MELCHIZEDEK: THE FORESHADOWING OF A GREATER REALITY

 (Writers Note: In my previous post MELCHIZEDEK: TYPE OR THEOPHANY?  I wrote on why I contend Melchizedek was a Christophany, he was a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Of course, there are an equal number of biblical scholars who see Melchizedek as only a type of Christ. Someone asked me if I would write a post from the position of presenting Melchizedek as a type of Christ and Christ being the antitype or the fulfillment of what Melchizedek foreshadowed. I have always believed one can best articulate their own position on an issue if they understand the opposing position. While my position on who Melchizedek was/is  set forth in the last post, the following is written from the position that Melchizedek was the foreshadowing of a greater reality. The reader having then both sides can make up their own minds. – Dr. Dan)   

         Melchizedek bursts upon the pages of the Old Testament, like a refreshing breeze on a hot summer day. Found in Genesis 14, he appears to Abram (Abraham) after he had returned victorious, though weary, from the heat of battle. Genesis 14:18-20 reads, “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

         The reader discovers Melchizedek was both a priest and a king, and Abram, recognizing his kingly and priestly character, gave him a tithe of all his “goods.”  However, he vanished from Scripture as quickly as he appeared, his name not reappearing again until Psalm 110, a Messianic Psalm.  In Psalm 110:4, the Lord promises, makes an oath, that the coming Messiah “will be a priest after the order of Melchizedek.” The Messianic Psalm and the author of Hebrews, by calling the Messiah/Christ a “high priest after the order of Melchizedek,” unites the qualities of both an expiatory priesthood and kingly majesty, which was different from the Levitical order where no priest could be a king.  

          The author of Hebrews takes the Old Testament passages (or lack thereof) regarding Melchizedek to skillfully and masterfully weave into a reasoned typological tapestry how the priesthood of Christ is outside the Levitical order, it is of a different sort.  The Levitical order only being imperfect types and shadows, a new order was needed to bring about fulfillment of the types and shadows. The author of Hebrews uses the mysterious priest-king to paint a vivid picture of the qualities and characteristics that would reside in priest-king Jesus Christ, establishing a new order superior to the Levitical order.   

          Ever since the ink on the Book of Hebrews first dried there has been a debate whether Melchizedek and Jesus were/are the same person. A case can be made either way. It can be argued convincingly that Abraham, after his victorious battle, met and gave honor to the preincarnate Christ. In like manner it can be argued convincingly that Melchizedek is a type of Christ, foreshadowing His eternal and perfect priesthood, which was outside the Levitical order.  While many able expositors contend Melchizedek was a Christophany, the purpose here is to give an examination of how the writer of Hebrews usage of Melchizedek was to depict him as a type of Christ.

          Melchizedek has already been mentioned in Hebrews 5:6-11, but here the author turns to a fuller treatment of the subject, based upon the historical account of Melchizedek in the OT. The focus of Chapter 7 is that the Aaronic priesthood was insufficient and that a priest, not of the line of Aaron, was needed. This “great” priest was to not be of the order of Aaron, but of Melchizedek.  A.C. Kendrick articulates well regarding the author of Hebrews using Melchizedek as a type of Christ, writing:

On Melchizedek’ s origin and history, the vail was evidently not intended to be lifted. Raised up for a special purpose, his origin and end shrouded in intentional obscurity, he was brought into personal contact with the father of the Jewish race, that when a change should be necessary in the Jewish priestly order their own annals might foreshadow and justify the proceeding in the exhibition of one before whom Abraham himself, and in him his priestly descendants, had bowed in homage. So at least God has used Melchizedek, and so we may presume he intended to use him, and that to this use the Old Testament narrative was adjusted. Whatever the sacred historian may have known, or not known, regarding Melchizedek’ s ancestry and historical relations, the Spirit of God that presided over the narrative caused just so much to be recorded as answered the purpose of his introduction. He was to be used simply as a type. It mattered not so much what he was as what he appeared.[1]

          In using the historical priesthood of Melchizedek as a type of Christ, the author of Hebrews is showing there is a priesthood older than the Levitical priesthood and of a different sort, whose qualification were different from the Levitical order based on one’s lineage.  In comparison, the priesthood of Christ is of a different sort from the Levitical priesthood, and transcends the qualifications of the old Aaronic order.

          The writer of Hebrews deals with known facts of the history of Melchizedek; and makes interpretation of the history with typological comparisons from it. Of the facts recorded in Genesis none are passed over, except the gift of bread and wine. Reaching back into Genesis 14 and Psalm 110, at the close of Hebrews chapter 6 the author says of Jesus that He has entered heaven, there to be our High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

6:17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: 19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; 20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

          The focus of the author of Hebrews is to show that the Levitical order was insufficient and imperfect in dealing with man’s sin. What is needed is another order of priesthood outside the Levitical order. Found in Psalm 110, a Messianic Psalm, the Lord promises in 110:4 that the Messiah would establish a new order, one after the order of Melchizedek. The mysterious priest-king is used as a type of the coming Messiah, Jesus being the reality of what Melchizedek foreshadowed.  Yes, this priesthood was introduced by an oath of God: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind ‘You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek’.” God does not swear lightly. He did not introduce the Levitical priesthood that way. This was something new. Christ is the fulfillment the of High Priest, which the Lord took an oath to provide. The priesthood of Christ was not based on legal qualifications, but by an oath from God, who cannot lie.  

          The writer uses the priesthood of Melchizedek as a foreshadowing of Christ (7:1-3). He lifts out elements surrounding the person and character of Melchizedek that foreshadow what Christ would be and do in reality. The writer takes a historical person, and the revealed facts and at times from the lack of historical information (arguing from silence) about him to develop a type or a prefiguring of the kind of Priesthood that is needed to bring man into the presence of God.   The author’s method of exegesis, at times arguing from silence of facts, may seem odd to the Western mind, but biblical scholar Myles Bourke points out that “according to a principle of rabbinic exegesis, what is not mentioned in the Torah does not exist.”[2]  For the writer of Hebrews what is said about Melchizedek and what is not said about him are equally important!

          Richard Lenski writes, “The sudden way in which the scriptures draw back and close the curtain on Melchizedek is the divine way of making him a type of Jesus, the King-Priest, who like Melchizedek, stands alone and unique in his priesthood and is absolutely distinct from the long Aaronic succession of priests.”[3] So the author uses parallels drawn from the story of Melchizedek to highlight the uniqueness of Christ and that His sacrifice is superior and His priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood.  What was true of Melchizedek as a matter of historical record was true of Christ in a real and literal sense. His intent is to show the existence of another order of priesthood, older, superior and superseded both the Law and the Levitical priesthood. Again, the writer uses the priesthood of Melchizedek as a foreshadowing of Christ (7:1-3).

7 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

          The author argues that Melchizedek, a priest-king, outside the Levitical order, possessed character traits that foreshadowed character traits that the promised Messiah would possess in perfection.  Five positive qualities emerge from the priesthood of Melchizedek: (1) it was a priesthood of righteousness, (2) a priesthood of peace, (3) a royal priesthood (for he was a king), (4) it was personal and not inherited because he has no recorded genealogy, and (5) having no record of birth or death, and his priesthood having no record of beginning or end – he is a picture, type, foreshadowing of what Christ would be and do in reality and with perfection. Melchizedek was a snap-shot of what Jesus would display and possess in perfection. And as Melchizedek was outside the order of the Levitical priesthood, so is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. 

          The author’s goal of stating that Melchizedek’s lineage is unknown is not to say that Melchizedek had no lineage (v. 3), but that it is not recorded and his linage was not the criteria for his priest-king position. His priesthood was not based on genealogy, which was important in the Levitical order.  The author’s point is that the priesthood of Melchizedek stands outside of the line of Levi and Aaron. For many of his original readers, this would have been a most difficult concept to grasp. The priesthood belonged to the Levites. It is almost as if the author wanted to make sure that his readers didn’t miss the point, “He has no genealogy and even if you wanted a genealogy, there is no father or mother recorded through whom to trace his lineage.” The Aaronic priesthood depended on genealogical descent; the priesthood of Melchizedek depended on personal qualifications alone. Melchizedek’s priesthood was based on what he was, not on what he had inherited by genealogy.     

          Melchizedek is used to establish the legitimacy and the dignity and superiority of Christ’s priesthood. Melchizedek is seen as “made like unto the Son of God” (Heb. 7:3). In other words, Melchizedek is the picture/photo of what Jesus is in reality. Those scholars who see Melchizedek as a type, see the phrase that he is like “unto the Son of God,” that Christ is after the counterpart of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:14), indicating that Christ must be understood as the antitype of Melchizedek. The author makes all the things of Melchizedek’s life typical of certain things in the life of Jesus Christ, Christ being the full reality of what in Melchizedek is only a shadow.  A.B. Bruce explains well the phrase “made like unto the Son of God.” Bruce writes:

The intention is to suggest a parallel between Melchizedek and the Son of God in their respective relations to time. The Son of God as Son of man, like Melchizedek, had both a birth and a death; yet as Son of God He had neither beginning of days nor end of life. And Melchizedek is likened unto Him in this, that his life, so far as the record is concerned, is ” shrouded in the mystery of eternity.”[4]

          What is true of Melchizedek in type, that “he abides continually,” is true of Christ in reality.  There is no record that Melchizedek had neither predecessor nor successor in his office, he appearing to have a continual priesthood. What is said of Melchizedek in type, can be said of Christ in reality, that His priesthood abides continually. Melchizedek’s priesthood only gives an impression of being endless whereas that of Jesus is actually so.

4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. 5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: 6 But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. 7 And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.

          Melchizedek is an order of priesthood that predates the Levitical priesthood by some 400 years, thus it is superior to the Levitical order. Melchizedek priesthood to which Abraham, the father of the nation, gave tribute, paid tithes, and received a blessing. That Abraham paid tithes to him; therefore, Melchizedek was greater than Abraham and greater than his descendants, as they were in his loins.

8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. 9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. 10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.

          The idea is clear, Abraham’s descendants are identified in their forefather (corporate personality) and that therefore the Levitical order was in effect acknowledging the superiority of Melchizedek. Levi, who collected the tithe, paid the tithe through Abraham. This is a strange argument to those not familiar with corporate personality,[5] where neither the father nor the children are independent of each other. In Abraham’s payment of tithes to Melchizedek, Levi, and hence the whole order of his priesthood, paid tithes, as well. This reveals the superiority of the Melchizedek order.[6]  

          Bruce sums up the points in which Melchizedek was superior to the ordinary Levitical priesthood. (a) He received tithe from Abraham and was therefore superior to him. Abraham was one of the patriarchs; the patriarchs are superior to their descendants; therefore, Melchizedek is greater than the descendants of Abraham; the ordinary priests are the descendants of Abraham; therefore, Melchizedek is greater than they. (b) Melchizedek is greater than the sons of Levi because they exacted tithes by legal enactment but he did it as a right he personally possessed given to him by no man. (c) The Levites received tithes as mortal men; he received them as one who lives forever (Hebrews 7:8). (d) Levi, to whom the Israelites paid tithes, may be said to have paid tithes to Melchizedek, because he was Abraham’s grandson and was therefore in Abraham’s body at the time Abraham paid tithes.[7] Therefore, since Melchizedek predated the descendants of Abram and Levi’s descendants, there was a priestly order superior to the Levitical order.  

11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

          The Levitical order being an imperfect order, another new, perfect priestly order was needed. If the Levitical priesthood could have been sufficient to bring salvation to fallen man, there would have been no need for another. However, the imperfect Aaronic priesthood was dependent on genealogical descent; the priesthood of Melchizedek depended on personal and spiritual qualification alone. Melchizedek’s priesthood was outside the Levitical order, being a priest arising who could provide the perfect sacrifice for humanity.

12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood 15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.

          Now there was the Aaronic order of priesthood from the tribe of Levi. To be a high priest in the nation of Israel under the law was, first you had to be from the tribe of Levi, and then of the Aaronic order. The Levitical priest was law-made, without reference to spiritual qualifications; the Messianic Priest becomes a priest because He had inherent spiritual fitness and an inherent right to the office. So, the writer is pointing out that this priesthood of Jesus, was of a higher order of priesthood than was the Aaronic order established under the law. It was outside the Levitical order and before the Law.     

17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. 20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: 21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:

          It is therefore the argument of the writer of Hebrews that what is needed is a new and a different priesthood and a new and effective sacrifice. He sees in Jesus Christ the only High Priest who can open the way to God; and he calls the priesthood of Jesus a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. What his priesthood was in shadow, Christ’s priesthood is in reality.

