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Jesus Fulfills Jewish Ministry Expectations

By Dr. Douglas Kennard

The eschatological expectations among the Prophets and the community of Qumran were for a Messianic teacher, “the interpreter of the Law” (Isa 42:4; 4Q174 1.11-12; CD 6.7; 7:18). Messianic Apocalypse presents the character of the hoped for Messianic teacher as echoing Isaiah 61:1.

[for the heav]ens and the earth will listen to his anointed one, [and all] that is in them will not turn away from the precepts of the holy ones. Strengthen yourselves, you who are seeking the Lord, in his service! Will you not in this encounter the Lord, all those who hope in their heart? For the Lord will consider the pious, and call the righteous by name, and his spirit will hover upon the poor, and will renew the faithful with his strength. For he will honor the pious upon the throne of everlasting kingdom, freeing prisoners, giving sight to the blind, and in his mercy…the Lord will perform marvelous acts such as have not existed, just as he sa[id for] he will heal the badly wounded and will make the dead live, he will proclaim good news to the poor (4Q521, fragment 2, column 2, verses 1-12).

 

Such a Messianic expectation hoped for a Jewish King who is a healer, a spiritual teacher of the Law and a rescuer of the needy.Jesus heals the blind

When Jesus announced His ministry in Nazareth, He identified that this hoped for expectation was realized in Him.

The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD (Isa 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19).

 Jesus identified that such recovery as during Jubilee was being realized in His own ministry. Later, when John the Baptist was in prison and needed reassurance about Jesus’ ministry, Jesus told John’s disciples that his preaching and the miracles he performed as signs of the kingdom compellingly identified Jesus as the coming One.

Go and report to John the things which you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and lame walk, lepers are cleansed and deaf hear, and dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me (Matt 11:4-6).

Here are some examples of how the Jesus of history lived up to the Messianic expectation:

  • The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus to equip Him for divinely empowered ministry (Matt 3:16; 12:28; Mark 1:10; 9:40; Luke 3:22; 4:18; 11:20; John 1:32-33; 3:2; 9:33; 10:38; 14:10; Acts 2:22; Hebrews 2; Gos. Ebionites 4:2).
  • Jews expected the Messiah would teach the Law as the “teacher of righteousness” (Isa 42:4; 4Q17411-12; CD 6.7; 7:18-19; 4QFlor 1.6-11; 4QTestim 13-17; 4Q541; 4QpPs (4Q171) 3:13-16; 1QpHab 1.13; 2:2, 8-9; 5:10; 7:4-5; 11:5; CD 1.11; 20.1, 28, 32). Rabbinic Jews anticipated Messiah to teach the Law in an internalized new covenant form (Gen. Rab. 98.9; Eccl. Rab. 11.1; Mid. Tanh., Ki Tavo, par. 4; Midrash fragment, BhM 6.151-52; Halakbot G’dolot,ed. Hildesheimer, 223 top; Azulai, Hesed l’Avraham 13c-14a; Vital, Sefer haHezyonot, p. 160; Mid. Talpiyot 58a; Yemenite Midrash, 349-50; Yitzhaq of Berdichev, Imre Tzaddiqim, ed. Tz’vi Hasid, 10 [5b]). Even unbelieving Jews agree that Jesus taught the Law in a new covenant form (Matt 5; Josephus, Ant. 18.63-64; b. ‘Abod. Zar. 17 1/t; Hul. 2.24; Qol. Rab. 1.8[3]). However, many Jews rejected Jesus’ teaching as dangerous because his healing and exorcism ministry was so effective in leading some Jews astray into Christianity (Josephus, Ant. 18.63-64; John 11:48-50; b. Sanh. 103a; b. Ber. 17b; b. Sanh. 107b; 43a; 67b; b. Soṭah 47a; Sib. Or. 8.206-7).
  • Jesus acknowledged He was the Messianic King (Matt 16:20; John 4:25-26). Others also acknowledge Jesus as Messianic King, including: angels, Magi (wisemen), disciples, the blind, demoniacs, Pilate, and Josephus (Matt 1:1; 2:2; 8:29; 9:27; 15:22; 16:16; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15; 27:37; Mark 1:24; 5:7; 8:29; 10:47-48; 11:9-10; 15:26; Luke 1:32, 69; 2:11; 4:34; 8:28; 18:38-39; 23:38; John 1:41, 45, 49; 19:19; Suetonius, Claudius 4 eviction notice from Rome over some claims for Christ; Josephus, Ant. 18.64; Gos. Peter 11; Pliny the Younger, Epistle 10.96.7; Tacitus, Annals 15.44.3). Jesus obtained a present expression of kingdom (Matt 5:3, 10; 12:28; 13:31-33, 41; Luke 6:20) with obtaining kingdom throne upon ascension (Acts 2:30-36; Heb 1:5-13) with a future, grander expression of the kingdom to come (Matt 13:31-33, 43).
  • Jesus healed the blind (Matt 8:9:27-31; 11:5; 12:22; 15:30-31; 20:34; 21:14-15; Mark 8:22-25; 10:42; Luke 4:19; 11:14; 18:42-43; John 9:11; Pilate letter to Claudius contained in Acts of Peter and Paul 40-42 and Tertullian, Apology 21). Disciples continue to heal the blind (Acts 9:18).
  • In the kingdom the paralyzed will walk (Micah 4:6-7). Jesus healed the lame and paralyzed to walk (Matt 4:24; 8:13; 9:6-9; 11:5; 15:30-31; 21:14-15; Mark 2:12; Luke 5:24-26; 7:10; 13:10; John 5:8, 11; Pilate letter). Disciples continued to heal the paralyzed (Acts 3:1-11; 4:9-10; 8:7).
  • Jesus healed the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak (Matt 9:32-34; 11:5; 12:22; 15:30-33; 17:18; Mark 7:35, 37; 9:25; Luke 9:42; 11:14).
  • Jesus cleansed lepers (Matt 8:2-4; 11:5; 26:6; Mark 1:41; 14:3; Luke 5:13; 7:22; 17:14; Egerton Gos. 2; Pilate letter). Jesus’ disciples also healed lepers (Matt 10:8).
  • Jesus raised the dead (Matt 9:18, 25; 11:5; Mark 5:35, 41; Luke 7:11-15; 8:45, 51; John 11:43-44; Pilate letter).
  • The poor had good news preached to them (Matt 5:3, 5; 11:5; Luke 4:18; 6:20-21; Thom. 54, 90) but the structural change of debts being forgiven and release from slavery has not occurred as in Jubilee or anticipated eschatological kingdom (Isa 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19). Will Christians continue to work for structural forgiveness and release for captives?

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Doug Kennard, ThD, is Professor of New Testament at Houston Graduate School of Theology. 

Jesus, the Eternal Son

by David B. Capes

I just read a new book by Michael Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son: Answering Adoptionist Christology.  I think it is scheduled for release later this year by the good folks at Eerdmans Publishing.  You may recall he wrote a blog post for us recently on Justification by Faith as a resource to combat racism. Bird Jesus the Eternal Son

Adoptionism was a second and third century “heresy” that has persisted in theological corners to today.  Adoptionism  claims that Jesus was a human being and not inherently divine.  He acquired divine status as God’s Son sometime during his earthly life.  Some say it happened at his birth, others his baptism, still others at this resurrection.  One way to say it is that Jesus was not the Son of God but he became the Son of God.   His elevation from human to divine status is often considered the default Christology of the Ebionites, Theodotians, and Paul of Samosata.  A number of modern scholars (Knox, Dunn and Ehrman) think it was also the most primitive form of Christology expressed in texts like Rom 1:3-4 and Acts 2:36.  Only later, do they say, that a fully incarnational Christology emerge

In this brief and compelling book Michael Bird challenges those scholars who think the earliest recoverable Christology was adoptionism.  Instead he proposes that the earliest Christologies formed a pattern of convictions and practices which featured Jesus at the center of Christian devotion.  Only later, in the second century among the Theodotians, did adoptionism emerge full scale in debates over select texts and how they should be interpreted.   A careful answer to the perennial question: who was/is Jesus?

