The Addiction of Sin: Lesson 5

In this lesson, we examine additional observations offered by Patrick T. McCormick concerning the idea that sin is an addiction to see if these insights reflect biblical values related to specific expressions of sin. (See Patrick T. McCormick, Sin as Addiction [Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1989]; Gerald G. May, M.D, Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions [New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988].)

A point of difference between McCormick’s perspective and that of May is that McCormick refers to the addictive character (a personality that leads to addiction) in contrast to May’s addicted character (a personality that is changed by addiction). As far as the relationship of sin to the concept of addiction is concerned, this may not be significant, for sin is universal.

“[F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NKJV).

As it relates to Romans 3:23, it is important to note the grammatical variation between “have sinned” and “fall short.” By its use of the aorist tense (have sinned), the verse describes the past behavior of its readers. In their past, all people have sinned. But the word translated “fall short” is in the present tense, portraying the action in process or a state of being with no assessment of the completion of the action (Logos Bible Software). In other words, Romans 3:23 asserts universal sinfulness in both the past and present.

The Desire to be God-like

McCormick offers some insights that are not emphasized by May into how sin functions like an addiction. First, there is the desire to be god-like, to live above the rules, and to refuse one’s own limitations. This is seen in the first account of temptation and sin in Scripture: “Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5, NKJV).

That there is indeed a kind of “god-likeness”  to sin is seen in God’s assessment of sin’s result: “Behold, the man has become like one of us, to know good and evil” (Genesis 3:22a, NKJV). Although man becomes “god-like” through sin, he is a false god.

Sin Leads to Loss of Meaning and Direction

Second, sin, like addiction, leads to disintegration. There is a loss of meaning and direction in life. In a national sense, this can be seen in the history of ancient Israel. God warned them of the consequences of disobedience:

“Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods. … And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. In the morning you shall say, “Oh, that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’ because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see” (Deuteronomy 28:64-67, NKJV).

What was true for national Israel is true for each individual who rejects God.  Since humans were made to know and follow God, those who reject Him are left without a compass in life. The parable of the prodigal son demonstrates the disintegration that occurs in the lives of those who turn away from God. (See Luke 15:11-32.)

Does Sin Lead to Alienation?

Third, alienation — affecting all relationships, including one’s relationship with oneself — is the result of addiction. Although sinners may crave companionship (Proverbs 1:10-14), sin by its nature destroys all relationships:

“But they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives” (Proverbs 1:18, NKJV).

Enduring relationships are nurtured by unconditional love; love is absent where sin prevails. The second of all the commandments is that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). The only alternative to love is alienation.

In Lesson 6, we will continue to examine McCormick’s view of sin as addiction. This will include the way in which addiction leads to death and five advantages to the addiction model.

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The Addiction of Sin: Lesson 4

Patrick McCormick’s view of sin as addiction has points of commonality with Gerald May’s view, with some differences of opinion and some additional insights. (See Patrick T. McCormick, Sin as Addiction [Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1989] and Gerald G. May, M.D., Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions [New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988]). In common with May, McCormick sees addiction as having to do with deception (May: “self-deception”), ethical deterioration (May: “loss of willpower”), and idolatry (May: “distortion of attention”).

Some additional insight is offered by McCormick’s view. He sees the characteristics of addiction as including dependence (addicts are dependent on someone or something else), self-centeredness (extreme narcissism), an external referent (addicts are obsessed with what others think of them; they have lost their own self-center), and loss of feeling (addicts have lost the ability to detect their feelings).

Is dependence a characteristic of sin?

Solomon wrote, “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished” (Proverbs 11:21; see also 16:5). Dependence is characteristic of sin. In an extended treatment of the same theme, Solomon wrote, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; we shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse’ — My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path” (Proverbs 1:10-15, NKJV).

Is self-centeredness a characteristic of sin?

In the parable of the rich fool, Jesus warned of covetousness with these words: “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21, NKJV). The essence of covetousness is self-centeredness,  included by McCormick as a characteristic of addiction.

Is it characteristic of sin to have an external referent?

The role of the external referent as a characteristic of sin is seen in the first response that Cain made to God when he learned that God held him accountable for the murder of his brother. Cain protested, “I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me” (Genesis 4:14, NKJV). There is something about the nature of sin that elevates the importance of one’s peer group above the importance of God’s judgment.

Is it characteristic of sin to have a loss of feeling?

Jeremiah wrote, “O Lord, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return” (Jeremiah 5:3, NKJV). This description of the insensitivity of those who rejected God sounds very much like the addict’s loss of feeling. Perhaps even more to the point is Paul’s description of those who walk “in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:17-19, NKJV).

In lesson 5, we will examine further insights offered by McCormick to see if they reflect biblical values related to specific expressions of sin.

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Sin as an Addiction: Lesson 3

This post is the third in a series discussing the possibility that sin is a form of addiction. I first began to think of this in 2002 while taking a course titled “Wrestling with Sin and Temptation” taught by adjunct professor Gary Thomas. Thomas has appeared multiple times on Focus on the Family and Family Life Today and has written more than fourteen books.

This course was among those that led to the completion of the Master of Theology (Th.M.) degree offered by Western Seminary, located in Portland, Oregon. When I took “Wrestling with Sin and Temptation,” I had already completed the Master of Arts in Exegetical Theology (M.A.E.T.) in 1990 with Western Seminary. The M.A.E.T. included a study of sin in a theology course. It was valuable in that it approached the study from the standpoint of the historical hypotheses, the use of the Hebrew and Greek languages in Scripture, and a systematic formulation of these findings.

Today I reviewed a paper I wrote on the subject of sin for the M.A.E.T. course. The various English words and phrases translated from the original languages to describe sin include “ignorance,” “error,” “inattention,” “missing the mark,” “irreligious,” “transgression,” “iniquity or lack of integrity,” “rebellion,” “treachery,” “perversion,” “abomination,” “agitation or restlessness,” “evil or badness,” “guilt,” and “trouble.”

However, the word “addiction” does not appear in my paper.

I was intrigued by the new idea that addiction might be another way to view sin or another aspect of sin that we should explore. During the years since I took the course taught by Thomas, I’ve noticed that the preaching and teaching I hear from our pulpits and even the songs we sing in the United Pentecostal Church International give increasing recognition to the problem of addiction and its consequences. Here, therefore, I offer my third post on the idea that it may be possible to think of sin biblically as an addiction, a sin Scripture recognizes and for which it provides specific guidance leading to victory.


Sin as an Addiction: Lesson 3

Daniel L. Segraves

We will continue to examine the characteristics of addiction from Lesson 2 identified by Gerald G. May, M.D. in his book Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions (New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1988). Our study involves the final two items included in May’s list.

According to May, the first three essential characteristics of sin are these:

(1) tolerance; (2) withdrawal symptoms, (3) self-deception.

As we pointed out in our first lesson on viewing sin as addiction, to determine whether the addiction model is biblically accurate, we must compare the nature of addiction, the cause of addiction, and the five characteristics of addiction to what the Bible says about sin. We have attempted to do that related to the first three items; now, we will move to the final two.

Is sin connected with a loss of willpower?

As it relates to addiction, the loss of willpower involves the fact that by making any attempt to control “truly addictive behavior by making autonomous intentional resolutions, one begins to defeat oneself.” This “defeat is due to mixed motivations. One part of the will sincerely wants to be free. Another part wants to continue in the addictive behavior” (Mays, 28).

As Mays points out, “a fundamental mind trick of addiction is focusing attention on willpower” (Mays, 28), which seems to be the problem described by Paul.

“For what I will to do, that I do not practice…. I do what I will not to do…. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. … to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:15-20, NKJV).

