Monthly Archives: October 2017

Can you explain the “Corban” tradition?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE “CORBAN” TRADITION?

by Shawn Brasseaux

In order to get the full impact of certain Bible passages, we need to establish the cultural and/or historical context. The “Corban” tradition is one such example. Upon understanding its background, we will accomplish two goals. Firstly, we will better grasp the thrust of the verses. Secondly, we will recognize a modern-day parallel. This issue is a fitting commemoration to today, the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation!

“CORBAN” INTRODUCED

The Lord Jesus Christ issued a very stern rebuke of Israel’s religious leaders in Mark chapter 7: “[9] And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. [10] For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: [11] But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. [12] And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; [13] Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”

“CORBAN” DEFINED

If we look closely, we see that the Holy Spirit actually defined “Corban” for us in the verse. “It is Corban, that is to say, a gift…” (Mark 7:11). “Corban” is unique to Mark’s Gospel Record: it appears this once in Scripture. In Matthew 15:5, the parallel passage, we read simply: “But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;….” But what exactly is this “gift?” To whom or what is it given? And why was the Lord so opposed to this “Corban” practice?

“Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the Bible” provides the first few clues:

“G2878 κορβᾶν korbân, kor-ban’; of Hebrew and Chaldee origin respectively (H7133); a votive offering and the offering; a consecrated present (to the Temple fund); by extension (the latter term) the Treasury itself, i.e. the room where the contribution boxes stood:—Corban, treasury.”

The above Greek word appears twice in the underlying text of the King James Bible—Mark 7:11 (what we just read) and Matthew 27:6. Speaking of Judas Iscariot’s 30 pieces of silver, Matthew 27:6 affirms: “And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury [Korban/Corban], because it is the price of blood.” This was the Jerusalem Temple treasury, the place where offerings or gifts were kept.

“Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words” provides more information about “Corban:”

“(a) ‘an offering,’ and was a Hebrew term for any sacrifice, whether by the shedding of blood or otherwise;
(b) ‘a gift offered to God,’ Mar 7:11. Jews were much addicted to rash vows; a saying of the Rabbis was, ‘It is hard for the parents, but the law is clear, vows must be kept.’ The Sept. translates the word by doron, ‘a gift.’ See korbanas, under TREASURY, Mat 27:6.”

As an interesting side-note, we see an example of a gift being offered at the Jerusalem Temple in Matthew chapter 5: “[23] Therefore if thou bring thy gift [doron] to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; [24] Leave there thy gift [doron] before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift [doron].”

WHY THE “CORBAN” TRADITION WAS MENTIONED AT ALL

Why did the Lord Jesus even bring up this “Corban” issue? What point was He getting across? Why was the offering of this gift so evil and thus so offensive to Him? In order to ferret out the reason, we must go to the beginning of the chapter.

Mark chapter 7 from the beginning: “[1] Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. [2] And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. [3] For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. [4] And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. [5] Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?”

Prior to Jesus mentioning the “Corban” tradition, the Pharisees and scribes had come to Him to criticize. His disciples were eating without first washing their hands. However, let it be clearly understood that they griped, not for hygienic reasons, but on religious grounds! Pay attention to verses 3-5: “[3] For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. [4] And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. [5] Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?”

Notice all those assorted and repeated “washings” Jesus delineated in verse 4. They were “the tradition of the elders.” The Pharisees and scribes were deeply offended that Jesus’ disciples ignored it concerning their hands! To expose their hypocrisy, Jesus brought up the “Corban” issue. Here were these Pharisees and scribes grumbling about people breaking their fallible religious rules, but they themselves were blatantly rejecting and canceling God’s infallible Word. Furthermore, it did not bother these religious leaders one whit. In fact, they permitted others—the children offering the “Corban”— to also break God’s Word! What should not have angered them did. What should have angered them did not!

We continue reading in Mark chapter 7: “[6] He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. [7] Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. [8] For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.” Of course, some 700 years before Christ, JEHOVAH God had said the same concerning Israel’s worthless religious system.

The Holy Spirit wrote in Isaiah 29:13: “Wherefore the LORD said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:….” Jesus Christ appealed to this to validate His condemnation of Israel’s vain religion during His earthly ministry. Israel’s spiritual blindness in Isaiah’s day still lingered in the nation when her Messiah showed up. All the while despising and violating and replacing God’s Word in their hearts with their manmade rules and regulations, these religious Jews were singing and speaking beautiful words to God. Alas, whether in Isaiah’s day or Jesus’ day, it was all just mindless ritual, rote duty, habitual phoniness, and empty religion!

Please notice the parallel passage of Mark chapter 7, which contains extra information. Matthew chapter 15: “[1] Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, [2] Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. [3] But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? [4] For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. [5] But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; [6] And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. [7] Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. [9] But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

WHY THE “CORBAN” TRADITION OFFENDED THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Now that we have a basic understanding of the “Corban” issue, we want to see just why the Lord Jesus singled it out to prove His point about Israel’s empty religious practices. Returning to Mark chapter 7: “[9] And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. [10] For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: [11] But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. [12] And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;….”

The Fifth Commandment is in view here, as God commanded Israel through Moses in Exodus 20:12: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” It was reaffirmed many years later in Deuteronomy 5:16: “Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”

As Jesus stressed, God gave Israel another instruction through Moses concerning one’s parents. “Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death…” (Mark 7:10). The Law of Moses commanded in Exodus 21:17: “And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death (cf. Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Respecting parents was such a serious matter that a child who “curseth” (reviles, speaks evil of) his parents was to “die the death” (or, “surely die”)!

In spite of the gravity of God’s instructions about Jews respecting and taking care of their parents, they overlooked, rejected, and substituted God’s Word. Notice Matthew chapter 15 again: “[4] For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. [5] But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; [6] And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition” (cf. Mark 7:10-13).

At the time of Christ’s earthly ministry, there was a man-made religious tradition in Israel. If a man simply said that he would dedicate his possessions to God (as in giving an offering at the Jerusalem Temple), he was thereby freed from any financial obligation to his parents. Israel’s religious leaders said that he did not have to honor his parents—namely, support them financially—because his wealth was reserved as “Corban” (a gift, that is, presented to the Temple). Instead of instructing the Jews in the ways of JEHOVAH God through Moses, these religious leaders gave precedence to a “commandment of men”… and that “tradition of men” outright contradicted God’s Word! Now we see why Jesus Christ was so critical of the practice.

