Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Who Were the Antediluvian Nephilim?

In Genesis 6:1-4, prior to the Flood of Noah’s day, did heavenly or fallen angels cohabit with women on earth to produce an angelic-human hybrid race of giants?

This passage was originally written in the Hebrew language, and the precise meaning of the Hebrew term nephilim is unclear. Some English translators have rendered the word “giants” (GNT, N/KJV), probably influenced by the LXX and the Latin Vulgate. Most other English versions simply transliterate the term, “the Nephilim.” 

In the broader context, the lineage of Adam is traced through his sons Cain and Seth (Gen. 4:16–5:32). The development of godless civilization emanates from Cain, who “went out from the presence of Yahweh …” (4:16), compared to Seth and his progeny who “began to call on the name of Yahweh” (4:26).1


In chap. 6 the “men” and the “daughters of men” are contrasted with the “sons of God” (vv. 1-2). Nothing is said here about angels or other spirit beings. In fact, Jesus alludes to “those before the flood … marrying and giving in marriage” (Matt. 24:38), while also affirming that angels do not marry (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25). In view of the future resurrection and in contrast to the “sons of this age,” the Lord compares angels, who are not subject to death, to “sons of the resurrection” who are also called “sons of God” (Luke 20:34-36). 


In the ancient Near East the word “son” was commonly used to describe one’s character, disposition, nature, or conduct (e.g. Judg. 19:22; 1 Sam. 2:12; Psa. 29:1; 89:6, 22; Isa. 57:3; Mark 3:17; John 8:33; Acts 13:10). The righteous people of God are therefore “sons of God” (Matt. 5:9; Rom. 8:14, 19; 9:26; Gal. 3:26; 4:6)


In the context of Genesis 6, the “sons of God” appear to be the godly descendants of Seth, while the “men” and their “daughters” are the worldly (godless) descendants of Cain. In a patriarchal society, where males are dominant and in control, marriage is typically initiated by the males (cf. Gen. 4:19; 6:18; Ezra 9:2, 12; Neh. 10:30; etc.). The otherwise righteous “sons of God” made the foolish choice of seeking wives among the godless “daughters of men” (cp. Deut. 7:3-4; 1 Kings 11:1-4), whose offspring became mighty, valiant men of renown (Gen. 6:4b).


The nephilim (v. 4a) are not said to have been the offspring of anyone in particular. Rather, they were already existing “in those days” before the sons of God took wives among the daughters of men. Adam, through multiple other children (Gen. 5:4), had more descendants than just those of Cain and Seth. 


The word nephilim here is probably descriptive of a violent, tyrannical, oppressive people,presumably of imposing stature and strength (cp. Num. 13:33). When the Sethite sons of God and the Cainite daughters of men reproduced, their offspring were more refined than the nephilim but apparently got caught up in their wicked ways. “And Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth …” (Gen. 6:5), eventually bringing about the global flood (vv. 7ff.). 


The long-held belief that angelic beings mated with earthly women, producing a race of superhuman giants, is based more on imaginative misinterpretation than solid biblical exegesis. The overarching lesson here is the spiritual danger and devastating consequences of the righteous people of God flirting with and commingling with those uncommitted to the loftier ways of the Lord (cf. Gen. 24:3; 28:1; 2 Cor. 6:14-18). 


--Kevin L. Moore


Endnotes:

     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.

     2 Fred R. Coulter’s A Faithful Version renders the word “tyrants,” while Young’s Literal Translation reads “the fallen ones.”

 

Related PostsHow Are All Christians "Sons" of God?Premarital DecisionsHam's Sin & Curse

 

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Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Worthy But Not Chosen (Part 2): Judas Barsabbas


Two men in the biblical record are called Barsabbas, viz. Joseph Barsabbas Justus, briefly considered for the apostleship but passed over (Acts 1:23-26), and Judas Barsabbas (Acts 15:22-33), the focus of our current study. The compound designator Barsabbas begins with the Aramaic prefix Bar-, signifying a “son.” Whether the name connects these men fraternally or they shared in common another distinctive attribute cannot be confirmed with certainty (see
 previous post).

