Thursday, December 6, 2012

An observation of the book of Jonah



Imagine yourself when you were a child watching the old time Disney movie, “Pinocchio” and seeing the inside of the whale that Pinocchio was trapped in, after it swallowed him. Of course he was a wooden boy, but did the whale really swallow him or was that something completely fictitious? My point is, Pinocchio claims to be fiction by what the author places in the story. A living wooden boy, who also has a chance of turning into a real boy someday if he doesn’t blow it, and his wooden nose grows when he lies; everything about that story is fictional. Let’s take a look at something real.
Although the author of the book of Jonah doesn’t explicitly tell the readers who the actual author really is, I believe that Jonah was the author for many reasons. One reason would be because of the way it ends. The book ends with a question directed towards Jonah from God and there is no reply from Jonah. I feel that once one sees the tone of the remote context, it can be observed that most likely there would be a reply (to God’s final question) if this book were a fictional story that was written after the death of the prophet, or if someone else was writing about Jonah’s experiences. If it wasn’t Jonah, then the actual author was acting bitter while writing the book. It can seem that Jonah wanted to write in the third person because he didn’t want to give himself credit for writing the book.
The argument of the sailor’s conversation in Jonah 1:5, being knowledge that Jonah didn’t have because he was below deck, can be refuted by reading the surrounding verses and analyzing them grammatically. Jonah 1:5 says, “All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship” (NIV, Jonah 1:5). An analysis of this can tell us that the cargo of the ship was missing when Jonah woke up. So naturally, he could have either asked, or, it was obvious why it was missing because the captain of the ship went to him and woke him up to pray to his god to calm the storm as one can see in verse six. This could explain how Jonah knew of the sailor’s conversation.
In Jonah 1:16 however, after the calming of the storm, the sailors made a sacrifice to God because they saw with their own eyes that throwing Jonah overboard was the cause of the calming of the storm. This information that Jonah had could have been gained after the great fish put him on land and the possible meeting of the sailor’s again.
The date the book of Jonah was written has to be between the “time of Jonah’s ministry, which 2 Kings 14:25 places in the first half of the eighth century” (Smith and Page, 206), and 200 B.C. because the “twelve prophets” are mentioned in an apocryphal book written at that time (Smith and page, 206). This allows either the author to be Jonah himself, or anyone else in that period of time. Some scholars argue that the size of the city of Nineveh mentioned in Jonah is way too big for its time; therefore the book had to be written quite some time after Jonah died. Some scholars argue that this could also explain how the author had knowledge of the sailor’s conversations and such. But, as we have already seen earlier, so could have Jonah himself had the knowledge.
Nineveh is located “on the east bank of the Tigris River opposite Mosul. Its ruins consist of a number of small mounds and two large tells in an 1800-acre enclosure surrounded by a brick wall almost eight miles in circumference” (achtemeier, 707). According to Genesis 10:11, “Nineveh was one of the Northern cities founded by Nimrod or Ashur after leaving Babylonia and excavation 25 m down to virgin soil shows that the site was occupied from prehistoric times (c. 4500 B.C.)” (Wood and Marshall, 825). One argument on the accuracy of the book of Jonah concerning whether or not he is the author, is that the dimensions of the city mentioned in 3:3 and 4:11, are clearly off. However, “at the height of its prosperity Nineveh was enclosed by an inner wall of which, according to Felix Jones’ survey of 1834, more than 175,000 persons could have lived” (Wood and Marshall, 826).
“Though the city was occupied from prehistoric times, it reached the height of its fame at the turn of the eighth century B.C., when Sennacherib made Nineveh the capital of the expanding Assyrian Empire” (Achtemeier, 707). The city of Nineveh definitely reminds one of the histories of ancient Egypt and ancient Greece. There were large stone figures of winged lions with human faces at the gates of palaces in the city and on the walls one could view mythological, hunting, and military scenes that were carved into the walls. (Negev, 3rd ed. 1996)
The occasion for writing the book of Jonah could be for many reasons. One, that through the author’s experiences, he turned to realize Gods love, care, and concern for the gentiles (Walvoord, Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, 1:1462). [I feel that the occasion for writing must be figured by observation and analysis of the author’s purpose in this situation because they seem to be so tightly intertwined.] This idea seems most probable to me for the occasion for writing for obvious reasons. Such as, the entire New Testament pretty much shows that Jesus died for ALL of us and not just the Jews. For instance, Jesus himself said, “For God so loved the world, that He  gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (NIV Jn. 3:16 emphasis added).
Secondly, remembering how repentant the gentiles were, when they were polemically told that they were living in sin, could be the occasion for writing, and it being a possible model for Israel to look to and mimic, could be the author’s purpose. I personally feel that the tone of the near context of the final two chapters would allow this to be highly possible. The author could have thought, “Look at what the gentiles did! That’s what the Israelites need to do!”  One thing that could argue the death of this theory would be the whole first two chapters of the book of Jonah. Why would he speak about his being swallowed experience if this was just to show Israel that they need to repent? What purpose would that have had in this? Unless of course, he was trying to show his own stubbornness or if one were to add two of the theories of occasion for writing together, such as this, and the sovereignty of God which brings up another subject.
It is possible that the author’s purpose could be to show the readers that sometimes we do not understand things that God does because we can’t see the whole picture but must trust in his loving, sovereign ways. This could be the author’s realization that God is sovereign and taking action by telling an audience about the experiences that the author had not only to glorify God but to push his readers in the right direction.
In the book of Jonah, it can be observed that there are three main parts in the first two chapters. One part would be the request from God, asking Jonah to preach against the wickedness in Nineveh. Another part would be Jonah’s refusal and fleeing from God. Finally, we see the consequences of Jonah’s action which is being delivered by God through being swallowed by a great fish.
In the next two chapters, we see that Jonah obeys the Lord, seemingly hesitantly, but follows through anyways. Then, Jonah confesses to God his true feelings towards Nineveh, and finally, Jonah, like Job, finds that he cannot defend himself against God’s wisdom. 

 Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus
 
Works Cited
The Holy Bible: New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984).
            Billy K. Smith and Franklin S. Page, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1995).
            Paul J. Achtemeier, Publishers Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper's Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985).
            D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England;  Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996).
Avraham Negev, The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, 3rd ed. (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1996, c1990).
John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985).

Selected Word Studies: Jonah 4:2




Gracious, compassionate and abundant in loving-kindness. Here are three descriptive words that seem nearly synonymous in the nature of positive meaning when describing the character of God. The combination of the three is used in many other places in the Bible (see Exo. 34:6; Psalm 86:5, 15; 103:8; 145:8; Num. 14:18; Joel 2:13), and has been called an ancient liturgical formula because of the fact (Lemke, 358). Although the positive nature of the words seems to focus on the goal of one certain thing, they definitely all have their own place.
Loving-kindness
Loving-kindness, Hebrew: ‘khesed’, can be well understood by the translations that interpreters chose to use in its place. Such as, “In its preference for ‘mercy’ the KJV was obviously influenced by the Septuagint (lxx) which in 168 instances renders khesed as ‘mercy’ or ‘compassion’ (Gk. eleos)” (Gammie, 581). By this, one can understand why one would label God as having abundance in loving-kindness. For most of us know from experience that He is full of mercy, and is compassionate.
As far as discerning the character of God through the study of certain words, we can get a better idea by understanding the fact that “this word is used chiefly, but not exclusively, of God. The ‘kindness’ the prophet Micah enjoins humankind to love includes both its human and divine aspects (Micah 6:1-6). It is thus a metonym for covenantal loyalty and performance” (Gammie, 581). In other words, Gammie is saying loving-kindness is a figure of speech that places emphasis on continuing or reassuring His promises. With all of this, one should have a clear understanding on the character of God through the definition of loving-kindness.
Compassionate
The Dictionary of Biblical Languages defines this word, “rahum” or “rakhum”, as “Pertaining to showing favor and not punishment as is often deserved, implying a forgiving relationship” (Swanson, 8157). As we can see in Isaiah forty-nine verse fifteen, this word is used “of a mother’s love toward her nursing baby. It can also refer to a father’s love according to Psalm 103:13” (Harris, Archer and Waltke, 841). The fact that it can be shown to mean love towards someone who is viewed as helpless, such as a nursing baby, and from either parent, gives us an idea of how to correctly view the character of God through the context of the word compassionate.
 A verse comes to mind when I think of the definition of this Hebrew word, “for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (NIV, Psalm 103:14). Now that I see verse thirteen and fourteen together in literary context, I can understand how verse fourteen defines verse thirteen, as far as the Lord is compassionate because he knows our frame.
Gracious
            Gracious, or in Hebrew, “Khannun”, defines as “pertaining to being merciful to the needy and repentant” (Swanson, 2843). I believe the key word in this definition is ‘repentant’ mainly because that is what it takes to receive favor. A lexicon shows us how this word is “only used as an attribute of God, as hearing the cry of the vexed debtor Exo. 22:26” (Brown, Driver and Briggs, 337). We can understand better if we read on to verse twenty-seven which describes the Lord hearing the cry of the vexed debtor, and why he is gracious to that debtor.
Conclusion
            In conclusion, we can see that the nature of God that is developed in the book of Jonah chapter four, verse two is one of showing love to the undeserved. Through this we can have a better understanding about the many names that describe God our Heavenly Father, such as “jireh”, Gen. 22:14, “nissi”, Exo. 17:15, and “shalom” Judges 6:24, which are describing God as being the great provider, a banner, and finally, the Lord of peace. 

 Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

Works Cited
Werner E. Lemke, Th.D.; Professor of Old Testament Interpretation; Colgate Rochester Divinity School; Rochester, New York, Publishers Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper's Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985).
John G. Gammie, Ph.D.; Emma A. Harwell Professor of Biblical Literature; University of Tulsa; Tulsa, Oklahoma, Publishers Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper's Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985).
James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
R. Laird Harris, Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999, c1980).
The Holy Bible: New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984).
Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000).

