An Old Covenant Perspective on Pentecost

חג השבועות: Pentecost -
(Chag Shavu'ot = The Feast of Weeks)

  1. Why Study Shavu’ot?

    • Acts 2:1 ~ When the day of Pentecost (Shavu’ot) arrived, they were all together in one place.

    • Why does the passage record that this was the Feast of Pentecost (Shavu'ot)? Is this coincidental? Merely setting the stage? Or is this relevant information to our understanding of these events? I suggest the latter.

    • Rom 15:4 ~ For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.…

    • 2 Tim 3:16-17 ~ All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

  2. Context of Mosaic Festivals

    • The Mosaic festivals are not isolated but form an interconnected series as a sequential liturgical calendar

    • Ex 23:14-17 ~ “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. (Pesach/ Passover) You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed. (Shavu’ot/Weeks) You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. (Sukkot/Booths) You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD.”

    • Each festival was tied to the agrarian cycle - the seasonal cycle of life and death which we experience on the earth

    • Pesach = Feast of “Passover”

      • Theme: God’s Redemption & Salvation

      • Corresponds to the Death & Resurrection of the Christ

      • During Passover on the “morning after the Sabbath” a “Wave Offering” of the firstfruits of the barley is to be made.

        • Barley wave is the firstfruits of harvest after the winter ‘dead’ season.

        • Sunday is the “day after the Sabbath” Christ is presented as the “firstfruits from the dead.”

          • 1 Cor 15:20-23 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

          • 1 Cor 15:35-45 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat (lit. = cereal grain) or of some other kind of seed. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body... So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

      • Shavu’ot = Feast of “Weeks” (also called Feast of “Firstfruits”)

        • Called the Feast of "Weeks" because its timing is set directly by Passover (7 weeks + 1 day from the Passover Sabbath)

        • Theme: Celebratory confidence in of the Provisional Character of God

        • Shavuot to occur 49+1 days after the barley wave offering at Pesach

        • Celebration of firstfruits, especially of the wheat and more generally the various produce of the land in Israel

      • Sukkot = Feast of “Booths/Tabernacles”

        • Theme: Reflective celebration of the Provisional Faithfulness of God

        • Celebration of ingathering of the crops and of God’s provision to His people during their wilderness wanderings and bringing them into the Land that He had promised

  3. Shavu’ot Liturgical Observance

    • As a Harvest festival – particularly harvest of the wheat but including all “seven species” (Deu 8:8)

    • Lev 23: 9-22 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf (~3.85 quarts) of the (barley) firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath (during Pesach) the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD. And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour (~ 4 quarts of flour ~ typical bread loaf ~ 1 quart flour) mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD. And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”

    • Deuteronomy 16:9-12 “You shall count seven weeks. Begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.

    • Deuteronomy 26:1-11 “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. And you shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, ‘I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.’ Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God. “And you shall make response before the LORD your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. And he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O LORD, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.

  4. Liturgical significance beyond God’s physical provision

    • God’s physical provision does not stand alone but is meant to point us to His spiritual provision: John 6:25-40 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” … Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

    • Relation of a “harvest festival” to His plan of spiritual provision? (What is God about?) – a. Metaphor of His people as a field / harvest / vineyard / etc. is common: E.g. Isa 5:1-7; Matt. 9:36-38; Matt. 13:1-43, etc.
      b. He makes clear His purpose in establishing His laws for the people including this festival. God’s redemption of His people preceded His establishment of the covenant to and for them. The covenant is not meant to redeem them, it is meant to shape them. God declares that they will be a “treasured possession” (הסגל - “cĕgullah”) which was used to describe particular treasures of absolute monarchs. It might be used to describe the crown jewels or a sculpted palace -though the monarch owned all the land and everything in it, this is a possession which the monarch enjoys in particular, personal possession. i. Exodus 19:3-6 While Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

  5. The first Shavu’ot: Sinai & the Covenant Oath – what God did on the first Shavu’ot

    • ShaVu’oT = “Weeks” ~ SheVu’aT = “Oaths” → in Biblical Hebrew there are no vowels (only consonants) so these two words are the same and distinguished only by context (rather like “bass” the fish and “bass” the sound quality in English)

      • 1. This connection between the Festival of Shavu’ot and covenantal oath is hinted in 2 Chron 15 with the reformation of Asa & re-dedication to the covenant @ time of Shavu’ot. It is well established in Jewish thought (e.g. the Book of Jubilees) by the second temple period.

