Monday, June 22, 2015

NT: An Index

An index to my brief notes and comments on the New Testament:

NT: James

I turn my attention to the Epistle of James (Wikipedia, Blue Letter Bible), mainly because it is said by some that it might be the earliest book in the New Testament.

Fair Warning: James has approximately nothing to tell us about Jesus. He mentions Him by name twice. Two times. That’s all. So, whether or not James is the earliest mention of Jesus is practically irrelevant, since he provides no historical or biographical information that might make Jesus seem real.

Another note, if you’ve read the Gospels and Acts, then read James, you can imagine that itis written either 1) before an actual Jesus appears on Earth, or 2) before the tradition of an actual Jesus (as opposed to a wholly spiritual Jesus) is developed. Read Chapter 5, especially Verse 8 to see what I mean.

In the canonical order, James appears after Hebrews and before 1 Peter. It is the twentieth book in the New Testament. It, like Galatians, is brief, consequently I’ll charge through it in one post.

Chapter 1 is addressed to the twelve tribes - apparently of dispersed Judeo-Christians - and begins a sermon on sin. My favorite verse:

21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

Naughtiness! Yes, that’s our problem!

Chapter 2 shows us James view on justification - the act of becoming righteous - as he espouses works as well as faith. He sounds like a good man.

15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

Chapter 3 seems like general advice on not being sinners, while Chapter 4 continues the theme.

17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Chapter 5 repeats an earlier backhand to rich folk - James loves the poor and downtrodden.

1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.

He closes with a final piece of advice.

19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

James’ epistle is not addressed to a specific group, at least not in the sense that it might be delivered to a particular recipient or group of them. It appears to be a broadcast message. You can imagine printing (if printing had been invented) many tens of copies and leaving them in the public square for general distribution. All-in-all, a nice letter. I like James.

As before, here are the (only two) verses where Jesus is mentioned by name, although “Lord” and “Christ” appear more frequently. Jesus does not seem to be a real person in James’ eyes.

James 1:1 (KJV)
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

James 2:1 (KJV)
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of glory, with respect of persons.

More Cheers!

NT: Galatians

I continue my occasional review of the New Testament with Galatians.

The Epistle to the Galatians appears in the New Testament after 2 Corinthians and before Ephesians - it’s the ninth book. It is worth noting that Galatians is thought by some to be the first of Paul’s Epistles to be written - between 45 and 55 C.E. As such, it serves as a window into what the Christian world was like at the earliest times, and may tell us something about what Paul - whom might be called the father of the Christian Church - believed about Jesus and the Jewish world in which he became aware of him.

To be charitable, there are other views about the order in which NT books were written. A quick Googling on “chronology of books in the new testament” returned me other timelines. I've omitted Galatians-first entries, since that seems to be a majority view:Galatians is short, just six chapters, and appears to be motivated by Paul’s concern that the Galatian congregation is already straying from “the gospel” that they’ve been given regarding Christ. From Chapter 1:

6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

Apparently there’s another gospel or two that are floating around, and which Paul considers bad juju. Here, we can already see that there’s a tradition of preaching about Christ - that there are at least two, in fact - the one that Paul prefers, and the one that he thinks will pervert what he’s preaching. We don’t know (yet) what these gospels are, whether they have a name or a source or what tradition they present, but it will be interesting to see what turns up as Galatians unfolds.

11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:

In the verses above, Paul attests that his version was received by revelation, not from man. Now this-heah is interesting! He hasn’t told us anything about Christ in this letter yet, but he claims his gospel came from beyond. You get the impression that he could be claiming that the revelation is from Jesus himself, but Gal 1:12 could be interpreted as an anonymous revelation _of_ Christ as well. We have no idea what his intention is, except to impress the audience that his words come from on high. That might work if you believe that sort of thing.

Anyway, Paul visits Peter and sees no other Apostles “save James the Lord’s brother”. The adventure begins.

The start of Chapter 2 tells us a couple of things about Paul, and (we might presume) the Christian community that he so strongly influences:

1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

He “went up by revelation”. Does that meant he didn’t physically go? Curious choice of words!

In verse 4, he reports spies that might want to bring him into bondage. We thus have, in just four verses, a reliance on revelation (or his imagination, if you’re skeptical) and a feeling of persecution. If his followers adopt Paul’s particular way of seeing the world, we could be in for a long, strange trip.

It gets weirder. Paul’s obsession with circumcision is an unfortunate sign of the times. Of course, if the present-day U.S. Government was going around snipping the ends of dudes’ dicks off, I might be as obsessed (and fearful) too. So, maybe Paul’s not as bent as I first thought. One of the defining features of Christianity then appears to be their desire to keep their weiners in one piece. Okay then, we finally have a solid rationale for Christianity!

Among other oddities:

9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

Wherein Paul mentions a John - but apparently not an Apostle, if the prior chapter is to be believed. Oh, and more dick mangling.

Chapter 3 seems to be one long admonishment of the “foolish Galations”.