Analysis of the Narrative: Jonah




            The prologue in the book of Jonah begins with an introduction of the protagonist, who is Jonah himself, and continues to prepare the reader for the rest of the narrative with vital information. This can be found in verses 1:1-3.
            The plot is the order from God to Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh, Jonah refuses, and eventually is presented with a problem. As the plot thickens, in the end of chapter one Jonah is swallowed by a great fish. This could possibly be the beginning of a sub-plot since the development of the main character changes in a dramatic way.
            The characters are Jonah, God, the sailors and the people of Nineveh. Jonah in this story is the protagonist since he is introduced as the main character of the story that is presented with a problem. Jonah’s character is also one dimensional which leads one to believe that he is of flat character. The antagonist is the sum of what God adds to the development of Jonah’s character. With that in mind the antagonist’s character in this narrative is definitely round in nature because there are many dimensions to this particular role.
The agents in the story, the sailors and the people of Nineveh also seem to be of flat character because they really only serve one purpose in the story. The sailors could possibly have some traces of round character because of the ethical lessons that are displayed through their existence in the story such as their final decision to believe in God. If this were a children’s book, one could consider the worm that ate the vine away to have a non-character type because it simply moves the story along and nothing else.
Selectivity
The selectivity involved was clearly chosen to make the narrative applicable to the reader. What is meant is this; the scenarios that happen to Jonah are necessary in selectivity in order to allow the reader to understand the purpose for writing the book of Jonah. Take for instance the vine in chapter four verses five through eleven.
In summary, this part of the story goes like this; Jonah was uncomfortable so God made a vine that grew up over his head and Jonah was happy about the vine. Then God provided a worm to eat the vine away and when the sun rose, God provided a scorching wind that really made Jonah uncomfortable. Then Jonah thought to himself ‘it would be better for me to die.’ So what happens is God uses this vine to show Jonah how important the people of Nineveh are to Him because they are people and Jonah’s vine, is just a vine.
Dialogue
            Though generally speaking, narratives usually don’t have much dialogue but considering that this book is only four chapters long, the percentage of how much is used is slightly above normal. This can be seen with the sailors in chapter one verses six through twelve and again in most of chapter four where Jonah appears to be conversing with God through prayer.
Table summarizing percentage of dialogue
Jonah                      +                          God
Seven Verses
Jonah                       +                       Sailors
Six Verses
·         Consider the fact that there are only 48 verses in the whole book. Over one fourth is dialogue.
·         Consider the fact that this is a narrative which generally doesn’t have much dialogue.
Poetry
            There is an obvious use of Hebrew poetry used in chapter two of the narrative and is just more unnecessary proof that Hebrew poetry is very spontaneously used in much of the ancient world. This literary device highlights Jonah’s despair and how he remembers his Lord, as we can see in verse seven, and his dedication or possibly rededication to the Lord.
Sarcasm and Ridicule
            By the tone of the author of this narrative, in my opinion, there is a considerable amount of sarcasm in Jonah’s voice. First of all, he was obviously preaching while he didn’t want to as we can see in the first verse of chapter four. Then, he was greatly displeased and became angry because his predictions of what was going to happen were correct; God would not destroy them.
Dramatic Reversal
            In my opinion, there are many dramatic reversals in the book of Jonah considering how short the book actually is. The first one can be found in chapter one where Jonah runs away from God. The next one can be found also in chapter one where Jonah is thrown overboard by the sailors and then we see the next obvious one where Jonah is swallowed by a great fish. One could consider when Jonah was in the fish, his reaction, to be a dramatic reversal but honestly I’m sure most people would be repenting rather quickly if they found themselves in the belly of a great fish. I would consider the fact that Jonah is unhappy to the point of death a dramatic reversal, because most of the time God’s prophets are loving and gentle.
Narrative Functions
            One would think that the structure of the whole story can be found by studying the functions of the narrative. For the functions cannot be understood without proper structure. For instance, leading up to chapter four is what makes chapter four understood as having a theological function which is the fact that God loves and cares for everyone in the world and not just the Jews, or the people who are in nature of good report. Chapter four reveals the nature of God which shows the readers and Jonah, that he loves all people.
Analysis of poetic sub-genre in chapter two of Jonah
            In the beginning of verse five, one can see that there is a synonymous parallelism used to explain the positioning of where Jonah was before being rescued by the Lord. It seems at though the beginning of verse six is synonymous to the statement in verse five and also with itself. There are mostly bicolons in this particular poem but as we can see in verses three and five of chapter two, there are tricolons at the beginnings of the verses. We can also see that there stanzas at the beginning of verse seven because a new idea is introduced of the last stanza. We can also see this same thing happening at the beginning of verse eight.
            As one can observe, there are somewhat great shifts in emotion in this poem which allows this to be labeled a lyrical poem because it without question, communicates feeling. Although lessons could be taken from this poem such as in verse eight which says, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (NIV, Jonah 2:8), this poem should be generally labeled lyrical because the majority of the poem is expressing feeling.

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

Works Cited
The Holy Bible: New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984).

