Sunday, May 7, 2017

Transliteration: A Literary Tool

The most important thing to remember about any translation process, is that it cannot be performed without interpretation.  Which means, translation always carries the opinion of the translator.

When translating from one language into another language, such as Greek into English, there are at least three different tools that can be applied.

1)  Translation
2)  Interpretation
3)  Transliteration

Translation

Translation is the processes of converting a word of one language into the corresponding word in another language.  This rarely works perfectly as there are concepts and ideas expressed by a word in a given language that cannot be adequately expressed by a word in another language.  When I was cutting my Christian Teeth in the Southern Baptist Convention, I was taught - with no doubt what-so-ever - the the KJB was a "word for word translation."  Imagine my dismay (and embarrassment of naivety) when years later, I learned differently.  I discovered that there are ideas, expressions and syntax in Hebrew and Greek that simply cannot be expressed word-for-word in English.  In those instances, another tool is used: interpretation.

Interpretation

Interpretation is used with translation to convey the underlying idea of a word or sentence in a given language into their equivalent idea in a target language.  This is performed by applying various corollary ideas and constructs in order to properly express the original idea.  If however, this translation and interpretation process becomes overly cumbersome, we may use another tool called transliteration.

Transliteration

There are three reasons why transliteration would be used
  1. When there is no useful word in the target language that conveys the same meaning 
  2. When repetitive interpretation would be too cumbersome for the literary context 
  3. When the translator wants to hide the actual meaning of the word.
Transliteration is the process of converting a word in a source language into a new word in the target language by either transposing letter-for-letter between the two languages, or transposing sound-for-sound between the two languages.  In either case, a new word is created in the target language.  Since a new word is constructed, its definition must be provided by the translator.  Once defined, the word can be used to convey the original intent and idea without re-interpretation and translation.

Whether you realize it or not, a number of traditional New Testament doctrines survive as you know them only because of transliteration.

Baptize

Depending upon your denominational bent, baptize either means sprinkling water upon someone, or it means immersing someone completely.  But did you know that baptize is a transliteration, not a translation, not an interpretation?  The interpretation, or definition of the Greek "baptizō" (bap-tid'-zo) is to make fully wet.  The appropriate translation is immerse.  Therefore, John the Baptist was actually known as John the Immerser.  When we realize that the traditionally correct method of baptism in the Catholic church (Reformed or not) was sprinkling, then we understand why the transliteration was provided, and why its definition was provided outside of scripture.

Deacon

In the KJB, the word "deacon", in its various forms, is found 5 times.  It is transliterated from "diakonos" and "diakoneō".  But did you also know that these two forms alone are collectively found 67 times in the New Testament?  These two words are translated as follows:
  • minister
  • servant
  • to be ministered unto
  • serve
  • administer
Did you further know that Paul considered himself a deacon?
What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants (diakonosthrough whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. (1 Cor. 3:5 [NASB])
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers (diakonosby whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? (1 Cor. 3:5 [KJV])
Therefore, when you see transliteration without definition, you should consider that a huge red flag. 

What the translators did, when providing a transliteration for deacon, was to hide the meaning of the word in order to support an organizational structure within a state sanctioned and controlled institution.  Essentially, they helped propitiate the office of the deacon where non existed.

But what about 1 Timothy 3:13? 
 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
If you consider the interlinear version of that passage, you will hardly recognize it.  Word-for-word, it reads as follows [words added for clarity]:
those indeed well having served a standing for themselves good acquire and great confidence in [the] faith that [is] in Christ Jesus.


The KJV translators took such liberty with this section of scripture, that the Greek word for office (praxis) - which means a practice, deed or work - is not even found in this section.

The point is to not take things at face value.  Dig in and discover for yourself what is actually there, or not there.

Further Study

Other words you might find interesting to study:

Apostle

  • Using the surrounding context of scripture, discover how many apostles are mentioned or referred to in the New Testament.

Angel

  • How has our doctrine of angels been influence and/or established by transliteration?


Saturday, April 8, 2017

An Eternal Mindset

Of all the parables of Jesus, these are two of which I find most pungent for the believer:
Both of these parables address our personal calling, specifically given to us by God.  This calling, this assignment, is our race.   Finding our calling, running our race, enables us to finish well and receive a full reward, "the prize" as it's called by Paul.

The Parables

In both parables, a nobleman leaves to go on a journey.  But before doing so, he calls his slaves and entrusts various assets to them.  In the parable of the minas, each one receives an identical investment.  In the parable of the talents, each one receives an investment tailored to their abilities.  And in both scenarios, the slaves all increase their investments except one who asserts the fear of his master and, because of that fear, does nothing with the investment.  In essence, the excuse is that the master would take from the slave what he had worked to produce - so what's the point of working at all?  "Here, you have what is yours," is the paraphrased response.

The typical doctrine of these parables suggests that you've been given talent or ability, so make sure you use it for God.  Otherwise, you're wasting the gifts He has given you.  While at a superficial level that is not an inaccurate description, there is a larger context involving "The Race," "The Judgement Seat of Christ," and the "Full Reward."

