Friday, March 24, 2006

Women and the Bible

For a great discussion on the womens role in church life between Andreas Kostenberger and Ben Witherington, see . Kostenberger has a post by himself, a response by Witherington, and a rejoinder by him.


Thursday, March 23, 2006


Sorry for not updating my blog recently. I'm in vacation in beautiful Southern California visiting family. I'll be back at the end of March.

Also, an update on my job search: I'll be accepting a job at a great university and will be teaching there this Fall!! God is good!


Monday, March 20, 2006

Principles for Giving in the NT-The Results of Giving

Finally, at least two specific results of the above giving are described in the NT. First, 2 Cor 9:6, 9-10 says that as we give this way, our righteousness will grow. Some have understood this verse differently, but I believe that the quote from the OT text demonstrates this sufficiently.

Secondly, our giving will edify. Generous giving will cause other believers to rejoice and glorify God (see 2 Cor 9:13).

These are the two result of giving: an increased righteousness and edification for the saints. This post concludes this series on giving … now on to a different topic …

The Result of Giving
Definition: Give so your righteousness will grow
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:6, 9–10

Definition: Generous giving will cause other believers to rejoice and glorify God
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:13

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Attitude of Giving (and Possessions)

There are at least four essential principles for our attitude of giving (and of possessions). These principles should be guiding our self-analysis when we give.

First, Christian giving is to be done voluntarily; there should not be any coercion or pressure. It is not the job of the preacher to “squeeze every nickel” out of Christians. 2 Corinthians 8:3b says, “they gave of their own accord,” and 9:7a says, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion.” Thus, rather than having to be compelled to give, we should give voluntarily.

However, beyond voluntary giving, we should also be intentional in our giving. We should seek opportunities and give deliberately in order to meet a genuine need, not only out of guilt merely to soothe a pressing request. 2 Cor 8:4 says, “begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints,” and 9:2 says, “for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them.” Thus, seeking out places in which to invest for eternity should be part of Christian giving.

The most often preached upon attitude is … give cheerfully. 2 Corinthians 9:7b says, “for God loves a cheerful giver.” Don’t give begrudgingly. Note that rather than understanding “cheerfully” as a reference to “hilarious giving,” (which is a word study fallacy), cheerful giving should be understood in contrast to 9:7a: “not grudgingly or under compulsion.” That phrase is the opposite of what Paul wants in our attitude in giving.

Finally, we should have a willingness to give. All of a Christians’ possessions should be placed at the Lord’s disposal. This refers to much more than money. While command to “sell all and give it to the poor” (Matt 19:16–21) is not a binding command on all Christians today, a principle underlying that text is: don’t be so attached to your possessions that you wouldn’t be willing to give them all up for the Lord at a moments notice.

These are four principles of what our attitude toward giving should look like. Only one more category of giving left and we will have discussed many of the NT principles for giving.

The Attitude of Giving (and Possessions)
Definition: Giving ought to be done out of one’s free volition: no coercion, no pressure
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:3; 9:7

Definition: Seek opportunities and give deliberately in order to meet a genuine need, not out of guilt merely to soothe a pressing request
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:4 & 9:2

Definition: God loves a cheerful giver
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:7

Definition: All of a Christian’s possessions should be at the Lord’s disposal
Scripture: Matthew 19:16–21

My daughter vs. Church tradition

Who do you think is right?

My daughter (5 years old) said that Jesus probably gave it to the poor.

Church tradition says that the gold was used by Joseph to pay for expenses when they fled to Egypt; that Jesus' parents kept the frankincense and gave it to the officials in the synagogue when Jesus came home to Nazareth and preached his first public sermon; and Mary kept the myrhh and gave it to be used for embalming in the tomb.

So, who is right?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Principles for Giving in the NT-The Motivations for Giving

The NT provides at least four motivations for giving. Two that curiously did not appear were: (1) the feeling of guilt; (2) receiving a better tax rebate. However, these four motivations are helpful in checking ourselves to see if we are giving out of the right heart.

But before the “positive” motivations are given, first an “anti-principle” (by “anti-principle,” I mean a rebuke for an incorrect motivation … note, when a principle and an anti-principle collides, gamma-radiation may be produced … you have been warned [this warning was given by Matt Lytle]). Negatively, we are warned in Matthew 6 about one improper motivation: to be seen by others. This passage is not a prohibition against keeping track of contributions. Rather, it asks: are you giving so that others will see what you gave? It isn’t necessitating total secrecy; it is encouraging correct motivations in giving (see below). For one application, public giving of money (like publishing the names of generous donors) may be an example of what Jesus is teaching against.

