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Home Stretch
Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

Listening to the Spirit in the TextI finished my paper for Christian Spirit and I actually fairly happy with it, although I have no idea if it is what Hindmarsh wants! (I will post the paper on Thursday) I was primarily discussing Gordon Fee’s view of the Holy Spirit as discussed in his Listening to the Spirit in the Text. I highly recommend this book to everyone out there. The book is a collection of essays from other publications (many from Regent College’s Crux) and cover a pretty wide variety of topics.

Two more finals to go. I haven’t packed yet for Christmas break. Late Tuesday concert at Q Cafe on Friday night in Seattle. Dad’s side of the family Christmas party Saturday in Edmonds. Leann’s “Ugly Christmas Sweater Fest 2005″ in Bellingham on Sunday. Have dinner with friends from high school in Tacoma on Monday. Busy busy busy! But at least I will be done with the term shortly! This will probably be my worst term, grade wise, but I did really enjoy it and I learned a lot, so I guess that’s good…

I will leave you with a few quotes from Fee’s Listening to the Spirit in the Text:

The proper aim of all true theology is doxology. Theology that does not begin and end in worship is not biblical at all.

True spirituality, therefore, is nothing more nor less than life by the Spirit.

Thus prayer as rejoicing, thanksgiving, and petition marked Paul’s own spirituality (life in the Spirit in terms of personal devotion), and was waht heurgen, and prayed, for his congregations. Paul was a pray-er before he was a doer or a thinker.

It is the presentness of the kingdom in Jesus that untimately serves as the basis for the ongoing global mission of the church.

What Jesus began “both to do and say” is not the misintry he has left his church until he comes again.

I could provide numerous others, the book is filled with many powerful statements and challenges, check it out!

-Matt Jones
לְחַיִּים 'To Life!'

Origins of the New Testament
Sunday, December 11th, 2005

A while back I did a Bible study on the origins of the New Testament and so I thought I would post some of that here as a brief introduction for those who haven’t had any background before. I think the Christmas season is a good time for something like this.

VERY brief time-line (approximate dates):
•AD 30: Jesus is crucified.
•AD 51: 1 Thessalonians Written - the first of Paul’s epistles
•AD 67: Paul is martyred.
•AD 68-70: Gospel of Mark written (most likely to be the first Gospel written).
•AD 110 (although some say as late as AD 140): 2 Peter written - the last book in the NT canon to be written

Textual Witnesses:
There have been no autographs (originals) of any of the New Testament books found so the Word must be based on copies. Not all copies are made equal. Both age and location of the copies (or “witnesses”) found are factored in to their “quality”. These “Text-Types” and their relative autorities are more intelligently discussed elsewhere, so I will just say that the Alexandrian text-type are genearlly considered more authoratative and accurate. The following are types of witnesses found with the oldest (which are often given the most weight) first:

Papyri: (Indicated by a script P) These are the oldest sources made from plants and written in the II-VII centuries. 116 different papyri have been found. P52 seems to be the oldest from around 125-150AD (John 18, size of credit card). P46 being one of the more important finds which included all of Paul (less pastorals) and Hebrews from around 200AD: this work showed that even at that early time, Paul was being circulated. Some are individual pages, some are scrolls or codices (books). A 1 page papyrus cost about a day’s wage.

Uncials: IV-IX centuries. 300 have been found. Written in all capitals with no spaces between words. Written on newer parchment or vellum surfaces (often animal skin). א, A, B (Codex Vaticanus - 4th Century), C, and Θ being the most reliable and complete.

Lectionaries: X century onward. 2100 have been found. These are usually larger collections of scriptures. Many are translations from the Greek into other languages. One of the most notable is Jerome’s Latin Vulgate – 383AD.

Versions: Other language versions from II century onward. Syriac, Latin, Coptic, etc. 7 found.

Church Fathers: II century onward. Church fathers who have copied various scriptures.

Variant Readings
There have been over 6000 of these manuscripts found (NOTE: I think it is important to point out here that this is vastly more witnesses than any other ancient work.). Within these 6000 manuscripts, variant readings - disagreements from one version to another - creep in: some 150-250,000 of them! There are two different kinds of variants: intentional and unintentional. Intentional alterations: scribes trying to improve grammar, spelling, theology, reducing tough readings, harmonizing of the gospels. Unintentional errors: skipping a line, writing a line twice, mistaking similar letters, aural errors. How do we read GODISNOWHERE: “God is now here” or “God is nowhere”?

Criteria for NT Textual Criticism
How do we decide which variant is more original and correct? This is what textual criticism is all about. There is a tendency to prefer older versions that the newer (but not necessarily the case). External Criteria: Judging the “originality” of variant readings based on the quality of the NT manuscripts date of manuscripts, usually P or early Unicial codices. Scholars tend to prefer texts that come from the Alexandrian family. (King James was from the Eastern) The Western family also tends to be earlier and more reliable than the Eastern. Internal Criteria: judging the “originality” of variant readings based on…
Lectio Difficilior – usually the rougher reading is earlier and more original.
Lectio Brevior – usually the shorter reading is preferred. Scribes will conflate or explain.
•Non-harmonistic reading. Scribes had strong tendency to read the wording of one Gospel into another.
•Stylistic agreement – Koine vs Attic Greek reading. Style should be consistent with an author.
These criteria don’t always all have to be there and don’t necessarily mean much on their own, but when put together they can usually make a strong case for a particular reading.

A Few Notes on Variants
There are many that get worried about variants or differences in the text. But one of the most amazing things about all this is that none of these differences cause problems for primary theology. There was great care taken in the preservation of these manuscripts – most areas are in agreement - epsecially when it comes to foundational theology. 6000 manuscripts attest to the importance of the Word – doctrine does not change by these variant readings. There is absolutely no other writing that comes close to the witness of the Bible. Thanks be to God! A look at a specific variant (Luke 2.43) can be found at the bottom of this post.

A few images some found manuscripts (click for larger version):

I hope this has made sense and has introduced you to the complexity that goes into determining the Greek New Testament! Let me know if you have any questions or just want to know more!

Bryan’s Biblical Links: A great page of links for further study.
Early Greek Bible Manuscripts Project: lots of info on the earliest sources.
Guide to Early Church Documents
A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism
The Textual History of the Books of the New Testament
Bible-Links Page: Papyri - wide variety of other information is available here as well

Merry Christmas!
-Matt Jones
לְחַיִּים 'To Life!'

Variant example from Luke:

Read full blog entry…

Props to Adamson
Saturday, December 10th, 2005

As seems to be the theme for this term, I ventred south of the border again to hook up with some friends to see the opening of Clive’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at Cinerama last night. There have been numerous reviews and discussion of the movie, so I will only offer a few brief comments. Amazing. Really. I don’t think I could have been happier. Andrew Adamson vowed to do justice to Clive’s original and I must say he succeeded wonderfully. The battle scenes were extended somewhat, but its a big epic movie, it is only natural, I don’t think it hurt the book at all (plus I enjoy big battle scenes… did anyone happen to see Return of the King?). I also don’t think they played down the allusions to Christianity at all. I was worried that one of my favorite quotes had been cut, but they got it in (with slightly different wording, but the just of it was there):

“Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” [said Susan about Aslan]

“…if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else justsilly..” [said Mrs. Beaver]

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Two more of my favorite quotes from the book that the movie grabbed as well:

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.


The rising of the sun has made everything look so different - all colors and shadows were changed - that for a moment they didn’t see the important thing. Then they did. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan

And He was back! Now, if we can get people to read the Bible as well…

Since the lines were not nearly as long as those for King, Erin and I almost went to see another movie while we waited, but thought better of it. We waited for about four hours in the freezing cold and it was totally worth it. Although we were first in line but when we got inside there were people in the “prime” seats that we wanted… that was pretty shady if you ask me. Got to hang out with Chad and Meghan and Leann and Marcie (I still really do like her too much I think… I know Jae, leave me alone!) so that is always fun times!

GO SEE NARNIA!! Three or four times. Now!

-Matt Jones
לְחַיִּים 'To Life!'

Christian Carnival XCIX
Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

It is time once again for the ever popular Christian Carnival! This week rev-ed over at Attention Span has done a lovely job of bringing Christian posts from around the blogosphere to Christian Carnival XCIX - Famous 99’s in History! Stop of and see what is happening this week. If you would like to read up on some previous posts and entries, please stop by my Christian Carnival Archive. Chasing the Wind has also created a blogroll script that you can use to easily link to recent Carnival posts.

