Philippi: A Church To Be Thankful For

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:3-6).

One of the greatest joys an evangelist has is a church for which he can be truly thankful. It is a great encouragement to a preacher to know there are brethren who will come to his aid in times of distress or persecution. It renews the spirit to feel the weight of the daily burdens lightened by the helping hands of loving saints of like precious faith.

Zealous To Support Paul

The Philippian brethren were ardent supporters of the apostle from the first day (Phil. 1:5). How different they were from the Corinthians from whom Paul received nothing though he gave them his all (2 Cor. 11:7-10; 12:14-17). These brethren supported Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:15), at Thessalonica (Phil. 4:16), in Achaia at Athens and Corinth (Phil. 4:15; Acts 17:13-16) and in the imperial prison at Rome (Phil. 1:7; 4:14-19). They supported Paul out of there “deep poverty” while undergoing a “great trial of affliction” (2 Cor. 8:2). Evangelists ought to be grateful for what they receive from the brethren.

While what the evangelist receives is earned (2 Cor. 11:8), it is no less a matter of generosity and sacrifice on the part of the brethren. They work, they earn and they have bills, needs and wants. Yet, they give. They could have more for themselves if they gave less, but their commitment to Christ is greater than their desires for additional comforts and pleasures (Phil. 1:6; 4:10; 2 Cor. 9:8-11).

Worked By His Side

The Philippians did not just “throw money” at Paul, Luke or Timothy expecting “so much preach for so much pay.” No, the Philippians were “yokefellows,” “fellow laborers,” “fellow soldiers” and “companions in labor” with Paul (Phil. 2:25; 4:3). These brethren had actually helped in the work of evangelizing. Lydia opened her house and received the church (Acts 16:40). Epaphroditus was an evangelist, as well as their messenger who risked his life to carry a gift to Paul (Phil. 2:25). Clement was a teacher of the gospel (Phil. 1:1; 4:1-2). Euodias and Syntyche were served as well (cf. Rom. 16:1-2).

Too many “in the pew” are under the impression that preachers are hired to do their evangelism. There are quite a few preachers under the impression that their sole responsibility is to “fill the pulpit.” The evangelist and the church are in fellowship together in the great work of evangelism. The church shares in the financial needs of the preacher, but also in the work. Elders and deacons have a responsibility to teach and preach the word (1 Tim. 5:17; Acts 21:8) and to train others in that work (1 Tim. 3:10; Titus 1:9-10).

Not Ashamed of Paul

When Paul wrote the church at Philippi his popularity was greatly diminished. He was in prison in Rome (Phil. 1:7) deserted by some of his former companions and alone (2 Tim. 4:9-17). The sect of the circumcision continued to harass Paul (Phil. 1:15-18). Their desire was to destroy him if possible. They made false charges against him and misrepresented his doctrine (Gal. 5:10-12; Phil. 3:18-19; Rom. 3:8). Some of the brethren were turning away from Paul (2 Tim. 1:15). However, the Philippians were remaining steadfast in their former love (Phil. 1:7; 4:14). They unashamedly acknowledged their debt to Paul as the herald of their salvation (Phil. 2:17).

There will be times when an unpopular stand must be taken because it is the right place to stand (Gal. 2:11-12). Men of influence and importance will try and persuade you to do otherwise for the sake of your influence (Gal. 2:6). Weak brethren will tremble because they fear being “labeled” (Acts 28:22). Former stalwarts will cave into pressure because the majority is against you (Gal. 2:13).

When we are ashamed of those who faithfully stand for Christ, we reveal that we are ashamed of the Lord (2 Tim. 1:8). The Lord needs churches today that will support preachers who choose to suffer rather than to practice compromise. We need brethren who will sacrifice to see that those who are standing for the truth have their needs met abundantly. Elders that fear God more than they fear men — leading saints to hold up the hands of the righteous in defense of the faith.

A Good Church

Philippi was certainly a church to be thankful for — evangelistic, sacrificial and loyal. What more could one want in a congregation of God’s people? Is this church such a body of believers? Are we all working? Have we sacrificed for truth? Will we stand when the time comes?

Homosexuality And The Bible

by David Padfield

Was King David of Israel a homosexual? According to some “researchers” in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, both King David and Jonathan, the oldest son of King Saul, were gay. In a correspondence course used by their congregation in Key West, Florida, they say, “All scripture referring to the love that David and Jonathan had indicates that it was a very romantic, personal love.” They also imply that Ruth and Naomi, women of the Old Testament, were lesbian lovers, and claim homosexuals “will receive very special recognition” in heaven.

The Metropolitan Community Church was organized in 1968 by Troy Perry. Metropolitan Community Church congregations can be found in most American cities and a dozen foreign countries. They claim 80% of their members are homosexual. In one of their tracts, Why We Are A Fellowship, James Sandmire states the Metropolitan Community Church “creates community where it never existed before: literally thousands of lesbians and gay men take great strength and comfort in the fact that in most major cities, and now in many rural communities, there is a Metropolitan Community Church. We are becoming widely recognized as a Church of liberation for a community in need. This need increases with changing political climates, health crises and attacks from the religious right.”

As a result of talking about this subject in print and on the radio, I have been called a “homophobe,” a “bigot,” and a “gay basher.” I have no personal animosity against these people. Homosexuals are no worse than any idolater, adulterer or thief. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, the apostle Paul puts these people in the same class, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

When you quote this verse to members of the Metropolitan Community Church, they will quickly tell you it is just a bad translation. They must believe every recognized Bible translator is a bigoted, gay bashing, homophobe!

In Roman 1:24-32, Paul explains that homosexuality was one of the reasons God “gave up” on the Gentiles. He says, “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

Paul put homosexual activity in the midst of a list which includes sexual immorality, murder, and those who hate God. Paul claimed those who committed these crimes were worthy of death.

God’s laws on sexual morality in the Old Testament were very plain. Leviticus 20:13 says, “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” Of course, homosexuals today claim this verse was just not translated correctly.

In Leviticus 18:22 we read, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Was this verse also mistranslated by a group of bigots and gay-bashers? I wonder about the verse that follows it. It says, “Nor shall you mate with any beast, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before a beast to mate with it. It is perversion” (Leviticus 18:23). This verse deals with the sin of bestiality (sexual intercourse with animals). Those who practice this perversion are called zoophiles. Could those guilty of bestiality claim this verse was just mis-translated by a group of zoophile-bashers?

Since the Metropolitan Community Church is in favor of “loving, committed same sex relationships,” I wonder how they feel about pedophiles? You know, those are adults who prefer intercourse with little children. We usually refer to them as child molesters. The North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) advocates consensual sex between men and boys. The San Francisco chapter of NAMBLA has used the public library for their meetings (USA Today, January 21, 1992). A spokesman for the organization said, “We are not child abusers. We’re fighting for children’s rights, and children must have the right to have consensual sex with adults.”

The Roman Catholic Church has a few priests who might qualify for membership in NAMBLA. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that in Chicago, “A flurry of child sex-abuse scandals has drawn the Roman Catholic Church into a far-ranging investigation of pedophile priests, a phenomenon critics say the church hierarchy has long kept muffled” (March 20, 1992). Seven Roman Catholic priests were removed from their parishes due to sexual mistreatment of children. I don’t know where these priests moved to, but they might be able to find a job with the Metropolitan Community Church! You know the old saying, birds of a feather flock together.

Sometimes you will hear homosexuality called a sickness. Other times they claim “God made me this way.” Is homosexuality a learned life-style? The Bible never presents homosexuality as a sickness. It always refers to it as a sin. The good news is Christ our Lord died for sin. In Romans 5:8,9, Paul shows us that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

Many homosexuals and sodomites in Corinth found mercy from the Lord. First, they had to repent of their sins and be washed in the blood of Christ. Paul speaks of homosexuals and sodomites, then says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

I am not suggesting that anyone burn the building of the Metropolitan Community Church or form a picket line in front of it. The cause of Christ is neither promoted nor defended by violence. The only weapon of our warfare is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). The gospel has not lost any of its power, but it has suffered in the feeble hands of some preachers. I am appalled at denominational preachers who have decided to remain silent on this issue. It appears these spiritual cowards would rather spend their time playing bingo or planning the next ladies auxiliary meeting.

