Book Review: A Scripture Index to Charlesworth’s The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, by Steve Delamarter

[Steve Delamarter, A Scripture Index to Charlesworth’s The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2002, Sheffield Academic Press, London, UK, 99 pages]

delamarter

Essential Complement to Charlesworth’s OTP

To those of a Christian or Jewish persuasion (or those researching either of these belief systems) who own Charlesworth’s two-volume The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (OTP) I would call this an essential complement. It includes “all of the references of the Protestant scriptures contained in the footnotes and in the margins of the OTP” (p 7). Including the footnotes is quite the bonus.

After a very brief preface, followed by a short piece by James H. Charlesworth himself titled “Biblical Stories and Quotations Reflected and Even Adumbrated in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha”, then a brief intro by Delamarter, there are two separate indexes, the first for Volume One and the second for Volume Two. In each of the latter two, Delamarter lists, in order by the 66 books of the Christian Bible (excluding the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon), first the Biblical reference, then its corresponding parallel/allusion/echo in the OTP to its right. If it’s an Old Testament reference following more closely the Septuagint (over against the Hebrew), the Scripture verse will have a parenthetical “(LXX)” following it. From Charlesworth’s first volume, for example, there are four OTP intertextual references to Genesis 2:7:

Apocalypse of Adam 1:2
Apocalypse of Adam 2:5
Testament of Isaac 3:15
Testament of Abraham 11:9 ftnt c

These are all on four separate lines in the index, with the last one adding (LXX) after Gen. 2:7, since this is an LXX, not an MT reference.

The author’s desire is “that, by means of this index, users will have a more convenient point of entry into the study of the intertextuality of scripture and Pseudepigrapha than has ever been available before” (p 10). I’d say this work succeeds marvellously in that aim.

Erratta: On page 47 it should be Jude 6 rather than Jude 5 as the reference from/to 1 Enoch 10:4.

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It is Perfectly Finished, part I

[See part II]

28 After this, knowing that now everything was completed, Jesus said—so that Scripture might be perfected—“I’m thirsty.” 29 A container was lying there full of wine vinegar; so, affixing a sponge soaked with the wine vinegar to some hyssop, they brought it to His mouth. 30 After Jesus received the wine vinegar He said, “It is finished.” Then He bowed His head and handed over His the spirit (John 19:28-30).1

John records Jesus’ last word on the cross as tetelestai, “It is finished,”2 choosing to narrate Jesus’ handing over of His spirit rather than quoting His words as Luke prefers (23:46: “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit”), thus highlighting tetelestai Here. This article will discuss the significance of this one-word statement—including the implication of the perfect tense-form—and, along the way, comment on some other aspects of these three verses.

Jesus’ Last Testament

The two words beginning this selection, after this, refer back to 19:2627 (“Here is your son”, “here is your mother”), as does knowing that now everything was completed. This indicates that Jesus’ words to Mary and John (19:26-17) completes the work He came to do in this regard. The implication in this exchange here is that Joseph is deceased, and Jesus’ desire is for His earthly mother to be cared for—as He Himself had apparently been doing.

Evidence suggests that Jewish custom allowed “a dying man . . . to settle the legal status of the women for whom  he was responsible.”3 This appears to be what Jesus is doing in 19:26-27—legally appointing John to His former position as the person responsible for His mother, a widow.4 Common practice required that Jesus would ensure that His mother Mary be “adequately cared for by a male head of household in the patriarchal culture of first-century Israel.”5 Apparently, in doing so, Jesus proclaimed what would be akin to His last will and testament.6 Importantly, rather than a sibling, Jesus entrusts a disciple to the care of His mother, in accordance with the Jewish custom of “the believing community [being] stronger than natural familial bonds,”7 for not even His own brothers believed in Him (John 7.5).  “When Jesus entrusted His mother to the Beloved Disciple, He established a new household centered on a common relationship with Jesus”8

Christ’s earthly ministry to others had come to a close:9 “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

Which Scripture “Perfected”?

There is some ambiguity in the grammar of verse 28: (a) does the clause so that Scripture might be perfected refer to knowing that now everything was completed, in turn referring to Jesus’ words to Mary and John (19:26-27); or, alternatively, (b) does so that Scripture might be perfected point to Jesus’ thirst and, ultimately, His final words “It is finished”?10 The former (a) seems unlikely, for one would have to account for Jesus expressing his thirst, and this would seem better suited to the context if the “perfected” clause refers to what follows it.  However, another option to consider is that one could assume (a), but look even further back to 19:24, in which Psalm 22:18 (“They divided my garments among them . . .”) had just been quoted, and apply “I’m thirsty” to verse 15 of the same Psalm. In this scenario, Jesus is reminded again of Psalm 22 and, recalling “my tongue cleaves . . .” of verse 15, in His humanity, He realizes that He is thirsty.11

Nonetheless, given the three-fold use of wine vinegar (oxos) here and Jesus’ final words “It is finished” upon receiving it, (b) appears most likely to be the author’s intent.12 If so, any or all of the following events must perfect Scripture in some way: Jesus’ statement of thirst, His subsequent receiving of the wine vinegar, His final statement, the handing over of His spirit.

Assuming the translation and the interpretation above are correct—option (b) above—to which Scripture does so that Scripture might be perfected refer? The two best candidates are Psalm 69:21 (LXX 68:22) and Psalm 22:15 (LXX 21:16). Each, however, has its own problems as a contender. On the former, the wine vinegar is offered with apparent malicious intent, while here in verse 29 it appears to be given without malice.13 On the latter (22:15), there’s no mention of a drink being offered. On the other hand, Psalm 69:21 specifically mentions oxos, wine vinegar, like here in our subject verses, and the noun form of the verb used here for thirst (dipsaō) is in this psalm as well, while Psalm 22:15 specifically mentions both extreme thirst and death. It should be noted that John’s Gospel elsewhere references Psalm 69 (2:17; 15:25) and Psalm 22 (19:24—right in the Passion narrative, as noted just above). Carson’s concise yet complete manner of describing one interpretation is worth quoting:

If we grant that Jesus knew he was fulfilling this Scripture [Ps. 69:21], presumably he knew that by verbally confessing his thirst he would precipitate the soldiers’ effort to give him some wine vinegar. In that case, the fulfillment clause could be rendered: ‘Jesus, knowing that all things had been accomplished, in order to fulfil [the] Scripture [which says “They . . . gave me vinegar for my thirst”] said “I thirst”’.14

But, could the clause refer and/or allude to both?15 Though graphē, “Scripture”, is in the singular here, this does not necessarily restrict its reference to only one Scripture. For comparison, even though graphē in John 20:9 is in the singular, it very likely refers to more than one single referent or section of Scripture.16 The same could apply here.

More investigation is needed.

The Fullness of Perfection

Notably, the common word used in reference to the fulfilling of Scripture, the verb plēroō (see Matthew 1:22; 5:17, etc.), is not used in 19:28, but rather teleioō—here specifically as teleiōthȩ̄ (an aorist passive subjunctive)—which is a cognate of teleō, the root of tetelestai. In other words, teleioō, the lexical form (dictionary word) of teleiōthȩ̄, is directly related to teleō, the lexical form of tetelestai. While some claim that plēroō and teleioō are perfectly synonymous,17 others assert that each has a slightly different connotation.18 Westcott makes a strong statement, perceiving a distinction between the two:

The word used (τελειωθῇ [teleiōthȩ̄] . . . for which some [manuscripts] substitute the usual word πληρωθῇ [plērōthȩ̄]) is very remarkable. It appears to mark not the isolated fulfilling of a particular trait in the scriptural picture, but the perfect completion of the whole prophetic image. This utterance of physical suffering was the last thing required that Messiah might be “made perfect” (Heb. 2:10, 5:7ff.), and so the ideal of prophecy “made perfect” in Him. Or, to express the same thought otherwise, that “work” which Christ came to “make perfect” (John 4:34, 17:4) was written in Scripture, and by the realisation of the work the Scripture was “perfected.” Thus under different aspects of this word [teleioō and teleō] and of that which it implies, prophecy, the earthly work of Christ, and Christ Himself were “made perfect.”19

Stated another way, Westcott sees a deliberate connection between John’s usage of teleioō in 19:28 and his use of teleō in 19:30, believing the Gospel writer chose teleioō over plēroō for an express theological purpose.20 It may be significant that plēroō is employed in 19:24 (as plērōthȩ̄, an aorist passive subjunctive—the same verbal form in 19:28), just a few verses prior to the use of teleioō (teleiōthȩ̄) in 19:28.

