Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Feast of Ss. Peter & Paul

These two have been on my mind as I've been working through Galatians (where Paul recounts setting Peter back on the path from the Judaizing heresy). I'm thankful for both of them: Peter gave the Church a pastoral and confessional interest, Paul gave the Church her rigorous theology. Thanks be to God for both of these wonderful men!

The Confession of Peter ("Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God") is commemorated on 18 January, and the Conversion of Paul (on the approach to Damascus) a week later on 25 January. On 29 June we commemorate the martyrdoms of both apostles. The date is the anniversary of a day around 258, under the Valerian persecution, when what were believed to be the remains of the two apostles were both moved temporarily to prevent them from falling into the hands of the persecutors.

Statue of St.  Peter, in St. Peter's SquareStatue of St.  Paul, in St. Peter's Square

The Scriptures do not record the deaths of Peter or Paul, or indeed any of the Apostles except for James the son of Zebedee (Acts 12:2), but they are clearly anticipated (see the readings below), and from an early date it has been said that they were martyred at Rome at the command of the Emperor Nero, and buried there. As a Roman citizen, Paul would probably have been beheaded with a sword. It is said of Peter that he was crucified head downward. The present Church of St Peter in Rome replaces earlier churches built on the same site going back to the time of the Emperor Constantine, in whose reign a church was built there on what was believed to be the burial site of Peter. Excavations under the church suggest that the belief is older than Constantine.

St. Augustine writes (Sermon 295):
Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles' blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith.

The Crucifixion of St. Peter, by CaravaggioFIRST READING: Ezekiel 34:11-16
(The LORD God will be a shepherd to Israel, and they shall be His flock.)

(The foundations of Zion, the city of God, rest upon the holy hills. Of many nations it shall be said: In Zion were they born.)

EPISTLE: 2 Timothy 4:1-8
(Paul writes: "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.")

THE HOLY GOSPEL: John 21:15-19
(Jesus, after rising from the dead, said to Peter: "When you were young, you went where you would, but when you are old, you will go where you are taken." And by these words, He foretold Peter's death. He then said, "Follow me.")

Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified thee by their martyrdom: Grant that thy Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by thy Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Encouragement from Jeremiah 12

5 "If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you,
how will you compete with horses?
And if in a safe land you are so trusting,
what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?
6 For even your brothers and the house of your father,
even they have dealt treacherously with you;
they are in full cry after you;
do not believe them,
though they speak friendly words to you."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hanging out with sinners

We ought not to withdraw entirely from all communion with unconverted people. It would be cowardice and indolence to do so, even if it were possible. It would shut us out from many opportunities of doing good. But we ought to go into their society moderately, watchfully, and prayerfully, and with a firm resolution to carry our Master and our Master’s business with us.

~ J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 2 , [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1998], 147.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Fatherhood of God

The Fatherhood of God

The Very Rev’d Canon Robert S. Munday, Ph.D.

Why do Christians call God “Father?” There are those who would say that using masculine language for God is only the result of a patriarchal conception of God that we need to move beyond. But the significance of calling God Father goes much deeper than that. It is worth noting that no other religion calls God “Father.” Even in Old Testament Judaism, they never addressed God as Father. They might say metaphorically, that God is like a Father. But they never called God “Father” in the way that Jesus does.

Jesus brings something entirely new to the realm of human existence. He calls God “Father,” because God is his Father, and he teaches his disciples, “When you pray, pray like this: “Our Father, who art in heaven…” Jesus could not call God “mother,” because he had a mother, and she wasn’t God. As we are “in Christ”—that powerful reality that the Apostle Paul deals with again and again in the New Testament—as we are in Christ, his Father becomes our Father.

But I hear the objection, “What about those who have had bad relationships with their fathers or who have had abusive fathers? It isn’t helpful for them to think of God as Father.” The problem is that naming God according to our conception of what is helpful relegates God to the level of a human construct. We don’t think of God as Father because it is a helpful analogy. We call God Father, because it is a reality—indeed the most precious reality that human beings can know—that if we are in Christ, his Father becomes our Father.

Those who may have had hurtful relationships with their earthly fathers can find healing and fulfillment in the true and perfect Fatherhood of God. God's love and care for us, through Christ, is a precious and powerful truth of which we must not lose sight amid the changing religious landscape that surrounds us.


Another wrong conception is the notion that God is everyone’s Father. Jesus, addressing the Pharisees, told them:

If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire” (John 8:42-44).

Clearly, the Pharisees to whom Jesus is speaking were not the children of God. Jesus’ Father was not their Father, because they did not receive the One whom God had sent—Jesus himself.

While God is the Creator of every human being, he is not everyone’s Father. The Apostle John makes the distinction:

He (Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God (John 1:10-13).

Even though Jesus, the Word, the Son of the Eternal Father, is the one through whom the world was made, when Jesus came into the world, his own—the people he had made—did not receive him.

But to those who did receive him, who believed in his name (i.e., received him by faith, confessed his name) he gave the power to become children of God. And Jesus refers to those people as being children born, not of natural descent—that is, they are not born children of God by their natural birth, rather they are those who are “born of God.”

Jesus makes the same point in John, chapter 3, when he tells Nicodemus: “"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again (or born from above).”

How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:5-7).

So, in the very clear words of Jesus, only those who are born again or born from above—not merely born physically, but “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8)—are the children of God who will see and inherit the kingdom.

We do the truth as well as our fellow human beings an injustice when we speak of the fatherhood of God as though it were universal. Those who have not believed in Christ’s name are not children of God. But every Christian ought to be ready and willing to tell them how they can be!

First, we have to get over the idea that sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with someone will offend them—that it is some kind of presumption to share our faith. We have a precious truth to share—how everyone can become a child of God through believing in Christ. That is why the word Gospel means Good News!

So let us share the Good News: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

The Very Rev’d Canon Robert S. Munday, Ph.D., is Dean and President of Nashotah House Theological Seminary and Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Quincy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Gospel in Galatians

In our study on Galatians, this is exactly what we're learning. The gospel is that Jesus essentially says, "Yo Teach...I got this one!" You can't possibly be good enough to earn favor with God. But you can turn a grateful heart to what He's done for you!

If you need to hear the gospel afresh, join us this Sunday at the Louisville Anglican Prayer Fellowship.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sermons posted

I hope you've been following our sermon series on Galatians. I also was finally able to post the sermon from Pentecost Sunday. (Unfortunately, we missed the introductory 8 minutes or so.) In the future, I'll try to make an mp3 recording for sermons so that you can load them to an iPod or mp3 player for greater portability.

Looking forward to seeing you next Lord's Day!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reason & Faith

I believe in reason. Reason is a God-designed cognitive process of inference and criticism, a discipline that forms virtuous habits of the mind. I reason in belief. Reasoning—giving warrants, making inferences, analyzing critically—does not take place in a vacuum but in a fiduciary framework, a framework of belief.” -- Kevin Vanhoozer

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sermon Proper 6 Galatians 1:11-2:10

Sermon Galatians 2 LAPF - Fr. Chris Larimer from Fr. Chris Larimer on Vimeo.

This is the second of a series on Galatians that I'm be preaching before the Louisville Anglican Prayer Fellowship. The text is Galatians 1:11-2:10 (ESV). It also reflects on the diversity found within ACNA, centered on a unity in the gospel. And it discusses - briefly - the nature of cultural absolutism and imperialism seen in recent discussions about the Anglican Communion (especially TEC and the "African intervention").

Monday, June 7, 2010

Council of Nicea as Theological Rorschach

rt from Pursiful

I’ve become convinced that you can tell a lot about somebody’s religious beliefs if you know what they think about the Council of Nicea in AD 325.

How would you complete this sentence? “The Council of Nicea…”

1. “…was a genuine work of the Holy Spirit, codifying for all time the true apostolic teaching on the person and nature of Christ.”

You are a conservative Catholic or Orthodox Christian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

2. “…was a good thing, and it may even be said that the Holy Spirit was in it, leading the church to affirm Christ’s full divinity and humanity in terms that have stood the test of time. Shame about those anathemas at the end.”

You are a run-of-the-mill conservative Christian. If you’re Protestant, you can probably recite the Four Spiritual Laws. If you’re Catholic or Orthodox, I bet you’ve had some interesting discussions with some of your fellow parishioners.

3. “…contextualized the Christian message for a Greco-Roman audience. In those terms, I have no problems with it, although I do cross my fingers at certain points when (if) I recite the Creed in church.”

You are a centrist or liberal Christian in a mainline denomination. You probably subscribe to The Christian Century and wear a jacket with elbow patches.

4. “…is irrelevant to my faith. It was just some bunch of Catholic bigwigs asserting their authority over plain, Bible-believing Christians like me. Of course I believe in the Trinity, why do you ask?”

You are a fundamentalist Christian. And you need to take a church history course.

5. “…is irrelevant to my faith. It was just some bunch of Catholic bigwigs asserting their authority over plain, Bible-believing Christians like me. Of course I deny the Trinity, why do you ask?”

You are a Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, or similar. And you need to take a church history course.

6. “…was the final nail in the coffin of the inclusive spirituality of Jesus, replacing theological diversity and egalitarianism with patriarchal regimentation and the silencing of all dissent. Oh, and they wrote the New Testament.”

You are a pagan or Gnostic who appreciates the teachings of Jesus—at least the ones that conform to your religious presuppositions—although you distrust most traditional, institutional forms of Christianity. You need to take a church history course, and you need to quit reading Dan Brown books.

7. “…was the final nail in the coffin of the Judaic faith of Yeshua ha-Mashiach, replacing Torah-observance and traditional Jewish piety with syncretistic pagan mythology. Oh, and they wrote the New Testament.”

You are an Ebionite. You appreciate the teachings of JesusYashuaYehoshuaYeshua—at least the ones that conform to your religious presuppositions—but want nothing to do with Christianity or the New Testament as classically defined. The Greek language probably makes you break out in hives.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sermon Proper 5 Galatians 1:1-10

Sermon Galatians 1 LAPF - Fr. Chris Larimer from Fr. Chris Larimer on Vimeo.

This is the beginning of a series on Galatians that I'll be preaching before the Louisville Anglican Prayer Fellowship. The text is Galatians 1:1-10 (ESV).

Saturday, June 5, 2010

St Boniface and Mission by Ax

Located in the very heart of modern-day Germany, in the province of Hesse, is a small humble town of only 15,000 inhabitants. In the middle of that town stands an imposing old cathedral built in the 12th-14th centuries of reddish stone. Situated in front of that cathedral is the statue of a man in a monk’s garb on a stump of a freshly felled oak, with a huge Saxon ax in his hand.

The humble town is Fritzlar, called Gaesmere in ancient times. It is known in Germany as the birthplace of two beginnings: Here began the Christianization of Germany, and here’s where the German Empire was born as a political entity. The statue is that of the Anglo-Saxon monk and missionary Wynfrith, also known as St. Boniface, the patron saint of Germany and the Netherlands. And the stump is the remains of the tree that belonged to the highest German god, the Oak of Thor. The Oak of Thor was the center of the pagan religion of the local tribe of the Hessians, and the most pagan Germans at the time.

In 723, on his way to Thüringia, St. Boniface stopped at Gaesmere. He had worked for five years as a missionary in Frisia, Hesse, and Thüringia, and he had some limited success. Unfortunately, as his biographer Willibald relates, those Germans that converted were never too stable in the faith; while giving lip service to Christ, they would secretly go back to their pagan ways, bringing sacrifices to the pagan gods, practicing divination and incantations, etc. Boniface decided to deal with the problem once and for all by attacking at the very center of their pagan religion. One morning he appeared at the Oak of Thor with an ax in his hand, surrounded by a pagan crowd who cursed him and expected the gods to intervene and kill him. He raised his hand against Thor and delivered the first blow. According to Willibald, immediately a strong wind came and blew the ancient oak over. Seeing that Thor failed to protect his holy tree and to kill Boniface, the Hessians converted to Christ. This event is considered the beginning of the Christianization of Germany. From Hesse, word spread, and other German tribes turned to Christianity. Boniface went to many places, destroying the altars and high places of the pagans, proving the superiority of the risen Christ over the blood-thirsty German deities. By 754, when he was martyred by a group of pagan Frisian warriors, Boniface was the archbishop and metropolitan of all Germany, with several bishoprics and other mission sites established by him, and all German tribes with the exception of the Saxons and the Frisians were converted to Christ.

What made Boniface expose himself to the wrath of the pagan Hessians and risk being slain by them for violating the central shrine of their religion?

The first five years of failures obviously taught Boniface a lesson: No matter how many personal conversions a missionary is able to produce, if they do not challenge the central idol of the culture, the new converts will fall away and go back to paganism. Every pagan culture has its central idol or idols. That central idol defines and determines every relationship, every practice, every institution, every word and sentence, every legal rule, every scientific and educational standard. The new converts, even while professing faith in Christ, are forced to define and determine all their relationships and practices according to the central idol in their society, and that is their main battle, their main source of stumbling blocks to fall away from the faith. The contradiction of believing in Christ while living according to an idol’s prescriptions for a society is the greatest struggle for those new believers.

Therefore, a missionary who doesn’t do his best to challenge the central idol of a culture is producing future apostates, not true believers. Boniface learned it the hard way. Therefore, he changed his strategy. He wasn’t a missionary to the individual souls of the Germans anymore; he was a missionary to Germany herself. And he challenged the central idol of Germany. To save his spiritual children from apostasy, he had to take on the chief adversary: Thor himself. Instead of breaking the twigs one by one, he laid his ax at the very root of the German pagan culture. And the result was the turning of whole tribes to Christ.

Boniface wasn’t the first to understand this important principle. The earliest church, as recorded by Luke in Acts, was not concerned only about fixing the personal morality and the private religious life of the new converts. The early church was not persecuted for producing worshippers of Christ, neither was it persecuted for the individual moral purity of its members. It was the bold and uncompromising declaration that “there is another King, one Jesus” that earned the Christians the privilege to feed the lions and to become living torches for the Emperors’ parties. The Christian Gospel was specifically directed against the central idol in that society—the cult to the Emperor—in its declaration that Jesus Christ was the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Only in the context of such a comprehensive challenge against the central dogma—or idol—of the social order can an individual soul find the emotional fuel and the strength to remain faithful to their Lord and Savior in their practical daily life; and only in the context of a comprehensive worldview as opposed to the dominant worldview of the culture can a believer find his place in the Kingdom of God as a civilization alternative to the wicked parody of civilization he has around himself. A Christian with a theology for the salvation of his soul only, without a theology for the reformation of his culture to challenge the idols of the day, is a Christian living double life: His spirit will serve God while his body and mind and money and work and relationships will serve the idols. Eventually, if he is not equipped with the knowledge that will close this gap, he will be severely tempted to let his spirit follow his mind and body and money and work and relationships, and he will submit to idols.

That’s what happened to St. Boniface’s spiritual children after his first five years on the field. He learned his lesson, and so he acted accordingly.

Very few missionaries today understand this important truth of foreign missions. Missions today are not comprehensive missions to the nations; they are missions only to “save souls.” You will be hard pressed to find any mission organizations that train or encourage their missionaries to identify or confront the central idols of a culture. Very few precious missionaries ever confront cultural idols; most are only focused on the mantra of “saving souls.” As if it’s possible to separate the soul of a man from his culture, from his relationships, and from the legal, economic, and political reality of his culture.

Societies today have their sacred oaks. The more developed and advanced a society is, the more sophisticated and refined its idols are, and more subtle and more devious their hold on men’s souls is. Societies like Europe, Latin America, or East Asia—and even the United States—don’t have official sacred shrines anymore. They have replaced them with a more sophisticated idol: the idol of the welfare state. It has no sacred oaks, no visible and material shrines, no official sacrifices or divinations or incantations. But it has its invisible sacrifices and shrines. Whole cultures that pretend to be “rationalistic” and “scientific” are caught in the nets of this most irrational of all idols in history; its power is so strong over the minds of men that in those societies there is no opposition to it. Even when the socialist welfare state proves completely incapable to deliver even a single one of its promises, the men and women of these societies still keep laying their trust and hope at the feet of the idol, not even thinking for a moment that their faith is misguided and deceitful.

And yet, we seldom see missionaries who challenge that central idol of societies. No wonder Europe—where it has taken the strongest hold on society—is believed to be “the graveyard of missionaries.” Missionaries would go and do evangelism, plant churches, convert souls, and establish regular services. And when they went back home, it was only a matter of a couple of years before those churches disintegrated. And no wonder: A new convert worships Christ on Sunday morning, but then starting from Monday morning through Saturday night his life is shaped, defined, and controlled by the idol of the almighty welfare state. And because the missionary is usually silent and never challenges this central idol, the new believer has no ideology, no worldview, and no alternatives, and he is left without any means to oppose that control.

Eventually, like St. Boniface found out, the god of Monday morning takes over, and the God of Sunday morning remains only an empty religious shell. A believer left without means to defend his faith against a powerful idol will eventually give in. And when thousands of missionaries in a culture see the fruit of their diligent work destroyed, they declare that culture a “graveyard for missionaries.”

But such description is wrong. No culture is a “graveyard for missionaries.” The fault lies with the missionaries themselves. The truth is, they never even started the real missionary work. A missionary is not a missionary until they set their ax against the roots of the culture’s sacred oaks. They are not a missionary until they have issued a challenge against the central idols of that culture. A mission that only addresses the individual soul and never the society in which that soul operates is an exercise in futility. Only a comprehensive challenge, a message that proclaims Jesus Christ as Lord over everything—including rulers and powers—can win a nation for Christ.

That is a lesson that modern missionaries need to learn.

St. Boniface’s strategy to destroy the shrines of the pagan gods cost him his life. Thirty years after felling the Oak of Thor, the aged archbishop was attacked by pagan Frisians, whose shrines he had destroyed a few days earlier. His biographer claims that they only wanted the treasures he carried in his chests. When they opened the chests, however, they discovered only the books he carried with himself.


Almighty God, you called your faithful servant Boniface to be a witness and martyr in Germany, and by his labor and suffering you raised up a people for your own possession: Pour out your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many your holy Name may be glorified and your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, for ever and ever. Amen.

Acts 20:17-28
Luke 24:44-53
Psalm 115:1-8 or
Psalm 31:1-5

Preface of Apostles

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Martyrs of Uganda and Mary Glasspool

The chatter in the main TEc outlets about Uganda and its homophobia seems to forget how that nation became overwhelmingly Christian (as high as 85% in regular attendance) - the Martyrs of Uganda. I know it's conveniently left out of the discussion - how the flagrant pansexualism of The Episcopal Corp. is a true hindrance to Christians in other countries - but it's true. Even the advocates of pansexualism point out that the reason the martyrs were killed was because they refused to submit to homosexual advances by the pagan king of Buganda.

When the Global South stands up against the revisionist agenda, it isn't simply because they have Biblical disagreements; it is fueled by the living memory that resistance to the sodomite cause was the spark that set off a Spirit led revival of their nation.


Psalm 138 Habakkuk 2:9-14 Hebrews 10:32-39 Matthew 24:9-14

Preface of Holy Week

O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before you the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience, even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Justin Martyr - just in case

Justin Martyr (picture courtesy Special Collections Library, Univ. of Michigan)Justin was born around 100 (both his birth and death dates are approximate) at Flavia Neapolis (ancient Shechem, modern Nablus) in Samaria (the middle portion of Israel, between Galilee and Judea) of pagan Greek parents. He was brought up with a good education in rhetoric, poetry, and history. He studied various schools of philosophy in Alexandria and Ephesus , joining himself first to Stoicism, then Pythagoreanism, then Platonism, looking for answers to his questions. While at Ephesus, he was impressed by the steadfastness of the Christian martyrs, and by the personality of an aged Christian man whom he met by chance while walking on the seashore. This man spoke to him about Jesus as the fulfilment of the promises made through the Jewish prophets. Justin was overwhelmed. "Straightway a flame was kindled in my soul," he writes, "and a love of the prophets and those who are friends of Christ possessed me." Justin became a Christian, but he continued to wear the cloak that was the characteristic uniform of the professional teacher of philosophy. His position was that pagan philosophy, especially Platonism, is not simply wrong, but is a partial grasp of the truth, and serves as "a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." He engaged in debates and disputations with non-Christians of all varieties, pagans, Jews, and heretics. He opened a school of Christian philosophy and accepted students, first at Ephesus and then later at Rome. There he engaged the Cynic philosopher Crescens in debate, and soon after was arrested on the charge of practicing an unauthorized religion. (It is suggested that Crescens lost the debate and denounced Justin to the authorities out of spite.) He was tried before the Roman prefect Rusticus, refused to renounce Christianity, and was put to death by beheading along with six of his students, one of them a woman. A record of the trial, probably authentic, is preserved, known as The Acts of Justin the Martyr.

Three works of Justin have been preserved.
His First Apology (in the sense of "defense" or "vindication") was addressed (around 155) to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and his adopted sons. (It is perhaps worth noting that some of the fiercest persecutors of the Christians were precisely the emperors who had a strong sense of duty, who were fighting to maintain the traditional Roman values, including respect for the gods, which they felt had made Rome great and were her only hope of survival.) He defends Christianity as the only rational creed, and he includes an account of current Christian ceremonies of Baptism and the Eucharist (probably to counteract distorted accounts from anti-Christian sources).
The Second Apology is addressed to the Roman Senate. It is chiefly concerned to rebut specific charges of immorality and the like that had been made against the Christians. He argues that good Christians make good citizens, and that the notion that Christianity undermines the foundations of a good society is based on slander or misunderstanding.
The Diaolog with Typho the Jew is an account of a dialog between Justin and a Jewish rabbi named Trypho(n) (probably a real conversation with a real rabbi, although it may be suspected that Justin in editing it later gave himself a few good lines that he wished he had thought of at the time), whom he met while promenading at Ephesus shortly after the sack of Jerusalem in 135. Trypho had fled from Israel, and the two men talked about the Jewish people and their place in history, and then about Jesus and whether he was the promised Messiah. A principal question is whether the Christian belief in the deity of Christ can be reconciled with the uncompromising monotheism of the Scriptures. The dialogue is a valuable source of information about early Christian thought concerning Judaism and the relation between Israel and the Church as communities having a covenant relation with God. Toward the end of the dialog, Trypho asks, "Suppose that I were to become a Christian. Would I be required to give up keeping kosher and other parts of the Jewish law?" Justin replies: "Christians are not agreed on this. Some would say that you must give them up. Others, such as myself, would say that it would be quite all right for you, as a Jewish convert to Christianity, to keep kosher and otherwise observe the Law of Moses, provided that you did not try to compel other converts to do likewise, and provided that you clearly understand that keeping kosher will not save you. It is only Christ who saves you." They finally part friends, with Trypho saying, "You have given me food for thought. I must consider this further."
An interesting feature is the dispute about texts. Justin would quote a passage from the Septuagint (LXX), the standard Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures, and Trypho would reply, "That is not an accurate translation of the Hebrew. You Christians have been tampering with the text!" He never (at least as reportd by Justin) denies that Justin is correctly quoting the Greek manuscripts as they existed at the time, never brings forward an uncorrupted translation that has been preserved by Greek-speaking Jews.

