Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Where's the Proof of God?

     It was June 2012 in New Zealand’s remote Hunua Ranges, southeast of Auckland. Thirty-nine-year-old bioengineer Ronnie Fong set out on what was supposed to be a four-hour walk and ended up lost for three days. In sub-zero temperatures at night, he kept moving to stay warm. Climbing to the hilltops, he could see a dam in the distance, which he focused on as his goal. During the precarious trek, he stumbled across a 24-pack of unopened chlorine tablets (for purifying water) that he believes was intentionally dropped by a rescuer, enabling him to keep hydrated. Ronnie knew he had finally reached safety when he found a dirt road. Not long thereafter he spotted the headlights of a search team, bringing his ordeal to a fortunate end.
     Although Ronnie saw no rescuers for three days, his confidence was maintained by the indisputable signs of human presence. Sighting the dam in the distance, he knew he was close to civilization. While not personally witnessing the dam being designed, built, or maintained, he never questioned that capable human beings were responsible for it. Without actually observing where the chlorine tablets came from, he was sure someone had been in the area. The dirt road, as simple and crude as it appeared, was enough to convince him that he was in an inhabited area. When he sighted the approaching headlights, before actually seeing anybody, he was absolutely certain that people were near.
     Ronnie’s optimism stemmed from the observable effects of human activity. Not once did he surmise that random evolutionary mutations over billions of years were responsible for the efficiently designed wall of earth, concrete, and steel across the riverbed. Upon discovering the chlorine tablets, it never crossed his mind that the symmetrical plastic and foil packaging might be the result of a massive explosion of primordial elements that gradually developed into its current functional shape. He didn’t instinctively assume that the dirt road tracks were formed by a freak accident of nature, nor did he entertain the thought of purely naturalistic causes to account for the headlights.
     It was not scientific experimentation or even direct observation that led to his definitive conclusions. His assurance that preexisting intelligence and ingenuity were responsible for the dam, the chlorine tablets, the road, and the headlights was a conviction of faith, prompted by sensible reasoning and compelling evidence. This is what carried him through an otherwise hopeless ordeal, and unsurprisingly, what wasn’t visible along the treacherous journey was confirmed in the end. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV).
     How, then, can our knowledge of the Grand Designer of the universe be any less certain? From the tiniest microscopic organism to the vast solar systems, the physical world demonstrates clear signs of intricate design.1 Specified complexity and fine-tuned patterns of activity do not simply emerge out of nothing or consistently occur by accident. Where there is a painting, there must be an artist. Without a poet, there is no poem. A house does not build itself, and a book does not write itself. Where there is functional design, there has to be a designer.
     The cosmos is real and must have come from somewhere. It obviously did not create itself. Every effect requires an adequate cause. Moreover, the evidence of deliberate design in the natural world implies a creative and proficient designer. Those who stubbornly reject the necessary inference of the intelligent design model have theorized any number of elaborate proposals (cosmological constant, cosmic cataclysm, oscillating universe, et al.). But none can reasonably explain the mystery of life and the uniform patterns of functionality across the universe, much less where and how it all originated.
     The Bible provides a credible answer for anyone not blinded by anti-theistic prejudice. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4).In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).
     The God of the Bible is outside of time and space, without beginning or end.2 He is the Grand Designer and Creator in whom we have conviction of faith and assurance of hope.3 Without him we are lost, though he is not far away, and what is not visible along life’s journey is sure to be confirmed in the end.4
--Kevin L. Moore

     See I.D.E.A. Center’s “Evidence for the Design of the Universe,” <Link>; “Cell Positioning Uses ‘Good Design’,” <Link>; William A. Dembski, “Design Inference vs. Design Hypothesis,” <Link>.
     2 Eccl. 3:11; Psa. 93:2; Prov. 8:23; Rev. 1:8.
     3 Ex. 20:11; Psa. 8:3-4; 33:6; 102:25; 115:15; Jer. 51:15; John 1:1-3; Acts 4:24; 14:15; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:1-2, 10; Rev. 4:11; 10:6.
     4 Acts 17:24-31; Heb. 11:1-6; 1 John 3:2.

Related articles: Wayne Jackson’s “The Elephant in Evolution’s Living Room,” <Link>; Jeff Miller’s “Cosmological Argument,” <Link>.

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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry and End of His Public Ministry (John 12)

The Anointing at Bethany (John 12:1-11)
     A few days after Jesus arrived in Bethany, not long before his arrest and execution, he was in the home of Simon the leper (Matt. 26:6; Mark 14:3). Since lepers were not allowed to intermingle with the general public (Lev. 13:45-46), Simon may have been a former leper whom Jesus or one of his disciples had healed (cf. Matt. 10:8; 11:5; Mark 1:40-42; Luke 17:11-19). According to John, Lazarus and his sisters were also present, and Mary is identified as the one who anointed the Lord (John 12:1-8). Mary is unnamed in Matthew and Mark’s recounting of this event,1 perhaps to provide anonymity and privacy for Lazarus’ family (cf. John 12:9-11). It was not until much later that John reveals her name (cf. 11:2).
     Mary had an alabaster flask (stone jar?) of a lipta (Roman pound = about 12 ounces or less than ½ liter) of very costly spikenard oil,2 worth more than 300 denarii. Seeing that a denarius was equivalent to one-day’s payment for a manual laborer (cf. Matt. 20:2), this would be worth nearly ten months wages! Mary used the fragrant oil to anoint Jesus’ head (according to Matthew and Mark) and feet (according to John).
     The disciples, prompted or led by the devious Judas Iscariot (John 12:4-6), objected because of the perceived waste. But the Lord reminds them that Mary was simply expressing her love and gratitude and was anointing his body for burial (v. 7). She was apparently among the few who understood that Jesus was about to die. The Lord did not anticipate a time in the future when poverty would be eradicated, so he enjoins on his followers their benevolent responsibility (v. 8; cf. Acts 20:35). Because Mary “did a good work” and “did what she could” (Mark 14:6, 8),3 her unselfish, gracious act was to be recorded in the written gospel (by Matthew, Mark and John) to be proclaimed throughout the world (Mark 14:9; cf. 16:15).
     While the Jewish authorities were plotting to kill Jesus (Matt. 26:1-4), they also wanted to murder Lazarus. Lazarus, whom the Lord had raised from the dead (John 11:1-44), was living proof of Jesus’ claims that caused many to accept him as the Christ (v. 45; 12:9-11, 17-19). This demonstrates the purpose of first-century miracles to confirm the Lord’s message and authority in order to produce faith (cf. 20:30-31). It also illustrates his prophetic observation that the unreceptive are blinded to the most compelling evidence, “even if one should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). An unwilling soul will not be convinced.
The Triumphal Entry (John 12:12-19)
     This account is also reported, with additional information, in Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; and Luke 19:29-44. It fulfills the messianic prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. Bethphage and Bethany were villages close to one another on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. It is possible that Jesus had prearranged the use of the donkey and her colt (Matt. 21:1-7), thus no resistance from the owners. The procession on the carpet of clothes and palm branches (John 12:13) reached all the way to Jerusalem, a distance of about two miles or three kilometers (John 11:18).
     Jesus is hailed King, a direct descendent of the great military hero David, with cries of Hosanna, meaning “please save” or “save now!” (Matt. 21:9; Mark 11:9-10; Luke 19:38; John 12:13).4 The Jews had long anticipated a messianic figure “to redeem Israel” from foreign oppression (Luke 24:21) and to restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6), contrary to the Lord’s intended purpose (cf. John 18:36).
     The shouts of “King” during Christ’s triumphal entry were within earshot of the Pharisees (Luke 19:38-39; cf. John 12:19), who went on to accuse Jesus of making this claim himself (Luke 23:2-3; John 19:21). No doubt their ploy was to give the impression that Jesus was challenging the authority of Rome (John 19:12, 15) – a clear case of insurrection demanding the death penalty under Roman law.5 When Pontius Pilate later gave the Jewish crowds the choice of which prisoner to be released – the humble Galilean preacher (Jesus) or the defiant patriotic militant (Barabbas) – their decision was likely influenced by their misconceived messianic expectations. Consequently, Barabbas’ death sentence was repealed, while Jesus was condemned to be crucified.
