Vol. 6, No. 5
Since You Asked
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Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld. Please check our Archive for the answer to your question before submitting it; there are over 1,000 articles in the Archive addressing numerous biblical topics. Submit a Question to GGO.
Dear Mr. Rushmore, Could you please help me understand this passage. I understand this scripture, that after Jesus Christ baptism, God's spirit descended on Christ as a dove, and God's voice was heard to say, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." I must admit I have never considered this verse to be a problem, until recently. We were visiting a congregation, while on vacation, and it was stated during the sermon that God came to earth in the form of man, Jesus Christ. I have always believed the scriptures teach that there are 3 distinct members of the Godhead. God the father, Jesus Christ the son of God, and the Holy Spirit, our mediator. All members being deity, but having a distinct order of command. I am hearing more and more from Christians that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are just personalities of God. Does this teaching not contradict Matthew's account. In Christian Love, Cindy Davis
How do you explain the trinity to a Jehovah Witness? ~ Kelly Asbury
... JUST ONE PERSON AND, THAT BEING, JESUS AS GOD. ~ Bonnie
Admittedly, some biblical doctrines are difficult to understand; "...Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:15-16). However, degree of difficulty does not discount the validity of a doctrine. There is nothing with which three persons in one Godhead (Trinity) can be adequately compared on earth to illustrate the Godhead completely accurately. Hence, the so-called doctrine of the Trinity challenges human understanding.
One illustration sometimes used to help explain the Trinity is that water, composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O) may appear in three different forms, though its atomical structure remains unchanged (liquid=water, gas=vapor, solid=ice). Likewise, each of the three persons of the Godhead possesses the essence of Deity, i.e. the nature of God.
The word "Godhead" appears three times in the New Testament (Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9). The Greek word for "Godhead" in Acts 17:29 is theios, meaning "divinity" and derived from theos, which means "God." The Greek word of "Godhead" in Romans 1:20 is theiotes and means "divinity." The Greek word for "Godhead" in Colossians 2:9 is theotes and means "divinity," which also derives from theos. The Greek word for the "Godhead" in Acts 17:29 appears twice in 2 Peter 1:3-4, where through his "divine power" God has provided mankind with everything he needs to enjoy a taste of the "divine nature" of God; through correct application of God's Word, mankind can rise above the moral and ungodly corruption of this world, one day to soar to the very heights of heaven with the Godhead.
Acts 17:29 employs the reference to the Godhead respecting creation, "we are the offspring of God." Plural pronouns are correctly used in the Genesis creation account to refer to the plurality of persons in the Godhead (Genesis 1:26). Accordingly, the Hebrew word 'elohiym for God in Genesis 1:26 is the plural word for "God." Romans 1:20 also cites the Godhead respecting creation. Colossians 2:9 equates Jesus Christ and the Godhead, i.e. Jesus is fully Divine though he appeared in a human body. Jesus Christ possessed and possesses the essence or quality of being God.
There are an abundance of passages that demand the honest observer conclude that there are three persons in this Godhead. At Jesus' baptism, all three persons of the Godhead are represented: "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven [Father], saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:16-17). Likewise, at the Transfiguration of Christ, two of the persons of the Godhead are represented: "While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (Matthew 17:5). Our Lord's Great Commission charge refers to all three persons of the Godhead in one breath and stroke of the pen: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).
Though the word "Trinity" does not appear in our English translations, the doctrine represented by the word "Trinity" is undeniably taught in Scripture. The Bible does not make any sense unless one realizes that the Godhead is composed of three persons, though it may be difficult to appreciate lacking sufficient illustration on earth with which to compare it. If there is only one person in the Godhead, then Jesus is made to be a lunatic or a master of deception instead of the Messiah at his baptism, representing himself at the same time in the same place to be arising from the water, in the sky and speaking from heaven. That there are three persons in the Godhead is clearly the Bible truth, which is discernible to honest, thoughtful minds.
Br. Rushmore, Heb 7:2, from the KJV, says Abraham, "gave a tenth part of all" to Melchisedec, then in verse 4, it says he gave, "the tenth of the spoils". We recently had a discussion in our Bible class regarding this. My understanding is that the context, both here and in Gen 14, clearly shows that both verses refer to Abraham giving a tenth of the spoils of victory. Some in class disagree, saying that "all" in verse 2 means all. I would appreciate you insight. ~ Douglas Teague
The word "all" and other words expressing the concept of "whole" or "entirety" depend on the context in which they appear to describe the field to which completeness pertains. "All," then, includes and excludes in its consideration relative to the subject to which it is applied. "All" seldom if ever means "all" without some delimiter. Notice the limitations to which "all" applies to several different items in the following biblical context.
