Not Traditional, Original

The Vision of OriginalChristianity.Net

The vision of OriginalChristianity.Net is to look at the beliefs and practices of the original Christians.  The reason why this is important is that over the millennium Christianity has developed numerous factions that all claim that they are the true continuation of original Christianity.  I heard exactly that when I visited a Greek Orthodox Church, I have read it in Roman Catholic literature, it was in the bulletin of a local non-denominational church.  They make these claims despite the fact that they have disagreed, even violently at times.  For other articles on this topic, see A Major Objection to the Restoration Movement Is That Christianity Has Not Changed Substantially Over Time, and Another Claim of Original Christianity in Practice Today,

Throughout this website are numerous articles written on the numerous divisions in the Church that we have today, how a lot of these doctrines developed that are behind all these divisions, and some key points on how original Christianity differed from today.  It is important to look at all these things because they are part of Christianity now and play a big part, perhaps more as obstacles, in the faith of the individual believer.

But the key point of this website is to be able to envision what original Christianity, and in particular the time of Jesus and the apostles and disciples that he touched was really like. There was an incredible spirituality. With the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, and afterward the sending of the Holy Spirit we see the most incredible movement of God on earth since creation.

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This was a time of power, miracles, healing, and deliverance, not only by Jesus but by those he touched, his apostles and disciples. People saw God in action through these men. They saw the word of God living because they lived it together. There was incredible community and sharing. There was incredible believing faith and pure trust in the Savior’s redemption for all who choose to follow him. In contrast to many times in the world like in Samuel’s day where the true word of God was scarce and there weren’t many open visions, this was a time of brilliant light where the word of God abounded and there were not only visions but the spirit was manifested in all manner of miracles, healings, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, believing, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, and discerning of spirits.

It was a time of simpler doctrine.  There were no official doctrines on infant baptism or believer’s baptism. There was no doctrine that prophecy and the other gifts and manifestations of the spirit had ceased. There were baptisms being carried out, and the last supper repeated as a memorial, but there were no “sacraments”, somehow mysteriously conveying grace by ritualistic practices. There were no autonomous churches disputing which form of church government was doctrinally correct, which end-times theology was correct, or arguments over whether or not there was eternal security.

There was no argument over the status of the Bible because there was no Bible. Jesus had referenced the law and the prophets, including the Psalms, as the word of God. And only those books with the addition of the words of Jesus were considered the word of God. Initially, there were no written Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There were no epistles of Peter, Paul, Hebrews, John, and Jude. So there was no argument over doctrines derived from them like eternal security, justification by grace, predestination, or even the Trinity.  But the apostles were in charge and in the letters they left we are charged with following what they taught.

Philosophy was rejected as an unwise practice of the Greeks that actually tore down faith more than it built, so discussion of faith wasn’t an analytical exercise in the nuances of the meanings of words, but rather simple directives, and powerful stories and analogies that emphasize the important meanings to be focused on while ignoring the myriad details that can lead people astray.  Certainly, there were powerful visions by the prophets and exacting details in the law, but Jesus taught the people simple truths and parables while he backed up what he said with power as demonstrated in healings and miracles. And the apostles did leave their letters that explain in detail the foundation of the church they were commissioned to start.  They were charged with teaching us the one tradition that they charged us to follow.

What existed was the good news that Jesus the Messiah had come, that he had fulfilled the law, had sent the Holy Spirit, and now many believers were walking in great faith and power. What existed was great praise, great faith, and great love of God.

All of this is not to say that this was an easy time. There were persecutions, challenges, and trials, as both the Jews and the Romans saw this burgeoning Christianity as a threat. But this just served to bring the Christians closer together and more united in their faith.

Original Christianity was a time of great unity, simple doctrine, and great believing, with many believers walking in the love of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

So as you read these articles that discuss all of the divisions, and developments, both good and bad throughout the millennia of the history of Christianity, it is important to maintain the focus on the simple vision of original Christianity.  Pray, praise the Lord, walk in the power of the spirit, love God and love your neighbor, and rejoice in what Christ has done. Join together with any Christian who is doing the same. Become a disciple, a disciplined one in what Jesus and the apostles taught.  And in the process perhaps we can bring some of what made original Christianity so great back to life.

© copyright 2012-2022 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved. Last edited 12/21/2022.

Welcome to Original Christianity.Net

It appears that universally, in the church, we Christians marvel at both Jesus’ miracles and the wisdom in his parables. We especially are in awe of his life, his incredible birth, his short but incredibly powerful ministry, his passion, death, and resurrection. We love him for those. We are also moved by the depth of the wisdom and inspiration of books like the Psalms and Proverbs. Almost universally, although most would say all true Christians, acknowledge him as Lord, and strive to follow his leadership as we walk in a dark world filled with daily challenges, including overcoming evil.

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In fact, there are some universal, and some almost universal, elements in Christianity. Universally held elements of Christianity include this deep awe of Christ, and likewise, of the bible. The Bible or at least some, sections of the Bible, such as the parables of Christ in the gospels, the powerful poetry of the Psalms, and the wisdom in Proverbs are universally held in the deepest regard. Almost universally held elements include the belief in Christ as the only begotten son of the Father, physically born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, who died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and is presently seated at the right hand of God. Christians look forward to spending eternity with the Lord. Even more, there is common ground as churches promote worship, baptism, and communion with some similarities.

But beyond some basics like these, there is far less agreement on the tenets of Christianity. In fact, there is an elephant in the Church, an elephant of disagreement resulting in tens of thousands of sects, disagreeing on many doctrines.

The disagreements have been legion, often bloody, and always confusing. Christians have killed other Christians for defying the rule of infant baptism and proclaiming “believer’s baptism”. Many Christians have declared other Christians apostate because of their view of the Bible, whether it is inerrant, infallible, or at least partially of human origin.

And even if they agree on the status of the Bible, they don’t agree on what it says on these issues. For example, there is disagreement over basic principles of interpretation like whether the overriding principle is based on the covenants of God versus which dispensation we are in.

There are Christians that call other Christians apostate (traitorous) because they believe that the gifts of the spirit, i.e., prophecy and speaking in tongues, etc. still exist and vice versa. These days there are sharp divides over homosexuality, abortion, the Word of Faith movement, the emergent Church movement, and the role of women in the church.

Even if Christians don’t call others apostate, they still disagree to the point of not fellowshipping over issues like dietary laws (whether they need to be followed), drinking alcohol, end times (Eschatology), eternal security, evolution vs. literal seven days of creation, giving vs. tithing, predestination, psychology: the acceptability of Christian counseling, sacraments as conveyers of grace or not, the “in the name of Jesus” debate, and pacifism vs. the concept of a just war, and other issues.

Then there is the ecumenical concept of Christian “orthodoxy” that suggests that none of the issues so far discussed really matter even though there are huge divisions over them. The only issue that really matters in “orthodoxy” is whether one accepts the doctrine of the Trinity, that Jesus the man is really God and a person in a triune godhead with two other persons, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. This doctrine is promoted as the absolute most important concept in Christianity even though this emphasis is totally missing for the first centuries of the church.

And let alone that the very doctrine of the Trinity has been disputed over the centuries and millennia with Christians literally killing other Christians over this issue. It appears that for some that as long as a church accepts the doctrine of the Trinity it doesn’t matter if it teaches that homosexuality is normal or apostate, and/or abortion is choice or murder, and/or baptism should be infant baptism or believer’s baptism, and/or there are two “ordinances” or seven sacraments, and so forth, and so on.

This mess is a huge blemish on the body of Christ. Some of these issues may be legitimate, but to have so many “orthodox” churches teaching so many disparate doctrines flies right in the face of Paul’s charge for believers to have the same mind:

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all say the same thing, and there be no divisions among you, but you be united in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 LITV)

If, as Paul teaches, we corporately are the body of Christ, then does the current collective body of competing Christian theologies accurately reflect the mind of Christ? Certainly, no one can think so.

But, before the present time with our tens of thousands of Christian denominations, and before the Reformation that shifted the focus of Christianity from the decisions of church councils and the Pope to the Bible as the principal source of guidance, and before the great schism about a thousand years ago, even before there were arguments over the nature of Christ, the Trinity and whether Mary was the mother of God at the beginning of the age of Christendom (fourth century), even before there was a Catholic church (110 A.D.) there was original primitive Christianity.

While some of the focus of Christianity remains, much has changed over the millennia. The question is whether all or even any of the different traditions that have developed are correct, or whether the original believers were the ones that actually got it the most right. The place to start is by looking at the beliefs and practices of original, primitive Christianity, and seriously consider embracing them again even though some of them may be radically different from what you or I hold today.

In the days of original, primitive Christianity:

(In the listings below hyperlinks offer more information on the point being made.)

Elements usually still held today:

Elements still held today by some:

Elements held today by few, if any believers:

Elements that are divisive today but didn’t appear to exist then:

The most current blogs (articles) are below. The articles can touch on a large number of topics including ancient history, the original language of the bible, grammar and logic, dividing doctrines besides the basics of Christianity, what Jesus taught, and development (movements) in Christianity throughout the centuries. For an organized listing of the blogs (articles) to get an overview and better understanding of the contents on this website, go to the table of contents. There is more information on the design of this website on this page; look on the right sidebar under Original Christianity and click “Why? Click to Read More…”

Edited 10/27/2022

Indoctrination, Brainwashing and Deception in Everything from Santa Clause to Christianity Part 1

For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12 WEB)

In these articles as well as others all over this website we are going to be talking a lot about problems in the Catholic denomination as well as others and how some of us are affected mentally. We are going to talk from a scriptural perspective about how not only unbelievers but believers (all of us) are indoctrinated and can be deceived, and led to believe false doctrine. We are going to talk about the controversial topic of brainwashing.

It’s important to acknowledge that doesn’t mean that there aren’t wonderful people in any denomination who love God. I’ve met some wonderful Catholics as well as a lot of very nice believers in other denominations and church groups who may believe and even promote doctrines in error. After all, despite the popular but unscriptural In Essentials Unity Doctrine (See T 19.1 Modern Christian Traditions – The In Essentials Unity Doctrine.), all the contrasting doctrines on so many topics cannot be all righteous.  But it is critical to remember that discussing these differences in no way says that there aren’t committed people who love God and are teaching what they believe is the truth in those groups.  On the other hand, just because there are committed, loving people in these groups doesn’t mean that everything they (or all of us, really) believe should be automatically accepted. Again, the focus of this website is to look at what original Christianity was, and how it changed over thousands of years to become the innumerable number of denominations and churches that teach different things today, and hopefully help some of us know and live the true Christian experience more fully.

We will be comparing theories with a lot of worldly underpinnings in these areas with what Scripture says.

We’ll be looking at the adversary, the god of this world, and how he interferes with the church and the church’s teachings. First of all, most Christians will agree that the devil blinds the minds of unbelievers so that they can’t see the truth. It says so in Scripture.

in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them. (2Co 4:4 WEB)

So it appears to be commonly accepted by Christians that the devil is able to deceive, at least unbelievers, to the point where people are blind to the truth. That is what that verse above says, that the God of this world, Satan, the devil, has blinded the minds of the unbelieving. And that is more than just the unlearned and the ignorant among us.

Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1Co 2:14 WEB)

There is no amount of experience or education, no number of educational degrees that will enable the natural man to understand the true God, that’s what the verse is saying.  No philosopher, no analyst, not even a theologian will really understand the true God and the things in the spiritual realm without the holy spirit.  That is what that verse is saying.  The most brilliant humans will probably understand the natural world in depths beyond most of us, but they will not understand the things of God’s Spirit unless they have that God connection, holy spirit.

On the other side, just because a theologian or philosopher is supposedly a believer does not mean that what they are presenting is true. The devil aims to deceive everyone from the least to the greatest.  Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world is true, but we all know that just because supposedly it is a Christian message doesn’t mean that it is accurate according to the word of God.

The Scriptures use light vs darkness to represent the knowledge and righteousness of God versus the evil and deception of Satan.  Here’s an example:

seeing it is God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2Co 4:6 WEB)

God has been shining his light on earth since Adam and Eve. But it hasn’t always been understood. I like reading Young’s literal translation sometimes because I think it really highlights the meaning better than others even if it is a little awkward to read sometimes.

and the light in the darkness did shine, and the darkness did not perceive it. (Joh 1:5 YLT)

This verse is similar to second Corinthians 4:4 because it talks about how people can’t see the light of God’s word even though he’s been presenting it all along.

There are numerous warnings to believers to not be deceived.  These verses wouldn’t be there if we couldn’t be deceived.  Look at all these deceptions that we are warned about and actions to take to avoid them; watching out for empty words (words that may sound good but don’t really teach the truth), that it’s not okay to keep sinning in all kinds of ways, that those not born again will not inherit the kingdom, that we reap what we sow, that the philosophies and traditions of the world will rob us spiritually, or that someone that is walking in sin is not walking in fellowship with God not matter what they might be deceived to think.

Let no one deceive you with empty words. For because of these things, the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience. (Eph 5:6 WEB)

Or don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s Kingdom? Don’t be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortionists, will inherit God’s Kingdom. (1Co 6:9-10 WEB)

Now I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood can’t inherit God’s Kingdom; neither does the perishable inherit imperishable. (1Co 15:50 WEB)

Don’t be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Gal 6:7-8 WEB)

Be careful that you don’t let anyone rob you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ. (Col 2:8 WEB)

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. (1Jn 3:6-7 ESV)

We can be deceived, and are whenever we are convinced to give in to some sin.  Paul told the Corinthians:

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2Co 11:3 ESV)

And Paul told Timothy.  Watch out, this is really heavy stuff coming:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, (1Ti 4:1-2 ESV)

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So, it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2Co 11:13-15 ESV)

Oh, that it would be so simple that the good guys and the bad guys were clearly marked.  But, according to scripture, the bad guys can look as good as the good guys to the poorly prepared.  False prophets bring messages that they say are from God but they are not.  False teachers teach things as scripture that are not in scripture, and they teach twisted meanings for scripture that are not part of the word of God. The origins of these false teachings are from devils under the banner of the Adversary himself, but they advertise themselves as God’s prophets, teachers, and apostles.  The person needs to understand the scriptures correctly so that the spirit has something to work with in the mind of the believer. And that believer needs to be listening for the guidance from holy spirit so as to recognize the truth when it is communicated to him.

If you think that false prophets and teachers just refer to proponents of other faiths that is not what the scriptures say.  In Jesus’ day, it was the Pharisees, the leaders of his faith, that Jesus confronted about teaching false doctrines and traditions.

You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. And in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine rules made by men.’”(Mat 15:7-9 WEB)

But they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ “For you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things.” He said to them, “Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. (Mar 7:7-9 WEB)

As a modern example, there are two basic doctrines regarding the consumption of alcohol in the church.  There is the blessing of moderate drinking in one corner, and in the other, the complete ban on all alcoholic consumption.  They are opposites. One of them is a “doctrine of devils”, the scripture says.  I’m sorry if that offends you, but it’s true.

What does the word of God teach on this sensitive subject?  If alcohol was so abhorrent, Jesus would never have miraculously made wine at Cana. Remember the comment on how Jesus’ wine was so superior!  That is because the best wine was usually provided first because as the partiers got a little inebriated they were less choosy about the later wine. Our Lord Jesus made wine! Yes, there are abundant warnings against overdrinking, but the bible advocates for the benefits of some drinking, within moderation.

