Category Archives: Bible Translation

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

If there is one portion of Scripture that is en vogue today it is, “Judge not”. It is the one phrase that both the perverts and the softhearted Christians can agree upon.

Over the years of my education and ministry I’ve heard this said many times. Softhearted Christians and those attempting to be charitable to others will refuse to pronounce a sin as a sin out of a misguided fear of “judging” and thus coming under God’s judgment. I’ve heard this said most recently about the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage issues. People are genuinely afraid to identify these as sins because of this text. Of course, the people who revel in perversity love to reinforce this idea when you confront them and say, “Who are you the judge me? The Bible says ‘Judge not’!” With such a rant the poor softhearted Christian is bullied and ashamed to the point of withdrawing from the fight.

Matthew 7:1-5

There is a great meme going around social media which illustratesjudge-not how people read this verse. “Judge not” is the only part of the passage that isn’t scribbled over. Without that larger context it is easy to misunderstand this two-word text. The context in Matthew is very clearly about being a hypocritical judge of someone else’s sin. The comparison is between a “speck” in someone else’s eye versus a “board” in your own eye. The self-righteous, hypocritical person is quick to judge the smallest sin another person has while ignoring the major sin problem he has. Know anyone like that? If you do, I’m sure that you don’t like them very much.

Luke 6:37-38

In Luke’s gospel there is less context to the saying. It is preceded by a call to love your enemies, be merciful as God is merciful, then this warning not to be overly judgmental is then followed by a call to be like the “teacher”, and then the same “speck of sawdust” passage as in Matthew. In short, all of it is a perspective on proper behavior: be like God, be like Jesus.

Paranoid Friends

My paranoid friends are so traumatized by the recognition that they have sin in their lives that they do not want to be perceived as being hypocritical so they don’t want to even acknowledge that someone else has sinned. This is born, in part, out of the contemporary idea that “all sin is equal” in that it separates the person from God. While it is true that any sin would separate a person from the holiness which is God, it is not true that all sin is equal in God’s sight. Even the Bible has hierarchies of sin. We know this because the punishments vary. Some sins require a small sacrifice, others a larger sacrifice, and others can only be properly punished by execution. See the difference?

Everyone struggles with some residual guilt over their past sins. People also struggle with guilt over their present temptations. When this guilt inhibits the ability to recognize and confront obvious sin in others then it becomes problematic. To reverse the image Jesus paints for us above, imagine that the person with the “speck” sees the person with the “plank” in the eye but doesn’t say anything. Would that be in keeping with Jesus’ desire? No. The converse of Jesus’ command not to be a hypocritical judge of others is not to refrain from judgment but to do it properly: mercifully, compassionately.

Commands to Judge

The New Testament commands us to judge actions – especially those of our fellow Christians. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that those within the church are to make judgments about the sins of other church members. He himself had no problem in passing judgment on a man guilty of incest in the Corinthian church even though he had only been told about the situation and wasn’t there while it was going on. He wrote, “. . . I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this” (1 Cor. 5:3). So Paul saw no conflict with anything Jesus said about “judge not” and his ability and duty to “judge”. Neither did he see a conflict in telling the Corinthian church members that they should be judging as well. He rhetorically asks, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (1 Cor. 5:12). The answer is “Yes, you are to judge the people inside the church.”

In fact, Jesus gives us directions on how to properly judge people within the church. We are not to do it hypocritically or with harsh condemnation, but lovingly and with consideration. See Matthew 18:15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over” (NIV). Notice that this text makes us all responsible for helping to keep our fellow church members in line. Doing this with responsibility and a compassion for the other person helps to build the bonds of trust and holiness in the church. It makes the church a self-policing entity and that cuts down on a lot of problems within the church as everyone is focused on doing what is good and right as well as helping others to do what is good and right.

What God has already judged

Judging what is right and wrong is much easier when you realize that God has already told us much about what He has judged as right and wrong. We don’t have to question whether fornication, adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, greed, theft, slander, malice, and so forth are wrong. They are. To say so is not to be judgmental in the least. It is simply pointing out what God has already judged to be wrong.

Getting It Right

The Message is a paraphrase of the Bible and it has this for Matthew 7:1-5. “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”

When judging is done the proper way it brings health and healing to the person involved. That is, if the person is of the proper mindset to accept gentle correction. There is never a guarantee how a rebuke will be received but it does not relieve us of the responsibility to judge.

Lies and Deceit in the Queen James Bible

The Queen James Bible has been around since late 2012 but it seems to be making the rounds again on social media so I’ll take some time to give a brief description of the lies and deceit it presents.

While I do have qualifications in Hebrew and Greek, I don’t plan to address those language issues in detail here. Rather, this is intended for a general audience so the analysis will be of the English texts with necessary reference to original language issues. If you wish to ask questions about the original languages I will be happy to field them but I would also direct you to this CARM site which has some original language discussion of these texts. The best and most thorough exegesis of these texts can be found in Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon’s massive tome, The Bible and Homosexual Practice.

