The Number of the Beast and Wild Claims

A friend recently posted a video that makes claims concerning the “number of the beast” in Revelation 13:18 (it can be viewed HERE) . I found the following graphic posted on Facebook of Walid’s claims about the symbols/words written in “Sinaiticus” (a Greek codex with many sections dating from the fourth century). Walid claims that the bottom line is actually depicted properly by the top line with crossed swords (an Islamic symbol) and the Arabic word/s meaning “In the name of Allah”
Supposed symbols in the text
Walid mentions (and draws) the top lines characters which do NOT appear in any Greek manuscript. As it turns out Codex Sinaiticus (which he specifically says to go check out) does not have even an abbreviated form of the number, but has the fully written form for each number. As it turns out all one needs to do is go online and verify with the manuscript (which is freely accessible to anyone with internet access). See the image HERE.
It is found in the third column [lines 21-22]: εξακοϲιαι εξηκοτα εξ

Anyone can see that his claims have no factuality when looking at the manuscript itself (even if one did not know Greek they could still note that these symbols are nowhere present in the text). Further, if one were to check the Nestle-Aland text of the Greek New Testament they will find that with the many variants preserved in the manuscript traditions (and reported in the text-critical note of the NA text) not one contains any such markings representing numbers. In other words, his entire claim is false and easily proven so.
Yet, such drivel will continue to be received by many in the West who simply WANT Muslims to be the tools of the Antichrist and somehow the Beast/s of the Revelation. Perhaps it is our concern not to be found ourselves numbered a part of that beastly system which opposes Jesus rightful rule over all? Perhaps what we do not really understand and yet fear (rightfully or wrongfully) always seems readily at hand to explain the beasts of our apocalyptic nightmares? Perhaps we seek “hidden knowledge” that “verifies” our fears because if our fears were proven unfounded we might have to consider how we ourselves may be surrendering to all that rejects Jesus the king of all?
To those who overcome…

Gog, Magog, and Premillennialism

magog
In a recent conversation about events in the Middle/Near East, a question was raised as to the potential for fulfillment of prophecy, specifically concerning “Gog and Magog”.

Gog and Magog have so captured the imagination that their very mention seems clouded by mystery and ready at hand to apply to nearly any particularity in contemporary geo-politics involving the modern nation-state of Israel. However, few consider the actual texts where these terms are mentioned in Scripture. Gog (the referent to the prince of the eschatological hordes) only occurs two places in Scripture (excluding the referents which point to a genealogical figure): Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20.
In Ezekiel, Gog is the prince from Magog (meaning “place of Gog”). This ruler is brought by the will of Yahweh to a restored Israel to make war. He is gathered with hordes from the corners of the known world (6th century BC). These two chapters are spent describing the hordes and their ultimate destruction and burial. Interestingly enough the valley of Hamon-Gog where the bodies are buried over 7 months immediately follows another valley filled with dead: the valley of very dry bones (Eze.37). That first valley was the slain of Israel, restored by the Spirit of Yahweh and even restored as a united people in the land of promise. This latter valley becomes the resting place of all who would think to destroy the work of Yahweh to live in peace in the midst of His people.

While numerous people groups are included in this horde (including Persia [part of modern Iran]…a favorite current target of prophetic prognosticators) the intention is not to locate the people groups specifically. It seems to function more toward all those who are from far away (from the very boundaries of civilization) who would gather together against the work of Yahweh (though brought by the “hook” of Yahweh to the land). This is NOT intended as Ezekiel’s message against a restored Caliphate (something imagined by Muslim extremists and fear-mongering Westerners). Nor is it against any of these people groups. It is against all who would oppose the ultimate plan of Yahweh to dwell with His redeemed people (Israel for Ezekiel, but inclusive of all of God’s people in the NT).

In the Revelation 20.8, Gog and Magog function as stock phrase for the opposing hordes from the four corners of the earth in an even more broad sense than Ezekiel. This is in contrast to “Gog” who was “from Magog” in Ezekiel.  Here (if one is following a sort of “timeline” of events in the Revelation) is the final battle to end all battles. This one follows the 1000 year imprisonment of Satan and the 1000 year reign of Christ. It immediately precedes the final judgment and the coming of the New Jerusalem and the New Heavens and New Earth.

Given the above passages (from a Premillennial eschatology) it should seem readily apparent that anyone attempting to discern “Gog and Magog” in our contemporary setting has no grounds. Not only do the passages not support such an interpretation (even if one is not Premillennial) given their prophetic/eschatological nature to depict things in more broad terms, but they also would not support such following the predominant western Evangelical approach of Premillennialism which would locate this war at the very end of the millennial reign (and distinguish it from the Battle of Armageddon immediately preceding the Second Coming). Meaning it would be a thousand years from the Second Coming. The face of the planet (and her empires) would be radically refashioned from the current geo-political make-up.

