Nashville Statement

You may have seen the Nashville Statement on the news.

Not surprisingly, outside of the Christian faith community, it was not received well but even within there has been some debate.

If you are interested in hearing some varied perspectives, here are a few podcasts you may want to check out.

Here is a Mere Fidelity podcast specifically about the Nashville Statement where the group (four theologians) discussed their reactions to it and how they decided to sign or not sign onto the statement.

Dr. Preston Sprinkle described his reactions and feelings to the Nashville Statement in his podcast, Theology in the Raw.

Though not specifically about the Nashville Statement, here is a lecture by Dr. Alastair Roberts that addresses some of the issues in a broader discussion about Genesis 1-3.

All the presenters in the three above referenced podcasts are supporters of the traditional Biblical definition of marriage. However, they have differing opinions on the usefulness of the Nashville Statement.


Judas Thaddaeus

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In the New Testament, there are four places where the disciples were named in list form: Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16, and Acts 1:13. You may notice that the names tend to fall into blocks of 4 + 4 + 4 with the exception of Acts 1:13 where Judas Iscariot is dropped off the list leaving 11 names.

If you look at the last grouping of four you find the following:
In Matthew: James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
In Mark: James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
In Luke: James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
In Acts: James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.

As you can see the thinking is that Judas, son of James and Thaddaeus are the same person. One complication, if you happen to be reading in the King James Version (KJV), is that in Matthew 10:3 of the KJV Lebbaeus and Thaddaeus are listed as the name of this disciple. This is because the set of Greek New Testament manuscripts available to translate from were much more limited at the time of the KJV (17th Century). Since then older copies of the GNT (not available at the time of the KJV) were found to only include the name Thaddaeus. If you explore the Greek for Thaddaeus (Strong Greek 2280) and Lebbaeus (Strong Greek 3002) you will notice the Greek letters for the two names are somewhat similar. Thus, Lebbaeus might have been a transcribing error that got into some later families of the Greek NT. Also with regards to information about the meaning of the names, only Thaddaeus has data further supporting the idea that Thaddaeus is the pertinent name to consider.

It is quite possible that with the betrayal by Judas Iscariot, the name Judas fell from favor. Thus, Thaddaeus, perhaps another name Judas son of James went by, eventually became his primary name subsequent to the betrayal.

A hint of this is seen in the one other place Judas (Thaddaeus), son of James shows up in John 14:22, Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”

As so let us learn to be like Judas Thaddaeus and bring our questions to Jesus!

It is likely that even though Jesus had been hinting and outright telling them he was going to suffer and die and be raised, the disciples didn’t really grasp this at this time. They probably still anticipated and wanted Jesus to be a highly public Messianic King figure. Thus, Judas wants to know why Jesus isn’t going to disclose himself to the whole world, why just them?

And so Jesus patiently re-interates God’s plans in v. 23, Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

Jesus and the Father will disclose (come to him, make abode with him) to just the disciples who love Jesus and keep his word.

Thus, at the moment, we, frail human beings, partner with God in disclosing Jesus to the world by first responding to God’s disclosure to us, John 16:20-21, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Next up, we will explore a disciple from the middle group of four.

Simon, the Zealot

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In the New Testament, there are four places where the disciples were named in list form: Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16, and Acts 1:13.

In this ongoing series on the 12 Disciples, we have looked at Matthew, the tax-collector and James, son of Alphaeus and when we last left off, we mentioned that one other disciple besides James, son of Alphaeus appeared only in the four lists.

Simon, the Zealot; and that is all we know about him!

In First Century Judaism, there were four notable sects: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Zealots. In the Gospels, Jesus has dialogs and disagreements with the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were the keepers and defenders of the Law while the Sadducees’ center of power was the running of the Temple. The Essenes were the separatists and it is thought that some inhabited the Qumran community near where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found leading to the theory that the scrolls were collected and prepared by the Essenes. Lastly, the Zealots were the rebels who wanted to oppose Rome militarily. This group is probably best known for the Siege of Masada.

There are two possibilities for the “zealot” designation of Simon. One, of course, was that he was part of the Zealot sect. The other possibility was that he was a zealous individual.

John MacArthur offered some interesting lessons one might draw from the story of Simon the Zealot.

Whether Simon was a Zealot in the sense of being part of the sect or zealous in a sense of zeal for God and the Law, he was without doubt a passionate individual and he was won over by Jesus! Quoting from MacArthur’s sermon transcript:

Now a man like Simon to attach himself to them must have been a man with a tremendous passion, a tremendous capacity for zeal. And you can imagine that he must have been a fireball when it got to the work of the Lord. He found a better leader and a greater cause.

Another consideration MacArthur brought up was what kind of tension might have been within Simon and for that matter within the group towards the former Roman collaborator, Matthew, the tax-collector. Another excerpt:

Simon believed and was transformed, Judas did not, and so no one names anything Judas. Simon became Christ’s man. Think of how wonderful it must have been for him to get along with Matthew who collected taxes for the Roman government. I wonder if he ever had just little anxieties about Matthew.

The 12 Disciples were an interesting collection of diverse individuals. Yet, they had in common being called by Jesus and loved by Jesus and sent by him to start the daisy chain of communicating the Good News of the Gospel to all the world down the ages.

We started this series with Matthew, a social outcast as a tax-collector who became part of the fabric of the new community in Jesus. Though, we only have his name in the lists and the one episode of his calling by Jesus, his recollections became Scripture in the Gospel according to Matthew. James, son of Alphaeus, possibly Matthew’s brother and Simon, the Zealot who may have had nothing but contempt for tax collectors and anyone connected with one, yet, in Christ, they were united!

Next up, the disciple whose voice is heard in one question in the four Gospels.

