Lot Offers His Daughters for Rape (Genesis 19:8)

Lot Offers His Daughters for Rape (Genesis 19:8)                                      By Jack Kettler

“Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.” (Genesis 19:8)

How is this story to be understood? It seems shocking to contemplate.

The Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament summarizes the story:
Lot went out to them, shut the door behind him to protect his guests, and offered to give his virgin daughters up to them. “Only to these men (האל, an archaism for האלּה rof, occurs also in Genesis 19:25; Genesis 26:3-4; Leviticus 18:27, and Deuteronomy 4:42; Deuteronomy 7:22; Deuteronomy 19:11; and אל for אלּה in 1 Chronicles 20:8) do nothing, for therefore (viz., to be protected from injury) have they come under the shadow of my roof.” In his anxiety, Lot was willing to sacrifice to the sanctity of hospitality his duty as a father, which ought to have been still more sacred, “and committed the sin of seeking to avert sin by sin.” Even if he expected that his daughters would suffer no harm, as they were betrothed to Sodomites (Genesis 19:14), the offer was a grievous violation of his paternal duty. But this offer only heightened the brutality of the mob. “Stand back” (make way, Isaiah 49:20), they said; “the man, who came as a foreigner, is always wanting to play the judge” (probably because Lot had frequently reproved them for their licentious conduct, 2 Peter 2:7, 2 Peter 2:8): “not will we deal worse with thee than with them.” With these words they pressed upon him, and approached the door to break it in. The men inside, that is to say, the angels, then pulled Lot into the house, shut the door, and by miraculous power smote the people without with blindness (סנורים here and 2 Kings 6:18 for mental blindness, in which the eye sees, but does not see the right object), as a punishment for their utter moral blindness, and an omen of the coming judgment.

 How can Lot’s offer be understood? Surely Lot was in sin to make this offer. The Puritan Commentator does not gloss over this question.

 Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible addresses this question:  Behold now, I have two daughters, which have not known man, though some think they were espoused to men, but had not yet cohabited with them, see Genesis 19:14,

let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes; this was a very great evil in Lot to make such an offer of his daughters; it was contrary to parental love and affection, an exposing the chastity of his daughters, which should have been his care to preserve; nor had he a power to dispose of them in such a manner: and though fornication is a lesser evil than sodomy, yet all evil is to be avoided, and even it is not to be done that good may come: nothing can be said to excuse this good man, but the hurry of spirit, and confusion of mind that he was in, not knowing what to say or do to prevent the base designs of those men; that he might be pretty certain they would not accept of his offer, their lust burning more after men than women; that this showed his great regard to the laws of hospitality, that he had rather sacrifice his daughters to their brutal lusts, than give up the men that were in his house to them; and that he might hope that this would soften their minds, and put them off of any further attempt; but after all it must be condemned as a dangerous and imprudent action:

only unto these men do nothing; for as yet he knew them not to be angels; had he, it would not have given him the concern it did, since he must have known that they were able to defend themselves, and that the sin these men offered to commit could not be perpetrated on them: but he took them for mere men, and his request is, that no injury might be done to their persons in any respect, and especially in that way which their wicked hearts put them upon, and is so shocking to nature:

for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof; for though it was not their intention in coming, nor the design of Providence in bringing them into Lot’s house, to secure them from the violence of the men of Sodom, but for the preservation of Lot and his family, which as yet he knew nothing of, yet it was what Lot had in view in giving the invitation to them: and the laws of hospitality being reckoned sacred and inviolable, a man’s house was accounted an asylum for strangers when taken into it.

 The next entry from the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary agrees with Gill:  “4. men of Sodom, compassed the house—Appalling proofs are here given of their wickedness. It is evident that evil communications had corrupted good manners; otherwise Lot would never have acted as he did.”

 In closing:

 Even though Lot was a believer, there is no imperative to try and find an excuse for his failure. The Scriptures portray the failure of men like King David committing adultery with Bathsheba. In addition, the Scriptures warn the believer not to surround themselves with non-believers. There is a very real danger of being contaminated by the actions and thinking process of non-believers. In this regard, Lot is a perfect case of someone who was corrupted by being surrounded by evil. His example should be one that strikes fear into the hearts of believers.

 If it were not for the two angels, Lot and his family would have been destroyed along with the inhabitants of Sodom. Moreover, Christian fellowship is important because it strengthens our faith, and it helps us to concentrate on Christ and His teachings.     

 “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

 “To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

 Notes:

 1.      Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, Entry for “TimeInternational Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 2981-2982.

2.      Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, Entry for “CalendarInternational Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 541-542.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. JackKettler .com

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What Does the Bible Say? Volume 3

What Does the Bible Say? Volume 3

In Volume 3 of this multi-volume series, “What does the Bible say,” the focus will be on difficult portions of Scripture such as Does Romans 13 on submission contradict other portions of Scripture? Does a Christian owe allegiance to a gang of robbers who call themselves the government? Romans 13 and the Limits of submission to the Church or State. Also, in this volume, the Reign of Christ, A Scriptural view of the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom, The Federal Headship of Adam and Christ, Christ Our Prophet, Priest, and King, and The Triune nature of God and the Deity of Christ will be considered.

Chapters

Chapter One: Does Romans 13 on submission contradict other portions of Scripture?

Chapter Two: Does a Christian owe allegiance to a gang of robbers who call themselves the government?

Chapter Three: Romans 13 and the Limits of submission to the Church or State

Chapter Four: Does Romans 13:1, 3-5 contradict Isaiah 5:20?

Chapter Five: The Danger of Subjectivism in the life of the Christian

Chapter Six: 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 and the Reign of Christ

Chapter Seven: A Scriptural view of the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom

Chapter Eight: The federal headship of Adam and Christ

Chapter Nine: Christ Our Prophet, Priest, and King

Chapter Ten: The Triune nature of God and the Deity of Christ

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. JackKettler .com

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What type of calendar did the Jewish people use, lunar or solar?

What type of calendar did the Jewish people use, lunar or solar?                 By Jack Kettler

The Hebrews followed a lunar calendar, but adjusted it for solar years. The lunar calendar is 12 days shorter than the solar calendar.

In Genesis 1, there is the chorus or refrain “it was evening and it was morning,” which describes God’s creative acts for each day of the creative week. The account of creation in Genesis 1:1-2:4 provides the basis for measuring time. This creative refrain in Genesis also provides the basis for a seven-day week. It also delineates the week into six-work days and one day for sabbath rest.

In this overview of the Hebrew measurement of time and their calendar, online reference sources will be utilized for the benefit of the reader. 

The concept and development of time in the Old Testament will be explained from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

“Time

tim: The basis of the Hebrew measurement of time was the day and the lunar month, as with the Semites generally. The division of the day into hours was late, probably not common until after the exile, although the sun-dial of Ahaz (2Ki 20:9; Isa 38:8) would scent to indicate some division of the day into periods of some sort, as we know the night was divided, The word used for “hour” is Aramaic she`a’ (sha`ta’), and does not occur in the Old Testament until the Book of Daniel (Isa 4:6; 5:5), and even there it stands for an indefinite period for which “time” would answer as well.

1. The Day:

The term “day” (yom) was in use from the earliest times, as is indicated in the story of the Creation (Ge 1:1-31). It there doubtless denotes an indefinite period, but is marked off by “evening and morning” in accordance with what we know was the method of reckoning the day of 24 hours, i.e. from sunset to sunset.

2. Night:

The night was divided, during pre-exilic times, into three divisions called watches (‘ashmurah, ‘ashmoreth), making periods of varying length, as the night was longer or shorter (Jg 7:19). This division is referred to in various passages of the Old Testament, but nowhere with indication of definite limits (see Ps 90:4; 119:148; Jer 51:12; Hab 2:1).

In the New Testament we find the Roman division of, etc.). But the use of the word in the indefinite sense, as in the expressions: “day of the Lord,” “in that day,” “the day of judgment,” etc., is far more frequent (see DAY). Other more or less indefinite periods of the day and night are: dawn, dawning of the day, morning, evening, noonday, midnight, cock-crowing or crowing of the cock, break of day, etc.

3. Week:

The weekly division of time, or the seven-day period, was in use very early and must have been known to the Hebrews before the Mosaic Law, since it was in use in Babylonia before the days of Abraham and is indicated in the story of the Creation. The Hebrew shabhua`, used in the Old Testament for “week,” is derived from shebha`, the word for “seven.” As the seventh day was a day of rest, or Sabbath (Hebrew shabbath), this word came to be used for “week,” as appears in the New Testament sabbaton, sabbata), indicating the period from Sabbath to Sabbath (Mt 28:1). The same usage is implied in the Old Testament (Le 23:15; 25:8). The days of the week were indicated by the numerals, first, second, etc., save the seventh, which was the Sabbath. In New Testament times Friday was called the day of preparation (paraskeue) for the Sabbath (Lu 23:54).

4. Month:

The monthly division of time was determined, of course, by the phases of the moon, the appearance of the new moon being the beginning of the month, chodhesh. Another term for month was yerach yerach, meaning “moon,” which was older and derived from the Phoenician usage, but which persisted to late times, since it is found in the Aramaic inscriptions of the 3rd century AD in Syria. The names of the months were Babylonian and of late origin among the Hebrews, probably coming into use during and after the Captivity. But they had other names, of earlier use, derived from the Phoenicians, four of which have survived in “Abib,” “Ziv,” “Ethanim” and “Bul.”

See CALENDAR.

5. Year:

The Hebrew year (shanah) was composed of 12 or 13 months, the latter being the year when an intercalary month was added to make the lunar correspond with the solar year. As the difference between the two was from ten to eleven days, this required the addition of a month once in about three years, or seven in nineteen years. This month was added at the vernal equinox and was called after the month next preceding, we-‘adhar, or the “second Adar.” We do not know when this arrangement was first adopted, but it was current after the Captivity. There were two years in use, the civil and the ritual, or sacred year. The former began in the autumn, as would appear from Ex 23:16; 34:22, where it is stated that the “feast of ingathering” should be at the end of the year, and the Sabbatic year began in the Ex 7:1-25th month of the calendar or sacred year, which would correspond to September-October (Le 25:9). Josephus says (Ant., I, iii, 3) that Moses designated Nican (March-April) as the 1st month of the festivals, i.e. of the sacred year, but preserved the original order of the months for ordinary affairs, evidently referring to the civil year. This usage corresponds to that of the Turkish empire, where the sacred year is lunar and begins at different seasons, but the financial and political year begins in March O.S. The beginning of the year was called ro’sh ha-shanah, and was determined by the priests, as was the beginning of the month. Originally this was done by observation of the moon, but, later, calculation was employed in connection with it, until finally a system based on accurate calculation was adopted, which was not until the 4th century AD. New-Year was regarded as a festival.

See ASTRONOMY, sec. I, 5; YEAR.

6. Seasons:

The return of the seasons was designated by summer and winter, or seed-time and harvest; for they were practically the same. There is, in Palestine, a wet season, extending from October to March or April, and a dry season comprising the remainder of the year. The first is the winter (choreph), and this is the seed-time (zera`), especially the first part of it called yoreh, or the time of the early rain; the second is the summer (qayits, “fruit-harvest,” or qatsir, “harvest”).

Seed-time begins as soon as the early rains have fallen in sufficient quantity to moisten the earth for plowing, and the harvest begins in some parts, as in the lower Jordan region, near the Dead Sea, about April, but on the high lands a month or two later. The fruit harvest comes in summer proper and continues until the rainy season. “The time when kings go out to war” (2Sa 11:1; 1Ki 20:22) probably refers to the end of the rainy season in Nican.