      • This is the primary liturgical aspect of modern Jewish observance of the Feast of Shavu'ot

    • “The First Shavu’ot”: Ex 19:1-11...16-25 - The LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people..... On the morning of the third day (50 days after the first Passover Sabbath) there were thunders (“qowl” = voices / noises) and lightnings (“baraq” = flashing/glittering) and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” And Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’” And the LORD said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break out against them.” So Moses went down to the people and told them.

    • Targum Neofiti ~ Ex 20:2 – "The Word that went forth from the mouth of the Holy One, may His Name be blessed, was like shooting stars and lightnings and like flames and torches of fire, a torch of fire to the right and a torch of flame to the left it flew and winged swiftly in the air of the heavens. It turned around and became visible in all the camps of Israel and by turning it became engraved on the two tablets of the covenant."

    • Shabbat 88 ~ Psalm 68:12 Rebbe Johanan – “every word that went forth from the omnipotent was split into the seventy languages” v. Midrash Tehilim ~ Psa 68:12 – “when He was speaking the Divine Word, the Voice was divided into seven voices and the seven into the seventy languages of the nations”

  6. Megilath Ruth – The book of Ruth is liturgically read at Shavu’ot

    • Each book of the Megillot is associated with a particular holiday

    • Why is Ruth associated with Shavu’ot? ~ Rabbi’s give several reasons, none really conclusive.  But it is particularly interesting from a Christ-centered perspective.

    • In Ruth, we see a picture of Redemption and provision. But the tale is odd for it is the story of both the redemption of a despised Gentile (a Moabitess) and through this redemption the restoration of her Jewish mother-in-law. God not only provides for a non-Jew but uses the love and faithfulness of this non-Jew to draw Naomi back to Himself. This may sound familiar to the themes and history of Pentecost.

    • Is this perhaps just a coincidence? - The book of Ruth itself offers commentary on ‘coincidence’ as a matter which is overseen by the Providence of God to accomplish His purposes. Ruth 2:3 ~ So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.

  7. Shavu’ot Fulfilled: Pentecost

    • Having the background of Jewish tradition, the scene at Pentecost may now ring more familiar in our ears.

    • Acts 2: 1-11 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

    • What happened at Pentecost:

    • The Firstfruits of Christ’s work and harvest:

      • The Firstfruits indicate what the nature of the harvest is just as Firstfruits of wheat offer indication of the quality of the full wheat harvest – the indwelling Spirit is the firsfruits of the final redemption

        • Rom 8:23 - And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (cf. Rom 8)

        • The Jews & Proselytes came to bring the firstfruits of their labor in honor of the Feast of Shavu’ot and there became themselves the firstfruits of Christ’s harvest

          • Rom 11:15-16 - For if the Jews rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. (cf. Rom 11:11-24)

        • A picture of the multi-culturally & multi-ethnically unifying nature of redemption:

          • Eph 2:11…18 - Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands… For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

          • Babel Redeemed – The parallel of this incident to Babel is often noted by commentators- it is worth recognizing that this paints a picture of the nature of redemption. The hurt is not simply mended, the curse not simply undone. Everyone did not simply speak a single language but rather God redeemed & harmonized the diversity… Redemption is not simply reversion. Christ, the new Adam was not simply a remake of the original but something infinitely greater (1 Cor 15) and the New Jerusalem will not simply be a remake the original Eden but something more (Rev 21-22).

  8. Full institution of the New Covenant:

    • Jer 31:31-34 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (cf Heb 8, Heb 10)

My own commentary in summation:
At Pentecost Jews and proselytes from every nation came to offer their firstfruits to honor and obey the Old Covenant which God had made with the children of Israel at the mountain of Sinai and themselves became the very firstfruits of God's New Covenant to all the nations.

At Sinai the people washed their clothes to make themselves holy for the presence of God.  At Pentecost, the Spirit of Holiness Himself baptized the disciples and manifested His presence to indwell the people of God.

