Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Relics and Writings


The inspired writings of the 1st century apostles and apostolic witnesses are the closest to us in time of any of the writings that God inspired. They are the last before God closed his canon. How long did the actual media on which these inspired words were written survive? 1st century? 2nd century? 3rd? 4th?

It has been suggested that the reason God did not allow the autographa (original media of the inspired writings) to survive is so that we would not elevate them to items of worship. That is likely true in God’s providence. Is it possible that the rise of veneration of relics speaks to the possibility of how long the original media of the apostolic authors survived? 

Veneration of relics

The veneration of relics cropped up early in the superstitions of Romanism and Greek Orthodoxy. Relics such as pieces of wood supposedly from the “True Cross,” the Shroud of Turin, the Cincture of the Theotokos (a belt, sash, or girdle supposedly worn by Mary the mother of Jesus), the bones or ashes of marytrs, as well as various pieces of clothing or other personal possessions (e.g., books) of “saints,” have been and are venerated (usually honored with some type of outward gesture, such as kissing, touching, bowing).

This veneration of martyrs and their relics seems to have been well in place by the late 4th century. Around 404, Jerome wrote to Riparius in Spain, after Riparius has informed him that Vigilantius of Gaul condemned the worship of relics. Jerome’s answer suggests that at least Jerome though veneration of relics was a common practice.

“We, it is true, refuse to worship or adore, I say not the relics of the martyrs, but even the sun and moon, the angels and archangels, the Cherubim and Seraphim and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come. For we may not serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Still we honour the relics of the martyrs, that we may adore Him whose martyrs they are.” Jerome of Stridon, Letter 109, To Riparius (Ad Riparium)

Early statements on apostolic autographa

Writing around AD 180, in The Prescription Against Heretics (De Praescriptione Haereticorum) Chapter 36, Tertullian suggests the original writings of the apostles could be found by those willing to look for them.

“Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally. Achaia is very near you, (in which) you find Corinth. Since you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi; (and there too) you have the Thessalonians. Since you are able to cross to Asia, you get Ephesus. Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy, you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority (of apostles themselves).”[i]

Another such reference is in a fragment of a writing by one Peter, a Bishop of Alexandria, indicating he believed the original of John’s Gospel still existed in Ephesus in his lifetime. Writing before AD 311 (the year he died), Peter states, “Now it was the preparation, about the third hour, as the accurate books have it, and the autograph copy itself of the Evangelist John, which up to this day has by divine grace been preserved in the most holy church of Ephesus, and is there adored by the faithful.” It is likely that Peter was wrong not only about how the text read (he says third hour), but also of the autograph’s survival at Ephesus. He may have been trying to bolster his opinion by appealing to an unavailable autograph. On the other hand, it is not unreasonable to accept that he believed the writing was there in Ephesus.

Tentative conclusion

It may be likely that autographs were still extant in Tertullian’s day (2nd century). My thought is that by the 4th century the original autographs were no longer extant. One reason to think so is that by that time superstitious churches and Christians were already venerating relics. Most assuredly they would have raised the autographs to the level of veneration if they still existed. This itself is not conclusive, but deserves thoughtful consideration in the investigation of the matter of how long the autographs were available to the early churches.

[i] In reference to documents, authenticae (authentic) normally means an original, autograph.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Bible Baptists

“Brethren, no page of the Book divine can be delegated to a secondary place. Every page of the sacred writ must be equally authoritative or else no page is authoritative. If the writings of both Old and New Testament authors are not to be received on par with the Words of our Lord then we have no authoritative revelation. As touching our faith, it is ours to believe the Bible, and nothing but the Bible, or else to reject it all. To maximize the words of Christ and minimize the rest of the Bible is a breach of honor which in the end can but destroy the whole structure of our faith. Accordingly, we cannot expunge a single page from the sacred writ without thrusting a poniard into the heart of our God. Without both Old and New Testament we have no authority but with both we have absolute authority. As orthodox Baptists we have but two alternatives; namely, we can stand for the whole Bible, holy and inerrant, and live, or else we can cut it to pieces and die. We shall live and conquer only as Bible Baptists.”