If it were not for the fact the Metropolitan Community Church claims to have God’s approval, I would have remained silent about their organization. I am not a political activist, nor am I interested in denying them their civil rights. But, when these sodomites and lesbians use the name of my Lord, I cannot remain silent.

In an article in the Evansville Press, one of the leaders of the Metropolitan Community Church said many gays and lesbians “have expressed a desire for spiritual programs but do not feel welcome in many churches here.” I cannot speak for any other religious group, but these folks are welcome at the church of Christ. They are welcome to attend and search the scriptures with us. It is the only way I that know they will ever come to a knowledge of the truth. Once they find out the gospel demands they repent of all their sins, including the sin of their homosexual life-style, then they can render obedience unto the Son of God. If they then continue to walk in the light of God’s word, heaven can be their home.

An Overwhelming Response

by David Padfield

In the August (1995) issue of this bulletin we printed an article titled, “Adultery: It Destroys The Soul.” The response from our readers about this article has been overwhelming. Within a month after publication we received over 40 letters and phone calls from brethren commending the article. At the time this issue was sent to the printers we had received only one negative letter about the article.

The section of the article that got the most attention dealt with gospel preachers who had committed the “heinous crime” of adultery. I suggested that these men go back to “making tents” for a living until they, like elders, could “have a good testimony among those who are outside” (1 Timothy 3:7).

There is no question that one guilty of adultery can be forgiven if they genuinely repent of their sin. The church at Corinth had members who formerly were prostitutes, adulterers and homosexuals (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

The brother who took issue with my article had two main objections. First, he thought I overstated my case when I said, “It is a sad fact that many gospel preachers have been guilty of adultery.” Second, he had “difficulty finding in the word of God where the restrictions were ever placed upon anyone’s serving God faithfully following their sinning (and tearfully correcting the same).”

As for the exact number of preachers who have been guilty of adultery in the last few years I would not even try to guess. Before I wrote the article I sat down and made a list of over 20 preachers who had publicly confessed to this sin in the past few years. I do not know about you, but to me that is a lot! One preacher guilty of adultery would be too many.

Concerning his second point I believe we have a basic, fundamental difference in our understanding of the New Testament. When I read the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, I do see “restrictions placed upon anyone’s serving God faithfully following their sinning.” I do not see how a man guilty of polygamy could ever be qualified to serve as an elder, even after his repentance (see Titus 1:6). Could a drunkard sincerely repent of his drunkenness on Sunday morning and be appointed as an elder on Sunday evening (see Titus 1:7)? If a Christian neglects his own children and gives them to the world by his neglect, would he be qualified to serve as an elder when he repents? What is your understanding of the phrase “having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination” (Titus 1:6). Is this qualification to be cast aside if the man repents of raising children who are “accused of dissipation or insubordination”? Paul said, “For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5). If a man raised reprobate children does he learn how to “take care of the church of God” the moment he repents?

Adultery is different from other sins, at least in its consequences. God has provided only one reason for an individual to divorce their spouse and marry another, that is, sexual immorality (Matt. 19:9). When a man commits adultery his wife no longer has faith, confidence or trust in his fidelity. He has lied to both God and man. Are we to believe that a woman can divorce her husband because he has broken his sacred vows (even if he repents) and yet if he is a preacher the brethren have to support him?

The patriarch Job called adultery a “heinous crime” (Job 31:11). King Solomon said adultery “destroys the soul” (Prov. 6:32). In Proverbs 22:1 he said, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.” Adultery destroys one’s soul and reputation. How long does it take for one to regain his “good name”?

Wedding sermons, ceremonies and vows

  • Wedding And Funeral Sermons, a collection of wedding and funeral sermons by David Padfield, Wayne Greeson, Harry Lewis, Brian Sullivan, Wayne Walker, Gene Taylor, and Robert Welch (PDF file size: 149k).
  • Wedding Vows Are Sacred Vows

Mary, The Mother Of Jesus

by David Padfield

What attitude should Christians have towards Mary, the mother of Jesus? Should we worship and praise her? Should we pray to Mary as the “Co-Redeemer” of humanity?

One Roman Catholic “Saint” claimed that, “At the command of Mary all obey, even God. She is omnipotent, for the queen, according to all laws, enjoys the same privileges as the king; and since the son’s power also belongs to the mother, this Mother is made omnipotent by an omnipotent Son.” (Alphonsus Ligouri, The Glories Of Mary, [New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co.], p. 114).

Several years ago Time magazine carried an article about Mary and the viewpoint many have towards her. “Among all the women who have ever lived, the mother of Jesus Christ is the most celebrated, the most venerated, the most portrayed, the most honored in the naming of girl babies and churches. Even the Koran praises her chastity and faith. Among Roman Catholics, the Madonna is recognized not only as the Mother of God but also, according to modern Popes, as the Queen of the Universe, Queen of Heaven, Seat of Wisdom and even the Spouse of the Holy Spirit.” (Richard N. Ostling, “Hand-maid or Feminist?,” Time, Dec. 30, 1991, p. 62).

There is no question Mary was honored by being selected to bring the Son of God into this world. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:28). In view of the confusion about Mary, I believe it would be good for us to explore a few of the myths Roman Catholics have perpetuated about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Immaculate Conception

Many people confuse the phrase “immaculate conception” with “virgin birth.” These words do not refer to the same thing. Karl Keating, a noted Catholic apologist, explains it like this: “The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived in the womb of her mother without the stain of original sin. The essence of original sin consists in the lack of sanctifying grace. Mary was preserved from this defect; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace.” (Karl Keating, Catholicism And Fundamentalism, [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988], p. 270).

In a booklet distributed by The Knights of Columbus there is a section on the fall of man. The book speaks of inherited sin and attempts to explain how the “defects” of Adam were “passed on to his children as a man may pass certain qualities by heredity. First of these defects was, of course, the original sin. Adam’s children (and we are all Adam’s children) were born without grace. And all inherited other evils as well” (Imprimatur of John F. Whealon, The Apostles’ Creed, p. 10).

The Bible never speaks of “inherited sin.” Instead, it teaches “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezek. 18:20).

Mary did not inherit any sin from her parents-no one ever inherits the sins of others. Mary did commit sin. We know this because she, like the rest of humanity, needs a Savior. She said, “my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). You can not save that which is not lost!

Perpetual Virginity

Roman Catholics also insist that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life, even after her marriage to Joseph. “Accusation has been made by many rationalists and others attacking the perpetual virginity of Mary because of reference in the gospel to the ‘brethren’ of our Lord. This reference denotes solely a group of cousins. It is clear from the gospel that Mary kept her resolve and had no other children after the virginal birth of Christ.” (Robert Broderick, ed., The Catholic Encyclopedia, [Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986], p. 601).

Keating asserts that, “A careful look at the New Testament shows Mary kept her vow and never had any children other than Jesus” (Keating, p. 284). This statement makes me wonder if Keating has ever read the Catholic Bible, for it says Mary did have other children! “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t Mary known to be his mother and James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? Aren’t his sisters our neighbors?” (Matthew 13:55, New American Bible [Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983]).

Keating also says, “It is traditional, at the conclusion of the (wedding) ceremony, for the bride to take a bouquet to a side altar and lay it at the feet of a statue of the Virgin, at the same time praying that she might emulate Mary as a wife and a mother” (Keating, p. 259). Not many men would want their spouse to “emulate Mary as a wife,” if the Catholic claim of her perpetual virginity is true. It is interesting to note that if an engaged couple told a Catholic priest that they wanted to get married but intended to remain celibate the priest would not allow them to get married!

