History-based Faith is Scientific

                                                History is ‘Scientific’
Richard Dawkins attacks ‘faith’ as it is not evidence based science and thus irrelevant and dangerous.  But the practice of history is ‘scientific’ because it is evidence based.

The New Testament makes a distinction between ‘the faith’ and ‘faith’.  The latter is an expression of trust, but it is directed to the former, which is ‘evidence based’.
Faith  -> the Faith

This can be illustrated by two texts embedded in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians  written from Ephesus early in 55, dating as determined by history-based analysis:
•Inscription in Delphi determines Proconsul Gallio’s arrival in Corinth: 51-52
•This establishes Paul’s arrival in Corinth in 50, and his time there 50-52
•The Book of Acts states that Paul then stayed in Ephesus 3 years, 52-55
•Claudius Caesar died October 54 making at last possible Paul’s visit to Rome
•Paul wrote First Corinthians from Ephesus most probably early in 55

Each Corinthian text is pre-formatted and not composed by Paul but ‘received’ by him.  He, in turn, ‘delivered’ these texts to the new Corinthian church in the year 50.

‘Delivered’ and ‘received’ are technical terminology for a judgment formally ‘delivered’ by master rabbi a student rabbi to ‘receive’ (and then to ‘deliver’).

Paul re-quotes each ‘tradition’ in response to a pastoral issue in the church in Corinth, which he was addressing in this letter.  Neither citation is ‘contrived’ but is gratuitous.

1 Corinthians 11
The Pastoral Issue: Selfishness at the Lord’s Supper meal (vv. 17-22)
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.  For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you…When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.  What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?

The ‘Received’ Tradition (vv. 23-26)

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you,
that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed
(he) took bread,
and when he had given thanks,
he broke it,
and              said,
‘This is my body which is [given] for (Greek: hyper) you.
Do this in remembrance (anamnesis) of me’.
In the same way also
he took the cup, after supper, saying,
‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it,
in remembrance (anamnesis) of me’.
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes

33                                     33                      37[1]                50
Jesus                          -> the disciples        -> Paul        - >the church
(at the Last Supper,                                                            in Corinth
on the night he was
betrayed)

1 Corinthians 15
Pastoral Issue: Resurrection denial in Corinth (v.12)
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead,
how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?[2]

The Tradition (vv. 3-7)
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:
that      Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
that      he was buried,
that      he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and
that      he appeared to Cephas,
then                         to the twelve.
Then    he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time,
most of whom are still alive
though some have fallen asleep.
Then    he appeared to James,
then                          to all the apostles.

1. Paul’s fourfold ‘that’ (Greek: hoti) refers to specifically quoted information.
2. The repeated ‘then’ points to a precise sequence:
The resurrected Jesus ‘appeared’ to   Cephas
the twelve
the 500 +
James
All the apostles (‘missionaries’)
3. Cephas and James are specifically named and ‘the twelve’ are able to be identified.

These two ‘traditions’ would have been ‘formulated’
in Jerusalem
in the earliest Christian community
led by Cephas (Peter) and James, brother of the Lord
Three-four years after Jesus Cephas and James ‘delivered’ these ‘traditions’ to Paul

•A.D. Nock eminent scholar of ancient religions observed that ‘myths’ take generations to develop but that this ‘tradition’ was formulated within 3 years.

•Paul, an eminent junior rabbi, would have quoted these ‘traditions’ carefully.[3]

•Paul’s ‘traditions’ are evidence-based and therefore a fitting basis for faith (trust).

 



[1]Paul: ‘Then after 3 years (i.e., 37) I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days…I saw…James the Lord’s brother’ (Galatians 1:18-19).

[2]Aeschylus (d. 456): ‘When the dust has drained the blood of a man…there is no resurrection’.

[3]The noun ‘tradition’ (paradosis) is from the verb ‘deliver’ (paradid?mi).  A ‘tradition’ is ‘that which has been delivered’.  This is different from its meaning today, which is something old and venerable.

Good News that is also True News

                           Good News which is also True News
(Delivered at Anglican Connection Conference, Dallas, June 12-14, 2017)

Gospel means ‘good news’ because its message is that Jesus the Son of God has saved us from the penalty of our sin and blessed us with his life-changing Spirit.

This ‘good news’ is no less true news’ true historically.  If the gospel is not historically true, then its message is not ‘good’, but ‘bad’, misleading and a cruel mockery.

But the ‘good news’ is no less ‘true news’.

There have many attacks on the truth of the gospel, especially from the New Atheists who have carpet bombed the integrity of the four Gospels.
Please see my response, Gospel Truth published by IVP/UK

An earlier and potent attacker was William Wrede who in 1908 claimed that Paul not Jesus was the true inventor of Christianity.  Jesus was a teacher whom Paul re-fashioned as a crucified and resurrected redeemer, a Greek dying and rising god.  This was the inspiration of the novel The Last Temptation of Christ and the Martin Scorcese movie of the same name.

But solid evidence rejects this. In 50, when Paul came to Corinth, he ‘delivered’ a pre-formatted body of teaching, which he had ‘received’  almost certainly from the Jerusalem apostles, and almost certainly when he stayed with Peter in 37  which was within 4 years of Jesus’ resurrection.

Christ died for our sins
Christ was buried
Christ was raised on the 3rd day
Christ was seen alive by hundreds of mostly living witnesses

This is what Paul and the apostles preached

This ‘tradition’ had been created within 3 years of Jesus, far too early for a ‘myth’ to arise.  This was the view of A.D. Nock the doyen of scholars of religion in the Greco-Roman world.  It is a matter of fact that Jesus Christ was a crucified and resurrected saviour.  The redeemer whom Wrede, Bultmann and others denied proves to be true  true historically.

Let me mention some reasons to trust the gospel message historically.

Reasons to trust the gospel message historically:
1.      Between AD 80-200 we have strong evidence of the genuine fourfold gospel.  By 200 we have the codex P45 with 4 gospels bound together.

Moving backwards from 200 we have the fourfold gospel witnessed by the Diatessaron, the Muratorian Canon, and by Irenaeus.

Marcion had claimed there was but one gospel (as reconstructed by him) and Basilides had claimed the existence of additional gospels.
But there were four.

And these four were in circulation from AD 80 if not earlier.
They were quoted to or alluded to soon afterward by Clement, the Didache, Ignatius, Papias and Polycarp.

2.      The Gospels were historically close to Jesus  a mere 30 years by my reckoning in the case of Mark and 45 for Matthew, Luke, and John.
Some of Jesus’ contemporaries would have been alive when the gospels were published, and therefore able to refute them.

By contrast about 80 years separated Tiberius Caesar from Suetonius’ biography of him.

These Gospels were the written up versions of the preached gospel.  The gospel was a living reality during those few decades that morphed into written texts.  The material contents of the gospel had been circulated  often in written form  before the Gospels were completed.

By contrast, the 80 years between Tiberius and Suetonius’ Life of him was a dead space.  There was no preaching about that emperor.  No Tiberius cult.

3.      Jesus’ public ministry was of about four years duration and the twelve he chose to be with him were eyewitnesses of his actions and auditors of his words throughout those four years.

After Judas died the criterion for his replacement as an apostle was one who had been with Jesus throughout that period, from John the Baptist to the resurrection of Jesus, and therefore qualified to be an eyewitness.

The words of the Gospels grew out of their oral eyewitness testimony.  Luke specifically attributes the authentication of his sources to these ‘eyewitnesses who were ministers of the word’ (Luke 1:1-4).

4.      The New Testament texts cross-reference one another
Mark, the earliest written Gospel, closely cross references the apostolic spoken sermons in Acts 2-13 that are focused on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  These correspond closely with the early, pre-formatted statement of the gospel that is embedded in Paul’s first Corinthian letter (15:3-7).

Christianity was a movement whose message (the gospel) centred on Jesus, from his baptism to his resurrection.  That message was initially oral but soon also became written.  The oral and the written expressions support and cross-reference one another.

5.      The Gospels dovetail into first century political and religious     culture.
The Gospel writers locate the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, ministry and death within his cultural and political setting.

The birth of Jesus occurred when Augustus was Caesar (31 BC?AD 14), in the latter years of Herod the King, who died in 4 BC.

Jesus’ ministry occurred during the rule of Tiberius, when Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod Antipas tetrarch of Galilee and Caiaphas High Priest in Jerusalem.

The same holds true for the geography of the Holy Land.  Jesus’ ministry was set in the towns like Capernaum, Chorazim and Bethsaida around the lake, as well as in Jericho, Bethany, and Jerusalem in Judea, to name just a few.

The Gospel writers know about topography, that one travels down from Cana to Capernaum and up from Capernaum to Jerusalem. Likewise they know of particular places in Jerusalem like the Praetorium, the Pool of Siloam, the Pool of Bethesda, Gabbatha and Golgotha.

The Gospels also cohere closely with the religious culture of Israel with its dominant groups, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the temple hierarchy of ‘chief priests’.

The Gospels’ coherence with the politics, geography, topography and religious culture of Israel in the first half of the first century provides compelling evidence for their historical reliability.

6.      Radical dissimilarity confirms Jesus’ distinctness
On the other hand, however, there are many aspects of Jesus that, paradoxically, cohere with but also distinguish themselves from first century Jewish religious culture.  One example relates to parables.  Jesus taught in parables like the rabbis, but his message was diametrically different.

