Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Early Baptists and Tithing

Modern Baptists, particularly Southern Baptists, are some of the most ardent advocates of tithing, especially “storehouse tithing.” But is this a traditional Baptist belief?

John Smyth, a Separatist and considered by many the first ‘modern’ Baptist, said: “Wee hold that tithes are either Jewish or popish.” Roger Williams (pictured to the left), who settled in Narragansett Bay (now Providence, RI) in 1636, said that ministers should serve freely “and that not in stinted wages, tithes, stipends, salaries” are they to be paid. John Bunyan (pictured below Williams)(1628–1688), author of Pilgrim’s Progress, commented on Luke 18:10–13: “This paying of tithes was ceremonial, such as came in and went out with the typical priesthood.” Luther Powell, a tithing advocate, said (of Baptists and tithing): “By and large, the Baptists—although inconsistent at times—remained true to the principles of separation of church and state and voluntary support of the ministry. They, more than any other group, are the representatives of the philosophy of church support which emphasizes voluntary support on the congregational level.” Basically they held to freewill support rather than “salaries, wages, stipends, or tithes.”

Francis Wayland, an early Southern Baptist (1859), provided a description of providing ministerial support that is at variance with any advocacy for tithing. Early Baptists in England (1600s) were adamantly against tithing. They utilized Hebrews 7:12 to argue for the abrogation of the tithe.

Therefore, Baptists in America during this period were specifically opposed to tithing. They believed that alms were meant for the poor and that every member of the congregation should give liberally to meet the needs of their minister. However, Baptists were known for their stinginess and their ministers generally did not have an adequate income. The early Baptists did not address the issue of what percentage or proportion should be given since the amount was left for the individual to decide. Baptists were not simply ignorant of the practice, rather they formally disagreed with the tithing model. Eventually the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a statement supporting tithing in 1895. Therefore, Baptists generally did not accept tithing as obligatory for Christians from its founding (ca. 1600) to the late 1800s, almost 300 years. Therefore, how, where, and with whom, did the tithing renewal get its impetus?

References and Resources:

Barrington R. White, Association Records of the Particular Baptists of England, Wales and Ireland to 1660, 3 vols. (London: Baptist Historical Society, 1974), 1:44–45, 48, 151, 3:153–57.

Barrington E. White, “The English Particular Baptists and the Great Rebellion, 1640–1660,” Baptist History and Heritage 9 (1974): 23–28.

Edward Terrill, The Records of a Church of Christ in Bristol, 1640–1687, ed. Roger Hayden (Bristol: Bristol Record Society, 1974), 134–35.

Charles F. Dole, “The Voluntary System in the Support of Churches,” The Unitarian Review 28:22 (July 1887): 22, 24.

Luther P. Powell, Money and the Church (New York: Association Press, 1962), 91.

Francis Wayland, Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches (New York: Sheldon, 1859), 63–64, 191–92, 237–40.

Albert L. Vail, Stewardship Among Baptists (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1913), 4, 7, 37, 39–40, 47, 49–50.

Southern Baptist Convention, Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention (Nashville: Executive Committee, Southern Baptist Convention, 1895), 18–24.

John Bunyan, Bunyan’s Searching Works: The Strait Gate, The Heavenly Footman, The Barren Fig-Tree, The Pharisee and Publican, and Divine Emblems (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1851), 24.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Women in the Church

For a review of Women in the Church (the second edition) edited by Kostenberger and Schreiner, see: www.beginningwithmoses.org/

Menno Simons and Tithing

A search was done in Menno Simons (1496–1561), The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, for his view on tithing. While nothing was found specifically on tithing, Simons believed the following: (1) Christians did not need to have all things in common; (2) ministers should not receive salaries; and (3) regarding the support of ministers: “as for the temporal necessities of life, the begotten church was sufficiently driven by love, through the Spirit and the Word of God, to give unto such faithful servants of Christ and watchers of their souls all the necessities of life, to assist them and provide for them all such things which they could not obtain by themselves.” While his views appear incompatible with tithing, since direct address on the issue was not found, hesitancy toward a decisive conclusion is prudent.

Resource on Menno Simons and Tithing:
Menno Simons, The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, ed. John Christian Wenger, trans. Leonard Verduin (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1956), 173, 443, 445, 450–51, 558–60, 663–64.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Anabaptists and Tithing

Anabaptists (c.a. 1525) in general, and the Swiss Anabaptists more specifically, reacted radically to the use and abuse of tithing and they called for its abolition. Leaders of these groups included Felix Mantz, Conrad Grebel, Simon Stumpf, and Wilhelm Reublin, all of whom Zwingli had an impact on. Hubmaier, the Hutterites, and Thomas Müntzer also opposed the exacting of tithes. The Anabaptists maintained that the New Testament taught nothing about tithing and paints a picture of Christians having all things in common. Some even believed that Christians should not own property; instead, they must have everything in common: communalism. Not all were this radical, however. For example, while Hubmaier believed that Christians should help those in need liberally, he rejected as scriptural the command to relinquish private property. Generally, Anabaptists believed that the New Testament was the sole source for life in the current dispensation. Ministers of the gospel should be supported through voluntary contributions by the congregations they serve.