In brief, finding Gog and Magog in contemporary news and prognostications is biblically unfounded. So stop looking at Russia, Turkey, or Iran. We need look no further than locating it with all who ultimately oppose the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ and his reign over the earth.

The Future of Biblical Interpretation: A Book Review

Future of Biblical InterpretationThanks to IVP Academic for providing a review copy of Porter, Stanley E. and Matthew R. Malcolm, eds., The Future of Biblical Interpretation: Responsible Plurality in Biblical Hermeneutics (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013), 176pp.
I offer the following review of this volume:

The Bible encompasses a plurality of voices, not only in genre but in perspective. And not surprisingly, interpreters of the Bible have generated a plurality of interpretations. How might biblical scholars work responsibly with and within this plurality? And what are the future directions or possibilities for biblical hermeneutics?
The essays in The Future of Biblical Interpretation originated in a conference held in honor of Anthony C. Thiselton, who is well known for his important work in hermeneutics and New Testament interpretation. After an opening essay by Thiselton on “The Future of Biblical Interpretation and Responsible Plurality in Hermeneutics,” the contributors look at the issues from a variety of angles—theological, scriptural, kerygmatic, historical, critical, ecclesial and relational. The result is an engaging conversation exploring responsible and productive interpretation of the Bible. A must-read for anyone seriously engaged in biblical scholarship today. [the preceding is from IVP Academic, see their press release: HERE]
CONTENTS:
Introduction
Stanley E. Porter and Matthew R. Malcolm
1. The Future of Biblical Interpretation and Responsible Plurality in Hermeneutics
Anthony C. Thiselton
2. Biblical Hermeneutics and Theological Responsibility
Stanley E. Porter
3. Biblical Hermeneutics and Scriptural Responsibility
Richard S. Briggs
4. Biblical Hermeneutics and Kerygmatic Responsibility
Matthew R. Malcolm
5. Biblical Hermeneutics and Historical Responsibility
James D. G. Dunn
6. Biblical Hermeneutics and Critical Responsibility
Robert C. Morgan
7. Biblical Hermeneutics and Relational Responsibility
Tom Greggs
8. Biblical Hermeneutics and Ecclesial Responsibility
R. Walter L. Moberly
Conclusion
Stanley E. Porter and Matthew R. Malcolm

Porter and Malcolm are to be commended for this very fine (and brief) volume. The contributors are all well-regarded in their own rights and many of the contributions offer helpful proposals for responsibility in Biblical interpretation. Essentially this volume proposes a sort of responsible “concordant polyphony” of interpretation (p.10). How these divergent voices are to be held in a sort of harmonic tension is another issue (as the editors note in their conclusion). The variant voices offered here tend toward a plurality of approaches to interpretation rather than simply a plurality of interpretations.
Chiefest of the contributions, from my perspective, were Anthony Thiselton’s open-ended suggestions for the future of Biblical interpretation and Richard Briggs’ Scriptural responsibility. Thiselton astutely notes that one cannot know the direction of Biblical interpretation despite seeing the directions it has taken and is taking. He thus refers to “future possibilities” rather than “future directions” (p.24). His “possibilities” are worth mentioning: (1) a genuine confluence between general hermeneutics and actual exegesis of Scripture, (2) the call to engage the text of Scripture as “Other” rather than simply self-reflection, (3) an equal weighting of the voices of Scripture, (4) a move beyond the greatest extremes of interpretive theory, (5) continued appropriation and development of Speech-Act Theory, and (6) a proper use of literary theories in hearing the voice/s of Scripture.
Briggs’ chapter proposes “four specific theological construals of Scripture that might productively frame Christian wrestling with hermeneutical plurality: two testaments, in a creative set of theological tensions, as a means of grace, and held together dialogically as the communicative acts of the one God who is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and also the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” (p.69). This is his manner of proposing a Christian reading of the Scriptures we hold by faith and confession. He argues it is not a responsible reading that thinks one should read apart from their commitment of faith to God in Christ as confessed by all the Church everywhere. This is, to my thinking, imperative for Christian interpreters of Scripture. Walter Moberly seems to offer a similar stream of thought within the framework of “canon”. His contribution might equally offer a helpful aim for understanding responsible Christian interpretation of the texts gathered and affirmed as authoritative for and by the Church.
Along a similar trajectory is Malcolm’s contribution. He argues for a “primed” and “faithful” interpreter (pp.81-84). This is understood to be an interpreter who holds the public confession of Christ as Lord as central to responsible interpretation of Scripture. Tom Greggs (Relational Responsibility), more specifically, speaks to a Protestant hearing of Sola Scriptura grounded in his understanding of the ecumenical creeds of the early centuries.
Less helpful contributions by James Dunn (historical responsibility) and Stanley Porter (theological responsibility) are also worth mentioning. (My appraisal of their work may be tangential to my own perspective on other related issues). Dunn offers a fine reminder of the situatedness of the Biblical texts (or any text for that matter) as well as of the interpreter. This is a necessary reminder. He does, however, seem to offer essentially his own (once again) offering of a re-reading of Paul in the strain of the “new perspective”. In this sense, I find him helpful and unhelpful. His methodology being helpful, his conclusions less than. Robert Morgan (Critical Responsibility), likewise, argues from a more thorough-going historical-critical perspective from within his own understanding of a NT theological perspective particularly with regard to the descriptions of the Jesus of history and Christ of faith.
The reason I do not find Porter’s chapter to be as helpful as others might be his (seemingly) over negative appraisal of theological interpretation in its contemporary trending. He argues for a “Biblical hermeneutic” against simply a “Biblical interpretation”. The former referring to the broader notions of theory and the latter to specific approaches to the text (or at least that is how I understand his approach). Hermeneutics is broad (entailing the interpreter as well), while interpretation is supposedly narrow and involves “processes and techniques” (p.31). I appreciate his attempts to delineate the two, but perhaps this is nuancing in ways others here have not and might themselves find unfruitful. Following his trajectory, he proposes a theological hermeneutic against a theological interpretation. Again, I find certain aspects of his approach to be helpful, while also seeming to be overly critical apart from a genuine appraisal of specifics. [Perhaps what is really needed is my own further interaction with other writings of Porter to better grapple with his approach]
Perhaps one of the most poignant comments for many of those who might make use of a volume like this was Walter Moberly’s personal narrative interwoven within his discussion of Ecclesial Responsibility:

“the way the Bible is taught in divinity schools and seminaries in the US…[is] not fit for [the ecclesial purpose of producing] future leaders of churches who will spend much time reading and interpreting Biblical texts, can finish their studies and still be relatively clueless about how to handle these texts well in the situations in which they find themselves” (p.134, referring to the comparable appraisal of Dale B. Martin, Pedagogy of the Bible: An Analysis and Proposal [Louisville and London: Westminster John Knox, 2008]).

That is a danger, all too real, that it would be hoped The Future of Biblical Interpretation might aid in remedying in part by at least raising the imperative questions of (as the subtitle claims) responsible plurality in Biblical hermeneutics. This is a welcome volume that should be incorporated into hermeneutic reading requirements for graduate level courses in Biblical hermeneutics and it is a fine praise to the tremendous contributions of the scholarship of Anthony Thiselton.
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See what other reviewers have to say:
Nate Claiborne
Jim West (forthcoming)

Daniel Block on Inductive Study

Daniel Block offers some basic (but essential) advice to students of Scripture to study the text as primary, rather than turning to other sources first.

“When you are wrestling with biblical texts, wrestle with the texts.”

(see more at Koinonia).

Biblical Interpretation Book Giveaway!

Invitation to Biblical InterpretationI have managed to acquire an extra copy of Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson’s, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology (Kregel Academic, 2011). This volume approaches the text via the historical/literary/theological method where these three aspects must be considered carefully in order to move toward a proper interpretation of Scripture. The volume’s approach begins with discussion of the canonical elements (because of the place this text has within the community which affects all else), moving to genre discussions (with analysis of specific passages), and finally discussing issues like discourse, syntax, and word studies. This is the opposite direction that a number of other texts have taken and it is (in my opinion) a more welcome approach for teaching students how to properly interpret Scripture. (The wonderful folks of Kregel Academic also offer quizzes and power-point slides for professors adopting this text).
With that said, I am going to give away 1 copy of this book to a randomly selected commenter to this post (with a maximum of four entries per person and one entry per each of the following):

  1. Leave a comment answering the question: “What is your favorite genre of Scripture and why?”
  2. Link to this giveaway on Facebook and leave a comment with a link to your FB post.
  3. Link to this giveaway on Twitter and leave a comment with a link to your Twitter post.
  4. Re-blog this giveaway linking to this post.

The giveaway will end Wednesday, November 13th at 11:59PM. The winner will be announced Thursday morning. Happy commenting. 🙂
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Due to shipping costs I am only offering this giveaway to those residing in the U.S. and Canada. I will contact the winner privately to obtain a shipping address.