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Hermeneutics (Brownlow-Dindy) April 22, 2021

Date: 2021-04-23T15:55:30Z
Duration: 0:0:0

Speaker:
Terrance Brownlow-Dindy
Title:
Hermeneutics (Brownlow-Dindy) April 22, 2021
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Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 3

With the overall theme of our 48th annual lectureship being “Rise of the Messianic Kingdom,” the question in the title of this article is very relevant. The short answer to the question is two-fold: (1) because Jesus was truly the Messiah, the God-chosen “anointed one,” which is what the Koine Greek term translated “Christ” means; and (2) because the term “Messiah” was so politically and militarily charged in the first century, to have called Jesus “Messiah” would have left the wrong impression upon most Jews and would have prematurely stirred up unnecessary worldly strife. As usual with short answers, a deeper understanding will bring better appreciation to the subject at hand. In Parts 1 and 2 of this study, consideration was given to the Old Testament background and intertestamental development of the term “Messiah” and the first century view of the Messiah. In the final part of this study, examination will be made of the early church’s value of the Messiah and some practical applications for people today.

The Early Church
And Jesus the “Christ”

The early church could “acclaim and proclaim Jesus as Messiah in an entirely new way, which transcended the OT understanding and the intertestamental development of the title” (Piper 334). Nothing in Jewish tradition would cause people to worship their view of the coming Messiah as deity. To the average Jew, He would be a political warrior who would set things straight. However, those who actually encountered Jesus considered Him worthy of worship because of whom He showed Himself to be (Mt. 14:33; 28:9, 17; Lk. 24:52; Jn. 9:38; 12:20). After the church was established (Acts 2), many people obeyed the Gospel, acknowledging Jesus as the Christ (Acts 2:41 cf. Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 8:12; 9:42; 11:21; 14:1; 16:5; 17:12; 18:8). There are two major reasons why this was the case.

First and foremost, people followed Jesus because of His resurrection from the dead. Paul said Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). The resurrection was the “incontestible fact” upon which the church was built and why many became Jesus’ disciples (Piper 335). Some in the first century church actually witnessed the resurrection of Christ and others could confirm it (cf. 1 Cor. 15:4-8). Even Jesus’ own brothers did not believe He was the Messiah until after the resurrection (Jn. 7:4 cf. Acts 1:4; 15:13).

Second, in addition to His resurrection, the early church followed Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah, because it was clear He was the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture, from His birth in Bethlehem (Mt. 2:1-6; Lk. 2:4), His coming from the lineage of David (Rom. 1:3), and His mission to the Jews first (Gal. 4:4), then to the Gentiles (Acts 26:15-18). Paul’s summary of the Gospel confirms this:

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:1-4)

Where one stood in relation to accepting Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah, determined whether he or she was in fellowship. John wrote:

By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. (1 Jn. 4:2-3)

People need to acknowledge now that God’s Messiah has come in the flesh in the person of Jesus, and they need to live their lives according to this fact. To the early church, “Confessing Christ” meant that “a Christian was willing to make a public stand for the messianic dignity of Jesus regardless of hostile reactions” (Piper 335).

Concluding Applications

One day, “at the name of Jesus every knee” will “bow” and “every tongue” will “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). For some, however, their acknowledgment of Jesus as the Christ at that time will be too late to improve their eternal destination (cf. Mt. 7:21-22; 25:31-46). Jesus is called the Christ because He is the true Messiah sent from God to redeem humanity from sin (Rom. 3:24-26; Gal. 3:13), to keep the redeemed washed in His blood (1 Jn. 1:7; Rev. 1:5), and to give His followers an eternal home in the presence of God (1 Cor. 15:21-28 cf. Jn. 14:1-3).

What difference can Jesus being called the Christ make in a person’s life today? How should people respond to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah? First, all should recognize that Jesus has all authority (Mt. 28:18). Second, they should submit to that authority by obeying the Gospel (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38). Third, they should continue “walking in the light” of Jesus’ words and example (1 Jn. 1:7 cf. 1 Pet. 2:21). May everyone who learns of Jesus the Christ develop the attitude Paul expressed, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:21-23).

Works Cited

Piper, Otto A. “Messiah.” International Standard Bible En-
cyclopedia. Vol. 3. Ed. G. W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986. 330-338.

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 3
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Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 2

With the overall theme of our 48th annual lectureship being “Rise of the Messianic Kingdom,” the question in the title of this article is very relevant. The short answer to the question is two-fold: (1) because Jesus was truly the Messiah, the God-chosen “anointed one,” which is what the Koine Greek term translated “Christ” means; and (2) because the term “Messiah” was so politically and militarily charged in the first century, to have called Jesus “Messiah” would have left the wrong impression upon most Jews and would have prematurely stirred up unnecessary worldly strife. As usual with short answers, a deeper understanding will bring better appreciation to the subject at hand. In Part 1 of this study, consideration was given to the Old Testament background of the “Messiah” as well as the intertestamental development of the term. In Part 2, the New Testament consideration will be given.

First Century View of “Messiah”

By the time the “silent years” of the intertestamental period were broken by the “voice of one crying in the wilderness,” the Jewish expectation of who the Messiah would be and what He would accomplish was far from God’s intent. The typical Jews of the first century were expecting a mighty warrior-type Messiah with political power who would restore national Israel as the prominent kingdom they thought God intended (cf. Acts 1:6). Instead of a warrior-like restorer, though, Jesus came as a humble redeemer, with no political power. In the first century, “Judaism had become the slave of the letter of the OT law” (Jn. 5:46; Rom. 7:6; 2 Cor. 3:6 cf. Mt. 11:10; Mk. 14:27; Lk. 10:27-37), and thus failed to realize that Jesus was the “mighty agent and final revelation of God’s redemptive purpose” (Piper 338).

The Greek word messias (μεσσίας), translated “Messiah” occurs only twice in the New Testament. Both references are from John’s Gospel. In both, John immediately attached the translation “Christ” to Messias. First, John recorded Andrew saying, “We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ)” (Jn. 1:41). By the time John’s Gospel was written, “Messiah” was a “Jewish eschatological term applied to the expected deliverer” (Borchert 143). John’s first readers were second generation Christians, mostly Gentiles, who would not be familiar with many Jewish concepts. The term “Christ,” which explained the meaning of “Messiah” without the political baggage, became one of the most familiar terms used of Jesus in the first century Greco-Roman world.

Second, John recorded the Samaritan woman’s response to Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ)” (Jn. 4:25). The Samaritans did not regularly use the term “Messiah.” They preferred the term “Taheb,” which meant “restorer,” or possibly, “he who returns.” The strong political feature that the Jews attached to their “Messiah” seems to be absent from this term “Taheb.” Samaritans pictured this figure as “one who would reveal the truth, in line with the ultimate prophet [cf. Deut. 18:15-19]” (Carson 226). Thus, the Samaritan woman’s statement, “When He comes, He will tell us all things” is consistent with their view. Also of interest in this context, “Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He’” (Jn. 4:26). Usually, Jesus made it a point to keep His Messiahship low key (Lk. 9:20-22), even telling people not to say anything about His messianic doings (Mt. 8:4; 16:20 cf. Jn. 6:15). Yet, to “this obscure woman Jesus reveals point-blank what he had revealed to no one else” (Lenski 327). This was entirely appropriate on this occasion. In the region of Galilee, there were “many would-be Messiahs and a constant unrest based on the messianic hope,” which made the claim “Messiah” very dangerous; however, in Samaria, “the concept would probably have been regarded more as religious than political and would have elicited a ready hearing for his teaching rather than a subversive revolt” (Tenney 56).

Jesus as the “Messiah,”
Which Is Translated “Christ”

Nothing observable about Jesus before He was made known to Israel would clue the average Jew into thinking He was the long awaited Messiah (cf. Isa. 53:2). The birth narratives of Jesus make clear that He was not politically powerful royalty as most Jews would have imagined their Messiah. Rather, the place and circumstance of His birth identified Him with the common predicament of the populace (cf. Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 2:1-24). Furthermore, throughout His life, the “Jews were confounded and irritated by Jesus’ humility and meekness, which contradicted their idea of a nationalistic liberator who would appear in royal splendor and power” (Piper 334).

However, Messianic-type descriptions of Jesus are found throughout the New Testament. In the Gospels, Matthew especially describes the work of Jesus in terms of the “kingship ideology of the OT” (Mt. 1:1, 6, 17, 20; 9:27; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9, 15) (Piper 335). Jesus was the personification of God’s kingdom and the executor of His redemptive will (cf. Mk. 8:38; 9:14-29; Lk. 10:22-24). Thus, Jesus had the right to demand obedience to His will (Mk. 1:16-20; Mt. 19:21). Whatever Jesus had, it came from His Father (Jn. 3:35; 5:22; 17:2). Jesus had authority because He was “sent” by His Father (Jn. 5:23, 30, 36-38; Acts 3:26; Rom. 8:3).

This is why Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16 was so significant. It was a crucial time in Jesus’ ministry when He “came into the region of Caesarea Philippi” and asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Mt. 16:13). The answer they gave—“John the Baptist … Elijah … Jeremiah, or one of the prophets”—was no doubt meant as a compliment, for these were all great servants of God. However, these great servants of God fell far short of the significance Jesus was to God’s plan. When Jesus asked the Twelve, “But who do you say that I am?,” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:15-16). In this answer, the apostle acknowledged the Messianic nature of Jesus. As stated earlier, “Christ” (from Christos, Χριστός) is the Greek translation of messias, which means “Anointed One,” or “Messiah.” John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, and all the faithful prophets were great servants of God, but they were not the Messiah! The term “Son of the living God” also acknowledged the Messiahship of Jesus. Referring to Jesus as “Son of God” in first century Jewish culture was equivalent to saying He was of the same nature as God. One reason the Jews wanted to kill Jesus was “because He … said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (Jn. 5:18 cf. Jn. 19:7). Not only did Jesus call Himself the “Son [of God]” (Mt. 11:27; 24:36; Mk. 13:32; Lk. 10:22), He also referred to God as “my Father” (Mt. 7:21; 10:33; Mk. 8:38; Lk. 22:29). For any other man in that culture to make such a claim for himself would have been blasphemy, but Jesus proved throughout His ministry that He was indeed God incarnate (cf. Jn. 3:1).

Because the term “Messiah” had so many worldly and political connotations, other, non-politically-charged terms were used to describe the Anointed One of God. “Son of Man” was the one Jesus used most often for Himself (Mt. 8:20; 9:6; Mk. 2:28; 8:31; Lk. 12:8; 18:8; Jn. 3:14; 13:31). This term expressed lowliness because it simply meant “a man,” or human, yet it represented greatness because it tied into the vision of Daniel 7:13-14. One commentator gives four reasons why Jesus possibly preferred this term: (1) it was a “rare term and one without nationalistic associations,” which would “lead to no political complications;” (2) it had “overtones of divinity” (cf. Dan. 7:13-14); (3) its “societary implications” because it implied “the redeemed people of God;” and (4) it had “undertones of humanity,” for Jesus took upon Himself human weakness (Morris 202). When Jesus used “Son of man,” He always used it in the third person, which is indicative of His humility.

Conclusion

Like “Messiah,” there are many biblical terms today that have been so abused and/or misunderstood that it is sometimes not wise to use them (cf. “pastor,” even if the preacher is also an elder). Jesus as “the Christ” conveyed in the first century the meaning that “Messiah” would have had it not been so twisted into human doctrine. Rest assured, however, that Jesus was (and is) that long awaited Messiah. In Part 3, consideration will be given to the meaning and importance of the Messiah to the first century church along with some practical applications.

Works Cited

Borchert, Gerald L. John 1–11. New American Commentary.
Vol. 25A. Ed. E. Ray Clendenen. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1996.
Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids,
MI: Eerdmans, 1991.
Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel.
Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand
Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992.
Piper, Otto A. “Messiah.” International Standard Bible En-
cyclopedia. Vol. 3. Ed. G. W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986. 330-338.
Tenney, Merrill C. “The Gospel of John.” Expositor’s Bible
Commentary. Vol. 9. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981. 1-203.

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 2
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Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 1

With the overall theme of our 48th annual lectureship being “Rise of the Messianic Kingdom,” the question in the title of this article is very relevant. The short answer to the question is two-fold: (1) because Jesus was truly the Messiah, the God-chosen “anointed one,” which is what the Koine Greek term translated “Christ” means; and (2) because the term “Messiah” was so politically and militarily charged in the first century, to have called Jesus “Messiah” would have left the wrong impression upon most Jews and would have prematurely stirred up unnecessary worldly strife. As usual with short answers, a deeper understanding will bring better appreciation to the subject at hand. With that in mind, the remainder of this study will give a more detailed examination of why Jesus was called Christ.

Jesus was known by many descriptions, but “the Christ” was among the most common and significant (Mt. 16:16, 20). Judaism was rich in the expectation of a messiah who would come and set matters straight for the Jewish people, at least in their nationalistic minds. This expectation is seen throughout the New Testament. When John the Baptist came on the scene, those who heard him “reasoned in their hearts … whether he was the Christ or not” (Lk. 3:15). When priests and Levites were sent from Jerusalem to check out this rugged preacher with a distinct message, they asked, “Who are you?,” to which John confessed, “I am not the Christ” (Jn. 1:19-20). Later, when there arose a question among the Jews and John’s disciples about purification, John reminded them, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him … He must increase, but I must decrease’” (Jn. 3:28-30). After her encounter with Jesus, the Samaritan woman told her people, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (Jn. 4:29). After her people went out to hear Jesus, they told the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (Jn. 4:42). Even toward the end of Jesus’ earthly life, during His mockery of a trial, the high priest stood and asked Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mk. 14:61).

The word “Christ” is from the Greek word christos (χριστός), which is a translation of a Hebrew and Aramaic word that is transliterated in Greek as messias (μεσσίας). Messias meant to “touch lightly” or “rub with oil,” and thus “anoint.” The designation “anointed” was a description of honor given to the high priest (Ex. 30:30) and kings. This kingly aspect is brought out particularly in the Psalms (2:2; 18:50; 20:6; 28:8; 45:7; 84:9; 105:15). The term “anointed” (messias) was also occasionally used to refer to the patriarchs (Ps. 105:15), to a prophet (1 Kgs. 19:5), to a Servant of the Lord (Isa. 61:1), or to the cherub on the holy mountain appointed for protecting God’s people (Ezk. 28:14). To better appreciate the word “Christ” as it applied to Jesus, a background study of messias and its various connotations is necessary.

Old Testament
Background of “Messiah”

As mentioned above, the two primary Old Testament functions, or offices, that were associated with being anointed were that of priest and king. Later, the prophetic office sometimes involved anointing (1 Kgs. 19:16 cf. 1 Chr. 16:22; Ps. 105:15). Concerning the priests, upon inauguration of the Levitical system, both the high priest and the lesser priests were anointed (Ex. 40:15; Num. 3:3). Afterward, anointing seemed to be only for the high priest (Ex. 29:29; Lev. 16:32 cf. Lev. 4:3). Concerning kings, anointing was the primary and God-ordained ceremony instituting Jewish kings (1 Sam. 9:16; 10:1; 1 Kgs. 1:34, 39). The reason for the priests and kings being paired together with anointing is that:

[I]n both cases the anointing, corresponding to its character as a legal act, is as essential for the conferring of the authority connected with the office as it is for the resulting responsibility before God as the God of Israel. (Rengstorf 335)

Although Jesus would later serve as prophet, priest, and king, during this Old Testament period, only the role of king began to be associated with the idea of a Messiah. The connection was easily made due to the nature of the position of king as sovereign of his kingdom. God’s people would look for one to come who would exercise the “sovereign kingly rule of God on the basis of the OT revealed faith” (Rengstorf 335).

As Old Testament history unfolded, the “political institution of kingship” came to be understood as the “foretaste of the rule of a perfect king by whom peace and justice would be realized forever” (Piper 331). Until the time of Isaiah, “Israel’s hope was confined to the restoration of the splendor of David’s kingdom, whose glory increased in proportion to the deterioration of Israel’s political and social conditions” (Piper 331). Isaiah showed that God as creator of all was concerned for all mankind, not just His covenant people, Israel (Isa. 2:2-3; 27:13). Thus, the belief and expectation arose that a divinely appointed Messiah-Savior would come in the future. This Messiah would provide a sense of security and adequate power to protect, while at the same time, save God’s people from impending doom and disaster (Mic. 5:3 cf. Ezk. 21:27).

God has always worked through agents, and the coming of His Messiah-Savior would be no different. God’s anointed was identified through a prophet as one who would “preach good tidings” (Isa. 61:1-3) and as a special Servant (Isa. 42:1-7; 49:1-9; 50:4-9; 52:12-53:12). Perhaps the most significant Old Testament passage bringing to light the coming Messianic agent is given by the prophet Daniel:

I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13-14)

In this passage, the agent of God’s authority is described as “one like the Son of man.” This reveals that He is human, but as the context reveals, He is more than a mere man. His humanity contrasts with the beasts designating the previous empires and the turmoil with which they were associated (Dan. 7:3-28). His coming with “the clouds of heaven” indicates His divinity. Clouds in the Old Testament were often associated with the presence of deity, such as when the glory of the Lord appeared in a cloud (Ex. 16:10), and in the inauguration of the Mosaic covenant (Ex. 19:9). In connection with Daniel 7:13, “the coming with clouds is an exclusively divine attribute” (Sabourin 304). This human figure came to the “Ancient of Days” and was given a universal kingdom, in which “all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.” This was also an eternal kingdom, in contrast to the worldly kingdoms Daniel just described that would be destroyed. Thus, this “one like the Son of man” would be “the heavenly Sovereign incarnate” (Archer 90). Daniel saw this vision on the brink of the post-exilic period (Dan. 7:1, “the first year of Belshazzar” was about 552 BC). Through the post-exilic times and into the intertestamental period, expectations of this Messianic Sovereign’s character and work would evolve.

Intertestamental
Background of “Messiah”

As the post-exilic period gave way to the intertestamental period, “anointing” began to designate a “status directly below God rather than a specific function” (Piper 333). For example, in the uninspired book, Psalm of Solomon, all the kings who were allied with Israel would be anointed (17:21-40). In other uninspired literature (some falsely ascribed), there was the coexistence of two Messiahs: one from the House of David and one from the House of Aaron, or Levi (Testament of Judah [T. Jud.] 21:2-5:24; Testament of Levi [T. Levi]18; Jubilees [Jub.] 31:12-20; Serek Hayahad [1QS] 9:11; Cairo Genizah copy of the Damascus Document [CD] 12:23; 14:19; 19:10; 20:1). This idea of dual Messiahs probably goes back to the words of the angel who told Zechariah concerning the meaning of the vision of the lampstand and the two olive trees: “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zec. 4:14). Whether it was two or one Messiah, intertestamental expectation was of a “ruler who would be thoroughly familiar with the law and whose faithful observance of it would set an example to the whole nation” (Piper 333).

It was not clear in intertestamental literature, however, whether the Messiah was to establish God’s kingdom or only to prepare for its coming (2 Esdras [2 Esd.] 7:28; 12:34; 2 Baruch [2 Bar.] 40:3). As a general rule, the literature of this time “considers God rather than the Messiah the one who ushers in the cosmic transformation and salvation” (1 Enoch [1 En.] 90:37f; 2 Esdras [2 Esd.] 7:28f; 2 Baruch [2 Bar.] 72:1-5]) (Piper 333). The “saving agent” of God in the literature of this time had many titles, and “Messiah” is “by far the least frequent one” (Piper 333). All the different titles for this “saving agent” had specific meanings and expectations associated with them. During this time:

[The] whole Jewish literature agrees on only one feature of the Messiah: he will be a political ruler and national hero … to deliver Israel from its oppressors and restore the authority of the law. (Piper 333)

In the Maccabean age of the intertestamental period, a Jewish nationalism began to grow. The idea of a warrior and conqueror transferred from Yahweh to the Messiah (Sibylline Oracles [Sib. Or.] 5:108f, 414-431; 2 Baruch [2 Bar.] 70:9, 73; 1 Enoch [1 En.] 38:2f; 90:38; Jubilees [Jub.] 23:30; 2 Esdras [2 Esd.] 13:10f). Thus, the expectation of the Messiah became that of “rebel and political leader” (Piper 333). None of the literature depicts this Messiah as one who will suffer, not even the writings of Qumran (i.e., the Dead Sea Scrolls). Furthermore, the coming of the Messiah would be the sign that the final period of human history had begun (Piper 333).

