Friday, August 17, 2007

Pastor approves Cursing your Enemies

In the truth is stranger than fiction category is the story that my friend Bill Barnwell sent me about a Southern Baptist pastor in California.

Here is the link to the story that made headlines out there:



This pastor has urged his congregation to pray imprecatory prayers against some folks that blew the whistle on his violations of the separation of church and state laws (i.e. he endorsed Mr. Huckabee on letterhead church stationery and urged his congregation to do the same).

His supposed Biblical precedent for this is the imprecatory psalms of David. I don't know what seminary this pastor went to, but boy has he misunderstood those psalms. They don't reveal the will of God in such matters, rather they shed God's light of truth on what is in the wicked heart of human beings, including in David's heart, that old murderer and adulterer. Praying for someone to bash the Edomite babies' heads on the rocks ought to even give Brother Dobson the willies.

How in the world could this pastor have been a one time leader of the Southern Baptist convention? He certainly needs to repent and rethink. Most disturbing is his grand-standing remark "I was just doing what God was telling me to do." Not even close brother, unless that is your God is Allah. Our God is the God who sent his Son to die on the cross for everyone's sins, not the God of jihad and cursing one's enemies.

The real disaster in this whole situation is the complete failure to follow the teachings of the NT when it comes to dealing with one's tormentors or persecutors. You may remember these words from Jesus-- "love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you." Notice it does not say pray against those who persecute or even pray about those who persecute you, but instead pray FOR those who persecute you. Or perhaps you will remember the little episode when the disciples ask Jesus whether they should call down destruction on those who had rejected them. I trust you remember Jesus' response to that.

At the heart of the Gospel is forgiveness, and non retaliation, and even praying for and loving one's enemies, which is the polar opposite of what this pastor urged his congregation to do. Paul puts it this way "bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them" (Rom. 12.14). In other words--- Pastor Drake is in direct violation of the teaching of Jesus and Paul, and certainly did not get it from ON HIGH when he asked his congregation to curse his enemies!!

I am afraid this pastor needs a refresher course in Gospel ethics, for the question he should have asked was not what DID David do, but what would Jesus and the apostles say and do in such a situation-- HAVE MERCY! 'Nuff said.

33 comments:

Michael Gilley said...

This is embarrassing.

GordonBlood said...

Wow... and one wonders there are so many ex-Christian fundamentalists on the internet these days when their are pastors like that going around... I just recently had a discussion on an ex-Christian website and it doesnt surprise me at all now that their reasons were so bad if it is people like this that are teaching.

Philip said...

You wrote: "Not even close brother, unless that is your God is Allah."

Of course, Allah is also the God of Arabic-speaking Christians, in the same way that Dieu is the God of French-speaking Christians, and Gott is the God of German-speaking Christians. (Same goes for Dio and Italians, Dios and Spanish, Deus and Portuguese, etc.)

This response isn't just because of what you've written here, but I'm also greatly dismayed by the results of the recent Christianity Today poll:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/features/poll.html

Keep the persecuted, Arabic-speaking Christians in mind before you write statements like "unless that is your God is Allah."

James Gibson said...

The next sentence, I think, makes it clear which "Allah" Prof. Witherington is referring to: "Our God is the God who sent his Son to die on the cross for everyone's sins, not the God of jihad and cursing one's enemies."

"Allah" may be a generic word for "God" in the Arabic language, but it is the specific name invoked by the jihadists and, based on the acts they do in this name, it is not the same "Allah" as the Arabic Christians.

Layman said...

The pastor was out of line, but I am not sure what you mean by "violations of the separation of church and state laws." There are no laws making it illegal for pastors or even churches to endorse candidates and I hope everyone here would agree that such laws would be an outrage. They would be unconstitutional abridgments of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association.

That being said, what the pastor did could have tax implications, as there are rules about the kinds of political activities in which tax exempt charitable organizations can engage. These are not "separation of church and state laws" as they are broader than just churches and they simply say that you do not get certain tax advantages if you engage in certain activities.