Our Race To Win or Lose

In a race, you're supposed to start at the beginning, run the assigned course and declare a winner.  In a foot race, not everyone wins.  But in God's economy, we're not in competition with others, but ourselves.

Therefore, it's possible to run the race but fail to receive a reward.  Because although we may have started well, we can get off course by choosing our own way or creating our own path instead of following the course designed for us.

We can run until we collapse, but unless we begin at a proper starting line and run the course laid out by the Course Master, we will end up in the woods or on some deserted road: exhausted, dehydrated and perhaps close to death, hoping someone will help us find our way back to where we should be.

Paul admonished the Galatians to get back into the race: "you were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?" (Gal 5:7). This reflects Pauls' admonition to the Corinthians when he said, "do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win" (1 Cor 9:24).  John had a similar admonition when he said, "watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward" (2 John 1:8).

Furthermore, we are not designed to run a race that exasperates us (Eph. 6:4) - anger, frustration, failure: those are not the course we have been given by a good father. While there will be such things and seasons in our life (2 Cor 4:8-12), we are designed to be more than conquers; we are designed to stay in the race given to us and to finish well.

What we see then, in these encouragements of Paul and John, are those things spoken by Jesus in the parables.  Some of the slaves received a full reward, while others received no reward and suffered loss.  This dovetails precisely into the Judgement Seat of Christ.

The Judgment Seat of Christ

At this judgment, Christ is seen as our judge.  We will be evaluated for our works (e.g., our works of the flesh or of Faith -James 2:14-26).  However, we will not be judged for our sins, since Jesus has been judged for us (2 Cor 5:21).  If we are to be judged for our sins, then the work of Jesus was incomplete and it is therefore not by grace through faith by which we are saved (Eph 2:8-11).   The implication, therefore, is this: at the Judgement Seat of Christ, we can
  1. Receive a full reward
  2. Receive a partial reward
  3. Receive no reward
  4. Suffer loss
  • For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).
  • For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Cor 3:11-15).
  • "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned." (Matt 12:36-37)
  • "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day (John 12:48)
The point then is to live - to run your race - in such a way that you receive a reward.  

James suggested that this life we live is but a vapor.  But it is this life in which we earn our eternal reward.  How you live it up to you.  What you do with your calling, and how you work it out, is up to you:
  • Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

I Serve because I Love!

Some people, when considering the judgment seat of Christ eventually retort by saying, "I serve Jesus because I love Him - not because I'm expecting a reward!!"  But I would encourage such people to recall that it was John who loved Jesus the most and also said that we should live in such a way that we "may receive a full reward."

Secondly, there are things we are all called to do - preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead, etc. (see: Matthew, Mark). These are general callings or commissions that apply to all of Gods' children.  But there are also things that apply specifically to a given person, e.g., Jeremiah: "'for I know the plans (thoughts, purpose, intentions) that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope" (Jer 29:11). It is this purpose to which we are called.  And as we consider what Paul said to the Ephesians, we see the same concept being echoed:
  • For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10)
In other words, there is a purpose in our salvation: to perform good works, those which were prepared beforehand that we would walk in them.  Those good works include are our calling, our purpose in His Kingdom. 
  • If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not, for this reason, any the less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not, for this reason, any the less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?  But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. (1 Cor 12:15-26)

What is My Calling?

Only you can answer that question.  You may be called to raise godly children; to be a doctor; to teach impoverished children in the inner-city or science in the suburbs; to preach; to teach; to heal.

Your calling is for you, and only you can ascertain it.

The judgment seat of Christ will be for many, a good day.  But for those who suffer loss, it will be a bad day only to be made better by the joy of entering into His kingdom and by Jesus who wipes away our tears:  
  • And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”  And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5)

In Summary

The point, then is this: everyone is on a level playing field: whether you receive 5 talents or 1, you've received that which you're capable of reproducing.  Everyone starts off well, everyone has been given a task.  But according to scripture, there's an end-game scenario where some of us can suffer loss, where some of us can have what was given to us taken away, and given to others.

Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to find your calling and run your race well.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Dissolving the Doctrine of Divorce

I don't have a problem with all of the tenants of Fundamentalism, in example, we agree on Soteriology and other doctrines which I will not enumerate here.

But I do have a problem with Legalism, and on the point of divorce, I find them both in agreement. But Legalism is a problem in an of itself, separate from the 21st-century definition of Fundamentalism that I have in mind in this essay.


The Principle of First Mention

The Principle or Law of First Mention (see here) simply means this: when someone is first exposed to an idea, that exposure will color or influence every exposure to the same information thereafter. This principle is why most parents want to teach their children about sex before anyone else: they want to set a proper context and framework from which the subject will be understood henceforth. We can see this principle in the extreme when a child is sexually abused: the abuse colors their self-worth and understanding of intimacy for the rest of their lives.