The apostle Paul tells us, “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor. 7:2-5).

“If Mary was married to Joseph and Joseph to Mary in appearance only, then they were recreant to each other and to the ordinance of God which made them one. How a Roman Catholic, to whom marriage is a sacrament, can entertain such a notion is an unfathomable mystery. The fact that Mary was miraculously the mother of the Messiah has nothing to do with the question of her privilege and obligation in the holiest of human relationships. Back of this unwholesome dogma are two utterly false ideas: that the marriage relationship is incompatible with holy living, and that Mary is not to be considered a human being under ordinary obligations of human life” (James Orr, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956], Vol. III, p. 2003).

Our Mediator

Many people mistakenly believe the Roman Catholic Church teaches Mary is on par with Jesus in the role of mediating between God and man. Some of this confusion comes when non-Catholics hear The Hail Mary prayer: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus, Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

The Catholic Catechism says, “Mary, ever associated with her Son, prays for us with Him. She is not alone in this. The whole community of the blessed in heaven imitate Christ in continuing their concern for us. As we pray for one another upon earth and for the souls in purgatory, so our brothers and sisters in heaven intercede for us. We are united with all of them by the intimate bonds of Christian love. But Mary, our spiritual mother, has an altogether exceptional role in this. Among those redeemed by her Son, her intercessory power is by far the most extensive and effective.” (Ronald Lawler, ed., The Teaching Of Christ, [Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1983], pp. 228-229).

The Bible teaches there is “one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). This passage not only rules out Mary as a mediator, but also all of the other Catholic “saints.” You will also note the Bible never calls Mary our “spiritual mother” nor mentions a place known as purgatory.

Assumed Into Heaven

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that after Mary ended her earthly life, she was taken up into heaven in body as well as in soul. This doctrine was “defined” in Catholic theology by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

You might wonder where the Bible teaches such a doctrine as this. Knowing that no verse in the Bible even hints at this doctrine, Keating, in his chapter on Marian Beliefs, says, “fundamentalists ask, where is the proof from Scripture? Strictly, there is none The mere fact that the Church teaches the doctrine of the Assumption as something definitely true is a guarantee that it is true” (Keating, p. 275).

Keating is willing to reject the Bible and accept the word of the same people who brought us the Crusades and the Inquisition.

While Jesus was teaching in Galilee, “a woman from the crowd called out, ‘Blest is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ ‘Rather’ He replied, ‘blest are they who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:27, NAB). This woman had the same idea that Catholics have today. The reply of Jesus cuts at the heart of Mariolatry. While not denying that Mary was blessed in being His mother, our Lord insists that more blessed are those who “hear the word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:28).

Debate on the Roman Catholic Church

  • The Greeson-Rutland Debate On Catholicism (PDF file size: 240k)
  • This article is also available as a free Bible tract you can reprint

Facts About The Bible

by David Padfield

The Bible is composed of 66 books. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Some 39 or 40 men had a part in the writing of the Bible, from Moses to the apostle John. It took over 1500 years to produce the Bible.

Out of all the men who wrote the books of the Bible, Luke “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14) was the only Gentile. He penned the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.

The first section of the Old Testament is called the Pentateuch. It contains the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). These books, written by Moses, cover the period of time from Creation to the death of Moses, just prior to the entrance of God’s people into the promised land.

The Old Testament contains twelve books of history, from Joshua through Esther. There are five books of poetry: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. There are five books of the major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel. There are 12 minor prophets, from Hosea through Malachi.

The New Testament contains four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), each telling the story of the life of Christ from different viewpoints. The New Testament has one book of history, the book of Acts, which tells of the establishment of the church and the growth of Christianity in the first century. It also has 21 epistles, the majority of which were written by the apostle Paul (Romans through Jude) and one book of prophecy (the Revelation), penned by John while on the isle of Patmos.

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (with the exception of Daniel 2:4b-7:28 and Ezra 4:8-6:18). The New Testament was written in Greek.

The Catholic Bible

The Catholic Bible (including the Douay version, the Confraternity Version and the New American Bible) contains seven extra books: Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, First and Second Maccabees, plus additional parts in the books of Esther and Daniel. Neither Jesus nor the apostles ever quoted from these books as if they were inspired.

The Apocryphal books were rejected by the first century Jewish Flavius Josephus and were never accepted by the Palestinian Jews.

When Jerome (now a Roman Catholic “saint”) translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Latin, he rejected these books as non-canonical (383-406 a.d.).

The Apocryphal books were not even received by the Roman Catholic Church until the Council of Trent on April 8, 1546.

Bible and Roman Catholic Church and Council of Trent

  • How To Do A Word Study, a one page handout showing how to find the meaning of a Greek word by starting with the English word found in the King James Version (PDF file size: 20k).
  • How To Do A Word Study (Color), a one page handout showing how to find the meaning of a Greek word by starting with the English word found in the King James Version. This file is intended to be printed on color laser printers (PDF file size: 216k).
  • Notes For The Margin Of Your Bible, a handout used in personal work and for edifying individual Christians (PDF file size: 117k).

Recreating the Church

In Recreating the Church, Richard Hamm offers 1968 as the pivotal year where things start going downhill for most mainline denominations. In January, the Tet offensive showed that the Viet Cong, despite assurances to the contrary, were still a potent military force in South Vietnam. In March, Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection, setting off what would become a three man contest between Hubert Humphrey, George Wallace, and Richard Nixon. Martin Luther King, Junior, was assassinated in April. Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June. The Democratic National Convention, held in Chicago, was rocked by protests. Several cities experienced deadly riots. Hamm points out that today mainline denominations have “lost even the appearance of success.” We are too busy trying to survive by maintaining a dying system. We must seek not just technical change to the system (replacing one leader or structure with another), but adaptive change of the entire system itself (rethinking our method completely). I personally could not agree more.

Hamm does an excellent job of diagnosing the changes which have brought the mainline denominations to where we are today:  the ‘perfect storm’ of change in American culture, organizational obsolescence, and anxiety. But he doesn’t stop there. Using the language of Ronald Heifetz, he suggests personal and systemic models of how to lead the adaptive change necessary to move from modern to postmodern leaders and institutions, as we face a challenge unprecedented in history:  ministering to and with five distinct generations at one time.

From a big picture perspective, Hamm offers a terrific explanation for post-moderns, their faith and their role in the church. That being said, I would like to focus on one point that Hamm makes that I found particularly helpful. Specifically, I often hear an argument that goes something like this: our call in life is to be faithful and let God deal with the growth or decline. This argument is persuasive because it has a kernel of truth in it.  But Hamm points out the problem in this argument over the past fifty years.  The entire paragraph is worth quoting:

A fourth reason [that mainline leaders did not notice the shift from modern leadership to postmodern leadership], found among some mainline church leaders, was an attitude that viewed the decreases as a sign that the denominations were paying the “price of faithfulness.”  That is, some mainline church leaders and governing bodies (especially in national settings) had taken unpopular stands in regard to such issues as racism and the Vietnam War, and so some concluded that a lot of contributing members just couldn’t take the “heat” of the “truth.”  This was a self-serving, but understandable interpretation.  If we had done statistical analyses of who was still attending, however, we would have found that the losses were primarily among the young, not the old (who were the primary contributors and would have been more likely to leave than would the young when traditional values were challenged).

 

Ouch!  I hear the same argument today around issues like homosexuality and politics and religion.  Hamm’s insightful analysis of what has taken place in the past fifty years suggests that today something bigger is going on with the continued decline of mainline denominations than just “taking the heat” for progressive stances on divisive issues.

