Sola Scriptura in the Epistle of Jude

sola scripturay 2The epistle of Jude presents a short yet powerful defense of Sola Scriptura. I will detail the argument in what follows.

1. The Church Vs. The World

Firstly, Jude identifies only two groups of people, viz. The people of God and the enemies of God/The redeemed and the unredeemed. These two groups are in irreconcilable conflict.[1]

2. The Revealed Word Vs. What is Known Naturally

Secondly, the Church is said to be in possession of the faith, to have the capacity to defend the faith, to have the capacity to build one another up in the faith, and the capacity to remember the Word of Christ. Noting these two points, let us formulate our argument.

MP: All Christian duties fall under two broad categories, viz. Defense of the faith and Edification through the faith.

mp: Defense of the faith and Edification through the faith are achieved solely via the application of the Word of Christ in Scripture to the world and the church, respectively.

C: Therefore, all Christian duties are achieved solely via the application of the Word of Christ in Scripture to the world and the church, respectively.

The Romanists may argue that this assumes that the Word of Christ is limited to what is found in Scripture alone. They are correct, for this is what Jude indicates in his epistle (spec. vv.17-18). It is evident that Jude remembers the words of Christ and His apostles as authoritative. This, however, does not exclude his own words, seeing as his epistle is also divinely inspired. Hence, the command to the church to turn to and utilize the Scriptures alone is contained in Scripture as well. As Dr. Gill explains:

…these words mean not the doctrines of the apostles in general, but particularly the prophecies delivered out by them, as by the Apostles Paul and Peter, concerning the false teachers that should arise; and these being spoken of before, and by apostles, even by the apostles, of our Lord Jesus Christ, were worthy of regard, and deserved to be remembered; a remembrance of which is a preservative from error, and a relief in the worst of times, whether of persecution, or heresy. This does not suppose that Jude was not an apostle, only that there were other apostles besides him; and that these, some of them at least, had prophesied of these men, and that he had lived to see their predictions verified; nor does he exclude himself from being one of them; yea, the Ethiopic version reads, “which we the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ have formerly declared unto you”[2]

The Word that is declared is what is contained in Scripture, it is Scripture. Note that Jude’s words are derived from Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3:1-5.

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,  that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Whereas Jude commands the church to “remember…the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,”[3] Peter commands the church to “remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.”[4] This is not a discrepancy; Peter is commending the church to the Old Testament and the apostolic writings,[5] Jude is commending the church to the apostolic writings (i.e. The Gospels and Epistles). Thus, the command given by Jude is not contrary to the command given by Peter, but extends the breadth of referential material concerning the matter of discourse. The prophets prophesied, Christ prophesied, Paul prophesied, the apostles prophesied, and here Jude is commending the entire corpus of Scripture (including his own epistle) to the church.

This is, it should be noted, precisely the case in the Scriptures to which Jude alludes. Peter and Paul are likewise speaking of the “last days” (i.e. The days following the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ), and commend their readers to the Scriptures. Paul identifies the Scriptures as sufficient for every good work; Peter identifies the Scriptures (including Paul’s writings) as sufficient for the Church; and Jude identifies all of the writing preceding his own letter as being sufficient for the Church. The question may be raised by an unbeliever: If Paul was sufficient, then why did Peter write? And if Peter was, then why Jude? Because Scripture is the Word of God and as such its parts cannot be separated from one another. Consequently, any part indicates the whole and the whole is a harmony of perfect parts. Note also that these letters were written at different times and their collation culminates in the completion of the canon in time. Thus, Paul approves what has been written; Peter approves what has been written; Jude approves what has been written. If this is the case, which it seems to be, it would indicate that none of the apostolic writers or prophets approved of what had not already been spoken by the Lord through his apostles. Thus, the Holy Spirit is guarding the church from error and giving explicitly approval to what He has spoken already. The canon is taking shape before our very eyes.

Concluding Remarks

Thus, the canon is self-verifying, God needs no external verification. Rather, the Holy Spirit speaks and causes His people to hear the Voice of the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Timothy was not limited to the Old Testament, nor was Paul limiting his commendation to the Old Testament. After all, Paul identifies Luke-Acts as Scripture in 1st Timothy 5:18. And Peter’s commendation is not limited to the Old Testament and the writings of Paul, for he identifies the preaching of the proclamation of the other apostles, stating that whereas the coming Person and Work of our Lord Jesus was revealed to the prophets, these things “…have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven…”[6] Since all this is clearly taught in Scripture, why do the Romanists act as if it is not? Because their head is not Jesus Christ but a fallen man, a sinful and detestable blasphemer who has illegitimately appointed himself as the visible head of the universal Christian church.


[1] For more on this, see Dr. Bahnsen’s excellent article “At War With the Word,” <http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa083.htm&gt;
[2] John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, Jude
[3] v.17
[4] 2 Pet 3:2
[5] cf. 2 Pet 3:1-4, 2 Tim 3:1-7 & Mark 13:32-37
[6] 1st Pet 1:12b

“The Semitic Logos: The (Personal) Memra of God” – An Excerpt

[LogoMemraMy friend Michael Burgos and I are writing a short an apologetics book dealing primarily with the doctrine of God proper, but also including related materials. What follows in this post is an excerpt from one of my essays in the book. I am addressing the claims of Oneness Pentecostal theologians who deny that the Logos of John 1:1-14 was eternally a Distinct Divine Person in eternal communion with the Father and the Spirit, but was instead simply an a-personal plan in the mind of God. Let me know your thoughts :) Soli Deo Gloria! -h.]

The Semitic Logos: The (Personal) Memra of God

Daniel Boyarin, furthermore, while of the belief that Philo’s Logos is, like John’s Logos, a distinct divine Person,1 demonstrates that “there were other Jews [besides Philo], and, moreover, not only Greek speaking ones, who manifested a version of Logos theology.”2 Boyarin:

Notions of the second god as personified word or wisdom of God were present among Semitic-speaking Jews as well. [...] The leading candidate for the Semitic Logos is, of course, “The Memra” of God, as it appears in the para-rabbinic Aramaic translations of the Bible in textual contexts that are frequently identical to ones where the Logos hermeneutic has its home among Jews who speak Greek.3

So close, in fact, is the personal “Memra” of God doctrine of these Jews that Boyarin, after surveying numerous theological and contextual parallels between John’s prologue and Jewish commentaries on the OT featuring the Word/Logos/Memra of God, concludes that “the Memra performs many, if not all, of the functions of the Logos of Christian Logos theology.”4 This directly contradicts Bernard’s attribution of Logos theology to “the Greek Apologists,”5 demonstrating that their idea of “the Logos as a second divine person”6 was not only not unique to philosophers like Justin Martyr, but found a place within Judaism itself.

The literature on the subject of the so-called “two powers in heaven” doctrine is extensive, and shows that the differentiation of Divine Persons in the Godhead was not the product of cultural admixture and religio-philosophical syncretism. Daniel Boyarin correctly notes that such an interpretation of the “two powers in heaven” doctrine is more likely an ideologically driven reconstruction of the past by present Rabbinical scholars7 than it is an attempt to understand the complex interrelationships between multiple “in-house” debates arising from various exegetical/interpretive difficulties faced by devout Jews.8

Notes

1 “The Gospel of the Memra: Jewish Binitarianism and the Prologue to John,” in The Harvard Theological Review Vol. 94, No. 3 (July, 2001), 249-252.

2 Boyarin, The Gospel of Memra, 252.

3 Boyarin, The Gospel of Memra, 252-253.

4 Boyarin, The Gospel of Memra, 257.

5 The Trinitarian Controversy in the Fourth Century, (Missouri: Word Aflame Press, 2011), 10.

6 ibid.

7 Most notably Alan F. Segal in his seminal work, The Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism (Baylor University Press, reprint 2012), 339 pp.

8 “Beyond Judaisms: Metatron and the Divine Polymorphy of Ancient Judaism,” in Journal for the Study of Judaism 41 (2010), 323-365.

An Excerpt from “Refuting Romanism: A Logical and Scriptural Treatise” (HRDIII)

crackersz

[Refuting Romanism: A Logical & Scriptural Treatise is a short book I intend to publish through Nook publishers. I aim to show that the Catechism of the Catholic Church (or CCC) is self-contradictory, contradicts the Scriptures, and therefore cannot be the Word of God.]

Transubstantiation, Christology & Anthropology

The CCC’s contradictions also find articulation in its doctrine of transubstantiation, a doctrine which stands in contradiction to the CCC’s anthropology. For according to the CCC,1 death came into the world through sin. “Man’s sins,” it says elsewhere, “following on original sin, are punishable by death.”2 In paragraph 1008, the CCC states further that “death is a consequence of sin.” Finally, the CCC explains that

Death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage…when “the single course of our earthly life” is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives: “It is appointed for men to die once.”3

These statements make it clear that death is a punishment for sins and is irrepeatable. Hence, we are told elsewhere that “in his plan of salvation, God ordained that his Son should not only ‘die for our sins’ but should also ‘taste death,’ experience the condition of death, the separation of his soul from his body, between the time he expired on the cross and the time he was raised from the dead.”4 Christ, in other words, was sacrificed for our sins, dying upon the tree of Calvary and tasting death in our place. For the CCC teaches, “by sending his own Son in the form of a slave, in the form of a fallen humanity, on account of sin, God ‘made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’”5

Yet if “death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage,”6 and “when ‘the single course of our earthly life’ is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives,”7 how can it be “that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood8? If Christ “by his death…has conquered death,”9 then how can Christ be said to offer himself through the sacramental ministry of Rome’s priests?10 For the sacrifice of Christ was of his flesh and blood through crucifixion for our sins, his death for ours, and death, according to the CCC, occurs only once, after which a man’s earthly pilgrimage is over. How is Christ’s earthly pilgrimage over if he is literally present in the transubstantiated bread and wine? And how is the Eucharist a literal sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ when we know that Christ died once and, thereby, conquered death?

