Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The “Gospel” Of Jesus’ Wife

Biblegems #188
Question: What is the “Gospel Of Jesus’ Wife” that has been in the news, and why isn’t this (and other "gospel" accounts) included in the New Testament?

Let’s take this question in two parts: “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” and “Other Gospel Accounts.”

“The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”
Periodically, the news media headlines the discovery of a “new” Gospel, or some artifact from biblical times that calls into question the accuracy of the Bible. Such was the case with the April 10, 2014 article from FOX News (among several others): “Papyrus mentioning Jesus’ wife likely not a forgery.”

While this 4th century document itself may not be a forgery, the tiny scrap of papyrus dates back to approximately two hundred years after Jesus’ death. There are only eight partial lines of text, and no indication of who wrote it or why. Part of the text reads:
         “Mary is worthy of it… [line 3] …Jesus said to them,
“My wife…” [line 4] …she will be able to be my
disciple… [line5] …Let wicked people swell up… [line 6]
As for me, I dwell with her in order to… [line 7]

Nothing indicates who the author is that claims to be quoting Jesus. There is no context to make any sense of the broken sentences. What we do know is that the papyrus originated in Egypt sometime after 350 AD. It has been in public circulation since about 1960 and studied by specialists since at least 2011. It is hardly a “new” discovery.

“Other Gospel Accounts”
The apostle Paul discovered very early on in his ministry that people would alter the Gospel message for their own purposes. As he wrote to the church in Galatia:
         Gal. 1:6-7  I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

Peter encountered the same problem with people who were not eyewitnesses of Jesus but who made up teachings and events in a distorted version of the Gospel :
         2Pet. 1:16  We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.   

The idea that Jesus was married—usually with Mary Magdalene as His wife—goes back to ancient manuscripts known as “The Gospel of Phillip” and “The Gospel of Mary” (ca. 120 AD - 300 AD). How do we know these are not to be trusted as authoritative accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings?

Early church leadership relied upon a few basic tests to determine a standard of trustworthy, Holy Spirit inspired writings—what we now know as the New Testament. 1) Your New Testament Gospels and letters had to be composed by an apostle—or someone trusted by the apostles and perhaps even trained by an apostle. 2) New Testament documents also had to be in complete doctrinal agreement with the teachings of Jesus and the original apostles (“the Rule of Faith”).

Consequently, even many writings that carried the name of an apostle (The Gospel of Peter, Thomas, Barnabas, etc.) were rejected because they did not meet the criterion of “the Rule of Faith.” You can be confident that the Holy Spirit has preserved in the Old and New Testaments “…the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth” (Col. 1:5b, 6).  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tadpole 2 Frog = Evolution?

Biblegems #187
Question: Do tadpoles turning into frogs and caterpillars turning into butterflies represent a change of “kinds,” from one kind of creature to another, which would support an evolutionary model?

This is a really significant question. In the book of Genesis God reveals how creation took place, including how plants and animals were created according to their specific “kinds.”
         Gen. 1:11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

The term “kinds” describes a group of creatures or a group of plant life that share the same genetic “pool.” For example, all the different variations of dogs—from a wolf to a cocker spaniel—are still dogs; they are of the “canine” kind. Likewise, cats are of the “feline” kind.

Sometimes, however, there is such a dramatic change in appearance within a “kind”—like a tadpole to a frog or a caterpillar to a butterfly—that it looks like evolution from one kind of creature to another is taking place. The truth is, the biblical term “kinds” refers to forms of life that reproduce themselves, no matter how much change in appearance happens during the process of reproduction. It is for this reason that a chimpanzee will never give birth to a human, or even evolve into a human, because the chimpanzee does not have the same kind of genes as a human being.

Tadpoles, on the other hand, are produced by frogs in the reproductive process and grow into fully developed frogs themselves. A tadpole does not have legs and must live in the water (like a fish), but it has within its design everything needed to grow legs, live on land and breathe air as it matures. So a tadpole will never become a goldfish because it is designed to become a frog. A caterpillar will never become a snake because it is designed to grow into a butterfly.

The theory of Evolution requires that one kind of creature, like a cold-blooded reptile, mutate into a different kind of creature, such as a warm-blooded bird. Even if the change from reptile to bird, or from a monkey to a human, takes millions or billions of years, the change from one "kind" of creature to another "kind" of creature requires drastic mutations at the genetic level. Such a mutation, by definition, is an abnormality, an error in the normal process of reproduction. That would make pretty much all of life as we know it the result of a chain of mutations—errors and abnormalities. According to evolution you and I as human beings are the result of a long history of genetic mistakes.

Well, here is the good news:

         Gen. 1:27, 31 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. …God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

No Marriage In Heaven

Biblegems #186
Question: I've always been struck by the "nor given in marriage" verse. What if someone dies young? God has made it clear that we won't be let down in heaven. But is missing out on the beauty of a spousal relationship part of that? I guess the only solution to that quandary is to marry before you die?

Jesus made it clear that, as far as the resurrected redeemed are concerned, the act of getting married is reserved for “this age” only.
Luke 20:34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection (cf. Matt. 22:30; Mk. 12:25).

This does mean that for those who die in Christ without having married will not be getting married in the resurrection. However, it should not be thought that they will in any way be less satisfied, less fulfilled, or experience any degree of loneliness. Even in this life, as Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 7, a healthy, godly marriage inevitably demands a dividing of interests:
         1Cor. 7:32-34  I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.

This does not depreciate the beauty of marriage. But it does point out just how completely devoted we will be to Jesus in the resurrection. He will be our love and our life in a way that no other relationship can match. For those who are unmarried in the resurrection, their lives will be overflowing with the indescribable joy of eternal union with Jesus. When John saw the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, it was far more than a walled city he beheld. He saw the people of God. The resurrected redeemed are the New Jerusalem! He saw what he could only describe in human terms as a bride:
         Rev. 21:2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

This is more than a figure of speech; this is intimacy at a level far beyond that enjoyed by an earthly husband and wife. Indeed, married life now is…

         Eph. 5:32a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.