Russ Houck’s Epidemic: Heretical Pseudohistory

By Cris D. Putnam
EpidemicThroughout history, cults have fed off of the periphery of Christianity. Because a large part of evangelicalism is now preaching a seeker sensitive message, those hungry for real biblical truth and depth are easy prey for pseudo-scholars writing revisionist history like Russ Houck. The book under review, Epidemic: Examining the Infected Roots of Judaism and Christianity belongs to the genre of Pseudo-history.

“It purports to be history, and uses ostensibly-scholarly methods and techniques (which in fact depart from standard historiographical conventions), but is inconsistent with established facts and/or with common sense. It often involving sensational claims whose acceptance would significantly require rewriting accepted history.”[1]

Lacking footnotes and substantive documentation, Epidemic is a poorly researched book that will appeal largely to marginalized members of society. However, that is what makes it so very dangerous. Houck makes a seductive appeal from emotion and incredulity that depends on the reader’s historical and theological ignorance. The charge of Pseudohistory will be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in this essay.

Houck makes radical unsubstantiated claims without any evidence. For example, he claims that Constantine completely corrupted the New Testament and infected Christianity.  If what Houck writes it true, then one cannot trust anything in the New Testament to be genuine, not even the great commission. When a passage like Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19) disagrees with his Anti-trinitarianism, Houck constructs a conspiracy theory to dismiss the passage. Because the book is over four hundred pages of pseudo-history and conspiracy theory; for the purpose of this review only four major points are examined.

He claims 1) the trinity is a pagan doctrine inserted by Constantine; 2) Constantine added Matthew 28:19; 3) The earliest MS of the NT do not contain Matt 28:19 the Great Commission. 4) The original NT was all in Hebrew or Aramaic– Constantine changed it to Greek. After these four point are shown to be false two major heresies will be shown, denial of the Holy Spirit and Arianism (the belief that Jesus was birthed from the Father).

For Houck to make a case he needs to show some relationship between paganism and trinitarianism but he has not done so. There is no deity in Greco-Roman paganism who is one in essence and three in person. He does not show a single source document from paganism with the concept of trinity. In fact, a central argument used by real theologians is the Trinity’s absolute uniqueness amongst world religions.  Millard Erickson writes in his Christian Theology, “In the doctrine of the Trinity, we encounter one of the truly distinctive doctrines of Christianity. Among the religions of the world, the Christian faith is unique in making the claim that God is one and yet there are three who are God.”[2]  Although the internet is full of sources citing Alexander Hyslop’s long discredited book The Two Babylon’s, archeologists have uncovered a wealth of information about ancient Babylon. No one has ever substantiated Hyslop’s claims with actual citations from Babylonian literature because they do not exist.

The doctrine of the Trinity is based on three foundational biblical truths: 1) monotheism 2) three divine persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, 3) the three divine persons are co-equal and co-eternal.  It contains no inherent contradiction. The law of non-contradiction states that something cannot be true and not true at the same time in the same way.  If one said, “one in person and 3 in person” then it would be a contradiction. There is no logical contradiction with “one in essence but 3 in person.” For an in-depth defense of the trinity refer to my website here. But Houck’s claim that Constantine initiated this is easily refuted by the early church Fathers.

Early Church Father’s Disprove Houck

The Martyrdom of Polycarp is an ancient account of Polycarp’s (a disciple of the apostle John) death. It reports that Polycarp used the Triune Name in a prayer. He said, “I bless You, I glorify You, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, with whom, to You, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages.”[3]  Also, Ignatius lived in the first century, the time of apostles. The second chapter of his “Epistle to the Philippians” reads “He sent forth the apostles to make disciples of all nations, commanded them to “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”[4] A direct quote of Matthew 28:19. But it gets very specific with Tertullian.

Tertullian, a century before Constantine, writes in On Baptism, “sealed in (the name of) the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,”[5] citing Matthew 28:19 directly.  In the statement of the Trinity, Tertullian (160-225) was a forerunner of the Nicene doctrine of the trinity. Tertullian wrote in Against Praxeus ch. 12: “If the number of the Trinity also offends you, as if it were not connected in the simple Unity, I ask you how it is possible for a Being who is merely and absolutely One and Singular, to speak in plural phrase, saying, “Let us make man in our own image, and after our own likeness; ”[6]  Furthermore, Tertullian wrote in Against Praxeus chapter 25: “Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent Persons, who are yet distinct One from Another. These Three are, one essence, not one Person, as it is said, “I and my Father are One,”[7]  Here the term Trinity is explained as three persons in one essence over one hundred years before Constantine. How could Houck miss such and obvious problem for his thesis?

The citations form Ante-nicean  (pre- AD 325) church Fathers thoroughly discredit Houck’s claim  that Constantine corrupted the great commission.  The earliest New Testament manuscripts do as well.