Resources on Anabaptists and Tithing:
E. Belfort Bax, Rise and Fall of the Anabaptists (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2001; 1903), 12, 31, 37.

J. F. Gerhard Goeters, “Die Vorgeschichte des Täufertums in Zürich,” in Studien zur Geschichte und Theologie der Reformation: Festschrift für Ernst Bizer, eds. Luise Abramowski and J. F. Gerhard Goeters (Germany: Neukirchener Verlag, 1969), 255–59.

James M. Stayer, The German Peasants’ War and Anabaptist Community of Goods (London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991), 61–62, 95–106.

Thomas N. Finger, A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology: Biblical, Historical, Constructive (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004), 19–20, 236.

Meic Pearse, The Great Restoration: The Religious Radicals of the 16th and 17th Centuries (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998), 77.

Abraham Friesen, Thomas Muentzer, a Destroyer of the Godless: The Making of a Sixteenth-Century Religious Revolutionary (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990), 193–94.

Richard Heath, Anabaptism (London: Alexander and Shepheard, 1895), 29.

R. J. Smithson, The Anabaptists: Their Contribution to our Protestant Heritage (London: James Clarke, 1935), 122–23, 128–30, 148.

Ludwig Keller, Geschichte der Wiedertäufer und ihres Reichs zu Münster (Münster: Verlag der Coppenrathschen Buch und Kunsthandlung, 1880), 11.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Zwingli and Tithing

Huldreich Zwingli (1484–1531) entered the Reformation picture over the issue of tithing. He initially believed that while tithes were not of divine authority and that payment should not be obligatory, they should be made voluntarily. This was his view in 1519. Zwingli made strong statements against tithing in 1520 after reading Huss’ On the Church. At this point, Zwingli desired a recovery of the original purpose for tithing: a contribution to the church. After six churches in the countryside needed financial help from Zurich (June 1523), Zwingli moderated his tone and said that most forms of tithing were valid. (Zwingli’s changing opinion should be considered in the context of the law-gospel relationship, which was also in flux in his theology.) He believed at this point that although it was not a divine right, it was a human right. He did advocate a gradual process to regain the original Scriptural purpose for the tithe: “payment to support the poor and to pay the preacher.” Zwingli never recanted of his earlier statements. As problems arose in Zurich, the council sought Zwingli’s advice. He declared that the small tithe (the annoying tithing of garden produce) be set aside; however, he said the rest of the tithes are binding, not based upon “spiritual grounds, but on legal grounds.” Zwingli’s views changed throughout his ministry into a more accepting view of tithing and a more negative view of Anabaptists.

Resources on Zwingli and Tithing:
Samuel Macauley Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (New York: Putnam, 1901), 156, 239.

Thomas N. Finger, A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology: Biblical, Historical, Constructive (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004), 18–19.

Thomas M. Lindsay, A History of the Reformation, 2 vols. (New York: Scribner, 1916), 2:31.

Ulrich Gäbler, Huldrych Zwingli: His Life and Work, trans. Ruth C. L. Gritsch (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 50, 94.

Kenneth Hagen, “From Testament to Covenant in the Early Sixteenth Century,” Sixteenth Century Journal 3, no. 1 (1972): 17–19.

Thomas J. Powers, “An Historical Study of the Tithe in the Christian Church to 1648” (Ph.D. diss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1948),” 135–36.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Caner vs. White

Ergun Caner and James White have had a fascnating discussion on the whole Calvinism/Arminianism debate (can be seen at www.aomin.org/ErgunCaner1.html ... thanks to Alan Bandy for the link). I don't desire to adjudicate the debate, but comment on one of White's points. He continually welcomes critique of his exegesis ... so ...

