Ethical Vengeance – Christian Ethics and the Imprecatory Psalms

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Jesus once said that we should pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44), but is it ethical to pray for them to die? God is “not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness,” said David (Psalm 5:4 [KJV]). Paradoxically, in the same Psalm, he also prays for his enemies, saying, “destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own councils” (v. 10). In Psalm 5, David is asking God to lead him in His righteousness; in Psalm 139, David is confessing God’s attributes and one of his roles, mainly, that He is the Creator. With a confessional tone, David seeks for holiness and at the same time asks God to destroy his own enemies—for according to David, they are enemies of God as well. Imprecatory Psalms are known for awakening emotions and desires that Christians seem to suppress. Some argue that those Psalms are just a type of sub-Christian ethic (liberals), while others, like John Calvin, firmly believe that David is not praying out of his selfish desires, but praying as one who has a “holy zeal for the divine Glory.”[1] However, after a careful analysis of these two Psalms, readers will be able to recognize specific details about David and God himself, and because of that, will affirm that those Psalms harmonize with the Christian ethic of love and charity for three reasons: the tone in which David prays reveals his zeal for something higher that mere personal vengeance, these Psalms provide internal evidences that David’s prayers were not violent or negative, and the content of these Psalms is reaffirmed by Jesus.

David’s attitude was not fueled by a sense of revenge, since he was well acquainted with Deuteronomy 32:35. He believed that to God belongeth vengeance to the point that he prayed instead of taking action himself. Being a military leader himself, he had the motives and the means to accomplish personal vengeance, but that was not his desire. David knew that God “wilt slay the wicked” in the last day (Ps. 139:19), and because he knew that, David opts for prayer (as he has done before).[2] David starts his prayer with deep sadness and crying, and he directs his prayer directly to God (Ps. 5:1-3). Why would he pray directly to God if he was sinning?[3] “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee” (v. 4). David prayed directly to God because he knew who God is. Allen P. Ross, Professor of Old Testament at the Beeson Divinity School, writes on the metonymy of cause (throat, in verse 9) and the metaphor “open grave” explaining that both terms were used to indicate that what those people were saying left “death and ruined lives in their wake.”[4] David was not praying for God to destroy his personal enemies who were bullying him, nor was he “using” God as a slave who obeys what the master says, but he prayed from a desire that burned inside the man after God’s own heart: the vindication of God’s name.

In Psalm 139 David glorifies God as the Creator. Besides glorifying his attributes, he recognizes that God is the only one who knows him perfectly. Michael E. Travers, Professor of English at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, argues that in this Psalm, David is praising God’s omnipotence (vv. 1-6), omnipresence (vv. 7-12), omniscience (vv. 17-18), and righteousness and holiness (vv. 19-20).[5] This Psalm could be considered a hymn, and godly men like R. C. Sproul Jr. have recognized that “imprecatory Psalms are particularly helpful to prayer life.”[6] Psalm 139 seeks to glorify God’s attributes and praise him through a hymn, and verse 19 indicates that violence is not in the mind of the Psalmist. David is sure that God “wilt slay the wicked.” He is so sure that he asks God to depart them from him, a request that would make no sense if he was planning to slay his enemies all by himself. Timothy Keller rightly said that “if I don’t believe that there is a God who will eventually put all things right, I will take up the sword and will be sucked into the endless vortex of retaliation. Only if I am sure that there’s a God who will right all wrongs and settle all accounts perfectly do I have the power to refrain.”[7] David’s prayer now becomes internal evidence that he was not violent, and that God is a loving God that will right all wrongs in the end.

What David is asking in both Psalm 5 and 139 is for God’s kingdom to come. When the reader faces the sentence, “thou hatest all workers of iniquity” (Ps. 5:5), he or she must remember of Zechariah 14:9: “And the Lord shall be king over all earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.” When God’s kingdom come, all workers of iniquity, whom God hates, will receive their just condemnation, and God will be glorified through that.[8] David’s prayer is aligned to Jesus’ methodology of prayer from the Sermon on the Mount. “Thy kingdom come,” is more than a longing to see God in full (Matt. 5:10), it is a request for the whole book of Revelation to be actualized by God. All the works of the Devil will be destroyed (1 John 3:8), and since David hated those whom God hates (Ps. 139:21-22), both David’s and Jesus’ desires will be satisfied.[9] David’s tone and imagery foreshadow Jesus’ request in the Lord’s prayer, corroborating Jesus’ words on the inspiration of the Psalms (Matt. 5:44).

David sang his longings for God’s kingdom to come fully; Jesus taught us to pray for the completeness of His kingdom. God is not a God that has pleasure in wickedness, and that is the reason of why David prayed instead of acting: praying means trust in God’s character, while acting would be wickedness in God’s sight. Few things are more ethical, Christian, and loving, than trusting in God’s future justice, and both Psalms 5 and 139 point to this direction. Once again, David proved to be the man after God’s own heart by trusting in the promise of Deuteronomy 32:35. Christians should follow David’s example of trusting in future justice, rather than taking vengeance themselves, for that is wickedness at God’s sight. God’s justice is perfect because his authority is greater than ours, because those who are condemned are condemned under a perfect and just verdict, and because God’s justice comes to the advancement of benevolence. No outraged and uncontrolled emotions are spoken by David in both of these Psalms, just a high-principled zeal for God’s majesty to be displayed to all, both saved and unsaved people.


[1] John Calvin, Commentary On the Book of Psalms (Michigan: Grand Rapids, 1949), 3:67.

[2] See 2 Samuel 24 and 26.

[3] This phrase must be understood with Jesus’ exegesis of the sixth commandment found in Matthew 5:21-22.

[4] Allen P. Ross, A Commentary On the Psalms, Kregel Exegetical Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2011), 252.

[5] Michael Ernest Travers, Encountering God in the Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2003), 308.

[6] R. C. Sproul, “Standing Fast,” Tabletalk, October, 2000, 2.

[7] Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton, 2008), 75.

[8] See Romans 9:22-23.

