Without going into wearisome historical details, we need to remember that these letters were written, and the lives they indicate were led, against the background of paganism. There were no churches, no Sundays, no books about the Faith. Slavery, sexual immorality, cruelty, callousness to human suffering, and a low standard of public opinion, were universal; traveling and communications were chancy and perilous; most people were illiterate. Many Christians today talk about the “difficulties of our times” as though we should have to wait for better ones before the Christian religion can take root. It is heartening to remember that this faith took root and flourished amazingly in conditions that would have killed anything less vital in a matter of weeks. These early Christians were on fire with the conviction that they had become, through Christ, literally sons of God; they were pioneers of a new humanity, founders of a new Kingdom. They still speak to us across the centuries. Perhaps if we believed what they believed, we might achieve what they achieved.
-J. B. Phillips, Letters to Young Churches, 1946
One of the oldest parchment manuscripts of the whole Bible (discovered in a monastery near what is believed to be Mt. Sinai in 1844) and dated to the 300s omits the verse in its original. This copy was also quite obviously later corrected to include the verse (written in on the margin or something). Another similar old parchment called Vaticanus (because it has been in the Vatican library since the 1400s) is considered the oldest copy of the whole Bible in existence and dates also to the 300s; it does not have the verse either. These are both careful and high-end copies of Scripture, and they are considered very reliable by most textual critics. Once you get into the 400s you get copies that have this verse and copies that don’t. So it seems reasonable to conclude that an extra verse got into some copies by the year 400 and is leaking into more and more.
We can understand psychologically why it would make sense for a person to be reluctant to drop something out and why an addition would start spreading. If you expect to read the words and you don’t see them, you tend to think that less can’t be right. If you don’t expect to read the words and yet you see them, you tend to think more is better. The result is than an omission usually does not tend to spread.
Here is an interesting thing that also happens. They can check the writings of the church fathers and see if they mention this verse. Eusebius, who lived from the 3rd to the early 4th century (300s) did not know about this verse. But all the guys from later on in the 4th and into the 5th did. That would be enough to surmise that after Eusebius and in the middle of the 4th century this reading was introduced.
Unfortunately, Origen (who didn’t make it out of the 3rd century and predates Eusebius) seems to have known about the verse, which could make the whole thing somewhat confusing! And on top of that it seems that the Diatessaron of Tatian, which dates to the 2nd century, had the verse also. So how can we know? These witnesses are actually less reliable, since they are just mentioning verses in passing and not copies of Scripture. Also, you have to remember that a copy of a book of Origen is not likely to be from Origen’s time: they are examining copies of copies, and there is always a chance that an older book gets harmonized to match the text the guy copying expects. So there is more to study there, but there is not enough evidence to throw out the strong likelihood of the verse being inserted in the middle of the 300s.
There are other places to look: the old translations of Scripture that we still have. It looks like the verse starts appearing in the 300s first in the Latin translations. There are Latin translations that omit it, however, along with translations into Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopian. So that also suggests it was originally missing.
And here is the conclusion the experts draw: “Since there is no satisfactory reason why the passage, if originally present in Matthew, should have been omitted in a wide variety of witnesses, and since copyists frequently inserted material derived from another Gospel, it appears that most manuscripts have been assimilated to the parallel in Mk 9:29.” In other words, when someone was copying Matthew, knowing what it says in the parallel passage in Mark, he slipped what Mark says into Matthew, and it spread from there.
 Metzger, B. M., A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed. Logos Bible Software), 35.
Telling a Better Story
These sessions about sexual ethics are timely and thoughtful, complete and inspiring. Highly recommended. Matthew Mason of the London Seminary Pastors' Academy delivers them.
Here is the website:
Here is the handout:
Here is the audio for the first talk:
Here is the audio for the second:
2 Chronicles 35:20-27
2 Chronicles 35:1-19
2 Chronicles 14
2 Chronicles 13
Flowers and friendship
Wildflower Tea August 11th 2020
Under the direction of Karla Myers, the basement was once again transformed into a beautiful tea room. This year, due to the pandemic, she and her team of planners were confronted with the added challenge of considering how to adjust the seating and serving arrangements. By placing fewer seats at larger tables, extra space was provided without destroying the friendly atmosphere. Plastic gloves were available at the head of the serving table.
Several ladies spent Saturday and/or Monday at the church. The hours setting up tables, hanging decorations, folding napkins, etc. were well spent. Conversation sweetened the work, and many hands made the load lighter.
Maurina served the ladies by planning the menu. The recipes were easy to follow, and the dishes were pretty and packed with flavor. Bonnie’s Hibiscus tea was refreshing, especially at the end of a hot and humid August evening.
Friendship was the theme of the program. Most of the ladies contributed by reading selected quotations. Julie and Jacquie sang an arrangement of the hymn, “Fairest Lord Jesus”.
Our special speaker was Joie Fitzpatrick, who spoke to us about the Best Friend, Jesus Christ. She reminded us that he is our Familiar, Faithful & Forgiving friend who desires our Fellowship. We were challenged to find Christ’s counsel for our good and our growth in His word. We need to read, to love, to listen, and to hide His word in our hearts. It will teach, help, encourage, chide, correct, and show us our need of repentance, as well as reveal the glory of His grace.
Bonnie closed the meeting by thanking the ladies and inviting all to join the church group as they plan to begin a Bible study on subject of Joy this September.
Clothing the Priests
The priests were to be clothed in a special way. They were clothed for glory and beauty because they were the servants in the house of God. Their clothing was in that sense livery, such as the servants of a great house wear, marking them out, signaling the dignity of their employer. The priestly garments were expensive clothes.
The main garment was called an ephod, which was an apron-like garment of costly material. On the shoulders of the ephod were onyx stones, each with six of the names of the tribes of Israel. The meaning is that the high priest who wore this garment carried the people on his shoulders. That was a priestly function: to represent the people before God.
Resting on the ephod and attached to it carefully was a pouch with a metal plate on the front called the breastplate. This golden plate had twelve different jewels set on it: four across and three down. These once again were engraved with the names of the twelve tribes, so that the priest had them on his heart. The point again is that he is their representative before God.
Under the ephod was a blue, sleeveless tunic, which had a hem bordered with yarn balls shaped like pomegranates alternating with metal bells. There are two things to observe here. One is the theme of trees and fruit that you get in the decorations of the Tabernacle and see emphasized more in the Temple. There is the suggestion of a garden, the garden, in fact, of Eden. Where did God come to walk with Adam before sin broke the relationship? It was in a garden, and the priest represents a return to that. What is the meaning of the bell? When the priest was doing his work in the tent, nobody saw him. Only priests could go in, and there was a section, the Holy of Holies, where nobody except the high priest could go. The bells, however, sounded as he went about his business: he could be heard though he could not be seen. The sound of a priest doing efficacious work in God's presence on behalf of God's people is the sound of the Gospel. The Gospel after all is a report of a transaction Jesus Christ our high priest has conducted on our behalf in God's presence, a report that he still intercedes for us in a place we can't see, and a promise of better access to God than the old covenant afforded. The text says that the bell had to sound so that Aaron might not die. That is why I think it represents the Gospel, the sound of the promise of the Gospel, the actual efficacious transaction without which nobody can live.
On the high priest's head was a turban, and surmounting the turban was a plate of gold in which was engraved "Holiness to the Lord." In connection with this garment we read that Aaron would bear any guilt from the holy things that the people consecrated. Having the engraved plate on his forehead, the gifts would be accepted. It is a constant reminder that the people brought contamination, uncleanness, and that which was unholy to God in whose presence everything must be made holy, fitting for him. God established a Tabernacle so that by means of these shadows and symbols they could have access to him. It was a limited access, but it was real access because it was a shadow and symbol of Jesus Christ, who really is holy, who really makes us clean, and who bears away our guilt.
Oil in God’s Lamp
The striking thing about the instructions for the oil used to light the seven-branched lamp in God’s sanctuary is where the instructions occur. They do not occur in chapter 26 when we learn about the lamp. Nor do they occur later when we learn about the incense used in the tabernacle, or when the fragrant anointing oil is described. The instructions for the oil that powers the oil lamps is given to us after the instructions for the perimeter fence and before the instructions for the priestly clothing.
When we think about the order in which the furnishings of the tabernacle are given, we find a certain motion. For example: the first thing described is the Ark of the Covenant, after which we move to the table and then the lamp. Then we get the tent itself and move on from that to the bronze altar outside the tent. Anybody who knows about the furnishings of the tabernacle will realize we haven’t had the smaller incense altar yet. That is something that goes inside the tent, and yet it is not described when every other item within the tent is. Clearly there are associations being made. This is what we need to do with the oil. We need to associate it with what surrounds it fully to understand what it means.
Once we are in the outer perimeter, which is what comes after the bronze altar and before the oil, we are in the area in which most of the priestly work was done, but not all. The priestly work also included a daily trimming of the lamps. With that daily trimming, we will eventually learn, there also came the offering of incense. But before that we have to have a priesthood.
So here is the order of events:
The oil is a way of connecting that which is continually harvested and continually brought through the camp to God’s dwelling, with the inner dwelling. It represents the best of the olive crop, the bounty, and it has a high and holy function: to shed light on the table in God’s house all night long. “The pure oil signified the gifts and graces of the Spirit, which are communicated to all believers from Christ the good olive, of whose fulness we receive (Zec. 4:11, 12), and without which our light cannot shine before men.” -Matthew Henry
Bringing the oil to its place is something only the priesthood can do, and so it is associated with them. It is something that must be constantly renewed, that comes from without and fuels the ongoing light and splendor of that place where prayers are offered up symbolically in incense by the high priest morning and evening when he trims the lamps. “This office God enjoins upon the priests, because they ought to be ministers of light when they are interpreting the Law, which David calls ‘the lamp of our feet, and the light of our paths.’” -John Calvin