What is Purgatory? Does the Bible teach it?

What is Purgatory? Does the Bible teach it?

Purgatory is a belief that there is a place after death where the sins of Christians are further cleansed through suffering. Seemingly, purgatory is a halfway house where a person stays, suffers, and eventually makes it to heaven. Does the Bible teach this?

Roman Catholic doctrinal explanation of purgatory:

“Purgatory (Latin, ‘purgare,’ to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” (1)


1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. 604 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: 605

  As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. 606

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” 607 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. 608 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

    Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them. 609” (2)

From the promotional wizard and fundraiser for the Roman Pope Leo X:

“When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” – Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar

Modern Roman Catholics try to downplay this quote; by saying it is not accurate. Even granting this, the alleged quote captures Tetzel’s warped theological fundraising strategy.

Scriptures against the doctrine of purgatory:

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”  (Matthew 25:46 KJV)

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30 ESV)

“For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.” (Romans 6:10 ESV) (Underline emphasis mine)

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2:21 ESV)

“Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2Corinthians 5:6-8 ESV)

“He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:11, 27 ESV)

“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12, 14 KJV)

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” (1Peter 3:18 KJV)

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:7, 9 ESV)

As the above Scriptures make clear, Christ’s death is sufficient and complete, being a one-time event. If Christ died for your sins, there are no sins to be paid for in purgatory. Either Christ died for your sins, or He did not. The Roman Church is still in error on the doctrine of justification, which is the heart of this issue. The Christian is justified, or he is not.

As a necessary aside, justification from the Dictionary of Theological Terms:

“The establishment of a sinner in a righteous standing before God. The verb dikaioo means, “to declare or demonstrate to be righteous” (Matthew 11:19; 12:37; Luke 7:29; 10:29). The cognate nouns are dikaiosune (Romans 1:17), dikaiosis (Romans 4:25), and dikaioma (Romans 1:32; 5:16, 18). Dikaiosune is always translated “righteousness” and denotes a perfect rectitude according to the standard of God’s character revealed in His law. The phrase “the righteousness of God” may denote the divine attribute of righteousness, or in the great soteriological teaching of Romans, the righteousness God has provided to give His people a title to eternal life (Rom. 3:22; 5:17, “the gift of righteousness”).

Dikaiosis is the action of declaring righteous, and dikaioma signifies the verdict, the judgment handed down by God. Lenski states the relationship between these two terms: dikaiosis is “a declaring righteous (action)”; dikaioma is “a declaring righteous and thereby placing in a permanent relationship or state even as the declaration stands permanently (result).” The language of Scripture, therefore, points to justification as God’s action in declaring His people righteous and placing them in a state of legal perfection before His law on the basis of the righteousness He provided freely for them in Christ.

There is no more scriptural or succinct theological definition of justification than that given by the Shorter Catechism: “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” (See the Westminster shorter catechism Q. 33; see the Westminster Confession of Faith, chap. 11).

The Two Elements in Justification:

The two elements in justification are pardon and imputed righteousness. That is, the total obedience of Christ, both passive and active, avails for the believer. The vicarious atonement of Christ pays the debt of the believer’s sin, satisfies divine justice on his behalf, and renders it possible for God to be just and yet to justify him (Romans 3:26). The imputed righteousness of Christ gives the believer “the adoption of children” (Galatians 4:5) and the title to eternal life.” (3)

Properly understood, God’s justification of the believer on behalf of Christ’s account covers all sin. Therefore, this is no sin remaining to be paid for in purgatory.

The favorite Roman proof text for purgatory:

“If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1Corinthians 3:15 KJV)

This passage fails to prove purgatory exists. This verse informs us that a man’s works are that which are adjudicated in this passage, not a man’s soul. The fire will burn up impious works. Fire in this passage is metaphorical. The Roman Church is reading something into the passage that is not there.

What can be understood from the Corinthian passage?

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on 1Corinthians 3:15:

“(15) So as.—These words remind us that the whole passage, and especially the reference to fire, is to be regarded as metaphorical, and not to be understood in a literal and physical sense. Forgetting this, Roman divines have evolved from these words the doctrine of purgatory.” (4)

Matthew Poole’s Commentary support’s Ellicott’s interpretation:

“But if his work do not abide, if it shall appear upon the more clear and bright shining out of the truth of the gospel, that though he hath held the foundation right, yet he hath built upon it wood, hay, and stubble, mixed fables, and idle stories, and corrupt doctrine with the doctrine of the gospel,

he shall suffer loss by it, either by the afflicting hand of God, or by a loss of his reputation, or some other way. But yet God will not cast off a soul for every such error, if he keeps to the main foundation, Jesus Christ; he shall be saved, though it be as by fire, that is, with difficulty; which certainly is a more natural sense of this text, than those give, who interpret as by fire, of the fire of the gospel, or the fire of purgatory, of which the papists understand it. For:

1. It is, and always hath been, a proverbial form of speech to express a thing obtained by difficulty; we say, It is got out of the fire, &c.

2. For the fire of purgatory, it is a fiction, and mere imaginary thing, and of no further significancy than to make the pope’s chimney smoke.

3. That pretended fire only purgeth venial sins; this fire trieth every man’s work, the gold as well as the stubble.” (5)

John Calvin’s comments on purgatory are a textbook analysis of the pernicious error of this teaching:

“We should exclaim with all our might, that purgatory is a pernicious fiction of Satan, that it makes void the cross of Christ, that it intolerably insults the Divine Mercy, and weakens and overturns our faith. For what is their purgatory, but a satisfaction for sins paid after death by the souls of the deceased? Thus the notion of satisfaction being overthrown, purgatory itself is immediately subverted from its very foundation.

It has been fully proved that the blood of Christ is the only satisfaction, expiation, and purgation for the sins of the faithful. What, then, is the necessary conclusion but that purgation is nothing but a horrible blasphemy against Christ? I pass by the sacrilegious pretences with which it is daily defended, the offences, which it produces in religion, and the other innumerable evils, which we see to have come from such a source of impiety.” (6)

In closing:

As the readers learned at the beginning of this primer:

“Purgatory (Latin, ‘purgare,’ to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.”

It seems that this teaching of purgatory depends upon a whole series of unbiblical assumptions, all of which undermine the work of Christ. According to the idea of purgatory, Christ’s death does not fully cover certain sins. The doctrine of purgatory is an error that does not recognize the completed work of Christ on the cross.

As the above-quoted noted, the chief error of purgatory is “for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.”   

Additional closing questions:

The error of purgatory teaches that sin can be removed through further personal suffering. The proponents of purgatory must explain how human suffering can pay for sin. The idea of venial sins does not help in answering this question. Are venial sins, sins, or not? If they are sins, did Christ die for them or not? If not, where does the Bible teach this that Christ did not die for all of a true Christian’s sins? Can a Mass (which requires a stipend) said for a deceased relative shorten their time in purgatory?

When considering another Roman doctrine that involves the dead, i.e., praying for the dead, why pray for the dead if there is no value as the Roman Church maintains? Likewise, why conduct a Mass for the dead if not seeking grace for the deceased? There is nothing wrong with seeking grace. However, if seeking grace is motivated by an inferior view of Christ’s substitutionary death, it is wrong. Thankfully, the Roman Church today has ceased from the crass practice of Johann Tetzel; nevertheless, prayers and masses for the deceased still underscore the weakness in Roman theology regarding the sufficiency of Christ’s death for His people. Christian saints are in heaven with Christ, and they need nothing from the saints on earth, i.e., prayers and masses. Purgatory is manufactured with no support in the Word of God. 

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


1.      Hanna, E, Purgatory, In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, (1911), Retrieved August 31, 2019 from New Advent: http://  http://www.  newadvent.org/cathen/12575a.htm

2.      Catechism of the Catholic Church, (St. Paul, Minnesota, The Wandere Press, 1994), pp. 268-69).

3.      Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, Justification, (Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International), pp. 201-204.

4.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, John, Vol. 7, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 296.

5.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Matthew, vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 548.

6.      Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics, XX-XXI, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960) Book III, Chapter V, p. 676.

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, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: THERELIGIONTHATSTARTEDINAHAT.COM

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Does firstborn in Colossians 1:15 mean Jesus was created? Part Two

Does firstborn in Colossians 1:15 mean Jesus was created? Part Two                          By Jack Kettler

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:5 ESV)

Religious groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in particular, have claimed that Paul’s portrayal of Christ as the firstborn of creation means that Jesus is a created being. In this brief study, the goal will be to gain an understanding of the biblical word “firstborn.” It will be necessary to delve into the previously named religious group that has an agenda. 

For example, in the Jehovah Witness online study Bible, one finds:

“15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;  16 because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All other things have been created through him and for him. 17 Also, he is before all other things, and by means of him all other things were made to exist, 18 and he is the head of the body, the congregation.” (Colossians 1:15-18 NWT) (Highlighting bold and yellow emphases mine)

In the printed version of the New World Translation* on the Colossians text from the 1961 reprint, the word “other” is in brackets, indicating that the word other has been inserted. Not so, as seen from the online study version, in which there are no brackets. The online version inserting the word is deceptive since the word “other” is not in the Greek text.

The insertion of “other” is a trick to get the reader to think of Christ as a thing, a created thing. Similar to this is the Witnesses’ gross mistranslation of John 1:1-3, where they insert the word “a” in John 1:1 to make it read “a god.” Then in John 1:3, when it says, “All things were made by him…” you have been tricked into thinking the Christ is not God, but “a god” or a thing. Once an error like this has been accepted, the next falsehood of Christ being the first created or firstborn; two purportedly synonymous words seemingly makes sense.    

* The whole purpose of the New World Translation is an attempt to disprove the deity of Christ. Therefore, it is not a translation at all but a perversion of Scripture.

The Greek language and firstborn meaning first created does not hold up:

The Greek word for “first created” is πρωτόπλαστος (protóplastos). This word is different from “firstborn,” which is, πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos).  

Using the HELPS Word-studies with Strong’s numbers:

4416 prōtótokos (from 4413 /prṓtos, “first, pre-eminent” and 5088 /tíktō, “bring forth”) – properly, first in time (Mt 1:25; Lk 2:7); hence, pre-eminent (Col 1:15; Rev 1:5).

4416 /prōtótokos (“firstly”) specifically refers to Christ as the first to experience glorification, i.e., at His resurrection (see Heb 12:23; Rev 1:5). For this (and countless other reasons), Jesus is “preeminent” (4416 /prōtótokos) – the unequivocal Sovereign over all creation (Col 1:16).

A fine entry from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Colossians 1:15 does an excellent job explaining the apostle’s use of “firstborn:”

“(15) The image of the invisible God.—This all important clause needs the most careful examination. We note accordingly (1) that the word “image” (like the word “form,” Philippians 2:6-7) is used in the New Testament for real and essential embodiment, as distinguished from mere likeness. Thus in Hebrews 10:1 we read, “The law, having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things;” we note also in Romans 1:23 the distinction between the mere outward “likeness” and the “image” which it represented; we find in 1Corinthians 15:49 that the “image of the earthy” and “the image of the heavenly” Adam denote actual identity of nature with both; and in 2Corinthians 3:18 the actual work of the Spirit in the heart is described as “changing us from glory to glory” into “the image” of the glorified Christ. (2) Next we observe that although, speaking popularly, St. Paul in 1Corinthians 11:7 calls man “the image and glory of God,” yet the allusion is to Genesis 1:26; Genesis 1:28, where man is said, with stricter accuracy, to be made “after the image of God” (as in Ephesians 4:24, “created after God”), and this more accurate expression is used in Colossians 3:10 of this Epistle, “renewed after the image of Him that created him.” Who then, or what, is the “image of God,” after which man is created? St. Paul here emphatically (as in 2Corinthians 4:4 parenthetically) answers “Christ,” as the Son of God, “first-born before all creation.” The same truth is conveyed in a different form, clearer (if possible) even than this, in Hebrews 1:3, where “the Son” is said to be not only “the brightness of the glory of the Father,” but “the express image of His Person.” For the word “express image” is character in the original, used here (as when we speak of the alphabetical “characters”) to signify the visible drawn image, and the word “Person” is substance or essence. (3) It is not to be forgotten that at this time in the Platonising Judaism of Philo, “the Word” was called the eternal “image of God.” (See passages quoted in Dr. Light-foot’s note on this passage.) This expression was not peculiar to him; it was but a working out of that personification of the “wisdom of God,” of which we have a magnificent example in Proverbs 8:22-30, and of which we trace the effect in the Alexandrine Book of “Wisdom” (Wisdom Of Solomon 7:25-26). “Wisdom is the breath of the power of God, and a pure stream from the glory of the Most High—the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of His goodness.” It seems to have represented in the Jewish schools the idea complementary to the ordinary idea of the Messiah in the Jewish world. Just as St. John took up the vague idea of “the Word,” and gave it a clear divine personality in Christ, so St. Paul seems to act here in relation to the other phrase, used as a description of the Word. In Christ, he fixes in solid reality the floating vision of the “image of God.” (4) There is an emphasis on the words “of the invisible God.” Now, since the whole context shows that the reference is to the eternal pre-existence of Christ, ancient interpreters (of whom Chrysostom may be taken as the type) argued that the image of the invisible must be also invisible. But this seems opposed to the whole idea of the word “image,” and to its use in the New Testament and elsewhere. The true key to this passage is in our Lord’s own words in John 1:8, “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son” (here is the remarkable reading, “the only begotten God”), “who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath revealed Him.” In anticipation of the future revelation of Godhead, Christ, even as pre-existent, is called “The image of the invisible God.”

The firstborn of every creature (of all creation).—(1) as to the sense of this clause. The grammatical construction here will bear either the rendering of our version, or the rendering “begotten before all creation,” whence comes the “begotten before all worlds “of the Nicene Creed. But the whole context shows that the latter is unquestionably the true rendering. For, as has been remarked from ancient times, He is said to be “begotten” and not “created;” next, he is emphatically spoken of below as He “by whom all things were created,” who is “before all things,” and in whom all things consist.” (2) As to the order of idea. In Himself He is “the image of God” from all eternity. From this essential conception, by a natural contrast, the thought immediately passes on to distinction from, and priority to, all created being. Exactly in this same order of idea, we have in Hebrews 1:2-3, “By whom also He made the worlds . . . upholding all things by the word of His power;” and in John 1:3, “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made which was made. Here St. Paul indicates this idea in the words “firstborn before all creation,” and works it out in the verses following. (3) As to the name “firstborn” itself. It is used of the Messiah as an almost technical name (derived from Psalm 2:7; Psalm 89:28), as is shown in Hebrews 1:6, “when He bringeth the first begotten into the world.” In tracing the Messianic line of promise we notice that; while the Messiah is always true man, “the seed of Abraham,” “the son of David,” yet on him are accumulated attributes too high for any created being (as in Isaiah 9:6). He is declared to be an “Emmanuel” God with us; and His kingdom a visible manifestation of God. Hence the idea contained in the word “firstborn” is not only sovereignty “above all the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:28; comp. Daniel 8:13-14), but also likeness to God and priority to all created being. (4) As to the union of the two clauses. In the first we have the declaration of His eternal unity with God—all that was completely embodied in the declaration of the “Word who is God,” up to which all the higher Jewish speculations had led; in the second we trace the distinctness of His Person, as the “begotten of the Father,” the true Messiah of Jewish hopes, and the subordination of the co-eternal Son to the Father. The union of the two marks the assertion of Christian mystery, as against rationalising systems, of the type of Arianism on one side, of Sabellianism on the other.” (1)

Another entry is from Vincent’s Word Studies that is also helpful in understanding the use of “firstborn:”

“The image (εἰκών)

See on Revelation 13:14. For the Logos (Word) underlying the passage, see on John 1:1. Image is more than likeness, which may be superficial and incidental. It implies a prototype, and embodies the essential verity of its prototype. Compare in the form of God, Philippians 2:6 (note), and the effulgence of the Father’s glory, Hebrews 1:3. Also 1 John 1:1.

Of the invisible God (τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου)

Lit., of the God, the invisible. Thus is brought out the idea of manifestation, which lies in image. See on Revelation 13:14.

The first born of every creature (πρωτότοκος πασῆς κτίσεως)

Rev., the first-born of all creation. For first-born, see on Revelation 1:5; for creation, see on 2 Corinthians 5:17. As image points to revelation, so first-born points to eternal preexistence. Even the Rev. is a little ambiguous, for we must carefully avoid any suggestion that Christ was the first of created things, which is contradicted by the following words: in Him were all things created. The true sense is, born before the creation. Compare before all things, Colossians 1:17. This fact of priority implies sovereignty. He is exalted above all thrones, etc., and all things are unto (εἰς) Him, as they are elsewhere declared to be unto God. Compare Psalm 89:27; Hebrews 1:2.” (2)

As seen from the lexical and commentary entries, “first created,” and “firstborn” have two different meanings entirely. The Jehovah’s Witnesses mistranslation and perversion of the Colossians and John passages are damnable heresies.   

Additional Scriptures on Christ” preeminence:

“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11 NASB)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:1-3 NASB)

“He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.” (John 3:31 NASB)

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36 NASB)

“For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” (Romans 14:9 NASB  )

“He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” (Colossians 1:18 NASB)

“For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house.” (Hebrews 3:3 NASB)

In closing:

As seen, the word “firstborn” speaks of Christ’s preeminence, and not anything to do with creation.

Preeminence is the quality of being superior. It is a status or distinction from anything considered the finest like a king. Christ is above all.

One final passage, the Psalmist, while immediately speaking of David, looks forward prophetically to Christ and His divine preeminence.

“Also I will make him [or appoint him אֶתְּנֵ֑הוּ] my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.” (Psalm 89:27)

For those who want to make an issue with the word “make” and suggest that it means to create, this can be said:

“You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:24 ESV)

“Disregard them! They are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14 BSB)

Strong’s Lexicon:

“appoint him as

אֶתְּנֵ֑הוּ (’et·tə·nê·hū)

Verb – Qal – Imperfect – first person common singular | third person masculine singular

Strong’s Hebrew 5414: 1) to give, put, set 1a) (Qal) 1a1) to give, bestow, grant, permit, ascribe, employ, devote, consecrate, dedicate, pay wages, sell, exchange, lend, commit, entrust, give over, deliver up, yield produce, occasion, produce, requite to, report, mention, utter, stretch out, extend 1a2) to put, set, put on, put upon, set, appoint, assign, designate 1a3) to make, constitute 1b) (Niphal) 1b1) to be given, be bestowed, be provided, be entrusted to, be granted to, be permitted, be issued, be published, be uttered, be assigned 1b2) to be set, be put, be made, be inflicted 1c) (Hophal) 1c1) to be given, be bestowed, be given up, be delivered up 1c2) to be put upon.”

“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)


1.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Colossians, Vol. 20, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 8-9.

2.      Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies In The New Testament, (Mclean, Virginia, Macdonald Publishing Company), p. 468.

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, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

·  The Preeminence of Christ in Preaching, Part 1 – Colossians 1:28-29

Audio/MP3 by Steven J Lawson

·  The Preeminence of Christ in Preaching, Part 2 – Colossians 1:28-29

Audio/MP3 by Steven J Lawson

·  The Preeminence of Christ in Preaching, Part 3 – Colossians 1:28-29

Audio/MP3 by Steven J Lawson

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What does the firstborn of creation mean in Colossians 1:15? Part One

What does the firstborn of creation mean in Colossians 1:15?                        By Jack Kettler

Does firstborn mean that Jesus created? Proponents of the ancient Arian heresy make claims that firstborn means first created. Nothing could be further from the truth. This study should be considered an entry-level research primer. The reader will be introduced to traditionally orthodox commentary entries on the subject at hand.

We read:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn (πρωτότοκος) of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15 ESV)

First, according to the Englishman’s Concordance, we have three occurrences of πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos) the Greek word for firstborn:

πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos) — 3 Occurrences

Colossians 1:15 Adj-NMS

GRK: τοῦ ἀοράτου πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως

NAS: God, the firstborn of all

KJV: God, the firstborn of every

INT: invisible [the] firstborn of all creation

Colossians 1:18 Adj-NMS

GRK: ἡ ἀρχή πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν

NAS: and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,

KJV: the beginning, the firstborn from

INT: the beginning firstborn from among the

Revelation 1:5 Adj-NMS

GRK: πιστός ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν

NAS: witness, the firstborn of the dead,

KJV: witness, [and] the first begotten of

INT: faithful the firstborn of the dead (1)

There is nothing in the occurrences of the Greek word prōtotokos that demand an understanding of first created. First created is an idea that certain people with an agenda try to smuggle into the text. If first created were intended, why was not the Greek word protoktistos used? Protoktistos, means first created. Significantly, it is never used for Christ in the New Testament. Protoktistos does not even appear in the New Testament.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers enlightens us regarding the Colossians passage and the term firstborn:

“The firstborn of every creature (of all creation).—(1) As to the sense of this clause. The grammatical construction here will bear either the rendering of our version, or the rendering “begotten before all creation,” whence comes the “begotten before all worlds “of the Nicene Creed. But the whole context shows that the latter is unquestionably the true rendering. For, as has been remarked from ancient times, He is said to be “begotten” and not “created;” next, he is emphatically spoken of below as He “by whom all things were created,” who is “before all things,” and in whom all things consist.” (2) As to the order of idea. In Himself He is “the image of God” from all eternity. From this essential conception, by a natural contrast, the thought immediately passes on to distinction from, and priority to, all created being. Exactly in this same order of idea, we have in Hebrews 1:2-3, “By whom also He made the worlds . . . upholding all things by the word of His power;” and in John 1:3, “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made which was made. Here St. Paul indicates this idea in the words “firstborn before all creation,” and works it out in the verses following. (3) As to the name “firstborn” itself. It is used of the Messiah as an almost technical name (derived from Psalm 2:7; Psalm 89:28), as is shown in Hebrews 1:6, “when He bringeth the first begotten into the world.” In tracing the Messianic line of promise we notice that; while the Messiah is always true man, “the seed of Abraham,” “the son of David,” yet on him are accumulated attributes too high for any created being (as in Isaiah 9:6). He is declared to be an “Emmanuel” God with us; and His kingdom a visible manifestation of God. Hence the idea contained in the word “firstborn” is not only sovereignty “above all the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:28; comp. Daniel 8:13-14), but also likeness to God and priority to all created being. (4) As to the union of the two clauses. In the first we have the declaration of His eternal unity with God—all that was completely embodied in the declaration of the “Word who is God,” up to which all the higher Jewish speculations had led; in the second we trace the distinctness of His Person, as the “begotten of the Father,” the true Messiah of Jewish hopes, and the subordination of the co-eternal Son to the Father. The union of the two marks the assertion of Christian mystery, as against rationalising systems, of the type of Arianism on one side, of Sabellianism on the other.” (2)

Digging deeper with Vincent’s Word Studies on Colossians 1:15 further enlightens:

“The image (εἰκών)

See on Revelation 13:14. For the Logos (Word) underlying the passage, see on John 1:1. Image is more than likeness, which may be superficial and incidental. It implies a prototype, and embodies the essential verity of its prototype. Compare in the form of God, Philippians 2:6 (note), and the effulgence of the Father’s glory, Hebrews 1:3. Also 1 John 1:1.