Bultmann opposes this view: “This [use of teleiōthȩ̄ instead of plērōthȩ̄] is repeatedly understood . . . as if it were intended to signify the conclusive fulfillment of the entire Scriptures. Nevertheless it seems, as in 13:18, that the fulfillment of a particular passage is meant.”21 So, who’s correct? Does the use of this verb (teleiōthȩ̄) over the other (plērōthȩ̄) indicate a fulfillment of all Scripture, or does it simply express the fulfillment of one specific passage?

An investigation finds John using teleioō a scant four times in his Gospel—three in reference to the Father’s work (4:34; 5:36; 17:4) and one in relation to the “perfecting” of believers into one (17:23).22 Comparatively, John’s Gospel employs plēroō fifteen times, five of which refer to the fulfillment of a particular passage (12:38; 13:18; 15:25; 19:24; 19:36),23 another three the fulfillment of words of Jesus in John’s Gospel (17:12; 18:9; 18:32), with the others in reference to either joy (3:29; 15:11; 16:24; 17:13), time (7:8), fragrance of perfume (12:3), or grief (16:6).24 Thus, as we can see, plēroō has a range of uses, but, when used of Scripture, it references either a specific OT verse or a particular prophecy of Jesus; whereas, teleioō is utilized much more sparingly, with the majority in reference to the Father’s work that Jesus was to “perfect.”

The evidence supports Westcott. Adopting this view, so that Scripture might be perfected prefigures the events following up to and including Jesus’ climactic words and handing over of His spirit, resulting in the  “perfecting” of all Scriptures related to the ‘work’ of the Father.25

As mentioned earlier, given that the singular graphē in John 20:9 most likely refers to more than one Scripture, the same may well prevail in 19:28. Accepting this is the case, we’ll assume that 19:28 fulfills both Psa. 69:21 and Psa. 22:15. In this way,  the former’s oxos (wine vinegar) and dipsaō (noun form of the verb here for “I’m thirsty”) are fulfilled, while the latter’s extreme thirst and death are fulfilled as well. However, more broadly, when a portion of Scripture is quoted, those Jews in the audience would mentally fill in the remainder of the book from which the quote was taken (though this does not mean they necessarily understood the significance). For example, in both Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 the very first verse of Psa. 22 is quoted (“why have you forsaken me!”), yet the entire psalm should be understood as in mind. In light of this, Blomberg observes, “The view that Jesus’ quotation of Psa. 22 anticipates the vindication found in the larger context of the psalm stresses what does not appear in the text at the expense of what does.”26 In other words, Jesus’ quotation of Psa. 22:1 is intended to refer to the entire psalm, thus prefiguring His resurrection (Psa. 22:22-24).

More on teleioō will be forthcoming.

Wine Vinegar, a Sponge, and Hyssop

The physical elements of 19:29 and their interrelationships are variously understood. The wine vinegar, oxos, is not to be confused with the wine mixed with myrrh (oinos) offered but refused by Jesus in Mark 15:23.  It was most likely a common drink of the Roman soldiers to quench thirst, called posca, which would have been readily available at the scene.27 This would mean “they” here refers to members of the Roman army.

There is some question as to whether hyssop, hyssōpos, was the actual implement that the wine vinegar-soaked sponge was affixed to. A branch of hyssop would be too flimsy to support the weight of the sponge, and so various theories have been proffered.28 F. F. Bruce opines:

A sprig of hyssop seems an unsuitable instrument for the purpose, but John’s wording may be influenced by the symbolic use of hyssop in the Old Testament (Num. 19:6; Ps. 51:7). The death of Jesus is the true Passover and the effective means of inward cleansing. Another possibility is that the sponge soaked in sour vinegar, with some hyssop thrust into it, was stretched to Jesus’ mouth on the end of a reed or the like, in order that the cooling effect of the hyssop leaves might enhance the refreshing property of the sour wine.29

The latter possibility could explain the passage, harmonizing it with Mark 15:36. However it seems that the connection between the use of hyssop for ritual cleansing, and King David’s use of it as a metonymy for the cleansing of sin, as compared to its use here seems a bit tenuous, though Comfort opines that the “hyssop in the crucifixion scene reminds readers of their need for spiritual cleansing.”30 But Brown, after mentioning that hyssop was used to sprinkle the paschal lamb’s blood on the doorposts at the original Passover (Ex. 12.22), helpfully, offers additional insight:

Of course, there is a difference between using hyssop to sprinkle blood and using hyssop to support a sponge full of wine, but John shows considerable imagination in the adaptation of symbols. (In a way it is just as imaginative to see a reference to the paschal lamb in the fact that Jesus’ bones were not broken, but John 19:36 does not hesitate to make the connection.) It is difficult to apply rigorous logic to symbolism.31

Keener adds, “The very implausibility of the literal portrait reinforces the probability that John intended his audience to envision the symbolic allusion to Passover”32 (cf. John 1:29; Heb. 9:19ff). If this explains the significance of the hyssop in the Passion narrative—and it well may—this would be akin to the remez (deep meaning), or the sod (hidden meaning) in the Jewish midrashic approach to Scripture interpretation. Of course, in Paul’s writings especially, the Apostle describes Christ as the mystery, mystērion, now revealed (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:9; Col. 1:26).

part II
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1 My own translation in which I try to strike a balance between formal equivalency (“literal”, or ‘wooden’) and functional (dynamic) equivalency.  As a self-studying layman, I’ve relied on Accordance / OakTree Software (Version 11.2.4.0) using the NA28 text, various grammars, lexicons—including the BDAG (W. Bauer, F. W. Danker, W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd. ed. (Chicago, IL: Chicago, 2000) and F. W. Danker’s The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: Chicago, 2009)—and, as a final check, English translations. As an example of my methodology, for dipsō a formal equivalency would be I thirst, but of course this is not idiomatic English, which would instead be I am thirsty; however, considering the context, it would be improbable that Jesus would be even that ‘formal’, as He’d be more likely to speak colloquially, therefore, I’m thirsty is a more realistic functional equivalent. After arriving at this tentative conclusion, I checked some English versions finding a few with this rendering (ISV, Holman, GOD’s WORD).

2 Greek finite verbs encode person and number, and in this case it’s in the 3rd person singular, “it”, forming the complete sentence “It is finished.”

3 Craig Keener, The Gospel of John (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003), p 1144.

4 See Keener, John, pp 1144-1145; cf. Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001), p 252.

5 Blomberg, Historical Reliability, p 252.

6 See George R. Beasley-Murray, John, WBC (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), p 349; Keener, John, p 1144.

7 Keener, John, p 1145. The phraseology used by Jesus in 19:26-27 is reminiscent of adoption language: See Beasley-Murray, John, p 349; cf. Craig Koester, Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel: Meaning, Mystery, Community (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1995), pp 214-216.

8 Koester, Symbolism, p 254; cf. pp 215-216.

9 See B. F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John, Westcott’s Commentaries on the Gospel of John, Ephesians, Hebrews, and the Epistles of John; Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 5364-5 (John 19:28); cf. 4080 (13:1): Compare verse 28’s εἰδὼς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι with 13:1. Westcott’s commentary was originally written ca. late 1800s.

10 See Roger L. Omanson, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart, Germany: German Bible Society, 2006), p 209.

11 While not enumerated as a plausible understanding within his work, this possibility came to me while reading D. A. Carson’s The Gospel According to John, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991), p 619.

12 Given perceived theological importance concerning so that Scripture might be perfected, the translation here employs em dashes before and after the clause, in order to draw more attention to it, as compared to using parentheses, which tend to make parenthetical content more subdued.

13 Marianne Meye Thompson, John: A Commentary, The New Testament Library (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2015) states that the oxos here is “probably the drink known in Latin as posca . . . a common drink of the Roman army”, which “served to slake thirst, not exacerbate it” (p 401). Cf. Keener, John, p 1147.

14 Carson, According to John, p 619 (brackets in original, except “Ps. 69:21”).

15 C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1978) asserts: “There can be little doubt that [Ps. 69.21 (LXX 68:22)] is the γραφή [graphē] in mind” (p 553).