We will take a brief moment to review. According to the Pharisees and other Jewish religious leaders, a child did not have to honor his parents—to wit, support them financially—if he declared his wealth “Corban” (a gift to the Temple). After all, that gift was supposedly an “act of worshipping God” (when it fact it contradicted true worship of God because it violated His Fifth Commandment!). The religious leaders enjoyed gifts to the Temple because they could take the wealth for themselves… forget the needy parents of the person offering the Corban! This “escape clause” from the Fifth Commandment of God explains why the Lord Jesus Christ said what He did in the surrounding verses.

One more time, Mark chapter 7: “[6] He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. [7] Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. [8] For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. [9] And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. [10] For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: [11] But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. [12] And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; [13] Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”

Matthew chapter 15: “[3] But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? [4] For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. [5] But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; [6] And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. [7] Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. [9] But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

CONCLUSION

Dear friends, religion has not changed one bit in the 2,000 years since Christ’s earthly ministry to Israel. Man has not changed one whit since the books of Matthew and Mark. We hear so much about “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture” in religion today—especially in Roman Catholicism—and yet it really is not “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture” at all. To many, it is, “We found these Bible verses to prove our ‘pet’ ideas, but we do not care about Scriptural context or even if we violate other Scriptures! We will quote Scripture, so long as it furthers our agenda. Scripture takes a back-seat if it contradicts our church or takes away from our authority!”

Friends, while religious people claim to “follow the Bible” and be “Bible believers,” this is often not the case when they are closely investigated. After all, the same religious leaders who habitually and deliberately violated the Mosaic Law professed to be “followers of Moses” (John 9:28)! This is the type of (antithetical) nonsense you get involved with when you start trying to reconcile two authorities. We cannot serve two masters—we must follow either the Bible alone, or tradition alone. If we at all attempt to hold to both, they will compete and (because of our [human] sinful flesh) the manmade tradition will invariably become the final authority. It happened to Israel in Isaiah, Matthew, and Mark. It will surely occur today—yea, it has occurred today. The Protestant Reformation—or better, Protestant Revolution—recovered the truth God’s authority is in the Bible alone and not in church tradition. May we not revert!

This author will never forget the time long ago when he asked a “Bible-believing” Roman Catholic priest why so much emphasis was placed on one particular religious tradition when the Bible taught something else entirely. The priest, acknowledging this discrepancy existed (!), sharply blurted out words that this author has never forgotten: “I do not follow the Bible! I follow tradition!

And so, dear friends, the words of the Lord Jesus Christ continue to echo all these centuries later….

“Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition…. Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Also see:
» Did not Jesus speak words not recorded in Scripture?
» What is the real “Immaculate Conception?”
» Should Christians observe Lent?

If suffering is sure to follow, why serve Jesus Christ?

IF SUFFERING IS SURE TO FOLLOW, WHY SERVE JESUS CHRIST?

by Shawn Brasseaux

A dear brother in Christ recently expressed trepidation concerning the suffering of the Bible believer. He told me that he knew 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” The brother did not want to pursue godly living because he knew it would result in persecution. Is this a valid reason for not engaging in grace living? Should we avoid suffering for Christ?

ARE WE REALLY BEING “PERSECUTED?”

Friends, while people may snicker at us for being Christians, frown at us, make rude gestures at us, ridicule us, and shun us, these intimidations should be the least of our concerns. To get the aforesaid brother to realize his faulty reasoning, I asked him if someone had ever come to his door, dragged him out, and hauled him off to prison for being a Christian. Of course not, he said. He lives here in the United States of America, where our constitutional rights protect our spiritual beliefs. So, can we really say that we are persecuted? Why fear what is minor compared to what others suffer for Jesus Christ? If they are willing to endure more, why should we avoid undergoing less?

Have the authorities tortured us for being Christians? Has anyone ever torn our limbs apart on the rack? Burned us alive at the stake for owning and/or reading the Bible? Starved us to death? Beheaded us for refusing to convert to their religion? Cut off our arms and legs, fingers and toes? Drowned us? Beaten us with clubs? Pummeled us to death with rocks? Down through the centuries, believers in Jesus Christ suffered such horrendous fates for their faith… and worse! There are precious members of the Body of Christ all around the world right now, our brethren, suffering similar fates under oppressive and merciless governments. If God’s grace could and can get them through those terrible ordeals, all the way to physical death, then His grace can surely get us through our (lesser) “suffering.” And, if our persecution were to ever reach such extreme levels, then God’s grace that aided other Christians in similar situations will definitely be there for us.

Here in the United States, we have it relatively easy. We should never take our religious liberties for granted as many here do. Our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world do not have such freedom, so they have to stay “underground,” assembling in private. Father God alone knows just how many Christians are in hiding, trapped in such godless nations, wondering when government officials will arrive to arrest, afflict, and/or annihilate them. If these Christians knew those risks, and yet cling to the Scriptures, then can we really shrink away from the minor harassments of which we tend to complain?

Yes, we are called terrible names for being Bible believers. We are laughed at and mocked. Perhaps we are punched or kicked. We are shunned at social functions. Still, this is nothing compared to the suffering other Christians are experiencing worldwide. It is likely, dear friend, that you live outside the United States. Perhaps you know what real suffering for Jesus Christ is. Maybe your faith in Christ makes you liable to a fine, a lifetime prison sentence, or even a death sentence! You are probably suffering a worse fate than I am for being a Christian. My heart goes out to you! We Americans have it good, and thus have no reason whatsoever to complain about “persecution.”

While America is spiritually declining, thankfully, the Bible has not yet been outlawed here. As per the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, we still have the freedom of religion. We are still free to publicly assemble with other Christians. The First Amendment also guarantees us the right to free speech. We have the right to quote Bible verses wherever we go, without fear of imprisonment or other penalties. Let us in the United States never take these our liberties for granted. If the Lord tarries, they will eventually vanish… it remains to be seen if that will happen in our lifetimes. Until then, we must remember that there are Christians in other nations far worse off than we are. They are in our thoughts and prayers.