James, son of Alphaeus

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In Mark 2:14, a tax-collector named Levi was described as the son of Alphaeus. This event is very similar to the calling of Matthew found in Matthew 9:9-13 such that we believe Matthew and Levi are the same people.

As for as James, son of Alphaeus (Mt 10:3, Mk 3:18, Lk 6:15, Acts 1:13), the only data we have on him are these four verses!

Was he the brother of Matthew?


What else might we say about him?

If we apply our process of observation-interpretation-application, what do we come up with for James, son of Alphaeus?

We should understand that following Jesus is not likely to make us famous. Ultimately, our lives are not for the praise of humankind; rather, our lives are ultimately to be lived for an audience of ONE and if we are indeed good and faithful in following our Lord, we will be welcomed into His joy when we meet Him!

This series on the 12 disciples will continue bit by bit in the coming weeks. To see previous posts on this, go to the 12 Disciples tag.

In case if you wonder if anyone has ever preached about James, son of Alphaeus, Pastor John MacArthur offered these thoughts in a sermon about this little known disciple.

The deaths of the various apostles have varying degrees of historical documentation. Not surprisingly, the stores of the lesser-known apostles have less certainty in terms of documentation. Excerpt from link: Few, if any of the traditions can be proved, but for some, the circumstantial evidence appears quite strong.

In the next post, we will look at the other disciple who only appears in the lists.

Matthew’s Story, Part II

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Previously, in part I, we highlighted that Matthew’s name appears in 4 lists: Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. And we posed the question as to whether we could see some differences in the lists.

Did you notice that in three of the four, Matthew is listed with his name only and no descriptor. But in Matthew 10:3 we see: Matthew the tax collector.

Isn’t it interesting that only in the list that Matthew wrote that his occupation is highlighted?!

Flip back to Matthew 9:9-13 the one other place in the Gospel of Matthew that Matthew mentioned himself.

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

What did Matthew feel when he began to follow of Jesus? Though we can’t read Matthew’s mind when he penned the Gospel passages here, but it probably isn’t too much of a stretch to suspect that Matthew had an overwhelming sense of the grace of Jesus in allowing him into the company of his followers. Tax collectors were hated people! Yet, Jesus had the audacity to talk to them and dine with them. This was scandalous! And so Matthew probably felt a mixture of joy and unworthiness. And indeed, isn’t that what grace is: unmerited favor?

And so when Matthew got to writing the episode of the selection of the Twelve, he remembered: Jesus called me to be one of the Twelve, yes me, a wretched hated tax collector.

The story of Jesus’ meeting with Matthew was also described in Mark 2:14-17 and Luke 5:27-32.

What do you notice there?

Answers below the artwork.

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We find out that Matthew was apparently also known by the name Levi.

We find out the party of “tax collectors and sinners” was at his home.

And we find out that he is the son of Alphaeus which might mean he was the brother of one of the other 12 disciples.

To be continued …

Matthew’s story, part I


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There are 4 places in Scripture where the disciples are named in list fashion. Take a look at how Matthew is described:

Matthew 10:3

Mark 3:18

Luke 6:15

Acts 1:13

Do you notice any differences? What do you make of it?

To be continued …..

Mark 16:1-8

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Mark 16:1-8

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (NASB)

Much has been speculated about the “ending” of Mark. If you look at the footnotes to various Bibles, there are various explanation about vv. 9-20 such as in the NASB: “Later mss add vv 9-20”; in NRSV: “Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concludes the book with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending and then continue with verses 9–20. In most authorities verses 9–20 follow immediately after verse 8, though in some of these authorities the passage is marked as being doubtful.”; in NIV: “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20.”

Whether v. 8 was the original ending of Mark, there is no way for us to know. What we do know is that vv. 9-20 is probably not the ending.

Thus, we are left with vv. 1-8 as the ending… “They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Are we feeling unsatisfied with this ending?

Yet, it is somewhat consistent with what has gone on in the other chapters in the Gospel according to Mark where we read that Jesus’ followers were consistently unable to grasp what Jesus was teaching and not able to process the idea that he would suffer, die, and rise again. The response of v. 8 is quite in character.

The end of Mark is sort of an echo of the ending of Jonah 4:10-11, Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

In Jonah, we have a very reluctant prophet. He eventually delivered the message to Nineveh but didn’t have the same heart for the people that God had. In the ending of Jonah, we are left “hanging” as to whether Jonah’s heart ultimately was softened and thus conformed to God’s heart.

With Mark 16:8, we are left “hanging.” Trembling and astonishment are pretty reasonable reactions to seeing the empty tomb and hearing the message from the angel. Being afraid and silent in response to a shock to the system – Jesus. Dead. Jesus. Not. Dead?!! – is probably pretty normal. But do the women stay in that place? Do we remain in that space?

The readers of Mark in its time, and of course for us today in the 21st century, know from the other Gospel accounts and from the existence and persistence of the church to this day that the women ultimately did leave the feelings and thoughts of v. 8 behind, and they told the disciples, and all of them together proclaimed the risen Jesus in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!

NT Wright thinks the ending has been lost and gives various reasons why but he also offers some thoughts on what could be significant if v. 8 was indeed the ending:
It might just be possible to think that Mark did stop there – but that he intended anyone reading the book out loud, as they would, to call on one of the eye-witnesses present to tell the story of what they had seen, either that first Easter day or shortly afterward. […] the way Mark’s book now finishes encourages us all the more to explore not only the faith of the early church, that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, but our own faith. There is a blank at the end of the story, and we are invited to fill it ourselves. Do we take Easter for granted, or have we found ourselves awestruck at the strange new work of God? What do we know of the risen Lord? Where is he now going ahead of us? What tasks has he for us to undertake today, to take the gospel of the kingdom to the ends of the earth?