Some Short Answers…

[December 11, 2002]


  1. How did Judas die: by Hanging or by 'explosion'?
  2. Did the gospel writers make up the words of Jesus at will?
  3. Did  Ephron offer the burial plot to Abraham for free, or was it just an 'expensive' business deal?
  4. Might Cain still be alive somewhere?
  5. Wouldn't a heresy inside the Bible be a fatal flaw in the Christian system?
  6. Did women prophets have to be virgins?
  7. If God cannot look upon sin, how can the Holy Spirit be present inside the believer?
  8. Where in the Hebrew Bible does it predict a resurrection after 3 days?
  9. Does John 12.41 speak of Jesus or of God?
  10. Why does Jude quote from a non-canonical book, and we moderns not accept that book as scripture?
  11. Does the Joel quote in Acts 2 indicate astral worship by Israel?
  12. Is it mistaken to understand Pliny's reference to the Christian women as meaning 'deaconesses'?
  13. Why do the gospels disagree on the last sayings of Jesus on the Cross?



How did Judas die: by Hanging or by 'explosion'?




Judas two deaths. One of the discrepancies of the bible. In Matthew it says he went and hanged himself in acts Petrus tells that Judas fell forward and burst in the middle! Seems it is not so much a question about a bible discrepancy as a question what Petrus was doing? (From my reading of the english and swedish and interlinear versions is seems almost as if Judas had exploded the way Petrus describes). Please. When you get the time.


(I actually have 3 explanations to the discrepancy that give me more trouble than I had with the discrepancy. 1) that hanged means he was just sorry 2) that he could have hanged himself and then burst in the middle 3) that it should be "a certain" person instead of "that certain person" in acts. From a search of the net as suggested by YOU.


I replied…


As to those 3 explanations--I have NEVER heard of those 'explanations', and I agree with your 'disapproval' of them, friend! (Although number 3 is somewhat close to the 'standard' understanding of this.).



I don't have time to really write these up, but let me cite just a couple of the resources I have easily at hand.


The first is from the book Hard Sayings of the Bible:


"A closer look at the two stories highlights gaps in the narrative that raise questions about the events. But the accounts are not necessarily contradictory. Acts is concerned that Judas’s money and name were connected to a field. Whether or not the chief priests actually purchased it, perhaps some time after Judas’s death, would not be a detail of concern to the author. His point was the general knowledge that Judas’s money went to the purchase, which resulted in the title “Field of Blood” being attached to the field. Another possible reason for the name, also a concern of Acts, was that Judas split open and his intestines poured out. Such a defacing of the body, probably with the concomitant result of the corpse being at least partially eaten by vultures and dogs, was horrible in the view of the Jews, for whom proper burial was important. In fact, they even valued forms of execution that did not deface the outside of the body (such as strangulation) over forms that defaced the body (such as stoning, the worst form in their eyes).


"Matthew points out that it was a guilt-motivated suicide, accomplished by the most common means, hanging. Suicide in Jewish literature is most often connected to shame or failure. (So 2 Sam 17:23; compare the other accounts of suicide in Old Testament history, which were normally to avoid a more shameful death.) However, since suicide by hanging was usually accomplished (at least by poorer people) by jumping out of a tree with a rope around one’s neck, it was not unusual (nor is it uncommon in India today) for the body to be ripped open in the process. I hesitate to say that this was exactly what happened, but it is certainly a plausible explanation."


and then one from F.F. Bruce commentary on Acts 1.19:


"But he did not live to enjoy the fruits of his shameful acts, for he fell and sustained a fatal rupture." (his footnote here reads: "The Latin Vulgate harmonizes this account with that of Matt 27.5 by saying that "having hanged himself he burst open")


This last reference to the Latin Vulgate means that this "death by a failed attempt at hanging" was a very early tradition about the event.


This understanding makes so much more sense than those other three, to me!


Did the gospel writers make up the words of Jesus at will?




I'm a Christian whose faith is on very, very shaky ground.....I've been looking into Islam lately.....I'd found some verses in the Bible that helped me stay on Christian ground, namely, the "Parable of the Tenants", which said that Jesus had been sent "Last of All" (disproving Muhammad), and that the "Son of man came to give his life as a ransom for many" (proving the Crucifixion from Jesus' own mouth)......So I'd been building my faith back up....Then I ran into this very disturbing quote on your website, in an article discussing the Gospel of Thomas, and Marcan/Matthean priority:


"by allegory or other redactional additions and reformulations, the four evangelists often explain the meaning of Jesus' statements or apply them to concrete issues in the church."


Does this mean that Matthew, Mark, Luke & John tampered around with what Jesus said, even going as far as to add to, and/or alter His words?? This could mean that the above two verses from the Bible that I'd been using to build my faith back up with could've very well never come from Jesus' own mouth....Or other important things that Jesus may have said, such as "I and the Father are One", could have been things that Matthew or Mark have simply crafted on their own....I hope, for my sake, that I've simply mis-interpreted what I read online....



I responded:


Here is some data from :


"We have often noted in the Tank the research of Lemcio, which established the surprising but uniform lack of anachronisms in the gospels:


"The hardest available evidence from the gospels has confirmed the thesis that the Evangelists produced narratives about Jesus of Nazareth that were free of blatant attempts to infuse and overlay his story with their own later and developed estimates of his teaching, miracles, passion, and person….With a consistency that can be charted on virtually every page of text, the thought and idiom of his era are not reproduced in theirs. Or, more correctly, they do not retroject theirs into his. Such a claim, when carefully qualified, can even be made of John. At significant moments (5:24, 12:44), the most Christocentric of Evangelists reveals a synoptic-like theocentricity that dominates the entire gospel." [LPJG:108,109]



"So, the data we have here indicates a basic failure to use fabrication on the BIG THINGS, and we therefore have this as a warrant for believing that this practice of non-fabrication also extended to the vivid, incidental, and 'odd' details. In other words, the gospel authors avoided fabrication when they 'needed' it the most (in the post-Easter controversies), so why would we believe they went to the trouble to fabricate the little incidentals (that suggest eyewitness sources)?"