         The author says in verse 18 that there is a “disannulling” or  a “setting aside” of the Levitical order, so as to bring in a better hope and order. The Greek word used here for “disannulling” or setting aside, is athetesis. The word athetesis was used for the official annulment of a decree, the cancellation of a debt owed, or the nullification of a will. Its usage here as a legal term is appropriate for the author’s argument about a change in the priesthood necessitating an annulling of the associated law regard the Levitical order.[8]

          The problem was that all the efforts of the Levitical priesthood and all the sacrifices could not restore man’s lost relationship with God. They only prefigured that there would come One who would be the final Lamb offered…who would accomplish what the Levitical priesthood could not.  It is therefore the argument of the writer of Hebrews that what is needed is a new and a different priesthood and a new and effective sacrifice. He sees in Jesus Christ the only High Priest who can open the way to God; and he calls the priesthood of Jesus a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, which shall be forever.

22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

         Jesus became our “surety.” A “surety” was one who performed an act or a task in place of another person; a person who undertakes some specific responsibility on behalf of another who remains primarily liable.[9]  Jesus Christ is our “surety” doing for us what we could not ever do for ourselves. Jesus as our “surety” offered himself as the pledge to pay the debt of our sin on our behalf.  If the first covenant was sufficient, we would not need a “better testament.” The Greek word for “testament” is diatheke, which is a covenant not between two equals but where one of the parties is superior to the other![10]

23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

          The Levitical order had many priests through the years, but none were able to offer a sacrifice sufficient to save one person. The Priesthood of Christ is eternal and unchangeable. The sacrifices of earthly priests could save no one, but the one sacrifice was/is sufficient to save all. The Levitical priests died, but Christ’s sacrifice is able to save all who will come unto him and he ever lives to make intercession on our behalf. The Levitical priests had to succeed one another because they kept dying (v. 23), but Jesus Christ needs no successor because He ever lives. Christ has an “unchangeable” (v. 24) priesthood that abides forever. The Greek word for “unchangeable” is aparabaton, which can mean permanent or untransferable.[11] The priesthood of Christ is permanent, unchanging, and is untransferable and will never pass to a successor.   As William Plumer has written, “Although the Lord Jesus Christ had many types, yet he had no predecessor; and he has none to succeed him, for he has an unchangeable priesthood.”[12] Christ need not transfer his priesthood to another for His work is complete, his sacrifice perfect in its offering and acceptance before the Father.  

26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.

          The point of contrast is here clear, Christ has not need, like the Levitical priests, to offer sacrifices for his own sins at all; for he has none; nor like them to offer sacrifices for the people day by day, or repeatedly; for his one offering is forever sufficient. The problem was that all the efforts of the Levitical priesthood and all the sacrifices could not restore that lost relationship. Matter of fact, the priests in the Levitical order had to make sacrifices for themselves. Each sacrifice made by all the priests only prefigured that there would come one day One who would be the final Lamb offered…who would accomplish what the Levitical priesthood could not.  It is therefore the argument of the writer of Hebrews that what is needed is a new and a different priesthood and a new and effective sacrifice. He sees in Jesus Christ the only High Priest who can open the way to God; and he calls the priesthood of Jesus a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, whose One sacrifice of Himself was the perfect provision humanity longed for. The point of contrast here is clear, Christ has not need, like the Levitical priests, to offer sacrifices for his own sins at all; for he has none. Neither does Christ have to offer sacrifices for the people day by day, or repeatedly; for his one offering is forever sufficient.

28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

          Under the old order every high priest was mortal, frail, and infirmed. The new priesthood was introduced by an oath of God: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind ‘You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek’.”(Ps. 110:4) God does not swear lightly. In Christ, His Son, we have a perfect priesthood.  What Christ is to His people, He will be to them forever.

          These last verses (vs. 26-28) summarizes the author’s argument in chapter 7: (1) Those who served in Levitical priesthood were appointed by the law, but the new priesthood has been appointed by the word of a sworn oath.  (2) The law which appointed men to the Levitical priesthood was superseded by God’s oath which was given after the law. (3) The Levitical priesthood consisted of frail men, but the new priest is the eternal Son. (4) The Levitical priests are characterized as having to continually make sacrifices, but the Son has made One sacrifice, which is forever sufficient.[13]

          As Hebrews chapter 7 comes to an end, the writer’s masterful presentation of Melchizedek as a type of Christ concludes. He has clearly shown that in order for humanity to be provided with a priest who could offer the ultimate sacrifice for the sin of humanity, it must come from another order of priesthood other than the Levitical order. A.B. Bruce states, “It is a great thing for a people to have a Melchizedek at the fountain-head of its history, a man fitted by genuine holiness and righteousness to transact on behalf of his fellow-men with God.”[14] While Melchizedek serves as a type of the priestly order humanity needs, Christ is the reality and fulfillment of all the types and shadows Melchizedek represented.  O, what a Savior.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

 

ENDNOTES

[1] A.C. Kendrick, Hebrews, (Philadelphia, Pa.: American Baptist Publication Society, 1889), 84.

[2]Myles Bourke, “Hebrews,” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, eds. Raymond Brown & Joseph Fitzmyer (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990), 932.

[3]  R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Epistle of James (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1938), 213.

[4] A.B. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, (New York: Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1899), 251.

[5]  William L. Lane, “Hebrews 1–8,” Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 47a (Thomas Nelson, 1991), 1:69.

[6] Donald Guthrie, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Hebrews, (InterVarsity Press, 2009), 159-60.

[7] Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 258-261.

[8] Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, PNTC, (Eerdmans, 2010), 265.

[9] William Plummer, Commentary on Hebrews, (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Book House, 1872), 300.

[10] Leon Morris, Hebrews, (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1981), 70.

[11] Bourke, Hebrews, 933.

[12] William Plumer, Commentary on Hebrews, (Randolph and Company, 1872), 302.

[13] O’Brien, Hebrews, 281

[14] Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 254.

 

 

 

MELCHIZEDEK: TYPE OR THEOPHANY?   

When one reads the Book of Hebrews one discovers the inspired author sets forth the superiority of Christ over all earthly beings, the angelic order, and the Levitical priestly order. The author sets forth, like a skilled debater, Christ’s supremacy over the prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua, the Aaronic priesthood, and the Levitical sacrificial system. It matters not who or what one is depending upon for salvation, Christ is inarguably superior.

The author goes to great lengths in Hebrews 7 to describe Jesus as a superior priest to the Aaronic priesthood, being after the order of Melchizedek. While the Old Testament only mentions this mysterious priest/king in Genesis 14 and Psalms 110, the author of Hebrews uses Melchizedek to develop an extensive argument for the supremacy and superiority of Christ’s Priesthood. Opening comments to Hebrews 7, the able expositor G. Campbell Morgan writes:

The writer turns to the subject of the superiority of Christ to the priesthood of Levi. That priesthood had failed to perfect anything. The right of the Priesthood of the Son was vested with His own Personality. He had an endless life, and this implies the absolute perfection of His nature, and, consequently, the continuity of His Person. The superiority of the Priesthood of the Son consists in that through Him a better hope was given to men through which they might draw nigh unto God, and so ultimately realize perfection.[1]

Without question the author of Hebrews sees Christ as the fulfillment of the types and shadows of the Old Testament, He being the reality of all the OT foreshadowed. In Hebrews 7 Christ is described as a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. In regard to Melchizedek, the commonly promoted view contends that Melchizedek was a type of Christ.  A.C. Kendrick, who ably advocated the view which identifies Melchizedek as a historical man who was a type of Christ, succinctly articulates the position held by many scholars.

On Melchizedek’ s origin and history, the vail was evidently not intended to be lifted. Raised up for a special purpose, his origin and end shrouded in intentional obscurity, he was brought into personal contact with the father of the Jewish race, that when a change should be necessary in the Jewish priestly order their own annals might foreshadow and justify the proceeding in the exhibition of one before whom Abraham himself, and in him his priestly descendants, had bowed in homage. So at least God has used Melchizedek, and so we may presume he intended to use him, and that to this use the Old Testament narrative was adjusted. Whatever the sacred historian may have known, or not known, regarding Melchizedek’ s ancestry and historical relations, the Spirit of God that presided over the narrative caused just so much to be recorded as answered the purpose of his introduction. He was to be used simply as a type. It mattered not so much what he was as what he appeared.[2]

While Kendrick supports the view held by a majority of expositors, other views have been advocated as to who this mysterious Melchizedek was/is. Two views which most scholars dismiss with varying degrees of comment is that Melchizedek was a Canaanite priest who worshiped a Canaanite god, and the other found in rabbinic literature identifying Melchizedek as Shem.[3] The other view receiving the most support, other than the one identifying Melchizedek as a historical man who was an actual type of Christ, is that Melchizedek was a Theophany/Christophany, an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ.[4] For those seeking a detailed explanation of Melchizedek being a type of Christ, there are a myriad of commentaries which can be consulted. The purpose here is to give an examination of why this writer contends Melchizedek’s appearance before Abraham was the pre-incarnate Christ.

Before proceeding, a review of Melchizedek in the Old Testament would prove beneficial. We find two brief encounters with the mysterious priest/king in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110.

Genesis 14

Genesis 14 begins with Lot, Abram’s nephew, and others being kidnapped by an alliance of four kings, which attacked a coalition of five kings from the area around Sodom and Gomorrah. When Abram learned what had happened, he forms his own army of 318 of his servants and pursues the “bad guys.” Upon defeating them in battle, Abram returns not only with those kidnapped, but he gathers the possessions that had been taken. The King of Sodom “went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter” (Gen. 14:17), and Abram returns both the captive people and the “goods” that had been taken. Before the king of Sodom can suggest that Abram take the goods for himself, “Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the Most High God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all” (Gen. 14:18-20).

Like a falling star suddenly appearing in the darkness of the night, Melchizedek flashes across the pages of the Old Testament and disappears almost as quickly.  A priest of the Most High God, this priest-king approaches Abram on behalf of God, and not the other way around. This illustrates that God initiates the relationship with humanity and not man. Melchizedek brought bread and wine to refresh an exhausted Abram and then blessed him. After the blessing, Abram gave a tithe of all the “goods” which he had to Melchizedek.

Abram’s brief encounter with “the King of Salem” reveals several truths. Melchizedek is no Canaanite priest, John Davis points out that the titles “‘Most high God’ (’ēl ‘elyôn) emphasizes God’s strength and sovereignty, distinguishing Him from the gods of Canaan who were subject to the same weaknesses as their worshipers. [And] ‘possessor of heaven and earth’ is similar to titles used in Daniel 4.”[5]

In addition, Melchizedek blessing Abram and the patriarch giving to him a tithe, reveals Melchizedek is superior to Abram.  Allen Ross insightfully writes, “The words of this marvelous priest surely inspired the patriarch in his anticipation of the promises of God. Herein lies the strength for Abram’s discernment of the Sodomite’s offer: with a fresh reminder of the nature and promise of the Lord, the appeal from the pagan was shown to be nothing more than a confusing digression from the true faith.”[6] Abram’s encounter with Melchizedek affirmed his relationship with the Lord who had called him and assured him the Lord would provide for him in his walk of faith.

Psalm 110

            One doesn’t find the name Melchizedek again, until the pages of the Old Testament come to rest at Psalm 110. The New Testament affirms Davidic authorship of Psalm 110 (cf. Matt. 22:43-45; Mk. 12:36-37; Lk. 20:42-44; Acts 2:34). Being a Messianic Psalm, the coming Messiah was declared to be “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4). In Mark 12:35-37 Jesus applies Psalm 110 to Himself, in which the messianic king was a priestly figure after the order of Melchizedek.[7] Psalm 110:4 prophesizes that with Melchizedek there is found a new and better order than the Aaronic priesthood.  Joseph A. Fitzmyer writes, “In Heb 5 the author applies this verse of Ps 110 to Jesus, undoubtedly understanding it as messianic… Having first introduced Ps 2:7 to establish the risen Jesus as the possessor of regal inheritance, he adds Ps 110:4 to present the Kingly Son of God as one appointed also to an eternal priesthood.”[8]

In Hebrews 7 the author places an emphasis on Christ being our perfect High Priest. Christ is our perfect High Priest after the superior priesthood of Melchizedek (7:4-10). In contrasting the Levitical priesthood with the priesthood of Melchizedek, the writer of Hebrews “uses the incident of Melchizedek’s meeting with Abraham to show the priority of Melchizedek over the Levitical priests. The comparison is primary to the demonstration in 7:11-28 that the priest ‘like Melchizedek’ is superior to the Levitical priests.”[9]

The author of Hebrews selects specific characteristics of Melchizedek found in Abram’s encounter with him, in order to establish the superiority of his priesthood. The commentators who embrace that Melchizedek was an actual historical man and only a type of Christ, contend the author is in many instances arguing from silence; especially when he speaks of Melchizedek being “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (Heb. 7:3). Regardless of whether one sees Melchizedek as a type of Christ or a theophany, Melchizedek is clearly superior to Abraham as he gave a tithe to him and in so doing Abraham acknowledged his superiority. And in like matter, “the sons of Levi” being yet in Abraham’s loins (Heb. 7:5-6), as well, offered a tithe; therefore, giving clear indication the priesthood of Melchizedek was superior to the Levitical priesthood.  The inescapable conclusion regarding Melchizedek, is that the lesser (Abraham) is blessed by the superior (Melchizedek).

