More Skiba Nonsense: the Mosiac vs. New Covenant

GrACE preferenceRob Skiba ventured a reply of sorts to my previous post, calling me a “Jesuit-Inquistor.” Responding to my identifying the Mosaic covenant as obsolete, Skiba ardently defends the notion that New Covenant Christians are still under the Mosaic covenant. (note the grammar and spelling are Skiba’s):

Obesolete Mosaic covenant??? Are you referring to the Law that was written on our hearts and minds just 3 verses prior? Are you saying you subscribe to and support the validity of INSERTING words that don’t belong in the text:

“Covenant” simply is NOT in the Greek text. It was INSERTED into the English text by translators who ignore the “MAIN POINT” of Heb. 8:1, which was the “sum” of what had previously been written about in the preceding 4 chapters. To insert “covenant” as in “Mosaic Law” into verses 7 and 13 (as many a English Bible does), it totally nullifies verse 10 and completely ignores Hebrews 4-7. But that’s another whole topic in and of itself.

Rob is correct that the word “covenant” is not in verse 13 but don’t you wonder why nearly every major English translation saw fit to insert it for clarity?  Is it really a Jesuit conspiracy? Here is a text comparison of the major English translations:

NIV | ‎Heb 8:13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
‎‎NASB95 | ‎Heb 8:13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
‎‎NRSV | ‎Heb 8:13 In speaking of “a new covenant,” he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.
‎‎ESV | ‎Heb 8:13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
‎‎NKJV | ‎Heb 8:13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
‎‎KJV 1900 | ‎Heb 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

So has every Bible translation committee for the last 400 years gotten it wrong while Rob Skiba has it right?  It doesn’t seem likely. A strict literal translation is the Lexham English Bible and it renders:

“In calling it new, he has declared the former to be old. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is near to disappearing.”(Heb 8:13, LEB)

So what is the “it” that the author is calling “new” and what is the “former” that is old, obsolete, and near disappearing? In order to determine that, we first look to the context.  Simply read Hebrews 8 and it is very clear that the topic is the “new covenant.” The author cites  Jeremiah 31:31–34 in Hebrews 8:8-12.  Here is the LEB fully formatted:

Hebrews 8:10–13 (LEB)

10 For this is the covenant that I will decree with the house of Israel

after those days, says the Lord:

I am putting my laws in their minds

and I will write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God

and they will be my people.

11 And they will not teach each one his fellow citizen

and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’

because they will all know me,

from the least of them to the greatest.

12 For I will be merciful toward their wrongdoings,

and I will not remember their sins any longer.”

13 In calling it new, he has declared the former to be old. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is near to disappearing.

In Greek, adjectives and nouns have grammatical gender (masculine and feminine) but it doesn’t necessarily imply anything about sexual gender but rather serves a grammatical function so that one can match adjectives to nouns and pronouns precisely. In this case, it proves helpful even though the context alone is pretty clear.

The word διαθήκη rendered “covenant” in verse 10 is singular and feminine. In order to verify that adjective καινός “new” in verse 13 refers back to “covenant” we verify that it matches in gender and number:  διαθήκην (fem. sing) –>  καινὴν (fem, singular). Likewise we verify that πρώτην “former” in verse 13 also matches in gender and number, it does: πρώτην (fem, singular).   Thus, in Greek the grammar along with context make it absolutely certain that verse 13 means “new covenant” and “former covenant.” That is why all of your English translations inserted it… no Jesuit conspiracy necessary. Verse 13 is obviously referring to the New Covenant as opposed to the former covenant (the Mosaic one.)  Indeed,  it is beyond question that this chapter teaches the Mosaic covenant is obsolete. So why accept Skiba’s yoke of slavery?

