Sunday, 22 August 2021

Book groupings in the Old Testament

Modern Jews divide the Old Testament into 3 groupings. They are

  1. Torah (Law)
  2. Nevi’im (Prophets)
  3. Ketuvim (Writings) 

From which they derive the term TaNaKh from the initial letters. Within the Tanakh they divide the Prophets into Former Prophets and Latter Prophets. The Writings are divided into Poetry, 5 scrolls, and other. Within these groupings the books are also ordered.

  • Scripture
  • Law
    • Genesis
    • Exodus
    • Leviticus
    • Numbers
    • Deuteronomy
  • Prophets
  • Former prophets
    • Joshua
    • Judges
    • Samuel
    • Kings
  • Latter prophets
    • Isaiah
    • Jeremiah
    • Ezekiel
    • The Twelve (minor prophets)
  • Writings
  • Poems
    • Psalms
    • Proverbs
    • Job
  • Scrolls
    • Song of Songs
    • Ruth
    • Lamentations
    • Ecclesiastes
    • Esther
  • Other
    • Daniel
    • Ezra & Nehemiah
    • Chronicles

Some argue for a fixed canon of the OT around 100 BC, others to after 100 AD. The early manuscripts were on scrolls and thus not bound. Some books were grouped on scrolls such as the 12 minor prophets. Thus the groupings of the books and the order of the books need not date to the time of any agreement of the canon. Specifically, I am unaware of any documented grouping or order of the Tanakh prior to c. 400 AD. Further, there is evidence of a different grouping prior to and at the time of Jesus.

The term the "Law of Moses" or "Book of the Law" or similar was used by the authors of other Old Testament books: Joshua 1:7, Joshua 8:31, Joshua 8:32, Joshua 22:5, Joshua 23:6, 1 Kings 2:3, 2 Kings 14:6, 2 Kings 21:8, 2 Kings 23:25, 2 Chronicles 23:18, 2 Chronicles 25:4, 2 Chronicles 30:16, 2 Chronicles 33:8, 2 Chronicles 34:14, Ezra 3:2, Ezra 7:6, Nehemiah 8:1, Nehemiah 8:14, Nehemiah 9:14, Nehemiah 10:29, Daniel 9:11, Daniel 9:13, Malachi 4:4. This often refers to a specific book, usually Deuteronomy.

The phrase the Law and the Prophets is attested by the time of the New Testament. Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) was written c. 200 BC. In the prologue written c. 150 BC we read,

Many great teachings have been given to us through the Law and the Prophets and the other books that followed them, and for these we should praise Israel for instruction and wisdom. Now, those who read the scriptures must not only themselves understand them, but must also as lovers of learning be able through the spoken and written word to help the outsiders. So my grandfather Joshua, who had devoted himself especially to the reading of the Law and the Prophets and the other books of our ancestors, and had acquired considerable proficiency in them, was himself also led to write something pertaining to instruction and wisdom, so that by becoming familiar also with his book those who love learning might make even greater progress in living according to the law.

You are invited therefore to read it with goodwill and attention, and to be indulgent in cases where, despite our diligent labour in translating, we may seem to have rendered some phrases imperfectly. For what was originally expressed in Hebrew does not have exactly the same sense when translated into another language. Not only this book, but even the Law itself, the Prophecies, and the rest of the books differ not a little when read in the original.

We also find the term "Law and the Prophets" in the book of 2 Maccabees which was written c. 150 BC.
But Maccabeus had ever sure confidence that the Lord would help him: Wherefore he exhorted his people not to fear the coming of the heathen against them, but to remember the help which in former times they had received from heaven, and now to expect the victory and aid, which should come unto them from the Almighty. And so comforting them out of the law and the prophets, and withal putting them in mind of the battles that they won afore, he made them more cheerful. (2 Maccabees 15:7–9)
The term the Law and the Prophets is also found several times in the New Testament. Mat 5:15; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luk 16:16; Joh 1:45; Act 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Rom 3:21. Jesus specifically uses this term to sum up the Old Testament: Mat 5:15; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luk 16:16.

4 Maccabees was written c. 100 AD and also uses the phrase.
In the time of my maturity I remained with my husband, and when these sons had grown up their father died. A happy man was he, who lived out his life with good children, and did not have the grief of bereavement. While he was still with you, he taught you the law and the prophets. Maccabees 18:9–10
There is also a variation on the phrase: The Law and the Prophets and the Psalms. Jesus uses it in Luke talking to his disciples after his resurrection.
Then [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
Note that the fuller phrase also expands "Law" to "Law of Moses".