So, friend, don't worry about them (see also point 9 in did NOT 'put things on the lips of Jesus' at all...


Check out those two pieces above (you can do a search on "lemcio" and on "lips" to find them, if need be)...


I hope this helps you in your search, friend,


Did  Ephron offer the burial plot to Abraham for free, or was it just an 'expensive' business deal?




I was halfway through your answer regarding violence in the Old Testament

 ( and you discussed how the Hittites had cheated Abraham when they sold him a field. When I read Genesis 23 it looked like the Hittites were offering Abraham a free tomb. It seemed like Abraham insisted on paying. If I am missing vital cultural or historical information in interpreting this, please inform me. I want to be sure to be accurate.


I replied:


Actually, it wasn't really an offer of a 'gift', but just a form of oriental bargaining...I have attached some background information on this passage from a couple of commentators:


From the Word Biblical Commentary [WBC]:


So Abraham asks, “Give me a burial plot with you” (“burial plot,” lit. “holding of a grave“). Abraham’s use of the term “holding” is probably significant here. It is used in 17:8; 48:4 of Israel’s eternal possession of Canaan, so it seems that Abraham is asking for ownership of a piece of land for his permanent use as a burial ground...


So they continue: “Since you are like one of our chiefs, of course we grant your request.” They echo his own terminology exactly in their double reply: positively they say, “Bury your dead [A] in the pick of our graves [B]”; negatively in chiastic apposition they add, “None of us would withhold his grave [B] from you to prevent you burying your dead [A].” Their warm and generous reply apparently gave Abraham all he wanted, but permission to bury Sarah was only part of what he had requested. He had asked for a burial plot, not simply for the use of one of their graves. Despite the warmth of their reply, the Hittites, by omitting any mention of this point, probably indicate their reluctance to transfer land to Abraham, for then he would no longer be a landless sojourner.


“For the full price” (cf. 1 Chr 21:22, 24 ) “For a burial plot.” By using this phrase (cf. v 4) and mentioning payment, Abraham insists that he is not merely interested in the right to bury his dead, a point already conceded by the Hittites, but in owning the land, something they had conspicuously omitted to consent to when they replied to his opening remarks.


Ephron’s response is almost as warm as the remarks made earlier by his colleagues, the Hittites (v 6). Three times he offers to “give” to Abraham the cave and the land. At least he makes no mention of payment. This may simply be a matter of oriental courtesy—offering to give when really he is proposing a sale. Or he may simply be reiterating the former offer that Abraham can use his grave but implying that he does not intend to sell the land in perpetuity. Land merely “given” is land on loan. A gift, as opposed to a sale, places the recipient under obligation to the donor. So if Abraham accepted the cave and land as a free gift from Ephron, he could find himself indebted to him in other ways. Ephron’s remarks are ambiguous: it is not clear whether he is ready to sell or merely to “give” the land to Abraham.


Whether or not Ephron’s offer to give the land was an offer to sell, this is how Abraham takes it. In a rather confused sentence, “But if you … , do listen to me,” apparently combining his usual opening formula with the Hittite formula (see n. 13.a-a.), Abraham insists on paying for the field, which Ephron had offered to give with the cave.


14–15 At last forced to commit himself, Ephron names a price for the field: “four hundred shekels.” But as if ashamed to stoop so low as to mention a price, he minimizes its significance: “What is that between me and you? Bury your dead.” This is as if to say “We are both so rich that we need not worry about the price; you just go ahead and bury Sarah.” Probably this is another example of oriental courtesy, rather than seriously meant. “The bargain which is here made between Ephron and Abraham, is to this very day repeated in that country. In Damascus, when a purchaser makes a lower offer than can be accepted, he is answered: What, is it a matter of money between us? Take it for nothing, friend, as a present from me; don’t feel under any kind of constraint! Dieterici had a similar experience in Hebron: ‘In our excursions we had noticed a fine grey horse belonging to the Quarantine inspector. Mr Blaine, my fellow-traveller, had appeared to wish to buy the animal. It now made its appearance at our tents. We inquired the price, and our astonishment may be conceived, when the dirty Turk offered us the animal as a present. Mr Blaine declared that he by no means intended to take it as a present, when the Turk replied: What then are five purses (£325 sterling) to thee?’ Similar experiences take place every day in Egypt” (Delitzsch, 2:99–100).



From the Bible Background Commentary [BBC]:


"Arable land was so precious a possession that it was not supposed to be sold to anyone outside the kinship group. The lack of a buyer within the family and/or the practicalities of business sometimes required a sale to an unrelated person. This could be legally sidestepped through the adoption of the buyer or the intercession of village elders on his behalf with the owner. The designation of Abraham as “a prince” suggests he would be a desirable neighbor. The offer to receive the land as a gift was refused by Abraham because that would have enabled Ephron’s heirs to reclaim the land after Ephron’s death."



 From the Bible Knowledge Commentary [BKC]:


"In this legal transaction Abraham wanted to purchase only the cave owned by Ephron (23:9), but Ephron wanted to sell the whole field. When Ephron said he would give the field and the cave (three times in v. 11), he did not mean it was free. This was Bedouin bargaining—giving for giving. Though Abraham did not want the whole field, he was willing to take it (vv. 12-13) at a high price (400 shekels of silver) to get the cave (vv. 15-16).  [Bible Knowledge Commentary]



Might Cain still be alive somewhere?




