Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Wedding at Cana 2

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory... John 2:11
  • Jesus’s presence and miracle at the wedding of Cana supported the natural affection of marriage between a man and woman (both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage).
  • Jesus’s miracle of making wine honored his mother despite her present priorities being temporal (They have no wine...Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it) and his being spiritual (mine hour is not yet come).
  • Jesus’s miracle of making wine delivered the bridegroom from the natural outcome of signal embarrassment (They have no wine) to special recognition (thou hast kept the good wine until now).
  • Jesus’s miracle providing wine instantaneously suspended the natural laws of wine production – from planting to nurturing to harvesting to pressing to fermentation  (the water that was made wine).
  • Jesus’s miraculous production of the good wine exceeded the natural expectations of and conventional wisdom for a wedding feast – that is, in saving the good wine for last (Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse).
  • Jesus’s miracle of making wine re-purposed the natural ceremonial use of the waterpots (six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews) to an unusual functional use (Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast).

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Wedding at Cana

John 2:1-11 – And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

Simple facts in the text of what the Bible says.
1. The word “wine” (English; oinos, Greek) is used five times, with no distinction as to what kind of wine. There was “wanted wine,” “no wine,” “made wine,” and “good wine” (2) – with the implication of “worse wine” (v. 10; though only “worse” is used it is in reference to wine). The difference in the wine in the story of the wedding of Cana is first the difference of presence and absence. It is never a difference of kind, but of quality! No other differences can be observed in the text without an interpreter bringing them in from outside the text![i]

Simple observations in the text of what the Bible says.
1. Good wine is capable of intoxicating. “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine (καλον οινον); and when men have well drunk (μεθυσθωσιν), then that which is worse (ελασσω, lesser, worse in quality).”
2. The governor of the feast called the wine he was drinking “good wine.” “but thou hast kept the good wine (καλον οινον) until now”
3. Jesus made the good wine that the governor of the feast was drinking. “the water that was made wine...This beginning of miracles did Jesus”

Simple conclusion in the text of what the Bible says.
Jesus performed a miracle. He made good wine, the equivalent of a fermented wine, from water.[ii] “This beginning of miracles did Jesus”

The final answer to the entire “wine debate” is here in this record. Why look we for another?

[i] Such insertion is found in the translation work of Stephen Mills Reynolds in his A Purified Translation: “And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’…When the master of the feast tasted the water that had become grape juice,…And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good beverage,…” Using the two-wine preconception Reynolds translates oinos “negatively” as alcoholic wine, “positively” as grape juice, and “neutrally” as a beverage. This was not in the text, only in his mind.
[ii] I write “the equivalent of a fermented wine” not to equivocate, but simply because the entire processes – from growth on the vine to harvest, from the winepress through fermentation, and to table – were all immediately duplicated and rendered unnecessary by the miraculous power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Supreme Court, and such links

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

Online Greek Septuagint Lexicon

A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint

A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, Revised Edition © 2003 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, Compiled by Johan Lust, Erik Eynikel, and Katrin Hauspie

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

How the inspired originals signal word use, study, etc.

A few random thoughts.

The inspired text used archaic words that needed to be explained.
1 Samuel 9:9 (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.) Ra’ah is translated seer 12 times; Nabiy’, prophet 312 times.
See also 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 16:7, 10.

The inspired text used words or thoughts whose meaning had to be interpreted.
Mark 7:2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled (koinos: common, unholy; Greek word used 12 times total), that is to say, with unwashen (aniptos, used 3 times), hands, they found fault.
See also Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 10:20.

The inspired text used foreign words that had to be translated into the reader’s language.
Matthew 27:33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,
Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Mark 7:11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
Acts 1:19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.
Mark 5:41 And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.

Jesus taught in cryptic stories that needed explaining.
Mark 4:34 But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
See also Matthew 15:15; Luke 24:27; Acts 8:31.

