Four Causes and Five Ways by Edward Feser

Here we have the ever brilliant Ed Feser discuss the Five Ways of Aquinas. Enjoy!

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“Why Do People Matter?”

As you probably have noticed, human beings spend their entire lives fighting for what they consider to be inequality, justice and human rights. But, why do humans matter so much if all of reality is reducible to matter, chance, and the laws of nature? Biological reductionism, metaphysical materialism, and psychological behaviorism say that impersonal, physical, and valueless processes cause valuable, rights-bearing persons to be.

Humans, therefore, can assign value to fellow humans by sheer choice. However, this assignment of value to human life is subjective, not objective. Assigning value to people based on personal choice leads us to ask, “What if someone doesn’t think a group of people are valuable?” Rights, it seems, are linked to personhood. The Bible, for example, says that humans are made in the likeness and image of God, and that they are therefore intrinsically valuable. Rights come by virtue of who human beings are by nature, as opposed to function, productivity, or ‘usefulness. One thing is for sure: the concern over such a topic demonstrates that people live as if they care about justice, equality, and human rights. But to atheist and skeptics, why do humans matter so much and why would they be outraged over all the mistreatment of their fellow humans? Why fight so hard for humans?

There are five options other than grounding human value in anything other than a view that  humans are made in the likeness and image of God, and that they are therefore intrinsically valuable. Rights come by virtue of who human beings are by nature, as opposed to function, productivity, or ‘usefulness. Here they are:

First option: Peter Singer and others describe any attempt to see humans as more significant than any other part of the animal world as arrogant speciesism (the view that one’s own species is the superior one).

A second option is some form of rationalist autonomy, in which one of the properties that make humans significant is the use of reason—specifically people’s capacity to set ends for themselves.

A third option is to see human significance as somehow grounded in an evolutionary framework through adaptability and survival, though humans’ place at the top of the evolutionary ladder could well be temporary. This outlook opens the door to a view that is the subject of transhumanism (the view that it might be possible for human beings to surpass their humanity and become something different than merely human).

A fourth option is a type of naturalistic Platonism, which recognizes that some necessary things about human beings are built into the structure of the world but does not necessarily acknowledge that there is a designer who placed them there.

A final option, which moves toward the discussion of postmodern individualism addressed in the previous chapter, would be to see the grounding for human significance collapse into some form of subjectivism. In this outlook, significance is a matter of personal preference or is conferred by some external authority such as the state.

See Why People Matter: A Christian Engagement with Rival Views of Human Significance, John F. Kilner, Russell DiSilvestro, David Gushee, Amy Hall, John Kilner, Gilbert Meilaender, and Patrick Smith.

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A Look at Messianic Prophecy: Four Ways the New Testament Authors Use the Jewish Scriptures

Note: Some of this was adopted from the recommended readings here:

1.Fruchtenbaum, A.G, Messianic Christology: A Study of Old Testament Prophecy Concerning the First Coming of the Messiah (Tustin CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 146-152.

2. Cooper, David L. Messiah: His Historical Appearance (Los Angeles; Biblical Research Society, 1933), 174-177.

Other recommeded readings:

1.G. K. Beale, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation

2. Craig Evans, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature

Introduction

When I was a new Christian I remember reading books on Christian Apologetics. In many cases these books would say there are over 300 so- called prophecies in the Hebrew Bible which were all fulfilled by Jesus. The problem was that the majority of these books explained very little about the hermeneutical methods of the New Testament authors. Much has been written on this topic. Richard Longenecker’s Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period is one source that covers this topic. The Messianic Hope. Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? is a more current resource.

Starting Points:

We need to understand the context of first century Judaism. Remember, the Holy Spirit superintended the biblical writers while not violating the writer’s personality, style of writing, or vocabulary. Hence, the Holy Spirit’s practice of not overwhelming the writer’s background explains why the New Testament authors used several ways of quoting the Hebrew Bible that were similar to the rabbinical methods of the Second Temple period.