Wherever we live, whatever we may be suffering for Jesus Christ now, or whatever we may suffer for Jesus Christ yet future, let us not shun that glorious opportunity to be fully subservient to the God-Man Who suffered and died for us! It is time to show our love and gratitude to Him by yielding our lives to Him… even if living means suffering and dying!

GRACE MOTIVATION: LOVE AND GRATITUDE TO GOD

Acts 14:22 says of Barnabas and Paul, “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” In verse 19, the unbelieving Jews had just killed Paul by stoning! God raises him from the dead, and he fittingly begins to preach to those new Christians all about how they will have to suffer “much tribulation!” Despite the traumatic death he had just experienced, Paul could not help but encourage others to suffer for Jesus Christ too! Can you get any worse suffering for Christ than dying?

Doubtless, the Christian is to suffer “much.” Yes, the Christian “must” suffer trouble. Is that really disadvantageous though? Dear Christian friends, let us consider how much the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and bled for our transgressions. The wrath of man disfigured His outward man. The wrath of God punished His inward man. He gave His life for us! Now, we have the nerve to declare we want to avoid suffering for His name’s sake? We would prefer a life of ease and carefreeness, totally regarding the fact that we have been bought with a price?! Jesus Christ paid our sin debt with His blood; we serve Him now rather than sin and Satan. Does it make sense for us to rebel against our Master? No. Then why are we refusing to pursue grace living? We do so, not because it is logical, but because it is convenient. We want to avoid suffering because we are selfish. Our sinful nature is controlling us, and we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

Second Corinthians chapter 5: “[14] For the love of Christ constraineth [compels, drives] us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: [15] And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”

Christian brethren, may we be willing to yield our lives to the God-Man who died for us and rose again. We will never be able to repay Him, no, but we can give ourselves over to do His will (why He saved us from sin anyway). After all, He saved us unto good works. Those good works will cause unbelievers around us to oppose and mistreat us. They—under Satan’s control—rebel at anything and everything God is doing. They hate Jesus Christ living in and through us as much as people hated Him when He lived in His own earthly life 20 centuries ago.

However, we should not fear our persecutors. They can take our physical lives, but that is all they can take. They cannot take our souls! Remember what the Lord Jesus Christ encouraged His Apostles with when He first commissioned them: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him [Father God] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

GRACE GLORIFICATION: AN EXCEEDING AND ETERNAL WEIGHT OF GLORY

Read what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians chapter 12: “[9] And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [10] Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” How could Paul “take pleasure… in persecutions?” Was he so irrational that he loved suffering? No, but he knew that suffering could benefit him in the long run. We are not glad to suffer, but we are glad to know all types of suffering—in this case, persecution—works to our advantage. (And, if you want to know what true suffering for Christ is, go read Paul’s experiences described in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 and 2 Corinthians 11:23-28! When you suffer those things for Christ, then you can complain!!!)

Notice what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “[16] For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. [17] For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; [18] While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (He wrote this, of course, after the Jews had killed him in Acts chapter 14! Notice there is no protest, no bitterness, and certainly no decision to stop preaching about Jesus Christ because it is too hazardous and painful!)

Whatever afflictions are troubling us, my dear friends, just remember that they are only temporary. This earthly life will not last forever. If we are walking by faith in the light of grace as we endure those difficult times, there is a far greater advantage to us being reserved in Heaven. Indeed, we do not see these invisible things with the physical eyes. We see them through the eyes of faith, looking at the verses in God’s Word that speak of that “exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

A hint of this glorious eternity is exposed in 2 Timothy 2:11-13: “[11] It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: [12] If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: [13] If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” To the extent that we let Jesus Christ live His life in and through us, that is the extent to which we will live godly. To the extent that we will live godly, that is the degree to which we will suffer for righteousness’ sake. To the extent that we suffer for righteousness’ sake, that is the extent to which we will reign in the heavenly places for all of eternity for Jesus Christ’s glory! Oh, yes indeed, on the authority of the Bible, let me assure you that it is well worth the suffering for Jesus Christ!

Never forget, dear Christian friend, that Father God is very much aware of whatever you are suffering for His Son’s sake. You are on your way to Heaven because you placed your faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for your sins. But, there is a reward for your service to God now that you are a Christian, and part of your service to suffer. He will reward you with an opportunity to serve Him forever in a special place within Heaven’s government. Your quality/level of doctrine, service, and suffering will determine your rank. Again, it is well worth the suffering for Jesus Christ! Be not afraid—let God’s grace lead you and let it get you through wherever and whatever the life of Jesus Christ brings your way!

“But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing” (1 Peter 3:14-17).

“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:13-16).

NOTE: The 2017 Slidell Grace Bible Conference will be held Friday-Sunday, December 1-3, just north of New Orleans. The title and theme are, “Eschatology 101: An Introduction to the Things of the End, Dispensationally Delivered.” Speakers are: Richard Jordan, Eric Neumann, and I (Shawn Brasseaux). We would love to have you come and join us! Insightful Bible study and good ol’ Cajun & Creole cooking! Videos to be archived to my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/1611kjvambassador. For more info, download the flyer: https://arcministries.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/2017-slidell-gbc.pdf.

Also see:
» What is the fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
» Why do some Christians persistently behave like lost people?
» Why do people get angry when we share right division?

How could Paul write that he “heard” of the Ephesians’ faith?

HOW COULD PAUL WRITE THAT HE “HEARD” OF THE EPHESIANS’ FAITH?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Ephesians 1:15 says: “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,….” This verse baffles some Bible students. How was it possible that Paul “heard” of the Ephesians’ faith in Christ and their love to all the saints? Did not Paul himself personally evangelize and minister to these Christians? Why does it seem like he has never met them?

Paul visited Ephesus in Acts chapter 19, about eight years prior to writing the Book of Ephesians. He spent three months teaching in the synagogue of Ephesus, followed by an additional two years in Ephesus. Luke writes in Acts chapter 19: “[8] And he [Paul] went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. [9] But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. [10] And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.”

From Acts 20:31, we learn Paul spent three years total preaching and teaching in Ephesus. Luke’s records in Acts are clear that Paul was there in Ephesus to preach to and lead these idol worshippers to faith in Jesus Christ and His finished crosswork as sufficient payment for their sins. He personally saw them get saved and he personally taught them the principles of grace. Fast-forward to the end of Acts.