16 See, e.g., Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI, The Anchor Yale Bible; (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), pp 987-988.

17 E.g., Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John, transl. G. R. Beasley-Murray, Gen Ed., R. W. N. Hoare & J. K. Riches (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1971), p 674.

18 E.g., Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary, transl. J. Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), p 616.

19 Westcott, According to St. John, paragraph 5369; bracketed statements added. An editorial decision was made here in the last sentence of this quote. In its original form it reads: Thus under different aspects of this word and of that which it implies, prophecy, and the earthly work of Christ, and Christ Himself, were “made perfect.” The “and” preceding the earthly work of Christ was stricken, and the comma following Christ Himself was deleted for the sake of readability. This is not to slight Westcott, his editor(s), or the publisher—with modern word processors, it is much easier to edit today.

20 In the Westcott quote just above, the author notes that some manuscripts substitute plērōthȩ̄. While there are more than just a few ( Ds Θ ƒ1.13 (565) it), the evidence is decisively against its originality.

21 Bultmann, John, p 674; cf. Beasley-Murray, John, p 351.

22 John also uses the term four times in his first epistle, each time related to God’s love “perfecting” the believer (2:5, 4:12, 4:17; 4:18).

23 Respectively, Isa. 53:1; Ps. 41:9; Ps. 69:4 (cf. 35:19; 109.3); Ps. 22:18; Ps. 34:20.

24 There is also a reference to joy in John’s first epistle (1:4), another in 2 John (12); and, there are two additional references in Revelation: deeds (3:2) and number killed (6:11).

25 Not Bultmann’s “conclusive fulfillment of the entire Scriptures”, though the author may have meant to limit his statement to those referencing the cross. Relatedly, Luke (3:32) records Jesus’ words, “On the third day I will be ‘perfected’.”

26 Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, New American Commentary 22; Gen. Ed. David S. Dockery (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1992), p 419.

27 See note 13 above. Cf. Brown, According to John XIII-XXI, p 909.

28 See Brown, According to John XIII-XXI, pp 909-910; F. F. Bruce, The Gospel & Epistles of John, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983), p 373; Carson, John, pp 620-621.

29 Bruce, Gospel & Epistles of John, p 373.

30 Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2008), p 319

31 Brown, According to John XIII-XXI, p 930.

32 Keener, John, p 1147.

Biblical Inerrancy

Is the Bible, the Christian Holy Scriptures, infallible?  That is, is the Bible we take to church, read, and study free from all error?  Some claim it isn’t.

From my perspective, I believe that all Scripture is “God-breathed” [2 Tim 3:16] and is, hence, inerrant.  My Statement of Faith expounds on this:

The Holy Bible, in its original form, is the Holy Spirit-inspired [2 Tim 3:16], inerrant, and infallible Word of God [Prov 30:5; 2 Peter 1:20-21], complete unto itself. The Bible will never be superseded or supplemented by any other teaching [Prov 30:6] and nothing should be subtracted from it [Deut 4:2; Matt 5:17; Rev 22:18-19]. Its full counsel provides the way to live a complete Christian life [2 Tim 3:16-17]. [Emphasis added.]

However, I submit the following for consideration. Craig A. Evans’ book Fabricating Jesus [2006, InterVarsity, Downers Grove, IL] is an apologetic against those who would claim the Gnostic “Gospels” (so-called) are a (or THE) form of authentic Christianity. Evans notes that Bart Ehrman, a ‘former Christian’, became an agnostic and somewhat amenable to the Gnostic position, thinking Christianity merely won out over Gnosticism by political wrangling, in part because Ehrman lost faith in the inerrancy of Scripture by studying the text of Mark 2:25-26 (among others).

Here’s the passage in the NASB:

25 And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; 26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?”

While each translation/version of the Bible differs a bit (naturally, as some are more literal, such as the NASB and ESV, while others are more dynamic, such as the NIV), each one contains the essence of the above.  Evans comments:

Jesus has alluded to the story of David’s receiving consecrated bread…from Ahimelech the priest (1 Sam 21:1-10). David was fleeing from Saul, and when Saul learned that Ahimelech had assisted David and his men, he murdered Ahimelech and most of his family. Abiathar escaped and eventually succeeded his father as priest (1 Sam 22:1-10). Because Ahimelech – not his son Abiathar – was the priest when David and his men ate the consecrated bread, we have a mistake, technically speaking, either made by Jesus himself or by Mark (or perhaps by someone who passed on the story). [p 31]

Now let me state quite clearly that I don’t think for a nanosecond that Jesus made a mistake! And, I don’t think Evans does either. Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe [Making Sense of Bible Difficulties 2009 (1992), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI] explain how to understand this passage in the following:

First Samuel is correct in stating that the high priest was Ahimelech. On the other hand, neither was Jesus wrong. When we take a close look at Christ’s words, we notice that He used the phrase “in the days of Abiathar” (v. 26), which does not necessarily imply that Abiathar was high priest at the time David ate the bread. After David met Ahimelech and at the bread, King Saul had Ahimelech killed…Abiathar escaped and went to David (v. 20) and later took the place of high priest. So even though Abiathar was made high priest after David ate the bread, it is still correct to speak in this manner. After all, Abiathar was alive when David did this, and soon following he became the high priest after his father’s death. Thus, it was during the time of Abiathar, but not during his tenure in office. [Pp 175-176.  All emphasis in original.]

I don’t know about you dear reader, but this explanation does not seem satisfactory to me. This would be akin to saying “in the days of Herod Antipas” while referring to a particular time, say 10BC, which was actually during the reign of his father Herod the Great. Sure Antipas was alive, but he was not yet Herod.

In any case, this does not destroy my faith in Holy Writ as my faith is in Jesus Christ and His Atoning death, burial and Resurrection, which are verifiable historical facts (just ask former skeptic Lee Strobel). I can only guess why the Markan account is written as such. Perhaps it is a scribal error which was replicated in both the Textus Receptus (Latin for “received text”, the Greek text undergirding the KJV and the NKJV) and the Critical Text (the Greek text from which most, if not all, other modern Bible versions are largely based), which has been carried forth to this day?

We do not have any of the original NT documents.  We do not have any of Paul’s original letters from his pen (or the pen of any of those who acted as a scribe for Paul from his dictation) or any of the original Gospels from the Gospel writer’s own hand.  Consequently, we have copies – hand-scribed copies – of these precious documents.  We have copies of copies, thus increasing the likelihood of changes from the original texts due to copyist error or even by a scribe’s misguided attempts at “correcting” the original.  It is for all these reasons that my Statement of Faith has the qualifying phrase “…in its original form…” in the selected portion used above, referring to the inerrancy of Scripture.

However, rest assured; we have more copies and fragments of the New Testament than any other literary work from this period.  In fact, many more.  This is where the importance of the ongoing research known as NT Textual Criticism1 – an art as much as a science – comes into play.  These multitudes of NT documents enable the textual critic to arrive at what is most likely the original text in the large majority of cases.  However, there are differences of opinions as to just what is the original text among textual critics on some Biblical passages.  A basic overview of the process of textual criticism and its ramifications will be discussed in future articles here on CrossWise.

1 J. Harold Greenlee [Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism (Revised Edition). 2010, sixth prtng (© 1964 Eerdmans; © 1995 Hendrickson), Hendrickson Publishing, Peabody, MA] defines textual criticism as, “the study of copies of any written work of which the autograph (the original) is unknown, with the purpose of ascertaining the original text” [p 1].  An easier read as an introduction to NT Textual Criticism is Greenlee’s The Text of the New Testament: From Manuscript to Modern Edition [2008, Hendrickson Publishing, Peabody, MA].

Greater Works Shall You Do

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

-The Gospel of John 14:12, NKJV

What are these “greater works” which those who believe in Jesus Christ will do?  What can be greater than calming the wind and the waves of a raging storm by rebuking [Mark 4:35-41; Matt 8:18, 23-27; Luke 8:22-25]?  Halting a hurricane perhaps?  Or, how does one do greater than raising Lazarus from the dead after four days [John 11:38-44]?  Raising the dead after five days? Six days?  Thirty days?  A year?

Craig Blomberg notes Jesus’ emphatic “double-‘Amen’” [“Verily, Verily” in the KJV or “Truly, truly” in the NASB, rendered “Most assuredly” above, which literally translates as “Amen, amen”] yet, “it is not likely that the later church would invent a saying ascribed to Jesus susceptible to the interpretation that the disciples were greater than their master.”1  So, what does this verse mean?  What are these “greater works” we will do?

Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, teaches that Jesus is referring to greater signs and wonders.  This is based, in part, on Johnson’s claim that Jesus Christ performed the miraculous merely as “a man in right relationship to God…not as God”2 who was “completely dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit working through Him”3 because He had “laid his divinity aside”4 in His “self-imposed restriction to live as a man”5 therefore possessing “NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever”.6  In Johnson’s theology, if Jesus Christ could do all He did as a Spirit-moved man, then Holy Spirit indwelt Christians should be able to exceed the greatness, the quality, of Jesus’ miracle workings:

Jesus’ prophecy of us doing greater works than He did has stirred the Church to look for some abstract meaning to this very simple statement.  Many theologians seek to honor the works of Jesus as unattainable, which is religion, fathered by unbelief.  It does not impress God to ignore what He promised under the guise of honoring the work of Jesus on the earth.  Jesus’ statement is not that hard to understand.  Greater means ‘greater.’  And, the works He referred to are signs and wonders.  It will not be a disservice to Him to have a generation obey Him, and go beyond His own high-water mark.  He showed us what one person could do who has the Spirit without measure.  What could millions do?  That was His point, and it became His prophecy.

This verse is often explained away by saying it refers to quantity of works, not quality.  As you can see, millions of people should be able to surpass the sheer number of works that Jesus did simply because we are so many.  But that waters down the intent of His statement.  The word greater is mizon [sic] in the Greek.  It is found 45 times in the New Testament.  It is always used to describe ‘quality,’ not quantity.7

Johnson is correct in that the Greek word meizon (not mizon)8 refers to greater in quality rather than quantity.  But are the ‘greater works’ referring to “signs and wonders” as in calming storms and raising the dead?  Gary Burge asserts, “The promise can hardly mean that the efforts of disciples will exceed those of Jesus who, for instance, provided the stupendous miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead.”9  Andreas Kostenberger reflects:

Do greater things than Jesus did?  This claim seems daring.  The difficulty evaporates when one realizes that these ‘greater works’ are still works of Jesus, now carried out from his exalted position with the Father through his commissioned, faithful followers.   Because Jesus is now with the Father, we can expect to do greater works than even Jesus did: on the basis of his once-for-all death on the cross, and in answer to believing prayer for all that is necessary to accomplish the mission Jesus never relinquished.10

And what was Jesus’ mission?

“Because I Go to My Father”

J. Louis Martyn refers to the “highly paradoxical”11 nature of this verse.  However, the key to interpreting and understanding this verse, as in any Scripture, is to keep it in its proper context as “he clearly says in the promise that all this will take place because he is going to the Father.”12  What occurs after His Ascension?  Two things: 1) Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father providing intercession for us as our Mediator through prayers in His name; and, 2) after Pentecost, all true Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  For more complete context, here are verses 12 through 17a in the NIV (1984):

12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.

15If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — 17the Spirit of truth. [NIV 1984]

Kostenberger: “For once Jesus is exalted in his Father’s presence, believers will be able to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name, and Jesus himself will answer these prayers.”13  Burge states, “What is ‘greater’ is that these works will be done by regular people in whom the power of Christ has taken up residence following his glorification.”14  However, Kostenberger adds, “understanding the impact of Jesus’ words to his original audience requires historical imagination.  For what was a novel vision for Jesus’ first followers has become an everyday reality for us today: to be indwelt by the Spirit and to pray – in Jesus’ name”.15  (Kostenberger also clarifies, “Praying in Jesus’ name does not involve magical incantation but rather expresses alignment of one’s desires and purposes with God [1 John 5:14-15]”,16 i.e. obedience to the written Word [v 15].) While both of these should remain awe-inspiring to the child of God, these privileges are, shamefully, very easy to take for granted.

Partnering with God Rather Than Exceeding His Greatness

Martyn sees in John 14:12 a continuation of partnering with Jesus which Jesus Himself had told His disciples back in John 9:4 (and first mentioned in 3:11): “We must work the works of him who sent me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” [NASB].17  This will progress until the culmination of all things:

The work of Jesus appears not to be terminated in the time of his earthly life.  On the contrary, his going to the Father inaugurates a time in which his followers do his works.  Indeed, 9:4a leads us to see this continuation of Jesus’ works as an activity of the Risen Lord in the deeds of Christian witnesses.18

After Jesus’ glorification, the Father sent “another Counselor” [Helper, Advocate, Comforter], another parakletos (Paraclete) [v 15], the “Spirit of truth” [v 17; 15:26; 16:13].  This other Paraclete is invisible to the world as the world does not know Him [14:17].  Yet, He will teach believers all things [14:26].  He will bear witness of Jesus [15:26]; He will glorify Jesus [16:14] not speaking of His own authority, only what He hears [16:13].  He will judge the world and convict of sin [16:8-11].19

Observing some obvious parallels between Jesus and the Paraclete (parakletos), Martyn illustrates how the Gospel writer compares these to believers.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world [17:18 (NIV) compared to Jesus in 8:42 and the Holy Spirit in 15:26/14:26, also 12:49/14:24 and 16:13].  The reason that the world does not know us [believers] is that it did not know him [1 John 3:1 (NIV), also John 17:25, compared to 8:19/17:25 and 14:17].  And you [believers] will bear witness also… [15:27 (NASB) compared to 8:14 and 15:26].  Noting the current application of the narrative of John 9, Martyn states of 9:39, “Jesus [in the person of the Christian Witness] said, ‘For judgment I came into the world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind’” [compared to 3:18-19 and 16:13].  And, lastly, Martyn sees Jesus’ work extending into the present through believers specifically in the “greater works” verse: Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go to the Father [14:12 (NASB) compared to 14:25 and 14:26/16:13].20

So, while Jesus literally healed the blind man by giving him the eyesight he never had [9:1-11], there is also a figurative/spiritual application in this teaching narrative/discourse as spiritual sight in contrast to spiritual blindness [9:35-41].  Jesus tells the unbelieving Pharisees [‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath’ – 9:16 NIV], “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” [9:41 NIV].  These Pharisees were now guilty because they remained in their sins despite seeing the Son of God:

39And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and those who see may become blind.’ [John 9:39 NASB]

Yet the man formerly blind from birth passed from eternal death to eternal life as he gained his spiritual sight [9:38-39] – something much more important than merely receiving physical sight!

As J. Louis Martyn rephrases, “this [miraculous works to include healing] is not terminated in Jesus’ earthly lifetime…but rather…the Risen Lord continues his earthly ministry in the work of his servant, the Christian preacher…”21  This is the privilege of all children of God as we preach the true Gospel – that we are hopeless sinners in need of a Savior who has already paid the price for our sin debt – the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth [14:17; 15:26; 16:13] works through us, His children, convicting of sin [16:8-11] leading to repentance.  While there will be those in the world who wish to hold on to their sin and thus hate God and His disciples [15:18-25], it is still our distinct privilege to preach the Gospel to the lost.

To reiterate, the Holy Spirit does not speak on His own, only what He hears [16:13], which means He does not glorify Himself or even bring any attention to Himself whatsoever as He will bear witness to and glorify Jesus Christ [15:26; 16:14] instead.  And by extension, we, as Holy Spirit indwelt Christians, do the same: we do not glorify or magnify ourselves but rather we bear witness [15:27] to and glorify Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior by the power of the Spirit working through us.

Eternal Life – The Greatest of Miracles

F. F. Bruce finds precedence of the “greater works” motif of John 14:12 in 5:20:

When, after the healing at the pool of Bethesda, Jesus affirmed that the works he did were those which the Father showed him, he added, ‘he will show him greater works than these, to give you cause for marvel’ (John 5:20).  Now [in 14:12] he tells his disciples that they in turn would do the works that he did.  That must have been surprising enough.  But what were they to think when he went on to say that, because he was going to the Father, they would do even greater works than they had seen him do?22

Likewise, so does D. A. Carson see 5:20’s “greater works” in 14:12.  As per Kostenberger’s BECNT commentary, “[Carson] correctly locates the clues to a proper understanding of 14:12 in the parallel in 5:20 and in the final clause ‘because I am going to the Father,’ and points to the disciples’ greater understanding after the resurrection in the ‘new eschatological age that will have dawned.’”23  For a better understanding of how 5:20 relates to 14:12 we need to take a closer look into the pool of Bethesda.