In one example, a rabbi taught a parable of two trees that were subject to a violent storm so that one fell over while the other stood firm.  We are immediately reminded of Jesus’ parable of the two houses that were assailed by violent storm, where one collapsed and the other stood firm.

Despite the similarity of the story in the two parables, their respective messages are opposite in meaning.  In the rabbi’s parable it was the strong root system of religious works that saved the tree whereas in Jesus’ parable the rock that gave the house its stability was adherence to Jesus’ teaching.

In another parable the story line focused on a man who worked only for the eleventh hour in a twelve-hour day but received the same wage as those who had laboured throughout the whole day.  In the rabbinic parable the explanation was that the man who worked one hour achieved more that the others had for the whole day.  In Jesus’ parable the owner paid the eleventh hour worker the same wage merely as an act of generosity.

In both rabbinic parables the emphasis is on works of the law as a basis for recognition by God.  By contrast in Jesus’ parables the emphasis is on Jesus himself, his words and his grace.

These parables locate Jesus within the parable telling culture of the times, but his radical and distinct message emerges clearly from his story line.  These parables indicate the accuracy of the Gospels in reflecting the place of parables in that culture, but his message points to his transcendence.

7.      Hostile sources confirm the raw facts of the New Testament
We are fortunate that Christianity came negatively to the attention of outside observers.  This means that in addition to the positive witness in the New Testament we have credible references from external figures who were not only non-Christian, but anti-Christian.

I am thinking of Flavius Josephus who referred to both Jesus and brother James.  Unfortunately part of Josephus’ information about Jesus has been corrupted.  Nevertheless there is enough that is uncorrupted to be useful.  As well, the words of Tacitus, whose text is uncorrupted, are of special value in tracing the spread of Christianity from Judea to Rome.  Finally, Pliny valuably describes the Christian meeting with glimpses of their beliefs.  In 112 AD Governor Pliny reported to his emperor Trajan that the sect of the Christians sang a hymn to Christ ‘as if to a god’.

This early but hostile witness innocently confirms the testimony of the New Testament that the early Christians sang ‘psalms and hymns and spiritual songs making melody to the Lord’.  Pliny indirectly confirms that Jesus’ followers called him ‘Lord’ and pleaded, Maran atha, ‘Lord come back’.

         Summary
The cumulative effect of these positive seven arguments is that history gives a favourable verdict on the question of the historical reliability of the four Gospels.  In brief, the writers of the Gospels are reproducing the imprint of Jesus on them, the things they saw him do and the words they heard him speak.

The ‘good’ message’’ about Jesus is no less the ‘true’ message.  The Gospels are able to satisfy the most demanding historical tests.

But equally one must acknowledge and submit to the inner witness of the Spirit to know the authentication of God.

We need to stress that historically based faith is not gullibility.
It is not irrational.

Having confirmed the reliability of the apostolic tradition for a rational faith let me now turn to its focal figure, Jesus, and to gospel-based faith in him.

History-based faith is the prelude to Jesus based faith.

Sola Christo
In particular, what does the New Testament tell us about Sola Christo, ‘Christ alone’?

The Gospels
Think with me as I address that question first, in regard to the four Gospels, and secondly in the thought of the Apostle Paul?

We are so familiar with the Gospels that we miss a critical detail.  The Gospels focus on Jesus effectively to the exclusion of others.  It is Jesus who acts; it is Jesus who speaks.

True, there are the disciples, chiefly Peter.  But he is a foil to Jesus.  Where Jesus is strong, Peter is weak.
Where Jesus is dignified, Peter is erratic.
Where Jesus is measured, Peter is impulsive.
Where Jesus is unwavering in the face of hatred, Peter crumbled in the face of a servant maid.

Altarpieces and stained glass windows place the disciples alongside Jesus as if near equals. But they are not.
Also, saints, martyrs, angels. As if Jesus needs them.
But he is the all-sufficient Saviour.
Thus one of the ‘solas’  the Bible alone.
The altarpieces present the Bible plus.
They are frequently works of great skill and beauty.
But the Reformers recognised: the Bible alone.

Each Gospel directs the eyes of faith to Jesus alone.
It is his words we hear.
It is his deeds we watch.
Jesus is the focal figure.  Jesus alone

Paul’s Letters
From the apostolic times until now a great question has been is Christ, and our trust in Christ, sufficient to save us, or must we add our own contribution for God to pronounce us saved?

This was a huge issue for St Paul and it was a great issue for Martin Luther; and it remains critical.

In Erfurt the Augustinian friar had believed that the ‘justice of God’ engaged with him in judgement and condemnation, which had led him into spiritual slavery to fear and to endless fasts, vigils, confessionals and a painful pilgrimage to Rome.  But in Wittenberg through his study of Romans the young professor discovered that the ‘justice of God’ engages with us not in judgment and condemnation but in grace and forgiveness through faith in the crucified Son of God.

As a result of this revolutionary discovery he changed his surname from Luder to Luther, based on the Greek word eleutheros, meaning ‘free’.  He now signed letters as ‘Martin the free’.  Secondly, he wrote his most famous pamphlet, Of the Freedom of the Christian.  Freedom before God was everything.

Luther greatly loved Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, which he called his ‘wife’.  Paul’s words, ‘For freedom Christ has set us free (5:1) sum up the deepest feelings of St Paul and Martin Luther.

A key text for Paul and for Luther was Galatians 2:16:
we know that a person is not justified by works of the law
but through
faith in Jesus Christ,
so we also have believed in Christ Jesus,
in order to be justified by
faith in Christ
and not by
works of the law,
because by
works of the law no one will be justified.

If Galatians is Paul’s first letter, as I believe it to be, it means that historically this is Paul’s earliest reference to that keyword, ‘justified’.

Three times he affirms ‘faith in Christ’ as the only basis for being ‘justified’, that is, deemed to be ‘in the right’ with God and, as the Passive Voice teaches, declared to right by God.  We are right with God by God by one means, Christ alone and faith in him.

In the same letter Paul pronounces God’s curse on law-breakers

Galatians 3:10-11
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse;
for it is written,
‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them’,
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law,
for ‘The righteous shall live by faith’.

It is God who justifies the guilty.  It is God’s work, because with man it is impossible.  To nail the point, in Galatians 2:16 Paul three times denied any role to ‘works of the law’.  ‘Faith’ in Jesus Christ is the only basis for one’s justified relationship with God.

Back in the First Century Paul was rejecting such ‘works of the law’ as the necessity for male circumcision, obedience to Jewish food laws, and the observation of the feasts in the Jewish Calendar (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles).

In the sixteenth century Luther saw a parallel to these in the Old Church’s demands for pilgrimages, fasts, candles, worship of relics and religious statues, and the use of indulgences as accruing counterbalancing merit.

In Luther’s day, as in St Paul’s, people were saying that ‘Christ alone’ is not sufficient to bridge the gap between the holy God and sinful man.  They were advocating ‘Christ Plus’ ? ‘works of the law’ (1st century) and Christ plus ‘religious works’ (16th century).  But the apostle Paul, followed by Luther insisted: Christ Alone.

Paul admonished the Galatians for their short memories ? Galatians 3:1-6

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?
It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ
was publicly portrayed as crucified.
Let me ask you only this:
Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law
or by hearing with faith?
Are you so foolish?
Having begun by the Spirit,
are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Did you suffer so many things in vain ? if indeed it was in vain?
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you
and works miracles among you
do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith ?
just as Abraham “believed God,
and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 

When Paul presented the Galatians with the verbal picture of Christ crucified they heard that message, believed in Christ and were given the Spirit of God to become God’s children (Galatians 3:1-2; 4:6).  So how can they now be looking to and believing in ‘works of the law’ ? to circumcision, the food laws and the religious calendar?  The hearing about and the believing in the crucified Christ is the one and only way to receiving God’s forgiveness and his Spirit.

This great truth was expressed in the architecture of Lutheran churches.  The pulpit was on the side of the congregation, not the front.  In the front was Christ crucified ? a crucifix, or a painting of the Crucified.  From alongside them the preacher directed the eyes of faith of the congregation and the preacher to the crucified Christ, who was front and centre.  The preacher and the people together looked with the eyes of faith to the crucified Saviour.

Paul and Luther understood the terrible existential reality of our lost-ness due to Sin, but equally the glorious love of the Crucified who meets us with his sacrifice at our point of greatest need.  He bore our Sin and gave us his righteousness.

Luther’s insight is so powerful, so immediate.

Peter
There was a painful setting to Paul’s words in Galatians 2:11-3:6.  It involved a serious dispute between Paul and Peter in Antioch over one of the ‘works of the law’, the Jewish food code.  Jews would not eat with Gentiles because of their scruples regarding ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ food, which Gentiles did not recognise.

The Lord had delivered Peter from this scruple in Joppa making the way for him to enter the house of the Gentile Cornelius in Caesarea, to eating with him, and to preaching to him.  But later in Antioch, under the pressure from the recently arrived ‘circumcision’ faction from Jerusalem, Peter withdrew from table fellowship with the Gentile believers in Antioch, and was followed by the whole body of Jewish believers, including even Barnabas.

Paul records his stern words to Peter (about themselves as Jews) which we have already quoted:

         We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus,
in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified
.

Note the threefold repeated ‘we’, referring to the Jews, Paul and Peter.  ‘Even we Jews are not justified by works of the law (like the food laws), but we are only justified by faith in Christ’.