Works Cited

Archer, Gleason L., Jr. “Daniel.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 7. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985. 1-157. Piper, O. “Messiah.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1986. 330-338. Rengstorf, Karl H. “Christos [Χριστός].” New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. 334-343.

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 1
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Understanding Translation Essentials Should Reduce Controversy

When I was a student at the Florida School of Preaching (1989-1991), we were only allowed to use two Bible translations: the King James Version and the American Standard Version (1901). The reasoning was so that everyone’s Bible read the same. After all, we were told, we could not use valuable class time to discuss why everyone’s Bible read differently. When I came to work with the school in 1996 and wrote articles for the Harvester, I would occasionally compare translations, even the NIV, when explaining a passage. Some readers thought this was out of line and insisted I should not do it. Around 1999, Jackie M. Stearsman (FSOP’s second director, 1992-2009) allowed students another translation option, the New King James Version. He also received criticism from those outside FSOP. At the time, however, we had several Haitian students. Why should we force students who have recently learned English to read from a translation that would further confuse any uncertainty they might still have with English? Should not our goal be more to impart biblical knowledge (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2) than to be dogmatically loyal to a translation?

In some areas of the brotherhood, there are still those who insist on the KJV or ASV (1901) to the point of, at best, looking down on any one who uses another translation or, at worst, thinking any one who does is a false teacher. My view of “KJV only” changed several years ago when I attended the funeral of a church member’s relative. At the luncheon afterward, I was siting at a table with brethren while a denominational pastor was sitting behind me (back-to-back) with his church members. His voice carried while he was discussing how the KJV was the only Bible God recognized. He used the very same argumentation that brethren used (and continue to use)! I thought, “Wow! He uses the KJV only and preaches false doctrine from it. It cannot be the translation that makes the difference! It’s the doctrine he preaches, even though he’s holding and reading from the KJV! Furthermore,” I thought, “if it’s true that more people have been saved by learning from the KJV, it must also be true more people have been lost who heard preaching from the KJV!”

There is still a misconception about the KJV being the only God-approved translation. An obvious symptom of this is when, for example, in Bible class, when a translation reads differently from the KJV and someone appeals to Revelation 22:18-19, how no one is to add to or take away from God’s word. Using these verses to show a translation reading differently than the KJV is wrong implies that the KJV is a collection of the original, autographed texts! However, all passages teaching the inspired. inerrant, and infallible nature of the Scriptures (Jn. 16:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21) are affirming the original autographs, not copies of the original or translations based on those copies!

The remainder of this article will explain what is needed for any translation, including the Bible, in order to defuse any unnecessary disruption of fellowship that results from a lack of understanding. Much of Bible translation issues are not “liberal versus conservative,” but simply what does the evidence substantiate (cf. 1 Thes. 5:21)! There are three simple things all translation, biblical or otherwise, involve: (1) an original language; (2) a target (audience) language; and (3) knowledge of both languages.

An Original Language

Obviously, whether Spanish to French or Koine Greek to English, a language must exist in order to translate it. This may surprise some, but when it comes to the New Testament, there are no original, “autographed” documents extant (i.e., known to exist). Someone might respond, “Then how is it possible to know what an original contained?” The answer: there are around six thousand witnesses that attest to an original. “Witnesses” refer to ancient manuscripts, translations, art work, sermon notes, etc. that could not possibly exist if it were not for an original. The power of this testimony cannot be ignored! Which will stand in a court of law: a person who said he did something or six thousand witnesses who testify he did something? It would be impossible for manuscripts unknown to each other and found in different parts of the world to read the same without there having been, somewhere down the line, an original from which they all came. This is multiplied exponentially when considering the thousands of evidences backing up the New Testament. No other book in antiquity has more sufficient evidence to confirm its place historically!

It must be noted here that the original, autographed documents of the New Testament are the ones that are God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). As such, what the autographs contain are infallible, inerrant, and perfect in every way. Although we do not know the exact process God used to supernaturally inspire each writer, while still allowing his own education, cultural background, and experience to shape his writing, we do know the product is exactly as God intended (cf. not knowing the exact process but the final product of the virgin conception and birth of Jesus, Mt. 1:21-23).

However, humans working within the providence of God are strictly responsible for what is called the “transmission” of the text. Inspiration of the text is how the Bible came supernaturally from God to humans. Transmission of the text is how the Bible came providentially from its original documents to the translations we possess today. Because transmission involves humans all the way, there are obvious errors in some parts of the manuscript evidence. Amazingly, these flaws are very few and far between when compared to the huge body of evidence we have. In other words, as some have observed, the Greek manuscripts that form the basis of the KJV’s New Testament translation (comparatively few in number) are about 97-98% the same as those behind the non-KJV family of translations.

There is no denying that some ancient manuscripts read differently than others in certain places. These manuscript differences are called “variants.” There are a number of possible reasons for these variants, and most can be traced back to a scribe’s error. There are a number of mistakes that could be made while copying manuscripts, especially before Christianity was legal and copies were made in secret under difficult circumstances. Errors include such things as writing twice what should have been written once (cf. “deed” instead of “dead”), reversing letters or words (cf. writing “form” instead of “from”), substituting one similar sounding word for another (cf. writing “there” instead of “their”), and confusing one letter for another of similar shape (cf. writing “fold” instead of “told”). Every teacher who has taught for any length of time have seen every one of these errors from students!

When a variant occurs, there is nothing sinister about objectively researching the evidence to see which reading is more likely that of the original. This is the field of “textual criticism,” which is not the enemy of truth (when done objectively), but rather truth’s ally. Should we not want to know what was actually written in the original, God-breathed documents?

A Target (Audience) Language

Any translation has in mind a particular people the translators want to reach. Again, this is true of any translation, even appliance manuals! The KJV’s target language was, obviously, contemporary 1611 English. The English language has changed over the last four centuries. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) first appeared in the early 1970s. By its name, it targets American English, which is a bit different from United Kingdom English. The NASB underwent a major update in 1995 (abbreviated NASB95 or NASU). In 2020, the New American Standard was again updated. It appears translators plan to revise it every twenty-five years. These are just a few examples of target languages. Is it right to fault a translation merely because it targets a different audience language than Shakespearian era English! Yes, there is something poetically beautiful about the English of the KJV. However, beautiful poetic language is no more sacred than “Miami Spanish.” What is sacred is the written word of God, but unless we are fluent in the original languages of the Bible, its life-giving message will never reach us!

A Knowledge Of Both Languages

The original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek words used in the Bible have not changed. Those words have always meant what they meant, in the way they were intended, the moment they were written. The first, original readers knew those meanings and nuances and whether they were figurative or literal. However, our understanding of those words have changed over the years. More evidence has been found to shed light on how words and expressions were used in these ancient languages. This is clearly exemplified when comparing how translations handle animals. In Isaiah 34:11, the Hebrew words behind the KJV’s “cormorant and … bittern” are translated “pelican and … porcupine” (NKJ); “pelican and hedgehog” (NAS95); and “hawk and … porcupine” (ESV). Since the 1800s, much more evidence has come to light on what biblical words meant. Much of this evidence is from uninspired literature of the same period as biblical books that use the same or similar words in contexts where we can better understand the kinds of animals being referenced. Earlier translations did not have the advantage of this evidence because it had not yet surfaced. With the additional evidence, why would it be wrong to update a translation with English words that better convey the actual meaning of the original word?

Perhaps another, more modern example would also help. Suppose someone a thousand years from now discovered a document that mentioned a “hard drive,” and the world knew nothing about computers. How would that term be translated? Maybe the translation “difficult journey” would be the best that could be done. Then suppose fifty years after that translation, an IBM factory was unearthed, and all kinds of documents were discovered describing in great detail “hard drives.” Should that same, original term still be translated “difficult journey” with all this new evidence? Of course not! To really understand the original meaning of the word, incorporating the new evidence is a must! This necessity is vastly multiplied when it comes to the written word of God! We must know accurately what was written in order to make the proper, life giving application (Jn. 8:31-32; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17)!

Conclusion

Yes, there are some genuine problems with some translations (including the KJV), but those problems do not so much stem from the original languages behind them as they do from the English words within them. In many ways, though, the controversy over translations in the brotherhood stems from a lack of understanding as to what translations require, coupled with a bit of ethnocentrism (the belief that a person’s own culture is superior to other cultures to the point of thinking his culture is the standard to which all should rise — “The KJV was good enough for me and the generations before me. Thus it’s good enough for you!”). The word of God is too important to confine it to a translation some people are not going to read. As long as the original language is accurately translated in the target (audience) language, then people of that language can read God’s word accurately and know what they must do to be saved. I know very influential Christians who were ready to quit Christianity because when first converted, they were told the KJV was the only Bible they could use. Thankfully, they were pointed to newer translations from which they enjoyed reading and studying! Let us realize what is involved in translation and what is at stake when people can or cannot understand accurately what God teaches through His word!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Understanding Translation Essentials Should Reduce Controversy
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“Rulers of the Gentiles” Are Not the Model for Local Churches

Not long ago, a preacher heard the brother leading opening prayer make a petition, “Please be with the elders as they run the church.” What the brother meant by “run the church” should probably not to be taken at face value, for those of us leading public prayers realize our wording does not always come out the way we intended (due to nervousness). Regardless of what that brother actually meant, there are some members of the church who have an inaccurate view of elders and their authority in the local church. Let us examine what the Bible teaches concerning these leaders in the church.

Misunderstanding of Leadership
Among the Apostles

A similar misunderstanding of authority was evident when the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus and requested, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom” (Mt. 20:21). As the discussion unfolded, Jesus told them to “sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father” (Mt. 20:23). Incidently, this shows that Jesus could do nothing independent of God, the Father’s will (cf. Jn. 5:19, 30). As the other ten apostles heard this discussion, they “were greatly displeased with the two brothers” (Mt. 20:24). These apostles also desired these perceived positions of authority in Jesus’ coming kingdom, perhaps due to a misunderstanding of an earlier discussion (cf. Mt. 19:28). The “right hand” and the “left” were the highest places of honor next to the ruler. It was at this point Jesus said:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mt. 20:25-28)

The Local Church
Is Not a “Kingdom of the Gentiles”

Like the mother of Zebedee, her two sons, and the rest of the apostles, there are many members of the church of Christ who see its organization as if it were a mere business, or worldly endeavor. However, such ideas could not be further from the truth. The universal church (i.e., “one body” of Christ, 1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 4:4) is headed by none other than Jesus the Christ (Eph. 1:22; 5:23; Col. 1:18). He has all authority (Mt. 28:18). Christ’s church is not a worldly realm, as Jesus plainly declared to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36). A local church is a particular group of New Testament Christians. The local church can be identified by the particular people of whom it consists (e.g., “the churches of the Gentiles,” Rom. 16:4) or where it is located (e.g., “the church in Smyrna,” Rev. 2:8). The different local “churches” in the New Testament were not denominations, but they were congregations of the same universal church over which Christ is the head!

Those who view the church as a mere worldly endeavor also view the eldership of a local church as a type of board of directors who only make business decisions, ensure the bills get paid, and otherwise “run” the church adequately. While there are some similarities between the local church and a business, the Lord’s instructions for elders of the church let Bible students know the church and its local leaders are spiritual in function, scope, and practicality. Take, for example, the God-breathed qualifications for the men who would serve as elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Those who view the church as a “kingdom of the Gentiles” focus primarily on two qualifications; namely, that a man is “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) and that he has “faithful children” (Titus 1:6). Some even throw in another, man-made qualification that he be a successful business man. Many churches have been hindered or even split by appointing men who were Scripturally married with faithful children and successful in the business world but were highly lacking in true spirituality!

Descriptive Names Show The
Spiritual Nature of Church Leaders

There are three different descriptions God uses for local church leaders that shed light on the spiritual nature of their service. First, the most obvious is “elder” (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Titus 1:5; 1 Pet. 5:1), which is translated from a Greek word (presbuteros, πρεσβύτερος) that generally means an elder, or older person. In the context of local church leaders, it is focusing on spiritual maturity, referring to “those who, being raised up and qualified by the work of the Holy Spirit, were appointed to have the spiritual oversight over the church” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words). Hence, an elder must not be a “novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).

Second, the term “bishop” and “overseer, are used to describe the specially qualified leaders of the local church (Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-2; Titus 1:7). Both of these English terms come from the same Greek word (episkopos, ἐπίσκοπος), which means overseer, guardian, or bishop. Bauer, Ardnt, Gingrich, and Danker’s lexicon define this word as “an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, a curator, guardian, or superintendent.” These are spiritual superintendents; overseers of a particular flock. These men cannot (and should not) do all the work of a given congregation, but all the work done by a congregation must be done under their oversight. They operate only within the framework of God’s word (cf. 1 Thes. 5:12-13).

“Bishops” do not have absolute authority in a local church. In fact, their authority is only in expedient matters (such as effective ways to evangelize, the best way under local circumstances to help those in need, how best to edify the local congregation, times and order of services, overseeing funds, etc.). Jesus Christ, the head of the church, has already determined doctrine and matters of obligation (Mt. 28:18; Heb. 1:2; 2 Jn. 9). No church leader has authority to require more or less than what God has already required through His word (Gal. 1:8-9 cf. Mt. 18:18)!

Third, the term “pastor” (which is more accurately translated, “shepherd”) is used to describe the leaders of the local church (Eph. 4:11). This term comes from a Greek word (poimen, ποιμήν) that simply refers to a shepherd. The translation “pastor” is quite unfortunate. It comes to English from the Latin translation pastour (which, incidently, shows the weakness of transliterating from a secondary language rather than translating from the original). The Greek word occurs eighteen times and is always translated by a form of “shepherd” (Mt. 9:36; Lk. 2:8; Jn. 10:11; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25), except in Ephesians 4:11, where it is translated “pastor,” a term hijacked by denominationalism to refer to the local preacher who calls all the shots. Shepherding is the encompassing work of the specially qualified local church leaders, or elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). The verb form of this word (poimaino, ποιμαίνω) is what is used in Acts 20:28, where Luke records Paul instructing the elders of the church in Ephesus “to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The ESV translates this word, “to care for;” the KJV translates it, “to feed.” While feeding is part of the shepherd’s work, shepherding involves much more (such as leading, protecting, helping to heal wounds, seeking those who have gone astray, rescuing, etc.).

The best illustration for this shepherding aspect of their work is found in Jesus’ description of Himself as the “good shepherd” (Jn. 10:1-14). Shepherds in the local church must love the flock committed to their care (1 Pet. 5:2-4), protect them from harm (i.e., false teachers, Acts 20:29-32; Titus 1:9-14), and strengthen them with the bread and the water of life (Acts 20:28, KJV).

Conclusion

Too many local churches operate as if they were “kingdoms of the Gentiles.” It shows in their leadership, “business meetings,” and programs (or lack thereof). These dysfunctional local churches give fuel to opponents who claim, “The Church of Christ is just another denomination” (cf. 1 Tim. 6:1; Titus 2:5). Far from being a “kingdom of the Gentiles,” however, local churches of Christ need spiritual men, Scripturally qualified to serve as elders/overseers/shepherds. May we take seriously God’s desire for qualified leadership in each local church (cf. Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). May Christian men apply the doctrine of Christ to their lives so they may qualify to serve one day!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
“Rulers of the Gentiles” Are Not the Model for Local Churches
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Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church

V. P. Black, a favorite preacher from a few generations ago, would often say in sermons that the most powerful people in the United States were not the President and his cabinet nor any military personnel, but the United States Supreme Court. He would not always give specific examples of why he would say that, but having reflected over the years, it seems at least one major contributor to that assessment was the 1973, Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court decision that “unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.” The basis of that decision, according to the court, was that laws against abortion “violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy,” which the court found “implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (‘…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law’)” (https://www.britannica.com/event/Roe-v-Wade). Obviously, not depriving “any person of life” did not take into account the person’s life inside the womb.

When news broke of the recent “leak” of a document that the United States Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade, the panic and mobilization of opposition against such overturning was obvious and instant. Of course, even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, it would not make abortion illegal. It would merely allow each State to determine its own abortion laws. Were you old enough in 1973 to remember national sentiment at the news of Roe v. Wade? Were you a member of the church in 1973, and if so, did you study Bible lessons or hear sermons on abortion related topics? Many today are not old enough to remember the sentiment in 1973. However, we may still remember how we felt in 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled (Obergefell v. Hodges) that same-sex marriages are legitimate and legally binding in the United States and its territories. No matter the feeling toward that, however, it is important to remember that civil law never has or ever will displace God’s law in Deity’s sovereign court.

Human Conception
Results In Human Children

Because legal abortion has been so ingrained in American culture since 1973, people view it as a moral, God-given right. Focus has been on the “woman’s right to choose,” rather than the human life inside her womb. Since God exists and the Bible is His inspired (i.e., God-breathed) word, then whatever the Bible teaches regarding when human life begins is true. Several passages show human pregnancy involves human children inside the wombs of their mothers (Ps. 139:13-16; Eccl. 11:5; Job 3:11-16; Jer. 1:5).

Perhaps the most obvious is a comparison of Luke 1:41, 44 with Luke 2:12, 16. The word “babe [baby, ESV]” is from the Greek word brephos (βρεφός), which in Luke 1:41, 44 is used for a child in the womb (i.e., fetus). The same word (brephos) is also used in Luke 2:12, 16 for young, or newborn, children. Luke also uses brephos in Luke 18:15, where it is translated “infants [babies, NAS95],” and in Acts 7:19, where it is translated “babies [young children, KJV; infants, ESV].” Outside of Luke’s writings, brephos is used in Second Timothy 3:15, where it is translated “childhood [a child, KJV],” and in First Peter 2:2, where it is translated “babes [babies, NAS95; infants, ESV].” A human being is considered in all these situations, whether inside or outside the mother’s womb! No one can rationally argue that a human fetus is not a human life! Yet, because America has been bombarded with the “cultural norm” that it is acceptable to snuff-out human life in the womb for unwanted or crisis pregnancies, there are many who think it is immoral to make laws against on-demand abortions!

Cultural Norms Are Not
Necessarily Biblical Norms

In any area of life, people whose culture indoctrinates them with certain values and then those people construct their day-to-day living based on that indoctrination are going to think differently than people who have not been so influenced by that same culture. A good example is a faithful brother and missionary to Muslims with whom many in the brotherhood are familiar. He was reared in Bagdad. His culture indoctrinated people to hate Americans. Many facets of their society were geared toward perpetuating hatred toward America and its culture. Given those facts, it is easy to see how the average person from Iraq would have a different attitude toward America than the average person, say from Bermuda, or other nations whose culture and practices are American friendly. Thankfully, by God’s grace, this faithful brother from Iraqi was a deeper and more spiritual thinker than the indoctrination of his culture!

Culture can be both a Scripturally obligatory matter that is temporary as well as a perpetual matter of option. For example, there is nothing inherently sinful about eating meat, for “God created [it] to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good … if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:3-5). However, if Christians are in a culture where eating meat is considered participating in idolatry or if eating meat causes another Christian to sin by violating his or her conscience, then eating meat is temporarily sinful (1 Cor. 8:1-13). When new Christians learn God’s word and allow it to transform their lives, their consciences will eventually approve eating meat and/or participating in activities with other faithful Christians (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; 14:1-7).

Cultural norms that are inherently sinful, however, must not be followed or even allowed a place in the Christian’s heart. An experienced missionary once told an FSOP chapel assembly that certain countries in Asia only allowed one child per family. While there is nothing inherently sinful for parents to have only one child, the problem arises when more than one is born. “Law abiding” citizens are called upon to have additional children “euthanized” (which is a polite way of saying murdered) in order to maintain the mandate. Since males are valued more than females, and since many parents do not want to directly kill their children, babies are often born in back rooms, unnoticed by authorities. As a result, orphan homes are overrun with girls, who become prime candidates for the sex traffic trade.