The first principle is that of love. Our giving should be an expression of our love for God. 2 Corinthians 8:8–9: “I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”

Giving should also be an expression of our thankfulness to God. In 2 Corinthians 9:12, Paul says, “For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.”

A third motivation is the recognition that God praises sacrificial giving. One description of this occurs in Mark 12:42–44. Also, in 2 Corinthians 8:2–3, Paul says, “that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord.” While sacrificial giving is not necessarily a requirement, recognizing that this type of giving is pleasing to our Heavenly Father should be the only motivation needed to enact it in our own lives.

Finally, a fourth motivation (some may dispute this classification) is what I’ve called “spiritual growth.” That is, giving causes one to grow in good works. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8, Paul say, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.… And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” These verses appear to say that we should be motivated to give because it will effect spiritual growth in our lives.

The Motivations of Giving
Definition: Giving is an expression of our love for God
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:8–9

Definition: Giving expresses thankfulness to God
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:12

God’s Praise
Definition: Recognize that God praises sacrificial giving
Scripture: Mark 12:42–44; 2 Corinthians 8:2–3

Spiritual Growth
Definition: Giving causes one to grow in good works
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

From the mouths of babes

My daughter asked me a question I have been thinking about: What did Jesus/Jesus' parent(s) do with the gifts from the wise men? Any thoughts? She said she figured it out ...

Principles for Giving in the NT-The Amount of Giving

When I’ve explicated the above principles, people always look at me and ask: “But how much? How much do we have to give?” Unfortunately, this is the wrong focus. Regardless, the New Testament does discuss principles we can use to decide how much to give. Some desire to begin their giving with a tithe and then use these principles on top of that; others just use these principles. However, if we apply these principles consistently and honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine many Christians in the U.S. giving less than ten percent. If someone were to tell me they couldn’t afford to give ten percent, but said they wanted to give more, I would probably ask them if they wanted to sit down and go over their budget. Materialism is one of the top reasons Christians don’t give as much as they could; another reason is the confusion between what we “want” and what we “need.” For example, as normal as “high speed internet” is, it is still a “want” and not a “need.” Hopefully these four principles will open our eyes and convict our hearts of our failure in giving … even to those giving more than ten percent.

Christian giving must be heart-based giving. Scripture in both Testaments commands that followers of God decide the amount to give based on our “heart.” Now, the “heart” in the NT does not refer to emotions, but more to resolve, sound judgment, or the seat of decision making. Sometimes it is even translated “mind.” In the OT, giving based on this principle can be seen in Exodus 25:1–2; 35:5, 21–22; 36:6. In these passages it becomes utterly clear that the giving of the Israelites, based on this principle, was an abundant offering. So much so that Moses told them to stop giving. Also, in 2 Corinthians 9:7a, Paul says, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart.”

Christian giving is also to be based upon our income. The amount we give is expected to be related to our income. In 1 Corinthians 16:2a, Paul says, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper.” We give according to our prosperity; we are not asked to give above or beyond our prosperity. This is usually referred to as “proportional giving,” that is, the more a person makes, the higher percentage of his income he will give. See also Deuteronomy 16:16–17; 2 Corinthians 8:3, 12.

Another principle in deciding the amount of giving is based upon the needs present. We should consider the needs of those ministering to us and the needs of fellow saints. Regarding the former, 1 Corinthians 9:1–14 is clear that “those who proclaim the gospel [are] to get their living from the gospel” (vs. 14b). Our pastors should never be worrying about their bills. If an unexpected bill arises, we should give above and beyond to meet that need. Note that one of the requirements for becoming an elder is that he is not greedy. Therefore, by placing him in this position we have already decided that he is not after money and can be trusted in this area. 2 Corinthians 8:13–14, 9:12 discuss the Corinthians meeting the needs of other Christians. The latter verse says that gifts for this purpose are “also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.” Note that when a congregation decides on a budget for the year, that becomes the "need" of the congregation. When we see that the offerings are less than the budgeted amount, we should strive to increase our giving.