An outline on Divine Power



Divine Attribute Observed: Omnipotence
                “Divine power is optional in its exercise. God need not have created anything. And after creation, he may annihilate. Only when he has bound himself by promise, as in the instance of faith in Christ, does his action cease to be optional. It cannot be said that God may keep his promises as he pleases” (William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, chapter 5).
                Let’s take a look at this statement further.
·         Divine power is optional.
o   The other day, I was at work doing my routine, and after thinking about the plans and the Word of the Lord, suddenly it hit me. God doesn’t need me to spread his Word, OR for any other reason. This was definitely a truth that hit hard. “What’s the point then?” I thought. Why are we alive? Why are we concerned with God’s will? Sometimes, I play the devil’s advocate with the voice of reason in my mind (I feel that observing ideas at all possible angles helps make one understand better).  So anyways, what does the above thought that came to me mean? Where does that put us? I’ll tell you. It put’s us at the bottom of His jar covered in his grace. “For [the omnipotent] God so loved the world that he gave…” (John 3:16). Why did God give? More importantly, why did God give what WE NEEDED? Romans chapter 5, verse 8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” If He is omnipotent, why would we need this? You know the reason.
·         Continuing on, “Only when he has bound himself by promise, as in the instance of faith in Christ, does his action cease to be optional” (Shedd).
o   This helps explain why Christ had to die for us. Because God required sacrifice (or to look at it another way, cleansed by blood), in order to maintain a relationship with Him (Psalm 66:18).
·         Further studying this concept that “God doesn’t need us” brings me to think of something else:
o   “A Logical formulation on the Problem of Evil
§  God Exists
§  God is all-good
§  God is all-powerful
§  Evil exists.
o   Affirm any three and you must deny the fourth, it seems” (Kreeft and Tacelli: Handbook of Christian apologetics 129). How does this fit? Although God doesn’t need us, He is gracious and humble enough to use our compassion. If there was no evil in the world, we would not have compassion for one another, we wouldn’t necessarily work on building our relationships past a superficial level. Thus, because there are murders, robberies, kid-nappings, and the hungry, people find it in themselves to love and to give.
·         “Divine power is limited only by the absurd and self-contradictory. God can do anything that does not imply a logical impossibility. A logical impossibility means that the predicate is contradictory to the subject; for example, a material spirit, a corporeal deity, a sensitive stone, an irrational man, a body without parts or extension, a square triangle” (Shedd).
o   I feel that this is very important when understanding more clearly, omnipotence as an attribute of God.
o   Something comes to mind as I read this citation: A few years back, I remember a guy bragging about how he “put a pastor in his place” by asking him, “Can God make a rock so big He can’t lift it?” He said the pastor didn’t have an answer for him. I found myself in the same boat as the pastor. “This question is absurd.” I thought. A few years prior to that, this question was brought up in one of my philosophy classes, and the argument (philosophically) was that God COULD in fact make a rock so big He can’t lift it, and THEN He lifts it… because He is God. I talked with my pastor about this and asked him what his answer was. He said pretty much verbatim what Shedd says in the citation above. The question is illogical, so it can’t have a logical answer. God is all-powerful, his thoughts are above our thoughts, and it is absurd to think that we can out smart Him.
“For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them” (NASB Psalm 139:13-16).

