Thursday, May 16, 2024

Properly understood, I think both translations are correct.

Fig.A, Luther's Bible

This post deals with translation of Luther and the KJV  on passages like Gal 2:16 from the Greek. This topic deals with "faith in Jesus" or "faith of Christ". Is one more "correct" than the other? Or, both are correct depending on understanding?

Before proceeding, please be reminded of the disclaimer I have in this blog, shown to the right of this page. I make another disclaimer that I am no NT Greek expert but I did have university training on it and thus can vet what scholars are saying, and that English is not my native language. Thus please consider - caveat emptor.

This is a result of my reflection and research on this passage, thus far.

Fig. B, Luther's Translation Gal 2:16
Believe me though, in this post, you do not need to have full Greek knowledge to understand what is going on in the mind of the translators.
Fig. C, KJV Gal 2:16

In Fig B, below I show how Luther's Bible translated Galatians 2:16. I highlighted the passage in question. Luther's German says "Glauben an Jesum Christum", in English "faith in Jesus Christ".

In Fig C, we show how the KJV translated this phrase w my highlighting, "faith of Christ". KJV is not the only one which translates this passage in such a way. The Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims translates it the same way, and a few other translations too.

In the Textus Receptus, this comes from the phrase δια πιστεως ιησου χριστου. 

Translating word for word, first without respect to conjugation we have δια is "through",  then πιστεως is "faith", then as we can discern  ιησου χριστου is "Jesus Christ". This πιστεως is in the so called genitive. Genitives are ordinarily gives the notion of possession. Should this be translated "faith of Christ"? Meaning the faith that belongs to Christ? Then why did Luther translated this to be "faith in Christ". Was he wrong? In fact, some blame Luther for influencing the many English translations we now have this way., ie the use of IN Christ. I saw one complaint on this.

I am not here to defend Luther, just the facts.

This boils down on how to treat this genitive - is it subjective, ie, the faith that belongs to Christ or is it objective, the object of this faith is Christ? The translator seeing this has to decide the best way to render its meaning.

Looking at the literal translation as much as we can, reflect for a minute the meaning of --- the faith that belongs to Christ ie faith of Christ, did not Jesus say this -- John 14:1 - you believe in God believe also IN me? In other words, where does your faith belong, is it not supposed to belong to Christ? Hence, if so, "faith IN Christ", ie Luther's translation give it out clearly too. That is not a bad translation as the context also bears this out - see "even we have believed in Jesus Christ" , thus faith IN Christ is OK rendition.

Let me now illustrate this rendition from a quote from Thomas Edison using similar language.
Fig D. Edison Quote

Please read the context of what Edison said about his mother. Note the 2nd to the last line - "My mother is the making of me". Did Edison make his mother? In effect, the subject is Edison, did he create his mother? No. In the context he meant his mother was the cause of him being in the right path, it was his mother who MADE him this way, thus it was his mother as the subject and "me" ( Edison) the object. His mother made him for what he is today. 

In conclusion, properly understanding the meaning of this genitive construction, both IN Christ and OF Christ are correct.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Why I now go for Mere Christianity


C. S. Lewis wrote the book Mere Christianity, as an apology for the soundness and truthfulness of the Christian faith. Lewis was Anglican but he was not defending the Anglican version or approach to Christianity, he was defending all of Christianity. So what did Lewis mean by 'mere Christianity'?

By this, he meant the fundamental essential orthodox beliefs in order for one to be called a Christian, a follower of Christ.

My friend, do you trust Jesus as your Saviour and Lord?  Then you got my good will as a brother or sister in Christ. You do not have to share my label or brand of Christianity, for me to extend that good will to you.

 1 jOHN 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love his brother remains in death.

In the 1990s while I was in ministry and taking a degree in Religious Studies, I happened to have  Prof Greg Horsley as my Classic and Koine NT Greek teacher. Horsley is the editor of a multivolume book New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity.  

While I was a student, Prof Horsley told me this story he found in the early documents, I am not sure if he saw this in the inscriptions or in a papyri, probably the latter.

He told the story of two Christians who were about to be burned alive by a Roman soldier. These two were tied facing each other. One of them asked the Roman soldier if they be not tied facing each other because he believed the other one was a heretic. The Roman soldier obliged to tie them behind each other. Then, he proceeded to burn them anyway.

