‘her seed’ are the remnant of the Messiah – a minority group still owning the Messiah. No, such a construction would do violence to the text and would completely mar the true and simple meaning of these words.
Nevertheless, it is true that the words ‘her seed’ is rather singular in its usage in Genesis 3:15. Adam Clarke, believing it to be so, comments,
“But there is a deeper meaning in the text than even this, especially in these words, it shall bruise thy head, or rather, הוא hu, He; who? the seed of the woman; the person is to come by the woman, and by her alone, without the concurrence of man. Therefore the address is not to Adam and Eve, but to Eve alone; and it was in consequence of this purpose of God that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin; this, and this alone, is what is implied in the promise of the seed of the woman bruising the head of the serpent.”
However, as pointed out earlier, the appearance words ‘her seed’ does not necessarily mean that here is a direct prophecy pointing to the virgin birth of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch in their commentary on Genesis say,
“although in the first clause the seed of the serpent is opposed to the seed of the woman, in the second it is not over the seed of the serpent but over the serpent itself that the victory is said to be gained. It, i.e., the seed of the woman will crush thy head, and thou (not thy seed) wilt crush its heel. Thus the seed of the serpent is hidden behind the unity of the serpent, or rather of the foe who, through the serpent, has done such injury to man. This foe is Satan, who incessantly opposes the seed of the woman and bruises its heel, but is eventually to be trodden under its feet. It does not follow from this, however, apart from other considerations, that by the seed of the woman we are to understand one solitary person, one individual only. As the woman is the mother of all living (Gen 3:20), her seed, to which the victory over the serpent and its seed is promised, must be the human race. But if a direct and exclusive reference to Christ appears to be exegetically untenable, the allusion in the word to Christ is by no means precluded in consequence. In itself the idea of זרע, the seed, is an indefinite one, since the posterity of a man may consist of a whole tribe or of one son only (Gen 4:25; Gen 21:12-13), and on the other hand, an entire tribe may be reduced to one single descendant and become extinct in him. The question, therefore, who is to be understood by the “seed” which is to crush the serpent's head, can only be answered from the history of the human race.
However, they go on to comment, bringing out as they do the full significance of the verse in question. We cannot here do better than to once again quote them at length for the benefit of our readers.
“But a point of much greater importance comes into consideration here. Against the natural serpent the conflict may be carried on by the whole human race, by all who are born of a woman, but not against Satan. As he is a fore who can only be met with spiritual weapons, none can encounter him successfully but such as possess and make use of spiritual arms. Hence the idea of the “seed” is modified by the nature of the foe. If we look at the natural development of the human race, Eve bore three sons, but only one of them, viz., Seth, was really the seed by whom the human family was preserved through the flood and perpetuated in Noah: so, again, of the three sons of Noah, Shem, the blessed of Jehovah, from whom Abraham descended, was the only one in whose seed all nations were to be blessed, and that not through Ishmael, but through Isaac alone. Through these constantly repeated acts of divine selection, which were not arbitrary exclusions, but were rendered necessary by differences in the spiritual condition of the individuals concerned, the “seed,” to which the victory over Satan was promised, was spiritually or ethically determined, and ceased to be co-extensive with physical descent. This spiritual seed culminated in Christ, in whom the Adamic family terminated, henceforward to be renewed by Christ as the second Adam, and restored by Him to its original exaltation and likeness to God. In this sense Christ is the seed of the woman, who tramples Satan under His feet, not as an individual, but as the head both of the posterity of the woman which kept the promise and maintained the conflict with the old serpent before His advent, and also of all those who are gathered out of all nations, are united to Him by faith, and formed into one body of which He is the head (Rom 16:20). On the other hand, all who have not regarded and preserved the promise, have fallen into the power of the old serpent, and are to be regarded as the seed of the serpent, whose head will be trodden under foot (Mat 23:33; John 8:44; 1Jo 3:8). If then the promise culminates in Christ, the fact that the victory over the serpent is promised to the posterity of the woman, not of the man, acquires this deeper significance, that as it was through the woman that the craft of the devil brought sin and death into the world, so it is also through the woman that the grace of God will give to the fallen human race the conqueror of sin, of death, and of the devil. And even if the words had reference first of all to the fact that the woman had been led astray by the serpent, yet in the fact that the destroyer of the serpent was born of a woman (without a human father) they were fulfilled in a way which showed that the promise must have proceeded from that Being, who secured its fulfilment not only in its essential force, but even in its apparently casual form.
Clearly, although we cannot pin down the words ‘her seed’ to be a direct reference to Christ and therefore a hint to His virgin birth, the verse itself does not preclude this idea.
Let us now consider the one passage in the Old Testament where a direct reference to the virgin birth is mentioned. Isaiah 7:14 reads, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (It may be objected that we have given here the definite article ‘the virgin’ instead of the indefinite article ‘a virgin’ as given in the KJV. However, a quick look at the original dispels all doubt. Darby has translated it with the definite article, in keeping with the Hebrew original and also the LXX translation)
The bone of contention here is the word ‘virgin’; whether the word in the original Hebrew has such a bearing, designating one not yet married – a virgin in the strict sense of the word. Some translations render it ‘the young woman’. Such is the translation of the Jewish Publication Society Bible and The Revised Standard Version, to name a few.
Such a translation of the Hebrew word almah is unnecessary and misleading. The word almah occurs 6 other times in the Old Testament – Gen 24:43; Exo 2:8; Psa 68:25; Pro 30:19; Son 1:3, 6:8. There is another word that is strictly reserved for a female who is a virgin and that is the word bethulah (see Genesis 24:16 where this word is used in the Hebrew along with the definition “And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, bethulah neither had any man known her...” Darby has it “a virgin, and no man had known her” ). For instance this word is used in Deu 22:23 (& 28) – “If a damsel who is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city...” Clearly, here a virgin in the strict sense of the word is meant. And in Isaiah 62:5 “For as a young man marrieth a virgin...” again this same word bethulah is used.
So why isn’t this word used in Isaiah 7:14? And what significance does the word in this place have to the virgin birth?
Firstly, let it be said that from the word almah itself we cannot ascertain whether a woman is a virgin or not; for this other considerations will have to be taken into account. Strictly speaking the word bethulah would refer to a woman who is a virgin in the sense in which we today understand the term. The word almah only emphasised the fact that the woman was of a marriageable age and is therefore not a minor. In order words, she is old enough to bear a child, something a young female child cannot. Now this meaning is borne out in every instance of the word in its context in the Old Testament.