Shaylin said...

Much like there was a difference between "El" as referred to by the Hebrews (where it's a generic word for "God") and the "El" of the Canaanite pantheon, who was the father of Ba'al. Arab Christians who call God "Allah" don't mean the same thing as Muslims who speak of "Allah" any more than Hebrews who wrote of "El" didn't mean "The father of Ba'al." Personally, I think it's pretty clear from the context which "Allah" Dr. Witherington meant.

J. Clark said...

I hope he did not attend GGBTS. Could this be a result of some kind of covenantal theology and of course as well as a bad hermeneutic? Even at that, you must blatantly ignore Jesus' teachings on enemies.

Philip said...

James Gibson wrote: "it is not the same "Allah" as the Arabic Christians."

Shaylin wrote: "Arab Christians who call God "Allah" don't mean the same thing as Muslims who speak of "Allah" any more than Hebrews who wrote of "El" didn't mean "The father of Ba'al."

Agreed. But I did not imply otherwise. My point was this: The recent Christianity Today poll indicates that 65% of their readers are ignorant of the fact that "Allah" is Arabic for "God." Prof. Witherington's statement seems to encourage, rather than correct, this type of misunderstanding.

Ben Witherington said...

Fair enough Philip, I have plenty of Arab Christian friends in the Holy Land, but the context I think makes clear what I mean. I mean the God of the Koran.

Blessings,

Ben

Chris Beggs said...

"They don't reveal the will of God in such matters, rather they shed God's light of truth on what is in the wicked heart of human beings, including in David's heart, that old murderer and adulterer."

Not to be picky, but do you need to summarize David in those terms in order to build your case against this pastor?

The Vegas Art Guy said...

How exactly does his message line up with Romans 12:18?

It doesn't, therefore he is beginning to resemble the Pharisees that Jesus had little time for. It's bad enough that Christians don't get a fair shot in the news without clowns like this guy becoming the sterotypical bible thumping hypocrite.

Nice

Josh said...

Well, this is ironic. We just had a conference at the SBC university I attend that was about identifying a Baptist identity and one of the identifications was the seperation of church and state.

I think the core problem is that many have got so caught up in the culture wars that fighting that "battle" has become more central than making disciples.


Ben,
On a side note, what is the best way to view these psalms of cursing? I have been reading Christopher Wright's book Mission in the OT and as I read the post I was reminded of the Abrahamic promise that God would curse those who curse Abraham's descendants. I wonder if some of these psalms are outworkings of this promise. Of course, it should always be kept in mind that the central purpose of the covenant with Abraham was to bless the nations with the knowledge of God.

Ben Witherington said...

Josh:

I think actually Luther had a very good point when he said that in the prophets God speaks to us, but in the psalms we speak to God, and what is in and on our hearts is truly and truthfully revealed. How then are such psalms God's Word? The answer is not difficult-- they show God holding up a mirror to us so we will see our own hearts and what is in them-- ranging from praise to cursing. As James once said-- blessing and cursing should not be coming out of the same human mouth or heart for that matter.

The imprecatory psalms then reveal fallen human character, not divine character.

Blessings,

Ben W.

P.S.
The point of the remark about King David is that he is not a Christian 's role model for various obvious reasons.

Zephyr said...

Not only does Jesus say to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" in Matthew 5.44, the next clause says, "so that you may become sons of your father in heaven." While we are urged to pray for our persecutors, the issue in focus in Matthew 5 is our own standing before the Father who acts graciously to both the just and the unjust. I'm surprised that the text doesn't urge prayer so that your enemies can come into relationship with the Father. Instead, it says so that YOU may become sons of your father. Perhaps that's what Pastor Wiley Drake should be concerned about.

And what about Christians who follow Jesus' ethics? Has Pastor Drake in some way become our enemy? How should we respond to him and about him? Let's hope we reflect our father's character.

Ryan said...