It is one thing when a country allows its citizens to commit immoral activities (like America with its legal allowance for fornication, abortions, same sex marriages, etc.), but it is quite another issue when a country (like the one mentioned above) forces its citizens to commit immoral acts. An incidental lesson here is when Christians in America start thinking the “grass is greener” in communist countries or with their philosophies, they need to consider the enforcement of mandates like the one-child-per-family! Christians are not authorized to commit sinful acts, such as murder, in obedience to culture (cf. Acts 5:29; Rom. 3:8; 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17).

New Testament Principles
Transcend Cultural Norms

One big difference between Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity is that Christianity has been declared binding for all people in all ages since its inauguration in Acts 2 (cf. Mt. 28:18-20; Rom. 1:16). Parts of Old Testament Judaism required being in Jerusalem for feasts (cf. Deut. 16:1-6). Judaism also required descendants from Levi to serve in the tabernacle/temple (Ex. 28–29). Since the Old Testament feasts as such are not part of the Gospel, there are no ties to physical Jerusalem. Since all Christians are priests in God’s kingdom (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:5-6), the Levitical system has no binding concern in Christianity (cf. Heb. 7:11-14; 8:7).

The Law of Moses also served as both the civil and religious law for Old Testament Israelites. This can be seen in its laws and regulations for tribal elders (and later kings), as well as religious practices like blood sacrifices, Sabbath days, purification procedures, etc. (Lev. 20; Num. 27). Thus, civil law that was derived from God’s law and passed down was always reliable and binding upon the Jews. Although civil government is from God (Rom. 13:1-5), the New Testament authorizes no exclusive form of government. Rather, it gives principles that when applied make any government more efficient and tolerable for its citizens (cf. Mt. 5:38-48; 7:12). For example, a monarchy is great when the king is living and ruling according to Gospel principles, but when he lives and follows wickedness, the people suffer (Mt. 2:16)!

While Christians have freedom to practice any cultural item that does not violate God’s will (Rom. 14:23; 1 Cor. 9:19-23), they must not be deceived into accepting sinful cultural norms. Government sometimes mandates things it thinks will best serve it citizens. For example, the one-child-per-family mandate mentioned above was probably for population control, which can be good (cf. Jer. 16:1-4). However, no one has a right to murder people for the sake of “population control” (cf. Ex. 1:15-22)! Consider also a person living in first-century Corinth. The city’s reputation through history reveals that fornication was a way of life for a large segment of that population. Thus, citizens would be desensitized to that sin, which attitude could also spill into the church. This is why Paul dealt with that sin quite extensively in his first epistle to them (1 Cor. 5:1; 6:13, 18; 7:2; 6:18). Cultural norms, whether promoted by civil government or merely allowed, must not be followed when they violate God’s transcendent will!

Conclusion

An overturning of Roe v. Wade would be a step in the right direction (Pr. 14:34), but it will take more than that to turn culture norms toward godly views of human life. The Christian is living among people in high positions who, if they had their way, would increasingly mandate silencing opposition to ungodliness in culture. It seems the older Americans are, the more freedoms they realize have vanished or are in danger of it. While loss of freedom is less than ideal, Christians can still please God with little or no political freedom (cf. 1 Cor. 7:21-23). Christians must continue to undergird themselves with the Gospel. The time may come when the amount of political freedom is contingent on conformity to mandated norms that are sinful (such as being forced to murder, endorse homosexuality, “transgenderism,” etc.). May we maintain such integrity and faithfulness that if persecuted, we would rejoice that we “were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” and that we keep “teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42)!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church
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Which Divorce Does God Hate?

Over the last year, this writer has had several discussions with different brethren who were defending the position that God accepts remarriages that Jesus plainly calls adulterous (Mt. 19:9), as long as those marriages were entered before the couple became Christians. After all, they will say, God forgives sin when people are baptized into Christ. In these discussions, the people so arguing would say something like, “I can’t divorce her [the unscriptural wife] because God hates divorce, and I don’t want to do anything God hates.” Yes, the Bible indeed teaches that “He [God] hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16), but which divorce is it that He actually hates?

God Hates Divorce From Scriptural Wives

Malachi 2:16 is a passage that is twisted by those defending the position above. Malachi 2:10-16 deals with the corrupted family life of God’s remnant who returned to Palestine from captivity (cf. Ezr. 1:1-4; 7:1-10; Neh. 1:1–2:8). In this section of Malachi, the prophet identified two main reasons why their family life was corrupted.

First, their family life had been corrupted by their religiously mixed-marriages (Mal. 2:10-12). Intermarriage with those of the surrounding nations was expressly forbidden under Israel’s law (Ex. 34:16; Deut. 7:3). Solomon’s violation of this law several hundred years prior to this time greatly contributed to Israel’s apostasy (1 Kgs. 11:1-13; Neh. 13:23-27). Since idolatry led to the Exile (cf. Hos. 7:8-10; 13:2), it should have been unthinkable for God’s remnant to tolerate this kind of apostasy again.

Malachi reminded them that their common unity in the covenant made mixed-marriages an offense against their own brothers and sisters (Mal. 2:10). They should have respected the covenant their “one Father” had given to the children of Israel when God created them to reflect His character (cf. Deut. 32:6; Isa. 43:7; 63:16; 64:8). Instead, they broke the covenant’s unity in “dealing treacherously” and “profaning the covenant” through entering into these mixed marriages, an “abomination” to the Lord. Furthermore, marrying outside the covenant polluted the holiness of God. They were indulging in idolatrous practices with these foreign wives and then entering into God’s presence as if everything were alright (cf. Ezr. 9:1-2; [cf. Isa. 1:11-15]). Judgment was pronounced upon those guilty of mixed marriages (Mal. 2:12). The guilty would be removed from the covenant people for taking wives of heathen women (cf. “does this”) and for acting piously while at the same time desecrating the “holiness of the Lord” (cf. “yet who brings an offering,” Mal. 2:12).

Second, their family life had been corrupted by divorce (Mal. 2:13-16). Mistreating their covenant wives made their worship and sacrifices unacceptable (Mal. 2:13). “Cover the altar … with tears” may refer to the rejected wives’ tears which, so to speak, extinguished the altar fires (Hailey 416), or it may refer to the people’s tears upon their realization that their communion with God was broken (Verhoef 273). Either way, since these tears were not the guilty husbands’ tears of godly sorrow (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10), God did not accept their sacrifices (cf. Num. 16:15).

The reason why their offerings were not accepted was because their marriage vows had been broken (Mal. 2:14). Marriage involves more than just the two spouses. Marriage also involves God (cf. Mt. 19:6)! “The Lord has been witness,” not only of the marriage, but also of the treatment of their wives. Even under the old law, marriage was a binding covenant to which the Lord was (and is) witness (cf. Gen. 31:50; Pr. 2:17). Lawfully, they only had a right to one wife. That authorized wife is identified as “the wife of your youth” (found only twice outside this context, Pr. 5:18; Isa. 54:6). This refers to their first love, to one to whom they promised faithfulness and support (Verhoef 274). Note how this is term is also paralleled with “your companion” and “your wife by covenant” (Mal. 2:14). Yet, they had been faithless to their only God-approved wives by rejecting them for heathen women.

Malachi gave two reasons why breaking their marriage vows was wrong. First, divorcing the covenant wife did not perpetuate God’s covenant (Mal. 2:15). Although this verse is textually one of the most difficult in Malachi, it is possible to understand its general meaning, which can be conveyed by two possible interpretations. One is that God made Adam only one wife (although He could have made him more) for the specific purpose of producing “godly offspring. Thus, this divine purpose is contrary to both divorce and mixed marriages (Verhoef 277). The other is that the person who seeks a godly offspring is spiritually wise and does not therefore violate God’s divine institution of marriage (Keil 453). In either case, the continuance of the covenant is threatened by the lack of “godly offspring.” Therefore, they must quit divorcing their wives. No husband of God’s remnant desiring to have “godly” descendants, would divorce his Israelite wife to marry a heathen woman!

Second, breaking marriage vows is wrong because God “hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16). God has always intended that there be one man with one wife for life (cf. Gen. 2:24; Mt. 19:5-6). “He hates” conveys the idea that God continually and habitually hates divorce. “Divorce [putting away, KJV]” was tolerated only because of their “hardness of heart” (Deut. 24:1-4 cf. Mt. 19:7-8). The sin of divorcing their God-approved wives to marry a “daughter of a strange god” was compounded by the violence involved. The expression, “it covers one’s garment with violence” is figurative for all kinds of blatant wrong doing which, like the blood of a murdered victim, leaves its mark for all to see (Baldwin 241). The man who divorced his God-approved wife, ignoring God’s covenant and her deeply wounded feelings, covered his garment with the violence of iniquity.

From a detailed analyses of this text, it is clear that the divorce God hated was the divorce from their God-authorized wives. Under that covenant, the “wife of his youth” was the only wife to which the Israelite husband could be married.

God Commands Divorce From Unscriptural Wives

Not only did God hate His people’s divorcing their Scriptural wives (Mal. 2:10-16), He also commanded the guilty to put away their unauthorized wives. Sections of the historical Books of Ezra and Nehemiah also concern the post-exilic remnant who had sinned by marrying unauthorized wives. Ezra was informed that:

The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands … For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass. (Ezr. 9:1-2)

Ezra reacted with mourning (Ezr. 9:3). He prayed to God:

For we have forsaken Your commandments … and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations … O Lord God of Israel … Here we are before You, in our guilt … no one can stand before You because of this! (Ezr. 9:5-15)

Despite their sin, Ezra was reminded, “yet now there is hope in Israel” (Ezr. 10:2). Restoration involved separation from unlawful marriages.

Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice … of those who tremble at the commandment of our God. (Ezr. 10:3)

The “covenant” they made required them to “make confession to the Lord God … and do His will; separate yourselves … from the pagan wives” (Ezr. 10:11). The “descendants of the captivity did” exactly as God through Ezra demanded (Ezr. 10:16), even in cases where children were involved (Ezr. 10:3, 44).

Nehemiah 13:23-31 also details similar instruction and response from the guilty.

While these are Old Testament examples and people today are not answerable to Old Testament law, there are some truths we learn from the fact that God commanded these unauthorized wives to be put away (cf. Rom. 15:4). First, God is merciful and will allow His people to repent of sin and be restored to His favor, even when the sin involves marriage (Ezr. 9:9-15; 10:1-3 cf. Acts 8:22; Rom. 2:4). Second, some marriages are not pleasing to God (Ezr. 9:13-14; 10:2, 10 cf. Mk. 6:17-18; Mt. 5:31-32; 19:9). Third, the guilty are responsible for their own repentance in any sin, including sinful marriages (Ezr. 10:4, 12, 16, 19 cf. Lk. 13:3, 5; 2 Cor. 7:10).

Conclusion

The claim by some today that it is sinful to put away their unscriptural wives because “God hates divorce” is an abuse of Malachi 2:16. The divorce God hates is the one from “the wife of his youth” (Mal. 2:15), not from the unauthorized wife, “the daughter of a foreign god” (Mal. 2:11), which God commanded to be put away (Ezr. 10:11-44; Neh. 13:23-31). Rather than justify unauthorized marriages, people involved need to repent, for God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31)!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Which Divorce Does God Hate?
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Free Slaves Liberating Captive Souls

William Still (October 7, 1821–July 14, 1902) was a prominent abolitionist and civil rights activist who coined the term “underground railroad.” As one of the chief “conductors” in Pennsylvania, he helped thousands of people of African decent achieve freedom and get settled away from enslavement to other humans. Throughout his life, Still fought not only to abolish slavery but also to provide civil rights to former slaves in northern territories. Still’s work with freedom seekers is documented in his monumental book, The Underground Rail Road (published in 1872). Upon hearing of this not-so-familiar yet sigificant historical figure, it reminded me of a major work of Christians, especially preachers. Paul wrote:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

1 Cor. 9:19-23

Christians Are Free

When Paul declared, “I am free from all men” (1 Cor. 9:19a), he was affirming that he no longer lived a life where he sought to please men at the expense of doing what was right according to God’s will (cf. Gal. 1:10-12). Paul was free in at least these three ways: (1) free as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28-29); (2) free from financial support from the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 9:15-18); and (3) free from the consequences of sin (Rom. 6:17-18). However, important to this context, a fourth way is also apparent. Paul was free from man-made requirements of salvation. “Religion” is full of such requirements, but they are not binding. Paul wrote about this in more detail:

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—21“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Col. 2:20-23

The string of commands, “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” is not talking about smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco. Rather, it is referring to false religious practices of denial that people thought made them more spiritual. Some were teaching the more a person denied himself, the more spiritual he would be. There is a sense in which this is true as it relates to worldly lusts (cf. Mt. 16:24; Titus 2:12-13; 1 Jn. 2:15-17). However, for a person to continually deny appetites that God has placed in humans (such as hunger and thirst), thinking that this will make him more pleasing to God, is false! In the name of such views, monks in Mediaeval times would literally pluck out their eyes and cut off their fingers, hands, and other body parts or lie naked in a swamp to let insects bite them, thinking this made them holier! The ESV translators rendered the term “false humility” (NKJ) as “asceticism” (Col. 2:23), which refers to the religious practice of severely denying oneself physical things, thinking it will automatically make him more spiritual. This was part of the heresy affecting the Colossians when Paul wrote (Col. 2:8, 18). Christians are not bound by man-made requirements (Col. 2:13-17)!

Christians Are Slaves

Although Paul was “free from all men,” he still declared, “I have made myself a servant to all” (1 Cor. 9:19b). The phrase, “I have made [myself] … servant” is from a single Greek word (douloo, δουλόω) that means to enslave. There were, of course, different kinds of slavery in the first century Greco-Roman world. The slavery about which Paul spoke of himself was completely voluntary, like that of a “bond servant” (Rom. 1:1, NKJ). Paul wrote that every person is a slave of one master or another:

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Rom. 6:16-18

The only way to become a slave of righteousness is to “obey from the heart” a form of doctrine (Rom. 6:17-18), which must include baptism (Rom. 6:3-4). When people obey the Gospel and become Christians, they are crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:17-18; Gal. 2:20). As Paul said he became a “servant of all,” Christians today must also serve their neighbors (Mt. 22:36-40). Again, this is to be a completely voluntary submission (cf. “I am debtor,” Rom. 1:14). In so serving his neighbor, Paul did not compromise truth by “becoming all things to all men” (Gal. 1:10). Christians can adapt the cultural customs of others as long as those customs do not violate God’s law. For example, if a culture does not eat certain meat because they deem it “unclean,” a Christian working among them, even though he knows better, should not eat that meat, at least until some teaching is done to show that God allows Christians to eat any meat that is “received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 3:4). Like Christ, we must come to serve, not to be served (Mt. 20:28).

Christians Win Souls

“That I might win the more” is the reason Paul gave as to why he was free from man-made religion and free to submit himself as a servant to others (1 Cor. 9:19c). The word “win [gain, KJV]” (from kerdaino, κερδαίνω) means to gain, profit; win over (Phil. 3:8; 1 Pet. 3:1). When Paul interacted with people, he did so with a view of winning them to Christ. This is perhaps best summarized:

I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

(Rom. 1:14-16)

We can “become” like other people and serve them without sinning. Jesus did (cf. Phil. 2:5-11)!

Conclusion

Paul went on to write how he would forgo his “rights,” adapting himself to the customs of his hearers, so that he might win them to Christ (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Paul certainly did not compromise the Gospel by becoming “all things to all men.” In matters of indifference, Paul forsook his rights so as not to arouse unnecessary prejudices that would close the minds of some to the Gospel.

Jesus is our great example. He said:

[W]hoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

Mk. 10:43-45

William Still and his “underground railroad” did a great work by freeing physical slaves of physical masters. We, however, have a greater opportunity to do an even greater work: freeing people from the bondage of sin and death by bringing them to Jesus! Are you a slave of Jesus, freed from sin and the shackles of man-made religion, seeking to liberate souls in bondage to the same?

Endnotes

Image Attribution: Nick-philly, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Free Slaves Liberating Captive Souls
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Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022

Zachary Jones came to FSOP from the Lake Drive church of Christ in Vinton, Virginia, for whom Tommy Blewett (1986 FSOP graduate) has been preaching since 1988. Zachary became a Christian in 2018. Before enrolling in FSOP, he worked as an ice rink attendant. In addition to a high school diploma, he also attended the Secondary Academy for Success in Bothell, Washington. While a student at FSOP, Zachary served as our “tech guy.” He started school during the covid-19 pandemic, when FSOP installed new electronic equipment to maximize our online capabilities. Zachary was invaluable in helping us. After graduation, Zachary plans on working with Tommy and the Lake Drive congregation.

Paul Walter came to FSOP from North Texas, having retired as chief of police after a twenty-seven year career with various departments in Mississippi and Oklahoma. He is a Marine Corp veteran. He is a licensed general contractor, plumber, HVAC, and electrician, and he has generously helped brethren with those talents. While a student, he was involved in Orange Street church of Christ’s Polk County jail ministry. He also went with Ted Wheeler on a mission trip to Ghana, West Africa. After graduation, Paul plans to return to North Texas and to work with his home congregation, Linden church of Christ, and other churches of Christ in that area as the need arises.

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Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022
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Understanding Translation Essentials Should Reduce Controversy

When I was a student at the Florida School of Preaching (1989-1991), we were only allowed to use two Bible translations: the King James Version and the American Standard Version (1901). The reasoning was so that everyone’s Bible read the same. After all, we were told, we could not use valuable class time to discuss why everyone’s Bible read differently. When I came to work with the school in 1996 and wrote articles for the Harvester, I would occasionally compare translations, even the NIV, when explaining a passage. Some readers thought this was out of line and insisted I should not do it. Around 1999, Jackie M. Stearsman (FSOP’s second director, 1992-2009) allowed students another translation option, the New King James Version. He also received criticism from those outside FSOP. At the time, however, we had several Haitian students. Why should we force students who have recently learned English to read from a translation that would further confuse any uncertainty they might still have with English? Should not our goal be more to impart biblical knowledge (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2) than to be dogmatically loyal to a translation?

In some areas of the brotherhood, there are still those who insist on the KJV or ASV (1901) to the point of, at best, looking down on any one who uses another translation or, at worst, thinking any one who does is a false teacher. My view of “KJV only” changed several years ago when I attended the funeral of a church member’s relative. At the luncheon afterward, I was siting at a table with brethren while a denominational pastor was sitting behind me (back-to-back) with his church members. His voice carried while he was discussing how the KJV was the only Bible God recognized. He used the very same argumentation that brethren used (and continue to use)! I thought, “Wow! He uses the KJV only and preaches false doctrine from it. It cannot be the translation that makes the difference! It’s the doctrine he preaches, even though he’s holding and reading from the KJV! Furthermore,” I thought, “if it’s true that more people have been saved by learning from the KJV, it must also be true more people have been lost who heard preaching from the KJV!”

There is still a misconception about the KJV being the only God-approved translation. An obvious symptom of this is when, for example, in Bible class, when a translation reads differently from the KJV and someone appeals to Revelation 22:18-19, how no one is to add to or take away from God’s word. Using these verses to show a translation reading differently than the KJV is wrong implies that the KJV is a collection of the original, autographed texts! However, all passages teaching the inspired. inerrant, and infallible nature of the Scriptures (Jn. 16:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21) are affirming the original autographs, not copies of the original or translations based on those copies!

The remainder of this article will explain what is needed for any translation, including the Bible, in order to defuse any unnecessary disruption of fellowship that results from a lack of understanding. Much of Bible translation issues are not “liberal versus conservative,” but simply what does the evidence substantiate (cf. 1 Thes. 5:21)! There are three simple things all translation, biblical or otherwise, involve: (1) an original language; (2) a target (audience) language; and (3) knowledge of both languages.