Reply to Rob Skiba’s Twisting and Distorting Colossians 2

Rob SkibaThis a reply to Rob Skiba’s Facebook note: Twisting and Distorting Colossians 2. The problem is that Skiba is simply uninformed and incorrect. In Colossians, Paul is addressing a situation quite similar to Skiba’s own “ministry” that also asserts New Covenant believers need concern themselves with the obsolete Mosaic covenant stipulations (Hebrews 8:13). Despite his special pleading, historians and biblical scholars universally agree that the dangerous teaching at Colossae was heavily steeped in Jewish customs. Recent President of the Evangelical Theological Society, Clinton Arnold of Talbot School of Theology and Biola University, observes, “The fact that there are many distinctively Jewish elements to the false teaching (such as Sabbath observance, Jewish festivals, and an interest in angels; see 2:16–18) has led a number of scholars to contend that the competing teaching had something to do with Judaism”[1] Arnold continues, “The best explanation for this dangerous teaching is that it comes from the context of the local Jewish and pagan folk belief.” [2] He believes a charismatic leader attracted a following and was presenting himself as a guide to the “true Christianity” which included Jewish customs, feasts, and Sabbath keeping (remind you of anyone?).

Thus, the excuse that folks who cite Colossians 2:16 against Skiba’s Judaizing heresy is some sort of “bible twisting” is completely spurious. It is also instructive that the only people who make such a claim are folks like Jim Staley and Michael Rood who are also deeply invested in Hebrew Roots teaching. Real biblical scholars, steeped in study of the historical context, univocally identify it in a Judaizing context. For example, Robert Wall writes:

Several scholars have recently concluded that the clipped references in Colossians (cf. 2:9, 18, 21, 23) to a “hollow and deceptive philosophy” that “depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world” (2:8) to fashion “fine-sounding arguments” (2:4) suggest that the Colossian congregation was being influenced by a Hellenized form of piety (Francis 1975), probably of Jewish origin (Bornkamm 1975). If to be a Christian meant in some important sense to be Jewish, as opponents to the Gentile mission would have argued, then believers would quite naturally look to their Jewish-Christian teachers (perhaps even to the rabbinate of the local synagogue) for instruction. [3]

Indeed, this sounds very much like Skiba’s teaching that to be Christian means to keep the Jewish feasts, dietary restrictions and Sabbath observance. Now that the context is clear, let’s examine the passage.

Skiba argues that the passage is teaching believers not to let pagans judge them for doing the things of God. But the passage actually says “let no one pass judgement on you” not just pagans.  Thus, the passage teaches do not let Rob Skiba imply you will be a “janitor in heaven” for not keeping the feasts.  Many similar HRM teachers seem to operate under the delusion that the festivals mentioned in Colossians were not the typical Jewish feasts but no historian will support that contention. It’s just a manufactured excuse for the HRM error. While in English translation it is easy to generalize a term like “festival” and then assert it was some unknown pagan festival, the original text is crystal clear. The Greek term used is ἑορτή transliterated heortē and below is a snip of the Lexham Greek-English Septuagint which verifies that the term ἑορτήis used in Leviticus 23.

Feasts Lev 23

More pertinent to the discussion at hand, ἑορτή appears 25 times in 23 verses of the New Testament. A few examples include:

  • “But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people” (Mt 26:5).

 

  • “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover”(Lk 22:1).

 

  • “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing” (Jn 2:23).

 

  • “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand” (Jn 6:4).

 

  • “Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand” (Jn 7:2).

 

Indeed, without exception the term heortē is used to denote the Jewish feasts in the New Testament. Skiba has not provided one shred of historical evidence that it meant anything different in Colossians: “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Col 2:16).

The fact of the matter is that no one outside the Hebrew Roots Movement agrees with Rob Skiba and Jim Staley. Again scholars are univocal. Arnold comments, “The false teacher(s) were advocating a number of Jewish observances, arguing that they were essential for spiritual advancement”[4] Wall’s comment is particularly instructive:

The list of these celebrations, which includes a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day, is fairly typical (compare Hos 2:13; Ezek 45:17; Jubilees 1:14). Since the list encompasses annual festivals (such as Passover or Yom Kippur), monthly meetings (such as the New Moon celebration) and the weekly observance of sabbath, it is evident that Paul’s opponents required a rather comprehensive obligation. Moreover, within Judaism most of these celebrations were intended to help the community look forward to Messiah’s deliverance of Israel from its suffering and to its entrance into God’s promised shalom. Thus, for the Christian to participate in these Jewish celebrations was tantamount to a denial of Jesus’ messiahship. [5]

That last line brings this Judaizing heresy into sharp focus and ought to bring deceived Christians still amongst Skiba’s following to heartfelt repentance. This is not a trivial error, especially now that one has been made aware of its depth into apostasy.