Jesus’ Suffering and Death Predicted (John 12:20-36)
     Certain Greeks (perhaps proselytes, cf. 7:35) wanted to see Jesus, and their intermediaries were Philip and Andrew – Christ’s only apostles with Greek names (John 12:20-22). This follows the Lord having disrupted the business-dealings of profiteers in the temple’s Court of the Gentiles (Mark 11:11-17), the only part of the temple where Greeks were permitted. Jesus would not allow the temple compound to be a measly thoroughfare or revenue facilitator, and the two passages he quoted (Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11) pronounce salvation for all nations (inclusive of Gentiles) and the hypocrisy of false religion. No wonder these Greeks were drawn to the Lord, knocking on the door of his kingdom.
     Jesus uses this as an opportunity to speak of his impending suffering and death (John 12:22-36), which he had repeatedly foretold throughout his ministry.6 Humiliation, sacrifice, and subsequent glory were anticipated as part of the divine plan. His hour had come (v. 23; cf. 13:1; 17:1). Being lifted up on the cross would draw all peoples (Jews and Gentiles alike) to himself (vv. 32-33; cf. 3:14; 8:28), fulfilling what he had stated earlier: “… I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; these also I must bring, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:15b-16; cf. Eph. 2:11-16).
     Those given the chance to receive the Lord’s personal instruction were tremendously blessed: “the light is with you” (John 12:35a). But they were expected to heed what they were learning: “walk while you have the light …. believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (vv. 35b-36). Unfortunately, many did not avail themselves of the opportunity graciously afforded (v. 37).
Lessons to Learn
·      From Mary’s humble act of anointing Jesus, we learn that whatever one has can be used in service to the Lord, and anything done for him is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Mary “did what she could.” May each of us do the same.
·      From the antagonistic Jewish authorities we learn that prejudice, ignorance, and selfish pride adversely affect one’s response to the Lord. God has effectively revealed himself through his creation, through his Son, and through his written word (Rom. 1:1-4, 16-21). While the evidence is powerful, it will not convince those who are dishonest and unwilling.
·      From the Lord’s triumphal entry we learn that some might give the appearance of loyalty to Christ but can easily be persuaded to turn away from and even against him if not sufficiently grounded in truth. Preconceived misconceptions, misinformation, and peer pressure often hinder or thwart genuine faith (cf. Matt. 13:18-23).
·      From the Greeks who searched for Jesus, we learn the importance of a truth-seeking heart. They were not among the privileged Jews to whom Jesus was initially sent (Matt. 15:24) or given the law with knowledge of the divine will (Rom. 2:17-20; 3:1-2; 9:4-5). Nevertheless, they “came up to worship” and they sought out Jesus (John 12:20-21), exemplifying the divine promise that all who seek the Lord will surely find him (Matt. 7:7; Acts 15:17; 17:27).
·      From those who heard Jesus and were given the opportunity to obey him, we learn of the enormous blessing of having access to the Lord’s revealed word and the great tragedy of rejecting it. May we be among the receptive and obedient.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 The similar event recorded in Luke 7:36-50 appears to have involved a different woman on a different occasion.
     2 Cf. Song of Solomon 1:12. Spikenard is a root with hairy spikes that grows on the Himalaya mountains; the aroma calms the nerves and promotes alertness, and is used today as incense.
     3 Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     4 Cf. Psa. 118:25-26; also 2 Sam. 14:4; 2 Kings 6:26; 9:13.
     5 See also Matt. 27:11, 29, 37, 42; Mark 15:2, 9, 12, 18, 26, 32; Luke 23:2, 3, 5, 14, 37, 38; John 18:33, 39; 19:3, 14, 15.
     6 Matt. 16:21; 17:12, 22-23; 20:18-19; [21:37-39]; 26:2; Mark 8:31; 9:9-12, 31; 10:32-34, 45; [12:6-12; 14:1]; 14:8, 27-28; Luke 9:22, 44; 18:31-34; [22:2]; John 3:14; 8:28, 37, 40; 12:22-36.