Jesus spoke and the Spirit inspired words, thoughts, and principles that were hard to understand.
John 3:12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
2 Peter 3:16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Paul gave a grammatical explanation of a word.
Galatians 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

Words to be studied, considered, meditated upon
Matthew 9:13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Some things are passed down, and should be explained by the elders.
Deuteronomy 32:7 Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.

Natural man does not receive the things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
2 Peter 2:12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;

Some things are, ultimately, understood or received by faith.
Hebrews 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Cadillacs cranked out in a “seminary line”

Linked below are a series of articles by Kevin Bauder, who is Research Professor of Systematic Theology at the Central Baptist Theological Seminary. (He also has a great moustache!) I enjoy Bauder’s writings (generally speaking). Even though I do not agree with him on this subject, I thought readers would find his series interesting. Setting the background for his writing, he reports that “The Association of Theological Schools, the primary agency that accredits seminaries, recently produced a study showing that the number of M.Div. students is falling, while the number of future pastors taking the shorter M.A. program is rising.” Further he notes a writing at the Religion News Service, which called the M.Div. “the “gold standard” while asserting that “fewer students think that they need—or can afford—the ‘Cadillac’ degree.”[i] He laments that seminaries are reducing their M.Div. programs “from the traditional 90 hours to 72 hours.” In this series Bauder argues that the M.Div. (and at 90 hours, not 72) is not the “Cadillac” but an economy model – the minimum for a pastor to get by.
  • It’s Not a Cadillac! Part One: A Bit of History – “In short, by the 1950s Baptist fundamentalism was producing pastors who were strong opponents of modernist theology, but who tended to be poor thinkers with a fairly weak ability to study the text of Scripture for themselves and a relatively sketchy knowledge of the system of faith...By the mid-1950s, certain fundamentalist leaders began to see the need to offer seminary-level instruction for the coming generations of fundamentalist leadership.” [ii]
  • It’s Not a Cadillac! Part Two: What Are We Doing? – “What vision of pastoral ministry dominates Baptist fundamentalism? The answer is problematic, mainly because there isn’t one (though the social justice model is completely absent). Instead, Baptist fundamentalists have promoted several competing visions of ministry, each of which is deeply held by some constituency.” [bold emphasis mine]
  • It’s Not a Cadillac! Part Three: What Do We Need? – “Therefore, a pastor has to know the Word of God for himself...It requires him to know the biblical languages well enough that he can read (or at least translate) his texts from the original languages. That level of competence requires years of instruction and practice, first at the level of grammar, then at the level of syntax, then at the level of exegesis.”
  • It’s Not a Cadillac! Part Four: Where Should We Learn? – “If a man wishes to become a pastor, the place where he must seek training is first and most importantly his local church...the traditional M.Div. is a barely adequate standard to provide minimal competence for New Testament ministry...think of it as Basic Training—just enough to keep you alive and to keep you from wrecking the ministry while you continue to practice your skills.”
  • It’s Not a Cadillac! Part Five: A Personal Testimony – “As I formed acquaintances with the other conservative pastors, I discovered that they didn’t think explaining scripture should be a significant pulpit activity. Most of them couldn’t do it anyway. One was a self-help guru. One was a feel-good motivational speaker. One was a screamer. But so far as I can remember, none helped their people to understand the Word of God.”
A few comments may be in order. I’ll not say much about the MDiv degree being shortened. I don’t believe copying the secular model of education is the biblical ideal. But for those who are strong supporters of the seminary model for Christian education, the shortening of the program from 90 hours to 72 hours seems in effect to deny what they advocate.

Bauder claims, “a man with seminary behind him will be more effective in ministry than the same man without it.” This is a bare assumption, and an unprovable one at that! In some instances I have witnessed the reverse – a man, the same man, with an “effective ministry” became less effective after a stint in the seminary. (Of course, whether or not it was the seminary’s “fault” is also unprovable.)

