Monday, July 23, 2007

Are you consistent in how you use Greek?

Something I have noticed a lot in the last 6 months is how people are often quick to use Greek to prove their point, but when someone else uses Greek to disprove their point they will say, "Well I don't think you need to know Greek to know what this means."

A JW came into my house a few weeks ago, and his opening line was, "In the classical Greek ...."
Now ignore for a minute that the New Testament was not written in classical Greek, but in Koine Greek,
When I then used the Koine Greek scriptures to show the errors in his New World Translation, and to prove the deity of Christ, he then told me that he didn't think we needed to know Greek to understand the scriptures.

This to me seems very inconsistent; he used Greek for his arguments, but would not allow me to use Greek for mine.

Sadly there are even Christians who inconsistently use Greek for their arguments, but ignoring it when it contradicts them.

Sometimes this comes from the human desire to not be wrong! But sometimes I think it comes from a belief that Greek is not really useful for knowing what the New Testament says.

I happen to believe that it is very important, but some believe it is not so important. Whatever our view point, we should be consistent in this, and either never use Greek, or use it and use it honestly.

I personally believe that the Greek of the Bible is incredibly important in knowing what it means because:

a) the words that God breathed-out theopneustos (2 Tim 3:16) were Greek words, and not English words.

b) All English translations contain an amount of interpretation in them.

c) Greek grammar does not always translate well into English, and so more clarity can be gained from reading the Greek.

Because of this view that I hold, I need to be consistent with it. I use Greek all the time to support my arguments, but if someone comes to me with an opposing argument that is based on the Greek, then I believe I need to examine it, rather than to say, "Well I don't think we should have to be able to read it in the Greek to understand that."

Please understand that I am not claiming that every argument someone makes from Greek is correct. My JW friend was incorrect in his understanding of the Greek word stauros. All I am saying is that the moment we start using Greek in our sermons, or our apologetics, then we need to be consistent with this.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Did Jesus claim to be God?

Last Sunday i taught in Church on the Deity of Christ.
I promised to post the verse references I used in case anyone was not able to write them down in time. Here there are, this post is in note form, so please don't be too harsh on the formatting.

A) Jesus died because he claimed to be the Son of God:

Mar 14:61 Mark 14:61-64 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" 62 And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, "What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death.

John 19:7 The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God."

- the law of blasphemy
- by calling himself the son of God, he was making himself equal to God ......

B) Jesus claimed to be equal to God:

John 5:17 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working."
18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

John 10:30 I and the Father are one."
Joh 10:31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" 33 The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God."

John 14:9-11 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

ESV Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

C) Jesus claimed to be Yahweh (I am)

1) God's name Yahweh comes from I AM:

Exodus 3:13-14 13 ¶ Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?"
14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

This phrase "I am who I am" was translated in the Greek in the Septuagint as 'ego eimi ho own', but was shortened in Isaiah to just "I am" and translated in the Septuagint as 'ego eimi'

2) God wanted them to know that he was 'I AM'.

ESV Isaiah 43:10 "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he (ego eimi). Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

3) Jesus applies Is 43:10 to himself, calling himself 'I AM':

ESV John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. (ego eimi)

- notice the similarity in the Greek:

Isa 43:10 .... hina ... pisteuasete ... hoti ego eimi
Joh 13:19 .... hina pisteuasete ... hoti ego eimi

4) Jesus is almost stoned for calling himself 'I AM'

Joh 8:58 ESV John 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am (ego eimi). "

ESV John 8:59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

- the only reasons they would have for stoning him would be adultery, or blasphemy. Clearly they believed Jesus had just blasphemed by saying "I AM":

Lev 24:16 Leviticus 24:16 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him.

5. Soldiers fall back when he says, "I AM"

John 18:5-6 5 They answered him, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said to them, "I am he. (ego eimi)" Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, "I am he (ego eimi)," they drew back and fell to the ground.

6. Jesus said we must believe he is "I AM"

ESV John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he (ego eimi) you will die in your sins."

Isa 43:10 .... hina ... pisteuasete ... hoti ego eimi
Joh 13:19 .... hina pisteuasete ... hoti ego eimi
Joh 8:24 pisteuasete hoti ego eimi

D) Jesus claimed he should be honoured as God the Father is:

John 5:23 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

interesting as God said,
ESV Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.
ESV Isaiah 48:11 ... My glory I will not give to another.