I have contributed my “No Christmas For You” - a look at a letter I wrote to my home church regarding its decision to not have Christmas worship service on Christmas Sunday. There has been some really good discussion in the comments so feel free to chime in! Also, in a wonderful turn of events, the session called a special meeting to discuss the issue two nights ago and ended up reversing the decision! I am VERY thankful about that!

Another thing to point out is the Late Tuesday and John Van Deusen show TONIGHT! 7:00, Bay Street Coffee, come dig the music!

-Matt Jones
לְחַיִּים 'To Life!'

No Christmas For You!
Thursday, December 1st, 2005

Something bizarre happened at my home church down in Tacoma, WA. Apparently other churches have done this before, but this has never crossed my mind: No Christmas! That’s right folks, you walk by our church Christmas morning and you will just see a Please see the chuch down the street, God is there this morning on the readerboard.

For the record, I am Presbyterian, not Baptist. I made this sign at the Church Sign Generator

How is this possible? How is this justifiable? Why did that even come up as a possibility? The “rationale” (if you can call it that) is that people don’t come to Sunday worship services if they happen to be the same date as Christmas (which this year it does), but are willing to come to Christmas Eve services. The way it usually works is the final Sunday of advent is celebrated the weekend before Christmas and then there is a Christmas Eve service on… well the eve of Christmas. So I am to believe no one will show up? That is just ridiculous. I am appalled that the Pastor could suggest this course and that the session would go along with it.

I have posted my letter to our session members and pastor below the cut (or you can view the letter in PDF format). Has anyone else had a similar experience? Does your church do this? How does the congregation handle this? Any other thoughts? I apprecaite your input!

Read full blog entry…

Luckilly we still have Festivus. I guess this was part of my Airing of Grievances. I am now ready for the Feats of Strength. Festivus, truly, a holiday for the rest of us.

-Matt Jones
לְחַיִּים 'To Life!'

[UPDATE 12.6.05 8:00pm]: Apparently a special session meeting was called to discuss the issue and the decision was REVERSED! It will be very interesting to talk to some elders as well as the pastor to find out more about this process.

Calvin and Justification
Thursday, November 24th, 2005

My life for the past few days… non-stop.

I am thankful it is Thanksgiving and I get to go home and see fmaily! This week has sucked and has therefore produced a sucky paper on John Calvin’s doctrine of justification for my Institutes of the Christian Religion class with Hans Boersma here at Regent. I think this is one of the crappier, yet longer, papers I have written. Feel free to read it and trash it or just completely ignore it. I am just so happy that it is over with… now I just have to focus on all the other crap I have to do… but I am going to go home for the weekend so I really don’t care!

Matt Jones: John Calvin’s doctrine of Justification (PDF format) or read “below the cut” for the unformatted/unnoted version.

Read full blog entry…

-Matt Jones
לְחַיִּים 'To Life!'

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

A few quotes from today’s Christian Spirit class here at Regent College with Bruce Hindmarsh that I thought were particularly striking or poignant .

Martin Luther, “What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels” (1522):

When you open the book containing the gospels or read or hear how Christ comes here or there, or how someone is brought to him, you should therein perceive the sermon or the gospel through which he is coming to you, or you are being brought to him. For the preaching of the gospel is nothing else than Christ coming to us, or we being brought to him.

John Calvin, Institutes:

Faith needs the Word as much as fruit needs the living root of a tree.

Luther’s Ein’ feste Burg (“A mighty fortress is our God”) (first stanza):

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Desiderius Erasmus in Praise of Folly:

Perhaps it would be wise to pass over the theologians in silence. . . . Their opinion of themselves is so great that they behave as if they were already in heaven; they look down pityingly on other men as so many worms. A wall of imposing definitions, conclusions, corollaries, and explicit propositions protects them. . . . They are full of big words and newly-invented terms.

Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms:

I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other — my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. [ Here I stand,] God help me, [I can do no other.] Amen.

-Matt Jones
לְחַיִּים 'To Life!'

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