Four Ways the New Testament Authors Used The Old Testament In Regards to Messianic Prophecy

Direct Fulfillment/Predictive Prophecy/Literal Prophecy Plus Literal fulfillment:

In this case, the NT author wants to show something happened in the life of Jesus or in the lives of his followers is a fulfillment of a direct verbal prophecy from an OT passage. Sometimes there is an introductory fulfillment of various types (e.g., ‘that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled” or “it is written”). In other cases we don’t see any introductory formula.

Examples:

Matthew 2:5-6: Matthew quotes Micah 5:2 about Jesus being born in Bethlehem. We see that in the original context of Micah 5:2, the prophet is speaking prophetically and says that whenever the Messiah is born, He will be born in Bethlehem of Judah. Thus the literal meaning of Micah is that the Messiah will be born in the Bethlehem of Judah and not the Bethlehem of Galilee.

Other examples: Other prophecies that fall into this category include:

o Psalm 22 (describing the death of the Messiah).
o Psalm 110:1 (the Messiah will be seated; on the right hand of God).
o Isaiah 7:14 (the virgin birth); 40:3 (the forerunner of the Messiah); 52:13-53:12 (the rejection, atoning death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah). 61:1-2a (the prophetic ministry of the Messiah).
o Zechariah 9:9 (the ride into Jerusalem on a donkey); Zechariah 11:4-14 (Messiah will be sold out for thirty pieces of silver).
o Malachi 3:1 (the forerunner of the Messiah); etc.
o Remember: some of the direct prophecies used in the New Testament only refer to the first appearance of the Messiah.

Literal Plus Typical (Typology):

1. Passages which interpret their present experience in terms of a person, event, place, rite, etc, from the historical past. These events that were ‘set up’ typologically in an earlier, predictive passage, and interpreted so after the predicted event occurred.

An Example: Matthew 2:15 which quotes Hosea 11

The context of the Hosea passage is not even a prophecy but refers to an historical event, that of Exodus 4:22-23 which refers to Israel as the national son of God. Thus, according to Hosea, when God brought Israel out of Egypt, He divinely called His son out of Egypt. Pro-Judaic hermeneutics. The literal meaning of the Hosea passage refers to the Exodus under Moses. There is nothing in the New Testament that can change or reinterpret the meaning of the Hosea passage nor does the New Testament deny that a literal exodus of Israel out of Egypt actually occurred. The literal event in the Tanakh becomes a type of a New Testament event. In Matthew, an individual Son of God, the Messiah, is also divinely called out of Egypt. Remember, the passage is not quoted as a fulfillment of prophecy since it was not a prophecy to begin with. Rather, it is quoted as a type.

Other Examples Include:

Isaiah 29:13 (Israel has become religious only in the outward sense, obeying man-made commandments while ignoring the divine commandments) quoted in Matthew 15:7-9. Israel becomes a type of the Pharisees and their traditions which made them very religious. They were religious based upon man-made traditions while actively disobeying divine law such as honoring father and mother). Isaiah 6:10 (speaks of Isaiah’s ministry that will be largely rejected) quoted in John 12:39-40 (Isaiah’s ministry becomes a type of Messiah’s ministry which was also largely rejected). Psalm 118:22-23 (the rejected stone) quoted in Matthew 21:42 (a type of the rejection of the Messianic stone that becomes a stone of stumbling). Exodus 12:46 (prohibition against breaking any bone of the Passover lamb) quoted in John 19:36 (that prohibition is now a type for not breaking the bones of the Passover Lamb of God).

Literal Plus Application:

An Example: Matthew 2:17-18 which quotes Jeremiah 31:15.

In the original context, Jeremiah was not prophesying of an event in the far future, as was the case with Micah, or dealing with an event that was long history as was the case with Hosea.