White says:
"1) John, as is his custom, refers to Christians as "the believing ones" (toi'" pisteuvousin). English translations normally miss this important element of John's gospel (the contrast between true, saving faith, which is almost always expressed through the use of the present tense indicating an on-going, living faith, versus false faith which is almost always placed in the aorist tense, making no statement about its consistency or vitality). It is literally, "even to those who are believing in His name" or "the believing ones (who believe) in His name." The term "believing" is a present participle."
While generally speaking, White is correct that when John uses the present tense he is referring to "true, saving faith". However, there are a few exceptions ... which may account for his tentative language ("almost always" twice). For example, the disciples in John 2:11 "believed" (aorist) and they are portrayed entirely positive; the aorist "believe" in 9:36 has zero negative connotations; neither do the aorist "believe" in 4:50 or 4:53; that's four that go against his pattern. Furthermore: the imperfect (which in his apparent view of Greek verb tenses would connote continual past action) is used negatively of belief in 12:11; note that the perfect participle in 8:31 is portraying what White calls a "false faith."

The main issue is that White seems overly dependent on the tense of the Greek verb for understanding the concept of believing in John's Gospel; instead, he needs to focus more on the context. A little more Stan Porter, and a little less John Calvin, might do him some good.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Francis Turretin and Tithing

Francis Turretin (aka François Turrettini) (1623–1687), pastor at the church in Geneva and professor of theology, declared that Christians are not bound by certain Old Testament laws, such as tithing and firstfruits. He emphasized the voluntariness in the method chosen for supporting the pastor.

Under the topic on ministerial support, Turretin provided many reasons that ministers should receive monetary support, including biblical texts such as 1 Cor 9:4–19, Matt 10:10 (cf. Luke 10:7), and “From the salaries of the priests of the Old Testament” (he gives many other reasons). Under this third argument, he said: “From the salaries of the sacred ministers under the Old Testament (Num. 18:8–12), to whom were given ordinarily sacrifices, tithes, firstfruits, and other similar things, besides certain cities and suburban fields (Num. 35:1–8). Now although in the New Testament, we are not bound by those laws as to the special material from which and the manner in which the pay was given, still they remain as to kind and analogy, as is evident from the passage already quoted (1 Cor. 9:13).”

Furthermore, he clarified that the wages of a pastor can be paid in many different ways. They can be paid through voluntary offerings (“as was done by the first Christians in the time of the apostles and for some ages after”). They can be based upon a mutually agreed upon contract, paid by the Christian magistrate, paid from the tithes, or other methods. He concludes: “Now in whichever of these ways it is procured, it makes little or no difference at all as to the thing itself, provided a sufficient salary is given to the ministers of the gospel.”

Resource on Turretin and Tithing:
Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 3, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1997), 270, 272.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Rankin and Inerrancy

Jerry Rankin, head of the Internation Mission Board (IMB) for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) just said: "I made comment that I just don't see how you can be an inerrantist and be a cessationist" (see www.bpnews.org/bpnews.asp?ID=22683). I find this comment absurd. With this issue, like many others, it isn't just the conclusion someone comes to, but the way they get there.
For example, take the issue of women pastors. A dissertation I read from Fuller Theological Seminary basically concluded that Gal 3:28 is Paul's main verse on gender; anything that does not agree with that was not written by Paul and should not be considered as inspired (or canonical ... one of those). That guy came to the conclusion in a way which he can not be an inerrantist. However, it is possible for someone to come up with some fascinating historical background to re-interpret 1 Tim 2 by and thus preserve their view that women can be pastors AND innerrancy.
My point: it's the way the conclusion is reached, not the conclusion itself. I find Rankin's statement ridiculous.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Calvin and Tithes, continued

However, after giving the reason God complained about being defrauded of the tithes in Malachi 3, Calvin said: “But we know that other sacrifices are now prescribed to us; and after prayer and praises, he bids us to relieve the poor and needy. God then, no doubt, is deprived by us of his right, when we are unkind to the poor, and refuse them aid in their necessity.”[1] So, according to Calvin, God is robbed by Christians not when they fail to tithe, but when they fail to give aid to the poor and needy. The lack of mention of “tithes” in this paragraph is striking. One final quote:

“But how would the Pope have allowed them [i.e., tithe-free lands] to be held by laymen, if, by divine right, (as they stupidly prate,) they had been the sacred inheritance of the clergy? In conclusion, inasmuch as tithes are to be counted against public imposts and tributes, let not private individuals refuse to pay them, unless they wish to destroy the political state and government of kingdoms; but let pious princes take care to correct abuses, so the idle bellies may not devour public revenues which are devoted to the Church.”[2]
I have concluded that Calvin was ambiguous in his writings on tithing … but what about others in Geneva …

[1] Calvin, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, 5:586.

[2] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony, 4 vols., trans. Charles William Bingham (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 280.

Further research:
For comments by Calvin that appear to allude to tithing being obligatory, see John Calvin, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony, 4 vols., trans. Charles William Bingham (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 2:279.

