Monday, 24 February 2014

Monday quote

If realism is the recognition of things as they actually are, the Christian is of all persons the most realistic. He of all intelligent thinkers is the one most concerned with reality. He insists that his beliefs correspond with facts.

A.W. Tozer (1897–1963), Of God and Men.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Monday quote

He wants God for his relief but not for his rule.

Dale Ralph Davis, The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts, p.97.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dating the New Testament part 3

John Wenham dates the synoptic gospels in his book Redating Matthew, Mark and Luke. He interacts carefully with the gospels, the early church fathers, Josephus and others. He gives provisional dates for the gospels and Acts. His dates for the other books represent his general approval of F.F. Bruce in Acts of the Apostles and J. van Bruggen in Die geschichtliche Einordnung der Pastoralbriefe (The historical classification of the Pastoral Epistles).

Matthew 42
Mark 45
Galatians 48
1 Thessalonians 50
2 Thessalonians 50
Luke 55
1 Corinthians 55
2 Corinthians 56
Romans 57
Acts 62
1 Timothy 57—59
Titus 57—59
Philippians 60—61
2 Timothy 60—61

1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Dating the New Testament part 2

In his book Redating the New Testament John A.T. Robinson (1919–1983) argues for dating all of the New Testament before 70 AD. Though Robinson is not overly conservative and he seems to allow for an errant text, he takes the internal evidence and the early church fathers seriously. His dating seems consistent with a high view of Scripture. He dates some of Paul letters from his imprisonment at Caesarea, though others would place the letters during his latter imprisonment at Rome.

Note how early he dates the Pastoral letters. The Robinson scheme has all the books  completed prior to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

James 47–48
1 Thessalonians early 50
2 Thessalonians 50–51
1 Corinthians spring 55
1 Timothy autumn 55
2 Corinthians early 56
Galatians later 56
Romans early 57
Titus late spring 57
Philippians spring 58
Philemon summer 58
Colossians summer 58
Ephesians late summer 58
2 Timothy autumn 58
Mark 45–60
Matthew 40–60+
Luke 57–60+
Jude 61–62
2 Peter 61–62
Acts 57–62+
1 John 60–65
2 John 60–65
3 John 60–65
1 Peter spring 65
John 40–65+
Hebrews 67
Revelation late 68 (–70)

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Dating the New Testament part 1

Various historians date the composition of the New Testament books over quite a long range of time. Liberal dating has been quite late though I suspect there has been motivation to date the books well after the time of Jesus. While conservative dating has been closer to the crucifixion it may have still been affected by the liberal position. It has been said somewhere that today's conservative theology is yesterday's liberal theology.

I am most interested in those chronologies that take the internal evidence of Scripture seriously, or at least are consistent with this approach.

Here is the English Standard Version Study Bible's dates for various books in chronological order. A range represents uncertain dating. The study Bible states early, mid and late decade for some books and I have assigned these terms an approximate date.

James 40–45
Galatians 48
1 Thessalonians 49–51
2 Thessalonians 49–51
1 Corinthians 53–55
Mark 54–59
2 Corinthians 55–56
Romans 57
Matthew 57–63
Luke 60–62
Hebrews 60–70
Acts 62
Ephesians 62
Philippians 62
Colossians 62
Philemon 62
1 Peter 62–63
1 Timothy 62–64
Titus 62–64
Jude 63–67
2 Timothy 64–67
2 Peter 64–67
John 70–100
1 John 85–95
2 John 85–95
3 John 85–95
Revelation 95–96

Monday, 10 February 2014

Monday quote

Nor when we detect intelligence in more ordinary situations do we worry about making arguments from ignorance, or generating infinite regresses, or running  afoul of Hume's critique of analogical reasoning. Neither would we deny that something as interesting as specified digitally encoded information requires explanation.

Instead, in hypothetical and real-world cases, the inference to intelligent design as the best explanation for the origin of specified information is straightforward and unproblematic—except, for some, when considering the origin of life.

Stephen C. Meyer

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Jesus curses a fig tree

James Tissot (French, 1836-1902).
The Accursed Fig Tree (Le figuier maudit), 1886-1894.
A passage recorded in Matthew and Mark seems somewhat enigmatic.
In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. (Matthew 21)
I have heard the complaint that it was unreasonable for Jesus to curse a fig tree for not having figs on it. I suppose one could add that it is especially unreasonable as it was not fig season (Mark 11:13), though there did not appear to be even buds, just leaves. Interestingly the disciples were not particularly concerned about this. They were impressed with Jesus control over nature. When the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” (Matthew 21)

Before addressing the curse I will take a brief diversion into a discrepancy claim. Some assert that the biblical authors disagree over whether the tree withered immediately or the next day. Matthew states,
And the fig tree withered at once.
Whereas Mark says
And [Jesus] said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it....