In his book Against Apion, Josephus enumerates the holy Scriptures of the Jewish people.
For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from, and contradicting one another, as the Greeks have, but only twenty two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine. And of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws, and the traditions of the origin of mankind, till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years. But as to the time from the death of Moses, till the reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the Prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times, in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God; and precepts for the conduct of human life

It is true, our history has been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but has not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there has not been an exact succession of prophets since that time; and how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add any thing to them, to take any thing from them, or to make any change in them; but it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be willingly to die for them. For it is no new thing for our captives, many of them in number, and frequently in time, to be seen to endure racks and deaths of all kinds upon the theatres, that they may not be obliged to say one word against our laws and the records that contain them; whereas there are none at all among the Greeks who would undergo the least harm on that account, no, nor in case all the writings that are among them were to be destroyed; for they take them to be such discourses as are framed agreeably to the inclinations of those that write them; and they have justly the same opinion of the ancient writers, since they see some of the present generation bold enough to write about such affairs, wherein they were not present, nor had concern enough to inform themselves about them from those that knew them; examples of which may be had in this late war of ours, where some persons have written histories, and published them, without having been in the places concerned, or having been near them when the actions were done; but these men put a few things together by hearsay, and insolently abuse the world, and call these writings by the name of Histories.
Thus we have the scriptures of the Jews referred to as the Law and the Prophets from at least 150 BC to about 100 AD in various writings. There is a variation of the term: the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms. Josephus specifies the number of book that this includes which is 5 for the Law of Moses, 13 for the Prophets, and 4 for the Psalms (and related books).

The best way to read this is that the term "the Law and the Prophets" referred to the canon of scripture at the time; all of what is now termed the Old Testament. At times "Psalms" was added to the term, and "Psalms" included the book of Psalms and 3 other books. These 4 books were a subset of the "Prophets".

Jesus and the apostles used the term "the Law and the Prophets" to encompass Scripture. It is probable that "Prophets" in this term refers to all the books excluding the 5 books of the Law of Moses. The more expanded term including "Psalms" recognises that hymns were part of the collection, and Josephus' writings make it likely that Psalms includes 3 other books.

This is not unlike the phrase "the heavens and the earth" which includes everything in heaven and earth. This phrase, or variant of it, is used multiple times in the Bible. Variations include the addition of "sea" or "under the earth" but these additions do not mean that the lack of extra terms limit the scope of "heaven and earth."

The grouping of the books of the Bible fit the early term "the Law and the Prophets" or "the Law and Prophets and Psalms". The modern Judaic grouping of "the Law and the Prophets and the Writings" does not appear to go back to the time of the first century, and the grouping of the "Writings" does not correspond to the term "Psalms".

Monday, 12 April 2021

Monday quote

When Jesus and Paul address the issue of greed as a factor that can exclude self-professed believers from the kingdom of God, they are not talking about problems with greedy impulses that all humans struggle with on a daily basis but those who extort and defraud and steal from those living on the economic margins of life and who amass great wealth in the process.

Robert A. J. Gagnon.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Monday quote

The primary source of the appeal of Christianity was Jesus—His incarnation, His life, His crucifixion, and His resurrection.

Kenneth Scott Latourette.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Passion week

The passion week is dated from the time that Jesus arrives in Bethany. John tells us that this was 6 days before the Passover.
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. (Joh 11:55–12:2)
This raises several questions. What day does John mean by Passover? And is he using inclusive or exclusive reckoning?

We know that Jesus died on a Friday afternoon, and was raised after the Sabbath, that is, on Sunday prior to dawn. It was likely that the Jewish new day began at dusk in the first century. The Last Supper was a Passover meal eaten on Thursday after dusk; the lambs were sacrificed on the Thursday afternoon.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. (Luk 22:7–15).
Now John also states that the washing of the disciples feet occurred during the time of the Last Supper. John writes,
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (Joh 13:1–5).
I have previously argued that the feast on the Friday is distinct from the Passover meal on the Thursday. John also tells us that the Jews did not wish to defile themselves on Friday morning so that they could eat the Passover.
Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. (Joh 18:28)
Again John is referring to a Friday feast which follows the Passover meal that occurred the night before when they ate the lamb. Though this does not necessary tell us what day John is referring to in 12:1.

Luke says the day of Unleavened Bread (which is the Passover), when the lamb was sacrificed, was Thursday (Luk 22:7). Matthew and Mark say that this day (Thursday) is the first day of Unleavened Bread. When John refers to Passover in 12:1 he may be referring to this day, ie. the Wednesday-Thursday, but it is more likely that he is referring to the Thursday-Friday. If the feast were after sunset on the Friday then it would be the Friday-Saturday, though that is the Sabbath.

