• New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

    Where did Baptism Come from?

    When we read through the Bible from the Old to New Testament, a few things jump out when we get to the New Testament. One major surprise is the prevalence of baptism. Where did baptism come from? There doesn’t seem to be any indication of baptism in the Old Testament. However, the New Testament puts a significant priority and importance on baptism. What is the background to the baptism process? It seems unlikely that John the Baptist invented baptism. There is no indication that the Pharisees or Sadducees asked John what he was doing. Instead, the New Testament paints the picture that people were familiar with baptism. Scholars have attempted to explain why people were already familiar with the process. There are typically four possible options that scholars put forward as the historical background for New Testament baptism. Mystery Religion Adaptation Qumran Lustration Proselyte Baptism Jewish Purification and Washing Rituals…

  • Old Testament

    Was Samuel a Levite?

    How is it that Samuel was able to work in the Tabernacle? Wasn’t the Tabernacle work reserved for Levites? Samuel was born in Ephraim, so wouldn’t that disqualify him from service? These are some significant questions that readers of 1 Samuel often think about. The book of 1 Samuel opens up by talking about “a certain man of Rammathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah” (1 Sam 1:1). Elkanah is married to two wives, one of whom is Hannah. Although barren, Hannah prays for a child, and the Lord answers her prayer. This child is Samuel! After giving birth, Hannah names her son Samuel, and dedicates him to tabernacle service with Eli (1 Sam 1:28). Samuel stays with Eli and serves the Lord (cf. 1 Sam 2:11, 18). Throughout the story, it is obvious that Samuel is ministering in the tabernacle (cf. 1 Sam 3:3). This…

  • Culture,  Theology

    Are All Cultures Equal? A Biblical Paradigm

    There is a growing belief today that all cultures are equal and that differences between groups are cultural, but not moral. In other words, no culture can claim moral superiority over another because it is just cultural expression. Although this is a common idea, it has met resistance from some who have demonstrated that, on a pragmatic level, productivity and the standard of living are better in some cultures than in others. Although that is undoubtedly true, that in and of itself does not necessarily mean a certain culture is better than another. As Christians, I think it is important to be in the habit of using Scripture to inform any kind of comparison—including culture. Speaking from a biblical standpoint, there are cultures that are better than others. The cultures which are better are the cultures that are more closely aligned with God’s standard for living, and these cultures thereby…

  • Old Testament

    The Ketef Hinnom Scrolls and the Antiquity of Scripture

    Discovered in 1979 by Gabriel Barkay, the Ketef Hinnom scrolls made news because they contained the text of Numbers 6:24-26 and thus represent the oldest testimony of an Old Testament text that we know about. Funny enough, the discovery of the scrolls took place because the lead archaeologist, Gabriel Barkay, an archaeology professor at Tel Aviv University, told a young boy to go clean up a cave. This young boy ended up hitting the floor of the cave with a hammer (as young boys are wont to do), causing the false floor to collapse and reveal a trove of bones beneath. This hidden tomb, within walking distance of Jerusalem, had been preserved from tomb raiders and so revealed its treasures to the archaeologists working the scene. The tomb complex found at Ketef Hinnom followed the Old Testament burial practices (basically from Abraham’s time to around 522 B.C.). The procedure of…

  • Old Testament

    A War, a Witch, and a Weak King

    One of the most undervalued aspects of biblical narrative is geography. Just like any story, biblical narratives involve an important geographical component that either overtly or subtly gives additional insight into what is happening. Whenever I’m in Israel, I am reminded that geography can often reveal aspects of a story in a way nothing else can. One of my favorite illustrations of this is the story of Saul’s last stand against the Philistines. This story is found in 1 Samuel 28, and through the careful narration and attention to geographical detail, we are given special insight into the character of Saul. The story starts by describing a time when the Philistines had gathered to fight against Israel. At the time, David was living with the Philistines, and originally was instructed to go to war against Israel (1 Sam 28:2). However, due to the providence of God, David was forbidden by…

  • Apologetics,  Christian Living,  Culture,  Ethics

    Early Christian Opposition to Abortion

    Honestly, I am not surprised when some people claim to be Christians yet support abortion. I guess I am used to people claiming to be Christians while denying that claim by supporting all sorts of immoral nonsense. It is easy to claim to be a Christian. However, in contrast to many false believers who claim Jesus, real Christians are marked by commitment to Christ and His commandments. Real Christians are committed to the teachings of Jesus (John 13:35; 1 John 2:3) as well the teachings of Scripture as a whole (2 Tim 3:14-17). So, although I have seen my fair share of self-identifying Christians support abortion, I must admit I was a bit surprised recently when I saw a pastor of a megachurch come out and say abortion and Christianity are completely compatible. Of course a Christian analysis of this situation would affirm that abortion remains incompatible with a Christian…

  • Apologetics,  Culture

    Christians and the Abolition of Roe v. Wade

    June 24, 2022, will go down in history as a great day! On this memorable day, the Supreme Court of the Government of the United States of America ruled that the court precedent of Roe v. Wade was illegitimately established and was overturned. Moments like this are rare in America’s history but are deeply cherished. In this article, I want to briefly assess some of the implications of this court decision and then provide some Christian reflections. What Does the Abolition of Roe v. Wade Mean? Samuel Alito, writing the majority opinion for the ruling, notes the following on page 6 (of 213): It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. “The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations, upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then…

  • Old Testament,  Theology

    When did Israel Stop Being God’s People?

    No one can deny that Israel had a unique role as God’s chosen people in the past. They received a privilege no other nation had ever experienced! They were his firstborn son (Exod 4:22) and his treasured possession (Exod 19:5; Deut 7:6). When Moses was reminding the people of their special role as God’s people, he noted the uniqueness of God speaking to them “out of the midst of the fire” and taking “a nation for himself from the midst of another nation by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war…” (Deut 4:33–34). We read one of the most descriptive statements about Israel’s unique status as God’s people in Deuteronomy 7:6. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the…

  • Theology

    Zwingli’s Separation of Faith from Baptism

    Prior to the Reformation, faith was always associated with baptism. This obviously raised issues for infant baptism, since it is difficult to see how infants can exercise faith. To deal with this difficulty, Augustine taught the concept of fides aliena, an alien faith that belonged to others was applied on behalf of the infant. Usually, this was the parent’s faith, but sometimes the church’s. However, many theologians viewed this as an unsatisfactory answer. So, the Catholic church developed the idea of fides infusa baptisme, faith or power which was “infused” to the infant through baptism. It was into the world of fides aliena and fides infusa that Martin Luther was born. Although Luther broke away from the Roman Catholic church in many key areas (one such area being justification by faith alone),[1] he largely embraced Rome’s view of infant baptism. One major difference was that Luther saw no problem with…

  • Old Testament

    What Does it Mean to be Cut Off in the Bible?

    Throughout the Bible, there is a bit of a harrowing phrase that seems quite menacing. The Bible warns that, given specific circumstances, an individual, a family, or a nation will be cut off. But what exactly does it mean to be cut off? There have been at least five major theories as to what it means to be cut off. childlessness and premature death premature death caused by God capital punishment administered by a human court cessation of existence after death so as not to enjoy eternal life proclamation of God’s judgment A brief survey of the different contexts where the phrase “cut off” occurs is helpful in evaluating what this phrase means. The following list is borrowed from Stuart’s excellent commentary in the New American Commentary series (Exodus, 284). The Old Testament law stipulates the cut off penalty in the following instances: failure to practice circumcision (Gen 17:14) failure…