What Does Sin Deserve and How Good is the Lord?

The question that many can answer, yet fully understanding the answer is often hard to grasp. One of the clearest examples in the Bible to aid in understanding how offensive sin is to God can be found in Genesis 6 during the time of Noah. Here because of man’s sin one can read of the The judgment of God upon mankind’s great sin. Genesis 7:17-24 reads,

17 The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. 20 The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.

But, as the Psalmist says in Psalms 100, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” How could the Lord be “good” in the Genesis 7 flood judgement?

Genesis 9:8-17 reads,

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

The Noahic Covenant was initiated and dictated by God. The sovereignty of God is clearly seen in this covenant. While some ancient covenants were the result of negotiation, this one was not. God initiated the covenant as an outward expression of His purpose revealed in Genesis 3:20-22. God dictated the terms of the covenant to Noah, and there was no discussion.

The Noahic Covenant was made with Noah and all successive generations: “And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creation that is with you, for all successive generations;’” ( Genesis 9:12). This covenant will remain in force until the time when our Lord returns to the earth to cleanse it by fire (II Peter 3:10).

This is a universal covenant. While some covenants involve a small number, this particular covenant includes “all flesh.” That is, all living creatures, including man and animals: Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth (Genesis 9:9,10).

This covenant was God’s promise never again to destroy the earth by a flood: “and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Genesis 9:15). God will destroy the earth by fire (II Peter 3:10), but only after salvation has been purchased by the Messiah and the elect are removed, even as Noah was protected from the wrath of God.

The sign of the Noahic Covenant is the rainbow: I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. And it shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shalt be seen in the cloud and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh (Genesis 9:13-15). Every covenant has its accompanying sign. The sign of the Abrahamic Covenant is circumcision (Genesis 17:15-27); that of the Mosaic Covenant is the observance of the Sabbath day (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:12-17). The “sign” of the rainbow is appropriate. It consists of the reflection of the rays of the sun in the particles of moisture in the clouds. The water which destroyed the earth causes the rainbow. Also, the rainbow appears at the end of a storm. So this sign assures man who the storm of God’s wrath (in a flood) is over. Most interesting is the fact that the rainbow is not designed so much for man’s benefit (in this text, at least) but for God’s. God said that the rainbow would cause Him to remember His covenant with man. What a comfort to know that God’s faithfulness is our guarantee.

God shows his grace to mankind in essence by promising to never wipe all of mankind again. Although he could have continued to do so by means of a flood, fire, earthquakes, etc. and have been very just in doing anything He pleases. But as the psalmist writes in Ps. 100, the “Lord is good” and so the judgment by which we are saved is actually not by flood and fire upon us, but by our Covenant Head the Lord Jesus Christ taking this judgment for us so that we may be saved. This Noahic administration of the Covenant of Grace is a wonderful picture of God’s grace to mankind, and in essence it points to that Mediator whom God promised in Genesis 3:15 would come.


Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Japan and Psalms 46

QuestionWhy Did God allow an 8.9 Earthquake to Strike and trigger a Tsunami crushing Japan? A question that arises in times of tragedy such as the one last week. A question that came to me this past weekend – I gave the simplest answer I could think of.

Answer: Because of Adam’s sin that took place in Genesis 3:1-7 (which represented all of mankind) God states to Adam in Genesis 3:17-19 this,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Then reading why these things happen because of man’s sin… it dawned on me just how good God really is. While mankind, in Adam fell into sin, reaping the repercussions of that sin on this earth, God would then promise not leave mankind in what it deserves but making covenant with man in Genesis 3:14-15 of a deliverer to come and save them.

“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

My prayer for Japan is that they may see that deliverer that God promised mankind, Jesus Christ. Then they can sing with the Sons of Korah Psalms 46.Psalms

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”  The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Can a “non-christian” Do Good Things?

