Matt Postiff's Blog
In a recent New York Times editorial piece, Mark Sameth claims that gender in the Hebrew Bible is a fluid concept, and that God is the He/She.
The first two paragraphs about the Bible are these:
I'm a rabbi, and so I'm particularly saddened whenever religious arguments are brought in to defend social prejudices — as they often are in the discussion about transgender rights. In fact, the Hebrew Bible, when read in its original language, offers a highly elastic view of gender. And I do mean highly elastic: In Genesis 3:12, Eve is referred to as "he." In Genesis 9:21, after the flood, Noah repairs to "her" tent. Genesis 24:16 refers to Rebecca as a "young man." And Genesis 1:27 refers to Adam as them.
Surprising, I know. And there are many other, even more vivid examples: In Esther 2:7, Mordecai is pictured as nursing his niece Esther. In a similar way, in Isaiah 49:23, the future kings of Israel are prophesied to be nursing kings.These claims are totally false. Mr. Sameth is one rabbi who does not know Hebrew very well; or perhaps better stated, he has allowed his presuppositions about gender to color his vision of the text so that he cannot read it plainly. Gen 3:12 refers to Eve by the Hebrew pronoun "she." Gen 9:21 does not say Noah "repaired to her tent;" it says "he became uncovered (third person masculine singular verb) in his tent." There may be a slight manuscript variance in the pronominal suffix on the word tent, but the meaning is clearly Noah's (his) tent.
Gen 24:16 refers to Rebecca as a young woman (maiden, a virgin, not known by a man), and there is no question that she was a woman given her remarkable beauty. Finally, Genesis 1:27 is where Sameth is closest to the truth, but even that is misconstrued. He doesn't say that "Adam" is the generic use of the word, which refers not to the first man created by God, but rather refers to humankind generally (see NIV). NKJV has a very literal translation:
So God created man (Adam=generic use, humankind) in His own image; in the image of God He created him (him is masculine singular); male and female He created them (yes, it is "them" but obviously referring collectively to humankind). (Gen 1:27 NKJ)
Esther 2:7 does not picture Mordecai is breast-feeding his niece. The vocabulary there refers to Mordecai virtually adopting her (end of the verse) and bringing her up and being her attendant, "nourishing" her in the sense of providing for her. Similarly with the kings of Isaiah 49:23: the second phrase of that verse talks about the queens being nursing mothers; the kings will provide for the nation. The idea of provision and care is all that is implied. There is no gender confusion, mixing, or "well-expressed gender fluidity."
Finally, his argument about the name of God is simply an example of the logical fallacy of special pleading. He should go back and study Exodus 3:14 and see the derivation of the tetragrammaton name of God. God is not the He/She; God is the self-existent eternal ruler of the universe. God is identified as Father to creation and to believers. To be sure, God is sometimes gentle as a mother, but that doesn't warrant us to call Him a Father/Mother. He is also going to judge like a lion, but we shouldn't perceive God as a Human/Lion combination. These are obviously figures of speech describing characteristics of the infinite, non-corporeal God.
God's Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, is the perfect representation of God (Hebrews 1:2-3). He was and is still to this day incarnate as a human male. There is no lack of clarity on that point.
Editor's Note: This is a guest post by FBC member Vincent Brattin.
Two dogmas of the Catholic church are Mary's immaculate conception and her perpetual virginity. The first teaches that Mary herself (not Jesus) was miraculously conceived so as to be kept pure from original sin. The second is that Mary remained always a virgin and never had any other children.
These doctrines are both accepted by the Catholic church as de fide teachings, which carry the very highest level of theological certainty, and so any suspicion of doubt as to their veracity would subject the believing Roman Catholic to excommunication and anathema. Traditionally, anyway. Today, Rome is inclusivistic almost to the point of being universal, so they might not toss anyone out for anything.
One of the strange effects of all the Marian teachings of Roman Catholicism is that they force Jesus to share His singular glory with Mary. Jesus was immaculately conceived, and on their view, Mary was immaculately conceived as well. Jesus was a virgin, Mary was perpetually virgin. Jesus suffered and died on the cross, Mary shared in Jesus' suffering and nearly died at the foot of the cross. Jesus was bodily assumed to heaven, Mary is bodily assumed to heaven. Jesus is the dispenser of all graces, Mary is the one through whom those graces are dispensed. Jesus conquered death, Mary crushed the serpent, etc.Those who believe in Sola Scriptura can appreciate Mary for exactly who she was (not immaculately conceived and not a perpetual virgin), and not swipe any of Jesus' glory, character or attributes to do so.
