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Archive for the ‘hermeneutics’ Category

This is part 6 of our critique of Rachel Held Evans’ book titled Inspired.  Here are the previous posts in this series:

Part 1 click here

Part 2 click here

Part 3 click here

Part 4 click here

Part 5 click here

In this post we will look at chapter 4 of the book.

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This is from brother Wally’s blog a few weeks ago:

It is very true.  We cannot have a pick and choose approach towards the Bible.

We can easily fall into this error even when we confess publicly and know that this ought not to be.  This is why I think every local churches’ regular staple of Sunday preaching ought to be expository preaching which is contextual preaching that gives attention to the flow of the context.  The nature of expository preaching with its way of verse by verse teaching forces one to see what God’s counsel has to say helps us to minimize the danger of picking and choosing specific aspects of the Bible while ignoring the rest.

For those who are interested here’s Veritas Domain’s Hermeneutics Series: Course Level One, Two and Three.

 

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interpreting-apocalyptic-literature-an-exegetical-handbook

Richard Taylor. Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook.  Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, July 27th, 2016. 208 pp.

4 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon

This book is part of the Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis series published by Kregel Publications.  Previously I have enjoyed the work on interpreting Old Testament historical books by Robert Chisholm very much and was looking forward to this volume largely because of it.  I was also excited for this volume since apocalytpic literary forms is one of the hardest to interpret in the Old Testament and as a preacher it would be helpful to think through critically and be equipped in handling passages of Scripture like the book of Daniel.

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how-to-handle-bible-contradiction

After dozens of posts dealing with specific Bible contradictions I thought I write on how to handle Bible contradictions.  Here in this post there are three sections: Before Interpreting the Bible, While Interpreting the Bible and Thinking Beyond Bible Contradictions.

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This post is probably more technical than some of the other responses we wrote answering alleged Bible contradiction but I think it is helpful in demonstrating how a working knowledge of the original language of Scripture is helpful and important.

bible-contradiction-how-did-david-kill-goliath-and-did-he-kill-him-twice

Today’s post will tackle the question that the Skeptic Annotated Bible pose: “How did David kill Goliath?”

Here’s the two answer they pointed out in which their point is that there is a contradiction:

With a sling only.

(“There was no sword in the had of David.”)

And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground. 50 Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand. (1 Samuel 17:49-50)

He cut off his head with a sword.

Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. (1 Samuel 17:51)

(Note: Scriptural quotation comes from the New American Standard Bible.  What is in bold is the emphasis by the skeptic webpage.)

Also the website also asked “Or did he kill him twice?”

Let’s take a closer look at whether or not there is a contradiction:

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I’m behind working on a post dealing with a Bible contradiction which hopefully I would post tommorow or Monday.

For now I thought I share this video that was taught by our brother who blogs at Eternity Matters on the topic of reading the Bible in Context.

He has posted this on Vimeo:

Enjoy!

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interpreting-the-historical-books-an-exegetical-handbook

Robert B. Chisholm Jr. Interpreting the Historical Books: An Exegetical Handbook.  Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, December 1st,  2006. 231 pp.

This book exceeded my expectation.  I really enjoyed this book on interpreting the historical narratives found in the Old Testament.  Some people might not think of hermeneutics as “fun” but this really was fun to read.  It was also helpful for me too.  I think the book was a rare combination of being meaty and yet insightful into the Scriptures that makes readers excited to want to read the Old Testament.

The book is divided into six chapters.  The first chapter focuses on what is narrative literature with the breakdown on what are the elements of narratives and interpretative principles that are conscious of them.  The second chapter is on the primary themes of the historical books while the third chapter is on the preparing for interpretation.  Chapter four is titled “interpreting narrative texts,” chapter five is “proclaiming narrative text” and chapter six is “From Text to Application: Two Samples.”

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takes time

One thing I’m glad I started this year on our blog has been looking at some Bible contradictions and showing how they really are not contradictory when one examines them carefully.

