Issue #231 -------
January 20, 2006
The happiest moments of my life have
been the few which I have passed
at home in the bosom of my family.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
This guy begat that guy, and some other guy begat somebody else, and then ... yawnnnn ... somebody or other fathered so-and-so and what's-his-name. Wow! How boring is that?! A dear sister in Christ once told me that she saw "no earthly benefit" to the genealogies of the Bible, and that she skipped over them every time she came upon "those lists of begets, begats and begots." I would guess she is not alone in that sentiment. Such lists do seem to "drag on" endlessly, and, at least on the surface, seem to convey very little information except someone lived, died, and fathered a child. Some have even appealed to the teaching of the apostle Paul in order to suggest that the study of these genealogies is not really profitable. To the evangelist Titus he wrote, "Shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law; for they are unprofitable and worthless" (Titus 3:9), and to Timothy, his child in the faith, he wrote, "Instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation" (1 Tim. 1:3-4). There you have it! Scriptural proof that we should avoid these lists. Well, not quite. Actually, Paul's point is that we should avoid becoming obsessed with such; avoid the strife and controversy that such disputes over such matters too frequently generate. Thus, these various genealogies themselves are not unprofitable; instead, it is our varied interpretive approaches to them, and how we ultimately choose to employ them, that may indeed prove to be unprofitable to ourselves, to others, and to the cause of Christ Jesus.
If genealogical lists were truly evil entities themselves, they would not be included in the inspired documents of both old and new covenants. Yet, a great many of them are found in God's inspired Word. Thus, they are clearly there for a purpose, even if that purpose may not be immediately evident to our own modern minds. In the study of biblical genealogies it is important not to get too bogged down in the minutiae of the list, but rather to understand that these various genealogical records had specific purposes for being. Too frequently, by focusing on the former, one entirely misses the significance of the latter.
Within the pages of the Old Covenant writings one will find approximately 26 different genealogical lists. Some are rather brief, others fairly extensive. The first is of the descendants of Cain, with the list extending through seven generations (Gen. 4:17-22). The descendants of such biblical notables as Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Jacob, Levi, Judah, Joseph, and many others are given. For a full and detailed listing of all these OT genealogies, I would refer those interested readers to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (vol. 2, p. 426-427). In the New Covenant writings there are really only two genealogical lists that have any genuine significance -- both being of Jesus the Messiah. They are found in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38. These two very important lists, however, each providing the ancestors of Jesus, have been the occasion of tremendous confusion and debate for a great many centuries. "Perhaps few questions have occasioned more trouble and perplexity to the learned than that which concerns the genealogy of our blessed Lord as it is given by the evangelists St. Matthew and St. Luke" (Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 5, p. 385).
Matthew's genealogy is very much different from Luke's genealogy. "Problematic to most commentators is the striking conflict between the genealogies in Matthew and Luke" (Craig Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 75). Adam Clarke correctly notes that over the centuries "much learned labor has been used to reconcile" the two genealogies (Clarke's Commentary, vol. 5, p. 383). Some of these efforts at reconciliation are really quite ingenious, others are less so, and a few are simply bizarre. Matthew lists four women in the genealogy, Luke lists none. In Matthew's account, Joseph is said to have been born unto a man named Jacob, whereas in Luke's account the implication seems to be conveyed that he was the son of Eli. Then there are the problems of missing names and skipped generations. Thrown into this whole evaluation are questions regarding Levirate marriage laws, genealogical abridgement, and the rabbinic usage of gematria. More about these later.
First, we must point out that the maintaining of genealogies was an important Jewish custom. Ancestry and bloodlines served several important functions among these people. Status within the larger community, inheritance rights, allotment of land, the stability of the throne in earlier times, the right to serve as a priest before God, various marriage laws, were all contingent upon an individual being able to prove his or her place in the proper lineage. It was also critical for Jesus, as the promised Messiah, to be able to demonstrate that He was indeed descended from both Abraham and David, otherwise His claim to be the long awaited Messiah would be regarded by the Jews as invalid. Thus, Matthew begins his gospel record with this statement, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matt. 1:1). Jesus is called the "Christ" ... the anointed. His claim to be the Messiah is declared in the very first statement of the NT canon, and the basis of that assertion is immediately declared: He is descended from both David and Abraham, the two men to whom the promise was made by God.