For instance, the first time this word occurs is in Genesis 24:43. Here Abraham’s servant recounts his prayer to God earlier that day saying, “Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, ...” Here Abraham’s servant is asking God to guide him to the right girl for his master’s son Isaac. Of course, the girl would have to be of marriageable age; needless to say a virgin too. It is impossible to image that the servant’s prayer would have precluded such a vital requirement in a bride for his master’s son. Obviously, the servant was expecting to see, not a young female child, nor an old woman but a youthful lady, still in her virginity.
In Exo 2:8 the context doesn’t require any such qualities in the maid mentioned, nor in Psa 68:25. Proverbs 30:19 is rather interesting in that it says, “...the way of a man with a maid.” Although Adam Clarke has pointed out the possibility of translating the expression “the way of a man in his youth” as found in certain MSS., with which the LXX translation also seems to agree, the words as appearing in our authorised version seems best taken as it is. Here again the word itself may not explain much. However, it is interesting to note that even here it is the way of a man with a woman of some maturity, not a female child of tender age that is implied. Once again the meaning we have attached to the word almah makes sense.
Strictly speaking the word in Son 1:3 may not refer to virgins, however, this distinction seems to be at least hinted at in Son 6:8 “There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number.” If here the word almah merely refers to young married women, the point of distinguishing them from queens and concubines is pointless. Obviously in this verse, virgins, in the strict sense of the word is implied, though not proved.
From the above observations, it is clear that the word almah in itself may not necessarily mean a virgin, as we understand it. That it may also include the idea of virginity, however, cannot be negated. Every young woman of marriageable age need not be a virgin, but every young virgin may be of marriageable age. Therefore the word definitely excludes the idea of a younger female child, a minor, and would refer only to young marriageable girls, virgin or otherwise.
The word bethulah is used in Exo 22:16 “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed...” Darby has it “And if a man seduce a virgin that is not betrothed...”. Clearly, the word bethulah here describes a young virgin girl of marriageable age but not even engaged to be married. And in this verse too the LXX uses the word parthenos.
Interestingly, the translators of the LXX in translating the word almah in Isaiah 7:14 into the Greek language of their day used the word parthenos, which word meant a chase virgin in the strict sense. This is also the word they used in Genesis 24:43. This word is also used in Isaiah in two other places; Isa 37:22 & 47:1 each of which occurrence is translated in our English versions as ‘virgin’. This word is also used in Deu 22:23 “if a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband..” however, in the previous verse describing a married woman a different word is used – gunaikos. This is the word that is invariably always used to describe a woman in general as distinguished from a man, also as the wife of a husband. Note that verse 23 talks about a damsel who is a virgin (parthenos) albeit married to a husband. In other words, she is engaged, which the Jews considered as good as the marriage bond, although not yet living with the husband.
Listing out our observations we may state
1. The word bethulah could refer to a virgin not yet betrothed to a husband (Exo 22:16)
2. The word bethulah could also refer to a virgin betrothed to a husband (Deu 22:23)
3. The word bethulah never refers to a woman already living with a husband
4. The word ishah is used in Deu 22:23 to describe a married woman already living with her husband
5. Every time the word almah is used, the idea of a young girl of marriageable age who can bear a child is predominant, with no reference to her being married or not
6. It cannot be proved beyond doubt that each time the word almah is used, a married woman was ever referred to
Furthermore, from the LXX we may observe in line with the above
1. The word parthenos is used in Exo 22:16
2. The word parthenos is used in Deu 22:23
3. The word gunaikos is used in Deu 22:22 to describe a married woman already living with her husband
4. The word gunaikos is used to refer to a woman in general as opposed to a man
So although some might argue that in Isaiah 7:14 the word bethulah should have been used, the fact that the other word almah is used makes more sense, when we consider the scope of Isaiah’s prophecy; which was at once also a sign to King Ahaz. Since the usage of the word bethulah would have precluded the idea of a woman already living with her husband which would also therefore render her not a virgin, the other word almah is used. And as we have already seen, this word almah does not necessarily rule out the fact of virginity in the woman, however, it is also open to the idea of the woman (whoever she might have been at the time the prophecy was spoken) living with her husband. If bethulah would have been used, the King would have been hard pressed to figure out just how a virgin could bear a son without living with her betrothed husband or without having known a man! For this word bethulah strictly referred to a virgin, one who has never known a man. And this, far from being a sign, would have been a mystery to him.
Although the word bethulah therefore would have been the most appropriate word to describe the future miraculous birth of the promised Messiah, it would be out of place in the context of the present crises King Ahaz was facing and of the assuring sign (and doubtless, bethulah could have been employed, were the prediction only for the distant future, not also a sign for the present). This is so especially in the light of the following verses in chapter 7, verses 15-16. However, the word almah creates no such problems. Since the word itself could refer to a young woman living with her husband or a woman who is unmarried and still a virgin.
Isaiah’s words therefore to King Ahaz would have been reassuring in view of the land’s speedy deliverance from their enemies. Isaiah told the King, “For before the child (connecting the child to verses 14 & 15) shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorest shall be forsaken by both her kinds” (Isa 7:16). If by this prophetic verses, Isaiah and therefore through him, the Spirit of God, meant to refer only to their future Messiah, the sign would have been no sign at all, as far as King Ahaz was concerned! On the other hand, if these verses were meant only to serve the purpose of a sign in the immediate future for King Ahaz, the prophetic element would be lost.
Some have suggested that ‘the child’ of verse 16 is none other than the prophet’s own son, whom he told to take along with him to meet with King Ahaz (see verse 3). However, the connection of ‘the child’ in verse 16 and 15 is so closely tied up with verse 14, that such a suggestion does violence to a natural understanding of the text. No, these verses serve as a sign, when first spoken to the King, and they were also meant to have a prophetic import.
We therefore believe the Spirit of the Lord chose a word that would fit the immediate context as well be applied in future. The word bethulah would have been, although most fitting to predict the future virgin birth of the Messiah, completely out of place and without sense as a sign for King Ahaz. On the other hand, almah serves both purposes. In the immediate context a woman, unknown perhaps now to us, but known to the King and to the prophet, would bear a son and before he was old enough to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land of Judah would be delivered of her present enemies. Moreover, the world almah leave open the possibility of a woman while still a virgin, miraculously giving birth to a son. And it is in this sense Matthew quotes this verse in his Gospel.
Under the circumstances, we cannot think of a better way to handle both situations than by using a word to describe the woman living at the time of Isaiah and at the same time would also describe the one, who in future would bring in the virgin-born Messiah. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor? Indeed, our God is a great God and He does all things well.
