Geographical Historical Reliability of the Gospels

Lecture – Dr Simon Gathercole “The Journeys of Jesus and Jewish Geography” given 05/07/2016 at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, TX

Simon Gathercole—Reader in New Testament Studies and Director of Studies at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University—recently gave a lecture at Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas, on “The Journeys of Jesus and Jewish Geography.”

Here is a description:

The Gospels in the New Testament contain a remarkable amount of geographical information, especially in the quantity of references to areas, towns, and villages that Jesus (and John the Baptist) visited.

Are these genuine or fictitious?

Some Jesus skeptics have doubted the existence of places like Nazareth and Capernaum.

Even many New Testament scholars are unaware of the evidence for Gospel sites.

Strikingly, however, a huge proportion of the place-names in the Gospels are paralleled in Jewish literature outside the New Testament, even down to some of the small villages.

This illustrated lecture will examine the historical evidence, some already known, some presented for the first time, for the places in the Gospel. It will show how this evidence has clear implications for the reliability of the Gospel narratives.

You can watch the lecture below (and view the slides here):

Does My Soul Sleep After Death?

john-piperQuestion and Answer with Dr. John Piper (original source here)

Transcript

Gabriel, a listener from the Philippines, asks a very common question: “Pastor John, when we die, does our consciousness continue somewhere? Or do we just sleep awaiting the second coming and the judgment? And why is sleep so often used to describe death, even by Jesus himself? And where in the Bible can I be more confident of what happens to me or to someone I love when they die? Should I imagine them sleeping, awaiting Christ’s return. Or already in heaven or even in hell?”

I hear two questions: 1) Why is the word “sleep” or the image of sleep used to describe death even by Jesus? And 2) What is the experience of people between death and bodily resurrection? So, maybe we should start by not taking for granted the biblical teaching that God’s purpose is not just to have someday lots of spirits in heaven, but bodies on the new earth.

The resurrection of the body was a scandal to many Greeks who loved the idea of the immortality of the soul, but disliked the idea of the resurrection of this body. Christianity is not Greek in this regard. The body will be raised from the dead, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus in a form that could be recognized and that could be touched and that could eat fish was the prototype of our resurrection body. So Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” And when people scoff in this chapter and say, “What kind of body do they come with?” he answers in verses 42–44, “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” So the resurrection of the body is absolutely essential to Christian doctrine.

Now the question is: What about the time between death and the resurrection of the body? Why is it sometimes called “sleep”? And we were talking earlier, Tony, as we began this, that this is really fresh for me, because at 8:00 this morning a very good friend of mine went into this state. So where is she? What is happening to her? Right now, it is 3 hours and 16 minutes — picture it — she is 3 hours and 16 minutes into what we are talking about right now. That is awesome. That is awesome to think about.

Here is what the Bible says about sleep. This is why he raises the question. This is 1 Thessalonians 4:14: “Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” All right? That is a reference to Christians who have died. Why does he say it that way? Or 1 Corinthians 15:17–18, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” So there’s another reference to falling asleep as a picture of dying.

And then there is Jesus where he raised the little girl. We named our daughter after this experience where he says: “Talitha, cumi” (Mark 5:41). He raised this little girl from the dead. And we know that she is dead because in Mark 5:35 they say, “Your daughter has died.” And when Jesus arrives to deal with this, he says, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead, but sleeping” (Mark 5:39). Well, she was dead and he calls it sleeping. Why?

My answer is that this is the way the body looks and acts. It is simply a description of death by a softer picture of what it actually looks like. If you have ever looked at a person who has just died, you ask, Have they died or are they just sleeping? Because they look like they are just there, like they have always looked. And they are just asleep. So I think it is a picture, it is a pictorial description in a softer way of the actual reality that they have died.

Now why do I say that? Why do I jump to that idea of meaning instead of just saying, “Well, no, no, they are not conscious on the other side of death. They really are undergoing something like soul sleep. They will have no consciousness until the resurrection?” Why don’t I say that? And the reason I don’t is because Jesus and Paul teach otherwise. So for example, the two key passages in Paul are Philippians 1:21–23, “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that mean fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose, I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” So when Paul contemplates his own dying, he calls it “gain,” not because he is going to go unconscious and have zero experience for another thousand years, but because he goes into the presence of Christ with Christ in deeper, more intimate way — and it is, he says, vastly better than anything he has known here.