Paul is writing the Epistle to the Ephesians during the two-year “prison” (technically, house arrest) period of Acts 28:30-31 (cf. Acts 28:16). It has been five years since he departed Ephesus, and some three years since meeting with the Ephesian elders (church leaders) in Acts 20:17-38 in Miletus. During those years while Paul was absent from Ephesus, additional Ephesians have came to faith in Christ. News about their salvation has reached him in Rome. Tidings about the older Ephesians Christians have also gotten his attention.

Firstly, Ephesians 1:15 is the Apostle talking directly to the new converts in Ephesus, those whom his converts evangelized after he left Ephesus. Secondly, those whom Paul personally converted in Ephesus have grown in those years since he saw them and taught them face-to-face. He rejoices that they are growing in the Scriptures and maturing in Christian charity. Simple!

Also see:
» Why does 1 Corinthians 9:6 mention Barnabas, when he did not travel to Corinth with Paul?
» Why are Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9 contradictory?
» What about those who have not heard about Jesus Christ?

Is “excellent” a “mistranslation” in Philippians 1:10 in the King James Bible?

IS “EXCELLENT” A “MISTRANSLATION” IN PHILIPPIANS 1:10 IN THE KING JAMES BIBLE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

We have probably all heard the claim that the King James Bible has a “mistranslation” in Philippians 1:10. Let us look at the controversial passage: “That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;….” The word “excellent” is greatly belittled. Furthermore, “different” is offered as a “better translation.” Is this substitution proper? Does the “correction” better explain Christian living? Or, does such a change obscure it? Let us search the Scriptures!

I. THE SCOURGE OF (UNBELIEVING) TEXTUAL CRITICISM

Many King James Bible critics—those who complain about various “mistranslations” in the Authorized Version—are often naïve. Their claims are usually not original research, something they personally investigated and evaluated. Often, they are merely repeating what others told them in books, sermons, and so on. Why do I say that? Well, my friend, I should know… I used to be one of those people!

Years ago, at the direction of a dear Bible teacher, I underlined “excellent” in Philippians 1:10 in my King James Bible and wrote “different” in the margin. This Christian brother encouraged me and those in his classes to make various other such changes in the Scriptures. Eventually, I began to mindlessly repeat his anti-KJB claims. However, when I checked his statements, I found him to be wrong. I politely confronted him, reminding him that the Bible, not him, was the final authority. He became angry and defensive, obstinately refusing to admit his erroneous assertions. As it turned out, he had not done his own research; he would just repeat others, and disliked the fact someone called him out on it. He was manifested as speaking evil of things of which he knew not. Many such people are guilty of this, and I have since renounced such folly.

Once again, I decided long ago to start researching so-called “mistakes” in the King James Bible. What I discovered through original research was its critics were often not qualified to make those determinations. They were unfamiliar with the English language, unskilled in the original Bible languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek), unaware of critical events in church history that gave rise to “textual criticism,” and even inexperienced in the Bible text itself! This study documents my journey in seeing this more and more, especially concerning Philippians 1:10. Once we consider this matter, it will demonstrate how we need to be very suspicious of King James Bible “correctors.” Whether acting in innocent ignorance or deliberate defiance, they are making the Bible less clear by diminishing sharp distinctions.

Unfortunately, we have many men in the pulpit and seminary who claim to be Bible “believers” but constantly criticize and pick apart the text of Scripture (just like the atheists, agnostics, skeptics, free-thinkers, et cetera!). They have been trained to believe that the only method of teaching the Bible is to offer critical remarks about it! Therefore, we hear a lot of nonsense. For example, in the same breath as “I am not the final authority, the Bible is,” we hear, “But I think this Bible verse was never part of the original manuscripts.” Or, “I do not want you to go by what I say, I want you to follow the Bible. By the way, this word is a ‘poor translation.’ I think a ‘better’ rendering is….” (So much for “we follow the Bible not the opinions of men!” No wonder no one believes the Bible anymore. They are told at church, at Bible College, not to believe it!)

Friend, let me say something that will probably startle you. It may make you upset. Maybe you are not used to someone being so frank about this topic. Nevertheless, I am more compelled than ever to say it. It must be said before we proceed any further. If we cannot put a Bible before us and have absolute confidence in it, we need to throw it away and never look at another Scripture verse! It is absurdity ad infinitum that we have been told in churches to be “Bible believers” while also being told in those same churches “there is no perfect Bible today!” Either we have all the inspired, preserved words of God, or we do not. It is a clear-cut answer—“yes” or “no”—rather than a “I do not know, maybe, somewhat, a few, most.” My firm conviction is that all the inspired, preserved words of God are in the Authorized Version King James Bible. I can produce/exhibit a Book I believe in; I do not resort to the ridiculous defense, “I believe in the perfect original manuscripts that no one even has today.”

What if we do not believe in a perfect Bible that we can hold today? Well, if we do not believe that we do have all the words of God in one Book, then we need to quit being hypocrites and quit pretending like we do. We need to just come out say we do not believe any Bible anywhere. There is nothing more despicable than the attitude of a “Bible agnostic”—someone who professes ignorance about the Book he supposedly believes and defends. There is nothing more foolish than urging people to believe the Bible while also constantly telling them that there are mistakes in the Bible that only you and select others can fix. Who is the authority? The Bible? Then why do act like you are the authority, sitting on the judgment seat and subjecting the Bible text to your fallible whims and hunches? I would hate to stand before God and tell Him all about how I am smarter than He is!

By the way, my friend, I am not angry. Rather, I am quite passionate about Bible study, and I will zealously contend for the truth! So, I will say something else that will surprise you. If you think you can “fix” the Bible, then Satan is beyond delighted, for you are well on your way to establishing a cult! The Mormons “enhanced” the Bible (they call it “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ”)! The Russellites (so-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses”) “corrected” the Bible to give us “The New World Translation!” The Roman Catholics “fixed” the Bible to give us “The Latin Vulgate” and its numerous resultant heretical translations!). Oh, and the Muslims “improved” the Bible too—their “revision” is titled “The Qur’an!” Just thought you should know that before you proceed further down the cursed road of textual criticism.

II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF (BELIEVING) BIBLE STUDY

Dear friend, with unbelief out of the way, we can now focus on faith, and the light and joy it brings. Faith will cause us to believe the 400-year-old King James Bible as-is, without contradicting or correcting it, thereby correcting and enhancing our thoughts and lives. Going back to Philippians 1:10: “That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;….”

