November 2010

I have long been interested in the debate over the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, known as the long ending of Mark (LEM).  Recently, I read Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views by Daniel Wallace, David Alan Black, Keith Elliott, Maurice Robinson, and Darrell Bock.  Each author takes a different perspective on the ending of Mark:

  • Wallace = LEM is not original.  Mark ended his gospel at 16:8. (In Bock’s closing summary of the book, he noted his agreement with this position.)
  • Elliott = LEM is not original.  Original ending has been lost.
  • Robinson = LEM is original.
  • Black = LEM is original, but was added by Mark as part of a “second edition” to round our Peter’s lectures.

Of the four, I think Wallace presented the most convincing case, and Black the least convincing.  I will summarize the evidence/arguments for and against the LEM in hopes that this will help you sort through this issue as much as it helped me.


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Mt 27: 3-8  Now when Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus had been condemned, he regretted what he had done and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders, 27:4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!” But they said, “What is that to us? You take care of it yourself!” 27:5 So Judas threw the silver coins into the temple and left. Then he went out and hanged himself. 27:6 The chief priests took the silver and said, “It is not lawful to put this into the temple treasury, since it is blood money.” 27:7 After consulting together they bought the Potter’s Field with it, as a burial place for foreigners. 27:8 For this reason that field has been called the “Field of Blood” to this day. (NET)

Acts 1:18  Now this man Judas acquired a field with the reward of his unjust deed, and falling headfirst he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. (NET)

This is a favorite “contradiction” appealed to by skeptics to demonstrate the unreliability of the Bible.  But are these two passages really contradicting one another?  After all, it’s not as though Matthew tells us Judas hanged himself, and Luke says he didn’t hang himself.  In fact, Luke doesn’t even tell us how he died.  He only tells us that he fell headfirst and his guts gushed out.  Clearly this cannot be referring to the mode of his death because falling down, in and of itself, cannot cause someone’s belly to burst open and expose his intestines!  Falling from a distance, however, could.  If Judas was hanged as Matthew tells us, it would provide the fall-distance necessary to explain the phenomenon Luke records for us.  Indeed, if Judas hanged himself and his body was left on the tree rather than being removed, his body would have begun to decay, and his belly would have swollen.  Once he was caused to fall (for whatever reason: the rope giving way, his head slipping out of the noose, etc.), his belly would have easily burst open and his guts gushed out.  Matthew’s account and Luke’s account are harmonious, not contradictory.

I’ve been researching and writing on the history of the Textus Receptus recently.  There is a data point that I can’t seem to pinpoint.  I’m hoping some of you might be able to help me find the answer.

Erasmus produced five editions of his Greek NT.  Stephanus used Erasmus’ text to create four more editions.  But what edition of Erasmus’ text did Stephanus use?  I don’t see this being addressed much in the literature, and when it is, I am getting conflicting info.  Some say he used Erasmus’ 3rd edition, while others say he used Erasmus’ 4th and 5th editions.  I’m thinking that perhaps Stephanus used Erasmus’ 3rd edition for his own first edition, but then switched course and used Erasmus’ 4th and 5th editions as the basis for his (Stephanus’) 1550 edition.

One thing I’m having trouble understanding is how the mistakes Erasmus introduced into the last six verses of Revelation have made their way into the modern Textus Receptus if Stephanus used Erasmus’ 4th and 5th editions since Erasmus fixed most of those mistakes in his 4th edition.

Is there anybody who has a lot of knowledge about the history of the TR who can help me out on these questions?

I was listening to a lecture on Acts recently and something pretty basic about Luke’s intent clicked for me in a way it hadn’t before.  Luke began his second work with these words:

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, [2] until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. [3] He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. [4] And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; [5] for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” [6] So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” [7] He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. [8] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:1-8 ESV)

By saying he had previously written of the things Jesus “began” to do and teach, Luke implies that what he is about to write in the second book will be the things Jesus continued to do and teach.  How could this be, however, seeing that Jesus had already ascended into heaven at the end of Luke’s gospel?  Luke tells us.  Jesus taught the apostles via the Holy Spirit while He was still on Earth (v. 2).  He also worked miracles through the Spirit.  Now, that same Holy Spirit would be given to the apostles so they could be empowered to spread the news, mission, and kingdom of Christ on the Earth (vs. 4-8).  Luke’s point is that Jesus’ teachings and ministry continues through the church.

This ties into Luke’s comments about the kingdom of God.  Some may have thought the messianic age was delayed since Jesus had ascended to heaven.  After all, the Jews were expecting an earthly kingdom.   Luke’s answer is that the messianic age did not end with the ascension of Christ.  Jesus is king, and Jesus is reigning even though He is not here in the flesh.  How so?  Through His church.  With the Spirit in us Jesus is present on the Earth, and reigns through us.

Same-sex marriage advocates—including the courts—often argue that marriage is a fundamental right, and therefore same-sex couples must be granted access to the institution even if that requires changing the definition of marriage itself.[1]

There are three problems with this argument.  First, it proves too much.  If marriage is a fundamental right, such that the qualifications for and definition of the institution must be revised to accommodate those who want access to the institution but do not qualify based on the traditional definition, then the institution will have to be revised to accommodate more than just same-sex couples.  It will need to be revised every time any one wishes to participate in the institution, but does not qualify based on the legal definition in use at the time.  Indeed, if the right to marriage is so fundamental that it requires society to change its definition of marriage to match the desires of hopeful participants, then society is left without a principled basis for declining anyone’s request to have their own idea of marriage recognized by the State.  The State must change the definition of marriage to match every new request, whether we approve of their concept of marriage or not.


Oneness Pentecostals (OPs) have always struggled to explain the duality of activity and consciousness we see portrayed in Scripture between the Father and Son.  The Father is doing one thing, while the Son is doing another; the Father knows all things, while the Son knows only what the Father reveals to Him; the Father is prayed to, while the Son prays.  How can this distinction of activity and consciousness be explained other than in terms of multiple persons?  Admittedly, that would be the most obvious and natural explanation.  And yet, because we are persuaded that the Biblical affirmation of monotheism extends both to God’s essence and God’s person, OPs have sought an alternative explanation that is Biblically and philosophically sound.

The standard way of explaining the distinction of activity/consciousness between the Father and Son is to appeal to a duality of natures.  The human nature of Jesus is said to do X, while the divine nature of Jesus (the Father) is said to do Y.  On this account, Jesus’ prayers can be explained as the human nature praying to the divine nature.  What I find interesting about this explanation is that it simply swaps the word “person” for “nature.”  What Trinitarians refer to as “two persons,” we refer to as “two natures.”  Functionally speaking, the two phrases are equivalent, for both admit the presence and distinction of two metaphysically distinct entities.  On the Trinitarian view, there are two metaphysically distinct persons in communion with one another, whereas on the OP view, there are two metaphysically distinct natures in communion with one another.  The only substantive difference is that on the Trinitarian view both entities are divine, whereas in the OP view one is divine and one is human.


I was listening to a Reasons to Believe podcast the other day.  Fazale Rana raised an interesting observation I had never heard or considered before.  He noted a parallel between God’s original commission, and Jesus’ Great Commission:

“So God created man in his own image….  And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:27a, 28)

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)

In the beginning of creation, God commissioned humanity to multiply themselves in number (through sex), and fill the earth.  Similarly, in the beginning of the new age of the Spirit, Jesus commissions the disciples to multiply themselves in number (through evangelism and discipleship) throughout the earth.  Whereas the first commission was aimed at proliferating human life globally, the new commission was aimed at proliferating eternal life globally.  The sons of Adam had filled the earth, but a new commission was needed to fill the earth with the sons of God.

I thought you might be interested in seeing the oldest Greek manuscript containing Acts 2:38.  It is found in Codex Sinaiticus, a mid-4th century manuscript.  Here is the page of the codex it is found in (2nd column, middle):


Apparently Iowans didn’t like the idea of their Supreme Court forcing same-sex marriage on the state.  In last night’s elections, the voters ousted all three Supreme Court justices who were up for re-election—justices, who in 2009, declared same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right.  This is the first time any sitting Iowa Supreme Court justice has not been retained on the bench when put up for re-election.  The voters have sent a clear message to the supreme judiciary in their state: interpret the constitution, don’t reinvent it in your own image.  Of course, on a practical level this move will do nothing in the immediate future to change the status of same-sex marriage in Iowa.