In scripture, the principle functions much the same way - although it must be handled carefully. In example, you can't look to Cain's offering and assume the Grain Offering (more here) that was instituted later, is unacceptable.

The Mosaic Law mentions divorce, and it specifically addresses key issues that must be considered as Jesus deals with the topic when questioned by the religious leaders of the time.  In this way divorce, as found in the Law, must be considered as "first mention" material.

The Fundamentalist's Viewpoint of Divorce

It is practically impossible to parse any Christian doctrine of divorce, listen to a sermon about divorce, or discuss divorce with a Fundamentalist without having at least these scriptures used as proof texts as to why divorce is sin and no one should ever get a divorce:

It hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32) 
For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. (Malachi 2:16)
The problem I've encountered (and have in the past been guilty of myself) is that while discussing some doctrines with a Legalist or Fundamentalist, people will find they may not rely upon well-reasoned or well-formed exegesis to arrive at their conclusions. They instead point to how other Pastors teach the same thing, or how their denominational sect has maintained the doctrine for a very long time, or they cherry-pick their scriptures carefully to support their doctrine, or perhaps they may take a page from a certain Southern Baptist Preacher who first said in the mid 1980's, "God said, I believe it, that settles it," - without any real reasonable scriptural foundation, thus calling their beliefs a faith.

I would like to suggest that good doctrine is reasonable:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)
The astute student will note that wisdom is different from knowledge: wisdom addresses how to do something whereas knowledge addresses what something is.  Thus wisdom, in view of the doctrine of divorce, is correct in this instance since the doctrine address how to do (or not do) divorce.

But suffice it to say, the Fundamentalist's viewpoint on divorce is simply this:
  1. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16)
  2. Jesus said one commits adultery by remarrying after divorce (Matthew 5:31-32)

Does God Really Hate Divorce?

If divorce is sin, then yes: God hates divorce.  But we must have a proper understanding of hate.  

From a Biblical point of view, hate is not criticism or mean words, or an intense dislike, as typically defined throughout the blogosphere and various pulpits of today.   Hate is the opposite of love; it is not apathy as many have been taught.  Love is an action word and apathy is inaction, therefore, apathy cannot be the opposite of love.  Love builds up, it is constructive.  Hate tears down, it is destructive.  Therefore, hate is the opposite of love.  What Jesus did on the cross was hate poured out upon death:
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: (2 Timothy 1:10)
The word abolished means to "render entirely idle".  What Jesus did in the flesh was the manifest action of hatred towards sin and death.  So then, if God hates divorce, then He wants to abolish it.  That is actually a reasonable position, in my opinion.

But is divorce sin?  I will provide you the following scripture and let you be the judge:
"And I {God} saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also." (Jeremiah 3:8)
In other words, God is divorced - and He initiated the divorce Himself.  I would also like to suggest that God in the process of reconciliation, but that is a topic for another time.

However, for our Fundamentalist friends, that bit of scripture should put them in a treacherous quandary - should they accept the Bible as written here: for when one teaches that divorce is a sin, then they have the unfortunate and untenable position of defending their theology in the light of Jeremiah 3:8.  

Notice also the two activities associated with divorce: He "sent her away," and secondly, He gave "her a writ of divorce."  Those activities, while related, are not one in the same as we will see later.  In other words, you can send someone away without being divorced (inside or outside of marriage), but you can't be divorced without sending someone away.  Thus, sending away can be likened to sending someone on an errand or being estranged prior to divorce, while being divorced consists of a decree and a separation.

Divorce vs. Sent Away

In the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), the word divorce is used 4 times:
This word in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is indexed as H3748:
er-ee-thooth' (kerı̂ythûth): From H3772; a cutting (of the matrimonial bond), that is, divorce: - divorce (-ment).
Notice that marriage is an assumed pre-requisite for this word.  

Now let's look at Malachi 2:16, and putting away: the proof text used by many to prove that God hates divorce.  The Strong's index for putting away is H7971.  It is found 848 times in the KJB in 791 verses.
H7971: shaw-lakh' (shâlach) - A primitive root; to send away, for, or out (in a great variety of applications): - X any wise, appoint, bring (on the way), cast (away, out), conduct, X earnestly, forsake, give (up), grow long, lay, leave, let depart (down, go, loose), push away, put (away, forth, in, out), reach forth, send (away, forth, out), set, shoot (forth, out), sow, spread, stretch forth (out).
Examples:
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: (Genesis 3:22)
And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. (Genesis 8:7)
When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan; (Genesis 28:6)
And I will send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety; and they will know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 39:6)
Neither shall they shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long; they shall only poll their heads. (Ezekiel 44:20)
For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. (Malachi 2:16)
Genesis 3:22 doesn't imply their hands would be separated from them; Genesis 8:7 doesn't suggest the raven never came back, and Genesis 28:6 likewise does not teach that Jacob never returned.  While it is clear that interpretation is a necessary function of translation, we cannot ignore that an alternative reading of Malachi 2:16 could be "For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth growing long ..."  Albeit, that rendering is improper: it ignores the meaning of the context; but I provide it as a hyperbole, to help demonstrate the difference between "putting away" and "divorce" in the Old Testament.

