Craig Blomberg on Church Discipline

Church discipline is a widely neglected practice in our evangelical churches. Craig Blomberg has some excellent observations on what the key passage (Matt. 18:15–17) means. Because Blomberg always begins with the biblical text, he finds things that others miss entirely. This time he hits the target by noting that Jesus emphasized searching our hearts for what others might have against us (Matt. 5:23–24).

Blomberg makes a contribution to our understanding by saying that church discipline is never said to be about major sins, yet that is the only form I have ever seen. Most minor issues could and should be handled privately (Matt. 18:15). That out to happen routinely for the unity of the body of Christ. Too many of us avoid people over minor things that could have been resolved long ago.

He also suggests that instead of what amounts to total expulsion at the end of the process, churches might consider barring the offending person from taking communion or other activities only a believer could participate in. After all, our church services are generally open to non-Christians and we want them there to hear God’s Word and see the body of Christ in action.

Check it out!

New Testament Manuscripts: Craig Blomberg evaluates variants

Craig Blomberg has addressed an issue that worries a lot of Christians: the claims by some people (e.g., Bart Ehrman) that the New Testament cannot be trusted because hundreds of thousands of variant readings exist among the manuscripts we have.

Blomberg, a professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, gives a brief and compelling summary of why this issue should not worry you. In fact, we have every reason to rejoice over the wealth of material we have to ensure we have an accurate text for the Greek New Testament used to translate our English Bibles.

Copyright © 2011 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 6:12–15

Revelation 6:12–15
Then I looked when the Lamb opened the sixth seal, and a huge earthquake took place; the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the full moon became blood red; 13 and the stars in the sky fell to the earth like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when shaken by a fierce wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth, the very important people, the generals, the rich, the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains.
(NET Bible)

The Day of the Lord

It may seem astonishing, but there are people who would not surrender to God even if miracles were performed before their eyes. Ah, I hear that you might not be convinced of that.

I offer Jesus as proof. The religious leaders saw him give sight to the blind, heal the sick and the crippled, even raise the dead. Some believed, but others simply resolved the more intently to kill him!

This puzzling rejection of what is obvious will be repeated in the end times. Just when things look their worst — and they will know who is sending judgment — many world leaders will cower in fear of the Lamb, but they will not submit to him!

Grant Osborne provides the following description of the events in 6:12–14: “The imminent end of all history is pictured first in the traditional shaking of the heavens that so often in Scripture initiates the day of the Lord.”[1] Look up the Scriptures listed next, especially the first two, to see the many forewarnings of these same events: “day of the Lord”  Isa. 34:4; Joel 2:30-31; Isa. 13:10–13; 24:1–6; 24:19–23; Ezek. 32:6–8; Joel 2:10; 3:15–16; Hab. 3:6–11.

The changes in appearance for the sun and moon could occur due to smoke from fires as well as dust thrown into the atmosphere due to the titanic earthquake. But there is certainly no need to find natural causes for all these God-caused events.

Commentators are uncertain whether the events described in 6:12–15 are literal, figurative, or some mix of the two. Jesus says similar things in Matthew 24:27–30. Concerning those verses, NT scholar Craig Blomberg says:

Jesus portrays his return with typical apocalyptic imagery of cosmic upheaval. He does not intend his language to be taken as a literal, scientific description of events but as a vivid metaphor . . . . From this moment on, the universe can no longer continue as it had been (cf. Rev. 6:12–17; 8:12). Jesus’ imagery may well also point to the overthrow of the cosmic and demonic powers often associated in paganism with the sun, moon, and stars.[2]

OT scholar Bruce Waltke says that the description in Matt. 24:29 (“Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken”) refers to the overthrow of political powers.[3] This comment, if correct, clearly applies to Rev. 6:12–14 as well.

However, none of these comments limit the description in Revelation 6 to the realm of metaphor alone. Clearly the shaking and simultaneous cataclysms inspire terror in the inhabitants of the earth (6:15). Behind the metaphors stand terrifying realities that upend the power structures of this world (6:16). Further, the world’s peoples understand that these judgments come from “the one who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb” (6:16), and they realize that their own survival is unlikely (6:17).

Keep in mind that the seventh seal, yet to be opened, encompasses the trumpets and bowls.

Choosing concealment over repentance

Did you notice that not one of those mentioned in 6:15–17 repents and falls down before God in worship? Instead, they sought what sinners starting with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8) have sought — concealment!

Knowing these things must occur, Jesus said, “Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt. 24:44). Are you ready?

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 290-291.

[2] Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992) 362.

[3] Bruce K. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007) 568, citing R.T. France.

NIV 2011: Craig Blomberg analyzes Philippians 2:4

Craig Blomberg, a noted New Testament scholar at Denver Seminary, has produced another fine analysis that compares NIV 2011 — which Craig calls the “updated NIV” — with other major English translations. This time his focus is on Philippians 2:4, which says, “ . . . not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Take advantage of this opportunity to understand how these English translations of the Bible compare and why Craig Blomberg believes NIV 2011 to be the best of all those now available.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.

