Home Account Search
Jehovah and Elohim

Many scholars have adopted the idea called the "Documentary Hypothesis".  According to the Hebrews scholar Umberto Cassuto, the idea "postulates that the Pentateuch was composed by the amalgamation of sections and subsections derived from four independent source-documents, J, E, P, D.

The main reason many scholars have adopted this line of thinking is because of supposed discrepancies in the Pentateuch.  The largest of these inconsistencies is the "divine names", or names used for God.  The two names most commonly used are Yaweh and Elohim.  Some say that because these two names are used at differing points, they must have originated from different authors, so there must have been different source documents that were used to compose the Pentateuch.

Let's leave aside the notion that there is NO MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE AT ALL for any of these documents, and examine whether the use of Jehovah and Elohim would point to different authors or sources for the Pentateuch.

The first thing that is being presupposed by those supporting the documentary hypothesis is that Jehovah and Elohim mean the exact same thing.  This is not the case.  According to Cassuto, "Elohim was originally a common noun, an appellative, that was applied both to the One God of Israel and to the heathen gods."  However, "the name Yaweh is a proper noun, the specific name of Israel's God, the God whom the Israelites acknowledged as the sovereign God of the universe and as the Divinity who chose them as His people."

Basically, Elohim is a general name for God the Creator, and Yaweh is a familiar name representing the relationship God specifically had with His chosen people.

Examples to follow...

Purgatory - Is it real (biblical)?

I chatted with a friend today who has a lot of Catholic influences in his life.  He and I have had some great discourses about all kinds of topics, and the topic of purgatory came up today.  In response to some of his questions and some of the passages he sent along that seem to indicate purgatory is a real place, I wanted to take some time to deal with the topic today.

What is Purgatory?

According to the Roman Catholic Church, purgatory is known as the "final purification of the elect".  To quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it states that "all who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." (See more at the Vatican's site)  Basically, it's a place where you get cleaned up before you finally are able to be with God for eternity.

Does it exist?

Many would simply say that if purgatory can't be in the Bible, then it must not be.  Well, most of those people would not reject the trinity, which is also not directly referenced in Scripture.  However, the trinity has much scriptural support (see CARM for details), and purgatory does not.  So we can see that just because it isn't mentioned isn't enough to close the argument, we need to determine if the concept is taught in Scripture.

A fundamental problem

In Article 98 of The Roman Catechism, it states that ""...those who die in venial sin, and those who have not done sufficient penance for sin forgiven, are sent to Purgatory."

Why is this a fundamental problem?  Anytime I see it suggested that someone might not have been "good enough" to achieve something, I always ask, "How good is good enough?"  Indeed, the catechism would seem to state that if you hadn't achieved a good enough "ranking" when it comes to doing good things and staying away from bad things, you wind up in purgatory.  How good is good enough?  The words of Jesus simply haunt us here.

"Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)

Jesus said this after He had concluded His "you have heard it said" portion of the Sermon on the Mount.  In that portion of His sermon, He laid everyone out with their sin bare and naked before God.  If you have hated your brother, you have murdered,  If you have lusted after a woman, you have committed adultery.  If you think you are doing ok by loving your brother, you're not even remotely close to the standard until you have truly loved your enemy.

PERSONAL NOTE:  If this is required of me, I am thoroughly without hope.  I am so far from Heaven's Gates and my Father's House that eternities in purgatory could never save me.  I have hated deeply and lusted more than I would ever hope anyone would know.  This is my response to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.  "Somebody, please save me!"

This is where the fundamental problem with purgatory comes in.  The doctrine of purgatory responds to my plea in the following manner:  "Save yourself!"  Be better, work harder, do more penance, and then maybe, you won't have to spend so much time in another place doing more of the same.

What Does the Bible teach?

1st - Each and every person is someone who has sinned against God.  In Romans 3, Paul sets up the case that we are all alike under sin, no matter how much sin we do in any given day or any given lifetime.  If we are born from Adam, we are sinners. 

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

2nd - We cannot do anything to save ourselves.  There is no law, no penance, no "hard work" that I can do to save myself.  If that was the case, Paul never would have followed up the above passage with this:

"Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin."

"By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight."  There is nothing I can do to make myself presentable to God.  Nothing!!

