Sunday, December 1, 2013

Putting Jesus in His Place [Review]

When it comes to books written on Christology and in particular the deity of Christ, there tends to be two categories. The first, a rather dry and stodgy academic affair wherein the author(s) seek to make their mark and argue for or against biblical orthodoxy. The second is that work in which the author is quite passionate about the subject, and even may have some insights, but in the final analysis doesn't really deliver the goods. What category does Putting Jesus in His Place fall into? Neither. Bowman and Komoszewski have created a category all their own.

Bowman and Komoszewski have provided a work which not only aptly demonstrates the case for Christ's deity, but they have done so in a book that is eminently readable, enjoyable, memorable, and scholarly at the same time! It begins by introducing a keen acronym that serves to enable "people of different backgrounds to remember and explain the biblical evidence for identifying Jesus as God."[1] The acronym "HANDS" identifies that Jesus shares the honors, attributes, names, deeds, and seat of God. This acronym serves as an outline to the book, which also includes a Recommended Resource page and a Scripture Index.

Throughout Putting Jesus in His Place, the authors engage often in biblical exegesis, thereafter making known the theological implications of the bible's teaching regarding the identity of the Son of God. So too, arguments to the contrary are considered and dealt with carefully and biblically. As I read this book I found myself often pouring through the prolific amount of endnotes, finding enlightenment in the copious commentary and citations of everyone from James D. G. Dunn and Greg Stafford to F. F. Bruce and Daniel Wallace. Those endnotes function in two ways: 1) they serve as a valuable source of information for the reader, and 2) they serve to impart a constant annoyance to the reader who must place his thumb in the corresponding page so as not to loose his spot. Needless to say, I am praying that Kregal releases the second edition with footnotes.

It is not so much the subjects covered that makes this book so terribly good, it is rather how things are approached and articulated. The authors have a way of engaging the reader that makes you feel genuinely involved in what is nothing less than a world-class treatment on the doctrine of the deity of Christ. This is a book you won't want to put down, and nearly six years later, I still find myself grabbing it off my bookshelf regularly.
1. Bowman and Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place, 23.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Jesus Only" Churches [Review]

"Jesus Only" Churches is part of a fifteen volume series entitled The Zondervan Guide to Cults and Religious Movements, which published from 1995 through 1998, seeks to document and respond to some of the most prominent world religions and cults facing historic orthodox Christianity. Perhaps you might ask, "After so many years, why a review of this volume?" The answer is two fold: The material present in this book is still highly relevant, and the format in which the material is covered makes "Jesus Only" Churches a useful reference tool.

Beisner is best known for his work with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, a biblical worldview ministry. However, in 1985 he and the late Dr. Walter Martin were participants in the oft cited discussion/debate with Oneness Pentecostal leaders Robert Sabin and Nathaniel Urshan. Perhaps this is what lead Alan Gomes to choose Beisner to write "Jesus Only" Churches. Whatever the reason, Beisner was an excellent choice, as he has produced and outstanding resource that has stood the test of time.

The format of the book is unique in that it is comprised of five clearly labeled sections; Introduction, Theology, Witnessing Tips, Bibliography, and Comparison Chart. Each section contains a subsection which presents a particular area of importance pertaining to its heading. For example, the Introduction section includes subsections entitled "Historical Background," and "Vital Statistics." The Historical Background section provides a brief synopsis of the origin of Oneness Pentecostalism, and even its schisms. The Vital Statistics section is perhaps the most out-of-date material in the book,[1] since it provides a list of denominations, their constituency, and their para-church organizations.

Most valuable within this work is Beisner's exposition on the theology of the movement and his apologetic response. He deals honestly with primary sources in a concise and scholarly manor. His refutations are equally concise and easy to apprehend. While I certainly don't affirm every detail of his apologetic, especially in light of more modern treatments of certain subjects, overall Beisner's treatment is spot-on.