7. No Era:

We have no mention in the Old Testament of any era for time reckoning, and we do not find any such usage until the time of the Maccabees. There are occasional references to certain events which might have served for eras had they been generally adopted. Such was the Exodus in the account of the building of the temple (1Ki 6:1) and the Captivity (Eze 33:21; 40:1) and the Earthquake (Am 1:1). Dates were usually fixed by the regnal years of the kings, and of the Persian kings after the Captivity. When Simon the Maccabee became independent of the Seleucid kings in 143-142 or 139-138 BC, he seems to have established an era of his own, if we may attribute to him a series of coins dated by the years “of the independence of Israel” (see COINS: MONEY; also 1 Macc 13:41 and 15:6,10). The Jews doubtless were familiar with the Seleucid era, which began in 312 BC, and with some of the local eras of the Phoenician cities, but we have no evidence that they made use of them. The era of the Creation was not adopted by them until after the time of Christ. This was fixed at 3,830 years before the destruction of the later temple, or 3760 BC. See ERA.” H. Porter

In addition, we learn about the Hebrew calendar from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

“Calendar

kal’-en-dar (Latin calendarium, “an account book,” from calendae, “day on which accounts were due”): The Hebrew or Jewish calendar had three stages of development: the preexilic, or Biblical; the postexilic, or Talmudic; and the post-Talmudic. The first rested on observation merely, the second on observation coupled with calculation, and the third on calculation only. In the first period the priests determined the beginning of each month by the appearance of the new moon and the recurrence of the prescribed feasts from the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Thus, the month Abib (‘abhibh), the first month of the year according to the Levitical law, in which the Passover was to be celebrated, was determined by observation (Ex 12:2; De 16:1-22). After the exile more accurate methods of determining the months and seasons came into vogue, and calculation was employed to supplement and correct observations and the calendar was regulated according to the Babylonian system, as is evidenced by the names of the months which are derived from it. In later times the calendar was fixed by mathematical methods (see the article “Calendar” in the Jewish Encyclopedia). The difficulty of ascertaining the first day of the new moon by observation, in the early period, led to the celebration of two days, as seems to be indicated in 1Sa 20:27. We have only four names of months belonging to the pre-exilic period, and they are Phoenician. Of these Abib (‘abhibh) was the first month, as already indicated, and it corresponded to Nis (nican) in the later calendar. It was the month in which the Exodus occurred and the month of the Passover (Ex 13:4; 23:15; 34:18; De 16:1).

The 2nd month of this calendar was Ziv (ziw) (1Ki 6:1,37); Ethanim (‘ethanim) was the 7th (1Ki 8:2), corresponding to Tishri of the later calendar, and Bul (bul) the 8th, corresponded to Marchesvan (marcheshwan) (1Ki 6:38). There were course other month names in this old calendar, but they have not come down to us. These names refer to the aspects of the seasons: thus Abib (‘abhibh) means grain in the ear, just ripening (Le 2:14; Ex 9:31); Ziv (ziw) refers to the beauty and splendor of the flowers in the spring; Ethanim (‘ethanim) means perennial, probably referring to living fountains; and Bul (bul) means rain or showers, being the month when the rainy season commenced. The full calendar of months used in the postexilic period is given in a table accompanying this article. The names given in the table are not all found in the Bible, as the months are usually referred to by number, but we find Nican in Ne 2:1 and Es 3:7; Siwan in Es 8:9; Tammuz in Eze 8:4, although the term as here used refers to a Phoenician god after whom the month was named; ‘Elul occurs in Ne 6:15; Kiclew (the American Standard Revised Version “chislev”) in Ne 1:1 and Zec 7:1; Tebheth in Es 2:16; ShebhaT in Zec 1:7 and ‘Adhar in Ezr 6:15 and several times in Est. These months were lunar and began with the new moon, but their position in regard to the seasons varied somewhat because of the intercalary month about every three years.

The year (shanah) originally began in the autumn, as appears from Ex 23:16 and Ex 34:22, where it is stated that the feast of Ingathering should be at the end of the year; the Sabbatic year began, also, in the Ex 7:1-25th month of the calendar year (Le 25:8-10), indicating that this had been the beginning of the year. This seems to have been a reckoning for civil purposes, while the year beginning with Nican was for ritual and sacred purposes. This resulted from the fact that the great feast of the Passover occurred in this month and the other feasts were regulated by this, as we see from such passages as Ex 23:14-16 and De 16:1-17. Josephus (Ant., I, iii, 3) says: “Moses appointed that Nican, which is the same with Xanthicus, should be the first month of their festivals, because he brought them out of Egypt in that month; so that this month began the year as to all solemnities they observed to the honor of God, although he preserved the original order of the months as to selling and buying and other ordinary affairs.” A similar custom is still followed in Turkey, where the Mohammedan year is observed for feasts, the pilgrimage to Mecca and other sacred purposes, while the civil year begins in March O.S.

The year was composed of 12 or 13 months according as to whether it was ordinary or leap year. Intercalation is not mentioned in Scripture, but it was employed to make the lunar correspond approximately to the solar year, a month being added whenever the discrepancy of the seasons rendered it necessary. This was regulated by the priests, who had to see that the feasts were duly observed at the proper season. The intercalary month was added after the month of ‘Adhar and was called the second ‘Adhar (sheni, wa-‘adhar, “and Adar”), and, as already indicated, was added about once in 3 years. More exactly, 4 years out of every 11 were leap years of 13 months (Jewish Encyclopedia, article “Calendar”), this being derived from the Babylonian calendar. If, on the 16th of the month Nican, the sun had not reached the vernal equinox, that month was declared to be the second ‘Adhar and the following one Nican. This method, of course, was not exact and about the 4th century of our era the mathematical method was adopted. The number of days in each month was fixed, seven having 30 days, and the rest 29. When the intercalary month was added, the first ‘Adhar had 30 and the second 29 days.” H. Porter

In closing:

“The Hebrew calendar (Hebrew: הַלּוּחַ הָעִבְרִי, Ha-Luah ha-Ivri), also called Jewish calendar, is a lunisolar calendar used today predominantly for Jewish religious observances. It determines the dates for Jewish holidays and the appropriate public reading of Torah portions, yahrzeits (dates to commemorate the death of a relative), and daily Psalm readings, among many ceremonial uses. In Israel, it is used for religious purposes, provides a time frame for agriculture and is an official calendar for civil purposes, although the latter usage has been steadily declining in favor of the Gregorian calendar…

The Hebrew lunar year is 12 days shorter than the solar year and uses the 19-year Metonic cycle to bring it into line with the solar year, with the addition of an intercalary month every two or three years, for a total of seven times per 19 years. Even with this intercalation, the average Hebrew calendar year is longer by about 6 minutes and 40 seconds than the current mean tropical year, so that every 216 years the Hebrew calendar will fall a day behind the current mean tropical year.” Hebrew calendar From Wikipedia

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

Notes:

1.      Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, Entry for “TimeInternational Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 2981-2982.

2.      Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, Entry for “CalendarInternational Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 541-542.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. JackKettler .com

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 Why did Jesus tell those he healed to remain quiet?

Why did Jesus tell those he healed to remain quiet?     By Jack Kettler

In the following passages, Jesus told whom He healed to remain quiet. Why did he do this? 

“And Jesus saith unto him, see thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” (Matthew 8:4)

“And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, see that no man know it.” (Matthew 9:30)

“And saith unto him, see thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” (Mark 1:44)

This command to the healed individual was not absolute. Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. That is why Jesus instructed the healed individual to go to the priest. Commentator Albert Barnes in the following entry explains this. 

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains why the healed person must go to the priest first:
“See thou tell no man – This command is to be understood as extending only to the time until he had made the proper representation to the priest. It was his duty to hasten to him immediately Leviticus 14:2; not to delay by talking about it, but, as the first thing, to obey the laws of God, and make proper acknowledgments to him by an offering. The place where this cure was performed was in Galilee, a distance of 40 or 50 miles from Jerusalem; and it was his duty to make haste to the residence of the priest, and obtain his sanction to the reality of the cure. Perhaps, also, Christ was apprehensive that the report would go “before” the man if he delayed, and the priest, through opposition to Jesus, might pronounce it an imposition.

And offer the gift that Moses commanded – That Moses directed to be offered by a leper when he was cured. That gift consisted of “two birds alive and clean, cedar-wood, scarlet, and hyssop,” Leviticus 14:4.

For a testimony unto them – Not to the priest, but to the people. Show thyself to the priest, and get his testimony to the reality of the cure, as a proof to the people that the healing is genuine. It was necessary that he should have that testimony before he could be received to the congregation or allowed to mingle with the people. Having this, he would be, of course, restored to the privileges of social and religious life, and the proof of the miracle, to the people, would be put beyond a doubt.” (1)

 This is the passage in Leviticus that Barnes references:

 “This is the law of the one afflicted with a skin disease on the day of his cleansing, when he is brought to the priest.” (Leviticus 14:2)

 The entry from the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges adds additional detail from Mark 1:44 about going to the priest:  “44. shew thyself to the priest that he may attest the reality of thy cure (Leviticus 14:3).

those things which Moses commanded] viz. (1) two birds, “alive and clean,” Leviticus 14:4, (2) cedar wood, (3) scarlet, and (4) hyssop; this was for the preliminary ceremony (Leviticus 14:4-7). On the eighth day further offerings were to be made, (1) two he lambs without blemish, (2) one ewe lamb, (3) three tenth deals of fine flour, (4) one log of oil. If the leper was poor, he was permitted to offer one lamb and two turtledoves or two young pigeons, with one tenth deal of fine flour.

For a testimony unto them. Rather, for a testimony against them, i. e. against their unbelief in refusing to acknowledge our Lord to be all He claimed to be in spite of His mighty works. Comp. Mark 6:11 with Luke 9:5.” (2)

 In closing:

 The remaining quiet on the part on the part of the one healed was only until the requirements of the law were fulfilled by meeting with Levitical priest. The priest would then make the public declaration of the healing after the requited sacrifice. 

 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

 “To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

 Notes:

 1.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Matthew, Vol. 1 p. 135.

2.      G. F. MACLEAR, D.D., Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Mark, (Cambridge University Press, 1898), p. 38. Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of numerous books defending the faith.

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What did Paul mean in 2 Corinthians 12:2 about the third heaven?

What did Paul mean in 2 Corinthians 12:2 about the third heaven?      By Jack Kettler

“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.” (2 Corinthians 12:2)

What is the third heaven the apostle Paul is talking about? Was Paul talking about himself?

Two entries from theological dictionaries followed by two commentary entries will be consulted. The entries from the dictionaries will be a helpful overview of the usages of heaven seen in Scripture.

Heaven from Smith’s Bible Dictionary:

“There are four Hebrew words thus rendered in the Old Testament which we may briefly notice.

1.      Rakia, Authorized Version, firmament.

2.      Shamayim, this is the word used in the expression “the heaven and the earth,” or “the upper and lower regions.” (Genesis 1:1)

3.      Marom, used for heaven in (Psalms 18:16; Isaiah 24:18; Jeremiah 25:30). Properly speaking it means a mountain as in (Psalms 102:19; Ezekiel 17:23)

4.      Shechakim, “expanses,” with reference to the extent of heaven. (33:26; Job 35:5) St. Paul’s expression “third heaven,” (2 Corinthians 12:2) had led to much conjecture. Grotius said that the Jews divided the heaven into three parts, viz.,

5.      The air or atmosphere, where clouds gather;

6.      The firmament, in which the sun, moon, and stars are fixed;

7.      The upper heaven, the abode of God and his angels, the invisible realm of holiness and happiness the home of the children of God.” (1)

Heaven from Easton’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary:
“Definitions. The phrase “heaven and earth” is used to indicate the whole universe (Genesis 1:1; Jeremiah 23:24; Acts 17:24). According to the Jewish notion there were three heavens,

(a) The firmament, as “fowls of the heaven” (Genesis 2:19; Genesis 7:3 Genesis 7:23; Psalms 8:8, etc.), “the eagles of heaven” (Lamentations 4:19), etc.

