Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 16 No. 3 March 2014
Page 16

Questions and Answers

Send your religious questions to editor@gospelgazette.com

Was Jesus Partial in His
Treatment of the Apostles?

Louis Rushmore, Editor

Louis RushmoreOur Lord Jesus Christ was particularly close it seems to three of the 12 apostles. Peter, James and John, for instance, accompanied Him to the place of His Transfiguration. “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:1-3 NKJV). The same three accompanied our Lord further on Gethsemane than the other disciples (Matthew 26:37; cf. Matthew 4:21). Likewise, in Mark 5:35-43, only Peter, James and John were permitted by Jesus to enter the home of the synagogue ruler when the Savior resurrected the deceased daughter. It may be that James and John misread the friendship that they enjoyed with Jesus, whereupon they requested superior roles over the other apostles (Mark 10:35-41; cf. Matthew 20:20-24). Jesus, though, refused to grant their request. Subsequently, the other apostles were displeased with those brothers.

Beyond these references, our Lord especially had a close friendship with the apostle John. That apostle described himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ (John 20:2; 21:7), and he is the one who leaned upon our Lord’s breast (John 21:20).

Does the friendship that Jesus Christ had with Peter, James and John or especially with John conflict with biblical instruction that ‘God is no respecter of persons’ (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25; James 2:1, 9; 1 Peter 1:17)? No!

God is no respecter of persons when it comes to providing that men of every nation have equal access to the saving Gospel (Acts 10:34-35). Likewise, God will punish sin alike irrespective of what nation a person may be (Romans 2:11-12; Colossians 3:25). Further, God has no respect of persons between slaves and masters or freedmen (Ephesians 6:8-9). Christians are forbidden to have respect of persons based on someone’s riches or poverty (James 2:1-9). God will judge all men alike irrespective of who they are or what they are in this life (1 Peter 1:17).

None of the forgoing passages discourage friendship, which does show partiality in favor of those with whom one has something in common. The ‘respect of persons’ that God does not practice and that neither ought Christians to practice is a bias or a prejudice against someone; even exercising bias or prejudice for someone is still against all others. ‘Respect of persons’ is conduct based on superficial treatment for or against someone according to one’s biases or prejudices. It is to “judge by the face or appearance” (Robertson’s), or it is “to receive face” (Wuest’s).

The first definition for “partial” does not pertain to our question, since it means “a part of the whole.” The second definition, however, for “partial” is “bias”; this the Scriptures assure us God does not practice and that Christians must not exhibit either. The third definition for “partial” means to be “markedly fond of someone or something,” which is not taught against in Scripture. Two of the definitions for “friend” are “one attached to another by affection or esteem” and “a favored companion” (Merriam-Webster’s), which are compatible with biblical teaching (Proverbs 17:17; 18:24; 27:10, 17; 3 John 14).

In summary, any partiality attributed to Jesus in favor of Peter, James and John was consistent with friendship. Even then, our Lord did not permit friendship to make Him a respecter of persons against the other apostles or for James and John when they and their mother requested favored positions in the kingdom. Though Jesus did exhibit a special friendship with Peter, James and John, He demonstrated no bias or prejudice for or against anyone.

Works Cited

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. CD-ROM. Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, 1996.

Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament. CD-ROM. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973.

33 or 33½ ?

Louis Rushmore, Editor

How many years did Jesus live on this earth, 33 years or 33½ years, and how do we calculate, with biblical references? ~ Joe David

At the time of the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist, He had been incarnate or in human flesh for “about thirty years” (Luke 3:21-23). The “about” associated with the “30 years” makes it impossible to ascertain definitively the exact age of our Lord at the time He was baptized and afterward began His public ministry. In addition, students of the Bible over the centuries have ventured to assign the ministry of the Lord to one year, two years, three years or three and a half years.