Finally, one of the most encouraging parts of the book was the final chapter: “Why Bother?” In other words, what can mainline denominations do that others cannot do? On page 116, Hamm suggests five reasons why we (meaning his denomination) are still valuable:

  1. We hold faith and reason together at a time when the world seems bent on separating the two.
  2. Our institutions of higher education engage in education rather than indoctrination.
  3. We have a worldview that analyzes reality both in terms of individuals and systems, rather than through the lens of radical individualism only.
  4. We interpret the Scriptures in a way that empowers women, people of color, and other historically marginalized people to participate more fully in the church and the wider culture.
  5. Our overseas involvements are marked by partnership with indigenous people rather than by colonialist approaches.

 

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Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Our Conflicts

Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Our Conflicts

 

It is a misconception (and a complete falsehood) that conflict is bad. This misunderstanding is likely one of the reasons that people go to such great lengths to avoid conflict. In fact, conflict is healthy and necessary for growth to take place—be that in the case of a personal relationship at home, a business relationship between colleagues or a group working together for a common goal. Conflict alone is amoral, neither “good” nor “bad”. It is how people choose to handle conflict that ultimately determines its’ morality, or lack thereof. This having been said, in light of the fact that the Christian faith is based entirely upon relationships between Christ-followers and their relationship with God, it is an imperative that Christians learn to become comfortable operating within conflict and appreciate each conflict for the opportunity it provides to grow relationships.

Jones states from the beginning that his goal is to “provide a step-by-step process for pursuing peace in all your relationships and to give you a tool you can use to help others” (p. 12); which accomplishes with great success. A reader would struggle to walk away from this book and honestly say that he/she does not now know the biblical process for resolving conflict. And it’s not just a few theoretical steps that are divorced from grace and the gospel.  For the first few chapters Jones focuses our eyes and hearts were they really need to be; namely, on God Himself.  In doing this he also reminds us that “pursuing peace” and “having God-pleasing relationships is not a dispensable luxury” (19).  It is the Christian life. Jones’ process for resolving conflict is three steps.  Step One: Please God.  Step Two: Repent.  Step Three: Love the Person.  Loving the Person includes having an attitude of grace, forgiving, confronting, and serving.  The book is structured around expounding each of the steps in this process. 

Through the first two chapters I was tempted to just skim through the book. But something happened in chapter three.  Chapter 3 was like a play that makes “Sports Center” and makes you simply marvel.  Afterwards you aren’t thinking, “oh I could do that”.  Your thinking, “wow, if I want to be a good shortstop I better study this dude”. This was my reaction after having finished chapter 3.  I realized the beauty and the simplicity of conflict.  It’s really something that is a “duh”.  All we can really control in our conflicts is pleasing God.  And that is what is to be our central aim.  If I focus on pleasing God it may not solve the conflict but it will make me a faithful disciple and that’s the biggest goal anyways.  It puts your focus in the correct place. 

Robert D. Jones does exactly what he set out to do.  He provides a clear and biblical process for pursuing peace in the midst of conflict and he provides a helpful tool that can easily be reproduced. 

On a personal level, this text has challenged me greatly in the manner in which I think of people who have offended me. While it’s certainly not easy to re-program one’s mind to focus on sin against God instead of sins against people, but Jones has certainly challenged me towards this endeavor. He has also helped to reshape the way certain events in my past are organized in my head. He has caused me to think through my own attitudes and behaviors; and because of this my thought life is more peaceful. There is less fear, because I’m learning (again) that life is not about me. Instead of concerning myself with the actions and reactions of others, the greatest thing I need to be worried about is this huge plank that is piercing my own eyeball.

 

Thanks so much to Medford Carpet Cleaners for sponsoring my blog!

 

Personal Statement of Faith

Personal Statement of Faith

 

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

This statement from Mother Teresa, stirs within me a great emotional response and resonates on level that I struggle to communicate or even fully understand. As a recovering Pharisee I understand her words with great clarity. Even in my greatest attempts at a religious life, I often lived in a state of spiritual poverty. It was not until I hit rock bottom that I was ready to respond. My rock bottom took place when I was in the greatest need of love, encouragement and compassion from my spiritual community. Instead, I was met with the same judgment that I had displayed to so many others. It was at that season in my life that I began to fill my hunger with the bread that only God can provide; and at the same time provide clarity and a greater understanding of what church is and how my ministry would serve God’s family.

Now, instead of seeing church as something I did a few times each week in order complete my religious duty, I live with freedom by experiencing God’s love through the redeemed community of Christ. Jesus’ plea to His Disciples best expresses my understanding and thoughts: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).  

The story of my journey, and any statement of faith on my part, is one that ultimately centers on and around the passionate love and grace of a forgiving God who relentlessly pursued me . . . in spite of me. When Paul calls for the Ephesians to know or experience the love can’t be known (3:19), I strangely understand exactly what he is talking about. Today, I embrace what I know is there without knowing exactly how it works or how it could be possible – the extravagant love of God and his reconciliation and redemption through my Lord, Jesus Christ.

I am often brought to tears of sorrow in those rare moments that I am able catch a glimpse of my failures and the hurt that must have inflicted on my Father. Thankfully, that emotion is often overwhelmed by a deep sense of humility and appreciation that I can’t describe, as I think back to all the moments that God was gently speaking a message of grace into my life. I am just so grateful that He never gave up on me.

As a servant of God and of His Word, each day I strive to bring this same message of grace and hope to those who are hurt and wounded by the work of Satan. Having been humbled by the realization of my sinfulness, I appreciate that people need a soft place to fall and loving arms to grab them, help them up and turn them towards Christ. As much as anything else, this is the role and responsibility of the Church today. Living as a community belonging to Christ brings with it awesome blessings and very real responsibilities. Foremost among these responsibilities is to live out Jesus’ mission in our families, schools, work places and communities. Helping the Church to catch this vision, and then motivating and equipping them to pursue it, is one of the primary roles of a teacher and equipper. It is a role and responsibility that I am passionate about pursuing.

 

MISSIONAL SMALL GROUPS: BECOMING A COMMUNITY THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD

 

MISSIONAL SMALL GROUPS: BECOMING A COMMUNITY THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD

 

An Interaction Paper

Presented to Professor Eddie Randolph

Harding University Graduate School of Religion

Memphis, Tennessee

 

As a Requirement in

Course 5902

Ministry and Community through Small Groups

 

By

Jeremy Schopper

October 15, 2012

 

This book was at once precise and clear as mud. I think the author’s thesis or summary statement is found on p.11 when he writes that “we need to re-envision a way to empower normal groups led by normal group leaders that are full of normal followers of Christ to listen to God and live in such a way that they impact the world around them.” From what I can tell, this also appears to be a general descriptive statement for the “missional” movement.

Returning to my initial statement . . . the second section entitled “Practicing” was considerably more helpful and practical. The problem was getting to this material. I believe I understand the author’s intentions when he (over)used the word rhythm. I think he was referring to a mindset or way of thinking. Though I am not completely sold on it, I appreciate his desire to promote the “missional” approach to church and evangelism. At a minimum there is a great deal of value that us traditional “attractionalists” ought to take note of. However, it seems that he spent four chapters and approximately fifty pages repeating the same message that he could have communicated in about ten pages. Before you peg me as strictly pragmatic, I greatly value theory, deeper thought and reflective writing; I just didn’t find much in this text.

One other specific challenge I found with the text was the practical application and implementation of all that Boren is proposing. For example, he is calling for Christians to maintain small groups that exist in the context of neighborhoods and conduct their missional-based ministries within the lives of the people of the neighborhood. The trouble is determining how that plays out exactly. Given the physical nature of most congregations, it seems unlikely that the small group participants would all be from the same neighborhood. So the question is, which neighborhood does the group focus on? That is just one specific question that appears to go unanswered.