To sum up, the translators of the LXX obviously understood Isaiah 7:14 to refer to a virgin not yet living with her husband, else they could have used the word gunaikos. Isn’t it rather significant that they understood this verse to be speaking about a virgin in the strict sense of the word and not a married woman already living with her husband! And with this Matthew agrees and therefore is led by the Spirit of God to link this verse with Jesus’ birth through the virgin Mary, betrothed though she be to Joseph though not living with him yet.
In conclusion we cannot do better than close with the summary of G. Rawlinson in his exposition on the book of Isaiah on these prophetic verses.
“The subject is far from being exhausted. It is still asked:
(1) Were the mother and son persons belonging to the time of Isaiah himself, and if so, what persons? Or,
(2) Were they the Virgin Mary and her Son Jesus? Or,
(3) Had the prophecy a double fulfillment, first in certain persons who lived in Isaiah’s time, and secondly in Jesus and his mother?
I. The first theory is that of the Jewish commentators. Originally, they suggested that the mother was Abi, the wife of Ahaz (2 Kings 18:2), and the son Hezekiah, who delivered Judah from the Assyrian power. But this was early disproved by showing that, according to the numbers of Kings (2 Kings 16:2; 18:2), Hezekiah was at least nine years old in the first year of Ahaz, before which this prophecy could not have been delivered (Isaiah 7:1). The second suggestion made identified the mother with Isaiah’s wife, the “prophetess”of Isaiah 8:3, and made the son a child of his, called actually Immanuel, or else his son Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isaiah 8:1) under a symbolical designation. But ha-’almah, “the virgin,” would be a very strange title for Isaiah to have given his wife, and the rank assigned to Immanuel in Isaiah 8:8 would not suit any son of Isaiah’s. It remains to regard the ‘almah as “some young woman actually present,” name, rank, and position unknown, and Immanuel as her son, also otherwise unknown (Cheyne). But the grand exordium, “The Lord himself shall give you a sign — Behold!” and the rank of Immanuel (Isaiah 8:8), are alike against this.
II. The purely Messianic theory is maintained by Rosenmüller and Dr. Kay, but without any consideration of its difficulties. The birth of Christ was an event more than seven hundred years distant. In what sense and to what persons could it be a “sign” of the coming deliverance of the land from Rezin and Pekah? And, upon the purely Messianic theory, what is the meaning of ver. 16? Syria and Samaria were, in fact, crushed within a few years of the delivery of the prophecy. Why is their desolation put off, apparently, till the coming of the Messiah, and even till he has reached a certain age? Mr. Cheyne meets these difficulties by the startling statement that Isaiah expected the advent of the Messiah to synchronize with the Assyrian invasion, and consequently thought that before Rezin and Pekah were crushed he would have reached the age of discernment. But he does not seem to see that in this case the sigma was altogether disappointing and illusory. Time is an essential element of a prophecy which turns upon the
word “before” (ver. 16). If this faith of Isaiah’s disciples was aroused and their hopes raised by the announcement that Immanuel was just about to be born (Mr. Cheyne translates, “A virgin is with child”), what would be the revulsion of feeling when no Immanuel appeared?
III. May not the true account of the matter be that suggested by Bishop Lowth — that the prophecy had a double bearing and a double fulfilment? “The obvious and literal meaning of the prophecy is this,” he says: “that within the time that a young woman, now a virgin, should conceive and bring forth a child, and that child should arrive at such an age as to distinguish between good and evil, that is, within a few years, the enemies of Judah should be destroyed.” But the prophecy was so worded, he adds, as to have a further meaning, which wan even “the original design and principal intention of the prophet,” viz. the Messianic one. All the expressions of the prophecy do not suit both its intentions — some are selected with reference to the first, others with reference to the second fulfilment — but all suit one or the other, and some suit both. The first child may have received the name Immanuel from a faithful Jewish mother, who believed that God was with his people, whatever dangers threatened, and may have reached years of discretion about the time that Samaria was carried away captive. The second child is the true “Immanuel,” “God with us,” the king of Isaiah 8:8; it is his mother who is pointed at in the expression, “the virgin,” and on his account is the grand preamble; through him the people of God, the true Israel, is delivered from its spiritual enemies, sin and Satan — two kings who continually threaten it.
With the view of Bishop Loweth we fully agree. The passage in Isaiah 7 indeed has such a double character – a sign for King Ahaz during his time, and also a prediction of the Messiah’s virgin birth. The Messiah alone, when born among men, could be truly and literally called Immanuel, God with us. And with this Matthew agrees quoting Isaiah 7:14 in his Gospel in connection with Mary giving birth to our Lord Jesus Christ, who was indeed born of His mother the virgin Mary.
Posted by Thomas J Paul at 9:06 PM
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
“ Whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds”
The Lord Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?”His disciples replied, “Some say thou art John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” (Mat 16:14). The Lord then went on to ask, “But who say ye that I am?” He wanted to know exactly what opinion His own had of Him.
The world today has made up their minds regarding this ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. Many are willing to admit and accept Him as a ‘great’ religious teacher/founder. For many, he continues to be just one of several ‘gurus’ they could choose from. Others there are who outright brand Him as a fraud or even dismiss Him entirely as a myth. Only true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ own Him as the Son of God, the Creator and Lord of all. As the apostle Thomas they too address Him, “My Lord and my God”.
When Pilate introduced the Lord Jesus to the awaiting crowd of Jews on that most eventful day, he said, “Behold, your King!” (John 19:15). Pilate then asked the crowd, “Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” (Mar 15:2) But the chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar”. Alas! They disowned their own Messiah. And to this present day, Jews as a rule continue to reject the Lord Jesus and the New Testament revelation about Him.
However, God’s estimate of His own Beloved Son is far different. Because the Lord Jesus humbled Himself and was willing to take the lowest place, God has highly exalted Him, far above the heavens and has given Him the name that is above every name, in heaven and on earth and under the earth; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father (see Phi 2:9-11). The writer to the Hebrews tells us just as much in the opening words of this letter.
God “hath appointed (the Lord Jesus) heir of all things”. Let men deny Him, reject Him and turn away from Him. The Father’s estimate of the Lord Jesus is summed up in these wonderful words. God thinks Him fit to be heir of all things. Isn’t that wonderful! This Man, who, while in this world could say, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head”, has now been appointed heir of all things. And according to the passage in Philippians, this Man was exalted to the highest station because He was willing to humble Himself, to lower Himself to the lowest point possible, sin exempted. May we too, along with God the Father, give the Lord Jesus Christ the highest place, not only in our estimate, but in our lives too. May He alone indeed have the pre-eminence in all things, for He is worthy.