Jeremiah was prophesying about a current event happening in his own time, the beginnings of the Babylonian Captivity. As the Jewish young men were being taken into captivity, they went by the town of Ramah, a town not far from where Rachel was buried. Rachel had become the symbol of Jewish motherhood. As the young men were marched toward Babylon, the Jewish mothers of Ramah came out weeping for sons they would never see again. Jeremiah pictured the scene as Rachel weeping for her children. This is the literal meaning of the Jeremiah passage.

The event is quoted as an application. The one point of similarity here is that once again there are Jewish mothers weeping for sons they will never see again. The Jeremiah event happened in Ramah, north of Jerusalem; the Matthew event happened in Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem. In the Matthew passage, the sons are killed; in the Jeremiah passage, the sons are not killed but taken into captivity.

The literal meaning of the Jeremiah passage is dealing with the Babylonian Captivity. But by means of drash, (Matthew investigates and finds, the meaning deduced by investigation), the verse is quoted as an application because of one point of similarity. Another example: Acts 2:16-21: Joel 2:28-32: Just as Israel’s national salvation will be when The Holy Spirit will be poured out on all Israel, there is one point of similarity in that there was an outpouring of the Spirit in Peter’s day.

Perhaps an English expression will help explain this: “He met his Waterloo.” The expression points to an historical event which had to do with Napoleon’s imperial ambitions which collapsed at Waterloo. Because of one point of similarity, we use this story as one point of similarity when we express the ambitions of someone whose ambitions were suddenly destroyed by some climatic event in their life.

Other Examples of Literal Plus Application:

An example is Isaiah 53:4 (where Isaiah is speaking of the spiritual healing of Israel as a nation from their sins by means of the blood atonement of the Messiah) in Matthew 8:17 (applied to the physical healing of Jewish individuals by Jesus). The point of similarity is the healing by the Messiah. Isaiah deals with the spiritual healing of the Jewish nation resulting from Messiah’s atonement; Matthew describes the physical healing of Jewish individuals at a point of time when Jesus had not yet died and therefore no atonement had yet been made. Isaiah 6:9-10: (which describes the nature of Isaiah’s ministry) quoted in Matthew 13:14-15 (which applies to the ministry of Jesus). The point of similarity is that both speak in a way the unbelieving Jewish audience will not be able to understand.

Summation

Summation is not based on a single passage of Scripture nor a quotation of any specific scripture. It tended to summarize what the Scriptures said on a subject. Example: Matthew 2:23: “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophets, that he should be called a Nazarene.” There is no such actual statement anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. While many try to make a reference to Isaiah 11:1, the only point of similarity is the sound of netzer, but that passage is not dealing with a town called Nazareth. Matthew is not quoting a specific statement but is summarizing what the Hebrew Bible said. The Prophets did teach that the Messiah would be a despised and rejected individual (Isaiah 49:1-13; 52:13-53:12), and this was well summarized by the term Nazarene.

What was a Nazarene? In the first century, Nazarenes were despised and rejected people (see John 1:45-46). Nathaniel’s question “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” reflects the people’s low opinion of Nazarenes. Nazareth was viewed as a poor, despised village. Another example is Luke 18:31-33: Jesus said he must fulfill all the things written in the prophets (plural). That includes the following: going to Jerusalem, the Jews turning him over to the gentiles who will mock him, spit on him, scourge him, and kill him, and also rising again on the third day. Here again, no one prophet ever said all this. However, putting the prophets together, they did say all this. Therefore, this is a summation of what the prophets said about the Messiah but not a direct quotation. Ezra 9:10-12 is an example of same thing: In this passage, his quotation can’t be found anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, he is summarizing the teachings found in Deut. 11:8-9; Isa. 1:19; Ezek. 37:25.

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Why Would a Jewish Person Want to Be Identified with the Crucifixion of Jesus in the First Century?

