by Al Maxey
Issue #861 -- February 10, 2023
The infernal serpent; he it was, whose
guile, stirr'd up with envy and revenge,
deceiv'd the mother of mankind.
John Milton [1608-1674]
Paradise Lost 
In his monumental work titled "Paradise Lost," John Milton (1608-1674), considered by many to be the most significant English author after William Shakespeare, wrote in some depth "of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world, and all our woe, with loss of Eden" [Paradise Lost]. The writings of John Milton would come to have a tremendous impact upon the thinking and theology of Christians with respect to the fall of mankind and the consequences thereof: an impact of which most, unfortunately, are completely unaware. We are, however, all familiar with the story of Adam and Eve itself, and especially of their misadventure in Eden. Even children can recite how Eve was tempted by the evil serpent to eat of the forbidden fruit, and that she then gave some to Adam to eat, and how this would ultimately result in their banishment from the garden in Eden. We know of the punishments that befell each of the parties involved: the man, the woman, the serpent, and even the earth, and we know that the consequences of their moral failure extend even to us today in a number of very significant ways, including the reality of our own physical death. There are many details about this whole account (and about creation itself and the first humans) that fascinate us, as well as perplex us, and I have written a number of Reflections over the years in which I seek to shed some light on these matters. Some of those in-depth studies are:
Although each of the above topics have generated enormous discussion and debate throughout the ages, and a fair amount of confusion as well, one of the questions that, in the minds of many, trumps them all is: who or what exactly was the serpent Eve encountered in Eden?! To some, this might seem "a silly question." The Bible says it was a "serpent," so that is precisely what it was. This is the view of the textual literalist: nothing in the creation account is phrased in figurative language; there is no allegory; no symbolism; no hint of fable or parable. Other believers, however, who also love God and honor the Scriptures, feel there is room for imagery that conveys ultimate Truth in less literal language and figures. No one is denying the truth of God's message to mankind; it is the methodology employed for conveying that message over which they differ. The fallen state of mankind is an accepted reality; we all see it and experience it daily. In Genesis 3 we find an ancient depiction of that fall, yet the details of that depiction easily lend themselves to debate among serious students of the Scriptures. One of the main focal points of that debate is the serpent, and it is this creature or figure in the story upon which I want us to focus in this issue of my Reflections.
Once again, to the biblical literalist this will seem to be an unnecessary exercise. But let's take a closer look. Adam Clarke rightly observes that in this chapter in Genesis, "We have here one of the most difficult as well as the most important narratives in the whole Book of God" [Clarke's Commentary, vol. 1, p. 47]. Part of the difficulty, as noted in a comment contained in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (a commentary published by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards), is this: "As vivid and picturesque as it is, the story leaves many things omitted and unexplained." We are told nothing at all, for example, about the origin or identity of this "serpent," nor is there any explanation given as to how it is able to speak or to reason with Eve. Many believe this "serpent" was Satan (the Devil), or that Satan possessed this serpent and miraculously spoke through it. However, I would urge you to go back and read the passage again! Nowhere in this account is there even a hint that Satan, or some "evil spirit," was possessing this serpent. "This fact, indeed, is not distinctly stated in the canonical books of the Old Testament" [Drs. Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1 - The Pentateuch, p. 92]. Such a view comes many centuries later in a few quotes from the NT writings, but such a view was never expressed by the early Jews: indeed, "the belief in the devil was then foreign to the Hebrews" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 1, p. 57]. The same is true, by the way, with respect to Genesis 3:15, in which "the woman" is said to be the "virgin Mary" and her "seed" is identified as Jesus the Messiah. Although each of these assumptions and understandings are, in my view, valid for disciples of Christ Jesus, they were not actually stated as fact in the text itself. They were/are understandings later assumed from the text (something we also do with Isaiah 7:14, by the way: Reflections #266 - "The Virgin Shall Conceive: A Reflective Analysis of Isaiah 7:14").