Despite disagreement concerning the solution, I agree with Bauder on the existence of some of the problems he cites, such as:
  • “poorly-taught churches led by pastoral impresarios whose ministries more closely resembled circuses and theaters than New Testament congregations”
  • Baptist fundamentalists without a clear “vision of pastoral ministry”
  • Pastors “who didn’t think explaining scripture should be a significant pulpit activity”
  • Capitulation to “full-on pragmatism”
I have observed ministries that “more closely resembled circuses and theaters than New Testament congregations.” Most definitely, many of these poor thinkers with a weak ability to study the text of Scripture for themselves and have a relatively sketchy knowledge of the true system of faith. They have led congregations to “pack a pew” and such like – hinged on such far-fetched promises of swallowing goldfish for the amusement of the congregation, or preaching from church roofs in their underwear. (May God deliver us!) And such religious quackery is not the sole realm of non-seminarians![iii] In my lifetime, I have known lots of pastors. Among the best I’ve known were those who had either only a basic working knowledge of Greek, or no training in the biblical languages at all. Nevertheless, they knew the Bible backwards and forwards. They knew how to teach others also, equipping and edifying them to do the work of God. In addition, they lived the Bible they knew! I have nothing against a pastor being fluent in the original languages, but many pastors have reached high levels of pastoral competence in exception to Bauder’s rule. (In addition, others with in-depth education in Greek and Hebrew have flunked as pastors.)

In part 4 Bauder writes, “If a man wishes to become a pastor, the place where he must seek training is first and most importantly his local church.” Yet later he opines that “the traditional M.Div. is a barely adequate standard to provide minimal competence for New Testament ministry...think of it as Basic Training—just enough to keep you alive and to keep you from wrecking the ministry while you continue to practice your skills.” If the church is the first place to seek training, and the M.Div. is barely adequate, Bauder must really think the previous local church training is totally inadequate to suit any purpose!

Kevin Bauder is a scholar and a seminarian. We could not expect him to support anything less. Support for the system on which one is sold is not the same as biblical support. Whether Henry Ford or Ransom E. Olds invented the assembly line, we know that God is not cranking out “identical” pastors in a seminary line.

There are moral and spiritual qualifications for pastors (bishops, elders) found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 The superlative “requirement” seems to be “that a man be found faithful.” Compare Titus 1:7, 1 Peter 4:10, and 1 Corinthians 4:2. When we add to these, we are walking on shifty unbiblical sand.

[i] M.Div. is the abbreviation for the Masters of Divinity or Magister Divinitatis (in Latin) degree. It is a theological or religious degree that is supposed to be designed for students seeking a career in the church, most specifically a professional degree for pastors. The M.Div. degree in the U.S. requires between 72 and 106 credit hours of study. Academic accrediting agencies require a minimum of 72 hours for this degree, and some institutions require more. (The DoD, for example, also requires the minimum of 72 hours for a military chaplain.)
[ii] Bauder’s history (in part 1) is accurate as far as it goes. It limits the strain of just who are “Fundamentalists.” My background follows a different trajectory from what he discusses, including Baptists who left the convention both earlier and later than J. Frank Norris (the best-known IFB name in our region) did. Our roots are in denominational trouble in the Baptist General Convention of Texas in the late 1800s. By 1900, a large minority had withdrawn and created the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas. Some people would not think of the BMAT as IFB, and in some ways rightly so, but they were and are clearly ensconced in the fundamentals of the faith. There was co-mingling of the BMAT with other fundamentalist come-outers, such as J. Frank Norris and the “Bogard Baptists” in Arkansas. (The combination of Texas and Arkansas churches in the ABA would meet at Norris’s FBC Fort Worth in 1935, even though he was not a member of their body.) Many, if not most, also took stands that were separatist and sometimes even “militant.” Unlike the fundamentalists to whom Bauder refers, these Baptists prepared for an educational institution – albeit a college rather than a seminary – even before they organized separately from the BGCT. In 1899, a charter established the Jacksonville Baptist College as a four-year senior college (it is now a junior college) and it opened in the fall of 1899. The BMAT was not formed until 1900 (the college was given to the association several years later). I realize this was a college and not a seminary, but it indicates we may have had a little different relationship toward education. (These Baptists wanted all their children to have access to a good education, not just preachers.) For the most part (as far as I know) these churches possessed a high view of education and did not fall into the same theatrics that some other fundamentalists did.
[iii] Further, among certain cliques of IFBs it seems that every Tom, Dick, and Houdini claims to be a “Doctor.”