The name Judas is the Anglicized form of the Greek Ἰούδας [Ioúdas], from the Hebrew יְהוּדָה[Yehûdâh], meaning “Yahweh is praised.” First given to the fourth son of Jacob and Leah (Gen. 29:35), at least nine persons recorded in the NT were known by this name (Matt. 10:4; 13:55; Luke 3:26, 30, 33; 6:16; John 14:22; Acts 5:37; 9:11; 15:22). Perhaps it was popular among 1st-century Palestinian Jews because of the lingering influence of the celebrated leader of the 2nd-century BC Maccabean revolution, Judas Maccabeus.

Introducing Judas Barsabbas

Judas Barsabbas is introduced in the 15th chapter of Acts, where he participates in the meeting of the Jerusalem elders and apostles addressing the circumcision controversy that plagued the early church. He had obviously been involved in the Lord’s work for some time, as he is mentioned along with Silas as “leading men among the brothers” (v. 22b),presumably part of the eldership. Being a recognized leader in a congregation that has apostles and elders is noteworthy. As he is paired with Silas, his name always appears first (vv. 22, 27, 32), which may suggest some degree of prominence.

After reaching a consensus under the Holy Spirit’s guidance (v. 28), it was determined that Judas Barsabbas and Silas would put the decision into writing on the group’s behalf (vv. 22-23). The aorist participle γράψαντες [grápsantes], from the verbal γράφω [gráphō, to “write”], means these men “wrote” the document (ASV, ERV, HCSB, ISV, N/KJV, WEB),although a number of English translations have curiously rendered it “sent” (ESV, NASB, NET, NIV, N/RSV). Granted, they were the letter-carriers (vv. 22a, 27), but someone had to do the writing, and the actual wording of Luke’s historical record identifies them as the designated scribes. 

Comparatively few in ancient eastern and Greco-Roman societies were proficient in writing, even among the educated. In the predominantly oral cultures of the Mediterranean world, the customary procedure was to verbally dictate information to a trained amanuensis (secretary) who was responsible for putting it into writing. Baruch wrote for Jeremiah (Jer. 36:1-32), Tertius wrote for Paul (Rom. 16:22), and Silvanus wrote for Peter (1 Pet. 5:12). If multiple copies of the Jerusalem-conference letter were needed to send to multiple congregations (cf. Acts 15:23, 30, 41; 16:4), multiple penmen would be practical. Judas Barsabbas appears to have been recognized, along with Silas, as a skilled writer.

Both men had earned the confidence of the other leaders to represent the group and accompany Paul and Barnabas (themselves highly esteemed) to hand-deliver and publicly read the inspired directives (vv. 25-27, 31). The first stop was Antioch, where the controversy began, while the surrounding region of Syria and neighboring Cilicia were included as well (vv. 23, 30). Judas Barsabbas and Silas are then identified as “prophets” who gave additional instruction as “they, with much discourse, edified and strengthened the brethren” (v. 32). Paul would later write, “but the one prophesying speaks edification and encouragement and comfort to people …. [and] edifies the church” (1 Cor. 14:3, 4). 

From this handful of verses in Acts 15 we learn that Judas Barsabbas was a leader among leaders, a proficient writer, an inspired prophet, and a capable teacher and encourager. What an impressive résumé. Through such gifted servants the Lord effectively accomplished what Paul and Barnabas were unable to do themselves (v. 2). 

What Happened to Judas Barsabbas?

Following his successful teaching and edification campaign, Judas Barsabbas returned to Jerusalem (Acts 15:33), and this is the last we hear of him. He may have spent the rest of his life as a leader in the Jerusalem church, at least until mid-70,3  which is of no minor significance (cf. Acts 16:4; 21:18). But when the apostle Paul parted ways with his mentor Barnabas and needed a new missionary partner, he picked Silas. Judas Barsabbas was not the one invited to join the mission team (Acts 15:36-41), even though he seems to have been just as (if not more) qualified as his colleague Silas.