Notice the text says, “he hath appointed”. In other words, it was not Jesus who appointed Himself, but God who appointed Him thus. How wonderful it is to read that, though worthy to do so, the Lord Jesus did not take this honour to Himself. But it was God who therefore bestowed this honour upon Him. We are reminded of Peter’s words, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time”. Of the Lord Jesus we read, “being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phi 2:8). In other words, being found as a man, Jesus did not exalt Himself; He chose to humble Himself, to abase Himself (same word Paul uses in chapter 4:12, the only other place this word is found in Philippians in a different form). Isaiah the prophet had indeed predicted that the true Messiah would have such an humble attitude – “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street” (Isa 42:2). When the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world the first time, He came as the humble servant of Jehovah, the suffering servant. But the day is not far when He will come to this world the second time; and He will not refrain from speaking up. “The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man; he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war; he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies” (Isa 42:13). May that day be soon! But in the meanwhile, God the Father has placed Him at His right hand of power, high above all authority, rule or principality. In sharp contrast, of the man of sin we read that he has “a mouth speaking great things” and that he “spoke very great things” and his “look was more stout than its fellows”. But alas! He speaks “words against the Most High” (Dan 7:8,20 &25). And his end is most deserving, total destruction.
According to the scriptures, the son is always the heir of all that the father possesses; and in the words of Paul we might say about every son, “but if son, heir also” (Gal 4:7). The Lord Jesus Christ has been appointed heir of all things because He is the only begotten Son of God. And to be the heir is to also be ‘lord’ of all (see this connection in Gal 4:1). Although believers are also called “heirs of the kingdom, which he (God) has promised to them that love him” (Jam 2:5), and being children of God “heirs also: heirs of God, and Christ’s joint heirs” (Rom 8:17 – Darby’s translation), the Lord Jesus Christ is uniquely singled out as the Heir of all things seeing also that it was by Him God made all the worlds. The plural word ‘worlds’ is here used as it probably refers to the ‘ages’, which a literal translation of the word seems to imply.
The verb ‘appointed’ is in the aorist tense, which really stresses the fact of the action having taken place with no reference to time. Here we cannot do better than to quote at length from J. Barmby’s exposition of the text in the Pulpit Commentary.
J. Barmby explains
The verb is in the aorist, and here the indefinite sense of the aorist should be preserved. Two questions arise. (1) Was it in respect of his eternal Divinity, or of his manifestation in time, that the Son was appointed “Heir of all things?” (2) When is God to be conceived as so appointing him? i.e. What is the time, if any, to be assigned to the indefinite aorist?
In answer to question
(1) the second alternative is to be preferred. For (a) his eternal pre-existence has not yet been touched upon: it is introduced, as it were parenthetically, in the next and following clauses. (b) Though the term Son is legitimately used in theology to denote the eternal relation to the Father expressed by the logos of St. John, yet its application in this Epistle and in the New Testament generally (excepting, perhaps, the monogenes huios peculiar to St. John, on which see Bull, ‘Jud. Eccl. Cath.,’ 5:4, etc.), is to the Word made flesh, to the Son as manifested in the Christ. And hence it is to him as such that we may conclude the heirship to be here assigned. (c) This is the view carried out in the sequel of the Epistle, where the SON is represented as attaining the universal dominion assigned to him after, and in consequence of, his human obedience. The conclusion of the exordium in itself expresses this; for it is not till after he had made purification of sins that he is said to have “sat down,” etc.; i.e. entered on his inheritance; having become (genomenos not oon) “so much better,” etc. This is the view of Chrysostom, Theodoret, and the Fathers generally (cf. the cognate passage, Philippians 2:9).
(2) It seems best to refer the aorist etheeke, not to any definite time, as that of the prophetic utterances afterwards cited, or that of the actual exaltation of Christ, but indefinitely to the eternal counsels, which were indeed declared and fulfilled in time, but were themselves enarchee. A similar use of the aorist, coupled with other aorists pointing to events in time, is found in Romans 8:29, 30.
According to Barmby, the Son was appointed heir of all things with respect to His manifestation in time. Secondly, this appointment seems to be referring to the eternal councils of God, hence the aorist tense of the verb ‘appoint’.
God has not only appointed the Son heir of all things, He also made the worlds through Him. This word ‘made’ is the same word used in the LXX in Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Darby has the word translated ‘created’ in Hebrews 1:2 giving it thus “through who he created the universe”. The word itself simply means to ‘do something’ or to ‘make something’. Interestingly, in the book of Hebrews this word in the Greek occurs only one other time; in Hebrews 7:27 “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins and then for the people’s; for this he did once, when he offered up himself”. It’s almost as if the Spirit of God wishes to emphasise these two acts in this book, and they both are performed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and besides, they are both accomplished by the Spirit of God! (see Job 26:13 & Heb 9:14) The Lord sacrificing Himself as the perfect sacrifice was not any less spectacular than His creating the universe. It is He who alone could perform both acts, and that with perfection. What a glorious God we worship; not just a God who created this universe out of nothing but is also able, and willing too, to redeem us by the sacrifice of Himself!
The writer to the Hebrews makes it clear that the God who created the heavens and the earth, with which creation the Old Testament Scriptures begin, created them through (Gk. Dia) the Son. Therefore the Son could not be anything less than Divine, could not be less than God Himself. Indeed, in the following verse the writer expands further upon this, which we shall look into shortly. The word in the Greek that is here translated ‘worlds’ is not the usual word kosmos. And this word kosmos occurs in Hebrews only once in 11:38 in this form, “of whom the world was not worthy...” This word kosmos usually refers more to the inhabited world, this earth dwelt by men. Whereas the word used in 1:2 is the word aion. This usually refers to, and if often translated, ages. For example Heb 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and to the ages to come” (Darby’s translation). Again in verse 21 of this same chapter we read “...to whom be glory for the ages of ages” (Darby’s translation. The KJV however translates it with the word ‘for ever’).
Whereas in Genesis 1:1 the emphasis really is the world of men and the heavens above that were created, in Hebrews 1:2 the emphasis is on the Son creating the ages – past, present and future! He has created all of them. And no wonder, for He alone is able to carry it, bear it and upholding it carry it forward; as mentioned in the following verse.
Beloved, what comfort these words should minister to our fearful hearts. He who is the creator and upholder of all things, all ages, past, present and future, throughout which ages all Glory will be unto Him, He is our Lord and our God. Need we worry about the present or the future? We know not what the future holds, but we know Him who holds the future! Our Lord is able to carry us through. May we ever and always find our hearts resting in Him, in Him alone who is our present and our future.