Of the invisible God (τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου)

Lit., of the God, the invisible. Thus is brought out the idea of manifestation, which lies in image. See on Revelation 13:14.

The first born of every creature (πρωτότοκος πασῆς κτίσεως)

Rev., the first-born of all creation. For first-born, see on Revelation 1:5; for creation, see on 2Corinthians 5:17. As image points to revelation, so first-born points to eternal preexistence. Even the Rev. is a little ambiguous, for we must carefully avoid any suggestion that Christ was the first of created things, which is contradicted by the following words: in Him were all things created. The true sense is, born before the creation. Compare before all things, Colossians 1:17. This fact of priority implies sovereignty. He is exalted above all thrones, etc., and all things are unto (εἰς) Him, as they are elsewhere declared to be unto God. Compare Psalm 89:27; Hebrews 1:2.” (3)

Cross References to Colossians 1:15 from the Old Testament:

“And I will make him the firstborn, (bekor) the highest of the kings of the earth.” (Psalm 89:27 ESV)

Strong’s Concordance on the Hebrew:

bekor: first-born

Original Word: בְּכוֹר

Part of Speech: Noun Masculine

Transliteration: bekor

Phonetic Spelling: (bek-ore’)

Definition: first-born

As the reader can see from the Strong’s entry on the Hebrew word “bekor” there is nothing that demands an understanding of first created.

As Matthew Poole’s Commentary demonstrates, first born in Psalm 89:27 is a reference to Christ:

“As he calls me Father, Psalm 89:26, so I will make him my son, yea, my first-born, who had divers privileges above other sons. This and the following passage in some sort agree to David, who may well be called God’s

First-born, as all the people of Israel are, Exodus 4:22; and so is Ephraim, Jeremiah 31:9. Nor can I see fit wholly to exclude David here, of whom all the foregoing and following verses may, and some of them must be, understood. But this is more fully and properly accomplished in Christ, and seems to be ascribed to David here as a type of Christ, and that our minds might be led through David to him whom David represented, even to the Messias, to whom alone this doth strictly and literally belong.

Higher than the kings of the earth: this also was in some sort accomplished in David, partly because he had a greater power and dominion than any of the neighbouring kings, yea, than any other kings of his age, and in those parts of the world, except the Assyrian monarch; nor is the expression here universal, but indefinite, and if it had been said higher than all the kings, yet even such universal expressions admit of some limitation or exception, as is manifest and confessed: and partly because David had many privileges, wherein he did excel all other kings of the earth of his age without exception; which probably he did in the honour and renown which he got by his military achievements, and by that wisdom and justice wherewith he managed all his dominions; but certainly he did in this, that he was a king chosen and advanced by the immediate order and appointment of God himself, that he was set over God’s own peculiar and beloved people, that he was intrusted with the care and patronage of the true religion and the worship of God in the world, and especially that he was not only an eminent type, but also the progenitor of the Messias, who is King of kings and Lord of lords, and God blessed for ever.” (4)

Cross References to Colossians 1:15 from the New Testament:

Colossians 1:15 is crossed referenced to John 1:1 in many cross-referencing systems.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 ESV)

This cross-reference is because, the firstborn of all creation is the Word, and He also God!

“And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” (Revelation1:5 ESV)

Does firstborn in Revelation mean anything different from other usages of the word in other texts? The Pulpit Commentary’s entry will be helpful.

From the Pulpit Commentary on Revelation 1:5:
“Verse 5. – The faithful Witness. This was his function – “to bear witness unto the truth” (John 18:37). The rainbow is called “the faithful witness” (Psalm 89:37). The Firstborn of the dead. Christ was the first who was born to eternal life after the death which ends this life (see Lightfoot on Colossians 1:15, 18; and comp. Psalm 89:27). “The ruler of this world” offered Jesus the glory of the kingdoms of the world, if he would worship him. He won a higher glory by dying to conquer him, and thus the crucified Peasant became the Lord of Roman emperors, “the Ruler of the kings of the earth.” The grammar of this verse is irregular; “the faithful Witness,” etc., in the nominative being in apposition with “Jesus Christ” in the genitive (comp. Revelation 2:20; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 9:14; Revelation 14:12). Unto him that loved us. The true reading gives “that loveth us” unceasingly. The supreme act of dying for us did not exhaust his love. In what follows it is difficult to decide between “washed” (λούσαντι) and “loosed” (λύσαντι), both readings being very well supported; but we should certainly omit “own” before “blood.” The blood of Jesus Christ cleansing us from all sin is a frequent thought with the apostle who witnessed the piercing of the side (Revelation 7:13, 14; 1John 1:7; 1John 5:6-8).” (5)

 In closing:

 Firstborn is a unique biblical word. Modern readers, at times, are confused or at a loss on how to understand the word, especially if they have encountered an unscrupulous Arian heretic. The above commentary evidence is historically and biblically sound in the information presented on the Greek word firstborn. For those interested in in-depth debates on the subject of firstborn versus first created, see the “for more study” sections at the end of this primer.  

 Consider the Colossians text in context with the adjoining verses:

 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:15-18 ESV)

 Christ is the image of God, i.e., God Himself; everything was created by Him and through him. In Him, all things hold together. Moreover, in everything He is preeminent. The context provides no support for the heretical notion that firstborn means first created.      

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

See part two next week.


 1.      Wigram-Green, Englishman’s Concordance, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson publishers, 1982), p. 766.

2.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Colossians, Vol. 8, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 100.

3.      Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies In The New Testament, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARY, e • Albany, Oregon), p. 508-509.

4.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Psalm, vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 141-142.

5.      H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Revelation, Vol.22., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 3.

 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, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

 For More Study:

 Sources for answering Arian heretics:

 Arianism and its influence today https://carm.org/arianism-and-its-influence-today

 Modern Day Arians: Who are they? https://www.watchman.org/articles/other-religious-topics/modern-day-arians-who-are-they/

 Heresy and Those Who Fought It https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/heresy-and-those-who-fought-it/

 Is Arianism is Consistent with Scripture? https://www.aomin.org/aoblog/2010/01/04/arianism-is-consistent-with-scripture/

 Trinitarian Heresies Trinitarian Heresies | Monergism

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


“Presuppositionalism is a school of Christian apologetics that believes the Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. It presupposes that the Bible is divine revelation and attempts to expose flaws in other worldviews.” – Wikipedia

Presuppositional apologetic quotes

“Once the biblical defense has been given it is necessary to expose the fact that the non-Christian rejects the Christian evidence because of his commitment to independence. Every thought contrary to Christianity which the unbeliever has results from his desire to set himself up as the independent judge of truth. We live in a day when many non-Christians think they are neutral and objective. So, their basic commitment must be exposed. This can be done by a series of questions. If the Christian wishes to show the non-Christian that he has committed himself to independence he may simply assert that it is the case and then ask, “Why do you believe that?” or “How do you know that?” again and again until the point becomes obvious. The unbeliever thinks and believes as he does because he has determined it to be correct independently. For instance, the unbeliever may argue that the Christian God does not exist. When asked “Why?” he may say, ‘You have shown me no convincing evidence.” When asked why he thinks the evidence is unconvincing, he will have to admit that the evidence does not meet with his independent criterion of truth. When asked why he accepts his criterion of truth he can be shown that it is the result of his own independent decision to look at things without submission to the Bible and to God.

By exposing the commitment of the unbeliever, the Christian reveals the truth that all men have either chosen for Christ or against Him. The line of division is clearly drawn and the door is opened for demonstrating the hopelessness of the non-Christian way of thinking.” – Richard L. Pratt Jr. from “Every Thought Captive”

“All the scheming, craftiness, and efforts of unbelievers turn against themselves as the judgment of God is revealed to them. This inherent futility is shown to the non-Christian by the believer as he points to the internal inconsistencies within the unbelieving system of thought. In this capacity the apologist becomes a messenger of judgment revealing to his opponent the hopelessness and futility of his rejection of Christ.” – Richard L. Pratt Jr. from “Every Thought Captive”

“Only the Christian worldview provides the necessary preconditions for the intelligibility of human experience. That is, only the Christian view of God, creation, providence, revelation, and human nature can make sense of the world in which we live. So, for example, only the Christian worldview can make sense out of morality since it alone provides the necessary presuppositions for making ethical evaluations, namely, an absolute and personal Law Giver who reveals His moral will to mankind. It does not make sense, however, for the atheist/materialist to denounce any action as wrong since, according to his worldview, all that exists is matter in motion. And matter in motion is inherently non-moral. That is, since the world according to the materialist is totally explicable in terms of physical processes, and since physical processes are categorically non-moral, moral considerations have no place in his worldview. Thus for the materialist to say that stealing is morally wrong makes as much sense as saying that the secretion of insulin from the pancreas is morally wrong. [This is not to say, however, that atheists never act morally. Atheists feed their children, give money to charity and often make good neighbors. But atheists cannot give a justification for their actions. In the words of Cornelius Van Til, they are living on “borrowed capital” from the Christian worldview. Thus, they profess one thing, but their actions belie this profession].” – Michael Butler

In defending the Christian faith, the most important question before us is “What sort of defense will best glorify our God (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31)?” God forbid that in seeking to defend the faith before others we should in that very act compromise it. The so-called “presuppositional” school of apologetics is concerned above all with answering this question. Among all the sources of divine revelation (including nature, history, human beings in God’s image), Scripture plays a central role. Indeed, though the point cannot be argued in detail here, my view is that Scripture is the supremely authoritative, inerrant Word of God, the divinely authored, written constitution of the church of Jesus Christ. Scripture is therefore the foundational authority for all of human life including apologetics. As the ultimate authority, the very Word of God, it provides the foundational justifications for all our reasoning, without itself being subject to prior justification. – John Frame

“When you say there’s too much evil in this world you assume there’s good. When you assume there’s good, you assume there’s such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that’s Who you’re trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there’s no moral Law Giver, there’s no moral law. If there’s no moral law, there’s no good. If there’s no good, there’s no evil. What is your question?” – Ravi Zacharias

“If there is no God, then all that exists is time and chance acting on matter. If this is true then the difference between your thoughts and mine correspond to the difference between shaking up a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. You simply fizz atheistically and I fizz theistically. This means that you do not hold to atheism because it is true, but rather because of a series of chemical reactions… Morality, tragedy, and sorrow are equally evanescent. They are all empty sensations created by the chemical reactions of the brain, in turn created by too much pizza the night before. If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality. If no God, mankind is a set of bi-pedal carbon units of mostly water. And nothing else.” – Douglas Wilson

“God built into the creation a variety of cultural spheres, such as the family, economics, politics, art, and intellectual inquiry. Each of these spheres has its own proper “business” and needs its own unique pattern of authority. When we confuse spheres, by violating the proper boundaries of church and state, for instance, or reducing the academic life to a business enterprise, we transgress the patterns that God has set.” – Abraham Kuyper

“God is thus the principle of definition, of law, and of all things. He is the premise of all thinking, and the necessary presupposition for every sphere of thought. It is blasphemy therefore to attempt to “prove” God; God is the necessary presupposition of all proof. To ground any sphere of thought, life, or action, or any sphere of being, on anything other than the triune God is thus blasphemy. Education without God as its premise, law which does not presuppose God and rest on His law, a civil order which does not derive all authority from God, or a family whose foundation is not God’s word, is blasphemous.” – R. J. Rushdoony

“If one does not make human knowledge wholly dependent upon the original self-knowledge and consequent revelation of God to man, then man will have to seek knowledge within himself as the final reference point. Then he will have to seek an exhaustive understanding of reality. He will have to hold that if he cannot attain to such an exhaustive understanding of reality he has no true knowledge of anything at all. Either man must then know everything or he knows nothing. This is the dilemma that confronts every form of non-Christian epistemology.” – Cornelius Van Til

The transcendental proof for God’s existence stated:

“1. God is a necessary precondition for logic and morality (because these are immaterial, yet real universals).

2. People depend upon logic and morality, showing that they depend upon the universal, immaterial, and abstract realities, which could not exist in a materialist universe but presupposes (presumes) the existence of an immaterial and absolute God.

3. Therefore, God exists. If He didn’t, we could not rely upon logic, reason, morality, and other absolute universals (which are required and assumed to live in this universe, let alone to debate), and could not exist in a materialist universe where there are no absolute standards or an absolute Lawgiver.

The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality.” – Greg Bahnsen

From this principle, the presuppositional argument for God’s existence and its implications stated, and atheism challenged:

“The Bible contains the Christian’s starting principles or presuppositions. God speaks to us in the Scriptures (special revelation) with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us the difference between right and wrong. The Christian worldview has the necessary preconditions to talk intelligently and give justification for the use of logic, science, and morality. Consequently, the strength of the Christian worldview is seen by the impossibility of the contrary. The impossibility of the contrary can be asserted because as of this day, no non-Christian anywhere has shown how their worldview can account for the use of science, logic, and intelligently talk about ethics. Begging the question is the typical response by the atheist to their worldview’s failure and this begging the question is a logical fallacy. We are not saying the atheist does not use logic or talk about right and wrong. We are saying the atheist cannot account for these things within his system.

Note: Begging the question is a fallacy of assumption because it directly presumes the conclusion, which is the question in the first place. For example, “Killing people is wrong, (premise) so the death penalty is wrong.” Begging the question is known as circular reasoning because the conclusion is seen at the beginning and the end of the argument, it creates an unending circle, never achieving anything of substance. The atheist system assumes it can account for logic and ethics without ever providing substantiation. One must accept the premise to be true for the claim to be true.

Why the atheist cannot find God:

The Christian says if an individual starts with a non-Christian syllogism or presupposition, the individual will never arrive at a Christian conclusion. As Clark noted above, every system or belief has a starting point. Starting with a non-Christian premise reminds us of “…of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:18-19). The atheist in his suppression of the truth refuses to start with the testimony of Scripture or natural revelation, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalms 19:1). All non-believing presuppositions ultimately lead to complete skepticism or the philosophy of no-nothing-ism.

Furthermore, because of this ultimate skepticism, the atheist cannot live consistently with the result of where his worldview takes him. That is why many atheists still talk about morality, science, and logic. They are inconsistent. From their starting premise, nothing can be proven. As stated, a materialistic worldview or atheism cannot justify or account for science, logic, or morality, since matter is silent! A rock cannot tell the atheist the difference between right and wrong. Likewise, the moon, which is a big rock, cannot tell the difference between what is right, and what is wrong. Atheistic materialism has nothing to say about science, logic, and ethics reliably. The matter making up the universe is silent. God is not silent. Closing this paragraph with a quote by William Provine, Charles A. Alexander Professor of Biological Sciences at Cornell University, “There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.” “No ultimate foundation for ethics, no meaning to life,” says Provine. With assertions like this, the intellectual bankruptcy of atheism is exposed.

Atheists refuse to acknowledge how their system works:

Atheists generally refuse to acknowledge that they have presuppositions and that presuppositions govern interpretations of the world. In short, the Christian’s presupposition is God’s revelation in the Bible is our authority and standard of interpretation. The atheist’s presupposition is the man himself is the authority and standard of interpretation. This clash or antithesis of worldviews happened in the beginning, Genesis 3:5, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The consequence of Adam’s disobedience is that Adam’s descendants in their rebellion will seek to be the interpreters of reality and reject God’s interpretation. Now that the fallen race of man is acting like God, he appeals to his authority in his attempt to answer the demands of speaking intelligently about science, morality, and logic. It is the authority of the infinite versus the authority of the finite. The atheist may not like this conclusion; until he comes up with epistemological solutions, he should remain silent like a rock. 

Pressing the antithesis:

In addition to numerous philosophical problems regarding atheists and other non-Christian interpretations of the world, it should be clear that matter or material has nothing to say within the framework of non-believing philosophy. What could it say? Within this framework, material or matter is ultimately an accident and therefore meaningless. In addition to this problem, all men have a priori commitments, which are at work and from which truth or falsity is deduced. The question is not do men have a priori commitments, but what are they? The non-believer has suppressed and substituted God’s revealed truth for his interpretation of the world. When dealing with ethics in particular atheism cannot speak intelligently. The atheist has to borrow from and assume Christian definitions when talking about evil and good. To quote Nietzsche: “When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is not self-evident… Christianity is a system.” When rejecting the Christian system, “Everything is permitted” – Friedrich Nietzsche. According to Nietzsche, if “everything is permitted,” good and evil are meaningless terms. Nietzsche was a consistent atheist.

In essence, the atheist has erected a closed system. His system is closed to God. He does not allow God to speak. Since the atheist rejects the Creator, he has nothing within his closed system that he allows to speak with moral certainty. As long as fallen man excludes God from his system, he cannot know anything with certainty. The atheist thought has no basis for absolutes. An atheist has plenty of arbitrary social conventions. If there are no absolutes, there can be no meaning attached to anything since everything could be said to be true and not true at the same time, which is unacceptable irrational nonsense. As noted earlier by Aldous Huxley: “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder.’” An example of a failed atheistic attempt at determining morality for society is pragmatic majoritarianism, i.e., the majority makes right. This system does not work out so well for the minorities, like the Jews in Nazi Germany.

Unanswerable questions for the atheist:

John Locke is known as the originator of the epistemological theory known as empiricism, which postulates the mind at birth is a blank tablet (tabula rasa) and then assimilates knowledge through sensations. This theory could be called the “blank mind theory” of knowledge. The details of how this theory works out with the mind receiving, interpreting, and retaining these sensations are lacking, to say the least.

For example, can atheistic empiricism provide a basis for certainty? It cannot. For example, empiricism historically argues that knowledge comes through sensations in the following order: (a) sensations, (b) perceptions, (c) memory images, (d) and the development of abstract ideas. In this system of interpretation, perceptions are inferences from sensations. How does the atheistic empiricist know valid from invalid inferences?

Can atheistic rationalism (reason alone) provide answers to big questions of life? Does the atheist have the necessary preconditions to interpret reality? The Christian says God is a necessary precondition for interpretation. The atheist says no. From a Christian worldview, it can be explained why life has a purpose. Can the atheist explain why life is purposeful? To remember an earlier quote: “There is no splendor, no vastness, anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing” – Bertrand Russell. This assertion by Russell is an example of a bankrupt worldview. Dostoevsky countered this idea of Russell by saying: “I don’t understand how, up to now, an atheist could know there is no God and not kill himself at once” – Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Pressing the antithesis further: 

We can ask the atheist, what is the origin of laws of logic? Are the laws of logic interpreted in the same way universally? If not, why not? The laws of logic within the framework of non-belief are nothing more than a philosophical construct, which ends up collapsing into irrationality and inconsistency. Thus, the atheistic rational man has no rationale for his rationalism. The assertion that God is not silent is the solution to obtaining knowledge. God has spoken through the Scriptures to all of mankind. As Christians, we have a foundation for knowledge; it is revelational. God-given revelation is objective. Atheists reject this revelation; they suppress the truth that God has revealed to them through creation (Romans 1:18). God has spoken in the Scriptures, God’s special revelation to all men concerning what is required of him, and thus, we have a rationale for ethics. To repeat two quotes from David Silverman, “There is no objective moral standard. We are responsible for our own actions….” In addition, “The hard answer is it is a matter of opinion.” David Silverman is an American secular advocate who served as president of American Atheists. According to Silverman, we are left with opinions. Different opinions are not solutions.

Again, we can ask the atheist and all non-Christians, what standard for interpretation is being used; identify your worldview and its basis for predication. Predication is attaching a predicate to a subject; hence, making an assertion. Van Til says, “Only the Christian worldview makes predication possible.” The atheist needs to demonstrate how his worldview can accomplish this.

For the atheist, there is ultimately only irrationalism:

Thus, the atheistic man has only matter, unintelligible or debatable explanations for sensations (sense perception), or his finite, fallible reason. An unclear debatable sensation is one reason for the bankruptcy of atheistic, materialistic humanism. The Christian has a rational basis for knowledge; it is the Biblical revelation. The Christian allows God to speak through creation and Scripture. The non-Christian will not allow room for the God of the Bible to speak in their system. As said, their system is closed to God’s revelation. The atheist insists on being the ultimate interpreter of reality, God is excluded. The Christian system is not closed like the atheist’s system. The Bible tells us about general and special revelation and man’s requirement to submit to a God-given interpretation of all things. It is because we have God’s revelation that an intelligent conversation on these matters can be carried on. How can a finite man who does not even know how many atoms are in an orange speak intelligently when asserting, absolutely and omnisciently, there is no God? These same people talk about the universe coming into existence from a big bang out of nothing. Was there a spark before the explosion of nothing? How did this spark happen? How does nothing explode? A big explosion sounds like the primitive view of spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation is illogical nonsense. In contrast to the atheist’s hypothetical speculation, the Christian has a God-given rational case for knowledge.   