An Original Language

Obviously, whether Spanish to French or Koine Greek to English, a language must exist in order to translate it. This may surprise some, but when it comes to the New Testament, there are no original, “autographed” documents extant (i.e., known to exist). Someone might respond, “Then how is it possible to know what an original contained?” The answer: there are around six thousand witnesses that attest to an original. “Witnesses” refer to ancient manuscripts, translations, art work, sermon notes, etc. that could not possibly exist if it were not for an original. The power of this testimony cannot be ignored! Which will stand in a court of law: a person who said he did something or six thousand witnesses who testify he did something? It would be impossible for manuscripts unknown to each other and found in different parts of the world to read the same without there having been, somewhere down the line, an original from which they all came. This is multiplied exponentially when considering the thousands of evidences backing up the New Testament. No other book in antiquity has more sufficient evidence to confirm its place historically!

It must be noted here that the original, autographed documents of the New Testament are the ones that are God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). As such, what the autographs contain are infallible, inerrant, and perfect in every way. Although we do not know the exact process God used to supernaturally inspire each writer, while still allowing his own education, cultural background, and experience to shape his writing, we do know the product is exactly as God intended (cf. not knowing the exact process but the final product of the virgin conception and birth of Jesus, Mt. 1:21-23).

However, humans working within the providence of God are strictly responsible for what is called the “transmission” of the text. Inspiration of the text is how the Bible came supernaturally from God to humans. Transmission of the text is how the Bible came providentially from its original documents to the translations we possess today. Because transmission involves humans all the way, there are obvious errors in some parts of the manuscript evidence. Amazingly, these flaws are very few and far between when compared to the huge body of evidence we have. In other words, as some have observed, the Greek manuscripts that form the basis of the KJV’s New Testament translation (comparatively few in number) are about 97-98% the same as those behind the non-KJV family of translations.

There is no denying that some ancient manuscripts read differently than others in certain places. These manuscript differences are called “variants.” There are a number of possible reasons for these variants, and most can be traced back to a scribe’s error. There are a number of mistakes that could be made while copying manuscripts, especially before Christianity was legal and copies were made in secret under difficult circumstances. Errors include such things as writing twice what should have been written once (cf. “deed” instead of “dead”), reversing letters or words (cf. writing “form” instead of “from”), substituting one similar sounding word for another (cf. writing “there” instead of “their”), and confusing one letter for another of similar shape (cf. writing “fold” instead of “told”). Every teacher who has taught for any length of time have seen every one of these errors from students!

When a variant occurs, there is nothing sinister about objectively researching the evidence to see which reading is more likely that of the original. This is the field of “textual criticism,” which is not the enemy of truth (when done objectively), but rather truth’s ally. Should we not want to know what was actually written in the original, God-breathed documents?

A Target (Audience) Language

Any translation has in mind a particular people the translators want to reach. Again, this is true of any translation, even appliance manuals! The KJV’s target language was, obviously, contemporary 1611 English. The English language has changed over the last four centuries. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) first appeared in the early 1970s. By its name, it targets American English, which is a bit different from United Kingdom English. The NASB underwent a major update in 1995 (abbreviated NASB95 or NASU). In 2020, the New American Standard was again updated. It appears translators plan to revise it every twenty-five years. These are just a few examples of target languages. Is it right to fault a translation merely because it targets a different audience language than Shakespearian era English! Yes, there is something poetically beautiful about the English of the KJV. However, beautiful poetic language is no more sacred than “Miami Spanish.” What is sacred is the written word of God, but unless we are fluent in the original languages of the Bible, its life-giving message will never reach us!

A Knowledge Of Both Languages

The original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek words used in the Bible have not changed. Those words have always meant what they meant, in the way they were intended, the moment they were written. The first, original readers knew those meanings and nuances and whether they were figurative or literal. However, our understanding of those words have changed over the years. More evidence has been found to shed light on how words and expressions were used in these ancient languages. This is clearly exemplified when comparing how translations handle animals. In Isaiah 34:11, the Hebrew words behind the KJV’s “cormorant and … bittern” are translated “pelican and … porcupine” (NKJ); “pelican and hedgehog” (NAS95); and “hawk and … porcupine” (ESV). Since the 1800s, much more evidence has come to light on what biblical words meant. Much of this evidence is from uninspired literature of the same period as biblical books that use the same or similar words in contexts where we can better understand the kinds of animals being referenced. Earlier translations did not have the advantage of this evidence because it had not yet surfaced. With the additional evidence, why would it be wrong to update a translation with English words that better convey the actual meaning of the original word?

Perhaps another, more modern example would also help. Suppose someone a thousand years from now discovered a document that mentioned a “hard drive,” and the world knew nothing about computers. How would that term be translated? Maybe the translation “difficult journey” would be the best that could be done. Then suppose fifty years after that translation, an IBM factory was unearthed, and all kinds of documents were discovered describing in great detail “hard drives.” Should that same, original term still be translated “difficult journey” with all this new evidence? Of course not! To really understand the original meaning of the word, incorporating the new evidence is a must! This necessity is vastly multiplied when it comes to the written word of God! We must know accurately what was written in order to make the proper, life giving application (Jn. 8:31-32; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17)!

Conclusion

Yes, there are some genuine problems with some translations (including the KJV), but those problems do not so much stem from the original languages behind them as they do from the English words within them. In many ways, though, the controversy over translations in the brotherhood stems from a lack of understanding as to what translations require, coupled with a bit of ethnocentrism (the belief that a person’s own culture is superior to other cultures to the point of thinking his culture is the standard to which all should rise — “The KJV was good enough for me and the generations before me. Thus it’s good enough for you!”). The word of God is too important to confine it to a translation some people are not going to read. As long as the original language is accurately translated in the target (audience) language, then people of that language can read God’s word accurately and know what they must do to be saved. I know very influential Christians who were ready to quit Christianity because when first converted, they were told the KJV was the only Bible they could use. Thankfully, they were pointed to newer translations from which they enjoyed reading and studying! Let us realize what is involved in translation and what is at stake when people can or cannot understand accurately what God teaches through His word!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Understanding Translation Essentials Should Reduce Controversy
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Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 3

With the overall theme of our 48th annual lectureship being “Rise of the Messianic Kingdom,” the question in the title of this article is very relevant. The short answer to the question is two-fold: (1) because Jesus was truly the Messiah, the God-chosen “anointed one,” which is what the Koine Greek term translated “Christ” means; and (2) because the term “Messiah” was so politically and militarily charged in the first century, to have called Jesus “Messiah” would have left the wrong impression upon most Jews and would have prematurely stirred up unnecessary worldly strife. As usual with short answers, a deeper understanding will bring better appreciation to the subject at hand. In Parts 1 and 2 of this study, consideration was given to the Old Testament background and intertestamental development of the term “Messiah” and the first century view of the Messiah. In the final part of this study, examination will be made of the early church’s value of the Messiah and some practical applications for people today.

The Early Church
And Jesus the “Christ”

The early church could “acclaim and proclaim Jesus as Messiah in an entirely new way, which transcended the OT understanding and the intertestamental development of the title” (Piper 334). Nothing in Jewish tradition would cause people to worship their view of the coming Messiah as deity. To the average Jew, He would be a political warrior who would set things straight. However, those who actually encountered Jesus considered Him worthy of worship because of whom He showed Himself to be (Mt. 14:33; 28:9, 17; Lk. 24:52; Jn. 9:38; 12:20). After the church was established (Acts 2), many people obeyed the Gospel, acknowledging Jesus as the Christ (Acts 2:41 cf. Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 8:12; 9:42; 11:21; 14:1; 16:5; 17:12; 18:8). There are two major reasons why this was the case.

First and foremost, people followed Jesus because of His resurrection from the dead. Paul said Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). The resurrection was the “incontestible fact” upon which the church was built and why many became Jesus’ disciples (Piper 335). Some in the first century church actually witnessed the resurrection of Christ and others could confirm it (cf. 1 Cor. 15:4-8). Even Jesus’ own brothers did not believe He was the Messiah until after the resurrection (Jn. 7:4 cf. Acts 1:4; 15:13).

Second, in addition to His resurrection, the early church followed Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah, because it was clear He was the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture, from His birth in Bethlehem (Mt. 2:1-6; Lk. 2:4), His coming from the lineage of David (Rom. 1:3), and His mission to the Jews first (Gal. 4:4), then to the Gentiles (Acts 26:15-18). Paul’s summary of the Gospel confirms this:

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:1-4)

Where one stood in relation to accepting Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah, determined whether he or she was in fellowship. John wrote:

By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. (1 Jn. 4:2-3)

People need to acknowledge now that God’s Messiah has come in the flesh in the person of Jesus, and they need to live their lives according to this fact. To the early church, “Confessing Christ” meant that “a Christian was willing to make a public stand for the messianic dignity of Jesus regardless of hostile reactions” (Piper 335).

Concluding Applications

One day, “at the name of Jesus every knee” will “bow” and “every tongue” will “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). For some, however, their acknowledgment of Jesus as the Christ at that time will be too late to improve their eternal destination (cf. Mt. 7:21-22; 25:31-46). Jesus is called the Christ because He is the true Messiah sent from God to redeem humanity from sin (Rom. 3:24-26; Gal. 3:13), to keep the redeemed washed in His blood (1 Jn. 1:7; Rev. 1:5), and to give His followers an eternal home in the presence of God (1 Cor. 15:21-28 cf. Jn. 14:1-3).

What difference can Jesus being called the Christ make in a person’s life today? How should people respond to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah? First, all should recognize that Jesus has all authority (Mt. 28:18). Second, they should submit to that authority by obeying the Gospel (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38). Third, they should continue “walking in the light” of Jesus’ words and example (1 Jn. 1:7 cf. 1 Pet. 2:21). May everyone who learns of Jesus the Christ develop the attitude Paul expressed, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:21-23).

Works Cited

Piper, Otto A. “Messiah.” International Standard Bible En-
cyclopedia. Vol. 3. Ed. G. W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986. 330-338.

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 3
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Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 2

With the overall theme of our 48th annual lectureship being “Rise of the Messianic Kingdom,” the question in the title of this article is very relevant. The short answer to the question is two-fold: (1) because Jesus was truly the Messiah, the God-chosen “anointed one,” which is what the Koine Greek term translated “Christ” means; and (2) because the term “Messiah” was so politically and militarily charged in the first century, to have called Jesus “Messiah” would have left the wrong impression upon most Jews and would have prematurely stirred up unnecessary worldly strife. As usual with short answers, a deeper understanding will bring better appreciation to the subject at hand. In Part 1 of this study, consideration was given to the Old Testament background of the “Messiah” as well as the intertestamental development of the term. In Part 2, the New Testament consideration will be given.

First Century View of “Messiah”

By the time the “silent years” of the intertestamental period were broken by the “voice of one crying in the wilderness,” the Jewish expectation of who the Messiah would be and what He would accomplish was far from God’s intent. The typical Jews of the first century were expecting a mighty warrior-type Messiah with political power who would restore national Israel as the prominent kingdom they thought God intended (cf. Acts 1:6). Instead of a warrior-like restorer, though, Jesus came as a humble redeemer, with no political power. In the first century, “Judaism had become the slave of the letter of the OT law” (Jn. 5:46; Rom. 7:6; 2 Cor. 3:6 cf. Mt. 11:10; Mk. 14:27; Lk. 10:27-37), and thus failed to realize that Jesus was the “mighty agent and final revelation of God’s redemptive purpose” (Piper 338).

The Greek word messias (μεσσίας), translated “Messiah” occurs only twice in the New Testament. Both references are from John’s Gospel. In both, John immediately attached the translation “Christ” to Messias. First, John recorded Andrew saying, “We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ)” (Jn. 1:41). By the time John’s Gospel was written, “Messiah” was a “Jewish eschatological term applied to the expected deliverer” (Borchert 143). John’s first readers were second generation Christians, mostly Gentiles, who would not be familiar with many Jewish concepts. The term “Christ,” which explained the meaning of “Messiah” without the political baggage, became one of the most familiar terms used of Jesus in the first century Greco-Roman world.

Second, John recorded the Samaritan woman’s response to Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ)” (Jn. 4:25). The Samaritans did not regularly use the term “Messiah.” They preferred the term “Taheb,” which meant “restorer,” or possibly, “he who returns.” The strong political feature that the Jews attached to their “Messiah” seems to be absent from this term “Taheb.” Samaritans pictured this figure as “one who would reveal the truth, in line with the ultimate prophet [cf. Deut. 18:15-19]” (Carson 226). Thus, the Samaritan woman’s statement, “When He comes, He will tell us all things” is consistent with their view. Also of interest in this context, “Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He’” (Jn. 4:26). Usually, Jesus made it a point to keep His Messiahship low key (Lk. 9:20-22), even telling people not to say anything about His messianic doings (Mt. 8:4; 16:20 cf. Jn. 6:15). Yet, to “this obscure woman Jesus reveals point-blank what he had revealed to no one else” (Lenski 327). This was entirely appropriate on this occasion. In the region of Galilee, there were “many would-be Messiahs and a constant unrest based on the messianic hope,” which made the claim “Messiah” very dangerous; however, in Samaria, “the concept would probably have been regarded more as religious than political and would have elicited a ready hearing for his teaching rather than a subversive revolt” (Tenney 56).

Jesus as the “Messiah,”
Which Is Translated “Christ”

Nothing observable about Jesus before He was made known to Israel would clue the average Jew into thinking He was the long awaited Messiah (cf. Isa. 53:2). The birth narratives of Jesus make clear that He was not politically powerful royalty as most Jews would have imagined their Messiah. Rather, the place and circumstance of His birth identified Him with the common predicament of the populace (cf. Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 2:1-24). Furthermore, throughout His life, the “Jews were confounded and irritated by Jesus’ humility and meekness, which contradicted their idea of a nationalistic liberator who would appear in royal splendor and power” (Piper 334).

However, Messianic-type descriptions of Jesus are found throughout the New Testament. In the Gospels, Matthew especially describes the work of Jesus in terms of the “kingship ideology of the OT” (Mt. 1:1, 6, 17, 20; 9:27; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9, 15) (Piper 335). Jesus was the personification of God’s kingdom and the executor of His redemptive will (cf. Mk. 8:38; 9:14-29; Lk. 10:22-24). Thus, Jesus had the right to demand obedience to His will (Mk. 1:16-20; Mt. 19:21). Whatever Jesus had, it came from His Father (Jn. 3:35; 5:22; 17:2). Jesus had authority because He was “sent” by His Father (Jn. 5:23, 30, 36-38; Acts 3:26; Rom. 8:3).

This is why Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16 was so significant. It was a crucial time in Jesus’ ministry when He “came into the region of Caesarea Philippi” and asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Mt. 16:13). The answer they gave—“John the Baptist … Elijah … Jeremiah, or one of the prophets”—was no doubt meant as a compliment, for these were all great servants of God. However, these great servants of God fell far short of the significance Jesus was to God’s plan. When Jesus asked the Twelve, “But who do you say that I am?,” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:15-16). In this answer, the apostle acknowledged the Messianic nature of Jesus. As stated earlier, “Christ” (from Christos, Χριστός) is the Greek translation of messias, which means “Anointed One,” or “Messiah.” John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, and all the faithful prophets were great servants of God, but they were not the Messiah! The term “Son of the living God” also acknowledged the Messiahship of Jesus. Referring to Jesus as “Son of God” in first century Jewish culture was equivalent to saying He was of the same nature as God. One reason the Jews wanted to kill Jesus was “because He … said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (Jn. 5:18 cf. Jn. 19:7). Not only did Jesus call Himself the “Son [of God]” (Mt. 11:27; 24:36; Mk. 13:32; Lk. 10:22), He also referred to God as “my Father” (Mt. 7:21; 10:33; Mk. 8:38; Lk. 22:29). For any other man in that culture to make such a claim for himself would have been blasphemy, but Jesus proved throughout His ministry that He was indeed God incarnate (cf. Jn. 3:1).

Because the term “Messiah” had so many worldly and political connotations, other, non-politically-charged terms were used to describe the Anointed One of God. “Son of Man” was the one Jesus used most often for Himself (Mt. 8:20; 9:6; Mk. 2:28; 8:31; Lk. 12:8; 18:8; Jn. 3:14; 13:31). This term expressed lowliness because it simply meant “a man,” or human, yet it represented greatness because it tied into the vision of Daniel 7:13-14. One commentator gives four reasons why Jesus possibly preferred this term: (1) it was a “rare term and one without nationalistic associations,” which would “lead to no political complications;” (2) it had “overtones of divinity” (cf. Dan. 7:13-14); (3) its “societary implications” because it implied “the redeemed people of God;” and (4) it had “undertones of humanity,” for Jesus took upon Himself human weakness (Morris 202). When Jesus used “Son of man,” He always used it in the third person, which is indicative of His humility.

Conclusion

Like “Messiah,” there are many biblical terms today that have been so abused and/or misunderstood that it is sometimes not wise to use them (cf. “pastor,” even if the preacher is also an elder). Jesus as “the Christ” conveyed in the first century the meaning that “Messiah” would have had it not been so twisted into human doctrine. Rest assured, however, that Jesus was (and is) that long awaited Messiah. In Part 3, consideration will be given to the meaning and importance of the Messiah to the first century church along with some practical applications.

Works Cited

Borchert, Gerald L. John 1–11. New American Commentary.
Vol. 25A. Ed. E. Ray Clendenen. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1996.
Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids,
MI: Eerdmans, 1991.
Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel.
Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand
Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992.
Piper, Otto A. “Messiah.” International Standard Bible En-
cyclopedia. Vol. 3. Ed. G. W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986. 330-338.
Tenney, Merrill C. “The Gospel of John.” Expositor’s Bible
Commentary. Vol. 9. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981. 1-203.

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 2
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Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 1

With the overall theme of our 48th annual lectureship being “Rise of the Messianic Kingdom,” the question in the title of this article is very relevant. The short answer to the question is two-fold: (1) because Jesus was truly the Messiah, the God-chosen “anointed one,” which is what the Koine Greek term translated “Christ” means; and (2) because the term “Messiah” was so politically and militarily charged in the first century, to have called Jesus “Messiah” would have left the wrong impression upon most Jews and would have prematurely stirred up unnecessary worldly strife. As usual with short answers, a deeper understanding will bring better appreciation to the subject at hand. With that in mind, the remainder of this study will give a more detailed examination of why Jesus was called Christ.

Jesus was known by many descriptions, but “the Christ” was among the most common and significant (Mt. 16:16, 20). Judaism was rich in the expectation of a messiah who would come and set matters straight for the Jewish people, at least in their nationalistic minds. This expectation is seen throughout the New Testament. When John the Baptist came on the scene, those who heard him “reasoned in their hearts … whether he was the Christ or not” (Lk. 3:15). When priests and Levites were sent from Jerusalem to check out this rugged preacher with a distinct message, they asked, “Who are you?,” to which John confessed, “I am not the Christ” (Jn. 1:19-20). Later, when there arose a question among the Jews and John’s disciples about purification, John reminded them, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him … He must increase, but I must decrease’” (Jn. 3:28-30). After her encounter with Jesus, the Samaritan woman told her people, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (Jn. 4:29). After her people went out to hear Jesus, they told the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (Jn. 4:42). Even toward the end of Jesus’ earthly life, during His mockery of a trial, the high priest stood and asked Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mk. 14:61).

The word “Christ” is from the Greek word christos (χριστός), which is a translation of a Hebrew and Aramaic word that is transliterated in Greek as messias (μεσσίας). Messias meant to “touch lightly” or “rub with oil,” and thus “anoint.” The designation “anointed” was a description of honor given to the high priest (Ex. 30:30) and kings. This kingly aspect is brought out particularly in the Psalms (2:2; 18:50; 20:6; 28:8; 45:7; 84:9; 105:15). The term “anointed” (messias) was also occasionally used to refer to the patriarchs (Ps. 105:15), to a prophet (1 Kgs. 19:5), to a Servant of the Lord (Isa. 61:1), or to the cherub on the holy mountain appointed for protecting God’s people (Ezk. 28:14). To better appreciate the word “Christ” as it applied to Jesus, a background study of messias and its various connotations is necessary.

