Extra information on the long ending of Mark

Is the long ending real or not?  The short ending (where the gospel ends at 16:8), is in two 4th century manuscripts, one 12th, and the Syriac translation.  The intermediate ending has one extra verse, but it only in one manuscript.  Every other manuscript that has this extra verse also includes the long ending! The long ending (which has verses 9-20) is contained in all other 1600+ manuscripts.  There is actually an even longer ending in one manuscript.  While some church fathers/theologians leave out the longer ending or don’t seem to be aware of it, two of the earliest church fathers quote it (Justin Martyr and Irenaeus; both 2nd century).

Is there another reason the long ending could have been left out?  It could have been left out by accident.  One of the two early manuscripts that leaves it out may actually leave room for it.  It could have been left out deliberately.  The ending of Mark was removed from the other early manuscript and different sheets were included that omit the long ending.  It could have been left out because of liturgical reasons (Mark 15:43-Mark 16:8 was read for the 3rd Sunday after Easter).  For all practical purposes, the gospel ends when the liturgy moves on.

Some also point out that the ending has a different style and vocabulary from the rest of the gospel.  However, if you consider that different events/settings will demand a different vocabulary, this is very easily explained.  For example, Mark 14:42-52 has 15 words that are completely unique to Mark!  There are also various thematic elements in the gospel that continue in the ending.

My view?  The long ending was known about at the earliest times, could have very easily been left out either accidently or deliberately, and is not drastically different from any other section of Mark in either vocabulary or theme.  The long ending is original.

August Newsletter Article

You may have read through the Gospel of John in the past and noticed that his story of Jesus is a little different. In contrast to the other Gospels, John takes Jesus all the way back—to the beginning of Creation! This startling introduction presents Jesus as part of the Godhead. In words reminiscent of the Creation story, John begins his book: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (1:1). Word is from the Greek term logos, which means different things to different people. The Jews think of it as the power of God, for all God has to do is speak the words, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) and there is light. The Greeks think of it as cosmic reason, the well-designed frame on which the universe is built. Jesus is both of these—the power of God, and the one whose signature is stamped on the universe. But John takes the term still further. Just as a word reveals a thought, Jesus is the expression of God, physically revealing the invisible, spiritual presence of God. Jesus is God who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (1:14).

John also leaves out some things. Where are the parables?  What about Jesus’ birth, His baptism, temptation, the Last Supper? What about His agonizing prayer on the night of his arrest, or His ascension into the sky? John, probably written last of the four Gospels, does not repeat most of stories that may have been circulating for decades. Instead, he focuses on Jesus’ deity, using carefully selected miracles and teachings that propel this theme.

John focuses on seven “signs” whose purpose is to reveal “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (20:31).  John selected the signs he used with the apologetic purpose of creating intellectual (“that you may believe”) and spiritual (“that believing you may have life”) conviction about the Son of God.  But there is also great depth for believers in this Gospel as well. John reveals that Jesus used seven “I am” statements to describe His ministry, each revealing something else about His ministry and each rich with symbolism and meaning. If the action-packed Gospel of Mark was written for shorter attention spans, John has the opposite end of the spectrum in mind: people who enjoy peeling off layer upon layer of dramatic, insightful symbolism, and people who want nothing more than extensive, detailed teaching sessions led by the Master Teacher.

I hope that you will continue with us on this exciting journey as we look at the Gospel of John over these next few months!

Theological Triage

We are going to look at “Post Reformation Growing Pains” this week during Bible Study on Sunday morning.  A few weeks back I introduced the idea of “Theological Triage” by sharing an article that Al Mohler wrote in 2004.  Here is chart and a good summary of the concept that I’m going to share in class tomorrow.

God’s Sovereignty — February newsletter article

Why did God allow the Packers to lose???

I’ll admit, it seems a little trite.  Perhaps it is a strange question, but maybe not so strange considering the reaction of so many Packer fans!  But it leads us to a larger question: why does God allow some things and not allow others?  I mean, if God is really sovereign, why doesn’t he…have the Packers win the Superbowl? (Or insert your favorite theological dilemma.  Many would say “end suffering.”)

There are various terms that people use to describe the will of God.  Some may say sovereign will, while others say ultimate will.  Some may say revealed rather than intentional.  Almost everyone uses permissive, even though we have to define what it means.  Some have more categories, some may have less.  Here is my understanding of the will of God:

1) God has a sovereign will.  There are some things that are going to happen.  God has decreed it.

2) God has a revealed will.  This is what we find in the Bible.  This is how he wants us to live.

3) God has a permissive will.  Now, don’t misunderstand this.  This doesn’t mean He gives tacit approval to everything that happens.  But He does allow things to happen – some good and some bad.  He allows us to make choices, and some of our choices break His heart.

What is amazing about God and His sovereignty is that somehow, in the midst of all of this mess, and our decisions to go against His revealed will, He works it all out to accomplish His ultimate purpose.  Oh sure, He gives a nudge here and there when He needs to (Exodus 4:21), but when you think of all the infinite possibilities that come from human beings making decisions on this earth, God is pretty incredible!

So, what about the Packers?  I suspect that God let the game play out.  It’s nice that Russell Wilson gave God the glory, but I’m not sure that God chose his team to win!  Win or lose, our testimony should be the same.  We serve an amazing and awesome God, and that God gives us guidance but He also lets us make both good and bad choices in this life.  In the midst of all that, He still accomplishes His will and His purpose on the earth, and that is truly breathtaking!

