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The Earth is a Spiritual Battlefield (Greg Boyd)

This is a snippet from an article by Greg Boyd in which he gives several quotations from early church fathers on the “warfare worldview”:

“The early Church Fathers uniformly believed that angels, like humans, were created free and given a sphere of influence and responsibility over creation. As with humans, angels could use this influence for good, as God intended, or they could choose to use it for evil. They understood that this is simply what it means for God to have given us free will. The earliest fathers thus believed that, just as God had given humans “say-so” over the earth, which we could use for better or for worse, so God gave “say-so” over aspects of the cosmos, and to some degree over humans, to angels.

For example, Athenagorus argued that “the Maker and Framer of the world distributed and appointed … a multitude of angels and ministers … to occupy themselves about the elements, and the heavens, and the world, and the things in it, and the godly ordering of them all.” Then he adds,

“Just as with men, who have freedom of choice as to both virtue and vice … so is it among the angels. Some, free agents, you will observe, such as they were created by God, continued in those things for which God had made and over which He had ordained them; but some outraged both the constitution of their nature and the government entrusted to them” (A Plea For the Christians, 10).

So too, Origen held that every aspect of nature was under the care of “invisible husbandmen and guardians” (Against Celsus, 8.31). St. Gregory at a later date reiterates the prevailing view of the early church when he says, “In this visible world … nothing can be achieved except through invisible forces” (Dialogues, IV.5).

“Natural” evil was consistently explained in the early church as resulting from these spirits rebelling against God and thus abusing their authority over creation. Hence, for example, Origen argued that famines, scorching winds and pestilence were not “natural” in God’s creation; they were rather the result of fallen angels bringing misery whenever and however they were able (Against Celsus, 8.31). These rebel guardians were also “the cause of plagues…barrenness…tempests… [and] similar calamities” (Against Celsus, 1.31).

So too, Tertullian argued that “[d]iseases and other grievous calamities” were the result of demons whose “great business is the ruin of mankind.” When “poison in the breeze blights the apples and the grain while in the flower, or kills them in the bud, or destroys them when they have reached maturity …” one can discern the work of these rebellious guardian spirits (Apology 22). For Tertullian, as for Origen and Athenagorus (and we could add Tatian, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria and others), creation doesn’t consistently reflect the beauty of its Creator because it has been, and is being, corrupted by demonic forces.

Following the teachings of the New Testament, these early theologians all understood that the leader of the rebel army that ravaged nature was Satan. In the words of Athenagorus, Satan was “the spirit” originally entrusted with “the control of matter and the forms of matter” (A Plea, 24). The entire material creation was to be administrated by this highest-ranking angel, according to this theologian.

Unfortunately, this “spirit” used its free will to rebel against God. He now exercises his tremendous authority over material creation against God. He abuses “the government entrusted to [him].” Given the nature of moral responsibility, God could not simply revoke Satan’s sphere of influence. Hence, Athenagorus argued, “the prince of matter exercises a control and management contrary to the good that is in God” (A Plea, 25).

Reflecting the basic vision of the early Church, Athenagorus concluded that everything in nature that obviously looks contrary to God’s character appears that way because it is contrary to God. It didn’t arise from the omni-benevolent hand of the Creator (as the atheists of his day and ours object) but was rather due to the activity of an evil “ruling prince” and “the demons his followers” (A Plea, 25).”

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Matthew 1 gives the genealogy of Mary, not Joseph

Matthew 1:16: 
And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Luke 3:23: 
And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,

The contradiction in the references about the different fathers of Jospeh is caused by the general assumption that the Joseph mentioned in these two gospels is one and the same person, i.e. the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

For a solution to this apparent contradiction one must recognize that the genealogies given in Matthew and Luke are different in various points. They obviously serve different purposes and show that Jesus Christ is the son of David and the son of Abraham (Matthew) as well as the son of man (Luke). In Matthew therefore the genealogy leads from Abraham down to Jesus, in Luke however it goes back from Jesus beyond Abraham all the way back to the first man, Adam. In Matthew we have the lineage of Jesus’ ancestors through his mother Mary, in Luke however we have the genealogy via his supposed father Joseph. Both genealogies go back to king David, but through different sons of David. In Matthew, the rightful claim of Jesus to the throne of David is emphasized because he was by the descent of his mother Mary of the royal lineage of David (through Solomon); in Luke it is shown that even Joseph, Jesus’ “supposed father” was of the house of David (through David’s son Nathan).

That Matthew gives the genealogy of the lineage through Mary (and not that of her husband Joseph) becomes clear from the text itself which traces the line from Abraham to Jesus in 3 x 14 generations (Matthew 1:17). If one puts the generations mentioned in their proper order, there are 14 generations from Abraham to David; then from Solomon to Jechonias again 14 generations, but from Salathiel to Christ there would then only 13 (!) generations if the Joseph mentioned was the husband of Mary, but 14 generations if the Joseph mentioned was the father of Mary.

The word for “husband” in Matthew 1:16 in the Greek text (aner) and in the Aramaic text (gavra) first and foremost only designates an adult male person, and it can then according to the context be further defined (cp. Luke 24:19 — prophet; Acts 3:14 — murderer; Romans 7:2 — husband, etc.) In Matthew 1:19, the Aramaic text uses a different word for “husband” (bala) which is the proper word for “husband”. From the statement in Matthew 1:17 about the 14 generations in each of the 3 divisions of the genealogy, it is clear that the “Joseph” in Matthew 1:16 (“the husband of Mary”) could not have been her husband but must have been her father, and it would have been more accurate to translate the words used in Greek and Aramaic as “father”.