The King James Version is a good, old translation which represents the original language texts well. The QJV follows the KJV closely with a few notable exceptions. The approach here will be to examine the texts in chronological order with a discussion of the differences and then compare these to a contemporary translation from the NIV.

What’s in a name?

The Queen James Bible’s name reveals a lot about its creators. It is intentionally provocative in that “queen” is typically used of a class of homosexual males. So the wordplay between King and Queen is intended to be affirming of male homosexuality and offensive to traditional Christians who understand the undertones behind it. So right at the outset this is a mocking, confrontational, and insulting title, ironically, representing a group that has begged for tolerance and acceptance from traditional Christians.

Genesis 19:5

KJV And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, “Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them.”

QJV And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, “Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may rape and humiliate them.”

NIV They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

This is the first occurrence of a text that has homosexual overtones to it. In this story, Lot shelters two men for the night in the city of Sodom. Unbeknownst to him, these are two angels who have come to town in order to see if the city is as wicked as has been reported to God.

Ancient hospitality standards meant that Lot was to protect these men at all costs. When the men of Sodom approach the house at night they demand to have the men turned over to them. The question is what do the men want to do with these two strangers? The KJV says that they want to “know” them. This has always been understood to be a euphemism for homosexual intercourse. However, the QJV cannot let that stand so it changes the actual word into a three-word interpretation: “rape and humiliate”. The QJV has taken this step in order to remove homosexual acts as the actual sin. Instead they want the sin to be “rape” (because everyone agrees that rape is bad and it also happens between heterosexuals) and “humiliation” because this also frees the text of strictly homosexual behavior as sin.

Anyone who studies the whole of the Sodom and Gomorrah story will acknowledge that the cities were rife with all manner of sin. The Sodom story points out that one of those sins was to violate the hospitality codes and engage in homosexual activity with, and quite possibly the rape of, the two men. This is one of the least offensive changes made by the QJV and yet it is still deceptive as it tries to blunt the force of the homosexual activity and re-channel it into the directions of rape and humiliation only. The NIV preserves the sense of the text and the best scholarship by simply saying “have sex with them”. This does not imply that they necessarily intended to rape the men, although that is still a possibility.

Humiliation would be the natural outcome in the ancient world if the men were sexually used as women. These were classed societies and the passive male partner in sexual relations lost status in the eyes of such societies at this time. The QJV text mixes some truth about humiliation with some uncertainty on the issue of rape in order to present this text as being less about homosexuality as sin and more about criminal behavior and social customs violations.

Leviticus 18:22

KJV Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.

QJV Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind in the temple of Molech: it is an abomination.

NIV Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

This is the first text explicitly on the subject of male homosexuality. As you can see below, the KJV has no qualifying phrase placing any limits on the sin of homosexual practice. It is simply “an abomination”. The first deceit that the QJV puts into the text is the phrase “in the temple of Molech”. This phrase does not exist in the original language texts of the Hebrew Bible. So why is it here? This is an attempt to limit the impact of the text so that not all homosexual practices are wrong, just those done in a particular religious context.

The attempt to deceive finds some ground based upon Lev. 18:2-3 where God tells the Israelites that they are not to follow the practices of the Egyptians or the Canaanites. Among those practices is male homosexuality. This leads to the natural conclusion that both groups committed these, or at least most of these, sins. Verse 21 seems to be the only exception because the Egyptians did not worship Molech. In fact, they saw it as a detestable form of worship.

Molech worship included stoking fires inside the god’s bronze idol until its hands were glowing red hot. Then a child or infant was placed on the hands and allowed to burn to death. Priests would play musical instruments in order to cover over the sounds of the dying child’s shrieks of agony. The Egyptians did not do such things. Homosexual acts, however, were something the two cultures could have in common. It also makes sense that the acts were condemned outright as we know of no homosexual acts conducted during worship in Egypt. So there doesn’t seem to be any grounds to the idea of ritual worship much less Molech worship “in the temple”.

The text is also deceptive in that Jewish religious tradition has held that homosexual practice was a sin based upon this text and the next one and there were no limiting factors. The NIV gives a modern translation and it does not limit the text in any way. Simply put, the text says that male homosexual practice is a sin.

Leviticus 20:13

KJV If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

QJV If a man also lie with mankind in the temple of Molech, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

NIV If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

This passage also has the same phrase “in the temple of Molech” included. Again it is without any justification. All of the same criticisms can be leveled at this as the text above. Both texts seem to hope to have the reader infer that the text was in some way incomplete, misunderstood, or even covered up until now. While conspiracy theories may be appealing to some people, the text has actually been consistently understood to mean that male homosexual acts were sinful all along the translation history.

Romans 1:26

KJV For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against their nature.

QJV Their women did change their natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, left of the natural use of the woman, burned in ritual lust, one toward another.

NIV Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.

This text has even more problems than the texts listed before it. The QJV has simply struck out part of the text of this verse, moved it to the next verse, and rewritten the rest. It departs from the KJV’s faithfulness to the original Greek text at this point. This is the most extensive change under discussion here.