Many of the OT figures, symbols, and prophecies have what is known as dual application; they have both primary as well as secondary meanings and fulfillments. It is also not unusual for the latter to be assumed from the former, rather than specifically stated within the text and context of the former. Admittedly, this can be problematic, for assumptions and inferences can be very subjective in nature. Assumptions are not facts, although assumptions stated within the NT writings are most certainly given that weight in the minds of most Christians. Thus, based on such assumptions about Genesis 3, many feel confident in seeing a messianic fulfillment to verse 15, and most feel equally confident in identifying the tempter of Eve as Satan, although neither is actually stated in the text. But, returning to the matter of this "serpent" and its identity, there are a number of fascinating theories proffered that are worth considering. Following is a brief discussion of the foremost of these theories as to the identity of this tempter.
A Literal Serpent/Snake:
The Hebrew word that is rendered "serpent" in Genesis 3 is "nachash." In the Septuagint, this word was translated with the Greek word "ophis," which means "literally: a snake, serpent; figuratively: (as a type of sly cunning) an artful malicious person" [The New Strong's Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 1279]. The meaning of the Greek term was rather straightforward; no ambiguity - it was a snake (although it was often used figuratively of persons, such as Satan). The Hebrew term, on the other hand, was not so clear and definite. It could mean a number of things. Yes, it could most certainly refer to a snake, but it also is used in Scripture to refer to other creatures. For example, in Job 26:13 (cf. Job 41) and Isaiah 27:1 this "fleeing serpent" is called "Leviathan," the "dragon who lives in the sea," about which I wrote in Reflections #830 ("Behemoth and Leviathan: Biblical Monsters - Myth or Reality?"), a creature that is clearly something other than a mere snake (the most likely creature in view here being the crocodile). Most scholars regard the Hebrew term, in light of its varied meaning and usage in the OT writings, to be a rather general term confined to no specific species, but rather to any number of twisting and slithering creatures. Thus, our understanding today is based largely on the choice of the Septuagint translators, and the fact that the NT writers relied heavily upon that ancient Greek translation. "The original Hebrew word is by the Septuagint translated 'ophis,' a 'serpent,' not because this was its fixed determinate meaning in the sacred writings, but because it was the best that occurred to the translators" [Dr. Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 1, p. 48].
But, for the sake of argument, let's embrace the assumption, as voiced in this first theory, that the tempter of Eve was a literal snake. In Genesis 3:1 it is described as "more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made." Other translations read "subtle" ... "cunning" ... "sneakier" ... "clever" ... "shrewd." The Hebrew word is "orem," which Dr. James Strong, in his Hebrew/Aramaic Dictionary, says means "craftiness" [p. 733]. This, in itself, is not necessarily a negative trait, but one which can most certainly be used in a hurtful way. The apostle Paul observed that "the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness" (2 Corinthians 11:3), yet Jesus said to His chosen apostles, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16). In Genesis 3:1-5, we witness the craftiness of the serpent as it seeks to deceive Eve. It speaks to her and reasons with her, neither of which we would expect from a literal snake (at least not as we know them today). If in fact this is a literal snake acting on its own, rather than an unwilling conduit for the evil intent of Satan (more about this in the next theory), then we have some problems on our hands with the account, for we see a snake doing things snakes don't do.
This is partly why some scholars refuse to regard this whole account as being literal, but rather an allegory. "An allegory is a fictitious narration to illustrate Truth. Its nature is similar to that of a metaphor; but its imagery is extended to a great many details and analogies, so that it is very often defined as an extended metaphor" [Dr. Clinton Lockhart, Principles of Interpretation, p. 162]. Thus, since it is all fictitious, we can accept talking snakes, just as we find equally absurd things in the ancient biblical fables, myths, and parables. They are not meant to be literal, and to try and make them so only leads to theological confusion. We find the same problem when some seek to understand the book of Revelation literally: it just becomes an absurdity. But, again, for the sake of argument, let's embrace the assumption that this is a literal snake, and that it is, all on its own, actually speaking to and reasoning with Eve in this "garden toward the east, in Eden" (Genesis 2:8). If this is the case, then we might reasonably ask, "How come snakes aren't doing this today?!" And secondly, "Why was this particular snake doing it then?!"