This way the records in Matthew are in harmony with each other, and the apparent contradiction between Matthew and Luke regarding the different fathers of Joseph is solved. Matthew speaks of Joseph, the father of Mary whose father was Jacob; Luke mentions Joseph, the husband of Mary whose father’s name was Heli.

Some other explanations given do perhaps explain the different “fathers” of Joseph, but still don’t solve the problem with the 14 generations mentioned, and therefore cannot be correct. They also rest on the assumption that Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph, and Luke gives the lineage of Mary. In Luke however, Mary isn’t even mentioned in his genealogy, and on the other hand Joseph, Mary’s husband, is not mentioned in the genealogy as the above study has shown. In reality, it is just opposite, and in Matthew we have the lineage through Mary, whereas Luke gives the lineage of Jesus’s supposed father Joseph.

Original article here

The Hebrew Israelite Refugees (#World Refugee Day)

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Twelve Sons of Israel, all of them were at some point in their lives refugees. In the case of Jacob and his sons, they went en mass into neighbouring Egypt (Mizraim/Kemet) – fleeing from famine in the land of Canaan. And later in history, the Israelites regularly fled into Africa to flee from war and famine in their homeland. From these refugees came the modern Hebrew Israelites scattered in Africa and the world.

God loves Charitable Deeds! (Reflections on Acts 10)

In Acts 10, we are given a striking account of a man named Cornelius:

Acts 10:1-2 NKJV — There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.

Two things stand out in this description; that Cornelius was absolutely devoted to God and that his devotion manifested itself in his good deeds – namely his gifts of charity. Another person was described in a similar manner just a few verses previously:

Acts 9:36 NKJV — At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.

And lest someone argues that this do-gooding doesn’t please God, let’s consider that Tabitha died and then Peter raised her from the dead in the name of Yahshua. And returning to Cornelius’ story:

Acts 10:3-4 NKJV — About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.

The Greek word translated as “alms” here, and as “charitable deeds” in the passage about Tabitha is eleēmosynē. It is used several times in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible done 300 years before Christ, and used regularly by New Testament writers). Here is one instance of the word eleēmosynē in the Septuagint:

“He (The Lord) loves mercy (eleēmosynē) and judgment; the earth is full the mercy of the Lord.” Psalm 33:5 Brenton’s Septuagint Translation.

You can’t get much clearer than that really – Yahweh loves charitable deeds, or at least he loves the mindset that produces charitable deeds (the word can mean either).

In the New Testament, eleēmosynē is used most by Yahshua himself in a teaching during the so-called Sermon on the Mount (translated as “charitable deeds” throughout):

Matthew 6:1-4 NKJV — “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, “that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

What’s this? The Father will reward believers for their charitable deeds? According to the Christ, yes! This is a good example that Yahshua’s recorded teachings were not brand new. Rather, he was often reminding his people of truths that had been previously taught in the Torah, Prophets and Writings.

The book of Acts records just how seriously the early believers in Yahshua took his teaching on this matter. We see numerous occasions where they band together to support their brethren who were less well-off. And the epistles also contain numerous exhortations to give to those in need.The world would be a much better place if most professing Christians continued this pattern of behaviour.

Evangelical Ethiopian Helps End Orthodox Schism

Ending 27 years of schism, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in their homeland and in America reunited the two feuding branches of one of the world’s oldest churches.

Ironically, the push came from the Horn of Africa nation’s new evangelical prime minister.

“It is impossible to think of Ethiopia without taking note of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which is both great and sacred,” said Abiy Ahmed at the July 27 ceremony in Washington, reported the Fana state-run news agency.

A member of the World Council of Churches, the Tewahedo church split in 1991 due to political manipulations.

After the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) removed the Derg military junta from power, Patriarch Abune Merkorios was forced to abdicate.

He later fled to the United States, where dissidents and diaspora Ethiopians formed a rival patriarchate. According to church tradition, the position is held for life, they maintained.

Following the reconciliation, Patriarch Merkorios will return to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to serve alongside the incumbent Patriarch Mathias, who will maintain administrative authority.

Their honor will be equal, and the names of both will be lifted in prayer as long as both are alive, reported OCP News Service, an Orthodox media network.”

Full article here: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/august/ethiopia-orthodox-tewahedo-church-schism-ends-abiy-ahmed.html

I’m only speaking the Truth!

We’ve all heard it. Someone will be there speaking at a pulpit, in a Youtube video, in a blog, podcast etc – and they take the time to explain just how correct they because they are speaking the truth. They tell us how they’re not like others who teach traditions of their churches, denominations, cultures, etc. No, these special folks are merely giving us the truth.

Honestly, whenever I hear someone say this kind of thing, it makes me weary. The fact is that every single one of us is affected and limited in some way when it comes to understanding things. We have all been shaped by our upbringing in particular cultures, or ability to speak specific languages, our experience of particular religious traditions, our access to information, etc. Whatever we now think is the pure truth could well be exposed in future once we learn more.

Another thing I want to say here is that I think many people have too low a view of church history. Though I’m not a Roman Catholic, I have much admiration for the point their apologists often make about Protestants trampling over millennia of Christian lived experience. The Reformation brought a lot of good into the western world, but it also unleashed a storm of personal interpretations which has given us the abundance of denominations we see today. Basically, anyone can decide that they have some special teaching that has somehow been missed by saints of old, and from there they gather followers and start a new church. Then someone else within that church does the same thing, starts a new church, etc.

I long for a time when Christians will learn to tolerate diversity of opinion while still being able to maintain doctrinal ‘purity’ on essential matters of the Faith. It seems like an impossible hope, but with God, all things are possible.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is ]perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)