Taking all the Bible says about Melchizedek, was he merely a historical man who was used by the author of Hebrews as a type of Christ or was he much more, being a pre-incarnate appearing of the Son of God? This writer is convinced from the preponderance of the evidence that the latter is true. In the appearance of Melchizedek in the OT, it was as if the Father could not wait for the day of his Son’s entrance into the world, and in his appearance before Abram giving humanity a taste of the glories that will be manifested through the New Covenant priestly ministry of His Son.

Reasons Affirming Melchizedek was a Theophany/Christophany

There are many prayerfully and researched reasons why this writer holds to the position that Melchizedek was more than a historical person, but was a Theophany/Christophany. Eleven reasons are presented in consideration of this view.

First, Melchizedek was a king and a priest (Gen 14:18, Heb 7:1). No human in the Old Testament ever held both offices. No king could be a priest, no priest could be a king. Melchizedek held both offices. He was a priest of the Most High God (Gen 14:18, 22). The title “‘most high God” (’ēl ‘elyôn) emphasizes God’s distinction from the gods of the Canaanites, confirming that here the true God is the focus.[10] Abram would have never tithed or bowed to a priest/king who worshipped an inferior god. Only one Man, who was a priest and king, who was a priest of ’ēl ‘elyôn (the Most High God) can claim that identity…Jesus Christ. The New Bible Commentary reads, “Note that Scripture pictures him [Melchizedek] as one who is a king as well as a priest. The combination of these two offices was to be a distinguishing characteristic of the Messiah.”[11]

Second, Melchizedek’s name means King of righteousness. In the New Testament Christ is said to be our righteousness (I Cor 1:30; II Cor 5:21). Only a divine Being could appropriately bear this title. Scripture declares man’s righteousness is but filthy rages (Is. 64:6) and that none are righteous (Romans 3:10), this would include Melchizedek if he were only a man.  One declared  as the  King of Righteousness, in him must resided righteousness.  Again, that title and this quality is only able to be attached to Jesus Christ, who “in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Cor. 5:21). And righteousness must come before peace.

Third, Melchizedek’s was King of Salem which means King of Peace.  The name of Melchizedek’s city—Salem, meaning “peace,” a word also used in Psalm 76:2 referring to Jerusalem.  Christ, the Prince of Peace; He is our peace (Eph 2:14). Christ made peace with God for us (Rom. 5:11), which no mere man, but only a divine being, could achieve on behalf of humanity. Clement of Alexandria, who contended Melchizedek was by nature the Son of God, wrote of Christ, “What need is there to say that He is the only High Priest, who alone possesses the knowledge of the worship of God? He is Melchizedek, ‘King of peace,’ the most fit of all to head the race of men.”[12] The personal name (King of Righteousness) and the name of his city (King of Peace) are taken to correspond with the actual traits of his character, yet there is only One whose character traits possess both perfect righteousness and peace…Jesus Christ.

Fourth, Melchizedek brought forth bread and wine to serve Abram to refresh him. The symbolism is most apparent. The New Testament is crystal clear, bread and wine are symbolic of the Lord’s broken body and shed blood of the New Covenant (Matthew 26:28). That Melchizedek shared with Abram bread and wine, reveals that Melchizedek, as a priest, offered to him that which had been crushed (wheat to make the bread) and that which the life juices had been squeezed out (grapes to make the wine). While the Old Covenant would prove to be inadequate, Melchizedek provided Abram with the elements, bread and wine, which symbolize the New Covenant. Though Abram was refreshed physically by that which had been “sacrificed,” the bread and the wine which Christ offers is not earthly bread and wine, but heavenly bread, heavenly wine – his own body and blood, which revives us spiritually. In referring to Abram’s encounter with Melchizedek, Jerome wrote that he “offered to Abraham bread and wine, and even then consecrated the mystery which Christians consecrate in the body and blood of the Savior.”[13] Such an act reveal a wisdom in Melchizedek that transcends the knowledge of a mere man.

Ambrose (ca. 340–397 AD) asserted that the elements of the Lord’s Supper, which Melchizedek gave and were received by Abram, and in light of that shared “meal” and the titles attributed to him, King of Righteousness and King of Peace, he poses pertinent questions.

Do you recognize Who that is?  Can a man be king of righteousness, when himself he can hardly be righteous?  Can he be king of peace, when he can hardly be peaceable?  He it is Who is without mother according to His Godhead, for He was begotten of God the Father, of one substance with the Father; without a father according to His incarnation, for He was born of a Virgin; having neither beginning nor end, for He is the beginning and end of all things, the first and the last.  The [elements of the Lord’s Supper], then, which you received is the gift not of man but of God, brought forth by Him Who blessed Abraham the father of faith, whose grace and deeds we admire.[14]

While the observance of the Lord’s Supper looks back in remembrance of Jesus’ death upon the cross, it would not be exegetically out of bounds to suggest the shared bread and wine between Abram and Melchizedek looked forward to (foreshadowing) the New Covenant, fulfilled in the manifestation of Jesus Christ.

Fifth, Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham (Gen 14:20; Heb 7:2a). Under Mosaic law, they were commanded to give God one tenth of their possessions. However, Melchizedek’s receiving the tithe was not based on the Law, as it had yet to be given. Larry Overstreet, states, “Melchizedek’s claim is based on his inherent character, so he is superior.”[15] Would Abraham have given a tenth to a mere man inferior to him? In giving him tithes he is affirming the greatness of his king-priest office. As well, the “sons of Levi” who were in the loins of Abram, also gave tithes to Melchizedek acknowledging his greatness and superiority. Melchizedek’s superiority transcended that of a mere man.

Sixth, Melchizedek was said to be “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of day nor end of life” (Heb. 7:3), and as one who has “the power of an indestructible life” (Heb. 7:16). Many interpreters advocate that this merely means there is no record of his parents, of his ancestry, of his birth, or of his death, given in the Old Testament; this is stated to set up a contrast to the Levitical system where the emphasis was on the priest’s pedigree.[16]

Interestingly, the significance of this kind of word usage is detailed by Jerome H. Neyrey.[17] His studies affirm that the word usage of “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of day nor end of life” (Heb. 7:3), that gods are described in the Hellenistic literature with the same kinds of descriptive words which are found in the book of Hebrews. Neyrey affirms that “evidence from ancient Greek sources” demonstrate that “it belongs to a true deity to be both ‘without father’ and ‘without mother.’”[18] Concerning Melchizedek, Neyrey contends that “he is presented in terms used to describe a deity.”[19] Neyrey’s study demonstrates that, “Unmistakably, the author of Hebrews intends his readers to understand the figure described in 7:3 as a true deity, completely in accord with the topoi which describe true gods as fully eternal, uncreated or ungenerated in the past, and imperishable in the future.”[20]

Seventh, Melchizedek was “made like unto the Son of God” (Heb 7:3). The phrase “made like the Son of God” (the REB has “bearing the likeness of the Son of God”) is further evidence as to Melchizedek’s identity. The Greek word translated “made like” is the verb ἀφομοιόω (aphomoioo – af-o-moy-ah-o) a perfect passive participle (“having been made like”). The word aphomoioo  in Hebrews 7:3 appears nowhere else in the NT.  The author used a unique word to make a specific point.  The word conveys the idea of one thing expressing itself in or as another. The word translated “made like” means “to produce a facsimile or copy, to express itself in it.”[21]  The word was used to speak of a painter giving expression on canvas an image before him. In the case of Hebrews 7:3, this would mean that Melchizedek was an expression of the Son of God. He was “like” the Son of God because He had not yet as the pre-incarnate Son manifested himself fully as the Son of God as found in the New Testament.  Overstreet correctly points out that “prior to His incarnation, the Son of God did appear to men in the Old Testament in human representations (Christophany, or Theophany), which were exact representations of Him.”[22]

In regard to the author of Hebrews penning Melchizedek being “made like” the Son of God, Henry Morris writes:

No mere earthly king was ever “made like unto the Son of God,” nor was there ever one who “abideth a priest continually.” It is difficult to see how these descriptions could be properly applied to anyone but the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to encourage Abraham in this unique pre-incarnate experience, assuming a human form “like unto” that which He would assume forever when He became the incarnate Son of God. For the first time He founded and implemented forever the priestly order of Melchizedek. The fact that he was “made like unto the Son of God” accords with one of Christ’s pre-incarnate appearances; at His human birth, he became the incarnate Son of God forever. Melchizedek was also said to be a man (Heb 7:4), but the same is true in the case of other theophanies, one of which was likewise manifested to Abram and Lot (Gen18:2, Gen18:22; Gen19:1-24).[23]

J.B. McCaul affirmingly concurs “…that Melchizedek was the second person in the Ever-Blessed Trinity, the Divine angel of the Lord, who continually appeared to the Fathers under the Old Testament dispensation.”[24]

Eighth, Melchizedek as a priest, the author of Hebrews says he “abides a priest continually” (Heb 5:9-11; 7:3). The text states that his “abiding” is continuous. The verb used here, “abides” (μένω meno), is in the active tense, active voice, meaning the continuation is ongoing. William Lane acknowledges that the verb “abides” (meno) “evokes the notion of eternity.”[25] The adjective “continually” is διηνεκής (diēnekēs) and is only used in the New Testament in the book of Hebrews, (here and 10:1, 12, 14), meaning perpetually, continually, forever. Larry Overstreet states that by using this term “the writer of Hebrews is stating categorically that Melchizedek is eternal in his being.”[26]

McCaul adds, “If Melchizedek ‘abideth a priest continually,’ how can it be believed of him that he was a mere mortal? . . . Melchizedek, as the Divine Logos, existed from eternity.’”[27] Melchizedek is said to be still living (Heb 7:8- present tense “keeps on living”). Jesus being outside the order of the Levitical priesthood, which was of the law, and of the order of Melchizedek, which abides continually, one must conclude either there are two eternal priests in the same order or just one eternal high priest who visited Abram and now sits at the right hand of the Father.   If this is correct, Melchizedek would have been more than an ordinary man or simply a type.

Ninth, while the Levitical priesthood ministered to only one nation, the Melchizedek priesthood ministers to all. The Levitical priesthood not only ministered to one nation, the Israelites, it was temporary. However, since the priesthood of Melchizedek is “continual” and superior to the Levitical priesthood, the priesthood of Melchizedek is not restricted to one nation, but has the availability, the accessibility and ability to minister to all. Only one Man is endowed with such traits as availability, the accessibility and ability… Jesus Christ.

Ten, Second Temple writings, which is the period extending from the construction of the temple at the end of the sixth century BC to its destruction by the Romans in 70 AD, speak of Melchizedek as a heavenly figure, even as deity. The first century Alexandrian Jewish Philosopher Philo, accepted the historical reality of Melchizedek and referred to him as the Logos.[28] For Philo, “The Logos is the mind of God in which the pattern of all the visible world is conceived. As such, the Logos has no visible or sensible antecedents.”[29] The term Logos was the term the Apostle John used in John 1:1-3 in describing Jesus, of whom it is clearly stated the Logos was God. And of the Logos, John 1:14 proclaims “the Word (logos) became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Among the writings from Qumran, is found among the Dead Sea Scrolls a fragment known as the 11Q Melchizedek, dated from the early first century A.D. While scholars cannot be definitive about the fragmented document, Fred Horton affirms that Melchizedek is “considered to be a superior being of some sort who will appear at the end of the days to bring atonement for the sons of light and who is the direct opponent of Belial.  [However] we do not have enough of the document left to satisfy our curiosity about how the Melchizedek of Gen. xiv and Ps. cx could become such a figure.”[30]  Joseph Fitzmyer asserts that, “[Melchizedek] is associated with the deliverance of divine judgment, with a day of atonement, with a year of jubilee, and with a role that exalts him high above the assembly of heavenly beings. Such associations make the comparison in Hebrews between Jesus the high priest and Melchizedek all the more intelligible.”[31]

Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, in his writings refers to Melchizedek as “the first priest of God.”[32] Unfortunately, he does not go into detail about what he meant by him being the first priest of God. However, from Genesis 14 one discovers Melchizedek is the first priest mentioned in Scripture, and with him comes the first use of this exalted name for the Lord.  Abram quickly identified El Elyon (the Most High God) as Yahweh (14: 22).

