Friday, November 30, 2007

Oral Tradition

The Rylands Papyrus is the earliest manuscript fragment found of John’s Gospel; dated to about 125The Oral Tradition, Oral Torah, or Oral Law (Hebrew: תורה שבעל פה, Torah she-be-`al peh), according to Rabbinic Judaism, is an oral tradition received in conjunction with the written Torah (and the rest of the Hebrew Bible), which is known in this context as the "Written Torah" (Hebrew: תורה שבכתב, Torah she-bi-khtav). The traditions of the Oral Torah are believed to be the same as those recorded in the Mishnah and Talmud during the 2nd-5th centuries CE.

According to classical Judaism and the tenets of Orthodox Judaism, Moses and the Jews at Mount Sinai received an Oral as well as a written Torah ("teaching") from God. The books of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) were relayed with an oral tradition passed on by the scholarly and other religious leaders of each generation, and according to classical Rabbinic interpretation, the teachings of the Oral Law are a guide to that interpretation of the Written Law which is considered the authoritative reading. Jewish law and tradition thus is not based on a strictly literal reading of the Tanakh, but on combined oral and written traditions. Further, the basis of halakha (Jewish law) includes the premise that the Written Law is inherently bound together with an Oral Law. The "Oral Law" was ultimately recorded in the Talmud and Midrash.

Early Christian church

There was also an oral tradition in the early Christian Church.
In that over 90% of the material in John’s Gospel is unique, not found in the other gospels, the question of sources and how John is using them becomes prominent. It is our contention that John’s Gospel was written at about the same time as Matthew and Luke, for the evangelist shows virtually no awareness of the material found in the other gospels (typically common oral traditions being an exception). But if John did not get his material from these other sources, where did he get it from and why do they not employ it in their gospels? In particular, how is it possible that Luke, who spent two years in Palestine doing research for his Gospel, did not gain access to John’s pre-publication draft? It seems either that John’s circle was quite small—hence, the oral traditions generating from him made little impact on the mainstream of the gospel compilers; or else John drastically altered the shape of the material, packaging it for the hellenized audience of Asia Minor. We believe that the truth involves both of these possibilities. Our argument will accordingly be shaped by this consideration.
-Daniel B. Wallace

"The very basis of Irenaeus' five volume Against Heresies is that the leaders of the Church knew but one oral tradition, and that oral tradition had been delivered to them by the Apostles. He vehemently argued that anyone who disagreed with the oral tradition of the Chruch was, by definition, a heretic.".
-Larry D. Harper


Thursday, November 29, 2007


St. Irenaeus (c. 130–202), an early Christian Premillennialist.Irenaeus (Greek: Ειρηναίος), (b. 2nd century; d. end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century). His writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology, and he is recognized as a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church; the latter considers him a Father of the Church. He was a disciple of Polycarp, who himself was a disciple of John the Apostle.


Born in the first half of the second century (the exact date is disputed, between the years 115 and 125 according to some or 130 and 142 according to others), Irenaeus is thought to have been a Greek from Polycarp's hometown of Smyrna in Asia Minor, now Izmir, Turkey. He was raised in a Christian family, rather than converting as an adult, and this may help explain his rigid adherence to orthodoxy.

According to Larry D. Harper, Irenaeus believed he had "...received an accurate explanation of the Apostles' understanding of the message of Scripture which had been handed down by the Apostle John by Polycarp."

But Polucarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed biship of the church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the church has handed down, and which alone are true. (Irenaeus: Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 4)


Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Fourteenth century image of a school. Scholasticism comes from the Latin word scholasticus (Greek: σχολαστικός), which means "that [which] belongs to the school", and was a method of learning taught by the academics (or schoolmen) of medieval universities circa 1100–1500. Scholasticism originally began to reconcile the philosophy of the ancient classical philosophers with medieval Christian theology. It is not a philosophy or theology in itself, but a tool and method for learning which puts emphasis on dialectical reasoning. The primary purpose of scholasticism was to find the answer to a question or resolve a contradiction. It is most well known in its application in medieval theology, but was eventually applied to classical philosophy and many other fields of study.