Now, we are still to love people, whether they preach a ban on alcohol or not.  We don’t launch a military campaign, a crusade, against them to wipe them off the face of the earth. (see T 18.1 The Prohibition Tradition in Some Modern Churches for more on this topic of alcohol in the Scriptures.)

We are called to take a stand on the truth of God’s word in all areas.  Especially with people that we see in our lives all the time we preach the truth a couple of times to someone and if they reject us on that we don’t keep bringing it up. We look for the Father to send someone else to bring that to that believer’s attention. We pray.

Part of the apostles’ tradition is that we are supposed to be ready to always give an answer from the Scriptures as to why we believe what we believe.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear: (1Pe 3:15 WEB)

Being ready to give an answer helps spread the full gospel message. (The full gospel goes way beyond just being saved, it’s learning the full counsel of God.) Being ready to give an answer also helps us to be prepared against deception. This is the battle that every believer is caught up in. And, clearly, believers can be deceived in all kinds of ways. Deception is a very real risk for all of us.

Deception is a risk, but one thing that I want to talk first about in the area of deception is what is termed brainwashing which is a very scary term. I think it is important to get a grasp on what this word actually means when seen because it has such a powerful negative connotation. But, in actuality, it is not even considered a truly scientific term. The American Psychology Association has made the statement:

“coercive persuasion theory (brainwashing)… is not a meaningful scientific concept.” [1] (emphasis added)

The same referenced article adds:

“Popular speech continues to use the word “brainwashed” informally and pejoratively to describe persons subjected to intensive influence resulting in the rejection of old beliefs and in the acceptance of new ones; or to account for someone who holds strong ideas considered to be implausible and that seem resistant to evidence, common sense, experience, and logic.”

“The term “brainwashing” is not widely used in psychology and other sciences, because of its vagueness and history of being used in propaganda.”

Brainwashing is not a word in scripture. On the other hand, there are, however, cases where people are controlled in what is described as devil possession.  But it is not other people controlling them, in scripture, it is a devil spirit to whom the person has relinquished control. Here are some examples of possessed people in scripture.

One of the multitude answered, “Teacher, I brought to you my son, who has a mute spirit; and wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth, and wastes away… (Mar 9:17-18 WEB)

As we were going to prayer, a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. Following Paul and us, she cried out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation!” She was doing this for many days. But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” It came out that very hour. (Act 16:16-18 WEB)

You want to talk about people being controlled, these are examples of people being controlled, and especially in the first case, it wasn’t just the boy’s mind, the whole body of the boy was controlled.  Please notice that these people were delivered by the power of God in these examples. The power of Christ in us is that powerful.

Also, there are evil people in the world. They are people that are so deceived by the devil that they like what happens with their power or wealth or whatever they get from the devil that they commit themselves to him.  Of course, to these people, he can appear as an apostle of Christ and as righteous as all get out. That’s what 2 Corinthians 11:14 says.  They might not realize that they are following the devil because the scriptures say that the devil is the father of all liars and presents himself as an apostle of Christ.

The Pharisees were mainstream Jewish religious leaders in Jesus’ day.  These guys looked like great outstanding people, and the people to trust for the right spiritual wisdom.  But Jesus calls some of these Pharisees children of the devil.

You are of your father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and doesn’t stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks on his own; for he is a liar, and the father of lies. (Joh 8:44 WEB)

There are people that are committed to the works of Satan; they have given themselves over to the devil, and again, the devil may have deceived them into believing that he is the righteous one.  And they may be religious leaders and look great, even mainstream. But they teach things contrary to the true word of God. Either these gospel verses are true or not.  I believe that they are and I hope you do too.

That’s why it’s important not to believe that every new movement of Christianity in the world is righteous.  Two thousand years ago, right after the passing of the apostles, it was that bishops were the ultimate authority in the church as they were the apostles’ replacement (in truth, bishops are overseers but they are not apostles nor apostle replacements), and not long after that that philosophy (including worldly philosophical methods) was a necessary tool to gain acceptance with the intellectuals in the world.

I am not promoting a new movement.  I am promoting a return to the original one.

A hundred years ago it was the temperance movement promoting the banning of all alcohol. Fifty years ago, it was the free love movement.  A popular movement today is the LBGTQ+ movement.  They are captivating movements; they capture peoples’ hearts and motivate them to act. Participants actively pursue legislation to incorporate government safeguards for their cause. They find intellectuals sympathetic to their cause to provide philosophical bases for their cause.  Then they can use those persuasive arguments that appear so very reasonable and entice people to join the cause, even in the churches.

I read recently that only 46% or so of Protestants really believe that their faith is solely rooted in Scripture. The greater half (52%) believe that the philosophies and writings of their particular church are also necessary besides scripture for their Christian faith[2]. In fact, the same article says that most Christians profess that “Protestants and Catholics are more religiously similar than different”.

I am here to tell you that scripture alone is the revealed basis for the Christian faith.  The running joke about how a group of philosophers can’t agree on a thing shows the reason there are so many disagreeing denominations. The philosophical basis of so many denominations precludes them from ever agreeing.

We saw the warning against human traditions and philosophies in the list of things that deceive believers above.

But I digress so let’s return to the subject of brainwashing. Brainwashing is not even recognized as a scientifically legitimate concept.  It is used in propaganda to discredit people and ideas.  But it is also a word used in spiritual warfare against believers and it needs to be understood.

The term brainwashing is used, especially in reference to when it is believed that coercive techniques are used to force people in prisons or highly controlled religious groups to think a certain way to modify their behavior.

But brainwashing can be used to describe any type of persuasion accomplished with or without any kind of force or if there is force it may be mild like public pressure.

An easy way today to discredit someone or a group is to claim they are brainwashed or that their techniques are brainwashing. The New World Encyclopedia article makes the point that the charge of brainwashing started in the 1950s when prisoners of war decided not to return to their home countries.  It was used to describe techniques by communist countries to break down the resistance of non-compliant individuals in camps and detention centers. It was a rallying cry, that those dirty communists were brainwashing our boys, they were applying mind control techniques. It rallied popular sentiment to their cause.

Upon reflection, we see now that studies show that a lot of the people who were “brainwashed” did so only out of survival instinct, they did not really change their thinking, they only acted like they did to survive and reverted to their previous belief when able to rejoin their previous alliances.

Also, the term was used to promote communism as something abhorrent to citizens of democratic countries, i.e., citizens of communist countries are “brainwashed”!  Later, brainwashing was used to describe the mass education of communist societies in general:

“In societies where the government maintains tight control of both the mass media and education system and uses this control to disseminate propaganda on a particularly intensive scale, the overall effect can be to “brainwash” large sections of the population.”[3]

Merriam-Webster actually gives two definitions for this modern term. Brainwash:

1 : a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas

2 : persuasion by propaganda or salesmanship

So, some argue that when this person or that is presenting something radically different than they were taught that they have been brainwashed.  And the truth is that each side of the argument may have been acquired by definition two of the word brainwash, persuasion by propaganda, or argument.  There may not have been torture involved, or any force more serious than public pressure.

Compounding the problem is that a whole industry sprang up, the business of deprogramming, in response to this theory of brainwashing.  Deprogramming has always been very controversial using techniques such as kidnapping people, coercing them to submit, and sequestering them until they are reprogrammed.[4] Deprogrammers sometimes treated individuals far worse than the group the subject was “rescued” (really kidnapped) from.

Next, we need to consider that, at times in history, what was considered normal, i.e., not “brainwashed” might be considered brainwashed by today’s standards.

For example, the overwhelming majority of Christians in the Christian world in the year 1000 were Roman Catholics.  There wasn’t even Eastern Orthodox then because the Schism had not yet occurred. Of course, initially, the church way back in the 1st century was not focused on worldly affairs (“Set your affection on things above, not on the earth”) as the promotion of Israel as a world power was revealed to be a later development.  However, the Catholic Church was by now a powerful political entity mixing church and state completely. There were challenges by some to this but in some places, noblemen were installed as bishops by kings (as opposed to another bishop) in some places making Church law the law of the land.

Initially, way back,  Clement, Ignatius, and others promoted that bishops held the authority spiritually as part of apostolic succession.  This developed in the Middle Ages to where bishops held the power both politically and spiritually everywhere the Church was. About the same time, the church made moves to retain all property as its own, so while the practice of celibacy was historically ignored somewhat, bishops and priests were eventually made to at least superficially practice celibacy in large part to stop inheritance claims of the clergy’s children because the church did not want to give up any of its extensive properties.

Bishops could be part of the wealthy class as “Bishops collected revenues from estates attached to their bishopric.”[5] Bishops left the word of God to serve tables, so to speak, as they were overseers of large estates as well as people. Some bishops were never really totally interested in the word of God in the first place as being a bishop of a large estate was an extremely profitable job that nobles vied for as positions for their sons.

The middle class then was small; doctors, university professors, bishops, and merchants had more wealth, but most people were peasants, poor, uneducated, and even unable to read. People, at least outwardly, complied and professed to believe what the church taught and rulers decreed because their lives and livelihoods depended on it. There were few bibles, and Church doctrine in the Church Magisterium, that compendium of infallible decisions of popes and church councils was taught and professed.

There was no real freedom of speech.  Heresy, anything that challenged church doctrine, was subject to progressive penalties up to the extreme penalty of death.  That doesn’t mean that people agreed, but they kept quiet if they didn’t, and it required bravery to practice anything other than pure Catholicism.

I suggest that these normal (for 1000AD) people were “brainwashed” in a similar pattern to the claims of how Communist countries brainwash their citizens in recent times. Would you want to be a Christian in those times? Does anything about that look “normal” to you?

Going one step further, perhaps you can start to see that just like Christianity in 1600AD when the Reformation was moving powerfully was different from Christianity in 1000AD that Christianity today is different than those times. And it is even different from when I was a boy.   What Christianity will look like centuries from now, if the Lord tarries, could be radically different than today.

But, the tradition that we all are charged to follow is the apostles’ tradition, the beliefs, and practices that they started:

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)

The only way that we are all going to stop making more and more contrasting doctrines is if we all listen to the holy spirit while adhering to the above verse in the truest sense, abandoning all human traditions and philosophies that have crept into our faith since the apostles, and return to scripture as literally our sole source for revelation knowledge of our faith.

The Santa Clause Example

So, this article is about learning, and the topic of learning does include indoctrination, deception, and brainwashing.  That is because everything we learn is not always the truth. Anybody who has ever believed in Santa Clause (I’m one) knows that’s true. Now being with family and giving and receiving gifts at Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year despite the fact that Santa Clause is a deception. This discussion is not going to change that. The predominant opinion appears to be that there is a lot of good in the myth. There are even psychologists who argue for its benefit.[6]  But we will see there is brainwashing involved according to the second definition of Merriam-Webster.

Like so many, I was taught that there was a Santa Clause when I was young, I went along with the ruse that there was a Santa Claus with my kids and others, but I have some doubts about the wisdom of this teaching.  For one thing, it results in about a third of kids being upset when learning they had been misled (I was), with some of those even feeling angry or betrayed.[7] This is deception, of course, but the logic is that it is a very pleasant one that can even be beneficial to a child’s psyche in that among other things they learn critical thinking to challenge fantastic claims when presented.[8]

On the other side is the reason some give for not participating in the popular ruse; that it undermines trust.[9]  Not every kid thinks it was great that he was lied to in the Santa Clause experience with the eventual awakening from the deception. And this deception reinforces the idea that parents lie and deceive no matter how good the reason appears to be.  It adds fuel to the child’s thinking to not believe the parent/authority figure when they want something and aren’t getting the answer that they want.

So, ignoring the argument that “brainwashing” is not legitimately a scientific term, teaching kids to believe in Santa Clause does meet one of the definitions of brainwashing above, and shows how it just doesn’t refer to crazy people in death cults.  It’s actually a regularly occurring event as some of us who were “brainwashed” into believing in Santa Clause will attest.

Santa Clause is part of this discussion because Santa Clause has the elements of indoctrination, deception, and even brainwashing, however fun it might be. Do an internet search on “Santa Clause as brainwashed” and you will find substantial arguments for it.  While a lot of kids aren’t affected, over half of the kids are manipulated into better behavior with the falsehood that they will get less or no presents if they are not good.

Finally, there is a basic societal unit that works to use persuasion and even force (limiting rights and privileges as well as physical punishment in some times and places) to bend people to believe and act a certain way.  These people often require children to attend spiritual lessons in a church or religious place they choose, at least up to a certain age, in order to affect their minds.  That unit, of course, is the family.  The family uses discipline as well as persuasion and enticement to get their children to achieve a certain mental framework.  Do you see how the vaguely worded definitions of brainwashing make it hard to be definitive as to what is really brainwashing? I think a lot of people are going to find it hard to believe that all parents are just programmers who brainwash their kids but they do loosely fit the criteria.

On the other side, there is a brainwashing case made for when one parent alienates the kids from the other parent which evidently happens on a regular basis. Consistent negativity, even subtly, from one parent about the other parent to the child works to ruin the relationship between the child and the other parent. Parent alienation syndrome is actually a form of child abuse.  This is from an attorney’s site

“The circumstances of parental alienation may vary in severity from putting the other parent down in the child’s presence to relocating without reason to making false accusations of child sexual abuse with the intent to intentionally destroy the children’s relationship with the other parent.”[10]

Brainwashing shows up in the discussion in a lot of areas of life.

We are looking at 2 Corinthians 4:4 above that talks about the adversary’s ability to deceive, to hide the light of God’s word so that people live in darkness. That verse just talks about unbelievers, we’ve also listed a number of verses that talked about how easy it is for anyone to be deceived including believers.  Deception is a very real threat.

And we are discussing the term, brainwashing.  It is a vague term used more in propaganda to persuade people against other people and ideas.  While it has been used to warn people against suicide cults, and other extremist groups, it is also used to describe lesser evils such as deceiving kids that there is a Santa Clause.  Often, it is used by one group as a slur to discredit a group that disagrees extensively with it.

Remember television depictions of “brainwashed” groups are fictionalized accounts for dramatic effect. People may be persuaded to do some things radically different from their previous experience but that doesn’t require them to be mind-controlled, a phrase used by some in describing brainwashed individuals. On the other hand, it’s not that there aren’t churches that exert a powerful controlling influence.  I felt pretty controlled while in the Catholic Church. And, it’s not that there aren’t manipulative people.  Or even that people cannot be seriously deluded or conned. There are people who kidnap others and restrict their rights but that is kidnapping, not necessarily deception or brainwashing.  Yes, there are charming people that trick you in any field including church, so you can be deceived.  But be wary of “brainwashing” charges because it is a very vague term that can mean too many things.

Science, Too Early Acceptance, and Pseudoscience

It may or may not surprise you to hear that I have a techie, nerdish side that is fascinated by science. Science has done some great things by my account. The very words that you are reading as well as some of the other parts of this article were put here by me talking into a microphone and a computer typing them out.  Immediately,  spell and grammar checkers started pointing out things to work on to improve the text.  When done, this article is then published into a worldwide network where it can be accessed across the globe.  That is amazing to me.