Finally, we should give generously. However, we are not asked to give so much that we need an offering ourselves. In 2 Corinthians 8:2b–3, 13, Paul says, “But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. . . . Of course, I don't mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality” (usually I cite from the NASB, but the NLT made this verse much clearer). While different people might define “generously” differently, if we take a close look at our priorities, motivations, and the needs of others, in our hearts/minds we know whether our gifts are generous or feeble. Furthermore, God, who provides us with all we have, also knows the intent of our hearts/minds as we give. See also Philippians 4:17–18.

These four principles for the amount of giving should lead nearly all American Christians to give beyond a measly ten percent. Our goal in giving should be to increase it as much as possible. Don’t settle for ten percent when God has provided you with the resources to give beyond that.

The Amount of Giving
Heart-Based Giving

Definition: Giving is based upon the amount determined in one’s heart
Scripture: Exodus 25:1; 35:5, 21–22; 36:6; 2 Corinthians 9:7

Income-Based Giving
Definition: The value of the gift given is expected to be related to the income of the offerer
Scripture: Deuteronomy 16:16–17; 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:3, 12

Needs-Based Giving
Definition: Meet the needs of those ministering and of fellow saints
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:1–14; 2 Corinthians 8:13–14; 9:12

Generous Giving
Definition: Give generously, but not to the point of personal affliction
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:2–3, 13; Philippians 4:17–18

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Principles for Giving in the NT-The Details of Giving

While the three foundational elements are helpful for the process for giving, certain details are spelled out that should guide Christian giving as well.

First, giving should be universal. Every believer should be involved with giving. 1 Cor 16:2a says, “On the first day of every week each one of you.” So, it isn’t only the rich/wealthy who should be giving, but every Christian should be involved.

Second, Christian giving should be systematic, not sporadic or spontaneous. We need to be giving on a regular basis, that is, weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly. The more often, the better. Again, 1 Cor 16:2a says, “On the first day of every week.” Why does Paul say this? There could be many reasons, including the fact that the more consistently we give, the more we will give in the long run. Giving $100 every week is, for most people, much easier than giving $5200 per year. Writing that check for $5200 could inevitably be a painful experience for some, thus not a joyful/cheerful experience. Also, practically speaking, churches have bills to pay and salaries to pay. If all Christians began giving every couple of months, the church would have a hard time paying its bills on time.

Third, certain precautions should be made with the contributions. Those who handle the money should be trustworthy individuals. 2 Cor 8:18-21 says, “We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches; and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness, taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” This may be where the modern practice that pastors have nothing to do with the collection (and have no knowledge of who-gave-what) came from. Regardless, Paul took this precaution and it would be wise for us to do this, also.

There are three details to our giving that need to be considered alongside of the foundations for Christian giving.

The Details of Giving
Definition: Every believer should give
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:2 (cf. Rom 1:20–21)

Definition: Give on a regular basis, that is, weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:2

Proper Precautions
Definition: Precautions should be made with the handling of money
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:18–21

Monday, March 13, 2006

Principles for Giving in the New Testament-The Foundations for Giving

This blog will now turn to some of the positive teachings in the New Testament concerning giving. There are certain foundational principles for giving communicated in the New Testament. These three principles describe how are giving should be driven.

First, our giving should be driven by our relationship with God. 2 Cor 8:5b says, “but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” Giving money without having given oneself to the Lord is the wrong order. We should first examine and focus on our relationship with God.

Second, our giving should be a response to the grace God has shown us. 2 Cor 8-9 is filled with the word “grace.” As Craig Blomberg says, “grace is the entire theme of this entire two-chapter section.” When preparing oneself to give, reflect upon how God has shown grace to you. If you have a difficult time seeing how God has shown you grace, you probably should go back to step one: your relationship with Him.

Third, our giving should be driven (and motivated [see future post]) our love for God. 2 Cor 8:8 says, “I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.” Our giving will prove how sincere our love for God really is … it is a demonstration of our love. The gift Paul received from the Philippians (Phil 4:15-19) was a demonstration of their love for God, and for Paul.

These are the three foundational pillars for giving in the New Testament.

Foundations for Giving
Relationship-Driven Giving
Definition: Our giving is to be based upon our relationship with the Lord, the receiver of our gifts
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:4-5

Grace-Driven Giving
Definition: Our giving is to be a response to the grace God has shown to us
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8–9

Love-Driven Giving
Definition: Our giving is to be a demonstration of our love
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:8 (cf. Phil 4:15–20)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Six Advocates of Tithing between 366-400

Many more references to tithing are found in the Nicene and Post-Nicene period. Six Church Fathers between 366 and 400 advocated tithing with none arguing against it. Constantine (c.a. 325 A.D.) had a large impact on Christianity while he was emperor. It was under Constantine that the church and state were united. Constantine himself was a generous giver to churches. However, no mention has been found of him collecting or paying tithes. Basil of Caesarea (370 A.D.) exhorted Christians to pay tithes and Gregory of Nazianzus (c.a. 365) mentions first fruits, but no reference to tithes has been found in the writings of Gregory of Nyssa (c.a. 365). Hilary of Poitiers (366 A.D.), when commenting on Matthew 23:23, concluded that while Christians should place a greater emphasis upon justice and mercy, tithing was still required.

Jerome (pictured left)(385 A.D.) saw the clergy as being in the line of tribe of Levi and the Jewish priesthood and therefore due tithes. In comments made on Malachi 3, Jerome said that Jesus commanded Christians to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor. Since Christians are unwilling to do that, at least they should “imitate the rudimentary teaching of the Jews” in giving tithes for the poor and the clergy. Otherwise, Christians are “defrauding and cheating God.” Ambrose (374 A.D.), the Bishop of Milan, was unequivocal that Christians are required to tithe. If Christians neglected to give God his tenth, then God will take what they have. He clearly supported the concept of tithing. John Chrysostom (375 A.D.) said that the Christians of his day should return to tithing or face dangerous consequences. He understood the Old Testament to be inculcating multiple tithes, not one (“tithes again upon tithes”). Commenting on Matthew 5:20, Chrysostom calculates that the Jews gave about half of their income. He concluded that if when giving half “achieves no great thing, he who doth not bestow as much as the tenth, of what shall he be worthy.” While Chrysostom thought that Christians fulfilled the Old Testament law by tithing, he also believed Christians should not need law.

Augustine (pictured left)(400 A.D.), Bishop of Hippo, is one the most often cited church fathers by both Catholics and Protestants. He said that while the paying of tithes occurred before him, presently Christians were not adequately paying their tithes. Augustine believed that Jesus’ command to sell one’s possessions and give the proceeds to the poor was binding upon Christians. He lived this out in his own life. However, since Christians were unwilling to give all, they should at least imitate the Jews and give a tenth. Therefore, Augustine supported tithing through concession.

In summary, the following Church Fathers all advocated tithing and none were found in this time period that argued against tithing: Hilary of Poitiers (366), Basil of Caesarea (370), Ambrose (374), John Chrysostom (375), Jerome (385), and Augustine (400).

References and Resources:

Joseph Bingham, The Works of Joseph Bingham, ed. R. Bingham, 10 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1855), 2:179–82.

Powers, “Historical Study of the Tithe,” 39, 49.

Lyman Coleman, Ancient Christianity Exemplified in the Private, Domestic, Social, and Civil Life of the Primitive Christians, and in the Original Institutions, Offices, Ordinances, and Rites of the Church (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Company, 1852), 229.

Hilary, Commentary on Matthew 23 (cited by Powers, “Historical Study of the Tithe,” 42; Lansdell, Sacred Tenth, 192–93).

Jerome, Letter to Nepotian (NPNF2 1:91). Jerome also commends Christians to tithe in his Commentary on Matthew 2.22 (cited by Murray, Beyond Tithing, 117).

Sharp, “Tithes,” 2:1964.

John Chrysostom, Homily IV: Homilies on Ephesians (NPNF1 13:69). For some incidental references to tithing see Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 35, 54 (cited by Murray, Beyond Tithing, 112, n. 28) and Chrysostom, Homilies on Hebrews 12 (NPNF1 14:423–26). Chrysostom, The Gospel of Matthew 64.4 (NPNF1 10:395–96).

Lansdell, Sacred Tenth, 187.

Augustine, On the Psalms: Pslam 147 13 (NPNF1 8:668). Augustine, Sermon 35 (NPNF1 6:367–68); Sermon 56 (NPNF1 6:435–36).

Justo Gonzales, Faith and Wealth (San Francisco: Harper, 1990), 219.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tithing in the Ante-Nicene Period: The Fourth Century

In the fourth century, the Apostolic Constitutions gave separate instructions for bishops regarding two issues: (1) tenths and first fruits; and (2) free will offerings. This document also states that tithes were “the command of God.” Furthermore, the Constitutions likened bishops with priests and Levites, and the tabernacle with the Holy Catholic Church. It exhorted all Christians to give their first fruits and tithes. While the Constitutions contains the strongest statement about tithing in the Ante-Nicene period, this passage may be of a much later date than the rest of the document.