-- excerpt from “Not New Testament Baptists,” by W. Lee Rector, Word and Way (Kansas City, Missouri), Thursday, March 21, 1929, p. 8

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above

Johann Jakob Schütz wrote “Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above” (Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut). He was born in Germany September 7, 1640. Schütz trained at Tübingen and became a lawyer/advocate in Frankfurt, Germany. He was a close friend of Lutheran pastor Phillip J. Spener, and helped him establish prayer meetings and Bible-study groups. Later Schütz became a Separatist and left the Lutheran Church. He died at Frankfurt, May 22, 1690.

Schütz wrote this hymn, also called “Praise and Thanksgiving” and “Hymn of Thanksgiving,” by 1675. It is found in Christliches Gedenkbüchlein, zur Beforderung eines anfangenden neuen Lebens, published in that year. (Frances Cox says the hymn first appeared anonymously in 1673; see Hymns from the German, page 251.)

The original contained nine stanzas. The translation (below) was made by Frances Elizabeth Cox, included in her Hymns from the German (London: Rivingtons, 1864, pp. 234-239). It omits Schütz’s ninth stanza. It is simply called Hymn of Praise in her book, and associated with Psalm 96:8 (Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name). By some “Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut” is identified as a hymn written during a time of revival in the church in Frankfurt.  The hymn proclaims the greatness of the God who reigns above and the glory due unto him. It praises God for creation, love, salvation, healing, wisdom, mercy, his keeping, his presence, and his power – and many other things. Each of Schütz’s stanzas end with “Gebt unserm Gott die Ehre” (Give our God the glory)! In the English translation metered and rhymed by Cox, this becomes the refrain “To God all praise and glory!”

This hymn, set in meter, is often sung with the tune Speratus. In Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Shape Note Edition (Knoxville, TN: Melody Publications, 2020, No. 28), this hymn paired with Mit Freuden Zart, a tune from the Bohemian Brethren’s 1566 Kirchengesänge.

Schütz founded his hymn on Deuteronomy 32:3. The recurring phrase is a metrical adjustment of the last sentence in Deuteronomy 32:3 in the Luther German Bible translation – “Gebt unserm Gott allein die Ehre!.” In the King James Bible, this verse is “because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.” Another appropriate verse to connect to this hymn is Psalm 40:3 – “And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” 

1. Sing praise to God who reigns above,  
The God of all creation,  
The God of power, the God of love,  
The God of our salvation; 
With healing balm my soul he fills, 
And ev’ry faithless murmur stills;  
To God all praise and glory!  
2. The angel host, O King of kings, 
Thy praise for ever telling, 
In earth and sky all living things 
Beneath thy shadow dwelling, 
Adore the wisdom which could span, 
And power which formed creation's plan; 
To God all praise and glory! 
3. What God’s Almighty power hath made  
His gracious mercy keepeth;  
By morning glow or evening shade,  
His watchful eye ne’er sleepeth:  
Within the kingdom of his might,  
Lo! all is just, and all is right:  
To God all praise and glory! 
4. I cried to God in my distress—
In mercy hear my calling—
My Saviour saw my helplessness, 
And kept my feet from falling; 
For this, Lord, thanks and praise to thee! 
Praise God, I say, praise God with me! 
To God all praise and glory! 
5. The Lord is never far away, 
Throughout all grief distressing 
An ever-present help and stay,  
Our peace, and joy, and blessing.  
As with a mother’s tender hand, 
He leads his own, his chosen band;  
To God all praise and glory! 
6. When ev’ry earthly hope has flown 
From sorrow’s sons and daughters, 
Our Father from his heavenly throne 
Beholds the troubled waters; 
And at his word the storm is stayed 
Which made his children’s hearts afraid; 
To God all praise and glory! 
7. Then all my gladsome way along, 
I sing aloud thy praises, 
That men may hear the grateful song 
My voice unwearied raises: 
Be joyful in the Lord, my heart! 
Both soul and body bear your part! 
To God all praise and glory! 
8. O ye who name Christ’s holy name,  
Give God all praise and glory! 
 All ye who own his power, proclaim  
Aloud the wondrous story!  
Cast each false idol from his throne,  
The Lord is God, and he alone; 
To God all praise and glory!

The ninth stanza, as translated into English by Johann Christian Jacobi, is as follows:

All glory to the sovereign God 
Then come before his holy face
With joyful acclamation;
Extol the wonders of his grace,
In your submissive station;
The Lord has ordered all things best,
Ye convert souls in East and West,
Give to our God the Glory.