Early Manuscripts Disprove Houck

Houck says Matt 28:19 does not exist in any MS dated earlier than the Byzantine text of Constantine (AD 325). (p. 212)   Constantine did not commission any Bibles at the council of Nicea itself. He did commission fifty Bibles in AD 331 for use in the churches of Constantinople, itself still a new city. No historical evidence points to involvement on his part in selecting or omitting books for inclusion in commissioned Bibles. And there is no historical evidence he changed the text.  Houck not only claims he changed it , he even claims Constantine was responsible for changing the language to Greek. But we have hundreds of Greek MS dating before Constantine!  Our two oldest extant Bibles are Greek and contain Matt 28:19. New Testament scholars Kurt Aland, Bruce M. Metzger, Bart D. Ehrman doubt that the two oldest extant codexs: Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were copied by Eusebius on the Constantine order. They reflect the Alexandrian text type rather than the Byzantine:

The suggestion has been made by several scholars that the two oldest parchment manuscripts of the Bible that are in existence today, namely Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus may have been among those ordered by Constantine. … There are, however, one or two indications that point to Egypt as the place of origin of Codex Vaticanus, and the type of text found in both codices is unlike that used by Eusebius.[8]   (Houck cites this book by Metzger approvingly on page 226)

Codex Sinaiticus is an early fourth century Alexandrian MS and it absolutely contains the nomina sacra:

19 Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”[9]

Vaticanus is also available for examination online[10] and it certainly contains the Trinitarian formula.

By Constantine’s time there were thousands of copies but not a single MS has been found that lacks the Trinitarian formula and, worse yet, not a single church father complained about the addition. We have elaborate transcripts of debates, counsels and disputes over every major doctrine, especially the trinity—yet Houck cannot produce one single reference concerning Matthew 28:19 to back up assertion. However, there are citations in early church documents in favor of its authenticity.

Didache Disproves Houck

Houck draws great significance from the lack of a specific triniatrian formula in the baptismal texts in Acts but NT scholars are in agreement that Acts presents condensed summaries and none of these descriptions were intended to be strict formulas for use in baptism.  The early summary of apostolic doctrine, the Didache 7:1–4; 9:5, uses both formulas interchangeably.

7. But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize. Having first recited all these things, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living (running) water. [11]

9:  But let no one eat or drink of this eucharistic thanksgiving, but they that have been baptized into the name of the Lord;

On page 152 Houck claims the Didache is a gnostic document but NT scholars and historians do not believe Gnosticism yet existed when it was composed.  Houck is grossly misinformed, seeming to believe that Gnosticism dates back before Christ. No historian agrees with him; most scholars place the origins of Gnosticism in the late second century AD.[12] On the Didache, Patristics scholar,  J. Tixeront, in the Handbook of Patrology writes:

The dates fixed upon by critics for the composition of the Didache fall between the years 50 and 160. The work was probably composed between 80 and 110. The basis for such a conclusion is the fact that the liturgy and hierarchy which the author describes, are quite primitive; there is no trace in the work of a creed or a canon of the Scriptures, and no allusion is made to pagan persecution or Gnosticism. [13]

Yet Houck is brazen enough to claim it is a gnostic work without substantive argument or evidence. But elsewhere, passages like John 15:25 where Jesus states, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” testify to the likelihood that Trinitarianism has its roots in the teaching of Jesus Himself and argues for the historical probability of the saying in Matthew 28:19.

Even more, the apostle Paul implies the Trinitarian formula in his benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.(2 Co 13:14)  and so does Peter: “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”(1 Pe 1:2)  Did Constantine alter these books as well?

Greek NT Pre-existed Constantine by Centuries

Houck would have us believe the original language of the NT was not Greek, but rather Hebrew. He calls it a papal deception, writing, “Contrary to popular scholarly opinion, I believe there is substantial evidence that the original NT were written in Hebrew and Aramaic with the possible exception of the epistle to the Phillipians.”[14] But the only evidence he cites pertains to Matthew’s gospel – which is hardly controversial. How does he justify the leap from Matthew to the entire New Testament?

He doesn’t.

Houck fails to substantiate his claims that any of Paul’s epistles were not originally in Greek.

Luke who wrote Luke/Acts was a gentile. In Acts 21:40 Luke mentions that Paul addressed them in the Hebrew language – making a distinction.  Again in Acts 22:2 he makes the distinction: “And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet…”(Ac 22:2)  The distinction only makes sense in light of the normal language being Koine Greek the commonly used language.

The book of Revelation makes a similar distinction: “They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.(Re 9:11)  AND “And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.(Re 16:16)  If the original language was Hebrew this would not be necessary.

So I ask, how can Mr. Houck make such radical claims that disagree with the author’s own words? Here is a useful chart showing some of the most important examples. How can he explain away the hundreds of Greek manuscripts that predate Constantine? He doesn’t bother.

Historians are well aware that by the first century even most Rabbis used the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament because Hebrew fluency was so poor.

Alexander the Great conquered the known world and Greek became the common language for most people. In Egypt, under Ptolemy Philadelphus (285–246 b.c.) the Old Testament was translated into Greek. The appearance of this translation indicated that Jewish residents in Egypt were becoming more proficient in the use of Greek than in the use of their native Hebrew. Jewish tradition taught that this translation was the work of seventy-two Jewish scholars. The translation, known as the Septuagint, is commonly designated by the Roman numerals LXX, since seventy is the nearest round number to seventy-two.

