18 November 2010

What did Jesus (not) say about... the abiding authority and perspicuity of His teaching?

by Dan Phillips

"Of course, I don't expect anyone to understand any of this after about 40 years."

— OR equally —

"Of course, I don't expect anyone to understand any of this for about 2000 years."

Dan Phillips's signature


DJP said...

First: please read the first comment under this post to understand this series.

Second: my plan, subject to change, is to revisit these first three posts in full-size posts. Probably next week, DV.

DJP said...

Here's how the 1689 London Baptist Confession 1.7 gets at the idea of "perspicuity" —

"All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them."

Robert said...

Jesus didn't say that people had to wait 2,00 years to understand His teaching. He did say that "the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him." (John 4:23)

Anonymous said...

Or, if people like Bob Price and Bart Ehrman are right, Jesus didn't say:

Blah blah blah blah Kingdom!

Blah blah blah blah God!

Blah blah blah blah grace!"

And the early church didn't replace the "blahs" with whatever doctrines were considered orthodox after all 50+ competing versions of "orthodoxy" showed up for the colossal Pokemon battle at Nicea to decide which one would be remembered in history as "Christian orthodoxy".

Not that we could know whether this happened in history at all, if there even is such a thing as objective history...

...which we don't know and can't know...

...isn't theology fun?

Phil said...

"He who ears to hear, let him hear."

In other words, you've heard what I said - now it's up to you whether you put it into practice. There's nothing stopping you if you really want to.

trogdor said...

Why would we have to wait 2000 years? The Holy Spirit came to give us understanding way back in 1906.

Pierre Saikaley said...

When Jesus exegeted the Torah, Psalms & Prophets to explain his fulfillment of their words, he said that "repentance & forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed" Luke 24:26-27, 44-49.

This would take place until the end of the age, and to all nations.

The discipling process would require teaching people to observe all things that Jesus commanded, and that would include the things that he revealed after his ascension.

So, until the LORD comes for his own, the LORD has gifted his church with teachers, and has given us an anointing, the Spirit's illumination of Christ's truth so that we can understand His Words.

While there are some things hard to understand, nevertheless, the whole counsel of God is clear, and the clear parts shed light on the hard parts. And this hasn't changed in any century since Christ went up to heaven.

Those who are deliberatly obscuring the Word are under His anathema.

Unknown said...

Now that I have come, now that I have been with you, now that I am leaving for a while - it is time for you to go and discover your journey as well. Be like me.

FX Turk said...

Trogdor beat me to it. Again.

Stefan Ewing said...

My synapses are misfiring this morning, but this seems to have something to do with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.

Beyond that...I need more coffee.

David Regier said...

Or -

I know you're all going to forget the secret stuff about the underwear, so I'll remind you in about 1800 years by having a guy look into his hat.

naturgesetz said...

Well said. The Church has always understood.

Anonymous said...

By all means Stefan, have more coffee before you go outside the word and step in a pile of eskatolotry.

I don't think that DJP is alluding to diputations about what is obscure, at least not yet, but to that which is unequivocally clear and "should be" without dispute.

"yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded"

We understand that it is not the implicit faith of knowing these things which saves, but that being saved these thing are necessary to be known and are accessable to all of sound mind. And we are therefore admonished in Scripture to secure these things to us so that we are no longer children tossed like salad, but in everything, disciples disciplining themselves by proving all things and holding to that which is pure. Once truths are established, it is as light with no shadow of doubt. These truths concerning salvation which can surely be known are clear. Yet it remains for each one to grow in them so that having done all to stand we may, having put on what belongs to maturity.

The idea of proving is found throughout Scripture and is often taken from words that mean to assay. In some cases it is the word that is spoken of as pure silver, refined by fire seven times, Psalm 12:6. Now some might think it blasphemous, but we are actually to take the word and subject it to testing, for how else would we know its purity, Romans 12? We first must establish what the word says and means or our measure of what is good and acceptable, and perfect is limited by the impurity of our measure. What we inevitably will find if we test God's word, is that it is the word that is pure as refined siler, and it is we who are undone by it because in testing it, it tests the metal of man.

DJP said...

Yep; even when Rome's false "gospel" ruled the institutional church and Christians were persecuted and put to death, there was always a remnant that stood on the plain sense of the Word, in opposition to manmade tradition.

olan strickland said...

Do you mean that what God's Word meant before I was born is still what it means?

Who would have thunk it! :)

naturgesetz said...

So what he did say is, "My word is so perspicuous that when I send you the Holy Spirit to remind you of all I have said and lead you into all truth, I expect that for centuries only a small remnant will understand it." LOL

donsands said...

"These things are so deep, you'll never understand them."

I thought of how the small children wanted to be with Jesus, but the discples tried to keep them away.
"But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it....And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them." Luke 18; Mk 10

There's such a lesson here for us, even after 1,981 years later.


DJP said...

100% of the church has, by definition, always understood the essentials. And there have been times, such as before the shattering of Rome's death-grip at the Reformation, when that church was heavily oppressed, as Jesus said it would characteristically be.