For comments that appeared to say tithes are not obligatory, see John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, 2 vols., trans. John Pringle (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 1:298–300, 2:70, 294, 308; Calvin, Twelve Minor Prophets, 5:586; Calvin, Four Last Books of Moses, 2:278–80; John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, 2 vols., trans. John King (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 1:393.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Calvin and Tithes

Admittedly, most conclude that John Calvin (1509–1564) advocated tithing. However, Calvin’s writings contain some statements that are cause for doubt on this conclusion. John Calvin (1509–1564) claimed, based upon Malachi 3, that God had instituted tithing so that His people would be continually reminded that everything belonged to God.[1] Regarding the phrase, “you ought to have done these” in Matthew 23:23, Calvin said:

He [Jesus] therefore acknowledges that whatever God has enjoined ought to be performed, and that no part of it ought to be omitted, but maintains that zeal for the whole Law is no reason why we ought not to insist chiefly on the principal points. Hence he infers that they overturn the natural order who employ themselves in the smallest matters, when they ought rather to have begun with the principal points; for tithes were only a kind of appendage. Christ therefore affirms that he has no intention to lessen the authority even of the smallest commandments . . . . It is therefore our duty to preserve entire the whole Law . . . Hence we conclude that all the commandments are so interwoven with each other, that we have no right to detach one of them from the rest.[2]
While on the one hand tithes are called an “appendage,” he also referred to preserving the entire law, even the smallest commandment. Thus, Calvin appears to say that tithing continues into the New Covenant. Powers concludes: “[T]he fact that Calvin placed major emphasis upon ‘the principal points of the law’ did not lessen his belief in the tithe as the stipulated method of giving.”[3]

[1] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, trans. John Owen, 5 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950; 1849), 5:585–86.

[2] John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 3 vols., trans. William Pringle (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 3:92 (emphasis added).

[3] Powers, “Historical Study of the Tithe,” 136.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Messages on Tithing

On my blog I'm breaking my thoughts on tithing up into small sections; this may raise many questions among those who don't know me or where I'm coming from. Therefore, I'd like to point anyone interested to www.richlandcreek.com/sermonsonline.htm . This is the link of the church that I joined last month. They've asked me to give four messages on my dissertation topic ... essentially tithing. So far I've given two messages, though as of now they only have one posted on the site. I'll give the final two on the next two Wednesdays. I also provide the PowerPoints, Handouts, and (since they were repeatedly requested) the answers to the handouts. The audios are free to download, as are the files.
Also, any feedback (aka constructive criticism) would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Six Best Arguments for Tithing

These are all arguments that I believe deserve serious consideration, though I think they all fall short of convincing. This list will be a count down, with the last one (1) being the strongest argument.

(6) Argument from the Mosaic law: Since Deuteronomy 16:17 commands proportional giving, and Paul is referencing Deuteronomy 16:17 in 1 Corinthians 16:2, tithing, the prescribed proportion, is still binding.

(5) The Argument from Hebrews: Hebrews 7 proves that Christians should tithe. Since tithes were due to Melchizedek, and Jesus is in the line of Melchizedek, tithes are now due to Jesus.

(4) The Argument from Jesus’ Teaching: Matthew 23:23 should be understood as Jesus commanding Christians to tithe. Rather than referring to Matthew 23:23 as a command, some use commend, endorse, approve, or sanction. Furthermore, if Jesus wanted to abrogate the law, this was the perfect time to do that.

(3) Moral Law Argument: The Mosaic Law has three parts: Civil Law, Ceremonial Law, and Moral Law. The first two have been abolished by Christ. Tithing is a part of the moral law and therefore continues. One way this is done is through the fact that tithing existed before the ceremonial law so it can not be “typical.”

(2) Paul commended tithing conceptually: Though Paul never mentioned tithing explicitly, the concept is present in his epistles. While 1 Corinthians 16:2 is sometimes used, 1 Corinthians 9:13 remains the strongest verse in arguing for the continuation of tithing.

(1) The Argument from Natural Law: Since tithing was practiced before the Mosaic Law and by all nations in the history of the world, it is a part of natural law or is a universal law (typically based upon its ancient practice). The only reasonable explanation for the consistent use of “10%” must be that God commanded it very early, if not in the Garden.

In total, 20 arguments have been presented. They have been listed in order from weakest to strongest. Does anyone know of a "better" argument for tithing ... besides the cartoon below!

Eight More Unconvincing Arguments for Tithing

(1) Argument from Genesis 4: The reason God accepted Abel’s offering was because it was a tithe. Therefore, Cain’s offering was rejected because his was not a tithe. This is based upon the Septuagint (a translation of the Old Testament into Greek) and Hebrews 11:4.

(2) Historical Argument: Tithing is a well-tested, ancient form of giving that has been validated (both theologically and practically) throughout church history.

(3) Pragmatic Argument: Tithing is easy to understand, it is easy to do, and it is systematic. This is the only method of giving based upon Scripture.

(4) Argument from the Sabbath: Just as the Sabbath is still binding, so is tithing.

(5) Argument from Malachi 3: Since Malachi 3 declares that withholding tithes is equivalent to robbing God, Christians should tithe. One form of this argument relates the withholding of tithes to the commandment against stealing.

(6) Jerome’s Argument: The clergy are in the line of the Levites; their portion is God. Therefore, the clergy today are due tithes just as the Levites were due tithes in the Old Testament.

(7) Argument from Jesus’ Example: Since Jesus was never accused of failing to tithe, and since the Pharisees ate with him (demonstrating that he was not a law breaker on tithing), he must have tithed. Since Jesus tithed, so should we.

(8) The Caesarian Argument: Matthew 22:21 says to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (i.e., taxes) and give to God the things that are God’s. The second reference to “things” refer to tithes.

Next I'll provide a list of arguments that are much better ... though I still believe they fall short.

Do any of these arguments compel you to do the following?

The Six Worst Arguments Supporting Tithing

The following are the six worst arguments used to support the continuation of tithing ... listed from THE worst to ... the least worst.
Specious (Deceptively Attractive) Arguments

(1) Argument from the Garden: God has always set aside a sacred portion for himself. In the Garden of Eden God set aside a portion of the trees for himself; we can assume that this portion was a significant one. Today he sets aside a portion of our income (10%) and this demonstrates the universality of tithing.

(2) Continuity Argument: The “people of God” (be they “Israel” or “the Church” or whoever) have always given a tenth and Christians should also.

(3) Concession Argument: The New Testament command is to sell everything and give it to the poor. However, since we know that Christians will fail with this command, they should at least give a tenth, what the Jews gave.

(4) Exceeding Righteousness Argument: Since a Christian’s righteousness should exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees (cf. Matthew 5:20), Christian giving should exceed the giving of the Jews. Besides, Christians have received so much grace, how could they give less that the Jews!

(5) Anecdotal Argument: God’s blessing on those who have faithfully tithed demonstrates that this is his method for giving in the current era/dispensation.

(6) Tithing as the Eleventh Commandment: The first command to tithe in the Bible is in Leviticus 27:30–33. Since Leviticus 25:1–2 places the context of Leviticus 25–27 on Mt. Sinai, tithing should be considered as binding as all the Ten Commandments.

Have you heard any worse arguments? I'll provide some more "bad" arguments in a little bit.

The Great Commission, continued

Historically, the “as you go” interpretation is not born out, either. When you read Acts, is the picture of a group of disciples just going about their daily lives and as people come across them they make them into disciples? At first, maybe. But eventually, they intentionally “go” out and disciple the known world. It took them a while to understand this teaching by Jesus since their Jewish roots would resist this “going out.” Therefore, whether or not “go” is an imperative (a command) depends on the main verb, which in this verse is “make disciples.” Since “make disciples” is an imperative, then “go” functions like an imperative. This DOES NOT mean that “go” IS an imperative, just that it functions like an imperative.
In Matthew 2:8, the magi are told to “go and search” for Jesus. They were unable to “search” until they had “gone.” While only “search” is an imperative, “go” is an “implied imperative” because they had to “go” in order to “search.” In Matthew 17:27, Peter is told to “go to the sea and throw in a hook.” The only command is “throw,” but he can’t “throw” until he “goes.” Therefore, he must first “go” in order to “throw.” “Go” is, again, an implied command. It must be done in order for what follows it to be obeyed. So, back to Matthew 28:19: “Therefore, go and make disciples …” Using the logic derived from the other verses in Matthew that contain this construction, the disciples were not able to “make disciples” until they “go.” In other words, they must “go.”
So, if you are of the mind that the Great Commission applies to us and not just the disciples, then we must “go” in order to make disciples. However, the “go” is NOT the emphasis of the command. The emphasis is on “make disciples.” If someone was teaching or preaching on this passage, they should spend very little time on “go” and a lot of time on “make disciples.” It is saying too much to say that because the word “go” functions imperatively that we have a command for missions or evangelism; it is saying too little to say that it is a suggestion, as in “as you go” or “when you go.” What should be the focus? The two other participles that follow “make disciples” are means, or as I like to call them, adverbial instrumental participles. The construction is not the same as above as they are present participles, not aorist participles.
Remember that participles cannot stand on their own; they need a main verb, which in this verse is “make disciples.” These participles are the instruments whereby disciples are made. So, “by baptizing,” and “by teaching.” Therefore, the translation “go and make disciples” is the best way to translate the verse. The emphasis is on making disciples utilizing two tools: baptism and teaching. These are the two tools of discipleship and are, therefore, extremely important for the church to carry out and do correctly.Three other thoughts: First, there is a category of adverbial participles called “imperatival participles.” It is possible that all of the “go” participles in Matthew are imperatival participles. However, these participles are extremely rare in the New Testament and hardly any New Testament scholar recognizes these participles as imperatival, though it is possible. Second, I should add that D. A. Carson in his Matthew commentary in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary says that the participles “baptizing” and“teaching” “cannot” be instrumental/means. He says the connection between the participles (teaching, baptizing) and the main verb (make disciples) is inconclusive or non-specific. I still think the instrumental/means connection is correct. Daniel Wallace (mentioned above) does think they are participles of means.