[9] Which should not surprise us, since David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

Going Down the Path of Life (Jonah 1-2:10)

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During the reign of Jeroboam II, king of the Israel, Jonah was called by God to prophesy against the city of Nineveh (Jon 1:1-2). Jonah was the son of Amittai and was living in Gath-Hepher when God spoke to him.[1] Regardless of God’s crystal clear command, Jonah wanted to follow his own ways. Instead of going east towards Nineveh, Jonah went west towards Tarshish (4:2). God, on the other hand, was not satisfied with Jonah’s disobedience. Through a “great wind upon the sea,” God prepared a scenario that ended up frightening everyone on board of the ship (1:4). After a short discussion, Jonah explains to the reason this storm is taking place is himself (v. 12). The prophet then asks to be picked up and hurled into the sea, and his wish is fulfilled (v.15). As Jonah entered the water, a giant fish swallows him, and inside the fish’s belly Jonah repents and calls out to the Lord. After his prayer, Jonah is vomited upon dry land.[2]

The main point of this passage is to show that is impossible to run away from God.[3] In Isaiah’s words: “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed and I will do it” (Isa. 46:10b and 11b [ESV]). Jonah tried to do his own way, but God’s plans regarding Nineveh could not fail.

Something that struck me in this passage is the geographical idea behind the author’s words. As soon as Jonah decided to reject God’s command, he started to go down in his life. When he found a ship to Tarshish, he went down into it (1:3). When the storm was taking place, Jonah went down into the inner part of the ship to sleep (v.5). After telling the mariners that he was fleeing from the presence of God, they threw Jonah into the sea—Jonah went down into the sea (v. 15). Jonah cried that God had cast him “into the deep, into the heart of the seas” (v.3). Jonah strongly stressed this “down” idea when, in verse chapter 2, verse 2, he puts himself crying “out of the belly of Sheol.” Again, Jonah cries out to God saying, “I went down to the land,” (v. 6, emphasis added by me). For the last time, Jonah declares that the Lord had brought up his life when he was in the pit—the lowest place one could be (v. 6b).[4] It seems that, after Jonah rejected God, he went down on the path of life. Interestingly, when Jonah repented, the fish vomited him out upon the dry land, and from that point on, Jonah’s life starts to build up again (v. 10).

The pattern used by the author made me think about what happens people reject to follow God’s orders and flee from him. Jonah’s life went down and only got worse, not because God was trying to punish him somehow—even though I would restrain from saying that punishment was not intended by God—, but because away from God’s presence, there is only one way: down. Sheol is used by Jonah to explain where he was, and if someone wants to argue that this is just an allegory, one would have to correct Jesus as well.[5] I would apply this passage by reflecting if I am following God’s commands as they should be obeyed—i.e. diligently (c.f. Ps. 119:4)—, or as Jonah, who was told to arise and go to Nineveh, but who rose to flee from God’s presence. It also makes me think that trying to do something necessarily and inherently impossible is foolishness; Jonah was not able to flee from God, and David would agree that flee from God’s presence is an unreasonable task.[6] To accept his ways is the best thing I can do, for His ways are higher than my ways (Isa. 55:9).


[1] C.f. II Kings 14:25 and Joshua 19:13.

[2] If it was immediately after his prayer or not, this is not specified in the biblical narrative. Fortunately, this information is not necessary to interpret the passage correctly.

[3] One could argue that Jonah did in fact run away, but the end of the story would argue otherwise.

[4] I do understand that my point is not the main idea of the passage, and some would say it is an allegory. However, I think the writer did not emphasize those words by mistake.

[5] C.f Matthew 12:41, when Jesus referred to Jonah as a real person in history.

[6] C.f. Psalm 139:7-12.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PETER’S CONFESSIONS IN THE GOSPEL OF MARK (Context, Commentary, and Application)

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This post is part of my series on Peter’s confession in the gospel of Mark. I have already presented the historical background, an outline of the passage, and the main idea of the text in part I (so if you haven’t read it, go ahead and get acquainted with my thesis before moving on).  Now I will move on to the literary context, a brief commentary on the passage, and some applications. Sem mais delongas, let’s move on.

Literary Context

The passage starts when Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida.[1] Before that, Jesus cast out an unclean spirit from the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30), in the regions of Tyre and Sidon, which are the banks of the Mediterranean Sea. After performing such deed, Jesus “returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Decapolis” (7:31-37). In that location, Jesus heals a deaf man. Among that region, Jesus fed four thousand people, before going to the district of Dalmanutha with his disciples.[2] On the southwestern side of the coast of the Sea of Galilee, in Magdala, Jesus used his last miraculous event as a hook for his next teaching (8:14-21). Interestingly, before healing the blind man at Bethsaida, the disciples had already forgotten what Jesus had done in the multiplication of bread (8:17-21).

Bethsaida was a fishing town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Philip, Peter, and Andrew used to live in that location.[3] Caesarea Philippi, on the other hand, is located at the foot of Mount Hermon, a possible site of Jesus’ transfiguration, found in chapter 9. The reader may conclude that Jesus was containing his ministry in Gentile territory, provided that he keeps in mind the geographical locations from previous events. Interestingly, Caesarea Philippi was the capital of Herod’s tetrarchy; the place where “Herod the Great built a grand marble temple to honor the emperor,” observes Arnold.[4] Lane adds, “The area was thus dominated by strong Roman associations, and it may be theologically significant that Jesus’s dignity was first recognized in a region devoted to the affirmation that Caesar is Lord.”[5]

James A. Brooks, the commentator of The New American Commentary, provides plausible information, regarding the setting of the events from chapter 8, when he relates the two-stage healing to Jesus’ rebuke of Peter.[6] Obviously, the writer did not wrote these events randomly. The reader can also note that the disciples misunderstood what Jesus was trying to convey in 8:14-21, yet clearly understood the Christological aspect of Jesus’ life a few verses later. Right after Peter’s Christological confession, Jesus predicts—for the first time in the book of Mark—his redemptive plan, which is possibly an indication of the Messianic aspects within the personhood of Christ.

