Welcome message

Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Saturday, December 21, 2013

When you read "We" don't forget to think "She"

When you read "We" don't forget to think "She"

I personally believe that the New Testament (the 27 books we have in our English Bibles today) were all written in the First Century. This opinion is not one which many modern scholars hold.

There are some exceptions (J.A.T Robinson is one in his book 'Redating the New Testament.'), but most scholars believe that the New Testament came together a long time after all of the letters were written.

Many of us who have grown up in the English speaking world have grown up with the basic understanding that the Bible was written over a 1500 year period by about 30 different men. Yes, this is what we have all been brought up to believe, but I think that if we limit ourselves to this kind of thinking, we may miss out on some opportunities for learning.

Now, in the process of the New Testament coming together, I think that one woman in particular played an important role which is not often recognized. She is a woman we are all familiar with, but after the Gospels, we seem to lose track of her. Who is this woman?

It is Mary, the mother of our Lord.

In the book of Acts, Mary is mentioned only at the very beginning in Acts One. We see at the scene of the crucifixion that Jesus told the apostle John to take care of his mother, Mary, and we understand that this took place. (John 19:26-27)

After Acts though we don't hear from Mary anymore. Or do we?

There is a very interesting passage talking about Mary and I think it is important for a number of reasons. It is found in Luke 2:51. In talking about the experience of Jesus visiting the Temple, Mary is noted as having "treasured up all these things in her heart."

Let's be clear. Mary was one of the most important witnesses to who Christ was and her testimony is an important one.

Do we find Mary's testimony in the Gospel of John?

As I have mentioned, Mary was to become a member of the family of the apostle John. We have four of his books in the New Testament. These are the Gospel and the three epistles of John.
In those books, we have some interesting passages which use the term "we" (not I, as in John himself speaking, but appealing to a group of people).

I personally believe that Mary, who joined the family of John, is included in these witnesses to the truth of the message of Christ. This is a quote from my late father's book "Restoring the Original Bible" (ASK Publications: Portland: OR 1994):

"The best place to start in order to observe this circle of John's helpers is at the very end of John's Gospel. Throughout his twenty-one chapters we find the apostle recording what Christ taught along with John's own comments being given from time to time. But when one reaches John 21:24 (just before the end of the Gospel) there is a remark in the text that interjects what others besides John had to say about the Gospel of John. Notice the verse.

"This is the disciple [John] who bears witness about these things (and WE know that the witness he gives is true)." Notice the abrupt change from the third person singular to the plural. The last part of this verse is introducing further witnesses, other than John (who are identified only by the pronoun "WE")." (Martin, pg. 398)

There are other "we" passages.

"But there is more. The "WE" passages do not stop with the single verse at the end of John's Gospel. They occur elsewhere in John's writings. Notice the short epistle called Third John. John began to speak to a man called Gaius in the first person singular: "I pray that in all things you may be prospering and having good health" (verse 2). Then we find a long string of "I rejoiced" (verse 3), "I am thankful" (verse 4), "I wrote" (verse 9), and "I will call to remembrance" (verse 10). But then, and out of the blue, John introduces a plural intrusion into the text. In this book it says: "in fact, WE also are bearing witness, and you know that the witness WE give is true" (verse 12). Then immediately the context of Third John returns to: "I had many things to write you, yet I do not wish to go on writing you with ink and pen. But I am hoping to see you directly" (verses 13,14)." (ibid. pg. 399)

"There is even more. In John's First Epistle we find the insertion of another "WE section." Notice I John 4:11. After John told his readers that "I am writing" (I John 2:1), followed by further references to "I am writing" or "I write" in verses 7,8,12,13 (three times), 14 (twice) as well as "I write" in verses 21 and 26, there is then interjected into the context: "In addition, WE ourselves have beheld and are bearing witness that the Father has sent forth his Son as Savior of the world." (I John 4:14) (ibid.pg. 400)

This shows, once again, an intrusion into the text. This was a deliberate attempt to interpose the witness of a body of men other than the apostle John. And after these men had their chance to include their witness, we find John returning to his "I write you" motif (I John 5:13). These references indicate that there were other men, clearly known by the original readers of John's Gospel and his First and Third epistles, who wanted to make sure that they also were giving their testimonies to the truth of what John was saying. Scholars are aware that this interjection is the separate witness by John's assistants or editors (Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, vol.I,pp.880,881), but the vast majority of readers of the New Testament simply pass over this reference so quickly that they do not notice the relevance of it." (ibid. pg.402)

Notice an important "WE section" at the very start of John's Gospel.