NIV 2011 is defended by Craig Blomberg

All who want to know more about the updated NIV (“NIV 2011” in this blog) should be sure to read the recent post by Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary.

Craig presents a discussion of 1 Timothy 3:11, which says, “In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything” (NIV 2011). The whole issue revolves around the word translated “women” and how various translations handle this text. Even more important, Blomberg explains how the claims made by the ESV to offer a “literal” translation seem to have been ignored by ESV in favor of a translation determined for theological reasons.

All in all, Blomberg gives a useful account of how various influences affected the translations produced in the last ten years.  I especially like it because Blomberg hammers those who give an English translation that forecloses other interpretive options and may not even let the reader know they have done it. Very good stuff!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.

Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:48

Matthew 5:48
“So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
(NET Bible)
Note: any Bible reference containing only a chapter number and verse number is understood to be in the Gospel of Matthew.

From misunderstanding to understanding

In politics, many Americans have proven to be more fond of a good sound bite than they are of sound reasoning. The same desire for simplicity — false but reassuring — also affects people’s choices when they stick to an erroneous interpretation of the Bible.

Keep in mind that Eve found Satan’s false but simple argument really compelling, yet she found only spiritual ruin from it (Genesis 3). You must look deeper to understand what Jesus requires of his disciples. Are you willing?

Some verses create lots of needless difficulty, and the cause is generally an inadequate English translation. The English word perfect simply does not fit either the underlying Greek word (teleios) or this context. So, how did we wind up with a misleading English word in so many translations?

Perfect (5:48) was the word chosen by William Tyndale in the very first English translation of the New Testament (1526) based on the Latin Vulgate. Tyndale did not have a Greek New Testament to guide his work because they were not published in Europe until 1534.[1] About 85 percent of Tyndale’s popular translation became part of the Authorized Version, which we call the King James Bible, and the translation perfect in Matt. 5:48 was part of that incorporated material.

Bible translator William Mounce explains the second factor that often prevents English translation improvements: “The argument [in the translation committee] was, “This is such a well-known verse that we can’t change it.’”[2] Such forces of familiar tradition are strong in the Sermon on the Mount!

Craig Blomberg puts us onto the right plan when he says, “’Perfect’ here is better translated as ‘mature, whole,’ i.e., loving without limits . . . . Jesus is not frustrating his hearers with an unachievable ideal but challenging them to grow in obedience to God’s will — to become more like him.”[3] The key idea here is completeness, or loving without limits. God’s willingness to love even his enemies sets the example for the disciples of Jesus. Just as the Father is whole and undivided in his love, so must the disciples be!

The interpretation just given makes sense out of the initial phrase so then (5:48a). Verse 48 is a conclusion based on what has been taught previously. The Gentiles and tax collectors love their own kind (5:46-47), but we must look to God for our model of love, not our peers.

In spite of the fact that virtually all modern commentators agree on what has been said above about the correct interpretation of 5:48, it is not hard to find someone who teaches sinless perfection as the command of Christ. But that idea is very hard to reconcile with the prayer Jesus taught his disciples in which they pray for the forgiveness of the debt (of sin) between themselves and God (Matt. 6:12). Why would a perfect disciple need to ask forgiveness? Even stronger are John’s words: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8, ESV).

However, I must address a potential criticism. Someone might claim that I was teaching that God is not perfect. Far from it! What I do say is that such an idea is not what Jesus was teaching here. Instead, he was holding up God’s character as the example of love for his disciples to follow. God loves the just and the unjust, and so must we.

Improving the imperfect

Since Jesus is calling on his disciples to become more like the Father, that is the task we imperfect disciples need to focus on.

There is urgency in our need to adopt what Jesus says. Paul tells us: “Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30–31). That day is coming fast!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] The Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 3, S.L. Greenslade, Ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1963) 61.

[2] William D. Mounce, Greek for the Rest of Us (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003) 38.

[3] Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992) 115.


Ross Douthat talks about Hell; Craig Blomberg does too

Seems like the conservative voices on the New York Times op-ed pages are talking theology these days; go figure! This time Ross Douthat briefly and intelligently discusses the reluctance of Americans to believe in Hell.

Not only does Douthat’s analysis give the lie to the claims of atheists and those who believe in universal salvation, but it also exposes the way publishers exploit the preference of Americans to believe in heaven but to discount hell. Worth your time to read his points.

For a deeper look at Hell by a solid New Testament scholar, Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary, check out this link. Blomberg ably discusses the little-known fact that the New Testament teaches different degrees of punishment for those consigned to Hell (Luke 12:46–48). Stalin will not fare quite as well as the school bully. A good article in a valuable blog.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.