Sunday, 29 July 2012

The New Testament Epistle of Judas

Anthony van Dyck's St. Jude
     The book entitled "Jude" in our English Bibles begins with these words in the Greek New Testament: Ioudas Iēsou Christou doulos, adelphos de Iakōbou, meaning, "Judas, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of Jacob" (author’s own translation). The abbreviated "Jude" serves to distinguish this particular Judas from the infamous betrayer of the Lord, and the one designated "Jacob" is better known to us by the Middle English equivalent "James" (see NT Epistle of Jacob).
     There are at least five men in the New Testament named Ioudas (Mark 6:3; Luke 6:16; Acts 5:37; 15:22), a common moniker among first-century Jews presumably due to the influence of Judas Macabaeus, the leader of the Maccabean revolt of 167-160 BC. Since the author of this epistle is the brother of James, it follows that he is also the half-brother of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3).
     The epistle of Jude has early attestation, including the Muratorian Canon (ca. 170), Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215), and Tertullian of Carthage (ca. 160-220). Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 263-339) observes that even though not many of the ancients mention the epistle, it was counted among the so-called "General Epistles" and was publicly used in most churches at the time (Eccl. Hist. 2.23.25; cf. 3.25.3).
     One of the arguments against Jude’s authorship concerns the references in v. 3 to "the faith once delivered to the saints" and in v. 17 to "the words previously spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ," which sound like a much later stage of Christianity when apostolic tradition was more firmly set (see Biblical Authorship: Challenging Anti-Conservative Presuppositions Part 2). But "the faith" was well established much earlier than many critical scholars are prone to concede (cf. Acts 6:7; 13:8; 14:21-22; Galatians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 16:13), and Jude’s allusion to the apostles’ words is applied to their predictive teachings rather than established tradition.
     The occasion of the epistle is the simple fact that ungodly men had secretly "crept in" among the disciples to whom Jude writes (vv. 3-4). His initial intent was to convey a positive message about "our common salvation," but his focus abruptly switches to the urgency of his readers to "contend for the faith" in view of the present intrusion. Since the agitators closely resemble those depicted in 2 Peter, the same general movement may be in view.
     By comparing Jude 4-18 with 2 Peter 2:1-18; 3:1-3, it would appear that the two documents share a literary affinity. While the majority opinion in scholarly circles is that the parallel material in 2 Peter was copied from Jude, it seems more likely that Jude borrowed from 2 Peter. For one thing, Jude 17-18 appears to be a quote from 2 Peter 3:1-3 rather than vice versa. Some may object by pointing to the fact that Jude’s statement alludes to "the apostles" (plural) rather than the solitary author of 2 Peter. However, reference is made in 2 Peter 3:2 to "the words having been previously spoken by . . . your apostles." It is noteworthy that the ESV places the warning of Jude 18 in quotation marks and cites 2 Peter 3:2 in the margin. Another reason for maintaining the priority of 2 Peter is the predictive nature of the future tense in 2 Peter 2:1-3 and 3:3 (i.e. false teachers are coming), as compared to the apparent fulfilment implied by the present tense of Jude 4, 16-19 (i.e. false teachers are here).
     A plausible scenario is that 2 Peter was written to reprimand false teachers in a particular community (north-central Asia Minor) and was then shared with Jude, who was dealing with a similar form of heresy in his own area. Jude adapts the portions of 2 Peter that were pertinent to the situation with which he was immediately concerned. While the possibility of literary collaboration or use of a common source cannot be discounted either, the involvement of the Holy Spirit is another common denominator (cf. 2 Peter 1:19-21).
     "To [the] only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord [be] glory, majesty, power and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen" (Jude 25).
--Kevin L. Moore

Related Posts: Jude's Use of Pseudonymous Sources, Epistle of Jacob

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The New Testament Epistle of Jacob