As a brief digression, I found it interesting that Boren often made comments that eluded to an understanding and agreement with Hellerman’s “When the Church was a Family.” It’s almost as if he had read the book before writing his own. For example, on page twenty-two, he refers to the idea that Westerners have “learned to live according to the drumbeat of rugged individualism.”

All these negative comments having been shared, there is great value in this text. There is one general theme that I appreciate most. After having read this text, I have so much more to think about, pray over and consider. The reality is that I do think that the “missional” approach to ministry to most reflective of, and patterned after Jesus’ own ministry. What I have not yet determined is whether that should be formative for the church at all times and in all cultures. Jesus’ approach of taking his message and ministry to the people was necessary for the time. It seems clear that an “attractional” approach would not have worked—the incumbents were too entrenched. That being said, Paul’s ministry was not entirely “missional” in nature. In fact, I would say that it was a mixture of both. This book has forced me to think through these issues and help lead our church do to the same.

The Date Deuteronomy

The last decade has been one of great turmoil in the field of documentary studies. Many of the most cherished ideas of the classic documentary theory have been put in serious question by mainline critical scholars. According to the classic theory popularized by Wellhausen in 1878 there are four main sources in the Pentateuch: J from the tenth century BC, E from the ninth, D(euteronomy) from the seventh and P from the late sixth century. But in recent years the very existence of an independent E document has been questioned,[1] and it has been forcefully argued that P, supposedly the latest source, is really an earlier source perhaps contemporary with J and certainly before D(euteronomy).[2] Pleading for a new look at the whole question of pentateuchal critical theory, Rendtorff, Professor of Old Testament at the University of Heidelberg, observed: ‘We possess hardly any reliable criteria for dating pentateuchal literature. Every dating of the pentateuchal “sources” rests on purely hypothetical assumptions which only have any standing through the consensus of scholars.'[3]

But in the whirlpool of conflicting modern theories one point in the critical consensus has escaped serious challenge: namely, the date of Deuteronomy. It is well-nigh universally assumed by mainstream scholarship that Deuteronomy was written in the late seventh century and should be associated with Josiah’s reform c. 622 BC. This assumption is obvious in the two of the most significant recent works on Deuteronomy published in English: M. Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (1972) and R. Polzin, Moses and the Deuteronomist (1980), and in A. D. H. Mayes’ New Century Bible commentary on Deuteronomy (1979). One will read these works in vain for a clear statement of why these scholars believe Deuteronomy was written in the seventh century: this dating is simply such a central element in critical tradition that it is not regarded as necessary to state the reasons for it, let alone defend them.

On the other hand conservatives have persistently tried to argue for a much earlier date for Deuteronomy, indeed often for a Mosaic origin of the book. Yet their arguments, even when cogently presented, have fallen on deaf ears: critical scholars may list conservative works in their bibliographies, but they rarely take the trouble to interact with them.

It is the purpose of this article to explore the basic arguments for and against a seventh-century date of Deuteronomy. To try to discover what are the reasons for the critical consensus on the one side and conservative opposition on the other. To ask whether there are any firm grounds for holding one position rather than another, or whether this is just another area where Rendtorff’s dictum, ‘every dating of pentateuchal sources rests on purely hypothetical assumptions’, holds good.

 

Conservative presuppositions

Let us begin by outlining the basic assumptions that underlie conservative arguments for the antiquity of Deuteronomy. The first and obvious point is that Deuteronomy claims to be the last words of Moses. Deuteronomy consists of three sermons (chs. 1-4, 5-28, 29-30) and two poems (32, 33) ascribed to him. Not only is Moses said to have uttered most of Deuteronomy, he is also said to have written down ‘this law’. ‘Moses wrote this law, and gave it to the priests’ (3 1:9; cf 31:24). Admittedly it is not exactly clear what ‘this law’ consisted of, but the most obvious candidate is the oral exposition of the law given by Moses in Deuteronomy.

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It is important to notice that the presentation of the law in Deuteronomy is different in character from that found in the earlier books of the Pentateuch. Most of the laws in Exodus to Numbers are represented as having been revealed to Moses: they are usually introduced by the remark ‘the LORD said to Moses’, but it is rare for it to be said that Moses wrote them down (Ex. 24:4; 34:28). It is never said of the great mass of laws mediated by Moses in Leviticus and Numbers that he wrote them down. But the law of Deuteronomy is presented differently: here Moses paraphrases the law in his own words: ‘[he] undertook to explain this law’ (Dt. 1:5). He puts the legislation into his own words, he describes Israel’s history from his personal perspective as leader, and he is expressly said to have written down ‘this law’. In other words the claim to be of Mosaic, as opposed to just of divine, origin is much clearer in the book of Deuteronomy than in the preceding books.

In interpreting these exegetical facts about the book conservatives have generally been guided by another assumption. This is that ‘all Scripture is inspired of God’ (2 Tim. 3:16), or in the words of the Nicene creed that the Holy Spirit ‘spoke through the prophets’ and that it is hard to imagine the Spirit of truth to have inspired a pseudo-Moses to write Deuteronomy by pretending in a very thorough fashion to be Moses. The author professes to have been with Israel in the wilderness, to have received the law on Mount Sinai, to have interceded for Israel after they made the golden calf, to have led the conquest of Transjordan, and so on. The integrity at least of these statements seems to be thrown in question if Deuteronomy is in no sense a Mosaic work, but simply the creation of someone unknown living many centuries afterwards.

Given these pieces of evidence and their assumptions about the nature of inspiration, conservatives have tenaciously defended at least a Mosaic core to the book of Deuteronomy. This I believe is a perfectly legitimate way for theologians to proceed. ‘I believe in order to understand’, said Anselm, And in the realm of critical biblical study this approach to theology often takes the form of defending Scripture against the doubts of unbelievers. It is difficult very often to offer positive proof of biblical statements, so apologetics must needs take the form of a defensive operation in an attempt to show the doubts are ill-founded. For more than a century mainline biblical scholarship has judged conservative arguments in support of the Mosaicity of the Pentateuch to be unconvincing. And this is part of the reason why a seventh-century date has become a dogma in liberal critical scholarship, a tradition passed on from generation to generation without really reflecting on alternative possibilities.

 

Liberal presuppositions

Why then is the case for Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy ignored by mainline scholars? Not because they deny the exegetical facts just set out: they would freely admit that Deuteronomy professes to come from Moses. It is rather because they do not take a conservative view of inspiration and believe, because everybody else seems to say so, that there is an overwhelming case for Deuteronomy’s seventh-century composition.

Some scholars simply do not believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible: certainly Wellhausen fell into this camp, so it was easy for him to accept that Deuteronomy was fictitious. However the majority of biblical critics do believe that the Bible is in some sense the word of God: in the case of Deuteronomy we have an example of the inspired imagination of a later writer addressing the problem of his own generation. In order to persuade his hearers he clothed his message in the dress of Israel’s greatest lawgiver and prophet. This practice of pseudonymous writing was both widespread and respectable in ancient Israel, it is maintained. Therefore it is not difficult to envisage the Spirit of God using such devices to gain acceptance of this vital message.

Now though this view of inspiration cannot be ruled out as an impossibility, if it is indeed true that pseudonymity was an accepted convention in biblical times, there is little clear evidence within Scripture for it being so accepted. There are certainly plenty of works outside the biblical canon which are pseudonymous, and it might well be surmised that one reason they never received canonical status was their patent pseudonymity.

The postulate that pseudonymity was respectable in biblical times and that the Spirit might therefore have inspired some great unknown to pretend to be Moses or Isaiah or whoever, is not based on a large number of provenly pseudonymous works within the canon, rather it rests on the assumption that Deuteronomy and other books such as Daniel are clearly not from the time they pretend to portray. Because the canonizing authorities were prepared to accept books like Deuteronomy though they knew them to be fictitious, that shows they did not disapprove of such productions. In other words the liberal belief that pseudonymous authorship was respectable arises from the dating assigned to these books, not from evidence outside these works. It therefore becomes the more important to examine the nature of the arguments for the date of Deuteronomy. For not only is the history of Israel’s religion seriously altered by these theories but also our whole view of inspiration. But to discover the reasons scholars hold a seventh-century date of Deuteronomy is more difficult than might be anticipated, for it is one of the most deeply rooted assumptions of critical scholarship.