For anyone who is interested in a primer to familiarize themselves with the movement and is seeking for a sound biblical defense of historic Christianity, "Jesus  Only" Churches remains a desirable resource.
1. Beisner's numbers were considerably low even for the time of publishing. His projection that, "Oneness Pentecostalism is expected to grow to about 1,513,000 members by A.D. 2000" (p. 9), is not at all accurate- then or now.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith [Review]

Not all that long ago I had the pleasure of listening to Michael Reeves' lecture series "Enjoying the Trinity." I came away from that series feeling like I had been met with one of the greatest presentations on the subject that I have ever heard. Reeves has the uncanny ability to communicate profound biblical truth using an enjoyable and easy to comprehend style- the mark of a truly great bible teacher. Thereafter I enthusiastically ordered a copy of Reeves book, and upon its arrival I greedily consumed it. This 145 page book positively made my heart sing. Reeves presents to his reader a truly delightful and refreshingly lovely God. And, he does so with a joy that is absolutely infectious. Having read innumerable books on the subject, I have yet to come across one that communicates the Trinitarian faith with such a lucid, and downright pleasurable style.

Ironically, what separates Delighting in the Trinity from many of its contemporaries is that Reeves presents the Trinity by means of an intensely biblical portrayal. He doesn't begin with a discourse on epistemology, and he doesn't first appeal to a sophisticated philosophy. Rather he begins by dispelling the popular myth that the Trinity is a "cold and stodgy" "irrelevant dogma," or even a "spooky" mystery. I can only imagine his uninitiated readers shaking their heads in agreement, that is, until Reeves presents them with a God who is unrelentingly Father. Reeves presents the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in that order, and intersperses each chapter with interesting and relevant vignettes on everything from patristic writers to medieval monks and puritan theologians. Throughout the book, the Trinity is presented in such a way so as to make known its actual theological and practical ramifications. That is, Reeves teaches the reader really good theology and praxis. No surprise here really, as Reeves is a systematician by trade. 

Delighting in the Trinity is an outstanding contribution in every sense, and it ought to be a key resource for discipleship in every Christian church.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Revealed in the Flesh: 1 Timothy 3:16 and Oneness Pentecostalism

The phrase “God was manifest in the flesh” as it is found within the King James Version rendering of 1 Timothy 3:16, has served as a virtual creedal statement within Oneness Pentecostal preaching, books, and other literature.[1] There are anywhere from 14 to 24 million Oneness adherents worldwide,[2] and given the place of prominence the verse enjoys within Oneness teaching, a textual, exegetical, and theological analysis of the text is warranted. 

Textual Analysis
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16 KJV) 
και ομολογουμενως μεγα εστιν το της ευσεβειας μυστηριον θεος εφανερωθη εν σαρκι εδικαιωθη εν πνευματι ωφθη αγγελοις εκηρυχθη εν εθνεσιν επιστευθη εν κοσμω ανεληφθη εν δοξη[3] (1 Timothy 3:16 TR)
There exists within Oneness Pentecostalism a significant trans-denominational faction that asserts an exclusive authoritative primacy to the King James Version. While this position is present among many Oneness churches, there is no Oneness denomination that has institutionalized the King James Version to the exclusion of other English translations. However, within the movement there still remains a high level of dependence upon the textual choices present within the King James Version, especially regarding 1 Timothy 3:16. In light of this, if one does not begin with an a priori belief in the authenticity of either the Textus Receptus or the Majority Text, there is good reason to suspect the reading as being less than authentic.

Regarding the relevant phrase, there are three distinct readings that find attestation among the manuscripts of the New Testament.[4] Below, I have listed them with their supporting witnesses according to their attested chronology.

ὃς ἐφανερώθη (trans. “Who was manifested”)
Unicals: Siniaticus (4th c.), Alexandrinus (5th c.), Ephraemi Rescriptus (5th c.), Augensis (9th c.), and Boernerianus (9th c.) 
Miniscules: 33 (9th c.), 1175 (11th c.), 2127 (12th c.), 365 (13th c.), and 442 (13th c.) 
Versions: Present in a marginal note within Syriac Harclean (7th c.), and in Ethiopic texts (14th c.) 
Patristic Citations: Origen (Latin Translation, 3rd c.), Didymus of Alexandria (4th c.), Epiphanius of Constantia (early 5th c.), Cyril of Alexandria (5th c.), and Theodoret of Cyrrhus (5th c.)