Luther and Tithing, continued

Luther preached a sermon in 1525 (the same year as the Peasants’ Revolt) titled “How Christians Should Regard Moses” while preaching through Exodus. In this sermon he directly addressed the issue of the Mosaic law and the gospel. He concluded that none of the laws of Moses are binding on Christians because they were all given to the people of Israel (Luther, “How Christians Should Regard Moses,” in Luther’s Works [1960], 35:164). While there are certainly laws that apply to both Gentiles and Jews (e.g. stealing, adultery, murder), they are all part of the natural law that is written on everyone’s heart. Even the Ten Commandments are not binding on Christians, as Exodus 20:1 made clear. He concluded that Moses’ teaching only applies to Christians when it “agrees with both the New Testament and the natural law.” This is where Luther’s thoughts can be inappropriately used as a proof-text to advocate tithing. He said that he wished that the emperor would use the Mosaic law as a model. He gave as an example the Mosaic law of tithing, referred to it as “a very fine rule,” and argued on pragmatic grounds why it is such a useful principle (ibid., 166-67). However, he concluded, ““There are also other extraordinarily fine rules in Moses which one should like to accept, use, and put into effect. Not that one should bind or be bound by them. . . . The Gentiles are not obligated to obey Moses” (ibid., 167). Finally, he applied this concept specifically to the law of tithing: “But the other commandments of Moses, which are not [implanted in all men] by nature, the Gentiles do not hold. Nor do these pertain to the Gentiles, such as the tithe and others equally fine which I wish we had too” (ibid., 168). Therefore, Luther explicitly referred to the tithe as not binding on Gentiles and not part of the natural law.
Furthermore, it should be noted that Philip Melanchthon, a contemporary and friend of Luther, “argued that the contemporary tithe was not that of the Old Testament, from which Christians are free, but rather a tax imposed by temporal government which Christians are bound to pay (Rom. 13, 7; Matt. 17, 24–27)” (Kolb, “The Theologians and the Peasants: Conservative Evangelical Reactions to the German Peasants Revolt,” Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 69 [1978]: 117).
These conclusions regarding Luther and tithing have not been located elsewhere. For example, see Sehling, “Tithes,” in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1950), 11:455; Powers, “Historical Study of the Tithe,” Ph.D. dissertation, 129–31.

Other quotes on/by Luther

Two editorial comments, made (presumably) by E. Theodore Bachman:
“all the stipulations of that law, insofar as they go beyond natural law, have been abolished by Christ. The Ten Commandments are binding upon all men only so far as they are implanted in everyone by nature. In this sense Luther declares that ‘Moses is dead.’” - Luther, “How Christians Should Regard Moses,” in Luther’s Works [1960], 35:159.
“So far as ‘Moses’ is simply the Sachsenspiegel or law code of the Jewish people as a national ethnic group, it can be listed as just one code of laws among many, features of which may or may not be considered desirable in another age or nation.” Ibid.

“‘If I accept Moses in one respect (Paul tells the Galatians in chapter 5[:3]), then I am obligated to keep the entire law.’ For not one little period in Moses pertains to us.” Ibid., 166.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Tithing at the Beginning of the Reformation

Most studies on tithing have concluded that Martin Luther advocated the practice. This is argued on the basis of Luther’s reaction to the Peasants’ Revolt. However, this conclusion should be rejected as the following discussion attempts to demonstrate.
The peasants’ in Germany (c.a. 1520) rose up against the Catholic Church because of many abuses, including abuses related to tithing. The peasants were not a unified group, but were many groups. In the Twelve Articles of Memmingen, the peasants said that the tithe was “established in the Old Testament, and fulfilled in the New” (Article 2). However, they said that “none the less,” they would still pay the tithe of grain. However, the small tithes, that is, tithes of fodder and garden products, they refused to pay since they were unbiblical. Finally, they wanted the tithes divided between the pastor and the poor. Some other peasants groups were more resistant to tithes. Peasants in Memmingen and Solothurn rejected tithing completely, because “the New Testament does not impose this duty on us,” even though they were willing to support their pastor. The Salzburg peasants equated tithing with the work of the devil since “it has no foundation in Scripture” (Peter Blickle, Communal Reformation [1992], 42). It appears likely that the views of the German peasants anticipated the Anabaptists.