"Matthew writes for Jewish Christians in order to establish them in their faith that Jesus is the Christ promised in the Old Testament. ... It is absolutely vital, then, that we should know that Jesus Christ is the direct and true descendant of Abraham through David. For if He were not, He could not possibly be the Messiah" (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of Matthew, p. 25). "The designation 'Jesus Christ, David's son, Abraham's son,' marks Jesus as the one in whom the Messianic promises made to David and to Abraham were fulfilled" (ibid, p. 27). After his initial statement of genealogical purpose, Matthew then provides what is known as a descending linear list -- beginning with Abraham (Matt. 1:2), he traces the ancestral descent down to "Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ" (Matt. 1:16). Luke, on the other hand, writing more for Gentiles than Jews, uses what is known as an ascending linear list -- beginning with Jesus (Luke 3:23), he traces the human ancestry of Jesus upward, culminating in the assertion that Jesus was "the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God" (Luke 3:38).
The purposes of the two writers, therefore, as well as the primary focus of their individual lists, were very much different from one another, a fact which will go a long way toward reconciling some of the alleged discrepancies. "The two lists likely serve different functions and should not be interpreted as contradictory" (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 490). It is the view of many biblical scholars, and I happen to concur with this view, that Matthew was following the legal & royal line of descent to Joseph, whereas Luke was following the natural & blood line of descent to Mary. "Thus, Matthew's genealogy presents Joseph as the legal father of Jesus, which makes Jesus legally the heir of David and of Abraham. If Jesus had been born without a legal father, of Mary without a legal husband, His legal right to the inheritance from Abraham and David by virtue of the divine promise would have been void" (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of Matthew, p. 34). Although Joseph was clearly not the natural father of Jesus (having been conceived by the Holy Spirit of God), he nevertheless was considered the legal father, which would have sufficed legally to assure Jesus of His place in the lineage of Joseph. However, to remove all possible doubt, Luke traces the lineage of our Lord Jesus back to David and Abraham through Mary, thus establishing the physical and blood right of Jesus to be counted a descendant of these two men to whom the promises were given. Therefore, both genealogies were actually needed to make the case for Jesus, as His origin was unique among men!
Luke, in contrast to Matthew, traces the ancestry of Jesus to Adam. "The significance of the genealogy in Luke probably lies in the emphasis on Jesus as a member of the human race, a son of Adam" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 861). This would be a natural emphasis for one writing primarily for a Gentile audience. It relates the Messiah to all men, whereas the emphasis of Matthew, writing for a Jewish audience, was far more concerned to show Jesus as the rightful, legal heir of David's throne, and the fulfillment of promise to both David and Abraham. Matthew starts his genealogy with Abraham, the father of the Jews; Luke ends his with God, the Father of all mankind. Thus, Jesus was not only "the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matt. 1:1), he was also "the Son of God" (Luke 3:38). Thus, we see both humanity and deity, the physical line and the royal line, emphasized in these two genealogies.
One of the most controversial areas of debate over the centuries involves whether Luke is tracing the ancestry of Jesus through Joseph or Mary. The battle has been waged with great vigor over these two views, with many arguments both for and against each view being proposed by reputable scholars. Although we may never know for sure, it is nevertheless my own conviction, based on my study, that Matthew's genealogy is through Joseph and Luke's genealogy is through Mary. Volumes have been written about this matter, and I don't intend to add to that body of literature here!! However, it seems only logical that since Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, that a biological connection to Abraham and David would be of great value to validating the claim of Jesus to be the Messiah. That seems to be satisfied by Luke's list. It would also adequately explain many of the differences between the two lists, as they were the ancestral records of two different people, rather than of one man (assuming both lists were of Joseph).