First point about Allah... I am not an expert on Arabic, but is not Illah the common term for "God" while Allah is the term for the god of the Koran? As the Moslem saying goes... "There is no Illah but Allah." By using the word Illah, perhaps this would help clear any confusion when referring to the God of the Bible in Arabic.

You said:
"How then are such psalms God's Word? The answer is not difficult-- they show God holding up a mirror to us so we will see our own hearts and what is in them-- ranging from praise to cursing. As James once said-- blessing and cursing should not be coming out of the same human mouth or heart for that matter.

The imprecatory psalms then reveal fallen human character, not divine character."


So what you are saying is that the Psalms of David are full of his sinful thoughts because he proclaims judgment on the enemies of God? If so, that is quite a disturbing conclusion given that we know from scripture that God says "I have found David the son of Jesse, A man after My heart, who will do all My will" (Acts 13:22). Solomon prayed, "You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You..." (1 Kings 3:6). When God spoke to Jeroboam, He said "...you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commandments and followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight" (1 Kings 14:8). When David sins, scripture records for us David's own confession of his sin so we know definitely what his sin was. That is how it can be said that he did only that which was right in God's sight even though he sinned. The numbering of the people, adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. But we see no confession anywhere of any such sin of the darkness of David's heart in how he spoke concerning the enemies of God, do we? I think you are drawing a hasty conclusion.

I am not justifying what this pastor said which you referred to in your post, but I think you are going too far. God is most definitely a just God and will execute His wrath on all, young and old alike. Don't you remember God's ordering of the Israelites to execute judgement on all including the women and children in the sin filled land of Canaan? Do you forget that Jesus Himself who is the very definition of love and blesses those who love Him, curses those who hate Him? Jesus has many statements of Judgement while on this earth... "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets, wise men and scribes ... so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth." Let's not forget that Jesus quoted mostly from the Psalms and took David's words as His own. No doubt one day He will execute judgment and speak as David spoke.

But at this time, we are to love our enemies and pray for them for the express reason that while we were yet sinner's Christ died for us and the understanding of that grace we have been shown must express itself in love towards all people, including our enemies -- because our desire is that they be saved, not damned. But to suggest that David was sinful in his heart when he spoke prophetically about what would happen to God's enemies? I think that is going too far.

Ryan said...

There's an interesting commentary here which discusses Arabic linguistics concerning illah and al illah or Allah, if you are interested.

Brian F. said...

at the risk of coming across as judgmental...chances are he did not go to seminary...

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Ryan:

This is an interesting line of approach, but it doesn't do justice to the subject. On this showing Jesus is only saying 'be merciful and forgiving now later we'll get them'. Actually Jesus' view on justice is that it must be left in God's hands-- remember 'vengeance is mine, I will repay', and Paul of course says the same thing. As well, this is the major theme of the book of Revelation, Christians must be prepared to suffer, even suffer martyrdom, and leave it to God to deal with the justice issue.

This is indeed a difference between the NT and the OT, and unless one has a concept of progressive revelation (namely that the character of God is more fully revealed in Christ and in the NT than in the OT) then we will get a lot of these things wrong. As Jesus said, there are a lot of things in the OT that God allowed or permitted due to the hardness of the human heart, including the hardness of David's heart.

David was on occasion someone who followed God's will. But like all of us there were plenty of times when he sinned. His track record is very very checkered, and you can see this right to the end of his life. So while he is commendable for confessing his sins as we find in Ps. 51 you must remember this only happened when he was found out and confronted by Nathan. Otherwise he would probably have continued to try and get away with it, because he was king and had the power to do so. We need not to guild the lily. David is no role model.

It is interesting to me that when the author of Hebrews presents us with the heroes of the faith from the OT in Heb. 11, he does not mention David as such an example.
One last thing. If you read 1-2 Samuel closely you will discover that it was not God's perfect will for Israel to have a king at all-- indeed it was a way of rejecting having only God as their king. But they insisted they wanted to be like the other nations.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Philip said...