At Sinai, God’s Spirit was manifest to the people as sparks of lightning and His Voice thundered forth to them. In the Power of His Words the Spirit of God Himself wrote His covenant upon the tablets of stone and in His covenant showed them a shadow of what His treasured possession would look like. At Pentecost, God’s Spirit was again visible as flames and again His voice was heard. This time the flames rested upon each person – and again the Spirit of God wrote His covenant but He wrote it upon the hearts of His people as a new covenant to replace the shadow with the perfection of His Redemptive work . And again God spoke and He spoke in power in all the languages of all the peoples to declare of what He has wrought – yet this time His power manifest within His people and His people were the conduit and participant in His declaration.
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How to have "Christian unity" without needing Christ

Unity within the Church is a good thing. In fact it is absolutely necessary to the healthy existence of the Church as the Body of Christ (Eph 4:4-14). Now, Paul says that this unity should and will come through our direct Union with the Christ as individual Christians and that in this our humility before Christ and His Love in us will create the Unity of love for the church all around us. (Phl 2)

It turns out that there is another way to manufacture unity. It turns out that it can be created through strictly regimented adherence and focus on theological tradition. Of course this is a temptation common to our human condition and may be found in all sorts of churches and theological traditions, and it will look different for each. I will speak primarily from my own observation of a small church that I attended for quite some time that was very into being Reformed. In this I observed various signs, symptoms and methods of this pathology:

  • Big and oft reiterated emphasis on the immense need for church governance rather than on how an ordered church ought to function. Of course when the governing body does this it elevates and solidifies the congregations belief in the governing bodies' authority, and it creates the unity of holding together those who are willing to affirm the governing leadership.

  • Responding to questions of the contents of the teaching provided by treating them as threats to presupposed authority, rather than responding of the content of the question itself. Of course these are indeed threats to any false authority based upon theological tradition, when one asks if a teaching is truly in line with Scripture, and asks questions which weigh it against the revealed Word of God - it does indeed deny and threaten the presumed authority of the theological tradition.

  • Basing and supporting doctrinal positions held and taught in the church appeal to statements by great men of a certain historical tradition rather than direct exegesis of Scripture (or indeed contact with Scripture at all - Scripture will often be proclaimed to be venerated, but interpreted primarily through commentaries within the theological tradition)

  • Creation of an inner-circle to produce unified theological opinion by creating educational tracks to grade, correct and regiment the theological views of those who are accounted to be the core of the church... These people are then selected to further lead and teach and thus propagate the trend.

  • Dealing with other surrounding churches only in terms of distinction from them and by rather expressing condescension and disparagement of them - often treating them as misguided at best. Unity is forfeited when we do not treat or speak of our fellow believers in other congregations with grace and do not dwell upon Unity in goal and Spirit and salvation. This is made even more acute when when the Unity of the gospel is destroyed by micro-managing and compressing the definition of what the gospel is until a spirit of dis-Unity with the surrounding churches looks almost legitimate. And of course this "us versus them" mentality often strengthens the manufactured unity of the local congregation at the expense of the greater church body.

  • Taking great and immediate offense which Scripture is read and considered concerning the Pharisee's reliance on theological tradition so that the missed what the gospel actually was. (The irony can hardly be lost that this was of course also the Pharisee's response [Matt 15])

  • Though this mode may be accepted by the congregation it will generally be driven by the leadership. Furthermore, leaders who do not take part in this program are removed from their positions of leadership, because to have elders who are not part of this mindset are of course a liability to it. (And of course, the reasons for this removal are commonly not really expressed to the congregation at large in full but rather short, misleading statements are presented to the church.)

    And of course, none of this is usually obvious to a casual observer (at least one such as me), it took me multiple years to understand what I was seeing. Yet that is the great danger of these things. Whitewashing a tomb does make it appealing; and therein sets the snare that we should desire the form of godliness, and the form of unity without it coming through personal encounter with the Christ and the ensuing transformation of our own hearts.

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  • Good Picture

    The Mathematics of Trinity

    "Though it is clearly the teaching of the Bible, cultic groups and atheists often complain that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is a contradiction... Christians seem to be saying 1+1+1=1. This is simply bad arithmetic, we are told, not profound theology." ~Trinity & Reality by R.A. Smith

    Fascinatingly, though this would indeed be very bad arithmetic for a natural (finite) number (e.g. 1) it is exactly the arithmetic of a transfinite number. That is:
    Aleph Null added together three times is simply equal to Aleph Null

    So, if we accept the idea that each "Person" of the Godhead is infinite, then our relatively recent mathematics simply rediscovers something which theologians have been asserting as a Scriptural Truth for time immemorial. That is, what has long been proclaimed as "bad arithmetic" or a "contradiction" turns out to be nothing of the sort... Not that this makes it more understandable; I don't think anyone fully understands transfinite arithmetic - even those who work in the field. But it is satisfying that we find the "foolishness of God" yet again wiser than the wisdom of man.
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    Quotable: On Christian Morality

    "There is a difference between living to please God and living to appease God."