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

The Revelation of God



A. Origin of the Bible
            In his article “The Doctrine of Revelation,” Rick Wade sums up the term “revelation” by saying, “revelation is knowledge we can have no other way than by being told” (Wade). With that being said, one who desires to understand where we got the Bible can see more clearly with knowing what the definition of “revelation” is when speaking of the revelation of God. In other words, in consideration of the citation above, the origin of the Bible comes to us from God who used a few selected men. The Bible says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (NASB 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
            Many questions come after we learn that the origin of the Bible comes from the revelation of God, and so we need to look at each of these issues, and address them with passages of scripture, as well as outside material.
B. General Revelation
            “General or unwritten revelation, consequently, includes all that belongs to ethics and natural religion. In Scripture, that moral and religious truth which man perceives immediately by reason of his mental constitution is called ‘revelation’” (Greenough, Shedd and Gomes 84). General revelation is the revelation that everyone can see plainly. For example, we see that there are trees, ponds, and mountains; and since we see these with our own eyes, we have a revelation that something created it because we, as adults, know that design must have a designer. The book of Romans clears things up plainly: “What may be known about God is plain… because God has made it plain… For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (NIV Romans 1:19-20).
C. Special Revelation
            Special revelation pretty much boils down to what can’t be known by vehicle of general revelation. In other words, if it isn’t plain to us, then if God wants to communicate to us further, there must be further action taken. A theophany, for example (A visible manifestation of God), is one way of showing us what a special revelation is. “Special revelation has taken different forms: the spoken Word, the written Word, and the Word made flesh” (Wade).
            The spoken word can be seen in the Bible where God came to Saul, for example, in the book of Acts chapter nine. “He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-5).
            The written word is special revelation in a sense that the reader of a text is the one who has the revelation. The author of the text is the one who has received the revelation from God. We can see an example of this in 2 Peter 3:15-16 where Peter says, “Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand” (Peter 3:15-16).
            The Word made flesh is simply the fact that the incarnate Jesus came and revealed many things to us. In other words, Christ Himself is a special revelation.
D. Inspiration
            Second Timothy chapter three verses sixteen and seventeen clearly teaches us the Biblical perspective of the doctrine of inspiration: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (NASB 2 Ti 3:16-17). Inspiration is like the authors holy motivation, so to speak. Where did the human authors of the Bible get the words for the Bible? They got them through the breath of God. Levels or degrees of inspiration (which is a huge subject) deal with the question of “how much of God’s hand actually wrote the scriptures?” Were the hands of the authors under complete control of God, as in verbatim? Or was there a considerable amount of the actual authors’ personality involved in the revelations. On the far end, was it mostly the author’s hand that wrote the revelations which we call scripture.
E. Inerrancy
            As with Inspiration, there are also levels of inerrancy that question how inerrant the scripture actually is. One may ask, “Is the Bible fully inerrant? Or “is the Bible partially inerrant,” or again, on the far end, “is the Bible barely inerrant?” The logical mind would ask itself, “how much of the scripture is truth?” We can see above, that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,” which is the Bible making its own claim of itself. One might say that this is a form of circular reasoning, but God’s inerrant word does not stop with this. “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (NIV 1 Thess. 5:21-22). Testing everything would include testing the Bible. God challenges the readers of His word to search Him out so they can find out that He has nothing to hide, so to speak.
F. Canonicity
            “Canon” is the term that is used to describe the books of the Bible, and not only that, but the books that were chosen to be in the Bible. Canonicity addresses by what means we consider which books to be in the Bible. Since there are other “books” of the Bible written during the same time period that are now not considered Canon, the question lies in how it was decided to have what we now know as the Bible today. “The Gospel of Thomas” and “The Lost Gospel according to Peter” are a few examples that didn’t make Canon for either Catholic bibles or protestant Bibles. A Catholic version of Canon contains other books such as “1 & 2 Maccabees” and “Sirach” that the protestant Bible does not have. The issue is whether or not books such as these are canonical in nature. Are they a revelation of God? Modern challenges against the accepted canon are books such as the Da Vinci Code and the Gospel of Judas. These books are in fact inserting another branch to the Gospel that disagrees with it. Gnosticism at its finest is nothing more than a heresy which teaches that God is imperfect, and that humans are nearly divine in nature, trapped in a material world (1). One major problem with this is that Christianity is an intolerant “religion.” This means precisely what John 14:6 says is correct: “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (NIV John 14:6, emphasis mine). In other words, the point is that there is only one way to God; not by works, not by any other means than Christ Himself.
G. Composition
            Composition raises the question of what allowed the receivers of the revelation of God to compose them in a manner that would properly express God’s will, or prophecy, or something of that nature. The answer to this is simple. 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (NIV 2 Tim. 3:16). So the answer to the question of “where did they get it?” is simply from God. God allowed the receivers of the revelation of God to compose them in a manner that properly expressed God’s desires.
H. Illumination
            “Even while applying proper hermeneutics and methodology, there is a divine element to understanding God’s truth. The believer is aided by the Holy Spirit’s ministry of illumination in guiding the believer to an understanding of divine truth (1 Cor. 2:11–13)” (Enns 150). Illumination, in other words, is like a spark inside of oneself, and the Holy Spirit is who applies fuel for the light. The flow of the fuel is decided by the Holy Spirit.
I. Interpretation
            Interpretation is a huge subject. To put it in simple terms, there are processes that allow us to interpret the Bible at differing levels, which help us to attack the Bibles great wisdom at every angle. The bottom of the level might be something like a small group bible study, and if we were to go up a level or so, we might find exegesis and hermeneutics, which helps us understand the meaning of the Bible sections at a time, where Biblical theology allows us to interpret the Bible at a level that puts the Bible as a whole, and finally, systematic theology allows us to interpret the Bible using every possible means to do so, with scholarly discretion.

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus


Works Cited
            New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
            William Greenough Thayer Shedd and Alan W. Gomes, Dogmatic Theology, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub., 2003).
            The Holy Bible: New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984).
            Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997, c1989).
            J. Scott Horrell: In The Name Of The Father, Son And Holy Spirit: Constructing A Trinitarian Worldview (http://bible.org/article/name-father-son-and-holy-spirit-constructing-trinitarian-worldview)