While early extra-biblical writings are not inspired, they do give insight into Jewish views on Melchizedek, which give evidence that he was viewed as more than a historical personage.

Eleven, if one translates Genesis 14:18 literally this is the way it would read: “And the king of righteousness, the king of peace, brought forth bread and wine, and he was the priest of  El-Elyon.” If one was reading the Old Testament and saw Genesis 14:18 translated that way, one would immediately come to the conclusion the text was referring to a Christophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.

Eleven reasons have been presented why this writer contends Melchizedek is more than a type of Christ, but is an appearance of the pre-incarnate Son of God. Jesus, the Son of God is our great High Priest who has passed through the heavens (Heb 4:14).  Both Melchizedek and Jesus uniquely held the offices of king and priest.  These facts are why many see Melchizedek as the truest type of Christ, while others have seen him and Christ as one in the same. It is clear to this writer that Melchizedek was a Theophany.

While there will always be a debate as to who this mysterious Melchizedek was/is, let us never lose sight of the fact we have a Great High Priest who made ONE sacrifice for our sins forever and, His work finished and complete, has passed into the heavens and He is now sat down at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 10:12). On this point the words of the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, shine like a sparkling diamond. They read:

Consider how great Melchizedek was. There is something majestic about every movement of that dimly-revealed figure. His one and only appearance is thus fitly described in the Book of Genesis. We see but little of him, yet we see nothing little in him. He is here and gone, as far as the historic page is concerned, yet is he “a priest forever,” and “it is witnessed that he liveth.” This great man yet further blessed the blessed Abraham, and the father of the faithful was glad to receive benediction at his hands. No small man this: no priest of second rank; but one who overtops the sons of men by more than head and shoulders, and acts a superior’s part among the greatest of them.  So mysterious is Melchizedek that many deeply-taught expositors think that he was an appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are inclined to believe that he was not a king of some city in Canaan, as the most of us suppose, but that he was a manifestation of the Son of God, such as were the angels that appeared to Abraham on the plains of Mamre, and that divine being who appeared to Joshua by Jericho, and to the three holy ones in the furnace. Everything about him is on a scale majestic and sublime.[33]

A Final Word

 Yes, many biblical interpreters regard Melchizedek as a man, a type of Christ. And true, the debate as to his identity will continue. However, after years of study this writer has pitched his tent in the camp with those interpreters who support the view that Melchizedek was an appearance of the preincarnate Christ. The shroud of mystery which surrounds this enigmatic figure seems to disappear when such a position is taken. When the king-priest in Genesis 14 is seen as walking unto the New Testament pages being clothed with the same dual garments of priest and king, the problematic verses in the book of Hebrews in regard to Melchizedek burst forth with the light of understanding and advances with freshness the argument for the superiority of Christ over the Levitical priesthood. The one who shared bread and wine with Abram, is the same One the author of Hebrews declares sustains and upholds the universe by the power of His Word. (Heb. 1:2-3).  O, what a Savior!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

 

ENDNOTES

[1]G. Campbell Morgan, God’s Last Word to Man: Studies in Hebrews, (Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1948), 80.

[2] A.C. Kendrick, Hebrews, (Philadelphia, Pa.: American Baptist Publication Society, 1889), 84.

[3] A. Cohen, The Soncino Chumash: The Five Books of Moses with Haphtaroth (London: The Soncino Press, 1983), 69.

[4] A theophany or Christophany refers to a visible manifestation of Christ in the Old Testament.

[5] John J. Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975), 181.

[6]  Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 300.

[7]  Alex T. M. Cheung, “The Priest as the Redeemed Man: A Biblical-Theological Study of the Priesthood,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 29 (September 1986), 271

[8] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Semitic Background of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 225.

[9] William L. Lane, Hebrews 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1991), 163.

[10] Davis, Paradise to Prison, 181.

[11] Donald Guthrie, ed., The New Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1970), 1203.

[12] Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, 2.5.

[13] Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, 26; Jerome (340-420).

[14] Ambrose, On the Mysteries (New York: Macmillan Co., 1919), 8.46.

[15] Larry Overstreet, The Superiority of Christ: The Identity of Melchizedek in Hebrews, JBTM Vol. 6 No. 1 (2018), 115.

[16] Homer A. Kent, Jr., The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974), 126.

[17] Jerome H. Neyrey, “’Without Beginning of Days or End of Life’ (Hebrews 7:3): Topos for a True Deity,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 53 (1991): 439-55.

[18] Ibid., 447.

[19] Ibid., 448.

[20] Ibid., 454.

[21] A.T. Robertson, “The Epistle to the Hebrews,” Word Pictures in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1931), 381

[22] Overstreet, The Superiority of Christ, 113.

[23] See notes on Gen 14:18, Heb 7:3, Henry Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible, (2012).

[24] J.B. McCaul, The Epistle to the Hebrews (London 1871), 75, 80.

[25] Lane, Hebrews 1-8, 167.

[26] Overstreet, The Superiority of Christ, 114.

[27] McCaul, Hebrews, 75.

[28] Philo, Allegorical Interpretation, III, § 80 and 82. The Loeb Classical Library, trans. F. H. Colson (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1956), 354.

[29] Fred L. Horton, Jr., The Melchizedek Tradition: A Critical Examination of the Sources to the

Fifth Century A.D. and in the Epistle to the Hebrews (London: Cambridge UP, 1976), 59-60.

[30]  Ibid., 73.

[31]  Fitzmyer, The Semitic Background, 252, 253.

[32] Flavius Josephus, The Works of Flavius Josephus, trans. William Whiston (New York: Hurst & Co., n.d.).

[33] Quote from a sermon by C.H. Spurgeon, The Man Christ Jesus, April 15, 1885.

WHAT I MISS ABOUT COACHING

For over four decades I had the marvelous privilege and honor to assist and help coach runners at six different high schools (see below). Over the years I have had the honor to work with runners from other schools, as well, who sought me out desiring to reach another level of excellence in their running.  As breathing is natural, running has been a natural part of my life since I was thirteen years old. For me a day without running is like a day without sunshine. Over the years working with runners has been for me a passion; a passion I have sought to pass on to others. Working with runners has always been to me as enjoyable as a hog wallowing in a warm mud hole! It was an extension of my ministry and I loved every second of it. For health reasons, I had to step aside from coaching on a consistent basis… and boy do I miss it.

What do I miss about coaching?

I miss the kids. I miss the best part of the day…being with them. I miss their enthusiasm. I miss their laughter. I miss their horseplay. I miss giving them encouragement. I miss watching them mature as runners and as individuals.  I miss watching them bind together as a team into a family. I miss watching a kids skepticism about what they think they can accomplish, being replaced with confidence that they can reach what was once thought to be an unattainable goal. I miss the reward of watching a kid run a personal best time and the satisfaction it brings them.  I miss the joy of the seeing the beaming smile on a kids face when they climb onto the podium to receive a championship medal hung around their neck, a dream they at one time deemed impossible. Whether it be a new PR or a championship medal, I miss the exhilaration and satisfaction of knowing you have helped a kid create a memory they will carry with them the rest of their lives.

I miss the motivational speeches I gave the kids. I miss sharing with them track stories from my past. I miss watching the needle on a kids confidence meter continue upward, watching their eyes exclaim “I can do it” as they take my words and stories to heart. I miss watching the kids workout and watching them improve. I miss telling them before practice and races that I believe in them and that they can accomplish their goals if they are willing to work hard for them. I miss the nervousness and the anticipation that I felt on meet days.  I miss the handshake or the hug after a successful race. I miss hearing the loud rocking noise on a bus after winning a championship.  I even miss the silence of disappointment after a close loss, as it gave me the opportunity to teach them how to deal with defeat and disappointment in life. I missing teaching them principles from running which can be applied to every area of ones life. I miss, like a father, the pride and satisfaction of watching the runners grow-up over four years from boys to men and from girls to women.

I miss the smell of the outdoors in the fall during cross country season. I miss the smell of the blossoms of spring during outdoor track season. I miss the stifling heat during the summer in preparation for cross country. I miss the bite of the cold of winter in preparation for track. I miss the stuffy smell of running indoor track meets. I miss planning workouts. I miss watching the kids workout. I miss figuring out what workouts a kid best responds, too. I miss a kid flashing a tired smile when they have successfully completed a gut-busting workout, walking way with their tank empty but carrying a bucket full of confidence. I miss watching a kid standing on the starting line, nervous but knowing they are ready to meet the challenge.   I miss the smell of sweaty runners after a race who has just given me their all. I miss the sweat on my arms when placing it on a kids shoulder after a race when they did well or when they suffered disappointment.

I miss the strategy that goes with running and sitting down and devising a plan how an unbeatable runner can be beat. I miss the satisfaction when one of my runners beat an unbeatable runner. I miss the maneuvering of runners in a multitude of events in an attempt to win a team championship. I miss the exhilaration when the maneuvering resulted in us taking home the championship. I miss switching runners on a relay team until I found the winning combination.  I miss breaking out in a huge smile when the right combination breasted the winning tape first. I miss shaking the opposing coach’s hand when we won and when we lost. I miss the musical chatter drifting through the air at a fast food restaurant after a track or cross country meet.

I miss listening to kids problems. I miss praying for and with the kids. I miss helping kids make good decisions. I miss telling kids I am proud of them. I miss telling the kids I love them.  I miss watching kids graduate and go on to be successful and productive citizens. I miss the wonderful people I have met along the way. I miss developing relationships that last a life time. But I am most grateful for the many relationships that the Good Lord has allowed me to enjoy and the many people that have impacted and enriched my life beyond measure and still do. I have truly been a blessed man over the years and still am. It would take the language of angels to express all the thanksgiving in my heart.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

  

HOW CAN A NATION SURVIVE?

The USA is on life support. If one cannot see Uncle Sam is in Intensive Care, one is not paying attention. Can the USA, or any nation for that matter, survive the “goings on” that we see happening today? Can the USA survive the dark path it is currently on?

How can a nation survive that fails to acknowledge the presence of Divine Providence over the affairs of man and history and instead has chosen itself as the Master of its own fate?

How can a nation survive that has cast aside the biblical principles of morality and common decency which were woven into its foundation, to adopt principles that are morally decadent?

How can a nation survive that has cast aside its heritage and seeks to whitewash its history, not learning from history but seeking to erase it?

How can a nation survive that adopts unbridled passions of man’s lowest and basest desires and unrestrained lusts?

How can a nation survive that applauds when laws are passed that allows the slaughter of babies in the womb and have lost the value of the sanctity of life?

How can a nation survive that is no longer patriotic and has become ignorant of the price that was paid that Old Glory might fly?

How can a nation survive when churches have lost the hunger for biblical righteousness and have adopted the “religion” of tolerance for “peace” over holiness?

How can a nation survive when it labels various people groups as destined to be victims not victors?

How can a nation survive when the citizenry talks more of their rights and privileges and less about their responsibility, duty and obligations?

How can a nation survive when its leaders purposely stir racial disharmony, calling half the population racists and bigots and the other half should be filled with expressive resentment?

How can a nation survive when it embraces a culture of death and violence over order and law?

How can a nation survive when there is more focus on what divides us than what unites us?

How can a nation survive when its leaders don’t realize there is real evil in the world and you cannot negotiate with terrorists?

How can a nation survive when the citizenry no longer trusts its leaders because they have proven themselves untrustworthy?

How can a nation survive when socialism, which has never worked and never will work, is the clamoring chant of the masses?

How can a nation survive when more and more people refuse to work and are kept up by a shrinking work force?

How can a nation survive when massive taxes continue to burden and drain the pockets of workers in order to support unchecked spending?

How can a nation survive when the government continues to spend recklessly with no thought there is a financial cliff up ahead?

How can a nation survive when the good upon which the  nation was founded is now called evil?

How can a nation survive when those who seek a return to moral sanity and to the God to whom we owe alligence, are considered the enemy and labeled as “deplorables?”

 How can a nation survive when Humanism has replaced theism?

How can a nation survive when the criminals have more rights than the victims?

How can a nation survive when life is no longer considered scared and individuals as created in the Image of God?

How can a nation survive when a spotted owl is considered of greater worth than a child in the womb?

How can a nation survive when life is seen as a random act of chance and there is no Intelligent Designer to whom we are responsible?

How can a nation survive when Christians are vilified and the unrighteousness exalted?

How can a nation survive when we have lost a theist worldview to adopt a “man his is own god” worldview?

How can a nation survive which casts aside living with an “otherness” mentality and adopts the ideology that freedom is living as one pleases without restraint regardless of who it harms or hurts?

How can a nation survive when there is a blurring of the distinction between male and female and considers one’s created identity fluid?   