(b) The starry heavens (Deuteronomy 17:3; Jeremiah 8:2; Matthew 24:29).

(c) “The heaven of heavens,” or “the third heaven” (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalms 115:16; 148:4; 2 co 12:2).

Meaning of words in the original,

(a) The usual Hebrew word for “heavens” is shamayim, a plural form meaning “heights,” “elevations” (Genesis 1:1; 2:1).

(b) The Hebrew word marom is also used (Psalms 68:18; 93:4; 102:19, etc.) as equivalent to shamayim, “high places,” “heights.”

(c) Heb. galgal, literally a “wheel,” is rendered “heaven” in Psalms 77:18 (RSV, “whirlwind”).

(d) Heb. shahak, rendered “sky” (Deuteronomy 33:26; Job 37:18; Psalms 18:11), plural “clouds” (Job 35:5; 36:28; Psalms 68:34, marg. “heavens”), means probably the firmament.

(e) Heb. rakia is closely connected with (d), and is rendered “firmamentum” in the Vulgate, whence our “firmament (Genesis 1:6; Deuteronomy 33:26, etc.), regarded as a solid expanse.

Metaphorical meaning of term. Isaiah 14:13 Isaiah 14:14; “doors of heaven” (Psalms 78:23); heaven “shut” (1 Kings 8:35); “opened” (Ezekiel 1:1). (See 1 Chronicles 21:16).

Spiritual meaning. The place of the everlasting blessedness of the righteous; the abode of departed spirits.

(a) Christ calls it his “Father’s house” (John 14:2).

(b) It is called “paradise” (Luke 23:43; 2 co 12:4; Revelation 2:7).

(c) “The heavenly Jerusalem” (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 3:12).

(d) The “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 25:1; James 2:5).

(e) The “eternal kingdom” (2 Peter 1:11).

(f) The “eternal inheritance” (1 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 9:15).

(g) The “better country” (Hebrews 11:14 Hebrews 11:16).

(h) The blessed are said to “sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” and to be “in Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22; Matthew 8:1); to “reign with Christ” (2 Timothy 2:12); and to enjoy “rest” (Hebrews 4:10 Hebrews 4:11).

In heaven the blessedness of the righteous consists in the possession of “life everlasting,” “an eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17), an exemption from all sufferings forever, a deliverance from all evils (2 Corinthians 5:1 2 Corinthians 5:2) and from the society of the wicked (2 Timothy 4:18), bliss without termination, the “fulness of joy” forever (Luke 20:36; 2 co Luke 4:16 Luke 4:18; 1 Peter 1:4; 5:10; 1 John 3:2). The believer’s heaven is not only a state of everlasting blessedness, but also a “place”, a place “prepared” for them (John 14:2)” (2)  The two commentary entries will provide scholarly exegesis for the text in question.

In Matthew Poole’s Commentary on this passage is a reasonable explanation set forth:
“Some doubt whether en cristw, in this place, be so well translated in Christ, (so signifying, that the person spoken of was a Christian, one that had embraced the gospel), as by Christ, (as the particle is sometimes used), so signifying, that this vision was given to him by the grace and favour of Christ. The man he speaketh of was, doubtless, himself, otherwise it had been to him no cause or ground of glorying at all. Thus, several times in Scripture, the penmen thereof speaking in commendation of themselves, they speak in the third person instead of the first.

In his saying, it was about fourteen years ago, and in that we do not read that he did ever before publish it, he avoids the imputation of any boasting and glorying; and showeth, that had he not been now constrained, for the glory of God, and the vindication of his own reputation, to have spoken of it, he would not now have mentioned it.

Whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body. I cannot tell: what the circumstances of the apostle were in this ecstasy, he professeth not to know; and therefore, it seems too bold for us curiously to inquire, or positively to determine about it. It is not very probable that his soul was separated from his body; but whether his body was, by some angel, carried up to the sight of this vision, or things absent were made present to him, the apostle himself, being deprived of the use of his senses, could not tell.

But such a one (he saith) he knew, caught up to the third heaven; by which he means the highest heavens, where God most manifesteth his glory, where the blessed angels see his face, and where are the just souls made perfect. The Scripture, dividing the world into the earth and the heavens, calleth all heaven that is not earth or water; hence it mentioneth an aerial heaven (which is all that space between the earth and the place where the planets and fixed stars are); hence we read of the fowls of the heaven, Daniel 4:12, of the windows of heaven, Genesis 7:11, of a starry heaven, where the stars are, which are therefore called the stars of the heaven, Genesis 22:17; and then the highest heaven; which was meant in the Lord’s prayer, when we pray: Our Father which art in heaven; and is called the heaven of heavens. This is the heaven here spoken of.” (3)

 Barnes’ Notes on the Bible provides a more detailed description the text:  “I knew a man in Christ – I was acquainted with a Christian; the phrase “in Christ” meaning nothing more than that he was united to Christ or was a Christian; see Romans 16:7. The reason why Paul did not speak of this directly as a vision which he had himself seen was probably that he was accused of boasting, and he had admitted that it did not become him to glory. But though it did not become him to boast directly, yet he could tell them of a man concerning whom there would be no impropriety evidently in boasting. It is not uncommon, moreover, for a man to speak of himself in the third person. Thus, Caesar in his Commentaries uniformly speaks of himself. And so, John in his Gospel speaks of himself, John 13:23-24; John 19:26; John 21:20. John did it on account of his modesty, because he would not appear to put himself forward, and because the mention of his own name as connected with the friendship of the Saviour in the remarkable manner in which he enjoyed it, might have savored of pride. For a similar reason Paul may have been unwilling to mention his own name here; and he may have abstained from referring to this occurrence elsewhere, because it might savor of pride, and might also excite the envy or ill-will of others. Those who have been most favored with spiritual enjoyments will not be the most ready to proclaim it. They will cherish the remembrance in order to excite gratitude in their own hearts and support them in trial; they will not emblazon it abroad as if they were more the favorites of heaven than others are. That this refers to Paul himself is evident for the following reasons:

(1) His argument required that he should mention something that had occurred to himself. Anything that had occurred to another would not have been pertinent.

(2) he applies it directly to himself 2 Corinthians 12:7, when he says that God took effectual measures that he should not be unduly exalted in view of the abundant revelations bestowed on him.

About fourteen years ago – On what occasion or where this occurred, or why he concealed the remarkable fact so long, and why there is no other allusion to it, is unknown; and conjecture is useless. If this Epistle was written, as is commonly supposed, about the year 58 a.d., then this occurrence must have happened about the year 44 ad. This was several years after his conversion, and of course this does not refer to the trance mentioned in Acts 9:9, at the time when he was converted. Dr. Benson supposes that this vision was made to him when he was praying in the temple after his return to Jerusalem, when he was directed to go from Jerusalem to the Gentiles Acts 22:17, and that it was intended to support him in the trials which he was about to endure. There can be little danger of error in supposing that its object was to support him in those remarkable trials, and that God designed to impart to him such views of heaven and its glory, and of the certainty that he would soon be admitted there, as to support him in his sufferings, and make him willing to bear all that should be laid upon him. God often gives to his people some clear and elevated spiritual comforts before they enter into trials as well as while in them; he prepares them for them before they come. This vision Paul had kept secret for fourteen years. He had doubtless often thought of it; and the remembrance of that glorious hour was doubtless one of the reasons why he bore trials so patiently and was willing to endure so much. But before this he had had no occasion to mention it. He had other proofs in abundance that he was called to the work of an apostle; and to mention this would savor of pride and ostentation. It was only when he was compelled to refer to the evidences of his apostolic mission that he refers to it here.

Whether in the body, I cannot tell – That is, I do not pretend to explain it. I do not know how it occurred. With the fact he was acquainted; but how it was brought about he did not know. Whether the body was caught up to heaven; whether the soul was for a time separated from the body; or whether the scene passed before the mind in a vision, so that he seemed to have been caught up to heaven, he does not pretend to know. The evident idea is, that at the time he was in a state of insensibility in regard to surrounding objects, and was unconscious of what was occurring, as if he had been dead. Where Paul confesses his own ignorance of what occurred to himself it would be vain for us to inquire; and the question how this was done is immaterial. No one can doubt that God had power if he chose to transport the body to heaven; or that he had power for a time to separate the soul front the body; or that he had power to represent to the mind so clearly the view of the heavenly world that he would appear to see it; see Acts 7:56. It is clear only that he lost all consciousness of anything about him at that time, and that he saw only the things in heaven. It may be added here, however, that Paul evidently supposed that his soul might be taken to heaven without the body, and that it might have separate consciousness and a separate existence. He was not, therefore, a materialist, and he did not believe that the existence and consciousness of the soul was dependent on the body.

God knoweth – With the mode in which it was done God only could be acquainted. Paul did not attempt to explain that. That was to him of comparatively little consequence, and he did not lose his time in a vain attempt to explain it. How happy would it be if all theologians were as ready to be satisfied with the knowledge of a fact, and to leave the mode of explaining it with God, as this prince of theologians was. Many a man would have busied himself with a vain speculation about the way in which it was done; Paul was contented with the fact that it had occurred.

Such an one caught up – The word which is used here (ἁρπάζω harpazō) means, to seize upon, to snatch away, as wolves do their prey (John 12:10); or to seize with avidity or eagerness Matthew 11:12; or to carry away, to hurry off by force or involuntarily; see John 6:15; Acts 7:39; Acts 23:10. In the case before us there is implied the idea that Paul was conveyed by a foreign force; or that he was suddenly seized and snatched up to heaven. The word expresses the suddenness and the rapidity with which it was done. Probably it was instantaneous, so that he appeared at once to be in heaven. Of the mode in which it was done Paul has given no explanations; and conjecture would be useless.

To the third heaven – The Jews sometimes speak of seven heavens, and Muhammed has borrowed this idea from the Jews. But the Bible speaks of but three heavens, and among the Jews in the apostolic ages also the heavens were divided into three:

(1) The aerial, including the clouds and the atmosphere, the heavens above us, until we come to the stars.

(2) the starry heavens, the heavens in which the sun, moon, and stars appear to be situated.

(3) the heavens beyond the stars. That heaven was supposed to be the residence of God, of angels, and of holy spirits. It was this upper heaven, the dwelling-place of God, to which Paul was taken, and whose wonders he was permitted to behold – this region where God dwelt; where Christ was seated at the right hand of the Father, and where the spirits of the just were assembled. The fanciful opinions of the Jews about seven heavens may be seen detailed in Schoettgen or in Wetstein, by whom the principal passages from the Jewish writings relating to the subject have been collected. As their opinions throw no light on this passage, it is unnecessary to detail them here.” (4)

 In closing:

 As in a previous study, a large well-known religious group was mentioned that twists the Scriptures. That same group uses the 2 Corinthians 12:2 text as a proof text to advance its outlandish interpretation to promote its agenda. The interpretation is so bizarre that interaction with the interpretation is unworthy of exegetical Bible study. 

 To revisit William Smith’s Dictionary, the Jews divided the heavens into three parts being:

 ·         The air or atmosphere, where clouds gather;

·         The firmament, in which the sun, moon, and stars are fixed;

·         The upper heaven, the abode of God and His angels, the invisible realm of holiness and happiness the home of the children of God.

 To revisit Easton’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, agreement with William Smith’s Dictionary is readily apparent:
·         A. The firmament, as “fowls of the heaven” (Genesis 2:19; Genesis 7:3 Genesis 7:23; Psalms 8:8, etc.), “the eagles of heaven” (Lamentations 4:19), etc.

