Saturday, February 02, 2013

Steve Ray Mis-identifies the Gates of Hell

Pilgrimage panderer Steve Ray has some video clips up at his site (link). In the first video (starting around 4:50 into the clip, with the key portion beginning at 7:00), you can hear Steve Ray discussing the idea that Jesus' reference to "the gates of hell" is a reference to a deep crevice near the mouth of a cave at the back of a temple. It was sad to see one of the members of the pilgrimage spouting back the idea that the cave was the "gates of hell." The folks on the pilgrimage do seem very sincere, and it seems clear that Steve Ray is misleading them.

Gustav Dalman’s “Sacred Sites and Ways: Studies in the Topography of the Gospels” (trans. Paul P. Levertoff, 1935) has this to say:
Caesarea Philippi (in Christian Palestinian Aramaic Ķesaron de-Philippos) was a city well known among the Jews under the name Ķesariyon (Little Cesarea). Tradition, however, has never connected the present Banias with any incident in the life of Jesus, although in the time of Eusebius a statue of Christ was venerated there, which the woman with the issue of blood (Mt. ix. 20), a native of this district, was supposed to have dedicated, and which the emperor Julian replaced by one of himself. So there is absolutely no foundation for the purely fanciful connection of the rock, the gates of hell, and the Church, of Mt. xvi. 18, with the mountain-wall above the Jordan spring, the wide grotto that is found in it, and the temple of Pan before it.

To the Jews the cave of Paneas with its supposedly bottomless pool was merely the source of the Jordan which gushes out below it, being therefore one of the "fountains of the deep" of Gen. viii. 2. Legend has it that Moses desired to enter Canaan by means of this subterranean cave, but God refused his request. Nor did the heathen look upon this dwelling of the god Pan as the abode of a sinister power of Hades, but rather as a cave inhabited by the protector of the flocks and herds on the mountains. Exuberant life comes from the spring and nature wears a smiling face, bestowing never-failing refreshment. This was (and still is) the impression that the Paneion left upon the beholder. Herod's temple to Augustas, which stood between the cave and the spring, the water of which was used for purification from the defilement caused by contact with a corpse (Para. viii. II), must have also meant to Jesus only a defiling of a God-given stream and not a symbol of men rallying round the Lord's Anointed.
(pp. 203-204, footnotes omitted, See this review of Dalman's work, if you have questions about the work.)

In Jewish Wars, Book I, Chapter 21, Section 3, Josephus describes the place this way:
3. And when Caesar had further bestowed upon him [Herod] another additional country, he built there also a temple of white marble, hard by the fountains of Jordan: the place is called Panium, where is a top of a mountain that is raised to an immense height, and at its side, beneath, or at its bottom, a dark cave opens itself; within which there is a horrible precipice, that descends abruptly to a vast depth; it contains a mighty quantity of water, which is immovable; and when any body lets down any thing to measure the depth of the earth beneath the water, no length of cord is sufficient to reach it. Now the fountains of Jordan rise at the roots of this cavity outwardly; and, as some think, this is the utmost origin of Jordan: but we shall speak of that matter more accurately in our following history.
I tried to track down the work that Dalman was writing off as fanciful. Possibly he's referring simply to the tourist trade in the area of his time. I found numerous references to the place as a tourist spot in 19th century travel literature (although not with that specific claim), so it would not be particularly surprising if that were the source of the myth.

In other posts we have discussed the concept of the "gates of hell." We explained that they refer to the power of death (see the discussion here) and that this understanding is actually confirmed from the Apocrypha (see the discussion here).

There are more responsible tour guides. Here is an example of one:

The tour guide mentions something said by Hezekiah. I'm not sure what he has in mind, but I think he's referring to the kinds of statements we see here:
Job 38:17
Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?

Psalm 9:13
Have mercy upon me, O Lord; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death:

Psalm 107:18
Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.
That's what Jesus was referring to when he said the "gates of hell."  He was referring to the gates of death - Jesus' resurrection will free us from the gates of death - they will not hold us in, if we trust in Christ alone for salvation.


Friday, February 01, 2013

William Lane Craig - not a Molinist?