How can a nation survive that exalts sin and shuns righteousness?

How can a nation survive when its citizenry lives in open rebellion before its Creator and declares itself to be autonomous from divine responsibility?  

How can a nation survive when Divine, Infinite Reason is disregarded and man depends solely upon his finite and limited reason?  

How can a nation survive when it embraces the materialistic as all there is and fails to grasp that man has an immortal soul and has a responsibility before the Sovereign of the universe to live responsibly before man and God on his march to eternity?

How can a nation survive when it continues on a destructive path history has shown will result in eventual shipwreck?

History loudly screams out that all nations that have traveled down the path the USA is currently on has not survived, but have found their fate eventually resting atop the dust heap of history. Our nation today is groping in the dark seeking ultimate answers to the plethora of problems that engulf us. However, those answers are not forth coming without answers revealed to us from the God we have ignored, but He indeed is revealed and made known in the person of Jesus Christ. The person and work of Christ is communicated to us in the wonderous story that the Bible unfolds. It is the story of the infinite-personal holy God drawing near to us because he cares and His holy-love calls us unto Himself. The USA will not survive as long as it seeks the ultimate answers to the problems that confront us apart from the reference point of the infinite-personal God himself, who revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. History is altogether against one who thinks otherwise.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

A PERPLEXING QUESTION RECEIVES A PUZZLING ANSWER

An obscure book of the Bible sandwiched between the pages of the Old Testament which shouts insights for us of the twenty-first century is the Book of Habakkuk. The prophet Habakkuk, a contemporary of Jeremiah, asks a question that I am sure most Christians have asked at one time or another. Written around 612 B.C., the prophet, whose names means to “embrace,” looked around at the corrupt moral, social and spiritual conditions of the southern kingdom of Judah and asked, “How long O holy and righteous God will you let evil run rampant and not judge it? How long O Lord will you be silent in the face of rampant, unrestrained wickedness?” (1:1-4). After all, the prophet reasoned, if God is holy, how can He let sin continue unchecked like a polluted river that has spilled over its banks and is contaminating everything it washes over?

Habakkuk was perplexed, but the answer he received was even more puzzling. The Lord told the questioning prophet that the sins of Judah would not go unpunished. As matter of fact, the Lord told him He was not inactive against evil but was raising up a people called the Chaldeans (Babylonians) who were more wicked than those of Judah who would be used to punish them for their willful departure from their walk with Him and forsaking their spiritual heritage (1: 5-17)

The prophet scratches his head and incredulously asks, “You are gonna do what? Let me get this straight, you are going to use the wicked and cruel Babylonians who worship pagan gods and are more wicked and sinful than the people of Judah to bring judgment upon them?”

Waiting patiently for a clarification from God, Habakkuk is left alone with his thoughts (2:1-3). His being baffled is understandable, for the Babylonians slaughtered people without any remorse, plundered every city they invaded and left nothing but heartache and wreckage behind them. And God was going to use these evil people to bring judgment upon Judah! You got to be kidding? Surely, the prophet misunderstood.

At last, the Lord communicates to Habakkuk these words,” No, you didn’t misunderstand me. I will use people more evil than those of Judah to bring judgment upon their sinful ways. However, the Babylonians will not escape judgment, as I will judge them as well. Just have faith and remain faithful, righteous justice will prevail.”

The prophet stands in awe at God’s power, holy-love, majesty and His just dealings in the affairs of man. Instead of arguing with God, Habakkuk embraces Him in worship and begins to warn His fellow citizens of the coming judgment by a people more sinful and unrighteous than the inhabitants of Judah (Ch. 3). The majority laughed and mocked Habakkuk saying, “We are God’s people. He will not let those more sinful than us bring harm our way.” Very few believed the message of Habakkuk and continued on in their sin and their deliberate departure from God.

Too bad they didn’t listen and repent, for the time came when the words of Habakkuk and the active work of God came to pass. In time the Babylonians invaded the Southern Kingdom (B.C. 605, 598, and 587), slaughtering people, looting, destroying and taking many citizens captive back to Babylon. Judah was left in flaming ruins.  As well, in 538 B.C. the Persians conquered the Babylonian Empire and they passed from the scene as a world power just as the Lord stated would happen (Daniel Ch. 5).  Events unfolded exactly as God said they would.

What relevance does Habakkuk have for us today? We find ourselves as a nation like Judah. We have forsaken the God of the Bible by continually stripping Him from the societal arena. We have defiantly abandoned principles of biblical morality and replaced them with “anything goes.” Those who embrace traditional marriage are mocked. Human dignity and worth is depreciated by abortion, debauchery goes unchecked, greed is rampant, injustice is widespread, perversion is celebrated, good is called evil and evil is called good, and ungodliness abounds.

How can a holy God, who opposes unrighteousness, seem to be silent in the face of such a cesspool of sin and defiance? Would He not be going against His own holy nature if correcting judgment doesn’t visit this nation? Let me offer some thoughts to ponder over recent events that have unfolded — Afghanistan has been overtaken by terrorists – the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other splinter groups.    They are demonic in their evil, ruthless, brutal, beheading individuals, slaughtering Christians and all others who don’t embrace their ideology. Their evil is relentless and they have a fearless passion to bring harm to the USA. Events in recent weeks has breathed into them new life and have embolden them in carrying forth their agenda with renewed vigor and, its seems, with little resistance from the USA leadership who has not the stomach to restrain them.   

With an obviously weak administration currently in Washington, these terrorist groups have no fear of USA leaders, mocking them and spewing forth renewed threats of hatred. (Interestingly, weak kings were in place before the hammer of judgment fell upon Israel and Judah, and the USA certainly has weak leaders in place.) And with the southern borders of the USA wide-open, what is to prevent these terrorists from waltzing across the border into the USA with their destructive agenda. They as well have access to all the military equipment left from the hasty withdrawal by the USA, and have paraded in the streets their newly seized weapons at victory celebrations in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. The current anemic administration doesn’t seem to grasp the far reaching affects and danger the USA will no doubt encounter as a result the of Afghan debacle The liberals foolishly seem to think the terrorists can be reasoned with through diplomacy and appeasement.  It’s the blindness of Judah all over again.  

Habakkuk learned that the Lord can direct that which men intend for evil and use it to bring about and accomplish His purposes. One can’t help but contemplate the far-reaching affects of the terrorist takeover. Will a people more unrighteous than the USA be used to bring correcting judgment to a nation that has forsaken the spiritual foundation of our Founding Fathers? Surely the Lord will not let a people as wicked, evil and demonic as what we see currently occupying Afghanistan bring harm to the USA, for we are more righteous than they?  That was the thinking of Judah. Judah was wrong. Like those in the days of Habakkuk we can laugh at and mock such a notion, or we can cry out to God in repentance and pray that God will have mercy upon us.

Time will reveal the magnitude of the consequences from the chaotic and confusing events that have unfolded. For certain, these terrorist groups have one goal, which is to bring havoc and destroy the USA. It is time we fell to our knees in repentant prayer that these revived evil terrorist groups can in some way be restrained – if not we are going to be knocked to our knees in devastation.

The message of Habakkuk is clear: those who don’t learn from the past failures of other nations who have forsaken God are destined to experience His correcting hand. If we don’t believe it, just ask Habakkuk and Judah.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

THE HIGH PRICE PAID BY SIGNERS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

This Sunday our nation will celebrate another birthday. It all began on July 4, 1776, when fifty-six brave men put their signature on a document called The Declaration of Independence. This wondrous document is built upon a premise that is all but forgotten in our day, that premise being each person derives their rights from “their Creator,” the “Supreme Judge of the world” (God is mentioned four times — twice at the beginning at twice at the end), and the chief purpose of government is to ensure and protect those rights. The Declaration of Independence only contains 1,321 words, yet it is one of the greatest documents ever conceived and penned by man.

The document, which declared independence from the British, was signed by fifty-six brave men “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” The fifty-six men from the thirteen colonies who penned their name on the document, twenty-six were lawyers, nine merchants, six farmers, six physicians, two statesmen, one planter, one surveyor, one shoemaker, one minister, and one printer. Eighteen of the men were under forty years of age, three in their twenties, and the oldest, Benjamin Franklin, was seventy years old. Two who signed it would later become President, two became fathers of future Presidents.

These fifty-six men knew the minute they signed the document they would be labeled as traitors by the British and there would be a price upon their head. They were risking their lives for the cause of freedom. What did it actually cost these men for signing the Declaration of Independence? I am afraid we have forgotten what it cost them. Not one of the signers escaped the battle for independence without suffering some loss or penalty.

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died; twelve had their homes ransacked and burned; two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured; nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War; Layman Hall of Georgia had his property confiscated; George Walton of Georgia was imprisoned; Joseph Hewes of North Carolina died from utter exhaustion from the strain; William Hooper of North Carolina was driven from his home; John Penn of North Carolina had his health wrecked and died in 1780; William Floyd of New York was driven from his home and his property confiscated; Philip Livingston of New York had all his property taken from him; John Morton of Pennsylvania became forsaken by friends and died eight months after the signing; Richard Stockton of New Jersey was dragged from his bed in the middle of the night and thrown into prison; Caesar Rodney of Delaware died from cancer not long are signing; John Hart of New Jersey was forced from his home, his house burned and he lived as a fugitive; Roger Sherman of Connecticut efforts during the battle for independence took a toll on his health and was relieved of many of colonial duties; Lewis Morris of New York was a man of considerable wealth but lost it during the war; Carter Braxton of Virginia lost his wealth and his property seized; Thomas Heyward, Arthur Middleton and Edward from South Carolina were all thrown into prison; Thomas Nelson of Virginia lost his fortune and died in poverty; Francis Lewis of New York had his home burned and his wife taken prisoner; Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured and put in prison; John Witherspoon of New Jersey had his voluminous library burned; Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey had his home taken and became a fugitive; Thomas McKean of Delaware was so pursued by the British that he was forced to constantly move his family; George Ross a minister from Pennsylvania died in 1779 from broken health; William Whipple of New Hampshire developed heart problems which eventually took his life.

More examples could be given of the price paid by the signers of the Declaration of Independence, but a portrait of the noble character of these men is clearly imprinted on the canvas of history. The clothes these men wore were not held together by thread, but by principle, honor and a selflessness that led them to pledge their all for the cost of freedom. They had steel backbones forged in the fires of convictions and courage. These men were brave and  fearless who knew the consequences and penalties that awaited, yet they signed anyway, pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

One truth is certain, freedom was and is not free. For that one prize – freedom – these men signed a declaration and suffered horribly. Two-hundred and forty-five years later we must not forget the price paid for freedom nor forget the spiritual and political heritage of the birth of this nation. To forget our heritage is to head down a road that will eventually lead us away from liberty back unto tyranny. In a day when political correctness sees patriotism as offensive, it is a position that will find liberty being swallowed up in the quicksand of weakness and cowardice that will lead to loss of freedoms.

One can’t help but wonder in the day in which we live where so many want something for nothing; who feel like they are owed something without earning it or sacrificing for it; who don’t believe in personal responsibility; who contend there are no eternal principles on which to base one’s life or govern society; would such individuals pay one-tenth the price those 56 brave men paid for freedom and liberty? The answer is self-evident.

As we pause to celebrate the birthday of this Nation, let us not forget the sacrifice and commitment of those fifty-six stalwart men. While our Forefathers battled the British, we today are waging a battle for the very soul of America. It is a battle of greed versus sacrifice, spiritually versus secularism, God versus godlessness, good versus evil, decency versus indecency, right versus wrong, principles versus political correctness, responsibility versus irresponsibility. To the observing eye, that for which the signers of the Declaration of Independence gave so much, appears to be slowly slipping away from you and me.

The freedoms for which our Forefather fought and sacrificed for demands that we never yield to the tyrants of vice over virtue, for when we do, we will discover the brave signers penned their names in vain. May it not be so.

Have a Blessed and Safe Fourth of July

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

SUBJECTIVISM AND TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY THEOLOGY

We are living in a day when in many circles of Christendom, one’s subjective experience is the supreme authority and the objective truths of the Word of God are a secondary authority at best.  By subjectivism is meant that one’s reason and  emotional experience is the only unquestionable truth or reality on which one can build one’s life, and that there is no external or objective truth. Sadly today, the truths of the Word of God have become subservient to one’s changing subjective experience. Subjectivism is elevated to supreme, while sound theology today is relegated to of little importance.  The Christian landscape today is deeply divided between those who embrace the objective truth of the Word of God and those who argue that truth is subjective and there is no objective measuring stick (i.e., the Bible) by which one is to judge what is truth.  In other words, objective truth is not as important as one’s reasoning and subjective experience.