    In Christianity the idea of morality is vastly different than any other religion or system of morality. In all others we work to prove ourselves, to merit something. In Christianity we live in the view of the only eyes to whom we would ever need to prove ourselves and He has already said "it is finished", we have been accepted. We live differently because we have already been justified - not because we need to be justified.
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    Genesis 5 Genealogy

    I have heard the claim made that the genealogy given in Genesis 5 can be understood as a supernaturally engineered hint of the Gospel message if the names are examined in translation. Unfortunately the standard exposition from this point does not hold up under examination - several of the names are quite clearly mis-translated (for instance translating Qenan as "sorrow"). However, if one puts in the work it seems that the original claim is defensible with some better scholarship (in contrast to many other claims of biblical "codes"). To paraphrase Dan Dennett - there is little more damaging to a good idea than a bad argument standing in its defense.

    So in the interest of Proverbs 25:2
    "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter."

    Let's dive in.

    First the list of names from Genesis 5:
    Adam - Seth - Enosh - Qenan - Mahalal'el - Yered - Enokh - Metushelach - Lamekh - Noach

    But in Hebrew of course these names have meanings - they are not random collections of sounds but come from words in the language. So what are these meanings? Some we are certain of, some are obscure - I shall list the names with the proposed meanings putting an asterisk next to names that are disputable. And list a comment on where the name comes from or how we know what it means. Then afterward I will discuss the disputable names and why we think the name may mean the translation given.

    Adam"Man" from the word for Earth/Ground - masculine of Hebrew "adamah"
    Seth"Appointed" from the Hebrew "shiyth" - attested from Gen 4:25
    Enosh"Mortal/Sick"from "anash" meaning "sick", "frail" or "wicked"
    Qenan"Habitation / Possession / Lot / Stronghold" from a primitive root "qen" originally referring to birds nests - attested in Num 24:21
    Mehalal'elGlorious Godfrom a primitive root for "shining forth" and the word for "God"
    Yered"to Descend" / "to Make Low" (tense not implied)from "yarad" a primitive verb meaning "to come down" or "prostrate"
    Enokh""Discipling"/"Teaching"from a primitive root meaning "to train up" or "to make initiates"
    Metushelach*"His Death Shall Bring" from "mûth"="death" and "shelach" =" "to send forth"
    Lamekh*"Captive"/"Slave"/"Pauper" rabbinic sources indicate etymology deriving from "melek" meaning "king" - since the mem and the lamed are reversed, lamekh is inferred to mean the opposite of a king, hence a captive, slave or pauper.
    Noach"Rest" / "Comfort"from a primitive root meaning "to rest" - attested by Gen 5:29

    *Metushelach: This translation disagrees with the commonly espoused modern rendering in taking the first root from "mûth"="death" rather than "m@th"="man" neither is definitive and vary by a single letter, "shelach" comes from a root meaning "to send forth" which came to refer to ballistic weapons in later Hebrew but more basically referred to any sending forth. Notably, the Masoretic text gives his year of death as the same as the Flood came. The understanding that Metushelach's death was a prerequisite for the Deluge goes back at least to the Babylonian Talmud.

    *Lamekh: It is sometimes claimed that this word means something akin to despair and relates to the modern English word "lamentation," but while they are phonetically similar there is no evidence for a shared etymology of these words. This word is also sometimes linked to the root "makkah" which means to beat or to wound. Other modern scholarship (tending toward documentary hypothesis assumptions) often seeks to trace the word origins through other languages such as Akkadian rather than Hebrew.
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    Salvation by Baptism? - a request

    The other day someone asked me to consider the words of 1 Pet 3:21 and the apparent link made between baptism and salvation.
    "There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ," ~ 1 Pet 3:21 {NKJV}

    Isn't salvation "through faith alone"? So what does baptism (an apparent "work") have to do this. I shall offer commentary in Jim Wilson style (that is by quoting other Scripture with little other discussion - for any unfamiliar with him I HIGHLY recommend following the link).

    To give context 1 Pet 3:18-22
    18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.

    How is salvation wrought in us?

