Friday, September 26, 2008

JEPD Theory, headphones, and Caffine

Studying Higher Criticism and the wacky JEDP theory late at night (late for me, anyway) can make me a bit...loopy.

I guess it is fitting, though, because the whole Documentary Hypothesis is loopy to the core.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Did Moses Write Deuteronomy 34?

Until recently, I had always heard and accepted that Joshua probably wrote the end of Deuteronomy. This is said because this chapter includes details about the death and burial of Moses, and Joshua, as Moses’ successor, would have had the knowledge and position to write about the end of Moses’ life.

Well, I recently read the paper, “The Authorship of Deuteronomy 34: Moses or a Redactor?” by William D. Barrick. This paper was presented at the Evangelical Theological Society in November of 2001, and in it the author was appealing that Mosaic authorship of the entire Pentateuch (Gen 1 – Deut 34) be a boundary for this body. I think he wrote it knowing that this was a tall order and he approached the issue with good humor in noting that his opponents (those who hold to Joshua or someone else writing Deuteronomy 34) might liken stalwart proponents of Mosaic authorship of this chapter to “the soul-mate of a ‘flat earth’ theology/science.’”1
There are three primary (although there are more, for sure) arguments given for why Moses was not the author of Deuteronomy 34, and they are basically this:

  1. There are timing issues in the text that do not seem to fit right if Moses is the author.
  2. There are references to the division of the land of Canaan that was not a reality until after it was conquered and recorded in Joshua 13-19.
  3. There are references to Moses, his ministry, and his works that seem to be best understood as someone, later, eulogizing Moses.

I found that the most compelling reasons to find that Moses is not the author of Deuteronomy 34 coincides with the least satisfying response, and this has to do with one of the timing issues in this chapter. I see no real problem with Moses being able to pen the story of his own death as it would happen in the all-to-near future for him. Since God wanted that included in the Scriptures, He could inspire the man who was going to experience it to write about it. The real stickler of a problem comes later in the chapter,
“The Lord buried him in a valley in Moab, opposite the town of Bethpeor, but to this day no one knows the exact place of his burial.” (Deuteronomy 34:6)
“No other prophet has been able to do the great and terrifying things that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”(Deuteronomy 34:12)

In both verse 6 and 12, there is the sense of a significant time gap between the life of Moses and the writing of the thoughts. A long time wouldn’t necessarily need to pass before someone could realistically pen that “to this day” no one knows where Moses is buried. However, it seems that a longer time would be needed for the same author to write a statement that no prophet “has been able to do” the things that Moses did. Because there is no grammatical or linguistic reason that the actual language of the chapter gives so that, and there is no Biblical witness to the fact that Moses didn’t write this chapter, I have decided not to place too heavy a weight on this temporal objection. My answer to this objection is almost dismissively simple; if God wanted the account of Moses’ death and burial recorded, and if God wanted to include in His revealed Word that Moses would be a singular figure among the prophets of Israel, He had every opportunity and right to have Moses himself pen the words of Deuteronomy 34.

The second major objection to Mosaic authorship is found in how Moses refers to the unconquered land of Canaan.
“…the Lord showed him the whole land: the territory of Gilead as far north as the town of Dan; 2 the entire territory of Naphtali; the territories of Ephraim and Manasseh; the territory of Judah as far west as the Mediterranean Sea; 3 the southern part of Judah; and the plain that reaches from Zoar to Jericho, the city of palm trees.” (Deut 34:1b-3)

The objection basically says that the lands of Canaan were only divided up during the conquest (see Joshua 13-19); Moses would not have been able to gaze at the different territories that he was not familiar with and that had not yet been settled. I think that this objection loses much of its value when we see that Moses had at least some prior knowledge as to the specific inheritance for each tribe. Just before the account of his death, he blessed Naphtali in order that they might “take possession of the sea and the south” in Deuteronomy 33:23. He also references Israel’s blessing of Manasseh and Ephraim in Genesis 48:22 indicating that they will receive “one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.” Then there is the recon and report of the 12 spies recorded in Numbers 13-14. There was some understanding of the land and its fortifications and other of its characteristics was gained from their expedition that Moses definitely had been made aware of (and had had plenty of time to think about while wandering in the desert for 40 years). These instances of knowledge of the land and foreknowledge of some details of the inheritance seems to be sufficient evidence to enable me to refute the objection that Moses would not have had sufficient knowledge of the allotted inheritance of the 12 tribes to make the statements in verses 1-3.