Much of the shallow and erroneous theology we see emerging today can trace its roots back to a man  named Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), a nineteenth century German theologian.  The average person has never heard of Schleiermacher, yet his ghost still walks the aisles of many churches, teaches in some theological institutions, and influences many preachers’ theological thoughts. Schleiermacher is considered the father of theological liberalism. His influence upon twenty-first century theology is widespread.

Born in 1768 in Breslaw, Germany, Schleiermacher was the son of a Prussian army chaplain. At a young age he was sent to a Moravian boarding school noted for fervent pietism. While the pietism appealed to his religious nature, he began to doubt the Christian tenets of the faith and in time abandoned Christian orthodoxy. At age nineteen (1787) he wrote his parents a distressing letter in which he informed them he no longer believed Jesus was God incarnate and that he had abandoned the belief that “Christ’s death was a vicarious atonement and I cannot believe it to have been necessary.” [1]   Thus, began his departure from orthodox Christian faith to embark upon a path of theological liberalism. He sought to fashion in new language and develop new ideas to replace what he considered were no longer relevant concepts to the current culture…and in the process save Christianity from irrelevance.

In his effort to refashion the Christian faith to appeal to the current culture he diluted its truths. Schleiermacher rejected that the whole of the Bible was inspired and viewed the Bible as a book that “must be treated like all other books.” He pressed to eliminate from the Bible all that referred to the “mystical and supernatural elements,” which included the virgin birth, the miracles of Christ, and even the resurrection. [2]   Since objective truth as asserted to be in the Bible was unobtainable, redemption comes about as the result of a subjective experience apart from any historical event of the past – like the cross or the resurrection.

Schleiermacher elevated one’s subjective experience as authoritative over the objective facts and truths presented in the Bible. For him “religion” was essentially “feeling,” which he defined as “immediate self-consciousness…in and through the Infinite.” [3]   One’s subjective experience (feeling) was authoritative over biblical authority. As well, he taught that sin is the experience of our innate God-consciousness being hindered by the conflict between our fleshy, sensuous nature and our higher spiritual nature. Redemption comes through Jesus Christ by means of His self-communication to awaken man to his unique God-consciousness; redemption being not about the forgiveness of sins, but about a transformation of character. [4]   Schleiermacher believed that Christ set the example by living his entire life in a state of absolute dependence on God; therefore, it is not Christ’s vicarious death and resurrection that saves us, but it is by striving to emulate Christ’s life as the ideal experience of divine dependence. The Church is to be a community where a person’s God-consciousness emerges, bringing about a new relationship in one’s relation to God and to the world.

Let it suffice to say, Schleiermacher’s attempt to reconstruct the Christian faith to make it more palatable to the culture of his day resulted in dramatically altering the doctrine of God, authority of the Bible, sin, the deity of Christ, Christ’s atoning death, the resurrection, and the way of redemption. While the life of Christ was held up as an ideal for humanity to reach, one is to reject the “magical” conception of redemption through the mediation of Christ. Though Schleiermacher had a keen intellect, he could not embrace what by reason he could not rationally explain. Thus, he rejected biblical Christianity even as he attempted to try to repackage it for the culture of the day.

While Schleiermacher’s name may have faded into history and even unknown in the twenty-first century, his ghost still pervades the theological landscape. Today we see Protestant preachers and denominations who seek to repackage the truths of the Bible in language that softens its authoritativeness in order to make it more relevant and acceptable to the culture. One is encouraged to no longer use terms like, “The Bible says, the Bible teaches, the Word of God says, the Word of God teaches.” After all, what is important is one’s experience with God, which is more important than one’s assent to some objective biblical tenets. Once one begins traveling down that slippery slope in the name of relevance and appeasement, one gradually elevates subjective experience as authoritative over the objective truth of God’s Word. And once one embraces elevating subjectivity as authoritative over the objective truth of God’s Word, it will not be long before the Bible is tossed aside and one’s subjective experience will be deemed as authoritative regardless of what God’s Word says. Yet how can one, though, determine the legitimacy of one’s subjective experience if there is no authoritative objective truth whereby the experience is measured?

If one’s subjective experience is authoritative and primary and the Bible secondary in its authority, then there will come the redefining of what constitutes sin. After all, if one’s personal experience trumps the authority of the Bible then one can determine for themselves what is right and wrong. For what constitutes sin is not determined by objective biblical tenets which teach man is a sinner by nature and choice and is alienated and separated from his Creator, but sin is redefined as simply the experience of our innate God-consciousness being hindered by the conflict between our fleshy, sensuous nature and our higher spiritual nature. And since one’s subjective experience is authoritative, then one is the determiner of what is of a sensuous nature. Such reasoning is how one can claim to be a Christian yet adopt a lifestyle that is not only diametrically opposed to the Word of God but pervertedly abnormal to even normative behavior. After all, one is only a “sinner” in the sense one has not had emerge from within their God-consciousness. And the Church is to be community where one can be aided to discover their inner God-consciousness and their needed dependence on God.

Of course, if the Bible is not the Church’s primary authoritative source, then that opens the door to one’s subjective God-experience not anchored in any historical event such as the cross or the resurrection, but only in any experience which brings about God-consciousness in one’s life. If that is the case the virgin birth is not necessary, the cross is not necessary, and the resurrection while important, is not more important than one’s personal experience. The question is asked again, how can one determine the legitimacy of one’s subjective experience if there is no authoritative objective truth whereby the experience is measured?

Yes, to the astute listener there are many “preachers” and denominations today that are channeling the spirit of Schleiermacher in their presentation of the “gospel.” It is a “gospel” that is man-centered not Christocentric. One must be very leery when one hears a preacher or a denomination use flowery words that seek to repackage the Word of God in language that weakens or softens the Bible’s inspiration and authority to make it more appealing to the culture. True, we are living in a changing culture, but we don’t reach the changing world by changing the Word, but by unapologetically proclaiming the unchanging Word. It is proclaiming the objective truths found within the Life-Giving Word of God that are able to breathe life into one who is dead and trespasses and sins.

Paul encouraged Timothy to preach the Word in season and out of season, when it was convenient and when it was inconvenient, when it was acceptable and unacceptable, when it appealed to man and when it didn’t appeal to man. The Inspired Volume holds within it pages the answers to the woes of man – and it is found in the atoning cross of Christ who died for the sins of all humanity. Salvation is not found in a subjective experience that is anchored outside the objective truths of the Word of God which informs that man is in need of a Savior and that Savior is Jesus Christ whose death on the cross was vicarious and His resurrection verifiable. Again, that message doesn’t need to be repackaged or refashioned….it simply needs to be retold!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

Footnotes

[1] The Theology of Schleiermacher: A Condensed Presentation of His Chief Work, “The Christian Faith” by George Cross and Friedrich Schleiermacher, (University of Chicago Press, 1911),  19.

[2] Dawn DeVries, Jesus Christ in the Preaching of Calvin and Schleiermacher (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 99.

[3] Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, tr. John Oman, (NY; Scribner, 1958), 49-50.

[4] R. Niebuhr, Schleiermacher on Christ and Religion (New York: Scribner, 1964), 208.

NOT FORGETTING THE MEANING OF MEMORIAL DAY

Memorial Weekend is upon us and Memorial Day is Monday. What is Memorial Day all about? The meaning of Memorial Day transcends simply gathering with family and friends for a festive cookout or a day when many have off from work. In this politically correct day in which we live the true meaning of Memorial Day is lost to many and, sadly, its meaning is not often taught or fully appreciated. It is a time we pause to remember our fallen heroes.

There are several stories on how Memorial Day actually began. One of the first observances in honoring the war dead occurred in the southern state of Mississippi. On April 25, 1866, in Columbus, Mississippi, a group of women were decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in the battle of Shiloh. A grief-stricken mother, after decorating the graves of her two sons who died fighting for the South, walked over to two mounds of dirt at the corner of the cemetery to place flowers on the graves of two Union soldiers. As she respectfully placed the flowers on the barren graves, someone said to her in a rebuking tone, “What are you doing? Those are the graves of Union soldiers.” Responding in a voice filled with compassion and sympathy, the mother softly stated, “I know. I also know that somewhere in the North, a mother or a young wife mourns for them as we do for ours.”

Such a loving act of kindness was one of the seeds that were planted in the soil of a fractured nation that grew into what became known as Memorial Day. In May of 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, Decoration Day was observed when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery. General John Logan stating, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Each year afterwards more and more states recognized Decoration Day, honoring all those who lost their lives in the Civil War. By the turn of the 20th century Memorial Day ceremonies on May 30 were being held throughout the nation. After WWI the day was expand to honor and remember those who died in all American wars. In 1971 Memorial Day was declared by Congress a national holiday, being observed on the last Monday in May.

It is only fitting that on this special day we pause to honor and remember the some 1.2 million heroes, American service men and women who have died for our nation’s freedoms. It has been said of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”

Because evil seeks to suppress life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, freedom always comes at a price. Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter written to William Stephens Smith, November 13, 1787, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural [nourishment].”

Samuel Adams, a Founding Father who helped draft the Articles of Confederation, stated, “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards.”

This country just didn’t happen; it began on July 4, 1776, when 56 brave men signed their names to a document known as the Declaration of Independence pledging together their lives that we might have the United States of America. Let us not forget our Founding Fathers sacrifices and those who have served this great country and those who shed their blood that freedom might still flourish

While it would be more than wonderful if no more wars were fought, we live in a world where liberty must be defended as long as freedom-hating tyrants exist. As Americans we may not always agree with the wars that we as a nation find ourselves involved in, but we must always rally around those who put their lives on the line to keep us free from tyrannical rulers and those who seek to oppress freedom and liberty. These freedom-defending men and women are the real heroes amongst us.

This Memorial Day as we gather with family for cookouts, as we embark upon family outings, as we enjoy the freedoms we too often take for granted, let us pause and give thanks to the Good Lord for all those who have served, giving the ultimate sacrifice. As well, let us breathe a silent prayer for those serving around the world that are separated from their families that we might be able to be with ours.

May God Bless (and have mercy upon) the United States of America.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT WOMEN BEING ORDAINED AS PASTORS?

It seems discussion regarding whether or not there is scriptural basis for a woman to serve as a pastor is undergoing renewed debate in various Baptist circles. In wading through the deep waters of this subject, one must turn to First Timothy 2:11-15 to gain an understanding. This portion of scripture is almost universally considered to be complex and difficult. Nicholas T. Wright, former Bishop of Durham, considers this portion of Scripture as the “hardest passage of all” to exegete properly. All who have wrestled with an understanding of what the Apostle was seeking to convey would agree with Bishop Wright, yet I do believe an understanding of the text is possible. Let it be stated at the outset, the goal is to be both gracious in presenting Scriptural understanding and to prayerfully honor the truth of Scripture in interpretation.

The portion of Scripture under consideration, beginning in verse 9, reads (KJV):

I Timothy 2:9-15: 9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

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Numerous interpretive approaches have been made seeking to grasp the meaning of Paul’s words to Timothy. When grappling with gaining an understanding of these verses, as one must always do, the context and the cultural background must be a guide in coming to a proper interpretation. Any interpretation of this portion of Scripture must take into consideration the theological, contextual, cultural and historical background, and other scriptural passages on the same subject. With that said, an attempt will be made to shed some light and understanding on these complex and often controversial verses.

An understanding of the culture background in which the verses under examination were penned is essential. In the Roman world, the female was a part of all the heathen religions, and women occupied a prominent place in the services. The worship of Aphrodite at Corinth was probably one the most immoral in which prostitution was actually made into a religion. The thousand vestal virgins who were in the temple of Aphrodite on top of the Acropolis in Corinth were nothing in the world but prostitutes. In all the mystery religions, there were priestesses who played a prominent role in the “worship” services. [1]  

Paul in writing to Timothy, who was residing in the pagan society of Ephesus, advises him concerning the church doctrinally, structurally and functionally. Like Corinth, Ephesus was one of the world centers of paganism, as the Roman goddess, Diana (in Greek the goddess, Artemis), was the prevailing deity of the city (Acts 19). The worshippers of Diana taught the superiority of the female and advocated female domination over the male, and the priestess were well known for officiating in temple “worship.” [2] 

The worship of Diana was characterized by sexual perversion and so-called fertility rites, her image being represented as a many breasted woman. The female participants were known to be loud, boisterous and disruptive. As well, the women who were involved in pagan worship in Ephesus and Corinth, would adorn themselves in sexually enticing dress and ornate jewelry. Women occupied a very prominent position in heathenistic worship.