Luke 3:23-24 states that Jesus "was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Eli (Heli), the son of Matthat." Matthew writes, "and Matthan begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus" (Matt. 1:15-16). Obviously, the names don't match! Was the father of Joseph named Jacob, or was his father named Eli (Heli)? Which was it? The father of Jacob is said to be Matthan, but the father of Eli (Heli) is declared to be Matthat. Obviously, the names Matthan and Matthat are similar, but Jacob and Eli are not. If both genealogies are of Joseph, then we have a problem. This is where the Law of Levirate Marriage comes in. Some appeal to this custom among the Jews as the explanation for these differing names, although there is not even a hint in either genealogy that such was occurring.
Although this has long been a popular theory, it is largely renounced today as a theory that must assume way too much to make itself valid. There is nothing in either list that would suggest a levirate marriage. It is purely speculation. Far more reasonable is to assume that the two gospel writers are tracing the ancestry of Jesus through both parents -- Joseph and Mary. This is not only logical, but, to some degree, even necessary, given the special circumstance of the birth of Jesus, as was previously noted. Also, there is some solid rabbinic evidence that the father of Mary was indeed named Eli (Heli). For example, the Jerusalem Talmud informs us that Mary was the daughter of this man (Haggigah, book 77, 4). Therefore, Luke's genealogy would have been traced through Mary, and Joseph would be the son-in-law of Eli (Heli).
Dr. Charles Ellicott writes, regarding Luke's genealogy, "the more probable view is that we have here the genealogy not of Joseph, but of Mary" (Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, p. 262). After all, the apostle Paul stated that Jesus "was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh" (Rom. 1:3). That could only have been Mary, because Jesus had no connection with Joseph "according to the flesh." Thus, Mary would need to be shown also to be a descendant of David, and this is done in Luke's genealogy. Luke declares Mary to have come from David's son Nathan (Luke 3:31), whereas Matthew shows Joseph to have come from David's son Solomon (Matt. 1:6). The fact that these two genealogical records trace through two different sons of David also seem to attest to them being of different persons (Joseph and Mary), rather than of one person (both being of Joseph).
There are a great many other questions related to these two lists that trouble scholars. Shealtiel and Zerubbabel appear next to one another in both lists (Luke 3:27; Matt. 1:12), however the names around them in the two lists are different. Therefore, are Matthew and Luke thinking of the same two people (Zerubbabel and Shealtiel), or is it purely a coincidence that two such names appear together in these two lists? If they are the same men, why are the names around them different in the two lists? Again, we could go into lengthy discussion and debate over the many theories that have been brought forth over the centuries, but I leave this to those readers who may be interested in pursuing that line of inquiry. The same is true with regard to the problem some have raised with respect to the curse against Jehoiakim, king of Judah (Jer. 22:30; 36:30) -- none of his descendants would sit on the throne of David. Yet, we know from the genealogy that Jesus is descended from this king. Some feel this curse would adversely affect the promise that Jesus would be heir to the throne of David. Again, there are some ingenious theories as to how to reconcile this curse with the fulfillment of promise in the person of Jesus, but, for the sake of time, I leave this to the reader to explore further.
One could also spend a good deal of time, and very profitably, examining each name that appears and learning something of the personal history of each from the biblical record. There are some fascinating stories associated with some of these persons, some well-known to us, some less so. There are also five women mentioned by Matthew (but not mentioned by Luke) -- Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. This is notable because it was not customary for Jews to list the names of women in their genealogical records, although there were some exceptions. It is also notable in that some of these women were less that reputable. Who can forget the sordid story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38? Rahab was a harlot. Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and later became pregnant by David while her husband was away; a man later murdered by David so he could take Bathsheba as his own wife. Ruth was a foreigner from the land of Moab, and yet was the mother of Obed, the grandfather of King David. Through such persons the Messiah was to descend.