The third primary objection to Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy 34 has to do with the grandiose language used to characterize Moses’ ministry and his relationship to the Lord. The thought is that Moses would not have referred to himself in the third person nor would he have spoken of his relationship to the Lord in the way that he did. First of all, Deuteronomy 34 is not the singular instance where Moses would have used described himself in a perspective other than the first person (see Numbers 11:11; 12:17). But if I were taking position against Mosaic authorship stating that he wouldn’t have referred to himself with such majesty, I would begin by mentioning that Paul referred to himself as the chief of sinners. And if Deuteronomy 34 was written by Moses, would he be referring to himself with such a self-important attitude that set him apart from the other prophets who would come after him, both in powerful works and in his closeness to God? Of course, the answer to this rhetorical question would be “no”. But I submit that this is not the best way to examine the text at hand. One of the primary phrases that objectors use to make their argument is,
10 Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 for all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.” (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

If this is an example of the type of language that is too self-complimentary for something that Moses would have said about himself, then what are we to do with Stephen’s defense before the high priest? In his defense of Christ as Messiah, he quoted Deuteronomy 18:15 where he indicates that Jesus is the prophet who Moses said would come after him who Moses indicated would be “like me.” This verse, as it is used by Stephen, directly relates Moses to Christ in this manner, and it is surely more of a grandiose statement than those referred to in this chapter by those opposed to Mosaic authorship.

It seems to me that the arguments against Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy 34, other than the objections about how Moses would have referred to and characterized himself, are basically anti-supernaturalistic in nature. These objections seem to come from a mindset that is influenced, at least in this case, by naturalism. Because it seems that the objection is basically that Moses couldn’t have known or wouldn’t have known the necessary information needed to catalog the events. This is done in direct contrast to the basic nature of divine revelation. Divine revelation is, in the God-breathed Scriptures, is the revealing of what was previously unknown, unknowable or hidden. Furthermore, objections to Mosaic authorship are not based on the overall Biblical witness or the grammar used in this specific text as compared to the rest of the Pentateuch.

I am not saying that all people who oppose Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy 34 categorically reject the supernatural, far from it. But I am saying that the primary objections, as I understand them, come from the same presuppositional basis, at least in this isolated case, as do the empiricists rejections of all miraculous or divine action in the world and in the Scriptures.

1 William D. Barrick, “The Authorship of Deuteronomy 34: Moses or a Redactor?” presented at the ETS Annual Meeting, Nov 14-16,2001, P. 17

Click here to read the paper that I wrote for my Old Testament Introduction class.

Monday, September 22, 2008

God Created Me This Way…

On Friday, September 12, 2008, former Christian artist Ray Boltz publicly announced, among other things, that he is a homosexual and he has been all of his life. I skimmed through the article in Washington Blade and wanted simply to comment on one particular thing that he said regarding Christianity and his now open homosexuality and how they are mutually exclusive. While the genesis of my comments are specifically related to Mr. Boltz’s comments regarding his sexuality and Christianity, my comments are not only applicable to people who may be homosexual in their inclinations. So, in other words, practicing homosexuals who erroneously want to call themselves Christians are not the only ones who should be upset and offended by what I’m going to say.

Ray Boltz made several comments regarding who he is and how he views himself in relation to his continuing confession of being a Christian. However, it was the final thing that he was quoted as saying in the article that held my attention and has given birth to my comments.

“This is what it really comes down to,” he says. “If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”1

In other words, Mr. Boltz believes that God made him and intends him to be gay, so his decision to live this way – true to who he is – will not cause God to condemn him to hell. If God created him with a specific type of sexual inclination, and his continued attempts to suppress it for decades has not caused it to wane in its ferocity but instead it has continued with vigor, then he should not feel ashamed of it, nor should he feel that his claim of being a Christian will be rendered void by living out his natural inclination. With all due respect, I must, on the basis of Scripture, patently reject this logic and. I don’t see any consolation in Scripture for the person who claims to be a Christian but yet lives a life of unrepentant and blatant sin.

The problem with Mr. Boltz’s theology (as stated above, anyway) is that he doesn’t understand the depravity of man; neither generally with the entirety of humanity nor specifically with regards to himself. I am becoming more and more convinced that a misunderstanding of sin – its effect, scope, and result – leads to so many of the problems and inconsistencies that we see in theology. Furthermore, I think that this error is surpassed in its potential damage only by errors relating to Scripture (denying its sufficiency, inerrancy, inspiration, etc.) and errors related to the Person of Christ Himself.