Twice in Galatians Paul speaks of ‘the truth of the gospel’ (2:5, 14).  What is this ‘truth of the gospel’?  Some identify the ‘truth’ as the experience of spiritual liberation.  We believe in spiritual liberation, but this is not what Paul meant.  Others suggest it refers to the historical truth of the gospel.  Once more this is something we affirm ? and emphatically ? but this is not the meaning here.

Neither of these is what Paul is referring to in Gal. 2:1-14.

The exegetical key to the meaning is found in the words ‘forced’ or ‘compelled’ (anagkaz? ? 2:3, 14; 6:12).  Once the element of necessity or coercion enters the ‘truth of the gospel’ flies out the window.  The ‘truth of the gospel’ is its basis in ‘grace’, the sheer grace of God that God displays to those who do not keep what is ‘written in the book of the law’ (3:10).  That grace was demonstrated in the accursed one who hung on the tree, who bore the curse against us law-breakers vicariously, as our substitute.

One of the ‘new perspectives’ on Paul of recent times states that Jews are already ‘in’ the covenant, already saved, unless they renounce it.  Thus, according to this view, faith in Christ for justification is only applicable to the Gentiles.  In other words, it teaches two different routes to divine righteousness ? for Jews by the Law, for Gentiles by faith.  It is to say that the Old Covenant still stands, unabrogated, unfulfilled.

Paul, however, insists there is only one way to righteousness for Peter and Paul as Jews: the way of faith in Christ.  The repeated ‘we’ related to the Jews Paul and Peter clinches the point.  One and the same way for Jews and Gentiles: faith.  One way alone for all sinful men and women.

Despite this major dispute in Antioch, it appears that Peter came to agree with Paul, as he stated several years later at the Jerusalem Council:

And after there had been much debate,
Peter stood up and said to them,
‘Brothers, you know that in the early days
God made a choice among you that by my mouth
the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.
And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them [Gentiles],        by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us [Jews], 
and he made no distinction between us and them,
having cleansed their
[the Gentiles] hearts by faith
Now, therefore, why are you [Jews] putting God to the test
by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples
that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
But we [Jews] believe that we will be saved
through the grace of the Lord Jesus,
just as they [the Gentiles] will’.

This suggests that Peter had heeded the words Paul had spoken in Antioch, as recorded in Galatians.  For Gentiles as for Jews there was but one pathway to receiving the Holy Spirit of God.  It was by hearing the word of the gospel about Christ and believing that word.  God cleansed the hearts of Gentiles by faith, and he cleansed the hearts of Jews by faith.  Peter rightly states that there is no distinction between us (Jews) and them (the Gentiles).

There are not two routes to righteousness with God, one for Jews the other for Gentiles; on the contrary, there is but one route for both, faith in the crucified Son of God.

Luther and the Will
Luther owed much to Erasmus the peerless scholar who went behind the extant Latin versions of the Bible and as a textual critic began to recover the original Greek of the New Testament.  It has been quipped with regard to the Reformation that ‘Erasmus laid the egg, but Luther hatched it’.

A woodcut portrays Erasmus as a miller for the flour that Luther baked into the bread of life.  Erasmus the miller; Luther the baker.

Despite this the two men fell out over the question of the freedom of the will.  Great as Luther was as the apostle of freedom he understood well that the will is ‘unfree’, under ‘bondage’.

Luther was doing nothing more than appealing to Augustine, and before him to St Paul.

Christ crucified is the only Saviour, but God must liberate the will to lay hold of the Christ.  Its consequence is indeed freedom, but its prelude is the necessary Prevenient Grace of the Almighty that makes faith in Christ and its accompanying freedom possible.

Rejection of the Reformation
This brings me finally to reflect on a mystery.  Why is it that Luther’s theology, so simple, self-authenticating, Bible-based (and anticipated in Augustine), yet has been set-aside even within the Protestant churches that owed their existence to this man, Martin Luther?

I do not pretend to know the answer except to say that the revelation of God’s grace has always proved vulnerable to modification, change and rejection.  We me-centred humans find God’s us-centred love difficult to accept.

The narrative in the Bible reveals this.
It was by grace that God created the Universe,
by grace that he called Israel to be his people,
by grace redeemed them from slavery,
by grace gave them his covenant,
and by grace gave them the Land.
The law that God gave them in each of its parts ? moral, civil, ritual ? was to be their agreement to be his covenant people.
It was not to provide merit, since the covenant itself was based on grace.

The Macedonia invasion of the Middle East, including Israel put huge pressure on the Jews to resist being engulfed with Hellenistic culture.  This was resisted by a new emphasis on Temple and Law, including the ‘works of the law’ that figure so significantly in Galatians.

By the era of the Pharisees law keeping had become a means to achieving merit and was not at all merely a ‘badge’ of covenant membership but understood to be the basis of acceptance with God.

For example,

Whoever honours his father atones for his sins,
And whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure…
For kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
And against your sins it will be credited (Sirach 3:3-4,14)

The Mishnah is a collection of Jewish teachings from about 100 BC to AD 200, many of which were current in the time of Paul.

Great is the law, for it gives life to them that practice it
both in this world and in the world to come… (Aboth 6:7)

 

The Holy One, blessed is he, was minded to grant merit to Israel; therefore hath he multiplied for them the law and commandments,  make it honourable’ (Makkot 3.16).
This asserts that ‘life’ (i.e., eternal life) and ‘merit’ flow from the law.  Clearly this is not a grace-based approach that is the narrative of the Old Testament.  Between the Testaments the notion of grace and of God’s sovereign choice had been lost and replaced by a plethora of ‘works of the law’ that became self-centred, merit attracting.

Likewise the grace-based emphases of our Lord and his apostles that runs through the entire New Testament came to be replaced by the merit-attracting ritualism and legalism of the late Middle Ages, against which Luther and others protested.

Although the Reformation swept the world, its influence today is significantly diminished.

The New Perspective on Paul (Sanders, Dunn) implies that that there are two routes to righteousness ? one for Jews based on law, the other for Gentiles based on faith ? diminishing the centrality and sufficiency of Christ crucified for both Jews and Gentiles equally.  Is this a Protestant counter-reformation?

This is contrary to the clear teaching of Galatians 2:16 noted above which asserted that for both Jews and Gentiles faith in Christ was the pathway to life.

Pelagians
In regard to the specifics about the core beliefs of Luther ? his forgiven freedom in the presence of God and the necessity for God to capture our wills ? this can be said: we are Pelagians at heart, believing that we can achieve our salvation.

The sinful Pelagian heart believes in its capacity to achieve whatever standards there are to be fulfilled.  We measure ourselves positively against the evildoers and criminals that the daily TV news flashes before us.  We are secure in our own goodness, relative to the evil of terrorists and criminals.

How important it is to exercise humble and dependent trust in Jesus crucified for my deliverance and to know that God has broken through my self-sufficiency to make himself known to me.

Cranmer’s Triad
Speaking as an Anglican I am thankful to God for Cranmer’s great Reformation triad: the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion and the Ordinal for Bishops, Priests and Deacons.

Cranmer and other future leaders studied Luther in the White Horse Inn in Cambridge.  While Cranmer was closer to Calvin on the Lord’s Supper, there’s no denying the influence of Luther on Cranmer in the formulation of the BCP, Articles and Ordinal.  Luther, following St Paul, lives on in the Anglican documents.

Luther also lives on in the theology of the consummate hymns of Charles Wesley.  How blessed we are.

The Book of Common Prayer

sets out liturgically the Reformed Faith for Sunday Services and Occasional Services.  The Articles spell out the doctrines of the English Reformation that express the great truths of the Patristic and Reformation periods.  The Ordinal gives direction for the actual work of ministry.

The one instrument for ministry that is given to an ordinand is the Bible.  How unhelpful it is, therefore, also to present him or her with additional instruments, for example, a chalice, or a crosier?  These may add colour to the ceremony, but they shift the focus away from God and his Word, from Sola Scriptura.

Reflection
The ‘Good News’ is ‘True News’.  This is a matter of history.  History-based faith is rational and not directed at gullibility.  The Holy Spirit based, history-based gospel ‘truth’ is directed to our hearts.

This gospel tells us that our focus is on Christ, on Christ alone.  This is the witness of the four Gospels.  No disciple shares the spotlight with him.  Altarpieces included martyrs, angels and relics that pointed to a Christ who was not alone, but a Christ surrounded by assistants, as if he needed them.  But the Bible alone points conclusively to Christ alone.

For his thirty years as an apostle Paul never wavered from stating and defending the truth that Christ crucified, and personal trust in him, was the sole and exclusive route to righteousness with God.

Christ crucified exactly meets us at our point of deepest need.  Paul proclaimed that message and witnessed his hearers responding by faith and receiving the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

As an Anglican not by accident but conviction I am deeply grateful for the bravery and insight of Thomas Cranmer in giving the Reformation to the English Church in the liturgy, the articles and the Ordinal.  But his debt to the great Reformers Luther and Calvin is immeasurable.
 

 

 

Luther, his Friends and his Legacy

Tours to Reformation sites last year and the year before have stimulated a reawakening interest in Luther.

Luther’s earliest years as a Professor of Exegesis in Wittenberg 1512-1516, when he lectured on the Psalms and Romans, were his most formative.  Not only was he convinced by the sole authority of the Bible his humanist frame of mind insisted that it must be based on the primary Greek and Hebrew texts, not the secondary Latin versions.