·         B. The starry heavens (Deuteronomy 17:3; Jeremiah 8:2; Matthew 24:29).

·         C. “The heaven of heavens,” or “the third heaven” (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalms 115:16; 148:4; 2 co 12:2).

 The dictionary entries, along with the commentators, Poole and Barnes,agree. There is nothing mysterious or some hidden meaning in the text.

 Paul was caught up to the third heaven, the upper heaven, the abode of God and His angels. The third heaven is the future home of all of the redeemed by the blood of Christ.

 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

 “To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

 Notes:

 1.      Smith, William, Dr. “Entry for ‘Heaven‘” “Smith’s Bible Dictionary” 1901.

2.      M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897, Public Domain.

3.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, 2 Corinthians, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 634.

4.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 2 Corinthians, Vol. 2 p. 3146-3147. Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of numerous books defending the faith. They can be ordered at www. JackKettler .com

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What are the two sticks in Ezekiel 37:15-17?

What are the two sticks in Ezekiel 37:15-17?                                                    By Jack Kettler

The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying; moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. (Ezekiel 37:15-17)

What are these two sticks? What is its significance? As will be seen, there is nothing mysterious about Ezekiel’s prophecy. Saying this is because an unnamed religious group that is well known makes an outlandish claim about the two sticks of Ezekiel. The group that promotes this outlandish interpretation that it is not worthy of being interacted with.   

Consulting the Strong’s Lexicon will be valuable: 

Strong’s Lexicon:

stick

עֵ֣ץ (‘êṣ)

Noun – masculine singular

Strong’s Hebrew 6086: 1) tree, wood, timber, stock, plank, stalk, stick, gallows 1a) tree, trees 1b) wood, pieces of wood, gallows, firewood, cedar-wood, woody flax.

Commentary entries:

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible sets forth the easy to grasp and clear meaning of the Ezekiel text:
“A prophecy of the reunion of Israel and Judah, the incorporation of Israel under one Ruler, the kingdom of Messiah upon earth and in heaven.

Ezekiel 37:16

One stick – So in the marginal reference the names of the tribes had been written on rods or sticks.

For Judah … – To the house of David had remained faithful, not only Judah, but also Benjamin, Levi, and part of Simeon, and individual members of various tribes 2 Chronicles 11:12-16. Compare the marginal references.

Joseph … Ephraim – Compare Psalm 78:67; Hosea 5:5 ff “Joseph” is the general name here for the ten tribes, including “Ephraim,” the chief tribe, and his companions. Omit “for” before “all.” “All the house of Israel” is here the ten tribes.”

 Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary concurs with Barnes and is also helpful:  “16. stick—alluding to Nu 17:2, the tribal rod. The union of the two rods was a prophecy in action of the brotherly union which is to reunite the ten tribes and Judah. As their severance under Jeroboam was fraught with the greatest evil to the covenant-people, so the first result of both being joined by the spirit of life to God is that they become joined to one another under the one covenant King, Messiah-David.

Judah, and … children of Israel his companions—that is, Judah and, besides Benjamin and Levi, those who had joined themselves to him of Ephraim, Manasseh, Simeon, Asher, Zebulun, Issachar, as having the temple and lawful priesthood in his borders (2Ch 11:12, 13, 16; 15:9; 30:11, 18). The latter became identified with Judah after the carrying away of the ten tribes, and returned with Judah from Babylon, and so shall be associated with that tribe at the future restoration.

For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim—Ephraim’s posterity took the lead, not only of the other descendants of Joseph (compare Eze 37:19), but of the ten tribes of Israel. For four hundred years, during the period of the judges, with Manasseh and Benjamin, its dependent tribes, it had formerly taken the lead: Shiloh was its religious capital; Shechem, its civil capital. God had transferred the birthright from Reuben (for dishonoring his father’s bed) to Joseph, whose representative, Ephraim, though the younger, was made (Ge 48:19; 1Ch 5:1). From its pre-eminence “Israel” is attached to it as “companions.” The “all” in this case, not in that of Judah, which has only attached as “companions” “the children of Israel” (that is, some of them, namely, those who followed the fortunes of Judah), implies that the bulk of the ten tribes did not return at the restoration from Babylon, but are distinct from Judah, until the coming union with it at the restoration.”

 In closing:

 There is nothing mysterious about Ezekiel’s prophecy. It is a beautiful picture of the reunification of Israel the Northern Kingdom, and Judah, the Southern Kingdom, during the time of the Babylonian return. The sticks represent Judah, and Israel, and their joining represent the reunification of the nation. It is a faith-building case of fulfilled prophecy during the time of the Old Covenant. God did not forget His people whom He had sent into captivity for their unrepentant sins. When His time was right, He delivered them from their enemies and brought them home. The wall was rebuilt around Jerusalem, the temple was built again, and redemptive history continued to unfold with the Advent of the Messiah.    

 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

 “To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

 Notes:

 1.       Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Ezekiel, Vol. 8 p. 357-358.

2.       Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 720. Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of numerous books which can be ordered www. JackKettler .com Hyperlink not completed because of advertising ad issues

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What Does the Bible Say? Volume 2

Introduction

In Volume 2 of this multi-volume series, “What does the Bible say,” the focus will be on difficult and perplexing portions of Scripture such as, who are the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:4,? along with many other important topics such as the spirits in prison mentioned in 1 Peter 3:19, who are they? In addition, the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God will be covered.

Chapter One: Who are the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:4? 

Chapter Two: What is Eschatology?

Chapter Three: Omnipotence, a study in God’s Incommunicable Attributes

Chapter Four: Omniscience, a study in God’s Incommunicable Attributes

Chapter Five: Omnipresence, a study in God’s Incommunicable Attributes

Chapter Six: Aseity, a study in God’s Incommunicable Attributes

Chapter Seven: God’s Communicable Attributes

Chapter Eight: What does it mean when God says He creates evil in Isaiah 45:7?

Chapter Nine: Are Christmas trees a violation of Jeremiah 10:3-4?

Chapter Ten: The spirits in prison mentioned in 1 Peter 3:19, who are they?

A teaser, coming in Volume 3:

1.      Does Romans 13 on submission contradict other portions of Scripture?

2.      Does a Christian owe allegiance to a gang of robbers who call themselves the government?

3.      Romans 13 and the Limits of submission to the Church or State

“These were nobler than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

At a glance:

1.     God’s incommunicable attributes, what are they?

2.      God’s Communicable Attributes

3.      Who are the spirits in prison that are mentioned in 1 Peter 3:19?

4.      Are Christmas trees a violation of Jeremiah 10:3-4?

5.      What does it mean when God says He creates evil in Isaiah 45:7?

 Other books by the author:

The Religion That Started in a Hat

 The Five Points of Scriptural Authority: A Defense of Sola Scriptura

  1 Corinthians 15:29 Revisited: A Scriptural based interpretation

 Christian Apologetics in the marketplace of ideas

 Studies in Soteriology: The Doctrines of Grace Magnified

 Doctrinal Disputations

 What Does the Bible Say? Vol. 1

Order book at www. JackKettler .com

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What are the Urim and Thummim?

What are the Urim and Thummim?                                                           By Jack Kettler
“And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the LORD. Thus, Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the LORD regularly.” (Exodus 28:30 ESV)

As this study proceeds, it will become apparent why it follows the previous study on casting lots. As in previous studies, lexical and commentary evidence will be consulted.   

From the Strong’s Lexicon:

the Urim

הָאוּרִים֙ (hā·’ū·rîm)

Article | Noun – masculine plural

Strong’s Hebrew 224: Urim = ‘lights’ 1) stones kept in a pouch on the high priest’s breastplate, used in determining God’s decision in certain questions and issues

and Thummim

הַתֻּמִּ֔ים (hat·tum·mîm)

Article | Noun – masculine plural

Strong’s Hebrew 8550: Thummim = ‘perfection’ 1) stones provided for the means of achieving a sacred lot 1a) used with the Urim, the will of God was revealed

Matthew Poole’s Commentary is constructive:
“The words Urim and Thummim confessedly signify light, or illuminations and perfections, which may be understood either of two differing things, the one noting the knowledge, the other the perfection, to wit, of virtues and graces, which were required in the high priest, and which were in Christ in an eminent degree, and from him alone communicated to his people; or of one and the same thing, noting perfect light or illumination, by a figure called hendyadis, oft used in Scripture, as Deu 16:18 Matthew 4:16, compared with Job 10:21 John 3:5 Acts 17:25, compared with Genesis 2:7. Which may seem probable,

1. Because the great use of this instrument was to give light and direction in dubious and difficult cases, and not to confer any other perfection upon any person.

2. Because sometimes both these words and things are expressed only by one of them, and that is by Urim, Numbers 27:21 1 Samuel 28:6, which signifies lights. And the name seems to be given from the effect, because hence the Israelites had clear light, and perfect or certain direction in dark and doubtful matters. But the great question is, what this Urim and Thummim was, and in what manner God answered by it; which God having on purpose concealed from us, and not set down the matter or form of it, as he hath done of all the other particulars, it may seem curiosity and presumption for men solicitously to inquire, and positively to determine. Many conceive it was nothing else but the twelve precious stones, wherein the names of the twelve tribes were engraven, and that the answer of God was composed out of those letters which either show more brightly, or thrust themselves further outward, than the rest did; which seems a frivolous and ungrounded conjecture, both because all the letters of the alphabet were not there, and so all answers could not be given by them; and because it was shut up within the duplicature of the breastplate, and therefore could not be seen by the high priest; and there is not a word to signify that he was to take it out thence, and look upon it, but rather the contrary is evident. And that this Urim and Thummim are not the same thing with those twelve stones may be easily proved:

1. Because the stones were set and engraven in the breastplate, Exodus 28:17,21, this was only put into it, which is a word of quite different and more loose and large signification, and therefore probably doth not design the same thing.

2. It is not likely that in such a brief account of the sacred utensils the same command would be repeated again, especially in more dark and general words than it was mentioned before. And how could Moses now put it in, when the workmen had fastened it there before? or why should he be required to put it in the breastplate, when it was fastened to it already, and could not without violence be taken from it?

3. Because the stones were put in by the workmen, Exodus 39:10, the Urim and Thummim by Moses himself, Leviticus 8:8. It is objected, that where the stones are mentioned there is no mention of Urim and Thummim, as Exo 29, and that where the Urim and Thummim are mentioned there is no mention of the stones, as Leviticus 8:8, which shows they were one and the same thing. But that is not necessary, and there is an evident reason of both those omissions; of the former, Exo 39, because he mentions only those things which were made by the workmen, whereas the Urim and Thummim seems to have been made immediately by God, or by Moses with God’s direction; of the latter, Le 8, because the stones are implied in the breastplate as a part of it, and being fastened to it, whereas there he only mentions what was put in by Moses himself. There are other conjectures, as that it; as the name Jehovah, or some visible representations, &c. But such conjectures are as easily denied as affirmed. It is therefore more modest and reasonable to be silent where God is silent, than to indulge ourselves in boundless and groundless fancies. It may suffice us to know that this was a singular piece of Divine workmanship, which the high priest was obliged to wear upon solemn occasions, as one of the conditions upon which God engaged to give him answers; which answers God might give to him either by inward suggestion to his mind, or by a vocal expression to his ear. But which of those ways, or whether by any other way, it is needless now to search, and impossible certainly to discover.

The judgment of the children of Israel. A short speech. As the testimony is oft put for the ark of the testimony, so is the judgment here for the breastplate of judgment, i.e. that breastplate which declared the judgment, or oracle, or mind of God to the Israelites in those cases which they brought to the Lord.