Hi my name is XYZ and I am 17 years old and I am a Mormon Christian and I just had a question that bugs me. A man at my local church once told me a story about a prophet in the church who was riding a horse in the woods somewhere and was approached by a huge creature that was extremely hairy and spoke some ancient language and apparently this fellow understood because he reckons that it was Cain asking to be killed but the prophet said no he couldn't do that because it was up to god when Cain dies. do you think there could be any truth to this story and if not WHY the Lord did say that Cain won't die until he sees fit...oh well if you take the time out to answer thank you kindly if you don't I understand your busy :)


I replied:


Actually, the bible actually teaches that Cain WAS killed...


The passage in Gen 4.15f reads thus:


But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.  16 So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. 17 Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.  18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech. 19 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah.  20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock.  21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute.  22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah. 23 Lamech said to his wives,


“Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. 24 If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”


Notice a couple of things:


1. God's promise in verse 15 was only that Cain would be avenged if he died, by a sevenfold vengeance. this is not a guarantee that he will not die, only a guarantee that God will pay back his murderer. In fact, this was NOT something good at all!--a murder would have SHORTENED the punishment on Cain (that of failure of crops).



2. The mark on Cain is meant to DISCOURAGE others from attacking him (but no real guarantee that a renegade MIGHT do it anyway!), but it is not protection from any OTHER kind of death other than blood-vengeance murder:


"Mark of Cain. The Hebrew word used here does not denote a tattoo or mutilation inflicted on a felon or slave (referred to in the Laws of Eshnunna and the Code of Hammurabi). It best compares to the mark of divine protection placed on the foreheads of the innocents in Jerusalem in Ezekiel 9:4–6. It may be an external marking that would cause others to treat him with respect or caution. However, it may represent a sign from God to Cain that he would not be harmed and people would not attack him." [BBC, at Gen 4.15]


"God forestalled Cain’s death by murder, telling Cain that He was placing upon him a mark which would signify to those who met him during his wanderings in the land of Nod that he was not to be harmed. The exact nature of this mark is unknown, but it may have been some type of clan marking, or else a form of brand which some Sumerians placed upon their slaves, particularly if the slave was likely to run away. Other protective signs are referred to in Ex. 13:16; 28:36; Dt. 6:8; 11:18; Ezk. 9:4, 6." [ISBE, s.v. "Cain"]


3. Even if Cain did not die a non-murder death before the Flood, he CERTAINLY died in the flood of Noah. Everything in which was the breath of life died in that except the 8 folks on the ark, so if the story your friend related was supposed to have happened AFTER THE FLOOD, then it cannot be true. (or at least there is no reason/evidence to believe God spared Cain from the flood and didn't tell anyone).



So, I would be hesitant to accept that story, since it seems to contradict something fairly clear (the death of Cain at least by the time of the Flood).


I hope this helps, friend,


Wouldn't a heresy inside the Bible be a fatal flaw in the Christian system?




I understand that if the Judeo-Christian God is true, he wouldn't allow heresies to get into the Bible. (This being the alternative to the traditional circular 2 Timothy argument..) Therefore, if someone did manage to prove that an entire book was dodgy, would that not cause insurmountable philosophical problems for the Christian claim? eg. JPH says that even if MacDonald was entirely right in HEGM, it wouldn't pose a problem. But with the above logic, it surely would? 


I replied:


Not really, imo...if we know something is bogus, then we are safeguarded from it (and that can be seen as being from God's providence)...God provides a way/method to discern truth from error...and since heresy ALWAYS contains some truth in it (for the disguise), we can weed the bad out from the good...and hold the good...


For example, we have a couple of cases of REAL number-contradictions in the synoptic passages of the all of these cases, extrabiblical data (e.g., LXX, DSS) gives us the means to tell which one is a copyist error and which one is the original...but this doesn't invalidate the TRUE version...nor the whole bible.


Although the situation would be ODD that God let a whole bogus book in, it still could be 'adjusted for' AS LONG AS it was in the extreme minority...the scripture is FILLED WITH redundancy (hence we are supposed to 'test the prophecies' AGAINST previous (redundant) content), so any piece that was 'missing' due to corruption can be generally reconstructed from the other, non-corrupted majority of data...all in all, it's sorta designed for fail-safe operation...but only when it's a small part that is corrupt (as in your case)...


And I would have to agree with the statement by JPH you mention (although I have NOT read all his stuff on HEGM) that his thesis would not be very 'disruptive' to a considered faith.


My two cents 'a couple of lines', like you asked? I tried...g


Did women prophets have to be virgins?




 I want to know all about the women who were prophets and did they all have to be virgins because I know a woman who is a prophet and I believe her but I was told about the women prophets being virgins please help .



I replied:


Prophets do not have to be virgins. in the Old Testament, Huldah the prophetess was married:


"This prophetess, wife of Shallum, keeper of the wardrobe (either of priestly vestments or royal robes), lived in the second (western?) quarter of Jerusalem. She was consulted (c. 621 BC), on behalf of King Josiah, by Hilkiah the chief priest, Shaphan the scribe and others, following the discovery of ‘the book of the law in the house of the Lord’ (2 Ki. 22:14; 2 Ch. 34:22). She accepted the book as the word of Yahweh, and with his authority prophesied judgment against Jerusalem and Judah after Josiah’s death. It is noteworthy that, although both Jeremiah and Zephaniah were prophesying at this time, it is she who was approached on this matter of the cultus."


If God cannot look upon sin, how can the Holy Spirit be present inside the believer?