If Christ is true man and true God, then he cannot be said to be sacrificed in the Roman mass. For the sacrifice of Christ is the death of Christ for sinners, and “death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage…when ‘the single course of our earthly life’ is completed.”11 Therefore, either (a.)Christ is truly sacrificed in the mass (and his earthly pilgrimages have not yet ended) or (b.)death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage (and Christ is not, because he cannot be, sacrificed in the mass). One cannot hold to both propositions as true simultaneously. To summarize our arguments, therefore, we give the following syllogisms.

a.

1. All death is punishment from God.
2. Christ died for our sins.
3. Therefore, Christ was punished by God.

b.

1. All men end their earthly pilgrimage at death.
2. Christ died for our sins.
3. Therefore, Christ ended his earthly pilgrimage at the cross.

c.

1. If Christ has ended his earthly pilgrimage, then transubstantiation is false.
2. Christ has ended his earthly pilgrimage.
3. Therefore, transubstantiation is false.
 

And now consider the concluding syllogism:

1.No self-contradictory system of propositions is the Word of God.
2.The Traditions of Rome, by affirming that man’s pilgrimage ends with his death, and yet simultaneously affirming that Jesus Christ’s body and blood are sacrificed in the mass, constitute a self-contradictory system of propositions.
3.Therefore, the Traditions of Rome are not the Word of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

-h.

1 400.
2 602.
3 1013.
4 624.
5 602.
6 1013. (emphasis added)
7 ibid. (emphasis added)
8 1376.
9 1019. (emphasis added)
10 See 1367.
11 1013. (emphasis added)

The Faithful Israelite’s Sabbath: Christ Foreshadowed in the Law

rest-area-sign“Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.” (Exodus 23:12)

When God first revealed that the Sabbath day was to be a holy day of rest, he explained that this was so “for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day” (Exo 20:11). Yet in this passage of the law (Exo 23:10-12), God gives a different reason why the Sabbath is to be a holy day of rest, viz. “that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.” Those who labor for the faithful Israelite are to be given the Sabbath that they may rest and be refreshed. God’s Sabbath, then, was for the Israelite’s reflection on the power and goodness and provision of God, as exhibited in his act of creating the universe; and God’s Sabbath was for those labored and were heavy laden. The first articulation of the command (i.e. Exo 20:8-11) shows us that the faithful Israelite’s duty was first and foremost to love and worship the Creator of all things, Yahweh, by setting apart the one day in seven for rest and reflection. The second articulation given in Exodus 23:12 shows us that the faithful Israelite’s duty was secondly to love and serve his neighbor by allowing his servant-neighbors to enter into his rest.

The faithful Israelite, therefore, was to love God and love his neighbor this way, by ceasing from his own labors and by letting his servants enter into his rest before God. What is evident from the commandment is that if one did not observe the Sabbath, then one’s servant neighbors would not be able to enter into one’s rest. Thus, it is the law-keeping of the faithful Israelite which provides the rest and refreshment of the servant-neighbor. It is, in other words, the faithful obedience of the true Israelite which brings the laboring and striving of his servant neighbor to an end.

God paints for us a beautiful, overwhelmingly powerful picture, pointing us not to ourselves but to Christ. For Christ is the true Israelite/Son of Abraham (Matt 1:1) who labored in his redemptive work for six days (i.e. during the passion week, see here), rested on the seventh day (Luke 23:54), and who, therefore, having fulfilled the law declares:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)

This rest is given further explication in the book of Hebrews, where we are told that “we who have believed [the Gospel] enter that rest” (Heb 4:3a), and that “whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his” (Heb 4:10).

Thus, when Moses tells the Israelites that the purpose of the Sabbath is intended, in a secondary sense of course, for the servant-neighbors of the faithful Israelite to rest and be refreshed, he is typologically representing the work of Christ Jesus, who is the True and Faithful Israelite. Christ’s work of redemption is finished. And now, therefore, we who believe enter that rest. What rest? The rest that he himself has purchased for us with his precious blood. Rest from striving to be justified by works of the Law. Rest from trying to be at peace with God through our own righteousnesses/filthy rags. Because Christ labored and completed the work set before him, we can rest from our labors as well. We “were buried…with him by baptism into death” (Rom 6:4) and, therefore, “have died to the law through the body of Christ” (Rom 7:4). We “been crucified with Christ” (Gal 2:20a), and “released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom 7:6).

We reflect on God’s salvific work, therefore, and love and serve our neighbors out of a heart filled with gratitude and love for God. Our Faithful Son of Abraham, Jesus the Perfect Israelite, has fulfilled the Law for us, his servant-neighbors, and now gives us rest. Let the Romanist take note of this: Christians rest in the Sabbath rest which Christ has rightly earned for us. There is nothing for us to do in order to be made right with God, to be at peace with God, to reflect not only on his creative work, but also on his redemptive work for sinners.

Amen.

-h.