To answer the second question first, the response of those who hold to this view is: "The serpent, in his Edenic form, is not thought of as a writhing reptile," but rather as being "the most beautiful as well as the most 'subtle' of creatures less than man" [C. I. Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible with Notes, eSword]. "These reptiles were at first, probably, far superior in beauty as well as in sagacity to what they are in their present state. From being a model of grace and elegance in form, it has become the type of all that is odious, disgusting, and low" [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 20]. "Among the beasts of the field that had been examined and named by Adam was one whose coloration was bright and beautiful and whose movements were smooth and graceful, a most attractive animal. Furthermore, this animal, the serpent, was more clever than any of the other animals. In her innocence, the woman was dazzled and soon led astray by this subtly attractive and deceptive creature" [Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings, p. 106]. "The serpent of Genesis 3 is more than merely a wild creature. It has capacities that rise above the typical capabilities of animal life: it is subtle, can speak in human language, and is able to reason and to present convincing arguments to man that rival even the commandments of God Himself in man's mind" [Dr. John T. Willis, The Living Word Commentary on the OT: Genesis, p. 122]. Albert Barnes even suggests: "Up to a certain point there had been concord and alliance between these two parties," and "the woman was at one with the serpent" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, eSword]. The English theologian, Dr. John Gill (1697-1771), speculated that Eve had formerly "taken a particular liking to that creature, and was delighted with it, and laid it perhaps in her bosom, adorned her neck with its windings, or made it a bracelet for her arms" [Gill's Exposition of the Bible, eSword].
Soon, however, the eyes of Eve (and Adam) were opened to what had happened (Genesis 3:7), and when confronted with her sin by the Lord, she admitted, "The serpent deceived me" (vs. 13). The harmony and affection between the woman and the serpent (a liking and closeness which this theory assumes) was broken, being replaced by a deep revulsion and even fear. Because the serpent had used its "charms" to deceive Eve, God told it that, as part of its punishment, "I will put enmity between you and the woman" (vs. 15), a state of enmity that would exist from that day forward, even unto future generations. The serpent would also forfeit its former "high estate," and would henceforth be more cursed than the other animals, and would slither on its belly in the dust of the ground (vs. 14). This curse seems to imply to many that the serpent may at one time have walked on legs and stood erect. But these qualities, as well as speech, were taken from it due to its treasonous act against both God and man. John Wesley (1703-1791) wrote, "Upon thy belly shalt thou go - no longer upon feet, or half erect, but thou shalt crawl along, thy belly cleaving to the earth. Dust thou shalt eat - which signifies a base and despicable condition" [Wesley's Notes on the Bible, eSword]. "To eat dust conveys the idea of total defeat - Isaiah 65:25; Micah 7:17. Adam and Eve must have been terrified as this once-beautiful creature called a serpent was transformed into the creeping, slithering, hissing snake we know today. They must have thought, 'It's our turn next!'" [David Guzik, The Enduring Word Bible Commentary, eSword].
Satan Using the Serpent:
"The first mention of a serpent (nachash) is in Genesis 3, introducing the fall of man, the discussion of which is a theological rather than a zoological matter" [The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 5, p. 356]. In other words, some feel the focus on whether a literal serpent could speak, or whether it stood erect, or whether it had legs, or if it was "beautiful to look upon," misses the point of the biblical account. Instead, they suggest, the passage simply seeks to inform us of a deadly break in the fellowship between God and man (and man and creation), and the consequences of that break, rather than serving as a treatise on the biology of "pre-curse serpents." The true focus of the text, therefore, is far more spiritual than physical in nature; a focus in which we are given a glimpse "behind the scene" transpiring before us in the garden to the spiritual forces at work in and on the "actors on the stage." God and Satan, good and evil, are central to the account far more so than man and beast according to this theory, although it is the latter (primarily man) that is the prize for which these forces do battle.