So the terminius ad quem for John's 6 days before Passover is probably the Jewish day beginning Thursday at sunset which goes through to Friday sunset; the middle columns in the table. A day later if John is referencing the Passover Feast and if this occurred after sunset; this seems less likely.

DayEventInclusive days priorExclusive days prior

# days# days# days# days# days# days
Wednesday-ThursdayPassover daytime123012
Thursday-FridayPassover meal evening12
Friday-SaturdaySabbath, Unleavened Feast1

If John is using inclusive reckoning, 6 days before Passover is from Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset. If exclusive reckoning then 1 day earlier.

Inclusive reckoning is more likely. The 3 days of Jesus in the grave are inclusive. Matthew and Mark both write that the Passover is in 2 days (Mat 26:2; Mar 14:1) though is is unclear whether they mean the following daytime (1 day), or the Passover meal after sunset the next day (2 days). So Jesus probably arrived in Bethany on the Sunday prior to sunset, 6 inclusive days before the Passover lambs were slaughtered on Thursday before sunset.

They gave a dinner for Jesus and Mary anointed him (Joh 12:2-3).

The next day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it. (Joh 12:12–14)
This is during daylight hours, thus would be the Monday. Though traditionally the church celebrates this as Palm Sunday.

Mark states that Jesus looked around the temple that day, but returned to Bethany because the hour was late (Mar 11:11).

The next day (Mar 11:12), the Tuesday, Jesus returned to Jerusalem. He cursed the fig tree as he departed Bethany. When he got to Jerusalem he entered the temple and threw out those buying and selling, overturning the tables of the money changers and sellers of doves.

Jesus returned to Bethany that evening and came back into Jerusalem on the Wednesday morning. At that time the disciples saw the cursed fig tree (Mar 11:20).

During his time in Jerusalem Jesus does a lot of teaching.
And he was teaching daily in the temple. (Luk 19:47).
The synoptic gospels do not lay out a strict chronology.
On one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel (Luk 20:1 NASB).
John mentions events over these days without clear chronological references.

Events during these days include:
  • Parables: Ten virgins; Talents; Tenant farmers in the vineyard; Wedding banquet; Sheep and goats;
  • Interaction with leaders: Jesus' authority questioned; Marriage and the resurrection; Paying taxes to Caesar; Seven woes; Greatest commandment; Christ is David's son and Lord; Widow's offering
  • Olivet Discourse
Thursday was the day that the lambs were being sacrificed for the Passover meal. Jesus sent his disciples into Jerusalem to meet a certain man and prepare the meal. That evening, the next day, Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples.

The following day was the Passover Feast, that is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was the day that Jesus was crucified: Good Friday.

Monday, 29 March 2021

Monday quote

Cruelty and wrong are not the greatest forces in the world. There is nothing eternal in them. Only love is eternal.

 Elisabeth Elliot, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael.

Monday, 22 March 2021

Monday quote

There is a deep irony in this attempt to curtail human creativity and resourcefulness. The same people who resolutely oppose economic growth tend to resist any curtailment in the growth of the state's power to intervene and redistribute wealth. Christians, who take the reality of sin seriously, so it seems to me, ought to do the exact opposite: encourage economic development and growth while advocating for a curtailment of state power and the accumlation of national debt. In other words, we should trust free people more and powerful people—or those lusting after power—less.

John Bolt, Economic Shalom

Monday, 15 March 2021

Monday quote

Scripture often warns us—and in the severest terms—against finding our sexual identity apart from Christ and against pursuing sexual practice inconsistent with being in Christ.

Kevin DeYoung

Monday, 8 March 2021

Monday quote

 If you want to travel fast, walk alone. If you want to travel far, walk together.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Monday, 22 February 2021

Monday quote

Better a man with no ideas than the wrong ones.

Theodore Dalrymple

Monday, 15 February 2021

Monday quote

If we have to "choose between unequal prosperity and shared poverty," I'll choose the former.

RJ Moeller 

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

A vessel for honour or for dishonour

Romans 9:14-23 is foundational to Calvinist theology.