Terrance L. Tiessen (TLT) makes an argument that William Lane Craig (WLC) is not a Molinist. In summary, the argument is (1) a Molinist must hold to Libertarian Free Will (LFW) in the sense of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP); (2) WLC claims to hold to LFW but not in the sense of PAP; and thus by combining (1) and (2) WLC is not a Molinist.

(link to Tiessen's post)

The material he quotes from WLC is remarkably similar to what a Calvinist might use as an objection to traditional Molinism. TLT quotes the following:
I’m persuaded that so long as an agent’s choice is not causally determined, it doesn’t matter if he can actually make a choice contrary to how he does choose. Suppose that God has decided to create you in a set of circumstances because He knew that in those circumstances you would make an undetermined choice to do A. Suppose further that had God instead known that if you were in those circumstances you would have made an undetermined choice to do not-A, then God would not have created you in those circumstances (maybe it would have loused up His providential plan!). In that case you do not have the ability in those circumstances to make the choice of not-A, but nevertheless your choice of A is, I think, clearly free, for it is causally unconstrained—it [is] you who determines that A will be done. So the ability to do otherwise is not a necessary condition of free choice.
That does look like an argument for compatible freedom, although - as TLT points out - WLC continues to self-identify as a Molinist (presumably because he does not like the idea of "determinism").


Titles of Jesus: Archon of the Kings of the Earth

Jesus is described in numerous ways in the book of Revelation.  One of the titles mentioned in the salutation of John and Jesus' letter to the seven churches is "The Archon of the Kings of the Earth" (Greek: "ὁ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς"), which the King James Version translates as "the prince of the kings of the earth."

This title of head over all of the kings of the earth is something that the Roman bishop desires.  Boniface VIII is an example of the desire of popes to have supreme temporal authority.  His Unam Sanctam, which proclaims a false gospel of submission to the Roman bishop (as discussed here) is sometimes dismissed from consideration on the basis that its reference to rulers being required to submit to Rome is not meant universally.  In fact, the rulers are merely the minor premise, with the general principle being the major premise.  But the problem is more acute.  The very title of Archon of the Kings of the Earth belongs to Jesus Christ.  Boniface VIII can wear his double tiara and John XXII his triple tiara, but that's just jewelry - the truth is that it is Christ who is Archon.

True ministers of the gospel (as some ancient bishops in Rome were), are ministers of God, just as also the temporal rulers are ministers (in a different sense) of God.  But the kingdom of heaven is not set up like Gentile kingdoms on earth.  There are lords many and kings many, but while we have overseers, we are all brethren and have one Lord, Jesus Christ.

I think this title is sometimes overlooked by my brethren who want to maintain a rigid separation of church and state.  With this title, though, Jesus is claiming all temporal to be his.  Thus, all the kings of the Earth ought to obey his revealed will and ought to order their kingdoms accordingly.

It's a marvelous title.  It emphasizes the supremacy of Jesus even while we acknowledge that Jesus first coming was not to establish an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly kingdom.  Nevertheless, the kings of the earth should beware.  Jesus Christ their Archon is coming again in judgment.  They ought to consider that warning and be ready against his coming.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Golden Calves vs. Baal - Response to a Counterpoint

There are a limited number of possible verses that seem to possibly associate the golden calves and Baal worship. One example is the passage below:

2 Kings 17:16-17
And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.

Here the golden calves and Baal are placed quite close to each other in a list of the wrong-doings of Israel. But, while they are placed close together, there is no strong indication that the grove worship was directly connected with the calves or with Baal. Moreover, the child sacrifice is more associated with Molech worship:

Leviticus 18:21 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.

Moreover, the divinations are also seemingly a separate but related category. Recall:

Deuteronomy 18:9-12
When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

Moreover, while Baal and passing one's children through the fire are mentioned in close proximity elsewhere, in that place (as in Leviticus above) it is connected with the cult of Molech:

Jeremiah 32:35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

It is interesting to note that in this instance, the sentence structure, in English, is such that there seems to be a connection between the high places of Baal and the child sacrifice to Molech. It is possible that "Baal" here is a generic reference.