In this understanding of the text, the serpent itself is of little consequence. It is merely an unwilling tool of the great deceiver: the Devil, Satan, man's accuser and God's enemy. "It must be at once apparent that it was not from the serpent, as a sagacious and crafty animal, that the temptation proceeded, but that the serpent was simply the tool of that evil spirit, who is met with in the further course of the world's history under the name of SATAN (the opponent), or the DEVIL (diabolos, the slanderer or accuser). When the serpent, therefore, is introduced as speaking, and that just as if it had been entrusted with the thoughts of God Himself, the speaking must have emanated, not from the serpent, but from a superior spirit, which had taken possession of the serpent for the sake of seducing man" [Drs. C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT, vol. 1 - The Pentateuch, p. 92]. We certainly know that evil spirits can indeed enter animals and alter their behavior in negative ways, as seen in the account of the herd of swine who rushed into the sea and perished (Matthew 8:30-32), and we know that animals can also speak (being influenced by a superior spiritual force), as is seen in the account of Balaam being addressed by the Angel of the Lord through the voice of a donkey (Numbers 22:28f). Thus, this serpent in the garden was no more the source of the temptation of Eve than the donkey was the source of the message to Balaam. Both were simply instruments used by a higher power. "Although Moses makes no mention of this wicked spirit" that used the serpent as its instrument of deception, "yet in the fuller discoveries of the Gospel, it is distinctly intimated that Satan was the author of the plot" against mankind [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 19-20].
Jesus almost certainly had the temptation of Eve in mind when He spoke these words to a group of Jews, "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44). Satan has always evidenced a murderous intent, which led Peter to caution believers, saying, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). John wrote, "The devil has sinned from the beginning" (1 John 3:8). In Revelation 12:7 we read of a "war in heaven" between those loyal to God and "the dragon and his angels." In verse 9 we are given the identity of this dragon: "the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world." In Revelation 20:2-3 we find this identification again: "An angel laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed." He is the deceiver, the accuser, the father of lies, a murderer from the very beginning, the "serpent of old." Clearly, the NT writings link this evil being to the temptation of Eve in the garden; not that Satan was the snake (any more than he was a roaring lion or a dragon), but that Satan used the snake as his unwitting tool to deceive mankind. The devil presents himself to us in many forms, so we must be cautious, as Paul warns: "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light; therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Satan appeared to Eve in a form that was appealing to her, which was part of the deception. Sin always looks good to us, until our eyes are opened (Genesis 3:7) and we behold the consequences of our deception. Many scholars see a reference to this Evil One, who appears to have been one of the many created spirit-beings often referred to as "angels" (which had a variety of forms, functions, and positions of authority), in the reference to "Lucifer" (the "day-star"; the bright, shining one) in Isaiah 14:12-15. The depiction of this glorious being who suffered a great fall and was cast out certainly seems to fit the circumstance of Satan (although the primary message of the text was a warning to the king of Babylon). We also find a similar passage (intended for the king of Tyre) in Ezekiel 28:11-19, which speaks of a beautiful "guardian cherub" (vs. 16) who was at first "full of wisdom and perfect in beauty" (vs. 12), "blameless in your ways, from the day you were created" (vs. 15). "You were placed in Eden, the garden of God" (vs. 13); "You were the anointed cherub who guards, and I placed you there" (vs. 14). But, this all went to the head of this special angel who was sent to guard the garden in Eden. He came to be filled with violence and unrighteousness, and he engaged in sin (vs. 15-16). "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor, and I cast you to the ground" (vs. 17). "Thus Lucifer, the 'day-star,'" ... the anointed cherub ... "became Satan, the 'adversary,' or 'accuser,' opposing and calumniating God and all His purposes. And now he became 'that old serpent,' entering into the body of this 'most clever' of all the 'beasts of the field' in order to approach Eve with his evil solicitations" [Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings, p. 109]. This, then, presents the basic tenets of this particular theory (the one which I personally feel makes the most sense and seems to be the most consistent with the rest of the Scriptures). NOTE: Just as an interesting aside, after Adam and Eve were cast from the garden, and after that "serpent of old" was cast to the ground, once again, "at the east of the garden of Eden God stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24). Like Judas, in a way, the traitorous cherub over Eden was removed, and "another took its place."