I decided to look up some of the verses that I answered and see how other Christians have answered it.  I don’t want this to be about me, but I see that some of my posts are more detailed than some of the offered answers out there.

Lord willing I plan to roll out more posts refuting Bible contradictions and showing how they are not contradictions.

But I do want to say something: Answering Bible contradictions takes time.  Why is that?

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Matthew vines

This is our third installment in which we look at the problematic precommitments that Matthew Vines has accepted prior to his research for his book God and the Gay Christian in which he argues that “Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationship” (Page 3).  Here in this post I want to address Vines’ problematic pre-commitment concerning Old Testament laws.

Matthew Vines In His Own Words

On page 11-12 Vines said:

But while I’d once agreed with my parents’ view on homosexuality, I didn’t anymore.  Even before coming to terms with my sexual orientation, I had been studying the Bible’s references to same-sex behavior and discussing the issue with Christian friends.  Some of what I learned seemed to undermine the traditional interpretation of those passages.  For instance, Leviticus prohibits male same-sex relations, but it uses similar language to prohibit the eating of shellfish.  And while Paul did describe same-sex relations as ‘unnatural,’ he also wrote that for men to wear their hair long was contrary to ‘nature.’  Yet Christians no longer regard eating shellfish or men having long hair as sinful.  A more comprehensive exploration of Scripture was in order.”

Note in the above quote that even before Vines came out of the closet as being a homosexual or even before he began researching to write his book, Vines’ own view of the Old Testament has already led him to question whether the Bible prohibit same sex relations.  Although Vines admit that a “more comprehensive exploration of Scripture was in order,” already what he thinks he knows has “undermine the traditional interpretation of those passages”

Then on page 78 Vines gives us some more details of how he started to question the Old Testament laws found in Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) that prohibits same-sex relationship:

When I was fourteen, I used that verse to ‘prove’ to a friend that gay marriage ws wrong.  Today, I realize I hardly knew anything about what I was saying–the context of that verse in Scripture, for instance, or the place of the Old Testament law for Christians.

It’s no surprise that I was at a loss when my friend responded to me with verses from Leviticus banning the eating of shellfish and wearing mixed fabrics.

Sad to say, though, that’s been the extent of many debates about the BIble and homosexuality in recent years.  One side starts by quoting Leviticus 18:22 (or 20:13, which prescribes the death penalty for males who engage in same-sex relations), and the other side counters with verses about dietary laws and bans on certain combinations of clothing.  We really need to go deeper”

Thus his interaction at the age of 14 with friends on the topic of Old Testament laws has already slanted him towards the view that the Bible does not prohibit same-sex marriage.  We definitely need to go deeper in our refutation of his pre-commitment that slants him towards affirming same-sex relationships.