Old Testament
Background of “Messiah”

As mentioned above, the two primary Old Testament functions, or offices, that were associated with being anointed were that of priest and king. Later, the prophetic office sometimes involved anointing (1 Kgs. 19:16 cf. 1 Chr. 16:22; Ps. 105:15). Concerning the priests, upon inauguration of the Levitical system, both the high priest and the lesser priests were anointed (Ex. 40:15; Num. 3:3). Afterward, anointing seemed to be only for the high priest (Ex. 29:29; Lev. 16:32 cf. Lev. 4:3). Concerning kings, anointing was the primary and God-ordained ceremony instituting Jewish kings (1 Sam. 9:16; 10:1; 1 Kgs. 1:34, 39). The reason for the priests and kings being paired together with anointing is that:

[I]n both cases the anointing, corresponding to its character as a legal act, is as essential for the conferring of the authority connected with the office as it is for the resulting responsibility before God as the God of Israel. (Rengstorf 335)

Although Jesus would later serve as prophet, priest, and king, during this Old Testament period, only the role of king began to be associated with the idea of a Messiah. The connection was easily made due to the nature of the position of king as sovereign of his kingdom. God’s people would look for one to come who would exercise the “sovereign kingly rule of God on the basis of the OT revealed faith” (Rengstorf 335).

As Old Testament history unfolded, the “political institution of kingship” came to be understood as the “foretaste of the rule of a perfect king by whom peace and justice would be realized forever” (Piper 331). Until the time of Isaiah, “Israel’s hope was confined to the restoration of the splendor of David’s kingdom, whose glory increased in proportion to the deterioration of Israel’s political and social conditions” (Piper 331). Isaiah showed that God as creator of all was concerned for all mankind, not just His covenant people, Israel (Isa. 2:2-3; 27:13). Thus, the belief and expectation arose that a divinely appointed Messiah-Savior would come in the future. This Messiah would provide a sense of security and adequate power to protect, while at the same time, save God’s people from impending doom and disaster (Mic. 5:3 cf. Ezk. 21:27).

God has always worked through agents, and the coming of His Messiah-Savior would be no different. God’s anointed was identified through a prophet as one who would “preach good tidings” (Isa. 61:1-3) and as a special Servant (Isa. 42:1-7; 49:1-9; 50:4-9; 52:12-53:12). Perhaps the most significant Old Testament passage bringing to light the coming Messianic agent is given by the prophet Daniel:

I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13-14)

In this passage, the agent of God’s authority is described as “one like the Son of man.” This reveals that He is human, but as the context reveals, He is more than a mere man. His humanity contrasts with the beasts designating the previous empires and the turmoil with which they were associated (Dan. 7:3-28). His coming with “the clouds of heaven” indicates His divinity. Clouds in the Old Testament were often associated with the presence of deity, such as when the glory of the Lord appeared in a cloud (Ex. 16:10), and in the inauguration of the Mosaic covenant (Ex. 19:9). In connection with Daniel 7:13, “the coming with clouds is an exclusively divine attribute” (Sabourin 304). This human figure came to the “Ancient of Days” and was given a universal kingdom, in which “all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.” This was also an eternal kingdom, in contrast to the worldly kingdoms Daniel just described that would be destroyed. Thus, this “one like the Son of man” would be “the heavenly Sovereign incarnate” (Archer 90). Daniel saw this vision on the brink of the post-exilic period (Dan. 7:1, “the first year of Belshazzar” was about 552 BC). Through the post-exilic times and into the intertestamental period, expectations of this Messianic Sovereign’s character and work would evolve.

Intertestamental
Background of “Messiah”

As the post-exilic period gave way to the intertestamental period, “anointing” began to designate a “status directly below God rather than a specific function” (Piper 333). For example, in the uninspired book, Psalm of Solomon, all the kings who were allied with Israel would be anointed (17:21-40). In other uninspired literature (some falsely ascribed), there was the coexistence of two Messiahs: one from the House of David and one from the House of Aaron, or Levi (Testament of Judah [T. Jud.] 21:2-5:24; Testament of Levi [T. Levi]18; Jubilees [Jub.] 31:12-20; Serek Hayahad [1QS] 9:11; Cairo Genizah copy of the Damascus Document [CD] 12:23; 14:19; 19:10; 20:1). This idea of dual Messiahs probably goes back to the words of the angel who told Zechariah concerning the meaning of the vision of the lampstand and the two olive trees: “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zec. 4:14). Whether it was two or one Messiah, intertestamental expectation was of a “ruler who would be thoroughly familiar with the law and whose faithful observance of it would set an example to the whole nation” (Piper 333).

It was not clear in intertestamental literature, however, whether the Messiah was to establish God’s kingdom or only to prepare for its coming (2 Esdras [2 Esd.] 7:28; 12:34; 2 Baruch [2 Bar.] 40:3). As a general rule, the literature of this time “considers God rather than the Messiah the one who ushers in the cosmic transformation and salvation” (1 Enoch [1 En.] 90:37f; 2 Esdras [2 Esd.] 7:28f; 2 Baruch [2 Bar.] 72:1-5]) (Piper 333). The “saving agent” of God in the literature of this time had many titles, and “Messiah” is “by far the least frequent one” (Piper 333). All the different titles for this “saving agent” had specific meanings and expectations associated with them. During this time:

[The] whole Jewish literature agrees on only one feature of the Messiah: he will be a political ruler and national hero … to deliver Israel from its oppressors and restore the authority of the law. (Piper 333)

In the Maccabean age of the intertestamental period, a Jewish nationalism began to grow. The idea of a warrior and conqueror transferred from Yahweh to the Messiah (Sibylline Oracles [Sib. Or.] 5:108f, 414-431; 2 Baruch [2 Bar.] 70:9, 73; 1 Enoch [1 En.] 38:2f; 90:38; Jubilees [Jub.] 23:30; 2 Esdras [2 Esd.] 13:10f). Thus, the expectation of the Messiah became that of “rebel and political leader” (Piper 333). None of the literature depicts this Messiah as one who will suffer, not even the writings of Qumran (i.e., the Dead Sea Scrolls). Furthermore, the coming of the Messiah would be the sign that the final period of human history had begun (Piper 333).

Works Cited

Archer, Gleason L., Jr. “Daniel.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 7. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985. 1-157. Piper, O. “Messiah.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1986. 330-338. Rengstorf, Karl H. “Christos [Χριστός].” New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. 334-343.

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 1
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Harvester Sept 2022: Why Was JesusCalled the Christ? Part 1

Articles In This Issue

  • Why Was JesusCalled the Christ? Part 1 – Brian R. Kenyon
  • 2023 Lectureship Schedule –
Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Harvester Sept 2022: Why Was JesusCalled the Christ? Part 1
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Understanding Translation Essentials Should Reduce Controversy

When I was a student at the Florida School of Preaching (1989-1991), we were only allowed to use two Bible translations: the King James Version and the American Standard Version (1901). The reasoning was so that everyone’s Bible read the same. After all, we were told, we could not use valuable class time to discuss why everyone’s Bible read differently. When I came to work with the school in 1996 and wrote articles for the Harvester, I would occasionally compare translations, even the NIV, when explaining a passage. Some readers thought this was out of line and insisted I should not do it. Around 1999, Jackie M. Stearsman (FSOP’s second director, 1992-2009) allowed students another translation option, the New King James Version. He also received criticism from those outside FSOP. At the time, however, we had several Haitian students. Why should we force students who have recently learned English to read from a translation that would further confuse any uncertainty they might still have with English? Should not our goal be more to impart biblical knowledge (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2) than to be dogmatically loyal to a translation?

In some areas of the brotherhood, there are still those who insist on the KJV or ASV (1901) to the point of, at best, looking down on any one who uses another translation or, at worst, thinking any one who does is a false teacher. My view of “KJV only” changed several years ago when I attended the funeral of a church member’s relative. At the luncheon afterward, I was siting at a table with brethren while a denominational pastor was sitting behind me (back-to-back) with his church members. His voice carried while he was discussing how the KJV was the only Bible God recognized. He used the very same argumentation that brethren used (and continue to use)! I thought, “Wow! He uses the KJV only and preaches false doctrine from it. It cannot be the translation that makes the difference! It’s the doctrine he preaches, even though he’s holding and reading from the KJV! Furthermore,” I thought, “if it’s true that more people have been saved by learning from the KJV, it must also be true more people have been lost who heard preaching from the KJV!”

There is still a misconception about the KJV being the only God-approved translation. An obvious symptom of this is when, for example, in Bible class, when a translation reads differently from the KJV and someone appeals to Revelation 22:18-19, how no one is to add to or take away from God’s word. Using these verses to show a translation reading differently than the KJV is wrong implies that the KJV is a collection of the original, autographed texts! However, all passages teaching the inspired. inerrant, and infallible nature of the Scriptures (Jn. 16:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21) are affirming the original autographs, not copies of the original or translations based on those copies!

The remainder of this article will explain what is needed for any translation, including the Bible, in order to defuse any unnecessary disruption of fellowship that results from a lack of understanding. Much of Bible translation issues are not “liberal versus conservative,” but simply what does the evidence substantiate (cf. 1 Thes. 5:21)! There are three simple things all translation, biblical or otherwise, involve: (1) an original language; (2) a target (audience) language; and (3) knowledge of both languages.

An Original Language

Obviously, whether Spanish to French or Koine Greek to English, a language must exist in order to translate it. This may surprise some, but when it comes to the New Testament, there are no original, “autographed” documents extant (i.e., known to exist). Someone might respond, “Then how is it possible to know what an original contained?” The answer: there are around six thousand witnesses that attest to an original. “Witnesses” refer to ancient manuscripts, translations, art work, sermon notes, etc. that could not possibly exist if it were not for an original. The power of this testimony cannot be ignored! Which will stand in a court of law: a person who said he did something or six thousand witnesses who testify he did something? It would be impossible for manuscripts unknown to each other and found in different parts of the world to read the same without there having been, somewhere down the line, an original from which they all came. This is multiplied exponentially when considering the thousands of evidences backing up the New Testament. No other book in antiquity has more sufficient evidence to confirm its place historically!

It must be noted here that the original, autographed documents of the New Testament are the ones that are God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). As such, what the autographs contain are infallible, inerrant, and perfect in every way. Although we do not know the exact process God used to supernaturally inspire each writer, while still allowing his own education, cultural background, and experience to shape his writing, we do know the product is exactly as God intended (cf. not knowing the exact process but the final product of the virgin conception and birth of Jesus, Mt. 1:21-23).

However, humans working within the providence of God are strictly responsible for what is called the “transmission” of the text. Inspiration of the text is how the Bible came supernaturally from God to humans. Transmission of the text is how the Bible came providentially from its original documents to the translations we possess today. Because transmission involves humans all the way, there are obvious errors in some parts of the manuscript evidence. Amazingly, these flaws are very few and far between when compared to the huge body of evidence we have. In other words, as some have observed, the Greek manuscripts that form the basis of the KJV’s New Testament translation (comparatively few in number) are about 97-98% the same as those behind the non-KJV family of translations.

There is no denying that some ancient manuscripts read differently than others in certain places. These manuscript differences are called “variants.” There are a number of possible reasons for these variants, and most can be traced back to a scribe’s error. There are a number of mistakes that could be made while copying manuscripts, especially before Christianity was legal and copies were made in secret under difficult circumstances. Errors include such things as writing twice what should have been written once (cf. “deed” instead of “dead”), reversing letters or words (cf. writing “form” instead of “from”), substituting one similar sounding word for another (cf. writing “there” instead of “their”), and confusing one letter for another of similar shape (cf. writing “fold” instead of “told”). Every teacher who has taught for any length of time have seen every one of these errors from students!

When a variant occurs, there is nothing sinister about objectively researching the evidence to see which reading is more likely that of the original. This is the field of “textual criticism,” which is not the enemy of truth (when done objectively), but rather truth’s ally. Should we not want to know what was actually written in the original, God-breathed documents?

A Target (Audience) Language

Any translation has in mind a particular people the translators want to reach. Again, this is true of any translation, even appliance manuals! The KJV’s target language was, obviously, contemporary 1611 English. The English language has changed over the last four centuries. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) first appeared in the early 1970s. By its name, it targets American English, which is a bit different from United Kingdom English. The NASB underwent a major update in 1995 (abbreviated NASB95 or NASU). In 2020, the New American Standard was again updated. It appears translators plan to revise it every twenty-five years. These are just a few examples of target languages. Is it right to fault a translation merely because it targets a different audience language than Shakespearian era English! Yes, there is something poetically beautiful about the English of the KJV. However, beautiful poetic language is no more sacred than “Miami Spanish.” What is sacred is the written word of God, but unless we are fluent in the original languages of the Bible, its life-giving message will never reach us!

A Knowledge Of Both Languages

The original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek words used in the Bible have not changed. Those words have always meant what they meant, in the way they were intended, the moment they were written. The first, original readers knew those meanings and nuances and whether they were figurative or literal. However, our understanding of those words have changed over the years. More evidence has been found to shed light on how words and expressions were used in these ancient languages. This is clearly exemplified when comparing how translations handle animals. In Isaiah 34:11, the Hebrew words behind the KJV’s “cormorant and … bittern” are translated “pelican and … porcupine” (NKJ); “pelican and hedgehog” (NAS95); and “hawk and … porcupine” (ESV). Since the 1800s, much more evidence has come to light on what biblical words meant. Much of this evidence is from uninspired literature of the same period as biblical books that use the same or similar words in contexts where we can better understand the kinds of animals being referenced. Earlier translations did not have the advantage of this evidence because it had not yet surfaced. With the additional evidence, why would it be wrong to update a translation with English words that better convey the actual meaning of the original word?

Perhaps another, more modern example would also help. Suppose someone a thousand years from now discovered a document that mentioned a “hard drive,” and the world knew nothing about computers. How would that term be translated? Maybe the translation “difficult journey” would be the best that could be done. Then suppose fifty years after that translation, an IBM factory was unearthed, and all kinds of documents were discovered describing in great detail “hard drives.” Should that same, original term still be translated “difficult journey” with all this new evidence? Of course not! To really understand the original meaning of the word, incorporating the new evidence is a must! This necessity is vastly multiplied when it comes to the written word of God! We must know accurately what was written in order to make the proper, life giving application (Jn. 8:31-32; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17)!

Conclusion

Yes, there are some genuine problems with some translations (including the KJV), but those problems do not so much stem from the original languages behind them as they do from the English words within them. In many ways, though, the controversy over translations in the brotherhood stems from a lack of understanding as to what translations require, coupled with a bit of ethnocentrism (the belief that a person’s own culture is superior to other cultures to the point of thinking his culture is the standard to which all should rise — “The KJV was good enough for me and the generations before me. Thus it’s good enough for you!”). The word of God is too important to confine it to a translation some people are not going to read. As long as the original language is accurately translated in the target (audience) language, then people of that language can read God’s word accurately and know what they must do to be saved. I know very influential Christians who were ready to quit Christianity because when first converted, they were told the KJV was the only Bible they could use. Thankfully, they were pointed to newer translations from which they enjoyed reading and studying! Let us realize what is involved in translation and what is at stake when people can or cannot understand accurately what God teaches through His word!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Understanding Translation Essentials Should Reduce Controversy
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“Rulers of the Gentiles” Are Not the Model for Local Churches

Not long ago, a preacher heard the brother leading opening prayer make a petition, “Please be with the elders as they run the church.” What the brother meant by “run the church” should probably not to be taken at face value, for those of us leading public prayers realize our wording does not always come out the way we intended (due to nervousness). Regardless of what that brother actually meant, there are some members of the church who have an inaccurate view of elders and their authority in the local church. Let us examine what the Bible teaches concerning these leaders in the church.

Misunderstanding of Leadership
Among the Apostles

A similar misunderstanding of authority was evident when the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus and requested, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom” (Mt. 20:21). As the discussion unfolded, Jesus told them to “sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father” (Mt. 20:23). Incidently, this shows that Jesus could do nothing independent of God, the Father’s will (cf. Jn. 5:19, 30). As the other ten apostles heard this discussion, they “were greatly displeased with the two brothers” (Mt. 20:24). These apostles also desired these perceived positions of authority in Jesus’ coming kingdom, perhaps due to a misunderstanding of an earlier discussion (cf. Mt. 19:28). The “right hand” and the “left” were the highest places of honor next to the ruler. It was at this point Jesus said:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mt. 20:25-28)

The Local Church
Is Not a “Kingdom of the Gentiles”

Like the mother of Zebedee, her two sons, and the rest of the apostles, there are many members of the church of Christ who see its organization as if it were a mere business, or worldly endeavor. However, such ideas could not be further from the truth. The universal church (i.e., “one body” of Christ, 1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 4:4) is headed by none other than Jesus the Christ (Eph. 1:22; 5:23; Col. 1:18). He has all authority (Mt. 28:18). Christ’s church is not a worldly realm, as Jesus plainly declared to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36). A local church is a particular group of New Testament Christians. The local church can be identified by the particular people of whom it consists (e.g., “the churches of the Gentiles,” Rom. 16:4) or where it is located (e.g., “the church in Smyrna,” Rev. 2:8). The different local “churches” in the New Testament were not denominations, but they were congregations of the same universal church over which Christ is the head!

Those who view the church as a mere worldly endeavor also view the eldership of a local church as a type of board of directors who only make business decisions, ensure the bills get paid, and otherwise “run” the church adequately. While there are some similarities between the local church and a business, the Lord’s instructions for elders of the church let Bible students know the church and its local leaders are spiritual in function, scope, and practicality. Take, for example, the God-breathed qualifications for the men who would serve as elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Those who view the church as a “kingdom of the Gentiles” focus primarily on two qualifications; namely, that a man is “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) and that he has “faithful children” (Titus 1:6). Some even throw in another, man-made qualification that he be a successful business man. Many churches have been hindered or even split by appointing men who were Scripturally married with faithful children and successful in the business world but were highly lacking in true spirituality!

Descriptive Names Show The
Spiritual Nature of Church Leaders

There are three different descriptions God uses for local church leaders that shed light on the spiritual nature of their service. First, the most obvious is “elder” (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Titus 1:5; 1 Pet. 5:1), which is translated from a Greek word (presbuteros, πρεσβύτερος) that generally means an elder, or older person. In the context of local church leaders, it is focusing on spiritual maturity, referring to “those who, being raised up and qualified by the work of the Holy Spirit, were appointed to have the spiritual oversight over the church” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words). Hence, an elder must not be a “novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).

Second, the term “bishop” and “overseer, are used to describe the specially qualified leaders of the local church (Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-2; Titus 1:7). Both of these English terms come from the same Greek word (episkopos, ἐπίσκοπος), which means overseer, guardian, or bishop. Bauer, Ardnt, Gingrich, and Danker’s lexicon define this word as “an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, a curator, guardian, or superintendent.” These are spiritual superintendents; overseers of a particular flock. These men cannot (and should not) do all the work of a given congregation, but all the work done by a congregation must be done under their oversight. They operate only within the framework of God’s word (cf. 1 Thes. 5:12-13).

“Bishops” do not have absolute authority in a local church. In fact, their authority is only in expedient matters (such as effective ways to evangelize, the best way under local circumstances to help those in need, how best to edify the local congregation, times and order of services, overseeing funds, etc.). Jesus Christ, the head of the church, has already determined doctrine and matters of obligation (Mt. 28:18; Heb. 1:2; 2 Jn. 9). No church leader has authority to require more or less than what God has already required through His word (Gal. 1:8-9 cf. Mt. 18:18)!