Posted by Thomas J Paul at 10:31 PM
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
With the intention of wooing these Jewish believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and towards Him and thereby weaning them from Judaism, as God had given it, the author sets about comparing the Lord Jesus Christ – His Person, His ministry and His New Covenant in the once-for-all-time sacrifice, to the chief heads of the Old Covenant. In doing so, he brings out things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ that far outweigh in character and glory the Old economy – the persons connected with it, its temple and its rituals along with its prescribed sacrifices. No doubt the old economy, the old covenant was of and from God Himself; and in its time served its own purpose according to God. Nevertheless, it pales into oblivion in comparison to the new covenant inaugurated by the Lord Jesus Christ.
This epistle puts our Lord Jesus Christ, and things in connection with Him, in a ‘better’ light. Notice the following
1. The Lord Jesus Christ has a place “so much better than the angles” – 1:4
2. The Lord Jesus Christ has brought “a better hope” – 7:19
3. The Lord Jesus Christ has become “surety of a better covenant” – 7:22
4. The Lord Jesus Christ is “mediator of a better covenant” – 8:6
5. The Lord Jesus Christ is High Priest of “the better and more perfect tabernacle” – 9:11
6. The Lord Jesus Christ has offered “better sacrifice(s)” than those under the old covenant – 9:23
7. The Lord Jesus Christ’s blood speaks “better than Abel” – 12:24
In the course of our meditations, the Lord willing, we’ll take a look at each of these. But besides these occurrences of the word ‘better’ in connection with our Lord Jesus Christ, the author, throughout the main part of the letter, emphasises the superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is presented superior to angels, to Old Testament prophets, to Moses, to Aaron and to Joshua. The New Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ is superior to the Aaronic priesthood. The Lord Jesus Christ has introduced “a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building” and His once-for-all-time sacrifice has perfected forever “them that are sanctified”, something all the sacrifices under the Old Covenant could never do!
In this first chapter the writer compares God’s revelation in the past through the prophets, His servants and His revelation now in and through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. He then goes on to describe the glories of the Son, who has been appointed Heir of all things, the creator and upholder of all things. The Son’s superiority in comparison to the angels are then brought in view, they being ministers who do God’s bidding, whereas the Son is God Himself upon His throne holding His spectre of righteousness.
“God who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by Son”
With these grand words the author introduces his magnificent theme and purpose – to unveil the glorious superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ. These words are indeed worthy to be etched in letters of gold and to be displayed in settings of silver. Who can sound the depth of words such as these? Truly, the Spirit of the Lord alone can, and He is more than willing to unfold them to us, in howsoever a small measure our own feeble minds may be able to comprehend and appreciate them.
Although in our English version Hebrews begins with ‘God’ the Greek original doesn’t do so. A more literal translation of the Greek would, in the words of William R. Newell be thus: “In many parts, and in many manners of old, God having spoken to the fathers in the prophets, at the end of these [Old Testament] days did speak to us in [the person of His] Son”.
In opening with the words “in many parts” and “in many manners or methods”, which in the Greek make up two words transliterated polumeroos and polutropoos, the author really desires to lay emphasis on the fragmentary and piece-meal kind of revelation men received from God in the past. He emphasises, not the fact that God had indeed spoken in the past, a fact all too well known to the Hebrews; he would rather here stress the fact that God’s revelation in the past under the Old Covenant was, at best, but fragmentary, in bits and pieces. Besides, God’s revelation in the past was not direct; He chose to reveal His Word using different methods – through dreams, visions, and at best they were but through “dark speeches” (Num 12:8). Moses was probably the only prophet who beheld “the similitude of the LORD” and about whom the Lord said “with him I speak mouth to mouth, even plainly”. But even so, the fact does remain that God’s revelation in the past was piece-meal, fragmentary and far from being direct and complete.
In sharp contrast, God’s revelation through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ seems to have a ring of finality to it. The author of course does not literally say so, but the strong implication cannot be avoided. The fragmentary nature of God’s revelation in the past is contrasted with God’s final speech, as it were, through His Son. Furthermore, in the past God employed prophets to communicate to His people, but has now spoken through His Son. In the Greek the word ‘son’ has no definite article and so would rather emphasise the character of the person. In other words, God has now spoken to us through One who holds the relationship of ‘Son’ to God, He is the Son of God. But there is more. The fact that He sustains such a relationship to God, gives character to the manner of God’s communication now. And that’s why Newell has inserted the words “the person of His” within brackets before the word ‘Son’.
We are here reminded of the Lord’s parable recorded in the synoptic Gospels – the parable of the vineyard owner (Lu 20:9-18; Mat 21:33-46; Mar 12:1-9). In the parable which also turned out to be prophetic, a certain man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants. Isn’t this reference to the vineyard reminiscent of Isaiah’s song of the vineyard as recorded in Isaiah chapter 5? In Isaiah, “the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant” (Isa 5:7), but in the parable of the Lord Jesus the care or responsibility of the vineyard seems to be likened to “the kingdom of God” (Mat 21:43), although the vineyard seems to be the land of Jerusalem itself (note especially the action of the wicked farmers in casting out the heir outside the vineyard).
But the point to notice here in connection with the opening words in Hebrews is that God did send unto Israel His servants the prophets “rising up early and sending them” although they would not hearken. And as in the parable, God finally sent His “son, his well-beloved” (Mar 12:6) expecting them to reverence Him. Alas! They treated him most shamefully, “they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.” All that now remained, if they did not yet repent, was the certain overthrow and destruction of the vineyard as detailed at the end of the parable. And this we believe took place in AD 70 when Jerusalem along with the temple was razed to the ground.
God spoke to the fathers of the Jewish nation in the past in many portions and in many ways through His servants the prophets, but He has at the end of these days, spoken to us in and through His well beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the past God spoke through His servants, He has now spoken through His Son. And this has made all the difference in the communications. God has now spoken His heart out in a way no prophet could speak. God has now spoken personally, intimately and directly through the Lord Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. In the words of the apostle John, “no man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18) Now that word translated ‘declared’ in the Greek is exegesato from which we get our English word exegesis, meaning to explain, to interpret. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures, the noun form of this word is used to describe the magicians at Pharaoh’s court (Gen 41:8,24). We read in verse 8 that “there was none that could interpret them (the dreams) unto Pharaoh; verse 24 tells us “there was none that could declare” the dream to Pharaoh. Clearly, the office of the exegetas was to interpret and declare a matter, which was otherwise obscure and hidden from the reach of ordinary people. The apostle John declares that the Son has ‘interpreted’, ‘declared’ the Father, and He has done so in a way none else could.
