Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Galatians 3:28 and Women Preachers?

"Every kind of foolish and superstitious belief can be proved from the Bible if it is not interpreted according to the demands of context, language, common sense, and reality."[1]

An example of not interpreting a passage or text of Holy Scripture according to the demands of context, language, common sense, and reality is when Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[2], is used as a proof text for the ordination of women. If ripped out of the context in which this verse appears, seeing what came before the verse and what comes after the verse, one could justify pretty much anything one wanted with regards to the ethnic distinction between Jews and Greeks (gentiles), slaves and non-slaves, men and women, and say it is so because “…you are all one in Christ Jesus.” But, is this what the verse is saying?

What the Apostle Paul is NOT saying is that in Christ women can or should be ordained as preachers of the Word of God. To draw this meaning from Gal. 3:28 would contradict texts of Scripture in which Paul says plainly that God has chosen men and not women as overseers or elders or deacons. In I Timothy 3:1-13, the same writer of Galatians addresses the issue of leadership in the church. He begins with the office of overseer in verse one. Paul later, in Titus 1:5-7, uses the word “elder” to indicate the same office. Qualifications for the overseer or elder are that “he” be the “husband” of one “wife.” This qualification is echoed in Titus 1:6. Paul goes on to say in I Timothy 3: 4,5: “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” [3] (Italics mine)

If this wasn’t enough to convince that Galatians 3:28 is NOT saying that women should be ordained in the church, in the previous chapter (I Timothy 2:8-15), Paul spells out explicitly the role of men and women in the church. A woman, says the text, is to learn in silence in all submission and is not allowed to have authority over a man [4] And, unlike the accusation of liberals, the reason Paul says this, his reason, is not cultural. It is, rather, theological.

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner[5]

Paul cites a “creation ordinance” as his exegetical grounds for this teaching about the roles for men and women in the church of Jesus Christ. The creation ordinance argument Paul also uses in I Corinthians 11:8-12.

Galatians 3:28 is NOT speaking to the roles of men and women in the leadership of the church. What the passage IS saying is that with regards to salvation, there is no longer a wall of separation. All in Christ are Abraham’s seed.[6]

This third chapter of Galatians is a corrective one. Paul is rebuking the Galatian Christians for letting themselves be drawn away from the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that all are one in Him. The wall of separation had, at the cross, been torn down. Is justification by faith in Christ or the works of the law? Paul reviews and reproves in 3:6-18.

Then, after having rebuked the Galatians for their disobedience to what they knew to be true, he proceeds to prove, again, the doctrine he had rebuked them for rejecting. Paul’s argument goes as follows:

Under the law, the Jews were above the Gentiles (Greeks). Slaves had no privileges at all. Under the law, only the men received the sign of the covenant: circumcision. In union with Christ, all are of the same covenant. Jews and Greeks are one in Christ, women as well as men receive the sign of the New Covenant: baptism, slaves are equal to the freeman in Christ. There are no distinctions or special privileges in Christ under the New Covenant. All classes of people are kings and priests unto God with the same eternal inheritance.[7]

Taken out of context, the Bible can be made to say almost anything. Untaught and unstable the Apostle Peter calls those who twist Scripture and do it, Peter warns, to their own destruction.[8] Seeking the meaning of the text, the intended meaning demands interpreting Bible verses in the immediate and remote context. Not only do you have to interpret the verses within the paragraph in which it appears, like Galatians 3:28, but you have to go even further.

If “Scripture Interprets Scripture,” you must allow Scripture to show you how the one verse fits within the paragraph it appears, the chapter in the book it appears, all the other chapters of the book in which the one verse it appears, and with the rest of Scripture itself—all of it! You cannot understand the intended meaning of “a” verse apart from the rest of the Bible. No verse of Holy Scripture can be separated from the rest of the Scripture. In fact, one must interpret a verse of the text in both its immediate and remote context. Immediate context is the paragraph, chapter, and book in which the one verse appears. Remote context would be the other books, if any, by the same author as well as the rest of Scripture.

No one using “the analogy of faith” (Scripture interpreting Scripture) can come to the Galatians 3:28 text and walk away from it believing it is teaching that women should be ordained ministers to preach in Christ’s church. It would be, I believe, impossible. The contradiction is too great.