But I just don’t accept everything that comes my way that’s presented as science. The world has a history of accepting and implementing scientific theories in different sciences that were later proven to be false. For example, phrenology was a scientific concept that was implemented in the 18th century and used by professionals in diagnosis and treatment into the 20th century.  Its basic theory is that mental capabilities and character traits can be determined by looking at the bumps on the skull.[11]  This scientific theory enjoyed acceptance by other sciences for over a century before it was debunked.

Eugenics was an accepted scientific theory that ruled many a person’s thinking from the late 19th century into the first part of the 20th century. Eugenics is the study and practice of improving races on a large scale and human potential on a small scale by selective breeding.  Scientists in this field maintained that you could predict both a person’s good qualities like intelligence and health as well as a person’s negative qualities such as disabilities and even traits of deviant behavior. The United States was a center for research in this area in the early 20th century.

But it is Nazi Germany that is most famous for applying theories of Eugenics to base their master race theory that resulted in the Holocaust and persecution and killing of Blacks, intellectuals, and other people with traits they deemed undesirable.  But before that, there was considerable acceptance of Eugenics.

Another science, The Blank Slate theory, is a “science” that says that humans are blank slates upon birth, and everything must be learned.  Modern science now challenges that theory.

The blank slate, the dominant theory of human nature in modern intellectual life stating that humans are shaped entirely by their experiences and not by any preexisting biological mechanisms, is being challenged and soundly trounced by the cognitive, neural, and genetic sciences, said Steven Pinker, Harvard University, in his Keynote Address.[12]

Astrological scientific theories have been debunked.  If you watch a scientific show on, for example, the Big Bang Theory (the actual theory, not the TV show) they can be pretty impressive and convincing. But you need to remember there have been scientific theories in astrology throughout the ages that have come and gone. The planet Vulcan is a planet that was accepted to be in between Mercury and the sun for a long time, but just didn’t appear.[13]  There have been a number of planets that were projected to be in places that were never found.[14]

Spontaneous generation is the theory that life can spring from inanimate matter. It was a scientific genesis theory. It had its period of acceptance but was later debunked.[15]

These are not the only cases, but they point to the flaw of too early acceptance.  They are examples of pseudoscience.  Pseudoscience is a scientific theory that is accepted as true but later is found to be false.  It was never proven. Or it had faulty premises.  The area of astrology is pseudoscience as it at one time was considered a science and academic discipline as was alchemy.[16]

My point is that history has shown us that science regularly promotes theories that become popular and cause social change while later proving to be false, and possibly harmful or even dangerous. The scientific basis behind brainwashing theory and its treatment by deprogramming is too sketchy to accept. And looking at the Scriptures to understand what does happen in these cases we have genuine scriptural concepts of deception, delusion, possession, and more.

In the next part on this topic, we are going to talk more about both deception and indoctrination. Obviously, deception has so many negatives.  But, as a preview, though, I will say that indoctrination is more neutral than many people realize.  While it is often is perceived as just a negative, it really refers to instruction and training techniques used by families, churches, schools, and businesses on a daily basis.  And it is very prevalent.

[1] Brainwashing, https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/brainwashing

[2] https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2017/08/31/u-s-protestants-are-not-defined-by-reformation-era-controversies-500-years-later/

[3] https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/brainwashing

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deprogramming

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_the_11th_century

[6] The scientific reason why believing in Santa is good for children, https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/the-scientific-reason-why-believing-in-santa-is-good-for-children-20211222-p59jkq.html

[7] Here’s what age most kids stop believing in Santa, https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2018-12-19-new-study-reveals-when-kids-stop-believing-in-santa/#:~:text=A%20third%20of%20of%20those,their%20belief%20in%20Father%20Christmas.

[8] Santa Claus and Deception, https://www.humintell.com/2018/12/santa-claus-and-deception/

[9] AGAINST SANTA, https://www.philosophytalk.org/blog/against-santa

[10] https://www.murphyfamilyattorney.com/articles/is-your-ex-brainwashing-your-kid/

[11] https://www.britannica.com/topic/phrenology

[12] Empirical Science for the Spotless Mind, https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/empirical-science-for-the-spotless-mind

[13] https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiecartereurope/2019/05/24/return-of-the-planet-vulcan-how-the-fire-planet-was-destroyed-by-science-and-how-its-been-reborn/?sh=57a4a5671283

[14] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kionasmith/2018/06/08/our-obsession-with-hidden-planets-didnt-start-with-planet-nine/?sh=19c9d1493f16

[15] https://www.britannica.com/science/spontaneous-generation

[16] https://en.unesco.org/silkroad/content/did-you-know-influence-astrology-science-astronomy-along-silk-roads#:~:text=Throughout%20much%20of%20history%2C%20and,%2C%20meteorology%2C%20and%20traditional%20medicine.

© copyright 2022 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.  Last edited 12/22/2022

Scripture on Determining which Writings are Scripture

If there is a theme verse to this website it may be this:

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)

This website is focused on original Christianity and the standards that were set there.  Specifically, the apostles charged the church to keep the traditions that they themselves started.

And we know that these traditions were not just for the time of the apostles because of prophecy by the apostles to that effect:

Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood. For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Act 20:28-30 WEB)

If what the apostles taught was only for their time on earth, then no one would be concerned if others after the apostles taught different things. These verses shows that that is not the case.

There are other prophecies like this, for example, 1 Timothy Chapter 4.

But the Spirit says expressly that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron; forbidding marriage and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer. If you instruct the brothers of these things, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which you have followed.  (1Ti 4:1-6 WEB)

This section ominously talks of great deviations from the faith of the apostles that will happen after the passing of the apostles, confirming again that the traditions of the apostles were not to end with the apostles.  “Of the good doctrine which you have followed” refers to the truth that the teaching of the apostles, especially Paul, is the standard of the church age, even beyond the life spans of the apostles themselves.

And the church is to continue following the apostles’ traditions until the return of Christ:

For from you the word of the Lord has been declared, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone out; so that we need not to say anything. For they themselves report concerning us what kind of a reception we had from you; and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1Th 1:8-10 WEB)

There it is, the church that the apostles set up is to continue as such until the return of Christ, and that hasn’t happened yet, so we are still under the charge of the apostles’ directives.  And again, here we read how we are to wait for the return of Christ.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working by which he is able even to subject all things to himself. (Php 3:20-21 WEB)

Our topic today is on scripture, specifically, what scripture says about itself being authentic.  Not what tradition says about what is scripture because tradition says that we have a canon of scripture that establishes what books are scripture.  Is the canon of scripture really part of the apostle’s tradition?  It would be awesome if scripture itself listed the canon of scripture, but unfortunately, it does not.

(The text of the actual canon of scripture is listed at the very bottom of this article.)

In other parts of this website, I have pointed out how worldly philosophy has crept into the church and been used to make assumptions and extrabiblical assertions about the teachings of our faith. If extra-biblical assumptions are not allowed elsewhere as in the development of the Trinity with the term homoousias (See T 1.10 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 10, The Apostles taught the Father alone was God, one of the Most Hidden Truths in Christianity Today), the doctrine of Dyothelitism (Jesus had not one but two wills, something never found in scripture), crucial to the coherence of the Trinitarian logic, then we must be careful of them everywhere.  As I discuss in Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning? it is only the allowance of extrabiblical reasoning that enables the Trinitarian to present an argument of any coherence.  And this is acknowledged!  As I wrote there, “Gonzalez here, as do others,  acknowledges that these decrees go outside the pure framework of Scripture. The Deity of Christ, the Trinity, and Mary as God’s mother were generated with extra-biblical patterns of thought, mainly philosophy, and were the result of many years of intellectual, theological debate.”

“But, given the manner in which the issue was posed, it is difficult to see what else the bishops gathered at Chalcedon could have done in order to safeguard the reality of the incarnation.”[1]

Gonzalez is saying here that the deeply held conviction that the word of God made flesh is literal as opposed to the figure of speech personification is an overriding factor to them and allows for arguments outside of the bible to be used to proclaim not only that doctrine, but that Jesus has two wills (to counter the argument that if Jesus is God how could Scripture say he was tempted in all thing as we are yet without sin while Scripture teaches that God cannot be tempted), and other arguments in orthodoxy.

When you start with preconceived beliefs beyond the limits of what is spelled out in Scripture the only way to prove these extrabiblical beliefs is to abandon strict adherence to Scripture and use assumptions and extrabiblical “proofs” to teach these extrabiblical doctrines.

So Gonzalez and others freely admit that doctrines like the incarnation and the Trinity are so important to them that they are justified in using extrabiblical arguments to prove their case.

At this point, it is important to identify the issue here. And it is a precise one.  The issue is proclaiming the Canon of Scripture divinely inspired as opposed to a collective decision of people, albeit believers, over time.  We are not throwing away all the Scriptures! We are attempting to clarify which books are the word of God, and which books, though inspiring, don’t meet the test of being divine inspiration.

All through this website, you will see references to writings of the Law, the Prophets, the Apostles, and even other writings.  And they are presented as being authoritative, they are presented as the word of God. When Jesus or Paul quotes a verse that legitimizes it as scripture if anything does.

It is a subtle distinction. I believe in the Word of God. But, like others, namely, Luther, Calvin, and other reformers, I really don’t know about some books being the Word of God, specifically books like Jude, Ecclesiastes, or even Revelation.

So, instead of accepting the proclamation that the 66 books of Protestant Bibles like the King James are divinely inspired and without error in their original form, I am looking for proof from the scriptures themselves to tell me which writings are sacred, i.e., “the Word of God”.

Jesus and the apostles quoted from the law, the prophets, and the writings, although what “writings” means is part of the issue.  So, writings from Moses, Isaiah, David, and the other prophets are unquestionably the word of God in its original form!

But the book of Esther is not written by a prophet and has no mention of the Savior. No one knows the author of the book of Job, and, again, although it is an inspiring book, it doesn’t mention the Savior. (Countering this argument about Job, however, is that Paul quotes Job in 1 Cor 3:9 with the classic “It is written” phrase giving credence to the book.) Those are a couple of examples from the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the epistles state that the doctrine they receive is by revelation from God. That makes them the word of God! And, as second Thessalonians 2:15 states, we are charged by the apostles to follow what they say.

But the Gospels make no claim of divine inspiration themselves, rather they present themselves as reliable eyewitness accounts by the apostles or their agents as to what happened in the life of Christ and the apostles.  That makes them believable while not having the precision of every jot and tittle being exact.

This is not a new issue.  It is well documented that there were widespread disputes over a number of books in the New Testament like second Peter and revelation. See Early Christians disputed Hebrews, James, 2nd Peter, 2 John, 3rd John, Jude, and Revelation. Gospels were Called Memoirs in the Second Century, Proof That There Was Refutation of The Book of Revelation for more.

So, As much as I would like to proclaim the 66 books in the Protestant Bible as the complete and inerrant Word of God, there is a red flag that pops up in my head every time I look at the Bible in those terms.  The flag has this question on it, “What do the verses that people use to prove the authenticity and inerrancy of those 66 books say exactly?  That is what we are talking about here.

Still, this is not an easy issue for many in the Protestant churches. In fact, over the years I have asked more than one person about the surety of whether all the books in the bible should be there. And I got responses like the canon of scripture is like, honestly – this analogy was used, a sacred cow, and no one wants to mess with the canon of scripture because to many people the theological structure of their beliefs falls apart without it.

However, if you know how coherent systems of logic[2] work you will know that that premise is not true.  In fact, it is available to stick with precisely the truths presented in the known scriptures to see a coherent set of beliefs of the Christian faith.

The canon of scripture is an extra-biblical statement. Extrabiblical statements like the canon of scripture and others are not required to establish a coherent set of beliefs that falls entirely within scriptural statements. In fact, they are not even allowed.

It’s not that there aren’t persuasive arguments for accepting the canon of scripture as being divinely inspired. Bible.org has, I believe, as good a presentation as any justifying the canon of Scripture as Christian doctrine.[3]  However, the same site allows for the worldly philosophical tools that are used to construct the Trinity and other doctrines that allow for countless divisions in the church.[4]

“philosophy serves as the handmaid of theology by bringing clarity and precision to the formulation of Christian doctrine. “For example, philosophers help to clarify the different attributes of God; they can show that the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation are not contradictory; they can shed light on the nature of human freedom, and so on.”[5]

Those 66 books in the cannon were ratified as the bible three centuries after the apostles.  Didn’t we just read the warning that bad things were going to happen after the passing of the apostles that we need to keep in mind about anything that happened after the apostles?

I rarely use all caps but I’m going to make an exception this time. Acts 20:28 is Paul is speaking by revelation i.e. prophesying, that we are to TAKE HEED! We are to take heed because after the apostles passing, there are going to be men rising from both outside the church and inside the church twisting the truth. Paul warned us to watch out for that.

The canonization of the 66 books of our Bible happened long after the passing of the apostles. The canonization happened at the same time a number of unscriptural things were also happening and had happened. By this time, worldly philosophical methods had long been embraced as the church abandoned the original Unitarianism of the original Christian church and the Jews before them and was in the process of refining the newly proclaimed doctrine of the Trinity.  The church had been nationalized and part of a world government.   The new doctrine of sacraments (rites that imparted grace from God) was being developed and included baptism, confirmation, and the eucharist. The priesthood of all believers was abandoned to the class structure of clergy and laity.  Capital punishment for heresy was now part of this nationalized Christian religion. The radical change from beliefs and happenings in the New Testament books to the beliefs and practices of Christianity in Constantine’s Roman Empire should be obvious!  The absence of the leadership of the holy spirit in these human decisions is the first thing to be seen.

Many of the decisions and practices discussed in Constantine’s Christianity are simply not the traditions of the original apostles. That is not to say that believers in the pews couldn’t be saved by recognizing that Jesus died to pay for their sins and calling him Lord. But a lot of Catholic practices are unscriptural.

The Roman Catholic Church canonized the 66 books of the Protestant Bible in 382 AD at the Council of Rome.  They later changed that to include apocryphal books after the Reformation.  Martin Luther actually added the apocryphal books to his bible in the sixteenth century which shows that there is usefulness in reading these writings without proclaiming them as sacred scriptures defined, as a unit, as the word of God in its entirety.  The Council of Trent (1545-15630) canonized the addition of the apocryphal section for the Roman Catholics.

Despite the claim of the Catholic Church that it has apostolic authority by succession, these are all the actions of very intelligent men using all the intellectual tools of the ages especially worldly philosophies in contrast to the original apostles following the leading of the spirit.  What does Scripture say about who can determine whether something is the word of God or not? First of all, it says that we got the word of God from prophets, spokespeople for God. And in first Corinthians 14 we read:

Let the prophets speak, two or three, and let the others discern. (1Co 14:29 WEB)

This verse tells us a few things. First, it tells us that the church to which you and I belong is still supposed to have prophets. Next, it tells us that when believers get together two or three should prophesy. And, last but not least, it says that one of the jobs of these prophets is to discern, i.e., judge, the authenticity of the message.

I know this looks like a scary proposition. I know there have been many instances in Christian history where so-called prophets misspoke and prophesied all kinds of things that never happened. Nevertheless, Paul himself says this about the things he wrote concerning the administration of God’s church:

If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. (1Co 14:37 WEB)

That statement declares that what Paul is writing is of God, it is putting what he wrote in the category of holy men speaking as they are moved by the holy spirit.