"And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and WE beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) (ibid. pg.401)

Now here is where I get to disagree with my dad and were he here today, I think he would agree that I have a valid point.

Is it only a "body of men" as my father referred to? I don't think so.

If Mary spent the rest of her life with the apostle John, which there is every indication to believe in the historical records, who would be a more reliable witness to appeal to than the mother of Jesus Christ?

I personally cannot think of one.

So, when you read "we", don't forget to think "She."

I welcome your comment.

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Who are changing their minds on corporal punishment/spanking/smacking and who are not changing their minds concerning this issue?

Who are changing their minds on 
corporal punishment/spanking/smacking

who are not changing their minds concerning this issue?

Over the almost 20 years of studying corporal punishment/smacking/spanking, I have found it very interesting who the people are who are changing their minds concerning this issue. I think looking at who are the people who are really "growing in grace and knowledge" is a very telling fact in this ongoing debate and one which I think speaks volumes concerning who are taking risks for the advancement of knowledge and truth and who are digging their heels in at all costs and resisting change.

The Professors Are Changing Their Minds

Christian Scholars that teach at the university or the graduate level are really on the cutting edge of learning. It is these people who are best positioned to advance knowledge. University or Christian Seminary environments are those in which learning should be advanced, cultivated and new boundaries are to be reached for and bounds of truth tested.

In these types of environments, scholars put forth new ideas for the pitiless criticisms of their peers. They bare their academic souls in the hope that through their willingness to share, learning and truth can be advanced. 

It is then no surprise to us that we have found some of the greatest forwarding thinking academic advances concerning this issue coming out of the higher level of Christian academia.

Two great examples of this are found in Professor William Webb's book "Corporal Punishment in the Bible: A Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic for Troubling Texts."

In this essential book, Professor Webb shows how he (and his wife) changed his mind on the issue of corporal punishment of children. This is exactly what he said. Here is a quote from his own blog:

"Unfortunately, Christians often get stuck in their ability to apply the Bible in today’s world.  It is my hope that Corporal Punishment in the Bible: A Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic for Troubling Texts) will inspire hope and positive dialogue that helps the Christian community move towards something better for our children.  The book outlines how Marilyn (my wife) and I changed our minds about spanking." http://redemptivechristianity.com/?p=198

Hard to make it much clearer. A changed mind! New insights! Leaving a past of incompleteness to a brighter future seeking the direction of truth!

This is so inspiring. It feels right. One wishes to join hands with Prof. and Mrs. Webb as they take us on a journey toward redemption! Professor Webb was not alone in his journey either. He brought someone else along for the ride. In this case, it was someone who, in fact, is so well-known and respected in Christian academic circles. Professor Webb obtained the endorsement of one of the world's most respected and well trusted theologians, Emeritus Professor I. Howard Marshall, whose qualifications place him as one of the deans in the world of Evangelical Christian scholarship.
Dr. I. Howard Marshall, BA (Cambridge), MA, BD, PhD (Aberdeen), DD (Asbury) Emeritus Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Honorary Research Professor; Formerly Chair of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research; President of the British New Testament Society and Chair of the Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians.

Note what Emeritus Professor Marshall said in contributing the foreword to Prof. Webb's book.

"But, where these other works tend to be more academic in their approach, this book has added a nonacademic postscript written at a more down-to-earth level, with abundance of personal insight and experience as well as practical application that parents will find helpful. (I could have profited much from it if it had been published when Joyce and I were bringing up our four children.) Moreover, the approach is conciliatory and gracious toward those who are gently but firmly corrected for not realizing that their approach to Scripture does in fact lead them to move beyond what Scripture says while holding to the supreme authority of Scripture. … And that in its turn will forward what matters most to the author: the development and practice of behavior that is truly biblical and Christian, and so pleasing and glorifying to God as well as commending the gospel to the people.