This question was asked of me from one of the youth in my Sunday School class.  "If God cannot look upon sin then how can the Holy Spirit indwell us?"  I thought that this was a very good question and have not offered an answer yet as I wanted time to really think about it and to ask others.  I think that the answer lies in the dealing with the persons of the Godhead or in what the Bible means by God "looking upon sin".  Clearly Jesus looked upon sin during his 33 years on earth and clear the Holy Spirit is at least "associated" with sin by the indwelling of people. 



I replied:



The short answer is that 'look upon sin' (Hab 1.13) is talking about either

(a) 'look upon sin WITH APPROVAL' or



The context of Habb 1.13 makes this latter aspect more likely (although the former can be seen in scripture too, of course):


Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;

you cannot tolerate wrong.

Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?


The prophet was trying to get God to strike the Assyrians down NOW, not LATER! God was obviously 'tolerating' the wicked; and He was obviously 'looking on evil WITHOUT DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT'...


In the Case of the Holy Spirit, the first is true--we can 'grieve Him' (i.e. no approval for our sin!); and He obviously invokes patience and the judicial blood of Jesus to address the second--'without doing something about it'...


does this help?

Where in the Hebrew Bible does it predict a resurrection after 3 days?








I replied:



If we assume that the 'according to the scripture' phrase in 1 Corinthians is applying to the 'third day' aspect of the passage (i.e., it could very easily be applying to the overall content, to the substitutionary death component, the resurrection in general, or any combination of those--without it applying to the 'third day' phrase at all), then the short answer is given in Acts Peter's sermon he refers to Psalm 16.8, in which the messiah was to be raised 'before corruption'. In Jewish belief of the day, that meant on or before the 3rd day...I have attached the data below on this...I hope this helps some...glenn



From BBC, at Acts:


"Peter quotes Psalm 16 to establish his point (developed in Acts 2:29–32): God would raise the Messiah from the dead. Some anti-Semites have used texts like 2:23 to attack Jewish people in general, but Peter’s critique of their corporate responsibility (cf. 2 Sam 12:9) is no harsher than that of Old Testament prophets (e.g., Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah), and cannot rightly be used as if it were. (2:29–31).  Peter argues that the psalm cannot refer to David, because David did see corruption (rot). (A tomb in David’s honor had been dedicated outside Jerusalem, along with one of Huldah the prophetess.) Rather, the psalm refers to David’s ultimate descendant, whom everyone agreed to be the Messiah (the anointed king), by definition (Acts 2:30; Ps 132:11; cf. Ps 89:3–4).


From the Bible Knowledge commentary:


"2:25-35. These verses include four proofs of the Lord’s resurrection and Ascension: (a) The prophecy of Psalm 16:8-11 and the presence of David’s tomb (Acts 2:25-31), (b) the witnesses of the Resurrection (v. 32), (c) the supernatural events of Pentecost (v. 33), and (d) the Ascension of David’s greater Son (Ps. 110:1; Acts 2:34-35)…The word translated grave in verses 27 and 31 is hadeµs, which means either the grave (as here) or the underworld of departed spirits…Peter’s point is that since David, the patriarch and prophet was dead and buried, he could not have been referring to himself in Psalm 16:8-11; hence he was writing about the Christ (“Messiah”) and His resurrection. The oath (Acts 2:30) looks back to Psalm 132:11 (cf. 2 Sam. 7:15-16). God . . . raised . . . Jesus to life, and exalted Him (cf. Acts 3:13; Phil. 2:9) to the Father’s right hand (cf. Acts 5:30-31; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22). Thus Jesus had the authority to send the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5, 8; John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), whose presence was evidenced by what they saw (“tongues of fire,” Acts 2:3) and heard (“a violent wind,” v. 2), and the apostles speaking in other languages (vv. 4, 6, 8, 11)…Just as David was not speaking of himself in Psalm 16:8-11, so in Psalm 110:1 he was not speaking of himself. David was not resurrected (Acts 2:29, 31) nor did he ascend to heaven (v. 34). The Lord is Yahweh God who spoke to my (David’s) Lord, who is Christ, God’s Son…On five occasions in Acts some of the apostles said they were witnesses of the resurrected Christ (v. 32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39-41; 13:30-31). They knew whereof they spoke!..2:36. Here is the conclusion of Peter’s argument. The noun Lord, referring to Christ, probably is a reference to Yahweh. The same word kyrios is used of God in verses 21, 34, and 39 (cf. Phil. 2:9). This is a strong affirmation of Christ’s deity.





"25-35 Here Peter quotes from Psalm 16:8-11 (LXX) and Psalm 110:1 in support of what he has just said about Jesus in v. 24. The quotations are brought together according to the second of the midrashic exegetical rules (middot) attributed by antiquity to Rabbi Hillel (viz., gezerah sawah, or "verbal analogy": where the same words appear in two separate passages, the same considerations apply to both). Both quotations have "at my right hand" and thus are deliberately treated together (cf. v. 33). In addition, both quotations are used in pesher fashion (cf. comments on v. 16), for it is a pesher understanding that evokes the introductory statement "David said about him" and that applies the quotations wholly to Jesus.


"During the period of Late Judaism, both Psalm 16 and Psalm 110 were considered by Jewish interpreters to be somewhat enigmatic. Therefore they were variously understood. There was no problem with the confidence expressed in Psalm 16:8-9, 11. It was appropriate for the psalmist to whom God's love had been pledged and who had experienced God's covenant-keeping lovingkindness. (The word in v. 27 for "Holy One," hosios, usually translates the Heb. word hasid in the LXX, which is related to hesed, the word for "pledged love," "faithfulness to the covenant," and "lovingkindness"; cf. DNTT, 2:237.) But how could the psalmist have expected God to keep him from the grave and from undergoing decay, as in v. 10? And Psalm 110 was even more difficult, for who is this "my Lord" to whom "the Lord" has said, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet" (v. 34)? Some early rabbis linked the psalm with Abraham, others with David, and some even with Hezekiah; but there is no clearly attested messianic understanding of Psalm 110 in rabbinic literature until about A.D. 260 (cf. SBK, 4:452-60; D.M. Hay, Glory at the Right Hand: Psalm 110 in Early Christianity [Nashville and New York: Abingdon, 1913], pp. 19-33).