The pool of Bethesda is the place where individuals of various afflictions would congregate waiting for someone to stir the pool assuming this stirring would provide curative powers in its waters [5:7].  Jesus met the paralytic man waiting beside the pool, told him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” [5:8], and the man was cured, then he picked up his mat and walked away [5:9].  Since this miracle was performed on the Sabbath [5:9], the Jews informed the now healed man that it was unlawful to work (carry his mat) on the Sabbath [5:10] according to their extra-biblical oral tradition. Jesus later found the former paralytic and said, “See, you are well again.  Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” [5:14].  This prefigures the healing of the blind man [9:1-7] who subsequently received his spiritual sight [9:39] by believing Jesus to be the Son of Man [9:35; cf. Daniel 7:13], the Messiah (Anointed One) [Daniel 9:26], then believing in and worshiping Him.

The Jews were angry that Jesus not only healed on the Sabbath, but that He instructed the man to ‘sin’ by ‘working’ on the Sabbath [5:16].   Once Jesus equated Himself with God as God’s Son working on the Sabbath along with His Father [5:17], the Jews desired all the more to kill him [5:18].  Jesus responds by reiterating His relationship with the Father as both His Son [5:19] and His equal [5:20-21], and, further, by claiming that Jesus Himself will judge rather than the Father [5:22; cf. 14:6 – “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”].  Blomberg expounds, “Verses 21-22 refer to two major ‘works’ that Jews recognized God continued to perform on the Sabbath – giving life (as children were born) and exercising judgment (as people died).”24

20 For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel.
21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.
22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,
23 in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
25 Truly, Truly I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall live.
26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself;
27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. [John 5:20-27, NASB; emphasis added]

The “greater works” [5:20] referred to in this passage – greater than healing a paralytic on the Sabbath – is the fact that Jesus “gives life to whom He wishes” [5:21], which means providing “eternal life” [5:24] in the then present [5:25] continuing till the eschaton (end of all things).  In addition, Jesus has been given authority to judge all [5:22] in the then present [5:24] and at the eschaton [5:27-29].  He provides eternal life to those who honor Him [5:23a] while judging those who refuse [5:23b].  The thief on the Cross is an example of how Jesus ‘gave life to whom He wished’ [Luke 23:43] during His earthly ministry.  Conversely, after witnessing the blind man who could subsequently see, the Pharisees met Jesus’ judgment [9:39-41] for their unbelief in Jesus as the Christ/Messiah.

Craig Keener also recognizes the “parallel language” of 14:12 and 5:20 [and 1:50].25   He comments, “The claim that God delegates the judgment to Jesus would have unnerved his opponents.”26  Keener adds

Like the Father, Jesus could give life (5:21; cf. 17:2); this made him act in a divine mannerThe resurrection of the dead was a divine work, specifically attributed to God…God was widely viewed as the giver of life, hence the only one who life was not contingent  on a giver of life…In the context, the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda prefigures in a small way the resurrection; Jesus will raise the dead, just as he told the lame man to ‘rise’…That he gives life to ‘whomever he wills’ (5:21) reinforces the image of divinity in this Gospel; God made alive (cf. 6:57, 63) and drew to life those whom he willed (6:37, 44, 65; cf. 3:8).

The discourse reports a number of divine activities the Father has ‘given’ the Son: judgment (5:22, 27), life in himself (5:26), and divine works (5:36; cf. 5:20)…27

For those who insist, like Bill Johnson, that Jesus performed all His miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit, the above Scripture [5:20-27 and the others Keener cites] irrefutably proves otherwise.  To assert the Holy Spirit was the vehicle used in Jesus’ ‘giving life to whom He wishes’ and ‘executing judgment’ is to defy logic.  How could Jesus ‘give life to whom He wishes’ (and its converse – execute judgment) if He was dependent upon the Holy Spirit instead?  Or, did Jesus command the Holy Spirit to give life to whom He willed?  Of course not; if Jesus was functioning strictly as a man dependent on God, as Johnson asserts, then He certainly could not command God the Holy Spirit to obey Him.

Furthermore, if we were to assume (incorrectly, of course) that Jesus relied on the Holy Spirit both to “give life” [5:21, 24-25] and “execute judgment” [5:22, 24, 27], then Holy Spirit indwelt Christians should be able to ‘give life to whom we choose’ and judge those whom we wish to judge.  Of course we can neither grant eternal life/judgment to anyone in and of ourselves nor can we command the Holy Spirit to do so [however, Christians do have a role in judgment after the eschaton, cf. Matthew 19:28; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3].  Instead, we play an integral role in effecting eternal life (or judgment) as the privileged vehicle through which the Holy Spirit works in and through as we preach the true Gospel and as we humbly pray for others in Jesus’ name.

The greatest miracle of all is the changed hearts of individuals as they transition from eternal death to eternal life by the acceptance of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ: by believing and confessing that Christ died on the Cross in propitiation for the collective sins of mankind, was raised from the dead, and by acknowledging individual inherent sinfulness and subsequently repenting, one is spared God’s eternal wrath, passing from death to everlasting life.

Nineteenth century expositor J. C. Ryle puts it succinctly:

In short, ‘greater works’ mean more conversions.  There is no greater work possible than the conversion of a soul.28

Keener, commenting on 14:12, asserts “The promise of ‘greater works’ calls John’s audience to look not only backward but also to the present, where Christ continues to remain active through his presence by the Paraclete and his proclaimed word.”29  The “greater works” then refers to Christians, mere mortals, whom the Holy Spirit works in and through to effect salvation to those who believe in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and are saved, in contrast to exacting judgment on those who refuse Him and His sacrifice.  This is “greater” than Jesus who did these things as God – not a Spirit-moved man – during His earthly ministry.

see also:
Kenosis, Christology and Bill Johnson, part I
Kenosis, Christology and Bill Johnson, part II
Kris Vallotton and the Mantle of Jesus Christ/Bill Johnson on Corporate Anointing

Endnotes:

1 Blomberg, Craig. The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel. 2001, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL; p 199
2 Johnson, Bill. When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003, Treasure House/Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 29.  Ellipse in original.
3 Johnson; p 29
4 Johnson; p 79.  In original text a footnote follows this phrase referring to Philippians 2:5-7, a proof-text used for those propounding the unorthodox/heterodox kenosis doctrine.
5 Johnson; p 29
6 Johnson; p 29
7 Johnson; p 185.  Underscore from emphasis (italics) in original; bolding added for emphasis.
8 Strong, James; J. R. Kohlenberger, III and J. A. Swanson, eds. The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. 2001, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 440, 1514.  Meizon is Strong’s # 3187.
9 Burge, Gary M. “John’s Gospel” in Evans, Craig A., ed. The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: John, Hebrews – Revelation.  2005, Victor/Cook Communications Ministries, Colorado Springs, CO; p 127
10 Kostenberger, Andreas J. “John” in Arnold, Clinton E., gen. ed. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Volume 2: John, Acts. 2002, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; p 139.  Emphasis added.
11 Martyn, J. Louis History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. 2003 (3rd ed. rev. (1968)), Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY; p 135
12 Martyn; p 136.  Italics in original.
13 Kostenberger, Andreas J. Encountering John (Encountering Biblical Series). July 2009 (8th prtg (paperback), (1999)), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; p 156.  Italics in original.
14 Burge; p 127
15 Kostenberger, Encountering John; p 156
16 Kostenberger, Andreas J. John: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. July 2009 (4th prtg (2004)), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; p 433-434
17 Martyn; p 38 including important footnote 20.  Pronoun emphasis in original: We (Jesus and His disciples and, by extension, all subsequent believers) are to partner with the Father (the one “who sent me”).  This was begun in 3:11: “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.” [NIV 1984]
18 Martyn; pp 38-39.  Emphasis added.
19 This section somewhat roughly follows the outline of Martyn; pp 137-138
20 This is adapted from a chart in and quoted from Martyn; pp 141-142.
21 Martyn; pp 39-40
22 Bruce, F. F. The Gospel & Epistles of John. 1983, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; p 300.  Bruce notes in the Preface, “The biblical text which is printed at the head of each section of the exposition is my translation from the Greek of the Nestle-Aland edition of 1979.”  This explains why the translation of 5:20 is not exactly like any other.
23 Kostenberger, John: Baker Exegetical Commentary; p 433 (footnote) citing Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John: Pillar New Testament Commentary. 1999, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 495-496
24 Blomberg; p 114
25 Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume Two. 2010 (1st softcover ed, (2003)), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; p 947
26 Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume One. 2010 (1st softcover ed, (2003)), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; p 651
27 Keener, Gospel of John: Vol. One; pp 650-651.  Emphasis added.
28 Ryle, J. C. “Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John 13:1-21:25Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume Four (John 10:31-21:35). 2007 (1878), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; p 67.  Originally part of a seven volume series with one each of Matthew and Mark, two of Luke (1-10 & 11-24), and three of John (1-6:70; 7-12:50; 13:1-21:35) beginning in 1856 and completed in 1878.
29 Keener, Gospel of John: Vol. Two; p 947. In the larger context of Keener’s thoughts here, it seems he is promoting the idea of ‘greater works’ as signs and wonders. However, he also notes that the various contexts of ‘works’ in John’s Gospel “indicates that these may include miraculous signs (5:20, 36; 7:3; 9:3-4; 10:25, 32-33, 37-38; 15:24) but also his mission as a whole”; and “…’works’ in this Gospel includes doing God’s will” (p 946; emphasis mine). Yet, Keener also contends that ‘greater’ would “imply “greater magnitude” (p 947), with no further comment indicating what that could be. Jesus’ “mission as a whole” was salvific, and that seems to be the main point of the Upper Room discourse. Miracles, in the sense of signs and wonders, may or may not attend the proclamation of the Gospel, but it’s the conversion that it is the ‘greater work’.

Hyper-Charismatica versus True Christianity

Personal Testimony by mbaker

For many years after beginning my Christian life as a Southern Baptist, I converted to the charismatic church because several things about it appealed to me.  Unfortunately, while I met many committed wonderful Christians in the process, it was almost my downfall spiritually.   Except for the urgings of the Holy Spirit and some very good discernment websites, I would still be there now, thinking I possessed or could possess some ‘special’ revelation that others weren’t privy to, rather then being deceived by emotional appeals which had no biblical basis.

They say hindsight is 20-20.  In hindsight, of course, I see that because of some things that occurred in my life, like divorce, I no longer felt accepted by the mainstream church. Without a mate, I no longer felt I was personally a part of that body which seemed more about couples and ‘real’ families. For many years, I only felt connected to anyone through the mutual emotional highs I experienced in the charismatic church. For a while, they fulfilled this unmet emotional need in me for connection.

Unfortunately, I let my need for emotional validation through this connection with others interfere with the true foundational tenets of Christianity and it almost destroyed my faith. I do not want to make the same mistake and make this all about my testimony, although I suspect many reading here would readily identify with my personal journey.

What I do want to focus on is the experiential brand of Christianity, as promoted by the hyper-charismatics, as opposed to something that a lot of folks think is out of date and immaterial – the foundational tenets of the faith that Christ promoted. Those are things which will never change with time or popular religious fads.

The first clue was the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy that the leaders of hyper-charismatica seem to almost universally to express when questioned.  It has to do with not questioning anything that comes out of the mouths of the leadership, in this case being the five-fold ministry, or whatever leadership is in place. We were told ‘not to touch God’s anointed’ in any instance because to do so was committing a sin against God Himself.  I fell for that at first because I was raised to respect whatever came out of the pulpit as God’s truth.  However, blindly accepting that rule was my first mistake down the long road of deception I was to follow for years.

My second mistake was bowing to appeals for ‘unity’.  Unity of the brethren as the Bible speaks of it has nothing to do with blindly agreeing to anything our particular church leadership deems as correct, but the unity that comes from the belief in the essentials of the faith determined by God the Father, and the Christ His Son. All else is non-essential in that we can chose where we stand.  Some examples would be whether the spiritual gifts continue or have ceased since the advent of Christ, or the Calvinism versus Arminianism debate, and so on. It is important to know the difference between mere denominational preferences and biblical essentials.

The third thing was the emphasis upon ‘new’ revelation, vis a vis ‘prophecy’.  While I believe that we can receive true prophetic words, I know now that they do not constitute new ‘additions’ or changes to the Bible, as they are often presented in hyper-charismatic venues, such as the Elijah List.  They are not bought and sold either, as all God’s gifts are apportioned freely according to his grace, not determined by popular religious fads.

In short, to get back to the real truth I had to return to the basic truths of the Bible and to the honest emotional conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who only tells us what Jesus tells Him.  I can only urge anyone who is reading this who has any doubts about what they are being taught to check it out from several Bible based on theological sources which have God’s unchanging truth uppermost in mind.

It isn’t easy to admit we are wrong as Christians.  However, when we do, it is almost like a death in the family, because it is hard to tell others we were wrong, when we are supposed to be so right.

As a former charismatic, I knew many of the people I was personally connected with were very sincere Christians, yet we were all being deceived. It is hard on an otherwise intelligent person to admit that at first.  Then you become angry.  Then you wonder what was so wrong with you that you got yourself into it, or what need it was fulfilling in you.  Then finally you want to make sure others never get sucked into it.  It’s a real process that people need to be helped through. 

And, I’m thankful to have these blogs with individuals who go to the trouble to patiently explain step by step the false teachings and errors by using good Bible hermeneutics and solid theological resources and who do so without being dismissive or having a holier than thou attitude as these were invaluable resources in my journey back to God’s truth.

God bless.

[see also Testimony of a Former IHOP-KC Attendee: Stephanie]

Just a Touch of Arsenic

Most anyone who’s been in or around the charismatic wing of Christianity has likely heard the phrase “chew the meat, spit out the bones” in reference to questionable teaching.  Keep the good part of the teaching, throw out the bad. However, someone could chew on a bone by mistake and break a tooth.  Worse yet, someone could accidentally swallow a small bone and choke.  Wouldn’t it be best to remove the meat from the bone before putting it into your mouth?

Some will make excuses for the teachers assuming they just didn’t phrase that particular part correctly, the message was misunderstood, or the teacher is still growing and just doesn’t know better yet.  So, hey why not cut some slack?  “Where’s the grace?” they’ll say.  However, the prophet Hosea [4:6] stated:

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” [NKJV]

Destroyed.  Not just a slap on the wrist, an “aw shucks, it’s OK,” but DESTROYED. This verse, like the entire book of Hosea, is written to the nation Israel as a warning against her spiritual adultery – idolatry – in not adhering to the whole Truth, not acknowledging God as Lord of all.  However, the basic message has an application for the NT Christian: we are all individually responsible for our own spiritual growth (see Hebrews 5:11-14).

Teaching is serious business as the Apostle James states:

 “Not many should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”  [James 3:1 NIV]

Jesus warned against the “leaven” of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  It just takes a little bit to leaven the whole dough.  And, once the teaching is leavened this leaven cannot be removed without the rest remaining untainted.  IT’S ALL LEAVENED.

If a person is suggesting that we disregard the “bones” of a teaching then this person is saying the rest of the teaching is OK.  This person is also, in that sense, a teacher themselves.  That’s a rather dangerous position to take in view of the James verse above and other Scripture.

So, for those who like the phrase “chew the meat, spit out the bones” I have a question for you to ponder: How much arsenic would be OK in your dinner?  A teaspoon?  A drop?

“Signs That Make You Wonder”

Following is a transcription of a YouTube video[1] from early 2008 with Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California surmising that angels “have been bored for quite a few decades.” Johnson’s words begin at about 1:13 after an introduction by Patricia King of Extreme Prophetic[2] who refers to him as an “apostolic adviser” and “apostolic covering:”

Heaven is invading Earth; and, it’s happening through all different kinds of unusual manifestations. It’s happening through much more angelic encounters – those kinds of things are much more frequent.

And, I know people get nervous when you start talking about angels and this. It’s foolish to worship angels; but, it’s equally foolish to ignore them. God sent them to assist us in our assignment. We’ve been commissioned because we embrace His mission.

And, Jesus needed them. They came, ministered to Him. He cooperated. Paul cooperated with them. There wasn’t this praying to them – there’s not that sort of thing; but, they are there to assist us. And, quite frankly I think they have been bored for quite a few decades in this country and they’ve been looking for a generation that will live with some risk ‘cause that gives them something to back up. Because their whole deal is to enforce the Word of the Lord.