During this period, nothing was said (directly) about tithing by Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Quadratus, Tatian, Hippolytus, Kallistos, and Novatian. In the second century, Irenaeus apparently believed that Jesus abrogated tithing. Clement of Rome’s comments are innocuous and could have been based upon 1 Corinthians 16. There is no good reason to infer tithing from his writings. The Didache never discusses obligatory giving or tithing; it does state the principle of 1 Corinthians 9:14 that ministers have a right to live from the gospel. Justin Martyr’s description of contributions never mentions tithing, though it would have fit well into the context if Christians practiced tithing. Justin’s description of contributions offer support against the idea that tithing was being practiced in the churches during his time. In the third century, Clement of Alexandria concluded that Christians need to tithe. However, his support of keeping the Sabbatical Year and Year of Jubilees renders his view on issues in the law-gospel relationship suspect. Tertullian’s description of giving is incompatible with the conclusion that Christians must tithe. Origen specifically said that he did not tithe and Cyprian’s comments can be understood to mean that tithing was not practice in his time. The Didascalia Apostlorum explicitly said that Christians were not bound to give tithes or first fruits.

Resources and References:

The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles 2.4.25 (ANF 7:408); 7.29 (ANF 7:471). See also statements at 2.4.27; 2.4.34; 8.30–31.

See ANF 7:388.

Powers, “Historical Study of the Tithe,” 32.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tithing in the Ante-Nicene Period: The Third Century (part 2)

Cyprian (pictured left)(died 258 A.D.), Bishop of Carthage, said that Christians in his time were not giving “even . . . the tenths from our patrimony; and while our Lord bids us sell, we rather buy and increase our store.” In another statement, he says that the clergy receive “as they do in the gifts and donations of their brethren the tenth portion, as it were, of the fruits of the earth.” The emphasis of this passage is on the clergy receiving adequate support for their ministry, as the Levites and priests did in the Old Testament. Rather than urging Christians to tithe, he used the phrase “as it were,” which, according to Murray, “suggests that the reference to tithing is by way of comparison rather than an indication that Cyprian was instructing his readers to comply literally with this Old Testament principle.” Futhermore, G. W. Clarke said that this phrase proves that tithing was not practiced during Cyprian’s day. Cyprian appeared to believe that the tithe was the minimum and that it was voluntary.

Finally, a document from Syria around 225 A.D., the Didascalia Apostolorum, contains some important thoughts on tithing and the law-gospel relationship. Regarding the former, the document said that the laws of the “Second Legislation,” which were all the laws given after the Ten Commandments, should be avoided; they were only given after Israel worshipped idols in the wilderness. Jesus fulfilled the law, that is, “set us loose from the bonds of the Second Legislation.” While it may appear at first that the document was supporting tithing to the bishop, it also said: “No more be bound with sacrifices and oblations, and with sin offerings, purifications, and vows . . . nor yet with tithes and firstfruits . . . . for it was laid upon them [i.e. the Israelites] to give all these things as of necessity, but you are not bound by these things. . . . Now thus shall your righteousness abound more than their tithes and firstfruits and part-offerings, when you shall do as it is written: Sell all thou hast, and give to the poor.” Thus, the old system of tithing has no place in Christianity since a new system has been instituted by the New Testament.

References and Resources:

Cyprian, Treatises of Cyprian: Treatise I: On the Unity of the Church 26 (ANF 5:429). For incidental references to tithing, see Treatises of Cyprian: Treatise IV: On the Lord’s Prayer 6, Treatises of Cyprian: Treatise V: An Address to Demetrianus 25; Epistle 65 1; Epistle 74 10.

Cyprian, “Letter 1,” 1.2 in The Letters of St. Cyprian of Carthage, trans & ann. G. W. Clarke, vol. 1, Ancient Christian Writers 43 (New York: Newman, 1984), 1:52.

Murray, Beyond Tithing, 105.

G. W. Clarke, The Letters of St Cyprian of Carthage, Ancient Christian Writers 43 (New York: Newman Press, 1984), 157. Here’s the quote: “The tamquam must imply that a strict system of tithing did not operate at the time in this area.”