As one can imagine, this raises some questions as to why such persons would be numbered among the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah!! I believe Adam Clarke has given a very good response to this: "Jesus, the author and principle of the new creation, and the repairer of the world, disdains not to be reckoned among ordinary creatures, and among the children of sinful Adam. He designed hereby to secure us from having the least doubt of His human nature; and to assure us that we have a victim, a saviour, and a high priest, capable of compassionating our infirmities and miseries, and making atonement for our sins; and thus reconciling us to God. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!" (Clarke's Commentary, vol. 5, p. 394). Lenski notes, "God condescended to use such ancestors for His Son" (The Interpretation of Matthew, p. 28). He characterizes it as a "bloodline stained with grave blemishes" (ibid), and states that some genuinely believe God's "purpose was to humble Jewish pride" (ibid). Others strongly suggest "that their names prepare readers for the scandal of the virgin birth in Matt. 1:18-25 or counter slanders of Mary's infidelity; as God vindicated these women of old, He would also vindicate Mary" (Craig Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 79). Still others theorize Matthew is "probably reminding his readers that three ancestors of King David and the mother of King Solomon were Gentiles. ... Matthew thus declares that the Gentiles were never an after-thought in God's plan, but had been part of His work in history from the beginning. One who traces Matthew's treatment of Gentiles through the Gospel, from the Magi who sought Jesus in chapter 2 through the concluding commission to disciple the nations in 28:19, will understand Matthew's point in emphasizing this" (ibid, p. 80).
The final aspect of the genealogy of Jesus that I want to explore briefly is the obvious symmetry exhibited by Matthew's genealogical record. He lists 14 names during the first group (Abraham to David), 14 names in the second group (David to the time of the deportation to Babylon), and 14 names from the deportation to Babylon to Jesus Christ. This is a forced symmetry, however, as Matthew had to purge several names from his lists in order to make the number come out to 14 in each (and also do some double counting of names to make the lists symmetrical). This has bothered some people that Matthew would omit names in his genealogy for the purpose of a forced symmetry. However, it should be pointed out that such Genealogical Abridgement is very common in Jewish record keeping. In Ezra 7:3 (when compared with the longer list in 1 Chron. 6:7-10), for example, we see six generations deliberately skipped. The purpose of many such lists was to establish descent, and this could be done just as easily by listing only the major figures in a genealogy. Not every person had to be listed, according to the Jewish way of thinking. We see a sample of that in Matt. 1:1-- "The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Obviously, a great many generations were skipped in this statement, but the purpose of this short list was to establish that Jesus was descended from these two men. It was not necessary to list all the others to declare this fact. It should also be noted that the phrase "son of" does not necessarily always signify one is the actual physical child of another. It may mean grandson, or relative, or just simply descendant.
"These genealogies were not necessarily complete (i.e., listing all individuals in a direct line, one after another), since their purpose was to establish descent and thereby legitimacy from a particular ancestor or ancestors" (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 490). "Matthew does not write Jesus' genealogy the way modern Westerners would try to write their family trees today. ... skipping some generations was common enough in ancient genealogies" (Craig Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 75). The real question here is not that Matthew skipped several generations; that was a common enough practice (even in the OT). The real question is: Why?! What was the purpose of Matthew's forced symmetry? Why three groups of 14 names? What message did he hope to communicate by this? "It is clear that Matthew takes some liberties with his genealogy and expects his readers to notice that he has done so" (ibid, p. 76). As one might imagine, there are countless theories as to why Matthew did this.