ὃ ἐφανερώθη (trans. “Which was manifested”)
Uncials: Claromontanus (6th c.)

Miniscules: None

Versions: Vulgate and some Old Latin texts (7th c.)

Patristic Citations: Victorinus of Pettau (early 4th c.), Ambrosiaster (4th c.), Hilary (4th c.), Pelagius (5th c.), and Augustine (5th c.)

θεος εφανερωθη (trans. “God was manifested”) 
Uncials: a 6th century correction of Ephraemi Rescriptus, a 9th century correction of Claromontanus, a correction (by a later hand) of Alexandriunus,[5] Athous Laurensis (8th/9th c.), Mosquensis (9th c.), Angelicus (9th c.), and Porphyrianus (9th c.), 0150 (9th c.), 075 (10th c.), 

Miniscules: 81 (11th c.), 104 (11th c.), 1505 (11th c.), 330 (12th c.), 1241 (12th c.), 614 (13th c.), 6 (13th c.), 263 (13th c.), 630 (14th c.), 1881 (14th c.)

Versions: Georgian (6th c.), Syriac Harclean (7th c.), and Slavic (9th c.)

Patristic Citations: Gregory of Nyssa (4th c.), Didymus (4th c.), Euthalius (4th c.), Theodoret of Cyrrhus (5th c.)
The strength of ὃς ἐφανερώθη is evident. It is found in the earliest witnesses of 1 Timothy 3:16 and it possesses excellent patristic and versional support. By contrast, the earliest witness for θεος occurs hundreds of years later by the work of a corrector. ὃ ἐφανερώθη is far too an isolated reading, and thus it is not difficult understand why the Nestle-Aland 28th edition and the United Bible Societies 4th edition relegate all but ὃς to the apparatus. The New English Translation textual commentary has rightly noted that ὃ ἐφανερώθη is “a reading that indirectly supports ὅς since it could not easily have been generated if θεός had been in the text.”[6]

Metzger concluded,
“Thus, no uncial (in the first hand) earlier than the eighth or ninth century (Ψ) supports θεος; all ancient versions presuppose ὃς or ὃ; and no patristic writer prior to the last third of the fourth century testifies to the reading of θεος.”[7]
Given the nature of the uncial text, the variant can be explained by supposing that a scribe mistook OΣ for the nomen sacrum ΘΣ. However as Comfort has noted,
“It is difficult to imagine that how several fourth- and fifth- century scribes, who had seen thousands of nomina sacra, would have made this mistake. It is more likely that the change was motivated by a desire to make the text say that it was “God” who was manifest in the flesh.”[8]
It is probable that the variant was the result of a scribal emendation. Perhaps there could have been a theological motivation, or it could be the result of a scribe attempting to clarify the subject. However, there isn’t a way to account for the converse, and as Mounce notes, “It is almost inconceivable that a scribe would change θεος to a pronoun.”[9] So too, the relative pronoun is the more difficult reading, as the text assumes an antecedent, but makes none explicit.[10] Therefore, both internally and externally, the critical editions provide the most probable reading. 

Exegesis and Theological Application

The epistle is emphatically didactic. The Apostle has set forth parameters for Christians; from pedagogy to practice. In between his warnings, exhortations, and instructions, Paul slowed his stride and wrote to his beloved son in the faith, 
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)
To Paul, the church is that people in which God resides- the household of God is the body of Christ.[11] It is the body of Christ in whom the Spirit of God dwells. Thus, the people of God stand as the στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς ἀληθείας- the pillar and support of the truth. In verse 16, he annunciates the reality of that truth to which the household of God testifies:
He[Who] was manifested in the flesh,vindicated by the Spirit,seen by angels,proclaimed among the nations,believed on in the world,taken up in glory. 
-1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV, brackets added)
It is important to note that this confession presents its subject by means of the passive voice. The six part construct speaks of what has been done to and for this one who has been made visible in the flesh. The confession speaks of the reality of one being revealed in flesh (ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί).[12] Thus, the text implicitly communicates that the subject who is revealed exists prior to his being made visible in the flesh, and that his revelation in flesh is from the perspective of this text,[13] the result of the active work of another. 