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—
The question in verse 21 reads in the following versions,
  • Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (NIV)
  • Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (ESV)
  • Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (NKJV)
  • Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? (NASB)
  • Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? (CSB)
  • Or does the potter not have authority over the clay, to make from the same lump a vessel that is for honorable use and one that is for ordinary use? (LEB)
  • Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use? (NET)
  • Does the potter not have authority over the clay, out of the same lump to make one vessel to honor and one to dishonor? (LSV)
My thoughts on the translations:
  1. The verse contrasts the previous verse, as emphasised in the LEB, CSB and NASB (and Greek).
  2. "power", "right", "authority", even "liberty" and "freedom" are reasonable translations of exousia, but "authority" may be best.
  3. "the clay" is genitive; "his clay" is a possibility. The same with "lump".
  4. The emphasis on the last part of the sentence is between honour (timē) and absence-honour (atimia). Does "atimia" mean "common" or "ordinary"? Or does it mean "dishonour"?
  5. The Greek uses the conjunctions "" to contrast the "honour" with the "dishonour". In all the above versions the word "and" is used for this contrast. Would "or" contrast more accurately?
Point 5 is important as the reader pictures the potter making 2 objects or vessels: one that has honour and one that has dishonour. But what if one is to picture the potter deciding on whether to make one object which is either to have honour or to have dishonour. If point 5 is correct then the reader is not seeing a potter take the same lump of clay and make half into one object and the other part into another object. Rather there is one lump of clay. The potter can take a lump of clay and make it into an object of honour, or the potter can take that same lump of clay and make it into an object of dishonour.

As a possible translation,
Rather, does not the potter have authority over his clay to make from the same lump, either a vessel that is for honour or that is for dishonour?

Monday, 8 February 2021

Monday quote

 The idea that any man or writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions, and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages, is in my opinion preposterous. There is an a priori improbability in it which almost no argument and no evidence could counterbalance.

C.S. Lewis, "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism", Christian Reflections.

Friday, 5 February 2021

Middle Kingdom of Egypt and the Israelites

The documentary Patterns of Evidence uses the principle of finding similarities between events which must be synchronous, rather than trying to patch events that historians happen to think occurred about the same time. Findings in Egypt and Canaan that match the biblical record are identified. The movie discusses the epoch of Joseph, of Moses, and Joshua; matching archeological discoveries in Avaris and Jericho to the events in Scripture. Much of the documentary follows the chronology of David Rohl.

Egyptian chronology is divided into
  1. Old Kingdom
  2. First Intermediate Period
  3. Middle Kingdom
  4. Second Intermediate Period
  5. New Kingdom
Following Rohl, but using biblical dating we have
  1. Pharaoh who Joseph served: Amenemhat III, Dynasty 12, c. 1675 BC
  2. Vizier of Amenemhat: Joseph c. 1675
  3. Joseph dies c. 1600 BC
  4. King who did not know Joseph: Sobekhotep III, Dynasty 13, c. 1550 BC
  5. Adoptive grandfather of Moses: Neferhotep I, Dynasty 13, c. 1530
  6. Pharaoh from whom Moses fled to Midian: Khanefere Sebekhotep IV (brother and successor of Neferhotep), Dynasty 13, c. 1490 BC
  7. Pharaoh of the Exodus: Tutimaeus = Dedumose II, Dynasty 13, c. 1450 BC
  8. Hyksos invasion and the beginning of the second Intermediate Period, c. 1450 BC
This compares to secular dating of these pharaohs c. 1850–1650 BC; a 200 year difference.

There have been a range of suggestions for the Pharaoh of the Exodus. But it seems likely that the time that the Israelites were in Egypt corresponds to part or all of the Middle kingdom: Dynasties 11, 12 and 13. Dynasties 12 and 13 collapsed at the time of the Exodus and the Middle Kingdom came to an end. Then begins the rule of the Hyksos who rapidly conquered Egypt who had been bereft of her king and army.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

When you can't defend your position

I read a Calvinist response on a message board that amounted to: Paying attention to a specific non-Calvinist is embarrassing. He suggested a Calvinist author instead. While a rather short retort it raises a large number of issues.

Firstly it is an attempt at cool-shaming. Said author is supposedly an embarrassment to theology or Christian truth. Perhaps, but if the claim is not true this is a false accusation.

Secondly, it fails to deal with the arguments. If a person presents such poor arguments he should be easy to refute. It would be better to actually clearly refute nonsensical claims and prove they are an embarrassment, even if you then state the fact.

Thirdly, suggesting a Calvinist author over a non-Calvinist author is it's own fail. You are generally better to give a better author in the same category. If someone recommends Dawkins as a defense of atheism (and this is embarrassing), there are better atheists to read: Nagel for example. Related to this, why would anyone recommend against an opponent using such poor reasoning? A poor opponent himself is an argument against his own position.

Fourthly, someone is better to steer people away from well meaning but poor defenses of even his own position. If a Calvinist recommends a particular Calvinist author who is enthusiastic but poorly reasoned, others can recommend against that particular author in preference to better Calvinist defenders of the position.


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