Assuming that God is the creator of the universe (and I do)…

Can a non-christian Do Good Things? IS A great quesiton that mankind at times may think or feel that he has the answer to. However, God has already given an answer to that… And the The Westminster Confession Chapter 26:7 states it at its best,

“Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others:[23] yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith;[24] nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word;[25] nor to a right end, the glory of God,[26] they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God:[27] and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.[28]

Be sure to click on the numbers above that provide the Scriptural references for your reading.

What is Immortality?

Which of the following definitions best answers the question?

The Philosophical Presuppositions of Contextualization

Question: Dewalt, what are the philosophical presuppositions of contextualization, and where and how can it be useful; what place would a biblical program of hermeneutics give to contextualization or what would be its substitute.

Contextualization is different today then it was when it started. Contextualization is the process of assigning the meaning of a text, passage to culture and people. To me, that sounds like doing great application. However when Contextualization started, it was from the roots of rationalism and mainly Relativism in which the Reformed circles was scared of, and disliked. These starters so-to-speak of contextualization allowed words to change and the meaning of text change. This brought a different meaning to the Scriptures and allowed for multiple meanings to be taught in their circles.

As far as what would be its’ substitute, I am going to take a “non-traditional reformed view.” I believe whole heartily and would die on the grounds of what the actual definition of “contextualization” is. I would say that proper contextualizing is applying the application of the text to the listener that is hearing the teaching and preaching of the Word. To the traditional reformed circles, I say this is doing proper application in their teaching and preaching. We don’t give the same applications form a text to a crowd of prisoners, homeless, windows, poor, church circles, or new believers. However that seems to be the case that I see among the conservative Reformed circles (we can meet on this is you would like). Contextualizing is giving the right kind of application to the right group in which is being taught to. I know, the roots of it may be scary, but I am not fighting for “contextualization” as it started, but fighting for proper application in which reaches cultures, peoples, nations, cities, people groups and individuals that are all different in themselves. I say it like this, One observation of the test, One meaning of the text, Many applications of the text. 

The Principle that Scripture has a Single Meaning?

Question: Dewalt can you please defend the principle that Scripture has a single meaning? How do you go about trying to draw out that single meaning? Illustrate in the case of Genesis 22. Can you have a single meaning here and still bring in Christ?

Scripture has one single meaning? Yes! To the dispensationalist, the die on that hill (which I love) but only understand it to mean original writer to original reader. However, the church today can see the one-single-meaning of the text (original writer to original reader) but more so, see how it fits into all of the Scriptures. What was said to Moses or Abraham, writer to reader is our first and foremost meaning of Scripture, but seeing how that is played out in all of Scripture and our biblical theology progresses in time with promises in covenants are where dispensationalist fall. Let me give an example:

Dispensationalism – One meaning- Meaning 1. A is to the reader then as it is today. (One-fold)

Reformed/Covenantism – One meaning- Meaning 1.A is to the reader then as it is today, 1.B is to the reader sees the OT in the NT, 1.C is to the reader as we see today through out all of Scriptures. (Multi-fold)

How I draw this out and you ask for Gen.22 so I’ll try to do that, however other passages would be easier.
Gen. 22 The Sacrifice of Isaac
1.A is that Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, and God provided redemption else where.
1.B is that in the New Testament and today’s church we can see some similarities that lie in this event that seem to be a shadow and a type of example of which God did with his Son, Jesus Christ in dying at the cross.

Now, have we in the reformed camp change the one meaning no, but do we seem systematically in how Scripture has one progression in to show its goal of redemption throughout all of the cannon, yes. 

Hermeneutics and Some Problems

Question: Michael would you please describe and defend to me the view of hermeneutics current in the Reformation and show how it is different from views found by those in Emergent Church.