Since the first verse of the gospel of Mark refers to Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, one can conclude that all accounts of Jesus in this book are reflecting to what the Son of God is like. His identity is expressed by his actions. DeSilva, on the other hand, believes that “The dark, strenuous and demanding presentation of messiahship and discipleship gives the Gospel a tragic dimension, in the most stately sense of the word—a tragedy that becomes good news.”[7] Of course, the good news are not contained in the fact that people failed to recognize the true aspects of Jesus’ messiahship, but in the “redemptive purposes of God for a new people through Jesus’ death and in God’s final word of vindication, both on behalf of Jesus in his resurrection and on behalf of Jesus’ disciples at the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven.”[8]

Boring explains that in this section, “The disciples, supposedly initiated into the secret of Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God.”[9] It seems that even though the disciples had discovered Jesus’ Messianic nature, they were supposed to keep it secretly. Just as the healed man was told not to go into the village, but to keep that information in secrecy.

Is also important to say that the healing of the blind man occurs only in the gospel of Mark. The healing of the deaf man in 7:31-37, is also exclusive for this work. The way Mark organized this passage should not be discarded. The healing of the blind man, and the healing of the deaf man, are both done in very unusual forms are are certainly connected somehow.

Literary echoes are very present in this narrative and can be easily identified. In 8:19-20 Jesus recalls when he fed five thousand and four thousand (6:30-44; 8:1-10); Peter’s confession sheds light in chapter 6:14-17, regarding Jesus’ identity; Jesus’ upcoming passion is predicted three times throughout Mark (8:31; 9:31; 10:32-33); and the phrase “don’t you understand?” is also repeated in a very close context (8:17 and 21).

 

Interpretative Analysis: Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida and Tells Him Not to Enter the Village (8:22-26)

The healing of the blind man starts a change in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was focusing his teaching on the crowds, but now Jesus’ is focusing his ideas and philosophies with the disciples. The shift is not only on the recipients, but Jesus’ teachings become focused in his identity and redemptive plan. Brooks perfectly puts: “In the first division only the demons recognized the true identity of Jesus; in the second the disciples started to understand, although their comprehension was still inadequate.” [10]

When Jesus came to Bethsaida, some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him (8:22). Jesus takes the man out of the village, probably to avoid the crowds, as he had done before.[11] Mark records this healing with exotic details. Jesus spit on the blind man’s eyes to heal him. Interestingly, when Jesus healed the deaf man in the region of Tyre, he also used different methods.[12] It is important to note that these physical acts are not the cause of the miracle, for Jesus had healed before without physical acts.[13] Why Jesus used spit is debatable. Dr. H. van der Loos, in his book “The Miracles of Jesus”, argues that spittle was regarded as a remedial force in Jewish and Hellenistic cultures.[14] If Jesus was trying to establish a relation with the blind man or if he was using mythological elements to ascertain his authority among Jews, the readers will never know for sure. As Micklem comments, “Jesus was not a miraculous therapeutic machine: He dealt with individuals individually and personally, and not in a mechanical way.”[15] This healing occurs in a two-part way. Firstly, the man comes back to see partially, like trees. Secondly, He sees perfectly again.[16] As said before, this process is not due to the lack of power in Jesus, but Jesus is illustrating the condition of the disciples, who had already been touched by Jesus but were still living with a fuzzy vision (v. 21).

Jesus’ story is not merely historical, but also theological. When Jesus healed the blind man by his own authority, he was corroborating his deity, since is “the Lord [who] opens the eyes of the blind” (Ps. 146:8). In one miraculous act, Jesus exemplified the disciples’ condition, used Jewish elements to restore his authority, and advocated for his deity. Only inspired Scripture could capture so much inside so little.

 

On The Way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus Inquires His Disciples Regarding His Identity and Peter Confesses Jesus as The Christ (8:27-30)

Right in the center of his work, Mark narrates Peters recognition of the Christness of Jesus. Lane comments, “The pivotal importance of this moment is indicated by the fact that already in the first line of the Gospel the evangelist designates Jesus as the Messiah.”[17]

Jesus asks his disciples regarding his identity. Answers are given according to what other people have been saying about who Jesus was. Jesus did not accept such answer, for Jesus he is interested in individuals. “You are the Christ,” Peter answers. Now everything is changing. In the healing of the blind man, Jesus’ identity was demonstrated; in Peter’s answer Jesus’ identity is recognized. Back in the Sea of Galilee, the disciples asked who was Jesus, but no answer was given (4:41). Instead of providing a spoken answer, Jesus worked out his identity through his life to the point that his disciples were now able to answer their own question. In 8:17-21 Jesus was inciting that answer, but only after his illustration through the healing of the blind man they were able to penetrate the veil that was covering them in ignorance. Before this, Jesus was concerned with the masses, but through this confession he switches the focus to his disciples.

 

Jesus Foretells His Suffering and Redemptive Plan to His Disciples (8:31-38)

Since the disciples were now convinced of the Messianic character of Jesus’ identity, Jesus predicts, for the first time, his redemptive plan. Is like if the disciple’s minds were now open and able to receive this whole new level of information. The removal of the characteristic veil, enables the disciples to grasp the totality of the redeeming plan of the Son of God. A multitude of spiritual truth can now be digested by their minds, and Jesus finally can demand from them serious responsibilities.

Immediately after Peter’s confession, Jesus starts to foretell his suffering and death. It must have been shocking for his disciples, who had just recognized who Jesus really was, to hear that the elders and the chief priests and the scribes were going to reject him. And not only that, but that after that he would be killed. Jesus, however, made it explicitly clear that after three days he would rise again from the dead. Peter, however, takes Jesus aside and rebukes him. Evidently, Peter had not completely understood Jesus’ plan. Is as if he did not listen to the last part when Jesus tells them that resurrection is certain. As Paul warned the Corinthians, for many, “the word of the cross is folly” (1 Co. 1:18). Probably, Peter remembered of the law’s requirements concerning crucified bodies.[18] To admit that Christ would die on a cross would mean that Christ would be cursed by God, what made no sense to their minds in that moment. The idea of torment and the King Messiah were not compatible in the minds of Jews. That is so, that the Targum to Isaiah 53 applies the blessings to the King Messiah but not the sufferings; the suffering was applied to people alone.[19]

Jesus’ strongly censured Peter’s words (8:33). Not because he was possessed or had incorporated a demon, but because his response to Christ’s atonement is correspondent to Satan’s. If Peter had been successful in his attempt to stop Jesus, Satan’s goal would have been accomplished. Not God’s. Peter’s action was, probably, fully emotional, yet Jesus distinguishes Peter’s temporal desire to be with him, to the eternal plan that God had for him.

Christ calls everyone that is around him to hear a great revelation: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (v. 34). Jesus’ words might not have been understood at the moment, but when Simon of Cyrene took Jesus’ cross and came after him, the idea could have gained life in the disciple’s minds (15:21). The conditions to follow Jesus are stated, and the cost is high. Jesus speaks paradoxically into the minds of his followers; to loose life is to gain life, and to gain life is to loose life. Jesus explains these apparent contradiction extricating body from soul. To win your life is to gain the whole world; to lose your life is to save your soul. To win your life will result in loss (forfeit his soul), but to lose your life for Christ’s sake and for the gospel’s is to save your own soul.

Jesus also demands his followers to be unashamed regarding his death. But see that Jesus is asking them to be shameless regarding a man who would be cursed by God himself. His speech is enticing a sense of revolution in his disciples. The old law is not important anymore. Jesus, God himself, has came down from heaven and is describing God’s character straight from God’s mouth. No prophet brought this message, but God himself.

Lane defends that “verse 38 is parallel in structure to verse 35 and complementary in intention.”[20] Jesus really makes it an unequivocal statement; those who are ashamed of him in a perverted world, because of debauched people, will not taste the shameless glory of the Heavens, given by a supremely Holy God. Considering this demand, Paul boldly states: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Rom. 1:16).

 

Application

The first part of the passage indicates that even people who know Jesus can have difficulty to see things clear. Those who claim to be his followers ought to ask Jesus and beg him to touch their eyes to see the glory of God. A fuzzy vision did not delight Jesus, and Christians should keep in mind that spiritual fuzziness is not gratifying to God. A desire to clean the fog in our understating should flourish from our hearts as this passage is read.

Jesus demonstrated a specific interest in Peter’s words. A multitude of people had opinions and ideas concerning who Jesus was, but Jesus was captivated by what his real followers had to say. The recognition of the Messiah is an individual task, and every Christ-follower must inquire himself regarding who Christ is for him. Peter’s confession resulted in a different type of relationship with Jesus. Who we say Jesus is, exerts great influence in our relationship with him. The more accurate the confession, more of God will be given to us.

To assume that Jesus is the Christ is a confession that has responsibilities. To recognize Jesus as Christ in the midst of this adulterous and sinful generation is to be willing to give up on your own life. In the same way, to be ashamed of Christ’s straightforwardness in his message is to declare bankruptcy to your soul. Those who are eager to confess with their mouths that Jesus is the Christ, as Peter did, should not be less enthusiastic about professing this affirmation through the deliverance of earthly affairs. The physical ambition is the cross; the metaphysical objective is Heaven. Let us confess, like Paul, that we are not ashamed of the gospel, and let us substantiate this immaterial affirmation through sufferings and afflictions for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s.


[1] Specifically, Bethsaida Julius. Located many miles north of the Sea of Galilee and east of the Jordan River.

[2] Some manuscripts use the words Magadan, or Magdala.

[3] Thomas V. Brisco, Holman Bible Atlas (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman, ©1998), 220-221.

[4] Clinton A. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary, 254.

[5] Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, 289.

[6] James A. Brooks, The New American Commentary, vol. 23, Mark (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1991), 132-133.

[7] DeSilva, Introduction to The New Testament, 201.

[8] Ibid., 201.

[9] Eugene Boring, Introduction to The New Testament, 518.

[10] Brooks, The New American Commentary, 131.

[11] C.f. Mark 5:40 and 7:33. In view of 1:23-28; 3:1-5; 9:14-17, it gets difficult to identify Jesus’ modus operands regarding isolation or public manifestations.

[12] C.f. Mark 7:33.

[13] C.f Luke 4:38-40 and 14:4 for a brief example.

[14] H. van der Loon, The Miracles of Jesus, (Netherlands: Leiden, EJB, Tuta Sub Aegide Pallas, 1965), 307-310.

[15] E. R. Micklem, Miracles & The New Psychology: A Study in the Healing Miracles of the New Testament (London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press), 102.

[16] The use of words “back” and “again” are intentional. Since he recognized a “tree” shape from distance, this can be an indicator that he was not blind at some point in his life.

[17] Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, 288.

[18] C.f. Deuteronomy 21:23.

[19] J. F. Stenning, The Targum of Isaiah (London: Oxford University Press, Amen House), 178-181.

[20] Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, 310.

The Significance of Peter’s Confessions in the Gospel of Mark (Introduction)

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Introduction

The book of Mark, second book of the New Testament, is a document which focuses on the proclamation of the Gospel.[1] Because of this verse, the R. C. Sproul suggests that “Mark may have been the first to assign the title ‘gospel’ to a written document.”[2]

All of the New Testament Gospels are anonymous, including Mark.[3] Boring and Craddock explain that “neither the author nor the readers personally experienced the original events.”[4] The events were transmitted through oral tradition, a variety of a chain effect in which the history is “mediated to the author, to the original readers, and to us by the Christian community, the church. It is not a chain of individuals, but a community of faith, that mediates the gospel to later believers and inquirers.”[5] Some of the oral tradition was written down, as Luke admits when he declares that “many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the this that have been accomplished among us” (Luke 1:1 [ESV]). Even though John Mark was not an apostle, Scriptures record him constantly gathered with other apostles and early Christians.[6] The Scripture provides many references to a figure called John Mark, and to ignore those references as a possible connection to the author of this work would be, at least, naïve. Eusebius also provides reliable information concerning the authorship of Mark.[7]

Concerning the date of this work, is commonly accepted that Mark was written before A.D. 70. David A. DeSilva, author of more than twenty-five books, clarifies the argument of those who oppose such date writing that, “The primary reason many scholars tend to date Mark’s Gospel after A.D. 70 is the presupposition that Jesus could not foresee the destruction of Jerusalem—an ideological conviction clearly not shared by all.”[8] Craig S. Keener’s position on this topic is that “Mark wrote his Gospel to Roman Christians during the time of the great persecution in Rome, about A.D. 64.”[9] An unidentified spectator also provides firm support for the early date: “Mark recorded, who was called Colobodactylus, because he had fingers that were too small for the height of the rest of his body.  He himself was the interpreter of Peter.  After the death of Peter himself, the same man wrote this gospel in the parts of Italy.”[10] Irenaeus also confirms the Anti-Marcionite Prologue attesting that “after the death of these [Peter and Paul] Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing the things preached by Peter” (Irenaeus, Adversus Heareses 3. i. 2). On the other hand, Eusebius relates that Mark wrote his Gospel while Peter was still alive (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2. 15). Some have tried to resolve this problem, but what is relevant here is that the book was written somewhere just before or just after Peter’s death. The issue of the date is directed to whether or not 13:5-23 is a reference to Nero’s persecution in A.D. 64. The book of Mark was used by Matthew and Luke, so a date between 60-70AD is potentially probable.

Passages like 7:2-4 support the idea that Mark’s readers were ignorant regarding Jewish traditions, what could attest to the idea that Mark did not write his Gospel in Palestine.[11] His references to members of the Roman church can suggest that this was written when Mark was present in Rome with Peter (1 Pet. 5:13).[12]  Mark also explains many Semitic terminologies to his audience, which would be unnecessary if his readers were Palestinians.[13] Occasionally, instead of explaining the meaning of the ancient word, Mark makes use of Latin expressions, which can also confirm that his audience knew Latin, as the Romans did.[14] The cabal evidence for this is found when Mark uses the Roman system of time as reference in his work.[15] In light of these internal evidences, the Roman audience must be kept in mind when scrutinizing Mark’s work.[16]

The book of Mark seeks to fortify the faith of believers who were suffering; to explain the current suffering of believers; to admonish “cross-bearing” as integral to discipleship;  to encourage believers with hope—in spite of their failures.[17] In Mark’s book, Jesus is presented as servant who came to suffer in their place (Mark 10:45), which could have relation to Mark’s persistent explanation for suffering among believers. Interestingly, the teachings of Jesus are not so emphasized as his miracles in this book. On the other hand, Jesus’ humanity is more stressed here than in any other gospel.[18] With this in mind, it seems that Mark was trying to help his readers to understand the Jewish tradition that was surrounding them, and accustom them with who Jesus was—both his deity and humanity.

Main Idea

The identity of the Son of Man as the Christ began to be recognized, and his redemptive plan is foretold to his disciples.

Outline

  1. Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida and tells him not to enter the village (8:22-26).
  2. On the way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus inquires his disciples regarding his identity and Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ (8:27-30).
  3. Jesus foretells his suffering and redemptive plan to his disciples (8:31-38).

To be Continued…

On the following article for this II-part article I will present the literary context of the passage (how it fits in the overall scheme of Mark’s argument), a commentary on the verses 8:22-38, and applications for our lives based on this theological study.

Stay tuned!


[1] Mark 1:1 starts with this affirmation: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The Greek word for “gospel” is εὐαγγέλιον, which means “a good message,” according to Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries (G#2098).

[2] R C. Sproul, The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version, 3rd ed. (Orlando, Florida: Reformation Trust, 2015), 1727.

[3] Many take for granted the English title “The Gospel According to Mark” as the final answer to the issue of authorship of this book. However, Boring explains that “The question of authorship could not be discussed intelligently as the first issue; one must first get an idea of the nature of the document before asking the question of authorship.” Cf. M Eugene Boring, An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 521.

[4] M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The People’s New Testament Commentary (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 6.

[5] Ibid., 6.

[6] Peter went to Mark’s mother’s house to pray (Acts 12:12). Mark helped Barnabas and Saul (Paul) in their ministry (Acts 12:25). 1 Peter 5:13 could be implying that Peter and Mark were together in Rome. Paul also expressed his approval regarding Mark many times (Col. 4:10 and 2 Tim. 4:11).

[7] Eusebius explains that in the beginning of the second century, it was widely acceptable as tradition that the author of the book of Mark was the Biblical John Mark, who was friends with Peter and Paul (See Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.39.15).

[8] David Arthur DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation (Downers Grove, Illinois.: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 196.

[9] Keener adds a relation with the content of the book and the end of the Judean-Roman War in A.D.66-70. Cf. Craig S. Keener, The Ivp Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 126.

[10] The Anti-Marcionite Prologue can be found here http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/anti_marcionite_prologues.htm.

[11] In Mark 15:42, Jesus not only seems to be explaining the meaning of the word “Golgotha,” but also acquainting his readers with Jewish tradition.

[12] C.f. Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13.

[13] C.f. Mark 3:17; 5:41; 7:11 and 34; 10:46; 14:36; 15:22 and 34.

[14] C.f. Mark 5:9; 6:27; 12:15 and 42; 15:16; 15:39.

[15] C.f. Mark 6:48 and 13:35.

[16] More could be said to support such claim, as the fact that few references to the Old Testament are made, or the fact that Mark uses the words “Kingdom of God” instead of “Kingdom of Heaven,” what would be offensive to the Jewish audience.

[17] These key themes were extracted from Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, ©2002), 205.

[18] His emotions (Mark 1:41; 3:5; 6:34; 8:12; 9:36), his limitations (Mark 4:38; 11:12; 13:32), and other human characteristics are well emphasized in this book (Mark 7:33-34; 8:12; 9:36; 10:13-16).

C. S. Lewis and the Atonement

 
     Lewis affirms that Christ gave his life as a ransom for many, which Christians should not be worried to affirm as well. Lewis’ view, however, would differ to what most Christians in our days would be willing to affirm. In his work, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lewis sets forth the ransom theory of atonement as an explanation for Christ’s expiation.
     Peter, Susy, Edmund, and Lucy (which also happens to be his goddaughter’s name, to whom he dedicated this work to), discover the incredible world of Narnia through a wardrobe found in professor Kirke’s house. They enter a land of fantasy, that has a lot to teach us. In this land, Lucy meets Tumnus, a faun, that explains her a that the Which, Jadis,  has dominium over Narnia. The Witch hated the sons of Adam, and it was a rule that every one of them should be delivered to the Witch. When Lucy brings her siblings to Narnia, Edmund is persuaded by Jadis, and becomes her prisoner. Ms. Beaver, a beaver, rescues the boy, but Lewis’ idea is already explicit: the Witch has dominium over the sons of Adam, and she keeps all of them under her feet. Jadis, appears to, in some way, be willing to prevent the prophecy to become true. The prophecy is that when the two sons and two daughters of Adam will become kings and queens over the kingdom at Cair Parvel. This seems to mirror God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 that salvation would come through human lineage.
     Aslan, the gutless lion, steps in after being away for long. Edmund is a prisoner, and all the other kids should be too. The Witch, then, rightfully demands that the children must be delivered to her. Aslan decides to step up and prevent that from happening. After a brief conversation with Jadis, Aslan quietly decides to give his own life as a ransom to the Witch—it is important to note that the Witch had the right to do that according to Narnia’s law. During that night, Aslan is killed by the Witch at the Stone Table, and all who belong to the Witch’s kingdom celebrate, whilst those who appreciate Aslan are found in despair. Aslan, then, after being abandoned by the Witch—who was confident about her victory over the prophecy and therefore was ready to wage war against the sons of Adam—returns to life. Aslan tells his followers that the Witch was fooled, for she was ignorant regarding the deeper magic that would bring Aslan, an innocent, back to life. Aslan joins the battle and kills the Witch, restoring the peace in the kingdom.
     Theologically, the Lion represents Christ, and the Witch the Devil. The kids represent humanity that is being held captive by Satan, who, having dominium over the earth, demands his rights before Christ. What seems to be taking place here is an inversion of values: Satan is now in the throne demanding what God should do in order to save the very same creatures he created. During the fall, God completely loses control over his creation, and now is subject to Satan’s demand to be able to bring his creatures back to him. The Witch demanded Aslan’s blood to set her prisoners free; Satan demands God’s blood to save his creation. Other problems arise with this view. One of them is that Aslan, being the omniscient God, trusted the Witch’s rightful demand for her rights. However, after Aslan’s death, the Witch did not set the captives free, but started a war against them. Aslan, being God, then, fails to see the whole picture, and seems to have trusted the Witch’s word that promised freedom to Aslan’s friends. If God trusted a lie by Satan, how does that make God any better than Adam and Eve when they trusted Satan’s lies? It is also worth mentioning that Aslan deceived the Witch. She thought everything was set for her, but she did not know of the deeper magic behind the prophecy; Satan did not know of Jesus’ divinity hidden underneath his flesh and bones. Salvation, to Lewis, is not a rightful sacrifice that Jesus, the Light of the World, engage in, but a misleading and deceitful “appears-to-be” sacrifice—it seems that a lie or at least half-truths were needed in order for God to reconquer his creation.
     To summarize, Lewis’ view is the same of Origen, Tyrannius of Rufinius, Gregory of Nissa, and even Augustine. The Ransom over Satan was the main theory during the first 1000 years of Christianity, which in itself is not an argument for why one should hold a given view. Christ’s cross is a commercial transaction paid by Christ to Satan in order to set captives free. Humanity was so fallen in sin that God lost his rights over his creation to the point that Satan now holds complete authority over God’s creation. This view seems to fail to represent God as God and ignores his rights due to his authorship of creation.

If Someone Found Another Letter Written by Paul to a Church, Would We Read it as Authoritative?

If someone finds another letter written by Paul, I certainly would want to read it. However, to say that it must be read as authoritative is not only to have a wrong view about inspiration, but a deficient idea of God’s providence, and certainly a misguided belief about canonical authority.

I believe this question uses the word “authoritative” as meaning “inspired,” for I can not think of other meaning that would make sense in this context. Give this explanation I answer the question basing myself in this assumption to be true.

If we were to believe that letter to be inspired, we would be putting in checkmate our view of God’s providence and sovereignty. Where is God’s providence to provide his word to all the peoples that lived before the discovery of this letter? Was it not necessary by then? So God’s words contained in it are temporal? That presents a big problem for Jesus, since he said that God’s words “shall not pass away” (Mark 13:31). How can one sustain a strong view of sovereignty (I am not implying the philosophical categorization of different types of view regarding sovereignty) when his sovereignty was asleep during some centuries?

Back to the matter of inspiration, Paul himself wrote to Timothy that “all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (1 Timothy 3:16-17). If that letter was not used by the church for more than 20 centuries, how could it be profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training? Could a “dead letter” be used to form complete men of God? Is it possible that a letter that was not used for more than 767.009 days be used to equip men of God to the good work? To say that it became authoritative only when they discovered the letter is to fall into a kind of “literal adoptionism.”

Paul was most definitely an Apostle of Christ Jesus, and I would not defy a man who had four personal encounters with Jesus himself (Acts 9; 18:9-10; 22:17; 23:11). Notwithstanding, I would be highly discouraged to accept all of his words as authoritative over the Church, for it was not he who was inspired, but some of his words. To say that these words in that letter are also authoritative one must answer all the questions mentioned above in a theological, philosophical, and ethical way that does not diminishes the image of God that orthodox Protestants lift up high.

I do not affirm that the letter should be considered as heretical rubbish, but that common sense and good theology must be part of the evaluation of this letter. Some might say: “but what if it cites Scripture? What if it cites other parts of Scripture?” And the answer continues to be, what about the sovereignty of God? Could not He have provided this before? Yes, he could, and as orthodox Protestant Evangelicals we believe he did, that is why we have 66 books, not 67. Justice Antonin Scalia said to Fox News, “The Constitution is not a living organism. It’s a legal document, and it says what it says and doesn’t what it doesn’t say.” Although Scripture is indeed a living organism, it could be regarded as being, not becoming. Scripture can not be improved because it was “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), and to say otherwise is to assume internal contradictions.

What is Christian Theology?

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Christian theology is a culture appropriate retelling of the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Scripture. Theology, being an ordered articulation of faith, must be articulating some kind of faith. In the discipline of Christian theology, the theologian is engaged in articulating his faith concerning the Christian God, the Christian Triune God. Theologians seek to bring forth a detailed presentation of theology, anthropology, Christology, Pneumatology, ecclesiology, and eschatology, all of which are interpreted in light of the source of knowledge of the Christian God: the Bible.

A cultured appropriate retelling of the Gospel of Jesus Christ consists in communicating accurate beliefs about the Gospel in a manner that our culture is able to understand and respond to our call. Since we cannot avoid the culture in which we are doing theology, and since we are not trying to get out the context of the world, Christian theologians are looking forward to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that will simplify the understanding of the unbeliever. Christian theology, therefore, seeks to bridge the abyss between the culture of the time Jesus lived and the XXIst century culture that we live in.

Christian theology is retelling the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Theologians are telling the same story of the Bible in a culture appropriate way in order for people to understand what the Bible truly means. Theologians, then, make use of symbols and acts to retell that story.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the focus of our theology. Since Jesus Christ is the cataclysm of the Christian worldview in history, everything must be done around it. And since Jesus spoke that the Old Testament was all about him (Luke 24), and since the New Testament is done around him, theologians must have Jesus in the center of their theological method.

Basically, Christian theology stands out from other disciples from its starting point. Philosophical theology starts with the purpose of apologetics, answering questions like “why is there something instead of nothing?” Historical Theology, on the other hand, seeks to understand the history of the world in a way that it shows that God is transcendent in creation, yet immanent in history and redemption. Historical theology is more focused on how people acted and talked about God than trying to determine what is the right thing to say. Systematic theology, different from all two cited above, is proposing and ordered and systematic organization of the truths of Scripture. Systematic theology, also known as concordance theology, is focused in organizing the truths of Scripture in a way that can be used like a concordance, and that is one of the reasons of why it carries that name. Ethical theology, similar to philosophical theology, is a study of the virtues based on the true claims of Scripture. Philosophical theology is different from Christian theology because Christian theology already assumes that there is a God out there and that this God is the Triune God who revealed himself in Scripture; it is different from historical theology because it is focused on the communication part of the logos, it seeks to help believers communicate, live, think holy under God; it is different from systematic theology because it is not done in a vacuum, if you will, for it seeks to engage culture and apply the true claims of Scripture in a way our culture can understand and respond; it is also different from ethics for it is also focused on the communication of the Gospel through words, not merely actions.


Photo by Aaron Burden

Why is the Creation Account the First Narrative in the Bible?

The biblical narrative introduces itself with a couple of enormous presuppositions: God is real and YHWH is the only God who deserves worship. It is undeniable that Scripture affirms other gods. It does not affirm that they exist, so to speak, in some sort of spiritual location where they fight against each other. Scripture affirms that these other gods are real, but not true. To give them some credit, they exist, while YHWH is. God’s own being should be enough reason to awe and wonder before his existence. He is the essence of being, the supreme structure of all that there is. As if that was not enough for us to trust him, one more other reason can be given: he is the Alpha (A) and the Omega (Ω).

God is the Alpha, the beginning, the origin of all things. While pantheism affirms that everything is an extension of the gods, Christianity affirms that YHWH is the origin of all that there is. The merism “heaven and earth” found in Genesis 1:1 expresses that there is nothing that has been actualized that does not find its grounding origin in the Alpha. Paul also states that all things, both visible and invisible, came from Him (Colossians 1:16-17), affirming John’s words concerning the Son of Man in John 1. His creatorship is included in the well-known fact that every act God performs is intentional. God created all that there is because he wanted people to have a relationship with him. This creative act is proof of his libertarian freedom, for he could have created different, and could have restrained from creating, and yet nothing would be considered as loss or gain to him. God is transcendent in his way to create, but immanent in the intentions and relations with created things.

When the Bible depicts God as the Omega it is clarifying God’s role in the end of history since the beginning. World history has found its cataclysmic apex in Christ, the Redeemer of all. It logically follows that redemption is inherent in God’s being and role. God redeems all that was lost in the fall, which he passively decreed in order to display his glory through the Messiah. The New Heavens and New Earth are just two examples that God is actively involved in his plan to redeem all peoples to himself.

It is very important, then, for the Bible to start with these two ideas and flourish its message from there. If Genesis 1:1 affirms that God created all that there is (time, matter, and space), the question “why?” is inevitable. The answer is provided later on, and the reader can see God’s desire to be among his people when he graciously provides clothing for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). In a very anthropomorphic language, God creates clothes using matter (for the first and only time in the Old Testament) in order to cover their sinfulness and implicitly predict what Christ would do: to definitively cover the sins of all who accept Him by faith.

Scripture starts with creation to preset God’s intentions with it, and doing so, it implicitly prognosticates God’s plan to redeem a people for himself, in order to have a relationship with them in the heavenly Eden (Revelation 22:1-2). It is a two-chapter introduction that sets the scenario to everything that will take place. This theological treatise presents a God who is in control of everything, who is the structural foundation of everything, and who is willing to redeem all who have sinned against him.

God Is Father, So What?

Alvin Plantinga defines God as a necessary being; Benedict portrays God as the supreme logos; Aristotle talks about the Unmovable Mover; Hermetic calls him “The All;” and the Bible calls him differently in several places. To call the Godhead of God “Father” is not only to ascribe a name to someone. This is done in order for we to recognize who God is.

“God has many names, yet God has no name” is a common phrase among theologians. This is a useful and simple way to introduce us to the idea that God can not be fully grasped by human senses. God, since he is spirit (John 4:24), can never be grasped by our material senses. Created things can not experience uncreated things (and that is one of the reasons, I believe, of why God gives us a spirt, so that we may experience Him). Because of this, Wayne Grudem rightly asserts that “God has many names in that we know many true descriptions of his character from Scripture, but God has no name in that we will never be able to describe or understand all of his character” (Systematic Theology, p. 160).