We were discussing God's miracles and how he revealed himself to the Israelites in physical form. Is there a reason why God chooses to not reveal himself so publicly?
Although Scripture does not offer a direct answer to this question as far as I am aware, we can piece together a decent answer.
First, God doesn't reveal himself publicly today in human form precisely because He already did so in history once during the earthly lifetime of Jesus. No more is necessary. This revelation of God through the Son, according to Hebrews 1:2, is the pinnacle of divine revelation. No more is needed to reveal God.
Second, given the completed Word of God, it is unnecessary for God to show Himself publicly. Remember the words of Abraham to the dead rich man in Luke 16:29 concerning the living: "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." The rich man objected and said if one goes to them from the dead (a form of a public revelation), then his brothers would really believe. But Moses responded, "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead." Jesus teaches us here that a public revelation will be insufficient to get stiff-necked people to believe. They will always find an excuse to avoid the obvious, to skirt the facts, to turn away from God, because that is what they WANT to do in their hearts. And in fact they have done so with Jesus--who DID rise from the dead, and yet people STILL aren't persuaded about avoiding Hell. We have the Word of God, which is a sufficient and perfect revelation of God to us today, and we need nothing else.
Third, God doesn't need to reveal Himself publicly for people to know Him because He has another mechanism to accomplish that outcome. He convinces sinners through the proclamation of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit to believe in Him. Thus we who believe in Christ know God, and don't require some public spectacle to cause us to believe in Him. "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29.
Fourth, God does reveal Himself in a general way to all mankind in nature (Psalm 19:1-6). Because of this, all people have no excuse for their disbelief (Romans 1:19-20 and surrounding). They reject this knowledge, and God is not obligated to give them more such knowledge about Himself.
Finally, the Lord Jesus Christ will return bodily, visibly, and gloriously to the earth once again. Every eye will see him, whether at the rapture or at the second coming. So, God has chosen to reveal himself in bodily form and publicly—just at limited times such as the first and second comings. Then for all eternity, His servants will see Him.
Reading in 1 and 2 John the last couple of days reminded me that several truths about Jesus must be believed by all Christians.
First, Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah (1 John 2:22-23). Anyone who denies this is, as John says, a liar and antichrist who not only denies the Messianic credentials of Christ, but also denies God the Father. Note that this does not mean that the person explicitly denies God the Father and the Son. He may claim to acknowledge God the Father while rejecting the Son; however John pushes back that anyone who denies the Son also denies the Father. This is reinforced by another text authored by John: John 5:23.
Second, Jesus has come in the flesh (1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 7). This means that He existed prior to His coming and then took up his fleshly dwelling subsequent to that prior existence. Anyone who denies this truth is not from God.
Third, Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:5). Whoever does not hold this faith has not overcome the world, is not born of God, and does not love God.
So far so good. But prominent cults can claim to believe all of the above in some sense. A couple more truths will set some obvious distance between the Biblical view and that of the cults.
Fourth, Jesus is the creator of all things (John 1:3). It is clear from that text that any "made thing" was made by Christ. This explicitly puts Christ into a different category than "made things."
Fifth and finally, Jesus is God (John 1:1). The Word, the one which became flesh (John 1:14), existed in the beginning, existed with God, and "was God."
Editor's Note: This is a guest post by FBC member Vincent Brattin.
Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Objection: How can an all-wise God increase in wisdom?
Response: It may be that when Jesus took on human flesh, he took on some human limitations, and this may have included his knowledge. Or, it may be that "wisdom" is being identified as "knowledge + experience," and so as Jesus grew in years and gained in experience, he naturally grew in wisdom as a result.
John 5:19, 30 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me."
Objection: How can an all-powerful God express himself powerless to act on his own accord?
Response: Jesus is saying that His own motives and intentions are so perfectly intertwined with those of the Father that there is no separation. Neither one would do anything apart from the other. Even in a moment of weakness, when it looks like Jesus might "go his own way," he confirms that that unique bond will continue (Mark 14:36, Matt 26:39).
John 14:28 You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
Objection: How can an all-powerful God say that someone is greater than himself?
Response: We can only surmise the intricacies of the relationship between the members of the Godhead. His ways are above our ways, after all. Evidently God the Son volunteered to be in a subservient role to God the Father (and God the Holy Spirit likewise subservient to both). The Father is greater, in authority, but not in power.
Luke 18:19 (see also Mark 10:18) And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone."
Objection: Jesus is specifically separating himself from God here, and saying only God is good.