The strange effects of preaching

Oh, what strange effects has preaching! Many a time the preacher is thought by the hearer to be personal, to be acquainted with all that is in the hearer’s life, and to be actually describing the life of the hearer, and the hearer winces under such personal description. Time and again men have sought me out as I have left my pulpit, and have said to me alone: “Who told you about my condition, that you laid it bare here to-day?” And I have said: “Why, I never heard of your condition. No living soul has ever breathed a word to me about your condition.” They said: “What then does it all mean?” And I have answered: “It means that God knows about it, and God has guided His preacher, who said: ‘Lord, the preacher does not know what to preach, but thou knowest. Give him the message which thou wilt take and apply to the human conscience,’ and God took the message and with it found the human conscience.” What strange effects preaching has!
From “The Doom of Delay,” by George W. Truett in A Quest for Souls, J. B. B. Cranfill, editor, Dallas, TX: Texas Baptist Book House, 1917, p. 220

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Primitive News

W. Clark Lee and David I. Lee of Hoboken, Georgia have recently purchased the rights to publish The Primitive Hymns, by Benjamin Lloyd. First produced by Benjamin Lloyd in 1841, this hymn-book has remained in print all these years through the efforts of family and concerned friends. In my opinion, it is a “national treasure.” I have written about it in Two Important Southern Hymn Books: Mercer’s and Lloyd’s and Two Important Southern Hymn Books; Comparing Mercer and Lloyd.

The Primitive Hymns, LLC website is being built but has not yet been published to the Web. Correspondence may be directed to company’s principal address:

The Primitive Hymns, LLC 
5497 Raybon Road West
Hoboken, GA 31542

Once the web site in published online, e-correspondence will also be available. See letter below for more details.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The poor you have always

In the conclusion of discussing Mary anointing his feet (see John 12:1-8), “Then said Jesus, … the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.” (Cf. Matthew 26:11 and Mark 14:7.)

This concludes the exchange between Jesus and Judas. Judas condemned the act of Mary as wasteful and neglecting the poor. Jesus knew the heart of Judas and exposed his pretended concern (he was interested in an opportunity to get at the funds himself). Bob Deffinbaugh uniquely identifies this exchange as “The Sweet Smell of Love and the Stench of Greed!” The facts include: (1) yes, the ointment was expensive and in theory could have been used for the poor, (2) on this occasion Mary displays more spiritual insight than the apostles, [i] and (3) Judas was stealing from the “church of Christ” treasury.

Here are a few take-aways.

We will not eradicate poverty. This fact is not an excuse to ignore poverty and the poor – just a heavy dose of realism we must accept. Helping the poor is a worthy biblical goal, but realism says it will not be eradicated. We should operate in the realistic, not in a fantasy world of our own imaginations. The Lord himself was poor in earthly goods (Luke 9:58; 2 Corinthians 8:9), yet had compassion for the poor and needy (e.g. Matthew 25:44-46;Mark 12:41-44; Luke 6:20; Luke 8:43-48; Luke 14:13).