In discussions about the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, it is common to start with the Gospels. But in my opinion, I think it is best to  back up and start with Paul. After all, Paul’s writings are the earliest records we have for the resurrection of Jesus.

Paul, who was a very competent rabbi who was trained at the rabbinic academy called the House of Hillel by ‘Gamaliel,’ was a key rabbinic leader and member of the Sanhedrin. Of his 13 books, critical scholars even accept six of them as being authentic in that we can be certain of the author and date of these writings. There are other scholars such as Luke Timothy Johnson and Raymond Brown that think more than six of them are authored by Paul. The Letter to Romans is dated  55-56 A.D. In Romans 6: 1-5, Paul discusses our identification with Jesus in his death and resurrection.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

Paul makes similar statements in 1 Corinthians 12.13; Colossians 2.12; 3.3 and goes onto say  that believers are united with Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection (Romans 6.5, 8; Colossians 2.12; Philippians 3.10) . Therefore, for Paul our identification in the death and resurrection of Jesus is crucial to discipleship.

In many cases Christians take these texts for granted. But sometimes we really don’t know how much of a stumbling block this would have been to a Jewish person in Paul’s time period. Would it be difficult for a Jewish person to want to find their identification in a crucified Messiah?

Donald Juel says the following:

“The idea of a crucified Messiah is not only unprecedented within Jewish tradition; it is so contrary to the whole nation of a deliver from the line of David, so out of harmony with the constellation of biblical texts we can identify from various Jewish sources that catalyzed around the royal figure later known as the “the Christ” that terms like “scandal” and “foolishness” are the only appropriate responses. Irony is the only means of telling such a story, because it is so counterintuitive.[1]

Even Paul commented about the challenge of proclaiming a dying Messiah to his fellow countrymen:

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Cor.1:21-22)

Roman crucifixion was viewed as a punishment for those a lower status- dangerous criminals, slaves, or anyone who caused a threat to Roman order and authority. According to Cicero (Vern. 2.5.168) and Josephus (J. W. 7.203), crucifixion was the worst form of death. Given that Jewish nationalism was quite prevalent in the first century, the Romans also used crucifixion to end the uprising of any revolts. Thus, the primary political and social purpose of crucifixion was deterrence. The concept of deterrence has two key assumptions: The first is that specific punishments imposed on offenders will “deter” or prevent them from committing further crimes. The second is that fear of punishment will prevent others from committing similar crime. In relation to a crucified Messiah, Jewish people in the first century were familiar with Deuteronomy 21:22-23:

“If a person commits a sin punishable by death and is executed, and you hang the corpse on a tree, his body must not remain all night on the tree; instead you must make certain you bury him that same day, for the one who is left exposed on a tree is cursed by God. You must not defile your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.”

The context of this verse is describing the public display of the corpse of an executed criminal. The New Testament writers expanded this theme to include persons who had been crucified. Just look at Paul’s statement in Gal 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE.” Therefore, to say that crucifixion was portrayed in a negative light within Judaism in the first century is an understatement. In other words, anyone who was crucified was assumed not be the Anointed One of God.  Also, Deut. 21: 22-23 does not really speak directly to the matter of crucifixion, nor of the crucifixion of God’s Anointed One. So this passage could not of generated such a belief.

Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho the Jew:

Even as we move on after the time of Jesus, Justin Martyr, the Palestinian Christian who in his mature years taught and wrote in Rome, tries to make the case that Jesus’ Spirit empowered ministry fulfills Scripture at many points and offers proof that he really is Israel’s Messiah to Trypho the Jew. But Trypho is not persuaded by this argument. He replies:

“It has indeed been proved sufficiently by your Scriptural quotations that it was predicted in the Scriptures that Christ should suffer…But what we want you to prove to us is that he was to be crucified and be subjected to so disgraceful and shameful death…. We find it impossible to think this could be so.”[3]

So perhaps we may ask the following: Would a Jewish person at the time of Jesus want to be identified with a Jewish man who died a God cursed death? Perhaps the resurrection changed everything!