An arrangement I made for the hymn:

Saturday, November 25, 2023

In other words, arithmancy to via media

  • arithmancy, noun. Divination by the use of numbers, especially by the number of letters in names.
  • Big Eva, noun. A name standing for the network of large evangelical organizations and conferences that seeks to shape the thinking and strategy of evangelical churches (especially American churches).
  • charlatan, noun. A person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than they possess; fraud; quack.
  • chirograph, noun. A contrivance for holding a beginner’s hand in a prescribed position while he is learning to write.
  • consistent, adjective. Acting or done in the same way over time, especially so as to be fair or accurate; unchanging in nature, standard, or effect over time; non-contradictory.
  • groceteria, noun. A grocery store at which customers select the goods themselves and pay the cashier as they leave, rather than being attended to by a member of staff (portmanteau of grocery and cafeteria).
  • interlocutor, noun. A person who takes part in a conversation or dialogue.
  • itacism, or iotacism, noun. (Grammar) the pronunciation of the Greek letter eta, especially in Modern Greek, as \ē\.
  • misocapnist, noun. A person who hates tobacco smoke.
  • narcigesis, noun. The studying of scripture to find or insert yourself into it, in a very personal way; (portmanteau of narcissism and eisegesis).
  • narcistorian, noun. One who interprets history in order to insert a personal or selfish agenda (portmanteau of narcissist and historian).
  • non sequitur, noun. An inference that does not follow from the premises; a statement that is not clearly related to anything previously said.
  • pare, verb. (used with object) To cut off the outer coating or layer; to remove (an outer coating or layer) by cutting; to reduce or remove by or as by cutting; diminish or decrease gradually.
  • parsimonious, adjective. Characterized by or showing parsimony; frugal or stingy.
  • raconteur, noun. A person who is skilled in relating stories and anecdotes interestingly.
  • recusant, noun. A dissenter, a nonconformist; (capitalized) a Roman Catholic in England who incurred legal and social penalties in the 1500s and afterward for refusing to attend services of the Church of England.
  • spumescent, adjective. Foamy; foamlike; frothy.
  • surpass, verb. To go beyond in amount, extent, or degree; excel; exceed; transcend.
  • sacra sui ipsius interpres, phrase. Scripture interprets Scripture (Latin, “Sacred Scripture is its own interpreter”). 
  • via media, noun. A middle course or way; a mean between two extremes. (Latin, “middle road” or “middle way,” i.e., between two extremes).

Friday, November 24, 2023

More things I think I thought of

But possibly not first.

“Time flies the older you get, whether or not you are having fun!”

“Which came first, the ‘Doctor’ or the ‘Doctor’s Degree’?”

“If folks with great academic credentials cannot discern the validity or invalidity of a theological argument that I (with lesser or no credentials) make, do we not have a valid reason to question how much good their credentials are doing them?”

“It is well that God can speak through an ass, else He would have little use for many preachers.”

“If baptism is commanded and only immersion is baptism, then immersion only is commanded."

“Death is not preventable.”

“Many people are not looking for answers. Instead, they are looking for problems. Rather than being under biblical authority, they like being their own authority.”

“Among the worst enemies of the Bible are ‘used-to-be’ and ‘supposed-to-be’ Baptists.”

“Many times we attend to personal comfort and personal preference without any reference or regard to God’s Word.” (I found this written on a piece of paper and could not find a source. Maybe I thought of it and wrote it down, or otherwise just jotted down what someone else said.)

Polemical Theology, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Ruckman’s seven time purified, et al

“Happy Birthday, God’s Bible! You were born in 1611; you were born as the seventh in the lists of Bibles that preceded you (see Psa. 12:6-7). You were the culmination of God’s word in history: 1) a Hebrew received text (1780–400 B.C.), an Aramaic received text (603–515 B.C.), a Greek received text (A.D. 35–96), a Syrian received text (A.D. 120–180), a Latin received text (A.D. 140–150), a German received text (Martin Luther, A.D. 1520-1600), an English received text (the AV, A.D. 1526–1611). It was the culmination of the Bible in the English language: Tyndale (1525), Coverdale (1535), Matthew (1537), Great (1539), Geneva (1539 [sic]), Bishops’ (1568), King James (1611). You were seventh on the lists of two sevens.” Happy Anniversary KJV: a Collection of Articles from the 2011 Bible Believers’ Bulletins Honoring the Authorized Version, Peter S. Ruckman, Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2011

The idea that the King James Bible has been purified seven times has become a popular theory in King James circles. I do not know whether it originated with Peter Ruckman (quoted above), or elsewhere. It probably does not matter. There are a number of differing theories vying to be the correct one. (Although, fascinatingly, this seems to be one area folks do not get incensed about, as long as you agree that it has in some way or every way been purified seven times.)