Powers, “Historical Study of the Tithe,” 27.

R. Hugh Connolly, Didascalia Apostolorum: The Syriac Version Translated and Accompanied by the Verona Latin Fragments (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929), lxxxvii–xci, 13–14, 96, 98, 224–26.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Tithing in the Ante-Nicene Period: The Third Century (part 1)

In the third century, five writings prove pertinent. Clement of Alexandria (pictured left)(150–215 A.D.), the forerunner to Origen in the Alexandrian school, considered tithing to be in the same category as the Sabbatical Year and the Year of Jubilee. Therefore, since God gave the Mosaic law for the good of humanity, tithing, as well as the Sabbatical Year and Year of Jubilee, should not be viewed as compulsory, but should be done for the spiritual well-being of the giver.

Tertullian (pictured right)(160–230 A.D.), in his Apology, stated that churches had a treasury chest and Christians made contributions every month: “on the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary.” The church used these gifts for the poor, orphans, elderly, and others in need. Tertullian also emphasized that they held “all things in common,” except their wives. While Powers states that Tertullian believed that tithing was “seemingly” the minimum, he provides no evidence for Tertullian ever saying this. In fact, Tertullian’s own statements above are inconsistent with a mandatory tithe. His description of giving is more in line with the contributions of Greek associations (eranos) than tithing.

Origen (pictured left)(186–255 A.D.), in his work Against Celsus, said that Christians gave their first fruits to God. Based upon Origen’s belief in giving first fruits, Powers “assumed” that Origen also believed in tithing. However, Origen commented on tithing specifically. He said that since Jesus wanted the scribes and Pharisees to tithe (Matthew 23:23), and His disciples’ righteousness was supposed to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20), that Christians should give far more abundantly than the scribes and Pharisees. However, rather than this being an exhortation to tithe, Origen says explicitly that he does not do any of this (referring to giving tithes and first fruits). A final reference to tithing from Origen contains an application. After describing some of the Levitical tithing system, he correlates full-time ministers of the gospel to Levites and priests; however, he does not exhort Christians to tithe. Furthermore, some of Origen’s statements about the Mosaic law may be informative about any conclusion regarding his view of tithing. He said, “for we do not regulate our lives like the Jews, because we are of the opinion that the literal acceptation of the laws is not that which conveys the meaning of the legislation” and that “it does not follow that every believer, whether a convert from heathenism or from Judaism, must yield a literal obedience to the law of Moses.”

Resources and References:

Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 2.18 (ANF 2:366). See also ibid., 2.11 (ANF 2:359) for a reference to “a tenth” that most likely has no relationship to tithes and ibid., 1.24 for an incidental reference.

Tertullian, Apology 39 (ANF 3:46). For some incidental references to tithing, see Apology 14, (Five Books) Against Marcion 4.27, 5.9.

Tertullian mentions tithing incidentally in Against Marcion 4.27 (ANF 3:394).

Hatch, Organization of the Early Christian Churches, 31, n. 12.

Origen, Origen Against Celsus 34 (ANF 4:652), 4 (ANF 4:431), 60 (ANF 4:569).

Origen, Homilies on Numbers 11.2 (cited by John Sharp, “Tithes,” in Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, 2 vols., eds. William Smith and Samuel Cheetham [London: John Murray, 1893], 2:1963).

Origen, Commentary of the Gospel of John 1 (cited by Murray, Beyond Tithing, 97).

Powers, “Historical Study of the Tithe,” 25.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Tithing in the Ante-Nicene Period: The Second Century (Part 2)