One theory is that "it was customary among Jewish writers to arrange genealogies according to some convenient scheme, possibly for mnemonic reasons" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 68). In other words, it may simply have been a device employed by Matthew to aid in the memorization of the Lord's genealogy. Several scholars believe this to have been his intent. Others, however, feel that is too simple an explanation. "Why did he want the three groups to be equal? The answer is that he wanted us to understand that all three groups had equal weight and importance as far as the Messiah is concerned. The second group contained the names of kings, but it was no more important than the third" (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of Matthew, p. 36-37). Still others suggest it was simply to help people remember three very distinct periods of Jewish history. "Matthew's genealogy unifies the defining periods of Israel's history and points them to Jesus" (Craig Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 78). A few believe Matthew was simply following the Talmudic custom of "editing lists to fourteen elements" (ibid, p. 74). Some "wits" simply suggest that since Matthew was a tax collector, and spent his career tallying up lists, he just wanted his three lists "to balance!"
The view that a great many scholars favor, however, is that Matthew is utilizing a device known as Gematria. This is the practice of giving each letter in the alphabet a numeric value, and then seeking to determine the symbolic meaning of the numbers of some name or event or place. Many have sought to do just this with the number "666" in the book of Revelation, attempting to show how the letters of various people's names add up to this "number of the beast." The name "David" in Hebrew adds up to the number 14. With the emphasis on Jesus being a "son of David," and of the royal lineage, there just might be something to this particular theory which draws attention to the name of David, "thus triply emphasizing the Davidic descent of Jesus" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 428). "The simplest explanation -- the one that best fits the context -- observes that the numerical value of 'David' in Hebrew is fourteen. By this symbolism Matthew points out that the promised 'son of David,' the Messiah, has come" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 69).
Yes, genealogical studies can be, and many times are, dull and boring. And I may well have simply proved the point in this current issue of Reflections!! However, they do serve a purpose, and in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, the two records provided in the NT documents are extremely important to the validation of fulfilled prophecy. "Jesus was not an after-thought to Judaism, a distinct and unexpected addition to God's plan in the Old Testament. Jesus was the goal to which Israel's lovingly remembered history pointed" (Craig Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 77). "By evoking the great heroes of the past," these two gospel writers direct their "readers to the ultimate hero to whom all those other stories pointed" (ibid). Not just the gospel record of Matthew, nor of Luke, but the entire inspired writings of Scripture are "the historical record of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham" (Matt. 1:1, Holman Christian Standard Bible) ... "the Son of God" (Luke 3:38).
From a Reader in Indiana:
Al, I want you to know that I read your book -- Down, But Not Out. It was excellent!!! I posted a positive comment about your book on the Church of Christ Singles web site, and I got the following response from a woman in that group: "Say it isn't so about Al Maxey! He is known as the utmost liberal on MDR, among many other things, and is known as such to the faithful conservatives of the Lord's church. It is really quite sickening how he perverts the Word of God and leads unsuspecting people astray. I care for the souls of others and don't wish for some unsuspecting, weaker brother/sister to get sucked into a web of deceit. This is a man who doesn't believe that the four gospels are part of the New Law. He believes they are part of the Old Law. What utter bologna. Down, But Not Out is a disgrace to Christianity and the Lord's church. I have read it, and I don't recommend that anyone waste their time with such heretical reading. I don't want anyone to say 'you don't know Al Maxey and what he teaches.' As a matter of fact, I know him personally and have discussed his false teaching with him personally. His teachings seek to justify sin. Compare his teachings with the Bible. You'll see his gross errors." Well, I seriously doubt if she read your book, as she claims (she may not even know you). I understand that her father is an ultra-conservative preacher. By the way, she has been divorced twice, and is currently married to number three!! Thanks once again for your scholarly work.
From a Minister in California:
Brother Al, Regarding the priesthood, it should be noted that any first-born son dedicated to the service of the Lord could be a priest. The Lord told Israel that He was consecrating all first-born sons to Himself, but in lieu of that, He would take the tribe of Levi. Samuel was from the tribe of Ephraim, but because he was a first-born son, he could be a priest. Jesus, while He was not a Levite, was a first-born Son dedicated to the service of the Lord.
From a Minister in Australia:
Brother Al, I have thought about your recent messages on the "law of silence," and I heartily agree with all that you have said and concluded, and I praise you for the forthright way you continue to "sound out the word." Keep up the good work and do not get disheartened, as many of us here in Australia look forward each week to your Reflections, and are praying that you will be strengthened. God bless and keep you!