Third, the term “pastor” (which is more accurately translated, “shepherd”) is used to describe the leaders of the local church (Eph. 4:11). This term comes from a Greek word (poimen, ποιμήν) that simply refers to a shepherd. The translation “pastor” is quite unfortunate. It comes to English from the Latin translation pastour (which, incidently, shows the weakness of transliterating from a secondary language rather than translating from the original). The Greek word occurs eighteen times and is always translated by a form of “shepherd” (Mt. 9:36; Lk. 2:8; Jn. 10:11; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25), except in Ephesians 4:11, where it is translated “pastor,” a term hijacked by denominationalism to refer to the local preacher who calls all the shots. Shepherding is the encompassing work of the specially qualified local church leaders, or elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). The verb form of this word (poimaino, ποιμαίνω) is what is used in Acts 20:28, where Luke records Paul instructing the elders of the church in Ephesus “to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The ESV translates this word, “to care for;” the KJV translates it, “to feed.” While feeding is part of the shepherd’s work, shepherding involves much more (such as leading, protecting, helping to heal wounds, seeking those who have gone astray, rescuing, etc.).

The best illustration for this shepherding aspect of their work is found in Jesus’ description of Himself as the “good shepherd” (Jn. 10:1-14). Shepherds in the local church must love the flock committed to their care (1 Pet. 5:2-4), protect them from harm (i.e., false teachers, Acts 20:29-32; Titus 1:9-14), and strengthen them with the bread and the water of life (Acts 20:28, KJV).

Conclusion

Too many local churches operate as if they were “kingdoms of the Gentiles.” It shows in their leadership, “business meetings,” and programs (or lack thereof). These dysfunctional local churches give fuel to opponents who claim, “The Church of Christ is just another denomination” (cf. 1 Tim. 6:1; Titus 2:5). Far from being a “kingdom of the Gentiles,” however, local churches of Christ need spiritual men, Scripturally qualified to serve as elders/overseers/shepherds. May we take seriously God’s desire for qualified leadership in each local church (cf. Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). May Christian men apply the doctrine of Christ to their lives so they may qualify to serve one day!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
“Rulers of the Gentiles” Are Not the Model for Local Churches
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Harvester Aug 2022: Understanding Translation Essentials Should Reduce Controversy

Articles In This Issue

  • Understanding Translation Essentials Should Reduce Controversy – Brian R. Kenyon
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Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Harvester Aug 2022: Understanding Translation Essentials Should Reduce Controversy
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Harvester July 2022: Rulers of the Gentiles Are Not the Model for Local Churches

Articles In This Issue

  • Rulers of the Gentiles Are Not the Model for Local Churches – Brian R. Kenyon
  • Expansion Project – Brian R. Kenyon
Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Harvester July 2022: Rulers of the Gentiles Are Not the Model for Local Churches
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Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church

V. P. Black, a favorite preacher from a few generations ago, would often say in sermons that the most powerful people in the United States were not the President and his cabinet nor any military personnel, but the United States Supreme Court. He would not always give specific examples of why he would say that, but having reflected over the years, it seems at least one major contributor to that assessment was the 1973, Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court decision that “unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.” The basis of that decision, according to the court, was that laws against abortion “violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy,” which the court found “implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (‘…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law’)” (https://www.britannica.com/event/Roe-v-Wade). Obviously, not depriving “any person of life” did not take into account the person’s life inside the womb.

When news broke of the recent “leak” of a document that the United States Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade, the panic and mobilization of opposition against such overturning was obvious and instant. Of course, even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, it would not make abortion illegal. It would merely allow each State to determine its own abortion laws. Were you old enough in 1973 to remember national sentiment at the news of Roe v. Wade? Were you a member of the church in 1973, and if so, did you study Bible lessons or hear sermons on abortion related topics? Many today are not old enough to remember the sentiment in 1973. However, we may still remember how we felt in 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled (Obergefell v. Hodges) that same-sex marriages are legitimate and legally binding in the United States and its territories. No matter the feeling toward that, however, it is important to remember that civil law never has or ever will displace God’s law in Deity’s sovereign court.

Human Conception
Results In Human Children

Because legal abortion has been so ingrained in American culture since 1973, people view it as a moral, God-given right. Focus has been on the “woman’s right to choose,” rather than the human life inside her womb. Since God exists and the Bible is His inspired (i.e., God-breathed) word, then whatever the Bible teaches regarding when human life begins is true. Several passages show human pregnancy involves human children inside the wombs of their mothers (Ps. 139:13-16; Eccl. 11:5; Job 3:11-16; Jer. 1:5).

Perhaps the most obvious is a comparison of Luke 1:41, 44 with Luke 2:12, 16. The word “babe [baby, ESV]” is from the Greek word brephos (βρεφός), which in Luke 1:41, 44 is used for a child in the womb (i.e., fetus). The same word (brephos) is also used in Luke 2:12, 16 for young, or newborn, children. Luke also uses brephos in Luke 18:15, where it is translated “infants [babies, NAS95],” and in Acts 7:19, where it is translated “babies [young children, KJV; infants, ESV].” Outside of Luke’s writings, brephos is used in Second Timothy 3:15, where it is translated “childhood [a child, KJV],” and in First Peter 2:2, where it is translated “babes [babies, NAS95; infants, ESV].” A human being is considered in all these situations, whether inside or outside the mother’s womb! No one can rationally argue that a human fetus is not a human life! Yet, because America has been bombarded with the “cultural norm” that it is acceptable to snuff-out human life in the womb for unwanted or crisis pregnancies, there are many who think it is immoral to make laws against on-demand abortions!

Cultural Norms Are Not
Necessarily Biblical Norms

In any area of life, people whose culture indoctrinates them with certain values and then those people construct their day-to-day living based on that indoctrination are going to think differently than people who have not been so influenced by that same culture. A good example is a faithful brother and missionary to Muslims with whom many in the brotherhood are familiar. He was reared in Bagdad. His culture indoctrinated people to hate Americans. Many facets of their society were geared toward perpetuating hatred toward America and its culture. Given those facts, it is easy to see how the average person from Iraq would have a different attitude toward America than the average person, say from Bermuda, or other nations whose culture and practices are American friendly. Thankfully, by God’s grace, this faithful brother from Iraqi was a deeper and more spiritual thinker than the indoctrination of his culture!

Culture can be both a Scripturally obligatory matter that is temporary as well as a perpetual matter of option. For example, there is nothing inherently sinful about eating meat, for “God created [it] to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good … if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:3-5). However, if Christians are in a culture where eating meat is considered participating in idolatry or if eating meat causes another Christian to sin by violating his or her conscience, then eating meat is temporarily sinful (1 Cor. 8:1-13). When new Christians learn God’s word and allow it to transform their lives, their consciences will eventually approve eating meat and/or participating in activities with other faithful Christians (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; 14:1-7).

Cultural norms that are inherently sinful, however, must not be followed or even allowed a place in the Christian’s heart. An experienced missionary once told an FSOP chapel assembly that certain countries in Asia only allowed one child per family. While there is nothing inherently sinful for parents to have only one child, the problem arises when more than one is born. “Law abiding” citizens are called upon to have additional children “euthanized” (which is a polite way of saying murdered) in order to maintain the mandate. Since males are valued more than females, and since many parents do not want to directly kill their children, babies are often born in back rooms, unnoticed by authorities. As a result, orphan homes are overrun with girls, who become prime candidates for the sex traffic trade.

It is one thing when a country allows its citizens to commit immoral activities (like America with its legal allowance for fornication, abortions, same sex marriages, etc.), but it is quite another issue when a country (like the one mentioned above) forces its citizens to commit immoral acts. An incidental lesson here is when Christians in America start thinking the “grass is greener” in communist countries or with their philosophies, they need to consider the enforcement of mandates like the one-child-per-family! Christians are not authorized to commit sinful acts, such as murder, in obedience to culture (cf. Acts 5:29; Rom. 3:8; 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17).

New Testament Principles
Transcend Cultural Norms

One big difference between Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity is that Christianity has been declared binding for all people in all ages since its inauguration in Acts 2 (cf. Mt. 28:18-20; Rom. 1:16). Parts of Old Testament Judaism required being in Jerusalem for feasts (cf. Deut. 16:1-6). Judaism also required descendants from Levi to serve in the tabernacle/temple (Ex. 28–29). Since the Old Testament feasts as such are not part of the Gospel, there are no ties to physical Jerusalem. Since all Christians are priests in God’s kingdom (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:5-6), the Levitical system has no binding concern in Christianity (cf. Heb. 7:11-14; 8:7).

The Law of Moses also served as both the civil and religious law for Old Testament Israelites. This can be seen in its laws and regulations for tribal elders (and later kings), as well as religious practices like blood sacrifices, Sabbath days, purification procedures, etc. (Lev. 20; Num. 27). Thus, civil law that was derived from God’s law and passed down was always reliable and binding upon the Jews. Although civil government is from God (Rom. 13:1-5), the New Testament authorizes no exclusive form of government. Rather, it gives principles that when applied make any government more efficient and tolerable for its citizens (cf. Mt. 5:38-48; 7:12). For example, a monarchy is great when the king is living and ruling according to Gospel principles, but when he lives and follows wickedness, the people suffer (Mt. 2:16)!

While Christians have freedom to practice any cultural item that does not violate God’s will (Rom. 14:23; 1 Cor. 9:19-23), they must not be deceived into accepting sinful cultural norms. Government sometimes mandates things it thinks will best serve it citizens. For example, the one-child-per-family mandate mentioned above was probably for population control, which can be good (cf. Jer. 16:1-4). However, no one has a right to murder people for the sake of “population control” (cf. Ex. 1:15-22)! Consider also a person living in first-century Corinth. The city’s reputation through history reveals that fornication was a way of life for a large segment of that population. Thus, citizens would be desensitized to that sin, which attitude could also spill into the church. This is why Paul dealt with that sin quite extensively in his first epistle to them (1 Cor. 5:1; 6:13, 18; 7:2; 6:18). Cultural norms, whether promoted by civil government or merely allowed, must not be followed when they violate God’s transcendent will!

Conclusion

An overturning of Roe v. Wade would be a step in the right direction (Pr. 14:34), but it will take more than that to turn culture norms toward godly views of human life. The Christian is living among people in high positions who, if they had their way, would increasingly mandate silencing opposition to ungodliness in culture. It seems the older Americans are, the more freedoms they realize have vanished or are in danger of it. While loss of freedom is less than ideal, Christians can still please God with little or no political freedom (cf. 1 Cor. 7:21-23). Christians must continue to undergird themselves with the Gospel. The time may come when the amount of political freedom is contingent on conformity to mandated norms that are sinful (such as being forced to murder, endorse homosexuality, “transgenderism,” etc.). May we maintain such integrity and faithfulness that if persecuted, we would rejoice that we “were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” and that we keep “teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42)!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church
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“Rulers of the Gentiles” Are Not the Model for Local Churches

Not long ago, a preacher heard the brother leading opening prayer make a petition, “Please be with the elders as they run the church.” What the brother meant by “run the church” should probably not to be taken at face value, for those of us leading public prayers realize our wording does not always come out the way we intended (due to nervousness). Regardless of what that brother actually meant, there are some members of the church who have an inaccurate view of elders and their authority in the local church. Let us examine what the Bible teaches concerning these leaders in the church.

Misunderstanding of Leadership
Among the Apostles

A similar misunderstanding of authority was evident when the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus and requested, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom” (Mt. 20:21). As the discussion unfolded, Jesus told them to “sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father” (Mt. 20:23). Incidently, this shows that Jesus could do nothing independent of God, the Father’s will (cf. Jn. 5:19, 30). As the other ten apostles heard this discussion, they “were greatly displeased with the two brothers” (Mt. 20:24). These apostles also desired these perceived positions of authority in Jesus’ coming kingdom, perhaps due to a misunderstanding of an earlier discussion (cf. Mt. 19:28). The “right hand” and the “left” were the highest places of honor next to the ruler. It was at this point Jesus said:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mt. 20:25-28)

The Local Church
Is Not a “Kingdom of the Gentiles”

Like the mother of Zebedee, her two sons, and the rest of the apostles, there are many members of the church of Christ who see its organization as if it were a mere business, or worldly endeavor. However, such ideas could not be further from the truth. The universal church (i.e., “one body” of Christ, 1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 4:4) is headed by none other than Jesus the Christ (Eph. 1:22; 5:23; Col. 1:18). He has all authority (Mt. 28:18). Christ’s church is not a worldly realm, as Jesus plainly declared to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36). A local church is a particular group of New Testament Christians. The local church can be identified by the particular people of whom it consists (e.g., “the churches of the Gentiles,” Rom. 16:4) or where it is located (e.g., “the church in Smyrna,” Rev. 2:8). The different local “churches” in the New Testament were not denominations, but they were congregations of the same universal church over which Christ is the head!

Those who view the church as a mere worldly endeavor also view the eldership of a local church as a type of board of directors who only make business decisions, ensure the bills get paid, and otherwise “run” the church adequately. While there are some similarities between the local church and a business, the Lord’s instructions for elders of the church let Bible students know the church and its local leaders are spiritual in function, scope, and practicality. Take, for example, the God-breathed qualifications for the men who would serve as elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Those who view the church as a “kingdom of the Gentiles” focus primarily on two qualifications; namely, that a man is “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) and that he has “faithful children” (Titus 1:6). Some even throw in another, man-made qualification that he be a successful business man. Many churches have been hindered or even split by appointing men who were Scripturally married with faithful children and successful in the business world but were highly lacking in true spirituality!

Descriptive Names Show The
Spiritual Nature of Church Leaders

There are three different descriptions God uses for local church leaders that shed light on the spiritual nature of their service. First, the most obvious is “elder” (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Titus 1:5; 1 Pet. 5:1), which is translated from a Greek word (presbuteros, πρεσβύτερος) that generally means an elder, or older person. In the context of local church leaders, it is focusing on spiritual maturity, referring to “those who, being raised up and qualified by the work of the Holy Spirit, were appointed to have the spiritual oversight over the church” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words). Hence, an elder must not be a “novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).

Second, the term “bishop” and “overseer, are used to describe the specially qualified leaders of the local church (Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-2; Titus 1:7). Both of these English terms come from the same Greek word (episkopos, ἐπίσκοπος), which means overseer, guardian, or bishop. Bauer, Ardnt, Gingrich, and Danker’s lexicon define this word as “an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, a curator, guardian, or superintendent.” These are spiritual superintendents; overseers of a particular flock. These men cannot (and should not) do all the work of a given congregation, but all the work done by a congregation must be done under their oversight. They operate only within the framework of God’s word (cf. 1 Thes. 5:12-13).

“Bishops” do not have absolute authority in a local church. In fact, their authority is only in expedient matters (such as effective ways to evangelize, the best way under local circumstances to help those in need, how best to edify the local congregation, times and order of services, overseeing funds, etc.). Jesus Christ, the head of the church, has already determined doctrine and matters of obligation (Mt. 28:18; Heb. 1:2; 2 Jn. 9). No church leader has authority to require more or less than what God has already required through His word (Gal. 1:8-9 cf. Mt. 18:18)!

Third, the term “pastor” (which is more accurately translated, “shepherd”) is used to describe the leaders of the local church (Eph. 4:11). This term comes from a Greek word (poimen, ποιμήν) that simply refers to a shepherd. The translation “pastor” is quite unfortunate. It comes to English from the Latin translation pastour (which, incidently, shows the weakness of transliterating from a secondary language rather than translating from the original). The Greek word occurs eighteen times and is always translated by a form of “shepherd” (Mt. 9:36; Lk. 2:8; Jn. 10:11; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25), except in Ephesians 4:11, where it is translated “pastor,” a term hijacked by denominationalism to refer to the local preacher who calls all the shots. Shepherding is the encompassing work of the specially qualified local church leaders, or elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). The verb form of this word (poimaino, ποιμαίνω) is what is used in Acts 20:28, where Luke records Paul instructing the elders of the church in Ephesus “to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The ESV translates this word, “to care for;” the KJV translates it, “to feed.” While feeding is part of the shepherd’s work, shepherding involves much more (such as leading, protecting, helping to heal wounds, seeking those who have gone astray, rescuing, etc.).

The best illustration for this shepherding aspect of their work is found in Jesus’ description of Himself as the “good shepherd” (Jn. 10:1-14). Shepherds in the local church must love the flock committed to their care (1 Pet. 5:2-4), protect them from harm (i.e., false teachers, Acts 20:29-32; Titus 1:9-14), and strengthen them with the bread and the water of life (Acts 20:28, KJV).

Conclusion

Too many local churches operate as if they were “kingdoms of the Gentiles.” It shows in their leadership, “business meetings,” and programs (or lack thereof). These dysfunctional local churches give fuel to opponents who claim, “The Church of Christ is just another denomination” (cf. 1 Tim. 6:1; Titus 2:5). Far from being a “kingdom of the Gentiles,” however, local churches of Christ need spiritual men, Scripturally qualified to serve as elders/overseers/shepherds. May we take seriously God’s desire for qualified leadership in each local church (cf. Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). May Christian men apply the doctrine of Christ to their lives so they may qualify to serve one day!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
“Rulers of the Gentiles” Are Not the Model for Local Churches
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Which Divorce Does God Hate?

Over the last year, this writer has had several discussions with different brethren who were defending the position that God accepts remarriages that Jesus plainly calls adulterous (Mt. 19:9), as long as those marriages were entered before the couple became Christians. After all, they will say, God forgives sin when people are baptized into Christ. In these discussions, the people so arguing would say something like, “I can’t divorce her [the unscriptural wife] because God hates divorce, and I don’t want to do anything God hates.” Yes, the Bible indeed teaches that “He [God] hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16), but which divorce is it that He actually hates?

God Hates Divorce From Scriptural Wives

Malachi 2:16 is a passage that is twisted by those defending the position above. Malachi 2:10-16 deals with the corrupted family life of God’s remnant who returned to Palestine from captivity (cf. Ezr. 1:1-4; 7:1-10; Neh. 1:1–2:8). In this section of Malachi, the prophet identified two main reasons why their family life was corrupted.

First, their family life had been corrupted by their religiously mixed-marriages (Mal. 2:10-12). Intermarriage with those of the surrounding nations was expressly forbidden under Israel’s law (Ex. 34:16; Deut. 7:3). Solomon’s violation of this law several hundred years prior to this time greatly contributed to Israel’s apostasy (1 Kgs. 11:1-13; Neh. 13:23-27). Since idolatry led to the Exile (cf. Hos. 7:8-10; 13:2), it should have been unthinkable for God’s remnant to tolerate this kind of apostasy again.

Malachi reminded them that their common unity in the covenant made mixed-marriages an offense against their own brothers and sisters (Mal. 2:10). They should have respected the covenant their “one Father” had given to the children of Israel when God created them to reflect His character (cf. Deut. 32:6; Isa. 43:7; 63:16; 64:8). Instead, they broke the covenant’s unity in “dealing treacherously” and “profaning the covenant” through entering into these mixed marriages, an “abomination” to the Lord. Furthermore, marrying outside the covenant polluted the holiness of God. They were indulging in idolatrous practices with these foreign wives and then entering into God’s presence as if everything were alright (cf. Ezr. 9:1-2; [cf. Isa. 1:11-15]). Judgment was pronounced upon those guilty of mixed marriages (Mal. 2:12). The guilty would be removed from the covenant people for taking wives of heathen women (cf. “does this”) and for acting piously while at the same time desecrating the “holiness of the Lord” (cf. “yet who brings an offering,” Mal. 2:12).

Second, their family life had been corrupted by divorce (Mal. 2:13-16). Mistreating their covenant wives made their worship and sacrifices unacceptable (Mal. 2:13). “Cover the altar … with tears” may refer to the rejected wives’ tears which, so to speak, extinguished the altar fires (Hailey 416), or it may refer to the people’s tears upon their realization that their communion with God was broken (Verhoef 273). Either way, since these tears were not the guilty husbands’ tears of godly sorrow (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10), God did not accept their sacrifices (cf. Num. 16:15).