As long as Paul focused on his will, he remained frustrated and thwarted in his desire to resist temptation. It was not until he refocused on Jesus Christ that he found freedom (Romans 7:25).

Does sin cause a distortion of attention?

As it pertains to addiction, this characteristic could also be described as “the distortion of ultimate concern” or “idolatry” (Mays, 30). This is fundamental to the nature of sin. People who exchange “the truth of God for the lie … worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25, NKJV). Since the first of all the commands is to love God with all within us (Mark 12:29), sin is anything short of this. Sin is to be concerned ultimately with anything other than loving God.

May’s views of addiction’s definition, cause, and characteristics fit with the biblical understanding of sin without attempting to force the issue.

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Sin as an Addiction: Lesson 2

In a previous post, I proposed the idea that sin has the characteristics of an addiction. We may be used to thinking of sin as a stain, blemish, crime, or even a disease, albeit a spiritual one (e.g., Isaiah 53:5; I Peter 2:24).

Following Gerald May’s addiction model, we explored the possibility that true addiction is marked by five essential characteristics:

      • Tolerance
      • Withdrawal symptoms
      • Self-deception
      • Loss of willpower
      • Distortion of attention

Then, we began to examine whether the addiction model of sin is biblically accurate, comparing the nature of addiction, the cause of addiction, and the five characteristics of addiction to what the Bible says about sin.

In that first post, we asked:

Is sin a state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire?

Is sin caused by the attachment of desire to specific behaviors, things, or people?

Does sin have the same five characteristics as addiction?

Now, we will consider two more questions from May’s discussion.

Do those who attempt to refrain from sin experience withdrawal symptoms?

The first type of withdrawal symptom that occurs when an addictive behavior is curtailed is a stress reaction. These reactions “may range from mild uneasiness and irritability to extreme agitation with rapid pulse, tremors, and overwhelming panic.” Before he confessed his sin, David’s experience could be described this way:

“When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4, NKJV).

Isaiah wrote,

“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt, ‘There is no peace,’ Says my God,’ for the wicked'” (Isaiah 57:20-21, NKJV).

There are negative physical, emotional, and mental consequences to sin that seem to be exacerbated when the sin is recognized but not confessed to God, even if the sin is in the past, as in David’s case. Even though David had ceased this specific episode of sin, the stress did not come to an end. The stress that occurs when a person attempts to curtail sin can be seen in Paul’s words:

“For what I am doing, I do not understand … what I hate, that I do … the evil that I will not to do, that I practice … evil is present with me … O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:15, 19, 21, 24, NKJV).

When an addictive behavior is curtailed, the “second type of withdrawal symptom is a rebound or backlash reaction.” This means that the person “experiences symptoms that are the exact opposite of those caused by the addictive behavior itself.” This is obviously true as it pertains to specific sinful behaviors, but is it true for the principle of sin itself? First, we must determine the symptoms experienced when sin as a principle is engaged in as opposed to sin as a specific act. Other than physical symptoms, which may vary with the specific act of sin, what are the symptoms common to all sinful behaviors? Although there may be many symptoms, the essential symptoms seem to be that “God is in none of his thoughts” (Psalm 10:4, NKJV). All specific acts of sin spring from this. But in the case of a person who seeks to curtail specific episodes of sin, God-consciousness comes flooding back into his thoughts. They may be denied (repressed), but there is no excuse for this denial, for “what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:19-20, NKJV).

It does seem, then, that there is some parallel between the withdrawal symptoms experienced with addiction and the symptoms experienced when an attempt is made to curtail sin.

Is self-deception a characteristic of sin?

As it pertains to addiction, self-deception occurs “where the will fights against itself in a morass of mixed motivations and contradictory desires, [using] the creative power of the brain … unconsciously to subvert each and every attempt to control the addictive behavior. These tricks of mind include denial, rationalization, displacement, and every other defense mechanism. …”

One of the best known statements revealing the self-deception connected with sin is found in Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” Deceit is at the root of sin. The first sin occurred as a result of deception (I Timothy 2:14). When Satan is bound for 1,000  years, it will be so that he cannot “deceive the nations” (Revelation 20:3). Those who share Satan’s final destiny will be those who were deceived by him (Revelation 20:10).


These comments explore the ideas proposed by Gerald G. May, M.D., Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988).

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The Addiction of Sin

Of all the models for sin, it may be that none have captured the modern imagination as much as sin as addiction. The Christian community has long viewed sin as a stain or blemish, a crime against law, and as a matter of personal responsibility. Some have recognized the significance of the biblical model of sin as a disease.

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:3, NKJV).

Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed (I Peter 3:24, NKJV).

Attention is not always given, however, to the concept of sin as an addiction and the sinner as an addicted person in need of deliverance. I have taught lessons discussing this idea, and I plan to present that concept in a series of posts, this being the first.


The Addiction of Sin: Lesson 1

Daniel L. Segraves

Authors who have addressed the model of sin as addiction include Gerald G. May, M.D. (Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions [New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988]), Patrick T. McCormick (Sin as Addiction [Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1989]), and J. Keith Miller (Sin: Overcoming the Ultimate Deadly Addiction [New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1987]). Although he does not specifically use the addiction model, Larry Crabb’s approach has many points of similarity (Inside Out, rev. and updated [Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1988]).

Gerald May’s Addiction Model

Some reject the addiction model because they fear it means we do not bear personal responsibility for our sins and that we are helpless to resist temptation, but that is to misunderstand the nature of addiction. May defines addiction as “a state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire.” He points out that “temptation … is the starting point of addiction.” True addiction is marked by five essential characteristics: “(1) tolerance, (2) withdrawal symptoms, (3) self-deception, (4) loss of willpower, and (5) distortion of attention.”

Addiction is caused by the “attachment … of desire to specific objects.” These objects may be “specific behaviors, things, or people.” They “become preoccupations and obsessions; they come to rule our lives.” The result is idolatry, because “addiction … forces us to worship these objects of attachment, thereby preventing us from truly, freely loving God and one another.” Worship is “what we attend to, where we give our time and energy, instead of love.” Addiction “displaces and supplants God’s love as the source and object of our deepest true desire.”

In order to determine whether the addiction model is biblically accurate, we must compare the nature of addiction, the cause of addiction, and the five characteristics of addiction to what the Bible says about sin.

Is sin a state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire?

In a candid discussion of his own experience that is especially relevant to this question, Paul wrote, “Sin … produced in me all manner of evil desire” (Romans 7:8, NKJV). He continued, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. … I do what I will not to do. … to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. … I do what I will not to do … I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. … But I see another law in my members … bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:15, 16, 18-21 23-24, NKJV).

It is clear from this description that sin enslaves desire and will. By May’s definition, sin is an addiction.

Is sin caused by the attachment of desire to specific behaviors, things, or people?

Describing the struggle between the flesh (sarx) — the sin principle — and the Spirit in a regenerated person, Paul wrote, “For the flesh lusts (epithumei, is continually strongly desiring) against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. … Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (Galatians 5:17, 20-21a, NKJV).

Here, sin is identified with strong desire that is attached to specific kinds of behavior. These behaviors are rarely done in isolation; they involve other people and things.

Does sin have the same five characteristics as addiction?

The first characteristic of addiction is tolerance. 

“Tolerance is the phenomenon of always wanting or needing more of the addictive behavior or the object of attachment in order to feel satisfied” (Mays).

