Saturday, January 21, 2023

God values the creation, and we should steward it.

1. At the end of Genesis 1, when God has set the world in order, he sees all that he has done and pronounces it "good" (Gen. 1:31). It is no longer "formless and empty" (1:2). Everything is working the way it is supposed to work. [1] 

Part of that goodness is the place of humanity in that order. Humanity is to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28). Humans are to "subdue" it and "rule over" it. After Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden, they are to "serve" it and "keep" it (Gen. 2:15). [2] One gets the sense that humanity is the crown of God's creation, and with great power comes great responsibility. 

Humanity is created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). That both makes humanity valuable and perhaps suggests that humanity in some respects is God's representative on earth. After the Flood, God makes a covenant with his whole creation (Gen. 9:10). He has destroyed the earth, but he will not flood the earth again. 

"The earth is the LORD's and all that is in it... he has founded it on the seas and established it on the rivers" (Ps. 24:1-2). "Heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the LORD your God" (Deut. 10:14). "The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork" (Ps. 19:1). Humanity may be the pinnacle of the creation, but God clearly glories in the rest of his handiwork as well.

The Law had provisions for the land. Every seventh year the land was to lay fallow to have a chance to recuperate from non-stop farming (Lev. 25:3-4). Just as humanity needs regular rest, so the land does as well. Jesus tells the crowds that God observes even the death of a sparrow (Matt. 10:29). It would appear that God not only loves humanity but the rest of his creation as well!

The holiness codes not only held that a person could become unclean and defiled. Humans could defile the land as well (Num. 35:33-34). A murderer defiled the land with the blood that was shed. The only way to purify the land was the death of the murderer.

The preceding verses give us a certain sense of God's attitude toward his creation. He likes it. He cares about it. Deuteronomy 25:4 looks out for the ox that is plowing the land. The farmer should not muzzle it but allow it to eat as payment for its labor.

A sense of respect for God's creation seems in order. We are thankful for the chickens that give us eggs. We are thankful for the cattle that give us meat.[3] Evangelicals are emphatic about the value of human life from conception. Yet the embryos of humans and those of other animals look quite similar at the earliest stages of development. If we are really pro-life, it would seem consistent to be good stewards of the other life God has created on the planet as well.

2. In the Parable of the Talents, one of the servants is chastised for not growing what the master had given him (25:14-30). The import of the parable is often taken to suggest that God expects us to use and grow the gifts he has given us. With regard to God's creation, we can bless the land and sky that God has given us. We can take care of it, and we can also curse it.

The placement of the parable in both Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-27 suggests that these parables were deeply subversive. While they can easily be read in a hyper-capitalistic way, the proximity of Matthew's parable to the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats and the fact that Luke's parable is next to the story of Zacchaeus suggests a subversive meaning. In such a context, "making interest" on one's money becomes a metaphor for using it to help others in need. It is thus a fitting metaphor also for stewarding the creation that God has given us as we think about the lives of our "neighbors" at home and around the world.

God gave us streams from which to drink. God gave us plants to grow for food and animals to kill for meat. Ecology speaks of ecosystems, systems of life where each component of the system works together in harmony. The plants convert sunlight into energy that herbivores eat. They take carbon dioxide from the air and convert it to oxygen. We eat the herbivores and breathe in oxygen. We exhale carbon dioxide and the system repeats itself. It is healthy. It is natural. This is the way God has created the world.

Humanity has advanced industrially and technologically more in the last two hundred years than in all of history before. As of the writing of this article, the population of the world has surpassed 8 billion, far beyond any world population in the past. We are capable of consuming more forest than ever before if we let ourselves. There is plenty of demand to remove nature to build houses, businesses, and industry. There's nothing wrong with building or selling. However, as stewards of God's planet, we should also be mindful of the potential cost to God's creation and others. 

God endorses our growth and advancement. He made us to advance and excel. Otherwise, he would not have given humanity the charge to subdue the earth. On the other hand, God does not endorse selfishness or destructive hedonism. It is thus both biblical and Christ-like for us to open-mindedly consider the impact our advancement might have on others. This is part of loving our neighbor as ourselves. 

It is also a human tendency to sacrifice the benefit of our future for the needs and pleasures of the present. We eat recklessly because it tastes good even though we know we will likely pay for it in the future. We spend the money we have now rather than saving it for the future. The courses of action it takes to "look out" for the environment cut into corporate profit and personal convenience. It is no surprise that it is an uphill battle to get much done in these areas until a crisis emerges.

3. We should be wary of our own susceptibility to manipulation by those with power and resources. It took decades to pass legislation in relation to lead paint and lead gas. The book, Deceit and Denial is a meticulous presentation of how the lead industry managed to successfully oppose legislation against the use of lead, either throwing doubt on the certainty of certain harmful effects or blaming the incompetency of parents in slums for not watching their children closely enough. [4] I remember even as a boy in 1978 a tone of mocking in my family toward how the Carter administration was annoyingly ending leaded gas in lieu of the more expensive unleaded. 

The same narrative played itself out in relation to the tobacco industry. [5] The same narrative has arguably played out in relation to the gun lobby. The same narrative seems to be playing out in relation to climate change. With money or inconvenience at stake, with resistance to being told what to do, data is ignored or obfuscated. Lobbying forces manipulate the public into mocking those trying to work for the public good. "Going to try to regulate the farts coming from cows? Ha. Ha."

Small concessions are made as necessary. "Well, maybe the planet is warming, but there's no proof it is caused by human activity." Blame is diverted. "The problem is not the paint, it is the Negro and Puerto Rican parents who aren't watching what their children put in their mouths." "The problem is the lack of self-discipline on the part of the smokers." "The problem is not guns but the hearts of the people shooting them." Years, sometimes decades later, either crisis or the openness of a new generation breaks through. We wonder how it wasn't seen before because it seems so obvious now.

These sequences of events are repeated over and over again. It is amazing that we do not see the pattern... over and over again.

4. Poorer communities and countries see the impact of pollution sooner and more clearly than the comfortable. A 2016 study found that race is the biggest indicator in the US of whether you live near toxic waste. [6] Similarly, while most CO2 emissions come from the affluent global north, the regions most vulnerable to the effects of global warming are in the global south. Island states whose land is disappearing from rising water levels do not dispute the impact of climate change on the earth, nor do the African nations facing crisis levels of drought.

The love of our neighbor in the southern hemisphere puts an obligation on Christians to listen with an open mind and heart. The fact that this is God's creation calls us to listen with an open mind and heart as good stewards. It is the love of those in Flint, Michigan, whose water was allowed to become so polluted, that calls us to sacrifice a little today for the benefit to others later. We may find that we are also benefiting ourselves, like the rules that keep us from withdrawing from our retirement accounts before a certain age. We could sure use that money now, but it is even better for us to have it later.

Jesus almost scorned the "healthy" and focused instead on those on the margins--the poor, the sick, the demon-possessed. He focused on the lost sheep of Israel. Concern for God's creation translates to concern for those on the margins of the world today, for they are the ones that most suffer from the throwaway society of those of us who find everything convenient. 

5. We can debate the details. In this article, I have gone beyond principles to some specifics that seem relatively uncontested today. Except that they are contested. If we are interested in truth, we must allow for claims to be contested. Hopefully, there can be broad agreement on the principles. It is fully Christian to care for God's world. If we know our actions are harming others--or even potentially harming others--that is a concern for a Christian. 

As a Christian, people are important. The accrual of greater profit is not. Profit is not evil. The pursuit of profit to the detriment of others is. Paul indicts the Corinthians for putting the pursuit of their own freedom over concern for the faith of others (e.g., 1 Cor. 8:13). "Take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak." (8:9). 

The technological advances of the world are a tribute to the intellectual gifts God has given the world. We can even blow up the world with nuclear bombs. With the great power God has given us comes great responsibility as stewards. God has not called us to selfishness, but to love our neighbor.

[1] John Walton has argued that, in context, the pronouncement of the creation as good likely had more to do with how it was functioning than its moral quality. In The Lost World of Genesis 1 (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 148-150.

[2] I am indebted in much of what follows to the benefit of sitting into several presentations by Brian Webb at Houghton University on Scripture and the Environment.

[3] It is interesting that the Genesis narrative gives the impression that humans did not even eat meat before the Flood (9:3).

[4] Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner, Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution (Berkeley: University of California, 2003).

[5] Allan M. Brandt, The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America (Philadelphia: Basic, 2009).

[6] From 1996 to 2020, the CDC and NIH were stymied from using their funds to research gun violence.

[7] Paul Mohai et al. "Which came first, people or pollution? Assessing the disparate siting and post-siting demographic change hypotheses of environmental injustice," Environmental Research Letters (2015).

Monday, January 09, 2023

Sermon Starters: "Who are you, Lord?" (Acts 9)

Title: "Who are you, Lord?" 

Text: Acts 9:1-9

Location: College Wesleyan Church, January 8, 2023

Introduction

Old debates over standards, growing up totally convinced, wreaking havoc in relationships, praying for the Lord to show me if I was wrong, an Easter surprise.

It's very hard for us to change our minds on fundamental paradigms, and that's probably a good thing. Sometimes only the Holy Spirit can change our minds.

So it was with Paul. He was totally convinced he had God all figured out. Imagine how disoriented he was after Jesus showed him he was fundamentally wrong about the Bible.