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David B. Capes, PhD, is the Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament at Houston Graduate School of Theology. 

 

Values and Velleities

by Dr. James Furr, President, HGST

Elaborate recreational activities were decidedly not part of our family life when I was growing up. While Sunday was a well-protected day of rest, farming culture, or at least my Dad, required six long days of work in the summertime. When rain-soaked fields occasionally released me from driving a tractor, I loved fishing in my grandfather’s muddy stock tank (known by urbanites as a pond). The feel of a fish tugging on the line was exhilarating and I envisioned a lifetime of this highly valued pastime. As you may have guessed, I’ve averaged about one fishing trip per year during the subsequent five decades.

Frankly, I have a long list of practices that I would like to call values for which there simply isn’t enough action to justify that description. In fact, there is a term for this phenomena. A velleity refers to wishful thinking, to something we say we want that can’t be verified by our actions.wishful-thinking

Perhaps Christians are especially vulnerable to espousing values that are velleities because we appropriately affirm beliefs, values, and behavior that are currently beyond our way of life. Jesus’ imperatives that we “be perfect,” “follow,” and “give up our lives,” make shortcomings a routine experience. We know to avoid velleity’s crude cousin, hypocrisy—dishonest claims about ourselves—but how do we manage the common challenge of not living up to legitimate aspirations?

The starting point is surely the practice of confession that leads to forgiveness and restoration although the clear necessity of confession before God, myself, and others certainly doesn’t make it any easier for me. Still, confession and forgiveness are the spiritual equivalent of exhaling and inhaling.

I’m also reminded that values are primarily developed and nurtured in community. Despite the benefits of God-given rationality, we are profoundly shaped by what we desire. I highly recommend Jamie’s Smith newest book You Are What You Love or his more academic Desiring the Kingdom to help us embrace self-awareness, accountability, and spiritual formation. In the genuine worship of God, Smith contends, our loves and lives are literally re-made in the image of the Christ.

I’ve lost track of my old cane pole, but perhaps I’ll buy one of those new-fangled rod and reel devices. And, if I have the courage and humility, my fishing time could include the spiritual discipline of examen (a devotional exercise of examining one’s own thoughts and conduct) to consider a few other matters.

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Dr. James Furr is president of Houston Graduate School of Theology and Professor of Church and Culture.

The Kingdom of God and the Mission of the Church

by David B. Capes

I met René Padilla a few years ago when he was visiting Houston.  Padilla is one of the best known and most influential Latin Church leaders.  He actually helped me think through the translation of a phrase in Paul’s letters normally translated “the righteousness of God” (dikaiosunē theou).  We decided to translate it in a few places (e.g., Rom 3:21-26) “God’s restorative justice.”rene-padilla

I recently read an article by Padilla in a book of essays,  Mission between the Times: Essays on the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985).  The last chapter in that book is “The Mission of the Church in Light of the Kingdom of God.”  It is an amazing chapter that captures, in brief, so much of what I have been thinking for years.  Although we have been influenced by different cultures, we’ve read some of the same scholars: George E. Ladd, Oscar Culmann, W. Pannenburg.

For Padilla the Kingdom of God cannot be equated with the church because it has to do with God’s redemptive purpose for all of creation.  Padilla is well versed in Jewish apocalyptic eschatology and understands the two ages of history.  He works from a framework of already and not yet, like so many who grapple with Jewish and early Christian eschatology.  Padilla is right to affirm that it is impossible to understand Jesus apart from his message, spoken and acted out, of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus, of course, founded a community of disciples that became the church but the church is not the Kingdom of God.  The church is the community of the Kingdom but not the Kingdom itself.  It is inhabited by Kingdom citizens;  but as the rule of God, it transcends the society of men (to borrow Ladd’s phrase).   I really like Padilla’s phrase: “The church is not the Kingdom of God, but it is the concrete result of the Kingdom.”  As the Kingdom is active in the world by the Spirit, the church is born and lives and moves and has its being.