But who is the subject? Unquestionably, the subject is the Son of God. It was he who was manifest in the flesh. Each one of the six clauses reflects a chronology of the redemptive work of God in Christ. 

Whereas the phrase “vindicated by the Spirit” refers to the bodily resurrection of the Son of God by means of the Spirit, “He was manifested in the flesh” speaks of his incarnation by the work of the Father. That is, it was not the Father “who was manifested in the flesh,” but rather the Son. Redemption is a work inextricably connected to the Triune God.

Similarly Paul speaks of the preincarnate actual coexistence of the Father and Son when he wrote, 

By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh. 
-Romans 8:3 (ESV)
If the Son was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, logic demands that the he previously exist in a state wherein he did not bear that likeness. Likewise, since the Son was revealed in the flesh, his revelation presupposes his pre-incarnational existence with the Father. Even if we were to accept the reading “God was manifest in the flesh,” the text would still demand by virtue of its grammar and context that the Son was revealed in the flesh. Hence, the foundational basis of Oneness Pentecostal theology (i.e., unitarianism) is refuted by the very text that Oneness adherents appeal to most often.

[1] For example, one can find the clause in the doctrinal statement of the United Pentecostal Church International (see here), prominently in popular works such as David K. Bernard, Pentecostal Theology Volume 1: The Oneness of God, (Hazelwood, MO; Word Aflame Press, 2001), and in scholarly works such as David Norris, I Am: A Oneness Pentecostal Theology, (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 2009). 
[2] David Bernard suggests worldwide constituency at “24 million or more,” and he cites Talmage French as an authority. Eric Patterson and Edmund Rybarczyk eds., The Future of Oneness Pentecostalism in the United States, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007), 124, 136. However, David Reed has estimated worldwide constituency somewhere between 14 to 17 million. Stanely M. Burgess and Eduard M. Van Der Maas eds., New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 940. 
[3] Maurice Robinson ed., 1624 Elzevir Textus Receptus: With Morphology, (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2002).
[4] This is not entirely true, as a few late manuscripts possess the reading ὁ θεός (e.g. 88 [12th c.]), and 061 (5th c.) contains the singularly unique reading ω εφανερωθη. 
[5] Regarding the correction of A, it is apparent that the omicron sigma (OΣ) was transformed into a nomen sacrum (ΘΣ), especially when one compares an actual nomen sacrum (from the context) to the correction. Of the correction, Tregelles noted, “The ink in which this has been done in A is sufficiently modern and black to declare its recent application…” Samuel P. Tregelles, An Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament: With Remarks on Its Revision Upon Critical Principles, (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 228.
[6] Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006.
[7] Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd Ed., (New York, NY: American Bible Society, 1975), 641.
[8] Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2008), 663.
[9] William D. Mounce, Word Biblical Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Vol. 46, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 214.
[10] Wescott and Hort wrote that ὃς “is intrinsically improbable,” and “Its difficulty is solely grammatical, at least on any interpretation which allows the antecedent of ὃς to be Christ.” B. F. Wescott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek: With Notes on Selected Readings, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1988), 134.
[11] See Col. 1:24, cf. Eph. 5:23. See esp. Eph. 2:19-22. 
[12] Φανερόω is defined as “to cause to become visible, reveal, expose publically.” Fredrick W. Danker, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2000), 1048.
[13] It is well worth mentioning that the all too similar hymn, Philippians 2:5-11, makes it evident that the Son played an active role in his incarnation. Note the reflexive pronouns as it was the Son who emptied (vs. 7) and humbled himself (vs. 8).