  • Eph 2:8-9 ~ For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
  • 1 Pet 1:5 ~ who, in the power of God are being guarded, through faith, unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time,
  • 1 Pet 1:9 ~ receiving the end of your faith -- salvation of souls;

  • And indeed the author of Hebrews reminds us of the origin of the salvation of the baptism experienced by Noah and his family:

  • Heb 11:7 ~ By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

  • So if salvation is by faith, what does Baptism have to do with it?
    The sign of Baptism is time and again portrayed in Scripture as a passage through death and into a new life and through the burial of baptism escaping the destruction of an old world under judgment and being brought into new life in the new world.

  • Col 2:11-14 ~ In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross
  • 1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
  • Rom 6:2-5 ~ Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
  • Good Picture

    Quotable: On well-intentioned lying

    Throughout Christian history, denunciations of lying have been loud and frequent. Who has been so abhorred as Ananias? And yet we all know the meaning of the words "pious fraud." From the beginning, the devil has loved to tempt the devout to lie for the sake of their good cause—and thereby make it a bad one. One of the first tasks of the Early Church was to separate the true Gospels from the multitudinous invented "eyewitness" accounts in which the faithful lied their heads off for the supposed good of the Church. Fabulous miracles ascribed to the boy Jesus —and more suitable to an infant devil; romantic adventures of Paul with the holy virgin Thecla; forged donations of Constantine, false Isidorian decretals, profound treatises on metaphysics attributed to a Dionysius the Areopagite who never wrote them but was sainted for them—the list is endless. Nor did it end with antiquity; most modern churches have kept up the good work of forging their own praises and their rivals' dispraise, until that clear-sighted and honest Christian Charles Williams found it necessary to write warningly of "the normal calumnies of piety," and to say of a historian, "In defence of his conclusion he was willing to cheat in the evidence—a habit more usual to religious writers than to historical." Let us clean our own house first.

    You can usually tell when a hypocrite has been sinning; he denounces that sin in public — and in somebody else. The mere halfhearted sinner may try to wriggle out of his guilt by some verbal quibble; he hasn't really lied to his wife about how he spent the week-end, he just hasn't told her all the truth. But the real, thoroughgoing, incarnate lie of a Pharisee covers his guilt by trumpeting loudly about his virtue; he comes forward boldly and denounces her for lying to Mrs. Jones about that horrid new hat. And if you want to find a man whose whole life is devoted to hypocritical dishonesty and deception, it might be wise to look for one who habitually beats his child for lying.
    ~Joy Davidman (Lewis)

    [stolen from another blog]
    Good Picture

    On Being Right

    The other day, my brother pointed out an insightful observation: most people are really not very concerned with being right. Don't get me wrong, a great many people are far too concerned with having other people think or concede that they are right, or with having been right all along. But most people who express a regard for "rightness" or who people describe as "wanting to be right all the time" aren't typically really concerned about being right itself and for its own sake but usually mean something along these lines of having possessed a superior worldview all along.

    These two attitudes lead to a vastly different outlook on conversations about truth. The societally common desire to have been right all along leads people to defend what they have always believed without even truly listening to any questions or challenges, it leads them to be belligerent in their defense of their beliefs because their beliefs are not actually about truth but about the strength of their ego, and it leads to people seeking to defend ideas long after they have been irrefutably disproved. On the other hand, a desire to actually be right makes one listen all the time even when speaking to known idiots because you never know where insight or a good argument might come from, desiring to actually be right will lead to earnest and strident discussions about what is true but not in getting one's ego all tangled up in what one already believed, most fundamentally the desire to actually be right will cause one to be willing to listen to ideas and change one's beliefs if presented with proof that one has been wrong.

    So it is worth recognizing that when it is said that a person is "too concerned with being right" - the reality is typically that they are not concerned enough with actually being right.

    May I ever shun the first and embrace the second.
    Good Picture

    Eph 4:8 ~ The spoils of war

    In Ephesians 4:8 Paul quotes Psalm 68:18; however, he doesn't do so exactly, he changes a word.

    Eph 4:8 ~ Therefore *it says, "When He ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives and gave gifts to men"

    Psa 68:18a ~ You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men...

    The other day I heard a pastor make a suggestion that this passage can be understood in light of understanding the "gifts" spoken of to refer to the spoils of war. So that the taking of the "gifts" by the King would necessarily imply their redistribution to His people - for that is what a righteous King does.