And then he says the same thing in 2 Corinthians 5:6–9, “We are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” So, dying in the body means going to be at home with the Lord.

And here’s Jesus. He tells this story about the rich man and Lazarus, and he doesn’t say that it is a parable. Now I don’t know for sure, frankly, whether it was a parable or not, but it doesn’t say it was a parable. He just describes it like it really happened. And if it did happen or if it is a parable, it seems to be making the point that after death there is not oblivion or sleep, unconsciousness. There is life in torment or in bliss.

It goes like this: “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side” (Luke 16:19–23). So the picture Jesus paints — the parable or something that really happened — is one of a conscious life in torment or in happiness beyond death.

So, my conclusion is that Christians have a double encouragement for those who are dying or have died. For the believer who trusts in Jesus Christ, Christ’s blood and righteousness have removed the condemnation for every believer and secured for us both final resurrection of the body in a new heaven and a new earth, and now, after death, an intimate, sweet experience of being in Christ’s presence between death and resurrection. It is a blessed hope in both ways. We are safe. We are safe in him now, we will be safe in his presence at the moment of death, and we will be supremely happy in a new and healthy body forever and ever in the new heavens and the new earth.

The Costly Battle of Christ’s Headship

The truth of God has come to us on a sea of blood, both by the blood of Christ in redemption, and by the blood of the martyrs in Christian history, as they stood (at great cost) for the biblical truth of Christ’s Sovereign headship over His Church.

Text: Ephesians 5:23

What Does Semper Reformanda Mean?

godfreyThis article by Dr. Robert Godfrey, was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

The phrase ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (the church reformed, always reforming) has been used so often as to make it a motto or slogan. People have used it to support a surprising array of theological and ecclesiastical programs and purposes. Scholars have traced its origins to a devotional book written by Jodocus van Lodenstein in 1674. Van Lodenstein, no doubt, had no intention of being a phrase-maker or sloganeer. What was his intention, and what did he mean by this phrase?

Van Lodenstein was a minister in the Reformed Church of the United Provinces in what we know today as the Netherlands. This church was born of decades of faithful preaching by ministers—many educated in Geneva—who risked their lives to carry the gospel, first into the French-speaking regions of the Low Countries, and later into the Dutch-speaking regions farther north. Some ministers were martyred for their faith, but they gathered a rich harvest of committed believers. Their message of the need for the reform of the church according to the Bible resonated with many who saw the corruptions of the old church.

Under the rulers Charles V and Philip II, the government of the Low Countries made every effort to suppress the Reformed religion, which was a large part of the reason for the Dutch revolt against their Spanish overlords. This revolt (1568-1648) became known as the Eighty Years’ War, giving birth to a new state in the northern part of the Low Countries. In this new state—the Dutch Republic, also known as the United Provinces—the Reformed Church was dominant, receiving government support and becoming the church of the majority of the population by the middle of the seventeenth century.

This church subscribed to the Belgic Confession (1561) and the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), and had an essentially presbyterian form of government. Interference from the Protestant civil authorities of the new state limited the freedom of the Reformed Church, particularly in matters of discipline. That interference, in part, led to a crisis in the church in the early seventeenth century with the rise of Arminianism. That crisis was addressed and settled at the great international synod held in the city of Dordrecht in 1618-19. The Canons of Dort prepared at this synod became another doctrinal authority in the life of the church. Continue reading

The Baptist Larger Catechism

The Baptist Larger Catechism is a modern day adaptation of the Westminster Larger Catechism, a central catechism of Reformed Churches in the English speaking world.

pdf found at this link

The Bible as Literature

bible-books1Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) served as professor of English at Wheaton College for nearly 50 years. He has authored or edited over fifty books, including The Word of God in English, the Christian Guides to the Classics series, J. I. Packer: An Evangelical Life, A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible, and Literary Introductions to the Books of the Bible. He is a frequent speaker at the Evangelical Theological Society’s annual meetings and served as literary stylist for the English Standard Version Bible.


