Robert Letham makes an interesting observation in The Holy Trinity, In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship about the Trinity in Genesis 1.
The triadic manner of the earth’s formation reflects the nature of its Creator. He is a relational being. This is implicit from the very start. Notice the distinction between the God who creates the heavens and the earth (v. 1), the Spirit of God who hovers over the face of the waters (v. 2), and the speech or word of God who issues the fiat “Let there be light” (v. 3). (page 19)
This threefold distinction is important because God, as the careful reader will later discover, reveals himself in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of whom can rightly be called “Creator.” To be sure,
it is unlikely that the author and original readers would have understood the Spirit of God in a personalized way, due to the heavy stress in the OT on the uniqueness of the one God. (Page 19)
As special revelation was unfolding throughout the history of the Old Covenant, leading up to the incarnation of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church, the clarity of God’s triune nature was not obvious to Israel. God, of course, does not change. He has been triune from the beginning, as much as he is today. Our access to special revelation throughout the history of humanity has changed, and our understanding of God’s nature has become more clear as a result.
Letham cites S. R. Driver:
Driver recognizes that this passage prepares for the personal use of the term “Word” in John’s gospel and, by the same token, the later NT personalizing of the Spirit of God is a congruent development from this statement.
The harmony between the Old Testament and the New Testament’s presentation of God is astounding. In this instance, what Moses wrote about God was in perfect harmony with what John would later use to describe Jesus to his audience with additional clarity. It is important to remember that while both presentations are not equally descriptive, they are both true and evidence this, in part, by their harmony.
I happened across a resource on the Local Church which, I believe, will be useful for helping to explain why informed apologists and theologians have serious concerns about it. This PDF is 24 pages long and boasts 75 footnotes (the bulk of which are from Lee’s writings).
The author is E. Calvin Beisner [website].
And, as always, the document is free of charge. The outline of the PDF is below the link. Enjoy!
- The Nature of God
- Successive Modalism
- Static Modalism
- The Extension of the Incarnation: The Church as God Manifest in the Flesh
- The Way of Salvation
- The Church: The Belief in Localism
- The Local Church Belief About Sin and Satan
- Parallel Incarnations of God and Satan
I recently posted some thoughts on textual criticism between different editions of English language “revelations” from cults. It came about because I wanted to see how the 1875 edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures compares to the current.
I made up a color-coordinated legend to allow for a quick glance to demonstrate how changes have been made. I hope it proves useful. This document only has the first page from the preface of the current edition (page vii). I started with the text of the 1875 edition and proceeded to color in the changes with the current edition.
Any Bible college or seminary student has had to study Greek and Hebrew. At some point in the course of study you come across the discipline of textual criticism. For me it was the second year of undergraduate Greek at Biola University. The idea fascinates me because it is like doing detective work, interviewing thousands of ancient documents to best determine what the originals said.
In the case of the New Testament you have copies of Greek manuscripts from the 2nd century down through the dawn of the printing press. During that roughly 1500 year time period you also must consider quotations from Church fathers, and early translations from Greek into other languages. You could spend a lifetime learning these languages and studying these documents.
As an apologist with an interest in cult evangelism, I have asked myself why couldn’t something akin to this be done on documents which were originally penned in English and have since undergone editing. In fact, there have been project undertaken to demonstrate how the Book of Mormon has been altered since it was originally published in 1830. Jerald and Sandra Tanner published 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon which reproduces the 1830 version with handwritten notes indicating its discrepancies with the 1964 version (at the time, the most recent) [link to introduction, link to purchase entire book].
While there are similarities between New Testament textual criticism and Book of Mormon textual criticism, there are also some key differences:
- Copyright ownership laws. There were no copyright laws or legal disputes when NT manuscripts were copied. No one person or organization was able to claim legal ownership or hinder scribes from copying. However, in the case of the Book of Mormon, the Mormon Church has “owned” the rights to the Book of Mormon (and the other LDS Scriptures for that matter) from day 1. Any kind of redaction can not be chalked up to a sleepy 4th century scribe, but to the LDS Church.
- One language. While the New Testament was originally penned in Greek from the Koine period, the Book of Mormon was originally written in English. Yes, Joseph Smith claimed it was translated from “Reformed Egyptian,” however, there are no manuscripts of that language. Textual criticism is deeply concerned with manuscripts. However, if you are a faithful Mormon and are persuaded that the Book of Mormon is a translation, then the intentionality of the redactor enters the discussion.