The Greek word rendered “excellent” in Philippians 1:10 is diaphero.” Depending on the context, it can indeed be translated various ways (over a half-dozen, actually—we will see this later). According to Dr. Strong’s Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament:

“G1308 διαφέρω. Pronounced dee-af-er’-o. From 1223 and 5342; to bear through, i.e. (literally) transport; usually to bear apart, i.e. (objectively) to toss about (figuratively, report); subjectively, to “differ”, or (by implication) surpass:—be better, carry, differ from, drive up and down, be (more) excellent, make matter, publish, be of more value.”

So, whenever we hear somebody complain that the King James Bible has a mistake, a mistranslation, in Philippians 1:10—that is, that “excellent” should be “different”—we just remember that any Greek dictionary says that “excellent” is a perfectly legitimate translation of diaphero. Now, someone may argue that “different” is an alternate rendering (as Dr. Strong offers this definition too). We will acknowledge that possibility. However, remember, as any competent translator knows, the context determines the sense of the English word needed.

A. AMPLIFICATION, EXPANSION, AND EXPLANATION

Friend, as stated before, long ago, I bought into the idea that “excellent” was a “poor translation” in Philippians 1:10. I used to believe “different” was a better rendering of the underlying Greek text. Recently, I have come to realize just how ridiculous my former position was. Is “different” more descriptive than “excellent?” My original research yields a resounding answer of NO!

Let me offer this illustration. Is being a blood-bought child of God “different” from being a Hell-bound child of Satan? Why yes, but we can be more vivid with our language. Being a blood-bought child of God is “more excellent than” being a Hell-bound child of Satan. See, the more information provided, the language is more precise and a more picture is formed in the mind. It is not merely a contrast of two similar positions (“different”). It is a contrast of two statuses, with one far greater than the other (“excellent”)—there really is no comparison because the difference is enormous. “Different” is just too weak to convey the truth here.

Considering the above illustration, we see that “different” does not give Philippians 1:10 the force, power, strength that “excellent” does. God does not want us to engage in simply “different” things, for such ambiguity may imply less valuable or average things. No, the potency of the verse lies in the word “excellent”—which potency is loss with “different” substituted. As per the Oxford English Dictionary, “excellent” is defined as “extremely good; outstanding.” (With “excel” a late Middle English word, derived from the Latin excellere [ex- ‘out, beyond’ + celsus ‘lofty’]). This is certainly not necessarily true of the word “different!”

Let us see the various ways in which the 1611 translators rendered diaphero, which provide us with Scriptural (and thus more important) illustrations. The word appears some 13 times, rendered the following ways: be better (3 times), be of more value (2 times), differ from (2 times), should carry (1 time), publish (1 time), drive up and down (1 time), and miscellaneous (3 times).

  • Matthew 6:26: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (This is the same sense as “excellent” in Philippians 1:10—one class surpasses, is better than, the other.)
  • Matthew 10:31: “Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (This is the same sense as “excellent” in Philippians 1:10—one class exceeds, is better than, the other.)
  • Matthew 12:12: “How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.” (This is the same sense as “excellent” in Philippians 1:10—one class transcends, is better than, the other.)
  • Mark 11:16: “And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.” (Here is a literal sense of the word.)
  • Luke 12:7: “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (This is the same sense as “excellent” in Philippians 1:10—one class is superior, better than, the other.)
  • Luke 12:24: “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?” (This is the same sense as “excellent” in Philippians 1:10—one class tops, is better than, the other.)
  • Acts 13:49: “And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.”
  • Acts 27:27: “But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country;….”
  • Romans 2:18: “And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;….” (This is the same sense as “excellent” in Philippians 1:10—one class surpasses, is better than, the other. Israel did not merely act differently when following the Law of Moses. They acted “more excellent” than the pagans around them!)
  • 1 Corinthians 15:41: “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. (Notice diaphero in this context is a comparison of like items. They are “different” but equal, none superior.)
  • Galatians 2:6: “But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:….” (In other words, they did not impress Paul, for they were not better than him or anyone else. Paraphrased, “It makes no difference to me who they were!”)
  • Galatians 4:1: “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;….” (Notice diaphero in this context is a comparison of like items. They really are not “different” but equal—there is no greater or lesser here.)

B. APPLICATION

Friend, Philippians 1:10 is part of a Pauline prayer that the Holy Spirit prays for the benefit of the Church the Body of Christ (not just those in Philippi but us saints even today). It is especially applicable to mature Christians, people who are not new believers but are familiar with the message of God’s grace and have built up in their inner man at least some of the principles of grace.

Reading Philippians 1:9-11 again: “[9] And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; [10] That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; [11] Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”

The Philippians were not babes in Christ (as the Corinthians were—see 1 Corinthians 3:1-3). While they had various problems, as all believers do, the Philippian saints had spiritually matured to some degree. Paul therefore desires their love “may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.” At the time of writing, there is room for even more improvement in their lives. The Apostle wants them to value and esteem things the way God sees them. “Love” here is not some fuzzy feeling or emotional upheaval; it is an attitude, a disposition, an outlook, a worldview. That love is according to “knowledge” and “all judgment.” Rather than being ignorant—uninformed or misinformed—Paul wants these Christians to evaluate things in life according to sound Bible doctrine. This is where the term “excellent” (as opposed to “different”) underscores or stresses the goal of the apostolic prayer. It is possible for something to be different and yet not be superior; it is impossible to be superior and yet not be different.

Paul prayed in verse 9. Why? Verse 10 tells: “That [purpose or intent of Paul praying] ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;….” The Holy Spirit through Paul prayed for the Philippian saints, that their love would abound more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, that they would equip themselves with the tools needed to evaluate and rate things in life.

When the Bible speaks of “approving” things that are “excellent,” the word “approve” means, “testing/examining, comparing items.” Once we test things using the Scriptures rightly divided, then we choose what is best (superior, “excellent!”). The goal in Christian thought and living is not to find things that are merely different. Remember, in the physical world, our goal is not merely to find food, but to find food that is edible. We do not grab paper and eat it; we find something superior to paper (something with more nutritional value). We find and eat things “excellent!” So it is in the spiritual realm!