*Prepared for the 2016 Spanish-English workshop at North Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, TN.

Related Posts: Barabbas 

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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Introducing the Gospel of John

     The official record of the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus Christ is preserved in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. While each is written by a different author, to a different audience, for a different purpose, the first three are linked together as the Synoptic Gospels because of their similarities in content, vocabulary, and arrangement. The fourth, however, stands on its own as a unique witness.
     Authorship of the Fourth Gospel has historically been attributed to John the apostle, although the writer does not explicitly identify himself in the text. The evidence confirms that the author was a Palestinian Jew, exhibiting detailed knowledge of local topography (cf. 1:44; 2:1; 9:7; 4:5-6, 21; 11:18; 18:1). He reflects personal acquaintance with conservative Judaism and Jewish tradition (e.g. 1:19-28; 4:9, 20). He was accustomed to thinking in Aramaic, as Aramaic terms are frequently used and then explained (cf. 1:42; 5:2; 19:13, 17, 20; 20:16). Old Testament quotations are closer in form to the Hebrew than to the Greek (cf. 12:40; 13:18; 19:37).
     He was an eyewitness (1:14; 19:35; cf. 2:6; 4:6; 12:3, 5; chaps. 18–19) and one of the twelve apostles. He is self-described as “the disciple” (21:24) and “the beloved disciple” (13:23; 18:15-16; 19:26-27; 20:2-9),1 near Jesus at the last supper where only the twelve were present (Matt. 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14). The author is not to be identified as any of the apostles mentioned by name in the Fourth Gospel, and neither John nor his brother James is named. James dies fairly early in the history of the church (Acts 12:2), whereas our author lived long enough to add weight to the rumor that he would not die (John 21:23).
     The “beloved disciple” is regularly in the company of Simon Peter, and elsewhere in the New Testament this is the apostle John (Mark 5:37; 9:2; 14:33; Acts 3:1–4:23; 8:15–25; Gal. 2:9). The most obvious candidate for authorship of the Fourth Gospel is John the son of Zebedee, further confirmed by the consistent testimony of the early church.2
Date of writing
     John’s Gospel was probably written near the close of the first century, sometime between 80-95.3 According to ancient testimony, the apostle John lived into the reign of Trajan (who reigned 98-117) and was the last of the New Testament writers to compose a Gospel.4 The fact that no mention is made of the temple’s destruction would argue against a date shortly after 70 but could be explained by a date considerably later, especially if written for a non-Jewish audience far away from Palestine. John makes no mention of the Sadducees, who dwindled to the point of insignificance after 70. The John Rylands Fragment (P52), containing a portion of John 18, dates around 125, which gives plenty of time for the document to have been copied and circulated as far as Egypt, where the fragment was discovered.
Audience and Destination
     The Gospel seems to have been written with a Gentile audience in mind, since Jewish conventions are explained apparently for the benefit of those who were unfamiliar with them (e.g. 19:31). Certain feasts are particularly identified as Jewish: “the Passover of the Jews” (2:13; 6:4; 11:55); “the Tabernacles, the feast of the Jews” (7:2). Jewish customs are noted and clarified: purification (2:6; cf. 11:55), ethnic exclusivism (4:9), and the Sabbath (19:31). Aramaic words are both transliterated and translated into Greek: Kēphas (1:42), Bēthzatha (5:2), Silōam (9:7), Gabbatha (19:13), Golgotha (19:17), and rabbouni (20:16). Palestinian geographical features are carefully described: “Bethany … across the Jordan” (1:28), “Cana of Galilee” (2:1, 11; 4:46; 21:2), “Aenon near Salem” (3:23), “Bethany near Jerusalem” (11:18), and “Bethsaida of Galilee” (12:21). Further, the Sea of Galilee is identified as “the Sea of Tiberias” (6:1; 21:1), the name used in the latter part of the first century and employed in Greco-Roman texts.
     Early tradition places the origin and destination of the Gospel in Asia Minor, particularly Ephesus.5 The writing was reportedly at the request of area congregations, as a summary of John’s teaching about the life of Jesus, to meet a need that was affecting the church near the close of the first century.
Distinctive Features