Unlike so many other NT characters, no extra-biblical traditions concerning Judas Barsabbas have been preserved. What, then, do we know of him and can we learn from him?

·      He did not shy away from controversy. 

·      He taught the revealed will of God, even on controversial issues, in a positive, encouraging manner.

·      He understood and taught, long before Paul sent his letter to the Galatians, that being right with God is only possible through adherence to Jesus Christ rather than trusting in the ritualistic works of the old Jewish law (Gal. 2:16). 

·      He did not take liberties with God’s word; where there was “no such commandment” (Acts 15:24), he did not teach or practice something without divine authorization.

·      He was not a lone maverick but worked in partnership with others.

·      He did not allow the superficial barriers of race and culture that divide the world to dictate or hinder his associations and ministerial service.

·      He used whatever talents he had in the Lord’s work.

Conclusion

While the two men in the Bible called Barsabbas may or may not have been biological brothers, they were nonetheless brothers in Christ. Beyond wearing the same distinguishing moniker, they shared other things in common. Each was known by multiple names. Each was paired with someone identified by a single name. Each is listed first, before his partner. Despite being well qualified, neither was chosen for a lofty assignment that was instead given to his colleague. The entirety of what we know about either of these men from the biblical record is faithfulness to the Lord. Although Judas Barsabbas missed out on the opportunity to teach God’s word in Philippi, he is implicitly included in Paul’s instruction to these brethren, “be joint imitators of me, and observe those so walking, as you have us as a pattern” (Phil. 3:17).

--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:

     1 Unless noted otherwise, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.

     2 Cf. Acts 1:20; 7:42; 13:29, 33; 15:15; 18:27; 23:5, 25; 24:14; 25:26.

     3 When Jerusalem was besieged by the Romans and later fell in the summer of 70, Christians purportedly fled eastward to Pella (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.5.3).

Related Posts: Part 1: Joseph Barsabbas JustusSilas/Silvanus

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Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Worthy But Not Chosen (Part 1): Joseph Barsabbas Justus


Two individuals in the NT are called Barsabbas (variant spelling Barsabas).1 This is not a personal name but a supplemental descriptor ascribed to Joseph Barsabbas Justus (Acts 1:23) and Judas Barsabbas (Acts 15:22). The names Joseph and Judas are Hebraic, common among ethnic Jews in antiquity, while Justus is of Latin origin.

 

The Aramaic prefix בַּר [bar], meaning “son,” is used to form an identifying moniker that helps differentiate among those who share the same personal name in Aramaic-speaking environments (e.g. Bartholomew, Bartimaeus, Barnabas, etc.).2 A patronymic or patronym, from the Greek πατήρ [patēr, “father”] + ὄνομα [ónoma,  “name”], is a designation usually derived from one’s father, other male ancestor, or a distinctive feature. In Latin circles, a cognomen (nickname) is added to one’s praenomen (given name) and nomen (family name).

 

While the function of the prefix Bar- is to designate a “son,” the question is whose son? One possibility is the Greek name  Σάββας [Sabbas, or a variant form], of Hebrew or Aramaic derivation, meaning “elder” or “old man.” If this alludes to the father of each of these men, Joseph and Judas may have been brothers.3 Alternatively, the Aramaic שַׁבְּתָא [šabbṯā, “sabbath”] would be applicable to a son of [the] sabbath, referring to one in a Jewish context born on the 7th day of the week, thus descriptive rather than showing paternal linkage.4

 

Introducing Joseph Barsabbas Justus

 

Not long after the Lord’s ascension into heaven and prior to the establishment of his church, in view of Judas Iscariot’s demise and the prophetic petition of Psalm 109:8, it was necessary to fill the apostolic void. Two prospects were put forward for consideration: Matthias and a man called Joseph (Acts 1:23).

 

To distinguish this particular Joseph from so many others with the same name,5 he is also called Justus, a Latin cognomen descriptive of a person of integrity, one who is just or fair.Not only is this indicative of his noble character, it also reveals his association with and influence from Romanized society. The Romans had been in control of Judea for decades.Having more than one ethnic name was not uncommon during this period (Acts 9:36; 12:12; 13:6-9; etc.), making it easier to function in the Jewish, Roman, and Hellenistic worlds. 

 

Seeing that the names Joseph (in Jewish society) and Justus (in Roman society) were fairly common, the appellation Barsabbas was also added. It is interesting that he is listed first, before the other prospective apostle, and all three of his names are given in contrast to the single name of Matthias. This might suggest he was the more prominent figure in the local community, with higher standing among the brethren.

 

Conversely, from the standpoint of Luke’s original readership, recording the single name of Matthias would be sufficient if he were the better known to them.8 Although neither is mentioned again by name beyond this text, whenever “the apostles” are collectively referenced in the documented history of the early church, Matthias is implicitly included.9

 

What Happened to Joseph Barsabbas Justus?

 

Joseph Barsabbas Justus was gathered with about 120 fellow believers in Jerusalem after Christ’s ascension and a few days before Pentecost. He had been a devoted follower of Jesus since the time of John the baptizer’s ministry and was an eyewitness of the risen Lord (Acts 1:15-22). He and Matthias were purportedly among the seventy or seventy-two10 disciples of Luke 10:1-17, according to the 4th-century historian Eusebius of Caesarea, based on sources available to him at the time (Eccl. Hist. 1.12.3).11

 

In finding a replacement for Judas Iscariot, seeing that the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out (Acts 1:2-5), the group of disciples nominated candidates and left it to the Lord to providentially make the selection. It would appear that only two were qualified.12 The casting of lots on this occasion was not a mere game of blind chance but the means through which the Lord was to make his decision known. Although the name of Joseph Barsabbas Justus was submitted first, the second nominee got picked (vv. 23-26). 

 

Joseph Barsabbas Justus was not being spurned by the congregation or by the apostles. It was the Lord himself who skipped over him in deference to another. In the biblical record nothing else is known of him outside the present text. He is simply remembered as the one not having been chosen by the Lord. 

 

Since he was not counted as one of the 12 apostles (Acts 1:26), when persecution later forced “all” the disciples to flee from Jerusalem “except the apostles” (Acts 8:1), he was most likely among the exiles. Later tradition places him in the village of Beth Gabra (a.k.a. Beth Gubrin or Betaris) about 33 miles (53 km) southwest of Jerusalem in the Judean foothills. As Flavius Josephus recounts, in the year 68 during the Jewish War, Vespasian killed more than 10,000 inhabitants of this and a neighboring village, enslaved over 1,000, and expelled the rest (Wars 4.8.1). Joseph Barsabbas Justus reportedly died as a martyr.

 

Other Traditions

 

In the account of Paul’s martyrdom in the 2nd-century pseudepigraphal Acts of PaulBarsabbas Justus was among those imprisoned by Nero but released when the ruthless emperor saw a post-mortem appearance of the apostle.13 Papias of Hierapolis (ca. 60-140) claims to have learned from the daughters of the apostle Philip that Justus Barsabas, “though he drank a deadly poison, experienced nothing injurious through the grace of the Lord” (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39.9-10).

 

Venerated in some religious circles as Saint Justus of Eleutheropolis, he allegedly became bishop of Eleutheropolis (modern-day Beit Jibrin) after leaving Jerusalem. However, the Romans did not name the city Eleutheropolis (“Free City”) until the early third century, and its first historical bishop only dates back to the 4th century. While the anachronistic filter of Roman Catholic historians has no doubt distorted the seeds of historical truth, it is plausible that he was among a plurality of ἐπισκόποι  [episkópoi, “overseers”] in the local church.

 

Conclusion

 

What an honor it must have been for Joseph Barsabbas Justus to be considered by his peers and prospective colleagues as worthy of the apostleship, only to be denied by the Lord. Was the public rejection an embarrassment? Did he feel dejected, or was he relieved? As dedicated, qualified, and capable as he appears to have been, it was apparently not meant to be. 

 

Each of us has likely experienced at certain stages of life having been overlooked, turned down, or passed over. The story of Joseph Barsabbas Justus teaches us that not being picked for one thing frees us up for other opportunities. In fact, God often has something much better in store (cf. Jer. 29:11-13). His purpose and plans are far beyond our short-sighted human reasoning (1 Sam. 16:7; Isa. 55:8-9), so trusting him is the best antidote for rejection and disappointment (Prov. 3:5-6; 2 Cor. 3:4-5).

 

Not everyone can be an apostle, or fill other important positions in the church, but every member of the body is necessary and has a valuable contribution to make (1 Cor. 12:12-31). While others walked away from the Lord because of hard teachings and hard times (John 6:60-66), Joseph Barsabbas Justus remained loyal. The variety of names by which he was known indicates his willingness to adapt to his surroundings to broaden his influence as an ambassador of Jesus (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-22).

 

Despite not being chosen to serve as an apostolic leader, he was still counted among the Lord’s chosen, as are all faithful followers of Christ (Col. 3:12; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 17:14). Let us learn from this humble servant to eagerly look for other doors of opportunity when the anticipated ones slam shut.

 

--Kevin L. Moore

 

Endnotes:

     1 With textual variation in spelling, the favored reading seems to be Βαρσαββᾶς. See B. M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek NT, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart: GBS, 1994): 384. The Byzantine Majority Text is split between Βαρσαβᾶς (Acts 1:23) and Βαρσαββᾶς (Acts 15:22), the Textus Receptus reads Βαρσαβᾶς in each passage, while the NA/UBS reading is Βαρσαββᾶς in both.

     2 See K. L. Moore, “The Aramaic Patronymic Bar-,” Moore Perspective (29 May 2015), <Link>.

     3 The names Joseph Barsabbas (Acts 1:23), Joseph Barnabas (Acts 4:36), and Judas Barsabbas (Acts 15:22) are different enough to preclude identifying these men as the same person. 

     4 See F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, Rev. Ed. NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988): 46 n. 75. A. Barnes posits as alternative renderings, “an oath, rest, quiet, or captivity,” but thinks Barsabbas was probably a family name and is open to the possibility that Joseph and Judas were brothers or even the same person (Notes on the NT, ed. I. Cobbin [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1980]: 375, 472).

     5 The Hebrew name יוֹסֵף [Yosef], meaning “he increases,” and its Greek counterpart Ἰωσήφ [Iōsēph] or alternative Ἰωσῆς [Iōsēs], is applied to multiple persons in the biblical record (Gen. 30:24; 1 Chron. 25:2; Ezra 10:42; Neh. 12:14; Matt. 1:16; 13:55; 27:57; Luke 3:24, 26, 30; Acts 1:23; 4:36).

     6 This was not a proper surname (suggested by N/KJV) but something he was simply “called” (employing the verbal ἐπικαλέω). Three different men in the NT are referred to as Justus (Acts 1:23; 18:7; Col. 4:11). The third son of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also wore this moniker, as did a rival of Josephus and associate of Herod Agrippa II, the historian Justus of Tiberias. In the Jewish catacombs of Rome this was a not an uncommon name. The Lord’s brother James was called “the Just” because his “elevated virtue and piety was deemed the most just of men” (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.23.1-4). A number of others in history wore this epithet as well.

     7 See K. L. Moore, “Historical Background (Part 3): Roman Period,” Moore Perspective (26 March 2019), <Link>.

     8 The name Ματθίας [Matthías] (Acts 1:23, 26) is a shortened form of Ματταθίας [Mattathías] (Luke 3:25-26) and variant of Ματθαῖος [Matthaîos] (Matt. 10:3; Acts 1:13), the Greek version of the Hebrew מַתַּנְיָה [Mattanyā́hū] (2 Kings 24:17; 1 Chron. 9:15; 25:4, 16; 2 Chron. 20:14; 29:13; Ezra 10:26, 27, 30, 37; Neh. 11:17, 22; 12:8, 25, 35; 13:13), or variant forms (1 Chron. 9:31; 15:18, 21; 16:5; 25:3, 21; Ezra 10:43; Neh. 8:4), meaning “gift of Yahweh.”

     9 See K. L. Moore, “Matthias: the Forgotten Apostle,” Moore Perspective (12 July 2013), <Link>.

     10 The stated number is fairly evenly divided in the manuscript evidence between seventy and seventy-two (Luke 10:1, 17). Seventy could be a rounded-off figure, as well as having greater symbolic, historical, and traditional significance. While the correct reading may be “impossible to decide” (N. Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke NICNT [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993]: 303 n. 2), there seems to be more scholarly support for seventy-two. See P. W. Comfort, A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Texts of the NT (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2015): 220-21; also B. M. Metzger, op. cit. (with added comment by Kurt Aland): 126-27.

     11 It has been suggested that Joseph Barsabbas Justus might have been a half-brother of Jesus, along with James, Judas, and Simon (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3), through an alleged previous marriage of Salome and Jesus’ step-father Joseph. On the unlikelihood of this connection, see K. L. Moore, “Harmonizing Luke and Paul (Part 1),” Moore Perspective (12 August 2015), <Link>.

     12 “Each man’s life, to date, was his resume” (John Staiger, “Bible Profiles: Matthias and Barabbas,” Facebook, 28 Sept. 2020).

     13 See M. R. James, “The Acts of Paul,” in The Apocryphal NT (Oxford: Clarendon, 1924), <Link>.

 

Related PostsWorthy But Not Chosen (Part 2): Judas Barsabbas

 

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Wednesday, 9 September 2020

The Devil's Names


Various monikers are applied in the biblical record to the supreme villain historically recognized as God’s archenemy. Within a single block of text the wily antagonist is referred to in three different ways (Matt. 4:1, 3, 10), with other labels used elsewhere in scripture. What can we learn by examining these and other descriptive expressions? 

THE SATAN


Occurring fifty-five times in the English Bible,1 the most common moniker of this notorious character is “Satan.” The term is of Hebrew derivation, usually employed with the mostly-untranslated definite article, meaning “the adversary” or “the enemy.”2 While the Lord’s people have always faced any number of hostile foes (Ex. 23:22; Psa. 27:12; 1 Cor. 16:9; et al.), one stands above all others as “the Enemy.” 


In Job 1–2 the Satan moves through the earth attempting to turn the righteous against God (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8). A prominent instrument in his attacks is the enigmatic “man of lawlessness,”operating “according to the working of the Satan in all power and signs and wonders of falsehood” (2 Thess. 2:9). Paul was commissioned to help sinners turn “from the power of the Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).


The young church at Thessalonica was told that Paul and his coworkers wanted to revisit them on multiple occasions, but “the Satan hindered us” (1 Thess. 2:18), probably by way of corrupt human agency (Acts 17:5-9)The apostle describes his troublesome “thorn in the flesh” as “a messenger of Satan” (2 Cor. 12:7).4 In 1 Timothy 5:14-15 the Christian widow can be distracted by tō antikeimēnō (“the opposing [one]”), parallel to “the Satan.” 


Paul emphasizes the importance of forgiving one another, “lest we should be outwitted by the Satan; for we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). One of these malevolent schemes is deceit, “for the Satan transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). 


THE DEVIL


The word “devil,” absent from the OT, is translated from the Greek diábolos, meaning “slanderer.” Almost always preceded by the article, it identifies “the Slanderer” (above all others). Mark is the only NT author not to employ the expression, occurring elsewhere thirty-five times.5


The label is comparable to blasphēmíin reference to one who utters abusive or blasphemous language (cf. Jude 8-10). Implicit in its usage is evil intent, prompting malicious and deceptive words and actions (John 8:44; Rev. 12:9). The devil is not one to build up in a positive way but is the ultimate denigrator. 


To use hurtful, vindictive, and slanderous speech is to be like the devil. This is an age-old human problem (Psa. 50:20; Prov. 10:18), not only against God’s people (2 Cor. 6:8; Rev. 2:9) but even among God’s people (2 Cor. 12:20; 1 Tim. 6:4). Proceeding from a sinful heart (Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21-22), such disparaging talk is to be put away from the committed follower of Jesus (Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8). 


