Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jesus' Home Address

Biblegems #160
Question: In John 1:37-39 Jesus makes a direct invitation for Andrew to hang out with him at His place . . .or was he referring to some place else? Where's did Jesus reside when he wasn't wandering around?

The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ 3 ½ year ministry make it clear that once Jesus left the wilderness he maintained no permanent address:
         Luke 9:58  Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

At times this meant that Jesus would spend the night outside. When that was the case, the outer cloak served as a bedroll and blanket:

        Matt. 5:40 “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”

The event mentioned above in John 1 takes place after Jesus’ baptism in the region of Bethany near the southern section of the Jordan River where John was baptizing (Jn. 1:28). Jesus was just visiting the area at the time, for his home base at this early stage of his ministry was Nazareth, many miles north in Galilee:
         Matt. 2:23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

As he travelled, Jesus would get to know people who would offer him and his disciples a temporary place to stay in their home. Here are a few examples:

Another common place for Jesus and his disciples to stay was the home of the disciples themselves:
         In Matthew 17:25  Jesus is again at Peter's house talking about whether it's right to pay taxes.

Jesus would even invite himself over to a meal at the home of a stranger, as he did with Zacchaeus (Lk. 19:5), and with Matthew the tax collector (Matt. 9:10). In fact, this was an outreach strategy he taught his disciples:
         Luke 10:5-7  “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.”

How strangely appropriate that the exalted Creator and Lord of the universe should have no place to call home while on this little blue planet in the vast ocean of the universe:
         Is. 66:1 This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Modern Day Prophets?

Biblegems #159
Question: Are there modern day prophets in the church, or did prophecy cease with Jesus and the apostles?  How does Joel’s prophecy—“your sons and daughters will prophecy”—quoted in Acts 2:17 fit in with all of this? It concerns me to see people being called prophets and prophetesses.

The concern expressed by this question is very legitimate. There are many who proclaim to be prophets and are not, and many who are proclaimed by others to be prophets who are not. Such false claims, however, have always been the case. The fact that there are false prophets does not mean that there are no prophets.

Here’s what the Scripture has to say:

There will be prophets and prophetesses in the Last Days:
         Acts 2:17-18  In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

We have been in the Last Days since the birth of Jesus. In fact, the very end of the Tribulation period will be marked by the ministry of two witnesses who will prophesy for 3 ½ years:
         Rev. 11:3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.

The Bible describes prophecy as a gift of the Holy Spirit and encourages its use in the church and even gives instruction regarding how it is to be used:
         1Cor. 14:5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.

1Cor. 14:31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.

         1Cor. 14:39  Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

         1Cor. 12:7-10  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy

A person, male or female, who prophecies is a prophet. However, the role of the modern day prophet is not to add to the revelation given in Scripture:
         Rev. 22:18-19  I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

The role of the modern day prophet is to bring instruction, guidance and edification to the Body of Christ, the church, for the common good as we saw in the passages above (1Cor. 12:7-10; 14:31).

Prophets are also to be tested so that they are recognized as legitimate (1 Jn. 4:1; Dt. 13:1-3; 1Cor. 14:32).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Are "Goads"?

Biblegems #158
Question: What are the ‘goads’ mentioned in Acts 9:5 and 26:14, and why is the reference to goads in Acts 9:5 not found in most modern translations?

A goad is a long, pointed stick used as a prod to keep oxen plowing in the fields. One of Israel’s judges, Shamgar, used an oxgoad as a primitive weapon:
         Judg. 3:31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.

Because the goad was used in biblical times as a tool for encouraging the ox to move forward it became a natural metaphor for guidance and instruction:
         Eccl. 12:11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd.

So when Jesus says to Saul on the Damascus road, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads’ (Acts 26:14), He is comparing Saul to a stubborn ox that refuses to be prodded in the right direction.

The reason that most modern translations do not include this sentence in chapter 9, verse 5, is that the most reliable manuscripts of the Greek New Testament (as far as a literal translation from the earliest sources of Acts is concerned [The Alexandrian text]) do not have these words of Jesus to Saul. The manuscripts that do contain these words in chapter 9, verse 5, belong to the group of manuscripts known as the Western Text.

