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Archive for December, 2009

Here is a link to BW3’s top books in biblical studies for 2009. They look fantastic, and I hope to get a few read in 2010.

http://blog.beliefnet.com/bibleandculture/2009/12/ten-2009-books-on-the-new-testament-you-should-have-read.html

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This is a beautiful song sung in many Catholic, Orthodox, and Lutheran churches. Many protestant churches have problems with the singing of this hymn, yet it is mostly because of ignorance. Most people think the song is about the worship of Mary, yet this is false. It is really just quoting the Angel Gabriel’s  and her cousin Elizabeth’s proclamation to Mary in St.Luke. 1.18-1.39, concerning her beautiful son Jesus who will be born to her, a virgin. Many people have a problem with the “Hail Mary” or Ave Maria (Latin) part, but this is also a misunderstanding because “hail” or χαῖρε does not mean “submit” as often thought, but “Greetings”, “rejoice”, or   “be glad”. So, don’t be afraid to sing this song, you are only agreeing with Gabriel (who received his message from YHWH), Elizabeth and St. Luke.

In Christ Alone,

Mike

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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel:

This is a beautiful Latin hymn that is sung during the advent season. It is a spectacular picture of ‘God With Us’, Jesus our blessed Lord. It was most likely written in the 12th century and is about the fulfilment of Isaiah 7.14, or in the NT St. Matthew 1.23 which claims its fulfilment in Jesus the son of Mary, Son of God.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

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Working on the playing out of Justification/Salvation in my head:

1st- We were saved (Justification by Faith alone, given the status of God’s elect)

2nd- We are being saved (working out salvation with fear and trembling/Holy Spirit-filled perseverance)

3rd- We will be saved (Final vindication by resurrection, full benefits of our status as the ‘People of God’)

Or More concisely:

  1. You were justified by your faith.
  2. You are being justified by Works of the Spirit.
  3. You will receive final justice on the day of Resurrection.

If this process is correct then I must pose the question: If you partake in the first, but do not follow through with second, will you receive the benefits of the third?



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Exegesis of Luke 3.1-6

Luke 3.1-6: John’s Ministry Was Paving the Way for the True King and His kingdom

Michael K. Templin

1In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” Luke 3.1-6 (ESV)

Introduction

1The Gospel of Luke is the longest and most comprehensive Gospel, and I have also found it to be very political as well. The passage I am examining is Luke 3.1-14. Luke uses the political/religious situation in Rome and Israel as a backdrop for his account in chapter 3.1-2a, starting with Caesar and ending with Annas and Caiaphas (High-Priests). Then in v.2b he shows that God has interacted with John the Baptist, and from that interaction John takes on the role of the forerunner of the King, which was spoken of in Isaiah 40. From that point on, his prophetic ministry was inaugurated and put into action out in the wilderness of the Jordan (v.3). John’s ministry consisted preparing the way of the Lord and preaching a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. In his ministry he will not only call people out of their sins in preparation for a new Empire, but will pave the path for the King’s entrance into the present politico-religious reality, in which salvation will be established through God.

Historical Context

Like I stated previously, Luke was written with the backdrop of the Roman Empire. The account makes this very clear, as Rome is a common theme in the gospel. Most scholarship dates the Lukan account within the mid to late 60s AD.2 If this is the case, Luke would have been written under reign of Nero Caesar who ruled from 54 to 68 AD, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.3 the Gospel’s first audience was the “most excellent Theophilus”, who it was written to. Many have speculated that this man himself was someone in power (Most Excellent was and is today used for some one of prestige and power). The passage that I have chosen (Luke 3.1-6) was taking place during a time of much political and Religious turmoil. For one you had a Roman ruling Israel, when YHWH’s Anointed was supposed to be their king ( (2 Samuel 7:8-16), but all of that was about to change.

Luke 3.1

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar”

Tiberius Caesar was the King of Rome from 14 to 37 AD.4 So, this would put this specific passage in the time frame of either 28 or 29 AD. Tiberius reigned after the famed Augustus Caesar. He was also the “Princept (Prince) of Peace”, the “Son of God”, and “King of the World.”5 This is very interesting when we see these same titles being attributed to Jesus of Nazareth, when they are used for the Caesars.

Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea”

Pilate was Prefect of Judea from 26 to 36 AD.6 He would have governed the province in Palestine from the Herodian built Caesarea Maritime, on the Mediterranean coast.7 Early critical scholarship claimed that this man was a creation of the early Christians, but archeology at Caesarea Maritime has validated his existence, which gives further credit to the gospel accounts.

and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene”

Herod was the son of Herod the Great, the hated king of of Israel. He ruled in the regions of Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 29 AD (thus further validating the date of the crucifixion in 29 AD).8 The text also claims that he was tetrarch, “to rule a fourth part of a region, eventually used of a ruler whose rank and authority were lower than a king”9 Philip ruled a minor territory, Trachonitis, which is south of Damascus until his death in 34 AD.10 Iturea on the other hand was centered in Lebanon. Finally, we come to Lysanias. He poses a bit of a problem though, for we are not to certain about anything concerning Lysanias.11 Abilene was directly west of Damascus.12

Luke 3.2

during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas”

Annas was High Priest from 6 to 15 AD, which is before the time of Caiaphas’ Priesthood and John the Baptist’s ministry. This posses a problem since Caiaphas would have been High Priest (18-37 AD) during the time frame of the narrative, but Green handles it well, “His (Annas) near-dynastic control of the office would have signified his overpowering influence”.13 So, it is primarily because of his mighty influence that he is mentioned, not because there were two High Priests. In the Jewish world the High Priest would be unrivaled with power and prestige during this time, they were the ones who “controlled” the Temple of YHWH.14

the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

It is here, that I believe Luke makes a sharp contrast between the rulers and religious leaders in vs.1-2a with John who had received the word of God. John of course is the cousin of Jesus, whom was prophesied of by Gabriel to his father Zechariah, was promised the Holy Spirit, and given a task to bring the wicked hearts of the unjust, and the children of Israel back to the Lord in anticipation of their coming King (Luke 1). So Luke sets up chapter 3 with the political and religious state of the World (Rome) and Israel, building upon the background of this new king (Jesus) and his Spirit-filled forerunner John the Baptizer, whom he established in chap. 1 and 2. Thus what the narrative promised, has come to fruition in Chap 3 and verse 2a. There are a few question we must ask the text at this point:

What is the word of God?

First and foremost, I think this is his prophetic call in which we see him start in v.3-6.. Preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (v.3). And of course preparing the King’s highway, IE his Isaianic mission (Is 40.3-5). Nolland believes this is also a reference to the OT concept of the Spirit of God coming upon a person (Num 24.2, Judg 3.10, and 1 Kings 19.23-24).15

Who is John? Explained above.

The Son of Zechariah?

I do not find it surprising that Luke includes Zechariah in the account. First of all Luke includes him at the beginning of v.5 of chap of 1. The text claims that Zechariah is a priest in the division of Abidja, his wife Elizabeth was from the lineage of Aaron, they were blameless and righteous before God, he had been miraculously visited by an angel (Gabriel) promising him a son though they were both barren,he was punished for his disbelief (made mute) and then miraculously received his voice back when the time of John had come. With all of this baggage Zechariah and Elizabeth would be quite famous in the Jewish world, thus his name before John could be used as a credential.

in the wilderness?

The wilderness here is clearly the Judean wilderness around the river Jordan. Dr. Nolland believes this is significant because its a unique location for the prophets call, and the location identifies John with his echatological ministry for the renewal of Israel.16 As pointed out by a student at Criswell, the 12 stones from the Jordon (Josh 4.20) might be a parallel to this passage, especially when John says, “For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” in v.8.17 Also, a major position is that John had in some way aligned himself with the wilderness dwelling Essene community, a sect of Jewish separatist who were awaiting their “Teacher of Righteousness”18. This could be an explanation for the fact that Luke positions John in wilderness prior to his reception of the word of God. Yet, the text could easily answer the question of the wilderness, with the fact that it is where John’s baptism is to take place (v.3), and where Jesus was to be tempted by Satan (chap. 4). Of course we must also keep an Exodus theme in our minds when reading the text, because first century Jews would have clearly associated the Jordan wilderness with this theme.

Luke 3.3

And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”

First of all we must address the question of baptism. What was it? From my studies in Jewish history, I have ran into the fact that baptism was prior to John and even in some sense is practiced in non-messianic Jewish culture to this day. It is simply the covering of a person with water or a ritual bath, also called a mikvah. Joel Green summarized a three-fold explanation of this passage, “First John’s baptism is necessarily qualified as a repentance-baptism, so that his proclamation and baptism are inseparably connected. He thus follows biblical precedent in insisting on the correlation of cleansing and moral rectitude. Second, his emphasis on repentance signal his understanding that the status quo of his socio-historical environment has been found wanting. As such, his message constitutes a prophetic appeal for people to turn their backs on previous loyalties and align themselves with God’s purpose. Third, by definition the forgiveness of sins has a profound communal dimension; as sin is the means by which persons exclude themselves from community…so forgiveness marks their restoration”19 This idea truly flows well with the narrative: a restoration of the community of God by the forgiveness of sins, and a realignment/new Loyalty to God.

As we saw earlier, Luke placed John in contrast with the corrupt ruling and religious powers of the world (vs. 1-3). I also think it it is note worthy to mention that John was in the wilderness prior to the word of God coming upon him, which is very important when you step back and analyze the Essene community who had also shifted their loyalty back to God and had withdrawn from the corruption of the Roman controlled Jerusalem. If John was a part of their community, he too would have been doing the same thing. Thus with his calling to baptize, we are seeing people leave their former loyalties: whether to Caesar, a corrupted Jewish religion, or even paganism, and aligning themselves with God in preparation of the true King Jesus’ coming reign.