It is in the nature of sin that it does not fulfill what it offers: satisfaction. Rather than leading to fulfillment and satisfaction, sin leads to further sin. Paul describes slavery to sin as “lawlessness leading to more lawlessness” (Romans 6:19, NKJV). This tendency can be seen in the increasing corruption experienced by those who reject the knowledge of God. From the initial sin of failing to glorify God, they progress through unthankfulness, futility in their thoughts, darkening of their hearts, idolatry, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness, whispering, backbiting, hating God, violence, pride, boasting, evil inventions, disobedience to parents, lack of discernment, lack of trustworthiness, lack of love, lack of forgiveness, and lack of mercy (Romans 1:21-31). Sin leads not only to personal corruption but also to approval of corruption in others (Romans 1:32).

The account of David with Bathsheba demonstrates the progressive nature of sin. From lust, David progressed through coveting his neighbor’s wife, adultery, deception, giving his neighbor drink (Habakkuk 2:15), murder, and denial. (See II Samuel 11; 12:1-6.) At no point in the progress of David’s sin did he find satisfaction. Further sin or continuing sin characterized his downfall. His only hope was found in repentance (II Samuel 12:7-15).

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Thoughts about the Use of the King James Version

Thoughts about the Use of the King James Version

Daniel L. Segraves

Many English translations of the Holy Bible have been produced since the Authorized Version of 1611, and it is not unusual for readers to choose favorites.[1] From time to time, people ask for my opinion.

This paper is not a thorough, scholarly work on the translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages. It is simply some observations to be considered by those who think the KJV is the only trustworthy English translation and that it is wrong to use others.

I do not intend to belittle the KJV. It is a beautiful and classic literary work that has endured more than four centuries for a reason. Its phrases continue to influence the English language to this day. It is not unusual to hear them in secular literature and popular expressions.

I hold a conservative view of Scripture. As an instructor in schools endorsed by the United Pentecostal Church International, I have for decades affirmed in writing each year that I “believe in the divine inspiration of the whole Bible, the infallibility of the original writings and that the Bible is truth without any error and is inspired even to the very words and is therefore the in scripted Word of God.” This statement does not address any specific English translation; it affirms the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture as originally written (i.e., the autographs).

The Original “King James Version” 

In 1603, King James VI of Scotland ascended to the throne of England as James I. He was presented with a petition signed by clergymen, including Puritans, requesting that steps be taken to “purify” the Church of England from vestiges of Roman Catholic influence. John Reynolds, a Puritan leader and president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, requested the king to authorize a new, more accurate translation. Since the Bishop’s Bible, a 1568 revision of the Great Bible, had not succeeded in replacing the people’s love for the Geneva Bible and since James disapproved of the marginal notes in the Geneva Bible, he approved the translation.

More than fifty scholars trained in Hebrew and Greek began the work of translation in 1607. They were instructed to follow the Bishop’s Bible as long as it was faithful to the original text and to consult the translations of Tyndale, Matthew, Coverdale, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible.

In 1611, the KJV was finished. Corrected editions began to be released almost immediately. Two editions were published in 1611, with one correcting several printer’s errors in the other. In 1612, another reprint corrected mistakes in the second 1611 edition. In 1613, another revision was released correcting still more mistakes in the 1611 edition. Considerable revision was done in a 1616 reprint and fewer corrections in a 1617 edition.

The greatest revision of the KJV to that time occurred in 1629 when the first edition without the Apocrypha was released. This was the first time the KJV was published by someone other than the king’s printers. Thomas and John Buck, Cambridge University printers, released the 1629 edition, and Thomas Buck and Roger Daniel published another edition in 1638. These two revisions of the KJV involved revision of the text, of the use of italics, and of marginal notes. In the meantime, other editions were being released by the king’s printers in 1630 and 1634.

In 1640, the king’s printers released an edition of the KJV which came to be known as the “Wicked Bible” because it inadvertently left out the word “not” in the seventh of the Ten Commandments. The printer was given a substantial fine. Other editions were released in 1653, 1655, 1656, and 1657.

The first edition of the KJV to contain dates in the margin was published in 1701 in three volumes.

Thomas and Robert Baskett released two editions in 1744 and 1756 which were known for their beautiful typography and comparative freedom from misprints.

In 1762, Dr. Paris of Trinity College, Cambridge, released a substantially revised edition of the KJV. His work was followed by Dr. Blayney’s revision of 1769. The KJV in use today is largely the edition that resulted from the efforts of these two scholars in revising the text, the italics, and the marginal notes.[2]

I have on my computer a PDF copy of the first edition of the 1611 KJV. On my desk before me, I have a hardback reprint of the first edition, printed in 1982 by Thomas Nelson Publishers. The first thing to strike the eye of the reader is the sixteenth-century type font. Next is what is to us the unusual spelling of many words. For instance, what I would call the title page reads,

“The Holy Bible, Conteyning the Old Teftament, and the new: Newly Tranflated out of the Originall tongues: & with the former Tranflations diligently compared and reuifed, by his Maiesties fpeciall Comandement. Appointed to be read in Churches. Imprinted at London by Robert Barker, Printer to the Kings moft Excellent Maiestie. Anno Dom. 1611.[3]

            On the next pages begins the dedication to King James I. The heading reads,

“to the most high and mightie prince, Iames by the grace of God King of Great Britaine, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c. the translators of the bible, wifh Grace, Mercie, and Peace, through Iesvs[4] Christ our Lord.”

After the two and one-half page dedication comes an eleven page section titled “The translators to the reader.” Here the translators explain the reason for their work and respond to their critics. This section is dense and difficult to read. It is not usually found in American printings of the KJV. This is to be regretted because this section answers questions often asked and corrects assumptions made by American readers.

The “Vulgar” Tongue

One of the things noted in “To the Reader” is the necessity of the translation being rendered in the “vulgar tongue”:

“Indeede without tranflation [translation] into the vulgar tongue, the vnlearned [unlearned] are but like children at Iacobs (Jacob’s) well (which was deepe) without a bucket or fome [some] thing to draw with.”

In 1611, the word “vulgar” meant “common.” The point here is that the translators recognized the necessity of translating into the common language of those who spoke English at that time. This has been the undergirding idea of most translations into any language, and it is a challenge to those who assume the language spoken four centuries ago is clearly understood by those who read and speak English in the twenty-first century.

The translators of the KJV returned to this idea repeatedly. For instance:

“But how fhall [shall] men meditate in that, which they cannot vnderfstand [understand]? How fhall [shall] they vnderftand [understand] that which is kept clofe [close] in an vnknowen [unknown] tongue? . . . all of vs [us] in thofe [those] tongues which wee [we] doe [do] not vnderftand [understand], are plainely [plainly] deafe [deaf].”

That today’s English calls for today’s translation is demonstrated by The King James Bible Word Book, “A contemporary dictionary of curious and archaic words found in the King James Version of the Bible.” Before we assume the words in the KJV simply mean what they say and say what they mean, we should note that even this resource of 422 pages does not exhaust the need to define words whose definitions have changed since 1611. For instance, the word “vulgar” does not appear in the list of words needing redefinition.[5]

The word “vulgar” is not the only term used by the translators to express the necessity of translating into the common language. For instance,

“Now what can bee [be] more auaileable [available] thereto, then [than] to deliuer [deliver] Gods [God’s] booke [book] vnto [unto] Gods [God’s] people in a tongue which they vnderftand [understand]?”

An amusing analogy explains the translators’ desire to improve previous English translations:

A man had rather be with his dog then [than] with a ftranger [stranger] (whofe [whose] tongue is ftrange [strange] vnto [unto] him.) Yet for all that, as nothing is begun and perfited [perfected] at the fame [same] time, and the later thoughts are thought to be the wifer [wiser]: fo [so], if we building vpon [upon] their foundation that went before vs [us], and being holpen [helped] by their labours, doe [do] endeuour [endeavor] to make that better which they left fo [so] good; no man, we are fure [sure], hath caufe [cause] to miflike [mislike] vs [us]; they, we perfwade [persuade] our felues [selves], if they were aliue [alive], would thanke [thank] vs [us].”

The translators did not see themselves as making new translation. They did not see themselves even as making a bad translation into a good one.

Truly (good Chriftian [Christian] Reader) wee [we] neuer [never] thought from the beginning, that we fhould [should] need to make a new Tranflation [Translation], nor yet to make of a bad one a good one. . . . but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principall [principal] good one, not iuftly [justly] to be excepted againft [against]; that hath bene [been] our indeauour [endeavor], that our marke [mark].

Missing Books

Perhaps one of the most surprising things to be discovered by those who think we must read the KJV only is that the current printings of the KJV lack fourteen books that were included in the 1611 edition. These books are known as the Apocrypha. When they were deleted in 1629, the text of the Bible was shortened by 212 pages.

This is not to say the Apocrypha should have been retained. Perhaps it would be better to ask why it was included in the first place.

Missing Verses? 

Are verses missing from today’s Bible translations? This notion is often raised as a point of concern by those who believe the KJV is the only reliable translation. There are, indeed, verses found in the KJV that are not included in more recent translations. Is this a violation of the warning in Revelation 22:19: “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Does this mean salvation depends on reading the KJV only?

Those who think this way are apparently not aware that the reason for variants in the biblical text is that there are variants among the more than 5,000 Greek manuscripts upon which our New Testaments are based. This need not strike a note of fear that we do not have a trustworthy New Testament. What is amazing is not that there are a few textual variants among the manuscripts. The thing that is amazing is that there are so few, since all the manuscripts were copied by hand until the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century. There are questions concerning only about two percent of the New Testament. The variants are usually matters of spelling, arrangement of words, words or verses copied twice, and such like. No biblical doctrine is compromised by the miniscule number of variants; no doctrine rests on a single testimony only.

But there are cases where verses found in some manuscripts are simply not present in others. This gives rise textual criticism. This is not a negative term. In this case, the word “criticism” simply refers to analysis. Textual criticism is the practice of comparing manuscripts to determine the reading of the original text.

The two most commonly used theories of textual criticism are these: (1) The oldest (i.e., earliest) manuscripts are most likely to represent the original text; (2) the largest number of manuscripts (i.e., the majority) are more likely to represent the original text.

Here is an interesting example: In the KJV, I John 5:7-8 reads: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

In the English Standard Version, these verses read: “For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.”

The reason for this variant is that the earliest (i.e., oldest) Greek manuscript that includes in its text the reading found in the KJV is from the twelfth century, some 1100 years after the writing of the New Testament.

There are various nuances in the practice of textual criticism, but they need not concern us here. Textual variants are not a sign of some dangerous conspiracy to corrupt the Holy Bible.

Those who reject today’s English translations because of the warning of Revelation 22:19 should also note the warning of Revelation 22:18: “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” Both of these warnings are valid, but they are not about text criticism with its attempt to construct as closely as possible the original text of the New Testament.

Go into all the World 

When Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15, NKJV), it was a command to translate the gospel into every language of the world. Translations into English are part of the fulfillment of that command, but the KJV exists in English only. Missionaries preaching among those who do not speak English must use a translation into the language of their hearers.

For those who wish to use the KJV, they may want to use the latest revision of this revered work, The New King James Version. I have been preaching and teaching from the NKJV for the entire twenty-first century. This is not due to a conviction that it is the only reliable English translation. It is because I recognize that most of the people I address still use the KJV, and they will have little problem following the reading of the NKJV.

I do not hesitate to consult the Hebrew and Greek texts when I feel a need to do so. I will say, however, something I have often told my college and seminary students: If you have not studied the original languages in classes taught by academically qualified instructors, stay away from them. Otherwise, you will no doubt misinterpret Scripture and perhaps convince yourself of some spiritually dangerous error.

I want to be clear on this point. Even Strong’s Concordance, with its number system and minimal definitions, will mislead those who have no skill in Hebrew and Greek grammar and syntax. I have often used an analogy to make this point: If you gave me a Bible in the Japanese language along with a Japanese-English dictionary and asked me to use the dictionary to understand the Bible, I would be unable to do so, for I have no skill in the Japanese language.[6]

[1] In the United States of America, the so-called “Authorized Version” of England is widely known as the King James Version (KJV). This translation was never actually officially authorized.

[2] The information under the heading “The Original ‘King James Version’” is drawn from Daniel L. Segraves, You Can Understand the Bible (NP; np, 11th printing, 2011), Kindle edition.

[3] I am unable to accurately reproduce all of the letters, but notice the spelling of the word “containing” [Conteyning], the frequently use of what looks to us like and “f” to represent “s,” the “i” to represent “j,” the “u” to represent “v.”

[4] It will be noted here that “Jesus” is represented by “Iesvs.” Later, in the section titled “The Translators To the Reader,” the name “Jesus” is represented by “Iefus.”

[5] Ronald Bridges and Luther A Weigle, The King James Bible Word Book (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994).

[6] For those who would like to further explore the history and today’s use of the King James Version, I recommend the following books: D. A. Carson, The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979) and Mark Ward, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), Kindle edition.

[archive]

To Know the Son is to Know the Father


I have recently been going through items in storage to select what to keep and what to discard. Yesterday I discovered a DVD of a lesson I taught in the adult Bible class at Christian Life Center in Stockton, California. I taught this class for almost twenty-five years. This lesson deals with the deity and the humanity of Christ. I am preserving it here for those who are interested in this essential subject.


[archive]

The Use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament: An Introduction to Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics


Early this morning I spent some time in one of our storage rooms, rearranging boxes, deciding what to move to other locations and what to discard. In the process, I came across a bound copy of the notes for one of the courses I took in the process of earning the Ph.D. at the Regent University School of Divinity. The course “Interpreting Scripture” was taught by Graham Twelftree, Ph.D. during the Spring 2004 residency.

Among other requirements, all students were required to present papers they had written and to respond to papers written by other students. The paper I wrote and read was titled “The Use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament: An Introduction to Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics.” The paper is long and detailed, but I am posting it here in case some who read my blog may be interested.


I regret I was unable to transfer the Hebrew font that appeared originally in this paper. To compensate, I represented the Hebrew font in English italics.


The Use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament:

An Introduction to Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics

Daniel L. Segraves

 

  1. The Problem

A comparison of New Testament (NT) references to their Old Testament (OT) sources invites the question as to whether the meaning found by the NT writers is the meaning intended by the authors of the OT sources.[1]  The problem is such that Bultmann argued for complete theological discontinuity between the OT and NT.[2]  In Bultmann’s opinion, we need to “give up the naïve, traditional meaning of prophecy and fulfillment, and go on indeed to ask if we may legitimately speak of prophecy and fulfillment at all.”[3]  In Hasel’s view, Bultmann’s mistake is “to approach and criticize the NT’s method of quotation from the point of view of modern literary criticism.”[4]  Instead, “one must maintain that the NT quotations presuppose the unity of tradition and indicate keywords and major motifs and concepts in order to recall a larger context within the OT.”[5]  Hasel’s point is that in Bultmann’s failure to see any anticipation of NT persons or events in the OT and in his view that the NT authors read meaning into the OT texts,[6] Bultmann read Scripture anachronistically; rather than recognizing the ancient literary devices that shaped the meaning of the OT, he read the OT through the lens of modern literary techniques.  Bultmann’s reading focused narrowly on individual verses quoted or alluded to in the NT rather than on the larger inter-textual context; he certainly did not take into account the canonical-compositional issues that lend meaning to smaller portions of the text.

  1. A Possible Solution: Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics

This paper suggests that the idea of discontinuity between the NT authors and their OT sources is due to an excessively narrow perspective on OT theology.  This narrow perspective fails to read the OT as a book.  Instead, it is read as a collection of books or, worse, as a collection of books lacking internal integrity.  This literary fragmentation strips the OT of cohesion and thus of any unity of focus.  This approach, unprecedented until the eighteenth century, has its origins in the rise of historical criticism.[7]  The vision of historical criticism was to discover the supposed history behind the text; the reconstruction of the events that gave birth to the text became more significant than the exploration of the text itself.[8]  The OT, which had previously been read from Genesis 3:15 onward as anticipating the coming of a messianic figure, was transformed into little more than an historical account of past figures and events.

In contrast to the hermeneutical methods associated with historical criticism, a canonical-compositional hermeneutic focuses on the final shape of the TaNaK.  This final shape is viewed as intentional and informative.  Scholars working in this field view the canonical context as more determinative of meaning than the original author.[9]  There are four common emphases of canonical criticism: (1) Since the church has received the Bible as authoritative in its present form, the focus should be on that canonical form rather than on a search for the sources behind the text; (2) the text must be studied holistically to determine how it functions in its final form; (3) the theological concerns of the final editor(s) must be explored; and (4) in later texts, the canon provides clues in the use of earlier biblical texts.[10]

Brevard Childs asserts that “the lengthy process of the development of the literature leading up to the final stage of canonization involved a profoundly hermeneutical activity on the part of the tradents.”[11]  The idea is that those who were involved in the preservation of literary tradition shaped the text in such a way that the shape influences interpretation.

The first thing noticed in a comparison of NT references to their OT counterparts is that all references are not created equal.  Moyise suggests that it is “helpful to distinguish between quotations, allusions and echoes.”[12]  Citation formulas usually indicate quotations.  Key words characterize allusions.  Verbal links that do not seem to reflect authorial intention to specify an OT source may be described as echoes.[13]  In spite of these variations, canonical-compositional hermeneutics emphasize continuity between the testaments.[14]

  1. An Illustration of Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics

In order to illustrate an application of canonical-compositional hermeneutics, we will explore Paul’s use of Ps 14 in Rom 3:10-12.[15]

The similarities between Pss 14 and 53 are such that Ps 53 is often thought of as merely a doublet, revision, or corruption of Ps 14.[16]  One proposed reason for the differences is that Ps 53 appears in the Elohistic book of the Psalter,[17] whereas Ps 14 appears in the Yahwehistic portion of the Psalter.[18]  Another proposed reason is that Ps 53 is a revision of Ps 14 done in the northern kingdom and reflecting a more generic view of the identity of God.[19]  There are, however, more differences between the two psalms than the name by which God is identified.

From the perspective of canonical-compositional hermeneutics, Pss 14 and 53 are intentionally placed in the Psalter in their precise locations.  This placement reflects the overall messianic theme of the book.  The context in which each psalm is found informs intentional and inspired differences between the two.  Each serves an intended purpose in advancing the theme of the Book of Psalms.

In the context leading up to Ps 14, the focus is on Israel’s covenant relationship with YHWH and specifically on sinfulness within the covenant community.  The nature of the sin is an attempt to thwart God’s messianic purpose through David.[20]  That this is the covenant community is demonstrated by the use of the name YHWH in each psalm leading up to and including Ps 14.  The use of YHWH in Ps 14 in contrast to the use of Elohim in Ps 53 is significant.  As Mitchell points out, “A tendency can be discerned in the Bible to use the name Yhwh in contexts referring to God’s mercy and steadfast love (Exod. 33.19; 34.6), and the term Elohim in contexts referring to his judgment or universal sovereignty (Exod. 22.7, 8 [8, 9]).  This was recognized by rabbinic interpreters, for whom it was a fixed interpretational principle.”[21]

In the immediate context of Ps 53 (Pss 51-54), the focus is on sinfulness in the Gentile community and God’s judgment of Gentiles.  The specific sin is the same as the sin of Israel; Gentiles also seek to frustrate the messianic promise.[22]  That this is the Gentile community is demonstrated by the use of Elohim in the psalms that provide the immediate context for Psalm 53 (i.e., Pss 51, 52, 54[23]).  It is also demonstrated in that all of the psalms in this context have to do with Gentiles in some way: Ps 51 with David’s sin with a Gentile woman;[24] Ps 52 with David’s betrayal to Saul by the Gentile Doeg; Ps 53 with the Israelite Nabal behaving as a Gentile;[25] and Ps 54 with David’s betrayal to Saul by the Gentile Ziphites.[26]

From the perspective of canonical-compositional hermeneutics, Ps 53 is intentionally placed in the Psalter immediately after Ps 52.[27]  When read with intentionality in mind, Psalm 53 demonstrates the judgment of God upon the Gentile world.  In order for it to serve its literary purpose, the psalm was amended by inspiration[28] to identify God exclusively as Elohim rather than Yahweh, God’s covenant name by which He revealed Himself to Moses in conjunction with the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt.[29]  Together with this development, other changes were made to effect a change in the psalm’s focus.  These changes can be seen as follows:

There they were in great fear, for God is with a righteous generation.  You would confound the purpose of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge (Ps 14:5-6).[30]

There they were in great fear where there was no fear, because God scattered the bones of him that camps against you.  You have put them to shame, because God has rejected them (Ps 53:5).

In Ps 14, Gentiles are in great fear because God is with Israel (i.e., a righteous generation).  These Gentiles may seek to confound the purpose of the poor (i.e., Israel), but Yahweh is the refuge of the poor.  Ps 53 reveals a subtle but significant difference: A new fear has gripped the hearts of the Gentiles.  It is not just because God is on the side of Israel, but because God is aggressive in destroying the Gentiles.  He scatters the bones of those who seek to destroy Israel.  Whereas in Ps 14 the Gentiles seek to confound Israel, in Ps 53 Israel shames the Gentiles.  Indeed, God has rejected those who intend to harm Israel.  The ultimate harm that could come to Israel would be the destruction of the messianic hope.

In both psalms, Israel and the Gentiles appear.  But in Ps 14 the focus is on God’s covenant with Israel; in Ps 53 the focus is on God’s universal authority over the entire world of unbelievers.

Both psalms conclude with a nearly identical focus on Zion theology:

Who will give the deliverance of Israel from Zion?  When the Lord returns the captivity of His people, Jacob will be glad; Israel will rejoice (Ps 14:7).

Who will give the deliverance of Israel from Zion?  When God returns the captivity of His people, Jacob will be glad; Israel will rejoice (Ps 53:6).

The only difference between these verses is that Ps 14 identifies God as Yahweh and Ps 53 as Elohim.  Thus, Ps 14 focuses on the return of Israel from captivity from the perspective of the covenant God had with Israel.  Ps 53 focuses on the return from the perspective of God’s universal authority over all peoples of the world, including those who held Israel captive.[31]

Regardless of the perspective, salvation comes out of Zion.  The Psalter’s Zion theology begins in Ps 2:6; the messianic King, the Son, has been set by God on the holy hill of Zion.  Throughout the Psalter, messianic deliverance is seen as originating in Zion.  Although the Psalter recognizes the judgment of God upon His holy city due to the sinfulness of its inhabitants, the psalms are oriented toward a bright future beyond the Babylonian captivity, a future involving the restoration of Zion and the establishment of a literal kingdom governed by the Messiah from His headquarters in Zion [Jerusalem].[32]  Their references to Zion as the source of deliverance tie Pss 14 and 53 together with the messianic theme of the Psalter.

It is significant that Paul, in a series of quotes from the OT to demonstrate the sinfulness of the Jewish people, uses the LXX version of Ps 14:3, not from Ps 53:3.[33]  That this was intentional is indicated by the context in which Paul uses this quote.

In Rom 1:18-32, Paul establishes the universal sinfulness of Gentiles, whose revelation he portrays as limited to creation and conscience.  But in Rom 2:1 – 3:19 he establishes the universal sinfulness of Jews, whose revelation included the written Scriptures.  Thus he appeals to a psalm that, in its original context, described the same ethnic group he sought to portray.  Paul’s use of Ps 14 rather than Ps 53 is an apparent acknowledgment of the significance of the context created in the composition of the Psalter.  In his treatment of the universal sinfulness of Gentiles, Paul quotes no OT text.  In his treatment of the universal sinfulness of Jews, Paul quotes three OT texts[34] before the lengthy reference to the OT in Romans 3:10-18.  This suggests that rather than reading meaning into the OT, Paul uses the OT carefully, contextually, with due regard for the preservation of meaning.  Certainly he could have found references to endorse the idea of Gentile sinfulness.  But since his point is that their revelation was limited and did not include the written Scriptures, Paul does not appeal to the written Scriptures to demonstrate their sinfulness.  But when he seeks to establish the sinfulness of the Jews, Paul appeals to an abundance of Scriptures.  He is careful, however, to use those Scriptures that are contextually about Jewish sinfulness, even if other very similar Scriptures are available (e.g., Paul uses Ps 14 rather than Ps 53).

  1. Strengths and Weaknesses of Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics

3.1. The strengths of canonical-compositional hermeneutics include its high view of inspiration, its apparent literary validity, and its relevance to the use made of the Hebrew Scriptures in the NT.

3.1.1. Canonical-compositional hermeneutics extend inspiration beyond individual words and immediate contexts to the full scope of Scripture.  Inspiration is not merely in-textual or even inner-textual; it is inter-textual.  We might call it “macro-inspiration” as opposed to “micro-inspiration.”  The final work commonly referred to as redaction is identified as composition and included in the process of inspiration.  Inspiration is not attributed to scribal copying.  Sailhamer explains:

A canonical theology of the OT is based on the canonical text of the OT rather than a critically reconstructed one.

Because our approach begins with a theological premise, that is, the verbal inspiration of Scripture, we believe the biblical text must be taken as authoritative, that is, as canonical.[35]

Sailhamer recognizes the value of biblical criticism and the challenges associated with distinguishing between the work of an author, a redactor, an editor, and a scribe, but points out that “the canonical OT theology which we are proposing, does not have to resolve the question of an original text—even though we hold it to be possible to do so.  A canonical approach to OT theology focuses its attention on the shape of the OT text at the time of the formation of the Canon.”[36]

Although after the time of Christ fluidity existed in the order of the canonical books in both the Jewish and Christian traditions, Roger Beckwith points out that “the earliest evidence is of a single agreed order, and since this order is referred to by Jesus, it provides a measure of confirmation that the closing of the canon had already taken place in Jesus’s time.[37]  Walter Brueggemann suggests that the three-fold shape of the Hebrew Scriptures described by Jesus as the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44) is anticipated in Jer 18:18.[38]

3.1.2. The literary validity of canonical-compositional hermeneutics is apparent in view of the discoveries made by scholars currently working in this field.  Although an exploration of these literary discovers is beyond the scope of this paper, Sailhamer’s comments are helpful:

By paying careful attention to the compositional strategies of the biblical books themselves, we believe in them can be found many essential clues to the meaning intended by their authors—clues that point beyond their immediate historical referent to a future, messianic age.  By looking at the works of the scriptural authors, rather than at the events that lie beyond their accounts of them, we can find appropriate clues to the meaning of these biblical books.  These clues . . . point to an essential messianic and eschatological focus of the biblical texts.  In other words, the literal meaning of Scripture . . . may, in fact, be the spiritual sense . . . intended by the author, namely, the messianic sense picked up in the NT books.[39]

This is not to say “that the authorially-intended meaning can only be ascertained when the books are read in a certain order.  Rather, the order is instructive, helping [us] to see what is already there in the text.”[40]

3.1.3. The relevance of canonical-compositional hermeneutics to the use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the NT has to do with the NT writers’ apparent recognition of how the meaning of specific texts is influenced by their literary context.[41]  After a discussion of the way the literary shape of the Pentateuch influences the reading of Deuteronomy 18 in the direction of eschatological messianism, Sailhamer points out that this is precisely the way the text is read in Acts 3:22; 7:37.  Thus,

When the NT writers appear to us to read their OT typologically and counter to its “historical” sense, we may have to exercise more caution before drawing the conclusion that they have misread their Biblical texts.  When viewed from the standpoint of the final shape of the canon, their reading of the Bible may be much closer to the original intention than our own. . . . Such a reading may be more in harmony with the intention of the original authors of the Hebrew Scriptures than that of our own historical reconstructions.[42]

3.2. The weaknesses of canonical-compositional hermeneutics include as yet unanswered questions about the authority of the LXX[43] and, since the NT is equally inspired with the OT, questions about the order of books in the NT.[44]

3.2.1. The fact that more than one-half of the quotations from the OT in the NT are from the Septuagint (LXX) invites the question of the authority of the LXX.  Since it is a translation, is the LXX authoritative only insofar as it is quoted in the NT?  Does the fact that the LXX order of books does not follow the Hebrew canon invalidate the idea that the relationship between the books informs interpretation?  In James Barr’s view, errors in the LXX became the basis for theological claims in the NT, thus invalidating the concept of an inerrant text:

The New Testament did not build its interpretation upon the Old Testament text as it originally was or upon the meanings which it was originally intended to convey.  . . . Thus some very important features in the New Testament owe their entire existence and form to the fact that the Old Testament had been inaccurately transmitted.[45]

Sailhamer recognizes the challenges associated with the theological influence of the LXX on the NT writers, but the issue has yet to be adequately addressed from the perspective of canonical-compositional hermeneutics.[46]

3.2.2. Canonical-compositional hermeneutics claim that the TaNaK order of the Hebrew Scriptures contributes to the meaning of the entire text.  But does this hold true for the order of books in the NT?  The order of the books was fluid in the earliest days of the Christian church.[47]  Childs believes that a basic error is involved, however, in “the assumption that the literature was shaped by historical, literary, sociological, and history-of-religion forces, but that the theological struggle of its tradents with the literature’s normative function was insignificant.”[48]  Instead, Childs agrees with S. Pedersen that the NT canon has theological content and that “certain aspects of the struggle to bring to bear content-oriented norms on the process of selecting and ordering the New Testament writings”[49] is reflected in selected texts.

  1. Conclusion

There is sufficient evidence for the validity of canonical-compositional hermeneutics to merit the investigation of its significance for Renewal Theology.  In Acts alone, there are at least forty-five verses containing direct quotes from the OT.[50]  At least twenty-nine of these verses present their OT source as having to do with Christ or with events or persons associated with him.[51]  Much of Peter’s Pentecostal sermon consists of direct quotes from the OT.  These quotes validated Jesus as the promised Messiah and connected the events of Pentecost with specific prophecies.

Although Paul quoted directly from the OT when he addressed Jewish audiences,[52] it is significant that he did not quote from the OT when addressing Gentiles.  In his sermon at Athens, his only literary source consisted of quotations from the Greek poets Epimenides and Aratus.[53]

If the first apostolic renewal theologians found a rich source of authority for their experiences by reading the OT in a way that reflects values consistent with canonical-compositional hermeneutics, the church in this era may discover an inexhaustible wealth of theological insight from the same practice. [end]


[1] A classic point of debate is the use of Isa 7:14 in Matt 1:23.  Matthew claims that the promise of Isa 7:14 is fulfilled in the virginal conception of Jesus.  But it is common to read Isa 7:14 as a promise to Ahaz, who was dead long before the birth of Christ.  As Moyise notes, “Jewish scholars have always protested that many of the cited texts have been taken out of context. . . . If this is a prediction of the birth of Jesus 700 years hence, then it makes utter nonsense of the story being narrated in Isaiah” (Steve Moyise, The Old Testament in the New: An Introduction [The Continuum Biblical Studies Series; ed. Steve Moyise; London and New York: Continuum, 2001], 2-3).  Other related questions include: (1) Why do the NT writers usually quote from the Septuagint (LXX)?; (2) Why do the NT references to the OT sometimes vary significantly from both the Hebrew text and the LXX?; (3) Are post-apostolic believers at liberty to follow the example of the NT writers in the interpretation of the OT?  These questions are, however, outside the scope of this paper.

[2] Gerhard Hasel, Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate (4th ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991; reprint, 2001), 173.

[3] Rudolf Bultmann, “Prophecy and Fulfillment,” in Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics (ed. Claus Westermann; ed. English translation, James Luther Mays; trans. James C. G. Greig; 2nd ed.; Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1964), 74.

[4] Hasel, Old Testament Theology, 176.

[5] Ibid.

[6] See Bultmann, “Prophecy and Fulfillment,” 51-55, 72-75.

[7] A survey of historical criticism’s rejection of the pre-Enlightenment Christological understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures is offered by Ronald E. Clements, Old Testament Prophecy: From Oracles to Canon (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996), 49-61.

[8] John H. Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology: A Canonical Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 36-85.

[9] Mary C. Callaway, “Canonical Criticism,” in To Each Its Own Meaning: An Introduction to Biblical Criticisms and Their Application (ed. Steven L. McKenzie and Stephen R. Haynes; Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), 126.  See also Rolf Rendtorff, Canon and Theology: Overtures to an Old Testament Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 51, 55.

[10] Ray Lubeck, “An Introduction to Canonical Criticism,” Evangelical Theological Society Papers 1995 (Portland, OR: Theological Research Exchange Network, 1-2.

[11]Brevard S. Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992; reprint 1993), 70.  The word “tradent” refers to someone who studies or preserves tradition and is increasingly used by scholars in place of “traditionist.”  This may be due to possible confusion between “traditionist” and “traditionalist.”

[12] Steve Moyise, The Old Testament in the New: An Introduction [The Continuum Biblical Studies Series; ed. Steve Moyise; London and New York: Continuum, 2001), 5.  Steve Moyise, Ph.D., is Professor of New Testament at University College Chichester and an editor of the three volume The New Testament and the Scriptures of Israel soon to be published by T & T Clark International.

[13] Ibid., 5-6.

[14] The variety of approaches by which continuity is emphasized is represented by Brevard S. Childs, Biblical Theology: A Proposal (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002); Bruce K. Waltke, “A Canonical Process Approach to the Psalms,” in Tradition and Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg (ed. John S. and Paul D. Feinberg; Chicago: Moody Press, 1981); Walter C. Kaiser, “The Single Intent of Scripture,” in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? (ed. G. K. Beale; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994); G. K. Beale, John’s Use of the Old Testament in Revelation (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998); Scott A. Swanson, “Can We Reproduce the Exegesis of the New Testament?  Why Are We Still Asking?” Trinity Journal 17:1 (1996): 68-76; Ray Lubeck, “An Apologetic for Canonical Shaping of the Old Testament (TaNaK),” Evangelical Theological Society Papers 2000 (Portland, OR: Theological Research Exchange Network); and John H. Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology.

[15] The connection between Ps 14 and Rom 3:10-12 is explored in Daniel Lee Segraves, “An Application of Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics to Psalms 14 and 53” (Th.M. thesis, Western Seminary, 2003).

[16] See Anthony Tyrell Hanson, Studies in Paul’s Technique and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 22; W.O.E. Oesterley, The Psalms: Translated With Text-Critical and Exegetical Notes (London: S.P.C.K., 1962); James L. Mays, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Psalms (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1994).

[17] The term “Elohistic Psalter” refers to Pss 42-83.  In these psalms, God is ordinarily referred to by the word ~yhiOla/ rather than hw”hy>.  It should be noted, however, that hw”hy> does appear frequently in the Elohistic Psalter and that ~yhiOla/ often appears in the Psalter outside of Pss 42-83.

[18] See Willem A. VanGemeren, in Frank E. Gaebelein, gen. ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 388.

[19] See Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalms II: 51-100 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1968), 19.

[20] That sinfulness has infected the covenant community may be seen in that much of the focus of this section of the Psalter, beginning with Ps 3, has to do with rebellion within the house of David.

[21] David C. Mitchell, The Message of the Psalter: An Eschatological Programme in the Book of Psalms, JSOT Supplement Series, 252 (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 172.

[22] An examination of the contexts of Pss 14 and 53 may be found in Segraves, 22-54, 75-93.

[23] Ps 54 does have one use of hwhy in David’s prayer, but this use is disputed by Kraus.  See Marvin E. Tate, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 20. Psalms 51-100 (gen. eds. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker; OT ed., John D. W. Watts; Waco, TX: Word Books, 1990), 45, n. 8.b.

[24] Although Bathsheba’s ethnic origins could be debated, Yehoshua Gitay writes, “The name ‘Sheba’ (‘Shua’ in 1 Chron. 3:5) probably refers to a foreign god, which may indicate the family of Bathsheba was of non-Israelite origin” (Paul J. Achtemeier, gen. ed., Harper’s Bible Dictionary [San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), s.v. “Bathsheba”).  Bathsheba’s father was Eliam (2 Sam 11:3), whose name means “god of the people.”  Eliam’s father was Ahithophel the Gilonite (2 Sam 23:24).  Ahithophel means, “My brother is foolish.”  Ahithophel – Bathsheba’s grandfather – was David’s counselor, but he betrayed David in the Absalom incident.  Even if Bathsheba were Jewish, she was married to a Gentile.  This supports the contextual relationship of Ps 51 with Pss 52-54.

[25] The idea that Ps 53 recalls Nabal is based on the observation that the arrangement of Pss 52-54 follows the order of the events in 1 Sam 21-26.  David’s betrayal by Doeg is found in 1 Sam 21:7; 22:9-23.  Nabal’s rejection of David is found in 1 Sam 25:2-44.  Ps 53 concerns the fool, the lb’n’, who lives as if there is no God.  Nabal’s denial of David’s legitimacy (1 Sam 25:10, 11, 22, 38), since David had been anointed by Samuel (1 Sam 16:1-13), was essentially a denial of God.  Although Nabal was an Israelite (1 Sam 25:3), he behaved like a Gentile, as suggested by Ps 53.  The background of Ps 54, concerning David’s betrayal to Saul by the Ziphites is found in 1 Sam 26.

[26] Although Ziph belonged to the tribe of Judah (Josh 15:20-24), those from that area who betrayed David are described as “strangers.”  Even if they were Israelites, they were behaving like Gentiles.  Literarily, this conforms Ps 54 to the general context of Gentile treachery.  Dahood is of the opinion that Ps 54 “distinctly emerges as the supplication of a king for deliverance from his foreign enemies” (Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalms II: 51-100 Anchor Bible 17 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1968), 23.

[27] See Norman Whybray, Reading the Psalms as a Book, JSOTSup 222 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996); Gerald Henry Wilson, The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1985); J. Clinton McCann, Jr., ed., The Shape and Shaping of the Psalter (Sheffield: JSOT, 1993); idem., A Theological Introduction to the Book of Psalms: The Psalms as Torah (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993); William L. Holladay, The Psalms through Three Thousand Years: Prayerbook of a Cloud of Witnesses (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993); Nancy L. DeClaisse-Walford, Reading from the Beginning: The Shaping of the Hebrew Psalter (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1997); David C. Mitchell, The Message of the Psalter: An Eschatological Programme in the Book of Psalms (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997).