And He said it perspicuously.

All this is, of course, kind of Truth 101 for folks who've cracked a Bible in Christian faith.

Stefan Ewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan Ewing said...


I didn't read the full title this morning, which is bad, considering that it's an integral part of the post!

Today's post is about "the abiding authority and perspicuity of" the Word of God, but I got hung up on the "40 years."

My mind was running to Jesus Christ's warning of the destruction of the Temple in Matthew 24:2, and how historical events bore out His prophecy.

In this sense, there is some of what Jesus said that would have been understood more clearly after 40 years.

(Just to be clear, I am a premillennialist, but surely some of what Jesus taught referred to events in the first century?)

Tom Austin said...

"...also, here are a few very important, infallible facts about my Mom. Don't write these down, though, just pass them orally to each other. What, Peter? Yeah, like a tradition. I guess you can codify them in 18 or 19 centuries if somebody presses you on them."

Strong Tower said...


I agree, somethings about eschatology are persup, pepras... clear, my point was not to put you on the defensive, and seeing what you said, I affirm that somethings should be clearer after the fact than before. What I was cautioning is the skatological mess that is made when things not so clear are cleared up by some clarifiers concerning what can only be described as speculative theology. But speculative theology is by definition those matters not so clear in Scripture as to be surely known. It is the latter that Dan is speaking to, me thinks. For many this is confusing, for how can somethings be clear and others not. But, that is just the way it is. Others will run with the perspicuity angle to justify their infallible knowledge of all things written and they write a left behind series. That in turn confuses issues for those who seek definitive answers. We must be able to answer when someone asks what makes this so, for they ask for reason for the hope that is within. We cannot give them answers about those things we do not know and we should avoid building our Gospel around them. "This one thing I do know, I was blind, but now I see." That is definition, that is clearity, and without question something which could not be argued. No one could move that one from that kind of assurance and so also is the sure word of prophecy for us new eyes to see.

Strong Tower said...

DJP- Yah, I think Luther read the Scripture. Justification by faith became clear to him because it was clearly written. Remnant language everywhere to be found. Always a portion is left who have not bowed the knee. As it is written, "Have you not read... we worship what we know..." As long as there have been readers, there have been some who knew. Christ was saying this at a time when the House of God had been turned into a market place (of men's imaginings), yet there were certain men:

"Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Obviously, he had been reading the tabloids, and keeping abreast of what was chic.


The portion he is quoting is a clear statement of stated prophecy. True enough, he didn't know the exact eschatological timing, but sure enough he knew it would happen.

Stefan Ewing said...

Strong Tower:

Exactamundo. And re the example Simeon, consider also these verses afresh from another witness, that attest to the same thing:

"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...." (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

"And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." (Acts 17:2-3)

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

...Or Jesus Christ's own words in Luke 24, as Pierre already mentioned.

Steve Berven said...

Rather than trying to understand the original language and intent, I think it's much easier to just re-interpret the scriptures to align with my own worldview and make them much more relevant to modern times. That way they can mean whatever I need them to mean.

Ooops. Sorry. Wrong blog.

Stefan Ewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan Ewing said...

This is on a 90-degree tangent, but I was doing a word study tonight, which led me to investigate how a particular Bible verse has been translated into English over the centuries.

Over a century before Luther, John Wycliffe is the man who indirectly set off the Reformation. He wrote the very first English Bible translation in the 1380s, at the time of Chaucer, and two hundred years before Shakespeare.

Granted, the English Bible is not the same as the inspired autographs, but after six hundred years, if we brush up the spelling, there are some verses in this mediaeval Bible translation that are remarkably resounding in their timelessness:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His own begotten Son, that each man that believeth in Him perish not, but have everlasting life.

For if thou knowest in thy mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and believest in thy heart that God raised Him from death, thou shalt be saved.

(Wycliffe's and other early English translations can be found at StudyLight.org.)

Stefan Ewing said...

Okay, now completely off-topic, but...

24 hours and not a single new comment on this blog!? That has got to be a first!

Forsooth a little child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, and princehood is made on His shoulders; and His name shall be [called] Wonderful, a Counsellor, God, Strong, a Father of the world to come, a Prince of Peace.

semijohn said...

Sometimes Jesus was intentionally unclear. At least in Matthew 13 when he quoted Isaiah 6 when he was speaking in parables. But certainly not always.

Mel said...

I find it ironic that a dispensationalist posted this ;)

DJP said...

You wouldn't expect a dispensationalist to affirm the perspicuity of Scripture? Odd.

Kirby said...

Sometimes it took 1.3 seconds for Jesus to be understood...even by unbelievers (or as 1689 LBC 1.7 says, the "unlearned").

"And they picked up stones to stone Him." - John 10

But as someone pointed out in Matthew 13, Jesus meaning was meant to be hidden from some/many.

Still, premillennialism is the clearer route.

Unknown said...

Absolutely love this. Right in time for all the stories that seem to come along at Thanksgiving and Christmas about what the Messiah said. Thank you!