We are trying to emerge as a church from a period of strong disagreement. If it weren't so serious, it would be funny. Two sides totally convinced they represent God, saying some of the very same things about the other, totally convinced they represent God. Two sides, both totally convinced they are being true to the Bible.

We need the Spirit to help us because we can't help ourselves. It would be great if Jesus would tap us on the shoulder. How do we move forward as a church?

1. Start with the faith you have.

Student in philosophy who wanted to throw everything out and start over. Mistake! We will not likely figure it all out from scratch.

  • Pascal's Wager -- if we love God and love our neighbor, our lives and the world will be a better place even if we are wrong on something.
  • God's been walking with his people for a long time (Bud Bence's church history trailer). He didn't just stop after the New Testament. The faith we have inherited probably has a lot of things right!
  • Truths about God aren't just discovered. They are also revealed. Pure reason won't get you there without a lot of help from the Holy Spirit.
  • The problem is that we are finite and flawed. We don't see the whole picture, and we tend to find a way to interpret things the way we want to.

2. Submit yourself to the truth, which is what God thinks.

  • If you really believe in truth, you must be open to changing your mind.
  • My crisis in seminary -- Would God test my faith by insisting I believe something that obviously isn't true? In the end I answered no. If you could disprove God's existence to him, he'd be the first to pack it up. God aligns with the real truth, whatever it may be. "All truth is God's truth."
  • My New Testament Survey position paper assignment. My advice to pick a topic that the New Testament actually talks about. Students often submitted papers with nothing from the New Testament in them, showing that the Bible was more symbolic in their views than substantial.

3. Keep listening!

  • Listen to God.
  • Listen to your "enemy" (whom God requires you to love).
  • Don't demonize the "other side." Let God take care of them.
  • Stick to your guns. It doesn't mean we don't take a position. It just means we keep talking while we take our position, and we submit ourselves to God in case he wants to change it.
Conclusion
The story of Gamaliel. He was truly interested in the truth and in submitting to God. That meant he was willing to change his position if he turned out to be wrong. Others mistook their positon for a truth to defend no matter what. This is the very nature of a hardened heart.

Saturday, January 07, 2023

Explanatory Notes -- Mark 6:30-56

Filling in some gaps in my written notes on Mark.

______________________

Feeding the Five Thousand

30. And the apostles are gathered together to Jesus and they told him all the things that they did and that they taught. 31. And he says to them, “Come, you yourselves privately into a deserted place and rest a little.” For those coming and going were many, and they did not even have the time to eat. 32. And they went away in a boat to a deserted place privately.

Jesus has sent out his apprentices. They have done a practicum. Now comes the report to their master. Despite their lack of understanding, despite the deficiencies in their faith, they have seen healings and exorcisms like Jesus himself did. It gives hope to us today. If the disciples could do it, so can we. It must have given hope to the audience of Mark as well, who may have faced their own faith challenges in the challenging times of the late 60s.

Contemporary readers are quick to point out the need for Sabbath and recovery. Jesus and the disciples do not take prolonged vacations, but they do try to hit the pause button and retreat. They are rarely successful because of the immensity of the need. So it is often in ministry.

Nevertheless, they at least try to retreat. They try to rest. The Sea of Galilee is often the only hope. They have not even been able to eat. They get in a boat and try to get away for a bit.

33. And they saw them departing and many recognized and on foot ran from every city there and they came before them. 34. And having gone out, he saw a great crowd and had compassion on them, because they were as sheep who did not have a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35. And already the hour having become much, having gone to them, his disciples were saying, “This place is deserted, and already the hour much. 36. Release them so that they, having gone away into the surrounding fields and villages, might buy for themselves what they might eat.

Even though Jesus is the Son of God, the crowds win. They find them. It is worth pausing to notice the extent to which Jesus' omnipotence--his all-powerfulness as the second person of the Trinity--is not manifested in the Gospel of Mark. He is unable to get people to stop telling about his healings. He is unable to heal in Nazareth. He is unable to get away from the crowds. We can suppose that he could have done these things, but he chooses to play by the fully human rules.

He has great compassion for them. They are like sheep without a shepherd. They have no sense of meaning or purpose. How many people are like that in the world today! God wants to give meaning and purpose to their lives, just as Jesus did to these seemingly powerless crowds.

He begins in this case by teaching them about the kingdom of God. We think of what Jesus taught in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 and Luke 6. "Blessed are the poor." So were these crowds. "Blessed are they that mourn." There was no doubt much sadness in the lives of these crowds.

"Blessed are those who are hungry." They were hungry. They had followed Jesus to a remote place without food. The disciples want Jesus to send them away. It made me think of the legendary words of Marie Antoinette in France when the people were starving: "Let them eat cake." The disciples suggest Jesus send them away to buy food somewhere.

37. And he, answering, said to them, “You give them to eat.” And they say to him, “Having gone away, are we to buy breads for two hundred denarii, and will we give to them to eat?” 38. And he says to them, “How much bread do you have? Go see.” And having known, they say, “Five, and two fish.”

Jesus tells the disciples to feed them. They are of course flabbergasted. How on earth could they do such a thing? Where would they get two hundred denarii to buy bread for such a crowd. That's the equivalent of two hundred days' wages! The theme of the disciples' lack of understanding continues. There is no way on earth to do such a thing. But there is a way in heaven.

Jesus again gives them some experiential learning. How much bread can they find? They find five loaves and two fish. John tells us a boy had them (6:9).

39. And he ordered them [to cause] everyone to sit group by group on the green grass. 40. And they sat group by group by hundred and five hundred. 41. And having taken the five bread [loaves] and the two fish, having looked up into the sky, he blessed [them] and broke the bread [loaves] and was giving to the disciples that they might distribute to them, and he divided the two fish for all. 42. And all ate and were full, 43. and they took twelve baskets full of [bread] pieces and from the fish. 44. And those who were eating were five thousand men.

This is the only one of the miracles that Jesus performed that is mentioned in all four of the Gospels. We are told there are some five thousand men there, which might imply an even larger number if there were women and children also in the crowd. They are instructed to sit in orderly groups on the grass. The organization sounds a little like a military arrangement by hundred and five hundred.

Jesus blesses the bread. It is not surprising that many Christians have heard an overtone of the Last Supper and the Lord's supper here. Is the bread meant to be heard as an anticipation of the broken body of Christ? Certainly the Gospel of John will take it in that way.

The bread and fish multiply. The disciples distribute. Everyone is full. There are twelve baskets of leftover fragments. The number twelve was a special number for Jews. It was the number of the tribes of Israel. That number of disciple likely symbolized the restoration of Israel, and the twelve baskets of fragments may as well.

Walking on Water

45. And immediately he compelled his disciples to embark into the boat and to go ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, until he himself releases the crowd. 46. And having said farewell to them, he went away into the mountain to pray. 47. And it having become late, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and he himself [was] alone on the land.

Note that the two miracles at the end of Mark 6 are truly what we would categorize today as "supernatural" miracles. An exorcism is a spiritual act. It is a miracle for sure--the transformation of the individual would be impossible from a human standpoint. A healing is a miracle as well, although healing can involve matters of the mind as well.

But the miracles at the end of Mark 6 more blatantly defy the laws of physics. "Matter can be neither created nor destroyed." When Jesus feeds the five thousand, he breaks this law. When Jesus walks on water, he defies the law of gravity.

Jesus has sent the crowd away. He has even sent his disciples away. He needs time to pray. He needs time alone. This is instructive for the Type A minister. Even Jesus tried to take time for Sabbath and retreat. He prays on a mountain, which would have been more like a foothill for those of us who have seen the Rockies or Appalachian mountains. 

48. And having seen them struggling in the rowing (for the wind was against them), around the fourth watch of the night, he goes to them, walking on the sea and he was wanting to come alongside them. 49. And they, having seen him on the sea walking, thought that he was a ghost. 50. For they all saw him and were terrified. And he immediately spoke with them, “Be encouraged! It is I. Do not fear!” 51. And he came up to them in the boat and the wind ceased. And immediately they were extremely amazed among themselves, 52. For they did not understand about the bread [loaves], but their heart was hardened.

He can see them struggling from the land. Again, if we are used to lakes like Lake Michigan or Lake Okeechobee, the Sea of Galilee does not impress, It is only twelve miles across. Jesus can see them struggling against the wind to go north toward Bethsaida. 

The fourth watch of the night was between three and six. [Incidentally, I wrote this paragraph during the fourth watch of the night.] These watches had to do with the times during which a guard or soldier might keep watch. Jesus has apparently been praying for many hours, almost to morning.

When they see Jesus on the sea, he appears something like a ghost. Presumably, it is a clear night with the stars providing an eerie light. He speaks comfort to them so that their terror level will go down. I left the word ghost here for tone. The word is phantasma. They might think of a phantasm as a disembodied spirit of someone who was dead. "Do not fear" is a common initial comment by angels to the humans to which they visit in Scripture. Here, Jesus uses the phrase to calm them in the face of the supernatural as well.

Jesus again causes the winds to cease. The theme of the disciples not understanding appears again. The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand had not sunk in. They are amazed because they do not understand the power of God that is working in Jesus. 6:52 goes so far as to say that their hearts were hardened--a startling indictment of their spiritual state.  

Gennesaret

53. And having crossed, they came to the land, to Gennesaret and they came to shore. 54. And they, having gone out of the boat, immediately recognizing him, 55. they [the people on the land] ran around all that country and began to bring around those who were ill on mats [to] where they were hearing that he was. 56. And wherever he is entering into villages or into cities or into fields, they put in the marketplaces those who were sick and they were urging him that even they might touch the edge of his garment. And as many as touched him were healed.