    This seems like a good suggestion to me. It certainly fits well with the rest of the Psalm and seems to capture the sense of the Hebrew verb that is translated "received."

    However, it immediately raises questions for which I do not see obvious or clear answers.

    When we go on in Ephesians

    Eph 4:11-12 ~ And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; [NASB]

    Who is He despoiling? And what exactly is the "gift" being despoiled?

    It is unclear in the translations (and to my limited knowledge of Greek) what exactly the gifts are: whether the gift is apostleship (as one of the "spiritual gifts, 1 Cor 12) or the apostles themselves, etc.

    If we take it to mean that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are themselves the gifts to the church at large. Then we who are in Christ are each both the despoiled and the recipients of the spoil. However, we are despoiled of ourselves, and we receive the gifts of the rest of the body. Our own independent strength is yoked to the greater good and our own individual weaknesses borne by the body corpus. - Though I can't currently prove that this is the proper interpretation this seems most perfectly in keeping with the rest of Scripture. We are brought out of our own little rebellious kingdom of one with our greedily guarded assets and our lust for things not our own; and made captive our petty kingdom knitted into a great empire. In this both our miserly greed and our un-attained lusts are denied for we are no longer our own.  Yet in the very denial we are knitted to those with whom we can share our assets and receive the benefit of all the gifts which we never ourselves possessed.

    Meditations on "Being Teachable"

    "The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid. Otherwise it is more akin to a sewer, taking in all things equally." — G.K. Chesterton

    I would credit my PhD adviser, Dr. Richard Smalley, as being both one of the most intelligent people I have ever met (he was a Nobel Laureate) and one of the most teachable. More than half the time when one was talking to Rick he could see the the mistake that you were making before you finished making it. His knowledge was expansive and his insight deep. However, if you said something that he didn't already know, he was absolutely the first to sit up and pay attention. He was never dismissive because the person talking "wasn't as smart as he was" - he listened to what was said regardless AND immediately filtered everything that was said for new ideas and information. If you said anything which fell in the category of a new idea or data point, he would start asking you questions about it and oftentimes you pretty soon found out just how little about the topic you really knew.

    The point is that he thought about what was said - he never simply accepted pontifications as authoritative dictums to be filed away or as the words of an idiot to be discarded. He thought about all he was told and evaluated the content of the ideas and then dealt with it accordingly - on the basis of whether what was said was worth listening to or not. His mind was open to being taught in every circumstance that I ever observed - but he did this by constantly engaging with what was said and filtering out anything of worth to be taken into himself, and rejecting any offal for the worthless matter that it was.

    Now, when people talk about being "teachable" there seem to be two different ideas of what this means.

    1) Some people use the word "teachable" to mean that a person ought to listen to the teaching, seek to explore how this fits into and possibly expands or disagrees with their previous understanding. This mindset always encourages the student to ask questions wherever the teacher says anything that they don't understand or seems to be at odds with what they had previously understood.
    2) Others use the word "teachable" to functionally mean 'sit down and memorize what the teacher says and assume it to be true.'

    I would suggest that this second idea is an extremely wrongheaded approach. Not only is it wrongheaded about how the truth is to be sought and encountered but it is a lousy way for the student to truly learn. The student may take in the group of words and make affirmation of "I believe this" but if the student does not engage or explore or weigh the ideas that those words were supposed to convey then the student has not understood the ideas well enough to actually believe or disbelieve them at all. It would be quite as useless for me, who does not speak Spanish, to puzzle my way through the sounds of a Spanish sentence and then tell myself - "yes, I believe that." Though I could "affirm" it, I could not possibly believe it because the ideas which were meant by those foreign sounds will not have registered in my mind.

    In general this idea of affirmation without engagement is pointless at best; but in a worldview this is a very dangerous place to stand, for the church pews are filled with those who can recite the Lord's prayer and tell themselves that this is "true" without being faced with the reality and implications of that idea. I can affirm any number of things: That God is HOLY, that He is my Father in Heaven; that Jesus was the Son of God who came to sacrifice His life to make a means of redemption for me; that God has provided a means in every circumstance for the Christian to avoid sin. Indeed I can affirm them and they can be good things... but merely affirming them will not cause me to act upon them. I will act upon what I truly believe deep down in my heart-of-hearts. Affirmation is not belief, and one is not taught by what they might affirm unless it becomes belief. So be teachable; engage with what is said, ask questions; because the other option is that you just wasted your time and the teachers by sitting there uselessly.