And when evening came they went out of the city.

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. (Mark 11)
3 comments are in order. Firstly, we must be careful how much we read into the word "immediately." It appears to be used frequently to keep the narrative running. It is common in Mark (though not used here). Within a time focused culture such as ours "immediate" implies right now, this second, no delay. While I guess this sense may be used by 1st century Jews, I am less certain it is required.

Secondly, while I have no doubt the tree died at the moment Jesus cursed it, the question is when was this noticed? An animal's death is obvious to people at the very point of death. For plants the process is different and the outward changes are delayed. To be withered to the roots within one day is "at once" for a tree.

Thirdly, and most importantly, if the precise sequence in Mark is correct, which I suspect it is, then Matthew is conflating two episodes. Matthew wishes to discuss the fig tree episode in a single passage. The cursing of the fig tree occurs on the morning Jesus casts out the money changers. Matthew holds back on mentioning the speaking of the curse until the latter discussion about the disciples marvelling at the effect of the curse. He is following a more topical arrangement in this section.

But why the curse, especially if it was not the season for figs?

I do not know much about horticulture or the life cycle of fig trees. There is some information on figs over at Plant Encyclopedia. Fig trees are apparently deciduous and sprout fruit in spring and autumn, though related species can be evergreen or sprout fruit year around. The cursing of the fig tree occurred after the triumphal entry and before Passover, that is ~Nisan 10 and early spring.

The passage indicates Jesus uses the episode to teach his disciples about faith. It is likely that this was Jesus pronouncing a judgment on Israel for failing to recognise him. The episode occurred at the time of judgment concerning the temple, and fig trees are used as a symbol for Israel (Hosea 9:10). Interestingly Jesus tells a parable a year earlier.
A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ (Luke 13:6-9)
Here Jesus is alluding to his ministry. He has ministered to Israel for 3 years. Israel have failed to produce fruit in keeping with the coming of the Messiah. The owner wishes to remove the tree but is convinced to leave it a further year. Jesus will minister for a further year but if Israel still fails to produce fruit then they will come under a curse. The parable is a warning. A year later when Jesus ministry was at an end Israel had still failed as a nation to appropriately recognise the nature of Jesus. The real curse of a real fig tree was symbolic of judgment on the nation of Israel for failing to be fruitful by responding to Jesus.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Accusing the righteous

Job is an fundamental book if one is going to discuss suffering. It is important both for understanding the issue of suffering in our world, but also to encourage those who are suffering. I have found Job difficult to understand and I do not think think is unique to myself. The early chapters being narrative seem relatively straight forward, though there is a wealth of information encased there. But the poetical exchanges between Job and his friends seem more complicated theologically.

I have read Job several times and have recently come to a conclusion that helped me make sense of the dialogues.

Job makes several claims, many of which seem true, though he still complains to God. God confronts and rebukes Job, yet later tells Job's friends that Job has spoken right of him and they have not.
The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.(Job 42:7)
Yet some what the friends stated seems true. Paul even quotes Eliphaz positively,
For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” (1 Corinthians 3:19)
He frustrates the devices of the crafty,
so that their hands achieve no success.
He catches the wise in their own craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end. (Job 5:12-13)
So at least some of what Eliphaz said was correct.

The conclusion I have come to is that Job what a type of Christ. Much as Joseph and Elisha are types of Christ in various ways so Job is also, in the sense that he is a righteous man suffering unrighteously. The fault of his friends is not always in what they state if one considers it from a proverbial perspective, rather in their misapplication to a righteous man. The introduction to Job serves as a framework with which we can interpret the dialogues.

In the first 2 chapters of Job we are given an insight into a divine dialogue that Job what ignorant of. Satan brings an accusation against Job. Tellingly he is given the name Satan which means "accuser" or "adversary." Job's friends make statements that may be correct in some situations but are not in this situation, or they apply proverbs that are generally true but not specifically true. Because Job is a righteous man his friends are accusing him wrongly and are judged by God for this. If we consider Job a type of Christ then consider how Job's friends would sound if they made the same accusations against Jesus. It is not that what they are saying is always incorrect, but they are certainly incorrect in applying these ideas to Jesus.