Scholastic method

The scholastics would choose a book by a renowned scholar, called auctor (author), as a subject of investigation, for example the Bible. By reading the book thoroughly and critically, the disciples learned to appreciate the theories of the auctor. Then other documents related to the source document would be referenced, such as Church councils, papal letters, anything written on the subject, be it ancient text or contemporary. The points of disagreement and contention between these multiple sources would be written down. These individual sentences or snippets of text are called sententiae. For example, the Bible contains apparent contradictions for Christians, such as the laws regarding what foods are kosher, and these contradictions have been examined by scholars ancient and contemporary, so a scholastic would gather all the arguments about the contradictions, looking at it from all sides with an open mind.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Paul Tillich

Albert Einstein (left, standing behind girl) and Paul Tillich (right, standing in front wearing glasses) at a conference in Davos, Switzerland on March 18, 1928. (Courtesy of Image Archive ETH-Bibliothek, Zurich)Paul Johannes Tillich (August 20, 1886 – October 22, 1965) was a German-American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher. Tillich was, along with contemporary Karl Barth, one of the most influential Protestant theologians of the twentieth century.


Paul Tillich was born on August 20, 1886, in the province of Brandenburg in eastern Germany in the small village of Starzeddel. Tillich's Prussian father was a Lutheran pastor and his mother was from the Rhineland and more liberal, influenced heavily by Calvinist thinking. At an early age Tillich held an appreciation for nature and the countryside into which he had been born.

When Tillich was 17 his mother died of cancer. Tillich studied at a number of German universities including Berlin, Tübingen (sister city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA), and Halle, and joined the Christian fraternity Wingolf, finally obtaining his Ph.D. at Breslau in 1911. Shortly thereafter, in 1912, he was ordained minister in the Lutheran Church, and soon took up a career as professor. Except for an interlude as chaplain in the German army during World War I, he taught at a number of universities throughout Germany over the next two decades. Tillich taught theology at the universities of Berlin, Marburg, Dresden, and Leipzig, and philosophy at Frankfurt. However, his opposition to the Nazis cost him his job: he was fired in 1933 and replaced by philosopher Arnold Gehlen, who had joined the Nazi Party that year. Finding himself thus barred from German universities, Tillich accepted an invitation from Reinhold Niebuhr to teach at the Union Theological Seminary in the United States, where he emigrated later that year. Tillich became a US citizen in 1940.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Christian mysticism

PhiloChristian mysticism is traditionally practised through the disciplines of:
  • prayer (including oratio, meditation and contemplation);
  • self-denial, including fasting, broadly called asceticism; and
  • service to others, again broadly called almsgiving.
Christian mystics interpret sacred texts and the life, sermons and parables of Jesus metaphorically: e.g. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) in its totality contains the way for direct union.

Whereas Christian doctrine generally maintains that God dwells in all Christians and that they can experience God directly through belief in Jesus, Christian mysticism aspires to apprehend spiritual truths inaccessible through intellectual means, typically by emulation of Christ. William Inge divides this scala perfectionis into three stages:

  1. the "purgative" or ascetic stage,
  2. the "illuminative" or contemplative stage, and
  3. the "unitive" stage, in which God may be beheld "face to face."

In his book "A History of Christian Thought From Its Judaic and Hellenistic Origins to Existentialism", Paul Tillich says this about Christian mysticism:

Mysticism is something that we find in Philo of Alexandria, for example. He developed a doctrine of ecstasy, (Greek: ek-statis) which means "standing outside oneself". This is the highest form of piety which lies beyond faith. This mysticism unites prophetic ecstacy with "enthusiasm", a word which comes from the Gree word en-theosmania, meaning "to possess the devine". From this there comes finally the fully developed mystical system of the Neo-Platonists, for example, of Dionysius the Areopagite. In this mystical system the ecstasy of the individual person leads to a union with the One, with the Absolute, with God.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

American Scientific Affiliation

The American Scientific Affiliation logoThe American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) is a fellowship of men and women in science and related disciplines, who share a common fidelity to the Bible and a commitment to integrity in the practice of science. Founded in 1941, the organization currently has a worldwide membership of around 1,500. ASA's stated purpose is to investigate any area relating to Christian faith and science and to make known the results of such investigations for comment and critique by the Christian community and the scholarly community at large.

The ASA logo represents the convergence of two perspectives and commitments. The horizontal arrow represents knowledge obtained through empirical exploration of nature. The vertical arrow represents God’s revelation to us of the spiritual dimension. The juxtaposition of these two arrows creates a third diagonal arrow representing the integration of science and Christian faith.

Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (PSCF) and the ASA Web Site are two means through which the results are disseminated. The Faith-Science Blog and ASA Listserv provide further information and opportunities for discussion.

Annual Meetings are held each summer in the US and occasionally with the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation (CSCA) and Christians in Science (CIS) in the UK. Local ASA Sections hold meetings on themes related to the purposes of the organization.


Friday, November 23, 2007


Schematic diagram of the ‘irreducibly complex’ human eyeTheism is the belief in one or more deities. More specifically it may also mean the belief that God/god(s) is immanent in the world, yet transcends it.

Scientific evidence in support of Theism

  1. the new cosmology
    • the Big Bang theory
    • "creatio ex nihilo"
  2. anthropic fine-tuning
    • "A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature" -Fred Hoyle, "the Universe, Past and Present Reflections," Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics 20 (1982)
  3. the origin of life and the origin of information necessary to bring life into existance
    • the information for life is stored in DNA and protein molecules
  4. irreducibly complex systems
    • X is too (complex, orderly, adaptive, apparently purposeful, and/or beautiful) to have occurred randomly or accidentally.
    • Therefore, X must have been created by a (sentient, intelligent, wise, and/or purposeful) being. God is that (sentient, intelligent, wise, and/or purposeful) being.
    • Therefore, God exists.
  5. the Cambrian explosion
    • twenty to thirty-five completely novel body plans come online in the Cambrian period.
  6. human consciousness
    • Humans have the capacity for:
      1. self-reflection
      2. representational art
      3. language
      4. creativity


Thursday, November 22, 2007


The First Thanksgiving, painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930)In the United States, Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day is an annual one-day holiday to give thanks for the things one has at the end of the harvest season. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November; the period from Thanksgiving Day to New Year's Day is often collectively referred to as the "holiday season", and the holiday itself is often nicknamed Turkey Day.



The city of El Paso, Texas claims the first thanksgiving was held in what is now known as the United States, but it was not a harvest celebration. Spaniard Don Juan de Oñate ordered his expedition party to rest and conducted a mass celebration of thanksgiving on April 30, 1598.

1619 Thanksgiving, The Virginia Colony

1619 Thanksgiving at Berkeley Hundred in Virginia.On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred, comprised of about eight thousand acres (32 km²) on the north bank of the James River near Herring Creek in an area then known as Charles Cittie (sic) about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown, where the first permanent settlement of the Colony of Virginia was established on May 14, 1607.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007


The White Tower of Thessaloniki;  the city’s landmark.Thessalonica or Thessaloniki (Greek: Θεσσαλονίκη), is Greece's second-largest city and the capital of the Greek region of Macedonia.

Thessalonica had a Jewish colony, established during the first century, and was an early centre of Christianity. On his second missionary journey, Paul of Tarsus preached in the city's synagogue, the chief synagogue of the Jews in that part of Thessaloniki, and laid the foundations of a church. Opposition against him from the Jews drove him from the city, and he fled to Veroia. Paul wrote two of his epistles to the Christian community at Thessalonica, the First Epistle to the Thessalonians and the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.

Thessaloniki is commonly called the 'Συμπρωτεύουσα' 'Symprotevousa' (lit. co-capital) of Greece since the National Schism, due to both its long history and its strategic geographic and economic importance. According to official data, the Thessaloniki Urban Area curves round the Thermaic Gulf for approximately 17 km; it comprises 13 municipalities and according to the 2001 census it has a population of 809,457. The Thessaloniki prefecture has a population of 1,099,598 (2005). The alternate name Salonica, formerly the common name used in some western European languages, is derived from a variant form Σαλονίκη (Saloníki) in popular Greek speech. The city's name is also rendered Thessalloníki or Salloníki (with a dark l typical of the Macedonian dialect of Greek) in the Macedonian dialect, سلانيك Selânik in Ottoman Turkish, Солун (Solun) in the Slavic languages of the region, Sãrunã in Aromanian, and Selanik in Ladino.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007


St. Andrew by Camillo Rusconi. Nave of the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Rome).Saint Andrew (Greek: Ανδρέας Andreas, "manly"), called in the Orthodox tradition Protocletos, or the First-called, is a Christian Apostle, brother of Simon Peter.


According to Christian tradition, Andrew was born at Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee (John 1:44). Since he was a Jew, Andreas was almost certainly not his given name, but no Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him (see also: Aramaic of Jesus). He had been a disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:37-40) and was one of the first to follow Jesus. He lived at Capernaum (Mark 1:29). In the gospels he is referred to as being present on some important occasions as one of the disciples more closely attached to Jesus (Mark 13:3; John 6:8, 12:22); in Acts there is only a bare mention of him (Acts 1:13).

The Kievan hill where St Andrew is said to have erected the cross is commemorated by the cathedral dedicated in his name. Eusebius quotes Origen as saying Andrew preached in Asia Minor and in Scythia, along the Black Sea as far as the Volga. Hence he became a patron saint of Romania and Russia. Traditionally, he became the first bishop of Byzantium in 38, a position which would later become Patriarch of Constantinople.

He is said to have suffered crucifixion at Patras (Patrae) in Achaea, on a cross of the form called Crux decussata (X-shaped cross) and commonly known as "St. Andrew's cross." or saltire. St Andrew is the patron of Patras. According to tradition his relics were removed from Patras to Constantinople, and thence to St Andrews (see below). Local legends say that the relics were sold to the Romans by the local priests in exchange of the Romans constructing a water reservoir for the city. In recent years, the relics were kept in the Vatican City, but were sent back to Patras by decision of the Pope Paul VI in 1964. The relics, which consist of the small finger and part of the top of the cranium of St Andrew, are since kept in the Church of St Andrew at Patras in a special tomb, and are reverenced in a special ceremony every November 30.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Council of Trent

Paolo Farinatis: meeting of the council of Trient, 1563The Council of Trent is reckoned by the Roman Catholic Church to be the Nineteenth Ecumenical Council of the universal church. It was held from December 13, 1545, to December 4, 1563 in the Italian city of Trent. Although called an Ecumenical Council, only Roman Catholics attended. Indeed it was called as a riposte to the growth of Protestantism.

It is considered one of the most important councils in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, establishing church doctrine in response to the Reformation and condemning Protestantism. It clearly specified Catholic doctrines on salvation, the sacraments and the Biblical canon, and standardized the Mass throughout the church, largely abolishing local variations. This became called the "Tridentine Mass", from the city's Latin name Tridentum.

Occasion, sessions, and attendance

In reply to the Papal bull Exsurge Domine of Pope Leo X (1520), Martin Luther had burned the document and appealed to a general council. In 1522, German diets joined in the appeal, and Charles V seconded and pressed it as a means of reunifying the Church and settling the controversy started by the Reformation. Pope Clement VII (1523-1534) was vehemently against the idea of a council, agreeing with Francis I of France. After the deliverances of Pope Pius II in his bull Execrabilis (1460) and his reply to the University of Cologne (1463), setting aside the theory of the supremacy of general councils laid down by the Council of Constance, it was the papal policy to avoid councils.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ravi Zacharias

Ravi ZachariasRavi Zacharias (full name Frederick Antony Ravi Kumar Zacharias, born 1946) is an Indian-born, Canadian-American evangelical Christian philosopher, apologist and evangelist. Zacharias is a descendant of two rich religious traditions, first Hindu priests (of the Nambudiri Brahmin caste), and later as Christian ministers. In one of his lectures, Zacharias asserts that a Swiss-German priest spoke to one of his ancestors about Christianity, and thereafter that branch of the family was converted and the family name was changed from Nambudiri to Zacharias. The biography Zacharias offers about himself is that he grew up in a nominally Anglican household, and was an atheist until the age of 17, when he unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide by swallowing poison. According to one of his books (Cries of the Heart), someone instructed his mother to read out the Gospel of John to him as he lay on a hospital bed in Delhi. Following that, he made the decision to become a Christian. He began preaching while still in his teens, and in 1974, shortly before the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, he was sent there to minister to the people in the country. He was also sent to Vietnam during the Vietnam War to minister to U.S. soldiers.


Zacharias was born near Madras, India and grew up in Delhi. In 1966, he and his family emigrated to Toronto; he is currently based outside Atlanta, Georgia. He holds dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship.

He briefly attended the University of Delhi as a pre-med student before transferring to the Institute of Hotel Management in Delhi. After moving to Canada, he worked in the hotel management business before enrolling in the Ontario Bible College in Toronto. Following that, he completed his Master of Divinity degree at the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago. He was a visiting scholar at Cambridge University when he wrote his first book, A Shattered Visage: the Real Face of Atheism. Zacharias received honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from Houghton College, NY, and from Tyndale University College and Seminary (the renamed Ontario Bible College). He also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Asbury College in Kentucky. He is presently a Visiting Professor at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University in Oxford, England (see also: The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.