The Problem with Vines’ view of Old Testament Laws

  • Vines lamented the state of debate between the two sides: “One side starts by quoting Leviticus 18:22 (or 20:13, which prescribes the death penalty for males who engage in same-sex relations), and the other side counters with verses about dietary laws and bans on certain combinations of clothing.”  Ironically this is what Vines himself does when he invokes dietary laws as a defeater to the non-affirming Christians’ interpretation of Leviticus.  He didn’t “go deeper” as he promised in the book but presented the typical gay apologists’ arguments about Old Testament laws.
  • Matthew Vines’ hermeneutics is definitely problematic.  Recall the principle that led him to think same-sex relationship is okay: “Leviticus prohibits male same-sex relations, but it uses similar language to prohibit the eating of shellfish.”  In essence, this is his hermenutical principle:  “Since X  from Leviticus is not applicable for us today, therefore Y should not be either.”
    • But just because Leviticus has laws that prohibit things that later in the New Testament it allows, does that means same-sex relationship fall under the same category of things permissible?
      • Homosexual sins is not in the same category as dietary laws.
      • Also the New Testament did not reverse the teaching of Leviticus against homosexuality, pronouncing that it is now permitted for a man to lie with another man, etc.
    • Matthew Vines’ hermentical principle that “Since X  from Leviticus is not applicable for us today, therefore Y should not be either” is dangerous.
      • Taking Vines’ hermeneutical principle towards Leviticus to its logical conclusion, is it now permitted to see the nudity of family and relatives members?  The same argument Vines use against the prohibition against homosexuality can be used by perverts to argue against Leviticus 18:6-17 (same chapter with the prohibition on male homosexual acts).  Leviticus might prohibit unclothing family members and relatives, but to use Vines’ own words Leviticus also “uses similar language to prohibit the eating of shellfish.”  Thus  shellfishes “undermine the traditional interpretation of those passages” and somehow with Vines leap of logic in the structure of his argument it must mean incestuous uncovering of nakedness is allowed today.
      •  Vines’ form of argument can be used to say it is permissible to commit children sacrifices, bestiality and incest by employing his erroneous hermeneutical principle to dismiss Leviticus 18:21, 18:22, 20:11-12 respectively.  We can go on but readers should get the point with his hermeneutics.
    • Matthew Vines is also inconsistent with his hermeneutical principle that “Since X  from Leviticus is not applicable for us today, therefore Y should not be either.”
      • Again Vines believes in “committed, monogamous same-sex relationship” (Page 3).
      • Part of that commitment means there must not be adultery, which by definition is the violation of a committed monogamous relationship.
      • If Vines is consistent with his interpretative approach it undermines the prohibition of adultery.
      • But Vines won’t go there and probably won’t accept someone who uses his argumentation to allow for adultery.  Thus, he is inconsistent with his own method.
    • Matthew Vines and others might argue that the points above does not apply in light of the New Testament relationship to the Old Testament.  This is our reply:
      • While the New Testament still prohibit adultery, etc., remember the New Testament continue to prohibit homosexual relations as well.  Of course, Vines and company will dispute that, but the Christian response can be found elsewhere in our blog and is beyond the scope of this post.
      • Going to the New Testament does not resolve Vines’ problematic hermeneutics.  That is because he himself applies this kind of argumentation to the New Testament; recall above how Vines was quoted as saying: “And while Paul did describe same-sex relations as ‘unnatural,’ he also wrote that for men to wear their hair long was contrary to ‘nature.'”  Now the problem is further compounded by bringing this interpretative strategy to the New Testament.
  • Ultimately, Vines’ basis of ethics is not the Bible if he can judge which prohibition in Scripture (Old and New Testament) should still stand and which should not.  His standard of ethics needs to be exposed and refuted.  This we have already done in part 1 of this series in which we documented and refuted his humanistic consequentialist’s ethics.

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gay_scotus

LGBT Movement: Part 1

There is a plethora of objections that I can share from the LGBT movement, but for time’s sake, I will try to provide you their main arguments:

LGBT Objection: The biblical prohibition against homosexuality is ancient and not to be followed anymore.

Response: Then why not apply the same logic to other sexual perversions too?  Should the prohibition extend beyond the scope of homosexuality to other sins too (i.e. adultery, etc.) if one operates off of a presupposition of the ancient? Just because something is ancient does not mean it no longer has relevant and direct applications for us.  For example, the murder is an ancient and wicked sin that can traced back to Genesis.  Should we stop prohibiting the act of murder because it is ancient? Can you imagine the repercussions if this logic was followed. The implications brings about other forms of sexual immoralities such as bestiality, pedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia, etc.  This can of worms opens up because ones thinking is not submitted to the Lordship of Christ in the realm of knowledge.  Greg Bahnsen stated this concerning the Lordship of Christ in the realm of knowledge,

Paul infallibly declares in Colossians 2:3-8 that ‘All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ.’  Not he says all wisdom knowledge is deposited in the person of Christ–whether it be about the War of 1812, water’s chemical composition, the literature of Shakespeare, or the laws of logic!  Every academic pursuit and every thought must be related to Jesus Christ, for Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life” (Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith4-5).