I am a staunch KJV supporter and defender. I do not hold the idea that Psalm 12:6 somehow applies to the right Bible having to be purified seven times. One of the primary proofs against this is the various ways people achieve making the King James Bible in some way be Number 7 in a series, which appear contrived, in my opinion. For some it is pinnacle Bible in the seventh language. There are other ways to achieve the goal, all different in method and purpose, to make it be the seventh Bible. If I were going to do so, I would keep it simple. The King James translators’ rule number 14 mentions six predecessors – Tindoll’s, Matthew’s, Coverdale’s, Whitchurch’s, Geneva, and Bishop’s – making the 1611 translation the seventh. Duane Bryant uses this system also. Why not stop there, if you are going there in the first place?

One problem seldom seems settled on, which should be settled before beginning, is what do we mean in terms of the groups of seven Bibles? Does it mean complete Bibles that contain all the Old and New Testaments (e.g. Tyndale only translated the NT and Pentateuch)? (Some, in fact, include Wycliffe rather than Tyndale because Wycliffe was complete and Tyndale was not.) Does it mean translations made from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek (Wycliffe and Douay-Rheims are based on the Latin Vulgate). Does it only mean translations made from the Textus Receptus? Lots of things need to be asked and answered before the discussion even starts.

[Other connections to the number 7 are made as well. For example, the King James Bible uses the term Jehovah only seven times and only in the Old Testament; the King James Bible is the product of seven years of translation work, the English purification process took seven decades, etc.] 

Geoffrey Grider says Psalm 12:6 means the Bible “shall be preserved from that 7th generation forever. It’s probably just an amazing coincidence, but, the Bible has undergone 7 main iterations and they are as follows:”

  1. The Aramaic Received Text: 603 – 515 BC
  2. The Hebrew Received Text: 1780 – 400 BC
  3. The Greek Received Text: 35 – 96 AD
  4. The Syriac Received Text: 120 – 180 AD
  5. The Latin Received Text: 140 – 500 AD
  6. The German Received Text: 1520 – 1600 AD
  7. The English Received Text: 1525 – 1611 AD

The Help Through Hope website uses a seven-fold division with the same languages (above, though with some differences in order and dating).

Afterward, they posit the purification of the Scriptures in English is seven-fold also:

  1. The Gothic
  2. The Anglo-Saxon
  3. The Pre-Wycliffe
  4. The Wycliffe
  5. The Tyndale/Coverdale/Great/Geneva
  6. The Bishops
  7. The King James Bible

The English Bible’s seven-fold purification in the above list is equivalent to that proposed by the popular author Gail Riplinger.

In two “Line Upon Line" lessons (Gathering Into One and Standing for Purity), Matthew Verschuur spells out the seven times without (prior to), and within the King James Bible.

When the King James Bible was translated, their instructions were to follow the following versions:

  1. Tyndale’s (1525, 1534),
  2. Matthew’s (1537),
  3. Coverdale’s (1535),
  4. The Great (1539),
  5. The Geneva (1560)
  6. The Bishops’ (1568).

The Scripture which indicates seven times of purification can also be applied to the editions of the King James Bible. There are seven major editions. They are:

  1. The First 1611,
  2. The Second 1611,
  3. The 1613,
  4. The 1629,
  5. The 1638,
  6. The 1769,
  7. The Pure Cambridge Edition from around 1900.

Summarized, the most common theories seem to be:

  1. The King James Bible is the seventh major translation into major world languages.
  2. The King James Bible is the seventh major early English translation.
  3. The King James Bible itself has gone through a seven-fold purification process.

Many seem to see these three theories as complementary rather than exclusive.

Would the idea that purified seven times in Psalm 12:6 is a prophecy that must be fulfilled mean that: 

  1. the Bible translated into each language must eventually have a seven times translation process (of some sort) in order to be the pure word of God? 
  2. the Bible in the English language only, specifically the King James Bible, is the pure word of God?

