Monthly Archives: October 2015

Crossan’s buddies are his scholarly support

11 08 6972 John Dominic Crossan.jpg

(John Dominic Crossan, courtesy

By Spencer D Gear

John Dominic Crossan, eminent historical Jesus scholar, has a one-eyed view of calling on those who principally are his ‘intellectual debt’.

Crossan is clear (at least to me) about his view of which scholars he should call on for support and critique of his views. It is important to note Crossan’s perspective regarding those who offer a contrary opinion: In quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he only quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv; emphasis in original). Why would he want to preserve his opinion and scholarship and retain it in-house? Is there a possible presuppositional bias coming through??[1]

However, he breaks with his scholarly ideal by citing the ‘secondary literature’ of people such as N T Wright (Crossan 1998:44, 49, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 104, 258), Luke Johnson (Crossan 1998:30-31, 103, 114) and Dorothy Sayers (Crossan 1998:91, 92, 93, 98, 99). He doesn’t practise what he preaches on this principle he advocates in his writing.

Is this being unfair to Crossan?

One responded:

I think this is unfair. He’s explaining why he includes the references he does. There are several approaches to references. The ones I see in scholarly work are (1) acknowledging the source of information and arguments that appear in the text, and (2) citing everyone relevant. The second tends to lead to extensive footnotes, because if citations go beyond the views shown in the text, many authors feel the need to talk about what’s in those sources. After all, a long list of references isn’t that useful unless you give the reader an idea of what the position of each is.
I don’t think it’s showing bias to use the shorter approach, where you show only the sources actually used in the text. If a viewpoint is important enough that you really have to engage with it, presumably it will be discussed in the text, in which case there will be appropriate footnotes.[2]

My reply[3] was that that was a false assertion and one of my PhD examiners agreed with my assessment of Crossan’s bias towards his own ilk. In fact, this examiner considered that I was somewhat gentle in exposing Crossan’s biased approach to sources. My examiner is one with an international reputation in historical Jesus’ studies.
When one favours only those of his own persuasion and does not want to get into discussion of secondary sources that disagree with him, one can see he is going uphill with scholarship. This is especially so when he cannot consistently maintain his position. N T Wright gave him a fair run for his money and he dared to violate his own persuasion of referring only to those who are his intellectual debt.
I asked: Are you a supporter of J D Crossan’s postmodern interpretation of Jesus?

Is this being semi-popular?

This fellow’s comeback was:

No. I’m closer to Wright.[4] But my problem with him isn’t his footnoting policy, with which I’m sympathetic. I’d rather see people engage with other scholars in the text, rather than putting half the book in footnotes. So for me, the issue is what appears in the text. Partly because he doesn’t really review a very full range of scholarship, I think of “The Historical Jesus” (the work you’re citing) as a semi-popular synthesis of his position, not a real scholarly work like Wright’s Christian Origins series. A similar work, Wright’s “How God Became King,” has virtually no footnotes, with a very selective bibliography. I haven’t read much of Crossan, so I don’t know whether he has written something more scholarly or not.[5]

[6]I would not regard Crossan’s, The Historical Jesus (1991), as ‘a semi-popular synthesis of his position’. This is what Crossan states in the book:

I knew, therefore, before starting this book that it could not be another set of conclusions jostling for place among the numerous scholarly images of the historical Jesus currently available. Such could, no matter how good it was, but add to the impression of acute scholarly subjectivity in historical Jesus research. This book had to raise most seriously the problem of methodology and then follow most stringently whatever theoretical method was chosen (Crossan 1991:xxviii).?

That is hardly a ‘semi-popular’ approach to the historical Jesus. I’ve spent 5 years analysing Crossan in my PhD dissertation-only research (503pp, 1.15 spacing) and his 1991 publication is not meant for the popular level. For the general populace, you’ll need to go to Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (Crossan 1994), which is a popularised, abridged edition of Crossan (1991).

After this kind of challenge to him, at least he acknowledged that he had not fully re-read Crossan (1991) ‘to see where I might have gotten the impression that it was a summary presentation’. Then he adds: ‘When Crossan begin to build his picture of Jesus, he uses lots of historical background, but I don’t see him seriously considering alternative pictures and showing how his methodology leads to his conclusion. (This is close to your own objection, except that my concern is with the text, not the footnotes.) In some cases his arguments are obviously missing necessary detail.’ Then he spun off on a tangent of Crossan’s view of the ‘kingdom of God. [7]

Crossan is ‘almost entirely wrong’

NTWright071220.jpg(N T Wright, courtesy Wikipedia)


How would another eminent historical Jesus’ scholar evaluate Crossan’s contribution to historical Jesus’ studies? N T Wright’s assessment of Crossan (1991) was:

John Dominic Crossan is one of the most brilliant, engaging, learned and quick-witted New Testament scholars alive today. He has been described by one recent friendly critic as a “rather skeptical New Testament professor with the soul of a leprechaun”. He seems incapable, in his recent work at least, of thinking a boring thought or writing a dull paragraph….

It is all the more frustrating, therefore, to have to conclude that the book [Crossan 1991] is almost entirely wrong (Wright 1996:44, emphasis added).?

‘Almost entirely wrong’ is a stunning assessment by an eminent historical Jesus’ scholar (Wright), with which I have to agree, as Crossan’s presuppositional postmodernism causes him to engage in question begging fallacies where his conclusion agrees with his starting premises.

Since you [Hedrick] admit you haven’t read much of Crossan, I suggest that you take a read of larger chunks of Crossan (1991; 1998) to realise that these two publications are meant to be serious scholarly works. I consider that Wright (1992; 1996; 2003) has annihilated Crossan’s postmodern interpretation of the historical Jesus.
Crossan’s, The Birth of Christianity (1998), is a 651 page examination of ‘what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus’ (sub-title of book) but it lacks substantive historical precision when his postmodern presuppositions so dominate his premises and conclusions.

Crossan’s definition of history fails

This is Crossan’s definition of history and he repeats it in several of his publications: ‘This, then, is my working definition of history: History is the past reconstructed interactively by the present through argued evidence in public discourse’ (Crossan 1998:20; 1999:3 emphasis in original). However, he doesn’t consistently apply this definition throughout his publications. He mixes it with a traditional approach to history like that described by Wright: ‘History, I shall argue, is neither “bare facts” nor “subjective interpretations”, but is rather the meaningful narrative of events and intentions‘ (Wright 1992:82, emphasis in original). Wright admits that this involves a point of view by historians (they cannot be ahistorical observers), ‘a massive programme of selection’, and ‘such a process inevitably involves a major element of interpretation. We are trying to make sense of the world in which we live‘ (Wright 1992:82-83, emphasis in original).

1. Crossan’s use of a logical fallacy

How does one respond to a person who claims that Crossan uses ‘lots of historical background’ and ‘in some cases his arguments are obviously missing necessary detail’?[8]

This writer’s lack of exposure to Crossan, in my view, has led to this selective and imbalanced perspective.[9]

When Crossan starts with this definition of history: ‘This is my working definition of history: History is the past reconstructed interactively by the present through argued evidence in public discourse…. History as argued public reconstruction is necessary to reconstruct our past in order to project our future’ (Crossan 1998:20; emphasis in original), and then concludes with his reader-response, interactive content of history, this is a begging the question logical fallacy in its historiography, especially in light of the consensus of historians that I examined in my PhD dissertation. Crossan’s statement points to a worldview of postmodern deconstruction that imposes another perspective on the historical data that so skews the data to accommodate Crossan’s reader-response philosophy.

Crossan wrote that ‘by historical study I mean an analysis whose theories and methods, evidence and arguments, results and conclusions are open, in principle and practice, to any human observer, any disciplined investigator, any self-conscious and self-critical student…. The historical Jesus is always an interpretive construct of its own time and place but open to all of that time and place’ (Crossan 1994:199, emphasis in original). He was pointed in his challenge that historians should say, ‘This, in my best professional reconstruction, is what happened; that did not’ (Crossan 1995:37).

So, his postmodern interpretation of history as the past recreated interactively has these ramifications. How this works for Crossan is that the description of the historical Jesus will vary with each generation as ‘an interpretive construct’. The view of Jesus is open to all that that time and place provides. In other words, we create our view of the historical Jesus, based on what is happening in our time, city, country and world. This is nonsense historically.

Could you imagine the history of George Washington, the pilgrim fathers, Captain James Cook and Captain Arthur Phillip being based on Hedrick or my ‘interpretive construct’ in the USA or Australia in the 21st century? Did George Washington and James Cook say and do what is recorded or is that open to your or my interactive, deconstruction? That’s what we are dealing with in examining Crossan’s approach to history. Imagine doing that with the ‘facts’ contained in Crossan’s autobiography (Crossan 2000)? Did he grow up in Ireland or is that only a metaphor to be deconstructed by me in the 21st century – deconstructed with inventions I want to make?
Imagine reading Crossan’s other books with that view. Surely he wants me to read his books so that I understand the content of what he means with English grammar and syntax, rather than imposing 21st century Brisbane environment and my reader-response on his texts. If I read the Brisbane Times (BT) like that and passed on my postmodern, reader-response, interactive, contemporary interpretation of today’s BT stories to the people in my church on Sunday, they would think I was going over the edge mentally.

Since Hedrick provided no references to which parts of Crossan’s works he referred, regarding the “Kingdom of God”, I have no way of checking if what you are saying is correct or not.

However, he did admit he had not read much of Crossan.

2. Crossan teams up with an archaeologist

To overcome some of this historical imbalance (in my view), Crossan teamed up with archaeologist, Jonathan L Reed, in writing (1) Excavating Jesus (Crossan & Reed 2001), and (2) In Search of Paul (Crossan & Reed 2004). However, both authors have a presuppositional bias towards postmodernism in their interpretations.

This proves nothing more than a postmodern deconstructionist can be found also among a historical Jesus scholar and an archaeologist. This is how this postmodern philosophy overwhelms their interpretations with these kinds of explanations:

  • Resurrection is not equivalent to resuscitation, apparition or exaltation.
  • Rather, ‘to say that God raised Jesus from the dead was to assert that the general resurrection had thereby begun. Only for such an assertion was “resurrection” or “raised from the dead” the proper terminology. That is very clear from a reading of 1 Corinthians 15, a commentary by Paul on an earlier and presumably second or traditional layer of text’ (Crossan & Reed 2001:259-260, emphasis in original).

Crossan & Reed push the lack of uniqueness about Jesus’ resurrection with emphasising two directions in 1 Corinthians 15, ‘If there is no Jesus resurrection, there is no general resurrection; if there is no general resurrection, there is no Jesus resurrection’ (Crossan & Reed 2001:260). There authors are correct in showing the connection between Jesus’ resurrection and the general resurrection, but this is where the damage enters with this kind of assumption, ‘The resurrection of Jesus is the start of the general resurrection, that is to say, with Jesus’ resurrection the general resurrection has begun’ (Crossan & Reed 2001:260, emphasis in original). They claim that this ‘proclamation is stunningly creative and profoundly original’ on at least four counts which involve a choice among alternatives. One of those differences is that ‘it is profoundly original in its distinction between the general resurrection as instantive moment or durative process in apocalyptic consummation’ (Crossan & Reed 2001:161).

a. Let’s check the evidence from 1 Corinthians 15

Does 1 Corinthians 15 teach that Jesus’ resurrection is the start of the general resurrection and there is a distinction between instant moment versus durative process (the Crossan & Reed view)? Paul was dealing with a particular objection in Corinth: ‘Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?’ (1 Cor 15:12 ESV). To that question his response was: ‘But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain’ (1 Cor 15:13-14 ESV).

Note that 1 Cor 15:12-14 does not teach what Crossan & Reed state that the resurrection of Jesus is the start of the general resurrection. What these verses do teach is that there will be a resurrection of dead people because Christ has been raised from the dead. Yes, ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’ (1 Cor 15:20). When will this resurrection of the dead take please? It is in the future as indicated by this language: ‘So also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end….’ (1 Cor 15:22-23).

The evidence is convincing from 1 Cor 15 and it is not in agreement with Crossan & Reed. There will be a general resurrection of the dead at ‘the end’, at the Parousia when ‘the last enemy to be destroyed is death’ (1 Cor 15:26). So, Crossan & Reed have imposed their own postmodern interpretation on 1 Cor 15 to make it fit with their agenda.

b. Postmodern performance by Crossan & Reed

The essence of resurrection, according to N T Wright, is: ‘What the creator god did for Jesus is both the model and the means of what he will do for all Jesus’ people’ (Wright 2003:216; emphasis in original). Crossan & Reed’s emphasis on I Corinthians 15:12-13, 15b-16 is that ‘the argument is very clear: no Jesus resurrection, no general resurrection; no general resurrection, no Jesus resurrection’. They continue with interpretation of I Corinthians 15:20, ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died’ (NRSV) as meaning, ‘Jesus’s resurrection is to the general resurrection as first fruits are to the rest of the harvest. There is no possibility of Christ’s resurrection as a special, unique, peculiar privilege accorded to him alone’ (Crossan & Reed 2004:342-343).

It is true that this passage teaches that Jesus’ resurrection and the general resurrection are connected, ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised…. If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised’ (1 Cor 15:13, 16). However, Crossan & Reed’s statement that ‘there is no possibility of Christ’s resurrection as a special, unique, peculiar privilege accorded to him alone’ needs challenging because of these facts:

(1) Preaching is vain and faith is futile ‘if Christ has not been raised’ (1 Cor 15:14). This verse does not say, ‘If Christ has not been raised and there is no general resurrection, your preaching is without content and ineffective and your faith is pointless’.[10] Christ’s resurrection is unique in order to provide content and foundation to preaching and faith. This is related to another unique necessity of Jesus’ resurrection,

(2) ‘If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins’ (1 Cor 15:17). This is explained further in Romans 4:25, ‘He was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification’. The unique, peculiar, and special mission of Jesus’ resurrection was to provide justification for sins so that people are no longer in their sins. They are declared righteous (justified) before God. Of this verse, Thomas Aquinas wrote: ‘In order to complete the work of our salvation: because, just as for this reason did He endure evil things in dying that He might deliver us from evil, so was He glorified in rising again in order to advance us towards good things’ according to Romans 4:25 (Aquinas 1947:3.53.1). The death of Jesus ‘for us’, as articulated in Romans 4:25 and 5:10 includes both justification and sanctification and ‘they are inextricably bound together with his resurrection’ (Fee 1987:743-744). For Crossan to denigrate this unique role of the resurrected Son in salvation is to deny an essential Christian doctrine. The uniqueness of Jesus’ resurrection cannot be detached from eternal salvation itself. Crossan’s reconstruction of Jesus’ resurrection to exclude its uniqueness is tantamount to a denial of Christian existence for the sake of a postmodern view of human beings and reconstruction of the meaning of the resurrection.

Crossan & Reed continue with their metaphorical imposition on the text in pursuit of a postmodern agenda:

Recall the discussion of Jewish and of Christian-Jewish “resurrection…. Those who claimed Jesus had begun the terminal moment of apocalyptic climax would have to present some public evidence of a world transformed from injustice and evil to justice and peace. It would not and could not suffice to claim one or many empty tombs and one or many risen apparitions. That might all be well and good, but where was the evidence, any evidence, of a transformed world? For that they had only their own communal lives as evidence. This is how we live with God and on this basis we seek to persuade others to do likewise. This is our new creation, our transformed world. We in God, God in us, and both together here below upon this earth.

Paul claimed in 1 Corinthians that, “if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” 15:14). As stated, that comment is true for Christianity, but so also is its reverse. If Christian faith has been in vain, that is, has not acted to transform itself and this world toward the justice of God, and if Christian proclamation has been in vain, that is, has not insisted that such is the church’s vocation, then Christ was not raised. Christianity could certainly still claim that Jesus was exalted and had ascended to the right hand of God. But resurrection [the argument of this chapter] presumes the start of cosmic transformation, not just the promise of it, not just the hope of it, not just talk about it, and not just theology about it. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher can be easily seen in all its marbled past and disputed present within today’s Jerusalem. But the Church of the Blessed Resurrection can only be seen in a world under transformation by Christian cooperation with divine justice and by Christian participation in divine justice (Crossan & Reed 2001:270).

This is a Crossan & Reed metaphorical deconstruction of Christ’s resurrection to make it mean what they want in the 20th century – resurrection meaning a world transformed from injustice and evil to justice and peace, a Christian participation in divine justice.