Likewise fundamental was his vision of ‘the justice of God’ that engaged with man not in judgment and condemnation but in grace and through faith in the crucified Son of God.

In his exegesis of texts Luther was committed to the principle that texts of Scripture cross exegete one another.  For example, based on his exegesis of Romans 3:28 he wrote that, ‘We hold that man will be justified without works of the law but by faith alone’.  Luther was criticized for introducing the word ‘alone’, which is not in Paul’s text but he defended himself insisting that its use was necessary to convey the wider truth of Christian doctrine.  Scripture interprets Scripture is a Reformation doctrine.

In his letter written to Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz following the furore over the 95 theses (1517) Martin Luder spelled his name ‘Luther’ for the first time.  This was a word play on the Greek word eleutheros, ‘free’.  In a letter to a friend he described himself as ‘brother Martin the free’.  In 1520 he wrote his famous pamphlet, Of the Freedom of the Christian Man.  He transported the notion of Christian freedom into his own person.

Luther’s profound commitment to Christian freedom based on justification by grace through faith set him at odds against two formidable foes.  One was the humanist mindset, as found in Erasmus, that argued that man is free to find God by himself, and the other, the ‘old church’, that insisted on the merits earned by indulgences, pilgrimages and the worship of relics and statues were the basis of a right standing with God.

Luther himself was a larger than life character.  He was at the same time intellectually brilliant, amazingly hard working, but also with a maverick streak.  If Bucer is to be believed, Luther also possessed an engaging pastoral manner:

Although our chief men refuted him with all their might, their wiles were not          able to move him an inch from his propositions.   His sweetness in answering    is remarkable, his patience in listening is incomparable, in his explanations you would recognize the acumen of Paul…[1]

In this paper I will offer some reflections on (a) the circumstances that enhanced Luther’s impact on history, and (b) some of the benefits of that impact.

Helpful Circumstances

Just visiting the Luther sites ? Eisleben, Eisenach, Erfurt, Wittenberg, Wartburg, Leipzig, Worms ? prompts observations that that are reasonably obvious about the circumstances that allowed the greatness of Luther to find expression:
•the invention and development of the printing press seventy years earlier;
•the growing hostility to Rome in the German state-lets;
•the protection offered Luther by the Electors of Saxony, Frederick the Wise, his brother John Frederick, and his nephew also named John Frederick.

(The protection of Frederick the Wise is remarkable since he remained ‘catholic’ in pious outlook until his latter years, as witnessed by his large collection of 18,970 relics in Castle Church.  After Frederick’s death 1525 Luther quietly re-located them).

Erasmus
A basic factor making Luther’s work possible was the prior work of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam.  This peerless humanist scholar went behind the extant Latin versions of the Bible and as a textual critic began to recover the original Greek of the New Testament.  It has been quipped with regard to the Reformation that ‘Erasmus laid the egg, but Luther hatched it’.

An even more informative image was the woodcut on the title page of a pamphlet Description of the Divine Mill published in 1521 that shows Erasmus and Luther side by side.  Erasmus is the miller of the flour that Luther bakes into his books, the bread of life.

Erasmus was as trenchant as Luther in his denunciation of the worship of statues and relics, describing these as an evil yoke in contrast to the gentle yoke of Jesus for those burdened souls who came to him for rest.  Erasmus loved the scriptures, declaring that they will ‘show you a better image’ (than statues or relics).  According to him, worshipping Christ means the Imitatio Christi based on his words in the New Testament.

In 1559, after Erasmus’s death the church banned his entire corpus, although he had opposed Luther and been faithful to that church throughout his life.

Luther’s impact was powerful, but it is interesting to speculate how much of it was dependent on Erasmus’s publication of the Greek New Testament.

Sadly, the two towering men became hostile to each other.  It was over the question of the human will, which however exposed the whole array of doctrinal issues that lay at the heart of the Reformation.  In 1519, upon receiving a delegation of Luther supporters, Erasmus reflected, ‘One would think they thirsted for human blood rather than the salvation of souls’.[2]  Luther responded, ‘How different is the judgment of the man who yields something to free will than one who knows something of grace…I see that not everyone is a truly wise Christian just because he knows Greek and Hebrew’.[3]

Erasmus’s hostility intensified after the excommunication of Luther at the Diet of Worms (1521).  Erasmus wrote Discourse Concerning Free Choice (1524), to which Luther responded by On the Bondage of the Will (1525).

Wittenberg friends
A second factor that enhanced Luther was his friends close by at Wittenberg, without whom many of his achievements would not have been possible, or at least would have been less.  Of these friends there were many.  In fact whenever we see Luther we see people with him.

Pride of place must be given to his wife, the redoubtable Katharina von Bora (1499-1552).  Katharina’s parents sent her to a convent at five, then to another at nine.  As a young adult she somehow became interested in Reformation thought and contacted Luther to help her escape.  The story of the escape of Katharina and other Nuns in a Herring delivery wagon is well known.  Luther approached the parents to receive them back into their homes, but as this was contrary to Canon Law the women were billeted in various homes in Wittenberg.  Also well known was Katharina’s refusal of various marriage proposals, so bent was she on marrying Martin Luther.

Martin and Katharina took up residence in the former Augustinian Cloister, a gift of the Elector.  Katharine is famous for her management of the former monastery and its extensive grounds.  She supervised the garden, bred and sold cattle, and brewed beer to provide for their family, for the many students who boarded with them, and for visitors seeking audiences with her husband.  In times of widespread illness, Katharina even operated a hospital on site, ministering to the sick alongside the nurses.

Katharina bore Martin Luther six children between 1526-1534 and also raised four orphans.  Their family prayers and music making made Martin and Katharina a model family, not only for fellow pastors, but also for German Christians in general.

It is appropriate that a statue of Katharina von Bora has been erected in the grounds of the Luther home.  Martin referred to Katharina as the ‘morning star of the Reformation’ because she arose from her bed each day at 4 am, to begin the labours that made possible her husband’s achievements.

According to Cochlaeus, a catholic and hostile biographer of Luther, there were ‘four evangelists’ in Wittenberg: Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Johannes Bugenhagen and Justus Jonas.

There are two statues in the main square of Wittenberg, one of Martin Luther the other of Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560).  Born Philip Schwartzerdt (‘black earth’) he changed it to its Greek equivalent, ‘Melanchthon’ (Melanchth?n), a quirky practice among humanist scholars.  (As noted, Martin Luder changed his name to Luther, based on the Greek eleutheros, ‘free’).

Melanchthon was a true polymath.  In addition to his linguistic expertise, he became an authority on astronomy, jurisprudence, geography, mathematics and medicine.  When he retired as professor at Wittenberg it was necessary to appoint four professors in his place.

Luther persuaded Melanchthon, aged 21, to accept the chair of Greek at Wittenberg.  Based on his lectures on the Greek texts of Matthew and Romans he transferred to the theology faculty.  Melanchthon did not agree with Luther on all matters, for example, on the Lord’s Supper where for a period he followed Zwingli.  Nevertheless, the two men benefitted from their interaction.  Melanchthon’s major contribution was his formulation of the Augsburg Confession, which was based on Luther’s earlier tracts.

Although the two men were different in temperament (Melanchthon was the more irenic) it is safe to say that he contributed significantly to the achievements of Martin Luther.  Most likely Luther benefitted from Melanchthon’s linguistic assistance in Luther’s 1534 translation of the whole Bible.

Melanchthon systematized Luther’s ideas, defended them in public, and made them the basis of a religious education.  Melanchthon’s deep scholarship and personal calmness helped win support for Luther’s cause, which he often presented in explosive terms.  The two men complemented each other in launching and defending the Reformation.

Luther had this to say about himself and Melanchthon:

I was born for this purpose: to fight with the rebels and the devils and to lead        the charge.  Therefore my books are very stormy and warlike.  I have to uproot            trunks and stumps, hack at thorns and hedges, and fill in potholes.  So I am the      crude woodsman, who has to clear and make the path.  But master Philip         comes after me meticulously and quietly, builds and plans, sows and waters           happily, according to the talents God has richly given him.[4]

Luther typically overstates the contrast.  More balanced is Andrew Petergree’s assessment:

Without Melanchthon, his forensic intelligence and powerful capacity for   methodical theological thought, his lifelong commitment to the reform of the       university curriculum and the education of the young, and his calm restraining        presence at Luther’s side, the Reformation would have been immeasurably diminished.[5]

Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558) as a priest was initially opposed to Reformation thought, but upon further reflection on Luther’s Babylonian Captivity of the Church changed his mind and moved to Wittenberg (1520).  In 1523 he was elected as pastor of St Mary’s Church making him Luther’s pastor and confidante.

Subsequently Bugenhagen also joined the faculty and became one of the three Protestant doctors of theology.  Bugenhagen ordained numerous graduates from the Wittenberg faculty and was the most prominent activist in promoting the Reformation cause throughout northern Germany and Scandinavia, earning the epithet, ‘Apostle of the North’.  Bugenhagen produced rules and regulations for religious service, for schooling, and for social issues of the church.

After Luther’s death (1546) Johannes Bugenhagen cared for Katherina von Bora.

The fourth ‘evangelist’, according to Cochlaeus, was Justus Jonas, dean of the theology faculty and rector of the university.  A lesser figure, he is noted as a translator of Luther’s Bondage of the Will.

Another friend of Luther’s was Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), Court Painter for the Electors of Saxony, who had embraced the Reformation and become the close friend of Martin Luther.  Cranach was one of the three wealthiest people in Wittenberg.  Cranach became famous as an artist throughout Germany.  He used his art in the Reformation cause.