First, there is insufficient biblical evidence to determine for sure the exact length of the earthly, public ministry of Jesus Christ, though “about” three or three and a half years seems more probable than lesser estimates. Second, the exact length of the ministry of our Lord is immaterial—it does not matter. The length of the ministry of Jesus, which culminated in His vicarious, sacrificial death upon Calvary’s cross, does not alter the significance of what He accomplished for humanity. He purchased the church with His blood (Acts 20:28). He built the church that He promised to build (Matthew 16:18), being the “foundation” (1 Corinthians. 3:11) and “chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6). It is true that the birthday of the Lord’s church occurred 10 days after Christ’s Ascension (Acts 1:3). These events took place nearly 2,000 years ago, and the importance of Christ’s ministry, death, resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:17) and Ascension plus the establishment of the Lord’s church far outweigh the inconsequential details of how many months our Lord lived in the last year of His life.

Forty or Four, Which?

Louis Rushmore, Editor

The verse of Scripture under consideration reads, “And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the Lord, in Hebron” (2 Samuel 15:7 KJV). A footnote to the NKJV reads, “Septuagint manuscripts, Syriac, and Josephus read four.” The NIV and the ESV read, “at the end of four years.” In addition, Barnes’ Notes says, “An obvious clerical error, though a very ancient one for four years, which may date from Absalom’s return from Geshur, or from his reconciliation with David, or from the commencement of the criminal schemes to which 2 Sam 15:1 refers.” James Burton Coffman adds, “The KJV and other ancient versions have ‘forty years’ here instead of ‘four’; but the RSV is doubtless correct here in following the Syriac and certain texts of the LXX.  This indicates that it took Absalom four years from the time he was reconciled with David to launch his attempted coup de etat.” John Haley noted the observations of several students of the Bible, “…there is a copyists error in the case” (393).

Each of the following commentators concludes the same thing.

It is generally admitted that an error has here crept into the text, and that instead of [‎’arbaa‘iym‎], “forty”, we should read, with the Syriac and Arabic versions, and Josephus [‎’arba‘], ‘four years’ - i.e., after Absalom’s return to Jerusalem, and his beginning to practice the base arts of gaining popularity. (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown)

There is no doubt that this reading is corrupt… But the Syriac text has arba shanin, FOUR years; the Arabic text has the same arba shinin, FOUR years; and Josephus has the same; so also the Sixtine edition of the Vulgate, and several MSS. of the same version. …most learned men are of opinion that ’arba‘im, FORTY, is an error for ‎’arba‘, FOUR… We know that Absalom did stay THREE years with his grandfather at Geshur, 2 Sam 13:38; and this was probably a year after his return: the period, therefore, may be the time of his slaying his brother Amnon; and the four years include the time from his flight until the conspiracy mentioned here. (Adam Clarke’s).

The number forty is altogether unsuitable, as it cannot possibly be understood either as relating to the age of Absalom or to the year of David’s reign: for Absalom was born at Hebron after David had begun to reign, and David only reigned forty years and a half in all, and Absalom’s rebellion certainly did not take place in the last few weeks of his reign. (Keil and Delitzsch).

When David’s son Absalom finally returned after killing his half-brother Amnon, 2 Samuel 15 indicates that “after forty years” passed, Absalom left home again and committed treason. Anyone who knows much Israelite history quickly realizes that Absalom most certainly did not spend 40 years at home during this time, for David’s entire reign was only 40 years (2 Samuel 5:4). The number given in 2 Samuel 15:7 probably should be four years, which is more in keeping with the lifetime of Absalom, who was born in Hebron after David’s reign as king began (2 Samuel 3:3). The number “four” also agrees with such ancient versions as the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Vulgate. There is little question that the number “forty” represents a copyist error. (Lyons 138)

Through God’s providence, multiple ancient manuscripts compensate for human frailty on the part of copyists. In addition, the Bible is its own best commentary, containing within itself in related Bible books information that likewise make up for number errors made by human penmen. Rather than being suspect and untrustworthy, Bible truth is impervious to clerical errors. The Bible is reliable and the best documented writing ever written.

Works Cited

Adam Clarke’s Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Barnes’ Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Coffman, James Burton. James Burton Coffman Bible Study Library. CD-ROM. Abilene: ACU, 1989.

Haley, John W. An Examination of the Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1951.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament. New Updated Edition. CD-ROM. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996.

Lyons, Eric. The Anvil Rings: Answers to Alleged Bible Discrepancies, Vol. 1. Montgomery: Apologetics P., 2003.

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