The power of death and consequent fear were exploited by the devil until snatched from his grasp through Christ’s sacrificial death (Heb. 2:14-15). Unfortunately many have succumbed to “the snare of the devil, having been captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:26; cf. 1 Tim. 3:7). Though not always easy (cf. Jas. 3:2-18), the Lord has provided the spiritual resources necessary to stand against the devil’s destructive ploys (Eph. 6:10-11). By resisting him with a solid faith in submission to God’s mighty power, the cowardly bully is successfully repelled (Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 2:1; 5:6-9).


THE TEMPTER


Twice in the NT the infamous being is described as ho peirázōn (Matt. 4:3; 1 Thess. 3:5), meaning “the [one] tempting,” or “the tempting [one].” This is an articular (specifying one in particular) present active participle, conveying persistent, ongoing action. Most English translations render the expression, “the tempter.” In Luke’s account of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, the devil departs from him “until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13), implying continued effort. The verbal peirá (to “tempt” or “entice to sin”) is used in 1 Thess. 3:5 to describe the devil’s principal activity (cf. 1 Cor. 7:5; Gal. 6:1).  


While everyone is the tempter’s target, those who constantly capitulate also become his agents (cf. John 8:44; 2 Cor. 11:15). The tempter does not and cannot force anyone to do anything against his or her own will. Rather, “one is tempted, being lured and enticed, by one’s own desire” (Jas. 1:14). Nonetheless, with the Lord’s help temptation can be endured (1:12) and the tempter resisted (4:7), so “do not be deceived” (1:16). 


“Therefore the one supposing to stand, look that he does not fall. No temptation has seized you but what is commonly human; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power, but will provide with the temptation also the escape to be able to endure” (1 Cor. 10:12-13).


RULER OF THIS WORLD / GOD OF THIS AGE


To call him the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4a; cf. Eph. 2:2) is simply to acknowledge his powerful influence in the present physical realm (Gal. 1:4; cf. 1 Cor. 1:20; 2:6, 8; 2 Tim. 4:10; 1 John 5:19). His power, however, is relative and certainly not absolute. In fact, it is more apparent than real. God alone is “the king of the ages” (1 Tim. 1:17). 


OTHER DESCRIPTIVE LABELS


He is also called “the evil one” (Matt. 19:13; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John 5:19) and “the ruler of the demons” (Matt. 9:34). His craftiness and menacing exploits are highlighted in the metaphorical descriptions, “the dragon, the ancient serpent”  (Rev. 20:2; cf. Gen. 3:1-14). Seven times in the NT the name “Beelzebub” or “Beelzebul” is applied (Matt. 10:25; 12:24, 27; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15-19), historically attributed to a Philistine god, the lord of the flies. Only once in the NT we find “Belial” or “Beliar” (2 Cor. 6:15),6 the origin of which is uncertain but contextually stands opposed to “Christ” and recognized as one of the devil’s names.


Many have assumed the name “Lucifer” applies to the devil, based on Isa. 14:12 ff. (N/KJV). However, the context concerns the fall of the Babylonian king (v. 4), using highly symbolic imagery. The Hebrew helel simply means “shining one” or “morning star,” with its Latin counterpart luciferus, “bringer of light.” This is not a proper name of the devil but descriptive of Babylon’s arrogant monarch.


CONCLUSION


The various descriptive terms applied to the ultimate antagonist remind us he is real, make us aware of his power and influence, and warn us not to take him lightly. At the same time, we must never lose sight of the fact that God is more powerful and has provided the tools we need to successfully conquer the devil in our lives.


--Kevin L. Moore


Endnotes:

     1 Fourteen times in the OT: 1 Chr. 21:1; Job 1:6, 7, 8, 9, 12; 2:1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7; Zech. 3:1, 2. In the NT forty-one times: Matthew (2x), Mark (5x), Luke’s Gospel (6x), John’s Gospel (1x), Acts (2x), Revelation (7x), and in Paul (10x): Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 5:5; 7:5; 2 Cor. 2:11; 11:14; 12:7; 1 Thess. 2:18; 2 Thess. 2:9; 1 Tim. 1:20; 5:15 (note also Acts 26:18).