E) Jesus expected to be Glorified by the Father:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

- interesting because God said he would not give his glory to another:

Isaiah 48:11 ... My glory I will not give to another.

F) Jesus never stopped people worshipping him or calling him God:

ESV John 20:28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"

ESV Matthew 28:17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.

ESV Matthew 14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

=> not a man: Jesus did not tell them, "Stop, I am only a man" as Peter did: Act 10:25 Acts 10:25-26 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man."

=> not an angel: John tried to worship an angel, but the angel stopped him: Rev 19:10 ESV Revelation 19:10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God."

G) Jesus told people to pray to him:

ESV John 14:14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

H) Jesus told people to believe in him:

ESV John 14:1 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

I) Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sins:

Mark 2:5-12 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, .... 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--he said to the paralytic-- 11 "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all,..."

J) Jesus claimed to be the only way to salvation:

Mat 11:28 Matthew 11:28-30 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Joh 14:6 John 14:6-7 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."

K) Jesus claimed, if you knew him, you knew God:

Joh 8:19 John 8:19 19 They said to him therefore, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also."

L) Jesus claimed to be the good shepherd:

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Psalm 23:1 ESV Psalm 23:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.


Jesus did claim to be God.

Friday, July 13, 2007

What's the best translation?

Someone recently emailed asking advice about which translation of the Bible to use?

I think the translation that you use should depend on your purposes.

For example, if you want to break the text up into phrases (as I have been showing on this blog), and if you do not know Greek, then probably the NASB is the best English translation for doing this.

If however you want to memorise scripture, then you might find that the NASB is a bit wooden for that as it does not flow so well.

Because of this, I recommend the ESV as being relatively 'word for word' and also having a good ring to it.

However, some might find it difficult to understand. In which case I would recommend the NET bible (which is definitely the most transparent translation, because they give you 60,000 translation notes), or the NIV.

For someone who finds any of those too difficult to read, then I would recommend the NLT, but would advise that it should be read, with a view to eventually progressing onto a more precise translation.

If you would like more information on translations, then check out something I wrote earlier in the blog:

Hope this is useful,

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Is the Trinitarian formula in Matthew 28:19 original?

Someone recently asked me about the authenticity of this verse, and seeing as it ties in with my last post, I thought I would add it to the blog for all to see....

ESV Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

  1. Arguments for the authenticity of this reading:

All of the manuscripts that we have of this verse read,

‘baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’

This includes early manuscripts such as Codex Sinaiticus (4th century), Codex Vaticanus (4th century), Codex Alexandrinus (5th century) and Codex Bezae (5th century).

Not one manuscript has been found with an alternative reading.

In such circumstances, textual critics normally conclude that the reading found is correct.

  1. Arguments against the authenticity of this reading:

Some scholars have argued that the text originally read, ‘make disciples in my name,’ and that the references to baptism and the Father and the Holy Spirit were added later.

This is mainly based on 2 arguments:

Argument 1:

At times Eusebius quotes the great commission, writing “in my name” instead of the Trinitarian Baptismal formula. For example:

‘But the rest of the apostles, who had been incessantly plotted against with a view to their destruction, and had been driven out of the land of Judea, went unto all nations to preach the Gospel, relying upon the power of Christ, who had said to them, “Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in my name.”’

Eusebius H.E. 3.5

Rebuttal to Argument 1:

Eusebius’ writings cannot be considered as weighty as New Testament Codices we posses for the following reasons:

a) The variety of Eusebius:

Unlike the unanimous New Testament manuscripts we have of Matthew 28:19, Eusebius actually quotes it in mainly three different ways:

1. “Go and make disciples of all nations”

2. “Go and make disciples of all nations in my name”

3. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”

b) Eusebius’ reputation of loose citations:

Eusebius is known for loose citations, and for abbreviating sources. (Nolland ‘The Gospel of Matthew’ p.1268). Unlike the scribes who copied Codex Sinaiticus or Vaticanus, Eusebius was not trying to recreate an exact copy of previous manuscripts of the New Testament but was instead trying to write Church history and apologetics which sometimes involved quoting scripture.

c) The lack of Patristic Textual Criticism compared to the NT:

As with other Patristic evidence, when we speak of Eusebius, we are not referring to the original autographs that Eusebius wrote, but to later and slightly differing copies that have been discovered, and compiled to create a text that we believe is close to the original Eusebius wrote. The amount of textual criticism undertaken for Eusebius is not anywhere near the amount of work carried out on the New Testament text. Therefore allusions or quotes of the NT from modern editions of Eusebius cannot be considered as weighty as NT codices themselves.