The biblical evidence is that Jesus’ death and resurrection make justification by faith possible for all who believe in Jesus for salvation. This is affirmed by Romans 4:25, ‘He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification’ (NIV). For a further explanation, see R C Sproul on ‘Resurrection and justification’.

This unique resurrection was the firstfruits, guaranteeing that there will be a resurrection of the dead at Christ’s second coming. There is no postmodern deconstructionist agenda in that view. It is based on the plain meaning of the biblical text.

If history does not involve postmodern deconstruction by deconstructionists like J D Crossan and Jonathan Reed, what then is it?

3. What is history?

By contrast, eminent Yale University professor of missions and oriental history, Kenneth Scott Latorette, defined Christian history this way:

The distinctively Christian understanding of history centers upon historical occurrences. It has at its heart not a set of ideas but a person. By a widespread convention historians reckon history as b.c. and a.d. They are aware of many other methods of recording dates and know that this particular chronology has acquired extensive currency because of the growing dominance during the past few centuries of a civilization in which Christian influences have been potent. To the Christian, however, this reckoning of time is much more than a convention. It is inherent in history. In Jesus of Nazareth, so the Christian holds, God once for all disclosed Himself and acted decisively. The vast majority of Christians believe that Jesus was God incarnate (Latourette 1948).

(Kenneth Scott Latourette, courtesy Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity)


This definition is parallel with that of N T Wright, a scholar of the historical Jesus and early Christian origins in the 20th and 21st centuries, whose understanding was that ‘history is neither “bare facts” nor “subjective interpretation”, but is rather the meaningful narrative of events and intentions’. Wright stresses that ‘for statements to be made about the past, human beings have to engage in a massive programme of selection’ along with ‘a major element of interpretation’ (Wright 1992:82-83 emphasis in original).

By way of methodology, Wright is of the view that the ‘historical method is just like all other methods of inquiry. It proceeds by means of “hypotheses”, which stand in need of “verification”. A good hypothesis in any field must,

(a) ‘Include the data’;

(b) ‘Construct a basically simple and coherent overall picture’, and

(c) Mean that the proposed explanatory story proves to be fruitful in other related areas (Wright 1992:98-100).

Crossan adopts Wright’s view of history in his autobiography, A long way from Tipperary (Crossan 2000), in which Wright defined history. This was the meaningful narrative of events in the life of J D Crossan in Ireland, along with interpretations and his intentions. One example can be seen in Crossan’s own words, ‘“I am curious,” the doctor said. “How can you as a Catholic theologian undergo a vasectomy?” “Because,” I replied, “I am a bad Catholic, but a good theologian, and that makes a vast difference”’ (Crossan 2000:79). What about this evaluation, ‘I maintain that the mode of authority, the style of leadership, the primacy of obedience demanded by the Roman Catholic hierarchy is a crime, if not against humanity, then at least against divinity’ (Crossan 2000 199)?

Is that meant to be a literal or metaphorical statement? Does it contain facts that Crossan considers to be true and his intentions to expose his theological understanding of Roman Catholicism? It sure doesn’t sound like his definition of history: ‘This, then, is my working definition of history: History is the past reconstructed interactively by the present through argued evidence in public discourse’ (Crossan 1998:20; 1999:3 emphasis in original).


A scholar who only wishes to include the views of his intellectual buddies (mates is the Aussie language) is engaging in a biased view of history – but all in the name of scholarship.

This investigation has found that it doesn’t matter whether Crossan is writing alone or in conjunction with an archaeologist, Jonathan Reed, he imposes a postmodern understanding on the text. This is in harmony with his presuppositional bias of a postmodern approach to history. When he concludes with his premise – a postmodern explanation of history – he is using a question begging logical fallacy.

History that doesn’t deal with the facts of the past is not history. However, these facts need interpretation, not with a presuppositional, postmodern imposition on the text, but with consideration of the cultural and other issues taking place in that society. That’s exactly what Crossan did in his autobiography. It was not a postmodern exposition of his life but an account that involved facts, intentions and interpretations from his earlier life.

So Wright’s view that history involves ‘the meaningful narrative of events and intentions’ of the past is realistic and does not come with Crossan’s presuppositional understanding of imposing a postmodern interpretation on the facts.

Works consulted

Aquinas, T 1947. Summa theologica (online). Tr by the fathers of the English Dominican Province. Available at Sacred Texts: (Accessed 1 February 2013).

Brown, C 1975. kenos, in Brown, C (ed) The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 3, 546-549. Exeter: The Paternoster Press.

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1994. Jesus: A revolutionary biography. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1998. The birth of Christianity: Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1999. Historical Jesus as risen Lord, in Crossan, J D, Johnson, L T & Kelber, W H, The Jesus controversy : Perspectives in conflict, 1-47. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International.

Crossan, J D 2000. A long way from Tipperary: A memoir. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D & Reed, J L 2001. Excavating Jesus: Beneath the stones, behind the texts. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D & Reed, J L 2004. In search of Paul: How Jesus’s apostle opposed Rome’s empire with God’s kingdom. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Fee, G D 1987. The first epistle to the Corinthians (The new international commentary on the New Testament, F F Bruce gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Latourette, K S 1948. The Christian understanding of history. American Historical Association (online). Available at: (Accessed 23 October 2015).

Oepke, A 1965. kenos, in Kittel, G (ed) Theological dictionary of the New Testament, vol 3, 659-660. Tr and ed by G W Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Wright, N T 1992. The New Testament and the people of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. (Series in Christian origins and the question of God, vol 1).

Wright, N T 1996. Jesus and the victory of God. London: SPCK / Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. (Series in Christian origins and the question of God, vol 2).

Wright, N T 2003. The resurrection of the son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. (Series in Christian origins and the question of God, vol 3).


[1] I included this in Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, Do I have a ‘Flawed’ library of study material? September 20, 2015. OzSpen#6, available at: (Accessed 23 October 2015).

[2] Ibid., Hedrick#24.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#25.

[4] He’s speaking of N T Wright, the British historical Jesus’ scholar.

[5] Christian Forums, Hedrick#26.

[6] This is my response at ibid., OzSpen#27.

[7] Ibid., Hedrick#28.

[8] Ibid., Hedrick#28.

[9] The following is my response to him in ibid., OzSpen#29.

[10] The Greek is kenos, for which Arndt & Gingrich provide the meaning, ‘without content, without any basis, without truth, without power’ of preaching and faith for 1 Cor 15:14a (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:429). Albrecht Oepke’s study concluded that it meant ‘”empty”, “futile”’, that is, ‘without content and also ineffective’ (Oepke 1965:659-660). Colin Brown’s understanding was that ‘under certain circumstances certain things would be pointless, fruitless, or in vain’ and that applies to preaching and faith in I Corinthians 15:14 (Brown 1975:547).


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 October 2015.

Only read authors who agree with you?


(image courtesy

By Spencer D Gear

Could you imagine understanding Bart Ehrman’s theology to the point of agreeing with him or refuting him without reading what led to this kind of statement, ‘In early Christianity, the views of Christ got “higher and higher” with the passing of time, as he became increasingly identified as divine’ (Ehrman 2014a:353)?

However, that’s not what one fellow thought as he started a thread on a Christian forum on the Internet. He asked: Does this sound like a reasonable approach for Christians to deal with opposition?

  • Know both sides of an argument, but my library is almost all from Christians. Is that illogical? He didn’t think so because:
  • He’s a doubting Thomas who weighs arguments and liberal opposition to Christians comes across as ‘No Duh I could have come up with that one!’ He considers that he could have invented that objection and he doesn’t need the arguments of liberals as he can come up with a good enough response without reading them.
  • The arguments most often boil down to supernaturalism vs naturalism and the liberal considers the case closed, but the Christian has lots more evidence to prove and they need lots of technical skills. It is much harder to defend the Bible than to attack it, so why allow the liberals the time of day to defend their view? Why pay money to buy liberal material when they have a ‘home field advantage’ over Christians? The liberal plays reckless offense while the Christian is constantly on the defence.
  • I seek conservative scholars who cause some anger for conservatives as they seem to be critically analysing the data but they still try to defend supernaturalism.
  • He feels like he’s facing an average 10-year-old who is bashing the supernatural and finding ‘holes’ in the Bible. He considers the real skill is in knowing Greek, Hebrew, context of Scripture, and knowing how to put the pieces together. Then he makes the audacious statement: ‘. I seriously think there’s no skill at all in attacking the Bible!! Bart Ehrman[1] in all honesty sounds like a 10 year old to me, yes he makes good objections but ANY context/language ignorant person can make good objections!’
  • So, why should he pay money to read ‘experts’ attack the Bible when the skill is in defending it.
  • He asked if he made sense or was he delusional? Should he get more balance into his library?
  • Fair and honest conservative scholars properly represent the arguments of skeptics anyway.[2]

Defenders know the enemy

I take a different perspective for these reasons:[3]
1.    When Paul was in the midst of the Areopagus (Mars Hill), he had done his research on alternate religions in the area: ‘I perceive that in every way you are very religious … observed the objects of your worship …found also an altar with this inscription “To the unknown God.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you…’ (Acts 17:22-23 ESV). He ‘read’ the enemy before he proclaimed the truth.

2.    Especially when it comes to Easter and Christmas seasons in Australia, the people who will be called upon by secular media for articles or to comment on these two celebrations will be radical liberals such as John Shelby Spong, the Jesus Seminar fellows, Bart Ehrman, liberal Uniting Church or Anglican clergy/scholars, etc. The evangelicals are not the ones given priority for comment and articles. To be able to respond to these liberals, whether by articles or in letters to the editor, I need to know what the enemy teaches. When Spong was in our capital city of Canberra in 1991, an article about him was published in the Canberra Times by Robert Macklin, ‘The Gospel truth?’ (Aug 4, 1991) which focussed on Spong’s attack on fundamentalism. I was pastor of an evangelical church in the ACT at the time and I asked for a right of reply which the CT published as, ‘The Gospel Distortion: A reply to John Shelby Spong‘ (Aug 11, 1991).  I would not have known the details of Spong’s heresy without reading him. I have a few of his books in my library. I have since reviewed his book, A New Christianity for a New World (2001) in Spong’s swan song — at last!  Exposure to Spong’s false teaching has led to these further articles: Spong’s deadly Christianity and John Shelby Spong & the Churches of Christ (Victoria, Australia).
I find it always helpful when critiquing a liberal scholar or teacher of a false gospel to quote from his or her material. It affirms our own credibility.

3.    I completed a 5-year research project in my PhD dissertation (thesis-only in the British system) which examined the presuppositions of John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar concerning his views of Jesus’ resurrection. I would not have understood his perspective as comprehensively so that I could assess it unless I read extensively in his material. I discovered that he has a particular leaning to scholars who support his view. Here’s a grab from my thesis:

If historical scholarship is not used to discover absolutes or certitudes, but only by its best reconstruction to arrive at a decision ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ (Crossan 1995:x), how does a scholar decide between divergent conclusions concerning aspects of the historical Jesus by various scholars? It is important to note Crossan’s perspective regarding those who offer a contrary opinion: In quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he only quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv; emphasis in original). Why would he want to preserve his opinion and scholarship and retain it in-house? Is there a possible presuppositional bias coming through?

So Crossan only wants to quote from fellow liberals who represent his ‘intellectual debts’. I do not want to be among evangelicals who only quote each other. There is a substantial amount of good scholarship among evangelicals, but I do not choose to read them only. That would not be good research nor enable me to give a penetrating, but balanced, response.

This person on the Christian forum stated that ‘Bart Ehrman in all honesty sounds like a 10 year old to me’. But that’s not how he sounds to the general populace or the Christian laity when he shows up in the mass media. The media doubters love his kind of objections to the Bible.

That’s why I consider that if I’m going to refute Ehrman, I need to know his material and the arguments he uses so that I can refute them or agree with them in the media and among friends or enemies. When Ehrman is in the media, do you take advantage of the ‘comments’ or ‘letters’ sections to challenge and refute him?

Ehrman’s heresy about Jesus

clip_image003(photo of Professor Bart D. Ehrman, courtesy Wikipedia)

What does Bart Ehrman believe about the divine Jesus? He stated:

In early Christianity, the views of Christ got “higher and higher” with the passing of time, as he became increasingly identified as divine. Jesus went from being a potential (human) messiah to being the son of God exalted to a divine status at his resurrection; to being a preeminent angelic human being who came to earth incarnate as a man; to being the incarnation of the Word of God who existed before all time and through whom the world was created; to being God himself, equal with God the Father and always existent with him. My own personal beliefs about Jesus moved in precisely the opposite direction. I started out thinking of Jesus as God the Son, equal with the Father, a member of the Trinity; but over time, I began seeing him in “lower and lower” terms, until finally I came to think of him as a human being who was not different in nature from any other human being. The Christians exalted him to the divine realm in their theology, but, in my opinion, he was, and always has been, human.

As an agnostic, I now think of Jesus as a true religious genius with brilliant insights. But he was also very much a man of his time. And his time was an age of full-throated apocalyptic fervor (Ehrman 2014a:353-354).

These are hardly the words of a 10-year-old skeptic who doubts the nature of the God-man Jesus. It is a view of Jesus that needs a full-blown and thoughtful rebuttal. What is happening in the research and thinking of this eminent scholar who is debunking the core of Christianity – the divinity of Jesus? This is not child stuff. This is serious business that requires a full-blown apologetic for a response.

Thankfully, one evangelical lecturer in theology, Dr Michael Bird, at the Anglican Ridley College, Melbourne was prepared to expose Bart Ehrman’s errors in, ‘How God became Jesus: Bart Ehrman gets it wrong, again’ (ABC Religion and Ethics, 16 April 2014).

clip_image005Mike Bird (courtesy Ridley College)

Bart Ehrman wrote, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, Mike Bird and some colleagues wrote a critique with this response, How God Became Jesus: The Real Origin of Belief in Jesus’s Divine Nature. In Bird’s response on ABC’s Religion and Ethics he stated:

Whereas Ehrman likes to point out the ad hoc and adversarial context in which beliefs about Jesus evolved in the course of the first four centuries of the Christian era, Charles Hill demonstrates the remarkable coherence of “orthodox” views of Jesus and their rootedness in the New Testament. Hill shows that what became Christian “dogma” about Jesus was not merely a knee-jerk reaction to various debates going on inside the church.

So despite the fact that Ehrman’s book is genuinely informative in places, my co-authors and I think he gets many things wrong – seriously wrong. Yet there is no doubt that many people will lap up the book because of its putative “insider” perspective. Ehrman describes how he once believed that Jesus was God and later came to have a very human and even low view of Jesus. He gives readers the inside scoop on the historical problems and theological paradoxes that traditionalist Christians hope you never discover.

Although Ehrman claims that he is simply not interested in whether Jesus really is God, preferring to limit himself to the matter of history, I suspect otherwise. Ehrman, implicitly at least, is an evangelist for unbelief, enabling sceptics to keep their disgust with Christianity fresh, while trying to persuade believers that their cherished beliefs about Jesus are a house of historical straw.

For all of his failings, Ehrman has at least done Christians one favour. He has challenged us to ask afresh, “Who is Jesus?” While some will say “legend,” some will say “prophet,” some will say “rabbi.” There will be still others who, like Thomas leaving his doubt behind when he encountered the resurrected Jesus, and could not but exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” (Michael Bird, How God became Jesus, 16 April 2014).


Those who are building defences know the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy who is attacking, the adversary who is on the offensive. They know the enemy. Surely this is what the Bible teaches!

Hosea said it in Hosea 4:6: ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me’ (ESV).

Paul, the apostle, warned believers about the opposition and the equipment needed to fight challengers:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Eph 6:10-18 ESV).

John warned:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already (1 John 4:1-3 ESV).

There is wisdom in applying this message from the Book of Proverbs: ‘The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice’ (Prov 12:15 ESV).

Works consulted

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1995. Who killed Jesus? Exposing the roots of anti-Semitism in the gospel story of the death of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Ehrman, B D 2015. After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity, rev. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, J D 2014a. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2014b. The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, 2nd rev ed. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.

Ehrman, B D 2013. The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2012a. Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2012b. Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2011a. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2011b. Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2009a. Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them). New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2009b. God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2006. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2005a. Lost Christianities : The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths we Never Knew. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2005b. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2003. Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press.