And, the Word of the Lord in Psalms 103 comes in two ways. It comes from God declaring a matter and it comes from Him speaking to His people and His people declaring a matter. And, they can tell when a word has originated in the heart of the Father ‘cause it carries that fragrance of the Throne Room with it and they recognize, “This is my assignment.” And, they jump all over that and enforce it. I’ve watched it; I’ve seen this happen where a word comes from the Father it’s declared in a room in a setting and instantly there is the absolute, most impossible situation reversed simply because of a declared word. And, I know there’s angelic assistance in enforcing them.

So, that’s, uh, it’s just increasing all kinds of manifestations. It’s the angelic realm; it’s just the supernatural breaking into this one: the gold and the oil and the wind. We’ve been having gusts of wind that just come out of nowhere. And, uh, ya know, it’s all good. It’s all signs that make you wonder and it’s just good to be in awe again. It’s not healthy to not be in awe. It’s not healthy to live accustomed to what’s going on around you. It’s really important that we live with that sense of awe and that appreciation for God’s unusual ways of working with us.

So this is, uh – I love it, I just welcome all that He’s doing.

While the exact vintage of this video is unknown to this writer, it should be noted that this upload of February 3, 2008 predates the Lakeland ‘Revival’ by a couple months in which Todd Bentley claimed all sorts of things regarding angels. In this video[3] of Lakeland from April 25, 2008, Bentley speaks of forthcoming ‘revivals’ and he states that a ‘revival’ was already taking place at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church:

…Denny Cline,[4] are you watching me in Albany? Bob Jones[5] told me it’s coming back to Washington, Oregon, California… …Ya know Albany, Oregon was the first healing outpouring that I had in America. Ya know why it broke out? Because I was in Shreveport, Louisiana and the angel of the Winds of Change was released. I went all the way over to Grant’s Pass, Oregon and I went all the way to Albany, Oregon and the healing revival broke out and it launched our ministry. And that Bob [Jones] told me that same Winds of Change angel had come all the way back to Lakeland.

We know it’s already happening in Bethel – in northern California. It’s happening in Redding, California…”  [emphasis mine]

So, did the Bethel ‘revival’ rival the Lakeland ‘revival’ regarding angels? Did the same “Winds of Change angel” visit Bethel at the same time as Lakeland? Are angels omnipresent?

Todd Bentley stated back in 2002 or 2003 that it was an “angel called Healing Revival” that came to him in Grant’s Pass; whereas, above he says it was the “Winds of Change angel” who launched his ministry. Perhaps the angel changed his name later to “Winds of Change” because of a change in the wind? In the following, Bentley mentions that this “Healing Revival” angel was the same one of John G. Lake, William Branham and John Knox:

I first saw the angel called Healing Revival on December 5 of 2000 in Grant’s Pass. The angel came to me again in Albany the next February. He stood in the church service with his body going through the ceiling of the church. Then the Lord told me the angel’s name and that he was the same angel I saw in Grant’s Pass earlier. God also revealed to me that this angel was involved in the ministry of John Lake, William Branham, and John Knox in Scotland. This angel, the Lord said, is from the North West Healing Revival and is manifesting again as a sign that God is restoring the Voice of Healing revival and opening up the ancient wells.

In our ministry over the last year, this angel has come frequently and on many different occasions… …Many other people have also seen or had contact with this angel in the meetings. And whenever this angel shows up the miracles go off the charts. Instead of a few healings, we’ll get three blind eyes in one night or maybe a cripple guy gets out of a wheel chair.

I believe the angel showed up in Albany as a sign that God was endorsing what was taking place and that it was opening up a healing well. Everywhere I have seen this angel the miracles continue after I leave and a healing well is established in that church and in that city… [6]

From Scripture we know there are angels who minister to us. And, according to Psalm 103:19-21 – the verses Johnson must be referring to in the video above – we find another function of angels:

19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.

21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will. [NIV]

In this context, it is made evident that angels obey the Word of God and are commanded by God [see also Psalm 91:11]. It is the Father who dispatches them; they do not, as Johnson states, “recognize” their “assignment.” Rather, they obey their assignment.  They do not act on their own accord. 

Quoting Johnson from the transcript:

 And, the Word of the Lord in Psalms 103 comes in two ways.  It comes from God declaring a matter and it comes from Him speaking to His people and His people declaring a matter.

With the latter part of the second sentence above Johnson sets up a straw man argument which is incumbent on him to defend as it is extra-biblical.  For more on the function and nature of angels, here’s the Hebrew word from which we get “angel” — mal’ak — as defined by Strong’s:

 messenger, a human representative; angel, a supernatural representative of God, sometimes delivering messages, sometimes protecting God’s people; the “angel of the LORD” sometimes shares divine characteristics and is sometimes thought to be an manifestation of God himself, or of the preincarnate Christ [Theophany]. [7] [bracketed comment mine]  

Even Satan, a fallen angel, is constrained by the permissive will of God [see Job 1:12; 2:9]. To quote J. Hampton Keathley, III from his article Angelology: The Doctrine of Angels:

Surely it is comforting to know that God may protect, provide, and encourage us through His angels, but this fact does not always guarantee such deliverance, and certainly we should never presume on this provision of God. … we should keep in mind that God does not always deliver us from danger or supply our needs in miraculous ways whether by angels or by His direct intervention. For His own sovereign and wise purposes, the opposite is sometimes His will as life clearly illustrates and Scripture declares (see Heb. 11:36-40).

But there is another truth regarding angels that needs to be kept in view.  Just as people usually do not think of the punitive ministry of angels, so people, in their popular ideas about angels, often ignore the Scripture’s teaching about the deception of Satan’s evil angels (2 Cor. 11:14-15). [8]

Here[9] is a post on an angel named “Breakthrough Revival” in which Randy DeMain claimed this angel came to him while he was in Nigeria. While the YouTube video from which the transcription is taken from has been removed by the user, the bulk is verifiable as the contents are referred to both on another blog and in a ‘prophetic word’ which will be quoted from later in this article:

“All of a sudden I realized there was a presence of God that I had never experienced before upon my life. And in that moment of time, I heard a voice say this: ‘I have a gift for you, will you receive it?’ And it stunned me. And I looked up and it was like a veil between the natural and the supernatural opened, just an opening of the veil.”

It needs to be pointed out that the ‘veil’ DeMain speaks of sounds suspiciously like what is known in the New Age Religion as a “portal.” The author here[10] defines portals as “‘…inter-dimensional doorways, two-way tunnels, curtains of light’” and “’are a recurring concept in our cultural tradition allowing for travel between worlds and a means of transcending time and space.’” She states further:

“Some people say they can travel physically through portals, but most of those who visit the portals in Sedona move within their minds, as in meditation. This is commonly known as an out-of-body experience as they project their consciousness into an astral realm…

“There is an awareness that entities exist beyond our third dimensional existence, and that it is possible that there is movement between dimensions at portals…”

Going back to Randy DeMain’s account of his “visitation:”

And when this opened, the light became very bright, and as I looked up that living Lord Jesus Himself walked through that veil and stood before me just as a couple of feet in front of me and began to speak to me. He said, ‘An angel has come to me and asked to be assigned to you. His name is ‘Breakthrough Revival.’ He has seen in you the same heart and perseverance as the ones he has formerly served who have since died. He has new assignments since that time…”

Jesus Himself, in speaking of signs of the end of time gave this warning, “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.” [Matthew 24:23 NIV] Therefore, it is very doubtful that DeMain actually saw Jesus Christ. In fact, given that we have no photos or verifiable representation of what Jesus actually looked like, how could DeMain be sure?

Continuing on with DeMain:

“…And then He said this: ‘What you saw tonight, what you experienced tonight is what the angel does. He goes before you and he opens up the realm of the area you’re ministering in and he drives back all the power of darkness. And, he creates an atmosphere where it is on earth as it is in heaven.’ And, as you say… …the word of God manifests instantly just like there is in heaven, there’s no hindrance; and, I was just overwhelmed at what the Lord was saying…

“…One of the things I said to the Lord, ‘…Why would I take this mighty angel… … from Nigeria, that’s causing all these things to happen, and take this angel from here back to America?’