     Despite a number of similarities between John and the other Gospels, John omits several things that are characteristic of the others6 and records a great deal of material not found in them.7 John recounts much more of Jesus’ ministry in Judea than in Galilee, whereas the focus of the other Gospels is the opposite. There is more of Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit than in any other Gospel. The teaching in John tends to expound abstract themes like phōs (‘light’ 23x), zōē (‘life’ 36x), agapē/agapaō (‘love’ 34x), and alētheia (‘truth’ 25x). John presents large amounts of discourse material and records seven statements of Christ in which the emphatic egō eimi (“I am”) expression is employed (6:35; 8:12; 10:9, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:5). The designation “son of man” is less prolific in John than in the Synoptics, while “Son of God” appears more often. In John’s Gospel Jesus is explicitly identified as “God” (1:1-3; 5:18; 10:33; 20:28; cf. 8:58).
Purpose and Structure
     John clearly states his objective in 20:30-31 as follows: “Indeed therefore Jesus also did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this document, but these have been written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life in his name.” The Gospel is arranged to achieve this goal.
     The prologue (1:1-18) provides an introduction to the Gospel, identifying Jesus as the preexistent, embodied Logos (Word) of God who reveals the heavenly Father to mankind. Next is an overview of the Lord’s public ministry (1:19–11:45), focusing on just seven of his miracles (2:1-11; 4:43-54; 5:1-9; 6:1-5, 16-25; 9:1-41; 11:1-44) and calling them sēmeiōn (“signs”). This so-called “book of signs” emphasizes that which points to and authenticates the Lord’s identity and role. The story then moves toward Christ’s glorification through his death and resurrection (11:46–20:31), and the section ends with a statement of the Gospel’s purpose. Finally, the epilogue (21:1-25) concludes the writing by recounting another post-resurrection appearance of Jesus and the recommissioning of his disciples.
     Every testimony is to be confirmed by two or three witnesses (Deut. 19:15; 2 Cor. 13:1). While Matthew, Mark, and Luke offer sufficient evidence, John serves as a fourth witness, providing an even sturdier foundation upon which to build our faith.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     2 The earliest extant reference to John’s authorship is that of Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 115-202), whose testimony is based on the corroboration of Polycarp, a contemporary of the apostle John (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 4.14.3-8; 5.20.5-6; 20.4-8). Other testimonies include the Muratorian Canon (ca. 170), Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215), Theophilus of Antioch (ca. 181), Hippolytus of Rome (ca. 170-235), Origen of Alexandria (ca. 185-254), and Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 263-339). Historically there were no attempts to differentiate among the “Johns” in the respective titles of the canonical Johannine documents, presumably because readers already knew who was intended (see D. Trobisch, First Edition of the NT 55).
     3 Some scholars (e.g. J. A. T. Robinson, Redating the NT 254-311) propose an earlier (pre-70) date, and their strongest argument rests on the statement in John 5:2, “now there is (estin = present tense) in Jerusalem at the sheep gate a pool … Bethesda.” The most natural inference is that the area John is describing is still standing at the time of writing, thus prior to the destruction of the city in 70. However, in response one might argue that (a) at the time of writing the ruins of Bethesda were still visible or had been rebuilt; (b) John is naturally speaking of the place as he remembers it; or (c) John is using a historic present, as in 10:8 and 19:40.
     4 Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 2.22.5; 3.1.1; 3.3.4; Clement of Alexandria (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 6.14.7); Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.24.7; Jerome, De vir. ill. 9. John's death is marked at the year 98 by Jerome.
     5 Clement of Alexandria (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 6.14), the Muratorian Fragment, the Anti-Marcionite Prologue, Jerome (Comm. Matt. Prol.), Epiphanius (Haer. 41.12), Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3:1.2), and Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. 3.1.1; 3.24).
     6 These include narrative parables, the baptism of Jesus, the transfiguration, the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the “kingdom of God” theme, and many of Jesus’ sayings. John may have been familiar with the other Gospels and chose to augment their accounts rather than reproduce them.
     7 Unique to John are the prologue (1:1-18), Jesus’ encounters with Nicodemus (chap. 3) and the Samaritan woman (chap. 4), the adulteress narrative (chap. 8), the raising of Lazarus (chap. 11), the washing of the disciples’ feet (chap. 13), several post-resurrection episodes (chaps. 20-21); discourses about eternal life (chap. 3), living water (chap. 4), manna from heaven (chap. 6), the good shepherd (chap. 10), the resurrection and the life (chap. 11), the farewell discourse (chaps. 14-17); the “I am” declarations (6:35, 41; 8:58; etc.).

