A vague title, I know but it captures my thoughts at the moment as I am finishing up reading material on my text I am preaching on from Ephesians 4:7-16. The issue centers around Paul’s apparent use of Psalm 68 to speak of Jesus giving gifts to us. I have read the six most popular views by commentators and scholars for the fifth time. I have looked at the arguments pro and con from every perspective I can imagine and I step back just shaking my head. Remember, these are the serious interactions:
One view is that Paul simply is choosing to use the Psalm wrongly and doesn’t care. He will use the bible as he wishes for his theological interpretations. A second view make the “argument” that Paul is simply quoting from memory and got bit of it wrong. Oopsie! A third tries to say that Paul is taking his quote from the Aramaic Targum. Unfortunately that was written around the fifth century A. D. Which reveals that the advocate for this view doesn’t think Paul really wrote it and that it was done much later than any conservative scholar would allow. Then there is my favorite, a fourth view that says that Jesus ascended into heaven as Jesus and then descended not as Jesus but as the Spirit (read the passage if you are confused, it is 4:9-10).
All of this leads me to my point. Each of the above views comes because the scholar rejects in one way or another the biblical text as true, trustworthy. The result is that now the text can mean anything when it is a difficult passage. Just say that the writer made a mistake or some such drivel. Once a scholar steps away from the text as being true and right anything can go, it is really only limited to his mind and will.
This is all great for the scholarly world because every time a new view is postulated it gives everyone a lot of new material to work with. Meanwhile the guy working for Snap-on Tools or the single mother with two children are ignored. These people for whom Christ died are not fed. Frankly they are not even in view.
As a pastor who seeks to teach deeply and yet with the purpose of building my church up in truth this sort of stuff is just wearying. You wade through endless words that are written not out of faith but unfaith, not with trust but in distrust of the bible.
The church does not need another commentary that will fill up the pages with endless arguments that flow from unbelieving minds before the commentator works out his conclusion. The church needs men who will sift through those who are the doubters and double-talkers and bring to the pastors and students the food from the text, presented as their faithful efforts in presenting the truth as truth.
I am guessing this title will draw hoards of people to the blog. Nothing gets the blood pumping like a discussion, no matter how short, on the doctrine of bibliology. Why, the WordPress dictionary doesn’t even know what it is and tries to change it to “biology,” which is probably some latent atheistic, evolutionary programming trick. Of course it doesn’t have “wordpress” in the dictionary either so they may just be a tad dumb.
Well, enough of an introduction. I want to give a quick observation about the nature of the bible, from a biblically conservative perspective. Doug Wilson has penned a great article on the necessity of the virgin birth of Christ. It is a great article that is easy to read due to his great skill as a wordsmith. I want to quote his opening paragraphs before going on:
You don’t need to be a Bible reader to know that the prophet Isaiah prophesied that a time would come when a virgin would conceive and bear a son. The passage has been included on countless Christmas cards, and so many non-believers of many stripes manage to get a dose of this doctrine just by opening their mail: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).
Theological liberals like to point out that the word rendered as virgin here is the Hebrew word almah, which can mean “virgin,” but it can also be legitimately rendered as “young woman.” So then, the thinking goes, “You conservatives ought to think about this a bit harder, and join the rest of us in the 21st century as soon as you are able.” But centuries before Christ, when the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek by Jewish rabbis (70 of them, according to tradition), the Greek word they chose to render this word almah was parthenos—and parthenos means virgin, as in a literal virgin. The famous Parthenon was a temple built in Athens to the virgin goddess Athena. With the use of this word, there is no wiggle room whatsoever.
So here is my point. Whenever you have a liberal Christian, or a non-Christian (often one-and-the-same) trying to pooh-pooh away the virgin birth they camp on the meaning of almah. Doug shows that this is not a proper approach but it comes from an assumption within him. That the bible is not a random collection of stories written by who knows who and are not really connected by anything real.
This is why he goes to the ancient Greek translation of that passage. And then he takes us to the New Testament and shows that this is how Matthew wrote it (parthenos) and most certainly how Mary understood it. And I would assume she would know that she was a virgin.
You cannot not know a passage all by itself. You do not form or demolish a theological point with just one passage. You consider it in light of the entire revelation of God, understanding that there is a continuity and unity there that is unlike anything else in the world.
When a liberal tells me that Isaiah 7 refers to just a young maiden I am forced to make a decision. Do I follow his or her declaration or do I take Matthew’s and Mary’s, and the translators of the OT into Greek. 5 bucks to the first one who get the right answer.