The subsequent history of this dispute about translations is that the Jews, who had produced the LXX translation between 285 and 132 BC, repudiated it as unreliable and produced several subsequent translations, chiefly that of Aquila (around 140), which were close literal translations of the received Hebrew text -- what we may by an anachronism call the Masoretic Text (MT). Many Christians, on the other hand, noted that the LXX is the version usually quoted in the New Testament, even when it differs from the Hebrew. They recalled a Jewish story to the effect that the translation had been produced by 70 (or 72) scholars (hence the name), each working separately, and that their results when compared agreed perfectly; and they took this story as an indication that the LXX was an inspired translation, and that when it disagreed with the Hebrew, so much the worse for the Hebrew! The earliest Latin versions of the Bible (known collectively as the Old Latin (OL)) are translated from the LXX. However, when Jerome was called to produce a new version of the Latin Bible, he translated directly from the Hebrew (except for the Psalms, where he produced two versions), and this reduced the prestige of the LXX in the West. For many years scholars, noting the differences between the LXX and the MT, supposed that the LXX was simply a sloppy translation. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls included many Hebrew manuscripts of portions of Old Testament books (Samuel is the outstanding example) that had readings that agreed with the LXX against the MT. Accordingly, it is now widely held that the LXX is an accurate translation of Hebrew manuscripts representing one of several versions, but not always the version that ultimately prevailed in Hebrew circles and came to be what we call the MT. As for why it happened that the LXX was so often better suited to Christian purposes in proof-texting than the MT, several explanations come to mind:
(a) The early Christians, who were for the most part Greek-speakers, started their search for good proof texts by reading the LXX, and they accordingly found all the places where the LXX gives them what they want and the MT doesn't, while they completely missed all the places where the MT gives them what they want and the LXX doesn't.
(b) The Jews, in their subsequent sorting out of their various manuscript traditions, wherever the rival claims of two readings were otherwise roughly balanced, tended to be more hospitable to a reading that did not furnish aid and comfort to their opponents.
(c) The early Christians, being Greek-speakers steeped in the LXX, tended to remember the details of life of Christ in a way that was colored by the LXX. For example (not a very good example), Matthew (27:34) tells us that before Our Lord was crucified, he was offered wine with gall added. It is unlikely that gall was actually used (it has no relevant pharmacological properties), and I assume that Matthew was using the term simply to refer generically to a bitter-tasting substance. However, his use of this particular term is undoubtedly influenced by Psalm 69:21, considered as a prophecy of the crucifixion. As noted, this is not a very good example, because it does not involve the wording of the LXX. But my point is that a Christian writer, describing an event in the life of Christ while thinking of an Old Testament passage that he believes foreshadows that event, will, without sacrificing factual accuracy, naturally allow that passage to affect his choice of details to mention and words in which to describe them, and if he has been reading the LXX, then the LXX will be a more impressive version to cite than the MT if you are trying to match the event as recorded with the alleged prediction of it.

From the First Apology:

On finishing the prayers we greet each other with a kiss. Then bread and a cup of water mixed with wine are brought to the leader and he, taking them, sends up praise and glory to the Father of the Universe through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and offers thanksgiving at some length that we have been deemed worthy to receive these things. When the leader has finished the prayers and thanksgivings, the whole congregation assents, saying, "Amen." ("Amen" is Hebrew for "So be it.") Then those whom we call deacons give to each of those present a portion of the consecrated bread and wine and water, and they take it to the absent.

Justin's works are found in the multi-volumed set called The Ante-Nicene Fathers, and in various other collections of early Christian writings. You can find the 38-volume (I think) Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers, Edinborough edition, at the web site http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/.

[I'm not sure this is still being sold. However, the same material and much more is available from CCEL.]


Psalm 16:5-11
Deuteronomy 7:7-9
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 12:44-50

Preface of a Saint (3)


Almighty and everlasting God, who found your martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher, seeking the true God, and revealed to him the sublime wisdom of your eternal Word: Grant that all who seek you, or a deeper knowledge of you, may find and be found by you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.