The reason why their offerings were not accepted was because their marriage vows had been broken (Mal. 2:14). Marriage involves more than just the two spouses. Marriage also involves God (cf. Mt. 19:6)! “The Lord has been witness,” not only of the marriage, but also of the treatment of their wives. Even under the old law, marriage was a binding covenant to which the Lord was (and is) witness (cf. Gen. 31:50; Pr. 2:17). Lawfully, they only had a right to one wife. That authorized wife is identified as “the wife of your youth” (found only twice outside this context, Pr. 5:18; Isa. 54:6). This refers to their first love, to one to whom they promised faithfulness and support (Verhoef 274). Note how this is term is also paralleled with “your companion” and “your wife by covenant” (Mal. 2:14). Yet, they had been faithless to their only God-approved wives by rejecting them for heathen women.

Malachi gave two reasons why breaking their marriage vows was wrong. First, divorcing the covenant wife did not perpetuate God’s covenant (Mal. 2:15). Although this verse is textually one of the most difficult in Malachi, it is possible to understand its general meaning, which can be conveyed by two possible interpretations. One is that God made Adam only one wife (although He could have made him more) for the specific purpose of producing “godly offspring. Thus, this divine purpose is contrary to both divorce and mixed marriages (Verhoef 277). The other is that the person who seeks a godly offspring is spiritually wise and does not therefore violate God’s divine institution of marriage (Keil 453). In either case, the continuance of the covenant is threatened by the lack of “godly offspring.” Therefore, they must quit divorcing their wives. No husband of God’s remnant desiring to have “godly” descendants, would divorce his Israelite wife to marry a heathen woman!

Second, breaking marriage vows is wrong because God “hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16). God has always intended that there be one man with one wife for life (cf. Gen. 2:24; Mt. 19:5-6). “He hates” conveys the idea that God continually and habitually hates divorce. “Divorce [putting away, KJV]” was tolerated only because of their “hardness of heart” (Deut. 24:1-4 cf. Mt. 19:7-8). The sin of divorcing their God-approved wives to marry a “daughter of a strange god” was compounded by the violence involved. The expression, “it covers one’s garment with violence” is figurative for all kinds of blatant wrong doing which, like the blood of a murdered victim, leaves its mark for all to see (Baldwin 241). The man who divorced his God-approved wife, ignoring God’s covenant and her deeply wounded feelings, covered his garment with the violence of iniquity.

From a detailed analyses of this text, it is clear that the divorce God hated was the divorce from their God-authorized wives. Under that covenant, the “wife of his youth” was the only wife to which the Israelite husband could be married.

God Commands Divorce From Unscriptural Wives

Not only did God hate His people’s divorcing their Scriptural wives (Mal. 2:10-16), He also commanded the guilty to put away their unauthorized wives. Sections of the historical Books of Ezra and Nehemiah also concern the post-exilic remnant who had sinned by marrying unauthorized wives. Ezra was informed that:

The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands … For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass. (Ezr. 9:1-2)

Ezra reacted with mourning (Ezr. 9:3). He prayed to God:

For we have forsaken Your commandments … and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations … O Lord God of Israel … Here we are before You, in our guilt … no one can stand before You because of this! (Ezr. 9:5-15)

Despite their sin, Ezra was reminded, “yet now there is hope in Israel” (Ezr. 10:2). Restoration involved separation from unlawful marriages.

Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice … of those who tremble at the commandment of our God. (Ezr. 10:3)

The “covenant” they made required them to “make confession to the Lord God … and do His will; separate yourselves … from the pagan wives” (Ezr. 10:11). The “descendants of the captivity did” exactly as God through Ezra demanded (Ezr. 10:16), even in cases where children were involved (Ezr. 10:3, 44).

Nehemiah 13:23-31 also details similar instruction and response from the guilty.

While these are Old Testament examples and people today are not answerable to Old Testament law, there are some truths we learn from the fact that God commanded these unauthorized wives to be put away (cf. Rom. 15:4). First, God is merciful and will allow His people to repent of sin and be restored to His favor, even when the sin involves marriage (Ezr. 9:9-15; 10:1-3 cf. Acts 8:22; Rom. 2:4). Second, some marriages are not pleasing to God (Ezr. 9:13-14; 10:2, 10 cf. Mk. 6:17-18; Mt. 5:31-32; 19:9). Third, the guilty are responsible for their own repentance in any sin, including sinful marriages (Ezr. 10:4, 12, 16, 19 cf. Lk. 13:3, 5; 2 Cor. 7:10).

Conclusion

The claim by some today that it is sinful to put away their unscriptural wives because “God hates divorce” is an abuse of Malachi 2:16. The divorce God hates is the one from “the wife of his youth” (Mal. 2:15), not from the unauthorized wife, “the daughter of a foreign god” (Mal. 2:11), which God commanded to be put away (Ezr. 10:11-44; Neh. 13:23-31). Rather than justify unauthorized marriages, people involved need to repent, for God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31)!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Which Divorce Does God Hate?
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Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 3

With the overall theme of our 48th annual lectureship being “Rise of the Messianic Kingdom,” the question in the title of this article is very relevant. The short answer to the question is two-fold: (1) because Jesus was truly the Messiah, the God-chosen “anointed one,” which is what the Koine Greek term translated “Christ” means; and (2) because the term “Messiah” was so politically and militarily charged in the first century, to have called Jesus “Messiah” would have left the wrong impression upon most Jews and would have prematurely stirred up unnecessary worldly strife. As usual with short answers, a deeper understanding will bring better appreciation to the subject at hand. In Parts 1 and 2 of this study, consideration was given to the Old Testament background and intertestamental development of the term “Messiah” and the first century view of the Messiah. In the final part of this study, examination will be made of the early church’s value of the Messiah and some practical applications for people today.

The Early Church
And Jesus the “Christ”

The early church could “acclaim and proclaim Jesus as Messiah in an entirely new way, which transcended the OT understanding and the intertestamental development of the title” (Piper 334). Nothing in Jewish tradition would cause people to worship their view of the coming Messiah as deity. To the average Jew, He would be a political warrior who would set things straight. However, those who actually encountered Jesus considered Him worthy of worship because of whom He showed Himself to be (Mt. 14:33; 28:9, 17; Lk. 24:52; Jn. 9:38; 12:20). After the church was established (Acts 2), many people obeyed the Gospel, acknowledging Jesus as the Christ (Acts 2:41 cf. Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 8:12; 9:42; 11:21; 14:1; 16:5; 17:12; 18:8). There are two major reasons why this was the case.

First and foremost, people followed Jesus because of His resurrection from the dead. Paul said Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). The resurrection was the “incontestible fact” upon which the church was built and why many became Jesus’ disciples (Piper 335). Some in the first century church actually witnessed the resurrection of Christ and others could confirm it (cf. 1 Cor. 15:4-8). Even Jesus’ own brothers did not believe He was the Messiah until after the resurrection (Jn. 7:4 cf. Acts 1:4; 15:13).

Second, in addition to His resurrection, the early church followed Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah, because it was clear He was the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture, from His birth in Bethlehem (Mt. 2:1-6; Lk. 2:4), His coming from the lineage of David (Rom. 1:3), and His mission to the Jews first (Gal. 4:4), then to the Gentiles (Acts 26:15-18). Paul’s summary of the Gospel confirms this:

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:1-4)

Where one stood in relation to accepting Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah, determined whether he or she was in fellowship. John wrote:

By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. (1 Jn. 4:2-3)

People need to acknowledge now that God’s Messiah has come in the flesh in the person of Jesus, and they need to live their lives according to this fact. To the early church, “Confessing Christ” meant that “a Christian was willing to make a public stand for the messianic dignity of Jesus regardless of hostile reactions” (Piper 335).

Concluding Applications

One day, “at the name of Jesus every knee” will “bow” and “every tongue” will “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). For some, however, their acknowledgment of Jesus as the Christ at that time will be too late to improve their eternal destination (cf. Mt. 7:21-22; 25:31-46). Jesus is called the Christ because He is the true Messiah sent from God to redeem humanity from sin (Rom. 3:24-26; Gal. 3:13), to keep the redeemed washed in His blood (1 Jn. 1:7; Rev. 1:5), and to give His followers an eternal home in the presence of God (1 Cor. 15:21-28 cf. Jn. 14:1-3).

What difference can Jesus being called the Christ make in a person’s life today? How should people respond to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah? First, all should recognize that Jesus has all authority (Mt. 28:18). Second, they should submit to that authority by obeying the Gospel (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38). Third, they should continue “walking in the light” of Jesus’ words and example (1 Jn. 1:7 cf. 1 Pet. 2:21). May everyone who learns of Jesus the Christ develop the attitude Paul expressed, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:21-23).

Works Cited

Piper, Otto A. “Messiah.” International Standard Bible En-
cyclopedia. Vol. 3. Ed. G. W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986. 330-338.

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 3
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Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 2

With the overall theme of our 48th annual lectureship being “Rise of the Messianic Kingdom,” the question in the title of this article is very relevant. The short answer to the question is two-fold: (1) because Jesus was truly the Messiah, the God-chosen “anointed one,” which is what the Koine Greek term translated “Christ” means; and (2) because the term “Messiah” was so politically and militarily charged in the first century, to have called Jesus “Messiah” would have left the wrong impression upon most Jews and would have prematurely stirred up unnecessary worldly strife. As usual with short answers, a deeper understanding will bring better appreciation to the subject at hand. In Part 1 of this study, consideration was given to the Old Testament background of the “Messiah” as well as the intertestamental development of the term. In Part 2, the New Testament consideration will be given.

First Century View of “Messiah”

By the time the “silent years” of the intertestamental period were broken by the “voice of one crying in the wilderness,” the Jewish expectation of who the Messiah would be and what He would accomplish was far from God’s intent. The typical Jews of the first century were expecting a mighty warrior-type Messiah with political power who would restore national Israel as the prominent kingdom they thought God intended (cf. Acts 1:6). Instead of a warrior-like restorer, though, Jesus came as a humble redeemer, with no political power. In the first century, “Judaism had become the slave of the letter of the OT law” (Jn. 5:46; Rom. 7:6; 2 Cor. 3:6 cf. Mt. 11:10; Mk. 14:27; Lk. 10:27-37), and thus failed to realize that Jesus was the “mighty agent and final revelation of God’s redemptive purpose” (Piper 338).

The Greek word messias (μεσσίας), translated “Messiah” occurs only twice in the New Testament. Both references are from John’s Gospel. In both, John immediately attached the translation “Christ” to Messias. First, John recorded Andrew saying, “We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ)” (Jn. 1:41). By the time John’s Gospel was written, “Messiah” was a “Jewish eschatological term applied to the expected deliverer” (Borchert 143). John’s first readers were second generation Christians, mostly Gentiles, who would not be familiar with many Jewish concepts. The term “Christ,” which explained the meaning of “Messiah” without the political baggage, became one of the most familiar terms used of Jesus in the first century Greco-Roman world.

Second, John recorded the Samaritan woman’s response to Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ)” (Jn. 4:25). The Samaritans did not regularly use the term “Messiah.” They preferred the term “Taheb,” which meant “restorer,” or possibly, “he who returns.” The strong political feature that the Jews attached to their “Messiah” seems to be absent from this term “Taheb.” Samaritans pictured this figure as “one who would reveal the truth, in line with the ultimate prophet [cf. Deut. 18:15-19]” (Carson 226). Thus, the Samaritan woman’s statement, “When He comes, He will tell us all things” is consistent with their view. Also of interest in this context, “Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He’” (Jn. 4:26). Usually, Jesus made it a point to keep His Messiahship low key (Lk. 9:20-22), even telling people not to say anything about His messianic doings (Mt. 8:4; 16:20 cf. Jn. 6:15). Yet, to “this obscure woman Jesus reveals point-blank what he had revealed to no one else” (Lenski 327). This was entirely appropriate on this occasion. In the region of Galilee, there were “many would-be Messiahs and a constant unrest based on the messianic hope,” which made the claim “Messiah” very dangerous; however, in Samaria, “the concept would probably have been regarded more as religious than political and would have elicited a ready hearing for his teaching rather than a subversive revolt” (Tenney 56).

Jesus as the “Messiah,”
Which Is Translated “Christ”

Nothing observable about Jesus before He was made known to Israel would clue the average Jew into thinking He was the long awaited Messiah (cf. Isa. 53:2). The birth narratives of Jesus make clear that He was not politically powerful royalty as most Jews would have imagined their Messiah. Rather, the place and circumstance of His birth identified Him with the common predicament of the populace (cf. Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 2:1-24). Furthermore, throughout His life, the “Jews were confounded and irritated by Jesus’ humility and meekness, which contradicted their idea of a nationalistic liberator who would appear in royal splendor and power” (Piper 334).

However, Messianic-type descriptions of Jesus are found throughout the New Testament. In the Gospels, Matthew especially describes the work of Jesus in terms of the “kingship ideology of the OT” (Mt. 1:1, 6, 17, 20; 9:27; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9, 15) (Piper 335). Jesus was the personification of God’s kingdom and the executor of His redemptive will (cf. Mk. 8:38; 9:14-29; Lk. 10:22-24). Thus, Jesus had the right to demand obedience to His will (Mk. 1:16-20; Mt. 19:21). Whatever Jesus had, it came from His Father (Jn. 3:35; 5:22; 17:2). Jesus had authority because He was “sent” by His Father (Jn. 5:23, 30, 36-38; Acts 3:26; Rom. 8:3).

This is why Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16 was so significant. It was a crucial time in Jesus’ ministry when He “came into the region of Caesarea Philippi” and asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Mt. 16:13). The answer they gave—“John the Baptist … Elijah … Jeremiah, or one of the prophets”—was no doubt meant as a compliment, for these were all great servants of God. However, these great servants of God fell far short of the significance Jesus was to God’s plan. When Jesus asked the Twelve, “But who do you say that I am?,” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:15-16). In this answer, the apostle acknowledged the Messianic nature of Jesus. As stated earlier, “Christ” (from Christos, Χριστός) is the Greek translation of messias, which means “Anointed One,” or “Messiah.” John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, and all the faithful prophets were great servants of God, but they were not the Messiah! The term “Son of the living God” also acknowledged the Messiahship of Jesus. Referring to Jesus as “Son of God” in first century Jewish culture was equivalent to saying He was of the same nature as God. One reason the Jews wanted to kill Jesus was “because He … said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (Jn. 5:18 cf. Jn. 19:7). Not only did Jesus call Himself the “Son [of God]” (Mt. 11:27; 24:36; Mk. 13:32; Lk. 10:22), He also referred to God as “my Father” (Mt. 7:21; 10:33; Mk. 8:38; Lk. 22:29). For any other man in that culture to make such a claim for himself would have been blasphemy, but Jesus proved throughout His ministry that He was indeed God incarnate (cf. Jn. 3:1).

Because the term “Messiah” had so many worldly and political connotations, other, non-politically-charged terms were used to describe the Anointed One of God. “Son of Man” was the one Jesus used most often for Himself (Mt. 8:20; 9:6; Mk. 2:28; 8:31; Lk. 12:8; 18:8; Jn. 3:14; 13:31). This term expressed lowliness because it simply meant “a man,” or human, yet it represented greatness because it tied into the vision of Daniel 7:13-14. One commentator gives four reasons why Jesus possibly preferred this term: (1) it was a “rare term and one without nationalistic associations,” which would “lead to no political complications;” (2) it had “overtones of divinity” (cf. Dan. 7:13-14); (3) its “societary implications” because it implied “the redeemed people of God;” and (4) it had “undertones of humanity,” for Jesus took upon Himself human weakness (Morris 202). When Jesus used “Son of man,” He always used it in the third person, which is indicative of His humility.

Conclusion

Like “Messiah,” there are many biblical terms today that have been so abused and/or misunderstood that it is sometimes not wise to use them (cf. “pastor,” even if the preacher is also an elder). Jesus as “the Christ” conveyed in the first century the meaning that “Messiah” would have had it not been so twisted into human doctrine. Rest assured, however, that Jesus was (and is) that long awaited Messiah. In Part 3, consideration will be given to the meaning and importance of the Messiah to the first century church along with some practical applications.

Works Cited

Borchert, Gerald L. John 1–11. New American Commentary.
Vol. 25A. Ed. E. Ray Clendenen. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1996.
Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids,
MI: Eerdmans, 1991.
Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel.
Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand
Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992.
Piper, Otto A. “Messiah.” International Standard Bible En-
cyclopedia. Vol. 3. Ed. G. W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986. 330-338.
Tenney, Merrill C. “The Gospel of John.” Expositor’s Bible
Commentary. Vol. 9. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981. 1-203.

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 2
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Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 1

With the overall theme of our 48th annual lectureship being “Rise of the Messianic Kingdom,” the question in the title of this article is very relevant. The short answer to the question is two-fold: (1) because Jesus was truly the Messiah, the God-chosen “anointed one,” which is what the Koine Greek term translated “Christ” means; and (2) because the term “Messiah” was so politically and militarily charged in the first century, to have called Jesus “Messiah” would have left the wrong impression upon most Jews and would have prematurely stirred up unnecessary worldly strife. As usual with short answers, a deeper understanding will bring better appreciation to the subject at hand. With that in mind, the remainder of this study will give a more detailed examination of why Jesus was called Christ.

Jesus was known by many descriptions, but “the Christ” was among the most common and significant (Mt. 16:16, 20). Judaism was rich in the expectation of a messiah who would come and set matters straight for the Jewish people, at least in their nationalistic minds. This expectation is seen throughout the New Testament. When John the Baptist came on the scene, those who heard him “reasoned in their hearts … whether he was the Christ or not” (Lk. 3:15). When priests and Levites were sent from Jerusalem to check out this rugged preacher with a distinct message, they asked, “Who are you?,” to which John confessed, “I am not the Christ” (Jn. 1:19-20). Later, when there arose a question among the Jews and John’s disciples about purification, John reminded them, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him … He must increase, but I must decrease’” (Jn. 3:28-30). After her encounter with Jesus, the Samaritan woman told her people, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (Jn. 4:29). After her people went out to hear Jesus, they told the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (Jn. 4:42). Even toward the end of Jesus’ earthly life, during His mockery of a trial, the high priest stood and asked Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mk. 14:61).

The word “Christ” is from the Greek word christos (χριστός), which is a translation of a Hebrew and Aramaic word that is transliterated in Greek as messias (μεσσίας). Messias meant to “touch lightly” or “rub with oil,” and thus “anoint.” The designation “anointed” was a description of honor given to the high priest (Ex. 30:30) and kings. This kingly aspect is brought out particularly in the Psalms (2:2; 18:50; 20:6; 28:8; 45:7; 84:9; 105:15). The term “anointed” (messias) was also occasionally used to refer to the patriarchs (Ps. 105:15), to a prophet (1 Kgs. 19:5), to a Servant of the Lord (Isa. 61:1), or to the cherub on the holy mountain appointed for protecting God’s people (Ezk. 28:14). To better appreciate the word “Christ” as it applied to Jesus, a background study of messias and its various connotations is necessary.

Old Testament
Background of “Messiah”

As mentioned above, the two primary Old Testament functions, or offices, that were associated with being anointed were that of priest and king. Later, the prophetic office sometimes involved anointing (1 Kgs. 19:16 cf. 1 Chr. 16:22; Ps. 105:15). Concerning the priests, upon inauguration of the Levitical system, both the high priest and the lesser priests were anointed (Ex. 40:15; Num. 3:3). Afterward, anointing seemed to be only for the high priest (Ex. 29:29; Lev. 16:32 cf. Lev. 4:3). Concerning kings, anointing was the primary and God-ordained ceremony instituting Jewish kings (1 Sam. 9:16; 10:1; 1 Kgs. 1:34, 39). The reason for the priests and kings being paired together with anointing is that:

[I]n both cases the anointing, corresponding to its character as a legal act, is as essential for the conferring of the authority connected with the office as it is for the resulting responsibility before God as the God of Israel. (Rengstorf 335)

Although Jesus would later serve as prophet, priest, and king, during this Old Testament period, only the role of king began to be associated with the idea of a Messiah. The connection was easily made due to the nature of the position of king as sovereign of his kingdom. God’s people would look for one to come who would exercise the “sovereign kingly rule of God on the basis of the OT revealed faith” (Rengstorf 335).