"Nevertheless, Jesus is reported in all three synoptic Gospels as having interpreted Psalm 110:1 as a messianic passage and as applying it to himself (Mark 12:35-37, II) And it was probably Jesus' own treatment of Psalm 110:1 that (1) furnished the exegetical key for the early church's understanding of their risen Lord, (2) served as the pattern for their interpretation of similar enigmatic OT passages (e.g., 2Sam 7:6-16 with Ps 2:7 and Isa 55:3 with Ps 16:10 in Paul's Antioch address of Acts 13:16-41), and (3) anchored all other passages as could be brought together on a "verbal analogy" basis (e.g., the catena of passages in Heb 1:5-13).


"Therefore working from Psalm 110:1 as an accepted messianic passage and viewing Psalm 16:8-11 as having a similar reference on the basis of the hermeneutical rule of gezerah sawah (verbal analogy), Peter proclaims that Psalm 16:10 ("You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay") refers to Israel's promised Messiah and no other. It is an argument based on the exegetical precedent set by Jesus, inspired by the church's postresurrection perspective, and worked out along the lines of commonly accepted midrashic principles of the day. Furthermore, Peter insists, David could not have been speaking about himself, for he did indeed die, was buried, and suffered decay--as the presence of his tomb in the city eloquently testifies (v. 29). Nor did he ascend to heaven. Therefore, David must have been prophesying about the resurrection of the Messiah in Psalm 16:10 and about his exaltation in Psalm 110:1. And with God's raising of Jesus from the dead, these formerly enigmatic passages are clarified and the pouring out of the Spirit explained."

Does John 12.41 speak of Jesus or of God?




I am a believer but have been stumped with this question for a while. This is a question about the deity of Jesus. In John 12:41 the pronouns seem to refer to Jesus from verse 36 - 37. But someone suggested that the pronouns actually referred to the Lord from verse 40. My question is this, Is there a grammatical or syntax related  reason that the pronouns relate to Jesus. If there is a Greek grammar reason that is fine also.



I replied:


The short answer:


1. There is nothing in the pronouns that would determine this one way or another.


2. The word "lord" does not appear in verse 40 (the 'he' in each case is implied by the verb form, not by the presence of a pronoun) [verse 40 doesn't contain any nouns or pronouns, other than the objects in the sentences (e.g. eyes, hearts), for any LATER pronouns to refer to, actually]


3. The only way to determine pronoun reference is by context in this (and many cases).


(a)The verse AFTER 41 refers to 'believing in him' (the same 'him' of 40, since there are no new nouns added),and this is clearly Jesus


(b) the Isaiah cite is about 'revealing', which matches the 'seeing' of vss 40,'s about the 'arm of the Lord'--Jesus


(c) "The glory of God that Isaiah saw in his vision (Isa 6:1–4) is identified with the glory of the Logos-Son, in accordance with 1:18 and 17:5." [WBC, in loc.]


That's about all the data we have...hope it helps SOME


Why does Jude quote from a non-canonical book, and we moderns not accept that book as scripture?




I have been a Christian for approx 1 year and stumbled across this and it has been bugging me, and I can't seem to get any straight answers from people I know, can you please help...


Why don't we accept some books that were quoted from by the authors of the bible as scripture, but accept 'the books of the bible' they quote them in as scripture? (eg. Jude is accepted as scripture but quotes from The Book of Enoch in Jude 14)



I replied:


I don't have time to research/write this up personally at this time, but I thought it might be helpful if I QUICKLY gave you some material from another (hopefully helpful) source [a book called Hard Sayings of the Bible--it's in the Abbreviations file if you need the publication info). Here is the clip about the Jude passage:



"Are the Pseudepigrapha Authoritative?


"One can search the Old Testament from one end to the other and nowhere find a prophecy of Enoch. Likewise, the archangel Michael is mentioned in the Old Testament (Dan 10:13), but not in connection with Moses. Nor do we ever hear of a dispute with anybody about Moses’ body. It is therefore obvious that Jude is using sources outside of the canonical Old Testament. What are these sources? Did Jude think of them as canonical? And what does Jude’s use of them mean for our concept of the canon of Scripture?


"The first question is easier to answer than the others. First, the reference to Michael is probably from a pseudepigraphal work known as the Assumption of Moses or the Testament of Moses, also used by Jude in verse 16. This first-century work is extant today, but the problem is that the ending, which should contain this passage, is missing. However, the church fathers agree that this was Jude’s source, and a number of Jewish traditions that parallel it enable us to reconstruct the essence of this ending as follows: After the death of Moses the archangel Michael was sent to bury the body. Satan came and argued that Moses was not worthy of a decent burial, for he was a murderer, having killed an Egyptian and hidden him in the sand. Michael’s response, “The Lord rebuke you” (a phrase from Zech 3:2), was here, as in Zechariah, a call for God’s commanding word, which would assert his authority over Satan.


"Second, the prophecy of Enoch is more easily identified, for it comes from 1 Enoch 1:9. While 1 Enoch was probably not in its final form when Jude wrote his letter, it is clear from his citation that at least the first part of the book was finished. This first section also contains the tradition of the imprisonment of the “sons of God” (called “Watchers” in 1Enoch) from Genesis 6:1–4, which is referred to in Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4, 9; and 1 Peter 3:19–20 (see also comment on Gen 6:1–4). It appears that these stories were favorites in the churches that 1 and 2 Peter and Jude represent.


