Jesus, The God Man (History of the Bible, part 11)

 

“And He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

“Jesus loves me. This I know for the Bible tells me so.” This is great, but what else do we know? Let’s talk about some basic, foundational beliefs about Jesus Christ. As Paul suggests above in Colossians, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, holds the world together. Why is this the case? Why is it necessary for our salvation?

It is absolutely crucial that Jesus be 100% man and 100% God. Without this, the world is lost. St. Athanasius says, “That which is not assumed cannot be saved.” Jesus had to sanctify humanity by entering into 100% humanity and living the perfect life that only 100% God could do. God and Man are naturally separated. God is uncreated; we are created. God is perfect. We are imperfect. Even Adam and Eve at their creation had to have been imperfect to have the ability to sin. Jesus, because He is both God and Man, is the only mediator between God and Man. “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’” Jesus received full manhood from his earthly mother, Mary, and He received full godhood from His Father through the Holy Spirit. Both were equally necessary for the Word of God to be Incarnate.

We are only allowed in communion with God through the person of Jesus.

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven…” Colossians1:21-22 Not only by His life, but by His perfect death, did He defeat sin and death. Because Jesus is 100% man, He was born with the human capability to die, but because He is 100% God, He rose from the dead, never to die again. It is through His resurrection that we can have the future hope of our resurrection and salvation. “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”

What else do we know about Jesus?

He was present at creation. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” John 1:1-3

He is the Word of God.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

This Word, Logos, is a word (giggles) that is exploding with philosophical meaning!!! I can’t go into it all today, but in short, one of the earliest Greek philosophers (I’m talking Pre-Plato here) named Heraclitus used this word first. Word is used over and over in the New Testament to refer to Jesus. Heraclitus used it to “designate the divine reason to plan which coordinates a changing universe.” Now, if our Lord Jesus Christ didn’t change our universe, I don’t know who can! John would have known this definition when he applied it to Christ. I will have to do a whole post on the Logos one day in the future.

Jesus is the Light of the World.

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….(John the Baptist) came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:4-5,7-9

“He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.” John 5:35

“Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:5

“’While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.” John 12:36

“I have come to the world as a light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” John 12:46

“Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him (Paul).” Acts 9:3

Jesus calling himself the light of the world was also super radical. Another school of thought, Gnosticism, emphasized the power struggle between Light and Dark (Good and Evil). Jesus personifying himself as the Light that cannot be overcome by any darkness sends a major message to the Gnostics. Once again, this is a topic for another day.

When Jesus ascends into heaven, He leaves the Holy Spirit with us, and Christians are depicted as having His light.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

“While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” John 12:36

“For so the Lord commanded us, saying ‘ I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Acts 13:47

“…and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness…” Romans 2:19

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’”

2 Corinthians 4:6

“…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” Ephesians 5:8

In my slightly educated, most likely narrow-minded thought process, I think that Christians have the light of Jesus through the person of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus left as our Comforter until He returns. Please do not think that I am reducing the Holy Spirit to only being a light bulb.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Paul says, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women.” This is what the early church called themselves, “The Way,” which referenced Jesus’ statement in John.

“You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.” John 5:33

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

“Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’” John 18:37

“…assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus…” Ephesians 4:21

Folks, it is very important that we derive our truth from Jesus Christ, not from our own shallow, finite minds. It is perfectly okay to claim that there is absolute truth; everyone does it. Some claim to derive their truth from their own “experiences” or “feelings.” I choose to follow Jesus, not my own ability to discern truth from falsehood.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36

“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33 (a reference to Jesus as God’s manna perhaps? A topic for another 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.” John 6:40 (a reference to Jesus as the bronze serpent that was lifted up? Lots of OT going on here…another topic for yet another day)

“I am the bread of life.” John 6:48

“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:3-54 (mmmmm….controversy! J we shall discuss this later for sure)

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” John 6:68

Last but certainly not least, Jesus is the source of life. Not only was He our creator, but He is our Savior! We can have eternal life through His life, death, and ultimate resurrection. He is our resurrection, the Life.

What are the implications of this?

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

We see here that Jesus is the image of God, and so are we.