Ryan wrote: "First point about Allah... I am not an expert on Arabic, but is not Illah the common term for "God" while Allah is the term for the god of the Koran? As the Moslem saying goes... "There is no Illah but Allah." By using the word Illah, perhaps this would help clear any confusion when referring to the God of the Bible in Arabic."

As you must have noticed from the link you provided, this is incorrect. "Illah" refers to "god" or "deity". "Allah" refers to "God". Therefore, using "Illah" cannot "help clear any confusion".

James Pate said...

Dr. Witherington (and others),

In the New Testament, as you know, the Psalms are treated as divinely-inspired. Jesus at the end of Luke shows how the Psalms apply to him, and Peter in Acts 1 treats a Psalm as a prophecy about Judas and the need to replace him. That seems to indicate that the early Christians believed that the Psalms expressed God's opinion and were not merely David's rants and raves. I guess what I'm trying to ask is this: Is there a way to reconcile a high view on the Psalm's inspiration with a view that sees it as David's sinful expressions?

Ben Witherington said...

Hi James:

I am not at all suggesting that the Psalms are not inspired or not God's Word. The question is-- God's word about what and what truths are they intended to be telling us?

In the case of the imprecatory psalms they are revealing human character in a very revealing way. Other psalms reveal the pious heart of those who praise God. Still others reveal the wisdom the psalmist has learned in order to live God's way. Still others express the wonder in the heart of the psalmist about God's creation. But the largest single category of psalms is the lament, or complaint psalm-- by a large margin. This reveals the fears and complaints of this or that psalmist when they are threatend by enemies etc. Luther was right. In other words, look for anthropology in the psalms more than theology.

The psalms are God's word that mostly reveals what's in our hearts, not what's on God's though there are some exceptions perhaps in the more Christological psalms.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Ryan said...

Ben said:
"In the case of the imprecatory psalms they are revealing human character in a very revealing way. ... In other words, look for anthropology in the psalms more than theology."

Ben, James asked a very good question: "Is there a way to reconcile a high view on the Psalm's inspiration with a view that sees it as David's sinful expressions?" It seems to me that you have merely offered your opinions. Why should I accept them? You need to give me a Biblical basis for your views. Can you, for instance, show me one example where Jesus or one of teh NT authors refers to the Psalms in the way you are suggesting?

I am sure you recognize that the Psalmist at times speaks the very words from God's mouth. And surely you know that part of God's character is imprecatory. I don't think we are dealing with a flawed understanding of God in the Psalms; the writer to the Hebrews states that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Was it not Jesus who was the captain of the Lord's army leading the charge against Jericho? Was it not Jesus as one of the 3 who visited Abraham to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (and all its inhabitants)? All judgment has been given into Jesus' hands and He will lead the judgment at Armageddon where the blood will flow up to the horses bridles and will send the "accursed ones" (Matt 24:41) into the lake of fire. Yes, this is what JESUS will do.

But as Paul said so eloquently, "Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes..." (1 Cor 4:5). That in essence is what our position should be. We are not to curse; those who oppose God bring themselves under His curse. So this pastor seems to me to be in the wrong. But to say that David was sinful at heart in the imprecatory Psalms is unjustified.

Ben said...
"David is no role model."

But if David was a man after God's own heart, the scripture is saying that he IS a role model. "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith." (Heb 13:7). When I sin, I need to respond like David, and not like Saul. Am I to go willy nilly and use scripture to lay curses on anyone who asks me to pay certain taxes? No. That was where this pastor went wrong.

Ben said...
"It is interesting to me that when the author of Hebrews presents us with the heroes of the faith from the OT in Heb. 11, he does not mention David as such an example."

Heb 11:32-34: "And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight."

Brian F. said... "chances are he did not go to seminary..."

Brian, it will be sufficient if you show me from scripture where Ben's assertions are justified. If God can speak through Balaam's donkey, then He doesn't require man's stamps of status in order to reveal His truth to them.