Not only that God has now spoken through the instrumentality of One who sustains the relationship of ‘Son’ to God, the author of Hebrews tells us that God has spoken in Son. This is not exactly good or correct English, but it is good Christian doctrine. Paul reminds us that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself” (2Cor 5:19). In Christ it was God Himself who acted and God Himself who spoke. This and nothing less would do. The Son has brought the Father to us. The Lord Jesus could say “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9), and “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30 Darby’s translation).
The opening verses in Hebrews also establish the truth and inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures. Ours is indeed a religion based upon revelation, a revelation from God Himself. Unlike all other so-called sacred writings in the world, the Bible is a revelation from God Himself. These opening verses do not mean that God spoke no further after speaking in and through the Lord Jesus Christ; for He did. The Spirit of God continued to speak through the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ and moved men chosen by God to put down all that He Himself wanted to put down for all time. These, along with the Old Testament, make up the complete Bible we now hold. Historically, the Lord Jesus Christ was not the last Person to speak about God. What these opening verses in Hebrews do affirm however, is the fact that God has been fully and completely, and that for the first time, revealed or brought out in and through the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son. And it is primarily upon this fact that the writer to the Hebrews builds his argument in the following verses, which we will have occasion to take note of in its place.
Posted by Thomas J Paul at 8:14 PM
Monday, October 11, 2010
The Epistle to the Hebrews
The epistle to the Hebrews was written to Jewish believers, who in the words of Luke were still “zealous of the law”. Luke informs us in Acts 6:7 “a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Did these zealous Jews and priests continue in the Law even after becoming ‘disciples’ of the Lord Jesus Christ? Did they continue to offer the sacrifices prescribed in the Old Testament, after accepting and owning the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ their Messiah, the Lamb of God?
Acts 15 records for us the first Church council held at Jerusalem. The chapter opens “and certain men who came down from Judea taught the brethren, ‘Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.’” Furthermore “certain of the sect of the Pharisees, who believed” said “that it was needful to circumcise them (gentile converts), and to command them to keep the Law of Moses.” Verse two tells us “Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them”. It seems rather strange that men such as Paul and Barnabas had to dispute this matter. When we today look back and read of such a situation, we might be tempted to wonder as to why it was that there really had to be any discussion at all! Wasn’t it clear that in Christ the Law was done away, and that once for all time? Wasn’t it clear that the Lord Jesus Christ brought an end to the Law, being the fulfilment of the demands and requirements of the Law? It seems also from what we read of from the rest of Acts 15, that only the Gentiles who turned to God were not required to keep the whole Law. All that the Jerusalem council decided to ‘impose’ on these Gentile converts to Christ was that they “abstain from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication”. And that’s it. They needn’t yield to circumcision to be saved. Nor were they required to ‘keep’ the law.
All of this is rather clear and apparent from a plain reading of Acts 15. However, a more serious question we believe this chapter raises is – Did the Jewish believers themselves continue in the Law? The fact of the matter seems to be that they did. If they themselves didn’t keep the Law after coming to Christ, there really would have been no occasion or even a reason for ‘certain men’ to teach ‘the brethren’ circumcision and connect it with salvation. The words ‘the brethren’ here seems to be indicative of not Jewish believers necessarily, but, in the context gentile converts. Besides, we know from the way in which the Jerusalem council concluded the matter in writing to the gentiles who had “turned to God”, that the point of discussion really was whether the Gentiles need to be circumcised and whether they needed to keep the Law.
If the Jewish believers themselves did not continue in the Law, it is rather strange that any of them would even want to impose such practises as circumcision and the keeping of the Law of Moses upon gentile converts. No, it seems rather obvious that they themselves did indeed continue in the Law of Moses. And for that very reason some of them felt the need to bring in the gentiles, who had now turned to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, under the ‘yoke’ of the Law of Moses. There really would have been no need for any discussion or dissension between Paul and Barnabas and those certain men who wished to bring gentile converts to keep the Law of Moses, if such was not the case.
Furthermore, in Acts 21, James, who was a recognised leader and pillar of the Church at Jerusalem, informs the apostle Paul of how many “thousands of Jews there are who believe, and they are all zealous of the Law”. Even more interesting is the fact here pointed out by James that these devout and zealous Jewish believers were informed about Paul that he taught “all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.” It is rather strange that when James utters these sentiments, Paul does not offer any corrections! Nor does he try to explain his actual teaching or practise among Jewish believers who believed in the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. So did Paul actually teach the Jews who were among the gentiles that they really needn’t circumcise their children? Did Paul actually teach these Jewish believers that they needn’t ‘walk after the customs’? Did Paul actually teach these Jewish believers to forsake Moses, ie., that they needn’t keep the Law of Moses? It seems to be that all such rumours were really just that – rumours. In other words, Paul acknowledged that these were all false charges against himself, and James too believed them to be so! Can we not therefore safely conclude that Paul indeed taught no such things? Therefore we are forced to conclude that, even if Paul didn’t actually teach so, he nevertheless believed just the opposite; at least he doesn’t seem to indicate that he would teach otherwise!
So it definitely seems that the Jews who accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah, having become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, nevertheless continued circumcising their children and continued in the Law of Moses. It was unthinkable for them to make a clean break with the old covenant; having received it from God through Moses. For centuries they had handed down the sacred writings, now the Old Testament, from generation to generation. And for them to now break away from these very oracles that were committed to them was simply unthinkable. We present day believers from among the nations cannot possibly image just how difficult it must have been for these pious Jews, for whom to worship and serve God was equivalent to holding on to the Word that was committed to their keeping. Indeed it was even more so, seeing it was these very scriptures properly interpreted by the Spirit that pointed them to Jesus of Nazareth as their promised Messiah and deliverer, the Saviour of all men. And now to tell them that God was about to set aside Israel the very nation, who for centuries had been the custodians of God’s revelation and the only channel for ushering in the Messiah, the Promised Seed of the woman, was tantamount to blasphemy. This mystery of course is more fully taken up by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans chapters 9 to 11.
Be that as it may, Jewish believers found it extremely difficult to make this very necessary break with Judaism, as God had given it. What they were required to do was no mean thing – to leave all that they, along with their forefathers, had heretofore faithfully stood for, to leave behind the imposing and tangible temple along with its ordained sacrifices, to go forth ‘outside the camp’ of Israel, as it were and this in the light of all hostile opposition – all of this and nothing less was most earnestly pressed and urged upon these Hebrew believers.
WHO WROTE THE EPISTLE
The epistle itself does not state its author explicitly, nor does it give any direct hint as to it author. Whoever the author was, he was acquainted with Timothy and he calls him a ‘brother’ and says that he would be travelling with him (Heb 13:23). That the author was not one who was an immediate disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ in the days of his flesh is clear from Hebrews 2:3 where the author makes this distinction between “them that heard” our Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry and himself. He obviously was not one among ‘them that heard’ the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. The author was probably familiar with the believers in Italy and hence writing from here or from Rome (Heb 13:24).