To disconnect oneself from Christ is problematic because it leads to deception and moral suicide.

LGBT Objection: The biblical prohibition against homosexuality is addressed only to Jews.  Non-Jews are only affected by this prohibition if they reside in the Jewish land.

Response: Rabbi Jacob Milgrom is one person who espouses this belief.  He quotes form Leviticus 18:24-30, but he forgot about verses 25-27 (defilement and acts of abominations attributed to non-Jews too).  The passage states:

‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled.  ‎25 ‘For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.  ‎26 ‘But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you  ‎27 (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled);  ‎28 so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you.  ‎29 ‘For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people.  ‎30 ‘Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God.’ ”

  • Clearly verses 25-27 refer to the other nations committing acts that is considered wicked and abominable before the Lord that the Jewish people were prohibited from following.  If God is using the other nations as examples, then clearly the Gentiles are people too that can commit abominable acts.  The criteria of abominable deeds is not determined by where you live or what race you belong to.  The prohibition against abominable acts can take place anywhere and by anyone.  Both Jews and Gentiles are culpable.  He does not have laws of morality only for one group of people or only for a specific region.

Objection stated: What is “natural” in Romans 1 is not in reference to natural homosexuals but to heterosexuals who go beyond their natural bounds and engage in homosexuality.

Response: These proponents have a complete misreading of Romans 1. It turns the argument of Paul on its head.  The sin of homosexuality just like any other sin is never natural.

  • Romans 1:26-27, For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
  • Romans 1:26-27 is in reference to all formerly heterosexuals who exchanged their natural function for the unnatural function.  Why? because there is no such thing as natural homosexuals.  Espousing that belief is tantamount to saying that Bruce Jenner was naturally a woman.  Anything sinful is unnatural.  You are what God intended you to be.  What is natural is to operate as beings that reflect the created order. If homosexuality is a natural state, then it will be illogical and contradictory for God to prescribe prohibitions.  Nice try LGBT movement, but this just shows your desperation in order to propagate your false teaching so you could justify your sin.

LGBT Objection: Paul is only speaking of pederastic homosexual behavior here, not adult homosexual relationships.

Response: Paul speaks of “men committing shameless acts with men….”  This statement when studied in the Greek text is prohibiting all sorts of homosexual behaviors.  The argument concerning whether it is in reference to pederastic behavior or not has to do with the word meaning of arsenokoitai and its cognates in extant usage.  Here is where I think Dr. Robert Gagnon’s (since I have not done complete research, I can’t fully vouch for all of Dr. Gagnon’s theology such as soteriology, bibliology, etcc.; so please use discernment to see if it aligns with Scripture)  commentary from his Facebook post concerning arsenokoitai  is helpful.  I am also thankful that Cripplegate was able to compile it and archive it for us.

The term arsenokoitēs and cognates after Paul (the term appears first in Paul) are applied solely to male-male intercourse but, consistent with the meaning of the partner term malakoi, not limited to pederasts or clients of cult prostitutes.

For example, the 4th century church historian Eusebius quoted from a 2nd–3rd century Christian, Bardesanes (“From the Euphrates River [eastward] . . . a man who . . . is derided as an arsenokoitēs . . .  will defend himself to the point of murder”), and then added that “among the Greeks, wise men who have male lovers are not condemned” (Preparation for the Gospel, 6.10.25). Elsewhere Eusebius alluded to the prohibition of man-male intercourse in Leviticus as a prohibition not to arsenokoitein (lie with a male) and characterized it as a “pleasure contrary to nature,” “males mad for males,” and intercourse “of men with men” (Demonstration of the Gospel, 1.6.33, 67; 4.10.6). Translations of arsenokoitai in 1 Cor 6:9and 1 Tim 1:10in Latin, Syriac, and Coptic also define the term generally as “men lying with males.”

  • Dr. Gagnon is correct concerning his above commentary.  Furthermore, according to Dr. Gagnon, if Paul wanted to refer only to prohibition of pederastic behavior he would of used a different term.