Phillip said...
"As you must have noticed from the link you provided, this is incorrect. 'Illah' refers to 'god' or 'deity'. 'Allah' refers to 'God'. Therefore, using 'Illah' cannot 'help clear any confusion'."

You may have a point here. To refer to deity, Illah does indeed seem to be the correct term. But to refer to the God of the Jews, perhaps the only way of doing so is to use His name, Yahweh or Jehovah in all languages. The author of that article made the astute observation that Moslems say Allah in all languages, but we try to adapt the name of God in other languages. Perhaps we can eliminate confusion by using the Hebrew name in all languages.

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Ryan:

No it was not Jesus who had anything to do with Jericho, and no it was not the Trinity visiting Abraham! There was no incarnation of God's Son before the incarnation. And the angel of the Lord is not Jesus-- the Son of God is of a much higher order than angels, frankly. He's divine. So you are reading the OT in a way that is not warranted by the historical or theological realities in play at the time.

Yes, there is plenty of evidence in the OT that we have examples of human fallenness being revealed to us in ungodly behavior. Take for example the behavior of Elisha in regard to the children who taunted him-- saying go up old bald head. In a moment of pique he uses the power God has given him as a prophet to do something terrible. Or consider the case of Sampson. The OT is full of examples where we are not supposed to assume that the behavior represented is God's will. All too often it is sin.

Notice that it is not David who is allowed to build the temple. Why not-- because as the Hebrew says 'he was a man of blood' i.e. he was not a holy enough person, and had been defiled by various of his violent acts.

This is precisely why, unlike Abraham, David is not really discussed in Hebrews 11-- the passing reference hardly counts. Why then is David called 'a man after God's own heart?' Not because he had perfect character by any means. It is because he showed a readiness to trust God, especially in critical situations, like the Goliath episode. That phrase in the Hebrew "man after God's own heart" means basically that God loved him and set his favor on him. It does not mean he was a role model in all he said or did. Indeed, often, though not always, he was not. And things do not get better when David gets old and ends up sleeping with a concubine to keep him warm in his old age.

Ryan what you need to come to grips with is exactly what Heb. 1.1-2 says-- here is a literal translation. "Partial and piecmeal God spoke to the fathers in the prophets, but in the end of days he spoke to us in his Son" You have to understand that the light only broke through to God's people gradually. The revelation in the OT is true, but partial, and often it is as much a revelation about us as it is about God's character and will.

If we were to make the mistake of assuming God's character and will was revealed in every verse of the OT God then would become: 1) the author of sin; 2) the father of lies and a host of other things incompatible with God being a holy and loving God.

Jesus makes this equally clear when he speaks about Moses giving the permission of divorce due to the hardness of the Israelites hearts. In the new covenant we not only see the clearer and fuller representation of God's character in Christ, we see the clearer revelation of God's perfect will for his people.

You need to remember as well that the fullness of the Spirit was not bestowed on God's people until Pentecost in any case.

So yes, its perfectly compatible with a high view of Scripture to realize that in many episodes in the OT and in some of the psalms as well the behavior reflected is not of the order that a Christian should say-- "go thou and do likewise". Rather its often "go thou and do otherwise."

Blessings,

Ben W.

Ryan said...

One other point...

Ben said:
"As Jesus said, there are a lot of things in the OT that God allowed or permitted due to the hardness of the human heart, including the hardness of David's heart."

Jesus said that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of their hearts (Matt 19:8, Mark 10:5). And divorce due to infidelity is still permitted even today! So this has nothing to do with OT/NT distinctions, right? Also, where are you getting "a lot of things"? Please show me your references.

Ben Witherington said...