Surely the Lord Yahweh will do nothing, unless he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets. (Amo 3:7 WEB)

So then, let’s look at this process that was used to canonize Scripture. Bishops in councils debated about the merits of individual books based on the b­­­­est opinions of scholars that they could find.  I am not saying that this wasn’t a valiant or well-intentioned effort.  The problem is that those were not proclamations of the word of God by prophets no matter how much the Roman church argues for its apostolic status and their doctrine of apostolic succession that says that they have replaced the Apostles to the point where what they say is the same as if the original apostles said it.   And, again, the Roman Church canonized those books at the same time it was incorporating numerous non-scriptural elements into the church including the firm establishment of clergy and laity classes, the integration of church and state in numerous ways, the promotion of Mary as Theotokos (the mother of God), capital punishment for heresy, and other things.  In fact, the entire Roman Catholic canonization process is unscriptural.  These proclamations of church councils are not now, nor were they ever the succession of the original apostles on earth.  They do not nor did they ever continue to write words that are on a par with the original apostles because they were not prophets, and they did not speak words given to them by divine inspiration.

Yet, much of Protestantism has incorporated Roman Catholicism and its accompanying orthodoxy into its doctrines including its tradition of Orthodoxy, council decisions, and doctrines developed over long periods of time.

With that, the canon of scripture has grown beyond being a canon proclamation of the Catholic church to just a canon of the church in general.

So, specifically, what is the canon of Scripture?

“The biblical canon is the collection of scriptural books that God has given his corporate people, which are distinguished by their divine qualities, reception by the collective body, and their apostolic connection, either by authorship or association.”[6]

The above quote is a commonly accepted view in Christian theology. Notice what is emphasized and what is missing. What is emphasized is that God has given these with the implication that he has authorized them. What is emphasized is what are labeled “divine qualities”. These divine qualities are; one, reception by the collective body, and two, apostolic connection, either by authorship or association.

The apostolic connection above does line up with the charge for us to follow the traditions of the apostles.

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter.  (2Th 2:15 WEB)

The letters of the apostles would certainly qualify here.

However, the first term, reception by the collective body is not a scriptural standard. There are too many times in Scripture where the body of believers would have received something that was definitely not what God wanted. Think of the children of Israel having Aaron make the golden calf and think of Israel getting tired of pheasant and manna. Think of the whole body of Israel at the time that Christ arrived. They had developed the Talmud, a body of laws that were supposed to augment the Law given in the Torah. No collective reception by any body of people is ever something that can qualify whether or not something is of God or not. It simply lists what the people have decided they think should be or that they want to be of God.

Now, what is missing? What is missing is God speaking about whether something is or is not the word of God. And, as we just read above, God has a system in place for doing just that. That system is called prophecy. Now it doesn’t matter whether or not you and I want to believe in prophets. It doesn’t matter whether or not people in the past have erred and given false prophecy. What matters is that the very books that we consider the word of God tell us that prophets are the ones that both give the word of God and discern whether or not something is the word of God.

Again, the actual words of the canon of scripture are at the very bottom of the page.  It does not cite the Spirit as the authority for its proclamation, rather it cites the “universal Catholic Church” as the authority, and then lists the books that the Catholic Church says are acceptable.

Even though there was a Septuagint version of the Old Testament available in Jesus’ time it is not mentioned because it was really relegated to Greek-speaking areas rather that the nation of Israel.  Although it could be argued that since it was extant at the time of original Christianity the fact that it is not mentioned as the word of God works against establishing the 39 books of the Old Testament (although the Septuagint compiles our 39 books into 24 books) as all being scriptural.

So, in the scriptures, references to OT writings are never to a collective Bible, rather they are always to individual scrolls or books.  For example,

The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, (Luk 4:17 WEB)

It doesn’t say someone handed a bible to Jesus and he found some verses in Isaiah, it says the book of Isaiah was handed to him and he found some verses.

The scriptural model is that books are accepted as scriptural on an individual basis. THat is the standard that we too should follow.

There are some incredible claims made about the bible, but there is no scriptural basis for some of them.  Look at this.  For example, Andrew Wommack is a popular minister with a large ministry including television, and he writes:

“The Bible, on the other hand, has been supernaturally preserved by God in all the evidence we have supports it was written by the inspiration of God.”[7]

And, on his website, Womack writes, “We believe the Bible is inspired and empowered by God, infallible, and authoritative.” Implicit in this statement is that the Bible is the 66 books of the Protestant Bible.

Other leaders and churches make similar claims. The Church of Christ says this on its website:

“God’s providence gave us the 27 book New Testament Canon, not the church. God, not men decided the canon. This providence does not mean that church leaders were inspired in their selecting the canon, only that God had his eye on the scriptures the whole time and brought about His will to form the Bible we see today!”[8]

This is a doctrinal statement about which books are Scripture. The statement says “God, not men decided the canon.”  What a stretch! We read in history how the canon of scripture was changing over decades and decided by men in councils arguing the merits of different books.

In contrast, we read above that God speaks through prophets!  Who is the prophet that said that about God decided the canon? Is the source of that statement a prophet or is it somehow scriptural in any manner?  None that I could find

On the same page as the above quote,  The Church of Christ acknowledges that the New Testament has no references to Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, but still calls them inspired.

I talked with a Rabbi that said that the Jews did not consider all the books in the Septuagint to be true, but rather they were a Jewish term “truer than true”.  While the Torah was absolutely inspired by God some books like Job were poetry and stories that held valuable spiritual lessons. They were not however considered literally true, for example, Job did not actually exist in real life. However, since Job is referenced as “It is written” in 1 Cor 3:9, I am not ready to say it is not scripture.

First of all, I agree that there is an abundance of evidence to help reconstruct the books of scripture. But there are issues with Wommack’s statement that the bible is supernaturally preserved.  First, for example, Jude quotes from the book of Enoch.  Either Enoch was not preserved or it is apocryphal, not really the word of God.  Second, there are undisputed discrepancies.  For example, the Johannine comma refers to the fact that 1 John 5:7-8 are added verses. Another example is the great commission text, Matthew 28:19 which includes the trinitarian phraseology that was never carried out in scripture. This is either like the Johannine comma in that it was added by translators, which I believe happened, or the apostles really blew it, not carrying out a command of Jesus, which I do not believe.  I was taught in Catholic High School that Matt 28:19 was probably changed because the Catholic Church centuries after the Apostles decided that it was important to change it to reflect the importance of the Trinity. Numerous believers believe that the Catholic Church changed Matt 28:19 and I am one of them.

There are too many errors like this to make the claim that God preserved the scriptures intact.  Are we grading God on a curve, crediting him for doing something pretty well?  I think that is offensive to Yahweh. Much more likely is that our understanding of the status of the books of the Protestant bible is at fault.

Another case for the 66 books of the Bible to be the sum and substance of divine revelation is made on the Answers in Genesis website. There they have a page that discusses how you can be sure that these are books of God’s revelation.[9]  They make citations and statements such as these:

  1. “The church inherited the Old Testament, and Jesus defended, encouraged and exemplified faithful submission to these writings as an inspired canon.”[10]
  2. “Jesus verified that the Old Testament writings were always Scripture when He quoted from the Old Testament and claimed, “It is written” and “Scripture cannot be broken”
  3. Several statements in the Bible indicate that the New Testament would be written by apostles or approved by them. Peter called Paul’s writings “scripture” (2 Peter 3:16), and Paul said he and other apostles spoke “the word of God””
  4. “Even though no one church or leader had authority to dictate to the others, it is amazing that close to AD 150 the Muratorian Canon could list all but four of our New Testament books.”

The problem is that these statements are not completely accurate. Regarding points 1 and 2 Jesus did make statements saying like “It is written” and spoke of the Law, the Prophets, and even the writings, but he in no way specified that all the books in the Septuagint were in those writings.  His famous quote about searching the scripture, in fact, does not endorse all the books, but rather distinguishes the books to be valued as the ones that testify of him.

You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about me. (Joh 5:39 WEB)

At face value, this verse may appear to some to have Jesus endorsing the Old Testament. The fly in the ointment is the “and”, kai in Greek.  Kai is translated “and”, “also”, “but”, “both”, “even”, “indeed”, “moreover”, “yea” and other ways in the KJV. Look at this:

He declared, and didn’t deny, but he declared, “I am not the Christ.”  (Joh 1:20 WEB)

The word “but” above is the Greek word kai used in refuting the idea that John the Baptist was the Christ.  It sets a contrast between who he was and who Christ was.  This illustrates that kai can be used to set up a contrast.

So, John 5:39 is not a blanket endorsement of the Septuagint. The phrase “these are they that testify about me” is a qualifier. Jesus is pointing to specific scriptures and defining the scriptures as those that testify about him.  A better translation is:

You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; but these [the scriptures] are those that testify about me.

Jesus did not blankly endorse the whole Old Testament.  He only referred to 24 of the 39 books in the OT.[11]

Furthermore, some of the OT books have real problems as part of God’s plan of salvation.  While a wonderful and inspiring story that I have particularly enjoyed, the book of Esther has been challenged because it has no mention of God and it has a bloody resolution that some have questioned as godly.[12]  My issue is that I have to admit it doesn’t directly testify of Jesus Christ, which is the issue Jesus brings up in John 5:39.

Point 3 is legitimate in that Peter did call Paul’s writings “scripture”, and Paul said he and other apostles spoke “the word of God.

But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. (1Co 2:10-13 WEB)

This verse testifies that the apostles spoke what the Holy Spirit taught them.  The next verses do come from a book that has been questioned since early times but it does call Paul’s writings “scripture”.  This is significant to our discussion here because it is a reference that calls the apostle Paul’s writing scripture while there has long been debate over whether 2 Peter itself is actually written by the apostle Peter.  It has a couple of problems.  One is that it appears not to have been written until the 2nd century, long after the apostle’s death yet it states that when it was written Peter knew that his death was near.

An article on Bible.org says this about 2 Peter:

As stated at the outset, 2 Peter is commonly held to be pseudepigraphal in nature. Pseudonymity is the practice of writing under someone else’s name; this is not simply a “pen name,” as we have today, but it is the deliberate taking of a real person’s name for the purpose of influence in publication. [13]

Considering all that, 2nd Peter has one verse that calls Paul’s writing scripture when he says:

Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you; as also in all of his letters, speaking in them of these things. In those, there are some things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unsettled twist, as they also do to the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2Pe 3:15-16 WEB)

Paul’s writing here is clearly labeled as part of scripture.

In fact, a major point of this website is that we are charged to follow the apostles’ traditions, what they taught whether by word or by letter.  Since we only have their letters now that is what we use to look for the traditions to follow.  However, not all the books in the NT have known authorship and there is some question about the authenticity of, for example, 2 Peter. I have to admit I have an affinity for Hebrews, especially chapter 12, but no one knows who wrote it. The book of James is attributed to the brother of Jesus and “brother” is a term in James 1:1 but it is used in other places in the epistle to refer to our Christian brothers, not familial, so that argument is not conclusive. Martin Luther referred to James as an epistle of straw, especially had problems with the faith vs works discussion and said he did not “hold it to be of apostolic authorship”[14]  Additionally, according to the same article, Luther, our heroic Reformer, also had problems with Revelation. While I have heard preachers extol the wonders of the Book of Revelation I have also heard some preach admit openly that they just don’t know about the prophetic book.

Point 4 was discussed in Early Christians disputed Hebrews, James, 2nd Peter, 2 John, 3rd John, Jude, and Revelation

The issue is that if we are going to make the statement that scripture is our absolute standard for truth, then we need to use scripture exclusively and not allow assumptions, a priori statements, and traditions to define what our beliefs are. And assuming the canon of scripture to be true is making it an a priori assumption.

Now, as you will see, I am not saying at this point that any of the books declared scripture are not scripture.  So, yes, Martin Luther called James an “epistle of straw” even though he did include it in his bible.[15]  I have no spiritual insight to say it is not scripture at this point.  But it looks suspicious.  It is not like Acts, the Pauline epistles, the 1st Epistle of Peter, and so forth which are on much firmer ground when saying they are the writings of the Apostles.

This article has been an exercise in looking at scripture to determine what is scripture.

Why? As much as it may seem that the bible you have in your hand is the actual word of God, it’s not that simple.  Our bibles are translations of copies of texts that, yes, the Roman Catholic Church first “canonized”, made officially biblical, three hundred years after the apostles.  Again, this is the same Catholic Church that instituted clergy and laity, that instituted severe and even unbiblical capital punishment for anybody that disagreed with it, that merged the hierarchy of bishops with its civil leadership, that went on to send armies to kill the unbelievers in the holy land, sent armies after reformers like the Waldenses, and not only started the inquisition but still talks about it like it was a good thing, necessary for the times!  All the while the papacy grew in world power and wealth.  The Roman Catholic Church is one if not the largest landowner in the world.[16]

Luther, Calvin, and other reformers called the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church the antichrist. Martin Luther “denounced the pope as antichrist, refer to the Roman hierarchy as the “whore – church of the devil”, and burned the whole corpus of canon law as well as the papal bull that had excommunicated him.”[17] Calvin called the Roman church a perpetrator of superstitions. John Calvin said, “so obstinately addicted to the superstitions of the papacy did I remain that it would’ve been hard indeed to have pulled me out of so deep a quagmire, I did nothing, the word did it all.”[18]

Some of what this powerful church did traces back to right after the time of the apostles.  I’ve told people that there are no clergy and laity in original Christianity and gotten blank looks or questions like “how could that work?”

In T 0.1 Introduction to Tradition in the Church, we discussed that a tradition is a set of beliefs and customs that gets passed from one generation to another. We also looked at the verses that charged believers to follow the tradition that was handed down by the Apostles:

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2Th 2:15 ESV)

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.
(2Th 3:6 ESV)

These verses elevate the importance of the Apostles’ writings.  That makes at the very least the church epistles. Romans through Thessalonians to be scripture written for us as a church.

So, what do we end up with if we recognize the challenges to some books like Ruth, Esther, Jude, Revelation, and more?

As I wrote in LP0.1 Only The Law and the Prophets Had Divine Status,  the Law and the Prophets are what both Jesus and Paul referred to as the writings that should be believed. Jesus and the apostles directly quote from a lot of these books.

The epistles themselves proclaim themselves as having the revelation messages from God himself.

Then there are the Gospels.  As written in The Gospels as Eyewitness Accounts, the gospels proclaim that they are eye-witness accounts written by the apostles or their agents so they are a valuable and reliable testimony by men who were under Christ’s tutelage.

With that, we have most of the books in what we call the bible providing reliable information on the movements of God and the tenets of our faith.

Yes, there still are questions concerning some of the books in what we call the Old and New testaments.  In the Old Testament, we are not sure about Song of Solomon, Esther, Ruth, and a couple of others as to their status as God’s revelation before Christ.  In the same vein, books like 2nd Peter, James, Hebrews, Jude, Revelation, and a few others have doubts about their status as being revelations from Yahweh also.