I would like to suggest that in examining how this word for putting away is used elsewhere in the OT, we clearly find no support for it being inferred or translated as divorce.  When the OT wants to talk about divorce, it uses a very specific word for that idea.  When the OT wants to talk about a separation, it uses an entirely different word for that idea which has no inference with divorce, except when used in such a context.   Furthermore, in no way would anyone understand these examples of put away to mean divorce between a married couple after reviewing the scriptural usage of this word in the OT.

But that is exactly what the Fundamentalist wants you to believe in regards to Malachi 2:16.  The question we must ask them is this: why?  Why do they want you to believe that put away means divorce in Malachi 2:16?

Perhaps the Teaching of Jesus

In Matthew 5:31-32, and in the companion verses in Mark 10, we see two words: "divorce" and "put away."
It hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)
The Strong's number for put away is G630.  It is used 69 times in 63 verses in the KJB NT, but it's translated as divorce only once in Matthew 5:32.  It is translated as released, depart and even as forgiven:
G630: ap-ol-oo'-o (apoluó) - From G575 and G3089; to free fully, that is, (literally) relieve, release, dismiss (reflexively depart), or (figuratively) let die, pardon, or (specifically) divorce: - (let) depart, dismiss, divorce, forgive, let go, loose, put (send) away, release, set at liberty.
The word indicates a separation between one thing and another, even as far to liberate one from a thing (as from a bond).  So divorce can clearly be within the implied scope of its meaning (Thayer's Greek Dictionary: H630).  But is that the primary usage of the word?  Perhaps not.

The Putting Away of Mary

In Matthew 1:18-19, we find Joseph and Mary are engaged, Mary is pregnant with Jesus and Joseph is going to end the relationship.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away (apoluó) privily.
The word for "espoused" is mnēsteúō. It means to court or woo one over for the purpose of being married. In essence, Mary was not married to Joseph when she was found to be pregnant with Jesus.  The word for "put her away" is apoluó.  If we are to assume that apoluó always means divorce, as some do teach, then we must by necessity re-write the doctrine of the virgin birth.

There's a Word for Divorce in the NT Too

The Greek word for divorce is apostasion, Strong's G647.  It's used only 3 times across 3 verses in the NT, all being translated into a form of the word divorce. 
G647: ap-os-tas'-ee-on (apostasion) - Neuter of a (presumed) adjective from a derivative of G868; properly something separative, that is, (specifically) divorce:- (writing of) divorcement.
  • Matthew 5:31 - "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement"
  • Matthew 19:7 - "They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?"
  • Mark 10:4 - "And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away."
In all of the examples provided by scripture (both OT and NT) regarding divorce, we find two words, two ideas: one for put away and one for divorce. It is incongruent to suggest that put way should always be translated as divorce when Holy Spirit made a specific distinction between the two words in the original text.

In other words, scripture doesn't say, "whosoever shall divorce his wife, let him give her a writing of putting away."  But that is exactly what the Fundamentalists are suggesting you believe.  Contrary to that doctrine, we find that a Biblical divorce must be executed with a written decree and a separation: it's not just a separation, it's not just a decree.  To suggest it's only a separation is to twist it's usage into something not supported by scripture.  And as we will see later, the implementation of divorce was exactly the problem being corrected.

What's Being Hidden

But what the Fundamentalist doesn't disclose to you, in their eloquent sermons regarding divorce - either through ignorance or purposeful obfuscation - is this: Matthew 19:7, 5:31-32 and Mark 10:4 describe the same two distinct actions that God performed in Jeremiah 3:8 -  put away and divorce.

  • Jeremiah 3:8 - "And I {God} saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also." 
  • Matthew 5:31 - "It hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement" 
  • Matthew 19:7 - "They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?" 
  • Mark 10:4 - "And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away."
Furthermore, they don't show you that in Matthew 5:31-32, divorce was substituted for put away by the translators at a very key place within the message.  Reverting divorce back to the original put away changes the message completely.

In the text below, we find the Greek word for divorce (apostasion) only once.  To help you understand what the translators have done, I have put into bold type every instance of apoluó (put away), and the final rendering of apoluó (translated as divorced) I have reverted to put away, which is a consistent translation with of the Greek:
It hath been said, whosoever shall put away (apoluó) his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement (apostasion): But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away (apoluó) his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is put away (apoluó) committeth adultery.
The character of the scripture is thus changed to provide a sense that someone can be put away  (estranged) without a divorce and in that instance, marriage to a woman who has been put away, but not divorced, causes her and the new husband to commit adultery.

What is being addressed are the needs of the woman who has little no standing as an estranged, non-divorced woman.