There is plenty of opportunity to help the poor. The import of Jesus chiding Judas is not that we should not help the poor since poverty cannot be eradicated – but that there will always be opportunities to help the poor. Judas (and all of us) could have helped the poor before Mary’s anointing. Judas (and all of us) can help the poor after Mary’s anointing. This singular, spiritual, and sacrificial act of Mary does not abate our responsibility for and ability to help the poor. Jesus’s death – once for all – does not remove perennial opportunities toward the poor. Deuteronomy 15:11 well makes the point, “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”

All who claim to care don’t always care. Those who condemn others for not caring enough, may not care at all themselves! As Judas, the condemnation may be a cover of their own covetousness or other motives unrelated to a true concern for the poor and needy. One can “anoint Jesus” and still have time to care about the poor – regardless of what Judas says. These are not conflicting duties and one must do at the time “what thy hand findeth to do.” (Compare Ecclesiastes 9:10; Mark 14:8; and 2 Corinthians 8:12.)

Often in the United States of America we conceive of a “rich church” helping a “poor society,” but often the true church is the true poor. Thomas Kelly captured this thought in his blessed hymn inspired by Zephaniah 3:12:

“Poor and afflicted,” Lord, are thine,
Among the great unfit to shine;
But though the world may think it strange,
They would not with the world exchange.

“Poor and afflicted”—yes, they are;
They’re not exempt from grief and care;
But he who saved them by his blood,
Makes every sorrow yield them good.

“Poor and afflicted”—’tis their lot;
They know it, and they murmur not;
’Twould ill become them to refuse
The state their Master deigned to choose.

“Poor and afflicted”—yet they sing,
For Jesus is their glorious King;
“Through sufferings perfect,” now he reigns,
And shares in all their griefs and pains.

“Poor and afflicted”—but ere long,
They’ll join the bright, celestial throng;
Their sufferings then will reach a close,
And heaven afford them sweet repose.

And while they walk the thorny way,
They’re often heard to sigh and say—
“Dear Saviour, come; O quickly come!
And take thy mourning pilgrims home.”

[i] Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts show other apostles were caught up in agreement with Judas.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Lord, you are the potter, and other quotes

The posting of quotes by human authors does not constitute agreement with either the quotes or their sources. (I try to confirm the sources that I give, but may miss on occasion; please verify if possible.)

"Lord, you are the potter and I am the clay, but I do have a few suggestions!" -- Kevin Leman

"The people of God in a divided world need to be able to say amen together sometimes." -- Walter R. Strickland II

"Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time." -- Old Saying

"An expository sermon explains the text without dragging the lumber of exegesis into the pulpit." -- Kevin T. Bauder

"The difference between the early church and the modern church is two words, influence and power. We want influence because we have no power." -- attributed to O. S. Hawkins, which appears to be original with Hawkins this way: "The greatest difference between the first-century church and the twenty-first-century church is summarized in two words — influence and power. Today we pride ourselves on our influence. We seek to influence the decaying culture around us in various ways. But the early church did not even have enough influence to keep their leader Simon Peter out of prison. They were virtually void of influence with the civil and legal authorities. But the more important news is, they had enough power to pray him out of prison!"

"Biblical norms have not changed. Society cannot figure out what to do with the sexual promiscuity to which they have consented and promoted."

"Integrity is when the tongue of one’s shoes follows the tongue of one’s mouth." -- said similarly by a number of individuals; origin unknown

"I am going to use the gospel of the checkbook to help the religious liberals see the light." -- Copied

"We should not seek to learn what God has withheld from us." -- Robert L. Deffinbaugh (Deuteronomy 29:29)

"The great mathematical equation: 1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given." -- Copied

From Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 8, by Camden M. Cobern; Daniel D. Whedon, editor
Samuel Wesley (1724) paraphrased the narrative: —
Praise we forever thy all-glorious Name,
O Son of God, descending from the Skies
In Form of Man to quell the raging Flame,
Whose Presence makes of Hell a Paradise.

Flores Consent Decree of 1997

8 Habits, 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, June 21, 2018

Exploits of Morgan Jones, of Swansea

According to J. Davis in his book History of the Welsh Baptists, from the Year Sixty-three to the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy, “Morgan Jones...was one of the best of men, a good preacher, and was universally beloved by all that knew him; and more especially by the church at Swansea, of which he was pastor.” He recorded the following two stories about him.