Paul, writing to the church, made this one of the things we are to follow as a tradition:

prove all things; hold fast that which is good; (1Th 5:21 ASV)

Proving all things includes even proving which scriptures are really scriptures.  By doing that we are evaluating scripture by scripture’s own terms, not the proclamations of church leaders hundreds of years after the apostles who had already deviated far from the apostle’s traditions in many areas.

[1]The Story of Christianity, Justo L Gonzalez, Harper Collins, New York, 2010, p. 301-302

[2] Coherentism in Epistemology, https://iep.utm.edu/coherentism-in-epistemology/#SH3a

[3]7. The Bible: The Holy Canon of Scripture, https://bible.org/seriespage/7-bible-holy-canon-scripture

[4] https://bible.org/article/why-we-shouldnt-hate-philosophy

[5] ibid

[6] The Biblical Canon, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/the-biblical-canon/

[7] Christian Philosophy, Andrew Womack, Harrison House publishers, 2012, P. 57

[8] https://www.bible.ca/b-canon-old-testament-quoted-by-jesus-and-apostles.htm

[9] https://answersingenesis.org/the-word-of-god/why-66/  

[10] Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority, Vol. 4 (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999), p. 407.

[11] https://www.bible.ca/b-canon-old-testament-quoted-by-jesus-and-apostles.htm

[12] https://www.massbible.org/exploring-the-bible/ask-a-prof/answers/concerns-book-esther

[13] https://bible.org/article/2-peter-peter%E2%80%99s

[14] Martin Luther’s Problem With the “Epistle of Straw”, see next note

[15] The “Epistle of Straw”: Reflections on Luther and the Epistle of James, Martin Foord, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/the-epistle-of-straw-reflections-on-luther-and-the-epistle-of-james/

[16] Mapping one of the world’s largest landowners, https://archive.curbed.com/2017/10/18/16483194/catholic-church-gis-goodlands-esri-molly-burhans

[17] Theology of the Reformers, Timothy George, B&H publishing, Nashville, 2013, P. 56

[18] Theology of the Reformers, Timothy George, B&H publishing, Nashville, 2013, P. 181


The Canon of Sacred Scripture *
[From the same decree and the acts of the same Roman Synod]
84 Likewise it has been said: Now indeed we must treat of the divine Scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun.
The order of the Old Testament begins here: Genesis one book, Exodus one book, Leviticus one book, Numbers one book, Deuteronomy one book, Joshua Nave one book, judges one book, Ruth one book, Kings four books, Paralipomenon two books, Psalms one book, Solomon three books, Proverbs one book, Ecclesiastes one book, Canticle of Canticles one book, likewise Wisdom one book, Ecclesiasticus one book.
Likewise the order of the Prophets. Isaias one book, Jeremias one book, with Ginoth, that is, with his lamentations, Ezechiel one book, Daniel one book, Osee one book, Micheas one book, Joel one book, Abdias one book, Jonas one book, Nahum one book, Habacuc one book, Sophonias one book, Aggeus one book, Zacharias one book, Malachias one book.
Likewise the order of the histories. Job one book, Tobias one book, Esdras two books, Esther one book, Judith one book, Machabees two books.
Likewise the order of the writings of the New and eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church supports. Of the Gospels, according to Matthew one book, according to Mark one book, according to Luke one book, according to John one book.
The Epistles of Paul [the apostle] in number fourteen. To the Romans one, to the Corinthians two, to the Ephesians one, to the Thessalonians two, to the Galatians one, to the Philippians one, to the Colossians one, to Timothy two, to Titus one, to Philemon one, to the Hebrews one.
Likewise the Apocalypse of John, one book. And the Acts of the Apostles one book.
Likewise the canonical epistles in number seven. Of Peter the Apostle two epistles, of James the Apostle one epistle, of John the Apostle one epistle, of another John, the presbyter, two epistles, of Jude the Zealot, the Apostle one epistle, see n. 162 ff. * The canon of the New Testament ends here.

(from https://sensusfidelium.com/the-sources-of-catholic-dogma-the-denzinger/council-of-rome-382-the-canon-of-sacred-scripture/)

last revised 5/28/2022

The Lesson of the Downfall of Solomon

We will take a hard look at Solomon.  But before we do that, I want to first look at the life of Timothy and how he developed into such a strong believer.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, according to the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve as my forefathers did, with a pure conscience. How unceasing is my memory of you in my petitions, night and day longing to see you, remembering your tears, that I may be filled with joy; having been reminded of the sincere faith that is in you; which lived first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and, I am persuaded, in you also. (2Ti 1:1-5 WEB)

Paul praises the faith that is in Timothy and tells here how it first lived in his grandmother Lois, and then his mother Eunice.  Wow, what a statement of the power of dedicated, faithful women.  Paul calls Timothy his beloved child and speaks of how he longed to see him, night and day longing to see him, remembering his tears.

That speaks loudly of the impact women can have on people and did have on this wonderful man, Timothy as Timothy’s faith that he got from these women had such an impact on him and the people around him.

But there is a different side to this coin that we will look at here and this is a hard lesson.  We will look at the life of Solomon.  First, we will see Solomon described as a man of incredible wisdom, the wisest man ever!

Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into David’s city, until he had finished building his own house, Yahweh’s house, and the wall around Jerusalem. However the people sacrificed in the high places, because there was not yet a house built for Yahweh’s name. Solomon loved Yahweh, walking in the statutes of David his father; except that he sacrificed and burned incense in the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place. Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. In Gibeon, Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask for what I should give you.” Solomon said, “You have shown to your servant David my father great loving kindness, because he walked before you in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with you. You have kept for him this great loving kindness, that you have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today. Now, Yahweh my God, you have made your servant king instead of David my father. I am just a little child. I don’t know how to go out or come in. Your servant is among your people which you have chosen, a great people, that can’t be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this great people of yours?” This request pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have you asked for riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice; behold, I have done according to your word. Behold, I have given you a wise and understanding heart; so that there has been no one like you before you, and after you none will arise like you. I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you for all your days. If you will walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” Solomon awoke; and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of Yahweh’s covenant, and offered up burnt offerings, offered peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants. (1Ki 3:1-15 WEB)

There is the story of the beginnings of Solomon and how he became so wise. Notice that it says that Solomon loved Yahweh and walked in the statutes of David, his father.   But, there was as yet no Temple so like the rest of Israel he sacrificed and burned incense in high places.  At this point, Israel still had shrines, places where there were idols, and people burnt offerings there.  Solomon did this practice also.  Still. Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream.  He asked Solomon what he wanted. This is what he said.

Now, Yahweh my God, you have made your servant king instead of David my father. I am just a little child. I don’t know how to go out or come in. Your servant is among your people which you have chosen, a great people, that can’t be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this great people of yours?” (1Ki 3:7-9 WEB)

Now, let’s look at these verses in that section as to what Yahweh said:

God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have you asked for riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice; behold, I have done according to your word. Behold, I have given you a wise and understanding heart; so that there has been no one like you before you, and after you none will arise like you. (1Ki 3:11-12 WEB)

There is the promise of God to Solomon alone. “a wise and understanding heart; so that there has been no one like you before you, and after you none will arise like you.”  Amazing!

An example of that wisdom follows in the text.

Then two women who were prostitutes came to the king, and stood before him. The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house. I delivered a child with her in the house. The third day after I delivered, this woman delivered also. We were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, just us two in the house. This woman’s child died in the night, because she lay on it. She arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, it was dead; but when I had looked at it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, whom I bore.” The other woman said, “No; but the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.” The first one said, “No; but the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.” Thus they spoke before the king. Then the king said, “One says, ‘This is my son who lives, and your son is the dead;’ and the other says, ‘No; but your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’” The king said, “Get me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. The king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.” Then the woman whose the living child was spoke to the king, for her heart yearned over her son, and she said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and in no way kill him!” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours. Divide him.” Then the king answered, “Give her the living child, and definitely do not kill him. She is his mother.” All Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king; for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do justice. (1Ki 3:16-28 WEB)

This is the famous record of the two women who both claimed the same baby. Two women both had a baby within days of each other. Sadly, one woman laid on the baby in her sleep and it died. Instead of just morning her loss, however, she placed her dead baby in the bed with the other mother and took the other mother’s baby to be her own.

There was no evidence that could prove one person’s claim over the other. Solomon had nothing in terms of evidence to prove anything, one way or another. Yet he had been given this incredible wisdom. In what might appear to some as lunacy he orders that a sword be brought so that the baby can be split in half so that each mother can have part of the baby as they appear to have the same claim. But it never comes to that. The real mother says to let the other one have the baby as she would not harm her baby. It’s an incredible display.

Also, in the prophecy that is given to Solomon, it is told that he will get great riches.

I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you for all your days. (1Ki 3:13 WEB)

Later, in first Kings chapter 10, we read that the prophecy of both Solomon’s wisdom and wealth are fulfilled.

Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred sixty-six talents of gold, in addition to that which the traders brought, and the traffic of the merchants, and of all the kings of the mixed people, and of the governors of the country. … So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. (1Ki 10:14, 23 WEB)

So, we see that it looks like Solomon is set up to live just an incredibly fantastic life. So, what could go wrong? We are going to start reading in first Kings chapter 11.

Now king Solomon loved many foreign women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites; of the nations concerning which Yahweh said to the children of Israel, “You shall not go among them, neither shall they come among you; for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon joined to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. When Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with Yahweh his God, as the heart of David his father was. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did that which was evil in Yahweh’s sight, and didn’t go fully after Yahweh, as David his father did. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the mountain that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the children of Ammon. So he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. (1Ki 11:1-8 WEB)

Here is the sad lesson. The section above is packed with truths about God, men, and women.  Solomon had been busy politically, marrying royal wives from different kingdoms. This was a very strategic move that built up political alliances that helped strengthen his kingdom. But what good is a strong kingdom if what you’re doing to build it up destroys your alliance with the one true God which is the most important thing in anyone’s life.

We read in the above section the reference to “You shall not go among them, neither shall they come among you; for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” This is seen in other places.

When Yahweh your God brings you into the land where you go to possess it, and casts out many nations before you, the Hittite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, seven nations greater and mightier than you; and when Yahweh your God delivers them up before you, and you strike them; then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them, nor show mercy to them. You shall not make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to his son, nor shall you take his daughter for your son. For he will turn away your son from following me, that they may serve other gods. So Yahweh’s anger would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. (Deu 7:1-4 WEB)

There it is again. Marrying someone of a different faith causes a problem. “For he will turn away your son from following me, that they may serve other gods”.  Here we have a couple of places that say that is inherent in marriage with someone who believes differently than you do that it will affect you.

Wow, what a change in the life of this man Solomon!

And in the very next section, we read that Solomon made God angry because he sought to accommodate his wives’ religious desires.

Yahweh was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from Yahweh, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he didn’t keep that which Yahweh commanded. Therefore, Yahweh said to Solomon, “Because this is done by you, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. (1Ki 11:9-11 WEB)

Yahweh was angry! The end result was that Solomon would lose the kingdom.

The key that I want to focus on here is how it is written that marrying people of a different faith is a mistake.  Deuteronomy 7 says,

You shall not make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to his son, nor shall you take his daughter for your son. For he will turn away your son from following me, that they may serve other gods. (Deu 7:3-4a WEB)

Now, I have heard different people talk about how they approach marrying someone of a different faith. And by faith, I don’t just mean Christianity versus Judaism versus Hinduism and so forth.  The apostles were very concerned that we followed what they taught exactly so in that sense all the different denominations of Christianity are different faiths because they all follow different traditions.

I’ve heard people say it doesn’t matter what faiths the people in a couple have. I’ve heard Christian people say that they will be a witness to their new spouses and work on getting them to convert. Notice that neither of these options is in these verses. The verses just say not to marry someone of a different faith. And, this same concept is in the epistles.

Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2Co 6:14 WEB)

Now, this verse does compare Christian believers with unbelievers. What does “being yoked” together with someone mean?  It means being bound together in some kind of relationship. It could be marriage, or it could be a business partnership or something like that.

Now there are verses that talk about people being married to unbelievers. But if you read them, you’ll see that they’re talking to believers about what to do if their unbelieving spouse chooses not to believe. The context therefore at least suggests that the case here is that someone was not an unbeliever, became a believer, and then needed to know what to do with their unbelieving spouse. The context does not suggest that it is okay to marry unbelievers.

So, what we have been talking about so far is people not marrying people who follow other gods, gods other than Yahweh. Furthermore, the verse in the New Testament means to not be unequally yoked together with someone who isn’t a Christian.

And, next, we need to look at the fine print. We have been looking at many articles that talk about the charge to follow the apostles’ traditions.

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)

Furthermore, in the faith, we are told to avoid those that don’t hold to the apostles’ traditions.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks in rebellion, and not after the tradition which they received from us. (2Th 3:6 WEB)

Now, that really throws a wrinkle into it, doesn’t it? We have been reading how were not supposed to marry unbelievers. And now we have just read that we’re supposed to avoid even Christians who don’t follow the apostles’ traditions. That really refines the number of people that true believers can marry. If you’re supposed to avoid those that don’t follow the apostles’ traditions then you can’t marry them according to that verse.

Next, I want to talk about some very controversial verses of Scripture.

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body. But as the assembly is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without defect. (Eph 5:22-27 WEB)

Now, I have seen this verse used in stories in different media like TV and books to display examples of all kinds of terribly abusive husbands controlling women and basically ruining those women’s lives. Now there are certainly examples where this and every other verse of Scripture has been misused. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is Scripture, and if it is Scripture that it must be part of God’s plan.

What is the message here? The verses talk about the husband being the head as Christ is the head of the assembly, the church. And then it reiterates the concept and, that wives are to be subject to their husbands as the church is subject to Christ. That looks pretty plain and simple. It’s talking about spiritual leadership and service.

Husbands are charged with the task of making sure the household follows God. In the case of believers, as we’ve seen throughout many of these articles. That means that the church follows the apostles’ traditions, and in the house, the house follows the apostles’ traditions.

That is not to say that there is any prescription for demanding or enforcing this charge. It’s a pretty simple paradigm. Men are supposed to lead to keep the household following the apostles’ traditions. Women are supposed to follow.

I’ve seen women basically say that they don’t agree with the man’s leadership.  They think that the man is wrong in some way.  Maybe they think it is the wrong church, it doesn’t have the right programs, or the teacher isn’t very inspiring.  Or maybe they just want to go to some other church because they know people there.

There is no capital punishment, there’s no prison sentence or even community service prescribed for households that don’t follow the husband’s lead.  It’s not grounds for divorce.  In other words, if the wife chooses not to follow the apostles’ traditions it doesn’t prescribe any punishment of any sort. Rather, it charges the husband to be like Christ in continuing to offer leadership to get the house lined up with the apostles’ traditions.

Now here is where some of the rubber meets the road.  It’s the husband’s charge to make the decision.  Of course, if he agrees with the wife then there is no problem, right. Everyone is happy then.  There are times, of course, when the wife will be right. And we are all charged to submit to each other, meaning that sometimes the man needs to submit to the wife’s wisdom as being of God.

subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ. (Eph 5:21 WEB)

But what if he doesn’t agree, moreover, he sees the wife’s wisdom as not following the tradition of the apostles?  It is still the husband’s responsibility to make the right choice. There is a piece of worldly wisdom that I hear quoted, “happy wife, happy life!” Unfortunately, that is not biblical guidance.  Making your wife happy by going along with the wrong spiritual program is the downfall of Solomon.

If the wife decides not to follow the husband’s direction, that is her choice.  It is the husband’s job to lead and to endeavor to keep leading.

And the worst thing is to capitulate and just give in to the wife’s desires like Solomon. So, let’s get back to Solomon, and look again at the result of Solomon’s not leading as a man of God in his own house.

Yahweh was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from Yahweh, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he didn’t keep that which Yahweh commanded. Therefore, Yahweh said to Solomon, “Because this is done by you, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. (1Ki 11:9-11 WEB)

Again, we see that Yahweh was angry! And the end result was that Solomon would lose the kingdom. It wasn’t as complete a loss as Saul but it still was a major consequence.

Nevertheless, I will not do it in your days, for David your father’s sake; but I will tear it out of your son’s hand. However I will not tear away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to your son, for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen.” (1Ki 11:12-13 WEB)

In our day and time, it’s not as much about worshiping the gods of these ancient civilizations as it is about following the tradition of the apostles or not.

Let us all realize the lesson of the downfall of Solomon. Solomon allowed himself to be persuaded to follow the spiritual desires of the spouse(s) rather than what Yahweh desired for him to follow.

When Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with Yahweh his God, as the heart of David his father was. (1Ki 11:4 WEB)

As Christians, we are charged not only to follow Christ but to only follow the apostle’s traditions, the teachings of the original apostles on what it means to follow Christ.

Husbands, lead your wives and families to follow the apostles’ traditions. Wives, and families, follow that lead. That doesn’t mean it will be easy.  Marriage is hard work.

In the church in our day and time, our commandment is to follow the tradition of the apostles. Let us do that in this situation also. Husbands, lead your wives and households to follow the apostles’ traditions.

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)

Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. (1Co 11:2 WEB)


T 1.11.1 Generally the Old (Elders) are the Wisest, Cherish and Honor Them, Although Old Fools can be the Most Foolish of All

The scriptures teach us to respect our elders. In fact, the scriptures don’t paint a pretty picture of those that don’t respect their elders.  Here’s one from the Torah. There is an evil nation that’s going to do something to the Israelites, look at how they’re described.

a nation of fierce facial expressions, that doesn’t respect the elderly, nor show favor to the young, (Deu 28:50 WEB)

A nation that doesn’t respect the elderly is one of the evils of an evil nation.

But in our society today here in the Western world, a growing bias against the elderly is something that is seen both by people in the secular and spiritual realms. The Christian Science Monitor says this.

“In America these days, the perception is that old people are washed up and old fashioned… In America, youth is now valued and esteemed over senior citizen status.”[1]

This is a widely seen phenomenon. A recent article in the Huffington Post describes Western culture as fetishizing youth while removing seniors “from the community and relegated to hospitals and nursing homes”.[2]  And here is a social science view of the problem.

Even though the United States has an aging population there is still a clear bias against aging and a general fear of getting old. Even though the emphasis on youth and beauty has traditionally been directed more toward females than males, we are now seeing an increasing concern with males about aging and getting old. The elderly used to be a highly respected group and were admired for their experience and wisdom. Changes in the political, social, and economic landscape altered perceptions about aging and ultimately decreased the status and position of the elderly in society. With a growing sense of individualism and an increasing concern with staying young, older people have had to face an escalating level of disregard, disrespect, and marginalization…[3]

This is a growing trend in our culture. It may be in other parts of the world but it is obvious here.  Increasingly America is worshipping youth.   In the process, America is devaluing elders with all their experience over decades of being an adult in many scenarios.  These are adults that may have raised families themselves, worked for a living for many years, run companies, and in the process have personally seen many changes in society and felt the effect of those changes.   They are the most equipped to make decisions about those kinds of changes should they happen again. Yet they are being marginalized.

At the center of this marginalization and devaluing of the elderly is the mass media. The mass media has largely become the central nervous system of American society and has a massive impact on people’s values, beliefs, and perceptions[2]. This has been demonstrated endlessly across research in the social and behavioral sciences and the overall belief is that portrayals of the elderly are largely negative and stereotypical. Common feelings toward the elderly are that they are of low status and incompetent [3] and this is a common theme running across media representations. The elderly are often depicted as weak, unattractive, and senile. Other cultural stereotypes often seen in the media portray the elderly as frail, feeble, financially distressed, and not contributing to society

There are numerous examples.  One example is the progressive insurance ad campaign featuring Dr. Rick who is trying to help young and middle-aged adults avoid becoming like their parents. This is a very clever ad campaign. A lot of people seem to be chuckling over these ads. Granted, it is somewhat of a common and possibly unpleasant experience for some to realize that they are doing things like one of their parents. A lot of us have pet peeves against some of the mannerisms of our parents.

On the other hand, as a grandparent, I have watched firsthand seeing grandchildren act out in ways that had the parents frustrated, lamenting, and wondering how their kids could be that way when I saw those same parents acting that way when they were kids. I have heard many a story of this person or that person as a child being someone who was so irresponsible that their parents and/or babysitters would be talking about how they would never be responsible adults only to find 20 years later those same irresponsible juveniles working jobs, paying bills, raising families, and even being in positions of leadership. And, amazingly, at that time it was grandparents and other seniors gently saying, “don’t worry, they’ll be all right, a lot of kids act crazy as kids only to grow up and be perfectly fine.”

Dr. Rick and the progressive insurance ad campaign aren’t doing our society any favors. Sure there are a lot of people that understand the parody in the ads.  But those ads are not just shown to adults. Those ads are shown where kids see a message of “don’t be like your parents”. They see a message of parents doing actually wise things like taking snacks on a plane, planning how long they’re going to stay at a game, and being treated like kids for it. Combined with so many kids’ shows that promote disrespect, the supremacy of youthful intelligence, and outright disobedience it just adds fuel to a Media Fire that devalues elders as well as good parenting itself.

I just another example on the TV show Good Sam.  Good Sam is the story of Dr. Sam Griffin who takes over the job of leadership in her hospital department as chief after the previous leader, her father, Dr. Rob Griffin, winds up in a coma and becomes disabled.
Good Sam could also be called Saint Sam as that character is ideal. She’s young, kind, thoughtful, extremely skilled, top of her class, open to new ideas, tries to work with all the other doctors, and so forth. There’s not a fault shown in the drama for this character so far that I have seen although I’ve just watched two episodes. On the other hand, the father is overbearing, pretentious, and sleeps with a subordinate. He’s dismissive, condescending, and obviously was an absent father to this wonder of a young woman. But, he is brilliant, and extremely skilled which are his only virtues and the reason why he was the leader beforehand.  While Rob is not portrayed as a senior citizen per se, this is an example of respect or lack of respect for elders as Rob is Sam’s elder.
Spoiler Alert – this review will give some details about one of the episodes.

Rob wants his job back. He had been shot and because of a long disabling recovery, he is required to be proctored before he can even operate again. He uses his connections to ensure that the board will reinstate him as chief after he passes his proctorship, which, amazingly only in a story like this, is overseen by his daughter.  He runs roughshod in her meetings and doesn’t follow her rules.  It distresses young doctors in residence because both Dr. Griffins are telling them what to do, often in different directions.
While there is some bond displayed between them, her attitude is that he is an old overbearing dinosaur, in this case, the T Rex, but she is the meteor that will wipe out dinosaurs like him. That attitude is directly portrayed vividly at the end of season 1 episode 2, Natural Order.
What a perfect metaphor for the attitude of some of the younger members of our society. Seniors are overbearing dinosaurs and the youth are the meteor to wipe them out. At the very least they need to get out of the way as the youth have the right ideas.  Not everybody, of course, and while some people care for and respect their parents and grandparents, there is such a strong push in this country and some others to disregard elders.
What other class of people in our society could be treated with this much disrespect here in 2022 America? Women? No! Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, Disabled? No, no, no, no, no. The LGBTQ won’t stand for it. But somehow it’s OK to disrespect the elderly as a class.
I don’t think it’s coincidental that this dinosaur ex-chief is a white male, and the meteor is a young woman. I also don’t think it’s coincidental that the mother of this young woman sides with this young doctor.
Of course, as described, this man deserves to be put in his place because other than his skill as a surgeon he doesn’t have that much redeeming virtue.  But I don’t think that it is truly descriptive of the nature of the relationship between most seniors and their younger counterparts. Rarely are things ever that black and white. It’s just another example of why it is OK not to respect an elder according to world views.

Meanwhile, we have been discussing wisdom, and philosophy in the tradition of the apostles. That makes it part of original Christianity. A component of wisdom right from Scripture is age.  That’s right, wisdom is something that is accumulated with age.

Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days. (Job 12:12 ESV)

This is a general rule, that people get wiser as they age.  However, the scriptures allow for exceptions to this rule.  Look at this:

Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who doesn’t know how to receive admonition any more. (Ecc 4:13 WEB)

So age is not a guarantee of wisdom, just a guideline.  So, while I am saying scripture teaches us to honor and cherish the aged, the sad truth is that it also teaches that old fools are around and a potential pitfall according to scripture.

Still, the standard is that scriptures teach us to respect our elders.

“‘You shall rise up before the gray head, and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God. I am Yahweh.  (Lev 19:32 WEB)

This verse says that standing up and respecting elders is part of respecting God.

This is a clear picture of who an elder is.  In the Greek Old Testament “old man” here is presbeturos which is the word translated as elder in so many places.  Notice the reference to the gray head; this is not a young adult. The above verse depicts the standard for places where there were elders at the gate and so forth.

I have been in more than one church where the “elders” were young adults and regularly saw one or more of them captured by the doctrine of the moment instead of the apostle’s tradition.

Likewise, you younger ones, be subject to the elder. Yes, all of you clothe yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  (1Pe 5:5 WEB)

Here is a New Testament verse that tells us to respect elders.  This verse is a classic verse that teaches being subject to elders. It does absolutely say subject yourselves to one another, meaning that there are times when the younger person may have the best wisdom, but that will never set a standard that the young have the greatest wisdom, just that the elders if they are truly wise with the wisdom of God, will recognize with humility that they need to learn and change at times.

It’s common in our society to tell grandparents to butt out. I’ve heard more than one young parent vigorously proclaim that they are not a parent like their parents, with some explanation of some evil in their parents’ leadership. I would be very wary of making this proclamation. If your kids see that it’s okay for you to belittle the leadership of your parents it is teaching your kids that it’s okay for them to belittle your leadership.

Do the Scriptures have anything to say about grandparents teaching their grandkids? In fact, it does. Look at who it says we are to teach as believers.

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— (Deu 4:9 ESV)

This verse says that we’re supposed to take the things that we know about God and teach them to our kids, and to their kids, i.e., our grandchildren.

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. (Psa 71:17-18 ESV)

There it is again. Believers are charged to teach their kids and their grandkids.

One wrinkle here, however, is that in this day of thousands of denominations teaching differing doctrines, the parents may have attached to one denomination teaching a different doctrine set.  Of course, that is why “doctrine isn’t important” doctrine has come into play and people have developed the doctrine of sticking with the essentials or sticking with just the concepts of orthodoxy. Some of this is discussed in T 19.1 Modern Christian Traditions – The In Essentials Unity Doctrine. An article on the Orthodoxy movement is coming.

Anyway, the apostle’s tradition is that grandparent believers are charged to teach their grandchildren, especially about God.  But, what does the world say about this?  I found numerous articles on how to tell grandparents to butt out although I did find of couple articles that talked about how to interject your wisdom as grandparents.[4]

Now, before you start saying you think I’m saying that grandparents should run the whole show, let me say this. There is a family component to how church leadership is described in Scripture. The apostles taught that the church is set up and run like the human family. Paul talks about how he fathered people in the word, and more.

For though you have ten thousand tutors in Christ, you don’t have many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the Good News. (1Co 4:15 WEB)

Paul took this commitment seriously.

Behold, this is the third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I seek not your possessions, but you. For the children ought not to save up for the parents, but the parents for the children. (2Co 12:14 WEB)

The body of Christ is called a family.

from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, (Eph 3:15 WEB)

So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, (Eph 2:19 WEB)

More than this even, God is our father and Jesus is called our eldest brother in this family.

For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom 8:29 WEB)

As far as how leadership is implemented in the Scriptures it is important to acknowledge that in the general teaching and examples of leadership that there is the theme that the local leader handles most of the issues.  Just using that model alone suggests that the vast majority of things are always done at the immediate level. In other words, yes, parents raised their kids in scriptural times just as fellowship leaders handle the vast majority of things in their fellowship.

In the next verse, the apostle sees a problem in a fellowship but he doesn’t take over and try to fix everything.  The fellowship leader is exhorted to help resolve the issue just as the parents in the family are there to resolve the vast majority of issues.

I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to think the same way in the Lord. Yes, I beg you also, true partner, help these women, for they labored with me in the Good News, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.  (Php 4:2-3 WEB)

Under our scriptural model parents are the local leaders so they should be in charge of their kids even when the grandparents are present.

But telling the grandparents to just butt out altogether is unbiblical. One way to show respect to elders is to let them speak first.  Look at this example from the book of Job:

Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job, because they were elder than he. When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, his wrath was kindled. Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered, “I am young, and you are very old; Therefore I held back, and didn’t dare show you my opinion. (Job 32:4-6 WEB)

Elihu showed his respect for Job by waiting for Job to speak before he spoke. He didn’t just go spouting off all his opinions because he was old enough to be considered an adult. He recognized the principle of eldership and honored the elders in his life by showing respect in these ways.

I am a senior citizen and I remember not too long ago a young person said something like this to me, “I don’t have to listen to you, I’m eighteen years old now. I am an adult.  We’re equal.”  The conversation went something like this.  He was telling me what I considered some very entitled ideas about what society should provide for him like a job with an adequate income, free medical insurance, free higher education, and so forth.  It was very utopian and immature thinking about living in the society that he was born into.  It was certainly something he could work to build in society, but it wasn’t going to happen in the short term and he wasn’t interested in hearing my opinion and experience regarding these issues like being proactive, finding what is available, and doing the best he can.

In modern society, honestly, in western societies in at least modern times, the attitude of the young is that people should listen to the young, up-and-coming crowd. They’ve got the beat on what’s really important. In “Kids These Days Know Better Than Older Generations. Let Them Lead” we read

“Younger people consistently see human rights—racial, immigrant, gender, LGBT—as important and uncontroversial… Young people also endorse progressive ideals, such as strong climate change policies, a proactive government, and economic justice, as well as liberal candidates. The millennial revolution isn’t just talk. As I’ve detailed previously, young people are showing stunning declines in crime, gun violence, rape, incarceration, births before age 25, and school dropout.”[5]

This is quite a statement. “Kids these days know better than older generations. Let them lead.”  The philosophy includes the statements that to young people LGBT and other issues are uncontroversial, that young people embrace progressive ideals like liberal candidates taking the liberal stance on issues like climate change and economic justice.  This propaganda statement purports supportive statements about “stunning declines in crime, gun violence, rape, incarceration, births before age 25, and school dropout.”  Of course, the cause of all these favorable outcomes, according to this author, is the inborn wisdom of these liberal youth who are much better inclined to vote with this liberal agenda. The article is full of philosophical arguments describing how authoritarian models (old white people in power) are destroying America. It further states “Tens of millions of far-right Americans actively seek authoritarian dictates and to harm entire populations because of their color, nationality, and lifestyle.”