In short, I enjoyed the book and could not put it down once I started to read it.”

”Foreword - Corporal Punishment and the Bible: A Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic for Troubled Texts - http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/toc/code=2761” – Buy yours here.)
This is a very strong endorsement from Prof. Marshall.  

I have known of the work of Prof. Marshall for over 25 years because I remember my father going to meet him once in the UK. Prof. Marshall was a colleague of several of my dad's other British scholar friends, another Emeritus Professor, the late F.F. Bruce and late Prof. W. H.C. Frend.

What Do The Professors Have In Common?

Now let us make no mistake about this book. It is groundbreaking. It is a major departure from much of what the evangelical world has been saying for the last few hundred years in the Western world. It seeks to distance itself from the past and from old ways of thinking to embrace a new view of this issue and this is what we Christians need from our scholars. We need academic leadership. We need them to change their minds. We need them to repent and say that they don't agree with what they thought in the past. We need to hear them say: "I wish I knew this before because I would have profited from it."

But isn't this how it is supposed to be in our own Christians walks? Yes, I think it is because isn't this what the Bible tells us to do? Here are a couple of texts which I can ask you to think about before deciding for yourself.

"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (II Peter 3:18 ASV) 

"to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;" (Colossians 1:10 ASV)

"But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day." (Proverbs 4:18 RSV)

This is the Gospel that I believe in. It is a Gospel of imperfect people seeking greater levels of truth on the path towards a perfect God. But for some, this is not the Gospel they are pursuing. 

There is another group changing their minds along with some religious scholars: 
Lay people (especially mothers)

In addition religious scholars growing in grace and knowledge, it is apparent to me that lay people are also starting to question the traditional teachings on this issue. This is especially the case for women and even more so for mothers of children who were themselves recipients of corporal punishment. Many mothers have told me that they never felt right about corporal punishment/smacking/spanking. They felt conflicted about it, but did it anyway because they wanted to follow the teachings of God as they best understood them. They were also taught not to trust or listen to their inner voices, intuitions or personal moral compasses.

I have heard from scores of such lay people, especially mothers. I am not alone as the sole voice talking about this issue. I think that Clay Clarkson would agree with me concerning the people he engages with. Lay people (especially women and mothers) are really starting to look at this issue anew and coming to conclusions about it which follow along with what the religious scholars I have herein quoted are suggesting.

If The Professors and Lay People (especially mothers) Are Changing Their Minds, Who Are Not Changing Their Minds?

So, now we have to turn this question about corporal punishment around and ask if highly trained academic theologians are changing their minds and growing in grace and knowledge concerning the issue of corporal punishment of children, who are the people who are not changing their minds?

1. Church Leaders
Concerning the issue of corporal punishment, some Church Leaders are not and will not be changing their minds any time soon. There is a reason for this. The reason is is that these people already know the truth and do not need to grow in grace and knowledge. God has commissioned them to have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help them God! My father talked a little bit about his own experience with these Church Leader types and I think it quite relevant to quote his experience here. 

“And the most resistant of all to the gospel truths are the leaders of denominations, churches, church schools, or church universities.  The hierarchies of the established religions are interested in usually only one thing -- the perpetuation of the cult of traditionalism.  They do not want to know the truth, which will cause them to change their ways.  In other words, they claim in many cases, these leaders of denominations, churches, and schools, and universities, to be the ones who are commissioned by Christ to teach the gospel at this time.     They think that they have an ordained status from God, a ticket from Him, to be able to give the message of the gospel to the world, and they look on all others, even academic leaders and the general public, as not being capable of taking this message of the gospel to anyone.  They feel they are the ones in authority to do it.  And those who accept that type of a belief are the most difficult to reach with the truth.