Mankind, as a whole, is born in sin and is completely and utterly defiled because of our sin in Adam. And because of our sin in Adam, all of the parts of our being have been corrupted from the perfect and sinless model of our first father. In other words, God made a perfect creation but we have corrupted it. So, in a sense, it is both true and untrue for Mr. Boltz to say that “God made me this way” relating to his sexuality. God did not create man to be homosexual, but God did create Ray with the sinful proclivity that lends itself towards homosexuality. This neither justifies Ray, or anyone, in rebelling against God’s command to abstain from that kind of activity, nor does this render God as being unjust or as being unfairly malicious in His eternal condemnation of men and women who practice such forbidden things.

Because if one reads the Scriptures consistently in the way in which they intend to be read (as being a perspicuous divine revelation), there is no way to avoid the condemnation of any sexual activity (mentally or physically) outside of the bounds of monogamous heterosexual marriage between one male and one female. Would it would be wrong if, and I doubt that Mr. Boltz or his “church” body would not disagree with me on this even though they may reject the analogy, after decades of marriage to one woman that produced four grown children, I decided to leave her and go off to engage in all sorts of sexual encounters with as many women as I was able to. If so, then why?

I’m an average man. And any honest hetero-sexual man that I have ever met has desires and tendencies to have as much sex with virtually as many different people as you could imagine. Why should I not go out and live in a lifestyle of free love? That is where my natural proclivities point me? And based on Mr. Boltz’s summarization of his situation, there are no Scriptural grounds upon which to condemn my promiscuous lifestyle. This is done to the utter disregard of the Scripture when it is clear that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God, and neither will the homosexual!2

So, whether you’re a homosexual ex-Contemporary Christian recording artist who has just decided to come out of the closet or whether you’re an average Joe who has decided that warring against the constant bombardment of sexual thoughts is foolish because “God made me this way”, and you’ve decided to live out your natural desires for sexual fulfillment – you are giving evidence that you have not been born again and that you do not love Christ Jesus at all. You love what is plainly called sin in the Scriptures more than you love the God of the Scriptures.

Christians sin. Some Christians have homosexual attractions and desires. All Christians have natural desires that are contrary to the Biblical call for holiness and purity. All Christians war against these sins, and we die still in the war against our sinful desires. Whether we die in while losing a skirmish or standing on a mountain of triumph, we’re still in the fight.

Those who leave the fight, give up the fight, deny that there is a fight and utterly forsake the call of Christ to war against the sin that is present in the flesh give evidence to the fact that they haven’t been redeemed by Christ. It is impossible for man to resist his natural inclinations in the way that Christ calls us to. It takes a supernatural victory and the alien righteousness of Christ to first make war and then to continue that war on the flesh throughout the remainder.


2 I should note that when I use the term homosexual, as I did in this sentence, the meaning is that of a practicing homosexual in the same manner as I would say that the fornicator is someone who is actively fornicating in their life. For a man to be tempted with thoughts of homosexual sin or heterosexual sin and his response is to war against it, this does not make him a homosexual or a fornicator in the sense that it would be evidence of not being a Christian. The man who is tempted with the same sins and gladly runs his mind in this sin or acts out on these sins is the one who is giving evidence to possibly not having been justified.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blasphemy? Really?

A while ago (a long while ago, actually) I did a little study on the “queen of heaven” as it relates to Roman Catholicism’s exaltation of Mary and if that has any relevance to the pagan goddess mentioned in Jeremiah 7:18. The conclusion that I came to is that I’m not willing to say that the same spirit that was being worshipped as the “queen of heaven” in ancient times is modernly incarnated in the Roman exaltation of Mary. That being the case, I view the modern Marian devotion more similarly to run-of-the-mill idolatry that has always plagued man in his sinfulness.

So, I wrote my thoughts and made a summary video of it to put on youtube and there ended up being a fairly lively discussion in the comments section of the video. Recently I have pretty much left that video and the comments alone…until I saw this comment:

"O teach me Holy Mary
A loving song to frame
When WICKED MEN blashpheme thee
I'll love and bless thy name"

Now, this comment from “Rapture1987” was part of a stanza from a hymn to Mary. The primary thing that the commenter wanted to get across was that I am a wicked man because of my comments against the unholy and blasphemous exaltation of Mary. But what caught my attention is that this hymn ascribes the charge of blasphemy to those who dare challenge the exaltation of Mary in Roman Catholicism.

Now, I make the charge that the exaltation of Mary and the veneration of her is blasphemy simply because doing so either gives her attributes that are for God alone, or they make her the recipient of prayer or praise that is due to God alone. I submit that I do this on the basis of the Scriptural precedent that worship and praise and prayer is only to be addressed to God and to Him alone. It is quite a different thing to accuse someone of blasphemy against a person. That charge, I think, goes more to validate my concerns and objections to the elevation of Mary, but furthermore, it may lend credence to those who see the Marian elevation as nothing less than her deification in Roman dogma.