In addition to the worship of Diana, there was present in Ephesus the spread of the early seeds of Gnosticism. Gnostics derived their name from the Greek word “gnosis” which means “knowledge.” Gnostics believed each person possesses a “divine spark” within, but for one to arrive at a full knowledge of God one needed the help of emanations or aeons or “spirit guides,” to impart divine knowledge that would aid one in their spiritual journey to experience the fullness of the divine. Gnostics taught that Jesus was just one of the many aeons or “spiritual guides” along the way in the quest to experience the fullness of God.

While there are many variations of Gnosticism, the Gnostics believed the God of the Old Testament, who created the physical world, was a lower divine being, called the Demiurge. This lower divine being that created the physical world had emanated from the “fullness of God.” Gnostics turned the creation story upside down, believing Eve was the illuminator of spiritual consciousness in Adam. In Gnosticism, Eve was superior to Adam as she was sent to be the “awakener” of Adam who was in a deep sleep, having no spiritual soul or consciousness. While the Bible has Eve physically emerging from Adam’s side, the Gnostic version has Adam’s spiritual awakening being the result of Eve calling him forth from the depths of spiritual unconsciousness, crying out, “Adam, live. Rise up upon the earth.” Upon Eve “awakening” Adam, he says to her, “You shall be called the ‘mother of the living’, because you are the one who gave me life.” [3]   Gnostics contended that man was indebted to woman for bringing him to life and consciousness. Again, in Gnosticism Eve is superior to Adam. This is important to understand Paul’s meaning in I Timothy 2:11-15.

Worship of the pagan goodness Diana and the early seeds of Gnosticism, were twin towers of evil influence that Timothy confronted as he sought to bring order and stability to the Ephesian Church. So, with some knowledge of the historical and culture background in which Timothy found himself, attention can now be turned to gaining a better understanding of Paul’s instructions on Christian conduct in public worship. First Timothy 3:14-15 clearly states this is one of the reasons Paul was writing to Timothy, “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou may know how thou ought to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” The instructions Paul gives to Timothy was so that he would know how the church assemblies should be structured and function in the midst of a society influenced by pagan religion and false teaching.

As chapter two begins Paul gives instruction regarding public prayer and delineates the conduct of men and women in public worship. The men are to lead in prayer, “lifting up holy hands without wrath (anger) and doubting (disputing)” (I Tim. 2:8). Prayer must be offered in a spirit of love, harmony, peace and unity. Powerful prayer cannot be separated from living a holy life.

In addressing the woman’s conduct, because of the unfavorable light cast on womanhood because of the prominence of woman in pagan worship and Gnosticism, Paul elaborates on the character and conduct of the Christian woman in Ephesian society.

First, in I Timothy 2:9-10, Paul writes, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” It was because of these heathen practices of many women in Ephesus that Paul emphasizes in this portion of scripture that the focus for the Christian woman should be upon inner adornment and beauty rather than outward adornment and sexual allurement. The word translated “shamefacedness” (KKJ) has nothing to do with the “face” or “shame”, but denotes one who possesses the qualities of modesty and humility in their life. It “denotes a demeanor which is restrained by true womanly reserve and inner beauty.” [4] 

Paul in these verses is encouraging women in the importance to set themselves apart by the way they dress so as to not have any misconstrued identity with those associated with women of the Temple of Diana. Paul is not against women “looking good,” but he is more concerned about women acting godly and dressing in an appropriate manner that is not sexually provocative. Christian beauty from the inside will always enhance outer beauty, not the other way around. A woman with a character adorned with goodness and grace is of greater value than costly jewelry.

Second, in I Timothy 2:11, Paul writes, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.” Paul gives similar instruction in I Corinthians 14:34, which reads, “Let your women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted unto them to speak.”

First Timothy 2:11 is really quite revolutionary, considering many women at that time were not well educated and were not encouraged to learn. Paul is encouraging the Christian women to learn and be informed what the Scriptures teach. By learning the Scriptures, the Ephesian women would not be deceived by false teachers. He instructs them to learn in “silence.” Is Paul saying a Christian woman is not to speak at all in church or ever have any voice in church? From other portions of Scripture, we know this is not true.

It is clear from I Corinthians 11:5 that when proper order was followed and respect for authority demonstrated, women were permitted to pray in public worship. As well, women were prominent as prophets in both the Old Testament (Numbers 12:1-16, Judges 4:4-5, 5:7, 2 Kings 22:14) and the New Testament. Women prophets were active at Pentecost (Acts 2:17), Phillip had four prophesying daughters (Acts 21:9), and there were women prophets in Corinth (I Corinthians 11:5). The gift of prophecy was given to men as well as women, which both were allowed to exercise in pubic worship. David Kuske, of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, in an exegetical treatment of 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, defines “prophesy” as “sharing God’s word with others to strengthen, encourage, or comfort them.” He bases his definition on I Corinthians 14:3 which reads, “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort.” [5]   So, prophesy was the speaking of edifying words, not expounding doctrinally oriented “sermons” which was the function of the pastor.

A look at the Greek word “silence” sheds much light as to what Paul is saying. The Greek word hēsuchia which is translated as “silent” carries with it the idea of “calmness” or “quietness” or “harmony.” This same word is more correctly translated as “quiet” a few verses earlier in I Timothy 2:2. The word has more to do with an attitude and spirit that exhibits an orderly and teachable behavior more than simply physical silence.

Unlike the loud and boisterous women involved in pagan worship, Paul instructs Christian women to learn quietly, in calmness and in a respectful manner in the presence of the prevailing authorities. Paul’s advice to Timothy, and to the Corinthians, is that everything must be done decently and in order, giving respect and “submission” to those in authority (I Corinthians 14:33). Paul’s advice to Timothy is to not permit women to disrupt church services which was prevalent in pagan worship. Christian women are to set an example that demonstrates respectfulness. As seen from other Scriptures, Paul’s instruction does not limit a woman’s voice in all places at all times. Women may engage in public “prayer and prophecy” (I Cor. 11:3) as long as it is done orderly, respectfully and their voices are not disruptive. The women, nor the men, were to go beyond the bounds of good order.

Third, in I Timothy 2:12, Paul writes, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Approaching this portion of Scripture in the context in which it was written sheds informative light upon the instructions of Paul to Timothy. Gaining a proper sense of Paul’s instruction is found by seeking an understanding what he meant by (1) “teach” and (2) “usurp authority.” As shall be discovered, the words didaskein (teach) and authentein (usurp authority) cannot be separated, they are interwoven, as teaching is included in the exercise of authority and an act by which authority is exercised.

Kenneth Wuest in his Greek Word Studies says the tense of the Greek word “teach” (didaskein) renders Paul’s instruction, “I do not permit a woman to be a teacher [in the capacity of a bishop/elder/pastor whose responsibility is to expound doctrine in public assemblies].” [6] According to Wuest the context is dealing with authoritative order and functionality within the church, recognizing that in public worship it is the responsibility of the pastor to be the “teacher” in matters of doctrine and interpretation.

The authoritative structure and function within the Ephesus Church was to be opposite of the structure and function found within the pagan temples. The office of pastoral authority is given to the church, it does not come from the church. In order to secure a Biblical foundation of the office as it exists in the church it is necessary to ground it firmly in Scripture. Theologian Gleason Archer writes, “Here we have a clear principle of subordination of woman to man in the structure of the church as an organized body in the matter of pastoral leadership.” Scriptures allow women to pray, prophesy and teach children and other women, as found in I Corinthians 11:3, II Timothy 1:5; 3:13, and Titus 2:3-4. In Acts 18:26, Aquilla and Priscilla took Apollos aside and both “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly,” indicating Priscilla helped in teaching a man in private. As well, Paul was most thankful for the productive ministries of Dorcas (Acts 9:36), Lydia (Acts 16:14), Phoebe (Romans 16:1), and many others (Acts 17:4, 12). From these Scriptural examples, it is clear Paul saw the work of faithful Christian women as indispensable; however, there is no Scriptural evidence he ever recognized any of these women in a position of pastoral authority. Archer states, “God intends that the responsibility of [pastoral] leadership devolve on man rather than woman.” [7]

Paul goes on to say that the woman is not to “usurp authority” over a man (v. 12). Understanding what Paul meant by this hinges on the Greek verb, “authentein.” The problem is that this verb is found nowhere else in the Bible. Biblical scholars debate the meaning of “authentein,” which has several shades of meaning. The lexical history of this word is long and complex. The various meanings will help shed greater light on the cultural context of what Paul meant when he wrote to Timothy.

It must be noted that study of Paul’s letters shows that he regularly used a form of the Greek word “exousia” when referring to the use of authority in the church (see 1 Cor 6:12, 7:4, 1 Cor 6:12, 7:4, 9:4-6, 9:12, 11:10, 2 Cor 2:8, 10:8, 13:10, Col. 1:13, 2 Thess 3:12, Rom 6:15, 9:21). That the meaning of “authentein,” in verse 12, has been the source of considerable differences of opinion among biblical scholars over the years it is likely that Paul was addressing something more than the usual respect for pastoral authority when he used the Greek word “authentein” instead of “exousia.” Interestingly, Professor Albert Wolters sees Paul’s use of the word authentein as a play on words. Wolters points out “. . . the word authentēs played a prominent role in Gnosticism; for example, it was the name of the supreme deity in the systems of early Gnostics [sects].” Authentēs is typically translated into English as “supreme power” in works by Early Church Fathers who addressed Christian Gnosticism. There is a clear link between the word authentēs with Gnosticism. Wolters concludes in his thorough examination of the word “authenerin” that “in the light of the meaning which that word had in the Greek of the day, [it could be translated] ‘master,’ conveying the basic idea of mastery.” [8] Moulton and Milligan (Vocabulary of the Greek Testament) are in agreement with Wolters that authentein means “mastery, autocrat.” In other words, the woman was not to seek mastery over the man who was functioning in a pastoral capacity, but be respectful of his position.

Most respected Bible translators of I Timothy 2:12 have interpreted “authentein” to mean: “to usurp or exercise authority” over a man, or “to have authority” over a man. Ralph Earle gives a similar meaning, “one who acts on their own authority.” [9] The prolific Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe translates the meaning as “not to ‘lord it over’ the man.” [10]; as does the New Testament theologian Donald Guthrie. [11] The Greek scholar A.T. Robertson contends the meaning of the verse is that women are not to “have dominion over a man in public gatherings.” He connects several meanings to the word authentein: playing the master, autocrat, domineer, authoritative. [12] 

While over the years the overwhelming majority of English Bible translations have been in agreement in rendering the meaning of the Greek word authentein as having to do with “usurping or exercising authority over” the man (e.g., KJV, RSV, GNB, NIV, CEV, NASB, NLT, NET, AMP, BRG, ESV, HCSB), Walter Liefeld points out, “A perplexing issue [surrounds] the meaning of ‘authentein.’ Over the course of its history this verb and its associated noun have had a wide semantic range, including some bizarre meanings, such as committing suicide, murdering one’s parents, and being sexually aggressive. The word has had a history of being associated with violent behavior and conduct.” [13]

As Liefeld does, Leland Wilshire does not limit the translation of authentein to only in reference to the use of usurping one’s authority. Wilshire concludes that authentein might best be translated “instigate violence.” Wilshire bases this conclusion upon a study of known uses of the word “authentein” in Greek literature from the years 200 B.C. to 200 A.D. He found that while the word “authentein” was used on occasions in extra-biblical literature to denote authority, it was also widely associated with various forms of self-willed violent behavior. Wilshire’s research fits within the historical context of what Timothy was dealing with in the pagan worship embedded in the Ephesian society, as women were not to “instigate violent behavior” against those in pastoral authority. [14]   

Andreas Köstenberger, following the traditional view as to the meaning of authentein, suggests a possible translation of this phrase might be: “I do not permit a woman to teach in an authoritative capacity or to exercise authority over a man.” He argues that I Timothy 2:12 is a universal and timeless prohibition of a woman teaching Christian doctrine in an authoritative pastoral role. [15]  

Taking into consideration all the shades of meaning of “authentein,” women in Timothy’s congregation, therefore, was to neither teach nor commit violent conduct or display disruptive behavior in public assemblies, as would have been prevalent in the pagan religions of that day. The various meanings of “authentein” all seem to convey the same instructive truth: Paul is advising Timothy to not permit women to have mastery over or usurp the man’s authoritative role as pastor in the church, to not instigate disruptive behavior in public worship so as not to mirror or to resemble in appearance the heathen religions where women were prominent in the leading of worship. Such an admonition had to do with the teaching of doctrine, urging the Christian woman to be careful neither to disrupt the worship nor to assume the place of public expounder of doctrine in the public gathering of the church. Again, keep in mind that the women led in the mystery religions and cults of Paul’s day, and they were nothing but sex orgies. Paul is cautioning women not to behave in a disruptive manner or in an authoritative capacity publicly, for in so doing one could be misunderstood of making an appeal on the basis of flaunting sexual or physical charm or signaling improper innuendoes. Such actions would be a deterrent to prayer, proclamation and public worship.