December Newsletter Article

Labels can be extremely important.  If you don’t think so, go ask a diabetic!  But many people are uncomfortable when it comes to labels and Christianity.  There is concerted effort to redefine or change the terminology these days.  It used to be enough to say that there was a difference between being religious and being Christian.  Now you can’t even be a Christian anymore, but you need to be a “Christ-follower.” We’re told that this is not only hip and trendy, but necessary to reach a people that don’t like Christianity or the church anymore.  Some even say that they don’t have a problem with Jesus, just the church!  We’re too judgmental.  We’re too hateful.  We’re too opinionated.

What I find is that most people have a caricature of Jesus, Christianity and the church that they are responding to.  Let’s take Jesus for a minute.  Yes, he is loving and kind.  Yes, he died for us.  But he called out sin.  He even called people names.  He made a whip of cords and drove people out of the temple, probably not once but twice!  Do you have a full picture of who Jesus is?  Does society?

Many people look at the Church or the concept of Christianity and feel physically sick.  They see a constant picture of abuse and neglect.  They think about the people that have harmed them in the past.  They can’t get beyond any of that.  But, from my understanding, most Red Cross meals that are served after a natural disaster are served by Christian organizations.  Food banks are provided by churches.  Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization, is on the forefront of the fight against Ebola in Africa.  Churches offer counseling.  They house community events.  They reach out.  They help provide a sense of belonging and caring that can be so difficult to find in today’s world.

I believe that one of our basic problems today is that we don’t have a real sense of who God is and how he works in the world.  We don’t really believe that the Holy Spirit convinces, that God calls, or that the Bible convicts.  We think that it’s all up to clever marketing, high pressure sales, and a watered down message.  Blame my rant on my current sermon series.  God is Sovereign!  God is in control!

Does that mean we don’t try?  Does that mean we don’t present the gospel?  Does that mean we don’t reach out to people? Of course not!  “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace.”  We are called to proclaim.  We’re called to be faithful.  We’re called to follow.  But we have to make sure that we understand that God is doing the work, God is doing the calling, God is doing the convincing, and that, try as we might to have an effect through our own power and reasoning, we probably just end up convincing ourselves how clever we are instead of pleasing God.

So, after all is said and done, what am I?  Sure I’m a Christian, but I’m also a protestant, evangelical, Baptist pastor, and I’m not ashamed to say it.  I believe that if we follow God it doesn’t matter what we’re called or what we call ourselves.  I believe that theology is important.  I believe that the gospel is important.  I believe that God is on his throne.  And I think that all of that it important this Christmas.

A question of theology…

My recent trip to Bethel University prompted some people to ask me what I thought of the school and the seminary, particularly with regard to their theological leanings.  I haven’t spent a lot of time researching the issue, but I do have two comments:

1) I do take issue with the school for its handling of the open theism of Greg Boyd.  I do not believe that open theism is compatible with Biblical Christianity.  If you are interested in reading a Biblical refutation of open thesim, I would point you to issue 46 of the Founders Journal.  For a philosophical refutation, try The Case Against Open Theism.  Incidentally, if you are interested in furthering your Biblical knowledge, I highly recommend the free online courses at http://www.biblicaltraining.org.  Their apologetics course also has a lecture on open theism.

2) This is more of an anecdotal incident.  Many of you know my friend Dr. Maurice Robinson, professor of Greek and New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  While he was working on his PhD (back in the 70’s), one of his professors decided that he could not affirm the Southern Baptist’s new emphasis on Biblical inerrancy. Where did he end up?  At Bethel!

The culmination of years of work…

I had the privilege of co-editing a volume of essays that honor my close friend and mentor Dr. Maurice Robinson.  It is actually available on Amazon, but it is very technical.  Most of the essays support or suggest the viability of an alternate theory of New Testament textual criticism – the “Byzantine priority” theory.  If you are interested in why this theory is important and what it means for our New Testament text, I would suggest reading this article by Timothy Friberg (a version of which was actually included in the volume).  He summarizes much of Dr. Robinson’s work in such a way that a non-scholar can understand it.

If you happen to be interested in a summary of the articles in the volume, click here.

Did Hannah really bring three times the offering required?

During my sermon on 1 Samuel 1:19-28 I stated that Hannah brought three times the offering required.  My understanding is based on the NKJV which represents the Hebrew text of that verse.  Some other modern translations follow the Greek translation of the Hebrew text, which states that Hannah brought a three year old bull rather than three bulls – a fact that some people pointed out to me after the sermon!  What makes that translation problematic is that the amount of flour she brought (“one ephah”) is just over three times the amount she would bring if she was simply bringing one bull (Numbers 15:9).  It seems more likely that Hannah actually brought three bulls and the required flour offering.  Here is what the ESV Study Bible has to say about the issue: “Either a three-year-old bull or “three bulls” (ESV footnote). In either case Elkanah apparently was a prosperous man who was able to afford an expensive offering of a bull or bulls and large amounts of grain and wine. Three bulls would correspond to the priestly regulations, which specify that together with each bull sacrificed, three-tenths of an ephah of grain should be offered (Num. 15:9; 28:12, 20, 28). With three bulls, one would expect an offering of nine-tenths of an ephah, just a little less than the one ephah that Hannah offered. The skin (or “jar”) may have held as much as 6 gallons (22 l) of wine.”