From a Reader in Indiana:
Brother Maxey, Please keep up the good work you are doing. We wouldn't know what to do around here if it wasn't for your Reflections. We wait anxiously for them each week! We love you, brother!
From a Minister in Kentucky:
Al, Your whole discussion on the subject of the silence of the Scriptures is enlightening. It is interesting that in your discussion with brethren Brown and Fulford you quote brother David Pharr. I was at Freed-Hardeman in the 1950's with both Fulford and Pharr. Knowing this, you will appreciate the irony of my following remarks. You are quite correct in stating that Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 are not about music per se. Our usual interpretation (that it is about singing in a "worship assembly") is just an assumption. These two passages say nothing about either "worship" or an "assembly." Do we have authority to sing in our assemblies? Certainly! But that authority comes under the heading of general authority, and not as a specific binding law of worship! It is a lovely, beneficial tradition that we sing in an assembly, and it is worship when we sing in the assembly, but the command of Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 can, and should, be fulfilled at other times, and in other settings, as well. By the way, it was after studying the Ephesian letter as objectively as I could, beginning with a reassessment of my understanding of 5:19, that my thinking began to change about the Non-Institutional assumptions under which I had operated for most of my preaching career. I already had some nagging doubts about how some passages were being handled, and about the emphasis given to the "issues," but this study opened the door for me. An interesting, informative and scholarly essay on the history of "our" CENI hermeneutic, one that brings out the reasons we have operated on the basis of certain assumptions, is: Hermeneutics in the Churches of Christ by Dr. Thomas H. Olbricht (Restoration Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 1).
From a Minister in Tennessee:
Al, I want to respond to one of T. Pierce Brown's questions in Reflections #230 regarding the teaching of Col. 3:17 and the subject of authority. First, consider the following passages and their context -- Col. 1:9ff, especially the teaching in vs. 10, "to walk worthily of the Lord" ... Col. 1:27, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" ... Gal. 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me" ... and various other passages. Refer particularly to the many passages in the NT mentioning our "walking" in Christ. Now, consider the context of vs. 17, as found in Col. 3:5-17, noting especially "and have put on the new man" in vs. 10. The teaching (admonition) of Paul in verse 17 has everything to do with our every day walking (conduct) as saints in whom Christ lives. All actions (words and deeds) are to be done knowing we are to be walking examples of Christ in this world and for the benefit of this world. Lives of saints whose conduct displays Christ living in them is the best example of personal evangelism there is. Sorry, but this passage (Col. 3:17) has no reference to one's efforts of attempting to "provide book/chapter/verse (authority) for all we do and teach" as a church in religious matters.
From a Minister in California:
Al, I grew up in the more conservative Churches of Christ of the deep south, but never once bought into the argument (based on some of the worst "logic" I've ever heard) that singing with instruments of music was sinful, much less that it was a sin unto eternal condemnation! The scene in John's Revelation of God Himself handing the redeemed a harp would be all I would need to throw out all the arguments against the use of instruments in worship! No matter how one wants to interpret Revelation, and no matter how symbolic one wants to make this scene, it simply makes no sense at all for God to hand unto the redeemed an implement of praise that, if actually played within a church "worship assembly" on earth, would condemn them to hell. I've yet to have anyone who opposes instrumental music in worship to even attempt to address this challenge! Al, I always enjoy your writings and come away very blessed by not only your writings but the friendship and fellowship I experience through our email correspondence.
From an Elder in Texas:
This was a good study, Al. With regard to your comment about brethren breaking the silence of the Scriptures to legislate their opinion on silence, I am reminded of Prop. 5 in Thomas Campbell's "Declaration and Address." Campbell wrote: "With respect to the commands and ordinances of our Lord Jesus Christ, where the Scriptures are silent as to the express time or manner of performance, if any such there be, no human authority has the power to interfere, in order to supply the supposed deficiency by making laws for the Church." Campbell might very well have been talking about our own "laws" regarding silence!