“…And, immediately the Lord said, ‘because his work is done, it’s now the work of gathering and reaping angels. They will go forth now into the harvest and partner with men in the harvest just like they did with Philip in the New Testament…’ I come to find out historically that this is also true because to this very day the born again rate exceeds the birth rate in that nation of Africa; so, indeed, its work was done.

“The second thing really stunned me though. The Lord said to me, ‘It’s America’s time’ and I knew that all of a sudden the gaze of God had come to America.”

So, is it that God’s ‘gaze’ can only be on one nation at a time? This whole idea of angels moving from one region to another contradicts the pervasive belief in charismatic circles that angels and demons are constrained to specific geographic areas. This thought is one of the bases for the ‘spiritual warfare’ known as “spiritual mapping” written on extensively by C. Peter Wagner of Global Harvest Ministries[11]and practiced in the modern prophetic movement. This notion of “territorial spirits” is debunked here.[12]

In the following, Shawn Bolz relates how this “Breakthrough angel” worked through Liz Jones of Guildford Prayer School (UK)[13] while she was visiting his Los Angeles church:

“…Liz Jones, saw an angel, and said the angel’s name was “Breakthrough.” He had come to bring revival to California and breakthrough to us, or city, and the State.

“When she told me I was encouraged, but it did not fully register. In the past ministry I was involved in, WhiteDove Ministries, we did a series of conferences on a similar encounter that Bob Jones and Randy DeMain had reported having about an ‘angel of breakthrough’ who is instrumental in revival…

“…I recently went to a conference with Randy DeMain who had had an encounter with what he also called the “Angel of Breakthrough” in Nigeria while on a ministry trip in 2004. This angel had been involved with Benson Idahosa during the great Nigerian revivals of the 1990’s. Bob Jones had a similar encounter a few months later with similar details about this ‘Angel of Breakthrough’ being released in America… I told Randy about Liz Jones’ encounter when I was with him during a conference held on Valentines weekend in Idaho. He looked surprised. He said the presence of the angel had left him, and that the Lord told him that he was taking ‘Breakthrough’ somewhere else for a while. However, the ‘Angel of Breakthrough’ would be back with Randy in the future! Randy said, ‘So, that is where he is!’” [14] [Quotes (‘ ‘) and capitalization on ‘Angel of Breakthrough’ are mine. All else is as per original]

In a ‘prophetic word’ on the Elijah List[15] from April 4, 2006, Paul Keith Davis of White Dove Ministries relates how Bob Jones had a vision of Randy DeMain’s “Breakthrough Angel” on March 24th of the same year. In this ‘word’ there were to be three “major” moves “soon to take place.” When did they occur? There does not appear to be any specific expression of this particular angel with the exception of the rather minor encounter referenced by Shawn Bolz above. Here[16] Bolz relates in a little more detail the account of Liz Jones and this angel with a claim of 100 people in his congregation, including the homeless, receiving jobs within a month; however, again, it does not seem to be a “major” ‘move.’

There was an account in early 2009 of “Breakthrough Angel” showing up in Harrisburg, PA[17] ; but, it did not seem to materialize into a “major” revival – if one at all. Here’s a snippet from the advertisement:

“…We see this as a time to pull Heaven down and establish the Kingdom of God with every step that you take as the revival breakthrough angel is displacing spiritual forces over this region…” [all as per original]

In this ‘prophetic word’[18] from a March 2, 2010 “angelic visitation” referenced on Bob Jones’ website, Jones speaks of a ‘breakthrough’ in Ohio. No other information on this ‘revival’ is yet to be found as of the date of the writing of this article. Please note some confusing words at the end of Jones’ ‘word:’

“Let’s take an aggressive stand against the spoken word. Don’t give the enemy an inroad. Pray to cancel the power and authority out of the spoken word that is not aligned with God’s destiny for your family, city and state. Stand firm on the word of God and be assured ‘With God All Things Are Possible!’ Welcome the Breakthrough Revival Angel to do that which is necessary to bring about God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven…”

According to modern charismatic belief, isn’t the spoken word the rhema, which is the one of ‘prophetic revelation,’ while the Word of God is the written word, the logos, the Bible? How does one know which ‘spoken word’ is “aligned with God’s destiny for your family, city and state?”

It has been since early 2006 that this Bob Jones’ ‘prophecy’ about the three “major” ‘moves’ of the “Breakthrough Angel” were to “soon take place” yet to date they have not come to fruition. With all the different angels of the Lakeland ‘revival,’ “Breakthrough” was not one of them. What happened to the “Breakthrough Angel?” Isn’t the “Angel of Breakthrough” supposed to return to Randy DeMain?

Is it possible that the unnamed angel of the Bethel ‘revival’ Todd Bentley references in the April 2008 clip above is the elusive “Angel of Breakthrough?” This seems doubtful since if this were a partial fulfillment of Jones’ ‘prophecy’ certainly it would have been promoted as such.

Taking all the above into consideration I would have to agree with this portion of Bill Johnson’s words from the transcript at the beginning of this article:

“It’s all signs that make you wonder…”

 

[1] “fr33info4u,” Bill Johnson – Heaven invades Earth <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdOY42jUeks> February 3, 2008;  as accessed 10/10/10

[2] Extreme Prophetic homepage <http://www.extremeprophetic.com/>

[3] “GodOfElijah,” Todd Bentley Florida Healing Revival 3 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-nwMfOKgXo> April 25, 2008; as accessed 10/10/10

[4] Jesus Pursuit Church home page <http://www.vcfalbany.org/>

[5] Bob Jones Ministries home page <http://www.bobjones.org/>

[6] Bentley, Todd / Fresh Fire Ministries (archived), “An Angel Called Healing Revival” Angelic Hosts <http://www.etpv.org/2003/angho.html> as accessed 10/10/10

[7] Strong, James, Dr. The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. fully revised by John R. Kohlenberg III and James A. Swanson; 2001, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; Strong’s # 4397; p 1414 “mal’ak,”

[8] Keathley, III, J. Hampton, “The Ministry of Angels” Angelology: The Doctrine of Angels. <http://bible.org/article/angelology-doctrine-angels> par 18-19; as accessed 10/10/10   

[9] “endtimespropheticwords” Randy DeMain’s Jesus encounter and the Angel Breakthrough Revival <http://endtimespropheticwords.wordpress.com/2008/07/25/randy-demains-jesus-encounter-and-the-angel-breakthrough-revival/> July 25, 2008; as accessed 10/10/10

 [10] “Jocelyn” Portals <http://www.sedonanewagecenter.com/newsletter/html/2005/cnanewsletter5-11.htm> Center For The New Age Newsletter, Volume 5 Issue 11, November, 2005; as accessed 10/10/10

[11] Global Harvest Ministries homepage <http://www.globalharvest.org/>

[12] Stevens, David E., “Daniel 10 and the Notion of Territorial Spirits,” Bibliotheca Sacra. 157: 628 (2000): 410-431 <http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/daniel10.pdf> Stevens is Senior Pastor, Central Bible Church, Portland, Oregon; as accessed 10/10/10

[13] Guildford Prayer School (UK) <http://www.guildfordcommunitychurch.org.uk/Articles/9689/Guildford_Community_Church/GCC_life/GCC_Guildford/Prayer/Guildford_Prayer_School.aspx> as accessed 10/10/10

[14] Bolz, Shawn “The Release of Breakthrough in California (Not another cliché breakthrough word)” blogs.myspace.com/shawnbolz <http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=19410816&blogId=476320097> March, 13 2009; as accessed 10/10/10

[15] Elijah List, Paul Keith Davis and Bob Jones: “The Angel Stated That His Name Is ‘Breakthrough’” <http://elijahlist.com/words/display_word/3959> April 4, 2006; as accessed 10/10/10

[16] “RevivalFiresMedia” “The Angel of Breakthrough” Interview with Shawn Bolz <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kkaq4ZXeLPs> May 24, 2010; as accessed 10/10/10

[17] Life Center Ministries advertisement for “Firestorm 2009” <http://www.lcmi.org/about/firestorm-february-26-28-2009/> as accessed 10/10/10

[18] Jones, Bob “Invite Breakthrough Revival Angel” Damn the Torpedos Full Speed Ahead! Breakthrough is in Ohio! <http://bobjonesnew.unionactive.com/Docs/Words%20of%202010/2010-03_BreakthroughInOhio.htm> as accessed 10/10/10