Before the Lord continually, i.e. at all times when he shall appear before the Lord in the holy place.” (1)

 Additional information is learned from the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: “30. The Urim and Thummim. These are to be put into the pouch of judgement: they are consequently something quite distinct from the jewels in front of it (v. 17), with which they have often been identified; and from the manner in which they are mentioned elsewhere (esp. 1 Samuel 14:41) there can be little doubt that they were two sacred lots, used for the purpose of ascertaining the Divine will on questions of national importance. We do not know their size or the material of which they were made: they are not described, but introduced as something well known. See further p. 313 f.

the judgement of &c.] The Urim and Thummim are so called as the means by which a Divine judgement, or decision, might be obtained on matters of national importance. Cf. Numbers 27:21 (P).

On the Urim and Thummim

In addition to Exodus 28:30, the Urim and Thummim are mentioned in the “”, Leviticus 8:8, and (the Urim alone) in Numbers 27:21 (both P: here Eleazar is to determine for Joshua by their help when Israel is to ‘go out’ and ‘come in’); in the Blessing attributed to Moses, Deuteronomy 33:8 (as a privileged possession of the priestly tribe), in 1 Samuel 28:6 (the Urim alone,—Jehovah answered Saul ‘neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets’), in Ezra 2:63 = Nehemiah 7:65 (‘till a priest should rise up with Urim and Thummim,’ implying they were lost in the post-exilic age); and esp. in the original Heb. text of 1 Samuel 14:41, presupposed by the LXX. which throws the greatest light upon the manner in which they were used, ‘And Saul said, O Jehovah, the God of Israel, why hast thou not answered thy servant this day? If the iniquity be in me or in Jonathan my son, give Urim; and if it be in thy people Israel, give Thummim. And Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, but the people escaped.’ (The Heb. words rendered in RVm. = A.V. ‘Give a perfect (lot)’ are a mutilated fragment of the longer text preserved in LXX., thâmim, ‘perfect,’ differing from ‘Thummim’ only in vocalization.) The priest who cast the lots on this occasion was evidently Ahijah, who just before (vv. 3, 18 RVm.) is mentioned as ‘bearing’ (above, p. 313) an ephod; and a comparison of the other passages in 1 Sam. in which the priest asks for a Divine decision with the help of the ephod, makes it probable that on these occasions also the Urim and Thummim, though not actually mentioned, were in fact employed: see 1 Samuel 14:18 (read as RVm.), 19, 37, Exodus 23:10-12 (see v. 6), Exodus 30:7-8. After David’s time the Urim and Thummim are not mentioned in the history; and though we are naturally not in a position to say that they were never resorted to, yet the increasing importance of the prophets as announcers of the Divine will, and the more spiritual conceptions of God which their teaching brought with it, make it probable that their use fell more and more into abeyance. But the possession of the sacred lots was an ancient and prized prerogative of the priestly caste (Deuteronomy 33:8); the right of using them was doubtless jealously maintained by the chief priest till—through whatever cause—they were lost (Ezra 2:63); and so they naturally found a place in P’s description of the high priest’s official dress, and their original institution was referred back to Moses.

The etymological meaning of ‘Urim and Thummim’ is uncertain. Regarded as two Heb. words, they would naturally signify Lights and Perfections; but as giving the original sense of the expression, this explanation is anything but satisfactory. It is possible that the words are the Hebraized forms of two originally Babylonian technical terms. The LXX. usually express Urim by either δῆλοι (sc. λίθοι), i.e. ‘visible, manifest (stones),’—and so in the Greek text of Sir 33:3 (codd. א A and RV.), Sir 45:10,—or δήλωσις, ‘manifestation, declaration’; and Thummim by ἀλήθεια, ‘truth’ (cf. Sir 45:10): the former rend is a paraphrase of ‘Lights’: the latter—as the translators lived in Egypt—may have been suggested to them by the fact that in Egypt the judge presiding at a trial wore, suspended from his neck, an image of Tme, the Egyptian goddess of truth (Wilk.-B. i. 296, iii. 183 f.; Diod. i. 48, 75). For further particulars on the whole subject, see Kennedy in DB., and Moore in EB., s.v.

31–35 (cf. Exodus 39:22-26). The robe of the ephod. This was a long violet robe woven in one piece, put on by being drawn over the head, with arm-holes (but without sleeves), and with pomegranates worked in colours, and small golden bells, arranged alternately as a border, round the bottom of the skirt” (2)

 Additional passages referencing the “Urim” and “Thummim:”

 “The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim.” (Ezra 2:63 ESV)

 “Therefore, Saul said, “O LORD God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant this day? If this guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, O LORD, God of Israel, give Urim. But if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim.” And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped.” (1 Samuel 14:41 ESV)

 Again, it is profitable to consult the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on the 1 Samuel 14:41 passage:  “41. Give a [perfect lot] This and not the marginal rendering “Shew the innocent” is the best explanation of an obscure phrase which occurs nowhere else.

The Sept. however has a very different reading, which with some emendation may be rendered, “And Saul said, O Lord God of Israel, why hast thou not answered thy servant to day? If the iniquity be in me or in Jonathan my son, O Lord God of Israel, give Urim: and if it be in thy people Israel, give Thummim.” If this reading is correct, it points to the conclusion that the “judgment of Urim and Thummim” was obtained by a special method of casting lots, which was employed on the present occasion. See further on 1 Samuel 28:6. The Heb. text implies that the ordinary lot only was used.” (3)

 From the Dictionary of Bible Themes, we learn more about the perfect lot:  “Dictionary of Bible Themes » 7000 God’s people » 7300 Institutions and culture of OT » 7392 lots, casting of

A means of determining the will of God, prior to the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The casting of lots was also used by pagans for the same purpose. Such use reflects the belief that nothing occurred by chance.

Casting lots to determine the will of God

Proverbs 16:33

In the ministry of the high priest

Exodus 28:30 The “Urim and Thummim” were sacred lots maintained for the purpose of determining God’s will. See also Leviticus 8:7-9; Leviticus 16:6-10; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65

To apportion land

Numbers 33:54 See also Numbers 26:54-56; Joshua 14:2; Joshua 18:10

To select individuals

1 Samuel 14:41-42 See also Joshua 7:14-18; Judges 20:9-10; 1 Samuel 10:20-21; Jonah 1:7; Acts 1:15-26

To assign priestly duties

1 Chronicles 24:5 See also 1 Chronicles 26:12-13; Nehemiah 10:34; Luke 1:8-9

To settle disputes

Proverbs 18:18

Casting lots as a means of divination

Ezekiel 21:21-22 See also Esther 3:7; Esther 9:24-27 The word “purim” is the plural of “pur” and means “lots”.

Casting lots as a means of distributing plunder

Joel 3:2-3 See also Nahum 3:10” (4)

 

 In conclusion:

 While there is no universal agreement on exactly what the “Urim” and “Thummim” were, the above understanding can be considered the majority view.

 “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)

 How do the “Urim” and “Thummim” testify of Christ?

 Consider the marvelous insight from the Chapter – The Urim And Thummim from Godrules.net:  “In Christ Himself we see the antitype of the “Urim.” “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men…. that was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:5,9). Therefore, did He say, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). “God is light” (1 John 1:5), and Christ could say, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Yes, He is the reality of which the Urim was the figure: the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines “in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

In Christ, we see the antitype of the “Thummim.” Every “perfection” is found in Him, for He is “altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:16).” (5)

 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Notes:

1.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Exodus, Vol. 1, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 179.

2.      Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, S. R. DRIVER, D.D., Exodus, (Cambridge University Press, 1898), p. 307.

3.      Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, A. F. KIRKPATRICK, D.D., 1 Samuel, (Cambridge University Press, 1898), p. 137.

4.      Managing Editor, Martin Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes, “the perfect lot” Kindle Edition.

5.      Chapter – The Urim And Thummim from Godrules.net: Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of many books on the Christian faith. They can be found at www. JackKettler .com Completed hyperlink cannot be listed because of advertising issues.

 

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The apostles and the casting of lots in the book of Acts

The apostles and of casting lots in the book of Acts                            by Jack Kettler

“And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:26 ESV)

What is the casting of lots? Is it the equivalent of voting? Is this a practice that should continue today? If not, why did it cease?  

An overview of lots from a theological dictionary will be helpful.

From the Holman Bible Dictionary, an overview of lots:
“(lahtss) Objects of unknown shape and material used to determine the divine will. Often in the Ancient Near East people, especially priests, made difficult and significant decisions by casting lots on the ground or drawing them from a receptacle. Several times Scripture mentions the practice. We do not know exactly what the lots looked like. Nor do we know how they were interpreted. We do know that people of the Old and New Testaments believed God (or gods in the case of non-Israelites or non-Christians) influenced the fall or outcome of the lots (Proverbs 16:33). Thus, casting lots was a way of determining God’s will.

One of the best examples of this use of lots is in Acts. Matthias was chosen to be Judas’ successor by lot (Acts 1:26). The apostles’ prayer immediately before shows the belief that God would express His will through this method. In the Old Testament Saul was chosen as Israel’s first king through the use of lots (1 Samuel 10:20-24).

In a similar fashion God communicated knowledge unknown to human beings through lots. Saul called for the casting of lots to determine who sinned during his day-long battle with the Philistines. Specifically, he called for the use of the Urim and Thummim (1 Samuel 14:41-42; See Joshua 7:10-15).

Lots helped God’s people make a fair decision in complicated situations. God commanded that the Promised Land be divided by lot (Numbers 26:52-56). Later, lots established the Temple priests’ order of service (1 Chronicles 24:5-19). This practice continued into Jesus’ day. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was burning incense in the holy place when the angel spoke to him. Zechariah was there because the lot fell to him (Luke 1:9). The awful picture of soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ garments was this kind of “fair play” use of lots (Matthew 27:35). Proverbs teaches that the use of lots is one way to put an end to a dispute when decisions are difficult (Proverbs 18:18).

Lots are memorialized in the Jewish Feast of Purim. Purim, the Akkadian word for lots, celebrates the frustration of Haman’s plan to destroy the Jews in Persia. Haman had used lots to find the best day for the destruction (Esther 3:7).

Finally, the word lot came to refer to one’s portion or circumstance of life. The righteous could confess that God was their lot (Psalm 16:5). The lot of those who violated the people of God was terror and annihilation (Isaiah 17:14). See Oracles; Urim and Thummim.” – Albert Bean (1)

To answer the first question, what is the casting of lots?
“Question: What was the practice of casting lots?

Answer: The practice of casting lots is mentioned seventy times in the Old Testament and seven times in the New Testament. In spite of the many references to casting lots in the Old Testament, nothing is known about the actual lots themselves. They could have been sticks of various lengths, flat stones like coins, or some kind of dice; but their exact nature is unknown. The closest modern practice to casting lots is likely flipping a coin.

The practice of casting lots occurs most often in connection with the division of the land under Joshua (Joshua chapters 14-21), a procedure that God instructed the Israelites on several times in the book of Numbers (Numbers 26:55; 33:54; 34:13; 36:2). God allowed the Israelites to cast lots in order to determine His will for a given situation (Joshua 18:6-10; 1 Chronicles 24:5,31). Various offices and functions in the temple were also determined by lot (1 Chronicles 24:5, 31; 25:8-9; 26:13-14). The sailors on Jonah’s ship (Jonah 1:7) also cast lots to determine who had brought God’s wrath upon their ship. The eleven apostles cast lots to determine who would replace Judas (Acts 1:26). Casting lots eventually became a game people played and made wagers on. This is seen in the Roman soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ garments (Matthew 27:35).” *

 On the second question, was the casting of lots equivalent to voting?