The Sea of Galilee was also called the Sea of Gennesaret, and there was a village on the east side of the lake called Gennesaret. It is here that the disciples and Jesus come ashore, shy of their goal of getting to Bethsaida. The lake and wind had just not cooperated. Jesus is "immediately" mobbed again. Remember that this word is one of Mark's favorites.

We get a nice summary statement of Jesus' activities here. He heals the sick and physically challenged. Those who cannot walk are brought on mats. They bring the sick to the marketplaces, a location they knew Jesus would likely visit while going through their village or city. They meet him in the fields too.

Like the woman with a hemorrhage, they have faith that if they might even touch a piece of his clothing, they will be healed. Contrast this large amount of faith that these anonymous individuals had with the difficulty his disciples seem to have in regard to faith. As many as touch Jesus are healed.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

New Year's Goals (2023)

And now for the yearly reset:

Personal

  • When I was a teen, I read a chapter of the Bible a day. I'm always in the Bible, but I want to do this formally again for the next three years. I plan to take reading notes.
  • I want to run the equivalent of a mile a day or 365 miles this year. My daughter Sophie has started jogging. Maybe I will run a race of some sort with her this year.
  • I'll be working from home again this year. Same goal of treating each morning like I was going to the office. 
  • I have a daily project schedule I don't always keep. But I will continue with it.

Writing

  • Finish in January, "The Bible as History and Sacrament," an inductive Bible study textbook.
  • Finish in January, Christian Ethics: Wesleyan-Arminian Reflections and then publish the whole theology project I've been publishing.
  • Self-publish Explanatory Notes on Jesus' Death and Resurrection.
  • Begin writing a manuscript for Science and Scripture.
  • I am in the middle of other long-term writing projects: Philosophy for Wesleyan-Arminians, Faith Notes Along the Way, A Schenck History of the United States, and more. Hopefully, before I die.

Reading

  • Back to a page a day of STEM, publishing one STEM-related video a week.
  • I'd like to read a book a month. I've done horribly with reading this year. First up is R. B. Jamieson's Jesus' Death and Heavenly Offering in Hebrews.
  • I'd like to aim at 5 pages of coding reading a day. I haven't done a good job at keeping up with this. I've now taken SNHU courses in Java, C++, C#, and Python. I studied JavaScript at Houghton. Throw in HTML and CSS at Houghton and SNHU (although they aren't languages). I have a book on making apps for Android that I hope to continue with.

Creating

  • The big launch this week is a biblical Hebrew course I have put together on Udemy, using Jonah to learn Hebrew inductively. Expect a post early this week with the launch. I hope to create more of these. Requests?
  • I plan to continue "Through the Bible in Ten Years" each Sunday. I'd like to publish some of the past material from this project. Possibilities include Explanatory Notes on Revelation, Stuff You Didn't Know about Acts, Explanatory Notes on Mark, etc. I am in the middle of Luke and Acts in the series. Would be nice to get to 1 Corinthians this year.
  • I put Southern New Hampshire and Arizona State on hold. It would be nice to take one course with each this year. I'm currently scheduled to take Linear Algebra with SNHU in May, if finances permit. Would be nice to do Physics: Mechanics with ASU, although I hate that their courses are 7-weeks long. Calculus II was a bear in fall 2021.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Reflections on 2022

1. Another year gone. At the beginning of the year, we were living in Fillmore, New York, in a house we had to buy because we had no other real choice. It was a nice house and a nice town. Our roosters were of course a nuisance to the neighbors. That made me uncomfortable. We did get COVID, but by then we'd had the vaccine.

I always felt in-between in New York. There was a heaviness there in my spirit. Once I stopped working at Houghton, we knew we would eventually either move back to Indiana or follow the Spirit somewhere else. We didn't broadcast that sense, of course. We let things play out until the right time. Angie enjoyed teaching at Houghton Academy, although they hadn't recovered from COVID enrollment crisis, which meant a lot of extra work for peanuts or nothing.

Indiana it was. We were grateful to find a nice house outside Marion where we have, for good or ill, multiplied chickens (and two ducks that were supposed to be females but aren't). The market was crazy when we bought, but at least we caught it before interest rates soared. I like the house, although I still remain separated from most of my books, my one materialism. 

Angie had a bad accident at the end of August that could have killed her. We were quickly putting the chickens in the coop as a large wind storm approached, and a large tree branch fell on her head, flattening her. Fractured vertebrae, subdural hematoma. She is in the final stages of recovery, thank the Lord. She will hopefully return to work at least part-time this coming month.

My children are all on a good path. Stefanie gets married in April and has a good job working out of Miami. Stacy has emerged from COVID working at a fulfilling job in Chicago. After finishing at Purdue, Tom has decided to become an electrician and is studying in Chicago as well while working. Sophie has just finished one semester on a master's degree at the University of Edinburgh.

2. I have continued to work for Campus Edu this year. It has been a very stimulating year, working with a number of colleges to build next-generation digital courses aimed to appeal to digital natives. I've learned a lot. With the departure of Erin Crisp, I have slid into the chief academic role, a position very familiar to me from Wesley Seminary and IWU. Here is a reflection on three takeaways from this past year.

I often ask myself what I would do if I had the authority to lead a college. Right now I'm working on the service side. We're trying to help colleges from the outside. What would I do if I were in the driver's seat of a college? Here are some of my current thoughts for anyone to use:

Residentially, there has to be something different that draws students to your campus. 

  • For Christian colleges, ideology is usually somewhere in the mix. Maybe it's a denominational school. Maybe it's a conservative school. Maybe it's a "social justice" school. It's at least a consideration--what "idea flavor" does your school have?
  • By the way, I don't think trying to suddenly switch your "brand" works very well. You just lose the group you have without necessarily gaining the group your BOT or alumni think you should be going after. Changing brand usually takes some time. On another note, your real brand is decided by outsiders. You can't just say, "We're this," if everyone thinks you're "that." Perception is reality when it comes to marketing.
  • Location, location, location. Who or what is within 50 miles of your campus? This can be a problem for schools in the middle of nowhere. If you are in an area with significant economic challenges, leverage PELL.
  • Tuition/room-board. Tuition resets have not historically done much good, but I still believe that most Christian colleges should only cost about $20,000 total to attend. 
  • For most colleges, a warm, fun atmosphere is ideal. What are your rooms like? What are your dorms like? What are your athletic facilities like? It is not uncommon for a third to half of a school's students to be involved in athletics of some sort. I get push back from faculty saying, "They should be here to study." But "shoulds" don't get students to a campus.
  • A former employee at a college did a Minecraft version of the campus. I thought this was brilliant. What would have been even greater if the students designed and regularly played something like this so that the lines between the real campus and the imaginary one began to blur into each other.
Curricularly,

  • You should have clear paths to jobs. You need the staples--some relevant business program. Nursing has been drying up, but I still believe in it. You might want to specialize (e.g., rural nursing). Something relevant in computer science or cybersecurity. Partner with nearby industry in STEM.
  • Don't let the curriculum get pruned down to those staples or the same blase core that everyone else has. What are your flavor majors? What's the unique thing that some niche knows you are the place to come for?
  • Partner with other schools online (Campus is perfect for this) to retain the majors you think you need to close because they are financially unsustainable? Share faculty with partner schools for them.
 Online:

  • I believe in the Campus product. We have trailers for our "digital" courses. I love this. Our gold courses have short video overviews for every module. For my philosophy class, we did some quick videos to introduce hard readings.
  • Eventually, there will be AI interactive components to online courses (and residential). I can see Oculus-like virtual learning in them as well. This is not that far off. Online courses will increasingly have a video game feel. Why not use students in a game design major to help design online course experiences? Virtual classroom learning experiences are sneaking up on us.
  • The residential campus should become increasingly hybrid. I think it's at least worth exploring having some classrooms equipped for HyFlex classes, with some students participating live in the class at a distance. There are ways to keep it from being what it was during the COVID nightmare.
3. I've worked on a number of writing projects this year, both with publishers and self-published. The two mainstream publishing ventures have been an old contract on inductive Bible study (which is still in the final stages) and a volume, Explanatory Notes on Hebrews that I submitted to Cascade. I look for that volume to come out in January. I hope to finish the IBS book by end of January.

In the meantime I self-published several volumes. These largely came from material I had already written. Publishing them is a stress-reliever for me.

First, I self-published the second and third volumes of the systematic theology material I blogged several years ago. More of this to come.
I also self-published Explanatory Notes on Jesus' Birth. This is commentary on John 1, Matthew 1-2, and Luke 1-2. I hope to self-publish a similar volume around Easter: Explanatory Notes on Jesus' Death and Resurrection

In the category of humor, I captured some of the "Deep Thoughts" I used to do when I was a professor at IWU (and added): 4. Did I reach my goals from last year? I did not run 750 miles. Angie's accident effectively ended my running. I did continue my "Through the Bible" series on Sunday. I have put a mess of video on YouTube. In late November, I passed 10,000 subscribers. This is mostly because of the Hebrew course I have been building on Udemy. I hope to launch it early next week.

I would say I have the equivalent of one semester of Hebrew content in this course and will continue to add until it has a full year's worth of content. It teaches Hebrew while reading through the book of Jonah (Jonah 1-2 is complete). I think it will be a good course, with vocabulary as part of it. I'm going to charge $24 to have permanent access. Supplemental written material will eventually fill it out.