From a Minister in Alabama:
Bro. Al, While I recognize that Specific and Generic authority are rational mental categories, they are both, at times, equally nebulous. Thanks for your willingness to speak out about this issue. I think both are equally relative and troublesome in some respects. Just what is "specific" and "generic"? The trouble that we have, which you chronicle in your article, is in deciding what falls under which category. And, just who gets to decide??? What many people don't realize (and here is where the real trouble starts, I believe) is that they are not just "doing what the Bible says," rather, they are doing what they think the Bible says. Big difference. What some brethren most need to realize, it seems to me, is that others may draw a different conclusion from them, and yet that does not make them heretical. As long as both respect the authority of Christ, are seeking to please and glorify the Lord and not themselves, they can work together and draw closer to Christ. It is only when "MY view," or my pride, greed, lust, etc., gets in the way that the trouble starts.
From a Reader in Alabama:
Al, To your article on silence I say a hearty AMEN! I know the Lord had a hand in leading me to your Reflections, because it is uncanny how many times you touch on a topic I have been thinking about or am currently being tormented and troubled by. Such is the case with the topic of instrumental music. Ever since I was a young teenager, in my heart I have never been able to internalize and accept the doctrine that our brotherhood has declared on this position. I personally worship with a congregation of the Church of Christ which does not use instrumental music. I love our a cappella singing! I think it is very beautiful. We have between 700-800 people here worshipping on Sunday mornings, and the sound of all those voices blended in praise unto God is so uplifting and stirring to me. BUT, and this is a huge BUT, my problem is when we try to bind this preference on all other brethren as a condition of salvation. The closed minds of my brethren on this torment me almost every day. Also, many of my brethren are simply too afraid to speak out; after all, the power of the group is very strong in keeping the dissenters quiet! Thank you, Al, for being brave and bold and continuing to speak out for Truth! I do not always agree with you (although most of the time I do), but I have never seen an instance where you forced your opinion on anyone else and made your opinion a condition of fellowship. Thanks again for all you do!
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
Al, Occasionally my "favorites" list gets so long it becomes useless, so I just throw the whole mess out rather than try to edit it. I did so recently and used Google search to get your web site back into my favorites. Sure enough, your Reflections web site was at the top of the listings when I typed in your name. I then scrolled down the many entries on Google search that were brought up under your name, and to my surprise the web sites of the "hate and separate" attack dogs who are arrayed against you seemed unending. Unbelievable! You must be doing everything right, because the devil is really upset, to put it mildly! Keep up the good work (words), brother.
From a Minister in Virginia:
Brother Al, I am in agreement with your statements in Reflections #230 on silence, and I just wanted to let you know of my support. I serve an Independent Church of Christ here in Virginia, and have heard just about everything you can imagine from my own brethren. Brother, please continue your work! You have helped me, and also others, to understand many things that we didn't learn or realize in school. Although I am close to realizing my Doctorate in Theology, I am still learning each and every day. Isn't it wonderful to serve an Awesome God who loves and teaches us daily?
From a Minister in California:
Bro. Al, There is an old saying that goes -- "you can't see the forest for the trees." Noting all this discussion these days about the "law of silence," I am made to wonder if many of our brethren are overlooking the forest. Surely one who claims to have spent years in the Scriptures can see that their endless haggling over all this minutiae is far more reminiscent of the Pharisees than anything expressed by Jesus, or by any of the biblical writers. So, why do so many of them want to reduce Christianity to the wearisome details inherent in the law of Moses; legalistic details from which the Lord delivered us!? Is there not sufficient evidence (as per Romans 14) that the Lord allows a great deal of flexibility so long as our hearts are pure and none of His commands or prohibitions are being violated? The Pharisees would have applauded these people today!