 The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says that lots are to be understood as voting:  “26. was numbered – “voted in” by general suffrage.

with the eleven apostles—completing the broken Twelve.” (2)

 The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentators see the action of lots by the Apostles as voting.

 However, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible disagrees. Consider:  “And they gave forth their lots – Some have supposed that this means they voted. But to this interpretation there are insuperable objections:

1. The word “lots,” κλήρους klērous, is not used to express votes, or suffrage.

2. The expression “the lot fell upon” is not consistent with the notion of voting. It is commonly expressive of casting lots.

3. Casting lots was common among the Jews on important and difficult occasions, and it was natural that the apostles should resort to it in this.” (3)

 Barnes is supported in his understanding of the Greek from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon commenting on Strong’s NT 2819 κλῆρος: κλῆρος, κλήρου, ὁ, from Homer down; the Sept. mostly for גּורָל and נַחֲלָה; a lot; i. e.:

1. an object used in casting or drawing lots, which was either a pebble, or a potsherd, or a bit of wood (hence, κλῆρος is to be derived from κλάω (cf. Ellicott on Colossians 1:12)): Acts 1:26 (see below); βάλλοντες κλῆρον, Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24 (Psalm 21:19 (); Jonah 1:7, etc.); the lots of the several persons concerned, inscribed with their names, were thrown together into a vase, which was then shaken, and he whose lot first fell out upon the ground was the one chosen (Homer, Iliad 3, 316, 325; 7, 175, etc.; Livy 23, 3 (but cf. B. D. American edition, under the word Lot)); hence, ὁ κλῆρος πίπτει ἐπί τινα, Acts 1:26 (Ezekiel 24:6; Jonah 1:7).

2. what is obtained by lot, allotted portion: λαγχάνειν and λαμβάνειν τόν κλῆρον τῆς διακονίας, a prrtion in the ministry common to the apostles, Acts 1:17, 25 R G; ἐστι μοι κλῆρος ἐν τίνι, dative of the thing, Acts 8:21; like κληρονομία (which see) it is used of the part which one will have in eternal salvation, λαμβάνειντόν κλῆρον ἐν τοῖς ἡγιασμένοις, among the sanctified, Acts 26:18 (Wis. 5:5); of eternal salvation itself, κλῆρος τῶν ἁγίων, i. e. the eternal salvation which God has assigned to the saints, Colossians 1:12 (where cf. Lightfoot). of persons, οἱ κλῆροι, those whose care and oversight has been assigned to one (allotted charge), used of Christian churches, the administration of which falls to the lot of the presbyters: 1 Peter 5:3, cf. Acts 17:4; (for patristic usage see Sophocles Lexicon, under the word; cf. Lightfoot on Philippians, p. 246f).” (4)

 The final question about the continuation of casting lots is answered in the next commentary entry.

 From the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Acts 1:26:  “26. And they gave forth their lots] Better, And they gave lots for them, in accordance with MSS. The process probably was that each member of the company wrote on a tablet or ticket the name of one of the chosen two; the whole were then placed in some vessel and shaken together, and that tablet which was first drawn out decided the election. The casting of lots, though not now permitted to the Jews (see Shulkhan Aruch Joreh Deah par. 179. 1), was used by a provision of the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 16:8) for the selection of one out of the two goats for the Lord. “The goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell” was offered for a sin offering. The Apostles had not yet received the Spirit which was to “guide them into all truth.” When the Holy Ghost had been given, they, as St Chrysostom notices (In Act. Ap. Hom. III.), used no more casting of lots.” (5)

 In closing:

 In some churches today, elders and deacons are chosen by casting lots.

 In the New Testament, there are qualifications for elders. For example, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6–9 these qualifications are listed.

 In the New Testament, there are qualifications for deacons. For example, in 1 Timothy 3:8–13, the qualifications for deacons are listed.

 How are these qualifications evaluated? The vetting of deacons and elders in terms of the Word of God’s requirements inspires more confidence than the casting of lots. Why? The casting of lots today is problematic in the light of the closed canon of Scripture. If God is still speaking today through the casting of lots, maybe He is still giving other revelations also. If so, say goodbye to the doctrine of a completed Bible. For those, today, using the casting of lots. Is the casting of lots infallible? If not, serious theological questions can be asked, like does God make mistakes.   

 From the Form of Government of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is a good example of how this process of evaluation and choosing deacons and elders have developed in New Testament times.
Chapter X

Ruling Elders

1. Christ who has instituted government in his church has furnished some men, beside the ministers of the Word, with gifts for government, and with commission to execute the same when called thereto. Such officers, chosen by the people from among their number, are to join with the ministers in the government of the church, and are properly called ruling elders.

2. Those who fill this office should be sound in the faith and of exemplary Christian life, men of wisdom and discretion, worthy of the esteem of the congregation as spiritual fathers.

3. Ruling elders, individually and jointly with the pastor in the session, are to lead the church in the service of Christ. They are to watch diligently over the people committed to their charge to prevent corruption of doctrine or morals. Evils which they cannot correct by private admonition they should bring to the notice of the session. They should visit the people, especially the sick, instruct the ignorant, comfort the mourning, and nourish and guard the children of the covenant. They should pray with and for the people. They should have particular concern for the doctrine and conduct of the minister of the Word and help him in his labors.

Chapter XI

Deacons

1. The Scriptures designate the office of deacon as distinct and perpetual in the church. Deacons are called to show forth the compassion of Christ in a manifold ministry of mercy toward the saints and strangers on behalf of the church. To this end they exercise, in the fellowship of the church, a recognized stewardship of care and of gifts for those in need or distress. This service is distinct from that of rule in the church.

2. Those chosen to this office should be of great faith, exemplary lives, honest repute, brotherly love, warm sympathies, and sound judgment.

3. In order to facilitate the performance of the duties of their office the deacons of each particular church shall be constituted a board of deacons. The board shall choose its own officers from its membership.

4. The board shall oversee the ministry of mercy in the church and shall collect and disburse funds for the relief of the needy. Other forms of service for the church may also be committed to the deacons.

5. In the discharge of their duties the deacons shall be under the supervision and authority of the session. Accordingly, the board shall keep a record of its proceedings and of all funds and their distribution, and shall submit its records to the session once every three months, and at other times upon request of the session. If it seems to be for the best interest of the church, the session may require the board of deacons to reconsider any action, or may, if necessary, overrule it.

6. It is desirable that the session and the board of deacons meet together at regular intervals to confer on matters of common responsibility.

7. In a church in which there are no deacons, the duties of the office shall devolve upon the session.

Chapter XXV

Electing, Ordaining, and Installing

Ruling Elders and Deacons

1. Every congregation shall elect ruling elders and deacons, except in extraordinary circumstances. Those elected must be male communicant members in good and regular standing in the church in which they are to exercise their office.

2. Each congregation shall determine, by vote of communicant members in good and regular standing, to choose elders or deacons for either lifetime service or limited terms of service on the session or board of deacons. In a congregation that has determined to choose ruling elders or deacons for limited terms of service a full term shall be three years. When there are three or more ruling elders or three or more deacons the session or board of deacons shall consist of three classes, one of which shall be elected each year. A person may be elected for a full term or partial term. Ruling elders, once ordained, when they are not reelected to a term of service, shall not thereby be divested of the office, but may be commissioned to higher judicatories by the session or the presbytery, and may perform other functions of the office when so appointed by an appropriate judicatory. Similarly deacons, when not elected to a term of service in the congregation, may be commissioned by an appropriate judicatory to perform specific diaconal functions.

3. In order that these sacred offices not be committed to weak or unworthy men, and that the congregations shall have an opportunity to form a better judgment respecting the gifts of those by whom they are to be governed and served, no one shall normally be eligible for election to office until he has been a communicant member in good standing for at least one year, shall have received appropriate training under the direction of or with the approval of the session, and shall have served the church in functions requiring responsible leadership. Men of ability and piety in the congregation shall be encouraged by the session to prepare themselves for the offices of ruling elder or deacon so that their study and opportunities for service may be provided for in a systematic and orderly way.

4. Any member of the congregation who is entitled to vote may propose to the session nominations for these offices. The session shall certify those nominees whom, upon examination, it judges to possess the necessary qualifications for office. At least one Lord’s Day preceding the date appointed for the election the session shall announce to the congregation the names of those it has certified. Election shall be from among those certified.

5. After a person has been elected to the office of ruling elder or deacon the session shall determine a time for his ordination. The person elected shall be put in actual possession of his office only by ordination whereby he is solemnly set apart for the labor to which he has been called.

6. The person elected shall be ordained and installed, in the presence of the congregation, in the following manner:

a. The minister, in the following or similar language, shall state the warrant and nature of the office of ruling elder or deacon, the character to be sustained by the officer, and duties to be fulfilled:

i. In the case of a ruling elder:

The office of ruling elder is based upon the kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ, who provided for his church officers who should rule in his name. Paul and Barnabas “appointed . . . elders in every church”; and Paul commanded that those who “rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in teaching.” In this passage the Scriptures distinguish between elders who labor particularly in the Word and in doctrine—usually called ministers or pastors—and elders who join with the minister in the government and discipline of the church—generally called ruling elders.

It is the duty and privilege of ruling elders, in the name and by the authority of our ascended king, to rule over particular churches, and, as servants of our great shepherd, to care for his flock. Holy Scripture enjoins them: “Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood.” As a consequence, ruling elders must be zealous in maintaining the purity of the ministration of the Word and sacraments. They must conscientiously exercise discipline and uphold the good order and peace of the church. With love and humility they should promote faithfulness on the part of both elders and deacons in the discharge of their duties. Moreover, they should have particular regard to the doctrine and conduct of the minister of the Word, in order that the church may be edified, and may manifest itself as the pillar and ground of the truth.

If they are to fill worthily so sacred an office, ruling elders must adorn sound doctrine by holy living, setting an example of godliness in all their relations with men. Let them walk with exemplary piety and diligently discharge the obligations of their office; and “when the chief shepherd shall be manifested,” they “shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

ii. In the case of a deacon:

The office of deacon is based upon the solicitude and love of Christ for his own people. So tender is our Lord’s interest in their temporal needs that he considers what is done unto one of the least of his brethren as done unto him. For he will say to those who have ministered to his little ones: “I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

In the beginning the apostles themselves ministered to the poor, but subsequently, in order that they might be able to devote themselves wholly to prayer and the ministry of the Word, they committed that responsibility to others, having directed the people to choose men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom. Since the days of the apostles the church has recognized the care of the poor as a distinct ministry of the church committed to deacons.

The duties of deacons consist of encouraging members of the church to provide for those who are in want, seeking to prevent poverty, making discreet and cheerful distribution to the needy, praying with the distressed and reminding them of the consolations of Holy Scripture.

If they are to fill worthily so sacred an office, deacons must adorn sound doctrine by holy living, setting an example of godliness in all their relations with men. Let them walk with exemplary piety and diligently discharge the obligations of their office; and “when the chief shepherd shall be manifested,” they “shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

b. He shall then propose to the candidate the following questions:

(1) Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

(2) Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?

(3) Do you approve of the government, discipline, and worship of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church?

(4) Do you promise to seek the purity, the peace, and the unity of the church?