5. I stopped taking courses with Southern New Hampshire and Arizona State. Just don't have the bandwidth.

Thus concludes 2022. On to 2023.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Three Systematic Theology Volumes Done

Eight years ago, I started a series of blog posts on Christian theology and ethics. I have now published three of those volumes. In fact, the heart of a Wesleyan systematic theology is now finished. The Wesleyan tradition doesn't have a lot of these, the Wesleyan Church especially. 

Luther Lee (founder of the Wesleyan Methodist Church) published one, I think. My favorite one was done by H. Orton Wiley in the early twentieth century. He was Nazarene. The Nazarenes have a couple others also (H. Ray Dunning, for example). The United Methodists might claim Thomas Oden's theology, although his goal is not to be specifically Wesleyan.

So this is a pretty rare bird. When the final volume on ethics is edited, I'll also publish all four volumes in one binding. Links to the volumes on amazon are attached to the titles.

God and Creation










Christ and Salvation









The Spirit and the Church



 

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Explanatory Notes on Birth Stories -- Published

I have now finished publishing Explanatory Notes on the Birth Stories. This is verse by verse commentary on John 1:1-18, Matthew 1-2, and Luke 1-2. All of it is also available unedited here for free on the blog. 

The printed version is available here.

The Kindle version is available here.

I will probably try to do an Explanatory Notes on the Crucifixion/Resurrection Stories too around Easter.



Thursday, December 15, 2022

John 1:2-18 Explanatory Notes

Finishing up my Explanatory Notes on the Birth Stories of Jesus. John 1 isn't really a birth story, but as the Scriptural reference for the Incarnation, it seemed appropriate to include in the book.

______________________ 

2. This [one] was in the beginning with God. 3. All [things] through him came to be and apart from him not even one thing came to be.

We know that, when we get to verse 14, we will find out that John is referring to Jesus. For the moment, however, let us suspend this knowledge and follow the train of thought. John is talking about the Logos, the Word. John 1:1 tells us that the Word was in the beginning and that "it" was with God. Verse 2 puts these two data points together. In the beginning, the Logos was with God.

The statement that the Logos was the means of creation would have come as no surprise to anyone from the synagogue of Alexandria in Egypt. For example, it is hard to imagine that Apollos had not heard such things in the Great Synagogue growing up there. Philo, the most prominent Jewish thinker of the day, considered the Logos, the Word of God, to be the instrument "through which" this world was constructed (Cher. 127). The Word of God is both the image of God and the "instrument" God used to make the world (Leg. 3.96). And this is understandable since God repeatedly speaks the world into order in Genesis 1.

John 1:3 adds that the Logos was not just the instrument God the Father used to create some things but the means by which God created all things. Not even one thing created came to order apart from the Logos. Again, Philo would have agreed. For him, the Logos stood at the intersection of God and the creation.

I have chosen to translate the pronoun in 1:3 as "him" rather than "it." We know that ultimately John is thinking of Jesus. Later in the Gospel, we will get a clear sense that Jesus was conscious prior to his descent into the world. That is to say, John is not merely speaking metaphorically here, as if the Logos was not a person prior to the incarnation, when Jesus took on human flesh. Jesus pre-existed as a conscious person. "Glorify me with the glory we shared before the foundation of the world," Jesus says in John 17:5.

We might say that Jesus is here said to be the agent of creation. We can take such language literally--Jesus was actually the person of the Trinity who directed creation. Or we can take such language figuratively--Jesus is the very meaning and purpose of all creation. I do not think there is a dogmatic answer to this question. The second is certainly true. The first may also be the case.

4. That which has come to be in him was life, and the life was the light of human beings. 5. And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not extinguished it.

Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). This "prolog" in John is the introduction to John's Gospel. [1] We are not surprised to find that John anticipates themes we will see later in the Gospel. In John 1:14 we will see that Jesus is this Word from God who brings life again to the world. Jesus is the one who has brought light again into the world.

In Stoic thinking, the Logos was the Mind directing the cosmos. We all had this "implanted word" (cf. Jas. 1:21) inside us. Since resistance is futile, the "logical" thing to do is to submit to it and be content no matter our circumstances (cf. Phil. 4:11). "Everything happens for a reason," you might say. We should therefore submit ourselves to God.

What was God's will for this world, God's plan? God's plan was life. God's will for this world was the restoration of light from darkness. God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son so that whoever has faith in him will not perish, will not die, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Clearly, God creates life by means of his Word in Genesis 1. God speaks plants and animals into existence. God speaks humanity into existence. God is on the side of life. God created light on the very first day of creation. And God saw that it was good.

God's Word for the world is life and light. Here we depart a little from the language and thinking of Stoicism and Middle Platonism. [2] The world is not currently as God wants it to be. The world that God once created alive has undergone death. The light that God created has gone dark to a large extent.

The world thus needs a Word from God again. The world needs a new creation. The same Word that God spoke in the beginning needs to be spoken again in re-creation.

We are not prone to think of darkness as a thing. Like the Neoplatonists that would rise in Greek thought in the third century, we rightly think of darkness as the absence of light. However, John is not thinking of that kind of darkness in the last part of this verse.

In terms of good and evil, darkness is a force in the world. In this context, darkness is always trying to extinguish and put out the light. Darkness tried to put out the light of Christ. It failed. Jesus--God's Word for the world--came to restore life to the world. He came to restore light in the world. The darkness did not success in extinguishing it.

6. A man did come, having been sent from God, his name John. 7. This [man] came as a witness, to witness concerning the light in order that all might believe through him. 8. That [man] was not the light but [came] in order that he might witness concerning the light.

As in the Gospel of Luke, there is another origin story intertwined with that of Jesus. John the Baptist was also sent by God. The tone of the Gospel toward John the Bapist is a little different in John than in the other Gospels. The tone is entirely positive, to be sure, but the Gospel of John puts John the Bapist's role into clear perspective. John comes second.

In Acts 19, we find out that there were followers of John the Baptist's teaching at Ephesus some twenty-five years after he was beheaded (Acts 19:1-7). The apostle Paul is curious that they have not received the Holy Spirit, even though they have been baptized. In Acts, this means they are in a limbo, not yet fully in the people of God. [3] Paul is puzzled.

We can hypothesize that not every follower of John the Baptist's teaching went on to believe on Jesus. We can also hypothesize that, at least at one time, a significant group of such individuals were situated in Ephesus. Although it was because of his ignorance, Apollos started out as one such individual (cf. Acts 18:25).

The Gospel of John seems to be written in such a way as to make it clear that John the Baptist was only the forerunner to Jesus. John "was not the light" coming into the world. Jesus was the light that came into the world. John's role was only to "give witness" to the light of Jesus. As soon as Jesus arrives, as we will see, John makes it clear that "it is necessary for that one to increase, but for me to decrease" (John 3:30). In fact, the Gospel of John never even records Jesus being baptized by John.

John thus came as a witness to the one who could come afterward, Jesus. The purpose? So that people would believe or have faith through Jesus. Although we cannot see it in English, the verb "to believe" is pisteuo in Greek. The noun, "faith," is pistis. In the original Greek you can clearly see that this is the same verb root. In the right context, the verb "to believe" can thus also be translated as "to have faith." [4] 

The theme of needing faith in order to have eternal life is one of the key themes of the Gospel of John, and we see it here for the first time. Notice in this instance that Jesus is not the object of faith but rather the means by which the world might come to faith in God (the Father). John the Baptist gave witness concerning Jesus, the light through which the world might come to faith.

It is easy to miss the fact that the New Testament focally sees Jesus as the way to God the Father. Jesus is the one in whose name we have access to the Father. Jesus' sacrifice is the means by which we can approach God. Jesus is the way, and the earliest followers of Jesus were called "followers of the Way" (cf. Acts 9:2). John the Baptist prepared "the way" of the Lord (John 1:23).

9. [The other] was the true light coming into the world, which lightens every human. 10. In the world he was, and the world came into existence through him, and the world did not know him. 11. To his own he came, and his own did not receive him.

There are two ways to translate John 1:9, depending on where you put "coming into the world." If you go with the word order, Jesus is the true light that brings light "to everyone who comes into the world." This wording would emphasize that the light is for everyone in the world.

Perhaps John only meant to say that the light of Christ is available to everyone. That is certainly what my tradition believes, the Wesleyan tradition. We do not believe in "limited atonement," that Jesus only came for some in the world and not everyone. 

Theologically, we might explore an even more universal sense to the verse. We might suggest that, even to those who have never heard of him, Jesus brings light to every human in the world in some way. Wesleyan theology calls such light "prevenient grace," the grace of God that reaches out to us before we are even aware of it.

The sense that "God judges us according to the light we have" is an old concept that I grew up with as a Wesleyan. In that sense, God evaluates our hearts not so much according to what we know but according to how we respond to what we know. In this regard, the Wesleyan (and Quaker) traditions are more heart-oriented than head-oriented, which I would argue is in fact the biblical priority.

However, grammatically, the expression, "coming into the world" could also modify "the true light." As I have translated the sentence here, it states that Jesus, the Logos, was the true light coming into the world. And, yes, he lightens every human. Although this primary sense is not the word order, the overall context seems to emphasize the arrival of Jesus into the world, the incarnation. We do not necessarily have to choose between the two interpretations. John could have meant a double entendre.