[1] The Folly of Taking Text out of Context, by A. T. Overstreet; Are Men Born Sinners? Appendix F

[2] New International Version

[3] Ibid

[4] I Timothy 2:11,12

[5] I Timothy 2:13,14

[6] Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 3:11

[7] Revelation 1:6

[8] II Peter 3:16



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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Do We Have a Reliable Word of God or a Bible Fully of Holes?

In 1973, after high school graduation, a buddy and I drove from Kansas City, Kansas to spend the summer in San Bernardino, Californian at the then Arrowhead Springs Headquarters of Campus Crusade for Christ. We had enrolled in their Institute of Biblical Studies summer program and would spend most of the summer there studying before heading off to the pursuit of our academic degrees at the University of Kansas.

I can still remember the shock my friend and I both felt when we got to the point in the theology course when the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy was discussed. The instructor made a statement to the effect that, “Only the original autographs or manuscripts were inspired and without error and that the copies of the Greek and Hebrew texts and subsequent translations we have today are not.” I felt like I had been slammed with a brick. After the class I thought that a nice cot with an attending nurse was in order. So did my friend. We, however, survived.

The facts, we would learn, is that only the originals, that which was God breathed to the Apostles and Prophets, from the Old Testament through to the New, had the promise of inspiration and to be without error. The guarantee of 100% inspiration and without mistakes applies to the originals and not to the copies of the originals and translations. The self-attesting verses in the Bible to its accuracy applies to the original autographs. My “just-out-of-high school” reaction was a bit justifiable as I thought: “If the Greek and Hebrew texts from which all translations flowed were not without error and given by inspiration of God, then to what was I committing my life to as a believer? If I am commanded in Scripture to obey God’s Word, walk by faith and not by sight, then are the commandments I am to obey reliable or not?” –a dilemma worth considering.

I would go on to learn that through the seemingly endless copies of the original texts of Scripture something called “copyist errors” have most certainly crept into the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts that exist today. However, these so-called mistakes, as well as other alleged “errors” do not affect the doctrine or history of redemption presented in the context of the passages in which they occur. A classic example is the numbering of King Solomon’s horse stalls in I Kings 4: 26 and in II Chronicles 9:25.

In the I Kings passage it is recorded that Solomon had 40,000 horse stalls while in II Chronicles it is stated that Solomon had only 4,000. Which is correct in this apparent contradiction? An answer commonly given is that I Kings records a different time than II Chronicles. At the beginning of Solomon’s reign he had 40,000 horse stalls while at the end of his reign he had in II Chronicles only 4,000. While convenient, it is more likely than not that this is a simple “copyist’s error.” There are issues other than “copyist errors” that creep into discussions on the inerrancy question.

Some alleged “discrepancies” might occur in situations in which details of an event might vary. In other words certain details in a biblical event might not be mentioned in another author’s account of the same event. What comes to mind are the following texts that seem to present a problem: 1) The account of Mary Magdalene and the Mary the mother of Jesus meeting one or two angels at Jesus’ tomb (Luke 23:55-24:9;John 20:1-2). And, 2) The blind man or men—two or one?—healed by Jesus at Jericho (Matthew 20:29-34, Mar10:46-52, and Luke 18:35-43).

But the point of the real existence of so-called and alleged “errors” exiting in copies of the originals is: Is what we have today reliable or so corrupted that it should be, as some have done, thrown out in the trash? The short and long answer is, no!

None of what constitutes discrepancies in the Bible constitute a contradiction. It is not like a writer of Scripture says in one place, “Christ rose from the dead,” while another writer in yet another places says, “Christ did NOT rise from the dead.” What we are talking about is something that appears to be an “error” and the explanation is not known. It is an “error” that can be explained, an “error” that is a simple leaving out of a zero or two, or an “error” that is simply a mystery that may or may not be explainable, ever. The solution to coming to a comfort zone with this is in the Science of Textual Criticism.

The discipline of Textual Criticism is one in which scholars are able to compare the copies with one another to determine the meaning of the original autographs. In the New Testament, for example, there are an amazing 24,000 copies entailing almost complete manuscripts to fragments. Through the painstaking process of comparing these copies to one another it could be discovered, for example, that one copy differs so greatly from the other thousands that scholars make the determination that a scribal addition was made to the text warranting an alert to study the variation more closely.

Another point in Textual Criticism is that in spite of the massive manuscript evidence of the New Testament so-called discrepancies are not what or as extensive as one might think. The difficulties generally are mere misspelled words, word order, some changed, added, or missing words. Depending on the source, scholars estimate a 99.5% accuracy rate to the originals found in the Greek manuscript copies. The alleged problems do not affect doctrine in the Old or New Testaments. And, the variations in the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts are mostly recorded in footnotes. This is also true in the better translations of the Bible.