Allegory and Apes:
As is always the case when seeking to interpret the Scriptures, especially in sections where the content seems to us to be somewhat fanciful in form, there is a tendency to view the account as more allegory than literal fact. As noted above, this is often done (and at times rightly so) with certain stories in the Bible. Some do not believe any of the early chapters of Genesis should be taken literally, but merely as allegory (if not outright fable or myth). With regard to the serpent in the garden, some suggest it never existed (at least, not as a walking/talking intelligent creature). Others do not even acknowledge the reality of Satan. There is no such creature as Satan or the Devil. That is just a myth. Thus, the "serpent" in the Eden account of man's fall is nothing more than a representation of man's "human/fleshly nature" or "carnal nature." In The Christadelphian Expositor's commentary on Genesis, written by H. P. Mansfield, he presents this theory on pages 79-80, concluding, "Surely this shows the fallacy of a theology that teaches the existence of a superhuman devil." Thus, no Devil; no walking/talking snake; just the "inner voice" of our carnal nature tempting us to acts of selfishness and rebellion. "Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (James 1:14-15). This, it is asserted, is the best commentary on Genesis 3, not fables about demons, devils, and talking snakes. The Jewish philosopher Philo (c. 15 BC - 45 AD), who lived in Alexandria, had much the same view, and "took the serpent to be a symbol of passion and sensual pleasure" [The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4, p. 290].
But it gets even stranger! "Adam Clarke contends with much enthusiasm that the tempter was not a serpent, but an ape or orangutan" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 1, p. 57]. But Adam Clarke isn't the only one. "Some render the Hebrew word 'nachash' here 'monkey or baboon'" [Dr. Joseph Benson, Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, eSword]. Apparently in some of the other language translations of the Hebrew Scriptures, such as the Arabic, the word chosen to translate the rather general Hebrew term "nachash" was a "cousin" word meaning "a great ape, baboon, orangutan," with a form of that word being their word for "devil." Thus, in some of these versions, both the name of the creature in Eden (Ape) and the evil spirit controlling it (Devil) came from the same root word. "Is it not strange that the Devil and the Ape should have the same name, derived from the same root, and that root so very similar to the Hebrew word in the text?!" [Dr. Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 1, p. 48]. It is Clarke's contention that only the great ape, or an orangutan, truly could be said to "stand at the head of all inferior animals for wisdom and understanding" [ibid], being close to human in appearance to early man. "Such a creature answers to every part of the description in the text" [ibid, p. 49]. Clarke believes this animal originally had the ability to walk upright, to speak, and to reason, which would explain why Eve was not surprised to be conversing with it. "It therefore appears to me that a creature of the ape or orangutan kind is here intended; and that Satan made use of this creature as the most proper instrument for the accomplishment of his murderous purposes against the life and soul of man" [ibid]. As for the curse, "On your belly you shall go, and dust shall you eat" (Genesis 3:14), Clarke says this would explain the subsequent stooped over, knuckle-dragging posture of these apes, with their torso (their "belly") parallel to the ground, and that they would pick their food from the ground, food that would be covered with dust and dirt and filth. They would go from being almost man-like, to a much lower, degraded station in life (even losing the ability to speak and reason as they once had been able to do). "Though formerly possessed of the faculty to distinguish, choose, and cleanse thy food, thou shalt feed henceforth like the most stupid and abject quadruped" [ibid, p. 53].
Clarke's view is certainly interesting, and most of you have probably never heard it before. Yet, he is not willing to be dogmatic or divisive about it, and agrees with most biblical scholars that regardless of the identity of the "tool" utilized, the true tempter in Eden was Satan. Clarke simply believes a great ape is more consistent with the specifics of the context of Genesis 3 than a serpent, and that the Septuagint translators misunderstood the Hebrew word when they translated it as "snake" (which the NT writers then adopted when quoting the OT writings). After discussing his theory at great length, Adam Clarke wrote, "If, however, any person should choose to differ from the opinion stated above, he is at perfect liberty so to do; I make it no article of faith, nor of Christian communion; I crave the same liberty to judge for myself that I give to others, to which every man has an indisputable right; and I hope no man will call me a heretic for departing in this respect from the common opinion, which appears to me to be so embarrassed as to be altogether unintelligible" [ibid, p. 50]. Clarke makes some interesting observations, to be sure, but I still tend to side with the second theory discussed above. Nevertheless, I most certainly applaud Clarke's respectful attitude toward those who differ with his view. If only more of us could imitate that quality of his Christian disposition!!
From a Reader in Michigan:
I would like to order, and have you send it to me via email, the .pdf version of your book "Immersed by One Spirit: Rethinking the Purpose and Place of Baptism in NT Theology and Practice." I am sending you the funds via PayPal. I look forward to reading this study. Thank you.