Writers of the New Testament frequently used the Septuagint whenever they quoted the Old Testament. In the time of Christ it was used as a standard text, even by the rabbis. The early Church Fathers also drew upon it. Thus a knowledge of the Septuagint is helpful for all students of Scripture.[15]

Houck needs to explain why most of the NT quotations of the OT are from the Greek version, not the Hebrew, “OT scholar Gleason Archer lists 340 places where the New Testament cites the Septuagint but only 33 places where it cites from the Masoretic Text rather than the Septuagint.”[16]

An example where the Greek gospels quote the Septuagint is Matthew: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).”(Mt 1:23, ESV)

LXX:  Because of this, the Lord himself will give you a sign: Look, the virgin (παρθένος) will become pregnant and will bear a son, and you will call his name Immanuel[17]

.39 παρθένοςa, ου f: a female person beyond puberty but not yet married and a virgin (though in some contexts virginity is not a focal component of meaning)—‘virgin, young woman.’ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει ‘a virgin will conceive’ Mt 1:23.[18]

Masoretic: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman (almah) is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.(Is 7:14)

Because almah is not necessarily a virgin, the LXX version is a very important evidence for the virgin birth not supported by the Hebrew version. Houck’s thesis undermines the best evidence for the virgin birth.

Another example that shows decisively the Greek LXX was used because the words do not appear at all in the Masoretic.

Hebrews: “And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”(Heb 1:6, ESV)

LXX: “Delight, O heavens, with him and worship him, you sons of God. Delight, O nations, with his people and prevail with him, all you angels of God. For he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will avenge and he will repay the enemies with vengeance, and he will repay those who hate, and the Lord will cleanse out the land of his people.’ ”(Dt 32:43, LES)

But the Masoretic Hebrew text does not contain the reference to angels at all!

Masoretic: “Call for songs of joy, O nations, concerning his people, for the blood of his servants he will avenge, and he will take reprisals against his foes, and he will make atonement for his land, his people.”(Dt 32:43, LEB)

Not only was Greek the language of the NT it was the language for OT as well. Houck is grossly uninformed.

Argument Against the Holy Spirit Fails

His main argument against the personhood of the Holy Spirit is as follows:

1)                  Jesus is described as “the only begotten of the Father” (Jn 1:14, KJV)

2)                   Matthew 1:18  seemingly gives the Holy Spirit the role of impregnating Mary. “…she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”( Mt 1:18)

3)                   If the Holy Spirit is person then Jesus cannot be begotten of the Father but rather the Spirit.

Therefore, “one God in three persons” must be false.

This presumes the Father Son relationship is based on something as mundane as biological procreation and is very close to the Mormon belief that the father physically had sex with Mary. Jesus’ incarnation was a miracle – it was a virgin birth—the Holy Spirit’s personal role would not make him Jesus’ father, the whole line of reasoning is flawed.

Houck’s misunderstanding is due to surface reading of an English translation (and apparently he only checked the KJV). The words “only begotten” comes from the Greek word monogenēs, properly means “one of a kind, unique.”  It does not imply sexual procreation as Houck believes: For example, Hebrews 11:17 uses the same word: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only-monogenes- son,”(Heb 11:17) But we all know that Abraham did have another son, Ishmael, and later sons by Keturah, but Isaac was a unique son in that he was a son born as the result of certain promises made by God. Accordingly, he could be called a μονογενής son, since he was the only one of his kind. John 1:14 is more properly rendered “the only Son from the Father.” Modern translations have clarified and corrected the English for greater accuracy. He could have checked the ESV and seen a more accurate rendering: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.(Jn 1:14).

Psalm 2 reveals the Father Son relationship existed before the incarnation; “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.(Ps 2:7)  when we turn to Acts 13  we see that the term “begotten”  refers to the resurrection not physical birth! “this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “ ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’’(Ac 13:33)

The Father and Son status is eternal (John 1:1-3). Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever.” God Himself spoke of the Son in Hebrews 1:8 and says, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.” Jesus has existed eternally; there never was a time when he was not. His argument against the Holy Spirit fails but his misunderstanding of “begotten” has led him into another grave theological error: Arianism.

Houck is an Arian

A theological dictionary defines Arianism as:

Arianism, Arius. An early heretical teaching about the identity of Jesus Christ. Arianism was founded primarily on the teachings of Arius (d. 335/336). The central characteristic of Arian thought was that because God is one, Jesus could not have also been truly God. In order to deal with the scriptural testimony to the exalted status of Christ, Arius and his followers proposed that Jesus was the highest created being of God. So although Christ was fully human, he was not fully God. Arius’s teaching was condemned as heretical at the First Ecumenical Council (Nicaea) in A.D. 325.[19]

Although he will deny it, Houck is an Arian because he believes that the Son is not eternal but was rather birthed out of the Father.  He asserts that sometime prior to the creation Jesus did not exist and “came forth from God.”[20] Houck writes that, “the Son was birthed out of the plural Father eons before Mary was born, and before the world was created. Furthermore, He was not created out of anything (or out of nothing) as other celestial beings. He was the only one birthed out of the Father.”[21] He knows Arianism is a serious heresy so he tries to have his cake and eat it too. But it is inescapable that Houck believes in a created Christ. If Jesus is not eternal, he is not fully God. The law of excluded middle applies. If there was ever a time, nor matter how many eons past that he did not exist, he is a created being by definition.  How can someone who claims to have a PhD in theology make such obvious errors? The answer is not surprising.