The Two Step Divorce Process

When we accept that the scriptures reflect what everyone knows about divorce, that there are two actions - the decree and the separation - then the conversations between the Jews and Jesus come into better clarity. 

In Matthew 19, we find a conversation between the Pharisees and Jesus regarding divorce.  In this testing of Jesus, the Pharisees refer to the two-step process of divorce: give a writing of divorcement and to put her away.  The words of Jesus in red:
The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away (apoluó) his wife for every cause?  he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.  They say unto him, why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement (apostasion), and to put her away (apoluó)?  He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away (apoluó) your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away (apoluó) his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away (apoluó) doth commit adultery. (Matthew 19:3-9)
While this may seem axiomatic - there's a divorce decree and a separation - it's possible to have a separation without a divorce. In today's vernacular we call it estrangement. The estranged person is a one who is not divorced but is living on their own, separated from their spouse. I knew a woman like this when I was a young man. Her husband was living with another woman, while the estranged wife had a home elsewhere.

Matthew 19 does seem to well make the case for putting away being tantamount to divorcing a wife; but there are two problems: the Law of Moses, and the pesky bit about tempting Jesus.

Tempting Jesus

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?  
The phrase tempting him, is described by Thayer's Greek dictionary as follows:
in a bad sense: to test one maliciously, craftily to put to the proof his feelings or judgment, Matthew 16:1Matthew 19:3Matthew 22:18, 35Mark 8:11Mark 10:2Mark 12:15Luke 11:16Luke 20:23 (Thayer's Greek Lexicon: 3985)
In other words, the Pharisees were putting Jesus' view of the Law regarding divorce to the test.  They were using, in the context of a lawful divorcement, the word for estrangement but casting it into the culturally accepted context of divorce.  In other words, putting away a wife - into a state of estrangement - was culturally accepted form of divorce.  This is why the they were trying to entrap Him with the Law of Moses: that's what to test one maliciously means in this context.  

Hebrews 10:28 tells us, "anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses." The word for "set aside" is Strong's G114; it means "'to act toward anything as though it were annulled'; hence, to deprive a law of force by opinions or acts opposed to it, to transgress itMark 7:9Hebrews 10:28 (Ezekiel 22:26)" (Thayer's Greek Lexicon: 114).  If Jesus had taught anything different that what the Law commanded regarding divorce and putting away, then the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees would have been able to catch Him at His words (Mark 12:13-34).

This is an important consideration for us as Christians.  The entirety of the life and ministry of Jesus rests upon Him being the spotless, sinless lamb of God.  In other words, to contradict the Law - to teach or do something other than what the Law instructed - was considered as sin and certainly would have been used against Him at His trial.  Hence, this is why they were trying to trap Him: to find some cause to have him arrested and killed (Matthew 12:14, 26:4).

But, they eventually had their fill reasoning with Him regarding the law, so much that "no one would venture to ask Him any more questions."  And at His trial, the Chief Priests and Council may have recalled that Jesus said, "till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18), and knew that "whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).   Therefore, they did their best to procure false witnesses against Him in order to levy charges against Him.  It was only when Jesus confessed to being the Son of God did they find an excuse to accuse Him of blasphemy (Matthew 26:63-66).

Therefore, it is axiomatic that Jesus' doctrine regarding divorce is in perfect alignment with the Law of Moses based both upon what He said (not "one jot or tittle shall ... pass") and the fact that the Council were require to manufacture false accusations against Him, and finally, at one point in His ministry, they ceased bringing arguments to Him at all.

What Saith the Law

So then, in summary we have the OT using divorce but a few times, the NT using divorce but a few times, and finally, the NT using put away seemingly as a synonym for divorce in at least one case when the religious leaders were trying to trap Him in a logical quandary against the Law.

But the real question is what does the Law say regarding divorce, the Law that Jesus fulfilled in word and deed?  If the Mosaic Law says anything contrary to what we are told to believe regarding what Jesus taught about divorce, then Jesus would have at least offended at one point and consequently been guilty of all.  If on the other hand, the Law of Moses does indeed contradict the Fundamentalist's doctrine of divorce, then perhaps their doctrine is more suited tradition rather than truth.  As Jesus said,
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:9
Essentially the Law of Moses teaches the following regarding divorce and re-marriage:
  1. Write a bill of divorce
  2. Put it in her hand
  3. Send her out
  4. Then she may re-marry
When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.  (Deuteronomy 24:1-3)
Since putting away (sending out) is not writing a bill of divorce, then it is axiomatic that we understand it to not be a divorce.  In other words, the process of writing a decree and then physically separating is the way divorce actually works - both scripturally and in our courts.  