From a Reader in Texas:
Bro. Al, Does the church as a group have different responsibilities, restrictions, and/or requirements than the Christian as an individual? I've heard from some, "There is 'no authority' for the church to do certain things, but as an individual you CAN do those things." This is sort of hard for me to explain. I would appreciate your thoughts on this -- the church's role vs. the individual's role. By the way, I agree totally with your views on specificity vs. silence.
From a New Reader in Florida:
Dear Al, A friend of mine recently forwarded your article "Speaking Out On Silence" to me. As far as I can recall, it is the first article by you that I have read. Thank you for your diligent pursuit of the truth. As I read your article I couldn't help but wonder why it is that some of those who advocate the law of silence do so by proclaiming it so loudly. I believe misapplication of "the law of silence" has led many to some doctrinal conclusions that were never intended by our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for so eloquently making this case.
From a New Reader in New Hampshire:
Al, We would like to be added to your Reflections email list. My husband and I have been searching (after 20-25 years of being believers) for Truth. Thank you ... and God bless!
From a Youth Minister in Oklahoma:
My Dear Bro. Maxey, I have always enjoyed reading your articles. I have recently finished reading the last several on "silence" in the Scriptures. I really appreciate your attention and devotion to the analysis of God's Word. I pray that you continue to be blessed by His rich mercy and grace, and that His holy hand of wisdom will continually dwell on you as it has so much in the past. Al, why does simple logic not seem to be grasped by our legalistic brethren?! Their dichotomistic reasoning is laughable! I say this because you have correctly identified the true difference between actual replacement of something and an expedient, and they can't grasp it! They spend so much time and effort criticizing, tearing down, and demoralizing God's own. No wonder evangelism suffers in our brotherhood. Please keep making us think, Al. Please keep shining God's bright light into the dark recesses of our hearts and minds. You are truly loved here, and around the world. I would expect that the same that was said of Daniel (Dan. 10:11, 19) or Mary (Luke 1:28) could be said of you -- you "are greatly esteemed in Heaven." Keep up the good work.
From a Reader in Alabama:
Al, In your recent article on silence, you mentioned the ongoing debate about Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16. Contrary to what many would think, I personally don't think of these two verses as necessarily being true commands. To me, for a particular verse or passage to be construed as a true command, it must be assumed that the recipients had no previous knowledge or practice of such. In other words, ought we to think that Christians were sitting around for 10-20 years waiting for Paul to write them a letter on what to do in worship to God? Obviously not! We know they continued in the same tradition of the synagogues in the practice of singing (actually chanting, according to my studies), and they were doing so long before Paul ever wrote to them. Should not that information be taken into account (as it was by the original readers) when interpreting what Paul said to them? So Paul was not writing to them to command them to sing or chant; they were already doing that. Rather it seems that Paul was encouraging them in other areas: to be more involved in spiritual matters than in worldly matters, to encourage one another ("speak to one another," as you have pointed out), and to maintain an appropriate attitude from the heart in all they did. Again, the singing or chanting part was already being done; thus, no further command regarding such was needed.
One other thing I have found interesting on the issue of instrumental music and those who forbid such: It is abundantly clear from the New Testament record that many of the early Jewish Christians continued to observe some of their Jewish traditions. As long as such was not being done in an effort to be saved (as was espoused by the Judaizing teachers), there was no condemnation of such. In fact, Paul himself often observed such traditions. Of particular interest is the occasion recorded in Acts 21 where Paul specifically went to Jerusalem to the temple to worship (NOTE -- I would refer the readers to my study of this very event: Reflections #166 -- Al Maxey). According to my studies, while instrumental music was no longer used in the synagogues (the rabbis had forbidden such), it was still being used in temple worship. Would we suggest that Paul was actually then sinning by worshipping along with instrumental music? Believe it or not, I actually had one preacher, apparently knowing no other route to take in light of such evidence, take the position that Paul did indeed sin in doing so. Keep up the good work, Al. Also, if you have not yet done so, you might find it interesting to read my lesson on my web site titled Origins of Christian Worship.
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