Luke 3.4a

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet”

We now see John take on the role of the messianic “forerunner” in Isaiah. The text Luke is about to quote is Isaiah 40.3-5. I find it interesting that the Essenes had already adopted this text as their mission,20so this might further tighten the relationship with John and their community. Whether or not it does, it does seem to show us that this Isaianic passage has some sort of apocalyptic or eschatological value to the people in first century Judaism.

Luke 3.4b-6

Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Nolland believes that the use of this text is drawing a picture of the eschatological coming of Jesus.21I think he is definitly on to something. You have John who is out is the wilderness drawing people out to join him, and he is preparing the straight and perfect path for the Messiah. I think it is also relevant, keeping with the seemingly political undercurrent flowing through Luke that this is the King’s Highway that is being prepared, “ετοιμασατε την οδον κυριου (prepare(ing) the way of the Kyrios or Lord)”. In its original context there is no doubt that the Lord here would have been seen as the covenant God of Israel, but we see a deeper meaning in the Greco-Roman world were the Kyrios (Lord) is king Caesar! I personally think there are two key theological aspects to the usage of this passage: 1. This future King Jesus has been elevated or will be elevated to the level of God Almighty. 2. There is a new king (Jesus) who trumps Caesar’s reign and all the community, even the employees of Caesar are coming out to John (3.12-14) to take part in this new King’s reign. Green further validates my point by claiming, “by Lord we now understand this as Jesus”22

This text also has eschatological salvation in mind as well, “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God”. So with this coming king that John was paving the way for, all flesh would see the salvation of God. So, we are now seeing the bigger picture: Rome and corrupt Israel are the current situation, yet the word of God came upon John as was promised, he is calling men from from their sinful loyalties to current evil system by a baptism of repentance unto a new allegiance with this coming king (that was promised earlier in the narrative), and what John is doing is preparing the King’s highway, on which the Kyrios will come fourth and establish his reign as God’s anointed King. This is a beautiful picture of the reversal of evil with goodness, and a picture of a coming redemption! Green notes that, “John’s ministry may have been more narrowly directed towards Israel, but it is part of God’s larger project of bringing redemption to all humanity”23

Reflection/Application

The point of the text is clear: John the baptist was set apart supernaturally for a ministry that began the reconciliation of the world to their future King. The current agenda of Caesar and his puppets that ruled not only the world, but Jerusalem the footstool of God and the residing place of the throne of David, was being attacked by the baptizing of John. John called people out of that dying strong-hold and baptized them to set them apart for the immanent coming of the Lord, that Isaiah had spoken of. So, not only was John’s ministry political, but it was eschatological. John’s calling was the gateway for the Gospel of God and Kingdom of God that we see all through out the gospels: through which Jesus the “Messiah, King of the World, King of the Jews, Son of David, Prince of Peace, Kyrios and God”, would bring redemption to mankind and also the fall of Rome (kingdom of Satan) for a better kingdom (Kingdom of God), one that is everlasting!

So repent of your sins, turn your allegiance to God, and trust in Jesus. That is what is applicable for today. The Kingdom of God is in our midst! Are you apart of it?

Bibliography

Bovon, Francois, Luke 1 A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 1.1-9.50 (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Augsburg Frotress, 2002).

Green, Joel B., The Gospel of Luke (NICNT; Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1997).

Gundry, Robert H., A Survey of the New Testament Third Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994)

Heibert, D. Edmond, An Introduction to the New Testament (Waynesboro: Gabriel Publishing, 2003).

Nolland, John, Luke 1-9:20 (Word Biblical Commentary; Dallas: Word, 1989)

Wright, N.T., The New Testament and the People of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God; London: SPCK, 1992)

1Hiebert p. 124

2Hiebert p. 138-9

3Gundry List the dates of the Caesars on p.30 and 31

4Gundry p. 30

5Kirk Spencer “Lecture on the Ancient World”

6Nolland p. 139

7Kirk Spencer “Lecture on the Ancient World”

8Nolland p.139

9Green p.168

10Nolland p.139

11Bovon p.120

12Nolland p.140

13Green p.169

14Green p.169

15Nolland p.140

16Nolland p.140

17Michael Cooper

18N.T. Wright p.203 to 209

19Green p. 170-171

20Bovon p.121

21Nolland p.171

22Green p.171

23Nolland p.171



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In these last few days of the Advent season of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Messiah, I will be posting a few articles to get the brain going. The first is centred around Mary, who sadly has been downplayed in the evangelical church, yet holds high esteem by YHWH, the NT (especially Luke’s infancy narrative), and early church history. Here is a stimulating article from a Lutheran gentleman I think you will like.

http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/the-annual-%E2%80%9Cmary%E2%80%9D-discussion#respond

God Bless!

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