Views in the current Reformation
– Was one that during the end of the Middle Ages came back to the importance of the authority of Scripture, namely John Wycliffe. John saw the importance of the text of the cannon being reliable and firm in its’ authority among its’ day. The reformers saw the importance of using the logic of Scripture and comparing Scripture along side the rest of Scripture for hermeneutics. A number of men to look at on this are Calvin, Luther, Owen, Brakel and the Westminster Divines. In the “just” of what these men did though, was finding the truth in which lied in the Bible and even though it was not the popular belief at the time, stood for that. All of these men saw of importance maintaining a humble attitude when approaching the Scriptures and allowing the Holy Spirit to shape and mold their theology according to the Lord’s.

The Views in which Differ today in the Emergent Church – Views today in the emergent church however are exactly what the Reformers went against, namely the mystical idea of Scripture. Although the middle ages kept the Scripture from the individual, today postmodern age allows the Scripture to be in the hands of many, but allowing many meanings to a verse, a word, a passage and the whole of the Bible. Instead of having one way of study, one way of finding the truth in the gospel, they have simply allowed a way that not only allows multiple meanings but not multiple religions to live how they want, do what they and read what they want, and not follow the Law of the Lord. The major issue with the emergent church is they do not have a different hermeneutic, they have several different hermeneutics which change from person to person and church to church. So explain one difference is impossible to categorize them as a whole, however the problem is that truth is not there. Rationalism has taken a new toll on the postmodern mind which then allows one to believer what ever he well pleases, and doesn’t allow the Spirit like the Reformers did to humble their minds and conform the heart to the bible. 

biblical theological method in Ruth

Question: Dewalt, how does the biblical theological method allow you to draw out both objective and subjective lines from the book of Ruth?  How is this different from the moralizing or spiritualizing approach?

Objectively– Looks at the Book of Ruth seeing what the goal of biblical theology is and the progression of the over arching premises of the Old Testament in revealing the one who was to come and fulfill the covenants, Jesus Christ. This then gives the historical overview of the Old Testament, which enlightens its real meaning. I think actually proper Objectivity can be and should be proper the Biblical Theological Method.

Subjectively– How this differs because it allows the one to pick and chose the exact matters in which they will look at, why they feel exactly what they want to look at and allowing themselves to deal with what they wish instead of looking at the text for its own value.

How is this different? – Oh, how often I wish I could beat this drum, but seem impossible at times among the conservative traditional reformers. This should be done differently then that of spiritualizing the text, however I think at times it is not at all. Spiritualizing the text is nothing more then the practice of objectively viewing the text. Often times those that spiritualize this text, is because of their experiences, reasoning, or what they have been taught for 40 years in their pews, so instead o valuing Scriptures and freedom in Christ, nothing occurs but one continuing to sit where one feels happy with, and take the scriptures further away from the original meaning then they should. Perfect example… The Puritans! The Puritans saw that in time, their communities, families, the Bible, law, etc was meant for everyone. (Now is the Gospel meant for all, and should we preach it to all? Yes! Are we to pound upon unsaved people the law of god and make sure they live by it? No!) Exactly, this is what happen, the Puritans saw that the Law was for unsaved and saved, and I personally believe close to thonomist, however when then reading the bible, they would often spiritualize the text in trying to crate a culture and society that brought to usher in the kingdom or God, bringing all to the gospel. This however was not right, nor did it work, but ended up in their death 150 years later. 

Symbolic Speech

Question: What are the  four kinds of symbolic speech and give me an example for each one. Is there ever any cross-over between any of these kinds within one passage?

Mention of the 4 Symbols 

1. People Types – examples like Adam, Moses, and David
2. Occasional Types – examples like the burning bush and the Aaron’s rod
3. Ceremonial Types – sabbaths, circumcision, offerings and festivals
4. Civil Types – The Law, judges and kings

Crossover, yes. Examples are the following:
Moses/Law/burning Bush

pre-diluvian & post-diluvian??