I know there are those who believe No. 2. I am not sure how many arrive at the No. 1 position.

Psalm 12:6 says “The words of the Lord are pure words.”  They in the past and in the present are pure. They always have been pure. They always will be pure. Psalm 12:6 does not say “The words of the Lord have been, are, or will be purified seven times.” “Purified seven times” modifies “silver” rather than “words.” Then the figure of speech (beginning with “as”) suggests by analogy a similarity of the purity of an observable temporal process (silver) with an eternal spiritual force (words of the Lord). Silver – intensely, expertly, and purposefully purified – gives us a manner of comparison to the word of God, which is pure always and forever. See Psalm 119:89. (Note that both “tried” and “purified” both grammatically modify “silver.” Only by the extension of the simile do they relate to “The words of the Lord.”) I am suggesting to us, then, that we interpret the meaning of Psalm 12:6 by what the King James Bible says rather than what people say about the King James Bible.

While I know good solid Christians who hold the idea of the Bible being purified seven times, this seems to me—boiled down to its essence—actually to be a “low” view of the Bible and its preservation rather than a high one. I cannot get around the fact that, though it may not mean to, this theory actually denies that God preserved his word to all generations.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Catholicity and Separation

I just read an article in which a conservative Calvinistic Southern Baptist trashed separatism and promoted catholicity. He reserved special attention for the “fundamentalist” brand of separatism. The author is not someone who moved from Fundamentalism to Liberalism, but rather someone who has moved from Fundamentalism to a Reformed position.

He makes some good points. Fundamentalism can exalt carnality, pride, and an “us four, no more” attitude. Their gospel is not broad enough or deep enough to save and sanctify anyone who does not dot their i’s and cross their t’s. Division over extremely exacting eschatological theories becomes the norm.

There is a right sort of “catholicity”[i] that chronologically sees across time and generations, knowing we belong to the same church institution as and adhere to the same gospel preached by the apostles.  It geographically reaches across continents, nations, and communities.[ii] It linguistically embraces different tongues and peoples. “…I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”

Unfortunately, this sort of “catholicity” often embraces “Catholicism” as representative of the “true church” up until the time of the Protestant Reformation. It flies in the face of a New Testament Christianity that separated itself from infidelity, heresy, and immorality (e.g., 2 Corinthians 6:17; Titus 3:10; Ephesians 5:1-4). It distinguishes itself from and denies the poor and afflicted faithful martyrs of Jesus (e.g., Revelation 2:10, 13; 17:6). It recognizes the unorthodox majority and rejects the orthodox remnant.[iii] 

There is a right sort of “fundamentalism” that loves, seeks for, and adheres to the fundamental principles of the Bible, and the Christian religion based on it. It rejects compromise of those principles, while enthusiastically and evangelistically sowing those principles in the field of the world.

Unfortunately, strains of fundamentalism promote individuality to the detriment of the corporate nature of gathered believers (Romans 15:5-7; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27), as well as the fellowship of the churches (1 Corinthians 7:17; 14:33). It minimizes the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5-9; Revelation 1:5-6).[iv] It elevates private interpretations as the norm to determine orthodoxy, fellowship, and separation (Mark 7:9; 2 Peter 1:20). It becomes a haven for little dictators.[v] 

Where does the middle way begin? Perhaps: The Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice. Autonomous churches that are guided by this belief about the Bible. A gospel that is to be preached to every creature. And strong doses of humility.

Both “Big F” Fundamentalism and “Big C” Catholicism miss the mark, in different directions. Let us take up our Bibles and learn the Bible way of the unity of the faith and separation unto the gospel of God.

[i] Recognizing that the words “catholic” and “catholicity” have a broader more generic meaning, I nevertheless generally avoid them as more likely to help rather than hurt the recognition of the Roman Catholic Church.
[ii] Human beings and local churches are limited by geography, but connect with other congregations across the globe through fellowship of the word and Spirit.
[iii] I am unable to read the Bible, see the New Testament church there, research church history, and then pretend that the only church that existed for 15 centuries was Roman Catholic! I have sadly heard too many Reformed brethren say so. Away with such.
[iv] “A keen awareness of where the church has always stood” is needed, if we also have the biblical insight to understand what the church is, biblically.
[v] On the other hand, Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy (and at least some species of Reformed churches) are havens for big dictators!