We also have the philosophical statement, “Younger people consistently see human rights—racial, immigrant, gender, LGBT—as important and uncontroversial”.  This is embracing the philosophy of the times, and it also shows the political pressure by the LGBT community to accept that lifestyle as normal.

See H2 Born Gay: Scientific Fact or False Idol of Bad Science? for insight on how the false claims of statements like “Born Gay” are used to motivate people and even force them, especially young people, to accept LBGT lifestyles as part of a person’s DNA rather than a choice, albeit, a rather complicated one. Rather than being determined by DNA, a significant element of the LGBT movement wants us to accept that LGBT desires and choices are normal.   They reject any dialogue that LGBT lifestyles are sinful, unholy, or abnormal. Still, the Christian churches that promote LGBT inclusion use the “born gay” mantra to argue that LGBT lifestyles are biologically determined and thus require re-interpreting scripture because this is an issue like the earth being round, a previous misinterpretation of scripture that is truly proven scientifically false.  That LGBT status is biologically determined has not been proven like the fact that the earth is round.

(Before you think the above is a diatribe solely against the liberal political agenda, conservative politics also make fallacious claims.  For example, conservatives since Ronald Reagan have pushed trickle-down economics which purports that making tax breaks and regulations favorable to the rich will result in a “trickle-down” effect thus making all people richer. It is a great theory but has a fatal flaw in that it is dependent on the rich doing certain things like investing the financial benefits gained to produce good-paying jobs so that it results in passing a proportionate share of those financial gains down to the people below them in the economic strata. This hasn’t always happened.  The result is that trickle-down economics has only caused the separation between the rich and poor to get wider.[10] The point is politics are based in large part on worldly philosophies that are not always based in truth.)

There is a push in the UN to eliminate age requirements for public office.[6]  Their stand is that if you can send someone to war they should be able to run for the senate, congress, or even the presidency.

There is a term you may have heard “youthful idealism”.  Some youth have ideas of how to improve things but the folly of youth is foolishness. Here I want to talk about a much very controversial verse of Scripture although it can and has been misapplied.

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Pro 22:15 Webster)

First, this verse is not advising parents to beat the foolishness out of their kids, although physical deterrence and punishment are advised in the scheme of scripture in certain cases. I want to focus on the word “correction”. Correction is one of the things that the word of God is designed to do. There is a cycle of learning in the scriptural model. We are told things, what to do, why to do them, and so forth. Sometimes we don’t do them, either forgetfully, or by deliberate choice. Then we are to be reproved, told we didn’t get it right. Then we are to be corrected, re-instructed on the right thing to do, the right reasons.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2Ti 3:16 Webster)

These verses, both in Proverbs and in second Timothy relate to our discussion. First is the teaching that foolishness is bound in the heart of the youth. Anybody who’s been a parent, or grandparent, or had anything to do with kids have seen too many examples of this to not know that it’s true. Kids do things just because they want to do them. Very young kids don’t know that fire burns, that electrical sockets shock, or that cars run over people. They also don’t know much else. From the time they’re born we try to teach them one thing after another, stay away from fire, don’t touch the electrical shock it’s, don’t play in the street, and on and on. The process of growing up is slowly growing in wisdom to the point of becoming an adult.

The limits of foolishness are not limited to infantile desires to touch an electrical outlet.  As we grow and see problems in society we also can start thinking we understand the cure and embrace various doctrines of the world but we do it without the experience and yes, wisdom and oversight, that age can bring.

That doesn’t mean that the elderly can’t be wrong, yes, there have been elders that embraced slavery, prohibition, and more ills.  In scriptural history, it was Jewish elders that developed the traditions that our Lord and Savior said made the word of God of no effect.

It appears the elders of the majority of Christian denominations think that the manifestations of the spirit ended with the apostles or while they believe they are possible think that they should not be taught and promoted.

Yes, some elders can be very wrong.

None of this changes the truth of the biblical standard. The battle over which wisdom is the best started with Adam and Eve and will continue as long as there is a devil in power in this world. Scripture teaches that wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.

Proverbs 22:15 says that correction is one of the tools that help us guide youth from their foolishness. That’s what the verse in Proverbs is saying, whether or not you agree with the concept of physical restraint or punishment. I personally have never seen a parent whose child was reaching for a flame or an electrical socket that didn’t physically grab their child and restrain them from doing that.

The scriptural model is about disciplined training, as the means to drive the foolishness out of not just youth, but all people. Christians are called to be disciples, disciplined ones.  We are all children of God the Father.

How all this relates to this article is just this. When we were born we were dumber than dirt. And even though we may be quick on the uptake we have got a heck of a lot of learning to do before we can take care of ourselves in this world, and even more before we can lead others. That process is called growing up, but it’s also called growing in wisdom. The Scriptures simply say that that process produces people that are valuable resources as they near the end of their lives and those people should be respected, honored, and listened to, as well as put in positions of authority and leadership.  The biblical model includes families where there are patriarchs who are the overseers of their families’ families underneath them.

That is the scriptural model. That isn’t to say that a young person can’t have a good idea. That’s exactly what is being set up in first Peter chapter 5 verse five. It does say that we are all to clothe ourselves with humility and be subject to one another. But the verse starts with the younger ones being subject to the elders. That is the general guideline. And that’s not the only place.

Don’t rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father; the younger men as brothers; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, in all purity. (1Ti 5:1-2 WEB)

Now, this verse isn’t saying that every person that is five years old has to listen to every person that is six years old who has to listen to every person who is seven years old, and so on and so on until you reach 120 years old. People in their early 20s maybe about the same maturity, people in their mid-30s are about the same maturity, and so on. But it is saying that if someone is significantly older than you then you need to defer and show them some respect. Specifically, the verse above says not to rebuke a senior man or woman. In fact, the verse depicts a generational scheme. The elder women are treated as mothers while women of the same age are treated as sisters according to Titus chapter five verse two.

Age is a consideration in the Bible just like it is in the world. Where I live you have to be 16 to drive a car, and 18 to vote in an election.  While in our culture people may be considered adults at age 18, we see a pattern in the Bible that certain positions had an age requirement of at least 30. For example, Old Testament priests officially entered service at age 30.

from thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all who enter into the service, to do the work in the Tent of Meeting. (Num 4:3 WEB)

Even more than that detail, we see that the Levites entered an apprenticeship starting at age 25, and then became officially priests at age 30. They served a 20-year term, after which they entered the tent of meeting.  We get back to the priests in a minute but first, while it may be coincidental, both Saul and David became king at age 30.

Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years. (1Sa 13:1 WEB)

David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. (2Sa 5:4 WEB)

Our King, the Lord Jesus Christ started his ministry at age 30.

Jesus himself, when he began to teach, was about thirty years old, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, (Luk 3:23 WEB)

But then, Jesus is called our high priest and is the man who fulfilled the Law, so he had to begin his service at 30.

Having then a great high priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let’s hold tightly to our confession. (Heb 4:14 WEB)

Now, let’s go back and look at the ages when the Levites did certain things.

After that, the Levites went in to do their service in the Tent of Meeting before Aaron, and before his sons: as Yahweh had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them. Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “This is that which belongs to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall go in to wait on the service in the work of the Tent of Meeting; and from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting on the work, and shall serve no more, but shall minister with their brothers in the Tent of Meeting, to perform the duty, and shall perform no service. You shall do thus to the Levites concerning their duties.”  (Num 8:22-26 WEB)

Woah, look at that, we saw that the Levites began their apprenticeship at 25, and started their priestly service at 30 which ended at 50. But then, it says, they “shall minister with their brothers in the tent of meeting to perform the duty”. So, they were retired from the priestly service, but they still ministered. They were elders. Here we have a concrete example of when someone became an elder. For the priests, it was 50 years old.

The priestly job was hard work. There was heavy furniture to be carried. It was too hard for people over 50. But Levites over 50 still ministered. What did they do? “By giving advice, instructing younger Levites, and doing lighter service”[7]

Not that it is authoritative in spiritual matters, but neuroscience actually gives some insight into how wisdom is accumulated in humans. What does neuroscience say?

“From a neurocognitive standpoint, wisdom is the ability to see patterns where others don’t see them, to extract generalized common points from prior experience and use those to make predictions about what is likely to happen next. Oldsters aren’t as fast, perhaps, at mental calculations and retrieving names, but they are much better at and faster at seeing the big picture. And that comes down to decades of generalization and abstraction.”[8]

Do you see that oldsters “are much better at and faster at seeing the big picture?”  A big part of wisdom is seeing the big picture.  The current discussion in society may have some trendy concepts, but how do they work in the big picture?  God’s big picture is over eternity, and as regarding us, his picture includes how all of us have been doing since Adam.

Here’s an example of letting seniors mentor.

“In Greensboro, N.C., for example, sociologist Peggye Dilworth-Anderson brought together at-risk African-American grade-school children with older members of the community in an after-school program designed to bolster self-esteem. Some volunteers were retired teachers, but others were illiterate, including one woman who sang Negro spirituals to the children. As part of their bonding with the children, the adults shared their life experiences – describing things like life before television and without indoor plumbing.

Ms. Dilworth-Anderson says she got an unexpected result from the program: an increase among the children of what she calls self-efficacy. “It’s the ability to strategize, to plan into the future, to think about tomorrow,” she says. “Those older people, without pencil or paper, increased our children’s understanding of self-efficacy.”[9]

In summary, I started this article with a scriptural reference that described evil nations as ones that didn’t respect their elders.  From there, we looked at Christian and secular sources that described the lack of respect for elders as part of our current culture.  We looked at examples in media such as the Progressive commercial and the Good Sam TV show as well as sources promoting the elevation of youth over seniors as leaders. Then we looked at scriptural directives to promote the respect of elders as a source of leadership, teaching, and wisdom.

I would like to end by reiterating some key scriptures and their concepts:

Wisdom is something that is accumulated with age.

Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days. (Job 12:12 ESV)

This is a general rule, that people get wiser as they age.  However, the scriptures allow for exceptions to this rule.  Look at this:

Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who doesn’t know how to receive admonition any more. (Ecc 4:13 WEB)

So age is not a guarantee of wisdom, just a guideline.

We are charged to respect our elders.

“‘You shall rise up before the gray head, and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God. I am Yahweh.  (Lev 19:32 WEB)

This verse says that standing up and respecting elders is part of respecting God.

1 Timothy talks about how we are to generally treat our elders differently.

Don’t rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father; the younger men as brothers; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, in all purity. (1Ti 5:1-2 WEB)

And one task that grandparents are charged to do is teach their grandkids the word of God.

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— (Deu 4:9 ESV)


[1] Does American Culture Prompt Us to Disregard or Respect the Elderly, https://licensetoparent.org/articles/respect-the-elderly/

[2] 7 Cultures That Celebrate Aging And Respect Their Elders Updated December 6, 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-other-cultures-can-teach_n_4834228

[3] Aging in America: Ageism and General Attitudes toward Growing Old and the Elderly, Open Journal of Social Sciences > Vol.5 No.8, August 2017

[4] ‘Butt out, Grandma!’ Keeping the peace when your mother knows best, https://www.parentmap.com/article/butt-out-grandma-keeping-the-peace-when-your-mother-knows-best; Grandparents and Parents Disagreeing? 11 Tips for Both of You, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/grandparents-and-parents-disagreeing-11-tips-for-both-of-you/;

[5] Kids These Days Know Better Than Older Generations. Let Them Lead, https://www.yesmagazine.org/democracy/2017/12/22/kids-these-days-know-better-than-older-generations-let-them-lead

[6] Launching Global Campaign Promoting Right of Young People To Run for Public Office, https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/2016/11/launching-global-campaign-promoting-rights-young-people-run-public-office/

[7] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/numbers-8-26.html

[8] Successful Aging, Daniel J Leviton, Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2020, P. 37 him

[9] US Culture Shift: Respect for Elders, https://www.csmonitor.com/1998/0708/070898.us.us.5.html

[10]Why Trickle-Down Economics Works in Theory But Not in Fact, https://www.thebalance.com/trickle-down-economics-theory-effect-does-it-work-3305572

last revised 4/7/22

A Review of Biblical Interpretation

I have written a number of articles that talk about different rules and principles important to Scriptural Interpretation and I am putting them together here.  This will highlight the major points that have been discussed in articles and you can go to the referenced article for more insight.

Those rules include:

  • sticking to what God reveals in his word, avoiding opinions, assumptions, speculations and private interpretation so that we rightly divide the scripture,
  • examining scripture in both the local and larger contexts,
  • using translations that accurately reflect the meaning of the text,
  • doing word studies where necessary to get to the precise meanings of the original words used,
  • comparing texts with texts and other writings to find and eliminate changes that have crept into the texts,
  • recognizing figures of speech where applicable,
  • differentiating between the verses addressed to us and those that are for our learning,
  • being aware that the apostles prophesied that there would be teachers rise up and teach twisted scriptures, misinterpreted scriptures to lead people astray, and more.
  • watching punctuation. There is no punctuation in the texts that we translate our Scriptures from. And as there is not a one-to-one correlation between languages the theology of the translators affects the translation to show the theology of the translator.
  • watching capitalization. The originals are in the same case.  English and other languages have rules for what is capitalized and this affects the meaning.

Let’s talk more about what all this means. First, in The Not Enough Information Rule – Sticking to What is Revealed we see that part of the word of God is that only some things about God and the spiritual world are revealed. Other things are secret.

The secret things belong to Yahweh our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deu 29:29 WEB)

And the things of God that are not revealed are unsearchable!

Great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised! His greatness is unsearchable. (Psa 145:3 WEB)

We can’t think like God. Unsearchable means that there is no place that we can look to find out what we want to know about the hidden things of God. God says we can’t figure him out, we don’t even think like him:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” says Yahweh. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9 WEB)

As I said in that article, “The trick is to stick to the text of the word of God, as original as can be found, not adding or subtracting from it. And sticking to what is revealed. Especially remember the downfall of inductive reasoning, that we will never in our current form have enough information to inductively conclude things on God’s plane.

So don’t be afraid to say that there isn’t enough information to know something.  It’s a basic rule in understanding the word of God.”  This also applies to philosophy.  Using words and terms not in scripture is not properly handling the word of God.  Using inductive logic to guesstimate things about God violates the Not Enough Information rule because humans are incapable of understanding God like all other things on the earth. Beyond what has been revealed in scripture we can’t understand his ways because he said his ways are unsearchable.  That’s either true or it’s not.  Scripture says it so I believe it. Beyond what scripture says we can’t understand his thinking because he revealed to us that his thoughts are not our thoughts, that they are beyond us.

Also in that article are comments on the importance of context.  Taking something out of context is a recognized principle in communications of any sort. In the article, I talk about the word all and how all has several meanings, all that there is and all that is available.  You have to look at the context to see which meaning it has.  And it’s not okay to speculate on what Jesus’ words meant, the example of the sower and the seed shows a time when a parable meaning is revealed in the context.