Philosophically, atheism vacillates between two positions of knowing and not knowing. These two opposite poles of allegiance constitute a never-ending dilemma, thus revealing the futility of non-Christian epistemology. Despite this, the atheist presses on irrationally. To illustrate, for example, some atheists claim absolutely that there are no absolutes, a self-refuting contradiction. The philosophy of non-belief contradicts itself when it claims not to know (uncertainty, agnosticism) and to know (certainty, atheism). Both atheism and agnosticism are two sides of the same coin. Thus, the non-believer is left with contradictory uncertainty and certainty, which are manifestations of his epistemological inability to derive meaningful intelligibility from an ultimate irrational meaningless universe.

The Christian Solution to knowledge:

As Christians, we have a coherent theory of knowledge. God has spoken. God speaking through revelation is certain: God speaks to us in the Scriptures with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us the difference between right and wrong. Language has the same meaning for God and man. Because of this, presuppositionalists argue that Christianity is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. The atheist position of the contrary has never been articulated successfully. See the great debate between Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein at Davis University in California in 1985.* Atheistic epistemology has different theories, but no universal certainty and cannot escape skepticism better explained as no-nothing-ism. The non-Christian philosophers will argue on and on, never reaching an agreement.” – Jack Kettler

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, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Does Jesus Know Everything (Mark 13:32)?

Does Jesus Know Everything (Mark 13:32)?                                                    By Jack Kettler

According to Mark 13:32, Jesus says there are some things He does not know. How can this be if He is God?

We read:

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)

How do we understand this passage? The Scriptures present Jesus as God. It seems in the passage Jesus admits to not knowing the time of His second coming. If He is God, should not he know this? In this study, we will explore some commentary evidence to find answers to this question.

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Mark 13:32, we read:

“(32-37) But of that day and that hour.—See Notes on Matthew 24:36-41.

Neither the Son.—The addition to St. Matthew’s report is every way remarkable. It indicates the self-imposed limitation of the divine attributes, which had belonged to our Lord as the eternal Son, and the acquiescence in a power and knowledge which, like that of the human nature which He assumed, were derived and therefore finite. Such a limitation is implied by St. Paul, when he says that our Lord “being in the form of God . . . made Himself of no reputation” (or better, emptied Himself), “and took upon Him the form of a servant.” (See Note on Philippians 2:6-7.) It is clear that we cannot consistently take the word “knoweth” as having a different meaning in this clause from that which it bears in the others; and we must therefore reject all interpretations which explain away the force of the words as meaning only that the Son did not declare His knowledge of the time of the far-off event.” (1)

Ellicott refers to Philippians 2:6-7. This text needs to be looked at in detail since it sheds light upon the understanding of Mark 13:32.

Two translations of Mark 13:32:

“Who, 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)

“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7 KJV)

From Strong’s Concordance:

kenoó: to empty

Original Word: κενόω

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: kenoó

Phonetic Spelling: (ken-o’-o)

Definition: to empty

Usage: (a) I empty, (b) I deprive of content, make unreal.

Ellicott is using the King James Version on the Philippians text; hence, the phrase “made himself” as opposed to “emptied himself.” 

Continuing with Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Philippians 2:7:

“(7) But made himself . . .—This verse needs more exact translation. It should be, But emptied (or, stripped) Himself of His glory by having taken on Him the form of a slave and having been made (or, born) in likeness of men. The “glory” is the “glory which He had with the Father before the world was” (John 17:5; comp. Philippians 1:14), clearly corresponding to the Shechinah of the Divine Presence. Of this He stripped Himself in the Incarnation, taking on Him the “form (or, nature) of a servant” of God. He resumed it for a moment in the Transfiguration; He was crowned with it anew at the Ascension.

Made in the likeness of man.—This clause, at first sight, seems to weaken the previous clause, for it does not distinctly express our Lord’s true humanity. But we note that the phrase is “the likeness of men,” i.e., of men in general, men as they actually are. Hence the key to the meaning is to be found in such passages as Romans 8:3, God sent His own Son in “the likeness of sinful flesh;” or Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:15, “It behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren,” “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” It would have been an infinite humiliation to have assumed humanity, even in unique and visible glory; but our Lord went beyond this, by deigning to seem like other men in all things, one only of the multitude, and that, too, in a station, which confused Him with the commoner types of mankind. The truth of His humanity is expressed in the phrase “form of a servant;” its unique and ideal character is glanced at when it is said to have worn only the “likeness of men.” (2)

Vincent’s Word Studies elucidates the Philippians text correctly and supports Ellicott’s interpretation:

“Made Himself of no reputation (ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν).

Lit. Emptied Himself. The general sense is that He divested Himself of that peculiar mode of existence which was proper and peculiar to Him as one with God. He laid aside the form of God. In so doing, He did not divest Himself of His divine nature. The change was a change of state: the form of a servant for the form of God. His personality continued the same. His self-emptying was not self-extinction, nor was the divine Being changed into a mere man. In His humanity He retained the consciousness of deity, and in His incarnate state carried out the mind which animated Him before His incarnation. He was not unable to assert equality with God. He was able not to assert it.

Form of a servant (μορφὴν δούλου)

The same word for form as in the phrase form of God, and with the same sense. The mode of expression of a slave’s being is indeed apprehensible, and is associated with human shape, but it is not this side of the fact which Paul is developing. It is that Christ assumed that mode of being which answered to, and was the complete and characteristic expression of, the slave’s being. The mode itself is not defined. This is appropriately inserted here as bringing out the contrast with counted not equality with God, etc. What Christ grasped at in His incarnation was not divine sovereignty, but service.

Was made in the likeness of men (ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος)

Lit., becoming in, etc. Notice the choice of the verb, not was, but became: entered into a new state. Likeness. The word does not imply the reality of our Lord’s humanity, μορφή form implied the reality of His deity. That fact is stated in the form of a servant. Neither is εἰκών image employed, which, for our purposes, implies substantially the same as μορφή. See on Colossians 1:15. As form of a servant exhibits the inmost reality of Christ’s condition as a servant – that He became really and essentially the servant of men (Luke 22:27) – so likeness of men expresses the fact that His mode of manifestation resembled what men are. This leaves room for the assumption of another side of His nature – the divine – in the likeness of which He did not appear. As He appealed to men, He was like themselves, with a real likeness; but this likeness to men did not express His whole self. The totality of His being could not appear to men, for that involved the form of God. Hence the apostle views Him solely as He could appear to men. All that was possible was a real and complete likeness to humanity. What He was essentially and eternally could not enter into His human mode of existence. Humanly He was like men, but regarded with reference to His whole self, He was not identical with man, because there was an element of His personality which did not dwell in them – equality with God. Hence the statement of His human manifestation is necessarily limited by this fact, and is confined to likeness and does not extend to identity. “To affirm likeness is at once to assert similarity and to deny sameness” (Dickson). See on Romans 8:3.” (2)

The reader will notice how Vincent addresses what is known without using the name as the Kenosis theory when explicating how Christ “emptied” or “made” Himself in the Incarnation. 

The Kenosis theory is a false teaching that says that Christ, when emptying himself, gave up some or all of the attributes of Deity, such as omniscience to exist as a man. The danger in this theory is that the implications are that Christ was not fully God during His time on earth.

In certain charismatic prosperity churches, the Kenosis theory teaches that Jesus gave up His divinity while on earth. Jesus was no longer divine from His birth to His Ascension according to this theory. According to this theory, logically, the Triune nature of God must have been suspended or ended during the time of Christ’s earthly ministry. It is impossible for God to cease to exist as He is. Therefore, this theory is false and heretical. 

Calvin answers this supposed problem of Christ emptying Himself and yet remaining truly God:
“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).” (3)

 In closing:

 Calvin answers this question of Jesus not knowing in Mark 13:32 by explaining the two natures of Christ. During Jesus’s earthly ministry, He submitted to the Father along with the self-imposed limitation of His divine attributes. Said another way, He did not fully exercise His Divine attributes, in particular, His omniscience. In His earthly ministry, Jesus was still was fully Divine and at the same time a man. Considering His divinity, Jesus knew the time of His coming. In Mark 13:32, we see the humanity of Jesus.

 The implications of Christ’s self-imposed limitations of His Divine attributes are enormous. The self-imposed limitations mean Jesus truly lived as a man. Jesus felt pain when He died on the Cross.

 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)

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


 1.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Mark, Vol. 6, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 225-226. 1.

2.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Philippians, Vol. 8, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 74.

3.      Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies In The New Testament, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARY, e • Albany, Oregon), p. 472.

4.      John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Mark, Volume 111, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), p. 154.

 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, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: THERELIGIONTHATSTARTEDINAHAT.COM

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Isaiah 9:6 a devotional apologetic Re: “Everlasting Father” Does Isaiah teach monism?

Isaiah 9:6 a devotional apologetic Re: “Everlasting Father”                         by Jack Kettler

“For to us a child is born, to us, a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)

Isaiah 9:6 is one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture. This study is only going to focus on one phrase from this passage. The entire passage is worthy of study and meditation. Contemplate the cross-references to this prophetic passage as part of the devotional reading.

Cross References

Matthew 1:1 “This is the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel (which means, “God with us”).”

Matthew 28:18 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”

Luke 2:11 “Today in the City of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord!”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

1Corinthians 15:25 “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.”

Ephesians 2:14 “For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has torn down the dividing wall of hostility.”

Ephesians 2:15 “By abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments and decrees. He did this to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.”

Deuteronomy 10:17 “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and accepting no bribe.”

Isaiah 10:21 “A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God.”

Isaiah 11:1 “A shoot will spring up from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.”

Isaiah 11:2 “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him–the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”

Isaiah 16:5 “In loving devotion a throne will be established in the tent of David. A judge seeking justice and prompt in righteousness will sit on it in faithfulness.”

Isaiah 22:22 “I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. What he opens, no one can shut; what he shuts, no one can open.”

Isaiah 26:3 “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.”

Isaiah 26:12 “O LORD, You will establish peace for us, for, indeed, all that we have accomplished, You have done for us.”

Isaiah 28:29 “This also comes from the LORD of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent wisdom.”

Daniel 2:44 “In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will shatter all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself stand forever.”

Daniel 9:25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, until the Messiah, the Prince, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of distress.”

Haggai 2:9 “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former, says the LORD of Hosts. And in this place I will provide peace, declares the LORD of Hosts.”

Introduction the apologetic aspect of this devotional:

Unfortunately, due to inexcusable ignorance, and malfeasance, there is some controversy surrounding the phrase in this passage, “Everlasting Father.” What would this controversy be? Is Isaiah teaching that Jesus is the same person as God the Father? If so, this would, according some eisegetes (those who import or read into the text), have Isaiah promoting a form of modalism.

What is modalism?

“Modalism teaches that the three persons of the Trinity as different “modes” of the Godhead. Adherents believed that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not distinct personalities, but different modes of God’s self-revelation. A typical modalist approach is to regard God as the Father in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Spirit in sanctification. In other words, God exists as Father, Son, and Spirit in different eras, but never as triune.”


What did Isaiah intend to say in the passage? Was this verse a doctrinal treatise on the Trinity? Said another way, did Isaiah have the Trinity in mind when he says the Messiah will be called the Everlasting Father? There is nothing in the passage to indicate that Isaiah was teaching about the Messiah’s position within the Trinity. Isaiah was introducing Israel to the characteristics of Christ’s character. Isaiah was teaching that Jesus has the characteristics of God. Apart from establishing Christ’s deity, the passage has nothing to say about the Trinitarian nature of God. To go beyond this is to read and import unwarranted assumptions into the text. Doing this is called eisegesis or reading into the text.

To clear up any confusion, the apologetic feature of this study will to give the reader a sound understanding of the phrase “Everlasting Father” or “Father of Eternity” based on sound exegesis from recognized commentators.

The apologetic section on Isaiah 9:6:

Clearing up any confusion with a series of short selections from renowned commentators on what Isaiah meant by the term “everlasting father:”     

Pulpit Commentary:

“The Everlasting Father; rather, Everlasting or Eternal Father. But here, again, there is a singularity in the idea, which makes the omission of the article unimportant; for how could there be more than one Everlasting Father, one Creator, Preserver, Protector of mankind who was absolutely eternal? If the term “Father,” applied to our Lord, grates on our ears, we must remember that the distinction of Persons in the Godhead had not yet been revealed.” (1)

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

“The everlasting Father – The Chaldee renders this expression, ‘The man abiding forever.’ The Vulgate, ‘The Father of the future age.’ Lowth, ‘The Father of the everlasting age.’ Literally, it is the Father of eternity, עד אבי ‘ĕby ‛ad. The word rendered “everlasting,” עד ‛ad, properly denotes “eternity,” and is used to express “forever;” see Psalm 9:6, Psalm 9:19; Psalm 19:10. It is often used in connection with עולם ‛ôlâm, thus, עולם ועד vā‛ed ‛ôlâm, “forever and ever;” Psalm 10:16; Psalm 21:5; Psalm 45:7. The Hebrews used the term father in a great variety of senses – as a literal father, a grandfather, an ancestor, a ruler, an instructor. The phrase may either mean the same as the Eternal Father, and the sense will be, that the Messiah will not, as must be the case with an earthly king, however excellent, leave his people destitute after a short reign, but will rule over them and bless them forever (Hengstenberg); or it may be used in accordance with a custom usual in Hebrew and in Arabic, where he who possesses a thing is called the father of it.

Thus, the father of strength means strong; the father of knowledge, intelligent; the father of glory, glorious; the father of goodness, good; the father of peace, peaceful. According to this, the meaning of the phrase, the Father of eternity, is properly eternal. The application of the word here is derived from this usage. The term Father is not applied to the Messiah here with any reference to the distinction in the divine nature, for that word is uniformly, in the Scriptures, applied to the first, not to the second person of the Trinity. But it is used in reference to durations, as a Hebraism involving high poetic beauty lie is not merely represented as everlasting, but he is introduced, by a strong figure, as even the Father of eternity as if even everlasting duration owed itself to his paternity. There could not be a more emphatic declaration of strict and proper eternity. It may be added, that this attribute is often applied to the Messiah in the New Testament; John 8:58; Colossians 1:17; Revelation 1:11, Revelation 1:17-18; Hebrews 1:10-11; John 1:1-2.” (2)

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:

“Everlasting Father—this marks Him as “Wonderful,” that He is “a child,” yet the “everlasting Father” (Joh 10:30; 14:9). Earthly kings leave their people after a short reign; He will reign over and bless them forever [Hengstenberg].” (3)

Matthew Poole’s Commentary:

“The everlasting Father, Heb. the Father of eternity, Having called him a Child, and a Son in respect of his human nature, lest this should be misinterpreted to his disparagement, he adds that he is a Father also, even the God and Father of all things; the work of creation being common and commonly ascribed to each of the persons of the blessed Trinity, the Maker and Upholder of all creatures, as he is said to be, John 1:3 Hebrews 1:3, and the Father of all believers, who are called his children, Hebrews 2:13, and the Father of eternity; either,

1. The first author (such persons being called fathers, as Genesis 4:20, and elsewhere) of eternal salvation, as he is called, Hebrews 5:9. Or,

2. As we render it, the everlasting Father, who, though as man he was then unborn, yet was and is from everlasting to everlasting. They who apply this to Hezekiah render it, the father of an age, and expound this of his long life and numerous posterity; which I the rather mention, to show what absurd shifts they are forced to use who interpret this text of any other but Christ. For he did not live very long, nor had he, that we read of, more than one son, Manasseh. And if both these things had been true of him, they were more eminently true of many other men. Besides, this Hebrew word being used of God, as here it is of him who was now called the mighty God, constantly signifies eternity, as Isaiah 26:4 57:15, &c.” (4)

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

“The everlasting Father; which does not design any relation of Christ in the Godhead; and there is but one Father in the Godhead, and that is the first Person; indeed Christ and the Father are one, and the Father is in him, and he is in the Father, and he that has seen the one has seen the other, and yet they are distinct, Christ is not the Father; the Son and Spirit may be considered with the first Person as Father, in creation and regeneration, they being jointly concerned therein, but not in the Trinity: it is easy to make it appear Christ is not the Father, but is distinct from him, since he is said to be with the Father from eternity, to be the Son of the Father in truth and love, his own Son, his only begotten and beloved Son; Christ frequently calls the first Person his Father, prayed to him as such, and is our advocate with him, as well as the way unto him; he is said to be sent by the Father, to come from him, and to go to him; and many things are said of Christ that cannot be said of the Father, as his being made flesh, suffering and dying in the room of his people; and the Father is said to do many things unto him, as to anoint him, to seal him, to show him all he did, to commit all judgment to him, and give him to have life in himself as he had: but Christ is a Father with respect to chosen men, who were given him as his children and offspring in covenant; who are adopted into that family that is named of him, and who are regenerated by his Spirit and grace: and to these he is an “everlasting Father”; he was so from everlasting; for regeneration and faith do not make men children, but make them appear to be so; God’s elect are children previous to the Spirit’s work upon them, and even to the incarnation and death of Christ; adoption is an act of the will of God in covenant from eternity: and Christ is a Father to these unto everlasting; he will never die, and they shall never be left fatherless; he and they will ever continue in this relation; he as such supplies them with everlasting provisions, he clothes them with everlasting raiment, he gives them an everlasting portion, promotes them to everlasting honour, saves them with an everlasting salvation, bearing an everlasting love to them. Some render the words, “the Father of eternity” (s); the author of eternal life, who has procured it for his people, and gives it to them; or to whom eternity belongs, who inhabits it, and is possessed of it, is the everlasting I AM, was before all persons and things, was set up in an office capacity from everlasting, and had a glory with the Father before the world was, in whom eternal election, and with whom the everlasting covenant, were made. The Septuagint version is, “the Father of the world to come” (t); of the Gospel dispensation; so called, Hebrews 2:5 the legal dispensation, when in being, was the then present world, at the end of which Christ came; this is now at an end, and a new state of things has taken place, which with respect to the Old Testament saints was the world to come, and of this Christ is the Father or author; as the law came by Moses, and he was the father of the legal dispensation, grace and truth are come by Christ, the Father and author of the Gospel dispensation; the doctrines of it are from him, and the ordinances of it by him; and he is the father of that state or world to come after the resurrection, the New Jerusalem church state, and also of the ultimate glory.” (5)

Benson Commentary:

“The everlasting Father — Hebrew, אבי עד, The Father of eternity: having called him a child and a son, lest this should be misinterpreted to his disparagement, he adds that he is a Father also, even the Father of eternity, and, of course, of time, and of all creatures made in time. Christ, in union with the Father and the Holy Ghost, is the God and Father of all things, the maker and upholder of all creatures, John 1:3; Hebrews 1:3; and especially the Father of all believers, who are called his children, (Hebrews 2:13,) and the author of eternal life and salvation to them, Hebrews 5:9. Or, this title may be given him because he is the father of the new and eternal age, that is, of the economy which is to endure for ever; for Christ is the father of a new generation, to continue through all eternity; the second Adam, father of a new race; the head of a new and everlasting family, in which all the children of God are reckoned.” (6)

Now, the most important section of this devotional apologetic.

Charles Spurgeon explains why Isaiah called Jesus the “Everlasting Father” in this classic sermon:

A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, December 9, 1866, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

“The everlasting Father.” (Isaiah 9:6)

“1. How complex is the person of our Lord Jesus Christ! Almost in the same breath the prophet calls him a “child,” and a “counsellor,” a “son,” and “the everlasting Father.” This is no contradiction, and to us scarcely a paradox, but it is a mighty marvel that he who was an infant should at the same time be infinite, he who was the Man of Sorrows should also be God over all, blessed for ever; and that he who is in the Divine Trinity always called the Son, should nevertheless be correctly called “the everlasting Father.” How forcibly this should remind us of the necessity of carefully studying and rightly under standing the person of our Lord Jesus Christ! We must not suppose that we shall understand him at a glance. A look will save the soul, but patient meditation alone can fill the mind with the knowledge of the Saviour. Glorious mysteries are hidden in his person. He speaks to us in the plainest of language, and he reveals himself openly in our midst, but yet in his person itself there is a height and depth which human intellect fails to measure. When he has looked long and steadily the devout observer perceives in his Well Beloved beauties so rare and ravishing that he is lost in wonder; continued contemplation conducts the soul, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into an elevation of delighted admiration which the less thoughtful know nothing about. So deep is the mystery of the person of our Lord that he must reveal himself to us or we shall never know him. He is not discovered by research nor discerned by reason. “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,” said Christ to Peter, “for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.” “When it pleased God,” says the apostle, “to reveal his Son in me.” Another apostle asked the question, “How is it that you reveal yourself to us?” There is no seeing Jesus except by his own light. He is the door, but no man opens that door except Jesus himself; for “he opens, and no man shuts; he shuts, and no man opens.” He is the lesson, but he is also the school teacher. He is both key and lock, answer and riddle, way and guide. He is the one to be seen, for we are to look at him; but it is by him that we are enabled to see, for he gives sight to the blind. Let us then, dear friends, if we really desire to understand that most excellent of all sciences, the science of Christ crucified, entreat the Lord himself to be our Rabbi, and beg to be allowed to sit with Mary at the Master’s feet. May this be our prayer, that “we may know him”; and may this be our desire, that “we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”; for “to know him is life eternal,” and to be taught by him is to be “wise to salvation.”

2. The title before us is a somewhat difficult one. Some years ago I preached to you from “His Name—Wonderful.” (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 214, “His Name—Wonderful!” 207) (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 215, “His Name—the Counsellor” 208) (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 258, “His Name—The Mighty God” 251) I felt I could expatiate upon that with ease. We advanced as far as “Counsellor,” and then we stopped a while. After a time we were led to preach upon “The Mighty God”; but we have been somewhat doubting our ability to expound on this particular title, for there is a depth in it which we are not able to fathom. This morning I cannot pretend to dive into the profound depths of the word, but can only skim the surface as the swallow skims the sea. I have no silver of deep learning and gold of profound thought; but such as I have, I give to you. If my basket contains nothing more than a barley loaf and a few small fishes, may the Master of the feast multiply the food in the breaking, so that there may be enough food for his people.