     The book entitled "James" in our English Bibles begins with these words in the Greek New Testament: Iakōbos theou kai kuriou Iēsou Christou doulos, meaning, "Jacob, a slave of God and of [the] Lord Jesus Christ" (author’s own translation). The name Iakōbos is actually the Graecized form of "Jacob." Etymologically, the Old French, derived from the Late Latin Iacomus (a variant of Iacobus), gave to English speakers two alternatives: "James" and "Jacques." Heavily influenced by Norman French, the English preferred "James," the first recorded reference to which was the biblical "St. James" in 1148. After the thirteenth century, this name was more commonly used, particularly in northern England and Scotland, and it became a very popular moniker when King James VI of Scotland became King James I of Great Britain in 1603 (see The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed.). 
     At least five men are mentioned in the New Testament by the name Iakōbos: (1) The Old Testament patriarch Jacob (Matthew 1:2, 8; 22:32; etc.); (2) James, the son of Zebedee and Salome and brother of John (Matthew 4:21; 27:56; cf. Mark 27:56); (3) James, the son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; etc.); (4) James, the father of Judas (Luke 6:16); and (5) James, the Lord’s brother (Matthew 13:55; Galatians 1:19).
     In addition to at least two half-sisters, Jesus had no less than four half-brothers, one of whom was named Iakōbos (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). This is the one most likely to have authored the New Testament document that bears his name, seeing that the author writes authoritatively as though he were already well known and respected among his readers. Despite his initial unbelief (John 7:5, 10), James was an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:7) and was later counted among the believers in Jerusalem (Acts 1:14). He would have still been relatively young when he took part in the meeting where Matthias replaced Judas (Acts 1:15-25), though he eventually rose to prominence as a leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; Galatians 1:19; 2:9).
     Striking similarities have been noted between the Greek of James’ epistle and the speech of James recorded in Acts 15:13-21. The epistle harmonizes with what is known about the Lord’s brother from Luke (Acts 15:13-21; 21:17-25), from Paul (Galatians 1:19; 2:9, 10), and from Josephus (Ant. 20.9). Origen is among the earliest to mention the epistle as the work of this particular James, while also recognizing the writing as scripture (Ad Rom. 4.1; Hom. in Lev. 2.4; Hom. in Josh. 7.1). Eusebius claimed that in his day, despite a few dissenters, the epistle was generally attributed to James, the half-brother of Christ (Eccl. Hist. 3.25.3; 2.23.25).
     Not all critical scholars accept the epistle of James as having been written by a sibling of Jesus. Reasons given include the following. (1) No special relationship with Christ is alluded to in the letter. (2) The language, cultural background, and style of the document seem inconsistent with a conservative Jewish peasant from Galilee. (3) There are a number of parallels between James and other New Testament writings, particularly the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7, suggesting literary dependence. (4) Similarities of language with I Clement and the Shepherd of Hermas point to a period well beyond the lifetime of James.
     In response, consider the following. (1) No special relation to Christ is alluded to because James obviously considered his spiritual relationship with the Lord to be much more significant than his physical connection. (2) While the quality of Greek in James should not be exaggerated, first-century Palestinian Jews appear to have been much more proficient in the Greek language and culture than some have imagined (see A. T. Robertson, Grammar 26-29), and the potential role of an amanuensis cannot be discounted either. (3) Familiarity with the teachings of Jesus is not equivalent to dependence on a written account; both James and Matthew (as well as other New Testament writers) were well acquainted with the same body of material long before it was put into writing. (4) It is just as likely that the respective authors of I Clement and the Shepherd of Hermas were influenced by the language of James.
     The opening address and the heavy Jewish flavoring of the epistle (cf. 1:1; 2:2, 8-13, 21; 4:11) indicate that it was written to Jewish believers early in the history of the church, before the movement had completely developed beyond the general circle of Judaism (cf. Acts 8:1, 4; 11:19; see James and the Law of Moses). Paul’s statement about James "leading about" a believing spouse (1 Corinthians 9:5) does not imply long-distance or long-term journeys but could simply have reference to the ministry of James and his wife around the region of Judea (cf. Acts 9:31; 11:1). The biblical record shows James living in Jerusalem from at least the year 30 (Acts 1:14), with his continual presence noted there in the years ca. 36 (Galatians 1:19), 44 (Acts 12:17), 50 (Acts 15:13), and 57 (Acts 21:18). Porcius Festus died in the summer of 62 (Josephus, War 20.9.1), and James is reported to have died as a martyr in Jerusalem about the same time (Josephus, Ant. 20.8.9; Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.23.2, 20).
     "Be humble before [the] Lord, and he will exalt you" (James 4:10).
–Kevin L. Moore

Related Posts: Epistle of Judas, James and the Law of Moses

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Biblical Doctrine of Tithing