- TurretinFan

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sin, Satan, and Satan's Fall

I was recently directed to some questions about Sin, Satan, and Satan's fall.

Did Satan exist before Adam and Eve? How and when did he fall?

The Scriptures do not specify when God created the angels or when specifically Satan fell.

Jude 6 states: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."

2 Peter 2:4 stats: "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;"

Job 4:18 states: "Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly:"

Thus, we know that some of the angels did fall and that this was due to some foolishness and sin on their part. But the exact timing of their creation is not specified.

Isaiah 14 has sometimes been interpreted as referring to the fall of Satan. There are a few reasons that this view has some weaknesses - particularly in that verse 16 speaks about kingdoms, but it is clear that at the latest Satan fell when only Adam and Eve lived.

Nevertheless, vss. 12-15 may be a reference to the fall of Satan, and may be a comparison between that fall and the fall of the king of Babylon (see vs. 4). In other words, God may be comparing the fall of the king of Babylon to the fall of Satan.

We may speculate that Satan and other angels (who are described as having wings) were created with the winged fowl on the 4th day, or that Satan and the other angels being heavenly bodies (and compared to stars) were created with the stars on the 3rd day, or that the angels were created on the first day when God created the heavens and the earth, or that they were created on the 6th day since Satan is described as a serpent. But all this is speculation, since God does not say.

All we know is that all things were made by God in the space of six days (Exodus 20:11), and therefore the angels were created in this time period.

Did sin exist before Adam and Eve?

It seems sin did not exist before the end of the sixth day, because on the sixth day God saw all that he had made and behold it was very good (Genesis 1:1). How could God say that if there was already sin?

Of course, "sin" is not a thing that has its own existence. Rather it is any lack of conformity to (or violation of) God's law.

It seems clear that Satan's temptation in the Garden of Eden of Eve and by her of Adam was sinful and an act of rebellion on Satan's part.

After all, Satan is clearly identified as the serpent in Revelation 20:2 "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years," and Revelation 12:9 "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."

Moreover, his sins of lying and murdering were there:

John 8:44
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

After all, because of Satan's lie, Eve was deceived and came under judgment of death, making Satan both liar and simultaneously murderer.

Some people may speculate that it was in this very act that Satan fell - namely that the fall of Satan is timed as immediately before the fall of man. Whether this is the case or not, we simply do not know, because Scripture does not say. One reason to think this is that the Serpent is cursed specifically together with Adam and Eve, but prior to the curse of the earth for Adam's sin (Genesis 3:14).

The only remaining question is how there could be sin before Adam's sin, when Scripture states:

Romans 5:12
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

But just as this does not exclude Eve's sin before Adam's sin, so also it does not exclude Satan's sin before Eve's sin. For Adam was made the head of the physical creation. In Adam (not in Eve or in Satan) all mankind fell, and that in context is what Paul is describing.

Scripture tells all we need to know. John assures us that we can read the gospel of John and believe and have eternal life (John 20:31) and the Scriptures teach us that they thoroughly equip us for living the Christian life (2 Timothy 3:17). Nevertheless Scripture does not promise to answer every question we may have about everything. Some things we simply cannot be dogmatic about. We should, therefore, cease to be dogmatic where Scripture ceases revelation.

- TurretinFan

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Darryl Hart and a Heretical Pope

Darryl Hart points out how Pope John XXII (c. 1244 – 1334) was forced by the Parisian Faculty of Theology to recant his heretical views regarding the Beatific Vision (link). It's an example of the messiness of the medieval papacy and particularly its relationship to France and the French theologians.