These verses already recognize the rejection that Jesus faced from his fellow Jews. At the time of John's writing in the late first century, this dynamic had become overwhelmingly clear. Even as early as the late 50s, Paul wrestles with the fact that Jesus seemed to be welcomed more by non-Jews than by Jews. Romans 9-11 wrestles with this puzzle. By the time Acts was written perhaps in the 80s and John perhaps finished in the 90s, this reality must have been deafening.

How ironic and tragic. Here is the very meaning and purpose of the universe, the very wisdom of God for the creation, the "Logos" of God. And God's own people reject him. They reject God's wisdom and purpose for them. They reject the creator of the universe.

12. But as many as received him, he gave to them authority to become children of God, to those who believed in his name, 13. who not from bloods nor from the will of flesh nor from the will of a husband, but they were born from God.

However, many did receive him. They were not primarily Jews. They were not primarily of the same blood as Jesus. They were not of the same flesh as Jesus. They were not the "biological children" of God, as it were. They were spiritual children.

To become the true children of God, all that is necessary is faith. If we believe in the authorizing name of Jesus, the way to God the Father, we can become the children of God. It is our act of faith in Christ that makes us children. As human beings, we have no choice in whether we are born. Parents may actively seek for a woman to get pregnant, or it may happen coincidentally. 

But one does not become a true child of God by accident. We must "receive" Christ. We have faith that he is the Christ. Such individuals are born of God the Father and are the true children of God.

There is obviously a sensitive dynamic in play here in relation to Israel. Paul does this dance as well. He makes it clear that God has not rejected his people (Rom. 11:1). All Israel can still be saved and Paul believes they will eventually turn back (Rom. 11:12, 26). Still, true Israelites and the true children of God--whether Jewish or Gentile--are those who embrace Jesus as the Christ (Rom. 2:29; John 8:39). 

14. And the Logos became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld his glory, a glory as of the only begotten [Son] from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This is the key verse in the Bible proclaiming the "incarnation." Incarnation means "in flesh." The Logos came to earth "in the flesh." A carnivore is an animal that eats meat. Jesus came to earth, "in the meat," so to speak.

A Stoic or Middle Platonist might have no problem agreeing with the statements about the Logos earlier in the chapter. This is the verse where they would say, "Huh?" "What?" The Gospel of John boldly proclaims that the very meaning and purpose of the universe became embodied in a person, Jesus Christ. 

Theologically, this is when the second person of the Trinity took on our humanity. Gregory of Nazianzus put it this way in the late 300s, "that which is not assumed cannot be healed." Jesus fully became human so that he might "heal" and save humanity. Hebrews 2:14 put it in this way: "Because the children partook of blood and flesh, he similarly partook of them so that through death he might destroy the one having the power of death, the Devil." 

God became man. Some versions say, "and dwelt among us," but this is a weak translation. The verse implies something much more powerful. The Word of God "tabernacled" among us. The image is that of the wilderness tabernacle in Exodus.

In Exodus, Israel wanders around the desert for forty years. However, during that time, the portable tabernacle travels around with them. Moses meets with God in that tabernacle, and the glory of God is so striking on his face that he wears a veil not to terrify the people.

Jesus was God tabernacling with his people on earth again. Everywhere that Jesus went, there was "God with us," Immanuel. Everywhere that Jesus went, there was the presence of God among us.

Jesus himself is thus a kind of counter-temple. The temple arguably had been destroyed for a couple decades by the time John was finished. The audience of John would recognize that they need not be concerned by its absence because Jesus was the temple to end all temples.

It is thus no surprise that John goes on to speak of how God's glory was present in Jesus, just as it had been present in the temple in the desert. The beloved disciple confirms that he was an eyewitness of the Jesus on earth. "We beheld his glory." They may not have fully realized it at the time, but it was indeed the "glory of God's only Son. 

Those of us who believe are all the sons of God. And we are brothers and sisters with Christ. However, there is also a unique relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son. Theologically, they have existed in eternal relationship since eternity past. Christ is the "only-begotten" of the Father in this way. He is "begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father."

I have frequently heard individuals pit grace against truth. Grace is when God lets you off the hook for something you deserve. Truth is when God sticks it to you. 

I get it. There are times when the truth is uncomfortable (like when you fall off a tall building). There are times when we need to experience the consequences of our actions because reality just doesn't seem to be getting through to us and we need to snap out of it and come to our senses. There are other times when we sorely could use forgiveness and "a lighter sentence."

However, despite these important truths, John did not likely mean for us to hear grace and truth as opposites. For John grace and truth are on the same team. Jesus is the truth, as well as the way and the life (John 14:6). Jesus is the true pathway to God the Father.

But Jesus as the truth is fully God's grace and love. The truth is the way of salvation. Jesus came because God so loved the world, and that love has provided the way, the truth, and the life.

15. John witnesses concerning him and has cried out saying, "This [one] was the one whom I said, 'The one coming after me has come to existence before me because he was first from me.'"

Again, John the Baptist was not the Messiah. His job was to point to the Messiah, to prepare the "Way" for the coming king. Here John himself testifies to Jesus' pre-existence, even though on earth he was born first. The Word was in the beginning. John was not. The Word came first. He is the elder, and the one with priority.

16. Because from his fullness we ourselves have all received even grace upon grace, 17. for the Law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of John is giving these words of John the Baptist to its audience, to the Christians of Ephesus almost a century after the birth of John the Baptist, but also to us today. From the "fullness" of Jesus, the Word of God become flesh, from the Jesus whose body is the bread of life, from the one who gives us living water to drink, is not just one unmerited gift from God but grace upon grace. Through Christ, we receive gift after gift.  

The Law came through Moses. It brought condemnation. It brought only anticipation of salvation. It brought out our need for God's grace but did not mediate the grace itself. Grace, God's unmerited favor and forgiveness, came from Jesus. The truth, the way to life, came through Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ.

18. God no one has seen at any time. The only-begotten God who was in the bosom of the Father, that [one] has explained [him]. 

How do we know what God is like? Look at Jesus. We cannot visibly see God the Father. Even in the Old Testament, the appearances of God seem to have come through his messengers. [5] Some also speculate whether the pre-incarnate Christ made some appearances during the old covenant. Certainly, many later Christians have thought so, although the Bible itself does not clearly say so.

What then is the clearest way to know God the Father? It is through the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the "only-begotten God" who has "exegeted" him. [6] After all, he is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). He is a "reflection of his glory and an impression of his substance" (Heb. 1:3). He was with God before he came to earth, in the "bosom" of the Father. [7]

Again, how do we know what God is like? Look at Jesus. "God is love," 1 John 4:8 says. Jesus certainly displayed that identity in his earthly mission. And the sending of Jesus itself was a reflection of this core characteristic of God (cf. John 3:16).

[1] Like many introductions, it is quite possible that John 1 was one of the last parts of the Gospel to be written. There are of course those in the past who have suggested that the Gospel may have had a "composition history." For example, it is sometimes suggested that John 21 was also added in the later stages of John's composition. It refers to the beloved disciple in the third person--"he is the one giving witness to these things" (21:24). It is at least possible that the core source for John was the beloved disciple but that God also inspired some of those in John's circle to help edit the Gospel into its final form. These musings may or may not be particularly useful to most readers of John.

[2] In revelation, God meets us where we are, but he does not leave us there. Even if there could be overtones of the language of Middle Platonism and/or Stoicism here, the most fundamental framework of John's theology is the narrative of the Jewish Scriptures. 

[3] Receiving the Holy Spirit is the indicator that one has been saved and become part of God's people in the thinking of Acts and Paul. Without the Spirit, one does not belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9). The Spirit is God's "seal" of ownership on us (e.g., Eph. 1:13). The Spirit is the security deposit on our eternal inheritance (e.g., 2 Cor. 1:22).

[4] Any given word can have multiple meanings. A word does not have all these meanings at the same time (overload fallacy). In some sentences, pisteuo has more of a connotation of believing. In others, it has more of a sense of having faith. Similarly, the noun pistis sometimes has more the sense of faith. In others, it has more a sense of belief.

[5] It is hard to say what Moses saw when he looked at the "back of God" in Exodus 33:23. It was surely God meeting Moses within his understanding of God. God has no body in this world other than the body of Jesus.

[6] Interestingly, the article "the" is again missing from both mentions of God in this verse.

[7] Apparently, the beloved disciple was not troubled by the apparent metaphor of God being pregnant.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Explanatory Notes -- John 1:1

1:1 In the beginning was the Logos, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

1. If you have grown up as a Christian, the expression, "the word of God," probably makes you think immediately of the Bible. The Bible is indeed the word of God. However, the New Testament was not yet collected when these words were written down. It is natural for us to come to the words of the Bible with the definitions in our heads, but to know what the Bible actually meant when God first inspired it, we need to know what these words meant when the author of John wrote them. [1] 

Spoiler alert. We will find out who this Logos is when we get to John 1:14. The "Logos of God" is not the Bible in this context. It is Jesus. Christ is the Logos. "The Logos became flesh, and tabernacled among us."

[I have since inserted several 100 words here on an orthodox, theological reading of John 1:1. It will appear in the published version, Explanatory Notes on Jesus' Birth.]

The phrase, "the logos of God" had a history. It had a known background at the time of Christ. It was not an expression that the beloved disciple came up with himself. Yes, we can find references to the "word" in the Old Testament. Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path." This psalm probably did especially have the Law, the Pentateuch, in mind. 

More immediately, John 1:1 has clear echoes of Genesis 1 and God in creation. "And God said, 'Let there be light.'" God speaks the entire creation into order in Genesis 1. Each day of creation begins with the word of God. The phrase here, "in the beginning" is clearly meant to echo Genesis 1:1.

2. However, much happened in the hundreds of years between Psalm 119 and the Gospel of John. In the Greek world, the Logos was a major part of Stoic philosophy, which originated around 300BC. In Stoicism, the Word was the Mind that governed the world. Those things that happened in the world happened because the Word wanted it to happen. Like fate, it was pointless to fight against the Word, because everything would certainly end up the way the Word directed it to be. 

Rather, you should "love your fate" (amor fati). The Stoic conception of the divine Mind was very amenable to the Jewish understanding of God. In fact, a famous Stoic hymn by Cleanthes called, "A Hymn to Zeus," could almost have been written to the God of Israel.

What makes this Greek background potentially relevant is the fact that some prominent Jewish thinkers, especially at Alexandria in Egypt, integrated the Old Testament sense of God's word and God's speaking with this Stoic philosophy, also mixing in some Platonic philosophy as well. This mixture of philosophies is known as "Middle Platonism." The best-known Jewish thinker to use this synthesis to interpret the Bible is Philo, who was probably born around 20BC.

From Platonism, Philo believed that God was the ultimate pattern of all things. The Logos or Word of God was the image of God, God's shadow. Then the world was a copy of the Word. In his synthesis, the Word was the instrument of God in creation, the one "through whom" God made the world. From Stoicism, Philo saw the Logos as the pilot of the world, the tool God uses to implement his will in the world.

A keen eye will see some possible parallels between this "Logos speculation" and various passages in the New Testament. The prologue of John is the most obvious intersection, as we will see, but several other passages also come to mind:

  • Colossians 1:15 -- "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (cf. Philo, Special Laws 1.81).
  • Hebrews 4:12 -- "The Logos of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword" (cf. Philo, Heir 130).
  • Hebrews 10:1 -- "The Law, having a shadow of the good things to come, not the image itself of the things..." (cf. Philo, Allegorical Laws, 3.96).
  • 1 Corinthians 8:6 -- "For us [is] one God, the Father, from whom all things... and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things" (cf. Philo, Cherubim 127).
Whether these parallels prove to be substantial or not, they are at least worth investigating.

3. a. "In the beginning, was the Logos."
How would a Jew like Philo have understood this statement? God created the world by speaking it into existence. The Word of God is God's will for the world in action. God said, "Let it be," and it was. Everything started with God speaking.

b. "The word was with God."
John uses a unique expression for "with" here. It is not the normal word of accompaniment. It is normally a word that means "to" or "toward." The Word was toward God does not really make a lot of sense at first glance. It would make more immediate sense if John had put, "the Word was from God."

On the one hand, it is hard to know the colloquialisms of late first century Ephesus. Perhaps this preposition simply meant "with" in town. Or perhaps it means something like, "the Word belonged with God." "The Word related or pertained to God."

c. "The word was divine."
This part of the verse has long been a point of debate. Jehovah's Witnesses translate the verse, "The Word was a god," pointing out that there is no word "the" (called the article) on God. However, there is a grammatical rule called "Colwell's Rule" that argues that the reason it doesn't have the article is the order of the Greek words. The order is "God was the Word." 

Colwell noted first that this is a situation where you have two nouns joined by "was," which is called a "to be" verb. He then noted that the "predicate" comes first (the predicate is the part of the sentence in English that normally comes after the verb). In this situation in the Greek language, he noted, the first noun usually does not have the word the on it, even though it is part of the meaning.

Bottom line? He argued that it should be translated, "The Word was God."

In general, when a noun in Greek does not have the word the on the front, it does not mean that we should stick the word a or an in front of it. The article ("the") in Greek is used when you are talking about a specific thing. However, without the article, the noun tends to be talking about a kind of thing. 

For this reason, I wonder if the best translation is something like, "the Word was divine." "God" in this case would give a categorization of the Logos. What category does the Logos belong to? It belongs in the category of God. 

It remained for the Church to unpack the precise relationship between the Logos, Christ, and God the Father. What we often find is that orthodox Christian belief is not simply a matter of "the Bible alone" or "the Church." God used both to reveal proper Christian understanding. We should not be troubled then if John 1 sowed seeds that came to full blossom in the understanding of the Church in the 300s and 400s.

It would be very easy for me to believe that God used the thinking of Alexandria to help some early Christians have words to express some of these mysteries. Did Jewish Logos speculation provide the early church with language to express mysteries about Christ, mysteries that God then helped develop into orthodox Christology in the Church of the next few centuries? In this regard, I have long been struck by the fact that Apollos was an extremely educated and eloquent man from Alexandria (Acts 18:24).  

Philo does have a passage where he notes the absence of the word the in relation to God. In the Greek translation of Genesis 31:13, one instance speaks of the God and another only of "God" without the word the. To what does the second instance refer? It refers to the Logos. To Philo, the word logos without the word the on the front "calls God's oldest Word 'God'" (Dreams 1.130).    

[1] Tradition is that the Gospel of John was written by John the son of Zebedee, one of the first disciples Jesus called (cf. Mark 1:19). The Gospel itself only indicates that the "beloved disciple" was the source of the Gospel's information (John 21:20-24). We will refer to the author as John and the beloved disciple for convenience.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Luke 2:21-52 Explanatory Notes

Christ with the Doctors
Musei Capitolini, Rome

2:21 And when eight days were fulfilled for him to be circumcised, and his name was called, "Jesus," which was called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
1. Leviticus 12:3 says that a male child is to be circumcised on the eighth day outside the womb. When God became human, God came to earth as a Jewish male. God did not come as every human, just as none of us are every human. We are specific humans.

So God came to earth as a specific human, just as we all are specific humans. Jesus did not have all eye colors. He had one eye color, although we do not know what it was. In theory, he could have come to earth as a woman, but he came to earth as a man. As a Wesleyan, I believe this choice was practical rather than theological. 

And God came to earth as a Jew, in keeping with his use of the Israelite people as the path by which salvation would come to the earth. God did not choose Israel because they were a more numerous people or a better people (cf. Deut. 7:7). God had a relationship with Abraham, and he followed that relationship as a path to bring the Christ to the world.

Luke says nothing about the incarnation. In Luke, the story of Jesus begins with Mary. He does not mention Jesus' existence before he came to earth.

2. The name given him is Jesus, as Gabriel had instructed in 1:31. They follow God's instructions. Luke does not tell us what Matthew 1:21 is more explicit about. Jesus name means "Yahweh saves." Jesus presumably was not circumcised at the temple. A Jewish boy would normally be circumcised locally. 

22. And when the days of their cleansing were fulfilled according to the Law of Moses, they led him to Jerusalem to present [him] to the Lord, 23. as it has been written in the Law of the Lord, "Every male opening the womb will be called holy to the Lord."
Leviticus 12:4 goes on to speak of the purification of the mother after childbirth, thirty-three days after the birth. Jesus himself would not necessary be required for presentation at the temple. The purification in question had to do with the woman, but Luke's wording is curious. He says the days of "their" cleansing. Theologically, we know of course that Jesus did not need cleansing, but he fully participates in his humanity.

Luke quotes Exodus 13:12. Every human is supposed to belong to the Lord. Every Israelite is of course especially supposed to be set apart to the Lord. Wesleyans would generally consider the focus on males in the old covenant to be a mixture of ancient patriarchal culture and the unfortunate consequences of the Fall. 

Notice how quickly in life all men--in fact all people--become "unholy" to the Lord. The default desire of the Lord it seems is for us all to belong to him from the very beginning. Yet our sin soon separates us from him. "All have sinned and are lacking the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).   

Luke would seem to emphasize conformity to the "Law of Moses" or the "Law of the Lord." We might put this emphasis into a general theme in Luke-Acts that Christians are peaceful, law-abiding participants in the Roman Empire. They are not troublemakers, as rumors around the empire might have suggested. Nero, when he was looking for a scapegoat for the fire of Rome in AD64, thought it would be believable to blame Christians. Yet here we see that these Jewish (Christian) folk are Law-keepers.

Luke also seems to orient his entire telling of the early Christian story around Jerusalem. Luke starts in the temple. Luke ends in Jerualem with them waiting for the Spirit, with Luke not even mentioning the resurrection appearances in Galilee. Acts accordingly begins in Jerusalem, and its first seven chapters are there. Paul goes to Jerusalem five times after believing, before and after every missionary journey. It is from Jerusalem that Paul heads to Rome for the story's end. 

24. And to give sacrifice according to what has been said in the Law of the Lord, "a yoke of turtledoves or two younglings of pigeons."

This is a poor person's sacrifice (Lev. 12:8). The clear implication to any Jew is that Jesus did not come from a wealthy family, even if they were in the lineage of David. We have already seen this theme of God elevating the poor and weak while bringing down the rich and the powerful. The type of sacrifice that they offer is fully in keeping with this theme of Luke-Acts.

Notice that they offer sacrifices in the temple. Jesus does not need cleansing, but we note that the earliest Christians participated in the temple even as late as Acts 21 (vss. 24, 26). Clearly Luke has a positive view of the Jerusalem temple. In all of Luke-Acts, only Acts 7:48 gives any hint that the temple might not be an ongoing part of Christian Judaism, including regular sacrifices.