Houck is Unqualified

All of his claimed degrees in biblical studies and theology are from unaccredited internet schools. Even his undergraduate degree is from a school with phony accreditation. He lists a BA in Theology from the School of Bible Theology in San Jacinto, California.  What is interesting is that the president of this school is Stephen T. Anderson (see this at http://www.sbtsu.org/faculty.php), and in his bio, it says that “Dr. Steve also serves as President of the Transworld Accrediting Commission Int’lHe is the president of the accrediting association that accredits the school of which he is also the president. Most would see that as a conflict of interest, to say the least.  With such dubious undergraduate training as a foundation,Houck then claims to have a Masters in Eschatology from Homestead College of Bible and Graduate School in Orlando, Florida that lists no accreditation. Finally, he claims a PhD in Theology from the same unaccredited internet correspondence school. These are not legitimate credentials by any stretch of the imagination. He prominently displays his phony PhD on his Amazon page as “Dr. Russ Houck PhD” a redundant practice not employed by legitimate scholars. While it does not speak directly to the truth of his claims, it suggests reasonable doubt concerning the character and credibility of someone challenging the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Houck and his following have every indicator of new cult along the lines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, their theology is remarkably similar.  One would be wise to steer clear of Houck and those who promote this book. It has all the ear-marks of a new anti-Trinitarian cult.

 


 [2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology., 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998), 347.

[3] Chapter 14. The prayer of Polycarp,  http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0102.htm

[4] Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians Chapter II.—Unity of the three divine persons.  http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.v.xvii.ii.html

[5] Tertullian, On Baptism Chapter VI.—The Angel the Forerunner of the Holy Spirit. Meaning Contained in the Baptismal Formula. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.vi.iii.vi.html

[6] The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III : Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 606.

[7]Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson and A. Cleveland Coxe, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III : Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 621.

[8] Metzger, Bruce M.; Ehrman, Bart D. (2005). The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (in English) (4th ed.). New York – Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 15–16. http://archive.org/stream/TheTextOfNewTestament4thEdit/TheTextOfNewTestament4thEdit_djvu.txt

[10] Codex Vaticanus, http://www.csntm.org/Manuscript/View/GA_03

[11] Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 232.

[12] scholars prefer to speak of “gnosis” when referring to 1st-century ideas that later developed into gnosticism and to reserve the term “gnosticism” for the synthesis of these ideas into a coherent movement in the 2nd century.

[14] Epidemic, 208.

[15] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 15–16.

[16] G. Archer and G. C. Chirichigno, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament: A Complete Survey, 25-32.

[17]Rick Brannan et al., eds., The Lexham English Septuagint (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012), Is 7:14.

[18]Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 108.

[19] Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 15.

[20] Epidemic, 382.

[21] Codex Vaticanus

Will Believers Who Do Not Keep the Feasts Be Janitors in Heaven?


By Cris Putnam
HRMPeople in the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM) like to celebrate the Jewish feast days as described in the Torah. This seems fine to me unless someone is teaching that they are required or that not celebrating them somehow diminishes one’s spiritual stature. Unfortunately, many popular teachers do just that. The feasts of Israel are those described in Leviticus 23. The three pilgrimage feasts—the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles—demanded that every male Israelite travel to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are closely related and ran consecutively (Lev 23:4–8). The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) followed seven weeks later, and connected the Passover of the exodus with the conquest. Both Passover and Pentecost were practiced by early Christians because Christ was crucified at the Passover, and the Holy Spirit personally descended upon the disciples on Pentecost (Acts 2). The Bible ends with the anticipation of one final feast: the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9).

Because Jesus fulfilled the Spring feasts: Passover-Pentecost with his death burial, resurrection, ascension and subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This leads many to suspect the Fall feasts: (Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Tabernacles) are connected to his second coming. This is somewhat compelling but not necessary. It is speculative. God nowhere promised that Jesus would return on a certain feast day and certainly never implied that observing them is required to be found in good stead when he returns. Yet Rob Skiba instructs his Virtual House Church that this is the case and those who do not celebrate them have diminished status.

While the feasts of the Lord are interesting for prophetic study, some have wandered away from biblical theology by implying new covenant believers are required to observe the Mosaic laws regarding feast observance. Russ Houck writes that Constantine, “single-handedly stopped the New Church from observing the feasts of the Lord ordained by the Bible. Robbed of its Hebrew roots, the disconnected church became paganistic in spirit and anti-biblical in its customs.”[1] But is this really so? The teaching of the New Testament is that old covenant feast observance is no longer required. This error was dealt with by Paul when false teachers in Colasse:

“I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”(Col 2:4–8)

This is exactly what is re-occuring in our own context with teachers putting folks back under the obsolete ceremonial law by implying that feast observance is needed for spiritual advancement and sanctification. There are 3 types of OT law 1) ceremonial; 2) civil; 3) moral. While God’s moral character does not change, the old covenant stipulations were only for Israelites under that conditional covenant. The conditions were violated and the old covenant was replaced by the new covenant. Rob Skiba implies that Christians should be feast observant to be “at the right place at the right time when Jesus shows up” at the 1:07:49 mark in the video below:


He misapplies Matthew 5:16-19 (as explained by Douglas Moo below) and then at the 1:10:05 mark uses verse 19 to argue that those who disagree with him are going to be “janitors in heaven.” While I am sure that hard-working custodians take exception with Rob’s degradation of their work, Skiba implies that non-observance diminishes one’s status with God. I say balderdash. The idea that there is a spiritual reward for keeping dietary or ceremonial laws is a false teaching, it is a misapplication of scripture. Paul addressed the feasts specifically:

“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)

Paul was addressing the false teachers in Colasse who were advocating a number of Jewish observances, arguing that they were essential for spiritual advancement.