[1] Some of Bart Ehrman’s publications include Ehrman (2015; 2014a; 2014b; 2013; 2012a; 2012b; 2011a; 2011b; 2009a; 2009b; 2006; 2005; 2003).

[2] Christian, Theology, Christian Apologetics, ‘Do I have a “flawed” library of study material?’ Dirk1540, 30 September 2015. Available at: (Accessed 1 October 2015).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#6.

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 February 2019.

Is any flavor of Arminianism promoting error?

Image result for Arminius public domain

Jacobus Arminius (

John Calvin (

By Spencer D Gear

Some Calvinists believe Arminians are in error (see below for an example). Others go much further to accuse the Arminian of promoting heresy.

Arminian heresy?

(heresy in the middle ages, public domain)

There is a blog called, ‘Arminian heresy’, and another sermon audio series, ‘Arminianism is heresy, Calvinism is the Gospel’. Another states this of Arminianism: ‘Is Arminianism a damnable heresy? Yes. The false doctrines of conditional election, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace originate in the pit of hell with the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). They are contrary to Scripture and worthy of condemnation. This is a serious matter’.[1]

John MacArthur’s organisation, Grace to You, has an article online titled, ‘Why I am a Calvinist, Part 1’. The subheading is, ‘Part 1: Is Arminianism damnable heresy?’ It includes this statement:

But let me be plain here: Simple Arminianism doesn’t fall in that category. It’s not fair to pin the label of rank heresy on Arminianism, the way some of my more zealous Calvinist brethren seem prone to do. I’m talking about historic, evangelical Arminianism, of the classic and Wesleyan varieties — Arminianism, not Pelagianism, or open theism, or whatever heresy Clark Pinnock has invented this week — but true evangelical Arminianism. Arminianism is certainly wrong; and I would argue that it’s inconsistent with itself. But in my judgment, standard, garden variety Arminianism is not so fatally wrong that we need to consign our Arminian brethren to the eternal flames or even automatically refuse them fellowship in our pastors’ fraternals.

If you think I’m beginning to sound like an apologist for Arminianism, I’m definitely not that. I do think Arminianism is a profound error. Its tendencies can be truly sinister, and when it is allowed to go to seed, it does lead people into rank heresy. But what I’m saying here is that mere Arminianism itself isn’t damnable heresy. It’s just grossly inconsistent with the core gospel doctrines that Arminians themselves believe and affirm.[2]

Calvinistic heresy

I recommend the article by Roger Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?(Society of Evangelical Arminians).

Robin Phillips wrote the article, ‘The Heresy of Monergism’, in which it was stated that ‘Monergism arises out of the fact that Calvinists are deeply uncomfortable acknowledging any synergy between the divine will and the human will. Indeed, a Calvinist will say that when a man or woman appears to co-operate with God, this is only because the Lord first predetermined that he or she should do so, thus preserving the sense in which only one agent is operative’. Monergism ‘describes the notion that salvation is affected by only one agent, namely God. As R.C. Sproul explains it, “A monergistic work is a work produced singly, by one person… A synergistic work is one that involves cooperation between two or more persons or things”’. In 2012, Christianity Today reported, ‘As Baptists Prepare to Meet, Calvinism Debate Shifts to Heresy Accusation’ (Weston Gentry, June 18). Part of this article read:

The May 30 [2012] document, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,”[3] aims “to more carefully express what is generally believed by Southern Baptists about salvation.” But both Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler and George W. Truett Theological Seminary professor Roger Olson, in separate blog posts, said that parts of the document sound like semi-Pelagianism, a traditionally heretical understanding of Christian salvation.

Therefore, there are theological sling shots being flung by both Calvinists and Arminians at each other with the rock of ‘heresy’ or ‘error’ included. This is an unfortunate overstatement, in my view.

Summary of these differing doctrines

Here’s a summary comparison of the Arminian vs Calvinist core doctrines: ‘An Outline of the FACTS of Arminianism vs. The TULIP of Calvinism’.

For Arminianism, the acronym FACTS refers to:

Freed by Grace (to Believe)
Atonement for All
Conditional Election
Total Depravity
Security in Christ[4]

For Calvinism, the TULIP acronym indicates:

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints[5]

Where the rubber meets the theological road

On an Internet Christian forum, I was engaged in a discussion of Arminianism and Calvinism. My views are closest to what is known as Reformed or Classical Arminianism.

Here are some grabs from that online conversation:

Arminian: ‘If it’s not a promotion of Calvinism, I don’t get a passing grade’.[6]

Calvinist: ‘In other words, we don’t tolerate error’.[7]

Arminian: ‘That seems to be your a priori bias. So are Reformed Arminians promoting false doctrine, in your view?’[8]

Calvinist: ‘Any flavor of Arminianism is error’.[9]

Arminian: ‘A priori speaking. So should Arminian theology on this forum only be discussed under Unorthodox Theology? If so, why are the moderators [on Christian Forums] not moving Arminian interpretations to Unorthodox Theology?[10] Perhaps they don’t see it as you see it’.[11]

Arminian: ‘Arminian theology has a long history in orthodox theology. Even some of the church fathers promoted such views. Should they also be written off as promoting error also?’[12]

Calvinist: ‘It’s orthodox and faulty’.[13]

Calvinist: ‘It falls within the pale of orthodoxy.[14]
Arminian: ‘How can it be faulty and in error but orthodox. Those kinds of statements, in my understanding, create an oxymoron’.[15]

Arminian: ‘So why is griff tolerated in this thread as stating, ‘Any flavor of Arminianism is error’. How can error be affirmed as orthodox. Don’t you as moderators think you should examine this kind of statement from griff?’[16]

Calvinist: ‘Do you not think Calvinism is error? It’s orthodox because it isn’t an issue of heresy. People can be Arminians and still be Christians. Most Arminians would say the same of Calvinists. Same with other doctrines like baptism. Pedobaptists are in error in my opinion, yet fall in the realm of orthodoxy. Are we so PC here that we can’t say something is wrong? Geez…’[17]

Calvinist: ‘Life is so unfair’.[18]

Calvinist: ‘Odd how the Arminians/non-Calvinists can express their opinions regarding Calvinism, and that’s just fine, but if a Calvinist expresses his opinion, then suddenly the mods must be summoned… Really??? Is Arminianism that fragile?’[19]

Arminian: ‘Please don’t distort what I said. It was griff who stated: ”Any flavor of Arminianism is error’ and I challenged the moderators on this statement. Isn’t that OK on CF []?

This is more than expressing an opinion. It is directly stating that ”Any flavor of Arminianism is error‘.

Will the moderators of CF continue to allow me, a Reformed Arminian, to post on this site when it has been labelled that Arminianism ‘is error’? Does this evangelical site authorise the promotion of ‘error’?’[20]

Calvinist: ‘No more than we should examine you. You think Calvinism is in error, and it falls within the pale of orthodoxy’.[21]

Arminian: ‘What’s the pale of orthodoxy? Is Arminianism orthodox Christianity or not?’[22]

Calvinist: ‘No more than we should examine you. You think Calvinism is in error, and it falls within the pale of orthodoxy’.[23]

Calvinist: ‘Yes, it is’. (This was in answer to the question, ‘Is Arminianism orthodox Christianity or not?)[24]

Arminian: ‘Back at #469 you stated, ‘Any flavor of Arminianism is error‘ (emphasis added). You did not say that, ‘In my opinion any flavor of Arminianism is error’.

On this forum I would not say ‘Calvinism is error’. I do not support some of its teaching but I would never say (my emphasis) on this forum that any flavour of Calvinism is error’.

It is interesting that you now say ‘Pedobaptists are in error in my opinion‘. That is not how you said it with regard to Arminianism. I urge you to please be consistent’.[25]

Arminian: ‘I have never stated that ‘I think Calvinism is in error’, so why are you stating, “You think Calvinism is in error”?’[26]

Calvinist: ‘So if you don’t believe Calvinism is erroneous, why are you committing so much time of your life arguing against it? Isn’t it implied in any debate that you believe your opponent’s view is erroneous? It’s amazing how PC we have become’.[27]

Arminian: ‘It’s how you state this position. I would never say of Calvinism what you stated of Arminianism: “Any flavor of Arminianism is error”’.[28]

What’s going on here?

Some keys to understand this kind of interaction include:

  1. His stated position that ‘any flavor of Arminianism is error’, commits a logical fallacy of hasty generalization without providing the evidence to refute such a view. Besides, it’s like a sound bite when a person just gives this one bite without exposition and doesn’t deal with the issues I raised. This fellow who labels Arminianism as error is among those described by Jack Zavada in his ‘Biography of Jacobus Arminius’ as:

Today, nearly 500 years after Arminius’ death, many Calvinists consider him a heretic. They equate his doctrines with those of Pelagius, a fifth century Roman Catholic monk who taught that humans are born without original sin and can choose God through their free will. Pelagianism was condemned as heresy by several church councils, both Roman Catholic and Protestant.

  1. I cannot see any reconciliation between Arminians and Calvinists unless the free will response of human beings to the common grace of God is understood in responding to Christ’s offer of salvation. God’s drawing people to salvation is not under discussion. I, an Arminian, am convinced of the truth of what Jesus said in John 6:65, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father’ (ESV).
  2. Based on the evidence available to me so far in my Christian journey, I support the major premises of Reformed or classical Arminianism. See the article, ‘What’s the difference between Reformed Arminianism and Wesleyan Arminianism? Three scholars answer’ (February 25, 2015). Reformed or Classical Arminians are those who espouse many of the teachings of Jacob Arminius. In fact, they were the Arminians who issued the Remonstrance to which the Synod of Dordt responded with its formulation of TULIP Calvinism. To his dying day, Jacob Arminius maintained he was Reformed and a promoter of Reformation theology. He was a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church until death.


The accusations fly back and forth between Calvinists and Arminians with one blaming the other of error or heresy. Therefore, there is heat on both sides of this debate. I can’t see it being resolved soon – if ever – during our sojourn on this earth.

The issues seem to boil down to interpretation of the biblical texts. Roger Olson, an evangelical Arminian, has summed it up concisely:

There is no middle ground between Calvinism and Arminianism with regard to the three crucial doctrines about which they differ: election (conditional or unconditional), atonement (limited or universal) and grace (resistible or irresistible).

I wish Lemke[29] and others like him would read Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities[30] where I argue that, whereas Calvinists and Arminians have much in common, there is no hybrid of them or middle ground between them.  In fact, Arminianism IS the middle ground between Calvinism and Semi-Pelagianism![31]


[1] This statement is by Stephen Pribble in ‘Is Arminianism a damnable heresy?

[2] The statement at the foot of this article was, ‘This post is adapted from a transcript of a seminar from the 2007 Shepherds’ Conference, titled “Closet Calvinists”’. Available at: (Accessed 30 October 2015).

[3] The link to this article provided by Christianity Today was not available on 30 October 2015, but I have sourced it elsewhere online and have included it in this CT quote.

[4] This is from the link above, the Society of Evangelical Arminians, available at: (Accessed 30 October 2015).

[5] For an explanation, see Rev Barry Gritters 2000, Reformed Churches of America (online), ‘T.U.L.I.P or The Five Points of Calvinism’, available at: (Accessed 30 October 2015).

[6] I’m OzSpen #453, Christian Forums, Soteriology, ‘Is rejecting Christ a sin?’ Available at: (Accessed 9 July 2013).

[7] Ibid., griff #458.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen #461.

[9] Ibid., griff #469.

[10] All unorthodox theology, on Christian Forums rules, can only be discussed in the directory, Unorthodox Theology.

[11] Christian Forums op cit, OzSpen #417.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen #471.

[13] Ibid., griff #472.

[14] Ibid., but this is another Calvinist poster who is a moderator, Hammster #474. Since I’m not an IT whiz, I do not know if Hammster and griff are the same person. A person has investigated this on the forum and has stated that people have multiple identities on this forum.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen #475. This was a response to griff.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen #476. This was a response to Hammster.

[17] Ibid., griff #478.

[18] Ibid., griff #479.

[19] Ibid., another Calvinist’s response, nobdysfool #480.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen #484.

[21] Ibid., Hammster #487. This is in response to my questions as OzSpen #484.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen #486. This was a response to Hammster.

[23] Ibid., Hammster #487.

[24] Ibid., Hammster #491.

[25] Ibid., OzSpen #492.

[26] Ibid., OzSpen #493.

[27] Ibid., griff #499.

[28] Ibid., OzSpen #501.

[29] Steve W. Lemke is one of the editors of Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, David L. Allen & Steve W. Lemke eds. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2010. Lemke is Provost and Professor of Philosophy and Ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. See HERE.

[30] This is Roger E Olson’s 2006 publication by Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

[31] Roger E Olson 2011. ‘Is there a middle ground between Calvinism and Arminianism?’ Patheos, June 4. Available at: (Accessed 30 October 2015).


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 January 2018.

Why should an atheist follow Jesus?


clip_image002 clip_image004

Open Clip Art Library

By Spencer D Gear

In my interaction with David, the atheist, he wrote:

I am very happy with my life and live it similarly to most reasonable people in the community.

Let us assume for a moment that Jesus is God, he does exist and all the other gods are false.

Why should I follow anything he says?[1]

How would you reply to him? This was my comeback:[2]

You are not ready yet!

You are not yet ready to follow him yet for these reasons:

You don’t want to know God, your condition before God, and why God needs to change you. You will never want to move from ‘happy with my life’ to new life through Jesus Christ unless you acknowledge and experience some fundamentals:

1. Who is God? He is the absolutely holy (Leviticus 19:2) and righteous/just (Deuteronomy 32:4) God. This last verse confirms that He is without sin or iniquity.

2. This God declares the nature of all human beings including you and me: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God’ (Romans 3:10-11). This unrighteous nature of all human beings brings consequences, ‘For the wages of sin is death [God’s understanding of death], but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:23). Unless you understand your sinful state before God, you will go on living your ‘very happy’ life according to your current worldview.

3. For those prepared to acknowledge who God is and their true condition before him, God offers a new beginning through confession of sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).

4. How can it happen for you, me and anyone else? Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for salvation! Repentance means that we have an inner sorrow for sin; we renounce it, and have a commitment to forsake sin and live in obedience to Christ. ‘For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death’ (2 Corinthians 7:10).

5. This leads to new life in Jesus Christ and the amazing experience of knowing that a person’s sins are forgiven or blotted out. ‘Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out’ (Acts 3:19).

Amazing release of knowing sins forgiven

My background sounds as though it was very different from yours. I was raised in a home where I went to Sunday School and church, but I was just as much a sinful rebel against God as anyone I could meet on the street. I don’t think, in your present understanding, that you will understand the amazing release that comes when I experienced my sins forgiven by God and receiving new life in Christ.

Even if you had a genuine understanding of Jesus as God, which you do not currently have, that will not enable you to experience the joy of sins forgiven and new life in Jesus.

Extremism of response

How do you think David responded to these 5 points? Here it is:

Discussion with you is next to useless and you have mentioned Leviticus and the nature of your god. Here are some other parts of this god’s nature from Leviticus (KJV version). As you know, there are Christians promoting ‘dominionism[3] as a way of governing countries. (Are you one of them?) This means following the Bible as is written. Scary stuff.
For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.
And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.
And check out Leviticus 24:10-16 which is about killing blasphemers.
All this is shades of Islam don’tcha think. As I said, all religions make the same mistakes.
Do you agree with your Lord’s adjudications as above or do you only ‘choose’ the nicey bits from the Bible? Seems Yahweh doesn’t mind a bit of hissy-spit killing to keep the attention of his people focused. Other Bible writers have their own version of this god’s mayhem and absurdity.
I really don’t need or warrant your condescending remarks about me not being ready for your particular god. No, I’m not ready for any of the thousands of gods, but only because I have not surrendered my mental integrity to indoctrinated nonsense.[4]

My reply was:

David: ‘Discussion with you is next to useless and you have mentioned Leviticus and the nature of your god. Here are some other parts of this god’s nature from Leviticus (KJV version). As you know, there are Christians promoting ‘dominionism’ as a way of governing countries. (Are you one of them?) This means following the Bible as is written. Scary stuff.’
David: ‘I really don’t need or warrant your condescending remarks about me not being ready for your particular god. No, I’m not ready for any of the thousands of gods, but only because I have not surrendered my mental integrity to indoctrinated nonsense’.

These are further examples from you of red herring logical fallacies. You did not respond to the 5 points I made in two posts. You were off and running with your own agenda without addressing the content of these five points.

Discussion with you is impossible when you continuously resort to the use of logical fallacies. Nice try but no cigars![5]

I need to add that I include the whole of the Bible in the inerrant Scriptures, in the original documents. See my articles:

He is the God of love and judgment. We see this even in the human family. The family that loves will discipline the children. This could be regarded as a judgment on children’s misbehaviour.

Attacks on the historicity of Jesus

I highly recommend a read of John Dickson’s article for ABC Religion and Ethics, Opinion: ‘A fight they can’t win: The irreligious assault on the historicity of Jesus(24 December 2012).

See my articles in support of the trustworthiness of Scripture:

clip_image006 Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

clip_image006[1] Can you trust the Bible? Part 2

clip_image006[2] Can you trust the Bible? Part 3

clip_image006[3] Can you trust the Bible? Part 4

clip_image007 Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic


Dr John Dickson bio



[1] On Line Opinion, ‘Merry Christmyth from the Atheist Foundation of Australia’, Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Saturday, 22 December 2012 11:22:12 AM, available at: (Accessed 25 December 2012).

[2] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Tuesday, 25 December 2012 9:45:21 PM (this post is in two parts as On Line Opinion only allows 350 words in each post), available at: (Accessed 25 December 2012).

[3] This link was inserted by me, Spencer Gear, to help the uninitiated to understand dominionism, which is not a position I advocate.

[4] On Line Opinion, ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Wednesday, 26 December 2012 8:52:53 AM, available at: (Accessed 26 December 2012).

[5] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 26 December 2012 9:24:24 AM, available at: (Accessed 26 December 2012).


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 October 2015.


How do you find a suitable church?

 By Spencer D Gear

When somebody moves to a new community and seeks to find a church, what qualities should one seek? This will be based on a person’s view of God and the Scriptures. If the Scriptures are taken seriously, what features will be in the church one seeks. My wife and I experienced this issue/problem in mid 2011 when we moved to a northern Brisbane (Australia) suburb. What do we seek since we have a high view of the Bible and are not interested in singing unmemorable choruses driven by a contemporary rock beat?

This is a brief, but practical, example of what two mature Christians encountered in search for a group of evangelical believers who affirmed the Scriptures and worshipped God in the songs they sang, the Word preached from the pulpit, and in their fellowship with one another.

I was participating in a Christian Forum discussion online when I came across this request:

1. One person’s view

I have been attending a local Baptist church for almost a month now and thought the people in there are extremely friendly and welcoming.

I was so excited that i started telling my friends about my discovery and one of them said that she hasn’t been going to church since she moved out of her mom’s! Her reason was that she found that most of the churchgoers at her church were nice only during Sundays…and then from Mon-Sat they were “a**holes” she was very put off by this and generally stopped going every week and eventually stopped altogether.

My question to you guys is if you are noticing similar things? Are church goers judgmental? Are they just actors/actress on Sundays?[1]

2. Some qualities essential for any church[2]

Our worldviews ought to deal with what is happening not only in churches but also our approach to the world in which we live. We need to be people of discernment:

a. Discernment

All Christian are called to exercise discernment about what is happening in a church (and the world).

  • Romans 12:2, ‘ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (ESV).
  • Ephesians 5:10, ‘and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord’ (ESV).
  • Hebrews 5:14, ‘But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil’.

b. Christians who care for one another

All Christians are to care for one another, pray for one another and minister to one another. This is what the Scriptures state:

  • James 5:16, ‘Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working’ (ESV);
  • Ephesians 6:18, ‘Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints’ (ESV).
  • 1 Corinthians 12:26, ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.’ (ESV).

We need to be a functioning body of Christ, a Community of the King of Kings. Are these things happening in your church? We are the body of Christ and we need to be caring for one another when we meet as well as other times (as able and as time permits).

If there is an atmosphere like this in your church, then it will be fairly easy to pick the fake from the genuine through discernment and then counsel of these people should happen and this may even lead to discipline of them if they are not in line with your church’s statement of faith and practice.

There’s another factor to look for:

3. The church’s discipline of Christians

Yes, discipline! That’s what the Scripture says:

  • 2 Thessalonians 3:14 ESV, ‘If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed’;
  • Romans 16:17 ESV, ‘I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them’.
  • Matthew 18:15-20 ESV ‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven’.

4. Wheat and weeds will grow together in your church

Weeds In Field (


We can expect the wheat and the tares (weeds) to grow together until harvest. See Matthew 13:24-30.

Please don’t seek to find the perfect church with perfect people who always treat you perfectly. If they are anything like me, they will make mistakes and sin against one another and in other ways. Please don’t give up on them, but the areas I have mentioned above are important in Christian growth. Is the church you are attending also practising evangelism and discipleship?

5. Every church must be committed to evangelism and discipleship

Rejecting Help



This is self-evident from Matthew 28:18-20,

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Have you had opportunity to meet with the pastor and/or church leaders to address your concerns?

Most importantly, are you the genuine, loving, caring Christian that will make a Christ-like difference in your congregation?


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Fake people in churches? What do y’all think?’, Fobulous#1, available at: (Accessed 22 August 2012).

[2] This is part of my post as OzSpen#2, in ibid.


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 October 2015.

How to interpret ‘appeared’ in Titus 2:11

Stars Universe

(image in public domain)

By Spencer D. Gear

Was Jesus’ death for the sins of all people or for only the elect – those who become Christians? Or, to put it in parallel language, was Jesus’ death for the whole world or only for some of them? You wouldn’t believe how these types of questions can get the theological juices going!

Titus 2:11 reads, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’ (ESV). What is a plain reading of the text saying? When did God’s grace appear? What was it? How did it bring salvation to all people? Are all going to be saved? Is this a verse that promotes universalism (salvation for everyone)? Please read on.

When I raised this online, a Calvinist stated,

The Greek word behind ‘appeared’ is … epiphainw. Strong’s Concordance says the word literally means “to show forth, i.e., to appear” or “to shine upon” or “become visible”.[1]

This person didn’t know any more Greek than Strong’s Concordance (I have a BA in biblical literature & NT Greek and PhD in NT). I could not say this better than Gordon Fee, emeritus professor of New Testament at Regent College, Vancouver B C, Canada and editor of Eerdmans’ New International Commentary series on the New Testament. Fee, a extremely competent Greek exegete, wrote of Titus 2:11,

An explanatory for opens the paragraph and thus closely ties verses 11-14 to 2-10. It proceeds to explain why God’s people should live as exhorted in 2-10 (so that the message from God will not be maligned [v. 5] but instead will be attractive [v. 10]): because the grace of God that brings salvation to all people has appeared.

In the Greek text all of verses 11-14 form a single sentence, of which the grace of God stands as the grammatical subject. But contrary to the NIV (and KJV), Paul does not say that this grace appeared to all men; rather, as almost all other translations have it, and as both Paul’s word order and the usage in 1 Timothy 2:3-6 demand it, what has appeared (see disc. on 1 Tim. 6:14; epiphaneia) is grace from God that offers salvation to all people.

Paul does not indicate here the reference point for this revelation of God’s grace. Most likely he is thinking of the historical revelation effected in the saving event of Christ (v. 14; cf. 2 Tim. 1:9-10), but it could also refer existentially to the time in Crete when Paul and Titus preached the gospel and Cretans understood and accepted the message (cf. 1:3 and 3:3-4). That at least is when the educative dimension of grace, emphasized in verse 12, took place (Fee 1988:194, emphasis in original).

The Calvinist again:

So according to Titus 3:4, what happened when God “appeared”? Look at the next words… he saved us. How? By the washing of regeneration. We are saved by God’s grace appearing that washes us in regeneration. Why don’t you translate the verb as “offer” here?

So in Titus 2:11, same verb used….

So grace “appears” again and what does it do? The same exact thing it does in Titus 3:4! It “brings salvation for all people” just like the grace in Titus 3:4 “saved us”. The grace that appears in Titus 2:11 also trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. Nothing about an “offer” anywhere in the text. The word can’t even mean “offer”. None of the definitions of the word even suggest such a thing. So either “all people” doesn’t mean 100% of humanity, or Universalism is true.[2]

My response [3] was that Titus 3:4 is in a single Greek sentence in the original that includes Titus 3:4-7.

The sentence in Titus 3:4 begins with ‘but when’ – a when-clause. The preceding verse (3:3) speaks the language that ‘we ourselves were once’. But then there came a time when God’s mercy took effect in their lives. We know from Titus 2:11 that God’s grace ‘appeared bringing  salvation’, which was ‘the doctrine of God our Savior’ (2:10). We know that this happened historically in Christ’s person and work and especially in his atoning sacrifice.

Back in Titus 2:11-14, the emphasis is as in Titus 3:5-7, that God’s mercy brought salvation through regeneration, renewal of the Holy Spirit, justification and their becoming heirs of hope. This was the readers’ own experience of salvation.

As for the verb, ‘appeared’, this word also is used in 1 Tim 6:14-15, ‘until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time’. Here ‘appear’ refers to the Parousia, the second coming of Christ. Do you want to import that meaning of ‘appear’ into Titus 2:11 and Titus 3:4?

The same word, ‘appear’, occurs in Acts 27:20, ‘When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us…’ (ESV). Do you want this meaning of ‘appear’ to be given to Titus 2:11 and 3:4?

It is not unusual for a Greek word to be used in different contexts to mean different things. However, from Titus 2:11; 3:4, we know that that context is talking about salvation through Christ in which the grace of God appeared to all people and have a guess what? This grace of God offers salvation to all men (people) [Titus 2:11].

So what appeared in this epephane, which refers to something becoming visible or making an appearance? All human beings could not have reached a satisfactory understanding of God’s grace without the manifestation of Jesus Christ through his incarnation and atonement. Titus 2:11 shows the effects of this grace, ‘bringing salvation for all people’ (ESV). Thus the universality of the salvation offer is made available thanks to Christ’s epiphany.

Its saving effect depends on God’s election and a personal response of faith. The human will is freed for all people in regard to salvation. This is implied by all of the verses in Scripture that exhort people to turn to God (see Prov 1:23; Isa 31:6; Ezek 14:6; 18:32; Joel 2:13-14; Matt 18:3; Acts 3:19); to repent (1 Kings 8:47; Matt 3:2; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts2:38; 17:30), and to believe (2 Chron 20:20; Isa 43:10; John 6:29; 14:1; Acts 16:31; Phil 1:29; 1 John 3:23).

Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon (1957:304) gives the meaning of the verb, epiphainw (I appear), as ‘show oneself, make an appearance’ in relation to Titus 2:11. So God’s grace ‘appeared’ to all people in the person and work (life, crucifixion and resurrection) of Jesus Christ. It was made manifest through Him.

Varieties of Calvinists

Ron Rhodes is a 4-point Calvinist (Amyraldian) who does not believe in limited atonement. See: The Case for Unlimited Atonement (by Ron Rhodes).

See how John Piper misused a quote from Millard J Erickson‘s book, Christian theology, to try to indicate that Erickson supported limited atonement – which he does not.

Different meanings of ‘appeared’

On The Cross(image in public domain)

There is a difference between ‘appeared’ as referring to the parousia (second coming), the sun and stars appearing, and the grace of God appeared, bringing salvation for all people? I find it strange that this person did not understand the differences among the meanings of ‘appeared’ in these three different circumstances. The difference is among Christ’s appearing at his second coming (Titus 2:13), the appearing of the sun and stars (Acts 27:20), and the appearing of God’s grace bringing salvation for all (Titus 2:11).

The same Greek word can be used in different contexts to mean different things. It did not mean the same in those three different places. The second coming appearing, the appearing of the sun and clouds, and the appearing of the grace that leads to salvation are THREE DIFFERENT meanings of ‘appeared’.

There is a great difference in what they did. Surely this person can’t be trying to convince me that the appearing of the sun and clouds is identical to the appearing of the person and works of Jesus and will be identical to the Parousia (second coming) appearance of Jesus. That he could even be pressing towards that understanding beggars my imagination.

Noah Webster’s 1828 edition of his dictionary (online) has 10 different meanings for the English noun, ‘appearance’. They are:

1. The act of coming into sight; the act of becoming visible to the eye; as, his sudden appearance surprised me.
2. The thing seen; a phenomenon; as an appearance in the sky.
3. Semblance; apparent likeness.
There was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire. Num. 9.
4. External show; semblance assumed, in opposition to reality or substance; as, we are often deceived by appearances;
he has the appearance of virtue.
For man looketh on the outward appearance. 1Sam. 16.
5. Personal presence; exhibition of the person; as, he made his first appearance at court or on the stage.
6. Exhibition of the character; introduction of a person to the public in a particular character, as a person makes his
appearance in the world, as a historian, an artist, or an orator.
7. Probability; likelihood. This sense is rather an inference from the third or fourth; as probability is inferred from
external semblance or show.
8. Presence; mien; figure; as presented by the person, dress or manners; as, the lady made a noble appearance.
9. A being present in court; a defendant’s filing common or special bail to a process.
10. An apparition.

My 1977 hard copy of Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, unabridged, second edition, Jean L McKechnie general supervisor of editorial staff (William Collins-World Publishing Co., Inc.), provides seven meanings of the word, ‘appearance‘:

Appearance, n. 1. The act of coming into sight; the act of becoming visible to the eye; as, his sudden appearance surprised me.
2. the thing seen; an apparition; a phenomenon; as an appearance in the sky.
3. external semblance; outward aspect; hence, outward sign, indication, or evidence; as appearance of a place was altogether pleasing; the writing had every appearance of genuineness.
4. a pretense or show; as, the man gave the appearance of being busy.
5. a coming into notice; an appearing before the public; as the appearance of an actor, of a new book, etc.
6. probability; likelihood. [Oba.]
7. in law, a being present in court; a coming into court of either party; an appearing in person or by attorney.
to put in an appearance; to appear for a short time.
to save appearances; to maintain a good showing.
Syn. – air, aspect, look, manner, mien, semblance (Webster 1977:88).

My understanding of the various meanings of ‘appearance’ is based not only on NT Greek but also on Webster’s unabridged English dictionary.

One of the major difficulties with church folks in their understanding of Scripture is that they have little foundation in understanding exegesis vs. eisegesis of the text. They are not trained to discern. It is beneficial, but not compulsory, to have a knowledge of the original languages (Hebrew and Aramaic in the OT, Greek in the NT). If one does a comparison of, say, six different committee translations of the Bible (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, NRSV, NLT, NIV) one should be able to come up with an understanding of the nuances of the original languages.

It’s Greek to me [3a]

Titus 2:11 (Greek NT) uses the Greek, epephane, that is translated as, ‘has appeared’ (NIV, ESV). The Greek is aorist passive, indicative of the verb, epiphaino.

The Greek tenses represent the kind of action as prominent, rather than the time of action. The Present and Imperfect tenses are linear tenses that can be represented by a line or a line or dots: __________________________________ or . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Present is in the present time while Imperfect is in the past – but both represent continuous / continual action.)
However, the aorist is a punctiliar (or point action) tense which can be diagrammed as a single dot . The action of the aorist tense is that of something that simply happens. There is no thought of the continuing or frequency of action (Wenham 1965:96-97).

The passive voice indicates that the subject was acted upon. If the subject was doing the action, the active voice would be used.

Let’s apply that to Titus 2:11 and the aorist, passive, indicative, epephane.

  • Since epephane is the passive voice, something is acting on this and that something is ‘the grace of God’.
  • The mood of a verb indicates the mode or manner of the action of a verb. The indicative mood makes a statement or asks a question. Here, epephane is indicative mood, thus meaning it is making a statement.
  • Epephane is aorist tense, so it means that something appeared at a point in time. However, since it has no sigma (s) in its conjugation, that means it is the second aorist tense. That gets a bit technical with the conjugation (i.e. form) of the verb, but the meaning of the aorist is the same for the action of the second aorist.

In English, when we translate as ‘has appeared’ (NIV, ESV), it indicates it has appeared in the past but there is no indication of the kind of action. ‘Has appeared’ is meant to bring out the passive voice of action happening by someone/something, i.e. ‘the grace of God’. So the aorist could be translated as ‘did appear’ or ‘has appeared’, as long as one understands it is seen as a punctiliar action happening to someone/something, i.e. ‘to all people’.

What is the meaning of the verb, epiphaino? In the passive voice it means ‘show oneself, make an appearance’ and in Titus 2:11 refers to the grace of God that has appeared (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:304). Since the appearance of the grace of God happened (appeared), it seems that the interpretation is meant to refer to the Epiphany of Jesus, the Incarnation (Robertson 1931:604).

What is eisegesis?

Calvinist, Dr James White, provides this understanding:

Exegesis v. Eisegesis. A quote from Dr. James White’s forth-coming book “Pulpit Crimes” on eisegesis indicates that it means:

The reading into a text, in this case, an ancient text of the Bible, of a meaning that is not supported by the grammar, syntax, lexical meanings, and over-all context, of the original. It is the opposite of exegesis, where you read out of the text its original meaning by careful attention to the same things, grammar, syntax, the lexical meanings of the words used by the author (as they were used in his day and in his area), and the over-all context of the document. As common as it is, it should be something the Christian minister finds abhorrent, for when you stop and think about it, eisegesis muffles the voice of God. If the text of Scripture is in fact God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and if God speaks in the entirety of the Bible (Matt. 22:31) then eisegesis would involve silencing that divine voice and replacing it with the thoughts, intents, and most often, traditions, of the one doing the interpretation. In fact, in my experience, eisegetical mishandling of the inspired text is the single most common source of heresy, division, disunity, and a lack of clarity in the proclamation of the gospel. The man of God is commended when he handles God’s truth aright (2 Tim. 2:15), and it should be his highest honor to be privileged to do so. Exegesis, then, apart from being a skill honed over years of practice, is an absolutely necessary means of honoring the Lord a minister claims to serve. For some today, exegesis and all the attendant study that goes into it robs one of the Spirit. The fact is, there is no greater spiritual service the minister can render to the Lord and to the flock entrusted to his care than to allow Gods voice to speak with the clarity that only sound exegetical practice can provide (in Reformation Theology, emphasis added).

Could there be a way forward?

There is a way forward, but I can’t see it when a person’s theological presuppositions seem to intrude and prevent that person from seeing what I did write (see above) that the difference in definitions of ‘appearance’ is clear from a plain reading of the biblical text.
But he does not want to accept it that Christ’s appearance in his epiphany (his coming, works, death & resurrection) IS NOT the same meaning as appearance of sun and clouds, and IS NOT the same meaning of appearance of Jesus at the Parousia – his second coming. His posts didn’t acknowledge this. He seems to have a presuppositional bias against accepting the obvious.

It is false to accuse me: ‘You have failed to explain the differences in definitions. All you’ve done is provide examples’.[4] This is absolutely false. He doesn’t want to acknowledge that the three Greek examples that I gave him demand three different understandings of the meaning of ‘appearance’.

It is a waste of time going over this AGAIN and AGAIN. He did not want to receive it. I will not do it again.

However, I thanked him for acknowledging the truth that he did engage in the use of a false approach to hermeneutics – eisegesis – by imposing his will on the biblical text.[5]

In fact, my first seminary hermeneutics text used was that by A Berkeley Mickelsen, Interpreting the Bible (1963). Mickelsen gave this brief, but accurate, definition: ‘Eisegesis is the substitution of the authority of the interpreter for the authority of the original writer’ (Mickelsen 1963:158).

I thanked the person online for admitting that this is what he did in one of his posts to me when you inserted, ‘for a purpose’, that was not in the biblical text relating to the verses I cited regarding the appearance of Christ’s first coming with his epiphany, works, death and resurrection. This referred to the appearance of the sun and clouds and the appearance of Christ at his second coming.

I left it to this person to read Kittel & Friedrich’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament to discover the etymology and the various meanings of the Greek, epiphainw, epiphaneia, and epiphanes (vol 9, pp. 7-10, Eerdmans).

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[6] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Fee, G D 1988. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus. W Ward Gasque, New Testament (ed). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Robertson, A T 1931. Word pictures in the New Testament: The epistles of Paul, vol 4. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Wenham, J W 1965. The elements of New Testament Greek (based on the earlier work by H P V Nunn). London / New York NY: Cambridge University Press.


[1] Christian, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Is rejecting Christ a sin’, griff #624, available at: (Accessed 12 July 2013).

[2] Ibid (emphasis in original).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen #644, my emphases.

[3a] I provided this Greek explanation at Christian, Apologetics & Theology, ‘Salvation belongs to the Lord’, OzSpen#116. Available at: (Accessed 31 May 2016). This explanation was at the request of one of the moderators, JohnDB.

[4] Christian, General Theology, Soteriology…. Hammster #760, available at: (Accessed 31 July 2013).

[5] My response is as OzSpen #778 at: (Accessed 31 July 2013).

[6] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & aug ed 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 August 2018.

Calvin’s appalling interpretation of ‘all men’

(image public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

Does God zap people with unconditional election and they are INTO the kingdom, NEVER to be excluded?[1] Is God’s grace extended to all people or are many excluded?

What happened with the Philippian jailer? According to Acts 16:30-31 (ESV), it is stated: ‘Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household”’. They did not say, ‘Just leave it to God/Jesus; he decides if you are ever going to be saved. He by a sovereign act pulls you into his kingdom – he sovereignly elects you and you have no say in the matter’.

No, these evangelists said, ‘(You) believe in the Lord Jesus’ to be saved. As I understand Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), there is no salvation without the human responsibility of believing. However, we always need to remember that

  •  Jesus said, according to John 6:65 (ESV), ‘No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father’.
  • Matthew 11:27 affirms the same message: ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’.
  • Paul’s message to the Ephesians was, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast’ (Eph 2:8-9 ESV).
  • Titus 1:1 (NLT) confirms that Christian believers are ‘those God has chosen’.


(image courtesy

A. God’s grace to all

I find a better biblical emphasis than unconditional election[2] to be that found in Titus 2:11 (ESV): ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’. This does not promote universalism, BUT it proves how God’s saving grace is universal – is available to all – and that grace brings salvation. This is in contrast to Calvin’s limiting grace to only a select number of people, made available through Calvinistic limited atonement.[3]

Here is John Calvin’s interpretation of this verse from Calvin’s commentary on Titus 2:11. He stated of this phrase:

Bringing salvation to all men,[4] That it is common to all is expressly testified by him on account of the slaves of whom he had spoken. Yet he does not mean individual men, but rather describes individual classes, or various ranks of life. And this is not a little emphatic, that the grace of God hath let itself down even to the race of slaves; for, since God does not despise men of the lowest and most degraded condition, it would be highly unreasonable that we should be negligent and slothful to embrace his goodness.

B. Calvin’s shocking eisegesis

What is eisegesis? Berkeley Mickelsen states that ‘eisegesis is the substitution of the authority of the interpreter for the authority of the original writer’ (Mickelsen 1963:158). Lewis & Demarest describe it as the method of people ‘reading their own ideas into the Bible’ (1987:30). The World Council of Churches understood that

there is always the danger of eisegesis, reading into the Bible the ideas which we have received from elsewhere and then receiving them each with the authority with which we have come to surround the book (World Council of Churches Symposium on Biblical Authority for Today, Oxford, 1949).[5]

I find Calvin’s interpretation of Titus 2:11 to be an awful piece of eisegesis. Calvin, a very accomplished commentator, has made ‘all men’ refer NOT to all individual men – meaning all human beings – but to individual classes of people and those in various ranks of life, including the race of slaves.

This is as bad a piece of exegesis that I’ve read in quite a while as he makes ‘all men’ = some slaves and some from other classes and ranks in life. This is what happens when a commentator allows his predisposed presupposition (God’s grace cannot be extended to all, but only to the elect) to intrude into his interpretation. Thus exegesis of this phrase in Titus 2:11 has become eisegesis in the hands of a Reformed Calvinist, the founder of the movement.

Meyer’s commentary states: ‘[pasin anthropois, all men and women] does not depend on [epephane, appeared], but on [sotegios, salvation]…. The emphasis laid on the universality of the salvation, as in 1 Timothy 2:4 and other passages of the Pastoral Epistles, is purely Pauline’ (Titus 2:11 commentaries, Bible Hub).

First Timothy 2:3-4 (ESV) reads, ‘This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (emphasis added). This is in harmony with Paul’s statement in Titus 2:11 that God’s grace is made available to all people, thus making salvation available to all. These two passages ‘have specific reference to the redemption wrought by Christ, and all posit universality. They are supported by numerous correlative passages which assert God’s will that all men be saved’ (Shank 1970:83). These verses support unlimited atonement. Fairbairn’s assessment is accurate regarding Titus 2:11: The grace of God and its saving design is towards all people; it ‘presents and offers salvation to all, and in that sense brings it…. The salvation-bringing grace of God is without respect of persons; it is unfolded to men indiscriminately, or to sinners of every name’ (Fairbairn 2001:278).

William Hendriksen promotes an opposing view:

Does Titus 2:11 really teach that the saving grace of God has appeared to every member of the human race without exception? Of course not! It matters little whether one interprets “the appearance of the saving grace” as referring to the bestowal of salvation itself, or to the fact that the gospel of saving grace has been preached to every person on earth. In either case it is impossible to make “all men” mean “every individual on the globe without exception”…..

The context makes the meaning very clear. Male or female, old or young, rich or poor: all are guilty before God, and from them all God gathers his people. Aged men, aged women, young women, young(er) men, and even slaves (see verses 1-10) should live consecrated lives for the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to men of all these various groups or classes. “All men” here in verse 11 = “us” in verse 12 (The Pastorals, Hendriksen 1957:93, 371, emphasis in original).

So Hendriksen’s interpretation is essentially that of Calvin’s, as is Matthew Henry’s:

It hath appeared to all men; not to the Jews only, as the glory of God appeared at mount Sinai to that particular people, and out of the view of all others; but gospel grace is open to all, and all are invited to come and partake of the benefit of it, Gentiles as well as Jews…. The doctrine of grace and salvation by the gospel is for all ranks and conditions of men (slaves and servants, as well as masters) (Matthew Henry, Titus 2:11-14).

This cannot be accepted because of the various verses throughout Scripture that promote unlimited atonement (1 John 2:2) and God’s desire for all people to be saved (1 Tim 2:4).

The obvious question remains:

C. At what point is grace for salvation available to all?

Titus 2:11 makes it clear that God’s grace, his goodness to the ill-deserving, is made available (‘has appeared’ is the language) ‘to all people’. But when is that? Is it at the time of birth, at some time after birth, at the time of the Gospel being presented, or at some other time? Has the grace of God appeared bringing salvation to the drunk on the street, the Muslim in an anti-Christian country, the secular Aussie who doesn’t give a hoot about God, or at some other time?

Titus 2:11 seems to indicate that the grace of God has appeared to all people in some way that we could describe as prevenient grace, preparing the way for salvation when the Gospel is proclaimed to them. See my article, Is prevenient grace still amazing grace? Here I put the case that this means that the human will is freed in relation to salvation. It is not a violation of free will. We know that the will has been freed in relation to salvation because it is implied in these exhortations:

  • to turn to God. (Prov 1:23; Isa 31:6; Ezek 14:6; 18:32; Joel 2:13-14; Matt 18:3; and Acts 3:19);
  • to repent (1 Kings 8:47; Matt 3:2; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; 17:30), and
  • to believe (2 Chron 20:20; Isa 43:10; John 6:29; 14:1; Acts 16:31; Phil 1:29; 1 John 3:23).

Prevenient or common grace is no more a violation of a person’s will than their receiving a beating heart before birth and breath after birth.

Exegete, Gordon Fee, explains Titus 2:11:

An explanatory for opens the paragraph and thus closely ties verses 11-14 to 2-10. It proceeds to explain why God’s people should live as exhorted in 2-10 (so that the message from God will not be maligned [v. 5] but instead will be attractive [v. 10]): because the grace of God that brings salvation to all people has appeared.

In the Greek text all of verses 11-14 form a single sentence, of which the grace of God stands as the grammatical subject. But contrary to the NIV (and KJV), Paul does not say that this grace appeared to all men; rather, as almost all other translations have it, and as both Paul’s word order and the usage in 1 Timothy 2:3-6 demand it, what has appeared (see disc. on 1 Tim. 6:14; epiphaneia) is grace from God that offers salvation to all people.

Paul does not indicate here the reference point for this revelation of God’s grace. Most likely he is thinking of the historical revelation effected in the saving event of Christ (v. 14; cf. 2 Tim. 1:9-10), but it could also refer existentially to the time in Crete when Paul and Titus preached the gospel and Cretans understood and accepted the message (cf. 1:3 and 3:3-4). That at least is when the educative dimension of grace, emphasized in verse 12, took place (Fee 1988:194, emphasis in original).

See my article for a further explanation: Does God’s grace make salvation available to all people? It is important to note that God’s grace is made available to all but Fee’s insight that ‘Paul does not indicate here the reference point for this revelation of God’s grace’ is important. We do not know the how and when this happens. Fee thinks it could have happened historically when the saving event of Christ was effected (cf Titus 2:14 and 2 Tim 1:9-10). However, I put it to you that this could happen at the time when the Gospel is proclaimed in any contemporary situation. The grace of God is extended to all people in the sound of the proclamation. But that is only a suggestion. We are not told the chronology of when it happens. But we do know that God’s grace bringing salvation has appeared to all people – not just a handful of God’s elect.

Related image

(image public domain)

D. Objections to label of eisegesis

It is expected that Calvinists would object to any attempt to interpret 1 Tim 2:4 (pantas anthropous) and Titus 2:11 (pasin anthropois) as referring to all people. I expect that they would not like my labelling Calvin’s interpretation as eisegesis. I hope the following explanation demonstrates that I do not have a beef over Calvin’s interpretations for no good reason.

Some standard Bible translations of these two verses are:

1 Timothy 2:4,

  • ‘who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (ESV);
  • ‘who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (NIV);
  • ‘who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (NASB);
  • ‘who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (NRSV);
  • ‘who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth’ (NLT).

Titus 2:11,

  • ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’ (ESV);
  • ‘For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people’ (NIV);
  • ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men’ (NASB);
  • ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all’ (NRSV);
  • ‘For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people’ (NLT);

All of these translations take the two verses in which the Greek states ‘all men’ as referring to all people, all of mankind, or all of humanity. However, the NKJV still retains ‘all men’ in Titus 2:11, without explaining the meaning, ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men’ (NKJV). It takes the same approach with 1 Tim 2:4, ‘who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (NKJV).

Does ‘all people’ refer to all human beings or does it refer to something else?

Image result for photo William Hendriksen public domain

(William Hendriksen, photo public domain)

William Hendriksen is a Calvinist.[6] In his commentary on Titus 2:11, he stated that ‘all men’ referred back to 1 Tim 2:4 and the explanation of ‘all men’ (Hendriksen 1957:370-371), where Hendriksen wrote at length. Some of my objections to his comments on 1 Tim 2:1 (Hendriksen 1957:93-94) are noted in [square brackets]:

Several expositors feel certain that this means every member of the whole human race; every man, woman, and child, without any exception whatever. And it must be readily admitted that taken by itself the expression all men is capable of this interpretation. Nevertheless, every calm and unbiased interpreter also admits that in certain contexts this simply cannot be the meaning.[7]

Does Titus 2:11 really teach that the saving grace of God has appeared to every member of the human race without any exception? Of course not! It matters little whether one interprets “the appearance of the saving grace” as referring to the bestowal of salvation itself, or to the fact that the gospel of saving grace has been preached to every person on earth. In either case it is impossible to make “all men” mean “every individual on the globe without exception. [N.B. What causes Hendriksen to be so sure that he certainly knows that God’s grace (even prevenient grace that prepares the human race for salvation) is NOT available to all people? There’s an air of Calvinistic firmness (Hendriksen’s theological persuasion) coming through with this kind of comment].

Again, does Rom. 5:18 really teach that “every member of the human race” is “justified”? [N.B. What Hendriksen fails to mention in this context is that Rom 5:18 includes two examples of ‘all men’. The first is, ‘Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men….’ So does ‘all men’ who are condemned refer to all people? Of course, as the following parallel verses confirm: Romans 3:23; 5:12. Hendriksen refers to one view of ‘all men’ but avoids the other use of ‘all men’ in the very same verse. Seems like selective exegesis to me.]

Does I Cor. 15:22 really intend to tell us that “every member of the human race” is “made alive in Christ“? [N.B. I find this quite a unreasonable statement because 1 Cor 15:23 gives the context, ‘Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ’ (ESV). So in 1 Cor 15:22-23, Paul is addressing ALL ‘who belong to Christ’ (v. 23); He is not speaking of all people, non-believers and Christians alike. So Hendriksen’s use of 1 Cor. 15:22 does not prove his point. It demonstrates he has not taken into account the meaning as context determines.]

But if that be true, then it follows that Christ did not only die for every member of the human race, but that he also actually saved every one without any exception whatever. Most conservatives would hesitate to go that far.[8]

Moreover, if, wherever it occurs, the expression “all men” or its equivalent has this absolutely universalistic connotation, then would not the following be true:

(a) Every member of the human race regarded John the Baptist as a prophet (Mark 11:32). [N.B. Part of Mk 11:32 in the Greek is literally, ‘they feared the crowd [the people], for all held….’ Even if one translated ‘the crowd for all men’, the ‘all men’ in context has to refer to ‘the crowd’ (the people of the context), not all people in the world. I find it disingenuous of Hendriksen to want to make ‘all men’ refer to the human race when he, a scholar with excellent knowledge of Greek knew that ‘all’ referred to ‘the crowd’ in context. I find this to be an example of the commentator playing his misleading Calvinistic games. It is a begging the question logical fallacy. That is, if he starts with the Calvinistic premise that ‘all men’ does not mean all men and then ends with ‘all men’ cannot mean the ‘human race’, he has engaged in circular reasoning, a question begging fallacy. So his use of Mark 11:32 is invalid to support his case.]

(b) Every member of the human race wondered whether John was, perhaps, the Christ (Luke 3:15). [N.B. This verse in the ESV states, ‘As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ’. Which people? Verses 7 & 10 call them ‘the crowds’ while v. 12 states that ‘tax collectors also came’ and there were soldiers who asked John the Baptist (v. 14). These are the ‘people’ who came to John the Baptist according to Luke 3:15 (Interlinear). It is obvious that ‘the people’ were not all the people in the world. They were the people in his era who had heard and seen him and were ‘questioning in their hearts concerning John’. Again, I find this to be an unfair way for Hendriksen to push his Calvinistic agenda.]

(c) Every member of the human race marveled about the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:20). [N.B. Hendriksen is again stretching the text to fit his agenda. The verse states: ‘everyone was amazed’ (Interlinear) but the context makes it clear who all of these were. They were in the Decapolis’ (Interlinear). We use the same kind of language today, say, when we are attending a fruit and vegetable market. We say things like, ‘Look at all the people buying lady finger bananas on special’. No person in his or her right mind would think that ‘all the people’ meant all the people in the entire world. So when ‘everyone was amazed according to Mark 5:20, it was referring to the amazed people in Decapolis who had seen evidence of the demon-possessed person set free by Jesus’ exorcism. Again, Hendriksen is stretching the imagination to arrive at a conclusion that is unrealistic in the context.]

(d) Every member of the human race was searching for Jesus (Mark 1:37). [N.B. Mark 1:37 (Interlinear) has the statement, ‘Everyone is looking for you’. There is not enough information in the immediate context to determine who the ‘everyone’ refers to, but the context in the Gospel of Mark 1:32-34 (Interlinear) indicates that the people were bringing the sick and demon-possessed to Jesus for healing and deliverance. The language is, ‘The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases’ (NIV). Therefore, there is a strong possibility that ‘everyone’ who was looking for Jesus could have referred to the sick or demon possessed because of Jesus’ reputation for healing and exorcism. To make this refer to the entire human race in this context is quite a nonsensical intent. Context in Scripture snuffs out that idea. So it is possible for ‘everyone’ to refer to everyone in a group that is seeking Jesus. But to make Mark 1:37 apply to ‘all men’ regarding the offer of salvation, is stretching my theological logical thinking.]

(e) It was reported to the Baptist that all members of the human race were flocking to Jesus (John 3:26). [N.B. The Interlinear gives the translation, ‘Everyone is coming to him’. What does the context tell us about the ‘everyone’? People were coming to John the Baptist to be baptised (John 3:22-24) and then there was a discussion between some of John the Baptist’s disciples and a Jew about John the Baptist’s baptism and the ‘all’ who were now coming to Jesus to be baptised. It is obvious in context that the ‘all’ are those wanting to be baptised. It is a very local understanding of ‘all’. Context demonstrates that].

And so one could easily continue. Even today, how often do we not use the expression “all men” or “everybody” without referring to every member of the human race? When we say, “If everybody is ready, the meeting can begin,” we do not refer to everybody on earth!

Thus also in the present passage (I Tim. 2:1), it is the context that must decide. In this case the context is clear. Paul definitely mentions groups or classes of men: kings (verse 2). those in high position (verse 2), the Gentiles (verse 7). He is thinking of rulers and (by implication) subjects, of Gentiles and (again by implication) Jews. and he is urging Timothy to see to it that in public worship not a single group be omitted. In other words, the expression “all men” as here used means “all men without distinction of race, nationality, or social position,” not “all men individually, one by one.”

Besides, how would it even be possible, except in a very vague and global manner (the very opposite of Paul’s constant emphasis!), to remember in prayer every person on earth? (Hendriksen & Kistemaker 1966:93-94).

What is Hendriksen trying to demonstrate? The verses he plucked from the New Testament are meant to try to prove his Calvinistic presupposition that when Scripture states God desires ‘all people to be saved’ (1 Tim 2:4), it does not mean all human beings but only some from all races, classes, tribes, etc., i.e. God does not really desire all people throughout the entire world through all ages to be saved. He also is trying to show that Titus 2:11 does not refer to God’s grace appearing and bringing/making salvation available to all people. I find his argumentation to contain some flaws that I’ve attempted to expose here. This is unfortunate because I have the Hendriksen-Kistemaker New Testament Commentary Series in my personal library and I find many helpful explanations in them.

However, it does demonstrate the need to be discerning when reading any material – commentary or other Christian literature (including all of my writings on this homepage) – according to what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: ‘Test everything; hold fast what is good’ (1 Thess 5:21 ESV).

E. Did Jesus die for all people?[9]

First John 2:2 would seem to be an excellent verse to establish Christ’s unlimited atonement – dying for the whole world of sinners: ‘He is the atoning sacrifice[10] for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world, (NIV).

How does R C Sproul, a Calvinist, interpret this verse? He admits that ‘this text, more than any other, is cited as scriptural proof against definite atonement’. His view is that if this verse is taken in this sense, ‘it becomes a proof text for universalism’. His way of viewing the text is

to see the contrast in it between our sins and those of the whole world. Who are the people included in the word our?…. In this text, John may merely be saying that Christ is not only a propitiation for our sins (Jewish believers) but for the elect found also throughout the whole world…. The purpose of God in Christ’s death was determined at the foundation of the world. The design was not guesswork but according to a specific plan and purpose, which God is sovereignly bringing to pass. All for whom Christ died are redeemed by His sacrificial act….

The Atonement in a broad sense is offered to all; in a narrow sense, it is only offered to the elect. John’s teaching that Christ died for the sins of the whole world means that the elect are not limited to Israel but are found throughout the world” (Sproul 1992:176-177, emphasis in original).

Talk about confusion. There is not a word in context of 1 John to speak of the elect as limited to Israel. What does the Bible teach?

By contrast, Lutheran commentator, R. C. H. Lenski (1966:399-400), while preferring the term expiation to propitiation, states that the Righteous One (Jesus, from 1 John 2:1) ‘suffered for unrighteous ones’ and this is ‘effective … regarding the sins of the whole world’. He goes further:

John advances the thought from sins to the whole world of sinners. Christ made expiation for our sins and thereby for all sinners. We understand [kosmos] in the light of John 3:16 and think that it includes all men [meaning people], us among them, and not only all unsaved men [i.e. people]…. [As in 2 Pet 2:1]: the Lord bought even those who go to hell. “The whole world” includes all men who ever lived or will live (Lenski 1966:400).

Lenski appropriately states that ‘Christ’s saving righteousness and expiation are the basis for his action as our Advocate’ and that we Christians have him as one who is called to our side, our Advocate. ‘John does not say that the whole world has him in this capacity’ (Lenski 1966:400-401).

1. Calvin on the atonement

Did John Calvin (AD 1509-1564) support limited atonement? In the early days of his writing when he was aged 26, he completed the first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion. In the Institutes, he wrote:

I say with Augustine, that the Lord has created those who, as he certainly foreknew, were to go to destruction, and he did so because he so willed. Why he willed it is not ours to ask, as we cannot comprehend, nor can it become us even to raise a controversy as to the justice of the divine will. Whenever we speak of it, we are speaking of the supreme standard of justice (Institutes 3.23.5).

Here Calvin affirmed that God willed the destruction of unbelievers. Calvin continues:

Their perdition depends on the predestination of God, the cause and matter of it is in themselves. The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should: why he deemed it meet, we know not. It is certain, however, that it was just, because he saw that his own glory would thereby be displayed (Institutes 3.23.8).

While this description is tied up with Calvin’s view of double predestination, it is linked with the doctrine of limited atonement in that it would be impossible for God to predestine unbelievers to eternal damnation and yet provide unlimited atonement that was available to them, with the possibility of salvation. That is the logical connection, as I understand it.

Roger Nicole, another Calvinist, has written an article on “John Calvin’s view of the extent of the atonement”. This indicates that Calvin did not believe in limited atonement, but that it was a doctrine originated by Calvinists following Calvin.

Calvin’s first edition of The Institutes was in Latin in 1536 and this was published in a French edition in 1560.

John Calvin did progress in his thinking when he wrote his commentaries on the Bible later in life. His first commentary was on the Book of Romans in 1540 and his commentaries after 1557 were taken from stenographer’s notes taken from lectures to his students. He wrote in his commentary on John 3:16:

Faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish….

And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life (emphasis added).

Thus John Calvin himself is very clear. He believed in unlimited atonement.


(image courtesy ChristArt)

The following verses also affirm unlimited atonement:

clip_image003_thumb John 1:29: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (NIV).

clip_image0031_thumb John 4:42: “They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world’” (NIV).

clip_image0032_thumb Acts 2:21: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (NIV).

clip_image0033_thumb Romans 5:6: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (NIV).

clip_image0034_thumb 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (NIV).

clip_image0035_thumb 1 Timothy 2:3-4: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (NIV).

clip_image0036_thumb 1 Timothy 2:5-6: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time” (NIV).

clip_image0037_thumb 1 Timothy 4:10: “That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe” (NIV)

clip_image0038_thumb Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people” (NIV).

clip_image0039_thumb Hebrews 2:9: “But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (NIV).

clip_image00310_thumb 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (NIV).

clip_image00311_thumb 1 John 4:14: “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.”

clip_image00312_thumb John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Arminian-leaning theologian, Henry C. Thiessen’s, summary of the sense in which Christ is the Saviour of the world is:

His death secured for all men a delay in the execution of the sentence against sin, space for repentance, and the common blessings of life which have been forfeited by transgression; it removed from the mind of God every obstacle to the pardon of the penitent and restoration of the sinner, except his wilful opposition to God and rejection of him; it procured for the unbeliever the powerful incentives to repentance presented in the Cross, by means of the preaching of God’s servants, and through the work of the Holy Spirit; it provided salvation for those who die in infancy, and assured its application to them; and it makes possible the final restoration of creation itself (Thiessen 1949:330).

Limited or definite atonement is clearly refuted by Scripture. See this external link, ‘A letter to a limited atonement brother’ (Timothy Ministry 2011).


Calvin’s shocking commentary on Titus 2:11 that makes ‘all people’ equal ‘all classes of people’ is an example of how a theologian’s Calvinistic presuppositions are imposed on a text to arrive at an interpretation consistent with his premises. This is an example of eisegesis – imposing Calvin’s predetermined view on the text. It also is a question begging logical fallacy.

An exegesis of the text discovers that God’s grace appears to all people with the view to salvation. We don’t know when that happens as it is not stated in the text. But we do know that all people who have ever lived have experienced this grace to make salvation available to them when the Gospel is preached.

We further uncovered the fact that Calvin engaged in eisegesis of the text of Titus 2:11 to impose his view on the text, rather than allowing the text to speak for itself in exegesis.

William Hendriksen also imposed his view which was challenged to demonstrate that ‘all people’ means exactly that – all of the human race and not all tribes or groups of people.

It was demonstrated from Scripture that Jesus died for all human beings and not only for the elect. This unlimited atonement is the view that Calvin also supported. A range of biblical verses was presented to demonstrate that unlimited atonement is clearly taught in Scripture.

In summary: The grace of God has appeared to all people everywhere and making salvation available to them. Jesus died for all people, not just the elect. We don’t know the time at which God’s grace and its availability for salvation comes to all people. The Scripture does not reveal the precise time of that grace being extended to all. This we know from Titus 2:11: That grace of God appears to all people without exception – unto salvation.

Second Corinthians 5:19 affirms that ‘in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation’ (ESV) and ‘the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people’ (Titus 2:11 NLT)

 Works consulted

Fairbairn, P 2001.[11] Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers.

Fee, G D 1988. I and 2 Timothy, Titus. W Ward Gasque, New Testament (ed). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Hendriksen, W 1978. The Covenant of Grace. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Hendriksen, W & Kistemaker, S J 1955. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of the epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (© 1966 Augsburg Publishing House).

Lewis, G R & Demarest, B A 1987. Integrative theology, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan : Academie Books (Zondervan Publishing House).

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Olson, R E 2006, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Shank, R 1970. Elect in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Election. Springfield, Missouri: Westcott Publishers.

Sproul, R C 1992. Essential truths of the Christian faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.


[1] I included some of the following explanation as OzSpen#959 in Christianity Board, Christian Theology Forum, ‘The doctrine of OSAS’, available at: (Accessed 17 September 2015).

[2] For contrasting views, see: Arminianism: Roger Olson, ‘Election is for everyone‘; Calvinism: J I Packer, ‘Election: God chooses his own’.

[3] See R C Sproul’s Calvinistic explanation of limited atonement in ‘TULIP and Reformed Theology: Limited Atonement’ (Accessed 18 September 2015).

[4] Calvin’s footnote at this point was:

‘“We now see why Paul speaks of all men, and thus we may judge of the folly of some who pretend to expound the Holy Scriptures, and do not understand their style, when they say, ‘And God wishes that every person should be saved; the grace of God hath appeared for the salvation of every person; it follows, then, that there is free-will, that there is no election, that none have been predestinated to salvation.’ If those men spoke it ought to be with a little more caution. Paul did not mean in this passage, or in 1Ti 2:6 anything else than that the great are called by God, though they are unworthy of it; that men of low condition, though they are despised, are nevertheless adopted by God, who stretches out his hand to receive them. At that time, because kings and magistrates were mortal enemies of the gospel, it might be thought that God had rejected them, and that they cannot obtain salvation. But Paul says that the door must not be shut against them, and that, eventually, God may choose some of this company, though their case appear to be desperate. Thus, in this passage, after speaking of the poor slaves who were not reckoned to belong to the rank of men, he says that God did not fail, on that account, to show himself compassionate towards them, and that he wishes that the gospel should be preached to those to whom men do not deign to utter a word. Here is a poor man, who shall be rejected by us, we shall hardly say, God bless him! and God addresses him in an especial manner, and declares that he is his Father, and does not merely say a passing word, but stops him to say, ‘Thou art of my flock, let my word be thy pasture, let it be the spiritual food of thy soul.’ Thus we see that this word is highly significant, when it is said that the grace of God hath appeared fully to all men.” — Fr. Ser.

[5] Cited in Bob Utley’s 2010 article, ‘The contextual method of biblical interpretation’, available at: (Accessed 17 September 2015).

[6] Hendriksen’s Calvinistic emphases are explained in, The Covenant of Grace (Hendriksen 1978).

[7] This, in my view, is a reasonable point, but does that follow through with 1 Tim 2:4 and Titus 2:11?

[8] That is not what these passages teach. It is Hendriksen’s Calvinism that is intruding into his interpretation.

[9] This section is taken from my article, Does the Bible teach limited atonement or unlimited atonement by Christ?

[10] A better translation for ‘atoning sacrifice’ would be ‘propitiation’, but many everyday readers do not understand the meaning of propitiation as appeasing the wrath of God. The ESV and NASB translate the word as ‘propitiation’ while the NRSV, ISV and NET follow the NIV with ‘atoning sacrifice’ and the RSV uses ‘expiation’.

[11] This was previously published in 1956 by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 October 2015.

Augustine’s last illness: A divine healing encounter

(Augustine, image courtesy Wikiart)

(Saint Possidius, image courtesy Province of St Augustine)

By Spencer D Gear

The ministry of St Augustine of Hippo demonstrates the failure of cessationism in relation to the gifts of the Spirit. The gift of healing was alive and well through Augustine’s ministry. He lived ca. AD 354-430 [1]

Bishop Possidius (fifth century, died ca. 437), Bishop of Calama (in the Roman province of Numidia),[2] was a friend of Augustine of Hippo and wrote in the first biography about Augustine, Life of Augustine (Possidius 1919, ch XXIX), about ‘Augustine’s last illness’:

And it chanced at one time while we were seated with him at the table and were conversing together that he said to us: “I would have you know that in this time of our misfortune I ask this of God: either that He may be pleased to free this city which is surrounded by the foe, or if something else seems good in His sight, that He make His servants brave for enduring His will, or at least that He may take me from this world unto Himself.” And when he had taught us these words, together with him we all joined in a like petition to God Most High, for ourselves and for all our fellow bishops and for the others who were in this city. And lo, in the third month of the siege he succumbed to fever and began to suffer in his last illness. In truth the Lord did not deprive His servant of the reward of his prayer. For what he asked with tears and prayers for himself and the city he obtained in due time. I know also that both while he was presbyter and bishop, when asked to pray for certain demoniacs, he entreated God in prayer with many tears and the demons departed from the men. In like manner when he was sick and confined to his bed there came a certain man with a sick relative and asked him to lay his hand upon him that he might be healed. But Augustine answered that if he had any power in such things he would surely have applied it to himself first of all; to which the stranger replied that he had had a vision and that in his dream these words had been addressed to him: “Go to the bishop Augustine that he may lay his hand upon him, and he shall be whole.” Now when Augustine heard this he did not delay to do it and immediately God caused the sick man to depart from him healed (emphasis added).

This demonstration of the gift of the Spirit of healing is a further acknowledgment that a gift of the Spirit – the gift of healing – had not ceased in the 4th-5th centuries. Augustine was a leader of the Christian church and not some occult practitioner. Augustine, philosopher and theologian, ‘is looked upon by Protestants as one who was a forerunner of the Reformation ideas’ [3].

In the above citation, Augustine’s belief in the continuing gift of healing is demonstrated. For another example of this emphasis in the life and ministry of Augustine, see my article: St. Augustine: The leading Church Father who dared to change his mind about divine healing. In this article, I have shown Augustine’s change of theology in relation to divine healing.


[1] Donald X Burt 1996. Reflections on Augustine’s spirituality: Saint Augustine – His Life and Times. Villanova University. Available at: (Accessed 16 October 2015).

[2] Midwest Augustinians 2015. Saint Possidius, May 16 (online). Available at: (Accessed 8 September 2015). This article states that ‘he died in exile around the year 437’.

[3] Earl E Cairns 1981. Christianity through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 149.


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 May 2016.

Did God create evil?

Indonesian tsunami (image, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

If God created everything, does that mean that He created all the evil in the world, including the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed about 230,000 people in a number of countries? What about the Joplin, Missouri, twister that killed over 120 people? Can God be seen as the cause of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on New York City and Washington DC? If God created everything, where do these disasters fit in God’s agenda?

Down through the centuries, people have blamed God for creating evil, supposing that because God allows evil to continue, that God is responsible for all of the evil in the world. If God created evil, then it is He who is responsible for the murders, world wars, adultery, rape of children, abortion, etc, etc.

This is a blasphemous statement to blame God for all of the evil in the world.

How do we respond, biblically? Perhaps it will be helpful to examine Isa. 45:7 to try to gain some light on this challenging topic.

The KJV translates as, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”.

The ESV reads, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things”.

According to the KJV, God creates good (light, peace) and evil (see also Jer. 18:11; Lam. 3:38; Amos 3:6). But there are other Scriptures that state that there is no darkness in God (e.g. 1 John 1:5). Hab. 1:13 states that “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil” (ESV). James 1:13 confirms that “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one”. So where does this leave us?

We know that God is morally perfect (see Deut. 32:4; Matt. 5:48). God cannot sin (Heb. 6:18). But there is more to the attributes of God, including his absolute justice that requires that sin be punished by Him. So, there will be judgment by God in this life and eternally (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:11-15). So, in this life, when God executes justice we sometimes call this “evil” because from our human perspective, God seems to be committing evil against these people and nations. Were the Indonesian tsunami and the Joplin MO twister examples of God’s “evil” actions?

However, the Hebrew ra, evil/calamity in Isa 45:7, does not always mean moral evil. In the Isa 45 context, the ESV demonstrates that it should be translated as “calamity”, which is how the NKJV also translates it. The context supports this translation. So God is seen as the creator of “evil”, not in the moral sense directly, but as the one who brings judgment/calamity. [1]

God can be seen indirectly as the author of moral evil, but only in the sense that he created moral human beings who had the power of free choice and it is this free choice by us that brought moral evil into the universe. We see the beginning of this in Genesis 3. God created moral beings who had the ability to perform moral evil – and they did. God created free human beings and it is they who made evil real.

God’s making human beings with the possibility of free choice is a good thing. Surely we agree with the idea that human beings can choose one kind of clothing over another, one type of food over another, is a good action by God. Living in a world without choice would seem strange indeed. But the power of choice or free will comes with other consequences – the power for human beings to perform evil actions such as murder, rape, theft and many other evil things.

Thus, we can say that God created only good things and one of those good things was free choice. Moral, but free, human beings produced the evil in our world. Yes, God made the moral universe and indirectly created the possibility of evil in our universe. So, evil is permitted by God, but God does not produce or promote this evil. We know that ultimately a greater good is coming (see Gen. 50:20; Rev. 21-22).

Some want to promote the use of the Hebrew, ra, in Micah 2:3 as meaning God created evil against the family [clan, extended family or nation]. Yes, God allowed for the tempter, Satan, to enter the world, but the tempter does nothing that God hasn’t approved of as the Book of Job shows.

This is not congruent with that demonstrated by the Hebrew scholars involved in these translations:

1.  Therefore thus says the LORD:behold, against this family I am devising disaster, from which you cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be a time of disaster (ESV).

2.  Therefore the Lord says this: “Look, I am devising disaster for this nation! It will be like a yoke from which you cannot free your neck. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of catastrophe (NET).

3.  So Yahweh says this: Look, I am now plotting a disaster for this breed from which you will not extricate your necks; you will not hold your heads up then, for the times will be disastrous indeed (New Jerusalem Bible).

4.  Therefore, the LORD says:  “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity (NIV).

For what purpose did God create the world? This is a summary from

The Bible teaches us God created both the angels and man with volition, or the freedom of choice. He created both as holy and without sin that they might not only serve Him as the Creator, but bring Him glory. In particular, man, being created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26f), was created to have fellowship with God through the exercise of that image. Man was created to glorify God through the exercise of his personality—mind, heart, and will. With his mind he was to know God, with his heart he was to love God, and with his will, in response to his understanding and love of God, he was to choose for God in obedience. But God did not create robots. That would have brought very little glory to God. Because His creatures were not robots, there was the risk of a negative choice. But God, by His sovereign will, purpose, and foreknowledge, determined to allow this, indeed, He ordained it by His own eternal wisdom without Himself being the cause.

Many struggle with this, but in the process of all that has occurred, God’s glory is supremely revealed in all His Holy attributes—His holiness, righteousness, justice, mercy, grace, and love, veracity, truth, etc. God did not cause the creature to sin. If the creature was to really have the freedom to know, love, and choose for God and respond in worship and obedience as a free and independent agent, he had to have true freedom of choice. Thus, compare the temptation of Eve by the devil. He attacked her knowledge and understanding of God to get her to doubt God’s love, etc. The race fell because of Adam and Eve’s negative response to the grace of God. But in the process, God’s character and glory is [sic] revealed in a more total or complete way. So, through the cross, man’s sin, like diamonds reflecting the light against the backdrop of black velvet, reflects God’s love, mercy, grace, holiness and justice in infinite ways.

It is an heretical doctrine of Gnosticism that claimed that God created evil. It was refuted over and over by the apologists in the early centuries of the Christian church.

I have been helped in providing the above information by Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe 1992. When Critics Ask. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, pp. 271-272 (the new title is, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties). Geisler & Howe summarised:


  • In the sense of sin
  • Moral evil
  • Perversity
  • Directly
  • Actuality of evil


  • In the sense of calamity
  • Non-moral evil
  • Plagues
  • Indirectly
  • Possibility of evil (Geisler & Howe 1992:271)


[1]  Micah 2:3 The same Hebrew word can mean evil or disaster, depending on the context

Evil Chases

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 September 2019.


1 Peter 2:1-3, Grow up in your faith

(public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

‘So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation– 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good’ (1 Peter 2:1-3 ESV).

A. Introduction

On June 2, 2006, I had the honour, sad though it was, to conduct the funeral service of my father-in-law, who had died at age 95. Dad had lived with Desley and me for the last 12 years of his life. During our conversations over the years he had made it clear that he wanted me to conduct the funeral if I were alive, and that he must not be buried from the evangelical church in which he was raised. He attended that church, only because of his wife’s commitment, until 1992.

But he was adamant. Do not bury me from that church. I want nothing to do with that church, even at my death.

Why? His mother died when he was 8 years old from the influenza that swept the world in 1919. His father remarried and his step mother would go to this evangelical church and praise the Lord with hallelujahs and other spiritual gestures. But during the week she would treat the five step-children like second-class citizens. She was catty towards them and when her own two children were born, these 5 step-children got used clothes while her two children got the new clothes.

This was an example that turned Dad right off the Christian faith because of the stark difference between what a Christian woman said she believed and showed in church, but the radical difference in the household. This was gross hypocrisy and Dad lived with that nasty memory for 87 years. He never wanted to have anything to do with the God of his catty, hypocritical step-mother.

You and I know that Dad will stand before God at judgment, on God’s terms. His step-mother will not be an excuse, but this matter of the Christian life and the gap between what we say we believe and how we live, is how the apostle Peter begins the second chapter of I Peter.

Today we look at the first three verses of 1 Peter 2 that read:

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (NIV)

Let’s do a brief review:

From I Peter 1:13 to 2:3, it deals with what it means for Christians to be holy. What does holiness mean?

  • 1:13-16 Be holy
  • 1:17-21 Live in reverent fear (of God)
  • 1: 22-25 Love one another

We need to be reminded of the context of 2:1. It begins with “Therefore.” What’s it there for? It is based on what has preceded this verse.

v. 23: ‘Since you have been born again’;

v. 25: ‘The word of the Lord stands forever. And this is the good news that was preached to you’.

Therefore, what are we do as people who are genuinely Christian and who stand on the eternal Word of God?

In the first 3 verses of I Peter 2 we have the fourth teaching on what it means to live a holy life to grow spiritually. To grow spiritually, you must

arrow-small Get rid of certain things;

arrow-small You must crave certain things; and

arrow-small You must have tasted.

B. Firstly, if you are to grow spiritually, you must get rid of certain things in your life (v. 1)

What are they?

1. You must get rid of

coil-gold-sm All malice

coil-gold-sm All deceit

coil-gold-sm Hypocrisies

coil-gold-sm Envies

coil-gold-sm All slanders

Paul uses the word, “all”, three times in this list. If we are to be growing Christians, there must be zero malice in our lives; zero deceit; zero hypocrisies, zero envies and zero slanders. All of these apply to our relationships with other people. This is where people will notice the most important change that comes into your life when you become a genuine Christian.

But it’s a challenge when:

3d-red-star-small People hurt us – malice grows easily.

3d-red-star-small When we don’t want people to know certain things about us – deceit comes along.

3d-red-star-small Are our lives totally, 100% consistent? Mine isn’t, even though with Jesus’ help I try my best.

3d-red-star-small As for envy, ever thought about that new dress, car, house, etc?

3d-red-star-small When we don’t like the personality of someone, it’s easy to slander.

Peter says that we must get rid of these:

a. All malice

This is a tough one, especially when there are those who have hurt us – hurt us deeply.

This is totally comprehensive – all malice must be gone if we are to be truly Christian in our living. If we express malice in our relationships with others our love for others disappears.

This Greek word that is translated “malice” means more than what we understand in English. “Malice [in English] is a desire to inflict pain, harm, or injury on [other human beings][1].”[2] Most often we do this with our words but it can lead to physical injury of other people in our anger.

But this word does not mean viciousness (although there should be no viciousness in the language and deeds of a believer), the word (kakia) is “a special form of vice. . . the evil habit of the mind.”[3] This is the kind of evil thinking that leads to all kinds of evil actions. It means “baseness, meanness, all good-for-nothingness, disgracefulness.”[4] ‘Baseness’ is not a word we use much these days, but it means, ‘morally low, … dishonorable; mean-spirited; selfish; cowardly’.[5]

This malice towards others relates to the second half of the 10 commandments (Ex. 20:12-17):

  •  “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” If you have dishonoured your parents, it must be gone if you are really a Christian. This becomes especially touchy if a Christian’s father has physically the mother; if the mother has committed adultery; if father or mother has sexually abused another; if one parent has become homosexual, etc. The Scriptures require you as a Christian to get rid of any dishonour towards your father or mother. You must not endorse any such behaviour. You must oppose such evil actions, but they are still your parents. Honour your father and your mother does NOT mean you endorse their behaviour. Get rid of all dishonour of mother and father.

Let’s pick up on a couple of the other 10 commandments.

arrow-small “You shall not steal.” What do you do with the boss’s time? Are you an honest worker? Do you give an honest week’s work for your pay, or do you steal your boss’s time. It’s so easy to take little things from your place of work. That’s stealing.

arrow-small “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.” Gossiping about another is too often the way of life. Sometimes that’s false testimony. That kind of baseness must be gone from the believer.

arrow-small “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”

Let’s put this in 21st century language: “You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife or husband, or any of your neighbour’s circumstances, including the cars your neighbours drive, the house they own, the TV, computer, goods of any sort that they own.” If we covet human or physical things, we are not growing up in the faith. They will hinder growth. The only thing we should want to covet is a better relationship with Jesus which will mean better relationships with other human beings.

The next few things that Peter mentions that we must get rid of are examples of kakia (baseness) that I have just mentioned

Also, get rid of

b. All deceit

Get rid of your crafty ways, your cunning, any thinking and actions that are meant to deceive another. That was part of your old lifestyle and it can continue on. The original meaning of this word, ‘deceit’, was “a bait for fish.”[6] Get rid of all intents that you have “to deceive and to mislead others to their own hurt and to our own supposed advantage.”[7]

If you want to see BIG TIME deceivers in action, watch a Rugby League match. They are called ‘dummy passes’. They are made to look like a pass, a bait for a tackle, but they dummy and don’t throw. It has been described as ‘where the ball carrier moves as if to pass the ball to a team-mate, but then continues to run with the ball himself; the objective is to trick defenders into marking the would-be pass receiver, creating a gap for the ball carrier to run into’.[8]

In 34 years of counselling, the last 17 years full-time in secular agencies, I encountered more than my share of Christian parents, youth and children who were deceivers in how they relate to one another. Nothing undermines marriage and family as much as parents and children who are not up front and honest in the family. Deceivers in a family devastate family unity. Parents and couples? It is critical that you identify and call to accountability those who are deceivers.

How have you been deceiving your parents? How have you been deceiving your spouse? The Scriptures are adamant: Stop it immediately. Confess to God and to that other person. Yes, confess to the other. Find someone to whom you can be accountable.

Another form of baseness that must be gone from the Christian’s life is:

c. Hypocrisies

I’ve already mentioned this in my own extended family, of how a step-mother’s hypocrisy left a permanent mark for 87 years on her step-son, my father-in-law. We as the people of God need to talk about how our hypocritical living affects us personally, the family, relationships in the church, and relationships with others. Talking about it is not enough.

It must be gone in all relationships. There must be no difference between what we say we believe and the way we live. If Jesus doesn’t make a difference in relationships, I have to question the person’s salvation.

I only wish my father-in-law’s step-mother had been challenged on this hypocrisy by Christian people, including the pastor.

