Saturday, April 30, 2016


Book Review

C. Marvin Pate, 40 QUESTIONS ABOUT THE HISTORICAL JESUS, Grand Rapids MI, Kregel, 2015.

I must admit I was looking forward to this book. The last few years there has be a change among Biblical Scholars about the gospels and the importance of Q. I wanted to see if the changes are reflected in this volume. It is a large volume and covers a wide range of the subject. The subject is arranged in four main divisions:

(1) Background Questions about the historical Jesus. This is divided into two main sections, the first consist of 5 questions. In this section he points out that the reliability of the Scriptures were confined to the academic world. However, now it has slipped into the popular culture. This has been mainly the result of the popular secular Jesus movement by such works as the DaVinci Code. He confronts such results and falsehoods. One can still answer yes to the reliability of the four gospels. He also confirms that the gospels present an accurate description of Jesus?

(2) There are questions about the Birth and Childhood of Jesus.
Pate centers upon the truth of the virgin birth of Jesus. He confirms the historical facts of Jesus birth as recorded in Scripture. He takes an honest look at the virgin birth and deals squarely with the problems of such a view. He upholds that the virgin birth is a key to the incarnation of Christ. He includes a section of Isaiah 7:14.  

(3) There are questions of the Childhood of Jesus. This includes his relationship with Mary and his brothers and sisters. He confirms that Scripture speaks of them in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55. There are three views about them: Are they cousins? Are they actual brothers and sisters?  Are they step-brothers and sisters?  He holds there were brothers and sisters born of Mary and Joseph. He goes on to question the economic status of the family—which he would classify as middle class. And of course this subject would not be complete without questions about Jesus being a child miracle worker as conveyed by the apocryphal gospels. He points out two dangers as taking these as gospel: (1) the late date of the works which are from 200 to 500 AD. (2) They have agendas other than historical fact. Therefore they have no place in biblical study.

(4) Questions about His Life and Teaching. In this he deals with why there are four gospels. When Jesus began his ministry. The significance of His baptism and temptation. Who are the Twelve? The meaning of the Transfiguration. And the true miracles of His ministry. The history actuary of the passion of Christ and His resurrection. In this Pate upholds the authority, unity, and continuity of the Bible. All of these points verify the life of the historical Jesus.

Concerning the teaching of Jesus he deals with its focus. He upholds that it was the kingdom of God, and surveys three main views of the kingdom. He holds to an Already/Not Yet view of the kingdom. He examines each of the gospel presentation of the teachings of Christ, showing Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy; the Savior and Messiah; builder of the church as its foundation; representative in the Church, and his presence therein. He came to be the suffering Son of Man (not Israel), and the opposed Messianic King.

While this is a good survey, Pate seems to be light in certain areas: Synoptic problems and its influence of the historical Jesus; He seems at times to be more interested in the theology rather than the historical; and more could have been done on the parables since it was a major element of the teaching of Christ.

Certain things are helpful including footnotes at the bottom of the pages, not endnotes. I hope publishers get away from the endnote, which is frustrating for this student. The book has a number of good charts, as well as questions at the end of the chapter. I appreciate the Ancient Source Index, and not just a Scriptural index. A subject index would have been helpful. The question and answer index will be helpful for the general reader. Overall, it is a valuable source for laymen and Pastor alike. It is informative, reader friendly, and a helpful guide.   

I received this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Structure of John

 John centers around 5 major sections. Each section of John centers around a theme—Deity; Manifestation to Israel; Manifestation to His Disciples; Manifestation of His Passion to all; and with an Epilogue. The structure can be charted as such:

John 1:1-1:18
John 1:19-12:50
John 13:1-17:26
John 18:1-20:31
John 21
Prologue: Deity of Christ
Manifestation to Israel
Manifestation  to the Disciples
Manifestation of His Passion for the world

Private 1:19-2:11 Public 2:12-50
Private 13:1-17;26
Public 18:1-19:42  Private 20:2-31


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Studies in Colossians #19

Heretical Problems facing the Colossians (2:1-3:4)

B. The Peril of Error and the Sufficiency of Christ (2:4-23)

2.      Protection from error (2:6-7)—“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk in Him, having been firmly rooted [and now] being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, [and] overflowing with gratitude.”