     The word "tithe" simply means "one-tenth." Abraham, after defeating the armies of four pagan kings, gave a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek "the priest of God Most High" (Genesis 14:18-20), and later his grandson Jacob committed ten percent of his surplus to the Lord (Genesis 28:22). The tithing enjoined on the Israelites under the Law of Moses called for one-tenth of the increase of their crops, herds and flocks (Leviticus 27:30, 32, 34).1 Note that the Mosaic tithing system involved food, not money. When the distance was too far to transport one’s animals or crops, the goods could be exchanged for money on the front end of the journey, but the funds were then to be used on the other end to buy the food required for the tithe (Deuteronomy 14:22-29).
     The tithes (food products) were to be distributed among the tribe of Levi, inclusive of the priests (Numbers 18:21, 23, 26).2 The Levites consisted of the descendants of Kohath, including the family of Aaron and his sons who comprised the priesthood (Exodus 28:1–29:35) and others who were responsible for the sacred tabernacle service (Numbers 3:27-32; 4:4-15; 7:9), as well as the descendants of Gershon (Numbers 3:21-26) and Merari (Numbers 3:33-37), who were responsible for other religious duties.
     Why were the tithes to be given to the Levites? The twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:1-28) were to each receive an inheritance of land in Canaan, but the tribe of Levi was the only tribe not to receive a land inheritance (Joshua 13:7–19:48). In order for the Levites to invest their time and energies in spiritual service to God and to God’s people, tithing was necessary to support them and their families (Numbers 18:20-31).3
     Is the law of tithing still functioning in the Christian era? Since there has been a change of both the Levitical priesthood and the law (Hebrews 7:5, 12),4 we are no longer under this old Jewish arrangement (Galatians 3:24-25).5 Seeing that tithing was the means of supplying food for the Jewish priests and Levites, the service of whom is now obsolete, this is clearly not something in which New Testament Christians are expected to participate.
     Christianity is far superior to the old Jewish system (Hebrews 8:1-13). Our ultimate example of giving is God himself (James 1:17),6 exemplified through his Son Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:3-4).7 Accordingly, disciples of the Lord are to give willingly, liberally, sacrificially, and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 12; 9:7).8 Those who give themselves to full-time ministry are to be supported by the free-will offerings of fellow Christians (1 Corinthians 9:3-14).9 Under Christ’s new-covenant system, we are not limited to a set percentage but are expected to regularly give according to our ability and level of prosperity (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).10And the beauty of this New Testament plan is the simple fact that it is impossible to out-give God!11
–Kevin L. Moore

Additional Scripture References:
1. Numbers 18:26, 28; Deuteronomy 14:22-23; 2 Chronicles 31:5-6; Nehemiah 10:34-39; 13:5; cf. Malachi 1:1; 3:10; Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42.
2. Deuteronomy 14:27, 29; 26:12; Nehemiah 10:37, 38; 13:5.
3. Exodus 1:1-6; Numbers 1:47-53; 18:23; 26:62; Deuteronomy 10:9; 14:27, 29; 18:1-8.
4. Hebrews 7:18; 10:1, 9; 2 Corinthians 3:14; Colossians 2:14.
5. Galatians 2:16; 3:19; Hebrews 8:6-13; 9:15; 2 Corinthians 3:2-16.
6. John 3:16, 27; Acts 17:25; 1 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 9:15.
7. Matthew 20:28; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:25; Acts 20:28.
8. Matthew 20:25-28; Romans 12:1-2; 15:26-27; 2 Corinthians 8:7-8, 11, 12, 19; 9:2, 5; Galatians 6:6-10.
9. Matthew 10:9-10; Luke 10:7; Romans 15:24; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:18.
10. Acts 11:29; 2 Corinthians 8:12; Ephesians 4:28; cf. Proverbs 3:9.
11. Matthew 6:24-34; Mark 10:27-31; Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8-11; Ephesians 2:20; Philippians 4:19.

Addendum: Tithes included (1) Levitical = 10% to Levites, who gave 1% to priests (Numbers 18:21-28; Nehemiah 10:37-38); (2) Feasts = annual Jerusalem festivals (Deuteronomy 12:1-19; 14:22-26); (3) the Poor = every third year (Deuteronomy 14:28, 29; 26:12, 13); (4) Civil (1 Samuel 8:14-17).