The Nature and Work of God



A. Existence of God
            “Ultimately, this Most High God is mystery. Some aspects of the divine nature may not be revealed nor could they be comprehended by finite beings. Rather our understanding of God is based upon revelation given in a finite situation and in conditions that have meaning for us as finite beings. It is through God’s grace in self-revelation (especially through Jesus Christ and the Bible) that he can be known. Yet what God has revealed of himself is true to what he is and fully sufficient to know and to love him. We conclude that God, before any and all creation, existed as all-inclusive, self-sufficient and tri-personal as Holy Trinity” (Horrell). Although God is in fact mysterious, He allows us to see parts of Him that we can handle: “And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (NASB Mat. 17:2). Take a look especially at Exodus 33: “Then the Lord said [to Moses], “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen” (NIV Exo. 33:21-23; emphasis mine). Also, we see that God, in His existence, is above us in thought, possibly because we simply can’t handle the truth about Him. “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (NASB Isa. 55:8-9). In any event, by no means a last resort, we see through nature that there is a creator. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (NIV Romans 1:20). We can see through nature that there is clearly design (which requires a designer). After seeing this logic, one may question things, such as their own existence or even be curious to know more about their creator, and conclude that it is time to seek (see Matthew 7:7).
B. Names and Attributes of God
            “Divine attributes are modes either of the relation or of the operation of divine essence. They are, consequently, an analytical and closer description of the essence” (Greenough, Shedd and Gomes 274). In other words, Divine attributes are a more clearly focused definition of the essence of God. In the two classes of divine attributes of God (passive relation of the essence or an active operation of it), there are sub-points such as omniscience, omnipotence, infinity, and several of these can be categorized under the same head of understanding, such as wisdom and omniscience (Ibid.). There are two degrees of divine attributes as well, Incommunicable and communicable.  Incommunicable attributes are those that belong to God exclusively, so that there is nothing resembling them in a created spirit. They admit no degrees, but are divine by their very nature. Such are self-existence, simplicity, infinity, eternity, immutability. The communicable attributes are those which are possessed in a finite degree, more or less, by men and angels” (Ibid. 275). Put in simpler terms, Incommunicable attributes are attributes only God can have, because he IS God.
            Let’s take a look at the divine incommunicable attribute “Infinity” just to get an idea of how to understand things, and set an example. In the book of Job, chapter eleven, there is a clear explanation to the infinity of God. “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea” (NIV Job 11:7-9). All of these rhetorical questions point to an unending quest for one to completely know the mysteries of God. He only allows us to know what we do until He stops us from knowing. He volunteers only so much information, and even with that, it is basically unfathomable.
C. Triunity of God
            “The members of the Holy Trinity can be known and worshiped together as God, or known and worshiped individually as God” (Horrell). The Trinity; God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, are all one. I think the best example on Earth of the Trinity can be seen in marriage. “The two shall cleave together and become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Not that the trinity was ever separated before, but we, as humans, are limited in our earthly understanding and examples. So then, a man and a woman are two separate beings at first. They live separate, have different responsibilities, are surrounded by different things, they have different goals, different expectations for their futures, and they are ultimately pointed in two different directions.
            When these two hypothetical people marry however, things begin to change. To start, they are now living together, which takes getting used to because they are used to being independent, more concerned with themselves. They are starting to be surrounded by the same things because of the fact that they are living together. They are gaining responsibilities towards each other now. Their futures not only have the significant other in them, but their expectations are starting to become similar as well. Most of all, they aren’t pointing in such different directions anymore. The arrows of their lives are facing in the same general direction. Keep in mind that this isn’t a perfect example because humans aren’t perfect, and or are marriages.
            In any event, like the marriage example, the Trinity is united. We can see in the citation above, each member of the Trinity, AND the Trinity itself, is worthy of worship because in a way, they are both definitions of “God.” All three members of the trinity are called “God” in the Bible (see John 20:28; Acts 5:3-4; and obviously, Genesis 1:1. If you don’t like that one for some reason, see John 1:1). Unlike humans, or their imperfect examples of marriage, the members of the Trinity are never in disagreement in the entire context of the Bible or history.
D. The Decrees of God
            The decrees of God are created things that have an eternal purpose, and have always been in His plan. “He knows everything from everlasting to everlasting and at each instant, and there is no more than everything. He knew before it came to pass that Christ would be crucified upon Calvary. When that event occurred, it made no change in his knowledge. He was no better informed than he was before. He was no more certain of the crucifixion after the event than he was before it, because he had decreed that it should take place. He could not have foreknown that it would take place, unless he had predetermined that it should” (Greenough, Shedd and Gomes 285; emphasis mine). This citation allows us to see more clearly the definition of God’s decrees. The fact that Jesus DID, in fact, die on the cross, was allowed by God long before it happened. The decrees of God are predetermined events that may seem either positive or negative in nature. “God can will a change in the affairs of men—such as the abrogation of the levitical (sic) priesthood and ceremonial—and yet his own will remain immutable, because he had from eternity willed and decreed the change” (Greenough, Shedd and Gomes 285).
E. God’s Creation
            The creation of God is one of His decrees. “God creates all things from eternity by one act of power, as he knows all things from eternity by one act of knowledge and as he decrees all things from eternity by one act of will” (Greenough, Shedd and Gomes 281). Because we know that the creation is one of God’s decrees, that allows us to understand that the creation was always meant to be. Therefore there has always been a purpose to every reaction caused by the action. “God’s energy as the cause of the creation is one and succession less, like his decree; the creation itself, as the effect of this eternal cause, is a successive series. The cause is one; the effect is many. The cause is eternal; the effect is temporal” (Ibid.).
F. God’s Providence
            “The manifestations of divine power are seen in providence, by which what has been created is preserved, and controlled: “Upholding all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). [See also; Colossians 1:17: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (NIV).] The omnipotence of God exerted in the act of creation is denominated potentia absoluta.  In this instance, there is no use made of anything that is in existence. It is the operation of the first cause alone. Divine omnipotence exerted in providence is called potentia ordinata. In this instance, there is use made of existing things. God in providence employs the constitution and laws of nature which he created for this very purpose. The first cause uses second causes previously originated ex nihilo. God causes the warmth of the atmosphere by the rays of the sun, and not by an exertion of absolute omnipotence” Greenough, Shedd and Gomes 290; emphasis mine). In other words, Providence is how God cares for His creation. A clock must be built, hung, and wound before someone can use it for practical purposes. Providence is the hypothetical winding of the creation. Providence is the never-ending winding, so to speak.
In Conclusion
            Studying the revelation, nature and work of God are most assuredly ways to better understand one’s relationship with Him, and understand how He operated in the past, operates in the present and  how He will operate in the future of not only the world, but also in one’s life, which to Him, is bigger than the world.