In Chapter 4, he gives a shout out to Abba, then continues his rant in slightly more subdued tones. At least he enjoys ’70s pop music.

Now, in Chapter 5 - something memorable:

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

But he still can’t get off the topic of circumcision completely.

Chapter 6 is just the denouement of his admonishments and encouragements. Kinda anti-climactic.

If Galatians is the earliest record of Jesus, then you’d think there’d be a hint of something more than just the object of worship or salvation. Jesus might be. a Golden Calf, for all Paul has told us. Even the reference to Peter only implies that he’s an Apostle, which implies the existence of an Apostle meme that his audience understands. The best evidence that Jesus is flesh-and-blood is the mention of James as His brother. That’s all that I can detect. So Jesus is pretty mysterious, circa 47 A.D.

Just for completeness, here are the verses in Galatians that mention Jesus. Not a one that gives us historical or biographical information.

Galatians 1:1 (KJV)
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

Galatians 1:3 (KJV)
Grace [be] to you and peace from God the Father, and [from] our Lord Jesus Christ,

Galatians 1:12 (KJV)
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Galatians 2:4 (KJV)
And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

Galatians 2:16 (KJV)
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Galatians 3:1 (KJV)
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

Galatians 3:14 (KJV)
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Galatians 3:22 (KJV)
But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

Galatians 3:26 (KJV)
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28 (KJV)
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 4:14 (KJV)
And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, [even] as Christ Jesus.

Galatians 5:6 (KJV)
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

Galatians 6:14 (KJV)
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Galatians 6:15 (KJV)
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

Galatians 6:17 (KJV)
From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

Galatians 6:18 (KJV)
Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with your spirit. Amen.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

NT: Romans - Where is Jesus?

I hope to eventually read all of Paul's authentic Epistles again, but after Romans, I'll bounce around a little, for reasons that I'll explain on a per-book basis. Regardless, I'm interested in just how little Paul knows about Jesus, so I'll do a quick summary of each Epistle that I review, just to confirm that this is actually the case. It certainly is here.

Paul mentions Jesus about 38 times in his Epistle to the Romans, but nowhere is it clear that he’s speaking of a flesh-and-blood bipedal anthropoid. When I first became un-born-again, I didn't know this at all. The only thing that jumped out at me was 1) what a dick Yahweh is in the Old Testament, and 2) Jesus is nowhere to be found in history. Here we see that Paul, the first writer that we know of that wrote about Jesus, doesn’t speak of him in biographical or historical terms at all. He simply refers to Jesus from a spiritual perspective.

Without further comment, here are the verses in Romans that mention Jesus:

Romans 1:1 (KJV)
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called [to be] an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

Romans 1:3 (KJV)
Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

Romans 1:6 (KJV)
Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

Romans 1:7 (KJV)
To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called [to be] saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:8 (KJV)
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Romans 2:16 (KJV)
In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Romans 3:22 (KJV)
Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

Romans 3:24 (KJV)
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 3:26 (KJV)
To declare, [I say], at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Romans 4:24 (KJV)
But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

Romans 5:1 (KJV)
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Romans 5:11 (KJV)
And not only [so], but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

Romans 5:15 (KJV)
But not as the offence, so also [is] the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, [which is] by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

Romans 5:17 (KJV)
For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

Romans 5:21 (KJV)
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:3 (KJV)
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

Romans 6:11 (KJV)
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (KJV)
For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 7:25 (KJV)
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Romans 8:1 (KJV)
[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:2 (KJV)
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:11 (KJV)
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Romans 8:39 (KJV)
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 10:9 (KJV)
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Romans 13:14 (KJV)
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to [fulfil] the lusts [thereof].

Romans 14:14 (KJV)
I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that [there is] nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him [it is] unclean.

Romans 15:5 (KJV)
Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:

Romans 15:6 (KJV)
That ye may with one mind [and] one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:8 (KJV)
Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises [made] unto the fathers:

Romans 15:16 (KJV)
That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

Romans 15:17 (KJV)
I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.

Romans 15:30 (KJV)
Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in [your] prayers to God for me;

Romans 16:3 (KJV)
Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:

Romans 16:18 (KJV)
For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Romans 16:20 (KJV)
And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you. Amen.

Romans 16:24 (KJV)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you all. Amen.

Romans 16:25 (KJV)
Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

Romans 16:27 (KJV)
To God only wise, [be] glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.

Is Non-Christian Thought Justifiable?

Is Non-Christian Thought Justifiable? That was the topic being debated at the Reformed Apologetics website by Douglas M. Jones III, Keith Parsons and Michael Martin back in 1991. Hat tip to Jeffrey Jay Lowder of Secular Outpost for providing a link.

I suppose the debate topic is a sensible question, whether or not one believes in the supernatural. After all, we know Christians exist, and we know they think, and we know that at least some Christians (Jones) apparently see a distinction between how Christians know about the world and how non-Christians know about the world. So there exists a debate topic by the name “Is Non-Christian Thought Justifiable” that’s coherent. We can base the debate on Jones’ assertion that Christians know about the world through the specifically Christian God’s revelations to them, and that non-Christians either 1) can’t truly know about the world because they haven’t received that God’s revelation; or 2) are lying or mistaken about having received that God’s revelation.