Friday, November 16, 2007


“Destruction of Leviathan” 1865 engraving by Gustave Doré.Leviathan (Hebrew: לִוְיָתָן, "Twisted; coiled") was a Biblical sea monster referred to in the Old Testament (Psalm 74:13-14; Job 41; Isaiah 27:1). The word leviathan has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature. In the novel Moby-Dick it refers to great whales, and in Modern Hebrew, it means simply "whale".


The word "Leviathan" appears five places in the Bible, and the Book of Job 41 is dedicated in describing Leviathan in detail.:

  • Book of Job 3:8 "May those who curse days curse that day, those who are ready to rouse Leviathan "; NIV
  • Book of Job 41:1-34: "Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?...He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride." KJV (quoted 1 and 34 only)
  • Psalms 74:14: "Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness." KJV
  • Psalms 104:24,25: "O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts." KJV;
  • Isaiah 27:1: "In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea." KJV


Thursday, November 15, 2007

ontological argument

Canterbury Cathedral is the Cathedral of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate of All England and religious leader of the Church of England. Anselm of Canterbury first proposed the ontological argument in his Proslogion.An ontological argument for the existence of God is one that attempts the method of a priori proof, which utilizes intuition and reason alone. In the context of the Abrahamic religions, it was first proposed by the medieval philosopher Anselm of Canterbury in his Proslogion, and important variations have been developed by philosophers such as:
  • René Descartes,
  • Gottfried Leibniz,
  • Norman Malcolm,
  • Charles Hartshorne,
  • Alvin Plantinga, and
  • Kurt Gödel.
A modal logic version of the argument was devised by mathematician Kurt Gödel. The ontological argument has been a controversial topic in philosophy. Many philosophers, including David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Gottlob Frege, and Gaunilo of Marmoutiers, have openly criticized the argument.

The argument works by examining the concept of God, and arguing that it implies the actual existence of God; that is, if we can conceive of God, then God exists — it is thus self-contradictory to state that God does not exist.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Anselmian satisfaction theory

Anselmian satisfaction theory or the satisfaction view of the atonement is a doctrine in Christian theology related to the meaning and effect of the death of Jesus Christ and has been traditionally taught in Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed circles. Theologically and historically, the word "satisfaction" does not mean gratification as in common usage, but rather "to make restitution": mending what has been broken, paying back what was taken. It is thus connected with the legal concept of balancing out an injustice. Drawing primarily from the works of Anselm of Canterbury, the satisfaction theory teaches that Christ suffered as a substitute on behalf of humankind satisfying the demands of God's honor by his infinite merit. Anselm regarded his satisfaction view of the atonement as a distinct improvement over the older ransom theory of the atonement, which he saw as inadequate. Anselm's theory was a precursor to the refinements of Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin which introduced the idea of punishment to meet the demands of divine justice.

Development of the doctrine

The classic Anselmian formulation of the satisfaction view should be distinguished from penal substitution. Both are forms of satisfaction doctrine in that they speak of how Christ's death was satisfactory, but penal substitution and Anselmian satisfaction both offer different understandings of how Christ's death was satisfactory. Anselm speaks of human sin as defrauding God of the honour he is due. Christ's death, the ultimate act of obedience, brings God great honour. As it was beyond the call of duty for Christ, it is more honour than he was obliged to give. Christ's surplus can therefore repay our deficit. Hence Christ's death is substitutionary; he pays the honour instead of us. Penal substitution differs in that it sees Christ's death not as repaying God for lost honour but rather paying the penalty of death that had always been the moral consequence for sin (e.g., Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23). The key difference here is that for Anselm, satisfaction is an alternative to punishment, "The honor taken away must be repaid, or punishment must follow." By Christ satisfying our debt of honor to God, we avoid punishment. In Calvinist Penal Substitution, it is the punishment which satisfies the demands of justice.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

John Duns Scotus

John Duns ScotusJohn Duns Scotus (c. 1266 – November 8, 1308) was a theologian, philosopher, and logician. Some argue that during his tenure at Oxford, the systematic examination of what differentiates Christian theology from philosophy and science began in earnest. He was one of the most influential theologians and philosophers of the High Middle Ages, nicknamed "Doctor Subtilis" for his penetrating manner of thought.