The terms paiderastai (“lover of boys”), paidomanai (“men mad for boys”), or paidophthoroi (“corrupters of boys”) could have been chosen.

  • Here is more commentary from Dr. Gagnon concerning the implications of arsenokoitai in Romans 1:24-27:

It is bad exegesis to interpret the meaning of arsenokoitaiin 1 Cor 6:9 without consideration of the broad indictment of male-male intercourse expounded in Rom 1:27 (“males with males”). The wording of Rom 1:27(“males, leaving behind the natural use of the female, were inflamed in their yearning for one another”) points to an inclusive rejection of all male-male relations. Paul here does not distinguish between good non-exploitative forms of male homosexual practice and bad exploitative forms but rather contrasts all male homosexual relations with natural intercourse between a man and a woman. He also emphasizes reciprocity (“yearning for one another”), a fact that rules out an indictment only of a coercive one-sided homosexual desire.

Other factors confirm the inclusive rejection of all male homosexual practice in Rom 1:27: Paul’s intertextual echo in Rom 1:23–27 to Gen 1:26–27 (which contrasts male homosexual practice with God’s intentional design in creation, “male and female [God] created them” and the consequent marital bond), his use of a nature argument (which transcends distinctions based on coercion or promiscuity), and the parallel indictment of lesbianism inRom 1:26 (a phenomenon in the ancient world not normally manifested with slaves, call girls, or adolescents).

The fact that semi-official same-sex marriages existed in the Greco-Roman world and were condemned by Greco-Roman moralists, rabbis, and Church Fathers as unnatural, despite the mutual commitment of the participants in such marriages, is another nail in the coffin for the contention that the term arsenokoitai had only exploitative or promiscuous male homosexual relations in view.

  • What I also found astonishing while studying this word arsenokoitēs, I came across this in the book called The Same Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible’s Message About Homosexuality by Dr. James White and Jeff Neill, I came upon this discovery that somewhat startled me.  I found out some disturbing news concerning the influence of the LGBT pressures upon Christian scholarship in some lexical works concerning the changes from BGAD (2nd edition) to BDAG (3rd edition).  You can see the subtle compromises.  Limiting the meaning of the word arsenokoites should not even be a option.  Here is the excerpt below from the book:

“Some scholarly sources limit the meaning in just this way. The impact of political pressures appears even in the realm of Christian scholarship and publishing. For example, the second edition of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature by Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker (University of Chicago , 1979) defines arsenokoites as ‘a male who practices homosexuality, pederast, sodomite’ (109). The listed sources were fairly small at this point but included Bailey’s work. With the advent of the third edition (now known as BDAG) in 2000, the entry more than tripled in size, with the main definition dropping the term ‘homosexual.’ The definition given is, ‘a male who engages in sexual activity w . a pers. of his own sex, pederast.’ The first part of the definition, however, defines a homosexual, not a pederast. The largest portion of added ‘sources’ are revisionist in nature and have already been addressed . However, BDAG does note the formation of the word based upon the LXX usage at Leviticus 20: 13, even though this very fact militates strongly against the dropping of the term ‘homosexual’ from the definition (while retaining the description of homosexuality!)” (159-160).

Objection stated (Rom. 1): Paul is speaking solely of Jewish purity laws, and hence this is irrelevant in a modern, enlightened society.

Response: This reveals their desperate revisionism of the text. We know that Paul is prohibiting all homosexual acts whether it be done religiously or not.  There is no indication anywhere whereby the sin is limited only to a religious homosexual act.  If that is their logic, can we say that murder, adultery, other sexual deviant acts that are not done religiously be accepted?  Paul is condemning the total homosexual orientation because it is not natural.  They love to blame totalitarian regimes such as Nazis or communists being revisionists, but they are doing the very same act of error.

Objection stated (Rom. 1): Paul is not giving a binding, universal or timeless prohibition here, but is speaking only about what was then “natural” in a conventional or social sense.

Response: Paul is not intending this to be limited to a cultural climate. This is timeless and universal.  In every generation, this sin is condemned.  Why is it only wrong in terms of under the guidance of social norms?  No where in Scripture is God’s moral law to be governed by society?  Do you see that in Leviticus 18 and 20?  If it is subjected to social norms, that means prohibitions from God are not immutable and therefore are tossed to and fro by the gross immorality of arbitrariness.  Who knows then what the next new norm would be in the coming future.  Should the Gospel change too then?   Of course not.  If so, the message we preach has no transforming power and no binding authority upon all people in all ages.  God is not mocked.  He will not be limited by social norms or time.  He is the Ageless and the Eternal one.  May this stir up our hearts to preach the eternity of God and the immutability of God.

Stay tuned for part 3.


Helpful resources consulted:

Bahnsen, Greg L., and Robert R. Booth. Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith. Atlanta, GA: Tenth Printing, 2009.

White, James; Niell, Jeff (2002-04-01). The Same Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible’s Message About Homosexuality (p. 135). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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Vern PoythressThere is a free PDF of a work by New Testament Scholar Vern Poythress titled “Issues in Hermeneutical Foundations: Selected articles on hermeneutics and biblical interpretation.”  It is a collection of various articles by Poythress that appeared various theological publications.

The PDF is hosted on Westminster Bookstore and available by clicking here.

(HT)

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Something lighthearted for this Saturday’s post.

Herman New Tricks

 

On Veritas Domain’s facebook page we have an album of memes dedicated to Hermeneutics.  You can check it out by clicking here.

If you haven’t done so already, you should like our page for more memes uploaded in the future and also other updates on your Facebook feed!

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John_Frame

What is the role of Scripture and extrabiblical data in light of the sufficiency of Scripture?

I appreciate John Frame’s definition of the sufficiency of Scripture not as “sufficiency of specific information but sufficiency of divine words” with the note that “Scripture contains divine words sufficient for all of life.” (John Frame, Doctrine of Christian Life, 157).  I think this definition is helpful because it allows us to delineates the use of Biblical and extra-biblical data in knowing and doing things as Frame explained in this extended quote:

If you remember that the sufficiency of Scripture is a sufficiency of divine words, that will help us to understand the role of extrabiblical data, both in ethics and theology.  People sometimes misunderstand the doctrine of sufficiency by thinking that it excludes the use of any extrabiblical information in reaching ethical conclusions.  But if we exclude the use of extrabiblical information, then ethical reflection is next to impossible.

Scripture itself recognizes this point.  As I said earlier, the inscriptional curses does not forbid seeking extrabiblical information.  Rather, they forbid us to equate extrabiblical information with divine words.  Scripture itself requires us to correlate what it says with general revelation.  When God told Adam to abstain from the forbidden fruit, he assumed that Adam already had general knowledge, sufficient to apply that command to the trees that he could see and touch.  God didn’t need to tell Adam what a tree was, how to distinguish fruits from leaves, or what it meant to eat.  These these were natural knowledge.  So God expected Adam to correlate the specific divine prohibition concerning one tree to his natural knowledge of the trees in the garden.  This is theology as application: applying God’s word to our circumstances.

The same is true for all divine commands in Scripture.  When God tells Israel to honor their fathers and mothers, he does not bother to define ‘father’ and ‘mother’ and to set forth an exhaustive list of things that may honor or dishonor them.  Rather, God assumed that Israel have some general knowledge of family life, and he expects them to apply his commands to that knowledge.”

(John Frame, Doctrine of Christian Life, 163).

Some of the highlights I put in bold font.

I think Frame is building upon the observation that I first read from the apologist Cornelius Van Til of the need of general and special revelation being inter-dependent.  God’s Special Revelation always interpret His General Revelation and extrabiblical information; but note here that Special Revelation assumes that there are extrabiblical information out there; moreover, it will never contradict God’s special revelation.

