Saturday, January 24, 2015

New Older Manuscript of Mark? Cool it, please.

There is something people are passing around on FaceBook that is a bit befuddling. It sounds fantastic, but, really....It is not news or even really newsworthy.

The Blaze ran a sensationalizing story on January 20th, 2015 titled

Bible Scripture Found Hidden in Mummy Mask Could End Up Being the Oldest Gospel Ever

This was based on a story at the LiveScience website published January 18th, 2015 titled

Mummy Mask May Reveal Oldest Known Gospel

The story is not new. It dates back to 2012. In the article at LiveScience a brief YouTube video of Dr. Craig Evans, professor of New Testament at the Divinity School of Acadia University, was cited as the source for this news.

The YouTube video is of Dr. Evans speaking at the 2014 Apologetics Canada Conference held at Northview Church in Abbotsford, BC in March of that year.

Dr. Evans described a discovery to his audience that had been reported by Dr. Daniel B. Wallace in a debate with Bart Ehrmann [James A. Gray Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill] in February 2012 at UNC Chapel Hill.

Dr. Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, posted about this debate and the manuscript on March 22, 2012 at his blog under the title

First-Century Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Found!?

At that time the hoped for publishing date was 2013. But as for many works of scholarship that publication date has been delayed. Evans guessed 2014. Now it is 2015.

One of the problems people are having with the information that Wallace and Evans have given is that the information is so little.

What has been stated:
  • The fragment is possibly part of a manuscript of the Gospel of Mark
  • The fragment was dated paleographically [by handwriting style]
  • The fragment was dated by Radiocarbon
  • The fragment is claimed [by Evans] to date to A.D. 80.
  • The fragment was discovered as part of a papier-mâché mix to make a mummy mask
  • The fragment was successfully removed from the mask by a special process that preserved the writing.
Beyond this the rest is still undeclared and cannot be known until the scholarship about the fragment, its provenience, the chain of custody, the dating methods, and the textual analysis are completed.

We simply have to wait and not conjecture.

Why are these scholars so hush-hush about the manuscript?

Discoveries like this are kept under fairly tight wraps with confidentiality agreements. There are a couple of justifications for this. First: it preserves the integrity of the evidence physically and academically. This is a good thing. This helps to prevent the wildfire spread of forgeries and hasty conjecture of forgery. Second: it preserves the rights of those who did the work and, perhaps, own the manuscript, so that they are the ones who are properly credited--and in some cases receive reimbursement for their work. These scholars and the publishers spend their lives studying and publishing about such things. And, in the end, the economic value that people place on their work is how they feed their own families.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chemnitz on The Duties of the Pastor

Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) was one of the principle figures in the Lutheran Reformation. A good case could be made that he is the person most responsible for the defense and promotion of the true Orthodox Lutheran faith after Martin Luther. Chemitz was the son-in-law and student of Philip Melanchthon.

Melanchthon himself was one of Luther's chief aids, and was responsible for the writing of the Augsburg Confession, the Apology to the Augsburg Confession, and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope.

In the times of crisis after Martin Luther's death, Chemnitz was able with a handful of others to produce the Lutheran Book of Concord. Chemnitz was himself responsible for much of the Formula of Concord.

Martin Chemnitz wrote many excellent theological works that are considered essential to Lutheranism and are considered required reading for men in seminary who seek to become pastors. Some of these include:
Among his duties, Chemnitz was responsible for the church order and worship for his region and the continuing education and examination of pastors under his supervision.

To this end he wrote Ministry, Word, and Sacrament: An Enchiridion.This little volume is the handbook describing the kinds of knowledge, discernment, skills, and responsibilities any pastor was expected to have and exercise in the faithful fulfillment of his office as pastor. So if you would wish to know both how to help your own pastor and the kinds of responsibilities he undertakes, it would be helpful to get this book, read through it thoroughly and keep your pastor in your prayers.

Let us then look at the words of the man mainly responsible for the Lutheran Book of Concord and the survival of the true Biblical Teaching of God's Word (pp. 46-8):

Q51: What does God require of ministers of the church, and how does He want them to dispense His mysteries?

Paul covers this very briefly 1 Corinthians 4:2,4. Let the dispensers of the mysteries of God therefore set before themselves the future judgment of God, in which they will be rewarded according to the measure of faithfulness before the judgment seat of Christ.

Q52: What things are required to render that faithfulness?
Very many. For since he who wants to teach in the church ought to be certain that he speaks the oracles of God, 1 Peter 4:11, or what is right before God, Jeremiah 17:16, and to preserve knowledge or doctrine, Malachi 2:7:

First, then it is necessary that he rightly hold fast and understand the principles of sound doctrine and that he be equipped with an average gift to set forth the sum of heavenly doctrine clearly and humbly. 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 2:2; 3:17. For how shall he render due faithfulness in office, who himself either does not understand the doctrine or does not know how rightly to teach and explain the meaning to others?

Second. Let him speak the Word of God not only in general, but let him with special love and diligence so form and apply his sermons to himself and the hearers that the whole church is edified thereby. 1 corinthians 14:12, 26; Ephesians 4:11-12. This is what happens when both in sermons and in his whole ministry he sets before himself the chief parts that the Holy Spirit Himself has prescribed, so that he namely refers and directs all things either to doctrine, or to comfort, or to patience, or to directive, or to reproof, or to correction, or to repentance, or to faith, or to righteousness, or new obedience in good works commanded by God. Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:16; Titus 1:7, 9; Acts 20:21; 26:20. And in Ezekiel 34:15-17 the office of a good and faithful pastor is well described, namely that he feed the sheep, seek the lost, lead back the erring, care for the wounded and weak, encourage the strong, distinguish sheep from goats, etc.

Third. A minister of the Word ought not only teach things true and in harmony with the divine Word. But he ought also render his faithfulness to God and the church entrusted to him in this, that he at the same time rightly feed the sheep and hold off the wolf from the sheepfolds, or as Luther says, he should do both, nourish and defend. He ought therefore neither defend nor cover up or paper over false doctrine, but oppose it openly and plainly and warn his flock to beware of it. Ezekiel 13:10; John 10:5; Matthew 7:15; Titus 1:9-11, 13; Acts 20:29, 31. But he is not to stir up all kinds of unnecessary disputes and strifes about words instead of a discourse, and arouse his hearers with untimely clamoring, but only fight against adversaries in necessary conflicts, without which purity of doctrine cannot be retained. And in these very things let him always have regard to his hearers, as to what is useful and necessary for their edification, so that they might continue in sound doctrine and be able to protect themselves against the ferment of false doctrine.

Fourth. Let a faithful minister of the Word consider that he has been set by God as a watchman and lookout of the church, so that, when he notices that some of his sheep have gone aside from the way of the righteous and have turned aside into the way of sinners, he be neither a sleeping and blind watchman nor a dumb dog. Isaiah 56:10. Nor ought he provide soft pillows for the impious. Ezekiel 13:18. But let him cry out against sins with a loud voice. Isaiah 58:1. And let him be instant in prayer and exhortations, threats and rebukes in all patience and teaching, both in season and in spirit of gentleness and also out of season with severe rebukes. Ezekiel 3:17; 33:7; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15; 1 Corinthians 4:21. For through these means God recalls the erring and raises the fallen. Otherwise, if a pastor neglect this, God will require the blood of lost sheep at his hand. Ezekiel 3:18.

Fifth. He ought not give anyone offense by an evil life, but is to be a type and example for the flock of the Lord with a pious and honorable way of life. 1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Titus 2:7; 1 Peter 5:3; Philippians 3:17. For as Augustine says,
A wicked pastor only destroys as much by life as he builds up by teaching, if indeed he builds anything who lives wickedly, for his teaching is cold who is not affected by the doctrine that he teaches in place of God and does not live it. 
Nazianzen was accustomed to say:
He that teaches well, but lives ill, takes away with one hand what he gives with the other.
Sixth. Since no one is of himself fit and sufficient for so great and arduous an office (2 Corinthians 2:16; 3:5), and no one can successfully sow in the church unless divine blessing be added (1 Corinthians 3:6), therefore let the minister of the Word earnestly and ardently pray, and in united prayers with the church diligently commit both himself and his ministry as well as the whole church to God, following the example of Paul in nearly all his epistles. Cf. 1 Samuel 12:23. And let the ministers of the church often and diligently consider all these things that belong to the faithfulness of a true pastor, that, with the Holy Spirit of God governing and assisting them, they might try in the ministry to render that faithfulness to God and know, that if they do this, their labor will not be in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58), but that they will by the grace of God save both themselves and their hearers (1 Timothy 4:16), or at least their souls go free (Ezekiel 3:19). But if they be found lazy, negligent, and unfaithful, let them know that they must render account before Christ, the chief of shepherds, on the day of judgment.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Three Outposts, Part 1

Steadfast Throwdown

What are the three “outposts” to which God has called you to live the Christian life? What is your “mission” in each of those “outposts”? Join us as Pr. Joe Abrahamson outlines the three “outposts” (estates) to which God calls each of us and explains how our mission is to love our neighbor as God has first loved us.

Study Pr. Abrahamson’s Bible study “The Three Outposts, Your Mission.”

Friday, January 02, 2015

5:2 Trying Even Harder To Be Non-Biblical and Non-Lutheran

I have written a few articles on a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod movement called FiveTwo. This movement is anti-Scriptural at its base, though the founder, Bill Woolsey, and his followers would object to that description in the strongest terms.

I'm not in the LC-MS. The reason I've written about them is that the fact that they are allowed to exist as part of a nominally Confessional Lutheran church body means that people will see them as a legitimate and approved expression of Confessional Lutheran Christianity. After all, if they are part of the largest self-identifying Confessional Lutheran synod in the U.S. then what they teach must, by implication, have the approval of that denomination.

The danger extends not only to the Confessional Lutheran members of the