We should take seriously the Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy because as in any book, the Bible reflects the thoughts and intentions of its author. We can have confidence in the better translations we have from the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, even though we do not have the originals, that we have The Word of God. Scoffers would have us believe the texts of Holy Scripture has been so corrupted so as to be unreliable. This is hardly the case.

“Though inerrancy applies only to the original autographs, it does also apply to the Greek and Hebrew texts in this sense: the vast majority of verses in the Bible are not disputed…The vast majority are undisputed, the rest we're just unsure which one is the right reading (but no doctrine is changed in any case). God has indeed preserved His Word!” (Joseph A. Vusich; M.Div, Master’s Seminary)



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Monday, March 1, 2010

Paul's and Peter's Epistles: Similar or Different?

Were the Apostles Paul and Peter at odds with one another in the first century? Perhaps they were rivals or nemesis? Were there such differences in their epistles that warranted some liberal schools of theology to say that the great Apostles were at such opposite ends of the pole theologically so as to interpret the New Testament epistles in light of this conflict. I would suggest otherwise.

Similarities and differences abound in any body of writing when two entirely different individuals are doing the writing. Differences can be one of style, different objectives, personality, and in the case of holy writ, differences of revelation God Himself chose to give to the writers of Scripture. In each men’s writing course the same Messiah, the same death burial, and resurrection, and the same plan of salvation. There is no conflict of revelation only differences of degree of revelation and emphasis.

One example is that in the Pauline writings, the church and its Biblical organization is stressed. The time period between the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to His glorious return is more fully developed through the Apostle’s writings through the epistles to Ephesians 3,4, Timothy , Titus, and the church at Thessalonica. What the church was to look like and function as on a practical basis was revealed to Paul and expressed in his writing. Peter would have known of the church from Matthew 16 as he was in close proximity with the Lord Jesus, however, the details would come in Paul’s writings.

Whereas Paul’s audience was mostly gentiles, Peter had Judeo-Christian readers. His emphasis in writing to this Jewish believing audience, making the transition from a life time of observing the Law of Moses to a life of being saved by Grace through the instrumentality of faith, was the emphasis of making your calling and election sure in an age in which the sheep and the goats mingle together in the church as revealed in the Gospels. (Matt. 25:31-46. Also See “Parable of the Weeds”: Matt.13:24-30)

“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth6 you now have.” (2 Peter 1:10-12. NIV)

In such theological harmony with Paul was Peter that the Apostle wrote of Paul’s writing and its content:

Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15,16. NIV)

Writing of the goats among the sheep or the tares growing with the wheat, Peter warns his believing audience of the false believer’s scripture twisting ways but advises that Paul is to be trusted. Peter trusted Paul. I contend there was no conflict of theology and its practice between the two Apostles. Peter calls Paul’s writing Scripture.

So what, if any, was the conflict between Paul and Peter that has caused liberals to point and proclaim contradiction in Scripture? Some point to an issue at Antioch when Paul opposed Peter:

“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”” (Galatians 2:11-14. NIV)

Peter lapsed in applying an aspect of the truth of the Gospel of which he was aware, “That by the death of Christ the partition wall between Jew and Gentile was taken down, and the observance of the law of Moses was no longer in force; as Peter's offence was public, he publicly reproved him. There is a very great difference between the prudence of St. Paul, who bore with, and used for a time, the ceremonies of the law as not sinful, and the timid conduct of St. Peter, who, by withdrawing from the Gentiles, led others to think that these ceremonies were necessary.” (Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, Galatians 2:11-14.)

A brother reproving another is hardly basis for saying that there was a conflict in doctrine.

The Antioch affair demonstrates the need for a plurality in the church leadership. No man is infallible and needs others within the church’s leadership to rebuke when necessary. It is this plurality in the leadership of the church that holds each leader, elders and deacons, accountable to one another and ultimately to the individual members of the body. The case between Peter and Paul was not a theological dispute of the foundations of the Gospel. It was one brother helping another who had temporarily lost his way get back on track.

Both Paul and Peter wrote of the fundamentals of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with slightly difference distinctions and emphases directed to specific audiences. Perhaps this is why they earned the distinctions of the Apostle to the Gentiles (Paul) and the Apostle to the Circumcision (Peter).