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Stability leads to perseverance in the faith. O’Brien points to these verses as pivotal in a twofold way: First, they set forth positive instruction that serves as the basis for the attack on heresy being confronted by the Colossians; second, they summarized much of what has preceded in the Christological statement.[1]

Paul gives an exhortation to live in accordance to their faith. It springs first and foremost by receiving Christ. Two truths should be seen in the word received (paralabete) literally in the Greek means to take to one’s side or received for one’s self. Next it is in the aorist tense which speaks of an instantaneous completed transaction. The readers have received Christ. Believers are called to be faithful to the truth they have received through the gospel. Verses 6-7 are structured between eloquence and parallel incentives—I diagram it as such:

You have received Christ ________ just as you were instructed.
Walk in Him
(four participles describing
the components of walking  in Him)
Built up
       The diagram indicates the fact [received Christ]; the means [were instructed]; the exhortation [walk]; and the features [rooted, built, established, and abounding].

Now these verses are not without conflict among Bible students. Do we take this exhortation to advance in the life of faith?[2] Or do we take it to refer to the form in which they received Christ in the gospel, and advance in the faith or doctrine?[3] In others words, is Paul referring to the principle of faith or the form of faith?

No one denies the principle of faith (cf. 2 Cor. 5:7). They are to advance in the life of faith. Dunn observes that the combination of our walk, is motivated from within (the principle of faith) the receiving of truth (form of truth) that Jesus as Lord.[4] The immediate context however points to the form of faith, not the principle of faith as the primary defense against error. This is supported by the following:

(1)  Paul is exhorting them to conform their conduct to the standard of the gospel. Bruce tells us:
this short sentence [verse 6] introduces us to the concept of tradition....The idea of tradition, together with the terminology used to express it, is common in Judaism, where it especially designates the handing down of the oral law and its interpretation from one generation to another.[5]
This is support by the word received (paralambano) which primarily uses in the New Testament as the reception and transmission of truth (cf. 4:6; 1 Cor. 11:23; 15:1, 3; Gal. 1:9-12). Eadie says it used “emphatically to appropriate wisdom or instruction[6] It indicates in this context to both believing in his person, and a commitment to the instruction concerning Christ.[7]

(2) The form of this receiving is reinforced by the phrase “just as you were instructed” (2:7). We have a receiving—instruction eloquence here. Education edifies. The instruction is the form of the receiving the truth. There is no question that which was received by instruction, according to the context, was the full understanding of the knowledge of God’s mystery (cf. 2:2). It was Christ the source of wisdom and knowledge (cf. 2:3). The emphases of Paul is to instruct believers what they are to believe and how that are to live in accordance with that belief.

(3) Correct teaching and instruction is used in contrast to false teaching in this context. This is clearly the negative exhortation of verse 8 and is a part of the admonition against false teaching in verses 4-8. Because of this true understanding and instruction in which they are to walk, they are not to fall into the captive of false philosophy.

As a result of true instruction they are exhorted to “walk” in Christ in accordance to the truth of Christ (2:6). “In Him is emphatic stressing that He is the sphere that is to occupy our walk. This is the second time Paul gave this exhortation (cf. 1:10-12), however there is a difference between the two. In the first, it marks the conduct of the walk— in fruitfulness, knowledge, strength, and thanksgiving. Paul now turns to the elements of construction of our walk.

Walk Worthy – Col. 1:10
Walk in Him – Col. 2:6
·  Bearing fruit
·  Firmly rooted
·  Growing
·  Built up
·  Gaining strength 1:11
·  Established 2:7
Giving Thanks 1:12, 2:7

One can see at once the different emphasis between the two passages. It is a difference between active obedience and that which establishes our walk, culminating in thanksgiving.