I suggest reading thru Job and reading the comments by Job's friends as being directed to Jesus and considering how that affects your perception of them and your reading of Job.

Now Job is a type of Christ and not the antitype, who is Jesus. Job is a sinner as are all men. He is righteous in God's eyes as he is a man of faith and he does what is right, nevertheless, he is a son of Adam who sins and is in need of a redeemer; something he willingly confesses,
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God, (Job 19:25-26)
Because of this God rebukes Job for what he does not understand. God corrects Job where he sins, but Job's friends accuse him of sin when he is acting in righteousness.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Evidence for God more accessible than evidence from science

One atheist complaint about God is why is the evidence for him not clearer? Why do we have to search so hard for it? Should it not be obvious?

I actually think the evidence for God is clearer than what is claimed. However Keith Ward raises an interesting point, especially given the atheist penchant for science.
As to the question of evidence, I think that is rather like asking why we have to try so hard to discover scientific truth. Why did God not just tell us about quantum physics, and make it all obvious? There is a truth about the physical world, but it is extremely hard to discover. Part of being human is having to learn for ourselves, after taking many false paths and blind alleys, what the world is like. (Chapter 8, Why There Almost Certainly Is a God)
The irony Ward identifies is remarkable. Scientific evidence is not obvious prior to the fact. But even more damning is that the scientific method was not particularly obvious. It was late on the scene and only originated in a single culture. And even now when we understand how the scientific method operates, unravelling the workings of the world takes considerable effort.

What's more, evidences for God—the design argument and the moral argument—were known about centuries before science. Many cultures understood this evidence for God for millennia; yet the scientific method, which so enamours the materialists, took a long time to be identified. Further, the development of the philosophy of God (theology) proceeded significantly while men struggled to progress in natural philosophy (science) due to their unwarranted devotion to Aristotle.

It seems that the evidence for God is indeed much more accessible to man than science.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Monday quote

[Eternity] is a real duration, a real persistence of a sort that is imitated in time.

Eleonore Stump

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Income inequality

Joe Carter has written a useful article about income equality that I think Christians from both sides of the political spectrum it should read.

Carter's points
  1. Incomes are measured in money—and money is not wealth.
  2. The existence of income inequality is generally a sign of a fair distribution of incomes.
  3. Both low and high rates of income inequality can be signs of unfairness.
  4. Income inequality is not the same as economic inequality
  5. Measures of income inequality are meaningless because incomes are not zero-sum
  6. Income inequality and poverty are separate issues.
  7. No one in America is really concerned about absolute income inequality.
  8. Discussions of income inequality are almost always about redistribution of income.
  9. The only real threat caused by income inequality are problems caused by envy
  10. The focus on income inequality is at best, useless, and, at worst, immoral.
A few thoughts from myself
  1. Note that the essay is about income inequality and not poverty.
  2. One can be concerned about poverty but not income inequality.
  3. It makes a difference if your money is a result of creating wealth or just taking it, especially if you take it directly from the poor. This may include aspects of the finance industry.

What Every Christian Should Know About Income Inequality

Here are ten points about income inequality that every Christian should understand:

1. Incomes are measured in money — and money is not wealth.

Income inequality is not in itself an economic problem. The simplest way to illustrate this point is to provide a simple “solution”, for there is a simple method that would lead to perfect income equality.

The first step is to calculate the number of earners and rank their incomes from lowest to highest. For example, let’s say a country has 100 million workers, with the lowest workers paid $10,000 a year and the highest earning an annual salary of $1 million a year.

The second step would be for the government to print enough money to equalize all the incomes. For instance, a worker who was making $10,000 a year would get a check from the government for $990,000 while the person making $1 million would get no check at all. Everyone else would get a check for the difference between their income and $1 million dollars.

The result is that all 100 million workers would then have an income of $1 million – the problem of income inequality would be solved!

If that seems a bit too easy, it’s because (a) income inequality is not in itself an economic problem, and (b) incomes are measured in money, and money is not wealth. A country’s primary economic goal is not to make sure everyone has an equal amount of money, but to improve people’s standards of living.

“The money itself is not wealth,” says Don Boudreaux, “Otherwise the government could make us all rich just by printing more of it. From the standpoint of a society as a whole, money is just an artificial device to give us incentives to produce real things — goods and services.”

The rest here.


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