“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15:49

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

I know that was a lot of Scripture and not much of my own words, but my own opinion is not necessary. Next week I will show you how interpreting Scripture outside of the protection of the Church leads to very dangerous heresies. We will discuss Gnosticism and Arianism in contrast to what we know is true about Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

 

For those of you who are curious about the image I chose for this blog, this icon, or image, of Christ is called Christ Pantocrator. Pantocrator is a translation of Yahweh from Hebrew into Greek for the Septuagint. It refers to Christ as the Lord Almighty. You will notice that Christ is holding a copy of Scripture, which is sometimes open to the verse that says “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” His clothing made of red and blue represent the two natures of Christ, God and Man. His fingers, the sign of the cross, represent both the Trinity (three fingers) and the two natures of Christ (two fingers). The gold represents heaven and Christ as the Light. There are countless other features I could point out, but I don’t know them all. I think it is the most perfect (that a mere human can create) representation of Christ and His attributes.

We are also referred to as “icons” of Christ, made in the image of God. I’ll talk more about this soon.

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The Influence of the Early Church in the Formation of the Canon (History of the Bible, part 10)

Growing up,  I was under the impression that history was some far away place that could only be reached through books and grandfathers’ tales, but history is made every day. What we do may not be preserved in fancy books that will be read to children, copied, preserved through generations, and venerated, but it could be. Two thousand years ago twelve ordinary people doing ordinary everyday average things met a man who changed their lives and the life of the world. They were not spectacular. Most of them weren’t educated. They never set out to change history, and yet, we remember them. These ordinary people took the words of this extraordinary man, Jesus Christ, as gospel, The Gospel. They wrote books recounting their experiences with him. They made copies of these books and passed them around the known world! We know their names, these very ordinary people! Mary, Peter, Paul, James, Matthew, John and so so so many more! They formed a church, The Church. They read these books at every opportunity to celebrate the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They prayed, they lived, they died, most of them for their faith, and most importantly they passed on this history to their children and their neighbors. The Church lived on this way for over three hundred years: reading, praying, and breaking bread. (Acts 2:42)

In 313, Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which declared Christianity a legal religion of the state, and the empire converted. Christianity in the Roman Empire went from 15% to 70% of the population in 100 years. This rapid growth was also dangerous for the Church. Heresies began to spring up. In 325, Constantine called the Council of Nicea, the first Ecumenical Council of the Church, to discuss Arianism, the heresy that claimed that Jesus was created by the Father, not begotten. St. Athanasius (one of my personal heroes) combated Arianism in his book, On the Incarnation of the Word. The Council formed the Nicene Creed, which specifically defends against Arianism. “…And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father through Whom all things were made…” The Church was successful. They survived this heresy, but more would come. In 367, St. Athanasius wrote a list of the 27 books of the New Testament as we have them today. This was the first time these books were mentioned all together. There is no clear date for when the canon came together. There were certain requirements for a book to be accepted into the canon: the Vincentian rule for the canon says that they had to be read everywhere always by everyone. Basically, the book in question must be widely circulated among the churches, it had to have been read there for the entire history of the Church, and it had to be accepted by everyone in the Church. Many books did not make the cut, although, they were read kind of like a “devotional book.” There is a common misconception, one that I held for many years, that the Bible was read in completion by the early church, that it came together very quickly after Jesus’ death. This was not the case. The Church did read individual books, but they did not rely on the entirety of the Bible to hold their faith together. They heard from their mothers and fathers and grandparents, who had sat and talked to the apostle John in Ephesus or Peter or Paul in Rome. They had a living memory of the life of Jesus before they had any Scripture. The events in Acts obviously happened before Luke could write them down. Scripture relied on the witness and the tradition of the Church. Dr. Foakes-Jackson says, “The Church assuredly did not make the New Testament; the two grew up together.” You see, the Church did not suddenly sit down and decide to create the Bible one day. It took centuries of passing around Gospel books and Epistles before they had a complete book of Holy Scripture. They did, however, have the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament. This is what Paul quotes in his epistles, because that is what the early church was reading.

So take heart in the news that your Bible comes from a long line of devoted Christians who gave their lives to preserve the word for three hundred years until it was legalized! They still obviously didn’t have a printing press, and making copies was difficult. Eventually, each church had a copy to be read in public worship, but the Church had a long journey ahead of them, none of which was smooth sailing.

Before the end of this series, I will revisit the heresies one by one and discuss modern sightings of each of them.  Also! I will be taking a closer look at the Nicene Creed.  Meanwhile, I will go through some basic theology that everyone needs to know. Welcome to apologetics class!

 

 

The Translation of the Bible into English (History of the Bible, part 9)

Hebrew…Greek…Latin…English! The Jews had Hebrew, the original Church has Greek, the Roman Catholic Church has Latin, and along with the first thoughts of the Protestant Reformation, the English Bible was born. So how did the English Bible come to be?