 

The assumption of a seventh-century date

Reading many works on Deuteronomy one is frequently struck by the way a seventh-century date is presupposed rather than argued for. For example G. von Rad in his Studies in Deuteronomy (1948) and his commentary (1964) invokes the holy war ideology of the book in support of its late date. Deuteronomy pictures the conquest of Canaan as a holy war in which all Israel is mobilized and led by God in a great campaign to destroy all foreigners and their forms of worship. This, says von Rad, bespeaks a period when the nation could not afford a professional army because royal funds were low. What more likely time than the seventh century BC when Judah was impoverished by Assyrian imposts and Josiah was fighting to regain long-lost territory? Deuteronomy was a suitable book to stir up enthusiasm for such a cause.

But on further reflection this is a somewhat flimsy argument. There is little, if any, evidence in the book of Kings of a

[p.17]

radical reorganization of the army in Josiah’s time. The undoubted holy war ideology of Deuteronomy could be held to reflect a much earlier period in Israelite history, e.g. the time of the judges, for Deborah and Samuel certainly believed in the holy war principle according to Judges 4-5 and 1 Samuel 15. It would therefore be possible to turn von Rad’s observations on their head and say that they demonstrate the antiquity of the book. I think we really know too little about the history of these ideas and institutions to use them to date the literature of the Old Testament. But the fact that von Rad put forward these observations so confidently as confirmation of Deuteronomy’s late date illustrates again how strongly he has been influenced by the consensus of scholarship.

Similarly Weinfeld’s detailed work proceeds on the assumption of a seventh-century date and so he cites parallels between Assyrian treaty curses and those in Deuteronomy as confirmation of the latter’s late date.[4] The fact that such curses are well attested in Mesopotamian legal literature long before the seventh century receives scant attention,[5] nor the fact that in over-all structure the book of Deuteronomy is much closer to a second-millennium treaty or collection of laws than to first-millennium texts.[6] Like von Rad Weinfeld assumes a seventh-century dating of Deuteronomy and interprets the new data in the light of that assumption.

Again one should admit the legitimacy of this procedure. It is what we all do most of the time. We are constantly fitting new pieces of information into our existing preconceptions and world view. One person may listen to the news and have his basic pessimism about human nature confirmed, another may hear the same broadcast and have his optimism reinforced. One sees oppression, the other sees the compassion that moves men to help the oppressed.

But from time to time it is necessary to ask ultimate questions, and this is constantly being done in theology courses. Students are constantly being made to ask whether their assumptions about God, the world, and salvation are correct. Conservative students are frequently told that their assumptions about the inspiration and reliability of Scripture are certainly not correct. All sorts of critical theories are put forward and evaluated, yet though many aspects of pentateuchal criticism are currently under review, strangely the date of Deuteronomy is rarely debated. Yet according to Wellhausen, ‘Deuteronomy is the starting point, not in the sense that without it it would be impossible to accomplish anything but only because, when its position has been historically ascertained, we cannot decline to go on, but must demand that the position of the Priestly Code should also be fixed by reference to history.'[7] Put more simply: fix the date of Deuteronomy and then date the rest of the Pentateuch by comparison with it. J and E must be written before it and P after it. Today some deny that P was composed after Deuteronomy, but everyone would agree that the dating of Deuteronomy most profoundly affects our understanding of the history of Old Testament religion and literature. The influence of Deuteronomy’s ideas and language is so pervasive in the Old Testament that it makes a tremendous difference to our evaluation of the development of Israelite theology[8] whether we ascribe the book to the Mosaic or Josianic eras.

 

Arguments for a seventh-century date

So what are the real arguments for a seventh-century date that first led to the establishment of this critical consensus? To discover them one needs to return to the literature of the nineteenth century, especially the works of de Wette and Wellhausen[9] in Germany and Driver[10] in Britain. It comes as something of a surprise considering how much has been built on the seventh-century dating to find what a narrow basis it rests on.

There are essentially two key arguments: the language of Deuteronomy and its demand for the centralization of worship. The style of Deuteronomy, a rhetorical or preaching style with various characteristic words or phrases, markedly resembles other works which must date from the late seventh or early sixth centuries BC. The most obvious parallels are found in the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel and in 2 Kings. An elaboration of this theory is Noth’s[11] theory of a Deuteronomic history. This holds that Deuteronomy is not so much the last book of the Pentateuch, but the first volume in a history comprising Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. It is, I think, undeniable that the language and style of Deuteronomy have close affinities with some books undoubtedly written about 600 BC. Whether this is sufficient grounds for holding that Deuteronomy must also have been written then, we shall return to later.

The second and historically more important reason for holding that Deuteronomy is a seventh-century work is its attitude to the central sanctuary. Until the time of King Josiah people worshipped, whether legally or not is unclear, at the temple in Jerusalem and at high places, village shrines scattered up and down the land. But then Josiah, perhaps following the earlier attempt of Hezekiah, abolished all the local high places and insisted that sacrifice be offered only in the Jerusalem temple. An English equivalent would be the destruction of all the English parish churches and the limitation of worship to Westminster Abbey. Josiah’s innovations are described in 2 Kings 23.

Now de Wette, Wellhausen and their successors associate this Josianic reformation with the book of Deuteronomy. This orders Israel to destroy all the Canaanite shrines when they enter the land. They must instead ‘seek the place which the LORD your God will choose… to put his name and make his habitation there’ (Dt. 12:5). This is where Israel must offer sacrifice and celebrate the national pilgrimage festivals of passover, pentecost and tabernacles (ch. 16). Evidently then ‘the place which the LORD will choose’ is Deuteronomy’s term for the national central sanctuary. However Deuteronomy never names the chosen place or gives any indication that it should be identified with Jerusalem.

This, it is argued, is quite understandable: the author of Deuteronomy realized that it would be anachronistic to have Moses specify Jerusalem as the central shrine when it was not captured by Israel till the time of David. He preferred to use the discreet code name ‘the place which the LORD will choose’, which was perfectly clear to the men of Josiah’s time and did not make it so obvious that Moses was not the real author of Deuteronomy. The book’s insistence on limiting all worship to the one place shows that it was written either as the programme for, or in justification of, Josiah’s reforms. In further support of this hypothesis it is pointed out that in the

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course of the reform a book of the law was found in the temple. This again is customarily identified with some version of Deuteronomy, and it is implied that the book, recently written, had been deliberately planted in the temple to encourage or justify the reforms that had been undertaken.

 

Reopening the question

Language and centralization are thus the two key arguments for the late date of Deuteronomy. The other reasons often adduced for dating the book to the seventh century, e.g. holy war, treaty curses, relationship with the book of Proverbs, are equivocal: they are just as compatible with an earlier date. With the present openness in so many areas of pentateuchal criticism, it seems opportune to look again at this most central area of study. If we have not already irrevocably prejudged the issue of Deuteronomy’s date of composition, what would we conclude on the basis of our present knowledge? Clearly in a brief article these issues cannot be dealt with with the thoroughness they deserve: it is written in the hope that it will help those trying to think through these issues from scratch and perhaps provoke some to further work in these areas.

Six areas need to be thoroughly re-examined in any reconsideration of the date of Deuteronomy: its language, its relationship to ancient oriental legal texts, its view of the central sanctuary, its religious ideology, its marriage laws, and its use in Jerusalem. Few of these areas have been thoroughly discussed in recent literature, at least in so far as their implications for the date of Deuteronomy are concerned, so my observations must necessarily be provisional rather than definitive, an agenda for further research rather than the last word on these issues.