From a Reader in Texas:
I just read your article "The Divine Eucharistic Presence: Consubstantial or Consubstantiation?" It is an excellent description of a moment that was designed to have a profound effect on us as we honor and remember! Again, thank you, brother, for a wonderful study!
From a Minister in New Zealand:
Al, "The Divine Eucharistic Presence" is a great article! Ironically, I just presided over the Lord's Supper recently in which I emphasized fellowship in our partaking together. I used the Scripture from Luke (22:15) where Jesus said, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you." Well done, brother!
From a Minister/Author in California:
Dear Al, Thanks for your fine study on Eucharistic Presence. What you wrote makes a lot of sense to me. I enjoy words, and I often notice words within words. The other day I was behind a Toyota Tacoma pickup. I noticed the word "taco" in Tacoma. I have been to Tacoma, Washington, even preached there a number of times, but never noticed this before. Better yet, I notice your name (Al) in my name (Ralph) - LOL. Your latest article brought to my mind the fact that astronaut Buzz Aldrin (who recently married again at the age of 93) actually took Communion on the moon! The link to that article is: Buzz Aldrin took Holy Communion on the Moon. The following is a quote from this article: "As the men prepared for the next phase of their mission, Aldrin got on the comm system and spoke to the ground crew back on Earth. 'I would like to request a few moments of silence,' he said. 'I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way.' Then he reached for the wine and bread he'd brought to space - the first foods ever poured or eaten on the moon. ... Then Aldrin read some Scripture and ate. Armstrong looked on quietly but did not participate."
From a Reader on Prince Edward Island, Canada:
I was tending the Lord's Table back around 2010 at a small church in Ontario, Canada, when, during my comments, I used the term "Eucharist." I was trying to explain the flaw in how this term was most often used, but that it was also essential to getting a full understanding of our time of communion with Christ. Many never heard a word I said after they heard the "Roman Catholic" term "Eucharist." I was almost thrown out of the building for this "sin." Some are so slow to learn, or to challenge and even change their views. Al, don't ever let "the old grumps" in the church discourage you from your studies and your articles!! I have learned (and changed) so much from your writings over the years! The depth and clarity of your articles is astounding. Love you so deeply, brother!
From a Minister/Author in Alabama:
Al, God is clearly still using you in a mighty way to help individuals come out of legalism. Unfortunately, many Christians are not familiar with the "Naked Gospel" or "Core Gospel," which is simply JESUS. I frequently tell individuals that there are two ways to spell the word "gospel" = GOSPEL and JESUS. The five ritualistic acts performed on Sunday do NOT constitute the "Naked/Core Gospel." As a result of your writings, Al, many Christians now understand justification by faith! Thank you for what you do! By the way, I am still writing (over 2000 essays and 11 books) and teach a small group that meets in my home each week ... and I will be 89 this coming July. Please keep me in your prayers.
Dr. Dallas Burdette is a dear, dear friend and brother-in-Jesus whom I have had the pleasure to know for a great many years, and who has influenced me tremendously in my own personal journey of faith. He also wrote the Foreword for the second of my four books: "One Bread, One Body: An Examination of Eucharistic Expectation, Evolution, and Extremism." I wish him good health and many more years of faithful service to the Lord and His church! -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Alaska:
Dear Al, The second edition of your 304 page book "From Ruin to Resurrection" arrived today in good shape. I really appreciate how well you packed it for its journey here to Alaska. I rarely encounter such care in the handling of books that I have ordered through the mail over the years! I also like its new cover and the binding. Its print is a bit smaller than I like, but still very readable. Font size is one of the reasons why I like the print size options on Kindle. I read the front pages (your Preface and the Foreword by Edward Fudge), and glanced over a couple of the content pages to see your approach, before adding it to my pile of unread books on that topic. As I'm sure you can appreciate, I'm trying to wrap up my own book right now, and I'm facing the limitations of Father Time. That said, your approach to specific topics you have dealt with over the years makes this book worthwhile for future reading and subsequent reference. You drill down to a level of detail in your writings that I really appreciate, and which I am rarely able to replicate in my own. Thank you!