This story has stucked with me upto this day. I forget if Prof Horsley was trying to illustrate a point with me there, but I definitely formed the moral to that story.

In the last days, as stated in Mk 13 and similar passages, when the secular world goes after Christians, their persecutors will not care what label/brand/denomination of Christianity they come from, they will get "torched" anyway. They will not care, they will inflict the same suffering upon them no matter what  label they identify with. There is a pre-taste of this in the life and testimony of the sainted Rev Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs.

For this reason, I accept with open arms, any one who is just a mere Christian.

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Pseudo-Christianity, still salvation by works


I am just going to express an observation.

It is evident that in this world, there are those who claim the Bible as authority for their faith. I observed too that these groups do attack the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It is their common target.

Just a disclaimer: Please note, I do not deem to protect the RCC, I am a classical Evangelical Protestant.

However, they would criticise Roman Catholic practices like praying to the saints, praying the rosary, doing novenas and thousands more. They have claims of its corruption, pointing to how such practices can never be found in Scripture.

In other words, they are bad works not the real work that should be done.

The good works some of them claim go like this... do not eat pork, do not have blood transfusion, worship not on a Sunday but on this day, do not believe Jesus is the divine Son of God, be baptized in our church group,  etc, etc.

In the end, it seems to me, they are saying those RCC works are not the good works you should do but these good works that we have listed, by our group, are the good works you should do to be saved.

Thus, salvation by their teaching, is again by works and not by faith alone through the finished work of Christ alone.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

What does John 6: 22-69 teach?

 A few weeks ago, the debate between Drs. James White and Leighton Flowers attracted the ears of Evangelicals frequenting YouTube. This debate gain popularity with commentators chiming in on who did the better between the two. The topic: Does John 6:44 teach unconditional election. James White the Calvinist, says yes, affirmative. Leighton Flowers, a so-called Provisionist, says no, negative. Unconditional Election says that some people have been decreed by God to be saved without condition on anything, and only the good pleasure of God is the basis of this election. Needless to say, the compliment of this is also true, thus some are unconditionally elected to damnation.

Provisionism is relatively new and of course denies every letter of TULIP. It is amazing that many from the Lutheran camp agree with the way Original Sin is formulated in Total Depravity, if formulated at all, as such. Synodical Lutherans agree with TD. This I believe, should not be done.Total Depravity is a misleading idea, it is most often interpreted that man is as evil as he can be which is Manichaean.  Lutherans should stick to the way their confessions define Original Sin, but that is another topic for some day, God willing.

In short the way I find Provisionists is that they seem like fluid on Pelagianism/Semi-Pelagianism, much like the EOs do. They must affirm somewhere that man cannot fulfill the Law but I am not clear on that. I am happy to be educated if they care to comment here.

Here is my exegesis of the passage. Note, no NT Greek required, but will help additionally if investigated. 

The whole context should be John 6: 22-69.

We observe the following:

This was after Jesus performed a miracle feeding the 5,000 people using only 5 bread loaves and 2 small fish. v1-14 

They wanted to make them king, Jesus seeing this, departed from their midst.

The following day, people still looked for him and found him in Capernaum.

The dialogue began between the seekers and Jesus began, v.26-59

Jesus asserted that the reason they were looking for him was not because they believed that He was the sent One from God, but because their stomachs got filled the other day. They sought him not because they saw the signs but because their physical hunger was satisfied. Wait, did they not see how Jesus miraculously multiplied those breads and fish? They saw but did not understand. They skipped the supernatural event and reduced it to the eating of food. Jesus said - the food they are seeking perishes - they go off or get stale but they should labor for the food that endures to life eternal, which He, the Son of Man will give them. v.26-27

Since Jesus spoke about "labor", they asked what shall they do, so that they can work, the works of God. v.28

Jesus' answer is to believe in Him, whom God has sent. The answer is to have faith in Christ Himself, for the bread that lasts until eternity. v.29

But this gets frustrating, because the people once more asked for a sign. Again? What about the miracle that just happened a day or so ago? v.30. Then they went to the OT Scripture, of how Moses fed then manna from heaven. If we recall this went on for years and the manna sustained the Israelites to live through their journed to the promised land, some 40 years. Like saying, Moses did this for us, what about you, eyh?

As per Jesus, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, that was not it, because those who ate it died. Rather, the Father gives to them (now presently) the true bread from heaven that gives life to the world.  Jesus is already pointing them to the spiritual aspect of the miracle He did. 

Nice question on v.34 "Lord give us this bread". Then comes, the I am of Jesus. That he is that bread he speaks about - who comes to him and believes have all his spiritual hunger and thirst satisfied. v.35, Then comes Jesus judgment of them - they have seen Him and yet do not believe v.36. This is true, it is obvious - they keep asking for a sign yet they have seen Him already give then a sign but they wanted more.

v.37 is one of the crucial verses. All that the Father gives to Jesus shall come to Jesus, and those who come to Him, He will never cast away. Does this mean the Father is not giving people to Jesus? If we observe they wanted Jesus's material provision, they are locked into the physical existsence when in fact Jesus is claiming more - He is no Moses but greater than Moses who provides himself as life to the world. Their resistance implies by Jesus' assessment they are not given to Him by the Father. It is not that there is no evidence to back up Jesus claim for their faith, rather the persistent asking for a sign is unbelief. Like so many today, they like what material provisions Jesus can provide but not Jesus claims on their lives. To them that is not on.

But we should skip v.40 and comeback to it later.

Notice in v.41 how they complained - they said, well we know Him, He is the son of Joseph and Mary, we know them. How is it that He says, He came down from heaven? If we could shout to them - hey people - did you not just eat from the miraculous bread and fish? He might be the son of Joseph and Mary but what about that?

The question we should ask is this - is this unbelief due to them or is this unbelief due to God? Is Jesus asking them to believe without evidence?  He performed a sign right? The feeding?

They know the Scriptures - they alluded to Moses' manna. We turn to v.40 seeing the Son and believing in Him, this Jesus gives everlasting life and will be raised by him. They saw him but did not believe him.

Come now to v.44 No one can come to Jesus unless the Father who sent Jesus draws him to Jesus. We look at the parallel of this to v.40. The raising is for those who believe, the one drawn is the one raised. Thus to believe in Jesus is to be drawn by the Father to Jesus. v.45 those who have heard and learned from the Father comes to Jesus, ie believes in Jesus. We see Matt 13:13-15 here. It is not because there is a lack from God but here clearly their hearts have become dull - they wanted Him to be their King, who provides material objects to his people but not the Lord of Glory who quences spiritual hunger and thirst. Remember in this verse, their eyes, they have closed - it is not God who is causing them to be blind. It is their ears being dull, ie they did not take Jesus words seriously. Again, when in doubt about Jesus - consider the miracles of the son of Mary and Joseph. That is the point of why they should have believed.

Based on this - It is a hard climb to prove that John 6:44 is teaching unconditional election. 

Since JW often rejected LF's questions complaining ithey are off topic, I consider this a weakness. As far as I know the one questioning has the right to waste his questions and based on its merits, the audience can decide whether or not the questioner should be taken as a fool or as a serious person. Further, the criticism that LF introduced new arguments for his closing I suspect are sour grape feelings. The reason is that there is no such rule. Whether it is bad form or not is left to the majority of the viewers. In the end, did JW succeed in delivering his mission? I am afraid it fell short.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Is God Behind the Objects of Mathematics?


Philosophy was my minor when I was in College. An editor of a journal that examines Christianity and Science has asked me to write a popular level article for them. I though, it would be nice to expose it to laymen, so, if you can understand the gist of this piece, I would tap myself on the back and say, I did not do too bad. It is not a long piece, only 1500 words and can be read in less than 15 minutes. Leave your feedback in the comments below and thank you in advance for it.

Please download the article from here

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Is There A Middle Way With UOJ?


A few weeks ago, Pr Paul Rydecki (Confessional Lutheran Ministerium) alerted me to his response to Pr Magnus Sørensen's (COELC Superintendent) paper of 2017 entitled "The Justification of Christ as the Efficient Cause of Our Justification - The Narrow Lutheran Middle in the Controversy on Universal Objective Justification". 

Pr Magnus' associate, Pr Jake, a minister of COELC, gave me a link of this paper the first time it came out in 2017. Click the link here. I had a read of this paper and shared it with other ones who also reject UOJ. There Magnus believe that the UOJers are wrong and the JBFA people who are anti-UOJers are wrong too. Somewhere there is a middle view that avoids the two oppossite views. Frankly, the only word that came out of me after reading it was the word - mixed up. I apologise for this word that seems unkind, but I only use it for lack of better word I could find. Now this opinion will not surprize, Magnus. He and I both know that we disagree in many issues and I  was one time overjoyed when there were a couple of issues we agreed. In his paper, we will find a lot of historical context which traces how UOJ meant to be a good thing became bad. So many words have been invested to salvage a problematic teaching in the first place.The crux I think is in the use of this paper of Gerhard (and some from Calov). Specifically, this passage


With respect to the actual absolution from sin. By delivering Christ into death for the sake of our sins, the heavenly Father condemned sin in His flesh through sin (Rom. 8:3). He condemned it because it had sinned against Christ by bringing about His death, even though He was innocent, and so He withdrew from sin its legal right against believers so that it cannot condemn them any longer. He also condemned it, in that He punished our sins in Christ, which were imposed on Him and imputed to Him as to a bondsman. So also, by the very act of raising Him from the dead, He absolved Him from our sins that were imputed to Him, and consequently also absolves us in Him, so that, in this way, the resurrection of Christ may be both the cause and the pledge and the complement of our justification. The following passages pertain to this: 1 Cor. 15:17, 2 Cor. 5:21, Eph. 2:5, Col. 2:12-13, Phil. 3:8-10, 1 Pet. 1:3.

(Gerhard, Johann, Paul A. Rydecki, and Rachel Melvin. Annotations on the first six chapters of St. Pauls Epistle to the Romans: in which the text is stated, troublesome questions are answered, observations are made, and passages that appear to be in conflict are reconciled as concisely as possible: with preface and general prolegomena on the Pauline Epistles by the same author. Malone, TX: Repristination Press, 2014.)

Pr Paul and I are known to each other through the Internet and it is of no mystery of course, that we agree with the judgement that UOJ is not in Scripture. Click his response here. On the side other resources are available to the reader here

  1. Pr Rydecki relayed in his paper the great analogy of how OT atonement worked and how in the NT this is exactlty the same as what happens to Christ! I thought this was very insightful, useful and quite edifying. I suggest the reader take a good cue from that exposition.
  2. As normally happens in Modern Lutheranism, people appeal to an authority and in this case the authority chosen is Gerhard. I note that Gerhard was not a BoC author, in fact, he was post-Concordian. Meaning, he came to the scene after the BoC. So, what is left when people argue by authority and not by Scripture as prima facie evidence? People wind up spending tons of energy exegeting what the "authority" said - energy meant for the Bible is diverted to energy finding support for one's theory from what an authority said. This is a very Waltherian tradition. Walther was a citation theologian.
  3. In the quote above of Gerhard, just by reading, he was addressing the believers, is this not correct? So, how does one take those possessive pronouns like our there? Is this for the whole world? In fact Gerhard used the word 'believer' you can read it there. 
  4. Some try to defend the Sørensen paper's UOJ by appealing to Hebrews 7 and 8. This is like grasping at the straws, a kind of hallugenic exegesis, ie seeing things that are not there.
  5. The paper in my mind, upholds the authority of Scripture versus popular so-called Lutheran Fathers. See here and realize even the BoC says this.  I side with Rydecki, Gerhard's use of bondsman is not an analogy found in Scripture. The bondsman concept is not found in Romans 4:25. Gerhard was of course trying to be helpful but importing a concept not even in the text does not honor the text but obscures it. In the OT atonement, the sacrificial animal is never treated and does not even come to view, of it being a guarantor. We should not be surprized if a Lutheran theologian in the past, mis-speak, after all they were humans too. Besides who has declared them to be infallible? 
Personally I find Pr Paul Rydecki's paper a great service. I am glad he wrote it. 
So, the answer to the question, is there a middle way with UOJ? Answer: NO
I join Pr Paul in prayer that Pr Magnus might abandon the project of trying to prop up a problematic language on justification. It is not worth it because, its Biblical evidence is weak if not missing.(I heard Pr Magnus has got a modification of his 2017 paper - I'd rather hear it retracted)


Monday, February 05, 2024

Semper Virgo and Confessional Commitment


Sempler Virgo
(Latin for always virgin) is the teaching that the Virgin Mary was a virgin, before, during and after giving birth to Jesus all the way to heaven. Some think this is founded on Scriptural text. Others admit that the Scripture evidence is not decisive, and to believe she maintained her virginity until her death, can be tolerated as pious belief. No doubt, one’s belief in this assertion has nothing to do with one’s justification or salvation. Your eternal destiny has nothing to do with your belief or not in the semper virgo.  It is peripheral to one’s discipleship as a Christian.