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord
Works Cited
            New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
            William Greenough Thayer Shedd and Alan W. Gomes, Dogmatic Theology, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub., 2003).
            The Holy Bible: New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984).
            Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997, c1989).
            J. Scott Horrell: In The Name Of The Father, Son And Holy Spirit: Constructing A Trinitarian Worldview (http://bible.org/article/name-father-son-and-holy-spirit-constructing-trinitarian-worldview)

On Knowledge of Salvation

How much must one know about Jesus Christ in order to be saved? In other words, what is the limit of knowledge that God requires in order to confer salvific grace?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (NASB John 3:16).

The Agent

In the book of John, chapter three, verse sixteen, one can find a passage of scripture that has been used for many years as a summary for what Christians today call the Bible. With an analysis of this verse, one can plainly see that there is a goal that should be sought out by everyone. “For God so loved the world” allows the readers to see who this message is directed towards, aside from Nicodemus. With that in mind, one can see that the word “whoever” can address every reader and every “believer” as well.

One of the goals readers should seek from this verse is very simple: That we as humans should desire eternal life. The real question is how does one obtain eternal life? Or better yet, how does one become saved from eternal death? The answer to this question can be found in the very same verse which is, through belief in the Son of God.

Jesus is called the agent that God used to find a way to save sinful humans from death. “Verse 16 serves as a statement of fact involving the agency (the Son) God used to bring salvation to the world” (Borchert 183). Christ is the answer to the problem of a perfect God having the company of imperfect humans. Jesus is the agent, answer or instrument by which we become saved.

The Insufficient Jesus

Is there anyway that Jesus could possibly be insufficient, as in, incapable as fully saving us from death? The answer to this question totally and completely depends on which Jesus, one is talking about. The Jesus spoken of in the New World Translation, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a god” (NWT John 1:1; underlining mine), is a totally different person altogether. With this verse out of the Book that the Jehovah’s Witnesses call the Bible, the word “a” is added to the original scriptures and “god” is not capitalized. To them, Jesus is not God. He cannot claim deity, and the Trinity is something that man conjured up.

One problem with their interpretation of John 1:1 is that in the shadow of the first of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus chapter twenty, verse three, “You shall have no other gods before me” (NASB Exo. 20:3), and in their “Bible,” “You must not have any other gods against my face” (NWT Exo. 20:3; See the reference to Hebrews 12:19, they point to the word “added”). If one were to ask a Jehovah’s Witness “Are there any other gods beside God the Father?” They would simply say no, and point the person in the direction of Exodus chapter twenty verse three. This creates a problem, then, with their doctrine. Exodus says have no other gods, but John 1:1 says that Jesus was “a” god.

In the New World Translation we can also see in the same book, John chapter twenty, verse twenty eight, Thomas says to Jesus, “My Lord, and my God” indicating that Thomas believed in Jesus’ deity. Pointing this scriptural path out to Jehovah’s Witnesses can be devastating to their beliefs.

Jehovah’s Witnesses try to use other scriptures in the Bible to show a person that Jesus was not God. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (ESV Col. 1:15-16; underline mine).

Why Is Jesus called the “firstborn?” Does it mean that God created Him first? If this were true, it would completely shake the foundations of Christianity! Believers hold to the doctrine that Jesus is the creator of the world and its systems (See John 1:10 and Col. 1:17). Again though, the answer is simple. The reason Jesus is called the firstborn can be seen in verse sixteen: “all things were created through him and for him.” In other words, at the first glance, the definition of “firstborn” might easily be misinterpreted. In this instance however, “firstborn” shows a place of rank. “Firstborn sometimes does mean the first one born. For example, ‘Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh. … The second son he named Ephraim’ (Genesis 41:51-52). At other times firstborn means the first in rank, position, or privilege—the heir, as in Jeremiah 31:9: ‘I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son.” Although David was the youngest son of Jesse, God says of David, “I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth’ (Psalm 89:27)” (Kern 28).

The point is this: the Jesus spoken of in the Christian Bible, not the Jesus the brother of Michael the arch angel according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is completely sufficient for the salvation of one’s soul, because of who He is, and because of what His works have accomplished.