[28] In his approach to canon criticism, Brevard Childs does not clearly define inspiration or distinguish between the relative value of literary activity and scribal activity.  (See Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture [London: SCM Press, 1979].)  Canonical-compositional hermeneutics, developed more recently, attributes inspiration not only to the original authors, but also to those involved in the final composition of the text.  (See, e.g., Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology, 36-85.)

[29] Exod 3:14-15; 6:1-7.

[30] Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are by the author.

[31] The final verse may be an inspired post-exilic addition.  If so, Israel was not in captivity when these psalms were originally written.  See Norman Whybray, Reading the Psalms as a Book, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 222 (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 61; Willem A. VanGemeren, in Frank E. Gaebelein, gen. ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 15.

[32] See, e.g., Pss 48:2; 110:1-2.

[33] That Paul quoted from Psalm 14 rather than Psalm 53 is demonstrated in Segraves, 132-140.

[34] These texts are Prov 24:12 (in Rom 2:6), Ezek 36:22 (in Rom 2:24), and Ps 51:4 (in Rom 3:4).

[35] Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology, 222.

[36] Ibid., 223.

[37] Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985), 222.

[38] Walter Brueggemann, The Creative Word: Canon as a Model for Biblical Education (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 7-10.

[39] Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology, 154.

[40] Lubeck, “An Apologetic for Canonical Shaping of the Old Testament (TaNaK),” 8. Emphasis in original.

[41] This has been illustrated in this paper by an examination of Paul’s use of Ps 14 in Rom 3:10-12.

[42] John H. Sailhamer, “The Canonical Approach to the Old Testament: Its Effect On Understanding Prophecy,” JETS 30:3 (1987): 315.

[43] Since it is a translation, is the LXX authoritative only insofar as it is quoted in the NT?  Since the majority of NT references to the OT is from the LXX, and since in the LXX the order of books does not follow the Hebrew canon, does this invalidate the idea that the relationship between the books informs interpretation?

[44] Luke and Acts were apparently originally written as one volume or at least as companion volumes intended to be read together.

[45] James Barr, Beyond Fundamentalism: Biblical Foundations for Evangelical Christianity (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1984), 144.

[46] Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology, 18, n. 12.

[47] See Authur G. Patzia, The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text and Canon (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995).

[48] Brevard S. Childs, The New Testament as Canon: An Introduction (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 22.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Acts 1:16, 20; 2:17-21, 25-28, 34-35; 3:22-23, 25; 4:11, 25-26; 7:3, 7, 27-28, 32-35, 37, 40, 42-43, 49-50; 8:32-33; 13:22, 33-35, 41, 47; 15:16-17; 28:26-27.

[51] Acts 1:16, 20; 2:17-21, 25-28, 34-35; 3:22-23; 4:11, 25-26; 7:37; 8:32-33; 13:22, 33-35; 15:16-17; 28:26-27.

[52] Acts 13:22, 33-35, 41, 47; 28:26-27.

[53] Acts 17:16-31.


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What I’ve been doing in the writing ministry since 2017

I don’t remember exactly what our church typewriter looked like in 1964, but I don’t think it was much different from the one in this picture. I used it to try to produce a flyer advertising a special meeting sponsored by our church, but my father, our pastor, was not impressed.

Many years later, when I owned an IBM Selectric needing repair, I discovered the difficulty of finding a typewriter repair shop. Formerly, there were nineteen such shops in Stockton, California. That number had shrunk to one.

Over the years, I have written twenty-one books, some before I had a computer. Most of the notes I took as a seminary student in the process of earning the degree Master of Arts in Exegetical Theology were hand-written. I took a course titled “Introduction to Computers” before I owned a computer. All I had was a textbook on the subject.

When I took a twelve-month sabbatical from teaching at Urshan Graduate School of Theology, my stated purpose was to write the second volume of my commentary on Psalms. It is still a work in progress, even though I have gone through several desktop and laptop computers, six iPads, and I have forgotten how many smartphones. I am still, however, on my first Apple Watch. I have made no attempt to do much writing on the watch.

So have I slowed down writing or stopped altogether? Where is the second volume of my psalms book?

No, I still feel called to write, and I am quite busy doing it. This morning, for example, I rose from bed at about 3:00 to work on the psalms project.

But other writing projects have crept into my schedule. Let me tell you about them.

Books

I have written two books in recent years:

  • Looking Forward: A Clear View of Biblical Prophecy (this book has also been translated and published in the Spanish language)
  • The Holy Spirit: A Commentary (this hard-cover project discusses almost every reference to the Holy Spirit in the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation)

Chapters

I have contributed two significant chapters for up-coming Early High Christology projects.

  • “Andrew D. Urshan: An Eastern Voice in Early Twentieth Century Oneness Pentecostalism” (I have signed the contract for this project, and it will soon be published by Pennsylvania State University Press under the title Oneness Pentecostalism at One Hundred).
  • “James and First-Century Jewish Christology.”

Magazine Articles

I have written about thirteen articles now published in the “Pentecostal Herald,” more recently known as “Pentecostal Life” magazine.

  • “The Seven Motivators”
  • “Yahweh, Jehovah and Jesus”
  • “We Have Been Where You Are … Let’s Talk About It” (I wrote this article together with my wife, Susan. It is the story of our marriage following the loss of our spouses, Robert Fuller and Judy Segraves).
  • “You Already Know Some Hebrew”
  • “The Everlasting Father”
  • “Greater Than”
  • “Bumper Stickers, Kool-Aid, and Submission”
  • “God Choose a Day of Rest: The Principle of the Sabbath”
  • “Is There a Difference between Joy and Happiness?”
  • “Marriage without a Helpmate?”
  • “Preach Recovery of Sight to the Blind”
  • “Worthy of Double Honor”
  • “You Shall be Baptized with the Holy Spirit”

So never fear. I’m still writing. The second volume of my Psalms commentary titled The Messiah in the Psalms, vol. 2, is still in the works. It keeps getting moved from burner to burner as other projects come to the forefront, but I have finished the following psalms:

  • Psalm 73
  • Psalm 74
  • Psalm 75
  • Psalm 76
  • Psalm 77
  • Psalm 78
  • Psalm 110
  • Psalm 132

I am currently working on Psalm 79.

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“I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy”


This morning after breakfast I sat down at the piano to play a song written almost 100 years ago. Susan came into the room to record it. What a privilege we have to come into the presence of God to worship Him!

Verse 1

I dreamed I went to that city called glory

So bright and so fair.

When I entered the gate I cried Holy;

The angels all met me there.

They carried me from mansion to mansion

And Oh, the sights I saw.

But I said I want to see Jesus,

The One who died for all.

Chorus

Then I bowed on my knees and cried Holy, Holy, Holy

I clapped my hands and sang glory,

Glory to the Son of God

Verse 2

I thought when I entered that city,

My loved ones all knew me well.

They showed me all through heaven;

The scenes are too num’rous to tell.

They showed me Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!

Mark, Luke, and Timothy.

But I said I want to bow down and give praise

To the One who died for me.

Verse 3

I thought when I saw my Savior

Oh, glory to God!

I just fell right down before Him,

Singing praise the name of the Lord.

I bowed down and worshipped Jehovah,

My friend of ‘calvary,

For I wanted to give praise to Jesus

For saving a sinner like me.


Words by Nettie Dudley Washington and music by E. M. Dudley Cantwell (copyright 1923, 1925 by Hill & Range Songs, Inc.).

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