He made numerous portraits of Luther, which were disseminated throughout Germany to promote the reformer.  He also provided woodcuts for Luther’s translation of the Bible (1534).  Martin Luther made extensive use of Cranach’s presses for the mass production of his tracts, and later, his translation of the Bible.  Cranach’s title page woodcuts revolutionized the appearance of the book.  The result was a collection of miniature masterpieces.

Cranach was a witness at the betrothal festival for Martin and Katharina, and later godfather for their first child.

There were many others who stood with and supported the great Reformer of little Wittenberg, without whom his achievements would not have been so great.  There are many things in common between Luther and St Paul.  One of which was the special role of key friends like Priscilla and Aquila, Luke, Titus, Aristarchus and, of course, Timothy.  Wherever we see Paul we also see his fellow-workers, and it is the same with Marin Luther and millennium and a half later.

In this paper we have been reflecting on things that helped Martin Luther who was the catalyst of the Reformation.  So far we have mentioned the new printing technology that made possible the mass circulation of Reformation texts, the rising German rejection of the power of the Rome-based papacy, and the protective patronage of the Elector, Frederick the Wise.  To these we have acknowledged the unique work of the humanist textual critic, Erasmus, and the roles of Luther’s gifted and loyal friends, Katharina, his wife, his colleagues Philip Melanchthon, Johannes Bugenhagen, Justus Jonas and his patron, Lucas Cranach.

Luther was a gregarious man.  During his regime Wittenberg became thronged with people.  Thousands flocked to Wittenberg to hear him preach (he preached 4000 times in thirty years).  His home was effectively a combination of an inn and a lodging house.  When he travelled from Wittenberg to Worms in 1521 he was greeted like a rock star from town to town.  Wherever, we see Luther we see a man surrounded by people.

The New Literacy
Another element assisting Luther appears to have been the rising tide of literacy in the late Middle Ages.  Luther was projected into fame through his writings, something that would not have happened in earlier, pre-literary generations.

 

The pre-literary nature of that previous era is betrayed by various attempts to instruct the uneducated:
•the biblical theology in the windows of Kings College, Cambridge;
•the passion of Christ displayed in the East end of Notre Dame matched by a portrayal of the Apocalypse at the matching other end, making the great cathedral an ‘open Bible’;
•the astonishing windows in La Saint Chapelle depicting so many books of the Bible;
•the 200 metre long tapestry telling the story of the Apocalypse at d’Angers;
•the uniquely beautiful windows in Leon, Spain where the northern side glass (representing the Old Covenant) is somber matched by the southern glass (representing the New Covenant) which is gloriously bright and where the Crucified One is between them.
•the arched ceiling in St Isador’s, Leon, where Christos Pantocrator in the centre is supported by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

These and other architectural and decorative items tell the story of monks seeking to educate the people.

 

Counter-Reformation artists like Velasquez, Rubens and Van Dyke took great interest in and showed reasonable knowledge of Biblical Narratives and Biblical characters.

 

In claiming that the Old Church was against the Bible or uninterested in the Bible the Reformers’ polemic may have misstated their criticisms, scandalized as they would have been by the gross, money-grubbing  behaviour of Tetsel and others.

The problem seems to have been not the absence of the Bible but the phenomenon of the Bible ‘plus’ so many things: for example, elaborate altar pieces that displayed the Mother of God, Angels, saints, martyrs, relics that distracted attention from the Son of God.

 

Luther’s rampaging success as a publisher appears to be testimony to a growing literacy of that era.  The Old Church did not recognize that the day of the ‘Bible Alone’ had come and it was time now to refocus on Jesus alone.  Sadly, visiting the great churches in France and Spain suggests that they are still imprisoned in the distracting elements that Luther, Calvin, Cranmer and others saw so clearly to be contrary to the Word of the Lord.

Luther the publicist
Let me now turn to one other factor that contributed to Luther’s achievement, his own skill as a publicist and self-promoter.  This is the thesis of Andrew Petergree’s book, Brand Luther (2015).

It is not always noticed, as it deserves to be, that Luther became the most published author in Europe.  According to Petergree Luther ‘created a new form of theological writing: lucid, accessible, and above all short’.[6]  Luther wrote in German mainly ? not Latin ? since he was addressing the wider German public, not his fellow-academics and clerics.

In 1515 Luther’s name did not appear on the lists of the top 100 professors in three less well-known German universities.  By 1519 he had become Europe’s most published author.

Luther was a prolific writer: tracts, treatises, catechisms, hymns, and not least translations of the Bible (the New Testament in 1522 and the whole Bible in 1534).  Between 1518-1519 Luther wrote forty-five works, twenty-one of which were eight pages or less in length.  By 1522 his publications sold out quickly.

Martin Luther received no payments for his published works.

Nothing exceeded the importance of the publication of Bible translation.  Whole or partial translations of the sacred text would appear between 1522 and 1546, the year of his death.  The publication of the Bible in Wittenberg and elsewhere became the most important printed work in Germany.

But Luther was significantly interested in the presentation, appearance and publication of his texts.  According to Petergree ‘he spent his life in and out of print shops, observing and directing’ because ‘he understood the aesthetics of the book…appreciated the quality and design of the printed artifact…Luther transformed the look of the book’.[7]  Luther was intensely interested in the schedules of the printers and accommodated his own publications in line with their work rhythms.

Petergree attributes much of this to the influence of Lucas Cranach who designed the Luther pamphlets and employed his beautiful woodcuts to enhance the text.  The Illuminated Manuscripts of the era were elegant, but passive, whereas Cranach’s woodcuts were lively and message-centred.

Furthermore, Luther attracted skilled printers to move to Wittenberg.  Until 1517 Wittenberg had only one printing press, but by Luther’s death (1546) this small, out of the way town had six.  It had become Germany’s largest printing centre, the centre of the book world.  Between 1517-1546 Wittenberg printers between them published an average of 91 publications per year, one third of them works by Luther.

The growing volume of his printed texts made Luther the most famous man in Germany.  In the first half of the sixteenth century one third of all works published in Germany were written by Luther.

According to Petergree, ‘Print propelled Martin Luther, a man who had published nothing in the first thirty years of his life, to instant celebrity’.[8]  The growing fame of Luther corresponded with the growing size of Wittenberg, which in 1513 had been a town of a mere 384 dwellings.  Petergree states that Luther was ‘the chief motor of the Wittenberg economy…nothing else could have made this small, peripheral city into the print capital of the world’.[9]

Luther’s Legacy

Internationally
We conclude this paper by reflecting on Luther’s impact.  It is clear that Luther changed the direction and course of history, not only in the Germany, but internationally.  The previously united church was now divided.  Wars erupted and new nation states emerged.  Catholic England became Protestant.  Luther unleashed the power of Protestantism, including Protestant missionary work in the newly formed colonies in North America ? what would become the United States and Canada ? India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand.  The degree to which those and other countries in the British Empire were Protestant influenced can be traced back to the German reformer, Martin Luther.

Luther preceded the great French scholar John Calvin who although initially sympathetic to the German’s ideas soon differed from them.  There developed a continuing rift between the Geneva based reformers and Luther.  There is no statue of Luther in the Reformers’ Memorial Wall in Geneva, but merely his name inscribed on a wall nearby.

It was otherwise with Luther’s influence in England.  Cranmer and others who met together in Cambridge were deeply influenced by Luther.  Cranmer’s liturgies and Thirty Nine Articles of Religion bear the marks of Luther’s influence.  His doctrine of the Real Presence, however, separated him sharply from Cranmer whose Eucharistic views were closer to Calvin’s.  Years later the writings of Luther powerfully influenced Charles and John Wesley, an influence that continues through the words of Charles Wesley’s hymns.

The English Bible owed much to Luther.  Luther’s style of accessible translation influenced William Tyndale, who visited Luther in Wittenberg in 1524.  Tyndale remained in Europe completing his translation of the English Bible until his death by strangulation in 1536.  In 1526 Luther’s books had been publicly burnt in England.

Germany
Luther deliberately arranged his family life based on prayer, Bible teaching and singing the praises of God so that it would be a model for other pastors, and indeed church people generally.

Luther and his colleagues were passionately concerned for the education of children, especially including girls.  To that end Luther produced catechisms and hymns to be employed in the context of instruction.  But they set this in the matrix of general state run education, removing it from the hitherto exclusive domain of the church.

Music was very important to Luther, including within his household.  He was a skilled musician who wrote a number of hymns and even a cantata.  He retained much of the music of the Catholic liturgy in Lutheran worship ? the credo, Gloria, and Agnus Dei.

So important was music to him that there is a direct line from Luther through Heinrich Schütz and Dietrich Buxtehude to Johann Sebastian Bach, arguably history’s greatest musical genius.  Bach used Luther’s Bible.  He dedicated every piece he wrote ‘to the glory of God’.

There is one other influence from Luther: his use of the German language.  There were many German Bibles before Luther’s ? no less than eighteen ? but they were remote and dependent on Latin versions.

Alexander Weber, a philologist at Birkbeck College London, a student of Luther, wrote:

He was a man of incredible learning, but he was also someone who could    connect with ordinary people and who could pick up their use of             language…He was the son of a miner and he had very good use of colloquial           language…it brought the Bible to life…previous translations were very     learned, very stilted, very educated and only understood by people who knew       the Latin Bible…He modeled his written German on the spoken word…’

In his Open Letter on Translation (1530) Luther wrote, ‘You don’t ask Latin literature how to speak German, you ask the mother at home, the children in the street, the common man in the market ? look at how they speak, and translate accordingly.  Then they will understand it, and they will see that you are speaking German to them’.