As has been seen, women could speak, pray and prophesy in the church, but they were not to function authoritatively as in pagan worship nor be disruptive in public worship when one was speaking authoritatively. This passage teaches there are authoritative roles and subordinate roles and proper functionality within the church and public worship must be held in an orderly manner. New Testament scholars Andreas Kostenberger, Thomas Schreiner, and Scott Baldwin conclude from their thorough study of I Timothy 2:12 women should not function “as teaching pastors or teaching elders/overseers of the churches. This means that women should not proclaim the Word of God from the pulpit to the congregation of the saints.” [16]   

Let it be made clear, “Both man and woman are equally precious and worthy before God (Gal. 3:27-28), and the assigned level of responsibility does not give the men any special advantage or any inherently higher status before God than is granted to the woman.” [17]   Priority does not mean superiority. Both male and female are created in the image of God and both are inherently of equal worth in the eyes of God, yet have different functions and roles that God has called them too.

Fourth, Paul in explaining his instructions on the functionality of men and women in the church, writes in I Timothy 2:13-15, “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” Paul offers two reasons why the responsibility of pastoral authority and leadership is vested in the man: (1) For Adam was first formed, then Eve. Paul cites the order of creation in establishing masculine leadership in the church; and (2) Eve was deceived first. While Adam followed in disobedience, Eve fell first for the deceptiveness of the serpent. Paul’s inspired and instructive words are rooted in the culture-transcending account of the order of creation and the fall.

Paul is refuting the teaching of Gnosticism that Eve was the “awakener” of Adam’s spiritual consciousness, as Adam was formed first, then Eve. Eve was not the illuminator of Adam’s spiritual consciousness, as Gnosticism taught, but she was deceived by the serpent, and as a result sin entered the world (Adam went along with her and was guilty, as well). While Eve was prominent in Gnosticism and pagan worship, Paul points out that in the Christian Church structure of functionality in pastoral authority and leadership has been assigned to the male. It is not a matter of equality, but a matter of divinely assigned authoritative function.

Establishing from the Genesis creation account that Eve was not created first and that Eve was not the “awakener” of man’s spiritual consciousness, as Gnosticism taught, but was deceived by the serpent, in verse fifteen Paul says the woman shall be saved in childbearing. What did Paul mean? In the Greek “childbearing” (teknogonias) follows an article, which would render the phrase “the childbirth.” This is a clear reference to the birth of the Savior, the promised Messiah. [18] Eve was deceived and sinned (as did man), but another woman, Mary, gave birth to the Savior. Woman, as well as man, are saved by “THE childbirth,” as Mary gave birth to the promised Messiah who is the true “awakener” of mankind. And is not that what the Lord promised to Eve, that salvation would come through the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15)?

Another interpretation of what Paul meant by a woman being saved in childbirth is suggested by W.E. Vine. He writes, “By means of begetting children and so fulfilling the design appointed for her through acceptance of motherhood…she would be saved from becoming a prey to the social evils of the time and would take her part in the maintenance of testimony of the local church.” Such an interpretation is most plausible and fits the context of the Epistle. [19]   

In summary, in a society of pagan religions, immoral behavior, and false teachings, (much like today) the desire of Paul was that Christian women live holy and godly lives. He desired the Christian woman in Ephesus to not be disruptive in church assemblies, respect those who were teaching and not usurp pastoral authority. The question arises, were Paul’s instructions regarding the structural and functionality of men and women in the church intended to be normative principles and guidelines or were they just temporary instructions for the local situation in Ephesus?

It is not difficult to understand why Paul’s instructive words are so unpopular in our current culture. One can find a plethora of biblical commentators who argue that Paul’s instructive words were not to be normative for the Church, but were confined to the local situation in Ephesus. Again, Paul’s inspired and instructive words are rooted in the culture-transcending account of the order of creation and the fall. Steven Baugh, professor of New Testament at Westminster Seminary, thus concluding after extensive research that Paul’s injunctions “are not temporary measures in a unique social setting,” but are to be normative for church structural order. [20]  Douglas Moo, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, concurs with Baugh, stating, “It can only be concluded that the results of an exegetical investigation carried out of [I Timothy 2:11-15] must stand as valid for the Church in every age and place. [21]   

It is the contention of this writer, as well, that two thousand years of Church history has validated that the inspired Word is giving normative instructions how the authoritative function of the Church should be structured. To seek to explain away Paul’s words in I Timothy 2:11-13 regarding the assigned leadership and subornation structure of the Church as it pertains to men and women, one must do some exegetical gymnastics to the text and other texts that speak to this issue. Instead of sound exegesis, many force Scripture to accommodate their particular point of view.

Many today are painstakingly twisting and pretzelizing the Scriptures to make it more palatable in the 21st century to those who want the Bible to say something other than what it says. The problem is not that the words of Paul are misunderstood, the problem is that though they are understood they are not acceptable deep down in the recesses of our human nature. It must be remembered, the Word is to correct and instruct us, it is not our place to correct the Word in order that it might fit our preconceived ideas and notions. If we believe in the inspiration of Scripture, then why do we think we can improve upon the instructions that were given to us by divine inspiration? If one believes the Holy Spirit superintended Paul’s writings, then the instructions the Apostle peened to Timothy are by divine inspiration and transcend time and cultures.

Quoting Gleason Archer, he offers wise words of caution, “Those who attempt to rework Scripture are violating and reducing Scripture to a plastic medium that can be interpreted to mean anything the subjective desire of the interpreter may choose. Such an interpretation must therefore be regarded as tantamount to rejection of the objective authority of Scriptures.” [22]  

In a final word, while no doubt debate will continue to rage on in the parsing of Paul’s instructions to Timothy, let us not lose sight of the intent of Paul’s inspired advice; that the Christian Church is to be comprised of men and women who are striving to live holy and prayerful lives and who conduct themselves in public worship in a respectful and dignified manner for the purpose of edification of the believer through the proclamation of the Word in order that men, women, boys and girls might come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

Footnotes

[1] Leonard Swindler, Women in Judaism, 1976, 18-14 (24); also, Karl Barth, Ephesians, 2.656; and Vernon McGee, I & II Timothy, Through the Bible Books, 1978, 46-47.

[2] Lily Ross Taylor, “Artemis of Ephesus,” The Acts of the Apostles, Part I of Beginnings of Christianity ed. F.J. Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake, 5, 1933, 253-254; W.M. Ramsey, “Diana of the Ephesians,” A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hasting, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1898, 1.605.

[3] From the Gnostic writings Nag Hammadi Library discovered in 1945 – Apocryphon of John and On the Origin of the World.

[4] Charles Erdman, The Pastoral Epistles of Paul, Westminster Press, (1965) 40-41.

[5] David Kuske, “Exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11:3-16,” Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, 1999.

[6] Kenneth Wuest, “Commentary on I Timothy”, Word Studies, Eerdmans Publishing, 1973, pp. 47-49; also, Dana and Manley, Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 199.

[7] Gleason Archer, Bible Difficulties, Zondervan, 1982, 411.

[8] Albert Wolters, “A Semantic Study of Authentēs and its Derivatives”, The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Spring 2006, 44-65.

[9] Earle, “I Timothy,” The Expositors Bible Commentary, Vol. II, Zondervan, 1978, 363.

[10] Wiersbe, Be Faithful, Victor Books, 1982, 37.

[11] Guthrie, New Testament Theology, Intervarsity Press, 1981, 779.

[12] Robertson, “I Timothy,” Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume IV, Baker Book House, 1931, 570.

[13] Walter Liefeld, “Response to David M. Scholer”, Women, Authority & the Bible, IVP Books, 1986, 220.

[14] L.E. Wilshire, Insight into Two Biblical Passages, University Press of America. 2010, 28-29; and also, Wilshire, “I Timothy 2:12 Revisited,” Evangelical Quarterly, 65:1, 1993, 45.

[15] Köstenberger, “A Complex Sentence: The syntax of 1 Timothy 2:12”, Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-12, Andreas Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 2000).

[16] Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner, and H. Scott Baldwin, eds. Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-12, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996, 210.

[17] Gleason Archer, Bible Difficulties, Zondervan, 1982, 411.

[18] Robertson, Word Studies, 570.

[19] Earle, “I Timothy,” The Expositors Bible Commentary, Vol. II, Zondervan, 1978, 362.

[20] Found in Kostenberger, Women in the Church, 49.

[21] Moo, “I Timothy 2:11-15: Meaning and Significance,” Trinity Journal NS (Spring 1980) 62-83.

[22] Archer, Difficulties, 412.

WHAT AN INTERVIEW IT MUST HAVE BEEN!

Luke introduces his narrative telling us he did extensive research and interviewed eyewitnesses in the composing of the Third Gospel (1:1-4). And as one reads the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke, one is confronted with the question, “Did Luke interview Mary, the mother of Jesus, in composing his narrative on the Life of Christ?”  While there is no verse in the Bible which confirms whether or not Luke interviewed Mary; however, one has to give serious consideration that he did, for he sure included in his Gospel a lot of “inside” information surrounding the announced conception, birth and boyhood events regarding Christ. So much so that it would be hard not to deduce that Luke did interview Mary.

Did Luke Interview Mary?

This writer contends one of those eyewitnesses Luke interviewed was Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Obviously, Mary would have been advanced in years at the time, but not overly aged. If one considers when Gabriel appeared unto her with the message that she would bear the Christ Child, Mary, as many scholars suppose, was probably between thirteen to fifteen years old (the Jewish Talmud taught that a daughter could be given in marriage as early as of age twelve and twelve and a half), then she would have been about 15 (no older than 16) when Jesus was born. Jesus died at age 33, which would have made Mary about 48 or 49 years old at Jesus’ death.  The Apostle John, under instructions from Jesus as he hung on the cross, looked after Mary until her death (Jh 19:25-27), which her exact time or age is unknown. Luke is thought to have begun writing his Gospel in the mid to late 50s AD, which would have put Mary’s age in her early to mid 70s when Luke would have interviewed her.  So, it is clearly not out of the realm of possibility that Luke interviewed Mary. As well, reading Luke’s birth narrative one can confidently surmise he received eyewitness information from her.

Come, let us reason together.

First, in Luke 1:26-38, Dr. Luke records the archangel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary. Only Mary and Gabriel were present at the announcement and the conversation which took place between the two. So the only sure source from where Luke received his information about such intimate information had to be Mary. Luke could not have gotten such intimate information from Mary’s cousin Elizbeth as she would no doubt have died by the time Luke composed his Gospel since Luke informs us Elizabeth was already “advanced in age” (Lk 1:18) at the time of Mary’s conception. Taking that into consideration, Mary is the most likely source of the intimate details Luke records.

 Second, in Luke 1:46-56 we find Mary’s magnificent song of praise. The only ones present when this song of praise echoed in the air, was Mary and Elizabeth…and possibly Zechariah. But once again, Elizabeth (and Zechariah), would have died by the time Luke composed his Gospel because they were already advanced in years.  That only leaves Mary who would have been able to tell Luke in the detail the words of the magnificent song of praise she lifted to the Lord. 

Third, In Luke 2:21-39 we find the details regarding Jesus’ circumcision and dedication eight days after his birth. Who was present?  Mary, Joseph, Simeon, and Anna were present. Once again, since Joseph, Simeon, and Anna have passed away by the time Luke composed the third Gospel, how would Luke have known the details of conversation, the prayers and specifics of this incident. Again, that only leaves Mary to have related the details to Luke.  

Fourth, when we see the incident of Jesus’ interaction with the “scholars” in the Temple at 12 years of age (Lk 2:40-52), who was best to relate this story to Luke?  Since Joseph had already passed away, that only leaves Mary to relate the personal details of the incident to Luke.  Interestingly, Luke twice adds another detail about Mary that no other gospel does: “His mother pondered all these things in her heart” (Lk 1.19 and 1.51). How did Luke know Mary kept so much ponderings about Jesus in her heart if she had not told him? Unless Luke was a mind reader, he could not have known this detail unless Mary had informed him.

Could Luke have received his details from another source other than Mary? Of course, that is possible.  Some would even contend that Luke, being divinely inspired of God, could have received his information directly from the Lord without human correspondence. That is a possibility; however, while divine inspiration of Scripture means God’s Spirit superintended what Luke wrote, that doesn’t mean he was divorced from his personality and the responsibility of diligent research in the composing of what God inspired him to write. This would have included Luke interviewing eyewitnesses in his research. That being said, this writer contends one can say with confidence that Mary was clearly the only one consistently present at all of these events mentioned above and the intimate details Luke relates to his readers makes it highly likely that he received his information from the very lips of Mary.

What an interview it must have been!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan