Thursday, March 17, 2022

How The Historicity Of The Bible Gets Obscured

R. Alan Culpepper just published a commentary on the gospel of Matthew (Matthew: A Commentary [Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2021]). (It was due out last year, but got delayed, so it has a publication date of 2021. It didn't come out until earlier this month.) I've read about 50 pages of it so far, including the introduction and his comments on Matthew's first two chapters. I was struck by some remarks Culpepper makes that are wrong and should easily be recognized as wrong. I'll discuss a few examples.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The Practical Flowing From The Doctrinal

"The apostle [Paul] had been putting forth all his strength to prove the doctrine of the resurrection, yet he was not diverted from his habitual custom of making practical use of the doctrine which he established. He proves his point, and then he goes on to his 'therefore,' which is always an inference of godliness. He is the great master of doctrine: if you want the Christian creed elaborated, and its details laid out in order, you must turn to the epistles of Paul; but at the same time he is always a practical teacher. Paul was not like those who hew down trees and square them by rule and system, but forget to build the house therewith. True, he lifteth up a goodly axe upon the thick trees, but he always makes use of that which he hews down, he lays the beams of his chambers, and forgets not the carved work thereof. He brings to light the great stones of truth, and cuts them out of the live rock of mystery; but he is not content with being a mere quarryman, he labors to be a wise master builder, and with the stones of truth to erect the temple of Christian holiness. If I shift the figure I may say that our apostle does not grope among the lower strata of truth, hunting out the deep things and spending all his force upon them, but he ploughs the rich upper soil, he sows, he reaps, he gathers in a harvest, and feeds many. Thus should the practical ever flow from the doctrinal like wine from the clusters of the grape. The Puritans were wont to call the end of the sermon, in which they enforced the practical lessons, the 'improvement' of the subject; and, truly, the apostle Paul was a master in the way of 'improvement.'…My brethren, this is a lesson for us; let us never reckon that we have learned a doctrine till we have seen its bearing upon our lives. Whatever we discover in God's word, let us pray the Holy Spirit to make us feel the sanctifying influence of it….There are some brethren who are so enamored of doctrine that no preacher will content them unless he gives them over and over again clear statements of certain favourite truths: but the moment you come to speak of practice they fight shy of it at once, and either denounce the preacher as being legal, or they grow weary of that which they dare not contradict. Let it never be so with us. Let us follow up truth to its practical 'therefore.'" (Charles Spurgeon)

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Enoch In Heaven In Genesis 5:24

Since it's common to question or deny belief in an afterlife in early Judaism, we should keep in mind that an afterlife and significantly related concepts, such as the existence of heaven, are often implied where they're not spelled out (e.g., passages forbidding attempts to contact the dead). An example too seldom discussed is Enoch in Genesis 5:24.

For confirmation that something other than death is being referred to, see the many references to other individuals dying in Genesis 5, in contrast to what's said about Enoch. And notice the emphasis on how Enoch "walked with God", which implies that he would therefore receive favorable treatment. The language of being "taken" is more naturally interpreted as referring to ongoing existence elsewhere rather than ceasing to exist, and ceasing to exist after a shorter lifespan than so many other figures of that era doesn't make sense as a form of favorable treatment. The later taking of Elijah to heaven without dying shows that such a concept was known in ancient Jewish thought. And as far as I know, later accounts of what happened to Enoch suggest that his going to heaven was the most widespread interpretation of the Genesis passage. The text isn't as explicit as we'd like it to be, but an interpretation involving Enoch's going to heaven makes the most sense.