3rd - Jesus' death on the cross is the ONLY payment for my sin that will make me presentable to God and able to enter Heaven.  In the words of Dr. Corduan, Jesus' death was not only necessary, it was also sufficient.  How do we know this?  Well, we know that it was necessary by our condemnation by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount and by Paul in his famous treatise on our sin in Romans.  How do we know it was sufficient?  Let's look at some passages.

Christ is sufficient - In Colossians 2, Paul's desire for the church at Laodicea is that they would "reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments."  Wow.  Quite a statement.

OK, but is His death on the cross all we need to be made perfect?  Hebrews 10:14 - "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified."  Yes.

In Colossians 2:13,14, Paul puts it bluntly and starkly.  He calls us dead in our sins, and only made alive by God, and that our sins were nailed to the cross, and our debt was cancelled.  "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."

God's answer to my plea, "Somebody save me!" is "Here is my son, He is sufficient."

Why would purgatory be necessary if Christ's death is sufficient?  It wouldn't.  Obviously, there are verses that are quoted to try and make the case for a purgatory, and we will deal with some of them here.

Revelation 21:27
"Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life."

One needs to be careful taking single verses out of any passage, but Revelation is especially dangerous when it comes to quoting it out of context.  It is talking about the last days, and this verse talks about only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.  John 3:15 and 16, John 6:47, and countless other passages tell us how it is we are able to achieve eternal life:  by believing in Christ and His sacrifice for us.  Matthew 22, the parable of the wedding feast, shows us what we must be clothed with, the righteousness of God.  Our works cannot do this, see the examples above.  This verse says that evildoers will not make it into the kingdom.  Why?  Because their name is not written in the Lamb's Book of Life.  "Nothing impure" will ever enter Heaven.  Agreed.  That's the problem.  How are we made pure?  Jesus Christ.  Again, see points above.

1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6
"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water."

"For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does."

I'll let Geisler deal with this, since he does such a great job.

The Bible is clear that there is no second chance after death (cf. Heb. 9:27). The Book of Revelation records the Great White Throne Judgment in which those who are not found in the book of life are sent to the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11–15). Luke informs us that, once a person dies, he goes either to heaven (Abraham’s bosom) or to hell and that there is a great gulf fixed “so that those who want to pass” from one to the other cannot (Luke 16:26). The whole urgency of responding to God in this life before we die gives further support to the fact that there is no hope beyond the grave (cf. John 3:36; 5:24).
There are other ways to understand this passage, without involving a second-chance at salvation after death. Some claim that it is not clear that the phrase “spirits in prison” even refers to human beings, arguing that nowhere else is such a phrase used of human beings in hell. They claim these spirits are fallen angels, since the “Sons of God” (fallen angels, see Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) were “disobedient … in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20; cf. Gen. 6:1–4). Peter may be referring to this in 2 Peter 2:4, where he mentions the angels sinning immediately before he refers to the Flood (v. 5). In response, it is argued that angels cannot marry (Matt. 22:30), and they certainly could not intermarry with human beings, since angels, being spirits, have no reproductive organs.
Another interpretation is that this refers to Christ’s announcement to departed spirits of the triumph of His resurrection, declaring to them the victory He had achieved by His death and resurrection, as pointed out in the previous verse (see 1 Peter 3:18). Some suggest that Jesus offered no hope of salvation to these “spirits in prison.” They point to the fact that the text does not say Christ evangelized them, but simply that He proclaimed the victory of His resurrection to them. They insist that there is nothing stated in this passage about preaching the Gospel to people in hell. In response to this view, others note that in the very next chapter Peter, apparently extending this subject, does say “the Gospel was preached also to those who are dead” (see comments on 1 Peter 4:6). This view fits the context here, is in accord with the teaching of other verses (cf. Eph. 4:8; Col. 2:15), and avoids the major problems of the other view.

In response it should be noted, first, that there is no hope held out anywhere in Scripture for salvation after death. Death is final, and there are only two destinies—heaven and hell, between which there is a great gulf that no one can pass over (see comments on 1 Peter 3:19). So, whatever preaching to the “dead” may mean, it does not imply that one can be saved after he dies.
Second, this is an unclear passage, subject to many interpretations, and no doctrine should be based on an ambiguous passage like this. The difficult texts should be interpreted in the light of the clear ones and not the reverse.
Third, there are other possible interpretations of this passage that do not conflict with the teaching of the rest of Scripture. (1) For example, it is possible that it refers to those who are now dead who heard the Gospel while they were alive. In favor of this is cited the fact that the Gospel “was preached” (in the past) to those who “are dead” (now, in the present). (2) Or, some believe this might not be a reference to human beings, but to the “spirits in prison” (angels) of 1 Peter 3:19 (cf. 2 Peter 2:4 and Gen. 6:2). (3) Still others claim that, although the dead suffer the destruction of their flesh (1 Peter 4:6), yet they still live with God by virtue of what Christ did through the Gospel (namely, His death and resurrection). This victorious message was announced by Christ Himself to the spirit world after His resurrection (cf. 1 Peter 3:18).  Norm Geisler, When Critics Ask