From a Reader in Texas:
Brother Maxey, I have been listening to a guy on the radio named Bob George here in the metroplex. He is teaching that Jesus has forgiven the sins of the whole world (past, present, and future), and is saying that nobody will be condemned except for the sin of unbelief in Jesus. He says that 1 John 1:9 does not apply to Christians, but that it was written to unbelievers, because believers would never claim that they had no sin. Please direct me to any writings you may have done on this teaching. Thanks!
Oddly enough, there are Christians (and always have been) who are convicted that they
are living sinless lives. Such a view was developing even around the time of John (early Gnosticism), with disciples claiming it was the flesh that
was corrupt, but "in spirit" they were sinless! Others over the years redefine "sin" to exclude their own questionable attitudes and actions (without
giving the same "pass" to others with whom they differ). I even know of a young preacher in El Paso, Texas who has told his congregation that
he personally has NO sin in his life. Ironically, according to 1st John 1, he just "sinned" by making that declaration (LOL). I know there
are those who are confused by some things John wrote that leave the impression that Christians are without sin - "We know that no one who is born
of God sins" (1 John 5:18a; cf, 1 John 3:1-10). Hmmm! John was clearly writing to believers, but he was also writing to believers who
struggled with their grasp of their own human nature and the expectations of their God. My following articles might help clear this up a bit: "A
Sinner Who Sinneth Not: Reflective Analysis of 1 John 5:18" (Reflections
#140) and "Jesus Warned Me About Paul: The Anti-Pauline Perfectionist Party"
As for the view that Jesus forgave SIN (all sin - past, present, future), I think there is some merit to that teaching.
Jesus did indeed deal decisively with humanity's SIN problem, and He did so "once for all." His sacrifice took care of it; it never needs
to be repeated; it is finished. Men are called to respond to that free gift of God's grace accomplished in His Son: they must either
accept it or reject it. And, yes, even indifference is a choice. As for those who may not be aware of what Jesus did for
them, is it possible God will nevertheless extend the benefit of that gift of grace to them as well? If so, how? I believe that God can
and will; as for the how?, I address that in my article titled "Grace and the Caveman: Pondering the Parameters of Divine
Acceptance of Human Response to Available Light" (Reflections #158).
The late Dr. Leroy Garrett, who was a dear friend and a supporter of my writing ministry, and who often encouraged me to
continue my approach of providing in-depth and well-researched biblical studies to those unafraid to think (see:
Reflections #107), also believed in this concept of "Available Light,"
as well as a version of it that was quite similar to what Bob George may be teaching. Leroy presented that view more fully in article #49 of his series
known as "Soldier On!" - that article was titled "The Principle
of Available Light." I dealt with that view a bit more in my following study: "Battering With Lesser Blows: The Doctrine of Degrees
of Punishment" (Reflections #413). I hope these thoughts and studies
will prove helpful.
As for the view that Jesus forgave SIN (all sin - past, present, future), I think there is some merit to that teaching. Jesus did indeed deal decisively with humanity's SIN problem, and He did so "once for all." His sacrifice took care of it; it never needs to be repeated; it is finished. Men are called to respond to that free gift of God's grace accomplished in His Son: they must either accept it or reject it. And, yes, even indifference is a choice. As for those who may not be aware of what Jesus did for them, is it possible God will nevertheless extend the benefit of that gift of grace to them as well? If so, how? I believe that God can and will; as for the how?, I address that in my article titled "Grace and the Caveman: Pondering the Parameters of Divine Acceptance of Human Response to Available Light" (Reflections #158). The late Dr. Leroy Garrett, who was a dear friend and a supporter of my writing ministry, and who often encouraged me to continue my approach of providing in-depth and well-researched biblical studies to those unafraid to think (see: Reflections #107), also believed in this concept of "Available Light," as well as a version of it that was quite similar to what Bob George may be teaching. Leroy presented that view more fully in article #49 of his series known as "Soldier On!" - that article was titled "The Principle of Available Light." I dealt with that view a bit more in my following study: "Battering With Lesser Blows: The Doctrine of Degrees of Punishment" (Reflections #413). I hope these thoughts and studies will prove helpful.
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