It may however impact one’s commitment to a denomination’s hollowed confessional document. I will get to this below but first let’s deal with Scriptural arguments for pro semper virgo and the contra semper virgo.


It is no doubt readily available to the reader of the NT, that the Gospels speak of Jesus as having brothers and sisters. The NT Greek used is (Greekἀδελφοίtranslit. adelphoílit. "of the same womb"). We see this suggestion in the sample verses: Mk 6:3, Mt 13:55, Mk 3:35, Mt 12:46, Mk 3:31-35, Mt 12:46-50, Lk 8:19-21, Acts 1:14 and so on.

The Pro camp has explained that this usage of adelphoi did not mean the literal physical brothers/sisters of Christ, but they are next of kin, and it is a figurative usage. It is even suggested that these people were cousins of Jesus. Some also suggest that they were stepbrothers of Jesus from Joseph’s previous wife who was then deceased prior to him meeting Mary. For a good summary of the pro position, see here.


Historians have noted that the suggestion of the perpetual virginity of Mary was first observed in a document called proto-evangelium of James, or the Gospel of James (2nd Century). Prior to the papacy, this idea was condemned by Pope Innocent I and Pope Gelasius of the Roman Church.

The argument that Jesus’ “brothers” were actually stepbrothers/sisters of Jesus has to find its justification extra-biblically so, most likely this line of argument will be deemed by critics as something that can be laid aside. The only one standing strongly for the semper virgo is that Jesus’ brothers are his cousins.

Now, here I bear my research out. I believe the weight of Scripture evidence is against semper virgo for the following reasons.

·         No one in the pro position, as far as I have not seen, any exposition on what it was for Joseph to ‘know’ Mary in Mt 1:25 - and [i][he] did not know her till she had brought forth her[j] firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. Here to know is not a stand-in for information. Bible translations that follow the KJV tradition mean to imply knowing a person, is to know that person intimately. We can see this how the people of Sodom and Gomorrah urged Lot to bring out his guests so they might “know” them. Gen 19:5. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.

 In other words, using this euphemism, it suggests that Joseph did have intimate relationship with her after Jesus was born, not before birth of Jesus for sure but after his birth, thus making the mention of brothers of Jesus as half-brothers, ie children of Joseph and Mary, sensible. This verse is skipped by the pro position or ignored.

·         The brothers as cousins idea does not cut it too. The word for cousin in NT Greek is ἀνεψιός, anephios. Scholars believe that to name a person a cousin of so and so, NT Greek speakers can also say ‘so and so, the son of …’. This phrasing is readily available to be used but this was not used to describe these relatives of Jesus, anephios was never used.

·          Another idea is the way the KJV translates συγγενεῖς -syngeneisrelatives as cousins. This word again is readily available – St Luke’s Gospel used this word a couple of times, but did not use it if the truth is that these are Jesus’ cousins. Yet, St Luke used brothers – see Luke 8:20-21.

·         Because of the above couple of points and the balance of probability of language usage, they mitigate against the belief that the Virgin Mary remained a virgin after Jesus was born.


So now we come to the issue of one’s confessional subscription. What is its implication to you?

1.      If you are Lutheran, then you must contend with this issue. If you believe in quia subscription to the Book of Concord, it includes the Smalcald Articles and there in Luther’s own writing in Latin – Part I, Article 4, and (the Son) was born of the pure, holy, and ever Virgin Mary. Some Smalcald translations do it his way:    and was born of the pure, holy [and always] Virgin Mary. I do not know why they have to bracket this part, is it because there is a German version of Smalcald that does not have this?

2.       If you are Calvinistic/Reformed, your confession says this as well.  2nd Helvetic Confession, Chapter XI has this part referring to our Lord … but was most chastely conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the ever-virgin Mary. Calvin also believed in the semper virgo, in fact, this statement is just an echoing of his Mariology. Calvin believed in the cousin argument.

 During the Reformation, the Reformers were dealing with the major reform issues at that time - it is Justification and so they did not have enough time to bother with and re-visit secondary issues. They went along with some unquestioned (at that time) side beliefs. They had a bigger fish to fry - how is a man made right with God.

There is a constant challenge to a person who is following Jesus and this is right there until he is taken home by his Lord - will he follow His Word where ever it may lead him?