(5) Do you accept the office of ruling elder (or deacon) in this congregation and promise, in reliance on the grace of God, faithfully to perform all the duties thereof?

c. When each of these questions has been answered in the affirmative, the minister shall address to the members of the congregation the following question:

Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother as a ruling elder (or deacon), and do you promise to yield him all that honor, encouragement, and obedience in the Lord, to which his office, according to the Word of God and the constitution of this Church, entitles him?

d. When the members of the church have answered this question in the affirmative, by holding up their right hands, the candidate shall kneel and be ordained by prayer and with the laying on of hands to the office of ruling elder or deacon.

e. The minister shall then declare:

I now declare that ___________________ has been regularly elected, ordained, and installed a ruling elder (or deacon) in this church, agreeably to the Word of God, and according to the constitution of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church; and that he is entitled to all that honor, encouragement, and obedience in the Lord to which his office entitles him.

f. After this the minister shall give to him and to the congregation an exhortation suited to the occasion.

g. When there is an existing session, it is proper that the members of that body, in the face of the congregation, take the newly ordained elder by the hand, saying, in words to this purpose, “We give you the right hand of fellowship, to take part of this office with us.”

7. A ruling elder or deacon who has been installed for a limited term of service may be elected to additional terms of service in the same or another congregation in accordance with the provisions of Section 2 of this chapter. When such a person is elected to further service he shall be publicly installed in the following manner:

a. The minister shall review before the congregation, in the following or similar language, the warrant and nature of the office of ruling elder or deacon, the character to be sustained by the officer, and the duties to be fulfilled:

i. In the case of a ruling elder:

The office of ruling elder is based upon the kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ, who provided for his church officers who should rule in his name. Paul and Barnabas “appointed . . . elders in every church”; and Paul commanded that those who “rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in teaching.” In this passage the Scriptures distinguish between elders who labor particularly in the Word and in doctrine—usually called ministers or pastors—and elders who join with the minister in the government and discipline of the church—generally called ruling elders.

It is the duty and privilege of ruling elders, in the name and by the authority of our ascended king, to rule over particular churches, and, as servants of our great shepherd, to care for his flock. Holy Scripture enjoins them: “Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood.” As a consequence, ruling elders must be zealous in maintaining the purity of the ministration of the Word and sacraments. They must conscientiously exercise discipline and uphold the good order and peace of the church. With love and humility they should promote faithfulness on the part of both elders and deacons in the discharge of their duties. Moreover, they should have particular regard to the doctrine and conduct of the minister of the Word, in order that the church may be edified, and may manifest itself as the pillar and ground of the truth.

If they are to fill worthily so sacred an office, ruling elders must adorn sound doctrine by holy living, setting an example of godliness in all their relations with men. Let them walk with exemplary piety and diligently discharge the obligations of their office; and “when the chief shepherd shall be manifested,” they “shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

ii. In the case of a deacon:

The office of deacon is based upon the solicitude and love of Christ for his own people. So tender is our Lord’s interest in their temporal needs that he considers what is done unto one of the least of his brethren as done unto him. For he will say to those who have ministered to his little ones: “I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

In the beginning the apostles themselves ministered to the poor, but subsequently, in order that they might be able to devote themselves wholly to prayer and the ministry of the Word, they committed that responsibility to others, having directed the people to choose men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom. Since the days of the apostles the church has recognized the care of the poor as a distinct ministry of the church committed to deacons.

The duties of deacons consist of encouraging members of the church to provide for those who are in want, seeking to prevent poverty, making discreet and cheerful distribution to the needy, praying with the distressed and reminding them of the consolations of Holy Scripture.

If they are to fill worthily so sacred an office, deacons must adorn sound doctrine by holy living, setting an example of godliness in all their relations with men. Let them walk with exemplary piety and diligently discharge the obligations of their office; and “when the chief shepherd shall be manifested,” they “shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

b. He shall then propose to the officer the following question:

Do you agree to serve as a ruling elder (or deacon) in this congregation, and promise, in reliance on the grace of God, faithfully to perform all the duties thereof?

c. When the question has been answered in the affirmative the minister shall address to the members of the congregation the following question:

Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother as a ruling elder (or deacon), and do you promise to yield him all that honor, encouragement, and obedience in the Lord, to which his office, according to the Word of God and the constitution of this Church, entitles him?

d. When a majority of the members of the church who are present have answered this question in the affirmative, by holding up their right hands, the minister shall then declare:

I now declare that ______________ has been regularly elected and installed a ruling elder (or deacon) in this church, agreeably to the Word of God, and according to the constitution of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church; and that he is entitled to all that honor, encouragement, and obedience in the Lord to which his office entitles him.

e. After this the minister shall give to him and to the congregation an exhortation suited to the occasion.**

 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)  “To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

Notes:

 1.      Holman Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, Author, Editor, (Nashville, TN, Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), online resource.

2.      Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977), p. 1083.

3.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Acts, Vol. 5 p. 1417.

4.      J. H. Thayer, The New Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers), p. 349.

5.      Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, J. RAWSON LUMBY, D.D., Acts, Vol. 1, (Cambridge University Press, 1898), p. 14.** The OPC Book of Order https://opc.org/BCO/FG.html Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks. Other books by Mr. Kettler can be found at, Jack Kettler .com

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Did Jesus divest himself of His divinity in Philippians 2:7?

Did Jesus divest himself of His divinity in Philippians 2:7?                            By Jack Kettler

“Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7 ESV)

What does it mean in Philippians 2:7 when it says Jesus emptied himself? Philippians 2:6 says Jesus “was in the form of God.” Does emptying himself have anything to do with His divinity? Was Jesus on earth a man only or the God/Man?

An aside: When interpreting the Scriptures, a private independent approach is not the correct way to ascertain the meaning of a Biblical text. It is vital to consult learned commentators of the Church. First, a traditional evangelical understanding of the passage will be helpful.        

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible provides a clear exposition of the Philippians 2:7 passage: 
“But made himself of no reputation – This translation by no means conveys the sense of the original According to this it would seem that he consented to be without distinction or honor among people; or that he was willing to be despised or disregarded. The Greek is ἑαυτον ἐκένωσεν heauton ekenōsen. The word κενόω kenoō means literally, to empty, “to make empty, to make vain or void.” It is rendered: “made void” in Romans 4:14; “made of none effect,” 1 Corinthians 1:17; “make void,” 1 Corinthians 9:15; “should be vain,” 2 Corinthians 9:3. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, except in the passage before us. The essential idea is that of bringing to emptiness, vanity, or nothingness; and, hence, it is applied to a case where one lays aside his rank and dignity, and becomes in respect to that as nothing; that is, he assumes a more humble rank and station. In regard to its meaning here, we may remark:

Barnes in his points (1) – (3) says concerning Christ’s deity from the text is irrefutable:

(1) That it cannot mean that he literally divested himself of his divine nature and perfections, for that was impossible. He could not cease to be omnipotent, and omnipresent, and most holy, and true, and good.

(2) It is conceivable that he might have laid aside, for a time, the symbols or the manifestation of his glory, or that the outward expressions of his majesty in heaven might have been withdrawn. It is conceivable for a divine being to intermit the exercise of his almighty power, since it cannot be supposed that God is always exerting his power to the utmost. And in like manner there might be for a time a laying aside or intermitting of these manifestations or symbols, which were expressive of the divine glory and perfections. Yet,

(3) This supposes no change in the divine nature, or in the essential glory of the divine perfections. When the sun is obscured by a cloud, or in an eclipse, there is no real change of its glory, nor are his beams extinguished, nor is the sun himself in any measure changed. His luster is only for a time obscured. So it might have been in regard to the manifestation of the glory of the Son of God. Of course there is much in regard to this which is obscure, but the language of the apostle undoubtedly implies more than that he took an humble place, or that he demeaned himself in an humble manner. In regard to the actual change respecting his manifestations in heaven, or the withdrawing of the symbols of his glory there, the Scriptures are nearly silent, and conjecture is useless – perhaps improper. The language before us fairly implies that he laid aside that which was expressive of his being divine – that glory which is involved in the phrase “being in the form of God” – and took upon himself another form and manifestation in the condition of a servant.

In the next paragraph and following two points, Barnes explains the phrase “form of a servant:”  
And took upon him the form of a servant – The phrase “form of a servant,” should be allowed to explain the phrase “form of God,” in Philippians 2:6. The “form of a servant” is that which indicates the condition of a servant, in contradistinction from one of higher rank. It means to appear as a servant, to perform the offices of a servant, and to be regarded as such. He was made like a servant in the lowly condition, which he assumed. The whole connection and force of the argument here demands this interpretation. Storr and Rosenmuller interpret this as meaning that he became the servant or minister of God, and that in doing it, it was necessary that he should become a man. But the objection to this is obvious. It greatly weakens the force of the apostle’s argument. His object is to state the depth of humiliation to which he descended, and this was best done by saying that he descended to the lowest condition of humanity and appeared in the most humble garb. The idea of being a “servant or minister of God” would not express that, for this is a term, which might be applied to the highest angel in heaven. Though the Lord Jesus was not literally a servant or slave, yet what is here affirmed was true of him in the following respects:

(1) He occupied a most lowly condition in life.

(2) He condescended to perform such acts as are appropriate only to those who are servants. “I am among you as he that serveth;” Luke 22:27; compare John 13:4-15.

And was made in the likeness of men – Margin, habit. The Greek word means likeness, resemblance. The meaning is he was made like unto people by assuming such a body as theirs; see the notes at Romans 8:3.” (1)

 Some take issue with Barnes’ commentary and have a different understanding of “emptied himself.” This differing scheme is called the “Kenosis” theory.

 What is the Kenosis theory? Dr. Joseph R. Nally explains:    “Question

What is Kenosis?

Answer

The name “Kenosis” is derived from the Greek word kenoo, which means, “to empty.”  The word kenoo is used in Philippians 2:5-8:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied [ekenosen, the aorist of kenoo] himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The Kenosis theory promotes that Jesus Christ – God – gave up some of his attributes – omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence [see “What are the Attributes of God?” below] – when he became a man upon the earth. As the theory goes, Jesus voluntarily gave up these attributes so he could fully function as a man and finish the work of redemption.

However, if Jesus Christ gave up being omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, then in effect he was no longer God. Can God cease to exist? Can divinity simply be turned on and off like a light switch? God is immutable (Mal 3:6; Jas 1:17), meaning his nature cannot change. However, Kenosis offers us a changing god. The Kenosis theory destroys the Trinity, as if Jesus emptied himself of his divine attributes he could not longer be a divine subsistence in the Trinitarian life. Jesus Christ holds this world together (Col 1:17). If he turned off his divinity, the universe and everything in it would cease to exist.

Jesus Christ did not give up any attributes when he became a man. We see this fact vividly when Jesus states, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt 26:53). Did not Jesus heal the sick, cast our demons, and calm the sea? Weren’t all these displays of his omnipotence?  Jesus in his divine nature knows everything (Matt 16:21; Luke 11:17; John 4:29), is everywhere (Matt 18:20; 28:20; cf. Acts 18:10), and has all power (Matt 8:26-27; 28:18; John 11:38-44; Luke 7:14-15; cf. Rev 1:8), etc. Jesus Christ never ceased being fully God when upon earth! “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9).

What Jesus did was to at times “conceal” (Greek, krypsis) some of his attributes. John Calvin says it rather well:

For we know that in Christ the two natures were united into one person in such a manner that each retained its own properties; and more especially the divine nature was in a state of repose, and did not at all exert itself, whenever it was necessary that the human nature should act separately, according to what was peculiar to itself, in discharging the office of mediator. There would be no impropriety, therefore in saying that Christ, who knew all things (John 21:17), was ignorant of something in respect of his perception as a man; for otherwise he could not have been liable to grief and anxiety, and could not have been like us (Hebrews 2:17).

While Jesus Christ was upon this earth, he continued to share fully in the one essence of God Almighty. While Jesus Christ continued to be fully God, he added to himself everything that is essential to humanity and walked the earth as the God-man (100% God and 100% man) in order to meet the most dire need of his people – their atonement (Rom 3:21-26).