At a certain time, being in debt to an individual, who was determined to put him into prison if he did not pay him that day, he was in great distress; having not the least idea whence could get the money. In this agony of mind, he withdrew to a secret place, to pour out his soul to God in prayer, that he might not bring a reproach on the gospel. While he was at prayer, a certain man called, and told the family, that Sylvanus Beavan wanted to see Morgan Jones immediately. Accordingly, he went to Beavan’s, who was a member of the society of Friends, (commonly called Quakers,) and a very respectable storekeeper, in the town of Swansea. “Well, friend Morgan,” said the Quaker, “friend Pycard, of Barnstable, requested me to pay thee a certain sum of money: here it is.”[i] It was enough to pay the man, and a little over. Pp. 105-106

Though Morgan Jones was naturally mild, meek, and easy in his manners; yet he was a man of very ready answer. He happened to call at a house, at Swansea, where there were two men disputing about religion. One of them was an Episcopalian; the other had lately embraced the sentiments of the Roman Catholics. “Well, my neighbor,” said the Episcopalian, “I never was so glad to see you in my life.” “What is the reason,” said M. Jones. “My friend here is turned Papist,” and he has the impudence to say, that the church of Rome is the true church, and that the church of England is a bastard.” “Ho!” said Jones, “I have no reason to say any thing—I don't belong to either of them.” “A good reason why,” said the Roman Catholic; “because you have nothing to say.” “O yes!” said Jones, “I have something to say. If the church of England is a bastard, the church of Rome must be a harlot.” Thus ended the debate. P. 106

[i] Davis footnotes, “It was a present from Friend Pycard to M. Jones.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Where was Daniel?

Q. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were thrown into the fiery furnace, where was Daniel? Why was he not also thrown in the furnace? Did he bow to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image?

Scripture text: Daniel 3:1-30

A. The brief and definitive answer is that the Scriptures do not say where Daniel was!

In a dream (which Daniel interpreted, Daniel 2:1-49), Nebuchadnezzar the king beheld a great image, whose head was of fine gold. Later Nebuchadnezzar made an image that was all of gold and required his subjects to bow in worship to this golden image. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did not bow. Daniel is never mentioned. Numerous explanations have been posited, including:

  • Daniel was in a different location at the time, perhaps on an errand for the king of Babylon.[i]
  • Daniel was exempt from bowing to the image because of his high position in the administration of the king of Babylon, and/or esteem in which he was held by the king.[ii]
  • Daniel refused to bow down to the image, but no one was watching him or no one accused him (as in the case of the “certain Chaldeans” who accused Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego).[iii]
  • Daniel bowed to the image to avoid the death sentence pronounced by the king of Babylon.[iv]
Of the explanations, folks seem to pick what they like. Though these and other solutions have been suggested, the brief and definitive answer is still that we do not know where Daniel was because the Scriptures do not say.

It is best then not to dwell overmuch on what we don’t know, but meditate on and learn from what we do know. Chapter 3 is not Daniel’s story. Let him out of it. This is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Let them shine, as God did when he recorded it! Take the lesson. They worship God. They trust the God they worship. They will not worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image. The God they trust can deliver them. They will not worship the image whether or not God chooses to deliver them.

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods!”

The initial focus in Daniel 3 is Nebuchadnezzar, the golden image, and the worship of the image. The Lord appears in only one notable place. He is in the furnace waiting for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He was not noticed before. He was not seen after. Often the greatest manifestation of Jesus in our lives is “in the furnace” – when we have exhausted all options, at that very moment we need him most.