Irenaeus’ (130–200 A.D.) Against Heresies gives an early account of the law-gospel relationship. Even though in Against Heresies Irenaeus said “instead of the law enjoining the giving of tithes,” the context shows that Irenaeus was referring to Jesus’ widening of the law for Christians, not abrogating it. Furthermore, Irenaeus also said “instead of adultery” and “instead of murder.” If by “instead of” he meant that Jesus abolished the law, then he was permitting adultery and murder. While Jesus’ understanding of adultery and murder was stricter than the rabbinic understanding, He still forbade adultery and murder. Therefore, this passage appears to contain evidence that Irenaeus believes that Jesus did something to the law of tithing, but not necessarily that he abrogated it. Irenaeus also says that the Jews gave tithes, “but those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord’s purposes.” The editor, in a footnote, said, “The law of tithes abrogated; the law of Acts. ii. 44, 45, morally binding. This seems to be our author’s view.” In this text, Irenaeus places the relationship between tithing and Christianity in contrast (“but”). Finally, he states what is obligatory for Christians: “We are bound . . . to offer to God the first fruits of His creation.” Irenaeus’ focus was on Christians giving abundantly. Powers (somewhat pro-tithing) concluded, “the whole spirit of Irenaeus was that the law of the tithe had been abrogated” and Feinberg said that the church fathers, including Irenaeus, emphasized Christian freedom in giving. Murray said that Irenaeus rejected tithing as a giving paradigm for Christianity; he did not consider tithing the starting point but instead he emphasized giving and sharing on a communal level. Finally, Vischer concluded, “Irenaeus thus regards the commandment to tithe as a preliminary stage. Christ has led us beyond this.”

Resources and References:

Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.13 (ANF 1:477); 4.18.2 (ANF 1:485).

For more on Irenaeus’ view of the Mosaic law, see Against Heresies 4.13.3 (ANF 1:477).

Powers, “Historical Study of the Tithe,” 21.

C. L. Feinberg, “Tithe,” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5 vols., ed. Merrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 5:758.

Murray, Beyond Tithing, 99–101, 106.

Vischer, Tithing in the Early Church, 14.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Tithing in the Ante-Nicene Period: The Second Century (part 1)

Tithing in the Ante-Nicene period will take about six posts to cover it all.

Four extant writings from the second century are important for the history of tithing. Clement of Rome (pictured left) (c.a. 100 A.D.) urged Christians to give their offerings systematically, thus following God’s laws. Clement makes no direct mention of tithing. The only evidence deduced to conclude that Clement is inferring tithing is his use of “laws.” However, his discussion on Christian offerings are more than likely dependent upon Paul’s epistles (e.g. 1 Cor 16). There is not adequate evidence to support the supposition that Clement advocated tithing.

The Didache (c.a. 100 A.D.), also called The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, contains numerous references to giving. In 1:5–6, the text discusses the sharing of resources among Christians. The only possible allusion to tithing could be the statement that giving should be done “according to the commandment.” However, since 1:6 says, “Let your charitable gift sweat in your hands until you know to whom you are giving it,” it appears that the Mosaic law of tithing is not the referent since responsibility is placed within the giver as to the worthiness of the recipient. The Didache exhorts Christians to be givers rather than takers (1:5; 4:5–8; 5:2; 15:4). It contains one statement similar to statements in Acts 2 and 4 about communalism (4:8). The text includes teaching similar to 1 Corinthians 9:14, that ministers of the gospel have a right to live from the gospel (11:6, 12; 13:1–2). 13:3–7 discusses how Christians are to give first fruits, stating that prophets are Christians’ high priest. However, it does not equate first fruits with a portion that is the (Divine) right of ministers of the gospel: “If, however, you have no prophet [minister of the gospel], give [the first fruits] to the poor” (13:4). Finally, 13:7 says to take the first fruits of “money and clothing and whatever [else] you own as you think best and give them according to the commandment.” A problem occurs when the text says both to give “as you think best” and to give “according to the commandment.” Some have said this is a contradiction. However, the phrase “as you think best” refers to the items that are considered liable to first fruits and “according to the commandment” probably refers to the instructions just given.

Justin Martyr (pictured left) (100–165 A.D.) provided an early, detailed, account of church services. He says that Christians met on Sundays and read the writings of the Apostles and prophets. After an exhortation to do good and pray, the love feast took place. They took the offering at the end of the service and those who were wealthy were free to give as they saw fit. The church used this offering to help the poor, widows, and others in need. There were two parts to the offering: (1) the first consisted of food: the congregation consumed part of the offering at the love feast and part of the offering was taken to those who were absent. The remainder of the offering was for the poor. After this meal, they partook of the Lord’s Supper. Finally, they took a second offering that included both money and food. This offering was for the clergy and the poor. Justin’s description of the offering neglects to mention tithing. Furthermore, his emphasis on personal responsibility in giving and that giving was mainly dependent upon the rich argues strongly against Justin advocating tithing. All of Justin’s explicit references to tithing were either incidental or quotes from Scriptures containing the word.

Resources and References:

Clement of Rome, The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians 40 (ANF 1:16).

