Tuesday, July 29, 2014

God’s Modesty Standard

Biblegems #195
Question: Does the Bible give a standard for modesty in the way believers are to dress?

Certainly the clearest statement in Scripture regarding how a person should dress in public is the admonition in First Timothy:
1Tim. 2:9-10  I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

This passage has often been mistranslated, misinterpreted and, consequently, misapplied. So take a closer look with me into this teaching, phrase by phrase. At the end of this post you will find my own translation of these two verses from the Greek to contemporary English.

The phrase “I also want” (NIV) more literally translates as “In the same manner,” connecting us back to comments made regarding how people (men especially) are to conduct themselves in worship. This is important because God’s standard on modesty is far more concerned with conduct and the attitude of the heart than with the length of a dress.

“to dress modestly”
“Modestly” (Gk. kosmeo, from which we get the word “cosmetic”) is more literally translated as “well-ordered” or “neat” attire. It is used twice in the Greek, the first time in the sense of ‘neat’ and the second time in the sense of ‘adornment’ or ‘attractiveness.’

with decency and propriety”
“Decency” translates the Greek word aidos. It carries the idea of turning one’s gaze away in bashfulness or reverence. It was used especially to portray a woman looking away from a man with a bashful innocence, or a person looking down in reverential awe in the presence of God. The idea behind “propriety” (Gk. sophrosune) is that of sanity and self-control.

The ideas at work here are that of humility born of innocence, common sense and self-control—all attitudes of the heart: making a point to dress in a way that does not advertise or show off.

“not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes”
The image behind the words “braided hair” (phlegmasin) refers to anything that is plaited, interwoven or interlaced. However, this is not some legalistic rule against pigtails and braided hair. How ridiculous that would be coming from the apostle who argued so forcefully against legalistic religious requirements:
         Col. 2:16  Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

The same non-legalistic principle applies with the “gold, pearls and expensive clothes.” The Bible is not giving a new commandment against wearing specific items, but promotes creating an inward and outward attractiveness based on a godly attitude and lifestyle.

My translation below follows the flow of thought in the original Greek, placing the emphasis on the attitude of the heart rather than the cut of the clothes.

“In the same way, women should beautify themselves in neat, unrevealing attire, showing good judgment, rather than with fancy hairstyles, gold jewelry, pearls or expensive clothes, being conspicuous as women who profess to worship God by doing good.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Resurrection—A Myth Reborn?

Biblegems #194
Question: Is the New Testament account of Jesus' death and resurrection a re-hash of old myths?

This is a common claim, and the mythological comparison made most often is the ancient Egyptian story of Osiris. Below is a summary of the Osiris myth.

Osiris’ Death and Resurrection Myth
The story of Osiris, the principal ancient Egyptian deity of the afterlife, survives from writings known as the “Pyramid Texts” (2400–2300 BC), the Palermo Stone (2392-2283), and the “Coffin Texts” (2181–2055 BC), which contain portions (and substantially differing versions) of the myth. A play composed by the Greek historian / author, Plutarch (46 AD – 120 AD) retells the story.

The most original form of the story is found on the inside walls of sarcophagi (the Pyramid texts), which describe very graphically how Osiris is murdered and dismembered by his brother Set. The body is discovered by his two sisters, Isis and Nephthys, who build a sarcophagus to contain it. They reconnect his body parts and bring life temporarily back into the corpse, long enough for Isis to conceive a son (Horus) for Osiris. Set finds Osiris’ corpse, dismembers it, and throws into the Nile. Osiris’ and Isis’ son Horus collects the pieces, buries them inside a sarcophagus and gives it over to the underworld deity, Nut. Osiris’s body is restored to an embryonic state and transported to the afterlife.

Two things should be noted at the outset. First, the story details change in substance, not just in minor details, even in the very earliest sarcophagi. Second, no attempt is ever made in the Osiris myth to connect the characters to a distinct historical setting. It is told as a story, not as an historical event.

Jesus’ Historical Resurrection
Jesus’ resurrection is firmly established in history by those who witnessed and recorded the event. The accounts are so precise and close in time to the actual event that the eyewitnesses would have been laughed out of town for their flagrant lies if the resurrection had not happened! Instead, those who were not followers of Jesus had to come up with alternate explanations for the empty tomb (see Matt. 28:11-15).

Here are just a few of the many markers placing the resurrection of Jesus firmly in time and place as an historical event. The Gospel accounts record:
• the accurately identified Roman officials and Jewish leaders.
• the specific day, time and named individuals at the empty tomb (Matt. 28:1; Mk. 16:1-2; Lk. 23:56-24:4).
         • the eyewitness testimony of the named women who first met the resurrected Jesus (Matt. 28:9-10; Mk. 16:9-11; Lk. 24:10-11).
         • the many eyewitness accounts of the resurrected Jesus, identifying time and place: (Matt. 28:18-19; Mk.16:14-18; Lk. 24:36-41).
         • The apostle Paul, roughly 25 years after Jesus’ crucifixion, could personally identify more than 500 people who saw the resurrected Jesus, most of whom were still alive (1 Cor. 15:3-8).

The oft-cited criticism that the Gospel accounts do not agree with each other about the resurrection is simply not true. The differences are either extremely minor, or else not differences at all—just details included by some and not others. For examples, see my related Bible Gems posts. [i]

The fact is, the Gospels were written for the expressed purpose of providing accurate accounts of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus:
         John 21:24-25 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

[i] #41, “Three Days And Three Nights”; #128, “When Did Jesus Enter Heaven”; #129 “Reincarnation & Resurrection”. See also: #178-179; #182-183.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Just God And A Global Flood

Biblegems #193
Question: How could a loving and just God condemn all men, women and children to such a horrible death as a global Flood?

There are a few fundamental truths about the nature of God and the nature of man that should help to put both the question and the answer in proper perspective.

We are All Going To Die. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person; and there are very few ‘nice’ ways to die. Drowning in a global flood, death by fire, cancer or car accident—they are all pretty horrible. Neither death itself, nor the way we die, is really the issue here. The reality is we are all going to die, and the timing and manner of our demise has always been in God’s hands, not ours. The real issue is what happens after we die:
         Heb. 9:27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment
We Are Already Condemned.
Man Is sinful by nature. Because God is holy, completely Good in His nature, without sin and without imperfection, all that He has made is likewise good, holy and without imperfection (Gen. 1:31). The presence of sin and evil in the universe is the result of man’s rebellion against God. That rebellion has deformed God’s creation, introducing death, disease and decay into a universe where these things were once unknown.

God Is Just
         Ps. 89:14  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.

Justice, righteousness, love and faithfulness describe who God is in His very nature. Because God is just He cannot allow sin and evil to continue without some form of correction. In His love, God created human beings who are free agents, free to love their Creator and follow His ways of justice, righteousness, love and faithfulness—or not. In choosing not to love God above all else, in choosing not to follow God’s ways but our own, we place ourselves in opposition to Him and to His design for the universe. We are, in effect, lawbreakers. It is this rebellion against God that brought sin, evil, death and destruction into the world. To be on the wrong side of God’s justice is our own choice.

God is Love
The reality is, the entire human race is condemned already. Jesus came into the world to rescue us from that inevitable judgment.
John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

For God to be just He cannot allow sin to continue unchecked. He must eradicate it, and doing so requires eradicating those who commit sin—and none of us are exempt. But because God is love as well as just, He has provided a way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ from the judgment we all deserve.
John 3:16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.