Now the greatest detriment to bringing forth the new truth are those who are the hierarchical leaders of organized religious organizations.  And if you start to take it to them, I will assure you, in most cases, you are wasting your time.   Don't even take any new truth to religious leaders, that is, a church pastor, or a church administrator.  That doesn't mean that the person is necessarily bad.  No.  It's just that he is resistant to the truth, because he is in a position of authority, to be able to maintain the status quo, or, the traditions that have been given to him by his ancestors, by the authorities who ordained him, or commissioned him by the laying on of the hands in the first place.

He gets his living, his job, his prestige, his money, by being able to perpetuate what they consider to be their denominational creeds.  And if you come along with a new teaching from the Bible, and it's absolutely the truth, still they will resist in most cases.  And why will they do that?  Because you are going counter to the teachings which that denomination, or that church, accepts as their creed which governs the lives and the thinking processes of their people.” (Ernest L. Martin – “Principles for Gospel Teaching”: Audio Cassette Message: ASK Publications: 1990)

Let us understand that this information is not new. “Now that's exactly what happened to Christ and the apostles in the First Century.  That is why Christ, when He went to the scribes and the Pharisees, He had a great resistance on their part, because they had already established, in the first Century, traditions.  And the word "traditions" simply means teachings counter to the Scripture (you can find this in the dictionary, if you'd just look it up) counter to the teachings of the Scripture, which they have inaugurated, extra-biblically that is, outside the Scripture, but which are the dominating factors in their belief systems.  That is what traditions are.  That's what the word "traditionalism" means.” (ibid.)

Make no mistake. Corporal punishment/spanking/smacking is a creed and a key doctrine of many Christian denominations today. It is the tradition of the Christian Church in the USA (and many other countries). It is the central belief that governs child rearing and is looked on as the primary tool for parenting for Christians. Anyone who would suggest anything else is not only looked on as an absolute fool worthy of only the most deep belly laughter one can imagine, but is often designated as teaching absolute falsehood and blasphemous doctrinal teachings which are to be considered not only dangerous but as downright evil to the core.. 

Because this is how many Church Leaders look at this issue and it is so fundamentally connected to their belief systems, don't look for any mind changing here in the near future. In fact, rather we can look for some of these Church Leaders, when threatened, to dig in their heels.

Corporal punishment/spanking/smacking is one of those teachings so dominant in Christian culture that it is so easy for some Church Leaders to latch onto it and trumpet it from the pulpits because it is seemingly so easy for anyone to understand. God said: Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child! Case Closed. End of Story.  

2. Christian Psychologists
I think it is pretty clear that we all know who were are here talking about. If you have been trumpeting for decades the 'wisdom' of administering corporal punishment and selling millions of books along the way, the chance of you changing your view and repudiating your entire corpus of published material and saying that you were wrong will never happen.

3. Bible Publishers
The realm of those who will never change when it comes to spanking children has gotten wider of late to include Bible Publishers and these Bible Publishers are strongly connected to some Church Leaders and Christian Psychologists. A good example of this is found in the following Bible version.
"Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death." (Proverbs 23:14,14 New Living Translation).

Yes, you've read correctly, The Bible uses the term "spank" according to this new version, which is now one of the top selling Bible versions in the USA.

Now here we can ask this question. Do you think for one minute that the Bible Publishing firm who published this Bible is for one moment going to entertain the position of Professor's Webb and Marshall? The chances of this happening are zero! It would mean that they were wrong and being wrong does not sell Bibles.

We are in an age of learning and change. The trends against corporal punishment/spanking/smacking are totally moving in the direction of non-violence. These are generational issues which take scores of years to change, but I believe that the spirit of God is moving as Bill Webb says in a movement towards redemption. I am totally convinced that by the time my children start to begin their families (in 15-20 years), we will notice major differences in people's view point on this issue, just as much as we who have been following this issue will note how much things have changed since the mid-1990's. God speed that day!

I close with an ancient prayer my dad used to include in all of his books
From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
From the laziness that is content with half-truths'
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
O God of Truth, deliver us.
-- Ancient Prayer