For more quotes from John Frame, I invite you to “like” our blog’s face book page which will be featuring daily morning quotes from Frame’s book, The Doctrine of the Christian Life.

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Return of the Kosher Pig , by Tzahi Shapira

 
Pick up your copy of “Return of the Kosher Pig” over at Amazon

This is a book written by a Jewish Rabbi name Itzhak Shapira who spent years studying rabbinic Jewish texts and came to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah.  The main thesis of the book is that within the traditions of Judaism, the Messiah is understood as someone who is more than a mere man; some sources even suggest that the Messiah possesses divine authority.  Throughout the book the author reminds his readers that he is not arguing that everyone within Judaism accepts the idea that the Messiah is more than a man; instead he argues that the belief in the supernatural origin and character of the Messiah has historically been within the bounds of orthodox Judaism and should not be dismissed as a heretical belief.  Along the way the author also argues that the fulfillment of these characteristics of the Messiah has been fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.

Before we look at the strength and weaknesses of the book, it is important to make a comment about the controversial title of the book.  My initial reaction to the title was whether or not this was design to provoke and offend.  The author makes it clear in the introduction that he’s not out to offend other Jews unnecessarily, and the tone of the rest of the book affirms that.  What Shapira is trying to do is to play on the Hebrew word “return” and “pig,” which share the same Hebrew consonantal roots.  The title of the book also play on the Rabbinic concept that some held that the Messiah will be rejected like a pig as unkoshered, but one day will return and acknowledged as the Messiah.

STRENGTH

This book will help Christians become familiar with the development of rabbinic traditions from the time of Jesus onwards.  Throughout the book the author regularly footnotes what certain Hebrew phrases mean and the glossary in the back of 300 Hebrew phrases will prove to be helpful for the Gentile readers.  I also appreciate that in the beginning of the book the author defines and discusses essential facets of rabbinic Judaism over the last two thousand years.

Whether or not you agree with the author, one can appreciate that in the beginning of the book he makes it clear what his theological methods are.  Since Shapira desire for his Jewish audience to come to know Jesus as their Messiah he adopts the Jewish hermeneutical system call PARDES which is the Hebrew acronym for P’Shat, Remez, Drash and SodP’Shat refer to the literal reading of the Scriptures, with the other three moving on from the literal and direct level of the text.  These four interpretative methods are explained in the book and the author makes it known that he will adopt this Rabbinic framework in approaching the question of the Messiah.  Non-Jews will no doubt find it fascinating to learn of the hermeneutical approach of Rabbinic Judaism.  I appreciated also that the author stresses the literal interpretation of the Bible comes first before employing the other three methods.

The book is well documented, with hundreds of footnotes.  I am amazed at how many Jewish sources the author cited.  As a result of reading this book, I was able to do some further research including looking up the portion of the Talmud that talks about the Messiah in Sanhedrin 98a.  It is a plus any time a book helps points the reader to the primary sources for further study.

The best part of the book are the moments the author deal with the literal interpretation of the Jewish Scripture and draw out from it what it teaches concerning the Messiah.  In addition I appreciated the discussion of the evidence for Jesus Christ involving the Stone Messianic references that I first learned about from Gregory Harris’ book The Stone and the Glory.  There are some excellent literal prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus—and that should move us to worship if we know Him!

WEAKNESS

At times the book was too speculative in its argumentation.  For instance, the author uses the PARDES method beyond the literal interpretation yielded some strange fruits. Take for example how the author allegorizes the donkey in Zechariah 9:9.  Contextually the Messiah is to ride on according to this passage.  The author took “donkey” to mean “the world” since the Hebrew word for donkey and “substance” share the same root (199).  This commits the exegetical word study fallacy by appealing to etymology.  Then on page 205 the author tells us that bread represents a spark of heaven and is referring to resurrected spirit even though he doesn’t establish his case from the Hebrew Scripture.  This is followed by page 206 that tells us “that the feminine manifestation of God represents the part of that God that we can see and remain alive” (206).  The Bible never indicates God’s revelation to us is His feminine manifestation.  I also wasn’t too thrill about the counting of the numerical value of certain Hebrew words to show the value was equal to another Hebrew word; we never see this kind of hermeneutical ploy used by anyone in the Bible to make sense of the Jewish Scripture.  Again, as I said earlier it is way too speculative.  A book full of these interpretative gymnastic is distracting; I think it would have served the cause better and have the case stronger if the authors just stuck to the literal interpretation and the collobration of those interpretation from Jewish rabbinic sources.