The Apocrypha

Often, the apocryphal books are also called upon to make the case for purgatory.  Some basic problems exist with the apocryphal books:
- No author of an apocryphal book ever claimed to be a prophet.
- No author of an apocryphal book was confirmed by any miraculous works of God.
- No author of an apocryphal book is ever quoted by any of the prophets in Scripture.
- Even the Jews acknowledged that the prophetic gifts had ceased by the time the earliest was written (400 BC).  If the Jews didn't accept them, why would we?

See CARM for more details...

In summary, we have a massive problem with sin.  Purgatory just isn't enough to deal with it.  Only Christ can pay my sin-debt.  Support for purgatory in Scripture is virtually non-existent, and the passages that are called upon are not even nearly enough to develop any substantial doctrine from whatsoever.


Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort vs. Atheists

Well, the media has done it again.  They've set up something for everyone to check out, and then truly disappointed.  ABCNews advertised a debate between Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron from Way of the Master with folks from the Rational Response Squad, an atheistic organization.

Check out the different videos here or here,  if you have some time.   Note that there have been almost 15,000 comments put on the ABCNews site.  A media success.

I'm just going to give you my two cents, and would love to find out if you agree.  I found all four debaters incredibly sophomoric and uninformed.  I was not surprised at the brash approach of the atheists, but I was shocked at how unprepared Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort were for this debate.  They did an ok job with the argument for design (the teleological argument), but did a horrible job on the argument from existence (cosmological argument).  

An important concept to any argument for God's existence is the idea that the universe had a beginning.  The atheists contended that the universe is infinite.  There is no evidence for this, in fact, all the evidence for the Big Bang points in the opposite direction.  This will come up in further discussions later, I am sure.

For now, let's let William Lane Craig take a crack at whether or not the universe is infinite.  He's deep, but good.

The Importance of the Old Testament to Christians

How important is the Old Testament to Christians?  Many Christians entirely ignore it, or view it as simply a bunch of stories that tell us about the Jews.  The amount of preaching that is done from the Pentateuch (first five books) or the rest of the Old Testament is amazingly small.  Maybe it's because preachers don't think it's as relevant, maybe they think it's too filled with contraversy, maybe the New Testament just seems like better material.  Whatever the reason, we need to objectively look at the importance of the Old Testament to believers today.

Whenever Jesus or the New Testament writers referred to Scriptures, it almost always meant the Old Testament.  As such, the Old Testament was their Bible, and extremely important.  Here are a couple of the things they said about it:

"You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me"  (Jesus, John 5:39)

"the Scripture cannot be broken" (Jesus, John 10:35)

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (Paul, 2 Timothy 3:16)

As I was reading my Old Testament Survey textbook (Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament), it was mentioned that Jesus never disagreed with the Jewish leaders when it came to the authority and/or inspiration of the Old Testament.  He battled them over many other topics, specifically relating to the interpretation of many Old Testament passages and ideas, but never disagreed that it was God's reliable word.

According to my OT Survey text, the two points that Jesus differed with the Jewish leaders on as it relates to interpretation of the Old Testament were:

1 - Legalism.  Jesus had no patience for the substitution of rituals for what was in the heart.  The Sermon on the Mount simply pounds that point home in the most amazing way.

2 - Jesus' identity.  Jesus insisted that He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah.  He insisted that He was the Messiah and indeed, God come in the flesh.  Read the Gospels for the disagreement on this topic that just screams at you.

Here's a quote from the OT Survey that is just plain old beautiful:

"He (Jesus) looked upon the Scripture not as a catalogue of fixed principles regulating religious conduct, but as the inspired and authoritative record of God's activity in history, an activity which presses toward its climax in the kingdom which Jesus brought near." (587)

This should be our view of the Old Testament as well.  This one sums it up.