Just some food for thought.

Sources:
[1] Donald H. Juel, “The Trial and Death of the Historical Jesus” featured in The Quest For Jesus And The Christian Faith: Word &World Supplement Series 3 (St. Paul Minnesota: Word and World Luther Seminary, 1997), 105.

[2] See Martin Hengel: Crucifixion (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977).

[3] Saint Justin Martyr, The Fathers of the Church, trans. Thomas B. Falls (New York: Christian Heritage, Inc., 1949) pg, 208, 291.

 

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Book Review: Israel, the Church, and the Middle East, by Darrell L. Block and Mitch Glaser

Israel, the Church, and the Middle East by [Bock, Darrell L., Glaser, Mitch]

Israel, the Church, and the Middle East, By Darrell L. Block and Mitch Glaser, 2018, 304pp.

If you are like me and you have been involved in Jewish ministry for a long time, a topic about the relationship between Israel, the Church,  and the Middle East is something that is always on your radar screen. This is why I was eager to read the book Israel, the Church, and the Middle East, By Darrell L. Block and Mitch Glaser. This book is a series of essays on a variety of topics. Some of them are theological while others are about the current Middle East Situation (i.e., The Legal Challenges at the Nexus of the Conflict by Craig Parshall). My own experience has shown me many Christians have wondered about the topic but are not sure where they stand on the issue. For some Christians, Israel is simply a piece of one’s eschatology. As I have said before, when you are told all that matters is that Jesus has saved you from heaven or hell, it is no wonder that many Christians don’t even know the Biblical narrative. Furthermore, with the over- reaction to The Left Behind Series, any mention of Israel as having a present or future role is automatically labeled as “dumb dispensationalism” or something worse. So the way I see it, this topic is important for the following reasons:

  1. It impacts how we read the Bible. Hence, do we read the Bible as one continuous story (from Genesis to Revelation), or do we just read the New Testament and skip the Scriptures that both Jesus and Paul read?
  2. It impacts our view of the character of God.
  3. It impacts our view of ecclesiology (the study of the ekklesia).
  4. It impacts our missiology: the area of practical theology that investigates the mandate, message, and mission of the ekklesia.
  5. It impacts our view of eschatology.
  6. It impacts our view of Israel today and the Middle East situation.

Several of the chapters in this book  have very strong exegetical arguments. The chapters by Blasing, Bock, Rydelnik, and Michael Brown are all very exegetical. I will offer some of the highlights from these chapters.

Bock’s chapter on Biblical Reconciliation Between Jews and Arabs focuses on  inaugurated eschatology ( the “already but not yet”) theme  which is seen in Luke/Acts. Bock sees a relationship between the period of time that includes rest and refreshment that Peter preaches in Acts 3:18-21 and several texts in the Tanak such as reconciliation Isaiah: 2:1-4; Isa.19: 23-25; Isa.55-56; and Romans 11. As Bock says “ Acts 3 is a reflection of what they learned from the Acts 1 exchange with Jesus. This entry into refreshment is the completion of God’s plan with Christ’s return. Peter urges repentance so that one can participate in God’s entire planned program from start to finish. A key aspect of that program is Jesus’ return, when the Christ will exercise judgment on behalf of righteousness and complete God’s promise already outlined in the prophetic teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures. Nothing Peter says indicates that anything promised there has been changed, including what is said about Israel.”  Note that the tone of this chapter is reconciliation. This book isn’t about bashing Palestinians, nor does it endorse some sort of blind allegiance to Israel.