Presently, based upon an early Christian tradition that the apostle Paul was the author of this epistle to the Hebrews, New Testament scholars continue to debate this issue. For many conservatives the evidence, both external and internal, seem to strongly indicate Paul as the author. Many others are equally certain, based upon the rich and lucid style of writing, that although Paul may have been the original author, the actual writing is by someone else. The thoughts are definitely Paul’s and yet the style is of another; and who the ‘other’ person is continues to be a subject of much debate. Many names have been suggested, and among others, Luke and Barnabas seem to be more highly favoured. For those interested in pursuing this rather interesting piece of information, we would refer the readers to J. Barmby’s introduction to the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews in the Pulpit Commentary. After a rather detailed examination and consideration of both, the external and the internal evidences, Barmby ably concludes and defends the Pauline authorship of this epistle. We quote a statement from his conclusion of his excellent introduction to the epistle.
“It is evident from the above review how entirely an Epistle with such a drift, and written with such a purpose, reflects the mind and spirit of St. Paul, whatever may be said of the language and the treatment of the subject handled.”
Although Origen’s oft-quoted words “in truth God alone knows who the author is” regarding the authorship of the epistle to the Hebrews, is held on to as rather definitive, we shouldn’t forget his own words that also inform us of Origen’s personal views on the authorship of this epistle. Here are Origen’s words as quoted in Dr. W. Gary Crampton’s article ‘Hebrews: Who is the Author?’
“But as for myself, if I were to state my own opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle [Paul], but that the diction and phraseology are those of someone who wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore, if any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this. For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Paul’s. But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows.”
And in conclusion, Dr Crampton says:
“The conclusion of the matter is this: It seems clear from both the external and the internal evidence that the apostle Paul is the most likely candidate to be the author of the Book of Hebrews. With little question this has been the classical view of the church, even though this is not the case in our day. Moses Stuart correctly asserted that “there is a peculiarity of representation so distinctly marked here, so exclusively Pauline in manner, that if Paul himself did not write the epistle to the Hebrews, it must have been some one, who had drunk in so deeply of his instructions, as to become the very image of the fountain whence he drew” (Stuart, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 128). We do not, however, need to end up here. A reasonable examination of all of the issues should bring us to the conclusion reached by the nineteenth century scholar John Brown: “After considering with some care the evidence on both sides of this question, I am disposed to think that, though by no means absolutely certain, it is in a high degree probable, that this epistle was written by the apostle Paul” (Brown, Hebrews, 8). The present author is of the opinion that the Epistle to the Hebrews was penned by the apostle Paul to the Hebrew church of Palestine, during (or immediately subsequent to his release from) his first imprisonment in Rome in A.D. 62 or 63.”
For myself, I’m more than convinced that it was indeed the apostle Paul who authored the epistle. However, I’m open to the suggestion that it was actually Luke who might have written at Paul’s direction. The more than casual resemblance to Luke’s writings seems to strongly suggest this line of reasoning. In any case, I wish to leave the subject at that, open though it be to many a criticism from those who differ.
Posted by Thomas J Paul at 5:37 PM
Saturday, October 9, 2010
...I write now mainly in response to the recent article you sent me entitled ‘Who is the Prince of this World?’ I must confess I found this particular article rather erroneous, to say the least. My dear brother, in what I have to say, please do not take it that I am lashing out at you personally. I do not intend to do any such thing. However, I cannot but think that in this article you are in error. Please do not take my comments as personally attacking you. I trust and believe that you, like myself, only desire to speak the truth and to hold all that the scriptures declare to be true. Hence I believe that you will not resent my examination of your article. I have always enjoyed your writings, which have been most stimulating, but I must confess this particular article does not contain the truth of God’s Word on this subject.
According to the light that I have received and, indeed in accordance to the scriptures themselves, I am obliged to state my reasons and at least try and explain why I defer from your own conclusions. I trust these words assure you of my sincere love and affection towards you, however much I might disagree with you on the point discussed here. Besides, I would gladly acknowledge that you are far more matured and learned than myself, ... I have profited much from your writings and praise God for His grace towards you in the Ministry of His Word. However, I feel obliged to state my views and, because I believe your own to be false, to try and explain them in however feeble and inadequate a way I might be able to.
To begin with, I would like to point out that in your article when you quote John 16.32 you insert the words ‘to heaven’ thus – “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth (to heaven), will draw all men unto me.” Now those are your words added to make, as you say, better and complete sense. But if this is what was meant, why did the Spirit of God not say so plainly? Besides, that expression ‘lifted up from the earth’ explains what we have in the following verse 33, “This he said, signifying by what death he should die.” If all that Jesus meant by the expression ‘lifted up from the earth’ meant His return to heaven to the Father, how would this expression signify the type of death He should die? Clearly, being lifted up from the earth meant our Lord would be literally lifted up or made to be raised up from the earth.
Interestingly, John 3.14 uses a similar expression, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:” Clearly, the Lord Jesus was not referring to His returning to Heaven to His Father. (Of course in dying, Jesus would return to His Father. This we do not deny.) The serpent of course we know was not lifted up into heaven but was raised or lifted up, elevated upon a staff, and similarly, Jesus Himself would be thus raised, lifted or elevated, when He would be crucified.
Now this is brought out clearly when later in John 8.28 we read, “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.” These words were spoken by our Lord to the Jews, as seen clearly from the context. Did the Lord Jesus mean that these Jews would send Jesus back to Heaven? That they would lift Him up into Heaven? No. The context was clearly the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 21 the Lord had said, “...I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins; whither I go, ye cannot come.” In response, the Jews ask in the following verse, “...Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.” Clearly, the Jews understood Jesus’ words to mean that He would die, only they wondered if He would kill himself. The context was clearly Jesus’ death. And in this context of Jesus’ death, He uttered the words of verse 28 and stated clearly that the Jews would be responsible for His death, His crucifixion, which type of death chapter 12 verses 32 and 33 intimate. (Here of course, we are not denying that our Lord laid down His life of His own will and that no one was able to take it from Him. Nevertheless it is also true that the Jews rejected their Messiah and had Him crucified. Compare Peter’s words in Acts 2.23 and 3.15)
Your quotation of John 14.30 does not make good sense. This is how you have given the verse along with your clarifications and questions.