Notice that the KJV line “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections” does not appear at all in this verse of the QJV. Also notice that the QJV adds men to this list, which is not in the Greek text at this point, and it includes the limiting phrase “in ritual lust” which is, again, not in the original Greek. All of this is again an attempt to limit the sin of homosexual practice to only pagan worship practices.

Romans 1:27

KJV And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

QJV Men with men working that which is pagan and unseemly. For this cause God gave the idolators up unto vile affections, receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

NIV In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

In conjunction with verse 26, this verse has also been significantly reworded. The missing sentence “for this cause God gave them up unto vile affections” has been moved to this verse and is modified. It removes the word “them” and inserts the word “idolators”. As before, this is not found in the Greek. Similarly, the words “pagan and” are included which are not in the Greek text. As in the previous verse and the Leviticus verses, the goal is to limit the sin of homosexual practice only to pagan worship. That would mean that all other homosexual practice is free and clear of any “sin” label.

The assumption underlying the use of “idolators” is that Romans 1 is only about pagan idol worshipers. In fact, it is about humanity at large. When human beings are left to their own devices they naturally turn away from God, His will, and His intentions. This is a rebellion in which God is abandoned only to be replaced by worthless idols and human sexuality is misused and abused through homosexual acts.

1 Corinthians 6:9

KJV Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

QJV Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor morally weak, nor promiscuous,

NIV Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men

Here we are presented with an interesting case. Notice the three underlined sections. The KJV has the term “effeminate” which is a translation of the term “soft” from Greek. Two lines of thought have been proposed on this translation. One that retains the KJV translation is to understand the effeminate male as what we might consider a transgender or cross-dressing male. The other is to understand the pairing of the two words used here as the active and passive participants in male homosexual acts. This seems to be the best of the two arguments for reasons that are too lengthy to be discussed at this time.

Notice that the QJV has completely changed the translations of these words to their own peculiar choices. The effeminate male becomes “morally weak” and the “abusers of themselves with mankind” become “promiscuous”. These are very strained readings of the text at best but it serves the purpose of removing general homosexual acts from the category of “sin”. The NIV has followed what scholarship has come to conclude: that these are the active and passive partners in male homosexual acts. It has also gone a step further by not trying to draw the nuanced distinction for the English reader but simply combining the terms to say “men who have sex with men”. This covers it all for the modern English reader and there is a footnote to explain that this renders two Greek words.

1 Timothy 1:10

KJV For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

QJV For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.

NIV for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine

A look at the Greek text is almost required for this passage. The underlined words are only one word in Greek. The English text has more words in it than the Greek because it has to explain what is meant by the Greek whereas the Greek readers knew instinctively. The Greek word is a combination of two Greek words which indicate male homosexuals. It more literally means a “male-bedder” that is, one who “goes to bed with” a male. Used euphemistically, it has sexual overtones to it. Scholarship has improved the translation of this passage in two ways and they are both reflected in the NIV. The first is the phrase “for those practicing homosexuality” and the second is the change from “whoremongers” to “sexually immoral” as the Greek word covers a more broad range of sexual sins.

It is also worth noting that the QJV has omitted any reference to “mankind” in the underlined section. Notice the rather ambiguous phrase “for them that defile themselves”. This is more unjustified sleight of hand to fool the uninformed reader. Exactly what type of defiling is in mind is not clear from this translation. It may be an attempt to point to religious defilement of some sort, which would be somewhat consistent with the previous attempts to limit the sinfulness of homosexual acts only to those done in the context of pagan religious services.

Jude 1:7

KJV Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

QJV Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after nonhuman flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

NIV In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

Referring back to the Genesis 19 situation at Sodom, Jude raises some issues unlike the previous passages. Notice the adjectives change from the “strange” flesh in the KJV to “nonhuman” flesh in the QJV. The problem here is what nuance was intended by the word “strange” in the Greek. The QJV wants us to think that the men were sinful because they wanted to have sex with the two angels. However, the men never know that these two are actually angels. They think that they are simply two men who are visiting the city overnight. The QJV might also wish us to think that the story is told with the reader already having the knowledge that these two men are actually angels and that the reader would know that the real sin was the men wanting to have sex with angelic beings.

Of all the changes listed here, this is the only one that might be justified. The Greek word is literally the word “other” and not “strange”. In fact, it is heteros from where we get hetero-sexual. The Greek word homois means “same” and is where we get the word homo-sexual. In the latter case it means people of the “same” sex whereas in the former case it means people of the opposite sex. But some other observations need to be made in order to fill out the interpretation. Jews of the time knew that homosexuality was a sin. Nowhere is it indicated that the men of Sodom knew the two “men” were angels. So how should we understand the word “other”?