Rydelnick’s chapter on “The Hermeneutics of Conflict” gives an overview of The Abrahamic Covenant. This covenant will never be rescinded because it is based on the sworn oath of a God who cannot lie (Gen. 22:16–17; 26:3; 50:24; Ex. 13:11; 33:1; Deut. 4:31; 6:18; 31:20; Ezek. 36:7–15). He also discusses the use of “Min olam v’ad olam”- (“from everlasting to everlasting” or “forever and ever”) which is used to describe the eternal blessedness of God (e.g., 1 Chron. 16:36 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting”). The phrase describes the lovingkindness of God to be eternal (Psalm 103:17, and God’s existence to be eternal (Psalm 90:2). It is possible that the Hebrew word used in these passages (olam) and translated “forever” does not necessarily mean “for all eternity.” (Ex. Exod. 21:6 discusses a slave who willingly accepts to service to his master. When his ear is pierced, “he shall serve him forever” (olam). The Hebrew phrase min olam v’ad olam is the strongest expression in Hebrew to describe perpetuity and eternality.  There are only two expectational usages in which the phrase does not refer to God: In both cases it refers to the nation of Israel’s eternal possession: To sum up, God gave the land as an everlasting possession, meaning ownership was to be forever; (2) this land promise is part of the Abrahamic Covenant; (3) the covenant is everlasting.

Rydelnick also mentions the importance of Romans 9-11. He says:

“ In Rom. 9:1–3 the apostle makes plain his compassion and concern for the lost condition of his unbelieving brethren. So great was his love that he makes the remarkable statement that he would be willing to be accursed and separated from the Messiah, if this could provide spiritual life for his people. There is no question that Paul is speaking of unbelieving Israel here. Nevertheless, he describes them as having a significant national status: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen” (HCSB). The present tense verb in verse 4 demonstrates that all the benefits described still belong to Israel. As Thomas Schreiner writes, “The present tense verb εισιν (eisin, they are) indicates that the Jews still ‘are’ Israelites and that all the blessings named still belong to them.” (see Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998).

Blasings chapter called “ A Theology of Israel and the Church”  centers on ecclesiology. He mentions what is called “supersessionism.”   In this case, “economic supersessionism” argues that Israel, the “earthly” people of God in the Old Testament, has been replaced in the divine plan not by another “earthly” people or peoples, but by a “spiritual” people, the church of the New Testament. In this form of supersessionism, Israel was never in God’s mind more than a temporary reality ultimately to be superseded by “a new Israel,” the church.

Accordingly, the ethnic, national, and territorial promises to Israel have to be spiritually interpreted in order to discern their true meaning. While economic supersessionism allows a place for individual Jews in the church alongside Gentile believers, neither their ethnic identity nor that of any other peoples has any ultimate theological significance. In the consummation, the church replaces the entire multi-corporate (multi-national, multi-ethnic) structure of historical humanity. There will be only one “nation” of redeemed humanity, a “spiritual Israel” which replaces Israel and all Gentile nations. It should not be surprising that economic supersessionism has been criticized as anti-Semitic due to its rejection of the ENT aspects of corporate Israel, and this is not without consequence in the church’s relationship with individual Jews.” Most of Blasing’s chapter centers on ecclesiology.

One of the most interesting chapters is called “Is It Sinful to Divide the Land of Israel?” In this chapter, Messianic Jewish apologist Michael Brown discusses some of the theological issues that discuss the topic of dividing the land. He says:

“The people of Israel have never possessed the entirety of the promised land; 2) the Scriptures indicate that Israel will not do so until the fullness of the Messianic era; and 3) Israel is in the land today by grace not by merit (meaning, Israel has not fulfilled the Sinai requirement of repentance, as laid out in Leviticus 26:40–45 and many other passages). Accordingly, this brings us back to the last two questions posed above, viz., On what basis, then, does Israel have a “right” to the land at this point in time, other than the sovereign choice of God? And if it is based on his choice, perhaps he wants the land divided until the time of Israel’s full repentance?