So, in the hypostatic union there is a union of the two distinct natures in Christ: divinity   humanity. Each nature fully retains its own properties; they are not changed, or blended together. So, while we understand that God fully knows all things (Psa. 139; 1 Kings 8:39; 1 John 3:20) when we come to a passage such as Mark 13:32 (Matt 24:36) we can safely say: (1) in his humanity, Christ was limited in his knowledge as God the Father had not yet revealed this specific information to the human mind of his only begotten Son, (2) however, at one and the same time, in his divinity, Jesus Christ certainly knew the day and the hour of the final judgment. If not, then he was not God!

The Kenosis theory is heretical. If Jesus was not fully divine in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension then all are yet in their sins. 

Despite all the heresies in the early church (among them, Adoptionism, Albigenses, Apollinarianism, Arianism, Docetism, Ebionism, Gnosticism, Kenosis, Marcionism, Modalism, Monarchianism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, Patripassionism, Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Socinianism, Subordinationism, and Tritheism, etc.) the Word of God still abides (1 Pet 1:23). Amidst all these assaults against God and his church by numerous false religions, the church has grown stronger, not weaker. In many ways, the church should be thankful for the gift of opposition!

References:

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Harmony of the Gospels, Vol. 3.” (2)

 From Dr. Nally’s article, the reader can see the danger of misinterpreting “emptied himself.” The Kenosis theory, at this point, is seen to be on very shaky ground.    

 From his contemporary Systematic Theology, theologian Wayne Grudem addresses the historical meaning of Philippians 2:7:  “Did Jesus Give Up Some of His Divine Attributes While on Earth? (The Kenosis Theory). Paul writes to the Philippians, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil. 2:5–7)Beginning with this text, several theologians in Germany (from about 1860–1880) and in England (from about 1890–1910) advocated a view of the incarnation that had not been advocated before in the history of the church. This new view was called the “kenosis theory,” and the overall position it represented was called “kenotic theology.”

The kenosis theory holds that Christ gave up some of his divine attributes while he was on earth as a man. (The word κενόσις is taken from the Greek verb κενόω, G3033, which generally means “to empty,” and is translated “emptied himself “in Phil. 2:7.) According to the theory, Christ “emptied himself “of some of his divine attributes, such as omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, while he was on earth as a man. This was viewed as a voluntary self-limitation on Christ’s part, which he carried out in order to fulfill his work of redemption.27

But does Philippians 2:7 teach that Christ emptied himself of some of his divine attributes, and does the rest of the New Testament confirm this? The evidence of Scripture points to a negative answer to both questions. We must first realize that no recognized teacher in the first 1,800 years of church history, including those who were native speakers of Greek, thought that “emptied himself “in Philippians 2:7 meant that the Son of God gave up some of his divine attributes. Second, we must recognize that the text does not say that Christ “emptied himself of some powers” or “emptied himself of divine attributes” or anything like that. Third, the text does describe what Jesus did in this “emptying”: he did not do it by giving up any of his attributes but rather by “taking the form of a servant,” that is, by coming to live as a man, and “being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). Thus, the context itself interprets this “emptying” as equivalent to “humbling himself “and taking on a lowly status and position. Thus, the NIV, instead of translating the phrase, “He emptied himself,” translates it, “but made himself nothing” (Phil. 2:7 NIV). The emptying includes change of role and status, not essential attributes or nature.

A fourth reason for this interpretation is seen in Paul’s purpose in this context. His purpose has been to persuade the Philippians that they should “do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3), and he continues by telling them, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). To persuade them to be humble and to put the interests of others first, he then holds up the example of Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant …” (Phil. 2:5–7).

Now in holding up Christ as an example, he wants the Philippians to imitate Christ. But certainly he is not asking the Philippian Christians to “give up” or “lay aside” any of their essential attributes or abilities! He is not asking them to “give up” their intelligence or strength or skill and become a diminished version of what they were. Rather, he is asking them to put the interests of others first: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). And because that is his goal, it fits the context to understand that he is using Christ as the supreme example of one who did just that: he put the interests of others first and was willing to give up some of the privilege and status that was his as God.

Therefore, the best understanding of this passage is that it talks about Jesus giving up the status and privilege that was his in heaven: he “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (or “clung to for his own advantage”), but “emptied himself “or “humbled himself “for our sake, and came to live as a man. Jesus speaks elsewhere of the “glory” he had with the Father “before the world was made” (John 17:5), a glory that he had given up and was going to receive again when he returned to heaven. And Paul could speak of Christ who, “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor” (2 Cor. 8:9), once again speaking of the privilege and honor that he deserved but temporarily gave up for us.

The fifth and final reason why the “kenosis” view of Philippians 2:7 must be rejected is the larger context of the teaching of the New Testament and the doctrinal teaching of the entire Bible. If it were true that such a momentous event as this happened, that the eternal Son of God ceased for a time to have all the attributes of God—ceased, for a time, to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, for example—then we would expect that such an incredible event would be taught clearly and repeatedly in the New Testament, not found in the very doubtful interpretation of one word in one epistle. But we find the opposite of that: we do not find it stated anywhere else that the Son of God ceased to have some of the attributes of God that he had possessed from eternity. In fact, if the kenosis theory were true (and this is a foundational objection against it), then we could no longer affirm Jesus was fully God while he was here on earth.28 The kenosis theory ultimately denies the full deity of Jesus Christ and makes him something less than fully God. S.M. Smith admits, “All forms of classical orthodoxy either explicitly reject or reject in principle kenotic theology.”29

It is important to realize that the major force persuading people to accept kenotic theory was not that they had discovered a better understanding of Philippians 2:7 or any other passage of the New Testament, but rather the increasing discomfort people were feeling with the formulations of the doctrine of Christ in historic, classical orthodoxy. It just seemed too incredible for modern rational and “scientific” people to believe that Jesus Christ could be truly human and fully, absolutely God at the same time.30 The kenosis theory began to sound more and more like an acceptable way to say that (in some sense) Jesus was God, but a kind of God who had for a time given up some of his Godlike qualities, those that were most difficult for people to accept in the modern world.3” (3)

 Grudem’s entry on the Kenosis theory is in agreement with Dr. Nally. Both Grudem and Nally expose the danger of the Kenosis theory since it meddles with the very nature of God.

 Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof’s article “Contra Kenosis” is valuable:  “The Kenotic Theories. A remarkable attempt was made in the so-called Kenosis doctrine to improve on the theological construction of the doctrine of the Person of Christ. The term Kenosis is derived from Philippians 2:7, which says that Christ “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.” The Greek word here translated “emptied” is ekenosen, the aorist of kenoo. A misinterpretation of this passage became the Scriptural basis for the Kenosis doctrine, along with 2 Cor. 8:9. These passages were interpreted as teaching that Christ at the incarnation emptied or divested Himself of His divinity. But there are serious objections to this interpretation: (1) as Dr. Warfield has shown the rendering “emptied Himself” is contrary to the usual meaning of the term “to make oneself of no account” (Christology and Criticism, p. 375); and (2) the implied object of the action expressed is not Christ’s divinity, but His being on an equality with God in power and glory. The Lord of glory made Himself of no account by becoming a servant. However, the Kenoticists base on this passage and on 2 Cor. 8:9 the doctrine that the Logos literally became, that is, was changed into a man by reducing (depotentiating) Himself, either wholly or in part, to the dimensions of a man, and then increased in wisdom and power until at last He again assumed the divine nature.

This theory evidently resulted from a double motive, namely, the desire (1) to maintain the reality and integrity of the manhood of Christ; and (2) to throw into strong relief the exceeding greatness of Christ’s humiliation in that He, being rich, for our sakes became poor. It assumed several forms. According to Thomasius the divine Logos, while retaining His immanent or moral attributes of absolute power or freedom, holiness, truth and love, divested Himself temporarily of His relative attributes of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, but after the resurrection resumed these attributes. The theory of Gess, which was more absolute and consistent, and also more popular, is to the effect that the Logos at the incarnation literally ceased from His cosmic functions and His eternal consciousness, and reduced Himself absolutely to the conditions and limits of human nature, so that His consciousness became purely that of a human soul. It comes very close to the view of Apollinaris. Ebrard, a Reformed scholar, assumed a double life of the Logos. On the one hand, the Logos reduced Himself to the dimensions of a man and possessed a purely human consciousness, but on the other hand, He also retained and exercised His divine perfections in the trinitarian life without any interruption. The same ego exists at once in the eternal and in the temporal form, is both infinite and finite. And Martensen postulates in the Logos during the time of His humiliation a double life from two non-communicating centers. As the Son of God, living in the bosom of the Father, He continued His trinitarian and cosmic functions, but as the depotentiated Logos He knew nothing of these functions and knew Himself to be God only in the sense in which such knowledge is possible to the faculties of manhood.

This theory, once very popular in one form or another, and still defended by some, has now lost a great deal of its charm. It is subversive of the doctrine of the Trinity, contrary to that of the immutability of God, and at variance with those passages of Scripture, which ascribe divine attributes to the historical Jesus. In the most absolute and most consistent form, it teaches what La Touche calls “incarnation by divine suicide.” (4)

From His Systematic Theology, Berkhof lists additional objections to the Kenosis theory:

“3. OBJECTIONS TO THE KENOSIS DOCTRINE

a. The theory is based on the pantheistic conception that God and man are not so absolutely different but that the one can be transformed into the other. The Hegelian idea of becoming is applied to God, and the absolute line of demarcation is obliterated.

b. It is altogether subversive of the doctrine of the immutability of God, which is plainly taught in Scripture, Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17, and which is also implied in the very idea of God. Absoluteness and mutability are mutually exclusive; and a mutable God is certainly not the God of Scripture.

c. It means a virtual destruction of the Trinity, and therefore takes away our very God. The humanized Son, self-emptied of His divine attributes, could no longer be a divine subsistence in the trinitarian life.

d. It assumes too loose a relation between the divine mode of existence, the divine attributes, and the divine essence, when it speaks of the former as if they might very well be separated from the latter. This is altogether misleading, and involves the very error that is condemned in connection with the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

e. It does not solve the problem, which it was intended to solve. It desired to secure the unity of the person and the reality of the Lord’s manhood. But, surely, the personal unity is not secured by assuming a human Logos as coexistent with a human soul. Nor is the reality of the manhood maintained by substituting for the human soul a depotentiated Logos. The Christ of the Kenotics is neither God nor man. In the words of Dr. Warfield His, human nature is “just shrunken deity.”

The Kenotic theory enjoyed great popularity in Germany for a while, but has now practically died out there. When it began to disappear in Germany, it found supporters in England in such scholars as D. W. Forrest, W. L. Walker, P. T. Forsyth, Ch. Gore, R. L. Ottley, and H. R. Mackintosh. It finds very little support at the present time.” (5)

 In closing:

 The Kenosis theory is dangerous for the following two reasons. 1. It would mean that Jesus was not God during the time of His Kenosis. 2. If Jesus were not fully God, then His atoning work would not be sufficient to expiate sins.

 As to what emptying means, Barns’ in his quotation above makes clear:  “The essential idea is that of bringing to emptiness, vanity, or nothingness; and, hence, it is applied to a case where one lays aside his rank and dignity, and becomes in respect to that as nothing; that is, he assumes a more humble rank and station.” (6)

 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

 “To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

 Notes:

 1.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Philippians, Vol. 2 p. 3543-3545.

2.      Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). Article id – 46668

3.      Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan Publishing, 1994), p. 549-552.

4.      Louis Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines, (Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949), p. 124–26.

5.      Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing Co., 1938), p. 328–29.

6.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Philippians, Vol. 2 p. 3543. Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith. His books can be ordered at www. JackKettler .com. Connected hyper link cannot be provided do to advertising issues.  

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