 

 

[1] Clinton E. Arnold, “Colossians” in The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2290.

[2] Arnold, “Colossians,” 2290.

[3]Robert W. Wall, Colossians & Philemon, The IVP New Testament commentary series (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Col 1:1.

[4] Arnold, “Colossians,” 2297.

[5]Wall, Colossians & Philemon, Col 2:18.

Genesis In Light Of Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths

Sunrise_at_Creation

Bible.org has published a cogent paper concerning Genesis 1-2 in its original context. The overarching idea is that if the Torah was written by Moses, who was educated in the courts of Egypt, the use of Egyptian ideas in the Genesis creation account should be expected. Understood in its historical context, Genesis 1 is not a scientific explanation for how God created but rather a theological corrective of the Egyptian account that the Israelites fleeing Egyptian bondage had been indoctrinated with. God used the prescientific Egyptian understanding the Israelites already had as a framework to correct the polytheistic theology. Thus, because the meaning of the text is what the original author intended for his original readers, it is an egregious error to impose modern scientific reasoning, that was utterly alien to the ancient context, onto Moses and his inspired writing.  This renders the arguments about the age of the earth and whatnot unnecessary and misguided.

 

Genesis 1-2 In Light Of Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths

The author/redactor(s) of the Genesis creation accounts share certain concepts of the makeup of the world with other ancient Near Eastern cultures. However, it is especially with Egypt’s worldview that the author/redactor(s) are familiar. Evidence for this lies in the many allusions to Egyptian creation motifs throughout the Genesis creation accounts. But, rather than being a case of direct borrowing, they demythologize the Egyptian concepts and form a polemic against the Egyptian gods. Thus, they elevate Yahweh-Elohim as the one true God, who is transcendent and who is all powerful. He speaks his desire and it comes to pass. He does not require the assistance of other gods to perform the acts of creation. He alone possesses the power and means necessary to effect the creation of the world.

https://bible.org/article/genesis-1-2-light-ancient-egyptian-creation-myths#P107_27442

Biblical Interpretation and the “Holy Spirit Trump Card” Fallacy

TrumpCard1This post has been boiling inside me for a while now. Invariably, when debating controversial issues like eschatology or the doctrine of creation, someone will pull the out the Holy Spirit trump card and act as if it has settled the matter.  For instance, someone might argue, “I know the rapture is pretrib because the Holy Spirit led me to this truth.” Of course, to question them further amounts to some sort of blasphemy…  But it is an abuse of the Holy Spirit’s role because it amounts to nothing more than an excuse for not offering evidence and arguments for one’s position.  Would the hypothetical pretribber have us believe she has more guidance from the Holy Spirit than Charles Spurgeon or John Wesley? It’s just not a good track to take.

When Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”(Jn 16:13) It was a promise directed toward the eleven disciples and their role writing the Gospels and the books of the New Testament. It doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit leads us to all mathematical truth, we still have to work lots of problems and gain skill. It also does not apply to interpreting scripture. We still have to struggle to learn biblical languages and history in order to do proper exegesis.

In that regard, I have been debating young earth creationists concerning the traditional misapplication of Genesis one.  My main point of contention is that Moses did not write the text with science in mind. Our western scientific worldview was utterly alien to his context. There is a massive socio-historical dvide that needs to be accounted for but is seldom discussed. Fee and Stuart explain, “As people far removed from the religious, historical, and cultural life of ancient Israel, we simply have great trouble putting the words spoken by the prophets in their proper context. It is often hard for us to see what they are referring to and why.” [1]  I have been reading In the Beginning… We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context which is an excellent introduction to Moses’ context. The book shows that Moses was addressing Egyptian cosmogony and offering a theological corrective. In fact, the creation sequence in Genesis one corresponds almost directly to the older Egyptian account.  It’s too close to be a coincidence.  Miller and Soden write, “We are suggesting that Moses is starting with the Egyptian assumptions about creation to correct Israel’s theology of creation and not their way of talking about creation. Moses seems to begin with a starting point that Israel would have already accepted.”[2]  In other words, God is using the existing nonscientific beliefs of the ancient Israelites escaping Egyptian bondage to correct their Egyptian  indoctrination.  It’s not about science.