Why did Paul want those at Philippi, or even us, to approve the things that are “excellent?” The intent is revealed in the rest of the verse: “…that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;….” When we approve the things that are “excellent,” of greater value, we are “sincere [pure] and without offence [not led into sin].” The “day of Christ” is the time of the Judgment Seat of Christ, when Jesus Christ will evaluate our Christian doctrine and service immediately after the Rapture. You can find more information about this in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, Romans 14:10-12, and 1 Corinthians 3:9-15. Time and space do not permit us to discuss that here. Please see our related studies linked at the end of this article.

Philippians 1:11 now: “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” This is a summary of what has gone before. When our love abounds more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, and we thus approve the things that are excellent, thereby making us sincere and without offence till the day of Christ, all of this can be summarized as… “being filled with the fruits of righteousness.” Those fruits are the result of Jesus Christ working in and through us, as we study and believe His Word to us (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The life of Christ is not merely something different, it is something “excellent,” surpassing everything that a person can do in his or her own strength (works-religion).

Christ living is not merely outward duty that can be faked; it is the righteous nature of the Christian in Christ that produces a lifestyle far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far beyond the “normal” life (something people outside of Christ cannot match in conduct).

III. CONCLUSION

Our 1611 King James Bible translators were certainly not wrong in placing “excellent” in the text of Philippians 1:10. It is a perfectly acceptable translation of the underlying Greek diaphero. In fact, “excellent” is superior to (more excellent than!) “different,” the substitute people usually offer. It is possible for something to be different and yet not be superior; it is impossible to be superior and yet not be different. God does not want us to engage in merely “different” thought and behavior; He wants us to pursue “excellent” thought and “excellent” behavior. “Different” waters down Philippians 1:10—“excellent” gives the Bible text more force!

Romans 12:1-2: “[1] I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. [2] And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Notice the degrees of the will of God. There is something good (“good”), something better (“acceptable”), and something that is the best (“perfect”). We are not simply to avoid evil, but we are to pick the best out of many good choices. This comes with maturity, spiritual growth. A new convert to Christianity struggles with what is good and what is evil. However, a wise mature Christian looks for the best among a lot of good alternatives. He or she picks that which is “excellent!”

SUPPLEMENTAL: PHILIPPIANS 1:10 AND ENGLISH BIBLES

  • “excellent” (King James Version, American Standard Version, English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, New King James Version, Revised Standard Version)
  • “excellent” [identifying the best, and distinguishing moral differences]” (Amplified Bible)
  • “what really matters” (Common English Bible)
  • “right” (Contemporary English Version)
  • “better” (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition – Roman Catholic “bible”)
  • “best” (1599 Geneva Bible, God’s Word Translation, New English Translation, New International Version, New Revised Standard Version)
  • “superior” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
  • “the highest and the best” (J.B. Phillips New Testament)
  • “the difference between right and wrong” (The Living Bible)
  • “the difference between good and bad and will choose the good” (New Century Version)
  • “what really matters” (New Living Translation)
  • “examine and determine the best from everything else” (The Voice)
  • “the things that differ” (Young’s Literal Translation)

Also see:
» How does one know if he or she is maturing in the Word of God?
» What is the fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
» Why does the King James Bible say, “pisseth against the wall?”

Are those Gentiles in Revelation 7:9?

ARE THOSE GENTILES IN REVELATION 7:9?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Apostle John, receiving a vision concerning end-times prophecy, reported in the seventh chapter of the Revelation, verse 9: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;….” The standard interpretation is this is a gathering of Gentiles, non-Jews. Or, are they Jews? Does the context provide any clues? Let us see what the Book says!

After the sealing of the 144,000 male Jewish preachers (verses 1-8), John sees a crowd of people in Heaven. These individuals are standing before the throne of God and the Lamb (Jesus Christ). The seventh chapter of the Revelation continues:

“[9] After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; [10] And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. [11] And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, [12] Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. [13] And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? [14] And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,….” The words “nations,” “kindreds,” “people,” and “tongues” certainly sound like Gentiles. However, notice the rest of the context. Verse 15 says: “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.” The “great multitude” of verse 9 serves God “in his temple.” In other words, they are “priests.” Moreover, the Bible says, “These are they which came out of great tribulation” (verse 14). They experienced the final half of Daniel’s 70th Week, the last 42 months of the seven-year Tribulation (yet future from us). Who are “priests” who also endure the Tribulation? Gentiles? Nay! They are Jews!

Isaiah 61:6 says to Israel: “But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.” And Revelation 1:5-6, “[5] And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, [6] And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Next, Revelation 5:9-10 (notice how verse 9 here parallels Revelation 7:9): “[9] And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; [10] And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” Finally, 1 Peter 2:9: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;….” The “priests” in Scripture are Jews, especially in end-times.

This all goes back to Exodus 19:5-6, the LORD God speaking to the nation Israel through Moses: “[5] Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: [6] And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” Israel is to be a “kingdom of priests,” in perfect agreement with the verses we examined earlier.

Okay, I am sure you are wondering, so I will ask and answer it for you. If Revelation 7:9 is indeed a group of Jews and not Gentiles, why the language of Gentiles? Why are Jews said to be “of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues…?”

Acts chapter 2 is an interesting parallel: “[5] And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. [6] Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. [7] And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? [8] And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? [9] Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, [10] Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, [11] Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

Beginning with the Assyrian captivity (circa 722 B.C.) and the Babylonian captivity (circa 606 B.C.), the Jews in Canaan were deported and scattered all around the then-known world. At the time of Acts chapter 2, coming to worship in Jerusalem for Pentecost, they had been living in “every nation under heaven” and had adopted new languages. Verse 5 says they are Jews rather than Gentiles. This is exactly how we are to view Revelation 7:9: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;….”

By the way, from where did this “great multitude” of Jewish believers come? Having been converted by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists of verses 3-8, and having been martyred on Earth, they are in Heaven before God’s throne beginning at verse 9.

Also see:
» Will Israel’s Little Flock be put to death or not?
» Is God finished with the nation Israel?
» Why are all the tribes of Israel not listed in Revelation 7?

Why is there so little human history in Genesis 1-11?