3. It is necessary at the outset to observe that the Messiah is not here called “Father,” by way of any confusion with him who is preeminently called “THE FATHER.” Our Lord’s proper name, as far as the Godhead is concerned, is not the Father, but the Son. Let us beware of confusion. The Son is not the Father, neither is the Father the Son; and although they are one God, essentially and eternally, being for evermore one and indivisible, yet still the distinction of persons is to be carefully believed and observed. We do not contend For the mere word “Persons”; it is only a makeshift word, although we do not know what better term to use; but the fact is all important that the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father. Our text has no bearing upon the position and titles of the three Persons with regard to each other; it does not indicate the relation of Deity to itself, but the relation of Jesus Christ to us. He is to us “the everlasting Father.”

4. The light of the text divides itself into three rays:—Jesus is “Everlasting” he is a “Father”; he is the “Everlasting Father.”

5. I. First, Jesus Christ is EVERLASTING. Of him we may sing with David, “Your throne, oh God, is for ever and ever.” A theme for great rejoicing on our part. Rejoice, believer, in Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.

6. Jesus always was. The Babe born in Bethlehem was united to the Word, which was in the beginning, by whom all things were made. The title by which Jesus Christ revealed himself to John in Patmos was, “Him who is, and who was, and who is to come.” “His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow,” to indicate that he is the Ancient of Days.

   Ere sin was born, or Satan fell,

   He led the host of morning stars;

   (Thy generation who can tell,

   Or count the number of thy years?)

In his priesthood, Jesus, like Melchizedek, “has neither beginning of days nor end of life.” His pedigree is thus declared by Solomon:—“When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills I was brought forth; while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.” Do not think that the Son of God ever had a beginning.

   Ere the blue heavens were stretch’d abroad,

   From everlasting was the Word,

   With God he was; the Word was God,

   And must divinely be adored.

7. If he were not God from everlasting, we could not so devoutly love him; we could not feel that he had any share in the eternal love, which is the fountain of all covenant blessings. He must be eternal who has a part in the eternal purpose. Since our Redeemer was from all eternity with the Father, we trace the stream of divine love to himself equally with his Father and the blessed Spirit. We were chosen in him from before the foundation of the world, and thus in our eternal election he shines forth gloriously. We bless and praise, and magnify him that the name “Son” does not at all import any time of birth or generation, or of beginning, but we know that he is as eternally the Son as the Father is eternally the Father, and must be looked upon as God from everlasting. For he is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they are thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

8. Just as our Lord always was, so also he is for ever more the same. Jesus is not dead; he ever lives to make intercession for us. He has not ceased to be; he has gone out of sight; but he sits at the right hand of the Father. Of him we read, “And, you, Lord, in the beginning have laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of your hands: they shall perish; but you remain; and they all shall become old like a garment does; and like a vesture you shall fold them up, and they shall be changed: but you are the same, and your years shall not fail.” Jesus is as truly the I AM, as that Jehovah who spoke out of the burning bush to Moses, at Horeb. He lives! He lives! This is the foundation of your comfort, “Because he lives you shall live also.” “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, who is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold our profession firmly. For we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted just like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Resort to him in all your times of need, for he is still waiting to bless you. He is made higher than the heavens, but he still receives sinners, and effectually puts away their sins; and since “he ever lives to make intercession for them; he is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him.”

9. Jesus, our Lord, ever shall be. He could not be called everlasting if it were supposable that he must one day cease to exist. No, believer; if God shall spare your life to fulfil your full day of threescore years and ten, you shall find that his cleansing fountain is still opened and his precious blood has not lost its power; you shall find that the Priest who filled the healing fount with his own blood still lives to purge you from all iniquity. When only your last battle remains to be fought, you shall find that the hand of your conquering Captain has not grown feeble, nor his arm waxed short; the living Saviour shall cheer the living saint. Nor is this all, for when death has taken you away as with a flood, and all the men of your generation have fallen like grass beneath the mower’s scythe, Jesus shall live, and you, caught up to heaven, shall find him there bearing the dew of his youth; and when the sun’s burning eye shall be dim with age, and the lamps of heaven shall be paled into eternal midnight, when all this world shall melt as the winter’s ice melts at the approach of spring; then you shall find the Lord Jesus still remains the perennial spring of joy, and life, and glory to his people. You may draw living waters from this sacred well! Jesus always was, he always is, he always shall be. He is eternal in all his attributes, and in all his offices, and in all his might, and power, and willingness to bless, comfort, guard, and crown his chosen people.

10. The connection of the word “Father” with the word “everlasting” allows us very fairly to remark that our Lord is as everlasting as the Father, since he himself is called “the everlasting Father”; for whatever antiquity paternity may imply is here ascribed to Christ. According to our common notions, of course, the Father must be before the Son, but we must understand that the terms used in Scripture to represent Deity to us are not intended to be literally understood, and rendered in their exact terrestrial sense; they are only descriptive as far as they may be but do not encompass the whole truth, for human language utterly fails to convey the very essence and fulness of celestial things. When God condescends to speak to men, who are only as infants before him, he adopts their childish speech, and brings down his loftiness of thought to the littleness of their capacities. Babes have no words for the thoughts of senators and philosophers, and such matters must be stated in childish language if babes are to know them, and then the statement must inevitably fall far short of the great fact. The relationship between the Father and the Son is a case in point; it is not precisely the same as the relationship between a father and a son on earth, but that happens to be the nearest approach to it among men. We must beware of stretching and straining the word in its letter, especially in points where it would make us err from the spirit of the truth. Christ Jesus is as eternal as the Father, or he would never have been called “the everlasting Father.”

11. It is the manner of the Easterners to call a man the father of a quality for which he is remarkable. To this day, among the Arabs, a wise man is called “the father of wisdom”; a very foolish man “the father of folly.” The predominant quality in the man is ascribed to him as though it were his child, and he the father of it. Now, the Messiah is here called in the Hebrew “the Father of eternity,” by which is meant that he is preeminently the possessor of eternity as an attribute. Just as the idiom, “the father of wisdom,” implies that a man is preeminently wise, so the term, “Father of eternity,” implies that Jesus is preeminently eternal; that to him, beyond and above all others, eternity may be ascribed. No language can more forcibly convey to our minds the eternity of our Lord Jesus. Indeed, without straining the language, I may say that not only is eternity ascribed to Christ, but he is here declared to be the parent of it. Imagination cannot grasp this, for eternity is a thing beyond us; yet if eternity should seem to be a thing, which can have no parent, may it be remembered that Jesus is so surely and essentially eternal, that he is here pictured as the source and Father of eternity. Jesus is not the child of eternity, but the Father of it. Eternity did not bring him forth from its mighty bowels, but he brought forth eternity. Independent, self-sustained, uncreated, eternal existence is with Jesus our Lord and God.

12. In the highest possible sense, then, Jesus Christ is “the everlasting Father.” I will only pause one minute to draw a practical inference from this doctrine. If our Emmanuel is indeed then eternal and ever living, let us never think of him as of the one dead, whom we have lost, who has ceased to be. What could be a greater sorrow than the thought of a dead Christ? He lives, and lives to care for us. He lives in all the attributes which adorned him upon earth, as gentle and kind and gracious now, as he was then. Come to him, Christian, rest upon him now, just as if he were visible in this place, and you could speak into his ear your troubles, and confess your sins at his feet. He is here spiritually; your eyes cannot see him, but faith will be better evidence to you than eyesight. Trust him now with your cares! Rest upon him in your present difficulties! And you, poor sinner, if Christ were on this platform would you not come and touch the hem of his garment, and cry, “Jesus, let your pitying eye look on me and change my heart?” Well, dear friend, Jesus lives; he is the same today as he was in the streets of Jerusalem; and although your feet cannot bear you to him, yet your desires shall serve you instead of feet; and although your finger cannot touch him, your confidence shall be instead of a hand to you. Trust him now! He whose love made him die lives on. His precious blood can never lose its power. Come now, humbly come, and confide in “the everlasting Father.”

13. II. We come, in the second place, to the difficult part of the subject; namely, Christ being called FATHER.

14. 1. In what sense is Jesus a Father? Answer, first. He is federally a Father representing those who are in him, as the head of a tribe represents his descendants. The apostle Paul comes to our help here, for in the memorable chapter in the Corinthians, he speaks of those who are in Adam, and then he talks about a second Adam. Adam is the father of all living; he federally stood for us in the garden, and federally fell and ruined us all. He was the representative man by whose obedience we should have been blessed, through whose disobedience we have been made sinners. The curse of the fall comes upon us because Adam stood in a relationship towards us in which none of us stands towards our fellows. He was the representative head for us; and what a fall was there when he fell! For every one of us in his loins fell in him. “In Adam all die.” Since his day there has been only one other here to the human race federally. It is true, Noah was the father of the present race of men, for we have all sprung from him; but there was no covenant with Noah in which he represented his posterity, no condition of obedience by which he might have obtained a reward for us, and no condition of disobedience for the breach of which we are called to smart. The only other man who is a representative man before God is the second Adam, the man Christ Jesus, the Lord from heaven. Brothers and sisters, we call Adam father mournfully, for we are cast out of Eden by him, and we till the ground with the sweat of our face; our mothers brought us forth in sorrow, and we must go to the grave in sorrow; but we who have believed in Jesus call another man father, namely, the Lord Jesus; and we speak this not sorrowfully but joyfully, for he has opened the gates of a better Paradise; he has taken away the sweat of toil from our faces spiritually, for we who have believed do “enter into rest”; he has borne himself the pangs which were brought upon us by sin, he took our sicknesses and bore our sorrows; while he has overcome the heaviest affliction, death itself, so that he who lives and believes in him shall never die, but pass out of this world into the celestial life.

15. The grand question for us is this, “Are we still under the old covenant of works?” If so, we have Adam for our father, and under that Adam we died. But are we under the covenant of grace? If so, we have Christ for our Father, and in Christ, we shall be made alive. Natural generation makes us the sons of Adam; regeneration acknowledges us as the sons of Christ. In our first birth we come under the fatherhood of the fallen one; in our second birth we enter into the fatherhood of the innocent and perfect One. In our first fatherhood we wear the image of the earthy; in the second we receive the image of the heavenly. Through our relationship to Adam we become corrupt and weak, and the body is put into the grave in dishonour, in corruption, in weakness, in shame; but when we come under the dominion of the second Adam we receive strength, and quickening, and inward spiritual life, and therefore our body rises again like seed sown which rises to a glorious harvest in the image of the heavenly, with honour, and power, and happiness, and eternal life.

16. In this sense, then, Christ is called Father; and inasmuch as the covenant of grace is older than the covenant of works, Christ is, while Adam is not, “the everlasting Father”; and inasmuch as the covenant of works as far as we are concerned passes away, being fulfilled in him, and the covenant of grace never passes but remains for ever, Christ, as the head of the new covenant, the federal representative of the great economy of grace, is “the everlasting Father.”

17. 2. Secondly, Christ is a Father in the sense of a Founder. You know, perhaps, or at least you readily remember when I remind you, that the Hebrews are in the habit of calling a man a father of a thing which he invents. For instance, in the fourth chapter of Genesis, Jubal is called the father of such as handle the harp and organ; Jabal was the father of such as dwell in tents, and have cattle; not that these were literally the fathers of such people, but the inventors of their occupations. Jabal first took upon himself a nomadic tent life, and set the example of wandering around with flocks and herds; and Jubal first put his fingers to musical strings, and his lips to pipes from which the wind is breathed melodiously. The Lord Jesus Christ is in this sense the Father of a wonderful system. Now, our Lord Jesus Christ, who brought life and immortality to light, and introduced a new phase of worship to this world is, in that respect, a Father; he is the Father of all Christians, the Father of Christianity, the Father of the entire system under which grace reigns through righteousness. Jesus is the Father of a great doctrinal system. All the great truths, which we are in the habit of delivering in your hearing as the precious truths of God sent down from heaven, fell first, clearly and powerfully, from the lips of Jesus. These things were dimly hinted at in the ceremonies of the law, but Christ first of all put them into plain letter so that he who runs may read. Practically it is Jesus who teaches us the doctrine of electing love; it is Christ who reveals to us redemption by blood; it is Christ who reveals regeneration by the work of the Spirit, saying plainly, “You must be born again.” It is Christ who reveals the perseverance of the saints. In fact, there is no doctrine of the Christian system, which is not so clearly revelled in the light of his own glorious Spirit by his teaching that we may not fairly call him the Father of it.

18. Our great Master is also the Father of a great practical system. If there are any in the world who “love their neighbours as themselves,” the Man of Nazareth is their Father; for, albeit that the law signified all that, yet men had not discovered it, but had misread the law. “Eye for eye and tooth for tooth” was their version of law; but Christ comes and says, “I say to you, ‘Do not resist evil; if any man strikes you on the one cheek, turn the other to him also.’” If any man can suffer with patience and can return good for evil, heaping coals of fire upon the head of his foes, this man is a child of Christ. If men worship God in the spirit and have no confidence in the flesh, if they know no holy place, but recognise every place as holy where a holy man is found, such are the true children of Christ, for he said, “Those who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth.” He is the Father of spiritual worship. It has been common to call Socrates the “father of philosophy”; Jesus is Father of the philosophy of salvation; Galen, the “father of medicine,” Jesus is Father of the medicine of souls; Herodotus, “father of history”; but Jesus is the Father of heaven on earth. He is the Father of disinterested living, of true love for men; he is the Father of forgiving one’s enemies; the Father, in fact, of the divine system of the Christian life.

19. The system of salvation claims Christ to be its Father. Who else said, “By grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God?” Who except the apostle of this man, Christ Jesus? Who told men that it was not by works of righteousness which they had done, but by the merit of his passion and his life that they were saved? Who revealed the way of faith to men but Christ, the great doctrine of “Believe and live?” and those who receive it may claim Christ as Father. He is the Father of the Christian faith—a faith, my brethren, which, albeit that it has done much already for the world, for in old Rome it ended the contests in the Coliseum, threw down the bestial gods of heathendom, and albeit that it is doing much for the world even now, and helping to purge the vast Augean stable (a) of humanity, is to do more still; it is to cast out war, it is to destroy error, it is to regenerate the human race. The Father of this purifying system which is doctrinal and practical, and which has already worked the best results for men, is the Lord Jesus, and since it was devised of old, and will be prolonged as long as the world stands, he is called “the everlasting Father.”

20. 3. Now, there is a third meaning. The prophet may not so have understood it, but we so receive it, that Jesus is, in the third place, a Father in the great sense of a Life Giver, That is the main sense of “father” to the common mind. Through our fathers we are called into this world. Now it is by Christ that there is a communication of divine energy to the soul, it is through him, through his teaching, through the Spirit that he has given, through the blood that he has shed, that life is given to those who were dead in trespasses and sins. He who sits upon the throne says, “Behold, I make all things new.” “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” “This is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” “For as the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them; even so the Son quickens whom he wishes. Truly, truly, I say to you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. For just as the Father has life in himself; so he has given to the Son to have life in himself.” We know that through Jesus Christ the divine life is given to us. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” He gives the living water, and then it is in us “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” He is that living grain of wheat, which was cast into the ground to die, so that it might not abide alone, but become a root that brings forth fruit, which fruit we now are, receiving life from him as the stem receives life from the seed from which it sprang. Jesus is our Father in that sense. It is the Spirit of God who operatively quickens the soul and makes us live, but Jesus Christ’s gospel is the channel through which the Spirit works, and Jesus Christ is the true life to us. Receiving Christ we receive life, and without him we cannot have life. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Just as through the energy of Adam this vast world is populated until hill and dale are covered with a teeming population, so through the life energy of our Lord Jesus Christ the plains of heaven and the celestial hills shall be populated with a throng that no man can number. Out of every realm, all people, speaking every language, having been bronzed by the heats of the torrid zone, or frozen amidst the frosts of the frigid north, Christ shall find a people into whom his quickening shall come, and they shall live through the energy of his Spirit, and he shall be their everlasting Father. It is in this sense, because that life is everlasting and can never die out, that Jesus Christ is called “the everlasting Father.”

21. Everything in us calls Christ “Father.” He is the author and finisher of our faith. If we love him, it is because he first loved us. If we patiently endure, it is by considering “him who endured such opposition of sinners against himself.” It is he who waters and sustains all our graces. We may say of him, “All my fresh springs are in you.” The Spirit brings us the water from this well of Bethlehem, but Jesus is the well itself. Spring up, oh Well! Spring up, oh Well! Divine Father, blessed Jesus, prove your Fatherhood by requickening our souls this morning according to your word!

22. 4. Fourthly, I do not think that we have yet exhausted this title of “Everlasting Father.” The term implies that Jesus Christ is to be in the future, the Patriarch of an age. Many translators render the passage, “the Father of the future age.” So Pope in his famous poem of the Messiah (b) understands it, and calls him, “The promised Father of the future age.” It has been the custom with men to speak of ages as “the age of brass or iron,” and “the age of gold.” We are always looking for this age of gold; the world’s face is constantly turned to it; so much so that quacks play upon the simplicity of men and tell them when this golden age is coming, and fleece them of their pence, and sometimes of their pounds, under the notion that they can tell them something about the good times which are coming. They know nothing about it whatever; they are blind leaders of the blind: but this one thing is clear to everyone who cares to see it, namely, that such an age of gold shall come, that a period brighter far than imagination paints will dawn upon this poor, darkened, enslaved world. I am always jealous with a godly jealousy lest you should forget this doctrine, or throw it up in disgust, because of the shameful way in which it is made merchandise of by others. Brethren, calculate no dates, sit down to devise no charts, but in your heart be satisfied with this, that there will be a kingdom and a reign, and that in that kingdom there shall be no strife to vex the nations, there shall be no affliction to grieve the people; in that kingdom Jesus, the King, shall be conspicuous, and his refulgent glory shall be the light of all the inhabitants; it shall be a New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, prepared by God, as a bride is prepared for her husband, worthy of her Lord, and a fit reward for the crown of thorns, for the flagellation of his shoulders, for the shame, the spitting, and the cross. Lift the cross high my brethren, for it shall be lifted high. Do not speak of Christ with bated breath, for he comes to be a King. You Christians, do not think yourselves, though despised and rejected of men, to be men of a lowly birth, for “it does not yet appear what you shall be; but we know that when he shall appear you shall be like him, for you shall see him as he is.” Joyfully drink the cup of bitterness, for you shall soon drink the wines on the lees well refined; cheerfully pass through the darkness, for the morning breaks, and the day dawns, and the shadows flee away. Be content to be the offscouring of all things, for one day, when kings shall bow down before him, and all nations shall call him blessed, you shall partake in his honour, and shall be as princes upon the throne with him, Yes, he is to be the Father of a future age. Men have called certain great patriots the fathers of their country. Today let us call Christ the Father of our world. Oh Jesus, you have given to earth far better than a creation. You have not only formed it from chaos into order, and then brought it from darkness into light, and then from death into warm life and beauty, but you have recovered it from worse than pristine chaos, and saved it from a darkness worse than the primeval gloom, and a death more horrible than the primeval shades. You have descended into the depths into which this pearl, the world, was cast, and like a mighty diver all the waves and billows have gone over you, but you have come up again bringing this pearl with you, and it shall glisten in your crown for ever when you shall be admired by angels and adored by all created spirits. This shall be the sweetest part of their admiration and their adoration, you were slain and have redeemed us to God by your blood, and therefore to you be glory for ever and ever. He shall be in this sense, then, the Father of an everlasting age.

23. 5. Once more—for the text is very prolific—Christ may be called a Father in the loving and tender sense of a Father’s office. Here is a text to show what I mean. God is called the Father of the fatherless, and Job, I think, says of himself, that he became a father to the poor. You know what it means, of course, at once; it means that he exercised a father’s part. Now, albeit that the Spirit of adoption teaches us to call God our Father, yet it is not straining truth to say that our Lord Jesus Christ exercises to all his people a Father’s part. According to the old Jewish custom the oldest brother was the father of the family in the absence of the father; the firstborn took precedence over all, and took upon him the father’s position; so the Lord Jesus, the firstborn among many brethren, exercises toward us a Father’s office. Is it not so? Has he not helped us in all times of our need as a father helps his child? Has he not supplied us with more than heavenly bread as a father gives bread to his children? Does he not daily protect us, indeed, did he not yield up his life so that we his little ones might be preserved? Will he not say at the last, “Here I am, and the children whom you have given to me; I have lost no one?” Does he not chastise us by hiding himself from us, as a father chastens his children? Do we not find him instructing us by his Spirit and leading us into all truth? Has he not told us to call no man father upon earth in the sense that he is to be our true guide and instructor, and we are to sit at his feet and make him our Rabbi and our authoritative Teacher? Is he not the head in the household to us on earth, abiding with us, and has he not said, “I will not leave you orphans (that is the Greek word); I will come to you?” As if his coming was the coming of a Father. If he is a Father, will we not give him honour? If he is the head of the household, will we not give him obedience, and say in our hearts, “Other lords have had dominion over us, but henceforth, you everlasting Father, we will give you reverence.” If he is in all these senses “the everlasting Father,”

   Then let us adore, and give him his right,

    All glory and power, and wisdom and might,

   All honour and blessing, with angels above,

   And thanks never ceasing, for infinite love.