     2 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.

     3 This is not necessarily a lone historical figure but is representative of all who attempt to lead into apostasy those who can collectively be described as “the man of God” (2 Tim. 3:16). See K. L. Moore, “The Man of Lawlessness” (Part 1),” Moore Perspective (12 July 2017), <Link>, and accompanying links.

     4 See K. L. Moore, “Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh,” Moore Perspective (14 Sept. 2016), <Link>.

     5 Matthew (6x), Luke’s Gospel (6x), John’s Gospel (3x), Acts (2x), Paul (8x), Hebrews (1x), James (1x), Peter (1x), 1st John (2x), Jude (1x), Revelation (4x). Having contributed more documents to the NT than any other inspired writer, Paul uses this term the most (Eph. 4:27; 6:11; 1 Tim. 3:6, 7, 11; 2 Tim. 2:26; 3:3; Tit. 2:3).

     6 Various spellings occur in extant manuscripts, including Beliar, Belial, Belian, and Beliab.

 

*Adapted from a lesson presented at Middleton church of Christ 11th March 2020. 

 

Related PostsSatan's Fall? 

 

Related articlesMatthew J. Phillips, Development of the Ancient Israelite Belief in Satan as a Schema for Dating OT Passages, M.A. Thesis (Charles Town, WV: American Public University System, 2015), <Link>.

 

Image credit: https://reason.com/podcast/hail-satan-a-new-documentary-shows-devil-worshipers-are-unlikely-defenders-of-the-first-amendment/

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Questions About Biblical Miracles (Part 4): Since we should not test God (Matt. 4:7), if people are claiming to work miracles by the power of God, is it wrong to demand proof?

There is a big difference between testing God and testing people. The Lord commands us: “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21); “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Pharaoh’s magicians were put to the test, and they failed (Ex. 8:18-19); Baal’s prophets were put to the test, and they failed (1 Kings 18:20-40); Elymas was put to the test, and he failed (Acts 13:6-11); Sceva’s sons were put to the test, and they failed (Acts 19:13-17).  

We are warned of false teachers who will appear to be something they’re not, a number of whom claiming to work miracles in the Lord’s name (Matt. 7:15-23; 24:24). Of course the crucial point is the message they are espousing -- truth or error? Sadly, many who accept the reality of these “miracles” do not know enough about the Bible to discern the message. But if there are those who claim the ability to perform Bible miracles, surely it is right to expect equivalency between what they can actually do and what the Bible says. Can they work a miracle that skeptics are unable to deny? (Acts 4:14-16). Can they, by their miracles, cause unbelievers to turn to the Lord? (Acts 9:33-35). Are the results of their miracles immediateobvious and verifiable? (Luke 4:39; 5:13, 24-25; Acts 3:1-10). Can they perform a miracle even when there is no faith on the part of the recipient? (John 9:1-7, 25, 35-38).  

Instead of limiting these alleged miraculous works to those who already believe, why not use them to convince an unbelieving world? The fact is, no one on earth today can reproduce and confirm an authentic Bible miracle, like raise the dead (Acts 9:36-42), instantaneously cure leprosy (Matt. 8:2-3), heal every sick person in a crowd (Matt. 8:16; 9:35; 12:15; Luke 4:40; 6:17-19; Acts 5:16), walk on water (Matt. 14:24-29), restore severed body parts (Luke 22:50-51), et al. If God has warned us of religious frauds, admonished us to be wise and discerning, commanded us to test all things, and given us His all-sufficient word, then it would be a big mistake not to put these self-proclaimed miracle workers to the test (cf. Rev. 2:2).

-- Kevin L. Moore

*Originally appearing in The Exhorter (April-June 1998).


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Image credit: Adapted from https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/12fb29da-567c-488b-8523-d1f11a79e40c