“There is no one better than God to tell us who he is”

A reliable way to know God is not by what we think God is, nor is by trying to understand who he is by modal logic or Greek philosophy. Plantiga’s definition might be great for apologetics (and I am a huge fan of the second ontological argument proposed by him), but it lacks the relational side of who God is. The same can be said about different definitions of God made by philosophers and thinkers.[1] There is no one better than God to tell us who he is. Now that we get this point, we might ask ourselves: “what does it mean that God is Father?”[2]

It would be scary to see Jesus saying “Pray then like this: God who is in heaven,” in the Sermon on the Mount. Why? Because we would be talking about a distinct, transcendent, and distant God. The relational aspect of prayer would be lost, maybe all of the objectives of praying would be lost.[3]    When we pray for a God in heaven, reverence comes into the game. But when we pray for a God who abides in heaven and we recognize that he is our Father, everything changes. We can now, with confidence, “draw near to the throne of Grace” (Hebrews 4:16 [ESV]). Seeing who God is in Systematic Theology might scare us, for his holiness is way above ours. However, seeing his holiness in light of Christ will lead us to have confidence in Him. A holy God who is our Father would never sin against us. If we, bad parents who sin all the time, can treat our sons well, then knowing that God considers us His sons will give us great confidence (Matthew 7:11).

“Seeing His holiness in light of Christ will lead us to have confidence in Him”

“From whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,” is what Ephesians 3:15 tells us. God being the Father also connotes the idea of the Creator. God’s love for his creatures and his lordship over creation are explicit in this verse.[4] While ancient Near Eastern cultures would portray goddess giving birth to creation from themselves, and therefore, making creation an extension of that goddess, Christianity portrays God as the Father in order to help us with our doctrine of creation.

Christians should seek to understand who God is in light of Scripture, not by themselves. If God had not revealed himself to us we would have been left in a dark place seeking for a hidden light that was dim. God’s revelation is a safe way to know who God is. If we are not defining God in the same way the Bible does, are we even talking about the same God at all?


 

[1] “The Supreme Logos” of Benedict is useful to define Jesus, since John uses the same language and John’s writings are revelational. Aristotle’s definition came from his answer to Thales’ question, and I believe it lacks Biblical support for non(radical)-determinists like me. “The All” misses the point of Paul’s speech in the Areopagus, since Paul quotes Epimenides to explain that there are two types of things: created things and God. To say that He is “The All” might miss Paul’s point although I might grant that Hermetic’s point was a different one and that he did not intend the definition that I am going against. Anyway, I do address his result, not merely his intentions, for no dish is tasted and appreciated because of the cookers intention in fabricating, but for the taste (the result) itself.

[2] It is necessary to say that God being the Father does not imply that this characteristic is not present in the Son or in the Holy Spirit. The Father is called God (Phil. 1:2), the Son is called God (John 1:1, 14), and the Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3-4). It would be foolish to conclude that what is present in the Son is not present in the Holy Spirit, since all three are defined in quite similar ways (compare Isaiah 64:8, John 1:3, and Job 33:4 for “Creator,” for example).

[3] If there is no relationship in prayer, prayer would be nothing more than addressing a pagan god who is interested in created things for mere selfish interest.

[4] To see a more in-depth study of this see http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/july-august/why-we-call-god-father.html

Christian Without the Trinity?

Romans 10:9 guarantees us that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (NKJV). It seems, at first, that if you simply confess (i.e. repeat or say something) Jesus and you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, then you are good to go, right? Well, not so fast.

Is it possible for one to confess Jesus as Lord without knowing what the word “Lord” means? I would argue that yes. If that confession fits the guarantee of Romans 10:9, I will bet to differ. To confess Jesus as Lord is to publicly affirm that he is your master, and you are his slave. Jesus, then, has all authority over your life, heart, emotions, desires, passions, etc. If this person fails to provide testimony of his or her words, then his testimony was false, and should not be regarded as having truth value. If is not possible to confess Jesus if we do not understand his role in our relationship with him, how would it be possible for someone to be Christian without believing in the Triune God?

“Well, ‘believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead’,” seems very simple. The matter here is, who raised Christ form the dead? Was it the Father, as Galatians 1:1 indicates? Or was Jesus himself, as John 2:19-21 asserts? Could it be the Holy Spirit, as Romans 8:11 affirms? The One who raised Jesus from the dead was the Triune God! All three were deeply involved in this action. If one affirms that one God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, he would be ignoring Biblical passages.

The God of Scripture is the Triune God. Any worship or serving to other type of God is idolatry. If one recognizes that there is a God because of creation, he too is a heathen. Why? Because he worships a “creator god” and not the Triune God. “Unless you believe that I AM HE you will die in your sins,” said Jesus in John 8:24 (ESV). The ESV adds the word “He” to the regular “ἐγώ εἰμι.” This adding is unnecessary, for other passages like Deuteronomy 32:39, and Isaiah 41:10, or even verse 58 in this same chapter, affirm that “egō eimi” refers to God, and therefore affirm his deity. If one denies that Jesus is God, he is not doing heterodoxy, as some like to identify themselves, but he is going against what Jesus himself taught. If to us that is unacceptable, I see no Biblical reason for why the Triune God would accept that.

I would argue, though, that the doctrine of a person might not always be as accurate as his or her faith in his or her heart. One might believe in the Triune God, yet having a weird speech regarding how he organizes that in his mind. Praise God that we are not saved by the accuracy of our theological communication, but by our faith! Most of us, if not all, would be damned if we were to be judged by that standard. I do not know, however, how far God’s mercy goes in this matter. I prefer not to take any unnecessary risks.

One thing is not to understand the Trinity but accept it by faith, another thing is to deny it when you have knowledge of Scripture. Perfect articulation of this doctrine is not necessary, faith in the God revealed in Scripture is.