First, let me give a shout out to Erasmus, who compiled a complete Greek New Testament from six manuscripts in 1516. This Greek New Testament was used by Martin Luther and William Tyndale in their German and English Bibles. But first, John Wycliffe published the first English translation of the Bible in 1380. His translation was from Latin, which of course we know is a step removed from the original Hebrew and Greek. You can still purchase Wycliffe Bibles today; in fact, I grew up reading my dad’s copy of The Wycliffe Bible. Wycliffe pushed for the Bible to be written in the language of the people. Commoners could no longer read Latin, but the Catholic Mass was still in Latin. Wycliffe was a revolutionary. Following his lead, William Tyndale translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English. His was the first English translation to be printed on a printing press. This technology enabled mass production of Bibles for the first time. When common people began to interpret scripture for themselves, the world changed. Along with the Reformation came the formation of the Anglican Church by Henry VIII. His descendants bounced back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism. Finally, King James I ordered the translation of The King James Bible. This was seen as “THE” translation of the Bible, and many still see it this way today. However, the earlier Geneva Bible was more popular for many years.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s came the new English translations of the Bible, revisions of the King James Version. Up until this point, the Bibles still contained the Apocrypha. I’m not going to talk about every English Bible specifically, because there are way too many of them. In the 1970’s, along with other movements, the New International Version was published. The NIV was the first “phrase for phrase” translation. Instead of focusing on translating the Greek and Hebrew “word for word” into English, the translators focused on the overall meaning of each passage. They were willing to compromise the exact wording to retain the original meaning.

Scholars continue to translate the Scriptures in the hopes of doing it perfectly…eventually. Some translations are more academic and are translated word for word, and others are meant for easy understanding. These paraphrase the Scripture. With so many to choose from, how do you know which translation is best?

My recommendation, what has also been recommended to me, is to read multiple translations of the Bible. No one translation will be a perfect rendering of the original Hebrew and Greek. It is very important to be aware of the differences between the translations (and their commentary). Most Bibles, just like the original English Bibles, push a certain agenda ever so slightly into the mind of the reader. Commentary can be very useful and helpful, but be mindful of what the agenda is while reading it. So in your Bible study, grab an RSV, ESV, NIV, NLT, NASB, and the KJV! They each have unique features to offer their target audience. Make use of them! Remember to always keep Scripture in context. Drawing Scripture out of context leads to HUGE issues. Remember the culture as discussed in the post on the Greek New Testament. I will talk more about this next week when I discuss the early church.

 

The Latin Vulgate (History of the Bible, part 8)

As you now know, the Bible was written in two languages originally: Hebrew and Greek. As the Church spread, new languages became dominant. The church in Rome mainly spoke Latin, with less and less Greek speakers as time went on. They wanted a new translation of the Bible in their own language. It is only natural for people to want to read the Bible in their own language, but we must be careful to preserve the historicity and truth of the original texts.

With various strands of the Greek New Testament circulating in the early church by the 4th century, the Church decided that they needed to compile a complete Old and New Testament. Pope Damascus commissioned his secretary, Jerome, to do the job. Jerome began by revising the New Testament and then the Old Testament. He used a previously written Latin translation of the Gospels and compared them to Greek manuscripts. When this revision was completed, his work was compiled to form the Latin Vulgate in 405. Jerome’s revision was not a word for word translation of the text, but rather it was thought for thought translation. It read very differently from the original Greek text.

Some of the changes were not readily accepted. Jerome used a new order for the books (the order we use today), and followed the psalter of the Septuagint (The Greek Old Testament). Although not everyone loved the Latin Vulgate straight away, it soon became the most widely used translation of the Bible. Very few places in the West did not use the Vulgate. Of course, the church in the East still spoke and read Greek and had no need for the new Latin version. The difference in translation and language contributed to the future Schism. In 1546, The Council of Trent declared the Latin Vulgate to be the only acceptable translation of Scripture, completely disregarding the original Greek and Hebrew texts. This would lead to issues in the future.

With more and more expansion into the West, the Church encountered more needs of translating the Bible. Next would come German and English, and with these translations, the Church completely changed.

I apologize for how long it has taken me to get back to writing. The last few weeks of the trimester had me writing papers and studying for finals. I am working on something big, but it may take a while to complete. Meanwhile, I will finish the History of the Bible and begin my defense of  Jesus Christ. Thanks for reading!