WHY IS THERE SO LITTLE HUMAN HISTORY IN GENESIS 1-11?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Adam, the first man, was created circa 4000 B.C. Abraham was born in the closing verses of Genesis chapter 11, approximately 2100–2000 B.C. In other words, the first 11 chapters of Genesis focus on about 2,000 years of history. Think of it—the Bible’s first 300 verses cover 20 centuries! Why is there so little world history in these Scriptures? Furthermore, why does Genesis spend the remaining 39 chapters (over 1,200 verses) discussing a period of less than 400 years? This study will offer some enlightenment regarding this “Genesis timeline disproportionality.”

I. THE CONUNDRUMS

Much of the first 11 chapters of Genesis are various “high points” of history, not an uninterrupted, exhaustive, detailed commentary of all 20 centuries. Notice the following stats:

  • Chapter 1 covers the first week of creation.
  • Chapter 2 is dedicated to the sixth day of that first week.
  • Chapter 3 seems to have covered only the second week.
  • Chapter 4 covers Adam’s first 130 years alive.
  • Chapter 5 is a genealogical record from Adam’s creation to Noah’s birth, chapters 1-5—approximately 1650 years.
  • Chapter 6 spans just over one century (Noah building the Ark).
  • Chapters 7-8 cover a little more than one year (the Great Flood).
  • Chapters 9-11 span approximately 350 years (the post-Flood New World, the dividing of the nations and languages, the Tower of Babel, and Abraham’s lineage).

After outlining some 2,000 years in 11 chapters, Genesis’ layout takes on a bizarre form. From chapter 12 all the way to the end (chapter 50), Scripture covers approximately 400 years. Why provide some 39 chapters of information about a four-century-long period, but only 11 chapters about a 20-century-long period? The first 11 chapters of Genesis leave us with a lot of unanswered questions. Several dozen people are actually named in the Scripture here. Surely more people than that lived during those 20 centuries prior to Abraham! Why is the content of Genesis chapters 1-11 so “limited,” an edited (incomplete) version of the history between Adam and Abraham?

II. THE CONFIGURATIONS

Five divine establishments form the heart of Genesis chapters 1-11. It would do us well to survey them.

1. VOLITION

We know this concept by the more common term “free will.” This ability of free will is the first divine institution. It appears in Genesis chapter 2: “[16] And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: [17] But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

The LORD God created us to be free moral agents. We are not robots, forced to behave a certain way. We are creatures capable of choosing how we want to conduct our lives. That is, we can decide to follow God by faith, or we can resolve to follow the flesh (sin) in unbelief. God did not force Adam to do right (avoid eating the forbidden fruit). Genesis 2:16-17 is not, “You will only eat of those trees other than the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Neither did God force Adam to do evil (eating the forbidden fruit). Genesis 2:16-17 is not, “You will eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Genesis chapter 2 once again: “[16] And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: [17] But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” God left Adam with the volition—the choice of “freely” choosing—and however Adam reacted was his responsibility and will. The God of the Bible loves freedom, dear friends. Volition is the most basic creation institution. Free will enables the individual to have control over his or her own life.

Satan attacked volition by endorsing Eve’s misquoting God (she omitted “freely,” the reference to free will). Genesis chapter 3 tells us: “[1] Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? [2] And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: [3] But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. [4] And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:….”

2. MARRIAGE

God established this second creation institution in Genesis 2:18-25: “[18] And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him…. [20] And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. [21] And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; [22] And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. [23] And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. [24] Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. [25] And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

As per the divine institution of marriage, a man and a woman are to be permanently joined in matrimony for the purpose of companionship (“an help meet for him”) and reproduction (“be fruitful and multiply”). Genesis 1:26-28 says: “[26] And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. [27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [28] And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

The marriage relationship is at the heart of the family (third divine institution, to be discussed shortly). Satan attacked marriage, of course, at the Fall, when Adam failed to function as the head of the relationship. Adam and Eve turned on one another.

Genesis 3:11-13 tells us: “[11] And he [the LORD God] said [to Adam], Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? [12] And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. [13] And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” First Timothy 2:11-15 comments: “[11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. [15] Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

3. FAMILY

The issue of family, the third divine institution, is spoken of first in Genesis chapter 4: “[1] And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. [2] And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” Adam and Eve had two boys, Cain and Abel. Satan attacked this divine institution by inspiring religious Cain to kill righteous Abel. Verse 8: “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”

4. NATIONALISM

God established the fourth and final creation institution in chapters 9-11 of Genesis. After the Great Flood of Noah’s lifetime, God formed human government and endorsed capital punishment. The Bible says in Genesis 9:5-6: “[5] And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. [6] Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”

In chapter 10, God divided the nations (dividing the three sons of Noah—Shem, Ham, and Japheth): “[5] By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations…. [20] These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations…. [31] These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations…. [32] These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.”

Satan countered God’s institution of nationalism with the internationalism recorded in chapter 11. At the Tower of Babel, Satan promoted the nations gathering for a one-world government and a one-world religion. God intervened by confusing the languages, giving rise to the name “Babel” (which eventually became Babylon) and the “tongues/languages” referenced in chapter 10.

5. SEED-LINE OF MESSIAH

The first Gospel message—the “Protoevangel”—recorded in the Bible is Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” God issued this declaration to Satan, a promise that a Man would be born one day and defeat Satan and all that he purposed. This “seed of the woman” is what we now understand as the bloodline of the Lord Jesus Christ. Eve carried that bloodline, and it passed on through Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, King David, and finally through the virgin Mary.

  • Genesis 3:15 – seed of the woman
  • Genesis 22:18 – seed of Abraham
  • Genesis 21:12 – seed of Abraham passes through son Isaac
  • Genesis 28:14 – seed of Isaac passes through son Jacob
  • Psalm 89:3-4 – seed of David
  • Galatians 3:16 – seed of Abraham is Jesus Christ

In Luke chapter 3, we find the genealogy of Jesus Christ (traced backward, albeit we cite a partial listing here for brevity’s sake):

  • Son of Mary (verse 23)
  • Son of King David through Nathan (verse 31)
  • Son of Judah (verse 33)
  • Son of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (verse 34)
  • Son of Noe/Noah through Sem/Shem (verse 36)
  • Son of Adam and Eve (verse 38)

This narrowing-down of Messiah’s seed-line covers approximately 4,000 years of lineage—Eve to the virgin Mary. This matters because Jesus Christ, in order to be the “Kinsman-Redeemer,” must be biologically related to all people. Jesus is just that because His bloodline goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, the parents of the human race. The Lord Jesus is the perfect Man, what Adam should and could have been forever (but chose in Eden to give Satan his God-given crown). Yet future from us, Jesus Christ will rule the planet for God’s glory, doing exactly what Adam chose not to do. Jesus Christ will also rescue/redeem creation from Satan, reversing the damage that Adam caused when he chose to follow Satan in Eden.