The place of his birth is uncertain. Some scholars claim that he was born in Duns, Borders, Scotland, whilst others claim Ireland. Ordained a priest, in 1291, in Northampton, England, he studied and taught at Paris (1293-1297) and Oxford, and probably at Cambridge as well. He was, however, expelled from the University of Paris for siding with Pope Boniface VIII against Philip the Fair of France. Finally, he came to Cologne, Germany, in 1307.

Duns Scotus is considered one of the most important Franciscan theologians and was the founder of Scotism, a special form of Scholasticism. He came out of the Old Franciscan School, to which Haymo of Faversham (d. 1244), Alexander of Hales (d. 1245), John of Rupella (d. 1245), William of Melitora (d. 1260), St. Bonaventure (d. 1274), Cardinal Matthew of Aquasparta (d. 1289), John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1292), Richard of Middletown (d. about 1300), etc., belonged. He was known as "Doctor Subtilis" because of his subtle merging of differing views. Later philosophers were not so complimentary about his work, as shown, for instance, by the modern word "dunce", which developed from the name "Dunse" given to his followers in the 1500s.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Epistle to the Hebrews

The Epistle to the Hebrews (abbr. Heb for citations) is a very consciously "literary" document in the New Testament. The purity of its Greek was noted by Clement of Alexandria, according to Eusebius of Caesarea (Historia Eccl., VI, xiv), and Origen asserted that every competent judge must recognize a great difference between this epistle and Paul's (Eusebius, VI, xxv).
The letter has carried its traditional title since Tertullian described it as Barnabae titulus ad Hebraeos in De Pudicitia chapter 20 ("Barnabas's Letter to the Hebrews".)

This letter consists of two strands:

  1. an expositional or doctrinal strand:

    (Hebrews 1:1–14; 2:5–18; 5:1–14; 6:13–9:28; 13:18–25),

  2. an hortatory or ethical strand which punctuates the exposition parenthetically at key points as warnings to the readers:

    (Hebrews 2:1–4; 3:1–4:16; 6:1–12; 10:1–13:17)

Hebrews does not fit the form of a traditional Hellenistic epistle, lacking a proper closing and prescript. Modern scholars generally believe this book was originally a sermon or homily, although possibly modified after it was delivered to include the travel plans, greetings and closing (13:20-25).


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Aleppo Codex

A page from the Aleppo Codex, Deuteronomy.The Aleppo Codex (Hebrew: כֶּתֶר אֲרָם צוֹבָא) was the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible according to the Tiberian masorah, produced and edited by the influential masorete Aaron ben Asher. However, approximately one-third of it, including nearly all of the Torah, has been missing since 1947. It is also considered the most authoritative document in the masorah ("transmission"), the tradition by which the Hebrew Scriptures have been preserved from generation to generation. Thus the Aleppo Codex is seen as the most authoritative source document for both the biblical text and its vocalization, cantillation as it has been proven to have been the most faithful to the Masoretic principles.

The Aleppo Codex has a long history of consultation by rabbinic authorities (it is cited in numerous responsa). Modern studies have shown it to be the most accurate representation of Masoretic principles to be found in any extant manuscript, containing very few errors among the millions of orthographic details that make up the Masoretic text.


The consonants in the Codex were copied by the scribe Shlomo ben Buya'a in Israel circa 920. The text was then verified, vocalized, and provided with Masoretic notes by Aaron ben Asher. Ben-Asher was the last and most prominent member of the Ben-Asher dynasty of grammarians from Tiberias, which shaped the most accurate version of the Masorah and, therefore, the Hebrew Bible.


Friday, November 09, 2007


Ephraim by Francesco Hayez 1842-1844Ephraim (Hebrew: אֶפְרַיִם/אֶפְרָיִם) – "double fruitfulness" ("for God had made him fruitful in the land of his affliction").


The second son of Joseph, born in Egypt (Gen. 41:52; 46:20). The first incident recorded regarding him is his being placed, along with his brother Manasseh, before their grandfather, Jacob, so that Jacob might bless them (Gen. 48:10; compare Gen 27:1). The intention of Joseph was that the right hand of the aged patriarch should be placed on the head of the elder of the two; but Jacob set Ephraim the younger before his brother, "guiding his hands wittingly." Before Joseph's death, Ephraim's family had reached the third generation (Gen. 50:23).