“Hereafter I will not talk much with you: (Why will He not talk much with them?) for (because) the prince of this world comes, (Christ, this prince comes...) and has nothing in me (because Israel refused to give Him His true title, Prince of this world!).”
Please allow me to quote from Darby’s translation of this verse. Darby’s reads, “I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world comes, and in me he has nothing;” Young’s literal translation reads, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world doth come, and in me he hath nothing;” In both the above translations, the Lord Jesus is contrasting the ruler of the world with Himself in saying ‘in me he’ has nothing; unlike the KJV translation, in which the emphasis of this contrast is not brought out clearly. The Greek of this verse definitely bears this out. All the major Greek texts read, “kai. evn evmoi. ouvk e;cei ouvde,n” as the last line of this verse. Clearly evmoi (emoi) ‘in me’ is contrasted with e;cei (echei) ‘he has’; the ‘me’ and ‘he’ being contrasted. Obviously, two different persons are here intended by these words, as is also clear from the two translations I have quoted.
This verse alone proves that the ruler of the world could not be the Lord Himself. Whoever the ruler is, it is not the Lord Himself. His identity would have to be discovered from other passages of scripture. But this much is clear, the ruler is not the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. (Revelation 1.5 of course states that the Lord Jesus Christ is the “prince of the kings of the earth.” Here our Lord Jesus is called the ‘Prince of the kings of the earth’, not ‘Prince of the world’. The two expressions do not mean the same thing. Besides, in the book of the Revelation, the kingdom of this world is contemplated as having become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (Rev.11.15) and the Lord is viewed as the Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, who is and who was, and who is to come (Rev.1.8). With this in view, nothing hinders the Lord being addressed as the Prince of the kings of the earth, as indeed one day He will show Himself to be truly so.)
Besides, your quotation of the verse does not make good sense. Within the verse you ask, “Why will He not talk much with them?” in brackets, and then you answer within brackets, “because…Christ, this prince comes…)”. Frankly, this is rather odd. It would have been understandable to say that He would not speak much with them because Christ goes…(Granted that the word for ‘comes or coming’ can also be translated as ‘goes or going’, however, in view of the following words, it is rightly translated ‘comes’ and not ‘goes’.) But here the word says because He comes. And if so, what sense can be made of the fact that Jesus will not speak much with his disciples because He comes! Here something is quite amiss. Your words don’t seem to make good sense.
Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that simply because we find an expression to mean something in John 12 and John 16, it need not be conclusive that if that expression occurs in between, as in John 14, it should mean the same thing referring to the same person or thing. This is what you ask,
‘is it possible that our title, “the prince of this world,” could refer to the Lord Jesus Christ in John 12:31 and also in John 16:11 and then refer to the devil in John 14:30? – a verse in between? Unthinkable indeed!’
Now, assuming that your conclusions on John 14.30 and John 16.11 are true, this would in itself not be a proof that John 12.31 should also be treated in like manner, or that the words necessarily refer to the person they refer to elsewhere. No doubt they could mean or refer to the same person or thing, but this logic alone cannot be applied to prove it to be so. Other considerations would have to apply.
In scripture, expressions and even words that occur in the same context may not necessarily have the same meaning, i.e., in the sense, that they need not refer to the same person or thing.
Allow me to explain. If you turn to Daniel chapter 9 and verse 25 you will find the words, “…unto Messiah the Prince…”. And in the next verse 26 too you will find the words the prince. Now in the KJV, the translators have put the word ‘Prince’ in verse 25 beginning with a capital letter but the one in the next verse is in lower case. The original of course does not have this distinction. Now you are probably aware of how covenant theologians interpret these verses. And simply because the word prince occurs in two consecutive verses, people have generally made the mistake of assuming that in both instances, the same person is referred to. I believe you will agree that in verse 25, the word Prince refers to our Lord Jesus Christ himself, whereas in verse 26 the word refers to the Roman Prince whose people destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. Clearly, two very different persons were described here with the same word within two verses.
Obviously, we cannot and ought not to be guaranteed that if any word(s) occur within the same book, chapter or even, as in the example quoted, within two verses, they should necessarily refer to the same person, or thing as the case may be. The words in themselves could mean the same, and they probably ought to, if words have to be interpreted at all. But that they should and therefore refer to the same person or thing, etc. is not guaranteed simply because they occur so. Of course, when all things are taken into consideration and the words clearly ought to be understood to refer to the same thing or person, no one would deny that they definitely ought so to be taken; but not otherwise and definitely not simply because of their close proximity of occurrence.
Dear brother, please do not take offense since I do not wish to offend you in any way. I do not desire to attack you personally. I only wish to arrive at the truth of God’s Word and nothing else. If I have in any way misread or misunderstood your article, or if my own understanding is faulty, please do feel free to correct me. I would be only too grateful to you for pointing out the truth to me and I would be most happy to learn from you.
I trust my motives and intentions in writing have been made fairly clear and that you will in no wise have any misgivings about anything I have written.
Please allow me to once again assure you of my deepest respect and sympathy, love and affection in the Lord. I pray the Lord would grant us all much grace even by the help of His Spirit, who alone can lead us into all Truth, the Truth of His Word.
I close with much love and prayers.
Posted by Thomas J Paul at 3:19 PM
Grace AUDIO Treasures
Grace AUDIO Treasures
Puritan Devotionals, author index
Puritan Devotionals, author index
- Abbott, John
- Alexander, Archibald
- Alexander, James
- Alleine, Joseph
- Baxter, Richard
- Bayly, Lewis
- Berridge, John
- Bonar, Horatius
- Boston, Thomas
- Brooks, Thomas
- Bryan, Ruth
- Bunyan, John
- Cuyler, Theodore
- Devotional, Puritan
- Doolittle, Thomas
- Dutton, Anne
- Dyer, William
- Edwards, Jonathan
- Fawcett, John
- Flavel, John
- Gadsby, William
- Griffin, Edward
- Hall, Newman
- Harsha, David
- James, John Angell
- Law, Henry
- Lawson, Steven J.
- MacDuff, John
- MacKenzie, Lachlan
- Martin, Albert N.
- Mason, William
- Mead, Matthew
- Meikle, James
- Miller, J. R.
- More, Hannah
- Newcombe, Harvey
- Newton, John
- North, Brownlow
- Philpot, J. C.
- Pink, A. W.
- Plumer, William S.
- Reade, Thomas
- Rogers, E. P.
- Ryle, J. C.
- Scripture Meditations
- Secker, William
- Sprague, William
- Spurgeon, C. H.
- Talmage, DeWitt
- Tyree, Cornelius
- Vincent, Thomas
- Watson, Thomas
- Winslow, Mary
- Winslow, Octavius