You can imagine that there must have been some advance stipulations such as “a God might exist” that were made in order to let such a derivative topic such as “Is Non-Christian Thought Justifiable” be brought up for debate. But as a layman, this always bugs me. I just think that establishing the existence of God, any God, is a prerequisite to discussions such as this one. Regardless, the question seems to resolve to “is revelation coherent?” Jones appears to assert so, but doesn’t support this in any way. A zany corollary of his is that you must have complete knowledge (as only God can provide, natch) if you are to have any knowledge at all. He doesn’t support this assertion either.

Both Parsons and Martin rebut Jones argument effectively, and using individual approaches that are different enough to make reading them both worthwhile and pleasurable.

Neither one raises their objections in the way that speaks to me most compellingly, however. I tend to think - obviously this is a preference, nothing more - that explicitly verifying what your mind perceives to be knowledge against the real world is the only way to achieve more knowledge. Turtles - all the way downParsons hints at it, but indirectly. Martin attacks Jones’ philosophy by deconstructing the propositions and the arguments that gird them. But neither - that I could detect - comes right out and says the words “you must verify what you think you know against the world. Otherwise, you’re just thinking you know”.

Ultimately, Jones whole schtick - and Van Til’s before him - is based on a stack of bare assertions. The supernatural exists. There exists a supreme entity we call a deity. That deity is the Christian God. That God has some influence over reality and humanity. That God reveals what is true. No other way of knowing anything is possible.

It’s utterly uncompelling. Jones’ proposition is never supported. The premises that might support the proposition are never supported. The turtles are missing all the way down. There is no reason to believe someone whose whole line of argument is “this is what I say, and what I say is correct because I think it’s correct”.


Speaking of zany, the Reformed Apologetics web site seems to be a hotbed of presuppositional material. Worth bookmarking!

Friday, June 5, 2015

BlogPress for iPad Sucks!!!

BlogPress for iPad Sucks!!!

I used it for years - it seems like - without any problem, but it has stopped working. Apparently the developer doesn't see fit to update it, which is a shame. It was simple, fast and would let you write your own HTML without attempting to overwrite your tags with its own craven ideas. I hate blog apps that try to do too much - they make for more work than is necessary.

Equally as bad is how difficult to edit the webpage at is - at least from iPad using Safari. So ... I switched over to a Windows laptop using Chrome.

Such is the life of a middle-aged slacker!

NT: Romans 11 - 16

Paul continues his preachifying to the Romans in Chapter 11, citing Elias - presumably in the Old Testament, which gives him cause to mention Baal. Wonder if Baal is still a thing in the first century? It's not clear when Paul mentions the word "Lord" who he's referring to, but it appears that he speaks of God, because Jesus and Christ are not mentioned at all. I bet this is Paul's Jewish roots showing.

Romans Chapter 12 is some inspiring stuff ... Paul is exhorting those that are brothers and sisters in Christ to do good and to be of charitable nature. It is most definitely worth reading word-for-word.
12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Chapter 13 begins with admonishments on obeying the ministers of the church...
Rom 13:2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Rom 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

Rom 13:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
He thens proscribes adultery ... again ... and invokes Jesus' name at the end of the chapter as a way of saying "we're all in this together". Reading between the lines, you can sense that there are problems in the Roman congregation(s) ... disobeying the ministers, bumping their uglies indiscriminately ... and Paul appears to be trying to refocus them.

Rom 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Rom 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Rom 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
...and he apparently believes salvation is at hand.

Chapter 14 is interesting for the way that Paul uses "the parable of meat" to say that the congregants should not be offended by the small stuff, that offense is in the eye of the person feeling the offense, God doesn't care about this petty stuff. Nicely said!

Chapter 15 appears to be a long closing section, where Paul tells the Roman congregation of his plans to see them soon, and Chapter 16 finds him saying a few good words about his associates Phebe, Priscilla and Aquila ... apparently to pave the way for them to join the Roman church members. He does this for many more, then closes with an Amen.


I’ve read Romans in NT order, but my interest is really in how the Jesus story evolved. Depending on who you read, one of Paul’s authentic Epistles was written first (Galatians? 1 Thessalonians?) or James. I even recall seeing one listing showing Mark to have been coincident with an Epistle. This was probably done by the author to establish Mark as plausibly independent of Paul. One of the things that these lists don't focus on, but should at least mention, is that there are ranges of dates for each book. In some cases, Matthew for instance, historians can establish “no later than" dates into the 2nd century. These generally are thought to be unlikely, but it illustrates how imprecise NT dating is.

So: I know with a reasonable certainty that Romans was not Paul’s earliest Epistle, but its order in the King James version of the New Testament led me to read it after Acts. I will switch up and read Galatians next, but first, my next NT post will reflect on Romans, and what Paul had to report about the living Jesus.