*Prepared for the 2016 Spanish-English Workshop at North Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, TN.

Related articles: Richard Mansel's Understanding the Gospel of John

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Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Jesus’ Ethical Dilemma, the Sabbath Law, and Mark’s Historical Blunder?

     Did the disciples of Jesus violate the Sabbath law with the Lord’s approval? Does Jesus teach that the end justifies the means, condoning situation ethics? Did he (and/or Mark) make a factual mistake by naming Abiathar as high priest, even though Abiathar was not high priest at the time of the recounted incident? Was Sabbath observance intended for all of mankind?
Divine Law and Situation Ethics
     The Law of Moses permitted hungry travellers to help themselves to grain fields (Deut. 23:25), while it prohibited reaping on the Sabbath (Exod. 34:21). There is a big difference between plucking grain by hand and using a sickle or other harvesting tools. Rather than defending situation ethics, the example of David (cf. 1 Sam. 21:1-6) is more likely employed to demonstrate the inconsistency of the Pharisees. They accepted David for doing what was unlawful, while condemning Christ and his disciples for doing what was legally permissible. Jesus merely asks a thought-provoking question and leaves the judgment to his critics. This is not a legitimate proof-text for advocating situation ethics.
Historical Blunder?
     Mark is the only synoptic writer to include the name of Abiathar in this account, but there are variations among manuscripts: “in the days [time] of Abiathar the high priest” (ESV, NASB, NKJV) vs. “when Abiathar was high priest” (ASV, N/RSV). While the incident did occur in the days of Abiathar, his father Ahimelech was actually the recognized high priest at the time. As a prolepsis1 this would simply describe Abiathar as he was known when the reference was made, and it is certainly plausible that he was present on this occasion with his father. Ahimelech was killed soon afterwards, and Abiathar was then appointed high priest (1 Sam. 22:17-21). There is no historical blunder here.
The Perpetual Sabbath Law?
     Only Mark records the following words of Christ, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” The obvious point is that God’s regulations were never intended to be harmful or burdensome but to benefit those subject to them (cf. Deut. 10:13; 12:28; 1 John 5:3). Jesus, as “Lord of the Sabbath” (v. 28; cf. Matt. 12:8; Luke 6:5), had the knowledge and authority to discern how divine laws were to be observed, particularly with respect to blessing others (cf. Mark 3:1-6).
     This affirmation, however, does not suggest that the 7th-day Sabbath law was instituted for all men everywhere of all time. Contextually Jesus is speaking directly to Pharisees (ethnic/religious Jews) still subject to the old covenant system of Moses. The context qualifies this seemingly general reference as applicable to Israelites amenable to Sabbath legislation under Mosaic Law (Ex. 16:9, 23-26; 20:2, 8-11; Deut. 5:1-15). It is no more universal than the Lord’s observation in Mark 7:7-8, where the commandments and traditions of men advocated by the Pharisees were merely those of their fellow countrymen, not of all mankind. The sense of Mark 9:31 is not that Christ was betrayed into the hands of all men everywhere but only those stipulated by the action described. Not every man universally is joined to or separated from a wife (Mark 10:7, 9) or creates images of false gods (Acts 17:29), but only those to whom the general allusion applies.2
     The 7th-day Sabbath law was part of the old covenant of the Jews mediated through Moses (Deut. 4:13; 5:1-15; cf. Jer. 31:31-34), and these pre-christian regulations were in force until Jesus died on the cross (Col. 2:13-17). The new covenant of Christ, void of any Sabbath legislation, has now superseded the obsolete arrangement of ancient Judaism (Heb. 8:6-13; 10:9; cf. 2 Cor. 3:6-14).
     Regardless of the unwarranted accusations of the Pharisees, the Lord’s Jewish disciples did not violate the Hebrew Sabbath law. Although modern-day critics would like to contend otherwise, Christ did not condone disobedience to God’s commands, and he did not teach or justify situation ethics. Contrary to the ardent claims of antibiblicists, neither Jesus nor Mark were ignorant of the biblical/historical record and did not convey false information. Despite the misconceptions of our sabbatarian neighbors, the 7th-day Sabbath law was limited to the old covenant of the Jews and intended to be a blessing for those amenable to it, particularly the liberated Jewish slaves of Egypt (Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:15). The Lord’s new and better covenant does not include this Hebraic convention.
     When an isolated text of scripture prompts challenging questions, let us not jump to hasty conclusions or buy into the prejudicial assumptions of skeptics and pseudo-religionists. All the facts should be carefully and honestly evaluated. The conclusion of our current investigation, despite ill-informed claims to the contrary, is that the integrity of the Bible and a coherent understanding of its message remain intact.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 A prolepsis is a literary device that depicts something as having existed or occurred before it actually did (e.g. Mark 11:1-2; 12:3). A modern-day example would be, “When President Lincoln was a young boy …”
     2 Compare also Matt. 10:17; 23:4, 5, 7; Luke 2:52; 6:22; John 2:10; 2 Cor. 3:2; et al.

Related Posts:

Related articles: Wayne Jackson's Should Christians Keep the Sabbath?

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