Inspiration and Incarnation (Book Review)

Enns_InspirationIncarnWhen Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
As they called them,
So they went from them;
They sacrificed to the Baals,
And burned incense to carved images.

I taught Ephraim to walk,
Taking them by their arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.

~Hosea 11:1-3 (NKJV)

Above is Hosea’s brief history of God’s loving call of Israel out of Egypt and their unfaithfulness to Him. The chapter goes on to say that though God continues to love Israel, and though they will not go back to Egypt, they will still be put under the Assyrians for their backsliding and refusal to repent.

Matthew, in his gospel, writes this:

Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

~Matthew 2:12-15

Matthew’s quote of Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I called my Son,” is a complete misuse of scripture, taken out of context, and used by Matthew in a dishonest way. Or is it? Not if you understand that Matthew was writing to a specific audience (Jews), and he had a theme in mind when presenting the life of Jesus to that audience. Matthew wanted his readers to understand that Jesus is the true Israel and was acting as a new Moses.

The other three gospels are written by different authors to different audiences, and have different themes, and therefore present Jesus in different ways. This phenomenon is not only true for the four gospels. It is true for every book written in the bible. The bible is full of different authors writing at different time periods to different people with different worldviews, customs, and philosophies.

Therefore, when reading the bible, it is necessary to have some idea as to what the historical, grammatical, and hermeneutical context is for each book. When was it written? To what audience? What is the style of literature? What were the customs of the initial readers/hearers? What was the hermeneutical norm (the way scripture is interpreted) of the original audience? For example, what Matthew did with the Hosea passage might bother a modern Baptist preacher if done today, but apparently it was okay in Matthew’s day.

In 2018, we are as far from king David in the past as we are are from the year 5000 in the future. Think about that for a minute. Imagine if the canon of scripture was still open (it’s not), and that books written today will be a part of the bible in the year 5000. Would the readers in the future need to have some understanding of today’s world in order to fully understand what they were reading? Of course they would.

This reality of reading scripture leads to problems. What does it mean when we say that scripture is inspired? If some proverbs of Solomon are found similarly written in earlier Egyptian writings, are they still inspired? If the structure of law given to Moses in Exodus resembles the structure of law written by other near east cultures written earlier, is it inspired? How much should we take into account the existing culture that the books of the bible were written in?

Peter Enns attempts to address these issues in his book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. I have read other work by Peter Enns before, and I would say he comes to a lot of wrong conclusions in his thinking. He seems to be a part of that crowd which is quick to condemn the O.T. actions of Israel based solely on modern day zeitgeist morals. Which is strange as it goes against his own teaching of biblical interpretation. Perhaps I am wrong about him.

This book, however, I liked more than I thought I would. Enns suggests that, just as we understand Jesus as being the incarnation of the Son of God — meaning He is both God and man at the same time — so should we view scripture. Scripture is both divinely inspired, but also written by flesh and blood (and imperfect) men. That, of course sounds controversial and dangerous, but in this book I found Enns to be a formidable defender of scripture. Here he doesn’t deny the truthfulness of any of the biblical stories (as he might in his other work), but rather he successfully explains that there were real worldly reasons for the authors of the bible to write what they wrote, and how they wrote it.

The basic theme of the book is: Yes the bible is inspired and from God. It is what God wants it to be, and we need to trust God. The bible is also written by real men who are products of their time and place and so is their writing. Don’t let your doctrine and hermeneutical method get in the way of letting God be who He presents Himself to be in Scripture.

One illustration by Enns to support the above:

And [God] said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” ~Gen. 22:12 (NKJV).

The story is of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. God told him to do it, and God stopped him at the last moment. Then God says, “Now I know that you fear God…” Did God not already know? He’s God isn’t He? He declares the end from the beginning, does He not? Some would say of course God knew, but the whole sacrifice test was for Abraham’s benefit. God knew, but Abraham wasn’t so sure of himself, so God pushed him to the edge to convince him. But, that’s not what the text says. The author of Genesis could have written that if it was true, but he didn’t. The text says God didn’t know, and the purpose of the test was for God’s benefit. And we need to read it as it is. This is what God wants us to see. It’s up to you to figure out why.

Even though I can’t recommend Enns’s other work, I’m giving this book a positive review — 3.5/5 stars. I recommend it to anyone who has questions about the difficult and seemingly contradictory or confusing passages of the bible.

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What is Hell? (Part One)

Hel-Statue-norse-mythology

Odin contemplated the girl [named Hel], and he remembered his dreams. Then Odin said, “This child will be the ruler of the deepest of the dark places, and ruler of the dead of all the nine worlds. She will be the queen of those poor souls who die in unworthy ways — of disease or of old age, of accidents or in childbirth. Warriors who die in battle will always come to us here in Valhalla. But the dead who die in other ways will be her folk, to attend her in her darkness.”