There’s more bad behaviour that must be gone when we become Christian.

d. Envies

This is prolific in our materialistic Western society. We envy the things of others; the jobs they have, cars they drive, the clothes they wear. When we see the supposed good fortune of others; we envy what they have. Remember this is in the plural in 1 Peter 2. Get rid of all envies in your life. Now …

e. Slanders

We know what this means. Or do we? Get rid of “all speaking against others that runs them down.”[9] Remember what Jesus said in Matt. 5:22? “I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ [an Aramaic term of contempt] is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell [Gehenna].” ‘Raca’ and ‘fool’ are words of slander.

Slander has no place in the Christian life.

Imagine what would happen if Christians were known for no baseness, no deceit, no hypocrisies, no envies and no slanders? Do you think that a few people would we attracted to our Jesus because of the change in US?

Firstly, if you want to grow spiritually, you must get rid of those things. Secondly,

C. If you are to grow spiritually, you must crave something (v. 2).

We not only have to get rid of some things, we need to deal with some growth issues.

1. You start doing certain things (vv. 2-3):

a. Live like newborn spiritual babies.

This is a parallel verse to:

designRed-small 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

designRed-small 1:23, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”

Please note what I Peter 2:2 does not say. It does not say, “I’m speaking to brand-new Christians; this is teaching for babes in Christ.”

Remember to whom Peter is writing! In 1:1, “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout” Asia Minor (which is Turkey today) – he mentions the regions by name. This is not teaching just for new Christians, but for all believers: Live “like newborn [spiritual] babies.” Peter is not contrasting solid spiritual food for grown Christians with spiritual milk for new Christians.

Peter wants all believers, whether new or old in the faith to crave to be nourished by ‘pure spiritual milk’ (ESV). His point in using this kind of language, “like newborn babies” is this: “A baby[10] longs for nothing but his or her mother’s milk and will take nothing else, so every Christian should take no spiritual nourishment save the Word. The imagery is beautiful and expressive. Look at a baby at his or her mother’s breast. In this way you should [always][11] drink the milk of the Word.”[12]

Let’s pause for a moment to note how easy it is for us to have access to spiritual milk and meat today. We have ready access to the Scriptures in our own language and we can read them (well, those of us who are literate). It was not like that in the first century. The entire NT had not yet been written. The OT was not freely available. Many of us fail to realise that it took Guttenberg’s remarkable printing press to make the Bible available to so many.

In the first century, how would most people get this spiritual milk? Would it be through oral tradition and teachers of the Word or by some other means. Alan Millard has researched this area and he wrote an article published in 2003 for The Biblical Archaeology Society titled, ‘Literacy in the Time of Jesus: Could His Words Have Been Recorded in His Lifetime?’ Concerning the time of Jesus, his research concluded that ‘not everyone could read and write. And some who could read were not necessarily able to write. But archaeological discoveries and other lines of evidence now show that writing and reading were widely practiced in the Palestine of Jesus’ day. And if that is true, there is no reason to doubt that there were some eyewitness records of what Jesus said and did’ (end quote).[13]

However, the amount of literacy (ability to read) is estimated as low as 3%. One piece of research by Bart Ehrman stated:

In Roman Palestine the situation was even bleaker. The most thorough examination of literacy in Palestine is by a professor of Jewish studies at the University of London, Catherine Hezser, who shows that in the days of Jesus probably only 3 percent of Jews in Palestine were literate. Once again, these would be the people who could read and maybe write their names and copy words. Far fewer could compose sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and books. And once again, these would have been the urban elites.[14]

All of this is to demonstrate that for first century Christians who didn’t have ready access to Scripture and many couldn’t read, it was difficult to gain access to ‘spiritual milk’ but Peter still exhorted them to do so.

In Matt 18:1, it states that the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ Peter understood the meaning of Jesus’ reply in Matt. 18:2-3, “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Peter carried this further to apply it to all Christians: Live like newborn spiritual babies.

What does that mean?

b. “Crave pure spiritual milk” (v. 2)


clipartlord (public domain)


If you don’t have this desire, your salvation must be questioned. What is pure spiritual milk? How do I crave it? The word “spiritual” (NIV) is based on the Greek, logos, the Word. It’s an adjective, the logikos. The KJV helps us with a translation that is closer to the original understanding: Crave or long for “the sincere milk of the Word.” The NASB, “the pure milk of the word.”

We don’t have an exact equivalent in English for the logikos that that KJV and NASB translate as “the word.” This word is used only twice in the NT, the other place being Rom. 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” KJV: “reasonable service.”

Here in I Peter 2:2 we should think of this word in association with the milk. It seems that 2:2 is reflecting back with us what is in I Peter 1:23, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” So, if you are to grow in your faith, you must crave the Word of God. Remember how this Word is described in 1:23: “the living and enduring word of God.”

Peter is saying that all Christians must live like new spiritual babies, with a craving for “the milk of the Word” (KJV). But also remember something that is taught in 1 Cor 3:2 that we need to move from ‘milk’ to ‘solid food’ when we are ‘ready for it’. And Heb 5:12-13 teaches that the ‘basic principles of the oracles of God’ are ‘milk and not solid food’. We do need to move from milk to meat of the Word.

Notice what Peter calls this “milk of the Word”? “Pure” or “unadulterated” milk that belongs to God’s word. It is not like any other spiritual food. Richard Lenski’s commentary states, “It is without the least guile to mislead or to deceive. All other (human) word (teaching, doctrine, spoken or written) is not ‘guileless.’ This divine Word . . . is perfectly safe for babes to take although they, being just born, have no ability to be careful as to what they drink.”[15]

We are to crave this Word of God if we want to grow up in the faith. Lenski again: You are to “long for this milk and no other…. To cease longing for the divine milk is the most serious sign of spiritual decline, which soon ends in spiritual death.”[16]

I’m reminded of Ps. 119:20, “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.”

There’s a problem in doing this for some in our world. I was reading The Voice of the Martyrs magazine, April 2006, and I read this:

3d-red-star-small Whom do you think might have made this statement? I quote: “We and other reverend fathers of the spirituality have determined the said and untrue translations to be burned with further sharp correction and punishment against the keepers and readers of the same.”[17]

Those were the words of the King of England’s “declaration regarding those associated with the first English New Testament to be printed. It was translated by a brilliant Christian and fugitive—William Tyndale.”[18]

3d-red-star-small I also read this: “Vietnamese Pastor Than Van Truong won 44 new believers to Christ while imprisoned for his zealous Christian witness [in Vietnam]. After his release, following a [Voice of the Martyrs’] postcard campaign, we asked him what his greatest need was and he said. . . We need more Bibles![19]

3d-red-star-small “The Christians in China no longer refer to him by name. He has become simply, “the one who got his fingernails taken.” . . . When the Chinese police and Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers “raided the home of this dear Christian brother,… they found ample contraband: Bibles, Christian literature, He Lived Among Us Gospel storybooks, Christian video discs and other material.” The police interrogated: “Where did these things come from? Who are you working with? Who provides financial help?” He remained silent. For refusing to give them the information, “they placed his hands on the table and held them down. One by one his fingernails were pulled out—all 10 of them.”[20]

All Christians around the world are commanded to crave the milk of the Word. For some, that will place them in jail, losing fingernails; for others they lose their lives.

Yet we in the West have such easy access to the Word of God but we often treat it so casually. God commands: Crave the sincere milk of the Word.

Why do you need to crave the milk of the Word?

c. “So that you may grow up in your salvation” (v. 2)

Surely that’s stated as clearly as it can be. If you are to grow spiritually and mature in your salvation, you must crave, long for, the Word – and spend time with God in His Word.

Please understand that to “grow up in your salvation” does mean you cease to be new-born babies and grow up into adults. But Peter speaks of childhood and growing into adulthood as God’s ideal for our growth. We are to be like babies, always longing for God’s milk in the Word so that we grow in salvation. That is our destiny, the design of our faith.

Back in I Peter 1:9, Peter wrote, “For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Let’s draw out some

d. Practical applications

cubed-green How many times this last week have you craved for the milk of the Word of God and spent time in God’s Word? You will tell us your view of being obedient to God by being obedient to what God is teaching from this passage: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk [long for the pure milk of the word] that you may grow up in your salvation.”

cubed-green If you are not craving the Word and spending time in it, you will NOT grow in your salvation. We can give all kinds of excuses for not spending time in Scripture, but in this day of laptops, mobile phones, tablets and Ipads, there really is little excuse for not being able to read the Bible, even when on public transport.

cubed-green Do you have a method of reading through the Word of God? You need exposure to both OT and NT. It’s the total Bible and you will not grow up without an understanding of both OT and NT.

cubed-green For me, it takes 2 years to read through the Bible, reading 2-3 chapters a day. There are 1175 chapters in 66 books in the Bible. You can get through the entire Bible in a year if you read 3.2 chapters a day.

· Why is it important to get the Word of God into your soul? So that “you may grow up in your salvation.”

cubed-greenIf you spend time with mainly ungodly people and feeding your mind with TV programmes, secular sites on the Internet, you’ll be programmed by that non-Christian and ungodly thinking. If you program your mind with the Simpsons, Home & Away, and Harry Potter, you’ll not grow in your faith. You’ll have a stunted Christian life. I’m convinced that Bible reading, Bible study, and prayerfully meditating on the Word, should be helping us to know God’s view of all things that are happening in our world:

cubed-green What’s God’s view on marriage, homosexual marriage, defacto relationships, rebellious children, and unfaithfulness in sexual relationships?

cubed-green How does God view war, abortion, euthanasia and suicide?

cubed-green What about submitting to government – local, state and federal? What does God say? Right now the federal government is calling for submissions on euthanasia. We urgently need to send a submission, even if only a few lines. I can provide you with details.

You will never get God’s understanding of all of life without a good understanding of God’s Word. To grow, crave and spend time in the Word.

One of the most damaging things that is happening in our churches is that preachers no longer want to systematically preach through the Bible. I believe we need to do that to be obedient to what Paul said to Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:2: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” I hear many preachers who preach about the Word but few who actually preach what the actual Word says. We get lots of preachers’ opinions that don’t seem to be directly related to the Word. I’m not talking about hints about how to apply the Word of God. “Preach the Word” is what Paul told the young pastor, Timothy.

I find that in my work discipline of counselling, Christians are being programmed by worldly thinking. Read some of the Christian counselling books on integrations, that believe in integrating (read: amalgamating) the world’s view with God’s view. You get what Martin & Deidre Bobgan call, “psychobabble.” It is not God’s word. When these folks sit down with people to offer Christian counselling, there is no guarantee they’ll get counselling that is biblical. There is every likelihood that they’ll get secular ways of thinking with a few Bible verses thrown in.

If you are to grow in your salvation, you need to crave for the milk of the Word. Thirdly,

D. If you are to grow spiritually, you must have “tasted” (v. 3)

You will never ever be motivated to grow in your salvation and to get to the point of craving the Word of God, if you have not tasted that the Lord is good. Peter is asking his readers to recall their Christian experience with the Lord.

Perhaps Peter is reminding us of the Psalmist in 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (NIV) What is true of God is true of Jesus.

Please note what this does NOT say. It does not encourage us to “taste” or experience God. We are to taste “that the Lord is good.” The Lord is good in making salvation available to us, but he is especially good in making the precious milk of the Word available so that we may grow in our salvation. You will especially taste the Lord’s goodness when you read the word.

If you want a correct picture of what’s happening in our world and want to know for sure where it is heading, crave the pure milk of the Word and grow in your salvation.

Is this world going to go on forever? What’s the end of the world going to be like? Why is there so much evil in the world? When I watch the evening TV news, I have to ask: Where does all of this violence and sadness come from? Where will the Christian and non-believer be one minute after death? You won’t find ultimate answers to any of these questions other than from the Bible – the Word of God.

E. Conclusion

Why do some treat the Bible as though it is just another book? Why don’t we spend more time with God in reading the Bible? Because we are disobedient Christians. The consequence is that we will not grow if we do not do this.

Have you tasted that the Lord is good? Do you know the Lord’s goodness?

Since the pure milk of the Word is the place where you will be helped to grow up in your salvation, it should not be surprising that some liberal church leaders and the secular world attack the Bible.

These are just a few samples of how church leaders attack the Bible, as I conclude:

1. Church leaders

arrow-small The infamous, John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopalian bishop of Newark, New Jersey: “The biblical texts themselves” have “proved to be quite untrustworthy.”[21]

arrow-small Episcopal minister, Marcus Borg: “The gospels are neither divine documents nor straightforward historical records” but they “represent the developing traditions of the early Christian movement. . . . Nor are they eyewitness accounts written by people who had accompanied Jesus.”[22]

arrow-small John K. Williams is a retired Uniting Church minister and he preached this at St. Michael’s Church, Collins St., Melbourne, January 18 2004: ‘An evangelist who preaches the “old time religion” is asking hearers to stake the living of their lives upon beliefs for which there is no evidence whatsoever and that fly against humankind’s painfully acquired knowledge of the world and of themselves. That is not simply, as we today are taught to say, a “big ask” but an outrageous ask [23]

Every one of those points can be soundly refuted by examining the Scriptures and by the research of biblical scholars. But have a guess who the mass media will seek at Easter and Christmas times? It won’t be you, me or scholars who support the Bible. But they seek out these radicals from within the church who reject what the Bible says.

This is what God says in his Word:

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3now that you have tasted that the Lord is good”.

Will you believe God and act on His Word and so grow in your faith? That’s the challenge I bring to you today.

arrow-small Are you getting rid of all baseness, all deceits, all hypocrisies, all envies, all slanders in your Christian life?

arrow-small Are you craving the pure milk of the word as newborn babies?

arrow-small Do you urgently want to grow in your faith?

arrow-small Do you know the Lord? Have you tasted the goodness of the Lord?



arrow-small Burton Mack: “The Bible’s mystique is oddly misnamed by calling it the ‘Word of God.'”[24]

arrow-small John Dominic Crossan, a Roman Catholic: “Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical. He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging animals.”[25]

arrow-small Crossan is a member of a group of radical biblical scholars known as the Jesus Seminar. The Jesus Seminar concludes that “eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the gospels were not actually spoken by him, according to the Jesus Seminar.”[26]


[1] The original said, “Our fellow man.”

[2] Simon J. Kistemaker 1987, New Testament Commentary: Peter and Jude, Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, p. 31.

[3] Richard C. Trench 1953, Synonyms of the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 38.

[4] R. C. H. Lenski 1966, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter; St. John, and St. Jude, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MASS, p. 77.

[5], ‘baseness’, available at: (Accessed 15 August 2014).

[6] Lenski, p. 77.

[7] Ibid.

[8] ‘Glossary of rugby league terms’, Wikipedia, 29 May 2014, available at: (Accessed 15 August 2014).

[9] Lenski, p. 77.

[10] Lenski used the word, “Babe,” and I have used baby for all “babe” uses in this passage.

[11] Lenski used “ever.”

[12] Lenski, p. 78.

[13] Alan Millard 2003. Literacy in the Time of Jesus. Could His Words Have Been Recorded in His Lifetime? (online). Biblical Archaeology Society, Jul/Aug 2003, available at: (Accessed 15 August 2014).

[14] Ehrman, Bart D. (2012-03-20). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (Kindle Locations 702-712). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition (cited at:, accessed 15 August 2014).

[15] Lenski, p. 80.

[16] Ibid., p. 78.

[17] Brian Edwards 1976, God’s Outlaw: the Story of William Tyndale and the English Bible, Darlington, England: Evangelical press, p. 93, cited in The Voice of the Martyrs, April 2006, p. 9.

[18] Voice of the Martyrs, April 2006, p. 9.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Todd Nettleton, “The One Who Got His Fingernails Taken,” ibid., p. 10.

[21] Spong, J. S. 1994, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? A Bishop’s Search for the Origins of Christianity, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 235.

[22] Borg, M. J. 1994, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and

the Heart of Contemporary Faith, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 9.

[23] Williams, J. K. 2004, ‘It’s not good enough for us’, The Age (Melbourne, Australia), [Online], January 1. Available at: [Accessed 10 June 2006]. This is an edited extract that he preached on January 18, 2004.

[24] Mack, B. L. 1995, Who Wrote the New Testament? HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 15.

[25] Crossan, J. D. 1994, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, HarperSanFrancisco, San

Francisco, p. 160.

[26] Funk, R. W., Hoover, R. W. & The Jesus Seminar 1993, The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. Macmillan Publishing Company (A Polebridge Press Book), New York, p. 5.


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 October 2015.