Question: Dewalt can you compare and contrast the pre-diluvian and post-diluvian periods from a biblical theological perspective?

pre-diluvian –
My terms and the way I may use are different accordingly to my theology then which you may be used to. However this time period before the flood, theology was like that of what was given to Adam, and the Lord’s people. However the traditional reformist believe that it was here in this period that worship, laws, sacrifices and redemption ordinances were brought about and carried out during this time. Also, church/The Lord’s people here held to the promise of God given to Adam amongst their believes and looked forward for who would save them. However whatever time frame that it may have been, it is easily seen by the fourth chapter of Gen. that sin and the fall had corrupted the world to the effects of killing and a numerous amount of sin in which sicken the Lord so much, that he then would destroy what he had made. This is the beginning process of the reveling of the grace in which is given to man after the fall and sin of Adam.

post-diluvian – This here is the time after the flood and how redemption is played out after Noah beginnings the process of carrying out that plan of redemption throughout time. Here is where the reformed place a large emphasis upon covenant in showing the progression on it and how God’s promises are held and kept throughout not only here but only a beginning of it for the next 38 books in the Old Testament. By this time the covenant is seen in how it is made with man, who God is, how it works, his promises made to man. Also, the covenant is showing fully (not like before) how man is viewed from creation and in government among living. Also, this then is showing man, how Sabbath worship, sacrifices, and family etc. all played out. 

If I Wrote a Biblical Theology Book?

Question: Dewalt, if I asked you to write a biblical theology (OT section).  Give the basic chapter titles and explain how and why your method would be different than if you wrote a systematic theology.

Book Title: The Gospel Given in Progession in the Old Testament
1. The Gospel in Creation
2. The Gospel of Redemption Given to Adam (Covenant)
3.The Gospel of Grace Given to Noah
4. The Gospel of Faith & Covenant Gievn to Abraham
5. The Gospel in the Law Given to Moses
6. The Gospel shown in Judgment given to Israel
7. The Gospel in the Kingdom of David
8. The Gospel Preached by the Prophets

Ready for a long sentence…As far as in how this would differ from that which is done in systematic theology, is instead of touching on doctrine(s), then showing the doctrines’ overview throughout all of the Scriptures, this here would be looking the progression of the doctrine (the plan of redemption) given to man in covenant throughout all of time, namely the Old Testament. 

My Definition of Christian Theism

Question: Dewalt, could you give me your own definition of Christian Theism?

Answer: I’ll try, even though it may be different then that of some, but my Precise Definition of Christian Theism would be this… Christian Theism is the belief of one God, who is the creator of all things, who has existed always before time, who has all things to do with all things that pass throughout all of time, who should receive all glory due him, which intercedes constantly with his creation.

Question: Dewalt, can you give me Scripture References to defend your definition?

Answer: Yes!
One God – John 14:1 & 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Creator- Gen. 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Existence – Heb. 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Over all things Rev. 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”

Receiving Glory – Rev. 5:9-10 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

Intercedes with his creation – Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

Same-Sex Marriage

Question: Dewalt, can you Affirm for me one’s Stance against same-sex marriage?

My Answer: I’ll try… However I am no expert. I would begin by stating that we all agree that man and woman together replenishes the earth? And if all were to be gay, then how would that be done? Passages like in the garden in Gen. 2:18 where God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” are of major importance. If God wanted the culture of the garden to then have a “buddy” or a partner of the same sex, then he would have place along side him one of the same sex. Farther in Gen. 2 after Eve is made God then explains in how marriage and a relationship is to be done, saying “she shall be called woman.” It was women made with man, not picking or choosing what one could have, or want, or think he needs, but God calling a woman to come along side of a man for a relationship. Now father more in doing so, God then in verses 24 & 25 of Gen. 2, God claims that one woman and one man become one in flesh when coming together. Now it one said 1 + 1 = 2 no one would argue that? Man + Woman = One flesh. Meaning Man + anything else, man, men, women, animals, etc. Any other formula = death. How? Easily seen in Romans 1:18-232, namely, verses 26 – 28 when they state:

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

The gospels and the oral gospel

Question: What are the gospels, and what is the oral gospel? 