46...all the land of Egypt. 47...all the food of the seven years... 515all my toil, and all my father's house... 54...the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55And when all the land of Egypt was famished...all the Egyptians... 56...all the face of the earth... 57And all countries...in all lands. (Genesis 41:46-57)
The word "all" appears 5,621 times in the King James Version of the Bible, and it obviously pertains to a great number of different topics that are identified by the respective contexts in which the word "all" appears. The Hebrew word for "all" in Genesis 14:20 where Abram gives a tenth to Melchizedek means: "Kol can signify everything in a given unit whose members have been selected from others of their kind..." (Vine). The Greek word for "all," pas, that appears in Hebrews 7:2 and 4 means: "Used with the article, it means the whole of one object. In the plural it signifies 'the totality of the persons or things referred to'" (Vine). Likewise, we use the word "all" in our speech and writing relative to the subject to which we refer; Webster defines the noun "all" as "the whole of one's possessions, resources, or energy..." Simply put, the word "all" and other words like "everything," "everyone," and "everybody" make no sense without identifying the group or parameters to which they apply.
The word "all" in the respective contexts of Genesis 14:20 as well as Hebrews 7:2 and 4 pertains to the spoils from the defeated kings against whom Abram went in battle to rescue his nephew, Lot. The Genesis 14 account makes a distinction between the retrieved goods belonging to those from whom it was looted and the spoil taken from the defeated kings. Abram returned, for instance, the retrieved items taken from Sodom to the King of Sodom (Genesis 14:21-24). However, from the spoil obtained from the defeated kings, Abram gave a tenth to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20). Hebrews 7:2 quotes Genesis 14:20. The Holy Spirit inspired the writer of Hebrews to definitively explain both Genesis 14:20 and Hebrews 7:2 in Hebrews 7:4 where it reads, "Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils." Hebrews 7:4 settles the inquiry for everyone who has an unmovable confidence in the plenary, verbal inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures.
In addition, every commentator to whom I turned who commented on the "all" in either Genesis or Hebrews applied the "all" to the spoils obtained by Abram from the defeated kings. "This priestly reception Abram reciprocated by giving him the tenth of all, i.e., of the whole of the booty taken from the enemy" (Keil and Delitzsch). "In presenting the tenth of all the spoils of victory, Abram makes a practical acknowledgment of the absolute and exclusive supremacy of the God whom Melkizedec worshipped, and of the authority and validity of the priesthood which he exercised" (Barnes). "A tenth part of all the spoils he had taken from the confederate kings" Clarke). "Here is an evidence of Abram's piety, as well as of his valour; because it was to a priest of the most high God that Abraham gave a tenth of the spoil as a token of his gratitude, and in honour of a divine ordinance (Prov 3:9)" (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown). "What was done to him: Abram gave him tithes of all, that is, of the spoils, Heb 7:4" (Henry). "Tenth part of all - namely, the booty" (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown). "That Abraham gave him a tenth part of all (v. 2), that is, as the apostle explains it, of all the spoils..." (Henry). "That is, a tenth part of all the spoils which he had taken (Gen 14:20)..." (Barnes). "In dividing to Melchisedec a tenth part of the spoils of battle, Abraham acknowledged Melchisedec as a priest" (Wuest).
Abram practiced the custom of his day and locality by contributing a tenth of his spoils from warfare with respect to his God. "It was an ancient custom, among all the nations of the earth, to consecrate a part or tenth of the spoils taken in war to the objects of their worship" (Clarke). "It was common to offer a tenth of the spoils to the gods. So Abraham recognized Melchizedek as a priest of God" (Robertson).
Further, more than one translation of the Bible supplies words in italics to explain the application of the word "all" in Hebrews 7:2. One Bible version reads: "to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils..." (New American Standard). Bible dictionaries also acknowledge that Abram's tithe to Melchizedek pertained to the spoils of war. "Abram presenting the tenth of the spoils of his victory to Melchizedek (Gen 14:20; Heb 7:2, 6)" (Unger). "The text states simply that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of all the goods he had obtained in battle" (Nelson's).