Alexander Weber again:

Luther ‘modeled his language on the Chancery of Saxony, which is in the    middle of Germany…where the dialects are not that extreme…There is a main    dividing line, it is like a linguistic border, which divides High German from Low German…It is a stroke of luck in terms of the development of the             German language that the key figure who had the major historical impact on           the Reformation would actually be able to address an audience in Low     German and High German and therefore find a balance between the two.

Luther’s carefully crafted compromise language could be understood everywhere.  The language is simple, the syntax clear.  As one writer puts it, ‘he made the language pithy, vigorous and expressive’.

As Luther’s publications spread so did his particular form of German spread.  As Weber puts it, ‘There are very many phrases and words that are used in German which you can trace back to Luther.  The whole of German literary history is based on Luther’s language’.  For 500 years all great German writers ? Goethe, Nietzsche, Brecht, Mann ? have honed their language on, and against Luther’s.

In May 1945 the writer Thomas Mann, an American citizen who was born in Germany and wrote in German, visited Berlin and looked out bleakly on the bomb-wrecked smoking ruins of his country.  Yet, he said, his homeland remained intact ? the German language.  This was the language that was attributable to Martin Luther more than to anyone else.

Luther and the individual’s conscience
Weber again:

There is real individuality to the style and the language in which Luther writes.       It shows for once that that the individual in history matters.  For Luther what    mattered most was faith, and he saw the loss of faith around him.

Weber’s point about Luther’s advocacy of the individual is missed in Larry Siedentop’s otherwise brilliant Inventing the Individual.  The Origins of Western Liberalism.[10]  Siedentop declares the inventor of the individual to have been St Paul.

True as that insight may be it is curious that he fails to acknowledge that Paul’s inspiration was his Lord and Master, Jesus.  It is also striking that Siedentop has nothing to say about the lonely figure who stared down the Holy Roman Emperor in Worms in 1521.

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason          (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the            Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I     cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go    against conscience. May God help me. Amen.

Luther and St Paul followed and took their inspiration from Jesus of Nazareth, their Lord and Saviour, and ours.  He was the ultimate inventor of the individual, embodied 1500 years later in the former monk who stared down the might of the Papacy and the Roman Empire.
Paul Barnett

 

 
 

 

 

 

 



[1]Quoted Petergree, Brand Luther, 94.

[2]Quoted, Andrew Petergree, Brand Luther (New York: Penguin, 2015), 229.

[3]Quoted, Petergree, Brand Luther, 230.

[4]Quoted, Petergree, Brand Luther, 174.

[5]Petergree, Brand Luther, 174.

[6]Petergree, Brand Luther, xii.

[7]Petergree, Brand Luther, xiii.

[8]Petergree, Brand Luther, 11

[9]Petergree, Brand Luther, 24.

[10]Larry Siedentop, Inventing the Individual.  The Origins of Western Liberalism (Allen Lane: 2014)

Camino Faith and Christian Faith

With some friends I recently traversed the beautiful and famous Camino Trail in Spain.  Some of our group walked the shorter stretches of the trail but we mostly travelled in the comfort of our coach.

The journey provided opportunity to visit some amazing Cathedrals.  The standout was the Cathedral in Leon whose colour-glazed windows were breathtaking.

Some of the pilgrims were walking to meet the athletic challenge of the Camino.  For others it was a spiritual exercise, a time of reflection based on the journey of St James Zebedee all those years ago.

Our guide in Santiago, where the trail ends, told us that James came to the ‘ends of the earth’ as Jesus had instructed the disciples to do.  So James came here, preached the Message about Jesus, and then returned to Jerusalem where he was beheaded as a martyr in 41 or 42.  James’ body was then taken back to Spain where he was buried in a forest only to be rediscovered 500 years later and relocated in Santiago.  (Diego is Spanish for James).  His relics are venerated in the cathedral in Santiago.

Few pilgrims seem to question or challenge this account.  To be candid, however, there is much to puzzle over.  First, there is the issue of the time frame.  The resurrection of Jesus occurred in the year 33 and the execution of James at the hands if King Herod Agrippa in 41 or 42 (Acts 12:1-2).  This means that James had less than 10 years to travel to Spain preach there and return to Jerusalem.  It was a long, expensive and dangerous journey involving numerous changes of ships.  Due to stormy weather in the winter the sailing season lasted for only half the year. Then there would have been the issue of language.  Would James have had the time to learn a language well enough to preach in Spain?

Secondly, there is the issue of returning James’ body to Spain which, as noted, was a dangerous and expensive journey.  Legends of James’ remains floating back to Spain are unlikely to be based in fact.

Thirdly, the assertion that James body was found in the forest then brought to Santiago half a millennium later stretches credibility.  How could the skeletal remains be identified?

In other words, the historical basis for James Zebedee coming to western Spain returning to Jerusalem to be killed and for his body to be repatriated there is slight, and to be frank, unlikely.

The Catholic Encyclopaedia (1908) pours cold water on the James tradition stating that the earliest evidence about him coming to Spain dates only from the ninth century with no credible evidence beforehand.  Despite that, the Spaniards’ patron saint gave his name to cities in their colonies, Santiago in Chile, for example.

By contrast consider the evidence for Jesus.  The letters of Paul, written between 48-64, are close in time to Jesus and bear credible witness to him as the Son of God.  Galatians, for example, was written only 15 years after Jesus’ lifespan.  The four Gospels were written only thirty to forty years after the resurrection.  The non-Christian writer Tacitus, a hostile source, confirms the raw facts of the beginnings of Christianity.  The evidence for Jesus is better than for anyone else from that era, emperors included.

The Camino tradition, although a ‘feel good’, is not based in historical evidence but unsubstantiated legend.  Nevertheless, more than 300,000 pilgrims on average make the journey each year.

 

The Gospel of Christ, by contrast, is based in solid evidence.  It invites open enquiry and rigorous investigation as the prelude to a considered act of faith commitment to Jesus Christ.

Being There: Wittenberg

I have valued the experience of being in important places because it brings history to life.  A long time love of the history of the New Testament has taken me many times to Jordan, Israel, Turkey and Greece.  The landscape, remains of buildings, even the climate, adds value to the written word.  Being there also raises questions of chronology.  What happened when, and how long was it before b followed a?

I had not visited the places that figured in Martin Luther’s life story until 2014, and more recently in 2016.  Many buildings are being restored in anticipation of big crowds in 2017, the 500th anniversary of Luther’s ninety-five theses being nailed to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg.

To my shame I admit to not taking much interest in Luther for many years.  One of my electives for the University of London Bachelor of Divinity was a paper on Luther and Calvin.  The Luther segment focused on his tracts published in 1520 including Of the Freedom of the Christian Man.  Three years earlier Martin Luder changed his name to Martin Luther, based on the Greek word eleutheros, signifying that he had been ‘set free’ from condemnation by the death of the Son of God.

But what a difference it made actually being there ? in Eisleben where he was born (and coincidentally where he died, aged 63), Eisenach where he went to boarding school, Erfurt where he studied for the priesthood (in the Augustinian Order),
Wittenberg (where he was appointed Professor of Exegesis), Worms (where he was tried and condemned), and Wartburg Castle (where he took refuge, and where he translated the New Testament from Greek to everyday German).

Of most interest was Wittenberg, where Frederick the Wise had recently established the university, and to which the 29 year old Dr Martin Luder was appointed a Professor.  Frederick and his brother, John Frederick, and his nephew also John Frederick effectively protected Luther throughout his life.

Before Luther became famous Wittenberg was a ‘nowhere’ place, with a mere 384 dwellings.  At his appointment Luther did not figure in the list of 100 professors in lesser universities.  That was to change after the issue of the ninety-five theses when Luther became the most famous (or infamous) man in Germany, who was excommunicated by the Pope and condemned by the Holy Roman Emperor.

Merely wandering through this small town was a revelation of the events and people back then.  There was the imposing Augustinian Cloister that Frederick gave to Luther, where he set up house with the redoubtable Katharina von Bora, which was both a hostel for students and an inn for the many visitors who sat at his meal table.

Nearby is the town church, St Mary’s where his friend Johannes Bugenhagen was pastor, and where Luther preached 4000 times in the 34 years he lived in Wittenberg.

In the town square is a statue of Luther, but also of his amazing colleague Philip Melanchthon, linguist, theologian, astronomer, and geographer.

One of the fine homes in the town belonged to Lucas Cranach, a wealthy man, and court painter for Frederick.  Cranach’s various portraits of Luther were disseminated throughout Germany and enhanced the reputation of Luther.  Cranach’s beautiful woodcuts formed the frontispiece of many of Luther’s writings, including his translation of the whole Bible in 1534.  Cranach’s was one of the six print shops that were kept busy churning out the endless supply of Luther’s writings.

Then, at the end of the main street is the imposing Castle Church on whose door on October 31, 1517 Professor Luther nailed his paper attacking the sale of religious indulgences, an act the shook the world for centuries to come.

Paul Barnett

Reformation Theme: Faith Alone

The young Martin Luder – that was the family name – had been a law student in the major university town, Erfurt.  Against his father’s will he became an Augustinian monk.