Interestingly, those who quote Eusebius over NT manuscripts, also argue that when the Trinitarian Baptismal formula is used in Eusebius it is not original but merely a later addition. Even if this were found to be true, it demonstrates an inconsistent use of Textual Criticism.

It would therefore seem that Eusebius’ writings do not provide sufficient evidence to ignore all the New Testament manuscripts we have stating the full Trinitarian baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19.

Argument 2:

The Trinitarian formula in baptism was not practiced by the early church; in the book of Acts baptisms are always carried out in the name of Jesus:

ESV Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

ESV Acts 8:16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

ESV Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

ESV Acts 19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Rebuttal to Argument 2:

a) There is no indication of a liturgical command for Baptism:

Argument 2 is based on the assumption that the so-called ‘Trinitarian Baptismal formula’ was intended by Jesus and Matthew to be a liturgical formula spoken at baptism. If this was the case then it would indeed seem odd if in the book of Acts a liturgical formula of “in the name of the Lord Jesus’ was used in baptism. There are however no examples of any liturgical formula being used in either Matthew or Acts, and it is more likely that Jesus did not intend a specific formula of words to be used, but rather was conveying the meaning of baptism:

b) The meaning of the text:

To be baptized in the ‘name’ (singular) of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, does not necessarily mean to have their three different names spoken at baptism, but rather to come into relationship with, and under the Lordship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Greek phrase eis ton onoma meaning ‘in the name,’ is found in ancient papyri speaking of making payments into a person’s account (see Moulton & Milligan on ‘onoma’). This indicates that a person is being baptized into the possession of the Father, Son and Spirit.

The fact that ‘name’ (singular) is used instead of ‘names’ (plural) may show us the unity of the three, and suggest that it would not be a problem for someone to merely say “In the name of Jesus” when performing a baptism. The Didache suggests that this was how the early church viewed baptism.

c) Early church usage:

The Didache which is dated around the 1st or 2nd century uses both baptism in the name of Jesus, and baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit synonymously:

Didache 9:5 But let no one eat or drink of this eucharistic thanksgiving, but they that have been baptized into the name of the Lord

Didache 7:1 But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize. Having first recited all these things, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living (running) water.

This indicates that the early church had no problem switching between a saying “in the name of Jesus” and “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.

Therefore it would seem unwise to conclude that Matthew’s Trinitarian formula contradicts references to baptism in Acts.


The manuscript evidence is unanimous; the Eusebius quotes are not weighty enough to overthrow these. Arguments that Matthew contradicts Acts both misunderstand the meaning of the formula, and ignore evidence from the Didache. We should let the text stand as it is.



Thursday, July 05, 2007

New Testament Exegesis: Step 5C

After a long pause I'd like to get back to where I was with NT exegesis:
So far we have looked at:
1) Spiritual preparation.
2) General introduction.
3) Literary context.
4) Provisional translation
and we had started going through:

5) Grammatical Analysis.

Now we shall cover the part c of this step:
5.c) Labeling the semantic functions:

Go therefore and make disciples _______________COMMAND
......................................of all nations, ____LOCATION
.............................baptizing them _________MEANS
................................ in the name _________RELATIONSHIP
.....................................of the Father______SPHERE 1
.................................... and of the Son______SPHERE 2
....................................and of the Holy Spirit,_SPHERE 3

This is helpful as it shows how these phrases relate to one another.
Notice I put baptising as a participle of means. This is how some grammarians interpret the participle of 'baptising' as relating to the command of 'make disciples'. If this is correct then it shows us that baptising (and teaching which is also a particple) is one of the ways in which we make disciples.
This could be very helpful information for people wanting to know how to disciple people.
Jesus lists 2 participles of means for discipleship: Baptism and Teaching.

B.T.W Not everyone sees these as participles of means, but even if this were so, they should at least show us 2 elements that are characteristic of discipleship.

Below I have written out a list of possible semantic functions to use in your lists:








God bless

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