Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Chronology of Paul’s Writings

Paul was in Corinth Autumn 50 to Spring 52 (cf. Acts 18:2, 11, 12).

è1-2 Thessalonians written late 50/early 51 (cf. 1 Thess. 2:17–3:7).1

Paul was in Ephesus Spring 53 to Spring 56 (cf. Acts 19:1, 8, 10, 22; 20:31; 1 Cor. 16:8).

èGalatians written 53-54?2
èLetter to Corinth written 53-54 (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9), no longer extant.3
è1 Corinthians written early 56 (cf. 1 Cor. 4:19; 16:8).        

Paul was in Macedonia Summer-Autumn 56 (cf. Acts 20:1-2).

è2 Corinthians written mid-late 56 (cf. 2 Cor. 9:2-4).

Paul was in Corinth Winter 56-57 (cf. 1 Cor. 4:18-19; 16:2-7; Acts 20:3).

èRomans written late 56/early 57 (cf. Rom. 15:26; 16:23).

Paul was in Rome Spring 60 to at least Spring 62 (cf. Acts 28:16, 30).

èLetter to the Laodiceans written 60-62? (cf. Col. 4:16), no longer extant.
èColossians written early 62 (cf. Col. 4:18).
èPhilemon written early 62 (cf. Phlm. 1, 9-10).
èPhilippians written early 62 (cf. Phil. 1:12-14; 4:22).4
èEphesians written early 62 (cf. Eph. 3:1; 4:1).

Paul was released from his first Roman imprisonment ca. 62-63 (cf. Phil. 1:19, 25; 2:24; Phlm. 22; 2 Tim. 4:16-17) and traveled  to Macedonia, Ephesus, Crete, Nicopolis (1 Tim. 1:3; 3:14; Tit. 1:5; 3:12).

è1 Timothy written ca. 63-64 (cf. 1 Tim. 1:3; 3:14).
èTitus written ca. 63-64 (cf. Tit. 1:5; 3:12).

Paul’s second Roman imprisonment as early as 64 and no later than 68.

è2 Timothy written ca. 64-65 (cf. 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16).5

--Kevin L. Moore

     1 First Thessalonians was penned not long after the three-man missionary team had departed from Thessalonica (2:17). Although later copyists seem to have amended the text, what many consider to be the better manuscripts of 1 Thess. 1:1 have the abbreviated greeting, “grace to you and peace” (cf. N/ASV), while all other Pauline letters have the added phrase “from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ.” This may suggest that the stereotypical Pauline greeting developed after the earliest letter (1 Thessalonians) had been written. Further, in the opening of 1 and 2 Thessalonians Paul is mentioned only by name with no reference to his apostleship or any other appendage, while in every subsequent correspondence a descriptive designation is added. See The Thessalonian Letters.
     2 This immediately follows a visit to Galatia (Acts 18:23) where Paul would have gained first-hand knowledge of the problems he needed to address in the letter. Moreover, a logical sequence is evident in Paul’s correspondence concerning the collection for the poor in Jerusalem, beginning with his agreement to organize it (Gal. 2:10), followed by more specific instructions and comments (1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8–9; Rom. 15:25-28). There is also a literary affinity between Galatians, on one hand, and 1-2 Corinthians and Romans, on the other (see esp. J. B. Lightfoot, Galatians 40-56; also C. Kruse, 2 Corinthians 45-48), suggesting a comparable time frame. Since the setting of Galatians fits well into the rise of Jewish nationalism during Nero’s reign (cf. B. Reicke, Re-examining Paul’s Letters 13-15), a later date (i.e. 54 or beyond) is possible. A number of scholars, however, date Galatians earlier (cf. M. C. Tenney, New Testament Survey 267-73).
     3 It is possible that the “severe” or “tearful” letter alluded to in 2 Cor. 2:3-9; 7:8-12 is another non-extant Pauline letter, but many equate it with 1 Corinthians while others propose that it comprises 2 Cor. 10–13. See The Missing Letters of Paul.
     4 When Philippians was written Paul seems to have been expecting release from imprisonment (Phil. 1:19, 25; 2:24). Timothy is named in Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon but not in Ephesians, which may suggest that Ephesians was written after Timothy had been sent away (Phil. 2:19-23). See Paul's Prison Epistles.
     5 When 2 Timothy was written Paul appears to have been anticipating death (2 Tim. 4:6-8). According to tradition he was executed during the reign of Nero, who instigated the persecution of Christians in 64 and died in 68.

Related PostsFirst Missionary Journey

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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

What did Paul do in Arabia?

     After his conversion to Christ, the apostle Paul spent the first three years of his Christian life in the Syrian city of Damascus and the adjoining country of Arabia (Acts 9:3-19; Gal. 1:15-18). Arabia was the Roman name of the Nabatean kingdom, ruled for approximately forty-eight years (9 BC – AD 40) by King Aretas IV, mentioned by name in 2 Cor. 11:32.1 During the Middle Nabatean period (30 BC – AD 70) its boundaries fluctuated but would have included what is today known as the Sinai, the Negev, the east side of the Jordan Valley, much of Jordan, and part of Saudi Arabia (cf. Gal. 4:25). At times it incorporated the cities of the Decapolis and Damascus, and Paul probably did not venture far from Damascus during his time in Arabia. 
     The apostle was in Damascus at least twice: (a) when he was converted to Christianity (Acts 9:8-19), and (b) when he returned from Arabia (Gal. 1:15-17). His initial departure was prompted by a Jewish plot to kill him (Acts 9:23-25), and his second departure was instigated by the governor of Damascus desiring to arrest him (2 Cor. 11:32-33). On both occasions Paul escaped by being let down in a basket through the city wall.
     Whether the apostle (as a young Christian) went to Arabia for a period of isolation and renewal or as a missionary, the biblical record does not say. Neither does it indicate for how much of the three years he was there. But in view of his preaching Christ almost immediately after his conversion (Acts 9:20-22) and subsequently arousing the disfavor of the Nabatean king (2 Cor. 11:32), missionary activity seems likely.
     While in Arabia, Paul may not have been the only disciple of Jesus there. Seeing that Arabian Jews were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost when thousands were converted to Christ (Acts 2:11, 41) and later scattered abroad (Acts 8:4; 11:19), it is certainly plausible that there were fellow Christians in Arabia with whom the apostle worked.
     Whatever Paul did in Arabia, he was no doubt preparing for a lifetime of service as an ambassador of Christ to the Gentile world. While specific details have not been disclosed, we do know the nature of his convictions following that initial encounter with the Lord at Damascus: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of [the other apostles], though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).2
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Phasaelis, the daughter of King Aretas IV, was at one time married to Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great and tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to AD 39. But Antipas divorced her in order to marry Herodias, who had previously been married to his half-brother Philip I (see Josephus, Ant. 18.5.1, 4), and then he beheaded John the baptist when he opposed this unlawful union (Matt. 14:3-12; cf. Luke 3:19-20; 9:9).
     2 Scripture quotations are from the ESV.

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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Story of Young Jacob