- Intention of the redactor. The intentions of NT scribes were the same as any ancient scribes by the very nature of their discipline: to preserve written documents. Until the printing press was invented, scribal copying was the best way to do this. Humans make mistakes, intentional and unintentional. The intentional changes were, by and large, intended to clarify confusing phrases or correct earlier scribal mistakes (as perceived by that particular scribe). Unintentional changes (skipping a line, misspelling a word, poor penmanship, etc) were simple mistakes owing to a brief loss of attention, lack of skill, fatigue, or any other like factor. in the case of the Book of Mormon, it was copied phrase by phrase off of the Urim and Thummim as Smith glazed into his hat. The next sentence would not appear until the last had been correctly transcribed. The first edition was, at the time, touted to the world as a flawless and accurate translation. Changes in succeeding editions were apparently intended to fix this perfect document.
- Value of the first edition. Historically, the overarching goal of NT textual criticism has been to discover what was originally penned in the original document. However, in cults, the original document is not seen to be as important as the current edition.
In the case of the Book of Mormon, the original copy (if you grant Smith’s precision in its transcription) ought to be the most accurate translation from the Reformed Egyptian. No changes would be needed. So when you see the LDS Church make thousands of changes over the course of multiple editions without any access to the Reformed Egyptian documents you must wonder what is going on. Are they correcting mistakes made by Joseph Smith? If so, how do they know the changes are accurate in the absence of the golden plates? If Smith was faithful as a translator, then why change anything at all?
I have used Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon as an example here. Comparing the original edition to later revisions of English documents seems to be a good deal easier than factoring in Koine Greek, manuscript families, scribal practices, etc. As a native English speaker, it is easy to acquire a copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and compare it to an earlier version (say, the 1889 ed., free on Google Books). (Read more about my first crack at documenting the changes)
Cults seem to have a different set of rules for their new “revelations.” While Christians have always agreed with Jesus that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), cultists offer new revelations (supposedly from the same God) and, over the course of time, assist God in fixing his truth. In NT textual criticism, difficulties are acknowledged and dealt with. In Cult redaction, difficulties and contradictions are simply changed. Bible scholars publish textual variants, and commentaries on them, for the world to see. Cults quietly make changes and never indicate to the reader that the current edition has been altered from the original.
So the task is up to us. To honor Jesus who valued the truth, and promised it would set captives free (John 8:32), we must be willing to help our friends see how cult organizations have changed their documents. These changes strike at the integrity of the claim that they are truly revelations from God.
I was just flipping through my copy of the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics and wanted to share with everyone how great of a resource it is. Click image below to view information on Amazon.com
The latest issue of the Salt Lake city Messenger (published by the Utah Lighthouse Ministry) arrived on my desk yesterday. The main article is about a quest by a group of Swedish Mormons, spearheaded by Hans Mattsson, an LDS European Area Authority Seventy (2000-2005). The article spans 18 pages and 66 footnotes. It is a good example of what happens when sincere questions are side-stepped by LDS leadership.
There are 15 questions/issues raised which are discussed in the PDF.
- Book of Mormon Translation
- Polygamy and polyandry
- Was it right and Christ-like to force women into
- Book of Abraham
- Lying for the Lord
- Mark Hofmann Forgeries
- Blood Atonement
- First Vision
- Censored Church History
- Should members know all the truth?
- Priesthood Restoration
- Blacks and Priesthood
- Bad Temple Experiences
- Vikings and Book of Mormon
This special course is a survey of the history and theology of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints with a focus on understanding Joseph Smith and Mormonism’s foundational period, Mormonism as a worldview, and developments in LDS theology. The goal here is to have a deeper understanding of Mormonism to better reach the LDS with the real Jesus and the true Gospel.
October 25 – 26, 2013
Time: Friday, 1 pm – 10 pm
Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm
Location: Moats Lecture Hall (Busn 109)
Biola University – Crowell School of Business Building
13800 Biola Avenue
La Mirada, CA 90639
I just received an email from Crossway about a new study bible they have produced called the Gospel Transformation Bible. It seems like a good companion to the ESV Study Bible.
It is on sale until Sept. 2nd for %50 off the list price.
Learn more about it at http://gospeltransformationbible.org/