When I point out that it is superficial exegesis to impose a modern scientific worldview on to Genesis 1…  here it comes, the Holy Spirit trump card: “The Holy Spirit told me the earth  is young” which fails for the reasons in the first paragraph. But typically it is something more like “He was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit…therefore the text is written for all time.” While it is for all time, it does not mean it is written to a scientific context. The number one rule of hermeneutics is that the original author’s intent for his original readers determines the meaning. Anything else results in relativistic chaos. A responsible Bible interpreter will seek to discover that original intended meaning. This requires some effort like reading scholarly books and employing resources like the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Set.  Invoking the Holy Spirit is not an excuse to ignore that responsibility and it is an abuse of the Holy Spirit’s role. Genesis is “for” all time, but it still was not written “to” you and your modern Western worldview. The meaning of the text is determined by the author’s context and intent not the worldview of readers 3000 years removed.

 

[1] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas K. Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), 184.

[2] Johnny V. Miller and John M. Soden. In the Beginning… We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context. (Kregel Publications 2012). Kindle Locations 1209-1210.

Young Earth Creationism and Evidence Denial

ice_core_algae_bandOldest ice core: Finding a 1.5 million-year record of Earth’s climate

How far into the past can ice-core records go? Scientists have now identified regions in Antarctica they say could store information about Earth’s climate and greenhouse gases extending as far back as 1.5 million years, almost twice as old as the oldest ice core drilled to date.  (source)

There is very compelling evidence from ice core samples that discredits young earth interpretations of the Bible. However, it isn’t a problem for believers because the Bible never dates creation. That came much later when men like Bishop Ussher added the genealogies and calculated a date. However, there are very good reasons to think these genealogies are not chronological.  Francis Schaeffer observed:

Prior to the time of Abraham, there is no possible way to date the history of what we find in Scripture. After Abraham, we can date the biblical history and correlate it with secular history. When the Bible itself reaches back and picks up events and genealogies in the time before Abraham, it never uses these early genealogies as a chronology. It never adds up these numbers for dating. (Genesis in Space and Time 123-124).

This is laid bear when one examines the text in its original language. The term often translated “father” does not necessarily imply linear descent but can also mean “ancestor” or “forefather.”

      אָב ab (3a); from an unused word; father:—ancestors(1), family*(1), father(571), Father(8), father’s(137), fathers(333), fathers’(120), fathers’ households(1), forefather(1), forefathers(27), grandfather(1), grandfathers(1), households(5), Huram-abi*(2), sons(1).

New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

Accordingly, the young earth date setting project was never the biblical authors’ intent but a later extrapolation. With such a dubious starting place it is rather astounding the level of vitriol and science denial in which young earthers engage.

Ones interpretation of scripture needs to be tempered by natural revelation as in the case of the ice core samples. History has shown us that to refuse do so discredits the church. Consider when Copernicus proposed that the earth revolved around the sun, he and Galileo were branded heretics because of the churches interpretation of these passages:

Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. (Ps. 93:1)

And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. (Josh. 10:13)

[The sun’s] rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Ps. 19:6)

The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. (Eccl. 1:5)

If young earthers maintained a consistent hermeneutic to what they demand concerning Genesis and the genealogies, it seems like they should also be geocentrists. However, today it is understood that the Bible uses the language of appearance and was not making scientific claims about the sun moving.  Indeed, even young earthers compromise their literal interpretation of scripture in order to keep step with Copernican theory.  How long will it take until they face the overwhelming evidence for the true age of the earth?