At times the author could have done a better job explaining what he was quoting or who it was he was quoting from and why is it that it is important (note, he certainly does this at times but could do it more).  The list of Jewish Rabbis in the back of the book wasn’t helpful when you are reading through the book and wondering who this or that Rabbi was since the Rabbis were not listed in alphabetical order but according to their time period.

NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher Messianic Jewish Publishers through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest opinion. The thoughts and words are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

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I have been looking forward to this book for several weeks now.  The author Kevin DeYoung addresses the important topic of the doctrines of Scripture and he writes in an accessible way that’s friendly toward those who might be new in the faith.  DeYoung will be one of the speakers for next year’s Shepherd’s Conference (2015) that is on the topic of inerrancy and I look forward to what he has to say beyond this book.

There are many books out there on the Bible.  How is this one different?  In the beginning of the book DeYoung makes it clear what this work is not:  It is not a book on personal Bible study, interpretation, apologetics per se or even an academic book with lots of footnotes covering philosophical, theological and methodological issues.  That is, DeYoung explicitly says that this work is neither a systematic or historical theology nor is it an attack piece against some of the recent works from certain quarters of Evangelicals that question the authority of the Bible.  Instead DeYoung’s goal for the book is a lot more modest:  He wants to unpack what the Bible has to say about itself as the Word of God (hence the title).  This is done out of the conviction that the Bible as God’s Word often bring people to faith concerning itself when one allows the Bible to speak.

We do need a simple and direct book that calls this current generation of Christ followers to be faithful to God’s Word and not compromise.  It seems this is what the publishers and author wants to do with this book.  The strength of this book is its straightforward simplicity of truths that are biblical.  Younger Christians need will benefit from reading this and it is perfect for discipleship.  Older seasoned saints can benefit from this book by being reminded of what God’s Word is and its characteristics.  For those who are involved with much academic reading on bibliology, I believe they will find it refreshing as a summary of the doctrines of the Word of God.

There are eight chapters in the book plus an appendix.  All the chapters are expositions of passages that talks about the Word of God.  The bulk of the book covers the characteristics of God’s Word.  I appreciate DeYoung’s intent for application here with even the way he titled the chapters.  For instance, rather than merely say God’s Word is sufficient DeYoung titled chapter three as “God’s Word is Enough.”  Rather than say the authority of Scripture we see chapter five is titled “God’s Word is Final,” etc.  I appreciate the book drawing out implications for the Christian life from a solid bibliology.  My favorite chapter is chapter four’s topic of how God’s Word is clear.  There is so much discussion today about how to interpret the Bible with various new tools that one may start believing one has to graduate with advance degree before we can interpret the Bible for ourselves.  DeYoung notes that this is an issue of one’s view of God, of whether God can reveal Himself or whether He is gagged (to borrow the title of Carson’s book).  This chapter is a great encouragement for believers to know that God’s Word is “knowable” contrary to the problematic claims of some critic.

I also appreciated the appendix as well with its list of thirty significant books on the Bible.  DeYoung even labeled each work as either beginner, intermediate and advanced.  I do disagree with DeYoung calling John Frame’s Doctrine of the Word of God as “beginner.”

I give this book a four out of five since I wished he could have interacted with some of the recent critics more nevertheless I recommend it for believers as a good summary.

Go here for 35% discount.

Or you can also order this book on Amazon

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Crossway and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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