Answer: All recent critics admit that the contents of our four Gospels are intimately connected with more primitive accounts of Christ’s life, which may be described, in a general way, as an Oral Gospel. They are well aware that Jesus Himself did not consign to writing His own teachings, and directed His Apostles not to write, but to preach, the Gospel to their fellow-men. They regard as an undoubted fact that these first disciples of the Master, faithful to the mission which He had entrusted to them, began, from the day of Pentecost on, boldly to declare by word of mouth what they had seen and heard (cf. Acts 4:2), considering as a special duty of theirs “the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). It is plain, too, that those whom the Apostles immediately selected to help them in the discharge of this most important mission had to be, like the Apostles themselves, able to bear witness to the life and teachings of Christ (cf. Acts 1:21 sq.). The substance of the Evangelical narratives would thus be repeated viva voce by the early teachers of Christianity, before any one of them bethought himself to set it down in writing. It can be readily seen that such Apostolic teaching was then inculcated in words which tended to assume a stereotyped form of expression, similar to that which we find in the Synoptic Gospels. In like manner, also, one can easily realize how the Apostles would not be concerned with the exact order of events narrated, and would not aim at completeness in telling what they “had seen and heard”. Thus, according to this opinion, was gradually formed what may be called the “Oral Gospel”, that is, a relation of Christ’s words and deeds, parallel, in respect to matter and form, to our canonical Gospels. In view of this, critics have endeavoured to find out the general contents of this Oral Gospel by means of the second part of the Book of the Acts, by a study of the doctrinal contents of the Epistles of St. Paul, and more particularly by a close comparison of the Synoptic narratives; and it may be freely said that their efforts in that direction have met with considerable success. As regards, however, the precise relation which should be admitted between our canonical Gospels and the Oral Gospel, there is still, among contemporary scholars, a variety of views which will be set forth and examined in the special articles on theindividual Gospels. Suffice it to say, here, that the theory which regards the canonical Gospels as embodying, in substance, the oral teaching of the Apostles concerning the words and deeds of Christ is in distinct harmony with the Catholic position, which affirms both the historical value of these sacred records and the authoritative character of the Apostolic traditions, whether these are actually consigned to writing or simply enforced by the ever living voice of the Church.

Asking a Catholic what their Classification of the gospels are?

Question: What is your classification of the gospels?

Answer: The present order of the Gospels has the twofold advantage of not separating from one another those Evangelical records (St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke) whose mutual resemblances are obvious and striking, and of placing at the end of the list of the Gospels the narrative (that of St. John) whose relations with the other three is that of dissimilarity rather than of likeness. It thus lends itself well to the classification of the Gospels which is now generally admitted by Biblical scholars. St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke are usually grouped together, and designated under the common name of the Synoptic Gospels. They derive this name from the fact that their narratives may be arranged and harmonized, section by section, so as to allow the eye to realize at a glance the numerous passages which are common to them, and also the portions which are peculiar either to only two, or even to only one, of them. The case stands very differently with regard to our Fourth Gospel. As it narrates but a few incidents in common with the Synoptists, and differs from them in respect to style, language, general plan, etc., its chief parts refuse to be included in a harmony such as may be framed by means of the first three Gospels. While, therefore, the Synoptic narratives are naturally put together into one group, St. John’s record is rightly considered as standing apart and as, so to speak, making up a class by itself (see SYNOPTICS).

Asking a Catholic What are the Order of the gospels?

Question: What are the order of the gospels?