“These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”(Col 2:17)

The old covenant observances pointed to a future reality that was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Heb. 10:1). Hence, Christians are no longer under the Mosaic covenant (cf. Rom. 6:14–15; 7:1–6; 2 Cor. 3:4–18; Gal. 3:15–4:7). Christians are no longer obligated to observe OT dietary laws (“food and drink”) or festivals, holidays, and special days (“a festival … new moon … Sabbath,” Col. 2:16), for what these things foreshadowed has been fulfilled or will be fulfilled in Christ. You will not be demoted for not celebrating as a Torah observant Jew.

Hebrews 8-10 explains very clearly that Christ’s atoning death on the cross was the end of the law and it is now obsolete for everyone.

“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.”(Heb 8:13)

As to Rob’s eisegesis of Matthew 5:17-19, atheists and homosexuals also like to use this passage to ask why Christians no longer stone people or why we eat shellfish and pork or wear clothes made of different fabrics. The answer we give them is the same one we give to the HRM, those laws are now obsolete. I guess we should ask our feast-requirers why they don’t also stone people? It’s part of the same covenant stipulations. So what did Jesus mean by saying this:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”(Mt 5:17–18)

Jesus “fulfills” all of the OT in that it all points to him, not only in its specific predictions of a Messiah but also in its sacrificial system, which looked forward to his great sacrifice of himself, this made the old obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). We are now concerned with “the law of Christ” as seen in Galatians 6:2. According to NT scholar Douglas Moo:

Christ has brought the OT law’s fulfillment. But the Christian is bound to “God’s law” (1 Cor 9:20–21; cf. “God’s commands” in 1 Cor 7:19 and 1 John 2:3-4 etc.). “God’s law” is not, however, the Mosaic Law, but “Christ’s law” (1 Cor 9:20–21; Gal 6:2), because it is to Christ, the fulfiller, the τέλος of the law (Rom 10:4), that the Christian is bound. In that “fulfillment” of the law, however, some of the Mosaic commandments are taken up and reapplied to the New Covenant people of God. Thus, while the Mosaic Law does not stand as an undifferentiated authority for the Christian, some of its individual commandments remain authoritative as integrated into the law of Christ. [2]

Christ’s death and resurrection changed everything — by emphasizing the Torah over the cross they are promoting error. The cross made a new paradigm, a new covenant! The New Covenant is celebrated by the Lord’s Supper which has supplanted the feast days.

“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Lk 22:20)


“In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.””(1 Co 11:25)

“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” (Heb 9:15) “and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Heb 12:24)

While the feasts make an interesting study and might have prophetic significance, Christians should first and foremost celebrate the new covenant with their a local church body rather than celebrating the Jewish feast days from an obsolete covenant.

[1] Russ Houck, Epidemic Examining the Infected Roots of Judaism and Christianity: How Do We Find God with All This Mess? (volume 1) (Corsicana, TX: Negev Publishing, 2012), 220.

[2]Douglas Moo, “The Law of Moses or the Law of Christ” in Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments : Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. editors S. Lewis Johnson and John S. Feinberg,(Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1988), 208.

The Gross Errors of Russ Pappy Houck and Rob Skiba

By Cris D. Putnam
Pappy Houck

Russ “Pappy” Houck


Unfortunately, Rob Skiba has fallen under the false teaching of a cultic pseudo-scholar named Russ “Pappy” Houck. Houck has written a book entitled:  EPIDEMIC: Examining the Infected Roots of Judaism and Christianity that appears to be the source of Rob’s theological errors. Rob has promoted Houck on his radio show and says that Houck “changed his life.” This is most unfortunate for Mr. Skiba. Please do pray for him. One can go to Amazon.com and browse through the book here.  On page 356, I was able to locate the probable impetus of Skiba’s Trinitarian heresy – denying the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

Houck, Epidemic, page 356

 [1]

Houck demies the trinity explicitly and thoroughly. On page 382, he argues that Jesus, “was never co-equal with the Father, YHWH, and is not part of Trinity godhead.” Rob Skiba’s main argument against the person of the Holy Spirit also comes from this book. Houck writes, “I realized that if there are three persons, as taught in Triniatrianism, then Yeshua (Jesus) is not the son of the Father, but the son of the Holy Spirit.”[2] Of course, I previously refuted that misunderstanding here. The book is full of similar misinformation.  Houck writes, “I discovered that,  …in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost… (Mat. 28:19) was not in any of the early manuscripts.”[3] Houck falsely claims that Constantine added the Trinitarian formula to Matthew 28. This is simply not true because all extant manuscripts contain the phrase “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Not a single textual variant is listed in the critical Greek New Testament:

19 πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος,   [4]

It’s not missing from any manuscript. This is more than shoddy research…

Furthermore, early citations from the Church Fathers bear this out:

Ignatius lived in the first century, the time of apostles. The second chapter of his “Epistle to the Philippians” reads “He sent forth the apostles to make disciples of all nations, commanded them to “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”[5]

Tertullian, (c. 200 AD) a century before Constantine, writes in On Baptism, “sealed in (the name of) the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,”[6]

Thus, Houck’s claims are patently false. It leads one to seriously question his claimed academic credentials. A real scholar would not make such obvious blunders.  Unfortunately, it only gets worse.