This means, among other things, that the mission of the church cannot be understood apart from the mission of Jesus.  As his body, the church extends the mission he started.  So the mission of the church is twofold: to proclaim the gospel and to promote what Padilla calls “social responsibility.”  He does not understand social responsibility as a programmatic attempt by people to engineer society so that it becomes like heaven on earth.  Rather Kingdom involves God’s action in the world by the Spirit, not human action on behalf of God. On the other hand, the Kingdom of God is also not some private, interior spiritual thing that sits comfortably in the heart but uncomfortably in public.  The Kingdom is not just about God ruling over my heart.  It is God ruling as Lord of creation. All of us are invited to participate in that, because we are part of creation.

Padilla’s essays are worth reading.  Though he wrote them over 30 years, they are still worth reading and pondering.

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David B. Capes is the Academic Dean at Houston Graduate School of Theology and Professor of New Testament.  

Lessons from Our Heart Baby

By Dr. Becky Towne

My youngest granddaughter was born with a heart defect—she only has half of a heart. She spent many weeks at Colorado Children’s Hospital and was surrounded by a great team of surgeons and nurses. Her half-heart can now do everything her body needs. The surgeons and staff were instrumental in that process. She turns one year old this month. Our family is so happy to celebrate with Maelyn and to give praise to God.

I was born with a heart defect, but I didn’t know it. The defect wasn’t noticeable at first, but, as the years went by, it became obvious. My heart was filled with fear. It seemed natural to be afraid early on, but, even as a child, there was a period in my life when I was afraid to go to sleep. I was afraid I would die.maelyn

As I grew older, I could mask the fear, but it was still there.

The first time I became acutely aware of the presence of fear was a couple of decades ago during a silent reflection time at a women’s retreat. An image came to mind during prayer, which I can only credit to God. I was standing on the edge of a cliff with breakers pounding the sides of the cliff far below. I would never knowingly stand on the edge of a cliff—I just couldn’t do it. Before I could back away from the edge very far, however, the scene was transformed. Instead of a cliff, I was standing on a green, grassy hill that sloped gently to the sea below. Standing beside me was Jesus. We simply stood together, arms encircling one another. I was aware of the greatest sense of peace that I could remember. Something changed in me that very moment.

During the last three years, I have faced some unexpected changes in my life, including the birth of Maelyn. The messages from Scripture have been as strong to me as I can imagine they were to the first hearers of the words, “Fear not.” Two recipients of that command come to mind—Mary, when she heard the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to her as “favored one” (Lk 1:28-30), and John, when he encountered the glorified Christ (Rev 1:17). There are many more.

Like the second sound in a heartbeat, as I hear the command “fear not,” I also hear the gentle reminder from Jesus to Julian of Norwich—“Sin is inevitable, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” (Revelations of Divine Love, #27). And then there are 4-year-old Colton Burpo’s words from “Heaven is for Real” when he comforts a child dying of cancer after his visit to heaven—“everything will be okay.”

Maelyn’s heart has been transformed. It isn’t fixed. It will never be normal, but she is living life to the fullest—loving her family, her toys, and her newfound joy—food. My heart has been transformed as well. Dwelling on the good words—fear not, all shall be well, and everything will be okay—allow less and less room for debilitating fear and more and more room for trust in a God who offers no occasion to fear.

Dr. Becky Towne
Associate Academic Dean and
Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program
Houston Graduate School of Theology

The Spiritual Growth of Mentoring

by Dr. Herb Fain

John C. Maxwell’s Mentoring 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know is the inspiration for this article. Mentoring others is a rewarding investment for both the mentor and mentee. As lives are changed, the structure of any organization or church is strengthened. Oftentimes, society views mentorship only through the eyes of the mentee. However, it’s important to discuss the significance, reasonable expectations, and the mutual benefits of mentorship. Fortunately, since spiritual leaders know the emotional, mental, and professional benefits of mentorship, they often engage in this an invaluable process.handshake

Nevertheless, avoiding competition is one reason why more people don’t become mentors. There’s this belief that the mentee may surpass the skills of the mentor. However, this concern should not dissuade a skillful mentor. When leaders are working toward their fullest potential, they don’t distress over whether they will lose their position. Another reason why some leaders are dissuaded from acquiring a mentee is their sense of ego. Some people must be the center of everything. Therefore, they are unwilling to share the spotlight with a newcomer. But, sowing the seeds of success in another assists both parties in reaching their fullest potential.