As Old Testament history unfolded, the “political institution of kingship” came to be understood as the “foretaste of the rule of a perfect king by whom peace and justice would be realized forever” (Piper 331). Until the time of Isaiah, “Israel’s hope was confined to the restoration of the splendor of David’s kingdom, whose glory increased in proportion to the deterioration of Israel’s political and social conditions” (Piper 331). Isaiah showed that God as creator of all was concerned for all mankind, not just His covenant people, Israel (Isa. 2:2-3; 27:13). Thus, the belief and expectation arose that a divinely appointed Messiah-Savior would come in the future. This Messiah would provide a sense of security and adequate power to protect, while at the same time, save God’s people from impending doom and disaster (Mic. 5:3 cf. Ezk. 21:27).

God has always worked through agents, and the coming of His Messiah-Savior would be no different. God’s anointed was identified through a prophet as one who would “preach good tidings” (Isa. 61:1-3) and as a special Servant (Isa. 42:1-7; 49:1-9; 50:4-9; 52:12-53:12). Perhaps the most significant Old Testament passage bringing to light the coming Messianic agent is given by the prophet Daniel:

I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13-14)

In this passage, the agent of God’s authority is described as “one like the Son of man.” This reveals that He is human, but as the context reveals, He is more than a mere man. His humanity contrasts with the beasts designating the previous empires and the turmoil with which they were associated (Dan. 7:3-28). His coming with “the clouds of heaven” indicates His divinity. Clouds in the Old Testament were often associated with the presence of deity, such as when the glory of the Lord appeared in a cloud (Ex. 16:10), and in the inauguration of the Mosaic covenant (Ex. 19:9). In connection with Daniel 7:13, “the coming with clouds is an exclusively divine attribute” (Sabourin 304). This human figure came to the “Ancient of Days” and was given a universal kingdom, in which “all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.” This was also an eternal kingdom, in contrast to the worldly kingdoms Daniel just described that would be destroyed. Thus, this “one like the Son of man” would be “the heavenly Sovereign incarnate” (Archer 90). Daniel saw this vision on the brink of the post-exilic period (Dan. 7:1, “the first year of Belshazzar” was about 552 BC). Through the post-exilic times and into the intertestamental period, expectations of this Messianic Sovereign’s character and work would evolve.

Intertestamental
Background of “Messiah”

As the post-exilic period gave way to the intertestamental period, “anointing” began to designate a “status directly below God rather than a specific function” (Piper 333). For example, in the uninspired book, Psalm of Solomon, all the kings who were allied with Israel would be anointed (17:21-40). In other uninspired literature (some falsely ascribed), there was the coexistence of two Messiahs: one from the House of David and one from the House of Aaron, or Levi (Testament of Judah [T. Jud.] 21:2-5:24; Testament of Levi [T. Levi]18; Jubilees [Jub.] 31:12-20; Serek Hayahad [1QS] 9:11; Cairo Genizah copy of the Damascus Document [CD] 12:23; 14:19; 19:10; 20:1). This idea of dual Messiahs probably goes back to the words of the angel who told Zechariah concerning the meaning of the vision of the lampstand and the two olive trees: “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zec. 4:14). Whether it was two or one Messiah, intertestamental expectation was of a “ruler who would be thoroughly familiar with the law and whose faithful observance of it would set an example to the whole nation” (Piper 333).

It was not clear in intertestamental literature, however, whether the Messiah was to establish God’s kingdom or only to prepare for its coming (2 Esdras [2 Esd.] 7:28; 12:34; 2 Baruch [2 Bar.] 40:3). As a general rule, the literature of this time “considers God rather than the Messiah the one who ushers in the cosmic transformation and salvation” (1 Enoch [1 En.] 90:37f; 2 Esdras [2 Esd.] 7:28f; 2 Baruch [2 Bar.] 72:1-5]) (Piper 333). The “saving agent” of God in the literature of this time had many titles, and “Messiah” is “by far the least frequent one” (Piper 333). All the different titles for this “saving agent” had specific meanings and expectations associated with them. During this time:

[The] whole Jewish literature agrees on only one feature of the Messiah: he will be a political ruler and national hero … to deliver Israel from its oppressors and restore the authority of the law. (Piper 333)

In the Maccabean age of the intertestamental period, a Jewish nationalism began to grow. The idea of a warrior and conqueror transferred from Yahweh to the Messiah (Sibylline Oracles [Sib. Or.] 5:108f, 414-431; 2 Baruch [2 Bar.] 70:9, 73; 1 Enoch [1 En.] 38:2f; 90:38; Jubilees [Jub.] 23:30; 2 Esdras [2 Esd.] 13:10f). Thus, the expectation of the Messiah became that of “rebel and political leader” (Piper 333). None of the literature depicts this Messiah as one who will suffer, not even the writings of Qumran (i.e., the Dead Sea Scrolls). Furthermore, the coming of the Messiah would be the sign that the final period of human history had begun (Piper 333).

Works Cited

Archer, Gleason L., Jr. “Daniel.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 7. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985. 1-157. Piper, O. “Messiah.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1986. 330-338. Rengstorf, Karl H. “Christos [Χριστός].” New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. 334-343.

Speaker:
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Title:
Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 1
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Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 3

With the overall theme of our 48th annual lectureship being “Rise of the Messianic Kingdom,” the question in the title of this article is very relevant. The short answer to the question is two-fold: (1) because Jesus was truly the Messiah, the God-chosen “anointed one,” which is what the Koine Greek term translated “Christ” means; and (2) because the term “Messiah” was so politically and militarily charged in the first century, to have called Jesus “Messiah” would have left the wrong impression upon most Jews and would have prematurely stirred up unnecessary worldly strife. As usual with short answers, a deeper understanding will bring better appreciation to the subject at hand. In Parts 1 and 2 of this study, consideration was given to the Old Testament background and intertestamental development of the term “Messiah” and the first century view of the Messiah. In the final part of this study, examination will be made of the early church’s value of the Messiah and some practical applications for people today.

The Early Church
And Jesus the “Christ”

The early church could “acclaim and proclaim Jesus as Messiah in an entirely new way, which transcended the OT understanding and the intertestamental development of the title” (Piper 334). Nothing in Jewish tradition would cause people to worship their view of the coming Messiah as deity. To the average Jew, He would be a political warrior who would set things straight. However, those who actually encountered Jesus considered Him worthy of worship because of whom He showed Himself to be (Mt. 14:33; 28:9, 17; Lk. 24:52; Jn. 9:38; 12:20). After the church was established (Acts 2), many people obeyed the Gospel, acknowledging Jesus as the Christ (Acts 2:41 cf. Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 8:12; 9:42; 11:21; 14:1; 16:5; 17:12; 18:8). There are two major reasons why this was the case.

First and foremost, people followed Jesus because of His resurrection from the dead. Paul said Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). The resurrection was the “incontestible fact” upon which the church was built and why many became Jesus’ disciples (Piper 335). Some in the first century church actually witnessed the resurrection of Christ and others could confirm it (cf. 1 Cor. 15:4-8). Even Jesus’ own brothers did not believe He was the Messiah until after the resurrection (Jn. 7:4 cf. Acts 1:4; 15:13).

Second, in addition to His resurrection, the early church followed Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah, because it was clear He was the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture, from His birth in Bethlehem (Mt. 2:1-6; Lk. 2:4), His coming from the lineage of David (Rom. 1:3), and His mission to the Jews first (Gal. 4:4), then to the Gentiles (Acts 26:15-18). Paul’s summary of the Gospel confirms this:

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:1-4)

Where one stood in relation to accepting Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah, determined whether he or she was in fellowship. John wrote:

By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. (1 Jn. 4:2-3)

People need to acknowledge now that God’s Messiah has come in the flesh in the person of Jesus, and they need to live their lives according to this fact. To the early church, “Confessing Christ” meant that “a Christian was willing to make a public stand for the messianic dignity of Jesus regardless of hostile reactions” (Piper 335).

Concluding Applications

One day, “at the name of Jesus every knee” will “bow” and “every tongue” will “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). For some, however, their acknowledgment of Jesus as the Christ at that time will be too late to improve their eternal destination (cf. Mt. 7:21-22; 25:31-46). Jesus is called the Christ because He is the true Messiah sent from God to redeem humanity from sin (Rom. 3:24-26; Gal. 3:13), to keep the redeemed washed in His blood (1 Jn. 1:7; Rev. 1:5), and to give His followers an eternal home in the presence of God (1 Cor. 15:21-28 cf. Jn. 14:1-3).

What difference can Jesus being called the Christ make in a person’s life today? How should people respond to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah? First, all should recognize that Jesus has all authority (Mt. 28:18). Second, they should submit to that authority by obeying the Gospel (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38). Third, they should continue “walking in the light” of Jesus’ words and example (1 Jn. 1:7 cf. 1 Pet. 2:21). May everyone who learns of Jesus the Christ develop the attitude Paul expressed, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:21-23).

Works Cited

Piper, Otto A. “Messiah.” International Standard Bible En-
cyclopedia. Vol. 3. Ed. G. W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986. 330-338.

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 3
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Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 1

With the overall theme of our 48th annual lectureship being “Rise of the Messianic Kingdom,” the question in the title of this article is very relevant. The short answer to the question is two-fold: (1) because Jesus was truly the Messiah, the God-chosen “anointed one,” which is what the Koine Greek term translated “Christ” means; and (2) because the term “Messiah” was so politically and militarily charged in the first century, to have called Jesus “Messiah” would have left the wrong impression upon most Jews and would have prematurely stirred up unnecessary worldly strife. As usual with short answers, a deeper understanding will bring better appreciation to the subject at hand. With that in mind, the remainder of this study will give a more detailed examination of why Jesus was called Christ.

Jesus was known by many descriptions, but “the Christ” was among the most common and significant (Mt. 16:16, 20). Judaism was rich in the expectation of a messiah who would come and set matters straight for the Jewish people, at least in their nationalistic minds. This expectation is seen throughout the New Testament. When John the Baptist came on the scene, those who heard him “reasoned in their hearts … whether he was the Christ or not” (Lk. 3:15). When priests and Levites were sent from Jerusalem to check out this rugged preacher with a distinct message, they asked, “Who are you?,” to which John confessed, “I am not the Christ” (Jn. 1:19-20). Later, when there arose a question among the Jews and John’s disciples about purification, John reminded them, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him … He must increase, but I must decrease’” (Jn. 3:28-30). After her encounter with Jesus, the Samaritan woman told her people, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (Jn. 4:29). After her people went out to hear Jesus, they told the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (Jn. 4:42). Even toward the end of Jesus’ earthly life, during His mockery of a trial, the high priest stood and asked Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mk. 14:61).

The word “Christ” is from the Greek word christos (χριστός), which is a translation of a Hebrew and Aramaic word that is transliterated in Greek as messias (μεσσίας). Messias meant to “touch lightly” or “rub with oil,” and thus “anoint.” The designation “anointed” was a description of honor given to the high priest (Ex. 30:30) and kings. This kingly aspect is brought out particularly in the Psalms (2:2; 18:50; 20:6; 28:8; 45:7; 84:9; 105:15). The term “anointed” (messias) was also occasionally used to refer to the patriarchs (Ps. 105:15), to a prophet (1 Kgs. 19:5), to a Servant of the Lord (Isa. 61:1), or to the cherub on the holy mountain appointed for protecting God’s people (Ezk. 28:14). To better appreciate the word “Christ” as it applied to Jesus, a background study of messias and its various connotations is necessary.

Old Testament
Background of “Messiah”

As mentioned above, the two primary Old Testament functions, or offices, that were associated with being anointed were that of priest and king. Later, the prophetic office sometimes involved anointing (1 Kgs. 19:16 cf. 1 Chr. 16:22; Ps. 105:15). Concerning the priests, upon inauguration of the Levitical system, both the high priest and the lesser priests were anointed (Ex. 40:15; Num. 3:3). Afterward, anointing seemed to be only for the high priest (Ex. 29:29; Lev. 16:32 cf. Lev. 4:3). Concerning kings, anointing was the primary and God-ordained ceremony instituting Jewish kings (1 Sam. 9:16; 10:1; 1 Kgs. 1:34, 39). The reason for the priests and kings being paired together with anointing is that:

[I]n both cases the anointing, corresponding to its character as a legal act, is as essential for the conferring of the authority connected with the office as it is for the resulting responsibility before God as the God of Israel. (Rengstorf 335)

Although Jesus would later serve as prophet, priest, and king, during this Old Testament period, only the role of king began to be associated with the idea of a Messiah. The connection was easily made due to the nature of the position of king as sovereign of his kingdom. God’s people would look for one to come who would exercise the “sovereign kingly rule of God on the basis of the OT revealed faith” (Rengstorf 335).

As Old Testament history unfolded, the “political institution of kingship” came to be understood as the “foretaste of the rule of a perfect king by whom peace and justice would be realized forever” (Piper 331). Until the time of Isaiah, “Israel’s hope was confined to the restoration of the splendor of David’s kingdom, whose glory increased in proportion to the deterioration of Israel’s political and social conditions” (Piper 331). Isaiah showed that God as creator of all was concerned for all mankind, not just His covenant people, Israel (Isa. 2:2-3; 27:13). Thus, the belief and expectation arose that a divinely appointed Messiah-Savior would come in the future. This Messiah would provide a sense of security and adequate power to protect, while at the same time, save God’s people from impending doom and disaster (Mic. 5:3 cf. Ezk. 21:27).

God has always worked through agents, and the coming of His Messiah-Savior would be no different. God’s anointed was identified through a prophet as one who would “preach good tidings” (Isa. 61:1-3) and as a special Servant (Isa. 42:1-7; 49:1-9; 50:4-9; 52:12-53:12). Perhaps the most significant Old Testament passage bringing to light the coming Messianic agent is given by the prophet Daniel:

I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13-14)

In this passage, the agent of God’s authority is described as “one like the Son of man.” This reveals that He is human, but as the context reveals, He is more than a mere man. His humanity contrasts with the beasts designating the previous empires and the turmoil with which they were associated (Dan. 7:3-28). His coming with “the clouds of heaven” indicates His divinity. Clouds in the Old Testament were often associated with the presence of deity, such as when the glory of the Lord appeared in a cloud (Ex. 16:10), and in the inauguration of the Mosaic covenant (Ex. 19:9). In connection with Daniel 7:13, “the coming with clouds is an exclusively divine attribute” (Sabourin 304). This human figure came to the “Ancient of Days” and was given a universal kingdom, in which “all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.” This was also an eternal kingdom, in contrast to the worldly kingdoms Daniel just described that would be destroyed. Thus, this “one like the Son of man” would be “the heavenly Sovereign incarnate” (Archer 90). Daniel saw this vision on the brink of the post-exilic period (Dan. 7:1, “the first year of Belshazzar” was about 552 BC). Through the post-exilic times and into the intertestamental period, expectations of this Messianic Sovereign’s character and work would evolve.

Intertestamental
Background of “Messiah”

As the post-exilic period gave way to the intertestamental period, “anointing” began to designate a “status directly below God rather than a specific function” (Piper 333). For example, in the uninspired book, Psalm of Solomon, all the kings who were allied with Israel would be anointed (17:21-40). In other uninspired literature (some falsely ascribed), there was the coexistence of two Messiahs: one from the House of David and one from the House of Aaron, or Levi (Testament of Judah [T. Jud.] 21:2-5:24; Testament of Levi [T. Levi]18; Jubilees [Jub.] 31:12-20; Serek Hayahad [1QS] 9:11; Cairo Genizah copy of the Damascus Document [CD] 12:23; 14:19; 19:10; 20:1). This idea of dual Messiahs probably goes back to the words of the angel who told Zechariah concerning the meaning of the vision of the lampstand and the two olive trees: “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zec. 4:14). Whether it was two or one Messiah, intertestamental expectation was of a “ruler who would be thoroughly familiar with the law and whose faithful observance of it would set an example to the whole nation” (Piper 333).

It was not clear in intertestamental literature, however, whether the Messiah was to establish God’s kingdom or only to prepare for its coming (2 Esdras [2 Esd.] 7:28; 12:34; 2 Baruch [2 Bar.] 40:3). As a general rule, the literature of this time “considers God rather than the Messiah the one who ushers in the cosmic transformation and salvation” (1 Enoch [1 En.] 90:37f; 2 Esdras [2 Esd.] 7:28f; 2 Baruch [2 Bar.] 72:1-5]) (Piper 333). The “saving agent” of God in the literature of this time had many titles, and “Messiah” is “by far the least frequent one” (Piper 333). All the different titles for this “saving agent” had specific meanings and expectations associated with them. During this time:

[The] whole Jewish literature agrees on only one feature of the Messiah: he will be a political ruler and national hero … to deliver Israel from its oppressors and restore the authority of the law. (Piper 333)

In the Maccabean age of the intertestamental period, a Jewish nationalism began to grow. The idea of a warrior and conqueror transferred from Yahweh to the Messiah (Sibylline Oracles [Sib. Or.] 5:108f, 414-431; 2 Baruch [2 Bar.] 70:9, 73; 1 Enoch [1 En.] 38:2f; 90:38; Jubilees [Jub.] 23:30; 2 Esdras [2 Esd.] 13:10f). Thus, the expectation of the Messiah became that of “rebel and political leader” (Piper 333). None of the literature depicts this Messiah as one who will suffer, not even the writings of Qumran (i.e., the Dead Sea Scrolls). Furthermore, the coming of the Messiah would be the sign that the final period of human history had begun (Piper 333).

Works Cited

Archer, Gleason L., Jr. “Daniel.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 7. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985. 1-157. Piper, O. “Messiah.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1986. 330-338. Rengstorf, Karl H. “Christos [Χριστός].” New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. 334-343.

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Why Was Jesus Called the Christ? Part 1
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Harvester Sept 2022: Why Was JesusCalled the Christ? Part 1

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Harvester Aug 2022: Understanding Translation Essentials Should Reduce Controversy

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Harvester July 2022: Rulers of the Gentiles Are Not the Model for Local Churches

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  • Rulers of the Gentiles Are Not the Model for Local Churches – Brian R. Kenyon
  • Expansion Project – Brian R. Kenyon
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Harvester June 2022: Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church

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Harvester June 2022: Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church
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Harvester May 2022: Which Divorce Does God Hate?

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Harvester April 2022: Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022

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  • Free Slaves Liberating Captive Souls – Brian R. Kenyon
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Harvester April 2022: Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022
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Harvester March 2022: What Do You Think You Know About FSOP?

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Harvester Sept 2022: Why Was JesusCalled the Christ? Part 1

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  • Why Was JesusCalled the Christ? Part 1 – Brian R. Kenyon
  • 2023 Lectureship Schedule –
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Harvester Aug 2022: Understanding Translation Essentials Should Reduce Controversy

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Harvester Aug 2022: Understanding Translation Essentials Should Reduce Controversy
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Harvester July 2022: Rulers of the Gentiles Are Not the Model for Local Churches

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  • Rulers of the Gentiles Are Not the Model for Local Churches – Brian R. Kenyon
  • Expansion Project – Brian R. Kenyon
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Harvester July 2022: Rulers of the Gentiles Are Not the Model for Local Churches
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Harvester June 2022: Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church

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  • Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church – Brian R. Kenyon
  • Don’t Say Gay? – Prayer Update –
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Brian R. Kenyon
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Harvester June 2022: Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church
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Harvester May 2022: Which Divorce Does God Hate?

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  • Which Divorce Does God Hate? – Brian R. Kenyon
  • The time is right for such a discussion – Don’t Say Gay? –
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Brian R. Kenyon
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Harvester May 2022: Which Divorce Does God Hate?
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Harvester April 2022: Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022

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  • Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022 – Brian R. Kenyon
  • Free Slaves Liberating Captive Souls – Brian R. Kenyon
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Harvester April 2022: Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022
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Harvester March 2022: What Do You Think You Know About FSOP?

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Harvester Jan 2022: Should the Covid-19 Vaccination Be a Test of Fellowship?

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  • Should the Covid-19 Vaccination Be a Test of Fellowship? – Brian R. Kenyon
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Harvester Jan 2022: Should the Covid-19 Vaccination Be a Test of Fellowship?
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