Apparently, Mr. Houck sacrifices a lamb every Passover. This makes the Roman Catholic repeated Eucharistic sacrifice almost seem sound… well almost.  For the record, I have written strongly against the mass as a sacrifice here.  It is not my desire to misrepresent what Skiba and Houck believe. I am aware that they believe this as an act of remembering Jesus sacrifice for their sins, incidentally the same excuse the Roman Catholics use for parsing the Eucharist as a sacrifice.  It’s not the remembrance that is troublesome, it is that Houck implies it is a requirement.  Houck really seems to think he is bound to kill a animal on passover. Perhaps, someone can enlighten us as to just why this is required? At the 1:26:00 mark forward in the video below, Skiba and Houck discuss the annual Passover sacrifice on Houck’s Texas ranch.

Skiba: As the one who facilitates that in your home, what is that like? And how does that help you, first of all understand the Father’s heart but secondly how does that help you not even to want to sin anymore?

Houck : Well that’s the words I used to you, it makes you not want to sin anymore. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Every year, it’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done. I’m not a hunter. I’m not a fisherman. I don’t enjoy killing anything either and never have. I live out on a ranch so I have to kill varmits and I get no pleasure in even killing varmits.  It is not about pleasure at all, it’s about obeying a commandment[7]and I can tell you that when I take that knife and cut the throat of the lamb, um, it is eh… I have worked hard to try and figure a way to get out of this, ok? Don’t let anybody kid you, the first time you do it, it is a mind boggling experience and I’m not trying to be funny. I’m being honest, it is absolutely… you sit there and you go… you can’t believe what you do and you can’t believe the reaction. And if you choose a sheep verses a goat cause it says you can do either, the little sheep will just stand there and do nothing.  I mean there’s no resistance, there’s no fight, there’s no nothing… and you literally go into a spiritual place, that again, when you finish you know why Constantine wanted to take it away from us. Because it gives you the understanding, a spiritual precept, and here’s a statement that I have made many times, you can talk about well, did the Jews kill Jesus?  Did the Romans kill Jesus? Who killed Jesus? Right?  The fact is I killed Jesus, ok?, my sin. He said he dies for my sin. That means he had to die, his blood was spilled for me.  And when I kill that lamb, I reiterate the fact that his blood was spilt for me. [8]

The above text was transcribed from time mark 1:27:30 – 1:29:59.  I transcribed more than was necessary in order to fairly represent the context of what he was saying. I allow that Houck ostensibly claims to believe that Jesus died for his sins. But what does he mean by saying it is commanded that he do this? And that he has tried to find a way out of it but that is not an option? Nothing in New Testament remotely implies New Covenant believers are to sacrifice animals, in fact, the exact opposite is clearly taught.

The book of Hebrews makes it clear that the sacrificial system was done away with at the cross.

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Heb 10:11–14)

If you have any doubts about this, please study Hebrews chapters nine and ten.  Like with the Baptismal formula, Houck also claims the Constantine was the one who removed the practice of animal sacrifice. That is utter nonsense, divorced from any semblance of historical reality. The New Testament alone abolished the practice of animal sacrifice. Christians no longer have to offer animal sacrifices and keep other ceremonial parts of the OT laws, they are abolished: “He does away with the first in order to establish the second.” (Heb 10:9) In order to establish the second means the old covenant was abolished in light of the new. “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.” (Heb 8:13)  The sacrifices were abolished in order for God’s moral and spiritual will to be done. Constantine had nothing to do with it. Houck is dangerously mistaken.

In the book of Acts, the early church met to decide if gentile Christians were bound to keep the law. James stood up and said:

“Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.” (Ac 15:19–20)

Paul also makes this clear in passages like: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Ro 8:2)  Even worse for Houck, when the Galatian Judaizers attempted to add circumcision to the Gospel, Paul replied, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Ga 5:4)  If merely adding the requirement of circumcision to the Gospel results in being “severed form Christ,” I shudder to imagine what the requirement of animal sacrifice might entail.

 

 


[1] Russ Houck., Epidemic Examining the Infected Roots of Judaism and Christianity: How Do We Find God with All This Mess? (volume 1) (Corsicana, TX: Negev Publishing, 2012),  365.

[2] Houck, Epidemic, 354.

[3] Houck, Epidemic, 354.