"In study as in worship, humankind needs the entire revelation, the whole Bible.  The Old Testament belongs not to the Jewish people alone but to all.  It is the account of the ways in which God has worked; it is the summary of what he has demanded; it is the record of his preparation for Christ's coming; it is the best canvas on which to catch the picture of his dealings with the human family through the centuries.  In short, it is the indispensable foundation on which the New Testament is built."  (589)

Genesis and Blessing and Blessing and Blessing

The word "bless" shows up in some sort of form in 65 verses in the book of Genesis.  As I listened to the book this week, it seemed like everyone was getting blessed all over the place.  Here's the list of who blessed who:

  • God blesses the creatures He created
  • God blesses Adam and Eve
  • God blesses the seventh day
  • God blesses Noah
  • God blesses Abram (a bunch of times)
  • God blesses those who bless Abram
  • God blesses the world through Abram
  • Melchizedek blessed Abram
  • God blesses Sarai
  • God blesses Ishmael
  • Laban and Bethuel blessed Rebekah
  • God blesses Isaac (a bunch of times)
  • Isaac blesses Jacob (oops!)
  • Isaac blesses Esau (thanks a lot...)
  • God blesses Laban (he learned this by divination)
  • Laban blesses his grandchildren and daughters
  • The angel Jacob wrestled with blesses Jacob
  • God blesses Jacob (a bunch of times)
  • God blesses Potiphar's household because of Joseph
  • Jacob blesses Pharaoh
  • Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh (backwards!)
  • Jacob blesses his sons

Obviously, there is something more going on here than a lot of sneezing.  (See the origins of "God bless you" here.)  What is the importance of this blessing?  Well, I'm looking forward to a comment from Mike R on this, who is my resident OT expert, but I'll give it a shot.

First, one thing that all these blessings point out is that God is the one granting favor and gifts and talents and treasures.  If anyone, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Noah, receive any merit, it is because it is granted to them by God.  It is the same with us.

Second, it's a preparation for Christ.  Let's let Packer take the floor:

God’s covenant with Israel was preparation for the coming of God himself, in the person of his Son, to fulfill all his promises and to give substance to the shadows cast by the types (Isa. 40:10; Mal. 3:1; John 1:14; Heb. 7–10). Jesus Christ, the mediator of the new covenant, offered himself as the true and final sacrifice for sin. He obeyed the law perfectly, and as the second representative head of the human race he became the inheritor of all the covenant blessings of pardon, peace, and fellowship with God in his renewed creation, which blessings he now bestows upon believers. The typical and temporary arrangements for imparting those blessings were done away with through the realizing of that which they anticipated. Christ’s sending of the Spirit from the throne of his glory seals God’s people as his, even as he gives himself to them (Eph. 1:13-14; 2 Cor. 1:22).  

Packer, J. I. (1995, c1993). Concise theology : A guide to historic Christian beliefs. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.

We are blessed.  If you don't feel blessed, read God's blessing on you in the book of John.  It's one huge blessing from God, rescuing us from ourselves, just as He did in Genesis.


Matt Chandler - a little Texas passion

Tim Keller, pastor of the Redeemer in NY City said (and I paraphrase), "If you listen to one or two people, you become a clone.  If you listen to eight or ten, you become confused.  If you listen to 20 or so, you begin to develop your own voice."

MattChandler.jpg Well, Matt Chandler is one of those folks that you should consider listening to.  He's a young preacher at The Village Church in Dallas, TX.  His style is passionate, a little irreverent (on appropriate topics), and entirely biblical.  I was first exposed to him on The Resurgence website, where he spoke as part of a conference to young pastors and church planters.   Keep in mind it's not a Sunday AM service, and he's speaking to a young crowd, but it's really neat to hear the story of how he became the pastor of his current church, when he really didn't want the job.

Check out the video:

All of Matt's sermons are also available on this podcast.  If you don't know how to use a podcast, the instructions are all available on the link above.  My brother and I have greatly enjoyed his sermons on Ecclesiastes. 

And more recently, Matt has become a bit of a blogger.  Not a ton of posts, but meaningful ones.  You can visit Matt Chandler's blog at dwelldeep.net.

If you are one of those that just goes to church to warm a pew, I would definitely save some gas and time and stay home and listen to Matt.  If you actually serve and minister to others as part of your fellowship, you'll have to find another time to do so.