24. III. Lastly, we weigh the words, “EVERLASTING FATHER.” I have already explained what this means. Christ is called “the everlasting Father” because he does not himself, as a Father, die or vacate his office. He is still the Federal Head and Father of his people; still the Founder of gospel truth and of the Christian system; not allowing archbishops and popes to be his vicars and to take his place. He is still the true Life Giver, from whose wounds and by whose death we are quickened; he reigns even now as the patriarchal King; he is still the loving family Head; and so, in every sense, he lives as a Father. But here is a sweet thought. He himself neither dies, nor becomes childless. He does not lose his children. If his church could perish, he would not be the Father. How could he be a Father without a son? And this is the best of all, that he is “an everlasting Father” to all those to whom he is a Father at all. If you have entered into this relationship so as to be in union with Christ, and to be covered with the skirts of his garment, you are his child, and you shall forever be. There is no unfathering Christ, and there is no unchilding us. He is everlastingly a Father to those who trust in him, and he never does at any one moment cease to be Father to any one of these. This morning you may have come here in trouble, but Christ is still your Father. Today you may be much depressed in spirit and full of doubts and fears; but a true father never ceases, if he is a father, to exercise his kindness to a child; nor does Jesus cease to love and pity you. He will help you. Go to him, and you shall find that loving Friend to be as tender as in the days of his flesh.

25. He is the author of an eternal system. As I glanced at the words “everlasting Father,” and thought of him as the Founder of an everliving system, I said to myself, “Ah then, the Christian religion will never die out!” It is not possible that the truth as it is in Jesus should ever be put away if he is “the everlasting Father.” I feel as if I could quote again Master Hugh Latimer, when, standing back to back with Ridley, “Courage, Master Ridley,” he said, “today we shall light such a candle in England as shall never be put out.” Look over there at Christ on the cross! He did that day light such a candle as never can be put out. He is “the everlasting Father.” He set rolling that day as it were a snowflake of truth as he died upon the cross; and you know what the snowflake does upon the high Alps; a bird’s wing perhaps sets it rolling, and it gathers another and another and another, until, as it descends, it becomes a mass of snow; and by and by as it leaps from crag to crag, it grows greater and greater and greater, until ponderous masses of ice and snow cohere together, and at the last, with an awful thundering crash the avalanche rolls down, fills the valley, and sweeps all before it; even so this Everlasting Father on the cross set in motion a mighty force which has gone on swelling and increasing, gathering to be a ponderous mass of mighty teaching, and the day shall come when, like an irresistible avalanche it shall fall upon the palaces of the Vatican and upon the towers of Rome, when the mosques of Mohammed and the temples of the gods shall be crushed beneath its stupendous weight, and the Everlasting Father shall have done the deed.

26. “The everlasting Father,” last of all, because he is the Father, in all his people, of eternal life. Adam, you are a father, but where are your sons? If you could return to earth, oh Mother Eve! where would you find your children? I think I see her as she paces around the earth and finds nothing but little grassy mounds, heaps of turf, and sometimes a valley sodden blood red where her children have been killed in battle. I hear her weeping for her children; she will not be comforted because they are not! But hush, Mother Eve, what life did you give them? What kind of life was that which Father Adam conferred upon your sons and daughters? Why, it was only terrestrial life, a bubble life, that melted and disappeared. But Jesus as he comes again will find none of his children dead, none of his sons and daughters lost; because he lives they live also, for he is the everlasting Father, and makes those to have everlasting life who live and breathe through him. Thrice happy are those who have an interest in the truth of our text!

27. Now, dear hearers, may I ask you whether Christ is an everlasting Father to you? There are other fathers. The Jew said, “We have Abraham for our father,” and to this day certain divines teach that we have covenant rights because of our earthly fathers. They believe in the Abrahamic covenant much after the manner of the Jews. “We have Abraham for our father”; therefore we have a right to baptism, therefore we are church members; “born into the church.” Yes, I have heard it said, “born into the church.” Let no man deceive you; this is not Christ’s teaching. “You must be born again.” If not, though your mother would be a saint in heaven, and your father an undoubted apostle of God, you should derive no advantage, but a world of solemn responsibility from the fact, unless you yourself are born again. Do not then say to yourself, “we have Abraham for our father,” for God is able from the very stones to raise up children to Abraham. We had a very remarkable instance not very long ago in this Tabernacle, of how God does sometimes bless the outcasts and leaves some of you, the children of godly parents, in the hardness of your heart to perish. There was a man known in the village where he lives by the name of Satan, because of his being so thoroughly depraved. He was a sailor, and since another sailor in that town had been the means of the conversion of all the sailors in a vessel that left the town, this man desired to sail with him to try and beat his religion out of him. He did his best, but he failed miserably; and as they happened to be coming to London, his friend asked him whether he would come to the Tabernacle. He did not mind coming to hear me, for as it happened, I was brought up near the place where he lived. This Satan came here on the Lord’s day morning, when the text was upon soul murder, (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 713, “Soul Murder—Who is Guilty” 704) and he sat (some of you noticed him that day), and sobbed and cried under the sermon at such a broken hearted rate that he could only say, “People are noticing me, I had better go out”; but his companion would not let him go out, and that man from that day forth was begotten by the Everlasting Father, and is living and walking in the truth, an earnest believer, doing all that he can for the spread of the kingdom, and singularly clear in his doctrinal knowledge. Here is a man who had been everything that was possible in the way of badness, yet God met with him; and some of you who have Abraham for your father, and are related to godly people, are just all the more hardened for all the preaching you have heard. May God have pity upon you and save you yet! Do not be content with fleshly fatherhood; get the spiritual fatherhood, which comes from Christ.

28. Others of you are today perhaps saying, “Well, we can trust in our good works.” Well, then, Adam is your father, and you know what will become of you. Adam was driven out of Paradise, and you will never be admitted there. Adam lost all his hopes, and you will lose yours. On the basis of the law no flesh living shall be justified. Alas! I fear that many here have another father. How does Christ put it? “You are of your father, the devil,” he says, “for you do his works.” Not works merely of open sin in the form of adultery, uncleanness, theft, and such like, but opposition to Christ is particularly a work of the devil, and unbelief in Christ is the devil’s masterpiece. If you do not then trust the Lord Jesus, do not say tonight when you kneel at the bedside, “Our Father, who is in heaven,” for your father is not in heaven, your father is in hell. Go to the blood of Jesus and ask that you may be cleansed from all iniquity, and then you may say through the everlasting Father, “Oh God, you have made me your child, and I love and bless your name.” May God be pleased to give you all his blessing for Jesus’ sake. Amen.” (7)

In conclusion, E. J. Young’s recent contemporary observation on Isaiah 9:6:

“The Father of Eternity”

“To discover the precise significance of the epithet is not easy. The word ‛ad signifies perpetuity or duration. It may have the sense of eternity, as when Isaiah speaks of the “high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity . . .” (57:15). Possibly that is the force here, for it is stated that there will be no end of the Messiah’s kingdom. In what sense, however, may the Messiah be designated the Father of Eternity? We may perhaps bring on the thought by paraphrasing, “One who is eternally a Father.”

The word “Father” designates a quality of the Messiah with respect to His people. He acts toward them like a father. “Thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting” (Isa. 63:16). “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear hi.’ (Ps. 103:13).

The quality of fatherhood is defined by the word eternity. The Messiah is an eternal Father. If this is correct, the meaning is that He is One who eternally is a Father to His people. Now and forever, He guards His people ad supplies their needs. I am the good shepherd,” said our Lord, and thus expressed the very heart of the meaning of the phrase. What tenderness, love, and comfort are here! Eternally – a Father to His people!” (8)

Final Comments:

A summary to deliver if ever challenged or asked about the meaning of “Everlasting Father” in Isaiah 9:6.

“And again, ‘I will put my trust in him.’ And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” (Hebrews 2:13 ESV)

According to Hebrew 2:13, Jesus is the father of the children God has given him.

Thus, it can be said, this son prophesied by Isaiah will become a Father to His people, and His reign will be forever!

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:27).


1.            H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Isaiah, Vol.10., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 167.

2.            Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Isaiah, Vol. 7, p. 295-296.

3.            Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 518.

4.            Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Isaiah, Vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 347-348.

5.            John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Isaiah, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 149-150.

6.            Joseph Benson, Benson Commentary of the Old and New Testaments, Isaiah, (New-York, New York, Published By T. Carlton & J. Porter, 1857), online page reference unavailable.

7.            Charles Spurgeon, The Everlasting Father, A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, December 9, 1866, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

8.            Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah Volume 1, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, Publishing Company, reprinted 1993) pp. 338-339. 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. Available at: THERELIGIONTHATSTARTEDINAHAT.COM

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Observations on the Scriptures

Observations on the Scriptures                                                                   by Jack Kettler

In this study, we will answer the following questions:

1.            What are the Scriptures?

2.            Why are the Scriptures authoritative?

3.            What are the essential characteristics of Scripture?

4.            Why are the Scriptures to be written?

5.            Why should we search the Scriptures?

6.            Are the Scriptures complete?

7.            What about other sources of alleged revelations?

8.            How should we search the Scriptures?

Introductory Comments:

Today in the Post-Modern era, the experience is set-forth as a test for truth. Experiential testimonials, secular and religious, find use as recruitment techniques to gain members. Approaches such as these play upon human emotions. The Christian must not succumb to this erroneous approach to truth, namely letting experiences guide us. On the contrary, the Scriptures must always interpret and test experience, as well as traditions, spiritual leaders, and even the official theology of a church.

When Jesus said, “it is written,” in Matthew 4:10, He established beyond all doubt that the Scriptures are the authoritative and incorruptible Word of God.  The Old and New Testament is the Word of God, and the believer can be confident that the Scriptures are authoritative and sufficient. Thus, the Bible is the final court of appeal when seeking the truth.

A correct view of Scripture is fundamental to establish a system of sound doctrine. It is vital to have a theory of knowledge-based upon a correct view of Scripture. The Christian must build his foundation of knowledge upon the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” – John Calvin

1. What are the Scriptures?

They are a body of writings considered sacred or authoritative. The Bible also called Holy Scripture, Holy Writ, or the Scriptures the Old and New Testaments.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Quest. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

Ans. 2. The Word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2Timothy 3:16)

“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:20)

“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” (1John 1:3-4)

Quest. 3. What do the scriptures principally teach?

Ans. 3. The scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” (2Timothy 1:13)    

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2Timothy 3:16)

The first chapter of the Westminster Confession says the Scriptures are:

“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life…”

2. Why are the Scriptures Authoritative?

The authority of Scripture flows from the fact that it is God’s Word and declares itself God’s Word. It follows unavoidably that the Scriptures are binding upon the Christian as doctrine and for all of life.

The Prophet Isaiah declares the power of God’s Word when sent forth:

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

David, in the Psalms, further confirms this truth:

“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. And, the counsel of the LORD standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” (Psalms 33:6, 11)

Not only is God and His Word powerful and irresistible when sent forth, but it is also crucial to see just how closely God is identified with the Scriptures. A connection like this further establishes that it is the highest authority.

Consider this example from the book of Romans:

“For the scripture saith, whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Romans 10:11)

Notice how the apostle Paul in the book of Romans, says, “For the Scripture saith.” It is significant to see when you consult Isaiah 28:16, whom Paul is quoting in Romans, and you find that it is God speaking.

To appreciate this connection of the wording the “Scripture saith” and “thus saith the Lord,” consider:

“Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” (Isaiah 28:16)

Then in Romans, we read:

“For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” (Romans 9:17)

Was God speaking or the Scriptures? If there is any doubt, we know for sure after reading:

“And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16)

Exodus 9:16 that it is God that was speaking, whereas, Romans says, “the Scripture saith.” Therefore, it is clear that God and the Scriptures are so closely identified as to be synonymous. In essence, we learn from these examples, “thus saith the Lord God,” and the phrase “the Scriptures saith” are used interchangeably. 

As we have seen, the Scriptures are the Word of God. In addition, they reveal His thoughts, His will, and purposes. God is the author, and they rest on His authority.

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

3. What are the essential characteristics of Scripture?

The following five passages speak to this question:

“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandment of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119:105)

“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6)

“Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.” (Proverbs 13:13)

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

These five passages set God’s Word apart from the writings of men by the fact that God’s words are “pure,” “a lamp and light,” and are “eternal.” Despising the Word of God by rejecting or altering it, destruction awaits.

In addition, the Scriptures are infallible, they are holy, they are powerful, they are complete, they are understandable, and in them, we find the ordained means of salvation.

“For the scripture saith, whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Romans 10:11)

“Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” (Isaiah 28:16)

4. Why are the Scriptures to be written?

The inscription of God’s Word gives us an objective divine standard to determine the truth.

Consider the following passages in God’s Word about this:

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning…” (Romans 15:4)

“And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord… And he [Moses] took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people…” (Exodus 24:4, 7)

“Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever.” (Isaiah 30:8)

“Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day.” (Jeremiah 36:2)

“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersover thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou have good success.” (Joshua 1:7-8)

“And the Lord answered me, and said, write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” (Habakkuk 2:2)

“Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, what thou seest, write in a book and send it unto the seven churches…” (Revelation 1:11)

God’s Word was to be written so that His people could know how to live in a way pleasing to Him and be able to know right from wrong. Apart from the objective written standard of Scripture, man is left with his own subjective opinions. In addition to the scriptural pattern just seen, there are numerous examples, by biblical writers, to the appeal to what had been previously written.

For example:

“Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.” (1Corinthians 4:6 NIV)

In the Tyndale New Testament Commentary on First Corinthians, Leon Morris makes the following comment about the above verse:

“‘Not beyond what is written’ was a catch-cry familiar to Paul and his readers, directing attention to the need for conformity to Scripture.” (1)

5. Why should we search the Scriptures?

We search the Scriptures for the knowledge of God, for truth, to learn our responsibilities, for comfort, to learn how to advance in sanctification.

The testimony of the Scriptures is that they are sufficient. The Scriptures are entirely adequate to meet the needs of the believer. The believer can have confidence in the Scriptures. God’s Words are described as “pure,” “perfect,” “a light,” and “eternal.” Having this confidence is a conclusion drawn from or deduced from the Scriptures by good and necessary consequence.

“For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2Timothy 3:16)

6. Are the Scriptures Complete?

The Scriptures are complete, and divine Revelation has ceased. When the subject of “the closing of the canon” comes up, this is what is meant. As will be seen, the completion and ceasing of divine Revelation are in the Scripture itself. That is why the apostle restricts the believer to “…not go beyond what is written…” (1Corinthians 4:6 NIV)

The next verse from Daniel is of importance for the subject of the closing of the canon:

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24)

The terminus or completion of this prophecy is in the 1st Century. Verses in Daniel 9:25-27 say that when the seventy-week period begins, it will continue uninterrupted until the seventy-week period is over or complete. Christ’s death and resurrection made an end to the sins of His people. He accomplished reconciliation for His people. Christ’s people have experienced everlasting righteousness because of the fact that we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, which is everlasting. The phrase “and to seal up the vision and prophecy” establishes the closing of the canon of Scripture.

E. J. Young in The Geneva Daniel Commentary makes the following observations concerning “vision” and “prophecy” in the Old Testament:

“Vision was a technical name for revelation given to the OT prophets (cf. Isa, 1:1, Amos 1:1, etc.) The prophet was the one through whom this vision was revealed to the people. The two words, vision and prophet, therefore, serve to designate the prophetic revelation of the OT period…. When Christ came, there was no further need of prophetic revelation in the OT sense.” (2)

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers is in agreement with E. J. Young on Daniel 9:24:

“To Seal Up.—σϕραγίσαι, Theod.; συντελεσθῆναι, LXX.; impleatur, Jer.; the impression of the translators being that all visions and prophecies were to receive their complete fulfilment in the course of these seventy weeks. It appears, however, to be more agreeable to the context to suppose that the prophet is speaking of the absolute cessation of all prophecy. (Comp. 1Corinthians 13:8.)” (3)                        

In a similar fashion, in Adam Clarke’s Commentary concerning this same phrase we read:

“To put an end to the necessity of any farther revelations, by completing the canon of Scriptures, and fulfilling the prophecies which related to his person, sacrifice and the glory that should follow.” (4)

Consider the biblical evidence for this:

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3:3)

“Which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3:3 NKJV)

This verse in Jude is speaking about the closing of the New Testament Canon. What does Jude mean by the phrase “the faith”? Also, notice how this “faith” was delivered (past tense) to the saints.

Simon J. Kistemaker, in the New Testament Commentary of the book of Jude, says the following what the “faith” that was delivered was:

“What is this faith, Jude mentions? In view of the context, we understand the word faith to mean the body of Christian beliefs. It is the gospel the apostles proclaimed and therefore is equivalent to the apostles teaching.” Acts 2:42 (5)

More on the phrase once delivered:

The phrase once [hapax] delivered is important. Hapax means once for all.

In Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, we find this comment concerning hapax:

“Once for all, of what is perpetual validity, not requiring repetition.” (6)

A passage in 1Corinthians sheds even more light on the completion of Scripture:

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” (1Corinthians 13:9-10)

The passage says that something that is “in part” will be done away with when “that which is perfect is come.” What is the apostle referring to when he says that something perfect is coming?

Theologian Gordon H. Clark comments on this:

“There is one phase, not so far mentioned: “When the completion comes,” or “when that which is perfect comes.” This raises the question: Completion of what? It could be the completion of the canon. Miracles and tongues were for the purpose of guaranteeing the divine origin of apostolic doctrine. They cease when the revelation was completed. Even the word knowledge is better understood this way. Instead of comparing present-day extensive study of the New Testament with Justin’s [Martyr] painfully inadequate understanding of the Atonement, it would be better to take knowledge as the apostolic process of revealing new knowledge. This was completed when revelation ceased.” (7)

Clark is on track when connecting the coming perfection with the completion of the Scriptures. The tongues and prophecy of the apostolic era confirmed and bore witness to the truthfulness of that message. Nevertheless, tongues, prophecy, and revelatory knowledge were lacking when compared with the written Scripture. The written Scriptures are far superior to spoken words.

Dr. Leonard Coppes also has relevant comments regarding this section of Scripture:

“This is a clear statement that when the knowledge being given through the apostles and prophets is complete, tongues and prophecy shall cease. Tongues, prophecy, and knowledge (gnosis) constitute partial, incomplete stages. Some may stumble over the idea that “knowledge” represents a partial and incomplete (revelational) stage. But is rightly remarked that Paul distinguishes between sophia and gnosis in 1 Cor. 12:8 All three terms (tongues, prophecy, knowledge) involve divine disclosure of verbal revelation and all three on that basis alone ceased when the foundation (i.e., the perfect) came (10). Verse 11 speaks of the partial as childlike (cf., 14:20) and the perfect as manly (the apostolic is “manly,” too, cf., 14:20). Paul reflecting on those who are limited to these childlike things describes this limitation as seeing in a mirror darkly (12). When the perfect (the apostolic depositum) is come, full knowledge is present.” (8)

Coppes, like Clark, connects the perfection with the completion of the canon.

The following verse provides vital information concerning the completion of Scripture:

“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Ephesians 2:20)

This verse in Ephesians tells us that the apostles are part of the foundation of the church. The church has only one foundation. The Scripture in John 14:26 teaches that the apostles were taught “all things.” Paul commanded Timothy to “guard the good deposit” of truth in 2Timothy 1:14. This “deposit” was identifiable, or else Paul’s command to Timothy would not make sense. Furthermore, in order to guard it, this deposit could not have been a nebulous association of oral traditions.

“And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shown you, and have taught you publicly, from house to house… For I have not shunned to declare to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:20, 27)

Since the apostles taught all the counsel of God, there would be no need for further revelation. What can you add to all of the counsel of God? The “good deposit” or the “all the counsel of God” was connected to the apostolic period at the foundation of the church. The authoritative apostolic writings became part of the New Testament canon.

The biblical conclusion is that, after their death, apostolic Revelation ceased. Why? Because of the fact that after the death of the apostles, their special office in the church ceased. The church has only one foundation, not layers of foundations on top of each other, as the “ongoing-apostolic-office” view would require.

Another verse is particularly relevant for the closing of canon during the 1st Century at this point in redemptive history:

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)

The book of Revelation is believed to be the last book written in the Bible. It was completed prior to 70 A.D. The passages in Revelation 1:3 and 22:6, 12 are time indicators that point to an early date to this book. Why? Someone may ask. The wording in these texts, such as “for the time is at hand” and “which must shortly be done” provide convincing evidence for an early date prior to 70 A.D. for John’s Revelation. This is because the 1st Century fulfillment of the prophecies within the book are relevant to the dating of Revelation prior to 70 A.D. Therefore, the time-sensitive texts previously mentioned become important indicators pointing towards dating the book in the 1st Century.

In addition, the temple in chapter eleven is shown to still be in existence, also supporting this early date prior to 70A.D. If an early date for the book of Revelation is accurate (which it is), then it allows the book to fit into the period of Daniel’s prophecy. Accordingly, the book of Revelation fits into the period and purview of Daniel’s “seventy weeks.” Therefore, those who argue for continued Revelation do so at the peril of their souls since they are urging men to violate this scriptural warning recorded in the last book of the canon.

Another passage that sheds important light on the penalty for giving false Revelation is in Zechariah 13. The context of this section of Zechariah places it in the 1st Century. See Zechariah 11:13; 12:10; 13:1; 13:7 for proof of this 1st Century setting.

Consider this warning not to add to God’s Word:

“It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who begot him will say to him; you shall not live, because you have spoken lies in the name of the Lord. And his father and mother who begot him shall thrust him through when he prophesies.” (Zechariah 13:3) (NKJ)

This passage supports the view that prophecy has ended in light of the fact that the death penalty is still to be carried out for false prophetic utterances and is in harmony with Daniel 9:24. The phrase “If anyone still prophesies” makes it clear that prophecy has ended. The death penalty is required for those who give new revelation. Why? Because it is false revelation since God has ceased giving revelation. This is the consistent theme of Scripture. Again, see Revelation 22:18-19; Galatians 1:8, 9; Deuteronomy 13:5 for the penalties and curses associated with violating this prohibition.

Consequently, since there is no fundamental difference between Old and New Testament Revelation, and the source of the revelation is identical, there is no reason to doubt that all giving of new revelation ceased in the 1st Century.

7. What about other sources of alleged revelations?

The advantage of having an objective written Revelation:

There are other ideas about how God’s Revelation is communicated. In some religions, you have ideas like oral traditions that have been passed down through the centuries or a document that is constructed from memories of numerous individuals who lived over 100 years after the giver of the revelations had died. In other cases, you have revelations where the original revelations translated from an unknown language from “Golden Plates” have disappeared.  

