Monday, March 13, 2017

Why try God?

Dr. Paul Manuel—Seventh Day Baptist General Conference—August 6, 2001

Why try God?1 From the moment you acknowledge His existence, He is intrusive and demanding. He expects you to change, to conform to His standard. Surely it is better to do your own thing and to let God do His...whatever that may be. Why bother cluttering up your life with another person's agenda? That is a question many people ask or, at least, think, and the answer is not what we, having tried God, like to admit.

I heard a preacher once say that God created man for fellowship because God was lonely. Although God is alone, for there is no one else like Him,2 He gives no indication of being lonely. The testimony of scripture is that He is quite self-sufficient.3 Consequently, there is no deficiency in God that man can fill ("as if he needed anything" Acts 17:25).
  • He does not need our help, because He is omnipotent.
  • He does not need our advice, because He is omniscient.
  • He does not need our company, because He is other—more different from us than we can imagine.
From eternity past, He has survived without us, and He would get along quite well without us in the future. Besides, if we hold to the trinity, God the Father has the company of the Son and of the Spirit.4 In other words, God does not need us, for fellowship or for anything else.5 So, we are not doing Him a favor by coming to Him. On the contrary, He is doing us a favor, a very big favor, by paying attention to us at all. As several biblical authors note,
Ps 8:4a what is man that you are mindful of him...?
Ps 144:3a ...what is man that you care for him...?
Job 7:17 What is man...that you give him...attention...?
Job 22:2a Can be of use to God...?
Job 25:6 but a maggot...a worm!
Such comments do not bolster our self-image. They do, however, bring us to an uncomfortable but incontrovertible point: We try God because we need God, and that is the basis on which He appeals to us, saying—"Do yourself a favor; seek me and live" (Amos 5:4).

What is particularly wonderful is that, despite being so far above us that we are less than insects to God, He is not aloof. He does not keep us at arm's-length. Neither does He wait for us to make the first move. Rather, He invites us to know Him and explains how that is to our benefit. This study answers the question—Why Try God?—we will consider together Five Invitations from Isaiah that Appeal to Our Self Interest. While God's word contains many such calls, He issues the most through this prophet.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Islam, Judaism and Christianity

Six Reasons for Muslim Animosity toward Jews and Christians
pdf (136 pages)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2003


Preface 2
I. Introduction 3
II. A Brief History of Islam 4

A. Its Inception

B. Its Expansion

C. Its Opposition
III. The Main Beliefs of Islam 6

A. The Pillars of Islam

B. The Authority of Islam

   Frame: The Principle of Naskh 7
IV. The Hostile Attitudes of Islam 10

   Frame: Jews and Christians under Islamic Rule 10

A. Why do Muslims hate Jews?

   Frame: Differences between the Quran and the Old Testament 11

   Frame: Differences between the Quran and the New Testament 12


Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

Freedom is not being able to do whatever you want but being able to do whatever you should, a distinction that applies to all avenues of life.
An airline pilot was scheduled to take a flight from New York to Los Angeles. The weather was too bad in NY to allow his usual on time departure. When the weather finally cleared and the pilot asked for his departure clearance, he was dismayed to hear about another delay due to the increased traffic now leaving NY. Sometime later he finally received his clearance and decided he would try to make up the time lost by asking for a direct route to LA. Halfway across the country, though, he was told to turn due South. Knowing this would now throw him further behind schedule, he inquired, quite agitated, to the controller the reason for changing course. The controller replied that the turn was for noise abatement. The pilot was infuriated and said to the controller, "Look buddy, I am already way behind schedule with all the delays you guys have given me today. I really don't see how I could be causing a noise problem for pedestrians when I am over 6 miles above the earth!" The controller answered in a calm voice, "Apparently, Captain, you have never heard two 747's collide!"
Freedom is not being able to do what you want but to do what you should, a distinction God offers initially to Adam and subsequently to you.