The present tense stresses what are to be the permanent elements of our walk. It speaks of our conduct. There are certain elements that protect the believer from error. The focus is to remain firm against the error by the education or edifying elements of our walk. Paul gives the means through which believers can protect themselves from the errors around them. The components are given by a series of participles joined by the word and (kai):

(1)    Having been firmly rooted” (2:7); i.e. rooted in the truth. The word rooted denotes that which is fixed or firm. Lenski says of the grammar of the phrase is:
Properly a perfect passive, for the Colossians were rooted in Christ the moment they received him. This participle reaches back to that moment, goes forward to the present day, and continues on into the future. Yet it is passive, for the Colossians did not root and do not now root themselves in Christ. Another did and does this: God or God’s Spirit.[9]

Paul uses this verb only twice, here and Ephesians 3:17. Together they indicated the two vital elements that believers are to be rooted in—education (doctrine) and love. Being rooted in Christ means being planted both in truth and love.
(2)    Being built up in Him” (2:7). While the first metaphor is agricultural, this one is architectural. Moo calls it a construction metaphor.[10] Here is a passive participle meaning to build up, or build on something. In the Greek it is a compound word (ep [upon] and oikodomeo [build]. We are built on the foundation of the truth of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-14; Luke 6:48; 2 Tim. 2:19, Eph. 2:20). The tense is present and describes a process and the passive voice tells us that this is God’s work in us. We are the recipients of this grace. The metaphor reinforces the importance of the founding traditions (cf. 2:6), which are the guidelines provided in the living experience of the believer—“just as you have been instructed.” There is a common connection between our walk and what we have been taught. One should notice the almost identical phrases, both which point to the eloquence of reliable tradition of the Christian faith:
                        --“as you have received” (2:6)
                        --“as you were instructed” (2:7)
(3)    Established in your faith” (2:7). The word established is the Greek verb bebaioo, which means to make firm. It is a legal word. It speaks of “a legal guarantee.[11] It speaks of being firm and established. Paul often uses the word in the sense of confirming (cf. 1 Cor. 1:6; 2 Cor. 1:21). In the context of 2:7 it emphasizes the firmness of the believers walk in the faith. This metaphor is in connection and helps establish their stability in the gospel that they received and were taught. The KJV is more accurate in translating this as “in the faith.” It speaks of a body of truth, not subjective faith, and is naturally connected to teaching. It refers to walking in or according to the knowledge of the faith as revealed in the sphere of the person and work of Christ. It is a passive, as are the other two metaphors thereby stressing God’s grace and activity.
(4)    Overflowing with gratitude” (2:7). The Greek word is perisseuo meaning to be over and above, overflow, or abundant. The Majority text has the words in it between abundant and with gratitude, which is not found in most modern translations (including NASB, NIV), but is found in the KJV[12] and NKJV. There is uncertainty as to why this was omitted, it could have been an accident, or it may have been on purpose to conform to the words “in him.”[13] Lack of hard evidence convinces me that it should be included in the text. Thus, the text should read, “overflowing in it [therein] with gratitude.” It is a prepositional phrase which refers back to the faith. This is affirmed in Ephesians 5:20. “With gratitude or thanksgiving” is how we are to respond to these participles. This last participle is a present active participle, indicating continual action and actively engaging in thanksgiving. Thanksgiving directs us away from ourselves and circumstances to humility and servitude. It directs our thoughts to God and praise. It leads to the mind of Christ (cf. Phil. 2:5-8). One cannot be misled whose mind is in the faith.  

[1]  Peter T. O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 105.
[2]  The view is held by C.F. Baker, UNDERSTANDING THE BODY OF CHRIST, 132. Marry J. Harris, EGGNT: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 80.
[3] This view is held by F.F. Bruce: NICNT: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON AND EPHESIANS, 92-94. James D. Dunn, NIGTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 138-43. Peter T O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 104-109. David W. Pao, ZECNT: COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 151.
[6]  John Eadie, COLOSSIANS, 125
[7]  Douglas Moo, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 177 holds that this is the only occurrence were the word receive speaks of a personal object.
[8] Thomas Constable: NOTES ON COLOSSIANS, 35.
[10]  Douglas J. Moo, PNTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 180.
[11]  Schlier, “bebaioV,” TDNT, 1:602.
[12]  However, the NEW SCOFIELD REFERENCE BIBLE: KJV, omits it
[13] Bruce Terry, TEXTUAL VARIANTS,, Col. 2:7.