Written documents can be studied to see if they are forgeries, whereas oral traditions, disappearing “Golden Plates” taken away by an angel called Moroni or the Uthmanic manuscripts, like the Samarqand Codex, or the Topkapi Codex that were originally memorized by various followers of Mohammad over 100 years after his death cannot be studied. In the case of the Koran, there are no original manuscripts, just the memories of men. In the case of the Mormons, Moroni, along with the “Golden Plates,” are still missing.

Memories may be reliable or not. How can you know? How can you research study and evaluate memories of men long since dead? What process was used to determine false from true memories? How were the memories transcribed, and by whom? Allah, in the Islamic religion, supposedly has the true Koran in heaven. Maybe the Mormon “Golden Plates” are there too. Meanwhile, back on earth, this is not much help.

What about oral sacred traditions?

In brief, in certain expressions of Christianity, there is a view that Christ passed on knowledge to the apostles that were never written, and this information was passed down orally by apostolic succession via bishops and patriarchs and declared valid and of equal authority with Scripture in Roman counsels like Trent. The Eastern Orthodox also have oral traditions similar to Rome.

Traditions may be good or bad. Are the traditions in agreement with Scripture, or do they contradict it or add to it is such a way as to change the meaning of the biblical text?

It is circumspect toward the Word of God to be on guard against tradition in light of what Jesus says:  

“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (Matthew 15:1-6)

Sacred Oral Tradition Churches uses John 20:30 as a proof text for oral traditions:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31 ESV)

Supposedly, the signs that were not written were maintained in a growing body of oral sacred traditions. Nothing in the text says anything like this happened. It is an assumption read into the text. Some people remembered some of the things and shared them with others. There is no guarantee that after time, everyone’s memories faded stories faded from everyone’s minds.

Do pictures and icons serve as a way to preserve the oral traditions? Many icons need some explanation. The question can be raised, it the explanation correct? A need for pictures and icons to preserve oral traditions is the admission of the weakness and inadequacy of oral traditions.

The Scripture commands us to remember Scriptures:

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” (Deuteronomy 11:18 ESV)

We are to remember the Scriptures and the stories and events in Scripture.

More on the proof text of John 20:30. Does it provide Biblical evidence for a continuing body of revelations or traditions on a par with written Scripture? 

In his commentary on the Bible on John 20:30, John Calvin says no:

“30. Many other signs also Jesus did. If the Evangelist had not cautioned his readers by this observation, they might have supposed that he had left out none of the miracles, which Christ had performed, and had given a full and complete account of all that happened. John, therefore, testifies, first, that he has only related some things out of a large number; not that the others were unworthy of being recorded, but because these were sufficient to edify faith. And yet it does not follow that they were performed in vain, for they profited that age. Secondly, though at the present day we have not a minute knowledge of them, still we must not suppose it to be of little importance for us to know that the Gospel was sealed by a vast number of miracles.” (9)

Comments on the things “which were not written”:

The text in John 20:30 says certain things that Christ did, “which were not written.” To use this text for true Revelation not included in the canon but on par with Scriptures is an argument from silence (a fallacy). To say this text provides justification for the beginning of an oral scared tradition on par with the recorded Scripture is reading assumptions into the text. Unfortunately, when a representative from a Christian Church make these type of assumptions, (sloppy exegesis), it provides cover for aberrational religious groups as with the Mormons to follow with even more outlandish teachings.  

Another sloppy exegete may cite a passage like:

“And there are also many other things, which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen…” (John 21:25)

In John 21:25, hyperbole is being used as a rhetorical device; thus, the hyper-literalism fails.

Sloppy exegesis strikes again. In a similar way, John, 14:26 can be distorted. For example:

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you….” (John 14:26)

John 14:26, which deals with Christ’s message, is to the apostles exclusively. Hence, a fallacious interpretation seeks to open the door for continued revelation by leading people to believe that there is still more to the “all things.”

Limitations on the “all things”:

John 14:26 certainly does not mean that Jesus taught his apostles all about the occult and deviant sexual practices. Jesus said many words that are not recorded in Scripture. Jesus probably talked about the weather and thanked his mother for a good meal, and these instances are not recorded. There is clearly a limitation in the “all things” of the passage.

John 14:26 is understood in relation to passages like; “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2Peter 1:3)

And, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2Timothy 3:16-17).

It is true that not every Word of Christ and the apostles is recorded in the Bible? John even says this “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book” (John 20:30). John follows up this statement in verse 20:30 with an important conclusion that: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:3, 12).

The phrase in the first part of the verse “are written” is expressing the same truth as “it is written.” If “it is written,” it is Scripture and has been canonized. If it is not recorded in the Bible, it is not Scripture. That is the implicit conclusion that cannot be overlooked.

How do we know if sacred oral traditions are true? Is it because the church says so? How do we know the Word of the church regarding a particular sacred tradition is true? Is it because it is in agreement with sacred tradition? If this were the case, then we would seem to be going in a circle. A circular argument is fallacious and self-refuting.

In Eastern Orthodoxy and Romanism, sacred oral tradition is elevated on a par equal with Scripture. It can be asked, has God revealed all this sacred oral Revelation now? Is oral Revelation complete or not? If not, is this body of Revelation, i.e., “sacred tradition” still expanding? If it is still expanding, how long will these alleged traditions continue to expand or grow? If the sacred oral traditions are written down, what becomes of them? Are they now considered equivalent to the Old and New Testament writings? If so, should the Scriptures be revised by adding them to the Bible as an appendix? Is there a sacred book of traditions? Are there commentaries that explain these “sacred traditions”? If so, are these commentaries inspired? Can every-day men read them? Do we need a special leader to decipher the meaning?

Does this expanding body of revelations or traditions ever contradict each other? It may be said, yes. For instance, the development of Mariology is an example of this. One would have to be dishonest to deny that there are contradictions between the different traditions. For example, Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholics have traditions that contradict each other at various points. The role of “feasts,” “fasts,” “festivals,” the “filoque,” “papal claims,” “original sin,” “purgatory,” the “immaculate conception,” and the use of “icons” are examples of divergent, contradictory traditions. Furthermore, there is much debate and disagreement upon exactly what some traditions mean in the first place.

These examples, by their very nature, are open to endlessly differing accounts and interpretations. Remember a grade school exercise where the teacher gives a sentence to the first student and then that student repeats the sentence to the next and so on until the last student get the sentence and repeats it to the class only to find it is completely different from the start? Oral traditions or stories dependent on memories are inferior and are no more reliable than the child-hood exercise.

What about 2Thessalonians 2:15?

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions, which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (2Thessalonians 2:15)

In this passage from Thessalonians, Paul is referring to his apostolic message, which was heard and received by the disciples as the “Word of God.”

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions, which ye have been taught, whether by word, [teaching, preaching] or our epistle [written letter]. (2Thessalonians 2:15)

Paul’s apostolic teachings are described as “traditions” in this passage. Not always, but in this case, the context requires, and Paul wants us to understand that the “traditions” he is mentioning are the Word of God. For an example of traditions that are not Scripture, consider how Jesus mentions the tradition of the elders in Mark 7:3. Christ goes on in the gospel of Mark 7:9 to say that the Pharisees had substituted the commandments of God with the traditions of men.

Evaluating Ancient Documents:

Is it possible to make a final decision on an ancient manuscript being reliable if only one source is available?

In the Christian tradition, there are thousands of manuscripts of the Bible. These manuscripts can be studied and compared with other manuscripts and through conservative textual criticism, eliminate scribal copying errors. The agreement of multitudes of manuscripts is an advantage over a one-source revelatory document. Multiple witnesses that agree are more reliable than one witness is. See Deuteronomy 19:15, and Matthew 18:16. While these two Scriptural references are dealing with criminal conviction and discipline, the underlying principle is valid in ancient manuscript research. As a rule, more copies are better than one. In New Testament textual criticism, the numerous extant manuscripts have always been a recognized advantage.  

As Christians, we have the Bible with centuries of textual criticism and very few disputes. Multiple manuscripts that agree is a strong point. In other traditions, ultimately, you must have faith in the word of men since there are no primary source documents. In the end, you have the word of men or the Word of God.  

8. How should we search the Scriptures?

Reverently and submissively, with diligence and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

“These were more noble 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)

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

Some human observations:

The strength of the Christian position enumerated above to paraphrase Gordon H. Clark regarding what is known as “Scriipturalism” (all knowledge must be contained within a system and deduced from its starting principles, in the Christian case, the Bible).

“The existence of the Bible, as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity.”  – Immanuel Kant

“The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the holy scriptures…[and] are found upon comparison to be part of the original law of nature. Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.” – Sir William Blackstone

“The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.” – Patrick Henry

“Should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a schoolbook? Its morals are pure; its examples are captivating and noble. In no Book is there so good English, so pure and so elegant, and by teaching all the same they will speak alike, and the Bible will justly remain the standard of language as well as of faith.” – Fisher Ames

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” – James Madison

“By removing the Bible from schools we would be wasting so much time and money in punishing criminals and so little pains to prevent crime. Take the Bible out of our schools and there would be an explosion in crime.” – Benjamin Rush

“If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instruction and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” – Daniel Webster

“Education is useless without the Bible,” “The Bible was America’s basic textbook in all fields,” “God’s Word, contained in the Bible, has furnished all necessary rules to direct our conduct.” – Noah Webster

“It is impossible to enslave, mentally or socially, a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.” – Horace Greeley

“The Bible is the only force known to history that has freed entire nations from corruption while simultaneously giving them political freedom.” – Vishal Mangalwadi

“For doctrine.” For thence we shall know, whether we ought to learn or to be ignorant of anything. And thence we may disprove what is false, thence we may be corrected and brought to a right mind, may be comforted and consoled, and if anything is deficient, we may have it added to us. “That the man of God may be perfect.” For this is the exhortation of the Scripture given, that the man of God may be rendered perfect by it; without this therefore he cannot be perfect. Thou hast the Scriptures, he says, in place of me. If thou wouldest learn anything, thou mayest learn it from them. And if he thus wrote to Timothy, who was filled with the Spirit, how much more to us! Thoroughly furnished unto all good works”, not merely taking part in them, he means, but “thoroughly furnished.” – John Chrysostom, Homily 9, commentary on (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

“Knowledge of the Bible protects us and ignorance of it results in a multitude of evils. “This is the cause of all evils, the not knowing the Scriptures. We go into battle without arms, and how are we to come off safe?” (Homily IX On Colossians) “But if we bid you believe the Scriptures, and these are simple and true, the decision is easy for you. If any agree with the Scriptures, he is the Christian; if any fight against them, he is far from this rule.” – John Chrysostom, (Homily 33 in Acts of the Apostles)

“What then? After all these efforts were they tired? Did they leave off? Not at all. They are charging me with innovation, and base their charge on my confession of three hypostases, and blame me for asserting one Goodness, one Power, one Godhead. In this they are not wide of the truth, for I do so assert. Their complaint is that their custom does not accept this, and that Scripture does not agree. What is my reply? I do not consider it fair that the custom which obtains among them should be regarded as a law and rule of orthodoxy. If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right, then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them. Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favour of that side will be cast the vote of truth.” – Basil, (Letter 189, 3)

In closing, may we always be able to say with the Psalmist and Apostle:

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:103, 105)

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:27).


1.            Leon Morris, The Tyndale New Testament Commentary 1 Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Inter-Varsity Press, and Eerdmans, 1983), p. 78.

2.            E. J. Young, Daniel, (Oxford: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1988), p. 200.

3.             Charles John Ellicott, A Bible commentary for English readers, Vol. 5, (London: Cassell, 1882), p. 387.

4.            Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary Vol. 4, (Nashville: Abingdom Press, 1956) p. 602.

5.            Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary Jude, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987), p. 371.

6.            W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls: Riverside, 1952), p. 809.

7.            Gordon H. Clark, First Corinthians, (Jefferson, Maryland: The Trinity Foundation, 1991), pp. 212-213.

8.            Leonard J. Coppes, Whatever Happened to Biblical Tongues? (Chattanooga, Tennessee: Pilgrim Publishing Company, 1977), pp. 59-60.

9.            John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, John, Volume XX, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), p. 280. 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. Available at: THERELIGIONTHATSTARTEDINAHAT.COM

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What about the annihilation of the Canaanites, God’s enemies?

What about the annihilation of the Canaanites, God’s enemies?                    by Jack Kettler

Was the extermination of the Canaanites in the following verses genocide as a so-called enlightened 21st Century man say?

“But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee.” (Deuteronomy 20:16-17)

Commenting on Deuteronomy 20:10-20, the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says:

“10-20. When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it—An important principle is here introduced into the war law of Israel regarding the people they fought against and the cities they besieged. With “the cities of those people which God doth give thee” in Canaan, it was to be a war of utter extermination (De 20:17, 18). But when on a just occasion, they went against other nations, they were first to make a proclamation of peace, which if allowed by a surrender, the people would become dependent [De 20:11], and in the relation of tributaries the conquered nations would receive the highest blessings from alliance with the chosen people; they would be brought to the knowledge of Israel’s God and of Israel’s worship, as well as a participation of Israel’s privileges. But if the besieged city refused to capitulate and be taken, a universal massacre was to be made of the males while the women and children were to be preserved and kindly treated (De 20:13, 14). By this means a provision was made for a friendly and useful connection being established between the captors and the captives; and Israel, even through her conquests, would prove a blessing to the nations.” (1)

“And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.” (Joshua 6:21)

From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Joshua 6:21:

“Being commanded to do so by the sovereign Lord of every man’s life; and being informed by God before that the Canaanites were abominably wicked, and deserved the severest punishments. As for the infants, they were guilty of original sin, and otherwise at the disposal of their Creator, as the clay is in the hands of the potter; but if they had been wholly innocent, it was a great favour to them to take them away in infancy, rather than reserve them to those dreadful calamities which those who survived them were liable to.” (2)

“Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1Samuel 15:3)

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on 1Samuel 15:3:

“(3) Smite Amalek, and utterly destroy . . .—For “utterly destroy” the Hebrew has the far stronger expression, “put under the ban” (cherem). Whatever was “put under the ban” in Israel was devoted to God, and whatever was so devoted could not be redeemed, but must be slain. Amalek was to be looked upon as accursed; human beings and cattle must be killed; whatever was capable of being destroyed by fire must be burnt. The cup of iniquity in this people was filled up. Its national existence, if prolonged, would simply have worked mischief to the commonwealth of nations. Israel here was simply the instrument of destruction used by the Almighty. It is vain to attempt in this and similar transactions to find materials for the blame or the praise of Israel. We must never forget that Israel stood in a peculiar relation to the unseen King, and that this nation was not unfrequently used as the visible scourge by which the All-Wise punished hopelessly hardened sinners, and deprived them of the power of working mischief. We might as well find fault with pestilence and famine, or the sword—those awful instruments of Divine justice and—though we often fail to see it now—of Divine mercy.” (3)

Introductory considerations:

Considering original sin, none of the Canaanites destroyed were sin-free; all were guilty! Therefore, their judgment was just.

Deuteronomy 20:10-20 is a section of instructions for warfare. As noted in Deuteronomy 20:12, “Now if the city will not make peace with you, but war against you, then you shall besiege it.” Verse 12 is an essential part of the context of Deuteronomy 20:10-20. The offer of peace was a general rule, with some exceptions as noted in Deuteronomy 20:16-17, Joshua 6:21, and 1Samuel 15:3.

What about the exceptions, where there was no offer of peace?

To start, let us not forget that the God of the Bible destroyed His people on several occasions, (Assyria and Babylon) and at the end of the world. At the end of the world, He promises to bring everlasting judgment upon all non-believers.

What needs to be determined before proceeding to answer the starting question?

  1. The objector may a pacifist or idealistic.
  2. The objector may have a different worldview.
  3. The objector may be an argumentative bully or an apostate.
  4. The objector may be an honest questioner.
  5. Does the objector believe we live in a sinful or fallen world?   

Digging into the initial question or as may be found, questions:

The question may go deeper than God’s elimination of the Canaanites. In many cases, the question probably includes any form of temporal and eternal judgment.      

Temporal judgment can be dwelt with easily by asking an objector if they believe a child molester or murderer should be punished, even including the death penalty. Only the extreme nihilistic anarchist would disagree.

The field of objectors at this point will be narrowing down. Now we are dealing with the length of time arguments for punishment. Can anyone ever pay their debt for the crimes mentioned above? If no, this narrows down the field of objectors even more.

Possibly some objectors just do not like the idea of God executing the sentence. A disagreement like this would need to be determined by additional questions. It is ok for a government through its legal system to execute murders, but not God. In terms of the Christian worldview, God gave humanity the moral codes to convict and carry out penalties for crimes committed.      

In terms of the Christian worldview, God has ordained civil magistrates to carry out executions and penalties for various crimes, such as murder, theft, and perjury, etc.

Now back to the initial question. It may be that the questioner is against all forms of capital punishment utilizing the death penalty. If so, you have narrowed down the possible questions to just one. The objector may not admit it, but death penalty crimes and judgments occur throughout all of biblical history.

The objector may be coming from the point of view that anything God does record in the Bible is unconscionable to them. If this is the case, the burden is upon them to explicate their worldview’s allegedly superior ethical system.       

The Christian apologist by this time should have eliminated the surrounding questions to one or two basic questions or objections regarding the above passages command to kill all the Canaanites.

An example from history may be helpful:

In times of wars like World War II, many so-called innocents lose their lives during bombing campaigns and artillery assault upon population centers. When an evil leader like Adolf Hitler is accepted as their leader, in a sense, the whole nation becomes guilty of the crimes of the leader and his chosen henchmen.

In World War II the entire city of Dresden, Germany was bombed into a blazing inferno. Virtually everyone that stayed in the city lost his or her lives. Women and children were included in this. Allied generals gave the command to bomb Dresden. Does the objector have a problem from this scenario from World War II? What about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The history of the world has been a history of war and bloodshed. In addition, inferior civilizations being conquered by stronger cultures has happened throughout history. It has been said, “War is hell.”

Answers to the initial question:

The question was about God’s punishment upon the Canaanites in Deuteronomy, Joshua, and 1Samuel.  

First, the events that happened in the land of Canaan happened during a time of war.

Second, God gave a command to his earthly regents to start a military campaign.      

Third, were the Canaanites righteous or wicked?

In modern times, wars have started over evil dictators killing and persecuting innocents in their lands. Should Hitler have been stopped or allowed to implement his Third Reich? Stopping Hitler would be included in the just war theory.

With the Canaanites and their widespread practice of child sacrifice, this indeed parallels the Nazi extermination of the Jewish people. In both cases, an intervention to stop this wickedness was justified. In the case of Hitler, an allied invasion, and in the case of the Canaanites, an attack by God’s forces, namely, Joshua and the armies of Israel.   

In closing:

The Judgment of the Canaanites by Lane Keister:

“It is a fairly common objection to the Bible and to all forms of biblical faith that a God who would order the extermination of all the Canaanites by the Israelites cannot be a loving God, and therefore cannot be any kind of god that they would want to worship.

There are a number of answers that have been posed to this question that are inadequate for anyone wishing to take the Bible seriously. One answer is that God did not prescribe the war, He simply decreed it. This falls foul of the Scriptural injunction that God gives to wipe all the Canaanites out. He commanded them to do it (though with very important exceptions, as will be noted below. The exceptions, in fact, point us in the right direction, as I will argue). Another inadequate answer is that Israel falsely attributed the command to God, but actually conquered Canaan on their own steam. Nor is it adequate to say that all forms of warfare are evil, as if there were no such thing as a just war. Christian ethicists have argued from Scripture through all the centuries of church history that there is such a thing as a just war. The question is a formidable one, and it will not do to simply wish the problem away, or explain it in such a way as does not do justice to the biblical data.

The exceptions to the genocide are, as state above, quite important. Rahab and her family were spared. Why were they spared? Because of their faith. The Gibeonites were spared. Why were they spared? They believed that the land was going to Israel, and they feared the God of Israel. They used underhanded methods to gain their lives. And yet, while there is a reproach from Joshua directed towards the Gibeonites, there is no reproach from God, interestingly. In fact, in David’s time, the Gibeonites are allowed to exact justice on the seed of Saul’s line because Saul violated the treaty made with the Gibeonites. In both cases, there was a belief (on the part of the people spared) that God’s people Israel had the right to the promised land, and that Israel’s God was the true King of all named gods. There was a measure of faith, in other words. Whether we would call that saving faith is a question that would go beyond the evidence.

But if a faith, a belief that Israel’s God was the real deal was sufficient to create an exception, then we may infer from this fact that the Canaanites, as a general rule, did not worship the one true God at all. This is well-documented in Scripture. The false gods of the Canaanites (Molech, Shamash, Baal, etc.) are mentioned over and over again. The sin of the Amorites is mentioned in a revealing way: it is something that is not yet full earlier in redemptive history (compare Genesis 15:16 with later mention of the Amorites), thus pointing to a long-suffering patience on God’s part (He could have judged them far earlier!). Sin and faith then can be seen as the central issues here. The majority of the Canaanites were unbelievers who lived extraordinarily sinful lives (Leviticus 18). The exceptions were spared!

This brings us to the question: what did the Canaanites deserve? Did they deserve life? Did they deserve heaven? No one deserves life, and no one deserves heaven. The evidence suggests that they were a very sinful people on whom God’s judgment is therefore entirely just.

The objection immediately comes to mind, however: what about the women and the children? What had they done? The evidence of Balaam and Balak in Numbers suggests that the Canaanite women actively tried to seduce the Israelite men in order to get them to worship false gods. Ok, then what about the children? Weren’t they innocent? Psalm 51 states that children are sinful from the time of conception. Not even children are innocent. Anyone who thinks otherwise has never had children. They are not the cute little innocents that we think they are, though they certainly have not had opportunity to become Jack the Ripper. The point is this: what does anyone deserve? The simple truth is this: none of us deserve a single day of life on this earth. We have no right to demand anything of God any more than the pot has the right to demand anything of the potter.