Perhaps, one way to avoid concerns over competition and one’s ego, mentors must reevaluate their definition of success. Does one determine success by the number of awards they receive or the money he or she makes? If a person’s measure of achievement is determined by material and earthly rewards, then he or she may not see the value in mentoring. People should adopt a more biblical perspective of success. Instead determine success via the prism of living a purposeful life. Of course, along your spiritual journey, your purpose will evolve and grow like the mentoring seeds you plant. However, viewing high achievement through a prism of purpose may provide a greater sense of satisfaction in the mentor-mentee relationship. As both the mentor and mentee accomplish their goals, ensure they feel an individual sense of self-worth.

Once a mentor finds a mentee, it’s important to clear the pathway for his or her success. Here are few suggestions on facilitating the mentor-mentee relationship. After your mentee has learned the necessary skills for success, provide direction and a positive outlet for meeting their spiritual goals. Another issue is nurturing the creativity that your mentee has from the outset of the relationship. Remember not to squash their enthusiasm for Church building by constantly reminding them of obstacles. Thirdly, a sense of community is needed as a spiritual leader. Oftentimes, without the mentors’ direction, mentees don’t know how to form a community to support their efforts or purpose in life. Furthermore, mentees should see the value in the lessons you teach. Suggesting books, organizations, or conferences that fail to aid in building a strong spiritual center serves neither party any good. Remember, every recommendation should communicate the goals sincerely and effectively. By keeping these suggestions in mind, mentoring will always provide spiritual growth.

Justification by Faith: A Resource for Confronting Racism

Today’s guest post is by Dr. Michael Bird, Australian theologian and New Testament scholar.  He has  a word-on-target for us.  

By Dr. Michael Bird

I always enjoy my visits to the USA. But whenever I go there I am always struck by two disconcerting facts. First, almost all of the menial and low paying jobs like cleaning and carrying stuff are done by Hispanics or African-Americans. Second, that 11.00 a.m. on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the American week. In addition, I confess that I was deeply disturbed when several years ago I visited an American friend of mine in the South. He had recently been offered the senior pastorship of a white church that was located in what had recently become an African-American neighborhood. He told the elders of this church that he would only accept the position if they consented to move the church to a new white majority area. I quizzed him on this as to how he as a Christian minister could be so racially partisan. His response was that, realistically, it would be impossible to grow a predominantly white church in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. I understood the complexities of his context, but I was still dissatisfied with the theology that undergirded it and even more disappointed that a friend of mine whom I knew to be a godly man would act so pragmatically. Even 50 years after the end of legal segregation, Christians in the USA still struggle with race issues. Not simply in the work place, in schools, or in politics, but in churches that confess the name of Christ as Lord. I cannot claim immunity from racial prejudices in my own country Australia where we have our own tragic and haunted history of racial discrimination against indigenous Australians. But the persistence of racism in churches that profess to live as citizens of heaven and as servants of Christ is a sign of our unfaithfulness and disobedience.segregated-hour

 

I want to suggest that one of the best resources for confronting racism in the Christian church is the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith. This might raise an eyebrow or two. Is not justification by faith the doctrine that described how individual sinners can stand before a holy God as righteous rather than condemned on account of their faith in the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Indeed it is, but it is also more than that. Following my lead one might admit that justification by faith is an anti-racist doctrine insofar as men and women, white and black can all be saved by faith and therefore they will dwell in heaven together forever with God. But again this also is deficient since it sees justification by faith as merely resulting in the amalgamation of ‘saved sinners’ in the afterlife in a post-mortem future. My contention is more far reaching: justification by faith means the end of God’s contention against sinners and the dissolution of all ethnic and racial barriers in the church of God in the here and now not simply in the hereafter.