Martin Luther (1483–1546) explicitly argued against some of the peasants’ views. The reasoning for Luther’s outrage against the peasants appears to be founded in that he was against all kinds of insurrection, no matter the cause. This was, at least partly, due to Luther’s eschatology that the second advent was near: overt rebellion against the authorities was a sin against God. Specifically, he said that they had no right to keep tithes and disperse them among themselves (Luther, Works of Martin Luther [1931], 4:239-40). Luther solved the problems related to usury by encouraging the use of the Mosaic law (ibid., 4:68). In this discussion he employed tithing as a reasonable and praiseworthy solution: “in view of their practical convenience” tithes were considered “the most expedient form of taxing” (Sehling, “Tithes,” in New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge [1950], 11:455). However, as Murray notes, Luther’s approval of tithing was as a civil tax given to the government; he did not view payment of tithes as a religious duty (Murry, Beyond Tithing [2000], 160). The context in which Luther made these comments was in relation to the peasants’ refusal to obey civil authorities, not on the relationship between the Mosaic law and tithing.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Importance and Difficulty of the Relationship between the Mosaic Law and the Christian

I was recently asked on a job application what I thought was the most controversial or difficult theological issue in Scripture. I decided that when Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley agree on something, I better listen.
Jonathan Edwards, perhaps the greatest theological mind America has produced, said, “There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines do so much differ, as stating of the precise agreement and differences between the two dispensations of Moses and Christ.”[1] John Wesley, commenting on the same topic, said: “Perhaps there are few subjects within the whole compass of religion so little understood as this.”[2]
As interpreters come to the text of the Old and New Testaments, they bring presuppositions; this is now a consensus among evangelical scholars. One presupposition is how the interpreter views the continuity and/or discontinuity of the Mosaic law with Christians. An exegete’s conclusion on this issue will affect how he interprets many passages in the New Testament; a theologian’s conclusion on this issue will affect many doctrines; an ethicist’s conclusion will affect many practical decisions he makes. Douglas Moo (one who favors discontinuity) said that a main reason that “Christians disagree about the place of the Mosaic law in the life of the believer [is] because the New Testament itself contains statements that appear to support opposite conclusions.”[3] Similarly, Ryken said: “Few things are more difficult to master than the biblical teaching about the law in its relationship to the gospel.”[4] Finally, Schoeps says that Paul’s view on the law is “the most intricate doctrinal issue in his theology.”[5]
Therefore, I’m going to write on one specific problem in the law-gospel problem: tithing. Many choose to tackle the issue of Sabbath … an issue I have also spent much time on. However, I believe tithing can serve as a good test case to discover if the theory of one’s law-gospel can be applied consistently. I plan on posting over the next few weeks some posts on historical views on tithing. This has been one of the most fascinating studies I’ve done in many years. The conclusions I came to shocked me. I hope you’ll find them interesting also.

[1] Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, rev. and cor. Edward Hickman, vol. 1 (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1974), 465.
[2] Quoted in David A. Dorsey, “The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise,” JETS 34, no. 3 (1991): 322.
[3] Douglas Moo, “The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses: A Modified Lutheran View,” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, ed. Wayne G. Strickland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 319.
[4] Philip Graham Ryken, Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crisis (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003), 9.
[5] Hans J. Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History (London: Lutterworth, 1961), 168.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Vocabulary of Mark 16

One of the arguments that the ending of Mark 16 is not original to the document is the argument from vocabulary. The following is a quick count and analysis of works in Mark 16:9-20.

However, other word are highly suspect also.

I have not concluded that the Long Ending (LE) was not inspired based upon my little word counting. This internal data raises "questions," and that's all. The external data is supportive. The content is also suggestive. These three, not one aspect alone, are all suggestive that the LE is not original to Mark. The definition of "questionable" words was "loose" on purpose. Its design, primarily, was to point out words that deserve a closer examination. It does not mean that these words are evidence against Marken authorship. It just means that these are the words that need to be examined in greater detail regarding this subject. That's it. This list of hapax or near hapax's is much more evidential in nature than the "questionable" list.