If one wants to talk about the most evil event that has ever happened in human history, we cannot look to the genocide of the Canaanites. That was God’s judgment on a wicked people. God used the judgment as simultaneously giving Canaan to His people to be the promised land. Later on, when the Israelites became terribly wicked, God did the same kind of thing: He used another nation to judge Israel. But the most evil event cannot be the genocide of Canaanites. It cannot even be the Holocaust, as horrific as that was. The most evil event in history is the crucifixion of the Lord of Glory.

God has infinite dignity. A sin against God is therefore a sin against an infinitely holy God with infinite dignity. Try this thought experiment: contemplate the differences of the consequences that a slap in the face has with regard to the following people: what would happen if you slapped a hobo on the street, a fellow citizen, a police officer, the President of the United States, and the God of the universe? The same action has drastically different consequences depending on the dignity of the person being offended. Imagine, then, the heinousness of putting to death a person who is both God and man in one person, and therefore has infinite dignity; but who is also absolutely innocent and perfect. Not only this, but the method of putting Christ to death was the most humiliating kind of death on offer in the Roman world (it was reserved for traitors to the Roman empire: Jesus Christ the most resolute non-traitor, died the traitor’s death in place of traitors). So, the most humiliating death a person could die being inflicted wrongfully on the God-Man, who was and is perfect in every way, is the most evil event in all of human history. This raises the question: why would the genocide of the Canaanites stick in our craw if the death of Jesus Christ of Nazareth does not? The truth is that God brought amazing and infinite good out of the infinite evil (the power of God is manifest in its most amazing form just here and at the resurrection of Christ from the dead) of the cross. As Joseph says of his brothers, they meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. What is the good, then, that came out of the genocide (I prefer the term “judgment” for obvious reasons!) of the Canaanites? The Canaanites were judged for their sin, while the Israelites received the promised land from God. This event, in fact, is part of the stream of the story that culminates in the very death of Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore, there seems little point in objecting to the judgment of the Canaanites, which seems just. The real question is the marvelous, amazing, and inexplicable mercy of God in sending His Son to die for us.” (4)

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


  1. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 156.
  2. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Matthew, vol. 1, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 418.
  3. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, 1Samuel, Vol. 2, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 354.
  4. Lane Keister is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and is pastor of Momence OPC in Momence, IL. reprinted from the theaquilareport.com/the-judgment-of-the-canaanites/

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, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Theology

Dichotomy vs. Trichotomy

Dichotomy vs. Trichotomy                                                                        by Jack Kettler

Is a man in his created constitution made of two parts, body and soul? Alternatively, is a man created with three parts, body, soul, and spirit? This study is an introductory overview of these two positions on man’s constitution known as trichotomy and dichotomy. Trichotomy is the minority viewpoint in church history, although it has had some notable theologians in favor of it.

Trichotomy: means a division into three parts: 1. body, 2. soul, 3. and spirit.

Arguments for:

There is seemingly a distinction in Scripture between the soul and spirit. Proponents of this view refer to Romans 8:16; 1Thessalonians 5:23, and Hebrews 4:12. The main proof text for trichotomy is Hebrews 4:12, which states, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit.” At first glance, soul and spirit are separate entities. 

According to a trichotomous view, man is ontologically three-fold in composition.

Dichotomy: means a division into two parts: 1. body, and 2. soul.

Arguments for:

Soul and spirit are used interchangeably as seen in Matthew 6:25; 10:28; Luke 1:46–47; 1Corinthians 5:3; 7:34, thus negating the trichotomous view.

According to a dichotomous view, man is ontologically two-fold in composition.


This overview will feature a contemporary defense of trichotomy, followed by a critical analysis of trichotomy.


“Responses to Common Objections to Trichotomy

Before concluding this study, the question needs to be faced: are the arguments against trichotomy unanswerable? Although some of these challenges have been indirectly addressed above, there needs to be an additional response to the criticisms of trichotomy. Below is a composite list of challenges followed by a brief response for each.

Interchangeability of Terms

The first objection to be considered is that Scripture uses “soul” and “spirit” interchangeably. This is the primary objection to trichotomy by most evangelical dichotomists. It is thought that the significant overlap in these terms requires the interpretation that they are only synonyms of man’s immaterial part. That “soul” and “spirit” share many meanings is readily conceded. The present writer judges that the distinction between these terms can be supported, but not proven in the Old Testament text alone. This is due to the nature of progressive revelation. The obvious distinction between body and soul is unclear in the concrete style of Hebrew thought and language, how much less should we expect a definitive case to be made in the Old Testament for the subtle distinctions between the soul and spirit. If this admission seems to jeopardize the proposition of this paper, consider Berkhof’s comment about the lack of decisive evidence for dichotomy in the Old Testament alone:

We should be careful, however, not to expect the latter distinction between the body as the material element, and the soul as the spiritual element of human nature, in the Old Testament. This antithesis–soul and body–even in its New Testament sense, is not yet found in the Old Testament.154

The personal nature of the Holy Spirit as a member of the triune Godhead was not explicitly revealed in the Old Testament; it should not be surprising that the distinctive role of the human spirit would require New Testament revelation as well.

There are several examples of the similar usage of soul and spirit that are used as evidence against trichotomy: they both can be troubled (John 12:27; 13:21); they both can be involved in worship (Luke 1:46,47); they both can be objects of salvation (Jas 1:21; 1 Cor. 5:5); they both are involved in thinking (Acts 14:2; 1 Cor. 2:11); and they both are used with “body” to describe the whole person (Matt 10:28; Jas 2:6). These and other examples are given to prove that the terms are used interchangeably. These examples only document that the terms have a significant overlap; often a biblical writer conveys his point by using either term, with the appropriate connotation. This overlap of meanings does not dictate that an identical part of man is described by either term. This rebuttal is further supported by the following observations: (a) Nephesh is sometimes used to describe a dead body, yet this does not prove that the soul and body are not distinct parts of man (Num. 6:6; Lev 24:18); (b) The Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit are both titles of the third person of the trinity–this does not equate the Son and the Spirit (Rom 8:11; 1 Cor. 3:16); (c) Both animals and humans have nephesh–this does not invalidate man’s distinctive quality of soul which is necessitated by his creation in God’s image (Gen 1:24; 2:19). Overlap in word usage of soul and spirit does not prove a singular identity.

Another example used in the case for the interchangeability of the terms is their use as relating to salvation. The soul is saved (Heb. 10:39) and the spirit is saved (1 Cor. 5:5). Although this could be explained as another example of synecdoche, it may point to a more detailed model of salvation in the epistles. The body of a converted person is not credited with its new privileges until the resurrection; believers are “. . . eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom 8:23). On the other hand, salvation is described as an accomplished fact for the one who is regenerated (Eph. 2:1-8); the spirit is one with God’s Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17), Who “Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16). This may indicate that the soul is presently in the process of being saved (Jas 1:21: Ps 23:3). Thus, technically, the believer’s spirit is already saved from the penalty of sin, his soul is being saved from the power of sin, and his body will be saved from the presence of sin (at the resurrection–Phil 3:20, 21). The New Testament confirms the need for the functional attributes of the believer’s soul to be progressively delivered from the influence of sin. The mind is to be renewed (Rom 12:2), the will is to be yielded (Luke 9:23), and the emotions are to be directed (Phil 4:4). Thus, the three aspects of salvation correlate with the parts of man.

In listing arguments against trichotomy, Grudem mentions the unity of man by describing the involvement of the body in virtually every activity of the soul. . . . We should not slip into the mistake of thinking that certain activities (such as thinking, feeling, or deciding things) are done by only one part of us. Rather, these activities are done by the whole person. When we think or feel things, certainly our physical bodies are involved in every point as well.155

His observation is a valid one. Yet, if the dichotomist affirms that every action involves both body and soul, he should not require an isolated action of the spirit as distinct from the soul. As an organ of the soul, the spirit is expressed through it. The criterion of requiring a function of the soul that does not have a counterpart in the physical organism could be used as an argument for monism (which Grudem rejects).

By syecdoche, the spirit can be used of the soul and often is (1 Cor. 16:18; 2 Tim 4:22). This does not negate the distinction between them; the context determines the usage intended. As was shown in chapter two, several lexicons support the distinction of spirit from soul as more than one of connotation (e.g., Cremer, Thayer, Vines, and TWBOT). Similarly, the soul is often used to represent the whole person (although dichotomists concede that man is body and soul).

One of the distinctive qualities of the regenerated human spirit is that it is essentially holy–a partaker of God’s nature (2 Pet 1:4; 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:17). Therefore, Paul can testify that he delights in the law of God in the inner man (Rom 7:22). An objection has been raised to this trichotomous interpretation. 2 Cor. 7:1 seems to indicate that the spirit can prompt sin: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This may imply that the believer’s spirit has inherent sin too.

In response, the trichotomist reaffirms the basic unity of man’s personhood. The distinct role of the spirit as the part that primarily expresses God’s life in the believer, never removes responsibility from the spirit; man is unified in personhood and responsibility. But what is the precise nature of the spirit’s need for “cleansing”? The previous context gives a clue, describing the need for consecration. This practice alludes to the holiness concepts of the Old Testament. One of those concepts is the danger of defilement with unholy things, even if the Israelites were holy in themselves (Lev 21:1-14). Similarly, the believer must guard against the defilement of worldly values and demonic influences–both of which can still be understood as technically external to his spirit (Rom 12:2; Eph. 6:10).

Another distinction of the spirit is that it usually describes the believer after physical death, although both soul and spirit stay together (Acts 23:8, 9; Heb. 12:23). This usage corresponds with what one would expect of man’s spirit in its primary relationship to God. The only New Testament exceptions (to referring to the intermediate state in terms of “spirit”) occur in Rev 6:9 20:4. In these passages the context is martyrdom; this shifts the emphasis to the bodily release of the immaterial part. It seems that this is the determining factor in the use of “soul” in these passages.

There are other distinctions in the New Testament usage of “spirit.” Beckwith and Oehler mention several: (a) the spirit does not die nor is killed; (b) the spirit is not the subject of inclination, or aversion; (c) whatever belongs to the spirit belongs to the soul also, but not everything that belongs to the soul belongs to the spirit as well (cf. the tabernacle analogy).156 Oehler further observed that the soul is used of the subject as personal and individual, but the spirit is not so used.157 Drawing on Gen 2:17 and Job 33:4 he specified that the soul exists and lives only by the vitalizing power of the spirit.158

In his extensive word study on pneuma , Schweiser noted that it is always used to contrast sarx in the unbeliever, never psuche; it is never used of non-Christians for impulses that are ethically negative; and it cannot be hated or persecuted as the soul can.159 Kerr observed that spirit does not hunger or thirst, although these physical functions are sometimes attributed to the soul. Some have noted that God is the “Father of spirits,” but never as the “Father of souls” (Heb. 12: Zech. 12:1). The observations in chapters two and four give further evidence of the distinction between soul and spirit.

Heart, Mind, and Strength in Luke 10:27

Another objection made against trichotomy is this: if 1 Thess. 5:23 is interpreted as referring to trichotomy, then Luke 10:27 teaches man has five parts. In the synoptic Gospels Christ quoted Deut. 6:5 when He identified the greatest commandment: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (cf. Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). In the Gospels, “mind” is also included in this Great Commandment. In Matthew the preposition en is used to bring out the concept of instrumentality; (Perhaps this is why he inserts “mind” but leaves out “strength”). The heart includes soul and spirit; the soul includes the mind. The preposition used in Mark, (ek), denotes inwardness. The aspects of man from Deuteronomy plus “mind” are used for emphasis.160

How does this differ from other texts used to show the ontological distinction between soul and spirit? First, the incomplete and concrete style of the Old Testament language should be noted. Although the Gospel references are in the New Testament, the quoted revelation is Mosaic (which reflects its more less precise articulation of man’s inward parts). Waltke noted that the three terms, . . . rather than signifying different spheres of biblical psychology seem to be semantically concentric. They were chosen to reinforce the absolute singularity of personal devotion to God.161

On the other hand, Paul’s intention in 1 Thess. 5:23 is to specify the different aspects of man that should be entirely sanctified. The importance of progressive revelation applies here also; Paul’s epistles give further clarity about the subtle differences between soul and spirit. This New Testament epistle should be expected to give more advanced light on the immaterial parts of man than the Mosaic quotation did (cf. chapter four). 1 Thess. 5:22 is not used as an isolated proof text; it is a confirming testimony that is uniquely important due to its place in the progressive revelation of the New Testament.

Alleged Contradictions

Trichotomy has also been challenged with the assertion that passages interpreted in support of trichotomy would necessarily contradict those that teach two parts of man.162 This argument assumes that trichotomy is of a crude sort that would contradict descriptions of the person as essentially material and immaterial. Such does not logically follow. Since the spirit is contained in the soul, a summary statement that only mentions two parts does not contradict ones that teach a third part. Passages that distinguish spirit from soul are presenting further detail and precision. A similar explanation is required to avoid some apparent discrepancies in Scripture. Examples of this principle of variance without contradiction can be found in the Gospels. Were there two angels at Christ’s empty tomb (Luke 24:4) or one (Matt 28:2)? Were there two demoniacs in Gadera (Matt 8:28) or one (Mark 5:2)? Where there two blind men healed at Jericho (Matt 20:30) or just Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46)? In each case one writer gives less detail than the other. These differences in quantity of information do not require contradictions in Scripture. Similarly, texts that present man as body and soul do not contradict others that present the added detail of body, soul, and spirit.

The Role of Conscious Awareness

It is objected that the Bible is ambiguous on whether man has two or three parts so the matter should be judged on rational grounds, which favors dichotomy.163 The rational grounds are said to favor dichotomy because of a lack of a conscious awareness of the spirit.164 This argument applied to anatomy would question the existence of an organ or part that a person could not see or feel. Whereas the observable techniques of science can prove the deficiency of this test, the question of the parts of man’s immaterial side must be decided on a different basis. Evidence has been presented above for interpreting spirit as the organ of God-consciousness, and the soul as the organ of self-consciousness. Likewise, Rom 6-8 presents the detailed description of the conscious, internal struggle of the believer with his physical members (of the body), the flesh and the will (of the soul), and the law of God in the inner man (the spirit). Therefore, biblical revelation and the dynamics of one’s internal struggle can be understood better through a trichotomous model.

The Use of “Soul” in Relation to God

This argument against trichotomy is that, since “soul” is ascribed to God, therefore He can relate directly to man’s soul; the organ of spirit in man is unnecessary.165 One could challenge the proposition that God has a soul in a way similar to man’s soul. Although the word “soul” is used in relation to God (Jer. 5:9; 6:8), this usage is rare and could be interpreted anthropomorphically. Similarly, God is said to have a hand, back, eyes, a right arm, etc., yet theologians do not deduce from these statements that God has a physical body (prior to the incarnation of the second person of the trinity). Rather, His essential nature is spirit (John 4:24) and He is materially invisible (1 Tim 1:17). Granted, God is a personal being Who has made man in His image. He does have mind, will, and emotions (which are functional attributes of the human soul), yet the application of redemption is primary the role of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 8:16; 1 Cor. 6:17). The twenty six New Testament occurrences of the adjective “spiritual” (pneumatikos) as consistently positive and godward, confirm the scriptural evidence for man’s spirit as the primary organ for communion with the Holy Spirit.

The Possibility of Heretical Deviation

A further reason for the avoidance of trichotomy is the opinion that it is prone to heretical views. On the other hand, dichotomy is said to be a safeguard against doctrinal errors. This argument may be the primary objection of many evangelical dichotomists. It has been shown in chapter five that the heresy of Apollinaris brought trichotomy into disrepute; it has not yet fully recovered from this stigma. The western church found it easier to apply Occam’s razor and take the simpler view, i,e. man having only two parts. Strong is forthright in preferring dichotomy in order to automatically refute the following errors:

(a) That of the Gnostics, who held that the pneuma is part of the divine essence, and therefore incapable of sin. (b) That of the Appolinarians, who taught that Christ’s humanity embraced only soma and psuche , while his divine nature furnished the pneuma . (c) That of the Semi-Pelagians, who excepted the human pneuma from the dominion of original sin. (d) That of Placeus, who held that only the pneuma was directly created by God. (e) That of Julius Muller, who held that the psuche comes to us from Adam, but that our pneuma was corrupted in a previous state of being. (f) That of the Annihilationists, who hold that man at his creation had a divine element breathed into him, which he lost by sin, and which he recovers only at regeneration; so that only when he has this pneuma restored by virtue of his union with Christ does man become immortal, death being the to the sinner a complete extinction of being.166

Admittedly, dichotomists have the convenience of refuting these errors a priori due to eliminating the spirit as a distinct part of man. However, holistic trichotomy as presented in this paper would also condemn the heretical views just listed. It should also be noted that heretical views arise from monistic, and dichotomist models as well.167

This criticism of trichotomy is more a statement of preference than of veracity; it uses guilt-by-association. An example from church history can illustrate the problem inherent in this approach. During the Reformation, the Anabaptist movement grew out of a commitment to evaluate traditional beliefs in the light of Scripture. Infant baptism was rejected in favor of believer’s baptism. However, the movement was quite divided and there were extreme views and practices such as the Munster revolt of 1534. John Matthys, an Anabaptist preacher, claimed himself Enoch, who would prepare for Christ’s return. His group took over this German town, proclaiming it the New Jerusalem, and enforced community-of-goods and polygamy were practiced. This episode affected the doctrinal preferences of the Lutherans. Walker noted, “Such fanaticism was popularly supposed to be characteristic of the Anabaptists, and the name became one of ignominy.”168 This was unfortunate, because the distinctives of believer’s baptism, an eagerness for the Second Advent, and the separation of church and state should have been judged by the Bible alone, not by aberrations. Likewise, heresies that incidentally have misrepresented the human spirit should not disqualify trichotomy.


Much of the criticism directed toward the distinction of body, soul, and spirit, is side-stepped when the spirit is not defined as a separable part of man, having a different essence than that of the soul. This writer by no means minimizes the academic credentials and intellectual depth of evangelical dichotomist theologians. The case for holistic trichotomy would be further strengthened were it not for the frequent ambiguity in the Bible regarding spirit (as referring to either God’s or man’s). The responses above seek to demonstrate that trichotomy is based upon sound hermeneutics and is logically coherent. The final chapter will point out some practical implications for this model of man in Exchanged Life counseling.


154 Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 193.

155 Grudem, Systematic Theology, 476.

156 Beckwith, [NSHERK]”Biblical Conceptions of Soul and Spirit,” 12.

157 Gustav F. Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament (NY: Funk and Wagnalls, 1883), 152.

158 Ibid., 150.

159 Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [TDNT] (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964) s.v. “Psuche,” by Eduard Schweizer, 6: 649, 654-55.

160 Eduard Schweizer, “Psuche,” [TDNT], 6: 641.

161 Bruce Waltke [TWBOT], s.v. “Nephesh,” 2: 589.

162 Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 195.

163 Henry C. Sheldon, System of Christian Doctrine, (Boston: Carl H. Heintzemann, 1900), 274

164 Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 194.

165 Strong, Systematic Theology, 485.

166 Strong, Systematic Theology, 487.

167 For a survey of liberal and neo-orthodox views of the nature and functions of soul and spirit in man, see Agnes Sutherland, The Spiritual Dimensions of Personality (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1965).

168 Walker, A History of the Christian Church, 336.” (1)

A contemporary analysis of trichotomy from Vincent Cheung’s Systematic Theology:  

“Another objection against equating the image of God with the intellect of man is rooted in the view that man is a TRICHOTOMY consisting of spirit, soul, and body. Proponents of this doctrine assert that the Bible portrays man as a trichotomy, and since “God is spirit” (John4:24), the image of God must therefore be man’s spirit and not his soul or body. This being so, the image of God is not the intellect of man, but it is a non-intellectual part of man called the “spirit.” The problem with this view is that the Bible does not endorse trichotomy, but instead teaches that man is a DICHOTOMY consisting of soul and body.

Trichotomists cite Hebrews 4:12 to support their view, but a proper reading renders their position impossible. The verse says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The trichotomists claim that although it is difficult to distinguish between the soul and the spirit, this verse says that they can be divided by the word of God. Therefore, the soul and the spirit are two different parts of a person. However, the verse does not say that the word of God can divide the “soul and spirit and body,” but that it can divide “soul and spirit, joints and marrow.” Since both “joints and marrow” belong to the body, or the corporeal part of man, the natural interpretation is that “soul and spirit” also belong to the same part of a person, or the incorporeal part of man. If X = soul, Y = spirit, and Z = body, then the trichotomist understanding of this verse will make it say, “dividing X and Y, Z and Z,” which produces an awkwardness that is absent in the dichotomist interpretation. Dichotomists understand that soul = spirit, and therefore X = Y. Thus, the verse reads, “dividing X and X, Z and Z,” which preserves the symmetry intended by the biblical author.

Robert Reymond provides a grammatical argument, and writes:

Here the trichotomist insists, since the soul can be “divided” from the spirit, is evidence that they are two separate and distinct ontological entities. But this is to ignore the fact that “soul” and “spirit” are both genitives governed by the participle “dividing.” The verse is saying that the Word of God “divides” the soul, even the spirit. But it does not say that the Word of God divides between soul and spirit…or divides the soul from the spirit.11

Moreover, the verse does not in fact refer to any dividing power in the word of God, but its ability to penetrate. The word of God is so powerful that it reaches, affects, and transforms even the deepest regions of a person’s mind – that is, “it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (v. 12).12

The next verse confirms this interpretation: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (v. 13). The point is that nothing about us is hidden from God, not even our thoughts and intentions.

Another verse the trichotomists use is 1Thessalonians 5:23, which says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The three words translated “spirit, soul and body” are different Greek words. This is taken to mean that Paul refers to God’s preservation of the “whole” man, which the apostle asserts to consist in three parts: spirit, soul, and body.