 

The fact is that justification by faith according to Paul has vertical and horizontal dimensions. First, justification by faith is vertical in that it affects one’s standing before God (see Rom. 3.21-26; Gal. 2.15-21). One is justified, that is to say, declared to be righteous even though one is not actually 100% righteous in themselves. God’s court comes into session and instead of pronouncing a person as condemned, they are pronounced as righteous and attain a right relationship with God. The means by which they attain this right relationship with God is through faith and that faith is grounded in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ lays down his life for his people, he is condemned for our sins, and he is raised up and vindicated. By faith, via the agency of the Spirit, we are placed in union with Christ Jesus so that we vicariously pass through the spheres of death and judgment with him and we are then raised up to righteousness and life in his resurrection. We are incorporated into the vindication of the faithful Messiah so that what is true of him is reckoned to be true of us. That is why there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8.1) and why those justified by grace have the hope of eternal life (Tit. 3.7).

 

Second, justification also has a horizontal dimension as well that impacts the relationship of Christians of different races and nationalities to one another. If we leave the doctrine of justification at the point of individual salvation we will have a theology of justification that is grossly impoverished. Justification by faith is not less than the announcement of the salvation of individual sinners, but it is also much more than this. While justification by faith certainly answers the question, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ it also answers another question, one seldom asked, ‘Who are the people of God?’ While the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith was formed primarily as a reaction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic magisterium with its sacramental based teaching on salvation, Paul’s formulation of justification by faith took shape in the context of the struggle to legitimize the membership of his Gentile converts in a church under siege from Jewish proselytizers. Paul was not confronting the merit theology of medieval Catholicism; rather, he was attacking the view that one had to become a Jew in order to become a Christian when he penned Galatians and Romans. As such, issues of racial equality, racial segregation, and racial privilege between Jews and Gentiles in the church were at the forefront of his pastoral theology.

 

Justification by faith is Paul’s weapon to argue for the unity of church of Jew and Gentile against those who would divide them, segregate them, or assign some to a second tier status. If we claim to believe and follow what the Apostle Paul taught about justification then:

 

Do we believe that every person is justified by faith in Christ? Or do we believe that God is the God of our race only?

Do we believe that we are saved by faith so that the dividing wall between black, Hispanic, Asian, migrant, and white communities has been torn down?

Do we walk towards the truth of the gospel concerning the way we treat those of different race, color, and ethnicity at the table of the Lord?

 

To practice any form of ethnic or racial exclusion means that one either does not understand or does not believe in justification by faith. Let me be clear. The denial of ethic privilege and racial superiority is not merely an implication of justification by faith; rather, it is a core element of the doctrine. They are mutually exclusive because justification constitutes a church of Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, Greek and Barbarian, White and Black, African and Arab. Churches and Christians that practice racial segregation even for pragmatic reasons deny the biblical teaching and the application of the doctrine of justification to the koinonia of the church. Justification is the act whereby God creates a new people, with a new status, in a new covenant, as a foretaste of the new age. If we see justification as a comprehensive doctrine that affects the salvation of sinners and the corporate life of the church, then we will finally understand why it is that Paul insists that there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism (Eph. 4.6) and why there is one loaf at the table of the Lord as we who are many partake of one loaf (1 Cor. 10.17). Justification by faith is our shield against any merit loaded legalism and the basis for the unity of the church comprised of the multi-ethnic people of God. Paul’s letter to the Romans, the great letter of justification by faith, includes a timeless exhortation to Jews and Gentiles at its pinnacle: ‘Let us then pursue the things that make for peace and mutual encouragement’ (Rom. 14.19) – that is what justification by faith looks like when it is worked out in the local church.

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Dr. Michael Bird is one of the leading New Testament scholars and theologians in the world.  He currently is a lecturer at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia. 