Answer: The present order of the Gospels has the twofold advantage of not separating from one another those Evangelical records (St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke) whose mutual resemblances are obvious and striking, and of placing at the end of the list of the Gospels the narrative (that of St. John) whose relations with the other three is that of dissimilarity rather than of likeness. It thus lends itself well to the classification of the Gospels which is now generally admitted by Biblical scholars. St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke are usually grouped together, and designated under the common name of the Synoptic Gospels. They derive this name from the fact that their narratives may be arranged and harmonized, section by section, so as to allow the eye to realize at a glance the numerous passages which are common to them, and also the portions which are peculiar either to only two, or even to only one, of them. The case stands very differently with regard to our Fourth Gospel. As it narrates but a few incidents in common with the Synoptists, and differs from them in respect to style, language, general plan, etc., its chief parts refuse to be included in a harmony such as may be framed by means of the first three Gospels. While, therefore, the Synoptic narratives are naturally put together into one group, St. John’s record is rightly considered as standing apart and as, so to speak, making up a class by itself (see SYNOPTICS).

Chief differences between canonical and apocryphal gospels

Question: What is the chief differences between canonical and apocryphal gospels?

Answer: From the outset, the four Gospels, the sacred character of which was thus recognized very early, differed in several respects from the numerous uncanonical Gospels which circulated during the first centuries of the Church. First of all, they commended themselves by their tone of simplicity and truthfulness, which stood in striking contrast with the trivial, absurd, or manifestly legendary character of many of those uncanonical productions. In the next place, they had an earlier origin than most of their apocryphal rivals, and indeed many of the latter productions were directly based on the canonical Gospels. A third feature in favour of our canonical records of Christ’s life was the purity of their teachings, dogmatic and moral, over against the Jewish, Gnostic, or other heretical views with which not a few of the apocryphal gospels were tainted, and on account of which these unsound writings found favour among heretical bodies and, on the contrary, discredit in the eyes of Catholics. Lastly, and more particularly, the canonical Gospels were regarded as of Apostolic authority, two of them being ascribed to the Apostles St. Matthew and St. John, respectively, and two to St. Mark and St. Luke, the respective companions of St. Peter and St. Paul. Many other gospels indeed claimed Apostolic authority, but to none of them was this claim universally allowed in the early Church. The only apocryphal work which was at all generally received, and relied upon, in addition to our four canonical Gospels, is the “Gospel according to the Hebrews“. It is a well-known fact that St. Jerome, speaking of this Gospel under the name of “The Gospel according to the Nazarenes“, regards it as the Hebrew original of our Greek canonical Gospel according to St. Matthew. But, as far as can be judged from its fragments which have come down to us, it has no right to originality as compared with our first canonical Gospel. At a very early date, too, it was treated as devoid of Apostolic authority, and St. Jerome himself, who states that he had its Aramaic text at his disposal, does not assign it a place side by side with our canonical Gospels: all the authority which he ascribes to it is derived from his persuasion that it was the original text of our First Gospel, and not a distinct Gospel over and above the four universally received from time immemorial in the Catholic Church.

Asking a Catholic on the Number of the gospels

Question: How man gospels are there?

Answer: The name gospel, as designating a written account of Christ’s words and deeds, has been, and is still, applied to a large number of narratives connected with Christ’s life, which circulated both before and after the composition of our Third Gospel (cf. Luke 1:1-4). The titles of some fifty such works have come down to us, a fact which shows the intense interest which centred, at an early date, in the Person and work of Christ. it is only, however, in connexion with twenty of these “gospels” that some information has been preserved. Their names, as given by Harnack (Chronologie, I, 589 sqq.), are as follows: —

  • 1-4. The Canonical Gospels
  • 5. The Gospel according to the Hebrews.
  • 6. The Gospel of Peter.
  • 7. The Gospel according to the Egyptians
  • 8. The Gospel of Matthias.
  • 9. The Gospel of Philip.
  • 10. The Gospel of Thomas.
  • 11. The Proto-Evangelium of James.
  • 12. The Gospel of Nicodemus (Acta Pilati).
  • 13.The Gospel of the Twelve Apostles.
  • 14.The Gospel of Basilides.
  • 15.The Gospel of Valentinus.
  • 16.The Gospel of Marcion.
  • 17.The Gospel of Eve.
  • 18.The Gospel of Judas.
  • 19.The writing Genna Marias.
  • 20.The Gospel Teleioseos.