"The other questions are difficult because we find these few references to pseudepigraphal works in such short biblical books. Clearly Jude parallels the prophecy of Enoch with the words of the apostles (Jude 17); likewise the story of Michael and Satan is not differentiated from the biblical stories he cites in Jude 11. Jude (and probably 2 Peter, which refers to both of these topics but does not use direct references) obviously considers these stories true and authoritative. In fact, in labeling the 1Enoch reference “prophecy,” Jude appears to recognize it as divinely inspired, for he certainly would not cite a prophecy that he believed was not from God. This much is clear.


"But did Jude recognize the books these stories come from as canonical, or did he just cite the stories themselves as authoritative? That question is impossible to answer. We have no evidence that anyone in the New Testament period, Jew or Christian, wanted to include these works within the Old Testament collection used in the synagogue (or church), although the Apocrypha was bound into biblical codices as early as the fourth century. But the issue of what should or should not be in the canon of Scripture was not being asked in the church at the time Jude was writing. Even the Jewish debates about canon between A.D. 70 and 90 were not over issues that we would consider central to the canonical debate. This, of course, is the reason that Jude can make these citations so casually. He did not have to deal with our post-Reformation questions of canon.

What we can say is that Jude did consider the Old Testament authoritative. He also considered authoritative at least two pseudepigraphal writings and the tradition of the apostles (in whatever form he had it, written or oral). Even though he uses only two brief citations from these works, his failure to differentiate them from the Scripture he does cite indicates that in his mind there was probably no distinction to be made. Nor does he inform us that only these two passages are to be trusted, and the rest of the books rejected. However, all of this information we gain by “reading between the lines” in Jude. He does not say anything directly about the issue. While the later church did not believe that any of the pseudepigrapha were inspired Scripture, it did accept Jude with its use of them. In other words, it did not endorse whatever views Jude may have had about the works from which he took these citations, but it did endorse the explicit teaching in his letter.


"This is not a clean and neat answer to our question, but no such answer is possible. First-century Jews used the Old Testament, but alongside it various Jewish groups read and valued a number of types of supplementary literature, ranging from the Apocrypha to the Dead Sea Scrolls to the pseudepigrapha. Early Christians likewise valued the Old Testament and gradually acquired collections of gospels and letters as they were produced and gathered. But they also read many of the works in the Apocrypha and other Christian literature such as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, binding many of these works into their Bibles as such codices began to replace scrolls. The situation was relatively fluid and imprecise. Only as the challenge of heresy forced the church to decide which books should be read in church and which should not were the lines begun to be drawn more clearly. Jude was written long before this time. It is therefore wrong to expect in him the precision of the later distinctions. It is also wrong to look at his casual use of what was being read in his church and assume that he meant to equate these works with Scripture in the sense that we use the term. Rather, we need to accept him on his own terms, but also to accept that the Holy Spirit through the church has given God’s people increasingly clear direction about what bears his full imprimatur and what does not.


"Finally, this brings us to an issue in biblical interpretation. What is considered authoritative or inspired in a biblical author is what they intended to communicate or teach, as that can be determined from the text. Often we can discover information that the author accidentally gives us about what he believed, the social class he came from, or the way his church assembled. "


And from EBCNT:


"Enoch, who "walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away" (Gen 5:24), is not specifically called "the seventh from Adam" in the OT. But in Genesis 5 and also in 1 Chronicles 1:1-3, he is the seventh in order (counting Adam as the first). Here, however, Jude quotes not Genesis but the Book of Enoch (also called "The Ethiopic Book of Enoch")--the longest of the surviving Jewish pseudepigraphical writings and a work that was highly respected by Jews and many Christians. Those who wonder about the propriety of Jude's quotation of this noncanonical book should note that he does not call it Scripture. Paul also quoted from noncanonical writers statements he considered true. See Acts 17:28, where he quoted Cleanthes and Aratus (Phaenomena 5); 1 Corinthians 15:33, where he quoted Menander (Thais 218); and Titus 1:12, where he quoted Epimenides (De oraculis). Lawlor (p. 102) argues that Jude is not quoting the Book of Enoch but a prophecy of his given to Jude by inspiration. This is possible, of course, but unnecessary. The prophecy does not give any startling new information but is simply a general description of the return of the Lord in judgment (cf. Deut 33:2; Dan 1:10-14; Zech 14:5; Matt 25:31).



I hope this helps at least SOME...glenn


Does the Joel quote in Acts 2 indicate astral worship by Israel?




A friend recently brought up the following to me and I do not know how to respond.


In Acts 2:20, the verse is something like "And the sun shall become darkness, and the moon shall become blood".


Lucifer isn't a character solely in Christian mythos (I refer to it as "mythology" because I'm trying to be objective- In order to do so, I must assume that is Christianity is right, every other religion is also right- it is much easier to maintain objectivity if you assume that all religions are myths). Lucifer, believe it or not, also appears in the Italian (NOT ROMAN) pantheon as the god of the sun- with Diana, the goddess of the moon, his sister and counterpart. It's been a while since I read the myths, but I do believe that there's a correlation between these two gods and Acts 2:20.


"And the sun shall become darkness..."


--Lucifer was seduced by Diana, producing the witch-goddess Aradia


"And the moon shall become blood..."


--Diana's "monthly visitor" starts coming again after Aradia's birth, or the blood that Diana sheds during childbirth with Aradia.


Any thoughts on this? I just thought it was interesting, how there seems to be an association between the two pantheons...


I replied:


The short answer is:


The sun and the moon were not deities in, actually, there ARE NOT two 'pantheons' to compare...[unless you consider renegade Israelites, who worshiped the astral bodies--and just about everything thing else under the sun, too!]