Actually it has everything to do with OT and NT distinctions. Jesus's basic view is no divorce except for porneia which likely means incest. As Mk. 10 makes perfectly clear, and also 1 Cor. 7 Jesus' teaching is 'no divorce. So clearly, in the eschatological situation Jesus is bringing in with the new covenant Moses' permissions are no longer valid. Why not? Because now, by the grace of God and the Holy Spirit the human heart can be transformed so as to live up to a higher standard of rectitude. So actually this has everything to do with the difference between the era of Moses and that of Jesus, the covenant of Moses and the new covenant. To whom more is given, more is required!

Ben

Ben Witherington said...

P.S. Porneia does not mean adultery. The word for that is moixeia. It means incest here, commenting on the marriage of Herod and Herodias probably. In Jesus' view an incestuous marriage is not a proper marriage to begin with. Therefore, his basic position, as Mk. 10 and 1 Cor. 7 say, is no divorce for those whom God has joined together. Period. Since God did not join together the incestuous couple, it isn't a real marriage to begin with.

Philip said...

Ryan wrote: "Perhaps we can eliminate confusion by using the Hebrew name in all languages."

Yes, that's already done. Arabic-speaking Christians refer to God as "Allah", and they call his name "Yahweh" (written "YHWH", as in Hebrew).

Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan said...

Hi Ben,

Thanks for your comments.

I cannot explain all of the things that happened in the Old Testament. Some of them we are told were sinful, some we know were sinful because they were violating specific laws that we know about, etc. David, nor any human (including us) except Christ was perfect, so we don't follow anyone's sins. I will have to think more about what you have said about David et al. Also, I understand what you are saying about Heb 1:1-2 in that the Son reveals to us what the Father is like moreso than any of the previous prophets. I'm just not sure what to make of how you seem to use that to then judge much of previous scripture as God empowering sinful humanness, or God inspiring David to spew out the sin of his heart (and never identifying it as such). At any rate, I have some comments on other things you pointed out.

Ben said...
"Jesus's basic view is no divorce except for porneia which likely means incest. ... Porneia does not mean adultery. The word for that is moixeia. It means incest here, commenting on the marriage of Herod and Herodias probably."

According to my word study and Greek dictionary, porneia is a generic term which refers to any sexual sin. It states that "when combined with moixeia it means adultery and other sins." I'm not sure how you concluded that porneia only means incest. Where are you getting your information from? Also, Herod married his brother Phillip's wife. It was Herod's sister-in-law (by marriage), so it is not a typical blood-incest; rather, it seems clear that what John had in mind here was Herod's adultery with another man's wife.

I hope you are not saying that Jesus is suggesting that Christians must put up with their spouse committing adultery and every other sexual abomination just as long as they don't commit incest, and only at this point would they have the right of divorce. That clearly doesn't make sense.

Ben said...
"So clearly, in the eschatological situation Jesus is bringing in with the new covenant Moses' permissions are no longer valid. Why not? Because now, by the grace of God and the Holy Spirit the human heart can be transformed so as to live up to a higher standard of rectitude. So actually this has everything to do with the difference between the era of Moses and that of Jesus, the covenant of Moses and the new covenant."

Ben, Moses' permissions ARE still valid... Jesus confirmed them: "...except for porneia" meaning that divorce for any other reason is not allowed (as discussed above). But even then, it was intended that people stay married even in the case of porneia and only due to hardness of heart (both OT and NT) does Moses and Jesus permit divorce. Jesus said "it was not this way from the beginning" -- clearly including the Old Covenant and before it. It was intended that you were not to divorce under any condition in either the old or new covenants. The grace of God and the Holy Spirit and being 'born again' was something experienced in the Old Covenant as well. What else can you make of Jesus' rebuke to Nicodemus for not understanding being born of the Spirit (John 3)? This wasn't a new teaching...

Concerning your earlier statements, you said...
"There was no incarnation of God's Son before the incarnation. And the angel of the Lord is not Jesus-- the Son of God is of a much higher order than angels, frankly. He's divine."