My conclusion is that the vocab, at the very least, poses a problem for those who want to include that Mark 16:9-20 is original to the Gospel and is part of the canon (a slightly separate issue which needs to be discussed after one concludes on the originality of the passage). If textual criticism were as easy as counting manuscripts then anyone could do it. However, it is more complicated than that. While I don't want to lay some of the foundational principles of textual criticism, I will touch on some.
Some scholars do textual criticism by counting the number of manuscripts that contain a passage and manuscripts that don't. The larger number wins. This method is ludicrous. Since so many of the later copies of the Byzantine text-type can be traced to only a few manuscripts, more does not mean better attested. Geographic distribution is a better gage at authenticity. However, the data here is not convincing either. One could look at a text-critical chart on Mark 16 may lead to the conclusion that the external data at least seems to favor inclusion of the LE. However, note thefollowing: 1) The oldest manuscripts are Aleph and B. So while they only total two, they are dated in the 4th century. 2) The Byzantine text-type is not consistent and many scribes saw the inclusion of the LE but concluded that it was spurious (not original). They did this through the inclusion of a note or sign (e.g., an asterisk). 3) Eusebius and Jerome (5th cent.) say that the LE is in almost no Greek manuscripts that they could find. 4) In the Western text-type, one manuscript did not have the LE, but only a different, shorter ending (itk). So, all three text-types have manuscripts that include and don't include the LE. Why would older NOT be better. What is argument to say that older manuscripts are more likely wrong? Not only are Aleph and B dated to the 4th cent (A, the Byzantine codex, is dated the 5th cent.; the other Byzantine texts are from the 8th to 13th cents.), but many Sinaitic Syriac manuscripts, a hundred or so Armenian texts, two Georgian texts (from the 9th and 10th cent), and Clement of Alexandria, Jerome, and Eusebius, and Origen support exclusion of the LE. Also, Codex Bobiensis (k) omits the LE which is, to quote Metzger, "the most important witness to the Old African Latin" Bible (Metzger, Text ofthe NT, 73).That said, the external evidence, by itself, will not convince. However, the internal evidence, if one's text-critical theory allows, may be convincing.
The internal evidence isn't just vocab, but syntactical phrases that Mark uses only in 16:9-20. Also included is the extremely awkward flow from 16:8 to 16:9. While the subject of verse 8 was the women, in verse 9 it switches to Jesus by the use of a third person singular verb … no explicit subject: "for they were afraid. 9 Nowafter He had risen". In verse 9, Mary Magdalene is introduced as if she had not been the topic of the preceding verses (cf. 16:1). And, what happened to the other women of verses 1-8.Therefore, without a rebuttal to the internal evidence (as Farmer attempted, but honestly utterly failed), it isn't enough tosay "well, that's just the internal (thus subjective) evidence." Demonstrate it's subjectiveness. Demonstrate that the evidence from vocab is not convincing … the translators of the NAS, NIV, RSV,NRSV, ASV, NLT, CEV, etc, all found SOMETHING convincing?! Demonstrate that the syntactical phrases in the LE are not unique. Give evidence that the awkward transition between 16:8 and 16:9 is not awkward. Another basic premise of textual criticism is explaining the spurious reading. If the LE is original, explain why someone would shorten it to verse 8 purposely. Because of the content of part of verse 8 and 18? Why not just take those verses out? Why delete the entire resurrection narrative? How can you account for teaching found in Mk 16:9-20 which is nowhere else in any of the four Gospels: snake handling, drinking poison, speaking in tongues, and vs. 16 which, on the surface at least, appears to say that baptism is necessary for salvation. Most rebuttals that I have seen simply refer to the subjective nature of internal evidence. However, realize this: if you reject these principles of textual criticism, then this has serious repercussions for the Bible you use: the translators of the NIV, NAS, etc, all accept these principles. You are left with the KJV, NKJV (and, at times, the Holman Christian Standard Bible). As far as a Greek text goes, there are only two that I know of that you could get: the Robinson-Pierpoint and the Hodges-Farstad (yes, that is Zane Hodges).
Regarding canonical issues: when do specific pericopae become discussions of canon? In other words, admission into the canon was based upon the book, not a certain version of a book. It was recognized early that Mark had multiple endings being circulated, however, I can't find any discussion over "which Mark" is canonical. This also applies to Septuagintal studies: There were many Septuagint versions circulating, and "competing" versions were considered canonical. I don't think the early church, in their discussions, debated over the canonical status of a pericope in a canonical book. Also, church history should not be decisive, in my opinion. Many, many held to the canonical status of Paul's letter to the Laodiceans until the 11th century (or so). How many Christians have ever read or studied this letter? Many in church history held to the canonical status of the Shepherd of Hermes and the Didache. However, most people I know have no idea about the content of these letters. Anyhow, these are some preliminary questions about the canonical status of the LE. Me? I would say simply that some communities held to its canonicity and others didn't. However, ifyou decide that it is not original, it is hard for me to figure out how it could be canonical. Metzger, by the way, says the LE was not original but IS canonical.