If Jesus had actually taught that putting away a wife (without the written decree) was the same as writing a bill of divorce and that remarriage after a divorce caused adultery, then He would have contradicted, or at least stumbled at this very point in the Law of Moses: 
And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.
In other words, writing a bill of divorce and giving it to her must occur before sending her out, after which time she may remarry - alas without committing adultery - otherwise, the Mosaic Law regarding divorce contradicts both the Ten Commandments and Leviticus 20:10:
And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Recall that "to catch him in His words" was a goal of the Pharisees.  However, scripture is clear that in failing to do any such thing, they eventually left Him alone.  So, either the Pharisees didn't notice that Jesus was contradicting the Law when reasoning with Him about divorce, or they understood that according to the Law of Moses, putting away a wife (estrangement) was different from legally divorcing a wife.

We also need to understand why they were trying to catch Him in a fault at this point in the Law.  Estrangement, while an improper form of divorce, was culturally acceptable.  But the religious leaders knew the difference between estrangement and writing a divorce decree, they knew they were not the same according to the Law of Moses.  Hence an unlearned Man (which is how the religious leaders viewed Jesus) might not understand the subtle differences between the two and would perhaps  stumble on this finer point of the Law.

Understanding that the exchange in Mark was for the express purpose of tricking Jesus into stumbling regarding the Law, it is reasonable to see Jesus using their language (put away) while discussing their cultural interpretation of divorce.

Did Putting Away Ever Happen?

So then, the question might be this: did Jewish men put away their wives without divorcing them, and if they did, why? There are at least two sources we can draw upon to answer this question.

The first is Micha 2:9
The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever.
The word for "women" is "neshei" it occurs 10 times in the OT, and in each instance, except this one, it is translated as wives.  This verse seems to indicate that not only were the wives being evicted from their home, their husbands retained the children.

According to Robert Waters, this eviction, or putting away, was exactly the problem:
The wife that was put out of the house may well have been innocent of any wrongdoing, yet she could not marry another without a certificate of divorcement that proved her marriage was legally dissolved.  Thus, husbands who refused to give a bill of divorcement to those whom they had put away were disobeying God.  It is interesting that the same evil practice among the Jews is still going on to this day.
...
During the Mosaic age, a husband would often send (put) his wife away (Heb. shalach, Gk. apoluo) without a certificate of divorce. In God's sight, though, the husband committed adultery against her. Furthermore, his wife would find herself homeless and destitute and unable to remarry; to do so would be to commit adultery, and any man who married her would commit adultery (see Mark 10:11; Matt. 5:31-32), a crime that was punishable by death (Lev. 20:10). 

However, God laid down a procedure to prevent such evils and protect wives from such treachery. This procedure consisted of three actions: writing her a bill of divorcement, placing it in her hand, and sending her away (Deut 24:1-2).
But what was the advantage to the man, why would he put a woman on the street without a writ of divorce?  Waters goes on to explain thusly:
Previous to this {Deut. 24:1-2}, men were simply putting away or sending their wives out of the house (women did not have the same rights). At that time, men were permitted to have more than one wife and received a dowry also. But if a man divorced his wife then the dowry had to be returned. The dowry, however, did not have to be returned in a case where there was no formal divorce. We can see, then, that simply sending his wife out of the house was a way of avoiding any financial loss. However, the consequences were very serious for the wife: without a formal divorce, she was left without a home and a means of support; and, being still married, it was not lawful for her to remarry.

Summary

Jesus did not set aside, or amend the Law of Moses regarding divorce: He did not add consequences (adultery) to the act of divorce, contradictory to the Law (Deuteronomy 24:1-3).  Furthermore, He never used the word for divorced when speaking of committing adultery, but He did use the word for estranged and eviction.  Finally, there is scriptural evidence that wives were being evicted from their homes without a divorce decree; there is clear support for a proper divorce only occurs with a written decree, and there is clear support for remarriage after a proper divorce that does not result in adultery.  The bottom line is the NT has been translated in line with the tradition of men: with bias and without consideration of appropriate cohesion God's stated relationship with Israel (divorced) and with the Law of Moses.

Otherwise, the traditional, Fundamental interpretation of divorce causes us to put on blinders and make excuses for Jesus and/or scripture by ignoring the connection between the Mosaic Law and Jesus towards His fulfillment thereof.
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)
Jesus fulfilled the Law so perfectly that He could not be found guilty of any infraction by the Chief Priests and Council on any point - including divorce and grounds for adultery - even in the presence of false witnesses and the testimony of the Mosaic Law.
When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say. (Luke 11:53-54)
The Fundamentalist's doctrine of divorce relies upon tradition, the power of the Institutional Church, it's Pastor and the Congregants for its enforcement and avoidance thereof, and in the process, it removes the personal protection provided by God for those in real danger.

The better interpretation, the understanding that putting away without divorce is an estrangement and an eviction, that divorce consists of a decree and a separation, coalesces with reason and scripture by adding cohesion between both Testaments, while at the same time demonstrating that Jesus kept and fulfilled the Law even under intense scrutiny from the scribe and Pharisees who were trying to find a way to catch Him in something contrary to the Law.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

What's Wrong with Church

I recently read a post entitled "Why They Don't Sing in Church." While it's informative and raises good points, I found that it hit on some of my pet peeves regarding how people think about their relationship with the Body of Christ, Worship and God in general.