Related Posts: Is the Law of Moses Still Binding?The Sunday Collection

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Ending of Mark (Part 4 of 4): Internal Issues

     In the case against the final twelve verses of Mark 16, internal issues frequently cited include the following. (1) The vocabulary and style of vv. 9-20 appear to be non-Markan; seventeen words occur in these verses that are not found elsewhere in the Gospel, three of which appear more than once. (2) The connection between v. 8 and v. 9 seems awkward. (3) The subject of v. 8 is the women, but in v. 9 Jesus is the presumed subject. (4) Mary Magdalene is identified in v. 9, even though she is mentioned in 15:47 and 16:1, while the other women of 16:1-8 are forgotten.
     In order for these charges to appear credible, a number of variables have to be overlooked that would otherwise significantly weaken the objections, particularly those centered on a hypothetical Markan vocabulary and style (see Biblical Authorship Part 3). If Mark based his Gospel on the oral testimony of the apostle Peter (as early tradition claims),1 and if Peter was incarcerated and/or killed before the Gospel was finished (a conjecture supported by biblical information and early tradition),2 Mark could have written the ending by himself, and the final section would therefore be entirely Markan, while the preceding material would represent a Petrine-Markan blend. 
     Since the conclusion of the Gospel deals with unique subject matter that is not previously discussed, would it not therefore call for distinctive terminology? Three words in this section occur in the New Testament only in the post-resurrection accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke-Acts, and John. Of the seventeen words in this paragraph that do not appear elsewhere in Mark in duplicate form, eight do occur in varied forms and are thus part of the so-called "Markan vocabulary" after all, not to mention the rest of the terminology that comprises nearly 90% of the text! Applying the same scrutiny to the twelve verses preceding this section (15:44–16:8), we find that sixteen of these words and phrases do not occur elsewhere in the Gospel either. Moreover, by subjecting the last twelve verses of Luke’s Gospel to the same test, we discover no less than nine words that do not occur elsewhere in Luke, four of which are found nowhere else in the Greek New Testament (see J. W. McGarvey, NT Commentary: Matthew and Mark 380).
     The connection between v. 8 and v. 9 seems awkward only if it is viewed as an attempted continuance of the previous empty tomb section. But if v. 9 is the beginning of a new paragraph (relating to the appearances of the resurrected Christ), the break is normal in Mark’s rapid-fire Gospel (cf. 1:3-4, 8-9, 13-14, 34-35, 39-40; 2:17-18, 22-23; 3:12-13, 19-20, 30-31; 3:35–4:1; 4:9-10, 20-21, 25-26, 29-30; 6:13-14, 29-30; 6:56–7:1; 7:13-14; 7:37–8:1; et al.). Note that v. 8 and v. 9 are separated by the conjuntion de, "which is elsewhere a sign of a definite break in the Gospel" (D. E. Nineham, Saint Mark 197 n.; cf. R. H. Lightfoot, History and Interpretation 62 n.).
     Although v. 9 begins with the masculine participle anastas ("rising") and the nearest antecedent is the women of v. 8, an unbiased reader can easily distinguish between an unrelated spatial antecedent and the more obvious conceptual antecedent of vv. 6-7. Compare Mark 7:30, where the subject is two females (the Syro-Phoenician woman and her daughter), immediately followed by v. 31 where "he" (Jesus) is the subject (cf. 2:12-13; 6:44-45; 14:2-3).
     Mary Magdalene is named in v. 9 because she is the subject of the beginning of a new paragraph, particularly in view of her being the first to whom Jesus appeared. Bruce Metzger’s objection that the use of anastas de ("now rising") and the position of prōton ("first") "are ill-suited in a continuation of verses 1-8" (Textual Commentary [2nd ed.] 105) unnecessarily assumes continuance rather than an apparent break and the start of a new section. Note that Mary Magdalene is also mentioned back in 15:40, but no scholarly eyebrows are raised by the repetition of her name in 15:47 and immediately again in 16:1!
     Allen Black comments: "it is important not to overrate the significance of the problem. There is no doctrine or practice discussed in vv. 9-20 that is not taught elsewhere in the New Testament" (Mark 293). While this statement is generally true, the reference in v. 18 to drinking "anything deadly" is without parallel in the New Testament. Nevertheless, Papias of Hierapolis reported that he had learned from the daughters of the apostle Philip concerning Justus Barsabas (cf. Acts 1:23-24), "though he drank a deadly poison, experienced nothing injurious through the grace of the Lord" (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39.9).
     Everyone agrees that the last twelve verses of Mark’s Gospel bear strong affinities to the other biblical accounts of the resurrection (i.e. the information is authentic) and serve as a fitting epilogue (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 8:2; 24:13-51; John 20:1-23; Acts 1:9; 2:43; 4:33; 5:12; 6:8; 8:6; 14:3, 9-10; 16:16-18; 28:3-9; Hebrews 2:3-4). The case against the traditional ending does not appear to be as compelling as most critical scholars would have us believe. In fact, the tenacity of this passage in avoiding complete omission from nearly all current standard Greek texts and translations, despite overwhelming opposition, bears testimony to its apparent veracity.3
–Kevin L. Moore