Part 1: The Old Testament –
(Original source here)

The Importance of Form

It is natural to ask whether the literary forms of the Bible deserve a lot of attention. The answer is yes. The primary principle of literature is that meaning is embodied and communicated through form.

There is no content without the forms in which that content is packaged. We have misled the Christian public by acting as if a summary of the ideas in a book of the Bible is an adequate account of the book. A summary of ideas leaves readers without a picture of what they actually encounter when they read a book of the Bible.

It is no wonder that many Bible readers do not know how to interact with the texts of the Bible. They have not been given the tools that will allow them to see what is actually in the text. We can deduce ideas from any text in the Bible, but no book of the Bible consists of a list of ideas. It consists of a myriad of literary techniques and forms. Readers need to be coached to see the forms that comprise each book of the Bible, accompanied by the rules that govern our assimilation of those forms.

The individual entries listed below highlight the most important literary forms in the individual books of the Bible. They are a gateway only, but a gateway is a necessary and helpful point of entry.

Genesis

A preponderance of narrative, so the book becomes an anthology of stories. The narrative subtype that dominates is hero story. As the title “book of beginnings” hints, Genesis embodies foundational principles that range all the way from the nature of the world and humanity to the history of God’s covenant dealings with the human race. The gallery of characters is large, but eight characters stand out: Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

Exodus

The unifying motif is announced in the title: the departure of the Israelites from oppression in Egypt, followed by a journey through the desert to the Promised Land. Three distinctly different genres appear—narrative (1-18 and 32-34), lawgiving (19-24), and architectural information about the building of the tabernacle (24-31 and 35-40). Each of these genres has its own focus—deliverance, covenant, and holiness, respectively. Moses is the unifying human hero.

Leviticus

The primary genre is the rulebook, which is at the same time a guidebook for living the religious and moral life that God intended for his people. The main literary principle at work is that literature uses particulars to embody universals; we look not only at the details of the text but through them to principles that apply today. The book is also a utopia that paints a picture of the good society and the institutions and practices that produce it. Realism abounds, including references to bodily functions. Continue reading

The Historic Roots of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Movement

Tom_NettlesArticle entitled “Churches, Get a Calvinist Pastor!” by Tom Nettles (original source here)

Southern Baptists inherited the most compelling aspects of all the Baptist Calvinists that preceded them. James P. Boyce summarized this well. He encouraged every preacher to get theological education in some way, even if it could not be at the Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina. If no other means were available, he advised, “work at it yourself.” The fathers of the convention did this, Boyce claimed; “They familiarized themselves with the Bible, and Gill and Andrew Fuller, and they made good and effective preachers. God is able to raise up others like them.”1 The irony of Boyce’s appeal to the grassroots for support of theological education was this: the seminary would not interrupt, but would perpetuate, the work of pastoral ministry, preaching and theology consistent with the Gill/Fuller tradition.

But this is the very difficulty that we face at this moment in Southern Baptist history. God indeed is raising up others like them, that is, like the fathers. Whether self-educated or seminary-educated, Boyce and all his contemporaries viewed a Bible theology that reflected a blend of Gill and Fuller as normal and expected. Churches should have no other kind of pastor.

These are the ones that would maintain the spiritual and doctrinal health and fervor of the churches. Today, however, some Southern Baptists are warning the churches against them. This is a mammoth historical irony that many find difficult to appreciate.

The Charleston Association in its adoption of the 1689 Confession and in the preaching of such men as Oliver Hart, Richard Furman, Basil Manly, Sr., bequeathed the theology of the fathers to James P. Boyce. In his analysis of the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, Boyce wrote, “This doctrine is inseparably associated with the other doctrines of grace which we have found taught in God’s word. So true is this, that they are universally accepted, or rejected together. The perseverance of the saints is a part of every Calvinistic confession. . . . All the evidence, therefore, of the truth of the doctrines already examined, may be presented in favour of this which is a necessary inference from them. In like manner, all the independent proof of this doctrine confirms the separate doctrines, and the system of doctrine, with which it is associated.”2 Boyce’s conviction at this point challenges the contemporary position of many Baptists who still maintain a doctrine of perseverance but separate it from the rest of the biblical pattern, the doctrinal system, of which it is intrinsically a part. Those that have departed from the historic view, and the theologically consistent view, now warn churches against those that that are true-blue, dyed in the wool, 100 proof Southern Baptist.