Who and what is The Church 

When addressing spectator set-up, it was suggested that "the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event," which begs the question: who's the church? Clearly it's not the "congregants" referred to in the next paragraph of the aforementioned blog.

But there's a deeper problem in Christianity today and it stems from how the Bible, particularly the KJB, was translated and subsequently, all later versions.

In the Tyndale Bible (the Bible which the KJB follows most), the word church appears only two times, in the book of Acts. In both instances, it refers to a place of pagan worship - as it does in every other language in which it's found. Secondly, the word "church" was used in the KJB not because the translators thought it to be a superior word to convey the meaning of assembly, but because King James required that "the old ecclesiastical words to be kept; as the word church, not to be translated congregation" (here).

The effect of that rule moved the focus from the assembly and their relationship to God to a focus on the organization - the institution.  So when your pastor is complaining about the cost of payroll and utilities, and follows it up with "you need to support your church," there's no question in your mind that it's the paid professionals that are considered as "the church" in that context.

Pride is a Symptom

What's wrong with the church can be found by tracing backwards from one of it's symptoms: pride.

Our pride is based in our sense of belonging, perhaps to our sense of being right and being associated with the correct group.  We take pride that our particular denomination or local assembly can trace it's roots back to a 19th or perhaps even an earlier century congregation.  As a matter of fact, some people believe that if you cannot trace your church's pedigree through a lineage of properly confessing and baptized individuals to a first century congregation, then you are not a part of a New Testament Church.  I'm not exactly sure what the converse of that logic means to those individuals, but given that they put such a preponderance of importance upon it, then surely it must mean that you're otherwise out of the will of God, or somehow otherwise cut off from His perfect will.

So, back to pride.

Having been a Presbyterian and a Baptist, I can assert that people who belong to those denominations do so because they believe their doctrines are better than the other groups' doctrine.  In other words, I was a Presbyterian because I believed they were right about their interpretation of the Bible (just as my Presbyterian friends believe today).  When I figured out that baptism was not for infants, I searched for a denomination that based their doctrine on what I believed was in concordance with Biblical teaching.

In other words, doctrine divides.  To many people, that's a great thing.  Because to them, not to worship in truth (correct doctrine) and spirit is anathema to proper living.  I have my doubts that they understand the spirit bit, but they've got a handle on truth - at least according to them.

The problem is that doctrine doesn't guarantee truth or correctness.  Jesus rebuked the Pharisees many times for their doctrines.  The Pharisees had tons of doctrine, but they were dead wrong.  And doctrine can't explain how God is loving, but hated Esau (Malachi 1:3); how He is the bright and morning star, yet veils Himself in darkness (Psalm 97:2), and how He hates divorce and yet is Himself divorced (Malachi 2:16, Jeremiah 3:8and preachers call divorce a sin - might you try re-reading your Bible on that, SBC?).

Discernment - Anyone can do it

As I see it, Holy Spirit is much closer than we realize.  Our ability for clarity of thought is much greater than we know.  But we're going to churches where the preachers think the congregants are just plain stupid, to dumb to know any better.  And by-in-large, the people lap it up.  Perhaps it tickles their ears?  I don't know.

But I do know that we have an innate ability discern more than we realize.  Consider what Jesus said to the crowds:
Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time? (Luke 12:56)
There are two key things we must understand about this passage.  First, Jesus called them hypocrites.  Second, it's not about the this time or the face of the sky: it's about discernment.

In our day and age, we consider a hypocrite as a person who says one thing, but does another.  But it goes deeper than that.  A hypocrite is also a person who does one thing in a certain context, but another thing in a similar context.  Paul accused Peter of being a hypocrite for his contradictory actions when with Jews and Gentiles.

The rebuke is about discernment: Jesus is addressing their hypocrisy around it.  In other words, they could to discern the face of the sky, but refused to discern the epoch, the time in which they were living.  In other words, they were hypocrites.  They weren't unaware, they didn't lack the ability to understand.  They were purposeful in their assessments.

What does this mean?  Everyone has the ability to discern good from evil, spirit from works.  You do not need to be born again in order to discern Life from Death, or right from wrong, or when God is speaking.

And therein is the rub for our good Bible Teaching Churches.  They believe that people can only understand, analyze or discern truth after being taught and exposed to truth.  Apparently, Jesus disagrees.  That's not to say we don't grow into maturity, seeing that "solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14).  But rather, what Jesus is talking about in this scripture is to be understood as the milk, the elementary principles of the oracles of God - which are about the Christ (Hebrews 5 & 6).

Conclusion

So what's wrong with the church is that we've traded doctrine for relationship, and good works programs for imputed righteousness.  We teach, learn and debate doctrines so we can be assured of our correctness and we do the good works so we can feel good about ourselves, so that we can measure up to a modern Christian standard.