     1Papias of Hierapolis reports that Mark was "Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not indeed, in order, of the things said or done by the Lord" (as quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39.15). According to Jerome, Peter’s interpreter was Mark, "whose gospel was composed with Peter narrating and him writing" (Ad Hedibiam 120). "Mark reads like a shorthand account of a story by an impromptu speaker--with all the repititions, redundancies and digressions which are characteristic of living speech" (B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels 162-64).
     2Mark was summoned to Rome by Paul (2 Timothy 4:11) and was with Peter in Rome (1 Peter 5:13) not long before Peter’s martyrdom (2 Peter 1:13-15) at the hands of Nero (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.25.1-8). The proposed scenario above is bolstered by the fact that Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3.1.2) and Clement of Alexandria (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 6.14.5-7) agree that Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome but disagree as to whether this was before or after Peter’s death.
     3For a more detailed assessment of the documentary evidence, consult the works of James Snapp, Jr., including Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20. 

Related Posts: Ending of Mark Part 1Ending of Mark Part 2, Ending of Mark Part 3, Text of NT Part 1, Text of NT Part 2Uniqueness of Mark's Gospel

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Ending of Mark (Part 3 of 4): External Testimonies

     It is commonly asserted that in the fourth and early-fifth centuries, Eusebius and Jerome indicated that Mark 16:9-20 was absent from "nearly all" Greek copies of Mark available to them. Bruce Metzger’s observation that "Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses" (Textual Commentary [2nd ed.] 103) proves nothing either way, and it is quite misleading to twist this argument from silence into an affirmative statement like: "The ending at 16:8 is attested by Clement, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome" (S. E. Dowd, Reading Mark 169), or "Mark’s Gospel (as written by Mark) ends with 16:8. This is attested to by . . . Clement, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome . . ." (P. W. Comfort, Quest for the Original Text 137-38).    
     Eusebius is believed to have been among the first to question the veracity of these verses. In his Quaestiones ad Stephanum et Marinum, he offers (in the third person) a twofold solution to an apparent discrepancy between Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:9. His first response can be summarized as follows: someone might disregard Mark 16:9 because it is not in all the copies of Mark; the accurate ones end at v. 8, "almost in all the copies," and the words that follow "are extant in some but not in all." Eusebius’ second solution retains Mark 16:9 as genuine, briefly stated as follows: someone else, who dares not set aside these verses, can easily harmonize the two passages by simple punctuation.
     Eusebius was obviously aware of the long ending of Mark, knew of Greek manuscripts that contained the passage, and was not entirely dismissive of it as a number of critical commentators have led their readers to believe. It is important to note that nearly all of the manuscripts available to Eusebius were of the Alexandrian text-type (akin to Vaticanus and Sinaiticus), and he apparently lacked access to earlier manuscripts used by the likes of Irenaeus and Tertullian that proliferated elsewhere (see below).
     Jerome’s alleged "objection" to these verses (Epistle [Ad Hedibiam] 120.3) is merely a Latin translation of what Eusebius had written in Greek decades earlier, yet Jerome included Mark 16:9-20 in his Latin Vulgate! The Greek New Testament was translated into Latin as early as the late second century and was later revised by Jerome, using the best Latin texts and compared with old Greek manuscripts that were available. Jerome even employed Mark 16:14 in his Dialogus contra Pelagianos 2.15. Therefore, citing Jerome as evidence against the long ending of Mark would appear disingenuous.
     Irenaeus of Lyons (late second century) regarded Mark 16:9-20 as part of the original (Adv. Haereses 3.10.6), about two centuries before Eusebius, Jerome, and the production of the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus texts. Tertullian of Carthage (early third century) quotes from the long ending of Mark (16:19) in his Adv. Praxeam 2.1, over a century before Eusebius, Jerome, Vaticanus, and Sinaiticus. Further, a number of ancient versions (e.g. the Peshitta Syriac, the Old Italic, the Sahidic, the Coptic) include vv. 9-20, and these predate Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, as well as Eusebius and Jerome. Apparently the Greek texts from which these early versions were translated contained the passage in question.
–Kevin L. Moore

Related Posts: Ending of Mark Part 1Ending of Mark Part 2, Ending of Mark Part 4, Text of NT Part 1, Text of NT Part 2