11 Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, p. 421-422.

12 “Attitudes” are just as mental or intellectual as “thoughts.” Thus the symmetry of the verse extends to this latter part, so that if Q represents the intellect, the verse would read, “…dividing X and X, Z and Z; it judges the Q and Q of the heart.” X and Q, then, would refer to the same part of man.

However, Mark 12:30 makes this interpretation impossible. Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” He mentions four items here with which we must love God, namely, the heart, soul, mind, and strength. If 1Thessalonians 5:23 demands the understanding that man consists of three parts, then Mark 12:30 demands the understanding that man consists of four parts. Thus the trichotomist argument from 1Thessalonians 5:23 fails.

Scripture uses repetition for emphasis. The fact that the above verses use different words to refer to man does not necessarily mean that each word designates a different part of man; rather, the intention is to refer to the whole person.

Popular Christian preaching often assumes a sharp distinction between the spirit and the soul, identifying the “heart” with the spirit and the mind with the soul. However, the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament defines “heart” (Greek: kardia) as, “the inner person, the seat of understanding, knowledge, and will….”13

Kittel contains a lengthy article on the word, and says, “The heart is the seat of understanding, the source of thought and reflection.”14

And as with other lexicons, it confirms that “The NT use of the word agrees with the OT use….”15

The word “heart” includes a range of meanings in Scripture, but except when it is speaking of the physical organ, it refers to the mind, while the context stresses its particular functions.

Gordon Clark estimates that, “the term heart denotes emotion about ten or at the very most fifteen percent of the time. It denotes the will maybe thirty percent of the time; and it very clearly means the intellect sixty or seventy percent [of the time].”16

Since both the emotion and the will are functions of the intellect, or the mind, except when it refers to the physical organ, the word “heart” means the mind in the Bible.

On the basis of several pages of relevant passages, Clark concludes,

“Therefore when someone in the pews hears the preacher contrasting the head and the heart, he will realize that the preacher either does not know or does not believe what the Bible says. That the gospel may be proclaimed in its purity and power, the churches should eliminate their Freudianism and other forms of contemporary psychology and return to God’s Word….”17

It is unbiblical to distinguish between “head faith” and “heart faith” or “head knowledge “and “heart knowledge.” In the first place, the mind of man is not his “head” or his brain. The mind is incorporeal, made in the image of God; it is not part of the body at all. Thus, the contrast between the “head” and the “heart” errs on more than one level.

13 Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 2; (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), 1981; p. 250.

14 Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 3; (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999 Original: 1965); p. 612.

15 Ibid. p. 611.

16 Gordon H. Clark, The Biblical Doctrine of Man; (Jefferson, Maryland, The Trinity Foundation, 1984), p.82.

17 Ibid. p. 7-88.

In any case, the trichotomist distinguishes between the spirit and the soul, or the heart and the mind. Therefore, the contrast is between faith in the spirit and faith in the mind, or knowledge in the spirit and knowledge in the mind. But since trichotomy is false, this contrast is also false. And since the words spirit, soul, heart, and mind all refer to the same incorporeal part of man, faith in the spirit is faith in the mind, and knowledge in the spirit is knowledge in the mind. They are different words for the same part of man. This also means that faith and knowledge are always intellectual.

In A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, and regarding the inclination and will of man, Jonathan Edwards writes, “the mind, with regard to the exercises of this faculty, is often called the heart.”18 And in his lexicon, Thayer writes, “kardia … the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors…used of the understanding, the faculty and seat of the intelligence….”19

The heart is intellectual. On the basis of an extensive presentation of the evidence, Robert Morey concludes in his Death and the Afterlife:

“Man’s immaterial side is given several different names in Scripture. It has been called the “spirit,” “soul,” “mind,” “heart,” “in ward parts,” etc., of man. The names should not be viewed as referring to separate entities but as descriptions of different functions or relationships which man’s immaterial side has…Indeed, spirit and soul are used interchangeably in various passages…”20

Therefore, a human being consists of mind and body. The terms spirit, soul, heart, and mind are generally interchange able:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2Corinthians 7:1)

“For it does not go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (Mark 7:19)

18 The Works of Jonathan Edwards, (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2000 (Original: 1834), p. 237.

19 Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2002 original: 1896), p. 325-326.

20 Robert A. Morey, Death and the Afterlife, (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1984), p.65.” (2)

A historic critical analysis of Trichotomy.     

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology on Trichotomy:

Ҥ 2. Trichotomy.

It is of more consequence to remark that the Scriptural doctrine is opposed to Trichotomy, or the doctrine that man consists of three distinct substances, body, soul, and spirit: σῶμα, ψυχή, and πνεῦμα; corpus, anima, and animus. This view of the nature of man is of the more importance to the theologian because it has not only been held to a greater or less extent in the Church, but also because it has greatly influenced the form in which other doctrines have been presented; and because it has some semblance of support from the Scriptures themselves. The doctrine has been held in different forms. The simplest, the most intelligible, and the one most commonly adopted is, that the body is the material part of our constitution; the soul, or ψυχή, is the principle of animal life; and the mind, or πνεῦμα, the principle of our rational and immortal life. When a plant dies its material organization is dissolved and the principle of vegetable life which it contained disappears. When a brute dies its body returns to dust, and the or principle of animal life by which it was animated, passes away. When a man dies his body returns to the earth, his ψυχή ceases to exist, his πνεῦμα alone remains until reunited with the body at the resurrection. To the πνεῦμα, which is peculiar to man, belong reason, will, and conscience. To the ψυχή which we have in common with the brutes, belong understanding, feeling, and sensibility, or, the power of sense-perceptions. To the σῶμα belongs what is purely material.73 According to another view of the subject, the soul is neither the body nor the mind; nor is it a distinct subsistence, but it is the resultant of the union of the πνεῦμα and σῶμα.74 Or according to Delitzsch,75 there is a dualism of being in man, but a trichotomy of substance. He distinguishes between being and substance, and maintains, (1.) that spirit and soul (πνεῦμα and ψυχή) are not verschiedene Wesen, but that they are verschiedene Substanzen. He says that the נֶפֶשׁ חַיָה, mentioned in the history of the creation, is not the compositum resulting from the union of the spirit and body, so that the two constituted man; but it is a tertium quid, a third substance which belongs to the constitution of his nature. (2.) But secondly, this third principle does not pertain to the body; it is net the higher attributes or functions of the body, but it pertains to the spirit and is produced by it. It sustains the same relation to it that breath does to the body, or effulgence does to light. He says that the ψυχή, (soul) is the ἀπαύγασμα of the πνεῦμα and the bond of its union with the body.

Trichotomy anti-Scriptural.

In opposition to all the forms of trichotomy, or the doctrine of a threefold substance in the constitution of man, it may be remarked, (1.) That it is opposed to the account of the creation of man as given in Gen. ii.7. According to that account God formed man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life, and he became נֶפֶשׁ חַיָה i.e., a being (אֶשֶׁר־בּוֹ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָה) in whom is a living soul. There is in this account no intimation of anything more than the material body formed of the earth and the living principle derived from God. (2.) This doctrine (trichotomy) is opposed to the uniform usage of Scripture. So far from the נֶפֶשׁ, ψυχή, , anima, or soul, being distinguished from the רוּחַ, πνεῦμα, animus, or mind as either originally different or as derived from it, these words all designate one and the same thing. They are constantly interchanged. The one is substituted for the other, and all that is, or can be predicated of the one, is predicated of the other. The Hebrew נֶפֶשׁ, and the Greek ψυχή, mean breath, life, the living principle; that in which life and the whole life of the subject spoken of resides. The same is true of רוּחַ and πνεῦμα, they also mean breath, life, and living principle. The Scriptures therefore speak of the נֶפֶשׁ or ψυχή not only as that which lives or is the principle of life to the body, but, as that which thinks and feels, which may be saved or lost, which survives the body and is Immortal. The soul is the man himself, that in which his identity and personality reside. It is the Ego. Higher than the soul there is nothing in man. Therefore it is so often used as a synonym for self. Every soul is every man; my soul is I; his soul is he. What shall a man give in exchange for his soul. It is the soul that sins (Lev. iv.2): it is the soul that loves God. We are commanded to love God, ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ. Hope is said to be the anchor of the soul, and the word of God is able to save the soul. The end of our faith is said to be (1Peter i.9), the salvation of our souls; and John (Rev. vi.9; xx.4), saw in heaven the souls of them that were slain for the word of God. From all this it is evident that the word ψυχή, or soul, does not designate the mere animal part of our nature, and is not a substance different from the πνεῦμα, or spirit. (3.) A third remark on this subject is that all the words above mentioned, רוּחַ,נֶפֶשׁ , and נְשָׁמָה in Hebrew, ψυχή and πνεῦμα in Greek, and soul and spirit in English, are used in the Scriptures indiscriminately of men and of irrational animals. If the Bible ascribed only a ψυχή to brutes, and both ψυχή and πνεῦμα to man, there would be some ground for assuming that the two are essentially distinct. But such is not the case. The living principle in the brute is called both נֶפֶשׁ and רוּחַ, ψυχή and πνεῦμα. That principle in the brute creation is irrational and mortal; in man it is rational and immortal. “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” Eccles. iii. 21. The soul of the brute is the immaterial principle which constitutes its life, and which is endowed with sensibility, and that measure of intelligence which experience shows the lower animals to possess. The soul in man is a created spirit of a higher order, which has not only the attributes of sensibility, memory, and instinct, but also the higher powers which pertain to our intellectual, moral, and religious life. As in the brutes it is not one substance that feels and another that remembers; so it is not one substance in man that is the subject of sensations, and another substance which has intuitions of necessary truths, and which is endowed with conscience and with the knowledge of God. Philosophers speak of world-consciousness, or the immediate cognizance which we have of what is without us; of self-consciousness, or the knowledge of what is within us; and of God-consciousness, or our knowledge and sense of God. These all belong to one and the same immaterial, rational substance. (4.) It is fair to appeal to the testimony of consciousness on this subject. We are conscious of our bodies and we are conscious of our souls, i.e., of the exercises and states of each; but no man is conscious of the ψυχή as distinct from the πνεῦμα, of the soul as different from the spirit. In other words consciousness reveals the existence of two substances in the constitution of our nature; but it does not reveal the existence of three substances, and therefore the existence of more than two cannot rationally be assumed.

Doubtful Passages Explained.

(5.) The passages of Scriptures which are cited as favouring the opposite doctrine may all be explained in consistency with the cur-rent representations of Scripture on the subject. When Paul says to the Thessalonians, “I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thessalonians v.23). he only uses a periphrasis for the whole man. As when in Luke i.46, 47, the virgin says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,” soul and spirit in this passage do not mean different things. And when we are commanded “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind” (Luke x.27), we have not an enumeration of so many distinct substances. Nor do we distinguish between the mind and heart as separate entities when we pray that both may be enlightened and sanctified; we mean simply the soul in all its aspects or faculties. Again, when in Heb. iv.12, the Apostle says that the word of God pierces so as to penetrate soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow, he does not assume that soul and spirit are different substances. The joints and marrow are not different substances. They are both material; they are different forms of the same substance; and so soul and spirit are one and the same substance under different aspects or relations. We can say that the word of God reaches not only to the feelings, but also to the conscience, without assuming that the heart and conscience are distinct entities. Much less is any such distinction implied in Phil. i.27, “Stand fast in one spirit (ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι), with one mind (μιᾷ ψυχῇ).” There is more difficulty in explaining 1Cor. xv.44. The Apostle there distinguishes between the σῶμα ψυχικόν and the σῶμα πνευματικόν; the former is that in which the ψυχή is the animating principle; and the latter that in which the πνεῦμα is the principle of life. The one we have here, the other we are to have hereafter. This seems to imply that the ψυχή exists in this life, but is not to exist hereafter, and therefore that the two are separable and distinct. In this explanation we might acquiesce if it did not contradict the general representations of the Scriptures. We are constrained, therefore, to seek another explanation which will harmonize with other portions of the word of God. The general meaning of the Apostle is plain. We have now gross, perishable, and dishonorable, or unsightly bodies. Hereafter we are to have glorious bodies, adapted to a higher state of existence. The only question is, why does he call the one psychical, and the other pneumatic? Because the word ψυχή, although often used for the soul as rational and immortal, is also used for the lower form of life which belongs to irrational animals. Our future bodies are not to be adapted to those principles of our nature which we have in common with the brutes, out to those which are peculiar to us as men, created in the image of God. The same individual human soul has certain susceptibilities and powers which adapt it to the present state of existence, and to the earthly house in which it now dwells. It has animal appetites and necessities. It can hunger and thirst. It needs sleep and rest. But the same soul has higher powers. The earthly body is suited to its earthly state; the heavenly body to its heavenly state. There are not two substances ψυχή and πνεῦμα, there is but one and the same substance with different susceptibilities and powers. In this same connection Paul says, Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. Yet our bodies are to inherit that kingdom, and our bodies are flesh and blood. The same material substance now constituted as flesh and blood is to be so changed as to be like Christ’s glorious body. As this representation does not prove a substantial difference between the body which now is and that which is to be hereafter, so neither does what the Apostle says of the σῶμα ψυχικόν and the σῶμα πνευματικόν prove that the ψυχή and πνεῦμα are distinct substances.

This doctrine of a threefold constitution of man being adopted by Plato, was introduced partially into the early Church, but soon came to be regarded as dangerous, if not heretical. It being held by the Gnostics that the πνεῦμα in man was a part of the divine essence, and incapable of sin; and by the Apollinarians that Christ had only a human σῶμα and ψυχή, but not a human πνεῦμα, the Church rejected the doctrine that the ψυχή and πνεῦμα were distinct substances, since upon it those heresies were founded. In later times the Semi-Pelagians taught that the soul and body, but not the spirit in man were the subjects of original sin. All Protestants, Lutheran and Reformed, were, therefore, the more zealous in maintaining that the soul and spirit, ψυχή and πνεῦμα, are one and the same substance and essence. And this, as before remarked, has been the common doctrine of the Church.76

Footnotes by Hodge

73August Hahn, Lehrbuch des christlichen Glaubens, p. 324.

74Göschel in Herzog’s Encyklopädie, Article “Seele.”

75Biblische Psychologie, § 4, p. 128.

76See G. L. Hahn, Theologie des N. T. Olshausen, De Trichotomia Naturæ Humanæ, e Novi Testamenti Scriptoribus recepta. Ackermann, Studien und Kritiken, 1839, p. 889. R. T. Beck. Umriss d. biblischen Seelenlehre, 1843.” (3)

In closing:

Vincent’s Word Studies on Hebrews 4:12:

“Even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow (ἄρχι μερισμοῦ ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν)

Μερισμὸς dividing, only here and Hebrews 2:4, is not to be understood of dividing soul from spirit or joints from marrow. Soul and spirit cannot be said to be separated in any such sense as this, and joints and marrow are not in contact with each other. Μερισμὸς is the act of division, not the point or line of division. Joints and marrow are not to be taken in a literal and material sense. In rendering, construe soul, spirit, joints, marrow, as all dependent on dividing. Joints and marrow (ἁρμῶν, μυελῶν, N.T.o) are to be taken figuratively as joints and marrow of soul and spirit. This figurative sense is exemplified in classical usage, as Eurip. Hippol. 255, “to form moderate friendships, and not πρὸς ἄρκον μυελὸν ψυχῆς to the deep marrow of the soul.” The conception of depth applied to the soul is on the same figurative line. See Aesch. Agam. 778; Eurip. Bacch. 203. Attempts to explain on any psychological basis are futile. The form of expression is poetical, and signifies that the word penetrates to the inmost recesses of our spiritual being as a sword cuts through the joints and marrow of the body. The separation is not of one part from another, but operates in each department of the spiritual nature. The expression is expanded and defined by the next clause.

A discerner (κριτικὸς)

N.T.o. olxx. The word carries on the thought of dividing. From κρίνειν to divide or separate, which runs into the sense of judge, the usual meaning in N.T., judgment involving the sifting out and analysis of evidence. In κριτικὸς the ideas of discrimination and judgment are blended. Vulg. discretor.

Of the thoughts and intents of the heart (ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ ἐννοιῶν καρδίας)

The A.V. is loose and inaccurate. Ἐνθύμησις rare in N.T. See Mat 9:4; Act 17:29. Comp. ἐνθυμεῖσθαι, Mat 1:20; Mat 9:4. In every instance, both of the noun and of the verb, the sense is pondering or thinking out. Rend. The reflections. Ἔννοια only here and Pe1 4:1. It is the definite conception, which follows ἐνθύμησις Rend. Conceptions.” (4)

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


1.      John Woodward, Man as Spirit, Soul, and Body: A Study of Biblical Phycology, (Pigeon Forge, TN, Grace Fellowship International; Revised edition (September 5, 2000), Chapter 7, pp. 92-104.

2.      Vincent Cheung, Systematic Theology, (self-published, Lulu. com March 13, 2006), pp.122-125.

3.      Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), pp. 47-51.

4.      Marvin R. Vincent, D.D., Word studies in the New Testament, (New York, New York, Scribner), p. 974-975.

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, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For More Study:

Dichotomy or Trichotomy? How the Doctrine of Man Shapes the Treatment of Depression by Winston Smith

Trichotomy, A Beachhead for Gnostic Influences by Kim Riddlebarger https://thirdmill.org/magazine/article.asp/link/http:%5E%5Ethirdmill.org%5Earticles%5Ekim_riddlebarger%5Ekim_riddlebarger.Trichotomy.html/at/Trichotomy

What Does the Word Say? Man Comprises Body and Spirit A discussion with Dr. Spencer and Marc Roby http://whatdoesthewordsay.org/reference/2019-transcripts/Session103.pdf

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Eaten by two She (sow) Bears (2Kings 2:23-24)?

Eaten by two She (sow) Bears (2Kings 2:23-24)?                                                by Jack Kettler

This study will look at a seemingly difficult passage in the Bible. How is this passage to be understood? Is this too cruel a fate for little children?

“And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children (נַעַר) out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood and tare (בָּקַע) forty and two children of them.” (2Kings 2:23-24 KJV)

From Strong’s Concordance on “children.”

Naar: a boy, lad, youth, retainer

Original Word: נַעַר

Part of Speech: Noun Masculine

Transliteration: naar

Phonetic Spelling: (nah’-ar)

Definition: a boy, lad, youth, retainer

In the New American Standard Bible, naar is translated young men 38 times.

Strong’s Concordance on “tare.”

baqa: to cleave, break open or through

Original Word: בָּקַע

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: baqa

Phonetic Spelling: (baw-kah’)

Definition: to cleave, break open or through

This “taring” is best understood as a mauling.


Little children: The Hebrew word naar does not mean little children. Its range can include teenagers or young men.

Old enough to mock: In addition to the meaning of word naar itself, the context of the text demands that naar be translated as teenagers, not little children.

Together in a large group: Little children do not congregate in large groups and chase people.

The mocking Elisha because he was a prophet.

Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the text clears up any confusion about the age of these youth and the mocking of God’s prophet:

“He went up from thence unto Beth-el, to the other school or college of prophets, to inform them of Elijah’s translation and his succession into the same office; and to direct, and comfort, and stablish them, as he saw occasion.

Little children; or, children, or young men; as this Hebrew word oft signifies, as Genesis 22:5,12 Ge 41:12 2 Chronicles 13:7 Isaiah 11:6. It is more than probable they were old enough to discern between good and evil as their expression showeth.

Out of the city; Beth-el, which was the mother city of idolatry, 1 Kings 12:28,29 Ho 4:15 5:8, where the prophets planted themselves, that they might bear witness against it, and dissuade the people from it; though, it seems, they had but small success there.

Mocked him, with great petulancy and vehemency, as the conjugation of the Hebrew verb signifies; deriding both his person and ministry, and that from a profane contempt of the true religion, and a passionate love to that idolatry which they knew he opposed.

Go up; go up into heaven, whither thou pretendest that Elijah is gone. Why didst not thou accompany thy friend and master to heaven? Oh, that the same Spirit would take thee up also, that thou mightest not trouble us nor our Israel, as Elijah did!

Thou bald-head; so they mock his natural infirmity, which is a great sin.

Go up, thou baldhead: the repetition shows their heartiness and earnestness, that it was no sudden nor rash slip of their tongue, but a scoff proceeding from a rooted impiety and hatred of God and his prophets.” (1)

Sin Summarized:

These young people were mocking God’s prophet. These young people knew who Elisha was and mocked him nonetheless. These young hooligans were consciously sinning against God. These hooligans knew how to distinguish good and evil. Their sin was overt and a transgression of God’s law. These hooligans held God’s prophet in contempt. Furthermore, to mock Elisha was to scoff at the Lord, who called him.      

Deuteronomy provides an interpretive key in understanding the principle, which undergirds God’s judgment upon the young hooligans in 2Kings, 2:24:

“If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

The rebellious youth in 2Kings 2:24 were seemingly incorrigible like the stubborn son in Deuteronomy who experienced judgment by God through the hands of the men of the city. In 2Kings, God used two she bears to bring His punishment.   

A modern translation that clears up the ambiguity in 2Kings 2:23-24:

“From there, Elisha went up to Bethel, and as he was walking up the road, a group of young men came out of the city and jeered at him, chanting, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24Then he turned around, looked at them, and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Suddenly two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the young men.” (2Kings 2:23-24 Berean Standard Bible)

In closing:

The King James Version Bible has beauty because of its literary style. However, as seen in 2Kings 2:23-24, a more current translation avoids the obscurity and misunderstanding often generated by the older King James translation. The newer translation correctly translates the Hebrew naar as “young men” and baqa as “mauling.”  

Considering their sin, the hooligans in 2Kings got off with unwarranted mercy. The evil of mocking God and His prophet was worthy of the death penalty. Thus the passage rather than generate a question like “how could God do something like that?” to how could God not judge them with a more substantial penalty?  

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


1.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, 2Kings, vol. 1, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 719.

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, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: THERELIGIONTHATSTARTEDINAHAT.COM

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized