Bags of Bran


Spurious Josephus Quotes?!
April 11, 2017, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Bible, Biography

“They who lose their lives for the sake of God, live unto God, as do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs.”

Google this quotation, read some of the results, and then tell me that citation and plagiarism problems are new to this age.

Supposedly this quote comes from Josephus. I would have loved to find it and read it in its context because I’m studying resurrection for my sermon. I saw it first in the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (unattributed, except as Josephus). Here is the paragraph:

There is a remarkable passage in Josephus, which proves that the best informed among the Jews believed in the immateriality and immortality of the soul, and that the souls of righteous men were in the presence of God in a state of happiness. ‘They who lose their lives for the sake of God, live unto God, as do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs.’  Not less remarkable is a passage in Shemoth Rabba, ‘Why doth Moses say, (Ex. 32:13) Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  R. Abin saith, The Lord said unto Moses, I look for ten men from thee, as I looked for that number in Sodom.  Find me out ten righteous persons among the people, and I will not destroy thy people.  Then saith Moses, Behold, here am I, and Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar, Phinehas, and Caleb, and Joshua; but, saith God, there are but seven:  where are the other three?   When Moses knew not what to do, he saith, O Eternal God, [hayim hem ha-metim,] do those live who are dead?  Yes, saith God.  Then saith Moses, If those that are dead do live, remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’

Fascinating, no? Josephus believed that Jews held to the immortality of the soul? What an excellent thing to quote in a sermon!

Except I looked in Josephus: it’s not there. Not in the wording above; not in similar wording. “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” only occur together once, in a different context. I tried key words; I tried key concepts. Nothing.

So I tried Google, in case it was from a different edition of Josephus. Searching for the initial phrase, I found the same paragraph, but with “Josephus (De Maccab. c. 16)” as the attribution. But again, I have searched Josephus’ entire corpus in vain, manually and electronically, for such a quote. But I found roughly a dozen old books that reproduce the entire paragraph almost verbatim!

The earliest book that contained the quote (and the surrounding paragraph is in Adam Clarke’s commentary on the book of Luke (published 1825). Perhaps he lifted it from someone else? Another book had the paragraph bracketed and the source was listed as Bagster, but I could find no information on it.

Who knows.



Calvin on Eternal Security/Perseverance
January 11, 2017, 1:07 pm
Filed under: Bible, Biography

Eternal Security vs. Perseverance of the Saints: which idea is more biblical?

Many teach and insist upon Eternal Security as an entirely passive state: “fire insurance” or “once saved always saved” or what have you. The sinner’s prayer was, and is, and ever will be, all you ever need. But this is not the way the New Testament reads:

“…holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith…”

Concerning these words, Calvin says:

Seeing it is so, let us take heed when God has given it to us, that we keep it in this way and not lose it. And how can we do this? Of ourselves (as I have often said) we are so frail that whatever we have today is gone tomorrow; nay, it does not even tarry that long; one minute of an hour is enough to deprive us of all the gifts that God has bountifully bestowed upon us.   This is our case. Yet God has not given us faith so that we would enjoy it only for a little while and afterwards be deprived of it. He wants us to possess it forever.

And how may that be? He shows us here the way: it is this, that we go on forward with all reverence once God has shown us the way of salvation, that there be no hypocrisy in us, but instead this uprightness and openness which he speaks of in this place, and that we be no light-headed enough to be carried away with our violent lusts; that we be not also double-hearted to mock God and his grace.

As we see that there are many at this day who would take the Gospel for a cloak to cover all their villainies and think that when they have the name of God in their mouths, their sins become sanctified, and they be completely forgiven them. We must take good heed that we do not in this way profane the word of God, but keep it in a good conscience. And when we do so, let us not doubt that God will give us a steadiness that will never be overcome, though all the winds in the world blow, and all surges and seas rise up against us, in so much that we may seem to be in danger of drowning a hundred times a day, yet God will keep us safe.

John Calvin, sermon on 1 Timothy 1:18-19 (Kindle location 2185 or so)

Paul uses active-tense language: “fight the good fight;” “keeping the faith in a good conscience;” while the others “have rejected” (NASB) and “have made shipwreck of their faith” (ESV). [NB: Grammatically, the rejection and the ship-wrecking of the faith are related, but whichever is the primary activity, it is an activity.]

Therefore, Calvin says. “We must take good heed that we do not in this way profane the word of God, but keep it in good conscience.”

Persevere, therefore, and do not be like those whom Calvin describes thus:

For those who play with God and make only a jesting matter of it, once they know the Gospel they are always talking about it, yet they are given still to all their vanities and are profane persons who will at last be sunk and drowned.

Unknown. John Calvin’s Sermons on 1 Timothy (Kindle Locations 2169-2171). . Kindle Edition.



Burroughs on Simplifying Your Life
December 14, 2016, 3:57 pm
Filed under: Bible, Bibliophilia

Jeremiah Burroughs may not be the master of organization, but he illustrates his points beautifully. In his little volume The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, he makes this call to disengage and simplify our lives:

Do not be greedy of taking in a great deal of the world, for if a man goes among thorns, when he may take a simpler way, he has no reason to complain that he is pricked with them. You go among thorns — is it your way? Must you of necessity go among them? The it is another matter. But if you voluntarily choose that way, when you may go another, then you have no cause to complain. If men and women will thrust themselves on things of the world which they do not need, then no wonder that they are pricked, and meet with what disturbs them. For such is the nature of all things here in this world, that everything has some prick or other in it.

Well said.



John Calvin vs. Seeker Churches
November 19, 2016, 2:06 pm
Filed under: Bible

John Calvin, on those who come to church to be entertained:

Consider how bad is the honor shown to God when people seek out vain curiosities in Holy Scripture, as when Ezekiel reprimands the Jews. (Ezek. 33: 31-33)   They came to him pretending to want to learn doctrine, to sit at his feet, saying, “We come here to be taught from the mouth of God.”   It was a wonderful thing to see their devotion, but God told them that they had come there as a man goes to hear a performer play a harp or flute, only to feed his ears with a pleasant song.   So when they did this they were only trying to mock God and profane his word.   Therefore, let us learn that God does not want temples here to play around and laugh in, as in a theater; but there must be a majesty in one’s words by which we may be moved and touched and receive profitable instruction which leads to salvation.   We must be nourished with this spiritual food so that we may feel that God does not speak to us in vain.

John Calvin’s Sermons on 1 Timothy (Kindle Locations 641-647). Kindle Edition.

In case you are busy and can’t look it up, here is the text to which he refers, Ezekiel 33:31-33:

“They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. “Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them. “So when it comes to pass—as surely it will—then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst.”



From Beowulf
November 8, 2016, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Bible, Bibliophilia

Interesting passage from Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, lines 170-188:

These were hard times, heart-breaking
for the prince of the Shieldings; powerful counsellors,
the highest in the land, would lend advice,
plotting how best the bold defenders
might resist and beat off sudden attacks.
Sometimes at pagan shrines they vowed
offerings to idols, swore oaths
that the killer of souls might come to their aid
and save the people. That was their way,
their heathenish hope; deep in their hearts
they remembered hell. The Almighty Judge
of good deeds and bad, the Lord God,
Head of the Heavens and High King of the World
was unknown to them. Oh, cursed is he
who in times of trouble has to thrust his soul
in the fire’s embrace, forfeiting help;
he has nowhere to turn. But blessed is he
who after death can approach the Lord
and find friendship in the Father’s embrace.



You Know, a Qesitah
October 20, 2016, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Bible

The Holman Christian Standard Bible is the in-house translation done by the Southern Baptist convention. Like any translations, it has its eccentricities. For example, we could have anticipated that they would translate the word βαπτίζω as “immerse” because they are Baptists, and doing so would be consistent with their presuppositions. Instead, they went with the accepted transliteration, “baptize.” That’s not confusing, but I think they missed an opportunity.

In Job 42, they went with the transliteration “qesitah” instead of the near-ubiquitous “piece of money” (or “piece of silver”) as rendered by all of the other major translations. Is this an attempt to be consistent with some other presupposition? It does nothing to clarify the meaning of the passage for the reader who doesn’t know extremely obscure Hebrew vocabulary.

HCSB | ‎Job 42:11 All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They sympathized with him and comforted him concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring.

You know, a qesitah. Maybe it’s like a quesadilla.



“And the things of earth…”
August 24, 2016, 11:30 am
Filed under: Bible

In the world where Job lived, turning your eyes upon God did not result in “the things of earth growing strangely dim.” In fact, the opposite happened: when people turned their eyes upon God, the things of earth became significant.

See 28:23-28; 36:13-37:24; and all of 38-41 for examples of this.

 




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