Father RelationshipTeachers (not after Jesus' example)
LifestyleGathers around Intimacy in Spirit and TruthGathers around ideas (divisive)
AttitudeHumilityPride (knowledge puffs up)
MinistryWorks in Power and AuthorityWorks in many words
FocusThe KingdomTeaching / Doctrine




Faith without Works is Dead

wait a minute ... isn't pitch black?
Recently, the image to the right reminded of my heritage, as a Bible Thumping Baptist.

The image didn't set right with me, and it took a few moments to process why.  First, it called back to the legalism I was entrench.  Secondly, it touched that old spirit of division and elitism that so easily ensnares all of us through Denominational Doctrine.

It's been a while since I've last read Genesis and Hebrews, so I headed back there to re-read the story of Noah.

And what do you think I found?  

Noah was saved by grace, through faith - not through obedience as many would like to believe.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8)
By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith (Hebrews 11:7

But ... Obedience!

So then, what do we do with obedience? 

Obedience from the heart is what matters, not obedience for the sake of obedience - and that's where my Bible Thumping Baptist heritage took me through "learning the Bible."  They were all about being obedient to God.  Granted, there are many who can consume that doctrine and respond from the heart.  But since Christian denominations are rooted in Doctrine (which divides) rather than Relationship (which unites), I find it very unlikely that Mr. or Mrs. Average Christian actually gets it.  Rather, they find themselves right in the midst of living up to a standard through regular church attendance, singing in the choir, feeding the homeless and knocking on doors:
“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”  Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.  “When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?  “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me.  New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. (Isaiah 1:11-13)
The modern church doesn't need a relationship with God in order to function: they just need charismatic leadership, money and enough nicely designed programs to keep people entertained in their pursuit of pleasing God and measuring up through obedience.  So it's not the style of music that drives people away from God, it's doctrine without relationship enabled through good works programs.

Paul addressed this problem at Corinth.  He learned early on to not attempt to "wow" people with his dexterity of doctrine, but to bring them into an encounter (an experience) with God:
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God ... and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.  (1 Corinthians 4:19-20)

Conclusion

It wasn't obedience that built the Ark, it was the works of faith, based in a relationship with God.
But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:20)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Faith and Experience

Fruitful faith has a target or object upon which it is founded. It varies, but it could be reason, experience or a person, among other things. It's why we get our word faithful from faith: a faithful person has demonstrated two things: they have the ability to produce (you believe they can do a thing) and they will produce (you trust that they will do as they say). Faith placed in a faithful person always carries an expectation of experience. Such faith is well founded or well grounded because the person has demonstrated themselves to be reliable.

Therefore, faith is not demonstrated by how you feel, it's not demonstrated by the beliefs you hold, neither the doctrines you keep

Faith is demonstrated by what is produced: the outcome, the experience.  Faith "is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval."  What happens when the thing not seen and hoped for, shows up?  Faith moves out of the way and gives place to the experience.

Therefore, believing a doctrine for the sake of belief only, is worthless. That is not faith because such belief produces no work, no experience. James summed it up by suggesting that the demons have a proper belief too, but it is to them, worthless.
“But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." 
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 
But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:18-19)
Therefore, the conviction of the thing unseen must always bring fruit.  You can know if your faith was well place by observing the fruit.  As a matter of fact, you can determine the efficacy of a work or ministry by the same standard - "you shall know them by their fruit" (Matthew 7:20)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Hebrews 11:1)
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

You've Already Won the Battle

Count it all joy when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith will produce endurance (James 1:2-3)

But remember this: you will not be tested beyond that which you can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).

So, what's the deal? This: 
You will not be lead into battles you cannot win, nor are unable to fight. You will only be lead into conflict you can overcome.  Every battle that you encounter, is always a temptation to rely upon self or rely upon God.  Every single one.
Every battle is different, but they all will have one of the following characteristics
  1. There are battles wherein we are to do nothing but stand or take refuge (2 Samuel 22:3)  
    • These are the battles wherein God is demonstrating who He is to you.
  2. There are battles wherein we are to we are wrestle against the enemy.  
    • These are the times when God is demonstrating who you are in Him  (Ephesians 6:10-18).
That testing of your faith, the conflict that's wearing you down? You need to understand that since you're in the midst of it, you're already an over-comer, a victor. You're in the midst of something you can beat, win and conquer.  The devil may be seeking someone to devour, but not everyone is devoured.

So stop sulking and start living.

Consider that the Hebrews were lead away from the Egyptians, but lead into battle for the Promise Land. Why? They were already defeated against the Egyptians - in their minds, they were slaves, victims, they had already lost: it was a battle they could not win.

The first battle for the Promise Land was a shoe-in, but they missed the blessing because they did not have faith - they did not place their trust and confidence in God.

So, don't miss your blessing. Know that there are always two trees in your garden: there must always be something that comes against the promise.  Because without conflict, without choice, there is no growth.  In the process of the battle, pruning/cleansing will take place (John 15:1-5) to remove away those things that don't look like Him.


The question you must answer is this

To what do you give your voice, your heart?

The doubt, or the God of the promise?

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