But it says in Gen 18:1 "Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre..." Now, we know from elsewhere that no one has or can see the Father and live to talk about it. So who is this that Abraham sees? You can say an angel, but clearly the scripture says "the LORD appeared." I cannot accept what you are saying because the scripture says otherwise. The HOly Spirit is spirit, so it must be the Son. And I didn't say the three men were the trinity! The LORD appeared and then there were two other "men" with Him. Gen 18:22 says "Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD." The LORD appeared as one of the three men. In Gen 32:23, we read that "a man wrestled with [Jacob] until daybreak." Jacob said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved" (Gen 32:30). Who did he see? It was Jesus, the Son, appearing in human form. Starting from Joshua 5:13, we read about a man who appeared opposite of Joshua (not an angel) who calls Himself the captain of the host of the LORD. Incidentally, Joshua bows down to Him and this man tells Joshua to remove his sandals for he is standing on holy ground. Hmmm... sounds familiar. So we will see that this was Jesus, the Son, and we will also note that He manifested as fire in the burning bush to Moses and said the same thing. By the way, angel simply means "messenger." And, whenever people bow down to angels, angels tell them not to do so because we are not to bow to anyone but God alone. But in this case, this angel of the LORD allows Himself to be worshipped....

Ben Witherington said...

Actually Ryan you have managed to read the NT back into the OT when it isn't there!

Firstly, Porneia comes from the word Porne, which means prostitute. When it refers to a specific sexual sin it either means frequenting a prostitute or incest. It is sometimes used to refer to every imaginable sexual sin (including pederasty etc.) but not is not what is going on in Mt. 5.32 or Mt. 19.You notice in the latter text the disciples freak out when Jesus says what he does and exclaim-- 'if that's the way it is, better for a man not to marry'. Why did they react this way? Because Jesus' standards are much stricter than Moses' when it comes to divorce. Read my Matthew commentary.

No, there is no one being born again in the OT. The whole point of telling Nicodemus that he must be born again through his contact with Jesus is that he isn't!!!

The appearance of the Lord to people in the OT never refers to a literal appearance, as in seeing someone's physical form. It is always meant in a spiritual sense. In any case the Son of God had no physical form during OT times. There had been no incarnation yet.
All of these texts refer to Yahweh and in some cases to his special agent, the angel of the Lord. Sorry, but you are simply wrong about this. I suggest you read a good volume on OT theology-- try the one by Goldingay.


Herodias was not only Herod Philip's wife, she was also the first cousin of both these Herod boys, hence incest, and the sin that early Jews accused Antipas of was incest.

Blessings,
Ben W

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben said:

"In any case the Son of God had no physical form during OT times. There had been no incarnation yet.
All of these texts refer to Yahweh and in some cases to his special agent, the angel of the Lord."

Actually I am quite shocked to see a denial that the Word took on a physical form during OT times. Abraham clearly saw the appearance of a man. Gen. 18:1 YHWH appears to Abraham and he sees him as a man in verse 2. This "man" promises to return to Abraham the next year.

Gen 18:10 He said, "I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son."

This one who appears as a man is said to be YHWH.

Gen 18:13 And the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?'
Gen 18:14 "Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son."

We know that no man has seen the Father because this is what the bible tells us. The Father cannot be seen and YHWH who was seen by Abraham is the pre-incarnate son. He was not incarnated in the OT, but he took on the appearance of flesh without being incarnated.

Two of those who appeared as men went toward Sodom and the last 'man' is called the LORD.

Gen 18:22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD.

It was not an angel that Abraham did not withhold his son from. It was God himself.

The angel of the LORD not only speaks as God:

Gen 16:10 Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, "I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count."

...He is also called God:

Gen 16:13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "You are a God who sees"; for she said, "Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?"

No angel could say that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son for a mere angel.

Gen 22:11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."
Gen 22:12 He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from *Me*."

No, indeed the angel of the LORD, is YHWH himself.

YHWH the Word of God came in the appearance as a man. YHWH the Father cannot be seen by a man and the man live. The Word of God who humbled himself to become a man is indeed YHWH as fully as the Father is YHWH.

The angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in the burning bush and who was this angel of the LORD? The Bible says that it was God who called to Moses *from* the burning bush.

Exo 3:2 The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.
Exo 3:3 So Moses said, "I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up."
Exo 3:4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am."

The angel of the LORD gives words for men to say and he is called God.

Num 22:35 But the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I tell you." So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak.
Num 22:38 So Balaam said to Balak, "Behold, I have come now to you! Am I able to speak anything at all? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I shall speak."

The angel of the LORD makes covenants and speaks as God himself:

Jdg 2:1 Now the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you,

The angel of the LORD has the same name as Jesus:

Jdg 13:17 Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, "What is your name, so that when your words come to pass, we may honor you?"
Jdg 13:18 But the angel of the LORD said to him, "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is *wonderful*?"

This angel of the LORD is said to be God:

Jdg 13:20 For it came about when the flame went up from the altar toward heaven, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground.
Jdg 13:21 Now the angel of the LORD did not appear to Manoah or his wife again. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD.
Jdg 13:22 So Manoah said to his wife, "We will surely die, for we have seen God."

The OT is a testimony about the Son. Jesus himself has told us that the OT testifies about him.

Joh 5:37 "And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.
Joh 5:38 "You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.
Joh 5:39 "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;
Joh 5:40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

The God in the OT that can be seen is the Word himself. Adam Clarke says:

Exo 3:2 -
The angel of the Lord - Not a created angel certainly; for he is called יהוה Jehovah, Exo_3:4, etc., and has the most expressive attributes of the Godhead applied to him, Exo_3:14, etc. Yet he is an angel, מלאך malach, a messenger, in whom was the name of God, Exo_23:21; and in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, Col_2:9; and who, in all these primitive times, was the Messenger of the covenant, Mal_3:1. And who was this but Jesus, the Leader, Redeemer, and Savior of mankind?

Was Jesus in the Old Testament? Yes, indeed, he was YHWH who can be seen and who revealed himself to Abraham, David and many others.

Ryan said...

Ben said...
"No, there is no one being born again in the OT. The whole point of telling Nicodemus that he must be born again through his contact with Jesus is that he isn't!!!"

Ezekiel 18:31 says "Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel?" Is this not speaking of spiritual rebirth even to the people being addressed by Ezekiel in his day?

Numbers 14:24: "But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it."

Numbers 27:18: "So the LORD said to Moses, 'Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him."

1 Samuel 10:6-7: "Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man. It shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires, for God is with you."

Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand the new birth because it IS in the Old Testament and people were born of the Spirit before Pentacost.

Furthermore, concerning marriage, we read in Malachi 2:13-16: "This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, 'For what reason?' Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. 'For I hate divorce,' says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'and him who covers his garment with wrong,' says the LORD of hosts. 'So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.'"

Might I ask what spirit was the prophet possibly referring to here by saying "take heed to your spirit" if not the Spirit of God that He placed in them by new birth!! They were grieving the Spirit by doing evil instead of good.

The prophets called people back to obedience to the law of Moses. Jesus did no different! The scribes and teachers of the law had corrupted it. The oral law of the Jews made Moses' restrictions much looser. A man was allowed to divorce his wife even for things like burning his food.

Ben, I have to ask you -- are you the church's teacher and you do not know these things?

Michael Speers said...

BW,

I'm not sure of the truth of the story. Maybe the pastor is off his rocker, maybe not. As soon as you cite the LA Times I for one take the story with a grain of salt. They have no credibility with me, particularly on 'religious' stories pertaining to baptist pastors. Sort of like your students who cite wikipedia as a source for theology papers :) Not a good source of truth.

Also, this may be a violation of tax laws, but certainly not a constitutional violation. The Bill of Rights limits government, not people. Separation language ought to be stricken from our dialog.

Here's what the first amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Churches are restricted from doing nothing! The only restriction is on Congress (and at the federal level only). This is very tiring to have to repeatedly clarify this issue. You ought not use language that propagates myth - the separation myth.