Category Archives: New Testament

Judas Thaddaeus

image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jude_the_Apostle#/media/File:Anthonis_van_Dyck_088.jpg

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.

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Gospel according to St. Mark

Mantegna’s Mark
image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/eb/Andrea_Mantegna_087.jpg

Matthew’s gospel is well known for the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the powerful prophetic portions of Matthew 24-25.

Luke’s gospel is beloved for its parables like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

John’s gospel is a favorite of many for its “I AM” passages and poignant and pointed personal encounters.

That often leave Mark’s gospel out in the cold.

Yet, those who take the time to visit Mark and read through it find it has its own unique way to highlighting the vital message of Jesus.

For instance, take the rocket launch of the beginning of Mark in chapter 1:1-8 …

Mark 1:1-8 (NIV)

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

N.T. Wright put it this way in Mark for Everyone (2004):

You are sound asleep and dreaming, when suddenly the door bursts open and a bright light shines full in your face. A voice, breaking in on your dream world shouts, “Wake up! Get up! You’ll be late!” And without more ado, the speaker splashes your face with cold water to make the point. Time to stop dreaming and face the most important day of your life.

First Look – Ephesians 2:1-10

Studying the Bible can be intimidating. But it is worthwhile to dig in and allow God to transform us through His Word!

We plan to make a series of short (~ 5 minutes) videos with Bible passages where some guidelines will be shared that will hopefully help you get started in understanding the Bible.

In this episode, we will look at Ephesians 2:1-10 and highlight how asking the question of “Who?” can help us get started in studying this portion of the Scriptures.

Below is the text as discussed in the video for those who prefer to do their learning via reading rather than watching.

Ephesians 2:1-10
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Now, take a look at WHO is the key subject of each section of the Bible text …

In vv. 1-3
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

In vv. 4-7
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

In vv. 8-10
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

In summary:
Ephesians 2:1-3
Our situation before we are saved
Ephesians 2:4-7
What God has done to offer salvation to us
Ephesians 2:8-10
Our new reality: (1) Saved by grace (2) Saved to do good works

What evangelical protestants could think of Mary?

As Protestant Evangelicals, we view the emphasis in Catholicism on Mary as somewhat strange. However, might there be some lessons we could gain from a closer look at Mary?

Check out this podcast over at Christianity Today.

In the discussion, what comes across is how Mary is an incredible model of discipleship.

Check and out and see what you think?

Did Jesus Exist?

With Christmas just around the corner, there are usually feature articles in magazines or television shows that examines the historical aspects of Jesus. Some will be quite skeptical while others may give the Biblical version of events a fair hearing.

Linked here is an item from Bible Archeology Review that tackles that question in somewhat longer form than your typical items in a popular magazine.

Here are a few excepts to whet your appetite to look over the whole thing:

The sources normally discussed fall into three main categories: (1) classical (that is, Greco-Roman), (2) Jewish and (3) Christian. But when people ask whether it is possible to prove that Jesus of Nazareth actually existed, as John P. Meier pointed out decades ago, “The implication is that the Biblical evidence for Jesus is biased because it is encased in a theological text written by committed believers. What they really want to know is: Is there extra-Biblical evidence … for Jesus’ existence?” Therefore, this article will cover classical and Jewish writings almost exclusively.

[………]

Tacitus’s terse statement about “Christus” clearly corroborates the New Testament on certain historical details of Jesus’ death. Tacitus presents four pieces of accurate knowledge about Jesus: (1) Christus, used by Tacitus to refer to Jesus, was one distinctive way by which some referred to him, even though Tacitus mistakenly took it for a personal name rather than an epithet or title; (2) this Christus was associated with the beginning of the movement of Christians, whose name originated from his; (3) he was executed by the Roman governor of Judea; and (4) the time of his death was during Pontius Pilate’s governorship of Judea, during the reign of Tiberius. (Many New Testament scholars date Jesus’ death to c. 29 C.E.; Pilate governed Judea in 26–36 C.E., while Tiberius was emperor 14–37 C.E.)

[……..]

We can learn quite a bit about Jesus from Tacitus and Josephus, two famous historians who were not Christian. Almost all the following statements about Jesus, which are asserted in the New Testament, are corroborated or confirmed by the relevant passages in Tacitus and Josephus. These independent historical sources—one a non-Christian Roman and the other Jewish—confirm what we are told in the Gospels

[……..]

As far as we know, no ancient person ever seriously argued that Jesus did not exist.33 Referring to the first several centuries C.E., even a scholar as cautious and thorough as Robert Van Voorst freely observes, “… [N]o pagans and Jews who opposed Christianity denied Jesus’ historicity or even questioned it.”

What to make of the Genealogies of Jesus?

In the video below, Professor Craig Kenner of Asbury Theology Seminary discusses the significance and meaning of the genealogies of Jesus.

Sean McDowell – the Fate of the Apostles

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JanStyka-SaintPeter.jpg

Was listening to a Stand To Reason archive podcast because the title caught my eye: “Sean McDowell – the Death of the Apostles” (November 6, 2015).

Apparently, McDowell worked on the topic as a dissertation and turned it into a book. Alas, the book is an academic print run and costs $119.95 and not likely to be purchased by the average reader!

McDowell has blogged about some of the content of the book at his web page and one can listen to the STR podcast.

Briefly, the premise of his project was that he (and most of us) have often heard that most of the Apostles died for their faith. McDowell decided to try to track down the historical data to see if this assertion is born out.

As one might imagine, trying to find evidence for something that happened 2000 years ago isn’t easy. In the podcast, he discussed the nature of the evidence for the deaths of Peter and Paul, James the brother of John, and James the brother of Jesus. He, along with other history scholars, rate the evidence for these as pretty good.

The support of what happened to Thomas and Andrew is not as strong but on balance is plausible. The data on the remaining apostles is not conclusive and sometimes contradictory.

He and Greg Koukl also discussed the data on the Apostle John. The main view is that he died of old age on while in exile on Patmos or shortly after leaving Patmos. However, there is a subset of scholars who cite some suggestive evidence he might have died for his faith somewhere in the time period covered by the Book of Acts. He appears active in early chapters in Acts and then suddenly isn’t mentioned. That is an argument from silence but scholars point to some external (non-Biblical) sources that also point to a possible early death.

Whether all the Apostles actually died as a direct result of their faith, is not knowable from the historical data. However, what can be said is the following:

(1) The NT writings suggest that suffering for the faith was something the believers should expect and in some case had already experienced.

(2) The message of the faith and the motivation to persevere was the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus.

This does NOT prove the resurrection of Jesus but it does prove that the resurrection was central to the early Christian message and motivation for the faithfulness of the first Christians.