 

Language

Does the language of Deuteronomy with its obvious affinities with Jeremiah and 2 Kings demand a seventh-century date? It must be admitted that such a date of composition could explain Deuteronomy’s style, but it seems that this is rather too simple an explanation for a number of reasons.

First, it is characteristic of religious language to be conservative and to retain Older forms of expression long after popular speech has changed. For 350 years the language of the Authorized Version and the prayer book has dominated religious usage in England: it is only in the last few years that it has been felt to be inappropriate to address God as ‘thou’, for example, and the traditional form of the Lord’s Prayer is still the form most people use. It could be that a similar tendency is at work in the Old Testament: the prophets and religious leaders were consciously or unconsciously using a ‘biblical’ style of speech, because they were speaking on religious subjects and seeking to appeal to their hearers’ respect for old tradition.

Second, it is characteristic of the literary languages of the ancient Near East to adopt the spoken dialect of a particular period and for this to remain unchanged for centuries, even though the spoken language alters. Old Babylonian was the form of Akkadian spoken in Babylon in the old Babylonian period 1900-1600 BC. In it the great classical texts such as the laws of Hammurapi or the epic of Atrahasis were composed. Subsequently, though the spoken language changed, later scribes tried to imitate the old Babylonian as best they could (so-called standard Babylonian), so that a type of old Babylonian remained the standard written language of Mesopotamia for a millennium after the spoken language had changed.

There was evidently a similar development in Egypt. There were five Egyptian dialects and the second, Middle Egyptian, was adopted as the official written language. Kitchen writes, ‘Middle Egyptian was perhaps the vernacular of dynasties 9-11 (2200-2000 BC) and was used universally for written records during the Middle Kingdom and Early New Kingdom periods (to c. 1300 BC) and continued in use in official texts in a slightly modified form as late as Graeco-Roman days).[12] In other words Middle Egyptian was the spoken language between 2200 and 2000 BC, the universal written language until 1300 and widely used until about 100 BC.

If in Babylon and Egypt the spoken language of one period survived for 1,000 years as the national written language, might not the same be true in Israel? The sparsity of Hebrew inscriptions from Old Testament times unfortunately makes this hypothesis impossible to demonstrate, but it is certainly no less likely than the theory that anything reminiscent of deuteronomic style must have been written within fifty years of 600 BC. If one could affirm a Mosaic date for Deuteronomy, the fact that Jeremiah and 2 Kings continue to use deuteronomistic language would suggest that the history of Hebrew does indeed resemble that of Akkadian and Egyptian.

There is, of course, evidence within the Old Testament that deuteronomic style survived long after the seventh century. Ezra’s prayer (Ne. 9:6-37) is a good example of deuteronomic style, as is Daniel’s (9:4-19). Ezra’s prayer dates from about 430 BC; Daniel’s from about 520 on a conservative view (about 170 BC on a liberal view, which would be four centuries after Jeremiah). Now if it be admitted that deuteronomic style may have persisted a few centuries after 600 BC, may it not be that it was invented some while before 600 BC?

In fact there is some long-neglected evidence which / suggests that not simply deuteronomic style, but some form of the book of Deuteronomy itself was known in the eighth century. It is well known that the earliest writing prophets, Hosea and Amos, show many traces of deuteronomic style and apparent allusions to Deuteronomy. Modern commentators generally ascribe these deuteronomisms to the ubiquitous deuteronomist, an editor who rewrote everything in deuteronomic style. Commentators like Wolff peel away the most obvious deuteronomisms and argue that what is left is the authentic voice of Amos and Hosea. However, these commentators do not do a thorough enough job. If every trace of Deuteronomy were eliminated from these early prophets, there would be hardly anything left. This has been recognized in the recent massive Hosea commentary by Andersen and Freedman. They recognize that the deuteronomic elements of the book are integral to Hosea’s message. They state: ‘Hosea’s discourses are threaded with Deuteronomic ideas in a way that shows they were already authoritative in Israel.'[13] And in the course of their commentary they show how at many points Hosea uses deuteronomic ideas. However they do not exhaust the scope of this study. Had they consulted E. W. Hengstenberg’s Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch (183 1-39 ET 1847), they would

[p.19]

have found many more examples of where Hosea and Amos apparently quote or allude to Deuteronomy and indeed other books of the Pentateuch.[14]

Recently, too, the doyen of Hebrew philology, C. Rabin,[15]has also pressed the case for Deuteronomy being composed before Hosea and Amos. On the grounds of discourse analysis Rabin argues that Deuteronomy has the form of a prophetic sermon, yet prophetic sermons from Amos onwards adopt a clearly poetic style. Deuteronomy’s style is like that of earlier prophets such as Samuel and Elijah. Thus a late date for the book must be excluded. Rabin’s article, though written with great authority, is tantalizingly brief and leaves many questions unanswered. It does though suggest new methods of approaching an old problem.

The same too could be said of Rendsburg’s(16) article in which he argues that the Hebrew of the Pentateuch is distinctively archaic in certain respects, e.g. its failure to distinguish the masculine and feminine in some words. ‘The Pentateuch as a whole would by necessity be dated earlier than the composition of Joshua, Judges, etc.'[16] Weippert’s study of Jeremiah’s sermons is also important in showing that his prose style cannot be simply identified with that of Deuteronomy or the deuteronomists.[17]

On balance then it seems likely that the deuteronomic language was not a phenomenon restricted to the late seventh/early sixth centuries BC, but that it persisted much longer. It could indeed have been the preferred style of explicitly religious texts for a long while in Israel. Certainly the evidence of the prophets Amos and Hosea is most easily explained on the basis of at least some form of Deuteronomy antedating their preaching and being known to them.

 

Ancient legal texts parallelling Deuteronomy

Another indication of Deuteronomy’s relative antiquity is provided by Near Eastern legal texts. In the 1960s a number of scholars pointed[18] to the parallels between Deuteronomy and ancient oriental treaties, most notably those from the Hittite archives (sixteenth-thirteenth centuries BC) and Assyrian texts (eighth-seventh centuries). It was quickly observed that Deuteronomy markedly resembles a treaty text, especially the earlier Hittite treaty. This can be most easily seen in a table.

 

Early (Hittite)
treaty
Deuteronomy Late (Assyrian)
treaty
Preamble Preamble 1:1-4 Preamble
Historical introduction History 1:5 – 3:29 God list
Stipulations Stipulations chs: 4-26 Stipulations
Document clause
God list
Document clause ch. 27  
Curses/blessings Blessings/curses ch. 28 Curses (Blessings)

 

The most obvious difference between the second-millennium Hittite treaty and the first-millennium Assyrian treaty is the presence of a historical section and document clause in the former and their absence in the latter. In both these respects Deuteronomy resembles the earlier Hittite treaty rather than the later one, so quite naturally conservatives like Kline and Kitchen argued that this proved the Mosaic date of Deuteronomy, c. 1280 BC being the most widely accepted date of the Exodus.

However, those brought up in the tradition of a seventh-century date for Deuteronomy were unpersuaded. They pointed out that not all Hittite treaties had document clauses, and that possibly one Assyrian treaty had an historical prologue.[19] On these grounds they held that one could not really postulate a marked change in the pattern of treaties between the second and first millennium, so the argument from treaty parallels proves little about the date of Deuteronomy.[20]

In his book Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School, Weinfeld underlined very thoroughly Deuteronomy’s affinities with the treaties. He also observed that early second-millennium legal collections closely resembled the form of Deuteronomy,[21] so that it seems likely that there was a standard pattern used for a variety of legal documents. Again one can best display the evidence diagrammatically.