Viewed from this angle, it becomes difficult to argue that Israel cannot be divided into two states until Jesus returns and reigns from Jerusalem. We can only say that this is God’s decision, not man’s, and that the nations that want to parcel out his land, the land over which he is particularly jealous, better do so with caution, knowing what happened to past nations that tampered with the Lord’s inheritance. Perhaps, however, there is one more factor to consider. What if the Scriptures indicate that there must be Jewish sovereignty of the land before Jesus returns? Could that indicate that supporting a two-state solution would mean standing against the purposes of God? The most relevant passages appear to be Zechariah 12–14 (with the possible exception of 13:7–9)27 and Ezek. 38–39. The former passages point to a Jewish Jerusalem (also required by Matt. 23:39), with frequent mention of Judah (Zech. 12:2, 4–7; 14:14, 21), which would almost certainly refer to Judah as Zechariah knew it.28 The latter passages speak of an end time invasion of Israel when it is dwelling safely and securely in its land (Ezek. 38:14). Note in particular Ezekiel 38:11, where the invader says, “‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates.’” Of course, it quite treacherous to make contemporary political decisions based on eschatological prophecy, especially when the texts are couched in typical prophetic language.” He goes onto say:

“What, then, can we say as Bible believers in response to the question, “Is it a sin to divide the land?” To review: 1) All parties involved must remember that the land of Israel is God’s land, not their land. 2) Because of this, all nations which mistreat the people of Israel and misuse the land of Israel will be accountable to him. 3) Yet Israel is not entitled to full possession of the land without full repentance and full obedience, which has not happened so far in the nation’s history and is certainly not happening today. 4) Consequently, Israel does not have a “right” to be in the land; rather, Israel has been regathered by the mercy of the Lord. 5) At the same time, it is undeniable that the Lord has regathered and reestablished the nation, which indicates clearly that he is in the act of bringing his eternal purposes to pass. 6) Before Jesus returns, it appears clearly that there will be a sovereign, secure, Jewish state with Jerusalem as its center.

In light of this, I would suggest that while we cannot dogmatically say that it is a sin to support a two-state solution, such a solution would only be short-term, at best, and those who support it must read carefully, remembering that the land is God’s land in a special and unique way.”

The chapter by Erez Soref called “The Messianic Jewish Movement in Modern Israel” is quite moving in that it tells the story of how the Gospel can and does change the hearts of Palestinians. That in turn leads them to love the Jewish people and opens the door for reconciliation.

The other chapters are well written and there is plenty to learn from each author. If these topics interest you, I highly recommend this book.

 

 

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Looking at a Biblical Defintion of the Word “Faith”

Anyone who has been engaged in talking to people in our culture about the Christian worldview knows that many people misunderstand the word “faith.” I could go ahead and blame the media, pop culture, and the university for this widespread problem. But the reality is that it is incumbent upon pastors, apologists, and ministry leaders to teach and instruct Christians about the proper definition of the word “faith.” Yes, many Christians don’t know how to explain the word “faith.”

Some theologians and apologists have suggested that it might be a good idea to substitute the word “trust” in place of the word “faith.” This has some merit to it. Joseph Thayer says the following:

“To believe” means to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, [to] place confidence in. [And in] a moral and religious reference, pisteuein [from pisteuo] is used in the N.T. of a conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of his soul. “ (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 511).

Here is a nice online resource: Tekina says the following:

Dictionary: faith, belief, firm persuasion, 2 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:1; assurance, firm conviction, Rom. 14:23; ground of belief, guarantee, assurance, Acts 17:31; good faith, honesty, integrity, Mt. 23:23; Gal. 5:22; Tit. 2:10; faithfulness, truthfulness, Rom. 3:3; in NT faith in God and Christ, Mt. 8:10; Acts 3:16, et al. freq.; ἡ πιστις, the matter of Gospel faith, Acts 6:7; Jude 3

Here is another definition:

Faith/Faithfulness

“These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.

This sure does beat the dictionary definition that atheists use. What do you think?

To see our post called Why Do So Many People Misunderstand the Word “Faith” click here:

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