 

 

Happiness

by Dr. Jerry Terrill

The new year, 2017, is well underway. We hope and pray it will bring joy, peace, prosperity, and good health. We desire, seek, and yearn for happiness. We sometimes covet the peace and happiness we see in our neighbors. Psalm 1:1-3 informs us:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. (NIV)

The peace we seek and hope to experience is a Godly Work according to St. Gregory of Nyssa. In this spiritual discipline we attempt to recreate God’s love for us in loving individuals, couples, friends, and families that God allows us to minister to. The key text for 2017 is found in the Beatitudes in The Sermon on the Mount, Matt 5:3 – 12. Another variation is  found in the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:20 – 26.psalm-1-tree

Our word “Beatitudes” is a transliteration from the Latin “Beautitudo,” which may be translated as “happy,” “experiencing the utmost bliss,” or “blessed.” In the Beatitudes kingdom citizens are described by the Greek word,  “Makarios,” may be translated “supremely blessed” or “happy.”

Jesus gives His own prescription for happiness in John 14: 27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (NIV).

We are called as Christians to be different from the world of which we are a part of. When the world around us appears to be regressing, falling apart, and life becomes difficult due to a job loss, an unexpected divorce, or death; when political hopes become dust, we turn to the peace that only God may give.

Pope Francis proposed these “modern Beatitudes” on his visit to Sweden on All Saints Day 2016, giving us a homily on happiness as found in the Gospels.

  1. Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart.
  2. Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.
  3. Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.
  4. Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
  5. “Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
  6. Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.

 

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Dr. Jerry Terrill is Professor of Counseling and Director of the Counseling Program at Houston Graduate School of Theology. 

Is There a Better Word than “Lord”?

by David B. Capes

In October 2014 I gave the Hayward Lectures at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  My topic was “Paul’s KYRIOS Christology.”  Kyrios is a Greek word most often translated “Lord” in English Bible translations.  Paul uses the word about 200 times in his letters to refer to his Lord, Jesus Christ.  On a few occasions he used the word in reference to God, the Father. The Greek word can be used of people as well who possess some sort of recognized, superior status, like a king or an owner of an estate. logo_kyrios

One night after the lecture during the Q&A time, someone asked a good question. It had to do with the English word “lord” or “Lord” as a translation of Kyrios.  The fellow knew about The Voice translation and he appreciated that we had tried to find new words and associations which communicate well to a modern audience.  We translated words like Christos as “the Anointed” rather than “Christ.”  We translated apostolos as “emissary” rather than “apostle.” So he asked, is there a better word than “Lord” to translate kyrios?

The word “Lord” was used first to translate kyrios and other biblical words for English-speaking audiences in the middle ages when the upper classes were referred to as “my lord” or “my lady” by those who occupied lower status.  Given the sensibilities of the modern world, the fellow wondered whether there was a better word.  Though those titles are still used in some societies, they are rare in many countries including the United States. If you’re watching Downton Abbey, the servants might call Robert “my lord” or if you’re in Edinburgh Scotland the mayor is called “the Lord Mayor.”  Other than that, you just don’t hear it. The word has lost currency in many places. The use of “Lord” is restricted to religious language most often referring to God, Christ or, in some cases, the Holy Spirit.  For some “Lord” functions as a name or title for God.  Is it time to retire the word “Lord” and find something better?  Does the word “Lord” conjure up some associations that detract from God’s honor?

Well, I had no answer. No one had ever asked me that question before so I had never thought about it.  I’m embarrassed to admit I had no response given the fact that we rethought so many of the other key religiously-laden words. I’m still puzzling over it.  I’d be interested in your thoughts.  Is there a better word than “Lord” to translate kyrios in modern English? It would have to have the right meaning and sets of associations. It would need to convey the idea that the person holding the title had supreme authority and power.   Since it is most often used in the New Testament as a title for Jesus linking him with the One, True God, it must be an appropriate honorific (fancy word for “title”) for the Liberating King. I’m hard pressed to come up with anything. If we put our heads together, I bet we can think of something.  Then again, maybe not?!

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David B. Capes is the Academic Dean at Houston Graduate School of Theology. 

 

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