In T 1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 1, Rightly Dividing the Word of God we see some of those rules about rightly dividing the word of God and staying away from private interpretations, personal opinions, and impressions of what you and I might think the scriptures mean.  That includes going to the scriptures with preconceived ideas instead of looking at what the scriptures actually say and believing that.  Everyone seems to have an opinion, but I want to know what God meant, what his interpretation is.  And, as Daniel said:

 “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Gen 40:8b ESV)

Both the words of God and the interpretation of them belong to God.  I want to discuss a particularly strongly worded section of scripture:

I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers, like you. I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him. It shall happen, that whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” You may say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which Yahweh has not spoken?” When a prophet speaks in Yahweh’s name, if the thing doesn’t follow, nor happen, that is the thing which Yahweh has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You shall not be afraid of him. (Deu 18:18-22 WEB)

God is explaining how he works with prophets here. We are talking about people with the office of a prophet, the gift ministry. There are some examples of personal prophecy in the Old Testament but mainly in the New Testament where God through the Spirit gives words of edification and comfort for individual spirit-filled believers to deliver to the ones around them. That’s not the office of a prophet. The office of the prophet predicts famines, wars, and other calamities. The office of a prophet goes to Kings and gives them messages of what the enemy is doing and saying in their bedrooms. The office of the prophet is given visions and words to deliver to the body at large. That’s the kind of prophet we’re talking about here. “I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him.” Right here we have the prophecy model. God gives the prophet words to say and the prophet says them. Period. End of story. That’s how prophecy works. There are no committees. There are no councils of bishops. “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers…”  God selects an individual from the believers and “raises” them up. God works with an individual to be his spokesperson.  In the previous article, we talked about how we got the word of God through the prophets.

The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 was not a council to develop doctrine.  It was a council to resolve a simple issue, and the spirit was involved as it is written in verse 28, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit…”

What does God’s word say about how we are to treat the words of the prophet, the things revealed by the prophets?

“Whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” says if you don’t listen to God’s word given by the prophet, it’s on you. We are charged to follow the words of the prophet because they are God’s word.

“But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” This is the most strongly worded part of this section. This is part of the law. (In the New Testament believers are warned to avoid false prophets and false teachers with no mention of the death penalty as under the law.) There is some further explanation on how to tell whether somebody speaks presumptuously, and that is the last part of the section. “You may say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which Yahweh has not spoken?” When a prophet speaks in Yahweh’s name, if the thing doesn’t follow, nor happen, that is the thing which Yahweh has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You shall not be afraid of him.”

Let’s take a minute and talk about the word “presumptuously”. It comes from the Hebrew zood or zeed (H2102 in Strong’s) and it has to do with being proud, haughty or presuming.  This points to pride as a cause for someone to speak for God when God hasn’t given them that gift. Look at this:

… We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. But if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know. (1Co 8:1-2 WEB)

The above verse says that knowledge puffs up. The Greek word is phusio (G5448), which means to blow up, but figuratively means to make proud or haughty.  The above verse is a warning against becoming proud or haughty the more you know. “If anyone thinks he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know” means that no matter how much you know, don’t get proud because we really don’t know that much.

So, looking at that in context with prophets speaking presumptuously we can see that the temptation for the prophet who has been blessed with knowledge from God is to get proud and to speak more than what God has revealed. But the warning against knowledge puffing up doesn’t just apply to prophets. The warning in first Corinthians is to all of us not to get proud and think we know more than we really do. A Ph.D. from University does not imbue us with revelation knowledge about God. 30 years of pastoring or teaching people in the world gives us a lot of experience, but don’t get proud and presume you know more than you know.

Whether or not something comes to pass is the standard for evaluating a prophet.  Now all kinds of people think that things, certain things, are going to happen all the time and they don’t. A while back people were talking about how long the covid pandemic was going to last. Different people offered different opinions. When people asked me, I thought about it, even prayed about it, and was pretty certain that the government would come up with a plan to vaccinate people by a certain time which was the end of summer in 2021. So, I told people I thought that things would be getting back to normal around that time. However, I did not have any clue about the resistance against vaccination not only here in the United States but in different places around the world. I was shocked to see the extent of vaccination resistance that would prolong the length of this pandemic although I did have an inclination that normal might be different even after people started getting vaccinated. Long story short, we are way past the end of the summer 2021 and the pandemic is still affecting people’s lives. I was wrong, as were a lot of other people. But we weren’t claiming that we had gotten the word of the Lord on it. My thinking was to try to be as upbeat and optimistic as possible and help people look for a light at the end of the tunnel.

However, there were people who proclaimed that they knew from God when things would happen.  For example, “29 February 2020 T.B Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria prophesied that Covid-19 will vanish on 27 March 2020.”[1]  It did not.  There are articles on the damage that false prophets did not only in Africa but other places as well.[2]

The church of grace to which you and I belong is not charged to kill false prophets, but we are warned of them and advised to steer clear of them.

Nevertheless, we got the word of God, the scriptures, from prophets, and we are charged to heed what they say. Christian philosophy is the wisdom that we get from the word of God and we are charged to treat it just like we are charged to rightly divide without private interpretation of all of God’s word.

And as far as the situation with prophets and the sin of presumption goes, the same goes for teachers.  Knowledge can puff them up too.  And combine a teaching institution that combines scripture with the worldly methods and tenets of philosophy and you have a recipe for producing false teachers.

The problem with errors in some translated verses is discussed in Examples of Scribal Forgeries in the Bible, There are Numerous Variations in the Texts From Which We Get The Bible; Using an Interlinear Text To See Them, and Trinitarian Forgeries in the New Testament.
For example,

And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29 KJV)

“and fasting” is not in some texts.  And fasting appears to be added by zealous scribes emphasizing the fasting and asceticism movements that became popular in the centuries after Christ.

Or the Johannine Comma example. The words “ in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth” are added to 1 John 5:7-8. You can ignore these words. This is generally accepted.[3]

Or the woman caught in adultery, John 7:53 to 8:11, is missing from many texts.  As touching as it is, you can ignore it.

Filtering out changed and added verses is part of rightly dividing scripture.  Interlinear texts can help you see the variations in manuscripts.

In The Importance Of Each Word, More on Word Studies we again see the importance in rightly dividing scripture of studying the terms in the scriptures in the original language and then doing word studies of the underlying Hebrew and Greek words to determine whether the translation accurate represents the meaning of the author.

For example, in H3 Four kinds of love in the Bible, When Love is not Love we see that the word “love” can actually come from four different Greek words

The four words are:

  • Agape – unselfish, unconditional love
  • Phileo – friendship
  • Eros – sexual, romantic love
  • Storge – familial affection

This teaching talks about how God’s love is not sexual love which is not family affection which is not the friendship of good friends. The different Greek words really change the meaning of the text and the teaching derived from it.

Or, even prepositions, can have different meanings. For example, en in Greek means a number of things, often “in”, but also “for the sake of” and other meanings.  In “We are created in Christ” in Ephesians 2:10 “in” is the Greek preposition en. It shows we have our eternal purpose in Christ. So, the verse:

For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. (Col 1:16 WEB)

“By” is the Greek word en.  It doesn’t mean that Jesus is the agent of creation, which translating it as “by” implies.  “By” is a mistranslation. Neither does the section “through him and for him” make him the agent of the original creation any more than the verse that says we are created in him make us literally in his Christ’s person, yet we are created in Christ.

The context of this section of scripture actually describes the creation of the new Church in Christ that started on Pentecost.  Colossian 1:13 “who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love” describes just that.  Colossians 1:15-23 describes Jesus Christ in action as head of the Church setting things up.  Jesus is the firstborn, we are people born after him.  He is the most important, though, before anything else (v. 17). and he holds everything together in the body.  The context of this section is the workings of the body of Christ of which Jesus is the head. That’s what it says right here:

He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Col 1:18 WEB)

Now everything was created with Christ in mind.  Jesus Christ was the end game from the beginning.  But it’s easy to take things out of context and just read words like creation, heaven and earth, change “in” to “by” and say this verse is saying Jesus is God almighty, but that is twisting this scripture.

Nevertheless, this verse isn’t an easy translation.  The rule is that more difficult verses have to be translated in light of more clear verses.  As we will see below, all power and authority rest in God the Father alone. Verses like John 17:3 and 1 Cor 15:24-28 explain that below and translating  Colossians 1:16 as Jesus is God Almighty contradicts those verses and others. Jesus, as mighty as God the Father has made him is God’s agent who was elevated to his current level of power when he accomplished our salvation by dying on the cross for all of us.  That is when he was seated on the right hand of the Father. But the whole plan of creation centers around Jesus Christ, his only begotten son.

We need to watch prepositions when we look for the meanings of verses.  Prepositions can have different meanings depending on the context.

We especially don’t want to substitute synonyms for words in a translation based on their modern English meanings.  That goes for other languages as well because it is a well-known fact that languages are always changing and the meanings of words can change.  Did you know that leech originally meant doctor, and flux originally meant diarrhea?[4] Or that nice used to mean foolish or simple while hussy comes from the word housewife?[5] Its important to get to the meaning of the words and terms at the time they were written.

In John 1 – The meaning of the Logos; The Slippery Slope of Applying Mathematical Precision to Language Expressions we look at the importance of understanding figures of speech and not taking sections of text that use, for example in Proverbs 8 and  John 1, personification to be literal.  Both those sections of scripture speak of wisdom and the Logos as if they were persons when they are not, they are attributes of godliness and the spirit.  Figures of speech are used in scripture and in life to emphasize certain points but it is a huge mistake to take them literally.  For example, Napoleon was a giant in history.  This statement emphasizes that Napoleon had a huge impact on history, not that he was physically a giant.  In fact, Napoleon was a short man and there was not physically anything giant about him at all. While God’s wisdom and logos are huge parts of how God works, they are not actually equal to God. Still, we want God’s wisdom and logos in our lives because they are so dynamic.  That is why they are emphasized in scripture. There are numerous figures of speech besides personification.

Also, the same rules apply to rightly-dividing godly wisdom and philosophy as to rightly dividing God’s word because God’s wisdom comes from God’s word.

In All Scripture is for our Learning But All Scripture is not Addressed to Everyone: Administrations we see that we can learn from all scripture but only part of it is addressed to us. Adam and Eve only had one law, to not eat of one tree in the midst of the garden, but they did and the rules changed.  The patriarchs after Adam had a laxer set of rules in that administration.  The Law brought a rich but strict administration full of pageantry and ritual with numerous specific laws that were to be followed diligently.  It had an assortment of feasts and offerings but also the stiff penalty system of the eye for an eye and the death penalty for a number of offenses. Christ fulfilled the Law and brought us to the administration of the church of Grace.  The letters of the Apostles are written to the church of grace and we are charged to follow the traditions in those letters, the epistles.  As we are told not to follow the Law we don’t circumcise or follow the dietary laws etc.

We need to be wary of the possibility of scriptures being twisted in the different denominations and traditions. In T 1.3.2, The Apostles Prophesied That Misinterpreted Things Would Be Taught, While They Were There, After They Passed, And In Later Times we look at how the apostles prophesied that scripture would be twisted by people both in and outside the church and the importance of avoiding twisted scripture.  This is very prevalent these days as there are many, many disagreements on what the scriptures say. God hasn’t told some believers that the manifestations of the spirit ceased while he tells others that manifestations of the spirit are available to all during the church of grace administration.  It is twisting scripture to say the manifestations ceased. T 18.1 The Prohibition Tradition in Some Modern Churches and T 19.1 Modern Christian Traditions – The In Essentials Unity Doctrine show examples of traditions developed based on twisted meanings of scriptures as well other errors in rightly dividing scripture.

We need to be aware of how punctuation affects translation and meaning. In T 1.31 More on Paul’s Decision To Go To Jerusalem, How Tradition Can Affect Translation And Meaning, Accepting Deliverance When Available we see the example of Acts 24:14, which says,

When he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The Lord’s will be done.” (Act 21:14 WEB)

But there is no punctuation in Koine Greek, just letters all running together.  The translated words just are:

When he would not be persuaded we ceased saying the will of the Lord be done.

Rearranging the words as translated just to make read like it was written in Greek, Acts 21:14 reads “And since he was not being persuaded we stopped saying the will of the Lord be done.” In other words, the prophets and believers stopped telling Paul to do the will of the Lord.  So this is where it gets tricky.  Tradition evidently had grown to the point where the translators believed Paul followed the will of the Lord here so a straightforward translation of 21:14 doesn’t fit with that.   So, by adding commas, you can change the meaning of this verse.  Look at this verse:

“And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, the will of the Lord be done.”  That could mean that they reversed their position, or that they were saying that the will of the Lord is going to happen here even though Paul was warned.

This is an example where the punctuation completely changes whether “the will of the Lord be done” was said or not, and if it was what it meant.  It’s also an example that shows that the theology of the translators may override the true meaning of the text.

We need to be aware of changes in meaning by the use of capitalization. The original texts are in the same case.  English and other languages have rules for what is capitalized and it affects the meaning.  In T 1.10.1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Not Only Is Jesus Called God In Scripture, But So are Moses, Judges, Magistrates, The Adversary, And Devil Spirits, But All Are Subject to the Father we see how the theology of the translator determines the use of capitalization.  In English God refers to the Supreme Deity, God the Father, the Creator. Small “g”, god, can mean people like judges, magistrates, the Adversary, devil spirits, Lords, Kings including the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  The point of that article is to show that the term “god” in scripture applies to a number of entities so just because someone is called god doesn’t make them God the Father. As I wrote in the above mentioned post, it may be confusing to some when they read that Jesus is rightfully called god in some scriptures but not part of a Trinity, but only until it is understood that many beings subordinate to God including judges, prophets, idols, the adversary, and devil spirits are also called god.  But all are subject, subordinate to God the Father, even his son.

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ. (Joh 17:3 WEB)

Jesus himself delineates between God the Father who he declares is the only true God, and himself who he declares is the sent one, God’s agent, the Christ, the Messiah. God the Father is God over all.  Jesus Christ is his agent.

Jesus himself tells us that his power is totally dependent on the Father:

Jesus therefore answered them, “Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise. (Joh 5:19 WEB)

And in 1st Corinthians, we see that even though it reads that everything is subject to Christ, Christ is still subject to God the father.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1Co 15:24-28 ESV)

It is the verse above that sets the pecking order in the spiritual realm for men and gods.

Still, this area is an example that shows where the use of the capital G in God and other words referring to Jesus infers that Jesus is God over all when scriture says Jesus is and always will be subject to God the Father.  To properly understand the scriptures you have to watch out for capitalization errors.

We can reduce the thousands of denominations and myriad disagreements over what scripture says by sticking to these principles of rightly dividing the word of God.

[1] Science Direct, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590051X21000332

[2] Realistic Hope, Not False Hope: Prophecy and COVID-19, PAULINE WANJIRU NJIRU,
JUNE 8, 2020, https://jpcp.org/realistic-hope-not-false-hope-prophecy-and-covid-19/

[3] http://www.bible-researcher.com/comma.html is one site that points this out.

[4] Five words that have changed meaning over time, https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/znbct39

[5] 20 words that once meant something very different, https://ideas.ted.com/20-words-that-once-meant-something-very-different/

Revised 2/21/2022

Biblical references are from the ASV version unless otherwise noted.
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