There is a saying in America that "freedom isn't free," by which we mean that the opportunity or ability to chart your own course in life, to decide for yourself how you will live, while an inherent right is not an automatic one. It comes only as a result of great sacrifice by others.1 The Declaration of Independence states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This collection of "inalienable rights" is paradoxical because if God gave them then you should have them all the time, but you do not. You must seize them, by force if necessary, because there are people who would prevent your acquiring them. Most importantly, however, by not seizing freedom you relinquish that which God endowed you or wants for you. Freedom is something you must actively pursue and never take for granted lest you fall short of your potential.2

Yet man's freedom has its roots not in the Declaration document but in the creation account, and it came with a limitation God made clear at the outset:
The LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Gen 2:16-17)3
It is difficult to stress the importance of this passage: "The future of the race centers upon this single prohibition" (Leupold 1942 1:127). God does not explain the reason for His proscription, only the dire consequence should man disobey: death. Still, this was Man's First Taste of Freedom.4 God's permission to eat from any tree in the garden except one.5 The ensuing events, however, did not go smoothly, for man chose to rebel against God and chart a different course, a course apart from God and away from God. Thankfully, God did not give up on man but gave him the opportunity to repent his rebellion and regain his freedom. In view of this situation, you must remember that...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Love that dominates (1 Cor 13)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

Because running errands can be a time-consuming experience, we often put several of them together in a single trip. Occasionally, one will interfere with another and require us to revise our plan.
After spending over three hours enduring long lines, surly clerks, and insane regulations at the Department of Motor Vehicles, a man stopped at a toy store to pick up a gift for his son. He selected a baseball bat and brought it to the register. "Cash or charge?" the clerk asked. "Cash!" the father snapped. Then, apologizing for his rudeness, explained, "I just spent the afternoon at the motor vehicle bureau." Nodding in sympathy, the clerk asked, "Shall I gift wrap the bat...or are you going back there?" (Adapted from Hodgin 2004:153)
Sometimes we may be tempted to use a gift in a way other than it was intended. That was what Paul faced with members of the church at Corinth, who were misusing the gifts of the Spirit, a problem he addresses with one of the Great Expectations of Man's LoveLove that Dominates.

Paul founded the church at Corinth (in what is now Greece) on his second missionary journey through Asia Minor. He stayed there for about eighteen months, before moving on but kept in touch with the congregation and attempted to counsel the members through a series of letters, addressed, simply, "to the church of God in Corinth" (1 Cor 1:2a; 2 Cor 1:1b). The first one in our New Testament is actually the second he wrote to believers there,1 but only what we call First and Second Corinthians have survived.

In First Corinthians, Paul addresses several problems within the church that have come to his attention: division, discipline, lawsuits, and immorality. He then answers several questions the church has asked on a variety of topics: marriage, food, worship, communion, and spiritual gifts. Some of his answers are longer than others. The answer about spiritual gifts, for example, is three chapters.2 In chapter 12, Paul stresses the fact that the Holy Spirit determines who gets what gift and that the purpose of all the gifts is to help the congregation grow. Whether a person's gift is teaching or healing, speaking in an unlearned language or offering especially wise counsel, the primary goal is to benefit others not oneself. Some people, though, are abusing what the Spirit has given them by using their gift, specifically the gift of tongues, to draw attention to themselves—to show off. In chapter 13, Paul explains that the most important ingredient in a healthy church is not the gifts of the Spirit but the fruit of the Spirit,3 especially the fruit of love. Paul begins by asserting that spiritual gifts are nothing in...

I. The Absence of Love (1 Cor 13:1-3)
1 Cor 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Love that defines (John 13:34-35)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

Love is a difficult thing to quantify. How much do you love your favorite food, your favorite song, or your favorite pet?
A woman went to the minister of a local Baptist church to ask if he would perform a funeral for her precious little dog, that had just died. "I've been to every other pastor in town. I've been to the Catholic church, the Congregational church, the Lutheran church, and the Methodist church. No one will do this for me. Please, Pastor, I loved my little dog as if he were my own child." "I'm sorry," the minister said. "We do funerals for people, not animals. I've never done anything like this before, and I don't intend to start now." The woman wiped tears from her eyes as she continued to sob. "You were my last hope, and I really thought you would help me. In fact I had planned to give $1,000.00 to the minister who would have a funeral for my little doggie." "Oh my," he exclaimed... "You didn't tell me it was a Baptist dog!"
Love is a difficult thing to quantify, and some things or people we might think are beyond the bounds of love. It is a topic Jesus discusses.

While the gospel writers all chronicle the last few years of Jesus' life, they do not all narrate every event. That would have been an encyclopedic task for, as John mentions at the end of his account...
John 21:25 Jesus did many other things [in addition to those recorded]. If every one of them were written down...even the whole world would not have room for the books....
The gospel writers also do not necessarily narrate the same events. Consequently, there are some incidents that appear in all four gospels1 and other matters that appear only in a single gospel. During the Last Supper, for example, John alone records Jesus' washing the disciples' feet. On that occasion, Jesus issues one of the Great Expectations of Man's Love, and it is a Love that Defines. Please turn to John 13 where we see first that...

I. It defines your imitation of Jesus (John 13:34).
John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
In the course of this series, I hope you have seen that God's love is not just a New Testament concept but is a divine attribute He has demonstrated from His earliest dealings with Israel. In addition, I hope you have also realized that since the same early period, God has wanted His people to model love in their own dealings with others. So there would be no doubt about His expectation, God formulated it as a command in...
Lev 19:18b love your neighbor as yourself...2
Surveying the law codes of the Ancient Near East,3 I could find no counterpart to this biblical precept. There are prohibitions against murder and theft but no admonitions to love. Apparently, pagan deities did not care how their devotees related to one another. Israel alone had this concept written into its legal corpus, and...

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Love that discriminates (Ps 97:10)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

Married couples, however much they may think alike, rarely agree on everything. Hence, that relationship, if it is to avoid conflict, is often characterized by compromise. When there is a point of disagreement, each party will adjust its individual expectations so they can both meet somewhere in the middle. At least, that is how it is supposed to work.
The cashier watched her customer dig through her pocketbook for her wallet. As she emptied the cavernous bag one item at a time, an odd piece of electronics fell out. "You certainly have a lot of stuff in there," the cashier remarked. "That thing looks like the remote control for a television. Do you always carry it around?" "No," the customer replied, as she continued her search. "My husband was supposed to come shopping with me, but he backed out at the last minute to stay home and watch a game.. .so I figured taking this was the most evil thing I could do to him."
However annoying her husband may have considered this theft, it does not really stoop to the level of "evil." There are cases, though, that do, and we would do well to follow the admonition of a passage In the Writings about Love that Discriminates.

Although the psalms were often written for specific occasions, they commonly speak in general terms that can apply to many situations. Ps 97 is a hymn to God's kingship (Sabourin 1974:202). It begins with a vivid description of the Lord's appearance (theophany), as He bends all creation to His sovereign will.
Ps 97:1 The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. 2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 3 Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side. 4 His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. 5 The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. 6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.
The author explains how this divine manifestation affects those who witness it, even those who never acknowledged the Lord.
Ps 97:7 All who worship images are put to shame, those who boast in idols — worship him, all you gods! 8 Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments, O LORD. 9 For you, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
The psalmist does not say when the Lord will appear but encourages the faithful to remain committed to Him while they wait.
Ps 97:10 Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. 11 Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. 12 Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.
This final portion of the psalm includes one of the Great Expectations of Man's Love. Unlike other passages in this sermon series, it is not an entirely positive admonition. There are negative elements that God's people must identify in order to implement Love that Discriminates.

If you are not there already, please turn to Ps 97 and consider with me v. 10, whose initial admonition describes...1

I. The Character of the Righteous
Ps 97:10a Let those who love the LORD hate evil....

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Love that decides (Mic 6:6-8)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

We face many choices in life. Some are easy to make; others are difficult. Occasionally, we may wish we had some help deciding—or not.
A young man, hitchhiking through Kentucky, got a ride from a farmer in an old pickup. After driving for a while, the farmer asked, "Have you ever had real moonshine?" "No," his passenger replied. "I don't drink much, and moonshine would probably be too strong for my taste." "Nonsense," said the farmer, as he reached for a small jug. "Try this." After several attempts by the young man to decline the offer, the farmer stopped the truck, pulled a shotgun off the rack behind him, and pointed it at his passenger. "I said, 'Take a drink!" "Okay!" the young man said. "I'll have some." When he took a swig, his throat muscles tightened, his eyes watered, and he made a choking sound. "Good, ain't it?" the farmer asked. "Yeah, I guess so" the young man gasped. The farmer grinned and said, "Now hold the gun on me, and make me drink." (Adapted from Hodgin 1998:225)
Thankfully, when it comes to obeying God, He does not hold a gun on us. It is a choice He allows us to make, although He does gives us some guidance in Great Expectations of Man's Love, this morning In the Prophets with Love that Decides.

Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and ministered in the Southern Kingdom of Judah during the latter half of the eighth century. As with most of the prophets, Micah speaks out against the sin of God's people, calling them to repent and threatening divine judgment if they continue in their unrighteous lifestyle. He presents his oracles in the form of a lawsuit in which God charges the people with violating the covenant He made with them at Sinai, despite what He had done for them in Egypt. Please turn to chapter 6, where God demands that the people answer for their disobedience, calling creation itself to witness against them.
Mic 6:1 Listen to what the LORD says: "Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. 2 Hear, O mountains, the LORD's accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the LORD has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel. 3 "My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. 4a I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed You from the land of slavery."
Following this charge, Micah poses a series of rhetorical questions in vv. 6-7 to highlight the people's wrong thinking about God. They have made religion solely a matter of ritual. Hence, the prophet asks...

I. What is God's requirement? (vv. 6-7)
Mic 6:6a With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Love that dedicates (Deut 6:4-6)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

What are you worth? That probably depends on whom you ask. Your mother would probably give a different answer than your boss, who would give a different answer than a person who does not know you. Discovering someone's opinion about you can be elevating or deflating.
Early one morning, a woman made a mad dash out of the house when she heard the garbage truck pulling away. She was still in an old bathrobe and beat-up slippers, her hair wrapped in curlers and her face covered with sticky cream. In short, she was a frightful sight. "Wait," she called. "Am I too late for the garbage?" ..."No," came the reply.... "Hop right in." (Adapted from Hodgin 1994:26)
Thankfully, God views us as worth keeping. How do we regard His worth, and how do we demonstrate that view?

Our previous sermon series noted that the divine attribute of love has always been an important part of God's relating to man. It is a consistent and persistent thread that wends its way through scripture, from the first collection of biblical books to the last. It is also not one-sided. Just as God has extended His love to us, so He expects us to reciprocate. This, too, is a thread that wends its way through scripture, from the first collection of biblical books to the last. So, from Great Expressions of God's Love, we turn next to Great Expectations of Man's Love, exploring how we are to make this divine attribute our own attribute. As before, we will select an example of what God expects from each of the main biblical collections.
  • From the Law: Love that Dedicates (Deut 6:4-6)
  • From the Prophets: Love that Decides (Mic 6:6-8)
  • From the Writings: Love that Discriminates (Ps 97:10)
  • From the Gospels: Love that Defines (John 13:34-35)
  • From the Epistles: Love that Dominates (1 Cor 13)
When God's people finally reach the eastern border of Canaan, forty years after a failed attempt to take the land from the south, Moses addresses a new generation of Israelites. Unlike the previous generation, they will trust and obey the Lord to help them conquer the region He had promised them. Moses knows, however, that they are not much different from their forefathers and that they will fail God if they do not remain vigilant in their devotion to Him. On the plains of Moab, along the eastern shore of the Jordan River, Moses gives a brief summary of their history, then launches into an extensive review of the law they received from God at Sinai, forty years earlier (hence, the name of this book: Deuteronomy, or "second law"). In chapter 5, Moses prefaces his law review with the Reader's Digest version of torah, the ten-point, representative summary of the 613 commandments God gave Israel. Before Moses recounts the complete list, he inserts an exhortation in chapter 6 explaining why they should obey.1 It is one of the Great Expectations of Man's Love—Love that Dedicates. Please turn to Deut 6, where Moses tells the people that...

I. Israel must have a singular appreciation of the LORD (v. 4).
Deut 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
For many Jews, this is the single most important verse in the Old Testament.2 It is called "The Shema," because that is the verse's first word in Hebrew:
"The Shema" is both a declaration of faith in and a pledge of allegiance to the one true God. It is part of the regular morning and evening prayers, part of the Sabbath and holiday liturgies. It is the first verse a Jewish child learns and is among the last words a Jew may utter before his death.3

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

About Mormonism

pdf (29 pages)
Dr. Paul Manuel—1990

I. History
A. Founder—Joseph Smith
1. His early years
a. Joseph Smith was born December 23, 1805 in Sharon, VT to Joseph and Lucy Smith, the third child of five brothers and three sisters (PGP Smith 2:3-4), and moved to Palmyra, NY in 1815 (PGP Smith 2:7).
b. He dabbled in the occult by employing divination (e.g., magical "peek" stones) in a persistent search for Captain Kidd's treasure (Martin 1977:50).
c. He was confused by denominationalism, struggling with apparent discrepancies, and was impressed by reading James 1:5 (PGP Smith 2:915).1
Jms 1:5 But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
2. His visions
a. In 1820 Smith saw God the Father and God the Son, who counseled against any denominational affiliation, condemning each group as wrong—"an abomination" (PGP Smith 2:16-19).
b. In 1823 he saw the angel Moroni, who informed Smith of the location [Hill Cumorah] of book of golden plates containing "the fulness of the everlasting Gospel" and commissioned Smith to translate the book with the aid of "two stones in silver bows...the Urim and Thummim," buried with the plates (PGP Smith 2:30-43, 51).
c. In 1827 Smith again saw Moroni, who permitted him to remove the plates from their hiding place (PGP Smith 2:59).
3. His translation
a. Smith began translating the plates in 1829 from "reformed Egyptian," aided by Oliver Cowdery (PGP Smith 2:66-69; BM Morm 9:32).
b. He completed the translation within two months (Richards 1978:71) and returned the plates to Moroni (PGP Smith 2:60).
c. He published the first English edition of the Book of Mormon in 1830 (BM publishing information page).

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Scripture v Jehovah's Witnesses

See the pdf (18 pages) for the entire paper.
Dr. Paul Manuel—2009

I. Differences in Bibliology
  • Only their interpretation of scripture is correct.2
  1. " it known that no other system of theology even claims, or has ever attempted, to harmonize in itself every statement of the Bible; yet nothing short of this can we claim." (Russell 1917 1:348)
  2. "...Jehovah had chosen the publication we now call The Watchtower to be used as a channel through which to bring to the world of mankind a revelation of the divine will and, through the words revealed in its columns, to bring a division of the world's population into those who would do the divine will and those who would not." Watchtower 1959:22, quoted in Gruss 1980:218)
2 Pet 1:20 prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation.3
II. Differences in Theology
A. God does not exist in three persons (trinity).4
  1. "...such a doctrine is not of God." (Watchtower 1959:22, quoted in Gruss 1980:218)
  2. "The obvious conclusion is, therefore, that Satan is the originator of the trinity doctrine." (Watchtower 1952:100)
  3. "...sincere persons who want to know the true God and serve him find it a bit difficult to love and worship a complicated, freakish-looking, three-headed God." (Watchtower 1952:101)
  4. "The trinity doctrine was not conceived by Jesus or the early Christians. Nowhere in the Scriptures is even any mention made of a trinity.., the plain truth is that this is another of Satan's attempts to keep God-fearing persons from learning the truth of Jehovah and his Son, Christ Jesus. No, there is no trinity!" (Watchtower 1952:102)
a. Matt 3:16-17 And Jesus, when he was baptized... saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove...and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, "This is my beloved-Son —
b. Matt 28:19 ...baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
c. 2 Cor 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, February 27, 2017

New Testament Judaism

Dr. Paul Manuel—2000

In this study we will examine various political and religious groups in the Second Temple Period. The chart (at the end) should help to keep things straight, as it is a list of these groups, some of which do not appear by name in the New Testament. In most cases, I have listed all the references in Matthew for each group, as well as a few references elsewhere in the New Testament.

I. Major (mainstream) Parties
A. Sanhedrin
Matt 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Matt 26:59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.
Acts 23:6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead."
The Sanhedrin was the supreme religious, political, and judicial body in Palestine during the Second Temple Period.1 Its powers were restricted during Roman rule, but the council continued to exercise considerable authority. For example, of all Jewish courts in Israel, only the Sanhedrin could try a high priest or a false prophet.2 It was composed of members from both Sadducean and Pharisaic parties,3 with one group generally predominating. In New Testament times the Sadducees had control of the council, over which the high priest Caiaphas (also a Sadducee) presided.4
B. Sadducees
Matt 16:1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
Matt 22:23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.
Acts 4:1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
Acts 5:17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy.
Acts 23:6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead." ...8 The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
Sadducees were a political and religious party composed mainly of members from the upper-class (priests, merchants, aristocrats).5 They held the majority of seats on the Sanhedrin and were, consequently, the ruling force during the Second Temple Period. Their primary field of influence was in the Temple, as many of the Sadducees were functionaries there. Unlike the Pharisees, they did not believe in Oral Torah, the resurrection, immortality of the soul,6 or a developed hierarchy of angels.7 Although the Sadducees' position on the Sanhedrin gave them considerable influence in the religious life of Israel, they ceased as a political and religious force after the destruction of the temple in 70 c.e. (Mansoor 1972:620-622).

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Canaan and Israel

Dr. Paul Manuel—2011

Israel has similar concerns as its neighbors: how to relate to the environment, how to relate to each other, how to relate to the divine. Many, perhaps most, aspects of culture are neutral, devoid of any moral content (that is, moral in the broad sense of the term, as it relates to holiness).1 For example, just as the people of Canaan cultivated grapes, so the Israelites, upon entering the land, cultivated grapes. Grape production is morally neutral.2 Other aspects of culture, however, have definite moral implications. Although the Israelites had vineyards, like their pagan neighbors, unlike their neighbors, they could not harvest the entire vintage but had to leave the gleanings for the poor.
Lev 19:10 Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.
It is in such cases of morality that the Bible defines how Israel, though part of the greater Ancient Near East (ANE), is to be distinct from it.3 The following illustrations demonstrate this distinction between amoral and moral from various aspects of ANE culture.

I. Man's relationship with nature
A. Food
  • People in the ANE, Israelite and pagan, had access to a wide range of potential food items.4 Because they both lived in the same geographical area, they had common agricultural practices; Israelites raised some of the same crops as their Canaanite neighbors.
Deut 6:10 Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied,
Nevertheless, whereas pagans apparently had few restrictions on what they could eat,5 Israelites had a broad but not completely open diet.
Lev 20:25 You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean. 26 Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.
Even items that might otherwise be acceptable to Israelites become unacceptable in certain circumstances, although they remained sources of food for other residents in the land.6

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Bible

Dr. Paul Manuel—Seventh Day Baptist Youth Retreat

As followers of Jesus, we hold The Bible as the Core of Christian Belief. In this session, we will be discussing how it has come down to us from long ago and how we have managed to keep it largely unchanged. Unlike other books we might read, the Bible was not written by a single human author over the course of a few years. The Bible is a far more extensive work, composed over a much longer period and written by a host of authors.