But he was a poor tortured soul who felt himself under the wrath of God.  He engaged in punishing fasts and endless confessionals.  As a mendicant monk he begged his way 1000 miles from Erfurt to Rome as a pilgrimage.

But he was clever.  The order appointed him Professor of Bible at the new university in the little, ‘nowhere place’, Wittenberg.  In preparing his lectures on Romans and the Psalms he made a great discovery.

Luder had believed that the ‘justice of God’ engages with us in judgement and condemnation, which had led him into spiritual slavery to fear and to endless fasts and vigils.  But in Wittenberg through his study of Romans he discovered that the ‘justice of God’ engaged with us not in judgment and condemnation but in grace and forgiveness through faith in the crucified Son of God.

As a result of this revolutionary discovery he did two things: First, he changed his name from Luder to Luther, based on the Greek word eleutheros, meaning ‘free’.  He now signed letters as ‘Martin the free’.  Secondly he wrote his most famous pamphlet, Of the Freedom of the Christian.  Freedom before God was everything.

Luther greatly loved Galatians, which he called his ‘wife’.  Paul’s words, ‘For freedom Christ has set us free (5:1) sum up the deepest feelings of St Paul and Martin Luther.

A key text for Paul and Luther was Galatians 2:16:
we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Three times he affirms ‘faith in Christ’ as the only basis for being ‘justified’, that is deemed to be ‘in the right’ with God and by God.  Three times he denies any role to ‘works of the law’.  ‘Faith’ in Jesus Christ is the only basis for one’s relationship with God.

Back in the First Century Paul was rejecting such ‘works of the law’ as the necessity for male circumcision, obedience to Jewish food law, and the observation of the feasts of the Jewish Calendar (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles).

In the sixteenth century Luther saw a parallel to these in the necessity for pilgrimages, fasts, worship of relics and religious statues, and the use of indulgences.

In Luther’s day, as in St Paul’s, people were saying that ‘Christ Alone’ is not sufficient to bridge the gap between the holy God and sinful man.  They were advocating ‘Christ Plus’ – ‘works of the law’ (1st century), ‘religious works’ (16th century).  But the apostle Paul, followed by Luther insisted:  Christ Alone.

To illustrate his point Luther used the example of marriage.
A man and a woman are joined together by their marriage vows.
They exchange their property:
His property becomes hers
Her property becomes his.

When we cast ourselves on the mercy of Christ
the soul of the Christian is joined to Christ.  They become one.
A great exchange occurs: Christ takes our sin and gives us his righteousness.

Paul admonished the Galatians for their short memories.  When he held up before them the message of Christ crucified they heard that message, believed in Christ and received the Spirit (Galatians 3:1-2).  So how can they now be looking to and believing in ‘works of the law’?  The hearing and believing of the gospel of Christ is the only way to God’s forgiveness and the receiving of the Spirit of God.

This great truth was expressed in the architecture of Lutheran churches.  The pulpit was on the side of the congregation, not the front.  In the front was Christ crucified.  The preacher directed the eyes of faith of the congregation to Christ, who was front and centre.

Inevitably Luther was criticized for giving people permission to sin, hiding behind the cross of Christ.  Luther responded with a paradox:
‘A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to no one.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all’.

He added, ‘each of us should become a Christ to the other. And as we are Christs to one another, the result is that Christ fills us all and we become truly a Christian community’.

A small group met in the White Horse Inn in Cambridge to read Luther’s words.  They were known as ‘little Germany’.  Among them was Thomas Cranmer, future Archbishop of Canterbury.

Cranmer created three instruments to define the Church of England as a reformation church: the Book of Common Prayer, the 39 Articles and the Ordinal for Bishops, Priests and Deacons.

Echoing Luther Article 11 states: We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort…

In 1960 the Constitution of the new Anglican Church of Australia enshrined Cranmer’s three instruments of the Reformation as the basis for the national church, for each diocese (including Sydney), and for each parish (including ours).

Our church is a Reformation Church and owes much to our martyred brother Thomas Cranmer, who had been influenced by Martin ‘the free’, who in turn was directed by the clear teaching of Holy Scripture.  We stand on the great truth: Christ Alone.

Reformation Theme: The Bible Alone

 

2017 will be the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation.  On 31st October 1517 an unknown monk in a small town nailed 95 debating points to a church door.  It was a common academic practice to invite debate but these ‘theses’ went viral and Martin Luther became famous overnight.

Luther was protesting against the Church’s way of raising money (which was to complete St Peter’s, Rome).  It was through the sale of ‘indulgences’ for shortening the time loved ones spent in Purgatory.  Crudely the Church promised, ‘As soon as the gold in the casket rings, the rescued soul to heaven springs’.

Luther, a newly appointed Professor of Bible in Wittenberg, understood that the Scriptures know nothing about ‘indulgences’ or ‘Purgatory’.  In his 27th ‘thesis’ Luther rejected these as ‘human doctrines’.  This was the genesis of Luther’s mantra, ‘the Bible alone’ as the sole authority in matters of faith.

Luther would have been aware of Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisees, ‘‘You make void the word of God by your traditions’ (Mark 7).  Jesus stood for ‘the Bible alone’ and Luther was following the Lord.

From that time two things happened.  Luther and other Reformers began reshaping Christian theology based solely on the Bible.  At the same time they began translating the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the language of the people.  Luther translated the Bible into German and Tyndale did the same in English.

We take the Bible for granted.  But imagine how things would be if we did not have the Bible.  We would not know the identity of the Creator, the meaning of life, the Saviour’s love, the Spirit’s power or the pathway to pleasing God.

God blesses us through his Word in many ways of which the most important is his sure promise that he loves us and saves us as we respond to that love, for example, ‘God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8).

But God also blesses societies where the Bible has been powerfully influential, for example, values like respect for authority, dignity of the individual, equality of king and commoner before the law, abolition of slavery, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, sanctity of marriage, separation of church and state, the example of the Good Samaritan rescuing people in need, the primacy of compassion and mercy.

When society loses the Bible it loses its values: truth becomes relative, gender differences are blurred, the sanctity of marriage lost, and respect for authority weakened.

The Reformation crossed the English Channel.  Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer came to believe Bible alone as he stated in Article 6 (of the 39 articles):

HOLY Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of anyone, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

Cranmer’s achieved the reformation of the English Church by three instruments:

The Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion
and the Ordinal for Bishops, Priests and Deacons.

Each of the three is carefully expressed in the theology of the Reformation.

The Reformation came to Australia with the First Fleet with Chaplain Richard Johnson, a Church of England minister, a man dedicated to the great truths of the Reformation.

The Church of England in Australia followed the Mother Church in adopting the same three instruments, the Book of Common Prayer, the Articles and the Ordinal.

In 1960 the Church of England in Australia became the Anglican Church of Australia.  Our constitution specifically recognizes the authority of Cranmer’s three instruments.

Our National Church, our diocese, our parish is based on those same three.  The Articles are to be found at the back of our Prayer Books

These govern our national church, our diocese, our parish.

Our church – this church – is a child of the Reformation.

We affirm with our Lord, St Paul, Luther and Cranmer the great truth that the Bible Alone is the authority in the church for matters of faith.

 

Being There: Wittenberg

I have valued the experience of being in important places because it brings history to life.  A long time love of the history of the New Testament has taken me many times to Jordan, Israel, Turkey and Greece.  The landscape, remains of buildings, even the climate, adds value to the written word.  Being there also raises questions of chronology.  What happened when, and how long was it before b followed a?

I had not visited the places that figured in Martin Luther’s life story until 2014, and more recently in 2016.  Many buildings are being restored in anticipation of big crowds in 2017, the 500th anniversary of Luther’s ninety-five theses being nailed to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg.

To my shame I admit to not taking much interest in Luther for many years.  One of my electives for the University of London Bachelor of Divinity was a paper on Luther and Calvin.  The Luther segment focused on his tracts published in 1520 including Of the Freedom of the Christian Man.  Three years earlier Martin Luder changed his name to Martin Luther, based on the Greek word eleutheros, signifying that he had been ‘set free’ from condemnation by the death of the Son of God.

But what a difference it made actually being there ? in Eisleben where he was born (and coincidentally where he died, aged 63), Eisenach where he went to boarding school, Erfurt where he studied for the priesthood (in the Augustinian Order),
Wittenberg (where he was appointed Professor of Exegesis), Worms (where he was tried and condemned), and Wartburg Castle (where he took refuge, and where he translated the New Testament from Greek to everyday German).

Of most interest was Wittenberg, where Frederick the Wise had recently established the university, and to which the 29 year old Dr Martin Luder was appointed a Professor.  Frederick and his brother, John Frederick, and his nephew also John Frederick effectively protected Luther throughout his life.

Before Luther became famous Wittenberg was a ‘nowhere’ place, with a mere 384 dwellings.  At his appointment Luther did not figure in the list of 100 professors in lesser universities.  That was to change after the issue of the ninety-five theses when Luther became the most famous (or infamous) man in Germany, who was excommunicated by the Pope and condemned by the Holy Roman Emperor.

Merely wandering through this small town was a revelation of the events and people back then.  There was the imposing Augustinian Cloister that Frederick gave to Luther, where he set up house with the redoubtable Katharina von Bora, which was both a hostel for students and an inn for the many visitors who sat at his meal table.

Nearby is the town church, St Mary’s where his friend Johannes Bugenhagen was pastor, and where Luther preached 4000 times in the 34 years he lived in Wittenberg.