[4] Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (With Apparatus) (2000; 2006), Mt 28:19.  Also see: http://www.tektonics.org/lp/matt2819.html

[5] Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians Chapter II.—Unity of the three divine persons.  http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.v.xvii.ii.html

[6] Tertullian, On Baptism Chapter VI.—The Angel the Forerunner of the Holy Spirit. Meaning Contained in the Baptismal Formula. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.vi.iii.vi.html

[7] What commandment requires animal sacrifice for New Covenant Christians?

[8] “Epidemic: Exploring The Infected Roots of Judaism and Christianity – Dr. Russ “Pappy” Houk”  Revolution Radio Projecy with Rob Skiba http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5BpJdCK9yc  1:27:30 – 1:29:59

Doubt and Confusion Concerning the Holy Spirit as a Person

by Cris Putnam
question-markEver since George Lucas’ Star Wars, there has been an increasing tendency in evangelicalism to think of the Holy Spirit akin to “the Force.”  In the culture at large, it is even worse. According to recent Pew Forum statistics 25% of Americans who believe in God, think of God as an impersonal force.[1] Amongst Christians, doctrine of the trinity leads to similar confusion. The classical understanding is one God in three persons. However, many evangelicals tend to view the Holy Spirit as a force employed by God the Father. In his seminal Christian Theology, Millard Erickson noted, “We are not dealing here with an impersonal force. This point is especially important at a time in which pantheistic tendencies are entering Western culture through the influence of Eastern religions.”[2]  I documented the influx of pantheistic thought through the work of Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in Exo-Vaticana. In a recent Facebook discussion, doubt was expressed concerning the personhood of the Holy Spirit based on the following argument:

Many will point to Scriptures like John 14:26 as proof that the Holy Spirit is a person:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26 KJV)

The problem is, the Greek word used here for “he” is ekeinos (Strong’s 1565), which is a demonstrative pronoun that means “that, that one there, yonder” as opposed to the standard pronoun autos (Strong’s # 846), which is a personal pronoun meaning, “he, she, it, they, them, same” as seen repeatedly for instance in 1 John 3:24:

And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. (1 John 3:24 KJV)

 

This is a poor argument. What is defined as “the problem” above is John’s use of ἐκεῖνος which means “that” or “that one.” The force of the argument is that if John wanted us to understand a male person he would have simply used αὐτός which translates “he, she, it” depending on grammatical gender. It implies his choice of the demonstrative imparts ambiguity upon the personhood of the Holy Spirit, but this is simply not so and reflects a lack of understanding basic Greek grammar.

Greek employs a lot more pronoun forms than English: personal, reflexive, demonstrative, indefinite, interrogative, relative and reciprocal.  Demonstratives are used when the author wants to communicate where something is in relation to the speaker/writer and there are two forms near and far. In this case, it was a distance in time.

 

 demonstrative pronoun. n. A pronoun that serves as a pointer or indicates where something is in relation to the speaker/writer (Lat. demonstrare, “to point out”). Near demonstratives (this and these) speak of things that are relatively close; far demonstratives (that and those), of things that are relatively distant. The latter are sometimes distinguished as demonstrative adjectives.[3]

 

John chose to use a demonstrative pronoun in John 14:26 because the Holy Spirit was not yet present, but in Greek there is no ambiguity concerning gender because he chose the masculine form. What is important is that John could have chosen the neuter form (and technically should have) but he didn’t for a reason.  After the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, it makes sense that 3rd person singular would be used rather than a demonstrative pronoun. Attested in 1 Corinthians 12:11, which states that the recipients of the various spiritual gifts are “the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” (βούλομαι, verb, present,  middle/passive, indicative, third person, singular) When Jesus spoke the Holy Spirit had not yet come, when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians he had. This demonstrates that simply using a concordance to translate Greek words to English is not sufficient for biblical exegesis.

What makes this particularly dangerous is that these types of misunderstandings have a long checkered history of spawning cults. In apologetic theology a cult is defined:

 

A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.[4]

 

The personhood of the Holy Spirit is a central doctrine of classical Christianity. Denying it qualifies as a cultic belief akin to other groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Theology is important. Matt Slick has a nice outline detailing the biblical basis for the classic doctrine of the Spirit here.

 



[2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology., 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998), 875–876.

[3] Matthew S. DeMoss, Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 44.

[4] Alan Gomes, Unmasking the Cults (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 7.

Slaughtering a Sacred Cow: the KJVonly Argument From Psalm 12

By Cris Putnam
KJV sacred cowA “sacred cow” is an idiom taken from Hindu bovine worship, a practice that Christians consider idolatry. We also call something a sacred cow if its devotees consider it immune from question or criticism. For many fundamentalist Christians the King James Translation has become a sacred cow. Unfortunately, a great many people have been indoctrinated from childhood with scare tactics and fallacious arguments and never meaningfully question what has come to be known as “King James Onlyism” or KJVonlyism.

For an example of the fear based argumentation I am referring to, examine the webpage at Chick Productions here.  I am not intending to simply make fun of these people and I have a lot in common with them. I went to a KJV only Christian school for one year of high school so I really do care about the people. That eleventh grade year at Friendship Christian School led me to believe that most Christians were mind controlled and incapable of critical thinking. I’ve grown to see I was wrong about a great deal but, sadly, some of my adolescent analysis was accurate.