Simeon

25. And behold, a person was in Jerusalem to whom the name [was] Simeon. And this person was righteous and devout, awaiting the encouragement of Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him.
Joel Green calls the ongoing testimony of individuals like Simeon and Anna, "character witnesses." [1] What especially makes their witness powerful is the fact that they do not know Jesus, Mary, or Joseph. the witness is coming from the Holy Spirit. We remember again that the activity of the Holy Spirit is another one of the major emphases of Luke-Acts.

Simeon was a righteous person. Again, it is worth pointing out that for Luke this is real righteousness, not imputed righteousness. By this word Luke suggests that Simeon was a person who actually did the right thing. He kept the Jewish Law. His presence at the temple emphasizes this fact. He is also "devout"--he carefully follows the righteous rituals and practices of Israel.

He is waiting for the "consolation" or "encouragement" of Israel. Obviously, this "consoling" of Israel will involve the coming of its Messiah, its promised king. However, given what Luke says elsewhere (e.g., Acts 1:6), it likely also includes the restoration of Israel as a people and "nation." [2] He is waiting for Israel to be freed from Roman domination and rule.

26. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit not to see death before he would see the Messiah of the Lord [3]
Notice the role of the Holy Spirit in revelation. It is the Holy Spirit that most often brings God's word to his people. Simeon has been promised that he will not die before "the Christ of the Lord" arrives. He is thus awaiting the "anointed one" to come, the promised king who will rule in the liberated Israel to come. Messiah is a word based on the Hebrew for anointed one (meshiach), while Christ is based on the equivalent Greek word (christos).

27. And he came by the Spirit into the temple and when the parents led in the child Jesus so that they might do according to the thing having been customed by the Law concerning him, 

Again, we see the leadership of the Spirit. Simeon is clued in by the Spirit that it is time for him to go to the temple for the fulfillment of the promise to him. All these miraculous events are signs that testify that Jesus will be someone very great because his birth and youth were surrounded by spectacular signs and wonders.

Many Christians can attest to this sort of leadership of the Spirit. They are led to pray for someone just as--as they later find out--that person is undergoing a particular trial. Christians regularly attest to being told by the Spirit to go talk to someone at just the right needed moment. Christians can attest to feeling like they should go somewhere, later to believe it was the prompting of the Spirit.

Simeon thus arrives at the temple in time to meet Jesus and his parents. They are, again, fulfilling the expectations of the Law. They are Law-observant. They are law-keeping and respectable people.

28. ... even he himself received it into the arms and blessed God and said, [4] 

29. "Now you release your servant, Master, 
     according to your word, in peace...

So Simeon takes Jesus into his arms and sings or at least goes poetic. Simeon's song is parallel to Zechariah's song. The song is often called the "Nunc Dimittis" after the first words of the poem in Latin: "Now you send away." The "Master" in question is God the Father, since Simeon is holding the baby Jesus. God is our Father to be sure. God is also our Master and us his servants.

Many Christians operate with this sense that God has called them to some work or some task. They keep at that ministry or vocation until they feel "released" by God. Simeon had a promise from God. He did not feel like he could depart from this world until it was fulfilled. There was a part of his soul that was burdened, worried about his people. Now he can depart in peace. The burden has been lifted. The Lord has released him.

30. ... for my eyes saw your salvation,
     31. which you prepared in the face of all the peoples, 
 

32. a light for revelation of the Gentiles
     and glory of your people Israel.

Jesus will bring about the salvation of Israel and the whole world. Salvation for Luke is not merely a spiritual or eternal salvation. It is healing. It is restoration. It is wholeness. It relates to Israel collectively. It relates to each individual as a whole person--physically and economically. The poor are no longer poor. They are saved. The lame are no longer lame. They are saved.

God has prepared this "rescue" for all people, not just for Israel. Luke 2:32 is one of the clearest indications of the theme that the gospel is for the whole world. Assuming that Theophilus was a Gentile, it was for him as well. If Luke was truly the author of Luke-Acts, then he was a Gentile too. The gospel was for him. In Acts, the gospel goes "to the ends of the earth," which they would have conceptualized as Rome, the end of the civilized world. 

Even though the gospel is for all nations and all peoples, it is good news that brings glory to Israel as God's special people. Since God has used them as the vessel to save and restore the whole world, they receive special honor. Glory is honor-shame language, a way of thinking that is often foreign to us. We are taught to be true to ourselves and not worry about what other people think. In the biblical world, honor and glory meant something.

33. And his father and mother were marveling at the things that had been spoken concerning him. 34. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this [one] is set for the falling and rising of many in Israel and as a sign that will be spoken against 35. --and even your soul itself a sword will pierce--so that the thoughts from many hearts might be revealed."

You can know something without really knowing it. Mary and Joseph "know" that Jesus is going to be great. They have been told he will be called the Son of the Most High. With our hindsight, we know a great deal more about the scope of this greatness than they understood at the time. Despite what they know, they "marvel."

Simeon blesses Mary, Jesus, and Joseph. He "honors" them. Right now, it would be easy for Joseph and Mary to think that they were superior to Jesus, a baby. But Simeon looks into the future and sees that Jesus will be a bone of contention among Jews. Paul himself will give inspired musings on the fact that most of Israel had not believed in their Messiah. Many "spoke against" Jesus and the Jesus movement.  

Those who believed in him would rise in the kingdom. Those who did not would fall. The acceptance or rejection of Jesus would reveal the true thoughts and intentions of their hearts.

We do not know anything really about Mary in the early church. There are legends of her going to Ephesus with John, the beloved disciple. There are the ruins of a very early church there. But such traditions go well beyond Scripture, and it is hard to know for sure what happened. 

Luke may hint that at some point she herself would face some struggle of faith over Jesus. The tone of the passage suggests that she would emerge from that "piercing" of her soul with faith.

Anna

36. And Anna was a prophetess, daughter of Phanuel, from the tribe of Asher. This [woman was] advanced in many days, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity.
The second "character witness" at the temple is named Anna. In her is an intersection of two themes in Luke-Acts. Luke highlights the role, value, and full participation of women in the gospel, and Luke emphasizes God's care for widows and the poor. God takes those on the margins and brings them into the main. 

She only lived with her husband for seven years before he died. She was a virgin when she got married, and she remained an unmarried widow from then until her advanced age. Both of these facts were considered virtuous. In 1 Corinthians 7:40, Paul considers a widow who remains unmarried the more desirable option. 1 Timothy 5:11-12 similarly imply the virtue of a widow who does not remarry.  

Luke gives details, which adds to the concreteness of these events. We know who her father was. We know what tribe she was from. Asher was of course one of the "ten lost tribes" of the northern kingdom, which was destroyed in 722BC by the Assyrians. This is perhaps another hint of the coming restoration of all Israel. 

Like Mary and Elizabeth, Anna is another example of a woman of great virtue and honor. She is also a prophetess. Luke-Acts has no problem whatsoever with a woman who prophesies. One of the indications of the age of the Spirit is that the daughters of Israel will regularly prophesy along with the sons (cf. Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28). 

Of course, there are important female prophets in the Old Testament as well. Deborah is the highest political authority in Israel as well as being a prophetess (Judg. 4:4-5). Huldah is a higher spiritual authority than the high priest in 2 Kings 22:13-14. 

Acts 21:9 mentions the four virgin daughters of Philip the evangelist, who were prophetesses. 1 Corinthians 11 assumes that ordinary women in a local congregation like Corinth will prophesy in the normal course of weekly worship. The very reason that Paul instructs them to wear a veil in worship is to keep social and cosmic order while they are prophesying.

Prophesying in these contexts is like preaching. It is bringing a direct word from the Lord to the audience of the prophecy. It suggests that nothing stands in the way of women being preachers in the church today. Indeed, the age of the Spirit, where all believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, removes all the barriers of our physicality to preaching. [5]

37. And she herself [was] a widow until eighty-four of years, who was not departing from the temple, with fastings and prayers worshiping night and day

She is eighty-four years old. The centrality of temple for Luke is again confirmed. Just as the apostles will be at the temple daily after Pentecost, she apparently spends the vast majority of her time, even at night, at the temple. What does she do there? She prays. She fasts. She worships. She is thus a model for what we do in worship today. 

38. And at that hour having come, she confessed in response to God and was speaking concerning him to all those awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem [6]
Like Simeon, she arrives just in time, presumably by God's prompting. She also recognizes that Jesus represents the "redemption" or liberation of Jerusalem from bondage. While this is certainly a spiritual liberation, it seems more than just that. Anna is looking for the liberation of Israel as a political entity also. This concrete liberation was presumably also part of God's plan. Paul sees this political redemption in the future as well (Rom. 11:26). 

Perhaps Acts implies that the reason it did not happen back then was the disbelief of the Jews of that day. This is at least what seems to happen repeatedly in Acts (e.g., 13:46). We should not see this as a permanent turn away from Israel. We are rather in the "times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24) until times of refreshing come (Acts 3:20).

Return to Galilee

39. And as they completed all the things according to the Law of [the] Lord, they returned to the Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.
Luke again reiterates that the story of Christ is a story that is Law-observant and law-keeping. Christians at heart, when they are doing what Christians do by nature, are not troublemakers. Mary and Joseph stay in Jerusalem long enough to fulfill all the rightful aspects to childbirth.