And now, based on this comment and the fact that it was a quotation of a Marian Hymn, I am more convinced that the true deification of Mary is where the modern Roman push will end up, even if that is not the intention of the majority of those who are promoting the fifth Marian dogma. Now, it may be that the hymn writer and the commenter have no real understanding of what they are saying when they accuse men of blasphemy when they attack Mary, but they should know better.

I did a quick concordance search on the word “blasphem” (this was to include both forms of “blasphemy and blaspheme” and I came up with 41 different results from the NASB. Now, granted, this is not an exhaustive study of the Biblical understanding of blasphemy, but it is a quick and cursory look at how the Holy Spirit used this word in God’s revelation to us.

The overwhelming majority of the Scriptures clearly indicate that the offended party in the act of blasphemy is God. The only time in the Scriptures that I could find that where the object of the blasphemy might be found in 2nd Samuel. This is during the account following David’s sin with Bathsheba and Uriah.
"However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die." (2 Samuel 12:14)

Now, although it seems quite clear in the larger context that it was the Lord who was the recipient of the blasphemy of His enemies, this verse itself doesn’t say “…occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme the LORD….” I don’t think that there is any other way that one could interpret the text other than to say that the blasphemy was against the LORD, but others might argue otherwise.1 The other 11 times that the charge of blasphemy was named in the Old Testament, it was specifically listed as being against God Himself. However, there is one verse where the sin of blasphemy was attributed to a human party as well as to God. And it is this Scripture that needs to be addressed, I think.
Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God." (Acts 6:11)

The context here is the testimony, trial, and martyrdom of Stephen. How is it that Stephen was blaspheming against God and Moses if blasphemy is an offense only against God? Well, first of all, the revelation of the Old Testament, specifically the Pentateuch, was referred to as the Law of Moses (see, among others, Joshua 8:31-32; 23:4; Judges 4:11; 1 Kings 2:3; Ezra 7:6; Malachi 4:4; Luke 2:22; Acts 13:39; 15:5; 28:23; 1 Corinthians 9:9). And in this way, one could be said to blaspheme Moses by contradicting the revelation that God had given to him in the Law. And in the account of Stephen, he only used Scripture to point to Christ. He did not attack Moses or their perception of Moses as the most righteous man who intercedes on their behalf before God.

But even if one was to argue that the Jewish officials were accusing Stephen of blasphemy against the person of Moses instead of the Law, I don’t see a precedent set here that we could then use to apply in the case of Marian opposition. And there are three main reasons for why there is no problem with this accusation. First of all, this would be the single time in the Scriptures where the charge of blasphemy was attributed to an assault on a person instead of God. Secondly, this charge is made by those people who have rejected the incarnate Christ Himself and who schemed and “induced” men to make this accusation against Stephen. In other words, this is not the best crowd to look to for a correctly interpreted understanding of the Scriptures to make a precedent in this area or for honesty in their actions and accusations. And thirdly, this verse is nothing less than a single vague reference to a possible offence of blasphemy against a person and not against God alone, and so it should by no means be a verse we look to in order to expand the otherwise clear definition of blasphemy in the Scriptures.

It is on the basis of the Scripture’s use of this term and concept that I defend that the sin of blasphemy is only against God. Men who mock a gospel preacher may mock the man while they blaspheme God. And it is in the same vain of Biblical precedent that I reject the accusation of blasphemy against Mary. Mary is not God, therefore she cannot be blasphemed.

But if Rome wants to defend her Marian dogmas and charge those of us with blasphemy who challenge them for being extra-biblical and a satanic exaltation and veneration of her, they have no biblical ground to do so. And I would further state that the accusations of blasphemy against Mary, intentionally or unintentionally, ascribe a measure of deity to her based on how this word is used in Scripture.

My Roman Catholic friends, I urge you to see this exaltation of Mary for what it is: idolatry and subtle deification of a created being. Defend your dogmas, if you like, but know that their defense is not one that can be done from a consistent interpretation of Scripture.

Soli Deo Gloria.

1 I include this little caveat primarily because many of the opponents of Sola Scriptura (Roman apologists and adherents) believe that the Scripture must say certain things with the exact words that they think that it should in order to uphold our doctrinal conclusions. So, even though the inspired Scripture doesn’t include the “the LORD” after the word “blaspheme”, a fair reading of the text would come up with that interpretation.

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