They are faulted when they contend that, though of Reformed viewpoint, they don’t want to wear that label. That is not because they are less than sincere in that conviction or because they don’t believe it to undergird healthy church life both in evangelism and the sanctifying influences of truth. It’s because of the caricatures presented in the instructive documents given to pulpit committees. Even the ridiculous charge of bringing in infant baptism to a Baptist church has been made. It’s also because a marvelous array of biblical truths, to which there should be no objection, is vitally connected to the distinctives of Calvinism. Their power, in fact, flourishes in that doctrinal context.

If pulpit committees and churches would look below the façade of scare-tactic accusations and warnings being rolled out like taffy at the Mississippi State Fair, they would discover something healthy and very desirable in the men and the message preached by those against whom they are warned. No one wants a nasty confrontation between church and pastor that leads to a confused and often divided congregation and a battered pastor and his family. These are charitable warnings. Some congregations, however, might desire to consider why Baptists for so long guarded their confessional Calvinism with great care and endured many storms undergirded by that foundation. They might consider that opening themselves to embrace that which is truly “traditional” could elevate the sense of the divine presence of grace in their lives.

The twentieth-century slide into liberalism rode on the back of a growing indifference to the doctrines of grace, because the doctrines of grace are tied vitally to more biblical doctrines than just perseverance of the saints. The recovery of a fully salubrious evangelical preaching ministry depends largely on the degree to which the doctrines of grace are recovered and become the consciously propagated foundation of all gospel truth.

If a church, therefore, gets a Calvinist preacher, she will get a good thing. Several issues will be securely settled and the church will not have to wonder about the soundness of her preacher on these items of biblical truth and their soul-nurturing power. Calvinists have stood for more than just their distinguishing doctrines; they have held steadfastly to other doctrines that are essential for the health of Baptist churches in our day. Let’s look at a few of these.

1. A Calvinist firmly believes in the divine inspiration of Scriptures. A large number of cogent defenses of the inerrancy of Scripture have been written by Calvinists. Some would say that these are among the most profound ever produced in Christian literature. Calvinism provides a more consistent rationale for inerrancy than other theological systems. One of the most often repeated objections to the divine inspiration of Scripture is that its assumption of perfect divine control of the process runs roughshod over human freedom and does not give sufficient room to human finiteness or human sin. These were objections, concurrent with the decline of commitment to Calvinism, that landed many leading voices of twentieth-century denominational life in a position opposed to inerrancy and verbal inspiration. Virtually every defender of inerrancy has to discuss the relation between inspiration and each of these supposed difficulties. The Calvinist system poses no contradiction between the freeness of human personality, the limitations of human finiteness, and the mental darkness of human sin in their relation to verbal inspiration. God’s particular providence over all events includes every choice of every moral creature without diminishing the free moral agency of the creature. God in his sovereignty can gives words to a donkey as well as an unwilling prophet (Numbers 22:28-30, 38). Through the use of a variety of means, God works all things, including inspiration, “according to the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11).In the same way that God’s sovereignty brings about the fulfillment of his prophecies according to his decree with no violation of human freedom, and no limitation from human weakness or badness (Acts 2:23), so he inspired Scripture without suspending the individual personality traits of every biblical writer. If a church gets a Calvinist pastor, she can be sure that her pastor never will deny the full truthfulness of the Bible but will be tethered to the text as the word of God. He will have this conviction, not as an act of will unrelated to his theological system but as an intrinsic and coherent outflow of his view of God and man. Continue reading

Ten Things You Should Know About The Post-Millennial View Of The Kingdom Of God

In terms of eschatology, Dr. Sam Storms and I are ammillennialists and so disagree with the post millennial view. In any discussion of these issues, it is so important to accurately portray an opposing position before engaging with it. So often, this is not the case and the result is a complete failure of any kind of productive dialog. As far as I understand the issues involved, I think Dr. Storms does a fine job of accurately representing the post-millennial view in this article below: (original source here)

stormsBefore I delineate the 10 things all of us should know, let’s look at a definition of postmillennialism by one of its advocates, Lorainne Boettner. He describes postmillennialism as,