Modern translations have varied a bit in how they handle this. The NIV has again corrected the other two versions by changing “fornication” to “sexual immorality” based upon better scholarship. The NIV has also opted to say “perversion” instead of “strange flesh”. The combination of the two is clear enough for the informed English reader to understand that “perversion” is something beyond “sexual immorality” and thus has homosexual implications because of the story’s background. The ESV has “unnatural desire” while TLB has a more clear explanation, “lust of men for other men.” The NRSV simply has “unnatural lust” which is relatively clear based upon the context in the same way as the NIV.

At this point I would not side exactly with any of these translations. I would retain the NIV’s use of “sexual immorality” instead of “fornication” but I would opt for “other flesh” as a more literal reading of the text. Having said that, the intention of “other flesh” is probably to indicate the “nonhuman” or “angelic” flesh of Lot’s visitors. Jude uses stories about angels to make his point. He precedes this with reference to a story from 1 Enoch about angels who left heaven to come to earth for their own purposes; he follows it with reference to a story about the archangel Michael disputing with Satan over the body of Moses. In between he references the story of Sodom with its angelic visitors. By using thesestories as illustrations, Jude is telling his readers that certain ones have similarly improperly transgressed into the realm of angels since they “heap abuse on celestial beings” (v. 8).

Why, then, do other translations specifically indicate or allude to homosexual activity? The most obvious answer seems to be that they understand the term “other” to mean something like “other men not of the city; not of their ethnic group – strangers”. If the men of Sodom simply wanted homosexual activity they could have satisfied themselves with each other. Instead they went after the strangers who were “other” than them.

One other factor deserves some thought. Since the KJV says “fornication” and “strange flesh” it doesn’t have a homosexual overtone to it other than the background knowledge of Genesis 19 that the reader brings to it. So it is difficult to see how this change would lessen the sin of homosexuality, unlike the previous changes made in other passages. The only way it is possible is to understand “strange flesh” as a euphemism for “homosexual acts with strangers”. Based upon the context, this seems unlikely. The QJV may be reacting more to modern versions which retain the notion of homosexuality in them than to the language of the KJV since it is ambiguous in meaning anyway.

Much more could be said and has, in fact, been written on these topics. This is a selective, concise summary and evaluation of these passages. It is in no way to be considered a complete exegetical evaluation.

Amateur Hour with Rachel Held Evans

Until recently I was blissfully unaware of Rachel Held Evans. That is, until I encountered this column ostensibly dealing with the church and how Christian business people “should” react when confronted with an affront to their religion.  The offending passage that appeared on my Facebook wall was this:

The truth is, evangelical Christians have already “lost” the culture wars. And it’s not because the “other side” won or because evangelicals have failed to protect our own religious liberties. Evangelicals lost the culture wars the moment they committed to fighting them, the moment they decided to stop washing feet and start waging war.

Upon reading the article, I found it very flawed in its use of Scriptural exegesis, its applications, and even the understanding of what is at stake in the so-called culture wars. Furthermore, when I looked into the background of Mrs. Evans I found that she is not a biblical scholar. Yet, here was this column published by the New York Times. So what gives her special standing that the New York Times publishes her column?  She holds only an English Literature degree from Bryan College. She has published two books: Evolving in Monkey Town (which is about her religious life in Dayton, Tennessee – the home of the Scopes Monkey Trial) and A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  She is a Christian but she has become a liberal Christian who supports gay marriage and such things in contradiction to Church doctrine.  She is one of the                                                                                               Christians. She takes what she wants and leaves the rest. Her work is clearly amateur hour in research and journalism but particularly so regarding biblical studies.

The first thing that struck me about the quote above was that she is simply wrong.  The church has never stopped “washing feet”.  This is a false argument that seems to be popular in liberal circles. The church was never faced with an either/or situation. Nor did it abandon the “foot washing” she so admires.  If she had any source to backup this statement she did not provide it or any insight into why she imagines this is so.  The same hospitals are still funded by the church, as are missionaries, orphanages, hospice care, feeding the homeless, homeless shelters, and dozens more good works.

We have seen parachurch organizations rise up to take on the culture wars.  James Dobson founded Focus on the Family; Tony Perkins founded the Family Research Council; Jay Sekulow founded the American Center for Law and Justice. We could list dozens of similar ministries or para-ministry organizations that have been established to fight the cultural decay in our country.

What the church — and it’s people — did was take on the culture wars in addition to all of the other good works it was doing. Where she got her idea that the church somehow changed when confronted with the culture wars is a mystery.This is just the repetition of a liberal talking point which is designed to play upon the guilt of people in the Christian community.  I, for one, reject that guilt. Of all the institutions that have done damage to American culture, the Church is the least of these offenders. It has been the church and its people who have tried to hold things together and keep us on a proper and good course.

Perpetual Culture Wars

In fact, the modern culture wars were forced on the church by opponents who wished to rewrite the Bible, church doctrine, and social norms as well. Furthermore, what is gloriously ignored by liberal commentators such as Ms. Evans is the fact that the church has been fighting the culture wars since its inception 2,000 years ago!