In the Biblical account, Joseph's other son is Manasseh, and Joseph himself is one of the two children of Rachel and Jacob, the other being Benjamin. Biblical scholars regard it as obvious, from their geographic overlap and their treatment in older passages, that originally Ephraim and Manasseh were considered one tribe - that of Joseph ; according to several biblical scholars, Benjamin was also originally part of this single tribe, but the biblical account of Joseph as his father became lost.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Christians United for Israel

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. -Isaiah 62:1Christians United for Israel is an American organization which provides a national association through which every pro-Israel church, parachurch organization, ministry, or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel.

In February 2006 Pastor John Hagee decided the time had come to create a national grassroots movement focused on the support of Israel. He called upon Christian leaders from across America to join him in launching this new initiative. Over 400 leaders, each representing a denomination, mega-church, media ministry, publishing company, or Christian university answered the call and Christians United for Israel was born.

Legally incorporated on February 7, 2006, CUFI is focused on communicating the need to defend Israel, in light of their interpretation of the Bible.

CUFI and its July 2006 Summit was instrumental in the founding of Israel Allies Caucus in the United States Congress.

The first college chapter of Christians United for Israel has been established at California State University, Bakersfield. More "CUFI on Campus" chapters on college campuses are hoped to develop.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Ex 6.4 displaying Jehovah in 1671 KJVJehovah is an English transcription of יְהֹוָה, which is a specific vocalized spelling of יהוה (i.e. the Tetragrammaton, ) that is found in the Masoretic Text.

יְהֹוָה has the consonants of the Tetragrammaton, and יְהֹוָה 's vowel points are similar to, but not precisely the same as the vowel points found in Adonai. Since the beginning of the 17th century, [or possibly even earlier], scholars have questioned whether the vowel points found in יְהֹוָה are the actual vowel points of God's name. Some scholarly sources teach that יְהֹוָה has the vowel points of אֲדֹנָי [i.e. Adonai], but to be redundant, the vowel points of these two words are not precisely the same, and scholars are not in total agreement as to why יְהֹוָה does not have the precise same vowel points as Adonai has.

The first English translators of יְהֹוָה, believed they had the correct vowel points, and translated it as it was written:

  • "Iehouah" in 1530 A.D. English.
  • "Iehovah" in 1611 A.D. English.
  • "Jehovah" in 1671 A.D. English.
  • "Yehowah" used by some using another transcription of the consonants of the Tetragrammaton


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pauline Epistles

Portrait of St. Paul by RembrandtThe Pauline Epistles are as follows:
  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

The Epistle to the Romans

The Epistle to the Romans is one of the letters of the New Testament canon of the Christian Bible. When it is clear that the Bible is being discussed, it is often referred to as simply "Romans". Romans is one of the seven currently (as of 2004) undisputed letters of Paul and even among the four letters accepted as authentically his (in German scholarship, the Hauptbriefe) by F. C. Baur and the Tübingen School of historical criticism of texts in the 19th century.


It was probably written at Corinth or possibly in nearby Cenchrea, transcribed by Tertius. Phoebe (Romans 16:1) of Cenchrea, the Aegean port of Corinth, conveyed it to Rome, and Gaius of Corinth entertained the apostle Paul at the time of his writing it (Romans 16:23; 1 Cor 1:14), and Erastus was chamberlain of the city, that is, of Corinth (2 Tim 4:20).

The precise time at which it was written is not mentioned in the epistle, but it was obviously written when the collection for Jerusalem had been assembled and Paul was about to "go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints", that is, at the close of his second visit to Greece, during the winter preceding his last visit to that city (Rom. 15:25; cf. Acts 19:21; 20:2, 3, 16; 1 Cor 16:1–4) early in 58.


Monday, November 05, 2007


Heaven is an afterlife concept found in many religions or spiritual philosophies.

Those who believe in heaven, especially those of the Judeo-Christian faith, generally hold that it (or Hell) is one of the two possible afterlife destinations of many or all humans. In unusual instances, humans have had, according to many testimonies and traditions, personal knowledge of Heaven. They presume this is for the purpose of teaching the rest of humanity about life, Heaven, and God.


While there are abundant and varied sources for conceptions of Heaven, the typical believer's view appears to depend largely on his particular religious tradition. Various religions have described Heaven as being populated by angels, demons, gods and goddesses, and/or heroes (especially in Greek mythology). Heaven is generally thought of as a place of eternal happiness.