Genesis 1:26-28 (of Adam): “[26] And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. [27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [28] And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Hebrews 2:6-9 (of Jesus Christ, quoting Psalm 8:4-6): “[6] But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? [7] Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: [8] Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. [9] But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”

III. THE CONCLUSION

Why is there so little human history in Genesis chapters 1-11? God the Holy Spirit was not interested in documenting every little detail during those first 2,000 years of human history. God limited that information to emphasize five key ideas:

  1. The identification of the four creation institutions God established for the formation, organization, and perpetuation of the human race (volition, marriage, family, and nationalism/human government).
  2. The tracing and isolation of the seed of the woman—from Eve, chapter 3, to Abraham, chapter 12. This is the bloodline of Jesus Christ, thus qualifying Him to redeem all sons and daughters of Adam.
  3. The demonstration of how God was just or fair in setting aside the unbelieving and satanic nations at the Tower of Babel.
  4. The necessity of the formation of the nation Israel in Genesis chapter 12, Israel being created to do in the Earth what Adam and the Gentiles/nations failed to do. Israel picked up Messiah’s seed-line (Abraham onward), so Genesis 12-50 focuses very specifically on that nation. The Holy Spirit took meticulous care to detail what happened with Israel during her first 400 years.
  5. The documentation of Satan’s relentless efforts to utilize his policy of evil to hinder and destroy what God attempts to accomplish in and through creation.

Also see:
» Was God “unfair” to punish us for Adam’s sin?
» Can you explain Genesis 6:1-4?
» What about that “talking snake” in Genesis 3?

Who are the “these” in the “more than these” of John 21:15?

WHO ARE THE “THESE” IN THE “MORE THAN THESE” OF JOHN 21:15?

by Shawn Brasseaux

John chapter 21 says: “[15] So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. [16] He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. [17] He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

Notice verse 15 again: “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.” Who are the “these” in the expression “more than these?”

Two explanations have been offered:

  1. Some say the phrase “more than these” refers to the other disciples. In other words, they have Jesus asking Peter, “Do you love Me more than these other disciples love Me?” After all, they say, Peter had claimed that no matter what others would do, he would always be loyal to Jesus (Matthew 26:33)
  2. Others claim the phrase “more than these” is talking about the fish. So, they have Jesus inquiring, “Do you love Me more than you love these fish?” This, of course, makes sense because Peter was a fisherman (John 21:3,7,11; Matthew 4:18; Luke 5:1-11).

Which is the most likely? How do we go about determining this?

Personally, I do not support the first scenario—the disciples. Jesus would not pit Peter against the other disciples. Can you imagine the Lord giving Peter the opportunity to boast once again about his dedication to Him, thereby generating resentment in the disciples listening to that conversation? The Lord Jesus Christ knew that Satan was always working to destroy their group, so He would not give place to the Devil. Many times prior to the cross, that attitude of competition and superiority bitterly divided the Apostles (see Matthew 18:1-6; Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 9:33-37; Mark 10:35-45; Luke 9:46-48). This was nothing but pride and selfishness. It is absolutely inconceivable that, after all that petty arguing, the Lord Jesus post-resurrection would stir up such envy and animosity in John 21:15.

I am more than happy to explain why I support the second possibility—the fish.

After appearing to His disciples following His resurrection (chapter 20), the Lord Jesus Christ was not seen for a time. Notice John 21:1-3: “[1] After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. [2] There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. [3] Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.”

Peter led the (10) Apostles away, back to their old lifestyle as fishermen. At the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry, Peter and brother Andrew had forsaken their fishing business. Matthew 4:18-20 says: “[18] And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. [19] And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. [20] And they straightway [immediately] left their nets, and followed him.” (Verses 21-22 as well: “[21] And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. 22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.”)

Some three years later, Christ’s earthly ministry has ended. He has been rejected of Israel, crucified, buried, and has risen again. John chapter 21 opens. However, the Apostles prefer to return to fishing. They must be corrected, especially their leader Peter. On the shore of the Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee), while the Apostles are fishing, the Lord Jesus is cooking fish and bread. Verse 9: “As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.”

At Jesus’ command, the disciples throw the net on the right side of the ship, and they catch 153 fishes (verses 4-6,11). Peter drags that net to land. Jesus invites them all to dine with Him, to eat of the food that He has cooked. Verses 12-13: “[12] Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. [13] Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.” And, verse 14: “This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.”

Now, we get to Jesus’ three questions to Peter: “[15] So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. [16] He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. [17] He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

The “these” would be the fish, the fishing business that Peter had returned to after neglecting his duty to Jesus Christ (the chapter’s opening verses). Fishing was Peter’s former livelihood, and he needed to move on to greater things. As Christ said years earlier, he was to be a “fisher of men.” Here, he was to “feed” the Lord’s lambs and sheep. Jesus asked that question three times not merely to emphasize, but also to give Peter the opportunity for restoration. We will recall that Peter denied knowing Christ three times on the night of His arrest.

Matthew 26:33-35: “[33] Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. [34] Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. [35] Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.”

Matthew 26:69-75: “[69] Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. [70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. [71] And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. [72] And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. [73] And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. [74] Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. [75] And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.”

In John chapter 21, Jesus Christ afforded Peter the chance to make up for his three failures. He had Peter say three times that he “loved” Him! It worked. The correction caused Peter to think differently. Never again does the Scripture have Peter returning to that old lifestyle of fishing, self-service. Instead, he was a great leader of the Messianic Church, teaching and preaching the Word of God throughout the first half of the Book of Acts (“feeding” God’s people, Israel’s Little Flock). Later, the Holy Spirit even used him to write two epistles—our Bible Books of 1 and 2 Peter. Indeed, Peter loved Jesus Christ more than he loved fish!

Also see:
» What verse says that Peter was crucified upside-down?
» Why did Jesus say to throw the net on the right side?
» Should we use the Book of John in evangelism?