The Western Text has great value for Bible translators, but it is also known for its tendency toward paraphrasing and embellishing the ancient Greek sources for the purpose of trying to clarify the meaning. In that sense, the Western Text is often similar to the modern translation called The Amplified Bible, which adds words in parenthesis to help clarify a passage.

It is important to understand that the “Western Text” and the “Alexandrian Text” are a way of identifying two large collections of Greek manuscripts and portions of manuscripts. The following four paragraphs reproduced from my earlier blog post—Biblegems #60. “Can I trust My Translation?”—may shed some light on this:

There is a common misconception that there is one single Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT) manuscript of the Bible. That is not the case. The truth is there are literally thousands of ancient manuscripts and portions of manuscripts of biblical texts spanning 2,000 years in composition and copying over countless languages. All agree in content and meaning and prove the reliability and accuracy of Scripture!

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest OT manuscripts available were from about 900 AD (the OT was completed about 1300 years earlier!) The translators developing the KJV had available to them an edited Greek text from the 5th century A.D.  They relied upon this and the Latin Vulgate (383 A.D.) to bring to English speaking people a new, dependable translation which the average person could read.

Now, through archeological research, we have discovered OT manuscripts dating from before the time of Christ. We have also discovered manuscripts of the Greek New Testament that are far older than anything previously available. These confirm the accuracy of the texts we already had. Where there are differences, these older manuscripts often help provide greater accuracy in determining a specific word or phrasing. Translations that take full advantage of these ancient manuscripts help bring us closer to the inerrant originals as composed by Moses, Paul, John, Isaiah, etc.

The best manuscript evidence for Acts 9:5 does not include the sentence, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads’” that is found later in Acts 26:14. As is always the case in the difficult process of Bible translation, God has preserved the integrity of His Word. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hair: The Long And The Short Of It

Biblegems #157
Question: What is meant by this verse: “Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him…?”

The verse itself is found in 1 Corinthians 11:14. It is one of those verses that from time to time (depending on the culture and generation) has been used to prove that the Bible teaches men are not to wear their hair long.

There are several problems with using this passage as a proof text for such teaching. First, the verse itself does not teach that men are not to wear long hair; it simply asks a rhetorical question. And before any teaching can be derived from the question, the meaning of Paul’s question must be understood.

Second, the biblical context of verse 14 is all about public worship. Whatever Paul means by the question, the answer is in the context of worship. Not only so, but there is also a cultural context behind both the question and the answer. One reason this verse is often so unclear to readers of our day is that we don’t live in the cultural setting that Paul and his initial readers were familiar with. Remember this axiom of biblical interpretation: ‘A text without a context is a pretext.’

Cultural Context
Corinth in the first century AD was thoroughly steeped in the Greek-Roman culture, and the Christian church there was made up primarily of Gentiles out of that culture. One of the peculiarities of life in the Roman Empire was that non-Jewish men typically wore short, carefully groomed hair and were clean-shaven. This was to separate themselves from those who were called “barbarians”—the poor and those who lived closer to nature, where the men among them generally let their hair and beards grow out with little concern for style.

Now picture a room full of people gathered for worship where men and women alike wore long robes. A clean-shaven man with long hair could easily be mistaken for a woman, which any self-respecting person of that culture would consider “disgraceful.”

So when Paul writes, “Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him…?”—he (as a bearded Jewish Christian with long, curly sideburns) was appealing to the cultural sensitivities of his clean-shaven, short-haired Christian brothers from the Romanized world. Paul was encouraging them to avoid looking feminine.

If long hair on men were a biblical taboo we would expect to find specific scriptural teaching to that effect. But, in fact, this is the only verse in the Bible that says anything about it, and even that is in the form of a question. The lesson to learn from this is not the length of one’s hair but avoiding appearances in general that would confuse the genders, and thereby do a disservice to God who made us male and female for His glory:
         Gen. 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.