     Jacob was one of at least seven children born into a relatively poor family. He was the second oldest, with a significant age gap between him and his older brother. Their father was a hard-working man who took good care of the family but apparently died when Jacob was just a young boy. Jacob and his brothers and sisters were now fatherless, and their widowed mother was left to care for the children on her own.1
You Can’t Choose Your Family
     By default Jacob’s older brother was now the head of the house, with the responsibility of providing for, protecting, and caring for his mother and younger siblings. Under normal circumstances this would have been feasible, but there was a problem. The older brother wasn’t “normal.” He started hanging out with the wrong crowd and developed a questionable reputation. He also had extreme views about religion and politics, consistently going against the flow, rocking the boat, and making people uneasy and often angry.2
     This put a lot of pressure on young Jacob and his family, and they suspected that the older brother might be mentally unstable. He appeared to be trying to make a name for himself, more concerned about his own selfish agenda than about his loved ones and their needs. In fact, it got so bad that the people in their home community threatened his life and ran him out of town, which meant that Jacob and his mother and siblings had to go with him. Through no fault of his own, young Jacob was forced to leave his friends and the only home he had ever known. They ended up living far away in a tiny fishing village, where Jacob didn’t know anyone. His little world had been turned upside down, and it didn’t get any better.3
     The older brother seemed to be getting more radical, generating further controversy and conflict. When Jacob and his family confronted him, letting him know they didn’t accept his unorthodox views or support him in any way, it was to no avail. The family had to move yet again, this time to a big city, which was even more unsettling and traumatic.4 It was here that Jacob’s world came crashing down.
The Life-Changing Event
     Late one afternoon Jacob’s mother came home observably distraught, crying and heart-broken. She brought the tragic news that her oldest son had been violently murdered. Jacob had not only lost a brother, but now he was the oldest among his siblings, which meant that the responsibility of taking care of the family fell on his young shoulders. Since he was still not old enough, they ended up living with a friend of the older brother, who was known for his volatile disposition and bad temper.5 
     While it never got any easier for Jacob, one day something extraordinary happened that changed his life and his perspective forever. He saw his brother – the one who had been killed – alive! How could this be? His own mother had watched him die. But Jacob saw him walking, living, and breathing! It finally occurred to him that his brother wasn’t a freak, a nut case, or as fanatical as so many had assumed. He was exactly who he professed to be all along. Though biologically related through their mother, they didn’t have the same father. As it turns out, Jacob’s older brother was none other than the Son of God!6
     From that day onward Jacob was a loyal disciple, and as he got older he became a prominent leader in the movement his brother had started. He married a believing wife and stayed in Jerusalem for the rest of his life, faithfully teaching and ministering around the region.7 He also produced an inspired manuscript that has been preserved in our New Testament, sandwiched between Hebrews and 1 Peter.
Jacob’s Writing
     The document, originally written in koinē Greek, begins with the author’s self-identification: Ἰάκωβος (Iakōbos) – the Graecized form of the name “Jacob.” This name, however, has been modified through the centuries. The Late Latin Iacomus was a variant form, which passed into Old French and then into English as “James.”8
     In the opening verse, Jacob identifies himself as “a bondservant [doulos] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Jas. 1:1 NKJV). While it would have been legitimate to call attention to the fact that he was a brother [adelphos] of the Lord Jesus Christ, apparently his spiritual relationship was more important to him than his physical connection. Jacob’s younger brother Judas also contributed an inspired manuscript to the New Testament, where he too humbly identifies himself as “a bondservant [doulos] of Jesus Christ ...” (Jude 1).9
     Jacob admonishes his readers: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (Jas. 1:2-3). Notice that he uses the term adelphoi (“brethren” = “brothers and sisters”) to address his reading audience. Seeing that Jacob was the younger brother of Jesus, and he regards his readership as brothers and sisters, in God’s family the Lord Jesus Christ is our older brother too (cf. Heb. 2:9-18).
     From his earliest years Jacob was all too familiar with the “various trials” that accompany living in an imperfect world, so from personal experience he offers a seasoned outlook. One can “count it all joy,” he insists, not because of the unpleasant circumstances but in view of the outcome. Life’s inevitable adversities that test our faith help to produce the perseverance [hupomonē] necessary to face the challenges of this world as dedicated bondservants of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Lessons from Young Jacob’s Life
1. Jesus loves all the children of the world, and Jacob appears to have been the first, even though he didn’t always appreciate it. While there are still many around the globe who don’t know about or care about the love Jesus has for them, this in no way diminishes the fact of his love. Surely everyone deserves a chance to hear about the love of Christ and an opportunity to respond (John 15:13; Mark 16:15).
2. Jacob had a hard life, full of uncertainty and fear. From his youth he was unsettled and displaced, acquainted with hardship and loss. Nevertheless, he eventually learned to “count it all joy” because these various trials produced in him the patient endurance he needed. He now invites us to share this godly perspective (Jas. 1:2-3, 12; 4:10; 5:7-11).
3. There was a period in young Jacob’s life when he was skeptical about his older brother, and at times antagonistic. Nagging doubts are understandable, as long as we remain open to the evidence God has provided through his creation and through his word. “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7).
4. Jacob reached a point in his life that he couldn’t deny the evidence any longer, compelling him to acknowledge his brother as the Lord Jesus Christ. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:29b-31).  
5. While Jacob spent the rest of his life as the Lord’s faithful bondservant, think of all the opportunities he missed during his years of unbelief. The longer one puts off accepting and obeying and serving Christ, the more he/she misses out on what is truly worthwhile (2 Cor. 6:1-2).
     According to tradition, Jacob (a.k.a. James) was killed in the year 62 by hostile Jews who threw him off the pinnacle of the temple and then stoned him (Josephus, Ant. 20.9; Clement of Alexandria, Hist. Eccl. 2.23). Therefore submit to God …. whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (Jas. 4:7a, 14). 
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Matt. 1:24-25; 13:55-56; Mark 4:31; 6:3; cf. Luke 2:22-24.
     2 Matt. 9:10-11; 11:19; Mark 3:22; Luke 4:28; 6:11.
     3 Mark 3:21, 31-35; Luke 4:29, 31; Matt. 4:13; John 2:12.
     4 John 7:1-10; Luke 9:51; cf. Acts 1:14.
     5 John 19:25-27; cf. Mark 3:17; Luke 9:54.
     6 Matt. 1:18-25; 1 Cor. 15:3-7; Jas. 2:1; cf. Rom. 1:4.
     7 Acts 1:14; 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cor. 9:5; Gal. 1:19; 2:9.
     8 See The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed, s.v. James.
     9 See The NT Epistle of Judas.