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Asking a Catholic “What are the gospels?”

Question: What are the gospels in your terms?

Answer: The first four historical books of the New Testament are supplied with titles (Euaggelion kata Matthaion, Euaggelion kata Markon, etc.), which, however ancient, do not go back to the respective authors of those sacred writings. The Canon of Muratori, Clement of Alexandria, and St. Irenæus bear distinct witness to the existence of those headings in the latter part of the second century of our era. Indeed, the manner in which Clement (Stromata I.21), and St. Irenæus (Against Heresies III.11.7) employ them implies that, at that early date, our present titles to the Gospels had been in current use for some considerable time. Hence, it may be inferred that they were prefixed to the evangelical narratives as early as the first part of that same century. That, however, they do not go back to the first century of the Christian era, or at least that they are not original, is a position generally held at the present day. It is felt that since they are similar for the fourGospels, although the same Gospels were composed at some interval from each other, those titles were not framed, and consequently not prefixed to each individual narrative, before the collection of the four Gospels was actually made. Besides, as well pointed out by Prof. Bacon, “the historical books of the New Testament differ from its apocalyptic and epistolary literature, as those of the Old Testament differ from its prophecy, in being invariably anonymous, and for the same reason. Prophecies whether in the earlier or in the later sense, and letters, to have authority, must be referable to some individual; the greater his name, the better. But history was regarded as a common possession. Its facts spoke for themselves. Only as the springs of common recollection began to dwindle, and marked differences to appear between the well-informed and accurate Gospels and the untrustworthy . . . did it become worth while for the Christian teacher or apologist to specify whether the given representation of the current tradition was ‘according to’ this or that special compiler, and to state his qualifications”. It thus appears that the present titles of theGospels are not traceable to the Evangelists themselves.

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Why Support Adoption?

Question: Why should Christians consider supporting an organization that equips Christians to think theologically about adoption but does not directly provide humanitarian aid to orphaned children?

Answer: Planting Gospel Seeds

Tony Jones on Abortion and Obama

Question: What does Tony Jones think about Obama & Abortion?

Answer: There has been a robust conversation in the comments section of my previous post on abortion.  There are clearly some policy wonks who read my blog, and I’m not one of them.  I mean, I’m not a policy wonk; not that I don’t read my blog.  Anyway, I appreciate those of you who can quote particular pieces of legislation and particular votes.  My interest is more on the overarching principles at hand, although it does seem to me that BO made it abundantly clear that his most odious vote to pro-lifers was because he thought the bill would be struck down as unconstitutional (HT: Keith).

I am thankful that my friend, Carla Jo, fought the good fight in the comments.  For those of you who don’t know her, CJ has a raft of evangelical credentials.  In other words, she’s no leftist idealogue.  She’s simply trying to deal with the complexity of the issue — I must say, much as BO does.

And I am particularly indebted to the two women who posted about their own abortions.  In the wake of that terrible decision, they’ve come to different conclusions about the issue, but their journeys to those conclusions, IMHO, seem a lot more honest than some others who commented.  Honestly, I cannot imagine either of them, though they stand on different sides of the debate, referring to someone as a “faggot” or “callous, selfish, and unrepentant.”

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The Catholic Gospel

Question: What is really the Catholic gospel?

Answer: The word Gospel usually designates a written record of Christ’s words and deeds. It is very likely derived from the Anglo-Saxon god (good) and spell (to tell), and is generally treated as the exact equivalent of the Greek euaggelion (eu well, aggello, I bear a message), and the Latin Evangelium, which has passed into French, German, Italian, and other modern languages. The Greek euaggelion originally signified the “reward of good tidings” given to the messenger, and subsequently “good tidings”.