In Western religions, the belief in heaven appears to have supplanted the earlier concept of Sheol (mentioned in Isaiah 38:18, Psalms 6:5 and Job 7:7-10). Jewish converts to this concept of heaven and hell included the group known as the Pharisees. The larger, dogmatically conservative Sadducees maintained their belief in Sheol. While it was the Sadducees that represented the Jewish religious majority it was the Pharisees who best weathered Roman occupation, and their belief in Zoroaster's heaven and hell was passed on to both Christianity and Islam (in which heaven is referred to as Jannah).


Saturday, November 03, 2007


PelagiusPelagius (ca. 354 - ca. 420/440) was an ascetic monk and reformer who denied the doctrine of Original Sin from Adam and was declared a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church. His interpretation of a doctrine of free will became known as Pelagianism. He was well educated, fluent in both Greek and Latin, and learned in theology. He spent time as an ascetic, focusing on practical asceticism, which his teachings clearly reflect. He was not, however, a cleric. He was certainly well known in Rome, both for the harsh asceticism of his public life as well as the power and persuasiveness of his speech. His reputation in Rome earned him praise early in his career even from such pillars of the Church as Augustine of Hippo, who referred to him as a "saintly man." However, he was later accused of lying about his own teachings in order to avoid public condemnation. Most of his later life was spent defending himself against other theologians and the Catholic Church.


Pelagius was born about 354. It is commonly agreed that he was born in the British Isles, but beyond that, his birthplace is not known. He was referred to as a "monk" by his contemporaries, though there is no evidence that he was associated with any monastic order (the idea of monastic communities was still quite new during his lifetime; solitary asceticism was more typical) or that he was ordained to the priesthood. He became better known c. 380 when he moved to Rome to write and teach about his ascetic practices. There, he wrote a number of his major works — "De fide Trinitatis libri III," "Eclogarum ex divinis Scripturis liber primus," and "Commentarii in epistolas S. Pauli," a commentary of Paul's epistles. Unfortunately, most of his work only survives in the quotations of his opponents.


Friday, November 02, 2007


Fallen angels in Hell, John Martin c. 1841Gehenna (or Gehenom or Gehinom), in Jewish eschatology, is a fiery place where the wicked are punished after they die or on Judgment Day. Gehenna also appears in the New Testament and early Christian writing, and appears in Islam as Jahannam.

The word traces to Greek, ultimately from Hebrew: גי(א)-הינום‎ Gêhinnôm (also Guy ben-Hinnom (Hebrew: גיא בן הינום‎) meaning the Valley of Hinnom's son. The valley forms the southern border of ancient Jerusalem and stretches from the foot of Mt. Zion, eastward, to the Kidron Valley. It is first mentioned in Joshua 15:8. Originally it referred to a garbage dump in a deep narrow valley right outside the walls of Jerusalem (in modern-day Israel) where fires were kept burning to consume the refuse and keep down the stench. It is also the location where bodies of executed criminals, or individuals denied a proper burial, would be dumped. In addition, this valley was frequently not controlled by the Jewish authority within the city walls; it is traditionally held that this valley was used as a place of religious child-sacrifice to Moloch by the Canaanites outside the city.

Like Sheol, Gehenna is sometimes translated as Hell.


Thursday, November 01, 2007


Territory of the Hyksos, 1750(?)-1575 A.C.The Hyksos (Egyptian heka khasewet meaning "foreign rulers") were an ethnically mixed group of Southwest Asiatic or Semitic people who appeared in the eastern Nile Delta during the Second Intermediate Period. They rose to power during the Second Intermediate Period, and ruled Lower and Middle Egypt for over one hundred years, forming the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasties of Egypt, (ca. 1674-1548 B.C.E.).

Traditionally, only the six Fifteenth Dynasty rulers are called "Hyksos".

The Hyksos had names that bear strong similarities to Canaanite names, especially those which contain the names of Canaanite deities such as Anath or Ba'al. Archaeologists (see biblical archaeology) think of the Canaanites as being indistinguishable from the Phoenicians. The Hyksos introduced new tools of warfare into Egypt, most notably the composite bow and the horse-drawn chariot.

The numerous Sixteenth Dynasty princes are believed to be a mixed collection of "Hyksos", Asiatic Semites, and local native Egyptian princes. The names of the Fifteenth Dynasty Hyksos are known from Egyptian monuments, scarabs and other small objects, and Manetho's history of Egypt, written during the time of Ptolemy II.





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