Christianity has always been at war with the culture around it because that culture has always been pagan or heathen. The fact that the church has been successful in the long-term culture war has led to Western civilization and our own country’s existence. Both have been built on biblical principles, why should Christians sit by while those principles are undermined? There is no reason! This is just a liberal guilt ploy to which some non-analytically-thinking Christians are susceptible.

It always amazes me that liberals expect the church to just roll over and play dead whenever they wish to promote something that is both biblically perverse and hurtful to the national social fabric. Christians are part of the country, too, and they have every right to object to changes that they deem are hurtful to the people of the country. The culture wars gave us drugs,  free sex, cohabitation, abortion, and are now to the point of deeming two men equal to a man and woman in marriage (polyamory is not far down the street). The church knows that all this is both sinful and harmful to the individuals and to the country that supports such “Twilight Zone” behavior. Yet, according to liberals like RHE, we’re not supposed to get involved! We’re just to be good “foot washers”.  Well, if good foot washing had worked before the culture wars, then we wouldn’t have had the culture wars, right? She seems to live in some dreamy illusion that the church would have won the culture war if it didn’t engage in the culture wars. How do you win a battle that you do not fight?  That can only be described as logically deficient thinking. It is a strategy of defeat.

Craig and Katy Bennett are missionaries to Vanuatu my church supports. When Craig was at our church a few weeks ago he gave a lesson which included an illustration of a whole list of things that we would find repulsive. He mentioned primitive tribes who engaged in orgies for worship; who would throw a person down a well to drown as a sacrifice to their gods; brutal warriors who would kill their enemies and drink blood from their skulls.  Then he surprised everyone by saying, “These are probably the ancestors of most of you in this room. These were things that were done by the Angles and the Saxons.  What changed them? They clashed with the culture of Christianity.  The Church won them over from their wicked ways.”

I once had a professor in college who said, “If you can’t trust a man’s history how can you trust the man?” I don’t see how we can trust Mrs. Evans’ history.

I could go further into this and how the 60s radicals have infiltrated the university system, politics, the judiciary but I will leave that for another time.  Suffice it to say we are at what I believe is the crest of the radicals’ wave and like all wave crests, it will fall.

Put the Bible Down and Back Away Slowly

Of further concern to me was the way RHE handled Scripture.  She attempted to take some passages dealing with Roman law, Jews or Christians and apply them to the current debate over whether or not an American business owner should be forced to do work for someone when he finds it offensive to his deeply held religious beliefs.  But her parallels fail miserably.  Let me explain.

The main passage she relies on is Matthew 5:39b-48 which comes from the Sermon on  the Mount:

“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you… Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

She relies on the example of a Roman soldier to illustrate how she thinks that Christians ought to respond to people with whom they do not wish to do business.  This shows her ineptitude with Scripture.

First, this is Roman law. Second, it did not compel a person to violate deeply held religious beliefs. Third, it was emphatically not persecution to Jews and Christians. Fourth, her application to 21st century American culture and politics is completely incompatible for private business transactions. Fifth, and perhaps most critical, is the fact that the omits a key verse-and-a-half which governs the illustration she loves to use. That passage is Matthew 5:38-39a.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.

This passage has the famous law of lex talionis which deals with retributive justice.  If a person was injured by another party, that person had the right to fair and just compensation. Such compensation was usually in the form of a fine of some sort. The “eye for eye” statement simply means a “suitable compensation for the injury received”.  Then when we add verse 39 to it we see that the Christian is being wronged in some way.  The Common English Bible states it this way, “But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you.”  So what is going on here?  Let me explain.

The first three examples of what hurting someone is like are given: one is a slap on the face; another is a lawsuit; the third is the Roman soldier.  All three of these are considered to be doing some wrong to the Christian for which he might retaliate in an appropriate measure. But Jesus tells them not to seek retributive justice – “fair compensation” – instead, they are to give more to the person who injured them than is asked or required!

Roman law compelling someone to carry a soldier’s bags was nothing new.  People did resent it, but it was viewed by the Romans as a civic duty owed by the people.  It would cost lost wages, that much is true, but it was not a violation of any religious belief. The Roman soldier did not make the person deny their God, eat unclean food, or make sacrifices to a pagan deity. That was not the purpose of the law.  Thus, compelling service cannot be considered persecution of either Jews or Christians! In that situation a  government member forced a member of the empire  to provide a legal civic duty.  That is not the relationship of a customer to a business either then or now.

Mrs. Evans cannot tell the difference between persecution and retributive justice.  Nor does she realize that nothing in the Sermon on the Mount teaches people to compromise their religious values!

Liberty or Tyranny?