In the town square is a statue of Luther, but also of his amazing colleague Philip Melanchthon, linguist, theologian, astronomer, jurist, and geographer.

One of the fine homes in the town belonged to Lucas Cranach, a wealthy man, and court painter for Frederick.  Cranach’s various portraits of Luther were disseminated throughout Germany and enhanced the reputation of Luther.  Cranach’s beautiful woodcuts formed the frontispiece of many of Luther’s writings, including his translation of the whole Bible published in 1534.  Cranach’s was one of the six print shops that were kept busy churning out the endless supply of Luther’s writings.

Then, at the end of the main street is the imposing Castle Church on whose door on October 31, 1517 Professor Luther nailed his paper attacking the sale of religious indulgences, an act the shook the world for centuries to come.

Paul Barnett

The Huguenot Heart

The Annual Meeting of the Huguenot Society 7th June, 2015) Scots Church, Sydney.

I am not of Huguenot descent. But let me speak today about the Huguenot heart.
My text:
Hebrews 9:26 Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

This text teaches two things:
1. Christ appeared once and for all at the end of the ages.
2. Christ put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

The word ‘unique’ comes to mind.
His coming was unique.
His sacrifice for sin was unique.

Pastoral Setting of Hebrews:
•Writer is anonymous
•He was a Jewish Christian leader.
•He was writing to discouraged Jewish Christians.
•So discouraged were they that they contemplated renouncing Christ being absorbed back into Judaism.
They had suffered economic hardship, loss of property, prison.
(Reminds us of Huguenot suffering).
•These Jewish Christians were headed back to the temple back to the priests back to the sacrifices
This was the pastoral setting of this book.

Hebrews is an early text
•Probably written in the 50s,
•One of the earliest texts of the NT.

The Writer reminds them that temple sacrifices for sins had to be repeated. So: because they had to be repeated they were ineffective.
Christ’s once only sacrifice was totally effective.
It was because he was the Son of God, without sin.
He was more than sufficient to atone for humanity’s sin.

Hebrews 10:11-14 Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…he has perfected…those who are being sanctified.

John Calvin The great French scholar John Calvin understood this.
If Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins why are church priests repeatedly re-offering Christ as a sacrifice in the Mass?
Calvin also questioned:
•the adoration of relics;
•the intercessions of the saints;
•the superstitious belief in the omnipresence of miracles;
•prayers for the dead;
•the payment of indulgences to release imprisoned souls.
These too went by the board when Calvin examined them alongside the simplicity and purity of apostolic faith.

People were overjoyed to hear the gospel in their own tongue and to hear thoughtful pastoral teaching on the gospel.

Large numbers of French people came to Geneva to hear Calvin who taught daily at the Church of St Pierre.
In time French Protestants became numerous and represented by some estimates 10% of the population.
But the church authorities and the king reacted violently.
Religion and superstition sentimentally appeal to unthinking people.
Radical Protestant thought was opposed, even though it was a pure representation of apostolic faith.

During the final 30 years of the 16th century
•a purge of the French Protestants
•thousands massacred in Paris on St Batholomew’s Day.
In 1685 the king revoked the Edict of Nantes that forced about a quarter of the Huguenots into exile ? 250,000 including some of France’s most accomplished citizens

The suffering of the French Protestants was very great.
We are reminded of the sufferings of faithful Hebrews, as in Hebrews 11:
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

The suffering Huguenots were the heirs of the faithful Hebrews and the martyrs in early Christianity.
The suffering Huguenots are the precursors of the thousands of persecuted Christians today

The Huguenot heart believes the gospel and is prepared to suffer for the gospel

Question: If the Letter to the Hebrews is so clear how did the church get it so wrong?
It all went back to earlier centuries. Christians developed wrong ideas about ministers and sacraments. They believed that the Christian priesthood was a continuation of the Old Testament priesthood and that Christian clergy were re-offering Christ as a sacrifice for sins.

They did not understand the Epistle to the Hebrews. Otherwise they would not have allowed a return to superseded practices.

Calvin went back to the Bible. Including to the Book of Hebrews.
Christ offered himself as a sacrifice ‘once and for all’ (hapax).

We receive broken bread and out-poured wine with thankful hearts. These symbolize the broken body of Christ, his completed, saving work.

We say to ourselves, ‘He did it for me, once, at such great cost to him’.
John Calvin understood this.
So did the Huguenots.

Calvin, their fountainhead was a remarkable scholar
•trained as lawyer
•an accomplished classicist ? wrote commentary on Seneca (still in print?)
•wrote commentaries on 60+ books of the Bible
•wrote the majestic Institutes, a complete work of theology.
His meticulous commentaries make him the father of biblical commentators.

Which brings us back to Hebrews 9:26.
FIRST: Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages
Three English words once for all translate one Greek word h-a-p-a-x.
It appears a number of times in Hebrews.
His unique appearing brought the OT period to its end.
He appeared ‘once and for all’.
He supersedes and discontinues the era of temple, priests and sacrifices.
Christ brought all that to an end.
This is what the pre-reformation church did not understand.
This is what Calvin reaffirmed.
This is what Huguenots came to believe ? at great cost.
This is the heart of Huguenot faith.

SECOND: Christ has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
This is the message of Good Friday.
Men killed Jesus
-the treacherous Judas
-the opportunistic High Priest
-the vacillating Pontius Pilate
-the Roman death squad Men killed Jesus.

But Jesus also sacrificed himself.
It was the Father’s will.
Gethsemane reveals the Son’s agony in prospect.
The terrible cry from the cross reveals the agony in reality.
Christ came to pay the price for our sins, once for all.
To pay the price we could never pay.

We concern ourselves with our health, our finances, our appearances, our relationships. That’s what many TV ads are about. And these are important.
But there is something in life that is more basic, that undergirds everything else.
To be right with our Maker and Judge.
To know peace with God.
To know I am reconciled to God.
To know that God loves me.
To know that God wants to hear my prayers.

Life is a race with many hurdles. God is there to help us run the race and to help us over the hurdles.

The important thing is that we understand these great truths. Not only in our heads but no less in our hearts.

There are things in our past, which we may look back on with regret, even shame. Acts of unkindness. Cruel words. Dishonest dealings. Theft.

Ritual cannot remove the stain of sin from our hearts.
Good works cannot remove the stain of sin from our conscience.
Only the blood of the Son of God.

If I were of Huguenot descent it would be a matter of great pride.
But the really important thing is to have a Huguenot heart.
A Huguenot heart says to God:
Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages
to put away my sin by the sacrifice of himself.
It was for that sublime truth that the Huguenots suffered and died.

Paul in Rome in the Sixties

The book of Acts indicates that Paul was under ‘house arrest’ in Rome, most probably between 60-62.  Luke’s text suggests that Paul was then released, something First Timothy and Titus also imply.  Second Timothy, written from Rome, however indicates that Paul was soon to face execution.  Presumably, this execution was at the decision of Nero Caesar following the Great Fire in 64.

As I suggested in another paper (‘“Paul lived in Rome two whole years”. The Mysterious Ending of Luke-Acts’ ? http//paulbarnett.info) the reason Luke did not write about Paul after Acts 28 (his two-year imprisonment in Rome) was that he knew this information could be gleaned from the letters to Timothy and Titus (whose authorship he may have contributed to ? so C.F.D. Moule).

It is tragically clear why in 64 or 65 Paul was beheaded following the Fire (as a Roman citizen he would not be crucified).  But why was he released in c. 62, as he expected to be, based on the general thrust of Philippians and the open ended close of Acts?

To answer this we need to be reminded about the politics of Rome in the sixties.  Nero Caesar was both immature (a mere 23 in the year 60) and distracted (he had recently murdered his mother, Agrippina).  Effectively, Rome and its empire were being administered by Burrus (the Praetorian Prefect), and Seneca (Nero’s speech-writer and chief advisor).

Almost certainly Paul’s ‘appeal to Caesar’, whose outcome he was awaiting in Philippians, would have effectively been heard by Burrus and Seneca, rather than by Nero.

My argument here is that Seneca would have played a key role in a favourable decision for Paul.  This is because Seneca’s brother was the Gallio who had passed a good verdict on Paul in Corinth a decade earlier.  In effect, Gallio Proconsul of Achaia, determined back then that Paul the Roman citizen had not acted against Roman custom in establishing an alternative meeting in Corinth.  After serving his year-long appointment in Achaia Gallio returned to Rome where he became Consul in 55 (?).  Seneca was Consul in 56.

There can be little doubt that Gallio would have discussed Paul’s case in Corinth with his brother Seneca.  Thus, so far as Gallio would have been concerned, a precedent had been set.  Paul was not guilty of any breach of Roman law.  This may have prompted his colleague Burrus to release the man whose imprisonment was supervised by the Praetorian Guard, according to Philippians.

After 62 everything changed.  Burrus died in 62 and was replaced by Tigellinus.   From that time the tide was running against Seneca who attempted to retire from public life in 62.  In 65 Nero forced him to commit suicide.

Providentially for Paul Burrus and Seneca were the men of influence during Paul’s two-year house arrest (60-62 ? the setting of Philippians) after which Paul was released for travel in the east (as witnessed in First Timothy and Titus).  After 62, however, Paul’s protectors (Burrus and Seneca) were gone from the seat of influence.

The Great Fire in 64 inevitably caught up Paul in its tragic aftermath.