In addition, Abram was 18 miles from home, the distance between Jerusalem where Melchizedek lived and Mamre near Hebron where Abram lived, when he gave a tenth to the priest of Salem (later Jerusalem) (Unger). Abram did not have his earthly possessions with him as he returned from warfare that had taken him far north, near Damascus (Genesis 14:15). Abram did not whip out his checkbook either to write a check equal to a tenth of his holdings. Besides this, the "tithe" pertained to one's increase, not what one already possessed: "...the tenth part both of the produce of the land and of the increase of the flock..." (McClintock and Strong).
The foregoing represents overkill respecting a relatively simple topic that should not be a matter of controversy. Sometimes we try too hard and overlook the obvious. Biblical language conveys to mankind the mind of God in the language of humanity, and sometimes we forget that, making things more complicated than they are.
Barnes, Albert. Barnes' Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.
Clarke, Adam. Adam Clarke's Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.
Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition. CD-ROM. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1991.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.
Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition. CD-ROM. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1996.
Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. CD-ROM. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 1993.
McClintock, John and John Strong. McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2000.
Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986.
Robertson, A.T. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.
The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Chicago: Moody Press, 1988.
Vine, W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. CD-ROM. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985.
Wuest, Kenneth S. Wuest's Word Studies in the Greek New Testament. CD-ROM. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997.
We know that the number 12 was an important number for Jesus. This number features regularly in his parables please could you name some to help with homework?If you can quote where to find them in the bible, we can look them up. Many thanks ~ Collette
Various numbers are employed in the Bible in a symbolic way. "The numbers which are unmistakably used with more or less symbolic meaning are 7 and its multiplies, and 3, 4, 10 and 12" (International). However, there is a common tendency to make too much of numbers through speculation beyond what is certainly revealed in Scripture.
Some Bible students have devised intricate systems for foretelling the future which revolve around symbolic usages of numbers. Some uses of the number seven in the Bible itself fall into this category. Many times seven is important as a symbol rather than a number. It is used almost 600 times in the Bible. Often it expresses the idea of completeness or perfection. To identify any other number as a symbol leaves the interpreter on very shaky ground. The number 12 may be a primary number on which numbers or decimals were built, and the number 40 may have some significance as a round number. (Nelson's)
On the whole, then, it appears that among the Israelites, as in other ancient nations, certain numbers assumed very early a peculiar significance, especially in religious service; but it is in vain to seek for a numerical symbolism, based on speculation, and worked out into a system. (McClintock and Strong)
Extreme caution, therefore, is appropriate regarding appreciation of numbers in the Bible that may be used symbolically or figuratively. First, "[s]o far as we know, Israelitish predilection for 12 was entirely due to the traditional belief that the nation consisted of 12 tribes..." (International). Following are some citations that note instances where the number 12 appears in the Bible.
Hence, the 12 pillars set up by Moses (Ex 24:4); the 12 jewels in the high priest's breast-plate (Ex 28:21); the 12 cakes of shewbread (Lev 24:5); the 12 rods (Num 17:2); the 12 spies (Num 13); the 12 stones placed by Joshua in the bed of Jordan (Josh 4:9); the 12 officers of Solomon (1 Kings 4:7); the 12 stones of Elijah's altar (1 Kings 18:31); the 12 disciples or apostles (26 t), and several details of apocalyptic imagery (Rev 7:5 ff; 12:1; 21:12,14,16,21; 22:2; compare also Matt 14:20 parallel 19:28 parallel 26:53; 26:7). The number pointed in the first instance at unity and completeness which had been sanctioned by Divine election, and it retained this significance when applied to the spiritual Israel. (International)
Twelve is the church number. The 12 tribes; 12 Elim wells; 12 stones in the high priest's breastplate; 12 shewbread loaves; 12 patriarchs; 12 apostles; 12 foundation stones; 12 gates; 12,000 furlongs of New Jerusalem; 12 angels (Rev 21:16-21; 12:1). (Fausett's)
The Heb. year was divided into 12 months, the day into 12 hours (Jn. 11:9). Israel had 12 sons (Gn. 35:22-27; 42:13, 32) and there were 12 tribes of Israel, the people of God (Gn. 49:28). Christ chose 12 apostles (Mt. 10:1ff.). Twelve is therefore linked with the elective purposes of God. (New Bible Dictionary)
Fausset's Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1998.
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.
McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2000.
Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Nashville: Nelson, 1986.
The New Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1962.