I. How did we get the Bible?
A. Its Creation: Is the Bible a book? (Yes and no)
  1. The Bible is 66 books by at least 45 authors written over a period of about 1500 years.1
  2. The Bible grew from several collections of books.
  3. The Bible is now a single book that Jews and (with the New Testament) Christians recognize as inspired by God.2
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
  • The Bible is a collection of many books.
What makes this collection different from a regular library is that these books claim to speak for God and to have authority from God, which makes them our main source for information about God and about what He expects from us. Nevertheless, the Bible is only useful for those who understand it, and to grasp the significance of a passage, we must ask two simple but important questions:
  • What does it mean?
  • Why does it matter?
Later, we will see how answering these questions can help us understand a sample passage.

The Bible is not merely one book but a collection of many books. Moreover, they are not all the same kind of book. They may have stories or poetry, laws or prophecy, whatever type of literature the biblical authors choose to write.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The tetragram

Dr. Paul Manuel—2008

The biblical scholarly community has made extensive and free use of the tetragram(maton) for many years, both in writing and teaching. The practice is gaining acceptance among pastors and is even prevalent among the laity of certain denominations (e.g., Sacred Name). Some view this as a positive trend, one that enables people "to call on the name of the LORD" (Ps 116:13, 17), yet the result may actually be to make profane (common) what should remain sacred. Although use of the divine name is not a doctrinal issue basic to the faith, it is a concern to some of God's people and, as such, is a matter about which others should be aware. This brief discussion, in part, reflects the attitude and custom of many observant Jews (Messianic and non-Messianic), but the position it espouses derives support from what God has said on the matter, from the many traditions that have arisen as a result, and from the likely negative implications of a more tolerant approach.

The third commandment of the Decalogue is a suitable place to begin. Its most obvious meaning is that people should not use God's name in any way that would reflect improperly on His character, whether directly or by inference.
Exod 20:7 [= Deut 5:11] You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Commentators and preachers frequently read this passage as a prohibition against vulgar language1 or (less directly) as a metonymy for wrong behavior. The most obvious meaning, however, does relate to speech, and examples from the biblical text point primarily to speech of a specific kind: the use of the Name in oaths.2
Lev 19:12 Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.
Deut 6:13 ( 10:20) Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.
The Bible offers one other example of improper use of the tetragram in speech: blaspheming the Name.
Lev 24:10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them. 13 Then the LORD said to Moses: 14 "Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15 Say to the Israelites: 'If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death."
The seriousness of blasphemy is evident not only in its penalty (death) but in the associated crimes that God lists, some of which (e.g., murder) require the same punishment.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Peter and Paul

Dr. Paul Manuel—2009

The movement Jesus established sees its greatest growth first under the ministry of Peter, then under that of Paul, although they are not the only ones engaged in spreading the gospel. Moreover, from the beginning, the good news is decidedly ecumenical in its appeal, culturally and ethnically. Those to whom Peter directs his Pentecost invitation are either Jews or converts to Judaism, and they are the ones who constitute the initial Jerusalem assembly.1
Acts 2:5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.... 10c visitors from Rome 11a (both Jews and converts to Judaism).... 22a "Men of Israel, listen to this...." 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
As they meet in the temple court (and in home s),2 their number increases gradually,3 but it jumps significantly after Peter remarks on the healing of a lame beggar.
Acts 4:4 ...many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
This growth also includes members of the temple staff.
Acts 6:7b The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Stephen's murder seems to galvanize opposition to the gospel, initiating a wave of persecution that forces many believers to leave Jerusalem and take the good news to other areas.4 Philip, for example, wins a number of converts among the Samaritans.
Acts 8:5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.... 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
A delegation from the Jerusalem confirms the status of these new converts and spreads the news in other Samaritan towns upon its return.
Acts 8:14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.... 25 When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.
Peter's experience with Samaritans, who bear a quasi-ethnic relation to Jews,5 may prepare him for the more radical notion that the gospel will also find acceptance among gentiles. For his next assignment, Peter becomes the first apostle to bring the good news to non-Jews.6
Acts 10:28 He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.