 

Early (Hittite)
treay
Law collection
eg. Laws of Hammurapi
c. 1750 BC
Deuteronomy
Preamble    
History History History 1-3
Stipulations Laws Laws 4-26
Document clause
God list
Document clause Document clause 27
Curses/blessings Blessings/curses Blessings/curses 28

 

If there is a close resemblance between Deuteronomy and Hittite treaties there is an even closer one between Deuteronomy and early second-millennium collections of law. Note the absence of a god list in both, and the order of blessings and curses. In both Deuteronomy and oriental legal collections blessings precede curses, whereas in treaties the order is reversed.

It is again striking how the arrangement of material in Deuteronomy resembles early collections of law rather than the later Middle Assyrian laws or neo-Babylonian laws, both admittedly incomplete. However this would again appear to point to the antiquity of Deuteronomy rather than its lateness.

Weinfeld however, assuming a seventh-century date for Deuteronomy, minimizes the force of these observations. The continuity of Near Eastern legal traditions means that very little should be built on the apparent changes of form: these changes may simply reflect the accidents of discovery. We have several collections of law from the early period, few from the late. Had we more information we could be more dogmatic. Furthermore the close parallels between some of the curses of Deuteronomy and some found in Esarhaddon’s vassal treaties show that the authors of Deuteronomy were well aware of neo-Assyrian (i.e. seventh-century) treaty-drafting techniques. This confirms the usual dating of Deuteronomy.

But it must be said that this again suggests the data is being manipulated to fit in with an assumption of a seventh-century dating. If the continuity of Near Eastern legal tradition allows one to dismiss the resemblance between the laws of Hammurapi (1750 BC) and Deuteronomy as insignificant, it surely forbids one to make too much of the correspondences between some seventh-century treaty curses and Deuteronomy. Could these not reflect an old and long tradition too, as D. J. Wiseman maintained?[22] Weinfeld certainly has not proved that the deuteronomic curses could

[p.20]

have been derived only from a seventh-century Assyrian text. And even if that were demonstrated, it would merely show that Deuteronomy’s curses had been expanded then, not necessarily that the whole book was composed then. On balance then it seems to me that the parallels between Deuteronomy and early treaties and legal collections suggest an early date for the book, though, as so often in biblical studies, this falls short of definite proof.

The parallels with treaties and law codes is important for another reason though: they show that chapter 27 is an integral part of the book. It corresponds to the document clause of the treaties and legal collections, because it insists that the laws be inscribed on stones at a sanctuary (vv. 3-8). That this chapter really belongs to the book and at this point in it is confirmed also by the many typically deuteronomic phrases within it, and its place in the book’s over-all structure. Lohfink[23] pointed out that material in chapters 12-28 inverts the order of material introducing the section in 11:26-32:

 

A 11:26-28 Blessing and curse
B 29-31 Mounts Ebal and Gerizim
C 32 ‘Statutes and ordinances’
C’ 12:1 – 26:19 ‘Statutes and ordinances’
B’ 27:1-26 Mounts Ebal and Gerizim
A’ 28:1-68 Blessing and curse

This mirror-image pattern ABCC’B’A’ is typical of Hebrew literary techniques and indicates that chapter 27 is an indispensable element within the book. This is important to bear in mind as we consider the place of the central sanctuary in Deuteronomy. (to be continued)

 

References

[1] E.g. J. van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition (New Haven: Yale UP, 1975); C. Westermann, Genesis (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1974-82); G. W. Coats, Genesis with an Introduction to Narrative Literature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983); Y. T. Radday et al, ‘Genesis, Wellhausen and the Computer’, Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 94 (1982), pp. 467-481).

[2] E.g. A. Hurvitz, A Linguistic Study of the Relationship between the Priestly Source and the Book of Ezekiel (Paris: Gabalda, 1982); Z. Zevit, ‘Converging Lines of Evidence Bearing on the Date of P’, Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 94 (1982), pp. 481-511. For a summary of the main arguments see also G. J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), pp. 8-13, and also Numbers (Leicester: IVP, 1981), pp. 21-24.

[3] R. Rendtorff, Dos überlieferungsgeschichtliche Problem des Pentateuch (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1977), p. 169. Surveys of Deuteronomy criticism: S. Loersch, Das Deuteronomium und seine Deutungen (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1967); H. D. Preuss, Deuteronomium (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1982).

[4] M. Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972), pp. 116-146; cf his earlier article, ‘Traces of Assyrian Treaty Formulae in Deuteronomy’, Biblica 46 (1965), pp. 417-427; R. Frankena, ‘The Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon and the Dating of Deuteronomy’, Oudtestamentische Studien 14 (1965), pp. 122-154.

[5] For an exception, cf D. R. Hillers, Treaty Curses and the OT Prophets (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1964): ‘One cannot explain both the resemblances and differences by naively supposing that an Israelite writer got this curse from an Assyrian treaty’ (p. 42); ‘One could make out a better case for saying that the Bible preserves an older form of the curse’ (p. 42 n. 21).

[6] Cf M. G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), pp. 27-44; K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and OT (London: IVP, 1966), pp. 90-102.

[7] J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (1878 ET Cleveland: Meridian, 1961), p. 13.

[8] Cf my forthcoming article ‘Development within the OT Law’.

[9] In many respects Welihausen’s ideas in his Prolegomena were not new, especially with regard to the dating of Deuteronomy and the unreliability of Chronicles. W. M. L. de Wette, Beiträgezur Einleitung in dos Alte Testament I-II (Halle: 1806-7) first proposed many of the key arguments. Wellhausen simply ignored the very thorough replies given by conservative scholars to de Wette’s views. However there is still much of great value in such early conservative works as: E. W. Hengstenberg, Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch (183 1-39 ET Edinburgh, 1847), and C. F. Keil, Apologetischer Versuch über die Bücher der Chronik und über die Integrität des Buches Ezra (Berlin: Oehmigke, 1833).

[10] S.R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the OT (Edinburgh: Clark, 1891); A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy (Edinburgh: Clark, 1895).

[11] M. Noth, The Deuteronomic History (1957 ET Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1981).

[12] K. A. Kitchen, New BibleDictionary (London: IVP, 1962), p. 339.

[13] F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Hosea (Garden City: Doubleday, 1980), p. 75.

[14] E. W. Hengstenberg, Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch I (Edinburgh: 1847), pp. 107 ff.; cf E. W. Pusey, The Minor Prophets with a Commentary (London: Smith, 1883), p. 6, and D. K. Stuart, ‘The OT Prophets’ Self-Understanding of Their Prophecy’, Themelios 6 (1980), pp. 9-14. On Hosea Stuart writes: ‘There is no passage in the book that does not have the Mosaic Scripture as its basis’ (p. 11).

[15] C. Rabin, ‘Discourse Analysis and the Dating of Deuteronomy’, in J. A. Emerton and S. C. Reif, Interpreting the Hebrew Bible: Essays in honour of E. I. J. Rosenthal (Cambridge: UP, 1982), pp. 171-177.

[16] G A. Rendsburg, ‘A New Look at Pentateuchal HW’, Biblica 63 (1982), pp. 351-369, quotation p. 366.

[17] Weippert, Die Prosareden des Jeremiabuches (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1973).

[18] M G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King: K. Baltzer, Das Bundesformular (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1960); D. J. McCarthy, Treaty and Covenant (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1963); K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and OT.

[19] A F. Campbell, ‘An Historical Prologue in a Seventh-Century Treaty’, Biblica 50 (1969), pp. 534-535.

[20] The argument is addressed most fully by D. J. McCarthy in Treaty and Covenant, pp. 80-140.

[21] M. Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School, pp. 146-151. I had earlier and more briefly made the same observation in my article ‘Trends in Pentateuchal Criticism’, The Churchman 84 (1970), p. 219.

[22] D J. Wiseman, ‘The Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon’, Iraq 20 (1958), pp. 26-27.

[23] N Lohfink, Das Hauptgebot (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1963), p. 234.

 

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