For the first time since she had been taken from her mother, the girl Hel smiled, with half a mouth.

Odin took Hel down to the lightless world, and he showed her the immense hall in which she would receive her subjects, and watched as she named her possessions. “I will call my bowl Hunger,” said Hel. She picked up a knife. “This is called Famine. And my bed is called Sickbed.”*

***

The kingdom of the dead was ruled by one of the twelve great Olympians, Hades [or Pluto]… It is often called by his name, Hades. It lies, the Iliad says, beneath the secret places of the earth. In the Odyssey, the way to it leads over the edge of the world across Ocean. In later poets there are various entrances to it from the earth through caverns and beside deep lakes.

Tartarus and Erebus are sometimes two divisions of the underworld, Tartarus the deeper of the two, the prison of the Sons of Earth; Erebus where the dead pass as soon as they die. Often, however, there is no distinction between the two, and either is used, especially Tartarus, as a name for the entire lower region.†

***

“And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell [Hades]: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.”‡

***

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tartarus], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment … The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgement to be punished…§

***

“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell [Gehenna].”||

***

“If I wait, the grave [Sheol] is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister. And where is now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust.”¶

***

Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric mov’d:
To rear me was the task of power divine,
Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
All hope abandon ye who enter here.**

***

* Gaiman, Neil. Norse Mythology. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017, page 81.
† Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Little, Brown and Company, 1942, page 42.
‡ Matthew 11:23
§ 2 Peter 2:4,9
|| Matthew 5:29
¶ Job 17:13-16
** Dante Inferno. Words above the gates to Hell.

Unicorns in the Bible

unicorn 001
The Bible (King James Version) mentions the unicorn several times: Numbers 23:22, 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9; Psalm 22:21, 29:6, 92:10; Isaiah 34:7.

Other versions of the Bible, such as the New American Standard Version, will instead use the term wild ox, as the Hebrew word, rê’em [pronounced: reh-ām’], probably refers to a wild bull.

Atheists like to bring up the Bible’s use of unicorns to attack its validity. Surely, if the Bible mentions unicorns, a mythical beast lacking any evidence for ever existing, then the Bible itself is a mythical document not to be taken seriously.

But what an intellectually lazy argument it is to automatically assume that the KJV Bible, a document translated over 400 years ago from Hebrew, Greek,* and Latin sources,** would use the word unicorn in the same way it is used today. Indeed, all you have to do is go back 200 years to find unicorn defined differently than today. The 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defines it as this…

unicorn

A rhinoceros. And the same dictionary defines rhinoceros as this…

Rhino

This does not mean that the KJV Bible is talking about rhinoceroses when using the term unicorn. But, it does make it rather obvious that the definition of unicorn is not the same today as it was 400 years ago, and the argument to write-off the Bible as myth due to its use of the word unicorn is unfounded.

Here is a good video which inspired this article…

* The Greek of unicorn is μονόκερως transliterated as monokeros [one horn].

** The Latin version of the Bible (the Latin Vulgate) uses the term rinocerotis in Deuteronomy 33:17 and rinoceros in Job 39:9.

Chase the Lion (Brief Book Review)

Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn't Scare You, It's Too SmallChase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small by Mark Batterson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A typical “chase your dreams” type book. Nothing groundbreaking. Lots of unnecessary fluff. Lots of psychologizing the Old Testament. The book is based on 2 Samuel 23:20 in which a man named Benaiah kills a lion. The NLT version (the version the author uses) says he chased a lion into a pit, but the Hebrew version says he went down into the pit (meaning the lion was already down there) and killed it. That sounds like semantical nit-picking, but if your book is about chasing lions based on a verse about a guy chasing a lion, it would help if the verse actually said he chased the lion.

A quote from page 8 which sums up the book quite accurately is: “The size of your dream may be the most accurate measure of the size of your God.” That statement is true… if your dream is your god.

If you are searching for meaning in your life, read a book like Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl instead.

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how.'”
~Viktor E. Frankl

View all my reviews

Notes for My Students ~ Eschatology

I’m uploading some notes on the book of Daniel, the Olivet Discourse, and the book of Revelation here. This is for my students to have easy access to the notes online.

If anyone else stumbles on this post, you are welcome to the notes if you are interested in the subject.

The notes on Daniel are based primarily on James B. Jordan’s commentary The Handwriting on the Wall.

The notes on Revelation are based mainly on James B. Jordan’s Revelation Lectures (which, at the time of this posting [August 22, 2016] are on sale for $40 – down from $175 – on WordMp3.com).

Click below for the notes…

Daniel, Olivet, and Revelation

**Please note: The notes have not been edited for spelling mistakes or other formatting issues.