The Acts 2.20 verse is a quote from the prophet Joel 2 in the Old Testament ["And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire, and columns of smoke. 31 “The sun will be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.]...and it was a standard judgment phrase, pointing to astronomical and metrological phenomena...the sun/moon/stars darkening motif (never as deities) are used at Is. 13:10; 34:4; Joel 2:10; 3:15; Matt. 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 21:25; Acts 2:20; Rev. 6:12, 13 ...


In the OT, Israel's neighbors believed in the divinity of the sun/moon/stars, but the prophets' USE of this darkening motif is AGAINST that!


"By declaring that on the “day of Yahweh” the heavens and all of its celestial bodies would be damped out, Isaiah claims that the glory of Yahweh will outshine and mask the brilliance of all other supposed gods (compare the language of Ps 104:19–22, in which Yahweh is said to control the moon and sun). Since Assyria and Egypt both worshiped the sun god (Shamash and Amun respectively) as their primary deity and the moon god Sin was of great importance in Babylonia, the prophet targets these gods and these arrogant enemy nations. Such portents of darkness, as in the Deir ’Alla inscription of Balaam, generally forecast a time of great disaster, but Isaiah’s message is one of triumph in which “lesser lights” are extinguished to better illumine Yahweh." [BBCOT, at Is 13.10]


So, there is no actual comparison, because (1) there are not two Pantheons; and (2) the prophetic use of the image is polemic AGAINST the pagan deities associated with the sun/moon...but Israel--especially by NT times--would not have accepted the sun or moon as a deity...


does this help?


Is it mistaken to understand Pliny's reference to the Christian women as meaning 'deaconesses'?




While engaging in a dialogue with a Christian friend I referenced Pliny's letter to Trajan as supportive of my position that Women were Deacon's in the early church.


My reference backfired on me and I thought you might find the exchange interesting.  What follows is the last email exchange between us dealing with my reference.




"There is much in your note about which I would like to comment, and in fact, about which I intend to comment.  But, I just can't resist commenting on one point first.  You say (I'll use >> for you and normal text for me):


 >>While I recognize that you are earnestly trying to see the allowance of  women deacons

 >>from your own scriptural interpretation, let me throw in a couple of additional

 >>supportive views of my position.


 Well, right off the bat, I assume you mean that what is to follow is

 intended to support the fact of women deacons.  Fine, let's see if it does.


 >>First an extrabiblical source; Pliny was an ancient (circa 100 AD) Roman official and

 >>notorious for his persecution of Christians, in one of his noted letters to Trajan he

 >>makes specific reference to torturing two women deacons for their faith.


 Well, now here is something I can get my teeth into!  I went to Boston Latin School for 6 years.  Five of those years I studied Latin.  [Actually, 'studied' is a gross exaggeration.  I painfully endured is more like it.  Also, I have forgotten more than I actually learned]  Anyway, I got the letter you talked about in both English and Latin to see what it actually said.  Here's what I found.


 In English, the relevant sentence is:


"This made me decide it was all the more necessary to extract the truth from two female slaves--whom they call 'ministers'--by means of torture."


 In Latin, the relevant sentence is:


Quo magis necessarium credidi ex duabus ancillis, quae ministrae dicebantur, quid esset veri et per tormenta quaerere.


 I'm tempted to say that the Latin looks like Greek to me, but I'll refrain from puns ....


 So what are the key words?


Well duabus ancillis means two maidservants, the English translation

 above has two female slaves.  Anyway, the meaning seems clear.  These were

 not ladies of high position.  No theological meaning here.  Although I did

 find out that this is the word that was used by nuns to describe themselves.


 So far so good.  Pliny found two Christian maidservants to torture.  Nice



 The next phrase is quae which means who; followed byministrae which

 means 'servant, waiter, attendant, provider, supplier, etc.'; followed by

 the word dicebantur which means to say, tell, speak, name, call,



 By the way, diaconus is the Latin word that the Greek got the word

 diakonos from.  It means: a servant, or minister of the church, a deacon.


 So what?


1. Pliny knew both Greek and Latin.  He certainly knew the correct Latin

word for Deaconess.  But, he used the general word for servant, ministro.


2. There is nothing in the Latin to indicate that these women held an office

or had any official standing in a local body.  Further, there were no quotes

around their title of minister as in the English translation.  They were

some poor Christian women who probably told him that they were servants of

Christ.  Isn't that what we would have said under those circumstances?


 I know I am not a Latin or Greek scholar, but to conclude that this letter

 supports the idea of deaconesses seems to give it way too much weight.  Hope

 this helps put this letter in a proper light.



I replied:


Here is some data to consider on this:


"Deaconesses appear to have succeeded the order of widows, at least in the eastern church. 'Women servants' (ministrae) among the Christians are referred to by Pliny the Younger in the early second century. At the end of the century Clement of Alexandria understood the 'women' of 1 Timothy 3:11 as 'women deacons'. Only later was the word deaconess (diakonissa) coined for the special order of female servants of the church" [Everett Ferguson, "Women in the Post-Apostolic Church" (p.510), in  Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity: Vol 1, Carroll D. Osburn (ed). College Press:1993.]


In other words, 'deaconess' was not even IN the Latin vocabulary at the time of Pliny--he only had 'ministrae' to use for this...Hence his "non-use" of a 'non-existent' word has no bearing on the question. The standard translations all reflect this.


Additionally, all of the English translations I have seen of Pliny render ministrae as 'deaconess' [some links are now DEAD]:




Additionally, we might note that the approach of the Roman empire to problem movements was to go after the leadership first. It would be in keeping with this approach to seek out 'officers' (e.g., deacons), instead of simple 'servants of Christ'.


hope this helps...glenn


Why do the gospels disagree on the last sayings of Jesus on the Cross?




