Does God Play Scrabble?

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Einstein famously claimed that “God does not play dice.” In what follows, I argue that God does not play Scrabble, either. That is, the idea of a so-called Bible Code, in which confirmatory words or messages can be extracted from the Bible by reading the letters as they fall at a certain frequency, is completely false.

The Approval of Abraham: Traditions of God’s Acceptance of Abraham in Early Jewish and Christian Sources

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When, in ancient times, people read the account of the life of Abraham, it was common for them to ask, “When did Abraham finally make the grade? At which point in his life was Abraham approved and accepted by God?”

Divorce and Remarriage in Historical Perspective

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This study is dedicated to those who have suffered the agony of divorce. Tragically their pain has been compounded by well-meaning Christians who have distorted both the letter and the spirit of Jesus’ teaching concerning divorce and remarriage. For them, may this article bring a measure of healing.

The Apostles and Prophets as the Foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20)

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The twentieth century saw the birth of a number of new theological movements within the church. The most powerful of these movements was postliberalism, a largely American movement whose ideas are based squarely on the writings of the Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968).

Can Gentiles Be Saved?

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Jesus’ broadminded approach resonates with contemporary sages who belonged to the School of Hillel. In their opinion, it is better to leave God-fearing Gentiles in their blessed state with only the necessity of the moral laws given to Noah.

The Central Text in the Original Sin Controversy

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I sing not, but (in sighes abrupt),
Sob out the State of Man, corrupt
By th’ Old Serpent’s banefull breath:
Whose strong Contagion still extends
To every creature that descends
From the old Little World of Death.

The Interpretive Key to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

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Modern readers of the Book of Revelation usually assume that the key to understanding the book lies in discovering a one-to-one correspondence between the figures it presents, and real-life figures. But the correct interpretation of the four horsemen appears only when we consider the four together as a unified symbol of widespread calamity.

Jesus and Elijah in Luke 4:16-30

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If our goal is to understand the Bible on its own terms, there is an evident danger in creating new typological associations between the Gospel narrative and Old Testament events.

Did the Early Scribes Understand John 9:3 Correctly?

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The punctuation found in later manuscripts was added by scribes, and is not original to the New Testament. As such, the punctuation that has been passed on to us is the product of the scribes’ own interpretation.

The Cross and the Jewish People

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One of the most poignant pictures which exemplify the chasm of historical misunderstanding between Jews and Christians is that found in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. It is a photograph of a life-size crucifix that stood outside an unknown German village prior to World War II. In a twist of tragic irony a sign was hung on the cross to warn Jews not to enter the village. It read: “Jews are not welcome here.”

Casting Down Modern Imaginations

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The Bible is filled with customs and traditions that make immediate sense only in another culture, and another time. Anyone who reads the Bible, with an aim to recover its original meaning, must therefore try to accomplish the readerly equivalent of time travel. In this respect, our attempts to bridge the gap between biblical times and our own involve a lot of reflection about the ancient mindset. The point of this article, however, is that our attempts should also involve a certain amount of reflection about the modern mindset, in order to make us aware of how not to read. Unless we become aware of how our modern sensibilities predetermine our reading of certain passages, we can have no hope of really understanding the Bible on its own terms.

Romans 11: The Olive Tree’s Root

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The apostle Paul asserted in Romans 11:1 that God had not rejected his people. Speaking metaphorically, he went on to compare the people of Israel to a cultivated olive tree. Because of unbelief, some, but not all, of the tree’s branches had been broken off, and a wild olive branch had been grafted to the stock. Paul emphasized, however, that grafting the original branches back to the stock of the cultivated tree would be a much simpler task than grafting a wild olive to it.

The Sabbath Was Made for Man

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In “Something Greater Than the Temple” we investigated the incident of the plucking of the grain on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:15). We saw that Jesus’ four-fold justification of the action of his disciples drew first from the experience of David and the holy bread (1 Sam. 21:1-6).

Were the Pharisees “Legalistic”?

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If we define legalism as “works righteousness,” then we cannot apply it to the Pharisees, because the Pharisaic understanding of piety was not based upon this concept.

Beyond an Inheritance

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From the early centuries of the Christian era to our day, expositors of the Gospels have struggled with Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom of Heaven, particularly with their temporal dimension. Will the Kingdom of Heaven appear one day in the future when the Son of Man suddenly comes? Or, has it been germinating like a seed with much potential for growth? Perhaps as C. H. Dodd suggested, it should be described as both realized and eschatological: germinal in reference to the past (and present), but explosive in regard to its coming manifestation.

Being There

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One of the strongest impressions I have from my first year in Israel (1963-1964) was taking part in a Passover Seder (the joyous home celebration of Passover). It happened that during this first year in Israel my first contact with the Jewish people took place—there were no Jews living in Cleveland, Oklahoma, where I grew up.