Fear based false beliefs are called “strong holds” in the Bible and part of my call to ministry is the destruction of strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4). This is not an attack on the Bible or even the King James Version. Rather, it is an attack on a false idea about the Bible—a stronghold—I am slaughtering a sacred cow. Here is the primary argument you will see repeatedly used by the KJVonlyist:

Psalm 12:6-7 says, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” Then we read in Psalm 100:5 that “. . . . his truth endureth to all generations,” and Jesus said in John 17:17 that God’s WORD is truth.’

These words state very clearly that God’s preserved word MUST be available to us today, because God PROMISED to preserve it for us. There MUST be an infallible Book somewhere.[1]

Similarly, in a discussion on Facebook a fellow asked me, “If God can’t keep His word pure (as he promised in Psalm 12), how can I trust Him to keep ME?” You can see the dangerous nature of such indoctrination in that his faith is hinged precariously on something as fragile as the absolute perfection of a seventeenth century translation. The same fellow later commented, “No. I’m thinking if I can’t trust any of the versions to be accurate, PERFECTLY, then why bother. Either God is able or He isn’t.”  (Use of all caps reflects that I copied this directly from a real conversation).

How do you respond to this without destroying someone’s faith? Well first of all it is unfortunate that his faith is in the wrong thing. I believe this is idolatry or perhaps bibliolatry. These folks have made an idol out of the King James Bible. Next, notice the selfish demands placed on God. “If God will not meet my requirements, then why bother?” That is quite a presumption. It reminds me of the atheists who say, “If God wants me to believe in Him, then he should appear to me.”

Is it wise to make demands of God …or else?

You might get an answer like, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2)

I realize many of you might be thinking, “Hold on a minute! God promised he would do this in Psalm 12, so this is not an unreasonable expectation.” Indeed, that is the crux of the KJVonlyist argument.However, it is riddled with errors and assumptions.

First, even if the Lord promised to preserve his words, (I do believe he has preserved them) the words the Psalmist was referring to were Hebrew words not 17th century English words. It also begs the question of where God’s preserved words were before 1611? What about non-English speaking countries? But the argument’s worst flaw is actually more egregious than that erroneous assumption. It’s truly self-refuting.

Unfortunately, in this case the King James translation leads one to misunderstand the Psalm in a fundamental way. This is why serious Bible students put in the effort to gain at least some minimal competence in Hebrew and Greek exegesis. I am far from an expert but I have completed one year of biblical Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as well as working through Dr. Michael Heiser’s training videos for Logos Bible software on my own (available here).

Using Logos’ interlinear Hebrew Bible, it took me less than five minutes to see that they misinterpret Psalm 12. To understand why a brief explanation of basic grammar is helpful. In Hebrew, all nouns have what is called grammatical gender. Many languages like French and Spanish do as well. It serves as a grammatical function more than a commentary on sexual gender. Part of that function is to clarify what or who a pronoun is signifying. Accordingly, a pronoun should match its antecedent in gender and number.

For example,  if I say in English “My wife went to the store.” I would choose a feminine pronoun to continue, “She bought milk.” The antecedent “wife” is female, so “she” is correct and “he” is not.  Number is similar; in this case, both are singular. However, if I wrote “The women went to the store.”  The pronoun would be “They bought milk.” Now let’s analyze the passage in light of Hebrew grammar.

The words of the LORD are pure words (noun, common, feminine, plural):

as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Thou shalt keep them (pronoun, 3rd person, masculine, plural),

O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever.

(Ps 12:6–7, KJV)

The genders are parsed from the Hebrew text. Here is the passage from the Hebrew Bible:

 

            אִֽמֲר֣וֹת יְהוָה֮ אֲמָר֪וֹת טְהֹ֫ר֥וֹת כֶּ֣סֶף צָ֭רוּף בַּעֲלִ֣יל לָאָ֑רֶץ מְ֝זֻקָּ֗ק שִׁבְעָתָֽיִם׃

            אַתָּֽה־יְהוָ֥ה תִּשְׁמְרֵ֑ם תִּצְּרֶ֓נּוּ׀ מִן־הַדּ֖וֹר ז֣וּ לְעוֹלָֽם׃

                                                                               [2]

Here are the parsings:

Noun, Common, Feminine, Plural  “words”   —-   אֲמָר֪וֹת

Pronoun, Suffixed, 3rd person, Masculine, Plural —-   הֵם   is suffixed on תִּשְׁמְרֵ֑ם

For their argument to work, “them” must match “words.” However, in verse 6 “words” is grammatically feminine and the pronoun “them” in verse 7 is grammatically masculine. So the pronoun “them” is not referring to “words” but rather the poor and needy (masculine, plural) that are mentioned above in verse 5 (Ps 12:5). In fact, this is one passage where the NIV (cue foreboding music) has a vastly superior rendering to the KJV.

Psalm 12:6–7 (NIV):

And the words of the Lord are flawless,

like silver purified in a crucible,

like gold refined seven times.

You, Lord, will keep the needy safe

and will protect us forever from the wicked,

 

Don’t place your faith in sacred cows.

 


[1] “How I Know That The King James Bible Is The Word Of God,”  http://www.biblebelievers.com/jmelton/knowkjv.html accessed 8/17/2013.

[2] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Ps 12:7–8.