The situation being discussed today is really fairly limited. Basically it deals with small businesses where the owner might be perceived as supporting the activity for which he is supplying his talents. This is particularly applicable to artistic services where the artist’s work may be considered an endorsement of their subject matter. Unlike the situation where the Roman soldier has the ability to force a temporary, defined and limited service to the government, today’s situation is about a private business person voluntarily negotiating a deal with another private party, a religious issue on the owner’s part arises, and there is no clear civic duty in play.1 These are crucial distinctions in the comparison.  There is nothing to force the business person to take on the transaction if a negotiated agreement cannot be reached for a said service. In fact, you can deny service by saying you are booked on that date or are on vacation or some other excuse. Where do we draw the line?  Suppose the proposed job fell on a significant religious day, should we be compelled to have an observant Jewish photographer work on the Sabbath or work on a feast day or work on an annual holy day? Should that man be forced to go to a pig farm and take photographs when he considers pigs to be unclean?  In a libertarian society the seemingly obvious answer would be no.  Frank Tuerk in his Cross Examined podcast provides a helpful answer: discriminate against behavior, not people.  Law is discriminatory about behavior. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed it took such a stance.  Race, religion, and national origin were not grounds for discrimination in the defined services.  Issues such as moral behavior were not addressed.

What too few people realize is that compulsory commerce is a form of slavery.  The liberal contingency is happy to interject the government into the equation to force private business owners to do what they want regarding their social agenda de jour. However, this means that we are changing the fundamental relationship of the business owner and customer.  The customer can now demand a service and the owner must comply despite any religious objections. At this extreme, this has moved from mutual agreement to government tyranny.  In fact, it borders on Fascism since the government is now the entity controlling local business deals. Entering into the contract is no longer optional. By opening the doors of your business you are forced to accept any and all “customers” unless you meet a very narrow band of exceptions or are crafty enough to deny offensive services on other grounds.

One of the businesses I’ve operated was a deejay business back in the 1980s. If I had been asked to provide my services for something like a KKK rally, I would have declined because I would not want to be associated with such ideology because it is wrong on multiple fronts, including religious ones.  But, under rules being constructed at this time, I would have been forced to provide services for the KKK rally simply because they asked me.  It would not allow me to direct them to another deejay service who might want to do the job. No, I would be forced into the work for no other reason than I was offered the job. “Offer”, however, would no longer be the right term: “demand”, “cajoled”, “forced”, or “under duress”  would be the right term. Pick your favorite. With such, we have created something we can call commerce slavery.

Imagine . . .

Imagine if the tables were turned. When you walked into a store at the mall the owner could demand that you buy something. In fact, he could define for you what you could buy even if you found it religiously objectionable.  A Muslim man who walked into a deli could be forced to buy a ham sandwich, for example, even though it is religiously offensive to him.  That would be a ridiculous world, and it is equally as ridiculous to force a private business owner to do business with someone he does not wish to do business with – for whatever reason, but especially for religious ones.

Play Along or Persecution?

It is also not clear to me how RHE thinks that simply playing along with something in violation of your conscience is a helpful ministry tool. Why should we respect someone who does whatever is put before him when it violates deeply held religious beliefs?  How deeply held can they be if they are ignored? In fact, she wishes to compare this to suffering persecution in the early church. But the church suffered because it did take a stand against the culture of its day. It suffered because of its religious stance in the culture wars of the first centuries. She doesn’t even understand what persecution really is.

She wishes to see some meaningful comparison in passages that say “love one’s enemy and pray for those who persecute you”.  Both of those terms, “enemy” and “persecute”, require that there be hostility toward you, the business owner!  In order for this to be the situation, you have to have taken a position in opposition to your enemy and persecutor.  That means, in fact, that you are standing on your religious values and not “playing along”.  It means that in spite of the fact people sue your bakery or photography studio, you still pray for them and love them.

RHE is also very oblivious to a topic I discussed in another article as to what religious persecution looks like in 21st century America. We have virtually eliminated physical suffering as a form of religious persecution, to our credit. What has replaced it is the legal form of religious persecution since we are a litigious society  and social bullying tactics. The “War on Christmas” and the “Happy Holidays” saying fall into these categories as do “In God We Trust” cases and crosses on memorials. So she again fails to see the larger picture or recognize how the face of persecution has changed in a free and civil country.

Of Sowing and Reaping

What the political left has been doing recently has people justifiably afraid for their religious liberties. The cases of a baker in New Mexico and a photography studio in Colorado who refused to provide services for homosexual ceremonies on religious grounds seemed to be ironclad. That is, until the courts ruled against them based on state laws. So the homosexual activists find themselves reaping what they have sown – and they don’t like it.

When people are forced to do something against their will, it causes a reaction against it. In this case, in a country where we are supposed to have religious liberty, we suddenly find that we are having it stripped away in favor of a liberal social agenda. So enshrining religious liberty into the state law seems to be the natural course of events.

Force is never a good tool for conversion. If the homosexual people in these cases had simply taken “no” for an answer and gone on to another baker or photographer, they would not have caused all the hostility and resentment that have led states to consider constructing legal countermeasures (countermeasures that apply to much more than just homosexual issues). They are the ones who are bringing discord into the public arena. In fact, if they would take the attitude that RHE wants the church to take, they would look at it as form of persecution and pray for their enemies. Somehow they are not asked to take the same stance as the church, even though many are ostensibly Christians. (The Colorado photography case is being appealed to the Supreme Court.)

In the article, RHE tries other scriptural references, such as paying your taxes to Caesar, as a means of supporting her assertion that Christians should simply provide the services without objection. Again, her analogy fails for the same reasons as before: it was Roman law, it did not address a private business negotiation between two people, it is wholly incompatible with today’s debate, and it was not a form of persecution – despite what she thinks.

As is typical with the New York Times, they don’t have any conservative writers. RHE has no discernible intellectual or academic credentials that make her a spokesperson on matters of the church, culture, or Bible. She’s literate and she can write.  She claims to be a Christian, yet she supports homosexual marriages in contradiction with historic Christian doctrine and in opposition to the Bible’s claim that homosexuality is a sin and marriage is for men and women. So she ignores what she doesn’t like in the Bible, claims by her own power that homosexuality is suddenly not a sin and moves on with her liberal social agenda to chide the church for not going along with it all. If she treated the laws of the state or the rules of a corporate office with such contempt she would be fired or arrested!  Such an irresponsible exegesis and application of the text of Scripture as RHE has demonstrated would have earned her an “F” on this paper in my university class. An informed and responsible editor would have shutdown this article before it shamefully came to publication. The fact that the NYT gives her prominence to flout her ignorance is a disgrace. But what do you expect? It’s the New York Times.

Amateur Hour is fun when you’re singing Karaoke.  But it is a disaster when it is applied to Scripture and used to shape public policy.

1.I recommend the following articles from the Heritage Foundation to get an orientation on the difficulty between civil liberties and anti-discrimination issues. Article One. Article Two. Article Three.

Eyewitness Testimony is Unreliable – NOT!

One of the frequent complaints raised by skeptics focuses upon the claim that there were eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus. People are taught that eyewitness testimony to an event is unreliable. Examples such as a car accident are given with ample demonstrations that eyewitness testimony is conflicting at best and not good evidence in court. But this fails to recognize the vast difference between eyewitness testimony to an event versus a series of events.

The case of the resurrected Jesus is not a momentary, one-time event to which eyewitness testimony is subject to fallibility. The apostle Paul recounts a list of appearances to different people at different times over a 40 day period. Consider the following list from 1 Cor. 15:

  1. he appeared to Cephas [Peter]
  2. and then to the Twelve.
  3. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
  4. Then he appeared to James,
  5. then to all the apostles,
  6. and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

This is an incomplete list of all of Jesus’ appearances, but Paul tells us that more than 517 people saw Jesus alive and some of those on multiple occasions. Cephas [Peter] for example would be included as one of “the Twelve”. Exactly who “all the apostles” are is unclear. It seems to be a different set than “the Twelve” and we don’t know how many of them there were or if it included “the Twelve” and/or James as well, but for my figures I simply use 2 as the number since it was the least I could get in the plural.

Others are reported to have seen Jesus as well. They include the following:

  1. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matthew 28:9)
  2. The Eleven (Matthew 28:16)
  3. If Mark 16:9-14 reflects history accurately, then Mary Magdalene, “two . . . walking in the country”, and the “Eleven” all saw Jesus.
  4. Luke 24:13-16 records the appearance to two men on the road to Emmaus (probably the “two . . . walking in the country”).
  5. Luke 24:33-36 says the same two men who had been with Jesus on the road to Emmaus returned to tell the Eleven and that Jesus appeared to all of them at that time.
  6. Luke 24:49-50 has an unmentioned time lapse between the two verses because Acts 1:3 records the fact that he appeared to them over a forty-day period of time. So the ascension in v. 50 is actually another appearance to the same group of disciples.
  7. In fact, Acts 1:3 tells us that not only did Jesus appear, but he gave signs that he was alive. “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days . . .” This is important because the eyewitness testimony was not just to a single appearance event but multiple events. In addition to the appearances, he also intentionally demonstrated to them that he was alive. Again, these are eyewitness events.
  8. Acts 1:4 mentions the fact that Jesus was eating with his disciples on at least one occasion: “On one occasion, while he was eating with them . . . .” So an appearance coupled with the physical act of eating was considered eyewitness proof of Jesus’ vitality.
  9. Acts 1:21-23 also records a bit of information about others who were not part of the Eleven who saw Jesus. When choosing a 12th disciple to replace Judas, Peter lists these qualifications: “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection. 23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.” These two men were apparently disciples of Jesus but not part of the Twelve. Here it is noted that they saw the risen Jesus at least once and likely on many occasions since they were part of the group of disciples.
  10. John 20:11-18 recounts an appearance to Mary of Magdala.
  11. Luke 24:34 mentions that Jesus appeared to Simon (aka Cephas, Peter)
  12. Luke 24:36-53 to the Eleven in the upper room. Here is another proof of his being alive demonstrated by eating. “‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.” Additionally, he invited them to touch him to see that he had flesh and bone as they have. “‘Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.”
  13. John 20:19-23 records a first-day-of-the-week appearance to Ten of the Eleven, Thomas being absent.
  14. John 20:24-29 records the Ten testifying to Thomas that they had seen Jesus. Thomas doubts and Jesus appears to the Eleven a week after his first appearance. Thomas is invited to inspect the physical body of Jesus. “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'”
  15. John 21:1-25 records an appearance to Seven of the disciples who had gone fishing. The text also notes that this was the third time Jesus appeared to them. 13 “Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.”
  16. Acts 9 & 21 recount the appearance to Paul on the way to Damascus.
  17. 1 Cor. 9:1 Paul claims again to have seen the risen Jesus.

So by a very conservative count, Jesus appeared to a minimum of 520 people after his resurrection. And this number does not attempt to guess how many people were in some of the groups such as “all the apostles”.
Cephas-Peter-Simon (1 Cor. 15; Luke 24)
The Twelve (1 Cor. 15)
500+ (1 Cor. 15)
James (1 Cor. 15)
All the apostles (1 Cor. 15)
Paul (1 Cor. 9 & 15; Acts 9 & 21)
Mary Magdalene/of Magdala (Matt 28; Mark 16*; John 20)
the other Mary (Matt 28)
The Eleven (Matt. 28; Mark 16*; Luke 24 [plus the 2 at Emmaus])
Two in the country (Mark 16*; Luke 24 two going to Emmaus*)
Group at his ascension including the Eleven (Luke 24)
Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias (Acts 1)
Ten of the Eleven (John 20)
Ten of the Eleven plus Thomas (John 20)
Seven of the Eleven (John 21 the “third time” he appeared to them)
*Mark 16:9-18 is not found in the earliest manuscripts we have of Mark. Nevertheless, this material reflects the early church tradition of appearances to Mary Magdalene, the two on the road to Emmaus, and the Eleven that is confirmed in other sources.

From the list above we can calculate that Jesus appeared at least 13 times, not counting subsequent visions of Paul, Stephen, or John and assuming only one appearance for a group mentioned, such as the 500.  In all likelihood, these appearances had significant overlap in attendance. For example, Peter saw Jesus at least 7 times by a conservative count. At least seven of the Eleven saw Jesus at least 6 times. The two men on the road to Emmaus saw Jesus at least twice, once with them and once when they reported to the Eleven.

Acts 1:3 “many convincing proofs that he was alive”
Acts 1:4 he ate with them
Luke 24 Jesus ate broiled fish
Luke 24 Jesus invited them to touch him (So also Thomas, John 20)
Luke 24 Jesus claimed to have flesh and bones
Luke 24 Jesus showed them his hands and feet (Thomas hands, John 20)
John 20 Jesus invites Thomas to touch his pierced side

At the least, Jesus ate twice with his disciples.  He invited people to touch him on at least two occasions. He showed them his wounds on at least two occasions.

Multiple Attestations
The skeptic will challenge the number of appearances, people, and signs by claiming that we only have one source for this information: the Bible itself.  This simply tells us that the skeptic doesn’t know anything about how the New Testament was compiled. It was written by different authors over time and later collected and preserved by the church which eventually put it into one compiled book as we know it. Skeptics are also usually unaware of the complex relationship of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and the independent nature of the Gospel of John.

If we take the lists above and only count those that have multiple and independent attestations we get the following:

Multiply Attested Appearances: Peter 2, Paul 2, Mary Magdalene 3, The Eleven 3, Two on the road to Emmaus 2. So we have at least five of the 13 appearances confirmed by multiple, independent sources.

Multiply Attested Persons: At least 16 people are confirmed to have seen Jesus by this reckoning.

Multiply Attested Signs: Jesus invited touch and demonstrated showed them his wounds according to two different sources.

So the internal historical evidence has a sound core and there is no real reason to doubt some of the other occurrences either. Those listed by Paul in 1 Cor. 15 are listed as proof of his credibility and were open to investigation at the time the letter was written. So whether or not we have additional evidence of these things, Paul’s readers were expected to know of them. The skeptic should understand that simply because a historical fact is recorded in only one location and cannot be confirmed by a second source that it does not immediately discredit the fact mentioned. History is replete with examples of one-source bits of information so this is nothing new to the historical investigator. The plausibility regarding the accuracy of the fact is determined by other means. Pauline scholars do not doubt that Paul’s list of appearances in 1 Cor. 15 is a true list that he believed to be accurate and reliable when the letter was written.

The skeptic’s claim that eyewitness testimony is not reliable is simply misapplied. For a single, momentary event we can have discrepancies among eyewitnesses. The New Testament’s evidence about the appearances of the resurrected Jesus are not of that nature. These were appearances that had duration. There were conversations that took place, eating events, teaching and questioning of Jesus. These did not happen one time but multiple times, to different people in different locations as well as to a number of the same people over this 40 day period. Such eyewitness testimony would be highly reliable and regarded by historians as extremely valuable because of its credibility.