The work from which Hart quotes is "The Mortgage of the Past," by Francis Oakley. That same work documents a number of issues that the folks at Called to Communion (a Roman communion blog) are unlikely to feature. For example, endnote 50 at page 269 highlights the fact that previous generations (i.e. before Vatican I) have been more open to the idea that the pope may fall into heresy:
Decretum, D. 40. c. 6; ed. Friedberg, 1879-81. 1:146. Tierney, 1964, 119, notes that even the high papalist decretist Alanus Anglicus [fl. A.D. 1190-1215] conceded that deposition would be called for in the case of papal heresy. The more moderate decretist Huguccio [of Pisa] went further, and envisaged any notorious papal crime as cause sufficient for the imposition of that penalty. For a full synoptic treatment of the origin and destiny of such notions, see Oakley, 2003b.
Oakley endorses the idea that "no other pope was as important for edging papal monarch toward absolutism" as Innoncent III (A.D. 1198-1216), quoting Kenneth Pennington, The Pope and the Bishops: the Papal Monarchy in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984), p. 58.

- TurretinFan

Monday, January 28, 2013

Textual "Corruption" of the Quran

A very impressive presentation on the corruption of Quran may be found at this link (link to beginning of relevant section). This was much more detailed than any similar presentation I had seen before. The following is a brief outline:

1. Preservation of the Bible

[I will omit these points, which were things I already knew, but which are important.]

2. Preservation of the Qur'an
a. Hadith Demonstrates variation (Bukhari, v. 6, b. 60, n. 468; see also 6.60.467 and Muslim 4.1799-1802).
b. al-NAdim's catalog of books (4th Islamic century) included early literature on the discrepencies among Quranic manuscripts (the presentation lists 7 books from the catalog).
c. Uthman's destruction of the other Qurans (Bukhari, 6.61.510) and Abdullah ibn Masud's resistance.
d. Four common versions of the Qur'an: The Qur'an According to Imam Hafs, The Qur'an According to Imam Warsh, The Qur'an According to Imam Qulan, and The Qur'an According to Imam al-Duri.
e. Example of difference between Warsh and Hafs at 21:4 ("Say ..." vs. "He said ...")
f. Example of difference between Warsh and Hafs at 3:146 ("fought" vs. "was killed")
g. Quran showing the differences among the ten major versions in the margin.
h. Between two versions of the Quran (he didn't specify which two), there are 1354 differences.
i. The Bismallah - Hafs says it is a verse of the Quran, but Warsh says it is just part of the title (appears 113 times, and has 4 words, for a total of 452 words difference).
j. Analysis of the Chain of Narration (Isnad) for the Hafs Quran, but that chain is not historically possible, because Abdullah ibn Masud rejected the Uthman Qur'an.

3. The Qur'an's testimony to the Bible

[Some good points that I had heard before about how the Qur'an testifies to the reliability of the Bible.]

If anyone has Samuel Green's written version of his presentation and his permission to post it on-line, I would love to be able to repost it here. Unfortunately, I do not know how to contact Mr. Green.


Major Innovations of Vatican II as to its New Ecclesiology

One expects to hear of Vatican II's major innovations either from the traditionalist critics or "ordain a lady" type liberals, but it was interesting to read this report from the Vatican Information System, which described Cardinal Coccopalmerio's discussion of the relationship between the 1983 code of canon law (which replaced the 1917 code of canon law) and the Vatican II council:
Cardinal Coccopalmerio began his address with the recollection that Blessed John XXIII, in his speech convening Vatican Council II in 1959, explained that the Council’s legal scope was to bring about the awaited revision of the 1917 Code. “In his broad perspective, the Pope saw clearly that the revision of the Code had to be guided by the new ecclesiology that emerged from an ecumenical and a global summit such as the Council.” Blessed John Paul II, under whose pontificate the Code was promulgated, also repeated that “the council’s ecclesiological structure clearly required a renewed formulation of its laws”.

“As John Paul II emphasized at the beginning of the Apostolic Constitution ‘Sacrae disciplinae leges’, the reason for the close relationship between Vatican Council II and the Code of Canon Law was that the 1983 Code was the culmination of Vatican II … in two ways: on the one hand, it embraces the Council, solemnly reproposing fundamental institutions and major innovations and, on the other, establishing positive norms for implementing the Council.”
(VIS, 22 January 2013)

Acknowledging "major innovations" and a "new ecclesiology" is remarkably more candid than the line we hear from the "Called to Communion" folks, who sometimes seem to act as though Rome's ecclesiology is something divine.