In Luke's story, again, Mary and Joseph begin in Nazareth, to to Bethlehem for the census, then return to Nazareth in the northern region of Galilee. If all we had were Matthew's Gospel, we would assume that they all started out in Bethlehem and only went north to escape Herod's son Archelaus.

40. And the child grew and was getting strong, being full of wisdom, and [the] favor of God was upon it.

As John the Baptist grows as a young man (Luke 1:80), Jesus also grows. He grows physically. We will learn in 2:52 that he also grows in wisdom. This concept may be difficult for many of us, because almost think of Jesus as a divine mind in a human body. As we will mention in that verse below, this sense of Jesus was declared a heresy in the first few centuries of Christianity. Jesus was fully human, which meant that he learned and grew in wisdom as he grew.

Clearly, the favor of God (the Father) was upon Jesus as he grew. I left the translation as "it" here since the word for child in Greek is neuter. But, of course, Jesus was no "it." The word for favor here is "grace." Theologically, we would say that any favor on Jesus was deserved, so "favor" is a better translation in this instance. Words take on different meanings in different contexts.

The Temple at Twelve

41. And his parents used to go yearly to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. [7] 42. And when he became of twelve years, when they were ascending according to the custom of the feast,[8]

Again, we should not miss the consistent message that Luke is giving subliminally that Jesus came from a Law-observant family. Jewish males ideally were supposed to present themselves before the Lord three times a year at three festivals, one of which was the Passover (23:17). The only place to do so at the time of Jesus was the Jerusalem temple.

Luke only mentions two times that Jesus was in Jerusalem for Passover: at the age of twelve and the week of his crucifixion. The Gospel of John will add two more during Jesus' earthly ministry, giving us the sense that Jesus ministered on earth from two to three years. The trip to Jerusalem was an "ascent" because Jerusalem is on Mt. Zion, surrounded by hill country.

This is the only record we have in any of the Gospels or the New Testament about Jesus' childhood. There are apocryphal "infancy Gospels." There is the Infancy Gospel of Thomas [9], in which Jesus has bears kill children making fun of him. There is also the "Proto-Gospel of James," the earliest attestation of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Neither of these likely second century works likely have any historical value.

43. ... and after having completed the days, when they were returning, Jesus the boy remained in Jerusalem, and his parents did not know. [10] 44. But, considering him in the company, they went a journey of a day, and they were seeking him among the relatives and the acquaintances. 45. And not having found [him], they returned to Jerusalem looking for him.

The first thought many of us have when we read that Joseph and Mary left Jesus behind is that this was an instance of horrible parenting. When they later punish him for it, we are even more puzzled. We may even picture a "nuclear family" of two parents and 2.5 kids. 

However, the family of the first century was an extended family rather than a nuclear family. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins were part of the basic family unit. Even more, the whole village of Nazareth and its surrounding village may have had individuals in the company. In short, this was a large group of people traveling together, and it would have been assumed that Jesus was somewhere in their company. In the perspective of Luke, it was the child's responsibility to be in this group.

It thus takes them a day's journey to realize that Jesus is not in their company. "Have you seen Jesus?" "No, is he with Aunt Hannah and cousin David?" A day's journey would normally be about twenty miles, although possibly less with such a group. On a good day, that would be about a third of the way back to Nazareth. They likely would have traveled up the plain by the Jordan River.

To their horror, they finally come to the conclusion that he is not with Aunt Martha and Cousin Isaac. They turn around and go back.

46. And it happened after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the middle of the teachers and listening to them and inquiring of them. 47. And all the ones who heard him were amazed at the understanding and his answers.

They do not immediately know where to find him. No doubt they began in whatever home in which they had stayed. John 19:25 mentions that Mary had a sister. If she was the wife of Clopas, then it is at least possible she lived in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). Whoever it was, Jesus is not there.

Presumably, they look at the home of every acquaintance they know in Jerusalem. Perhaps they go the the authorities of Jerusalem, both Jewish and Roman. There was probably little interest on their part to help an insignificant Galilean, let alone a child. Or maybe they go to the temple because they are finally seeking these authorities out as a long shot.

Finally, they go to the temple, where they should have gone first--at least if they truly understood. The fact that it is three days might be significant. Jesus will rise from the dead in three days. He will rebuild this temple in three days (cf. Mark 14:58).

Jesus is in the middle. This position suggests that he is the main teacher in this group. He is asking them questions. They answer. He listens. He asks a follow-up question.

You can tell by a person's questions how deep their understanding of a subject is. Jesus amazes them with his understanding. It is not just that he is only twelve years old. We might assume that he is asking questions on a level equal to their own understanding.

48. And having seen him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Child, why have done thus to us? Behold, your father and I, being in torment, were seeking you."

From an earthly perspective, from a parent's perspective, we totally understand Mary's frustration and concern. From the standpoint of an ordinary child, he has not honored his parents. He has caused them great torment, not to mention whatever expense might have been associated with extra time in Jerusalem. 

If he were an ordinary child, he would have failed his duties as a child. Of course Jesus is not an ordinary child. Jesus is the heir apparent to the throne of Israel. He will be called the Son of the Most High. Theologically, we have to assume that he had not sinned. The proper perspective on the event is a heavenly one, not an earthly one.

49. And he said to them, "Why were you seeking me? Did you not know that it is necessary for me to be in the matters of my Father?" 50. And they themselves did not understand the word that he spoke to them.

They still do not seem to understand him. They have the pieces, but they cannot put it together. Even to hear that he was dealing in the matters of his "Father" must have been puzzling, since they would naturally think of Joseph. "The matters of your father were to stay with the group."

The eyes of the Spirit see so much more than our human eyes can see. We can see everything horizontally in front of us and miss the vertical, heavenward dimension of the situation. What is obvious from God's perspective may seem foolish from ours and vice versa. Paul will say that "the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom" (1 Cor. 1:25).

51. And he descended with them and came to Nazareth, and he was subject to them. And his mother stored all these words in her heart.

Mary does not understand, but she remembers. She is open to future understanding. It will eventually become clear. She stores Jesus' words in her heart.

Jesus "was subject to them." This statement suggests that they discipline him. He is punished for the trouble he has caused them. From the standpoint of a human parent, this punishment makes sense. However, again, they do not see the situation from a heavenly point of view.

52. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and maturity and in favor with God and people.

As we mentioned above in 1:40, Jesus grows in wisdom and maturity. The early Christians struggled in the 300s and 400s to figure out how Jesus' humanity and divinity might fit together. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 decided that Jesus was fully human and fully God in such a way that neither his humanity or divinity should be diminished.

Apollinaris argued in the late 300s that Jesus had a human body but a divine mind. This "heresy" is very common in popular Christianity. I've heard a story of a pastor that thought Jesus did not need to sleep. He was pretending in the boat to be sleeping during the storm. This way of thinking was decided against in the year 381 at the Council of Constantinople.

Another wrong idea was proposed by a man named Eutyches. To him, Jesus' human nature was like a drop next to the ocean of his divine nature. You might as well just say he only had a divine nature. Again, the Council of Chalcedon concluded that it was unbiblical to diminish Jesus' human nature. Indeed, Luke does not diminish Jesus' humanity, and in fact Acts 2:22 calls Jesus "a man having been approved by God among you by powers and wonders and signs that God did."

Jesus did not come out of Mary's womb speaking fluent Aramaic. As a full human, he had to learn it. His bodily functions worked just like ours do. Mark 13:32 indicates that he did not access his omniscience while on earth. His human mind did not know everything. He did not fully access his omnipotence but showed us what is possible for humanity through the powers of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:22; cf. Mark 6:5).

It is therefore a legitimate question to ask when Jesus in his human mind realized that he was the Messiah, let alone the second person of the Trinity. At his baptism, God declares to him that Jesus is his beloved Son. Is the the moment. These things are divine mysteries. What we know is that Jesus' wisdom increased as he grew up, as great as it may have been to begin with in comparison to other humans.

He also grew in favor with others. Whatever biases they might have had against him because of suspicions around his birth, those who knew him with an open heart immediately recognized his greatness and that this was a person with a greater destiny than them. 

________________

[1] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 145.

[2] We shouldn't think of "nation" in this context as a nation-state of the sort we have today. It is hard to find a good word but what we mean is an independent political entity tied to a specific people group.

[3] pluperfect made with a periphrastic; a prin e construction with an aorist subjunctive and an

[4] temporal infinitive clause, intensive of autos

[5] Two verses are often used to argue against the whole weight of Scripture to the contrary. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is completely irrelevant to this question, given that 1 Corinthians 11 assumes women will bring words from the Lord to the church. If these verses were original, they must have had to do with disruptive speech.

So the whole weight of the counterargument falls on 1 Timothy 2:12. The context again pushes in the direction of the husband-wife relationship and the home. It cannot be about prophetic words given the entirety of the rest of Scripture. One verse should never be the basis for a whole theology, especially one that is unclear.

The whole passage is curious, almost sounding like it says wives are saved from Eve's sin through childbirth (2:15). We know, of course, that all sins are redeemed through the blood of Christ, whose death and victorious resurrection have forever undone the curse of the Fall in Genesis 3:16. To perpetuate the wife's subordination to the husband when we can adopt the trajectory of heaven (e.g., Mark 12:25) is to make excuses to unnecessarily perpetuate creation's unredeemed state.

[6] dative of time

[7] iterative imperfect

[8] genitive absolute

[9] Not to be confused with the so-called "Gnostic Gospel of Thomas."

[10] temporal infinitive clause, with genitive absolute continuing