[i] Related to the “location” solution, some have suggested the plain of Dura (Daniel 3:1) was in a different location from where “Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (Daniel 2:49).
[iii] Cf. Daniel 3:8-12. Within the accusation solution, some have suggested that no one was watching Daniel, while others think they may have been afraid to accuse Daniel because of Daniel’s close relationship to the king.
[iv] While this view cannot be excluded – since the Scriptures do not say – the idea that Daniel bowed to the image is generally the least acceptable. It seems inconsistent with Daniel’s integrity. See Daniel 1:8, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat;” Daniel 6:4-10 King Darius established a firm decree, that whosoever asked a petition of any God or man for thirty days shall be cast into the den of lions. When Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime; and Ezekiel 14:13-20, Daniel was exemplary for righteousness.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The fourth man in the fire

Daniel 3:25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

Q. Who was the fourth man in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

A. The dispute regarding this verse is, to some extent, based on variations in the translation of this verse. The Christian Standard Bible represents how many translators have translated this verse since the English Revised Version Bible of 1881-1885:
He exclaimed, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
As far as the details of the correct translation of this verse, I will leave that argument for Hebrew & Aramaic scholars. The interpretation and understanding of the verse and context includes considering what Nebuchadnezzar knew, but the correct translation of the verse is not dependent on what Nebuchadnezzar knew. It will be obvious that some translators come down on one side of the issue – “the son of God” – and some come down on the other side of the issue – “a son of the gods.” Rather than enter that argument, let’s look at the context surrounding the statement made by King Nebuchadnezzar and where that points our understanding. It is better to stick as closely as possible to the statements in the context, without doing too much guessing.

Here is some of what King Nebuchadnezzar knew, based on some statements in the book of Daniel.

  • Daniel 2:27-28, Daniel 2:47 – The king had experienced some of the truth of Jehovah, through Daniel’s gift of prophecy in describing and then interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. His understanding of the God of the Hebrews at this point would have been rudimentary, but not non-existent.
  • Daniel 3:15-17; Daniel 3:26 – The king knew that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego served the most high God. They told him that God – the one they served – was able to deliver them, and that he will deliver them (one way or another).
  • Daniel 3:28 – Nebuchadnezzar says the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego sent his angel to deliver them. In this King’s mind “the Son of God” and “his angel” are the same. He is talking about the same person/appearance.[i]
In his Notes on the Bible Albert Barnes speaks of “two inquiries which arise in regard to this expression [the Son of God, rlv].” First, what did the king mean, that is, who did he think it was in the fire? Second, who was it in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, actually? There is no reason to suppose that King Nebuchadnezzar understood anything distinctly about the “Godhead” of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzar knew that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was distinct from the gods of the Babylonians. These three asserted the power of their God to deliver them from the king. Nebuchadnezzar did not know “the Son of God.” Nevertheless, he did not mean “a son of the gods” of the Babylonians, based on the context of the conversation before and after the three Hebrew children were thrown in the fire. A son of the Babylonian gods was not whom they said would come, and would not have been whom Nebuchadnezzar expected.

Some commentators – such as Jamieson-Faussett-Brown Commentary or Matthew Poole’s Synopsis – posit this consideration: that Nebuchadnezzar spoke the truth of who was in the fire without really understanding the truth of what he said. This would compare to Caiaphas’s prophecy that “one must die for the people” (John 11:49-52), or Pilate’s superscription on the cross of Jesus (Luke 23:38).

Here is Jamieson-Faussett-Brown’s explanation:
Unconsciously, like Saul, Caiaphas (John 11:49-52), and Pilate, he is made to utter divine truths. “Son of God” in his mouth means only an “angel” from heaven, as Daniel 3:28 proves. Compare Job 1:6Job 38:7Psalm 34:7, Psalm 34:8; and the probably heathen centurion’s exclamation (Matthew 27:54).
The Son of God is an accurate translation that fits the context. It is not necessary for Nebuchadnezzar to have a clear theological understanding of New Testament revelation yet to come or even a distinct view of present Hebrew monotheism for his statement to be correct. The fourth man walking in the fire was the Son of God, appearing with his people before his incarnation.

[i] It is not unusual for expositors to consider “the angel,” “his angel,” to be Old Testament theophanies or Christophanies (of the pre-incarnate Son of God).