“that view of the last things which holds that the Kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the Gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individuals, that the world eventually is to be Christianized, and that the return of Christ is to occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace commonly called the ‘Millennium.’ . . . The Millennium to which the Postmillennialist looks forward is thus a golden age of spiritual prosperity during this present dispensation, that is, during the Church age, and is to be brought about through forces now active in the world. It is an indefinitely long period of time, perhaps much longer than a literal one thousand years. The changed character of individuals will be reflected in an uplifted social, economic, political and cultural life of mankind. . . . This does not mean that there ever will be a time on this earth when every person will be a Christian, or that all sin will be abolished. But it does mean that evil in all its many forms eventually will be reduced to negligible proportions, that Christian principles will be the rule, not the exception, and that Christ will return to a truly Christianized world” (The Millennium, 14; emphasis mine).

(1) According to postmillennialism, the Kingdom of God is primarily the rule or reign of God spiritually in and over the hearts of men. Thus the kingdom is truly present in this age and is visibly represented by the Church of Jesus Christ. In other words, the kingdom “arrives” and is “present” wherever and whenever people believe the gospel and commit themselves to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ as Lord.

(2) The kingdom is not to be thought of as arriving instantaneously or wholly by means of some cataclysmic event at the end of the age (an event such as the Second Coming of Christ). Indeed, the very name POST-millennialism indicates that Christ will return only after the kingdom has come in its fullness. The “arrival” of the kingdom, therefore, is gradual or by degrees. There may well be extended seasons in the life of the church where little visible and tangible progress is detected, indeed, even times when the church appears to regress in terms of its global influence. But postmillennialists are quick to remind us that we must take the long view and not succumb to the pessimism that easily grows in the soil of short-term setbacks. Whereas Satan’s kingdom may appear at times to experience a growth parallel to, if not greater than, that of Christ, the latter will most assuredly overcome all opposition in every sphere of life until the nations are brought into submission to him.

(3) The means by which the kingdom extends itself is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The continuing spread and influence of the gospel will increasingly, and in direct proportion thereto, introduce the kingdom. This gradual (but constantly growing) success of the gospel will be brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Church. Eventually the greater part, but not necessarily all, of the world’s population will be converted to Christ. As Greg Bahnsen explains, “the essential distinctive of postmillennialism is its scripturally derived, sure expectation of gospel prosperity for the church during the present age” (“The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism,” in The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, III, Winter 1976-77, 66).

As Doug Wilson explains: “the gospel will continue to grow and flourish throughout the world, more and more individuals will be converted, the nations will stream to Christ, and the Great Commission will finally be successfully completed. The earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. When that happens, generation after generation will love and serve the Lord faithfully. And then the end will come” (Heaven Misplaced, 10). Continue reading

The Gospel & The True Christian

Recording from the conference “Back to the Word of God” at Holmavatn Mission Center in Rogaland, Norway in January, 2014.

Paul Washer:

Introduction:
Paul Washer preaches from 1 Timothy 3:14 – 4:16 about the importance of preaching the gospel. The gospel is the only message that both saves and sanctifies us, and he warns us not to change our focus to something else in the message we proclaim.

Translation into Norwegian by Bjorn Storm Johansen. Recording from meeting at Vigrestad Misjonshus on January 20, 2014.

The gospel should be the main focus of our preaching:

1. The power of the gospel – Romans 1:16

2. Preach the gospel – 1 Tim 3:14 – 4:5

3. God’s holiness and man’s depravity – Romans 3

4. The Gospel of justification and redemption – Rom 3:23,25

5. The power of regeneration – 2 Cor 5:17-18

6. Assurance of Salvation – 1 John 5:13

The Eternal Word: God the Son in Eternity Past

Shepherd’s Conference 2017 – General Session 3

Text: John 1:1-3

Dr. Michael Reeves:

General Session 3 – Michael Reeves – Shepherds’ Conference 2017 from Grace Community Church on Vimeo.