Jesus' last words on the cross are different in Matthew, Luke and John.



I replied:


This I will have to get to later...sorry...but the general understanding of

these sayings is as follows:


"The order of the seven sayings is usually given as follows: 1: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34); 2: "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43); 3: "Woman, here is your son" and "Here is your mother" (John 19:26, 27); 4: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34); 5: "I am thirsty" (John 19:28); 6: "It is finished" (John 19:30); 7: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46). [Source: Westminster Theological Journal-V38 #2-Winter 1976-p183]...



later in the article, Prof. S. Kistemaker discusses the phenomena:


"If all four evangelists had access to the passion narrative, why did they record different words from the cross? Matthew and Mark quote Ps 22:1, but they leave the other six sayings to Luke and John. Luke most likely consulted eyewitnesses (Luke 1:2)-perhaps women who were standing near the cross when Jesus uttered these sayings. And John recollected words which he heard Jesus speak from the cross. John does not repeat any of the sayings from the cross recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. John omits the four sayings found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. As is characteristic of his Gospel, John supplements the Synoptics. He recalls from memory additional words spoken by Jesus.


The presence of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in John's home was a constant reminder of Jesus' word: "Woman, here is your son," and "Here is your mother." Comparing the accounts of Matt 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25, we have reason to assume that Mary, Jesus' mother, was John's aunt. John records the saying, "Woman, here is your son," because the address "woman" instead of "mother" indicates that Mary should regard Jesus as her Saviour and not as her son. The address, therefore, has a soteriological motif: the redemption of the mother of Jesus.


John, in noting the human characteristics of Jesus, stresses the concept of thirst quenched by living water repeatedly: he who drinks the living water of life eternal will never thirst again. But when Jesus, having offered this life-saving water to anyone who wished to take it, hangs under divine condemnation


On the cross, he cries out: "I am thirsty." John uses this word from the cross to indicate the severity Jesus experienced not merely of physical thirst; forsaken by God He suffered spiritual thirst. Again, Jesus is portrayed as the true prophet fulfilling Scripture. So that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." The Scripture fulfilled is Ps 69:21.


Luke does not repeat Jesus' quotation from Ps 22:1 ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"). Though Matthew and Mark give the Hebrew-Aramaic text together with a translation in the Greek, Luke omits this saying. Reasons for this omission may be found in Luke's background-reportedly he was born and raised in Antioch; Greek was his native tongue. Also, he addresses his Gospel to the Hellenist, not the Jew (see 1:4).


From the general context of the Gethsemane scene, it appears that Matthew and Mark have a deeper understanding of the spiritual suffering of Jesus than Luke. In the garden scene, Luke emphasizes Jesus' admonition to pray "so that you will not fall into temptation" (Luke 22:40, 46). Apart from his description of Jesus' sweat falling to the ground like drops of blood, Luke indicates nothing of the spiritual suffering which took place. The other two evangelists, by contrast, elaborate extensively on the spiritual agony Jesus endured. "He began to be sorrowful and troubled," Matthew writes. "Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death'" (Matt 26:37f). And Mark says that Jesus "began to be deeply distressed and troubled" (14:33). Likewise Matthew and Mark describe the hellish agony Jesus suffered, by recording the word "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani." Luke, it seems, has more of an interest in relating the physical than the spiritual anguish of Jesus. And for this reason he may have omitted the citation from Ps 22:1 recorded by Matthew and Mark.


Furthermore, Luke's Gospel is highly evangelistic, and his choice of words from the cross reflects a mission motif. He begins with the prayer for forgiveness. On the basis of the immediate context which speaks of those who crucified Him and divided His clothes by casting lots, it seems reasonable to assume that the prayer was offered on behalf of the four Roman soldiers who were immediately involved. Luke throughout his Gospel and the book of Acts demonstrates an interest in foreigners and outcasts. Thus the second word of the seven sayings concerns the salvation of one of the criminals crucified alongside of Jesus: "Today you shall be with me in paradise."


In regard to the prayers of Jesus, it is primarily Luke who records them. Two of the sayings from the cross are prayers, and both of these prayers begin with the address "Father." In fact, the first and the last saying are addressed to the Father. Luke chose to include the last saying from the cross in his passion narrative because it completes his careful investigation of the life of Jesus. The context of the other Synoptics indicates that this last word was uttered. Matthew reads: "And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit" (27:50), and Mark has "with a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last" (15:37). These two texts harmonize with Luke's introduction, "Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit'."


All three Synoptics made a choice. Luke took the last saying because it served his theological purpose by tracing Jesus' life from beginning to end. Matthew and Mark chose the citation from Ps 22:1 because of Semitic wording. Mark frequently uses Aramaic expressions: Boanerges (3:17), Talitha koum (5:41), Korban (7:11), Ephphatha (7:34), Rabbi (9:15; 11:21; 14:45), Bartimaeus (10:46), Abba (14:36), Golgotha (15:22), Eloi (15:34). Many of these expressions were uttered by Jesus at significant moments in His life. Thus Mark records the Aramaic version of Ps 22:1, and Matthew provides a version which is half Hebrew, half Aramaic. The saying fits Matthew's theological purpose of showing that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the Old Testament messianic prophecies. Matthew more than the other evangelists quotes and alludes to Old Testament passages.


Four evangelists have given us seven utterances of Jesus spoken from the cross. No single evangelist has recorded all of them. Together, however, they present the complete account. Four voices form one symphony. And four evangelists demonstrate the unity of Scripture."


(sorry for the long quote, but it was better than you waiting forever for ME

to write something on

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