Response: Jesus didn’t say "Don’t call me good." He clearly was and is "good." Jesus is not denying his divinity so much as He is proclaiming it. Here He is giving the rich young ruler a chance to confess who Jesus is.
Luke 19:29-34 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say this: 'The Lord has need of it.'" So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, 'Why are you untying the colt?' And they said, "The Lord has need of it."
Objection: How can God urge his followers into criminal behavior (in this case, a brazen theft of someone's livestock)?
Response: It's not recorded, but it's entirely possible that Jesus had alerted the owner of the colt beforehand what was going to take place. This would certainly explain why the owner expressed no outrage upon being reassured "The Lord has need of it." Given our Lord's character, we can also assume that the disciples returned the colt when he was done using it.
Mark 11:13-14 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it.
Objection: How could God not know when the season for figs would be?
Response: This episode was an object lesson for his disciples about the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. They were showing the outward signs of spirituality, but not displaying the works or the attitude that result from genuine faith, just as the tree had the leaves, but no fruit. Jesus certainly knew beforehand what He would find on the tree.
Matthew 24:36 (also Mark 13:32) But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. [Some manuscripts omit "nor the Son"]
Objection: How can God not know the day and hour, especially of something so important?
Response: This is a result of the voluntary limitations that Jesus imposed on Himself by taking on human flesh. I think that there can be no doubt that Jesus, in his present state, does know the day and hour.
Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Objection: How can God forsake God?
Response: First, Jesus as a man is bemoaning the fact that He is now without God’s protection. Second, He is reminding all who can hear him that He is fulfilling Psalm 22.
John 20:17 Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
Objection: How can Jesus be God when He refers to the Father as "my God"?
Response: Jesus could always refer to the Father as "my God" because of His voluntary subservient relationship to Him. But then Jesus made Himself lower still (in fact, a little lower than the angels), so referring to the Father as he did made perfect sense.
I was asked recently about the Feast of Pentecost and its significance for the Christian. Here are some thoughts on that subject.
I am skeptical of doing a deep search for meaning in the feasts of Israel. I am convinced that the Biblical text will tell us plainly what we need to know. We need not hunt for hidden significance, or worry that we will miss something if we don't do such a search. Furthermore, I have seen a lot of 'stretching' of the feasts to find significance in them for us today.
In general, all the feasts of Israel present us an opportunity to teach what God expected ancient Israel to do in terms of religious observances. They also provide an open door to show that there are dispensational distinctions between the Jews of old, Gentiles, and the church. In the church, we don't do some of the things Israel did.
In particular, Pentecost reminds us of the following:
1. To be thankful for the agricultural harvest, because our food depends on God. This is indicated in the word "firstfruits" in Lev. 23:17. Firstfruits is a word that is tied to harvest and agriculture.
2. The giving of the Ten Commandments, in Jewish thought, is tied to the giving of the Law. That connection is not explicit in the Bible. The timing is a bit off if you compare the "three months" from Exodus 12:2 to Exodus 19:1 just before the Law was given, since that would be about 28*3 = 84 days after Passover and the departure from Egypt, instead of 50 days after Passover.
3. Acts 2 and the birth of the church along with the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is just a reminder, however, because that information was hidden from, not revealed to, Israel, until Acts 2. Pentecost does not teach church truth. It just happens to be the time at which God decided to send the Spirit and complete the steps required to start the church.
The thought occurred to me that someone could profitably spend some time looking into the problem of evil from the perspective of those close encounters that Jesus had with evil. A careful study may highlight some helpful truths as we think about how God and evil co-exist in the universe.
Passages I was thinking about included the temptation (Matthew 4 and Luke 4), Jesus' encounters with people possessed by demons, and His interaction with Judas at the last supper (John 13:26-27 and verse 30-31). There are probably others. The latter passage came up in my reading this morning and I noted how the Lord told Judas, "What you do, do quickly." Without condoning Judas' actions, Jesus told him to get it done, even though it was evil. Ponder that...
Let me know if you write a research paper or thesis on this. I'd be interested to see what you come up with!
Back on March 18, 2016, Dr. Kyle Dunham presented on the matter of holy war in the Rice Lecture series at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. This article is not a review but rather a summary of of things that I learned or noted while I listened to Dr. Dunham. Consider it a after-the-fact live blog of the event! These are listed in the order I wrote them down, not in any other order.
- Motivating factors for God were compassion and deliverance of His people. The deliverance through holy war was a blessing to them.
- Holy war starts in Exodus.
- God is active or passive/permissive in holy war, not always the former.
- God sometimes had holy war against Israel!
- Justice is another key motivation behind holy war. See Deut. 16.
- Holy war was used to establish Israel (against Egypt) and to preserve it from bondage or peril.
- Dr. Dunham takes a dispensational approach to holy war.
- We can see echoes of holy war in the book of Revelation, including trumpets in both.
- We have to maintain a connection between holy war and hte land and its consecration.
- Holy war is a fulfillment of Abrahamic curses on the enemies and blessings on the nation of Israel. Unless, of course, the people of Israel departed from God, and then he turned the instrument of holy war against them!
- Holiness is another motivating factor behind holy war, and teh resultant moral protection of God's people.
- The gift of the land to Israel is another motivation behind holy war.
- The idea of gradual displacement.
- Key resources include Von Rad 1951, Copan and Flannagan, Qureshi's Answering Jihad.
- Not about Haman the Agagite. Perhaps he was an Amalekite and maybe he hated Israel for the reason that the Israelites had victory over the Amalekites years earlier.
- Holy war consisted in judgment against groups that threatened Israel's existence or that were sinful, committing sins such as infanticide. These require a proportional response.
- Kev difficult texts include Deut 7 and 20:16-17.
- Genocide charges must be limited to the issue of herem, the so-called ban or devotion to total destruction.
- Dunham gave a careful definition of herem. He linked idolatry (which is demonic worship) into the idea, with Lev. 27:21. God has a claim on the land.
- Herem is a purging followed by a reconstruction or re-populating of the land.
- Herem is 1. capital punishment of many people; 2. conflagration; 3. repopulation; 4. connection to the temple. It is about the land and the nation, it is not racially motivated. We could say that it is religiously motivated in a sense./li>
- Herem prevented "exchange" from happening between cultures and was a way to implement separation from idolatry.
- Herem echoes the genesis flood in terms of purification and the mass killing of many sinful people. I noted this seems to echo more the holiness of God than Herem per se.
- The Canannite people are connected to the curse on Canaan due to sexual perversion (Genesis 9:20-27).
- Gave a definition of Jihad, and showed a progression of violence, and the distinction with Yahweh War in the Old Testament.
- Sacred geography in Yahweh wars are for one nation; focused on false gods, not on unbelievers. I believe this would be a slim distinction lost on the world.
- Yahweh War includes proportional violence, versus no limit in Jihad. God's war is an act of justice proportionate to the crime committed.
- Islam propagates through Jihad; Holy War protects the people of Israel.
- Christian Bible preserves life; Islam dose not, and extols the martyr.
- Just war principles (Grotius and others). Mentioned 7 facts about war. Mentioned O'donovan and Just war theory with parallels to God's War.
- Israel is preserved for Messiah, and (this is a key addition) God loves Israel so he preserves them until the eschaton too.
- Dunham diagrams Yahweh Wars with first the infinite transcendence of God, second His holiness, justice, and righteousness, third His truth, faithfulness and veracity, and fourth with His love and compassion. The entries under "second" are motivations, as well as compassion in "fourth." God says that the Canaanites were sinners. As sinners today look more like Canannites, they see those "victims of Yahweh war" as more and more innocent.
- Yahweh war is tied to Israel, so we don't have to find out how to fit it into the New Testament or the church.
- I had a question: So is "NT" Yahweh War against the believer's sin our "greater jihad" as in Galatians 5 whereas in the OT is the "lesser jihad"?
- We take a defensive posture in NT spiritual war (standing our ground against the wiles of the devil, etc.)
- Resource from David Cook on Jihad.
- Holy War comes back as Israel comes back into focus in Gods' program in the eschaton. As they receive focus, holy war themes come into more focus, as in during the Tribulation.
First, be reading your Bible very regularly. Second, consider some resources that remind you what to look for. I have written a fairly detailed and, frankly, blunt, guide to finding what I would consider a good church. I call it the A Regular Person's Guide on How to Find a Good Church.
I read this morning:
And now I ask you...that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments...For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. (2 John 5-7, ESV)
The juxtaposition of three ideas caught my attention: loving one another, keeping His commandments, and "because" many deceivers are out there not acknowledging the coming of Christ. Not only is the presence of deceivers a motivation to emphasize love in the Christian community, but also such deception is far from the kind of obedient love that John says characterizes the true believer.
Love and deception don't go together; love and deception on the doctrine of Christ really don't go together.
A few days ago, I received the following question:
Where does the Bible condemn someone surgically becoming another gender?