*Prepared for the Kaitoke NZ Christian Camp 6th June 2016.

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Wednesday, 8 June 2016

If God is so good, why does he allow human suffering?

     There are some things God cannot do. He cannot lie (Titus 1:2), he cannot be tempted by evil (James 1:13), and he cannot do what is logically contradictory or impossible (e.g. make a ‘square circle’). In order to bring about the greatest state of goodness in the world, the Lord had to create some specific goods whose existence necessarily entails the possibility of certain evils. 
     Human beings were designed with the ability to think and the freedom to choose. Although we often take this for granted, anyone who has ever been a slave or a prisoner will tell you that one of the most precious commodities a person can have is freedom. Being a God of love, he does not force us to act against our wills, but grants us freedom.
     The blessing of freedom involves choice, and choice includes not only the possibility of making good decisions but also bad ones. It is impossible for God to have made man a free moral agent and yet take away his capability of making wrong choices. Freedom without choice is a logical contradiction. Now the Lord has given us an instruction manual to guide us in the right direction (2 Tim. 3:16-17), but when people disregard divine directives and make bad decisions, pain and suffering often result. It is man, not God, who has created slavery, whips, bombs, death camps, liquor, pornography, pollution, environmental destruction, and so on. Even natural calamities are ultimately linked to human sin.1 The gift of freedom, when it is misused, accounts for the majority of human misery.
     While the God of the Bible is sovereign (Isa. 46:9-10; Dan. 4:35; Psa. 115:3; 1 Tim. 6:15), this does not mean he can do all things, as noted above (i.e., allow freedom that is not freedom). Neither does it mean he always gets what he wants, e.g., desiring all to be saved, though not all are willing to accept his conditions. God’s grace is available to everyone (Titus 2:11) because he desires all to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4) and is not willing that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9). Nevertheless, a voluntary, free-will response (obedient faith) to the Lord’s gracious offer is required (cf. Matt. 7:21; 23:37; Acts 7:51; Rom. 6:16-18; etc.).
     Most people consider something good if it brings pleasure and bad if it causes pain, but this is shallow and short-sighted. The imperfections of this world serve a purpose in allowing individuals to grow and develop into mature, responsible beings in a way that would otherwise not be possible. “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).2 The Lord’s desire for his creatures seems to be, not the suffering itself, but the positive and beneficial effects.
     Pain, loss, and hardship also help to create an acknowledgment of human weakness and a need for God in one’s life. Pride and arrogance are self-destructive traits (Prov. 16:18), but suffering has a way of helping us put things in perspective. It is said that when a man is flat on his back, the only direction he can look is up. “My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psa. 73:26). Moreover, the suffering we see in the lives of others provides opportunities for compassion and service.
     Life in this physical world is a brief and necessary preparation for eternity. The trials we face help us to avoid complacency and to look forward to that place where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). More than a perfect world, the Lord desires a loving relationship with his creation. Out of suffering, pain, hardship, and loss God can and will accomplish his good purpose (Rom. 8:28-39).
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 See Wayne Jackson’s “Why Do Natural Disasters Happen?” <link>, where he observes: “No wickedness, no Flood. No Flood, no change of earth’s environment. No change of earth’s environment, no geological disasters. Thus, no wickedness, no geological disasters.”
     2 All scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.

Related articles: Dave Miller's Why People Suffer-Part 1, -Part 2, -Part 3; Avery Foley's Why does God allow bad things to happen?; Allen Webster's Why Do Bad Things Happen?

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