Powers, “Historical Study of the Tithe,” 15; see also Babbs, Law of the Tithe, 108.

Justin Martyr, First Apology of Justin 67 (ANF 1:185–86).

Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew 17, 19, 112, 33 (ANF 1:202, 204, 211, 255).

Not so fast!!

Well, since I've been asked about tithing in the early church period ... I'll do some summaries of that before I get into the biblical text.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Why discuss tithing and church history?

Why am I, an aspiring New Testament scholar, writing on church history and tithing? Well, most people believe that tithing is the paradigm of the church and that it has been that way for 2,000 years. By demonstrating that tithing has been controversial throughout church history, I am only attempting to help us realize that appeal to this tradition is inappropriate: it has only been a practiced in its current form for a little over 100 years. Therefore, my goal is to try to help us put the discussion squarely on the biblical text. Since church history is divided, and people have lined up on both sides of the debate, let's look squarely at the biblical text. Let's study the descriptions and prescriptions for tithing in the OT. Let's analyze the few passages in the NT that mention it. Then we can arrive at a biblical view.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Phil Johnson and Fundamentalists

Phil Johnson's discussion and definitions of fundamentalists and evangelicals is interesting (see here). I think the problem that arises with some (maybe, many) fundamentalists is that they don't stick to his definition. He repeats the phrase "essential truth of the gospel" ... and I'd love to know what this includes. Surely his doctrine of salvation and theology proper include this. However, what about an issue like psychology ... those who are integrationists and (versus?) those who are nouthetic/biblical counselors? Is that really an "essential turth of the gospel"? Would Johnson refuse to ally with someone over this issue?

I'm sure some fundy's would boil it down to the sufficiency of Scripture. But can anyone really go so far as to say that learning some listening techniques from Rogerian therapy is denying an "essential truth of the gospel"!

Conclusion: if fundy's stuck to his definition, they'd be okay; but they keep making non-essentials the cause of division ... which is explicitly against his definition. (If you don't know who Phil Johnson is see here; if you've never seen his site on good/bad theology on the web ... go here.)

The Rediscovery of the Tithe-Thomas Kane

Several early tithing advocates stand out as precursors to the immense amount of literature published on tithing (and stewardship) in the twentieth century. Many credit Thomas Kane (1876), a Chicago businessman and Presbyterian layman, with the rediscovery of the tithe. The fact that a tithing advocate (i.e. Salstrand) mentions a “rediscovery” of tithing indicates that tithing must not have been very widespread or popular in America in the nineteenth century. And in fact, advocacy for tithing was almost non-existent prior to 1865. Kane wrote a pamphlet in 1876 and sent it out to seventy-five percent of the evangelical pastors in the United States free of charge. For years he distributed his many pamphlets free, which caused them to spread throughout the evangelical churches in America. They proved to be very successful in increasing the giving in churches. The evangelization of the world was the impetus that Kane credited for the distribution of tithing literature. Kane argued that tithing was a universal law and not primarily Jewish nor Mosaic. He concluded: “The twin laws that the seventh of our time and the tenth of our income shall be devoted in a special sense to God’s service have never been repealed or abrogated, although until recent years the law of the tithe was almost universally disobeyed; indeed, comparatively few had any distinct knowledge of its existence.” However, even though widely credited with beginning the tithing renewal, two books were written before Kane’s distribution of literature began.

When discussing tithing, one really must discuss B.K. and A.K.: Before Kane and After Kane. While he wasn’t really the first to come to his conclusions, he was the most successful and his organization continues to this day. See

References and Resources:

George A. E. Salstrand, The Story of Stewardship in the United States of America (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1956), 41–46.

A. T. Robertson, Five Times Five Points of Church Finance, 2d ed. (Lima: n.p., 1886).

Luther P. Powell, Money and the Church (New York: Association Press, 1962), 214.

Hiley H. Ward, Creative Giving (New York: MacMillan, 1958), 59–60.

E. B. Stewart, The Tithe, with an introduction by Laymen [Thomas Kane] (Chicago: Winona Publishing, 1903).

George W. Brown, ed., Gems of Thought on Tithing, with an introduction by Thomas Kane (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1911), 18–19.

A Layman [Thomas Kane], Tithing and Its Results (Chicago: The Layman Company, 1915). This book contains thirteen pamphlets that Kane distributed on tithing, including the 1876 pamphlet: Pamphlet No. 1 – “What We Owe and Why We Owe It.”