The question arises because there is no Biblical text that clearly says "thou shalt not" to gender reassignment. But it would be a woefully inadequate argument to use that fact in favor of reassignment, for there are many particular behaviors that are not specifically called out by the Bible as sin which are in fact sin. It is obvious to genuine Christians that certain behaviors are outside of the realm of righteousness. The works of the sinful nature of man are obvious (Galatians 5:19-21).
For instance, ingesting cocaine is not forbidden specifically by the Bible. But the fact that it is illegal in our country, coupled with the witness of Scripture to not be under the control of some substance, makes it unacceptable (Romans 13:1, 1 Cor. 6:12, Ephesians 5:18).
So why no gender reassignment according to the Bible?
1. Gender reassignment rejects the created order. God created basically all species of animals with male and female counterparts, according to their kind, with ability to reproduce in pairs. Don't hold me to scientific specificity here; I know about inter-sex and morphs and asexual reproduction in microscopic living things and hermaphrodites and the like. My point is that God created humans as male and female (Genesis 1:27, 5:2). There are therefore only two sexes.
2. Gender reassignment violates the principle of not mutilating the human body. Leviticus 19:28 prohibits cuttings and tattoos (see also Leviticus 21:5, Deut. 14:1). Such activities were associated with pagan idolatrous religious practices, including mourning rituals (1 Kings 18:28). Admittedly, these are all Old Testament references. Elsewhere I have written on the issue of the applicability of the Mosaic Law to modern issues. The reason for this is that the body is a gift from God and is to be respected as such. The body is made in the image of God and that conveys dignity to it.
3. Gender reassignment rejects God's choice for the individual's sex and gender. To change gender is to effectively thumb your nose at God, rejecting His authority over your life. Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9-10); that means He is the boss. It is not your will, but God's will that carries the day. Related to this is the Bible's teaching on how we should be content and not dissatisfied. Gender reassignment indicates a deep-seated discontentment with God's choice of one's sex/gender (Hebrews 13:5, 1 Timothy 6:8, Philippians 4:11, Luke 3:14).
4. Gender reassignment "did not come into God's mind" in the sense of Jeremiah 32:35. It is a thing so outside of the realm of right and proper that it is an abomination to God. It was not considered by human societies until the twentieth century when medical technology had advanced to a point where such things could be done.
5. Finally, an argument from lesser to greater. The Scriptures prohibit cross-dressing. See Deuteronomy 22:5:
"A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God. (NKJV)
Since Scripture prohibits the lesser—putting on of the clothing of the opposite gender—it is very reasonable to assume that God prohibits permanently changing from a man to a woman or the reverse (if that were actually possible).
6. Gender follows sex. There are, as with everything in this world, things that can break from this simple and normative pattern. Christians are not surprised at the confusion about gender and sex that exists in our society. That confusion is just another evidence of how deeply the fall of mankind into sin has affected our minds and bodies (Ephesians 4:18, Romans 1:21-28).
And now, why does gender reassignment go awry according to science and reason?
7. Gender reassignment is not the same as fixing a birth defect. If a person is born as a boy, that is a gift from God, not a birth defect or a deviation from the proper gender of the child. Any feelings of deviation in gender are that--feelings--and can be helped by acknowledging the Biblical truth of God's creation, sin, the fall, and redemption. A birth defect such as club feet or fused fingers or hypoplastic left heart syndrome are deviations from the normal and correct anatomy. To fix them is to alleviate pain and suffering. To reassign gender is to fix a problem that is not a problem. It takes the normal and makes it abnormal.
8. Gender reassignment is not the same as cosmetic surgery. A facelift or tummy tuck or fixing varicose veins is like fixing a birth defect: it is fixing something that has deviated from its normal or proper design. Changing a person's external and internal sexual organs from their normal anatomy to something abnormal is a totally different kind of thing.
9. You cannot change your X and Y chromosomes. They are replicated in every one of the 37.2 trillion cells in your body, if you are average size. Well, except for your red blood cells which have no nucleus, or your sperm or eggs which only have the 23 chromosomes instead of the full complement of 46. The point is that the same genetic material is replicated trillions of times throughout your body, although only parts of it are active in certain cells depending on their type. A few cosmetic changes and hormonal treatments will not change the fact that trillions of cells contain either XX or XY, and those remain the same throughout the person's lifetime. While the external appearance may be made to look like the opposite sex, every cell in the body cries out the birth sex of the person.
Please don't bother with the worn out argument that I hate you if you have had a reassignment surgery, or are pondering one, or are of an opposite view than I am. I am telling you what the BIBLE says about gender reassignment. And I believe the Bible is right because it comes from God. But I am not a hater. For more on that, read here.