The Deity of Christ

Why is it important that we believe that Christ is in the Godhead? As one can observe from above, the question may arise if Christ isn’t deity, is it enough to save mankind from their sins. To rephrase, what made the earthly life of Christ (dying on the cross in our place, for a way to cleanse us from our sins) a perfect propitiation for our sins?

If Christ was a mere man, how could He save us from our sins? One could spend a few moments with another person and be able to recognize that they aren’t perfect. Not only that, one could also eventually see the sin that is present, and examine himself or herself and see sin present in their life as well.

One can observe many passages of scripture that show the divine nature of Christ. Let’s look at a few: In Matthew 28:20 Jesus commands us to baptize in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit, equating the three. In the verse mentioned above where Thomas called Him “Lord and God,” Jesus would have sharply corrected him if he was off in his mode of labeling. Also in Philippians chapter two, Paul shows us how Jesus made himself nothing. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (NIV Phil. 2:5-7).

The importance of Christ’s deity is crucial to the Christian beliefs. “At the heart of orthodox belief is the recognition that Christ died a substitutionary death to provide salvation for a lost humanity. If Jesus were only a man He could not have died to save the world, but because of His deity, His death had infinite value whereby He could die for the entire world” (Enns 225). Clearly, one can see the value of Christ being divine.

The Humanity of Christ

If the nature of Christ were only that of deity, then death on the cross wouldn’t have meant anything because He wouldn’t have really died, the swoon theory wouldn’t be too far from the truth, and He wouldn’t have suffered like a human would have. “The doctrine of the humanity of Christ is equally important as the doctrine of the deity of Christ. Jesus had to be a man if He was to represent fallen humanity. First John was written to dispel the doctrinal error that denies the true humanity of Christ (cf. 1 John 4:2). If Jesus was not a real man, then the death on the cross was an illusion; He had to be a real man to die for humanity” (Enns 222).

Scripturally speaking, there are many passages that document Christ’s human nature as well. In Matthew 4:2, the Bible tells us that Jesus was hungry after fasting. Would a ghost or a god be hungry? Or tired (see Mark 4:37-38)? Would a ghost or a god grow in stature as a human would (see Luke 2:52)? Or again, would a spirit become weary after a long journey (see John 4:5-6). One more question. What kind of god would cry (see John 11:35)? The point is, while He was completely divine, He was completely human in nature as well.

What One Should Know

One can look at the map of the “Roman road” for guidelines to what he or she should know. In Romans: 1:20-21, Men are without excuse in that they can’t deny the fact that God exists because they observe His creation everyday through the five senses, and since there is an all powerful God, maybe there is more to it, such as God having a Son (Implying that one shouldn’t stop at simply understanding God exists); 3:23, all have sinned. We all fall short of God’s glory; 5:8, in the midst of our sins, Christ died for us; 6:23 the payment for sin is death, but God’s gift is eternal life; 10:9-10, confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in that God has raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved; 10:13, call on His name and you will be saved (see also Matthew chapter seven verses seven through eleven)(see also Romans 11:36; See web link in Works Cited).

Minimum Requirements

These passages of Scripture definitely put one on the right track as far as heading in the direction of salvation. From these passages the basics would seem to be that the absolute minimum one could know for salvation would be that A) there is a God, B) everyone sins and sin keeps us from being with God (see Psalms 66:18), C) Christ Died so that we can be with God, D) Believe and confess that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God raised Him from the dead.

One would have to know that there is a God in order to be saved, and they would also have to know that they are at fault and that Jesus took that fault away from them. With that being done, 1) they aren’t required to pay for their sins beyond the death of their earthly body, and 2) they now have eternal life, which is God’s gift to us through Jesus. A gift, meaning, no one can bribe God, or work for their salvation in order to receive it. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (ESV Eph. 2:8-9).

Conclusion

How much must one know about Jesus in order to be saved is like asking the question, “Who is God?” The answers to both questions are not simple, nor do they stop. When one comes to the question in their mind of whether or not they are saved helps them discover where they are spiritually. Once one understands that there is a God (Romans 1:20) what becomes the next step? Clearly the next step would be to seek this idea of an existing God. With that in mind, down the road when one has a stronger relationship with God, he or she will realize that God has promised if one seeks, they will find; if one were to ask, it will be given; and finally, if one were to knock, the door would be opened for them.

In light of Luke 12:48, “But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. ” (ESV Luke 12:48a), a person can get the idea that God will Judge righteously and despite their ignorance “God’s judgment will be fair. It will be based on what the servants know of God’s will. This is not to suggest that the more ignorant we are, the easier time we will have at the Judgment Seat of Christ! We are admonished to know God’s will (Rom. 12:2; Col. 1:9) and to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)” (Wiersbe). In other words, it only begins at salvation.


Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus


Works Cited
            New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
            Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1996).
            New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures: (Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. Copyright 1984).
            The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).
            Kern, Herbert: How to respond: Jehovah’s Witnesses (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO; Copyright 1977, 1995).
            Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997, c1989).
            The Holy Bible: New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984).
            Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989).